Saturday, November 28, 2015

How I've used QR codes in my classroom

QR codes are indispensable  I would say that QR codes are the "tech integrated classroom's" most important tool.  Below is a list of how I have used QR codes in the classroom.

1) A way to distribute assignments and directions when I have no voice.

I went through about two weeks where I had little to no voice.  On the days my voice was the worst, I put directions on QR codes.  I sorted the QR codes on my desk (yes I stayed in my desk, I felt awful).  The students worked in pairs and when they were finished with one task, I gave them another.  It worked very well.

2) A quick way to share a link to a website or activity.

I made a game spinner for a math game on  I shared the spinner link using a QR code generated on my computer using "The QR Extension"  from Google.  The students used their IPads and scanned the QR code and began learning without time wasted clicking through links and/or typing websites.


3) A motivational tool.

I add QR code "surprises" to books in my classroom library.  They are just little youtube videos that the students are allowed to watch if they make a 100% on their AR test. 

4) A way to get information to parents.

This QR code was attached to conference sign-up sheets.  The parents scanned the code and that opened a Google Form for the parents to fill out and request a conference.

These are a few ways I use QR codes in my classroom.  I will add more to this post as I get more ideas.  Please feel free to add comments on how you use QR codes in your classroom.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Step into Harry Potter's World- One of my favorite teacher moments EVER!

This month our focus was on Characters and visualizing.  My anchor text was Maniac Magee but I used a lot of Harry Potter too.  Why?  Because I love Harry Potter.  You can teach so much with Harry Potter (and almost all of the kids have seen the movie, and because the end of the month was Halloween).


To teach visualization I used this blendspace.    The screens 11-13 demonstrated to students how Harry's speech to his classmates about the Patronus charm can add to our work on visualization.

After this lesson I taught a lesson on Character traits using Hermione Granger from Harry Potter as my example.

This all leads me to Friday when I had one of my favorite teaching moments of all time. Well maybe not teaching but teacher moments.

My students spent the last two days preparing for their final character project.  They drew a picture of their character, wrote a script, and created a Chatterpix.
I even had one student create a chatterpix of Harry Potter.

I decided that my wrap up would have to be a little more intense than that.  I came to school as if it were just a normal day.  Little did my students know I had a trick up my sleeve.  I wrote on the board; Plan A-Normal Day  Plan B- Surprise.  I told my students all day that they would love plan B but they had to get it together and keep it under control.  They started out a little rough but they got it back together so at about 1:30 I put my Plan B into action.

I put on a brain break from GoNoodle.  I made sure the students were well in control and enjoying their break.  I opened the closet door (which hid me from view).  I took out the braids that I had worn in my hair, slipped on a graduation robe and grabbed my broom.  When the brain break was over I used my iPad (and bluetooth) to start playing the Harry Potter theme.  Then Hermione Granger (me of course) walked out of the closet.  There was a collective scream/holler (I didn't think I would scare them but I did scare them a little I guess because they weren't expecting it.  I then directed them to the Google classroom assignment I prepared that took them to the Scholastic Harry Potter website and Pottermore.  We spent the next 30 minutes exploring Harry Potters world.  It was SOOO much fun.  I had the time of my life and the kids did too.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Let's get caught up and I love paper slides

Today was day 21 of the 2015-2016 school year.  I am just now catching my breath.  It has been a whirlwind of activity, testing, new students and learning names!  I have a great new class and I am learning more about them everyday.

The biggest thing that surprised me about my class was how shy they were when it came to technology.  They had to be coaxed into clicking on apps on the iPads.  They didn't want to play and figure things out.  They waited for me to tell them what to do.  It was painful for me (I can't stand going slow, I need to move quickly)  and I was somewhat impatient.  I realized that my mistake was comparing this years students to the students I had at the end of the last school year.   I stopped, took a breath, and realized that it was just week two of school.  I needed to slow down and let them take it at their own pace.

This reflection on my weaknesses and a little patience payed off and I got the biggest complement a teacher can receive today.  My students didn't want to stop!  There was a collective "awwwww" when I told them it was time to pack up and go home.

So, what were we doing that had them so engaged.

We were doing paper-slides.  We finished our first unit in math and our concluding activity was to do paper-slides on what we had learned about factors and multiples.

If you don't know what paper-slides are, here is the example that I gave my students.
source:  DMSFlippedMath

I gave them the assignment on Google Classroom and gave them two tasks
1) Discover what a paper slide video is and how to make one
2) Make a paper slide video on what you have learned about factors and multiples

They work in small groups of 2 or 3.  All of the directions, along with the video above was sent to them through Google Classroom and they were required to figure it out.  I facilitated and answered questions.

We are not quite finished, but look how engaged we are!

So, I have learned three lessons.
1) Don't freak if your students are not tech wizards within the first two weeks of school
2) Have patience with your students and they will do AMAZING things.
3) Reflect on your teaching and have patience with yourself.

Here's to a great start to a fantastic new year!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

About Me Video-Making a video about yourself is hard.

The Pinnacle assignment for the month of July was to app-smash our way to an introductory video/presentation that we could use to introduce ourselves to our new class this year.

The app-smashing was great!  I loved finding new ways to doctor up pictures.  My daughter even helped me out with this fantastic smash using Pic collage, Skitch and Ballons +

It is really awesome to be able to add other things to pictures and videos.  The possibilities are almost endless.  Just think about what you want to do to a photo and then find an app to do it.

Ok so the app-smashing was great...the video recording...not so great. I had a really hard time.  Even when I wrote a script, I still stumbled.  This is going to take some practice.  I used an app called ExplainEverything.  I was learning as I was creating.  I didn't really understand all of the features.  I need to learn and practice a little more with this app before I can make amazing videos to share with my students.

On second thought, maybe this is the perfect video because it shows students that they do not have to be perfect, they can try new things and get better every time.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

"Hanx Writer"-This app takes you back in time

I am typing this post with a great app my husband discovered
called "Hanx writer".  I am taken back to a time when my father 
let me use his type writer to write my report for school.  This 
app has it all right.  The clicks are just as hypnotizing as 
they were back then.  I can feel the vibration of solid keys 
under my fingers.  The darn thing keeps dinging at me when I
get to the end of the line.  This is awesome.

Ok so what about students.  Wouldn't this be an awesome thing
to show them when we are comparing time periods.  This would 
be a great tool to pull out when we hit the doldrums before Christmas and before spring break.  Students with sensory seeking needs will be thrilled with all the sounds, feelings and 
movement this app provides.

I have discovered some disappointments:
1. You can only type on the introduction page unless you buy the app.
2. You can upload to google drive but it includes the introduction Mr. Hanks writes.  My students would be frustrated by this.
3.  The "Writer's Block Bundle" (in app purchase) costs 4.99.  No big deal if you are just getting it for one iPad, but it is a big deal if you are getting it for 20 iPad's.

Overall though, I am pleased.  I know this isn't meant to be an educational app but the innovator in me sees a lot of educational implications.  

Bravo, Tom Hanks!  I can't wait to share this with my students.

Getting ready... Yes I know it is only July 9th

My New Classroom-First attempt at a panaramic picture.  A little Picasso-ish but you get the gist.

Every year I get antsy during July about the upcoming school year.  Yes I know I am crazy.  I should be relaxing and enjoying myself.  I am a person who thrives on schedules and planned events but God did not give me the talent of scheduling and planning myself.  School provides the structure I need.  During the summer, I rest for a few weeks and then I start to crave the structure again.

So, I thought I would share with you my preparation for this coming 2015-2016 school year.

My first resource I would like to share is the Teacher Control Journal by FlyLady.  If you struggle sometimes with housekeeping, FlyLady is your go-to resource.  She provides a very clear cleaning schedule and de-cluttering schedule that helps you keep your sanity.  FlyLady recognized that teachers needed help too so she created the Teacher Control Journal.  Basically it is a binder system that helps a teacher get started for the year, organize everyday tasks, and tackle uniquely educational clutter.

I started this year by making my to do list for the start of the year.  You can access the FlyLady's Control Journal here.  I would encourage you to make it your own (this is what I did).  You can see my personalized Control Journal here.  It is a work in progress so it will change.  Feel free to make a copy and personalize it for yourself.  I will keep you updated on my school year prep.

What are you doing to prep. for the new school year?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

What is Pinnacle?

I know that not all of the people that read my blog are from the same area, so I thought I would take this opportunity to explain something that I will be talking a lot about. The program is called Pinnacle. It is essentially an educational technology professional development group. In order to be a part of Pinnacle, I had to go through a rigorous application process.  Once my application was accepted, I was observed and interviewed.  I was so excited to hear that I was accepted into the program.

 The purpose of the group is to develop educational technology leaders who will take their learning back to their schools, throughout the county and even to others in the state and beyond. Last week (officially the first week of summer break, but not for us) I participated in four days of intense professional development which I have written about in previous posts. I learned about the importance of being a connected educator, tips and tricks of using twitter, what Andragogy means, how to gamify learning, SMAR & TPACK strategies, how to flip the classroom, and the importance of project based learning. We got lots of goodies, like a laptop and and iPad.  For our classrooms we were given the choice between iPads and Chromebooks.  It was so much fun to unwrap 20 iPads (ten for my class and 10 buddy iPads)  We learned a lot of information, and it was hard to take in all at once. We have two days in August to look forward to as well.

 The more I process what I have learned, the more excited I am about using the skills and strategies in the classroom. The best part about Pinnacle was the camaraderie. Thirty-three creative, innovative, and positive educators, collaborating together to help our students learn. I look forward to working with this group for three years. I can't wait to see where we are three years from now. I am incredibly thankful to all of the people who encouraged me to join Pinnacle. See this article on the district web page for more information.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

"I'm not too excited, It's just Enthusiasm"

One day my principal called my teammate and I into her office to meet a guy who was showing us a new tech. tool.  In the process of him explaining what it did I let out a excited squeal and literally jumped in the air.  My teammate and principal gave me a look that said "there she goes again, getting too excited".  I have received that look on many occasions.  I can't help getting excited.  I love cool things that help my students learn.  I get Christmas morning giddiness when presented with some new tech tool to use in the classroom.  I have been known to stand on chairs and sing at students.  I dance even though I can't.  Why because I am enthusiastic about what I do.

Some people don't like my enthusiasm.  They give me looks and tell me to calm down.   I feel really embarrassed when this happens.  My cheeks get red and hot and I try to smile it away.  My enthusiasm immediately burns out.   Sometimes I think they are right.  That I should calm down and chill out. This is why I work with children. They have no problem with my enthusiasm.

God gave me this enthusiasm for a reason.  My students need it.  They need someone who gets excited about their learning so that they can get excited about their learning.  They need a teacher who will holler with them, laugh with them, get a little too loud with them and dance with them.

Today I read a great blog post about enthusiasm.  It reminded me that I do not need to calm down and chill out.  I should "never lose my enthusiasm" even if others think I am crazy.  If my craziness helps students learn, so be it.

Thank you @CSmithGoBlue for the inspiration for this blog.  Check his out.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Pinnacle 20 Day 4: Today I learned...Now its time for a break

For real my brain is full.

Today I learned
  • what # really means
  • Why on earth did I stop using Flipboard
  • Use Hootsuite on iPad
  • Use tweetdeck on computer
  • Lurking on twitter is appropriate
This has been a long four days.  I have met some really good people and learned some really awesome things.  I am excited about applying what I have learned in my class.   I am thankful for the camaraderie I experienced.  My PLN has grown and I am looking forward to collaborating more with them in the future.  

Now to begin my summer vacation for real.  I am looking forward to some good chill time and some time to process everything I have learned.

photo credit: via photopin (license)

photo credit: Beach Ball via photopin (license)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Pinnacle 20 day 3: info graphics and iPads

Today I learned it is a lot of work to inbox and configure a set of iPads.  I also learned how to create an info graphic...check it out

It's not done yet. We are going to add it to thing link and make it interactive.

Well seeing it's my 15th wedding anniversary, I think that's enough for now.  The learning will continue tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Pinnacle 20 day 2: My brain is getting fuller (is fuller a word?)

Today we were on a desert island.
We made cube puzzles

We explored Minecraft worlds.

We were animators.

Here are my random thoughts about the day...
  • Kids love games
  • Video first then image (Green Screen app)
  • Project based learning- Have kids solve real world problems like making their playground safer.
  • Have students watch video tutorials before you start a new tool.  Basically flipped technology.  
One of the things that wasted the most time this year was getting students set up in a certain website or program.  If I used the flipped model and assign signing up and watching tutorials the day or so before we use.  Even if some students don't watch the tutorials, this would create student tutors who could help get students set up and save time.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Pinnacle 20 Day 1: My goals as a new Pinnacle leader?

I am so excited to be a part of Pinnacle.  For those who get irritated when bloggers just throw things out there, Pinnacle is a group set up by my district to train and develop technology leaders in the classroom, in their schools and beyond.

I have been learning on my own for a while, it will be nice to learn with others.  Today was a great day.  I got new toys to play with (an iPad and a laptop), I met some new people (some just as crazy as me).  It was nice to feel accepted in a room devoid of naysayers and negative thinkers.

We were asked at the end of the day to answer this question:

What are my goals as a new Pinnacle leader?

Here are my goals (update: I started with 5 goals, that is way to many, I need to target my goals so they are more achievable.  I also added a Star Trek theme cause I'm a geek)

Pinnacle, the technology frontier. These are the voyages of the tech geek Cissel.  Her 3-year mission: to explore strange new strategies, to seek out new learning and new ways of teaching, to boldly go where no teacher has gone before.

Goal 1: to explore strange new strategies: I will try it out even though it is crazy, different, and colleagues  may raise their eyebrows at me.

Goal 2: to seek out new learning and new ways of teaching: I will be proactive in seeking new ways of doing things.  I will challenge myself not to teach the way I have always taught because my students do NOT learn the way students have always learned.

Goal 3: to boldly go where no teacher has gone before.:  I will be bold, sharing my explorations with others and daring others to take the journey with me.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

#edblogaday Day 27: After an entire school year of building relationships, how do you let go?

Sorry, I could not resist :)  I use this as a brain break in my class sometimes.  I love to hear kids sing.

Ok so the question is "After an entire school year of building relationships, how do you let it go?"

Quick answer:  I don't

In previous years I have always seen my "babies" come and visit me the next year.  I never really had to let go of them until 5th grade graduation.  This year was tough because all of by "babies" of years past are in a different city.  I hope my "babies" this year will say hello to me next year.  After that they will be off to middle school.

  I have this picture in my head of walking though the mall one day and a tall elegent girl walks up to me and says "Hey Mrs. Cissel, remember me, I was in your 4th grade class.  You were always my favorite teacher.  Meet my 3rd grade son, he wants to be in your class next year."

A girl can dream can't she...

Ok serious answer:

You have to let go sometime.  You have to say to yourself "I have taught them all they need to know" and let them fly.  They might come back and say hello and you might never see them again.  Point is, you did your job.  Hold your head up high and watch them soar.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

#edblogaday Day 23- Sometimes you just have to show off

My sister teaches dance.  She (and her kids) get to show off their learning at the end of the year dance recital.  Every class gets on stage, dressed to the nines, and they demonstrate the hardest, cutest, and most complicated dance moves to a loud piece of music.  Sounds like fun!

My students show off their learning by sitting silently in rows and bubbling in answers to question on an answer sheet.  Not fun!

When my students make something great, I want to show it off.  I want parents and others to stand and cheer and ask for an encore.  Demonstrating learning should be fun and exciting.

I went to an academic version of a dance recital on Thursday this week, the Pinnacle Student Showcase.  I  was amazed by what these students could do, from kindergarten to high-school.   It was very evident that learning was happening and the students had so much fun showing off their learning.  I will get to participate in this showcase next year.  I can't wait to show off my student learning.

My son experiencing Green Screen

This student taught us how we could use green screen to teach almost anything.  Yes he used that wording "teach".  He was talking about how he used green screen to teach the parts of a flower and how to solve a math problem.  

The picture is hard to see but that is a sock puppet.  High-schoolers are using sock puppets to "teach" literary devices.  The teacher told me that since he has started using sock puppets, students are not afraid to look silly or make mistakes.  And yes these are high-schoolers.

Ok now it is my turn to show off.  My students have been "test prepping" for days.  I was dog tired of passages and word problems.  So yesterday we rotated through several stations.  One of my stations was a chormebook station where I taught the students how to login to StoryBird (one of the things I learned about at the Student Showcase, a 2nd grader taught me) and instructed them to "just write whatever you want" (school appropriate of course).

One of my most shy students wrote this book.  Please ignore the spelling mistake at the end and think about what he is sharing about himself.  I learned more about him from this book than anything he has ever said or done.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

#edblogaday Day 19: Summer Learning Loss

Update: This is take two for this post. For some reason or another my original blog post disappeared. I thank you for your patience and understanding. This is not exactly like my original post but close enough. Thank you!

I have two children. My oldest is a girl, 13, bookworm, writer, artist, classic ADHD just like her mom. My youngest is a boy, 7, active, meteorologist (obsessed with "wild weather"), classic him (there is no one else like him). When summertime hits we are all happy because we can be free (but not too free).

My son thrives on structure. Last summer my son participated in a YMCA Summer Program designed to help prevent summer learning loss. It was amazing. He participated in literacy activities in the morning and in the afternoon they went on fieldtrips or to the YMCA for some swimming or other activities.

There is no way he would have been able to start so strong this year if he had not participated in the program.  He made gains in reading and in social skills.  The team understood my son’s uniqueness and interacted with him accordingly. I am very happy that he has been invited to attend this summer as well.  I can’t wait to see the gains he is going to make this summer.
Dwayne Burks The director of Y-Readers Summer Program
Hugo The Hornet getting my sun "Buzzing about Reading"
Sir Purr Rewarded the students for their hard work with an Autograph
A race car driver brought his car so my son could "Race Toward Reading"

My daughter, on the other hand, is very happy to be left to her own. She reads like you wouldn't believe (we actually have to tell her to put her book down). She is a self directed learner. If she wants to learn something (and she always does) she will seek it out. Her math is beyond me at this point so I use tech tools like Khan Academy to keep her fresh during the summer, but she is in no way glued to the screen all day.

Parents should allow their kids to be kids during the summer and sneak some learning on the side. Kids are always learning anyway. They need to be given experiences, not worksheets or even computer programs. Take your children to parks and let them explore the outside. Take them to the grocery store with a budget and make them pick between cereals (don't give them extra money just because they really want it). Take them to the library and let them join the summer reading program. Sign up for Scholastic's summer reading program online. Look for free museum days. Take them to the farm. Let them build a ramp for their cars and see how high the "bump" has to be before the cars won't roll up easily. Know your child. If they need structure, give them structure.  Look for Summer Programs that fit the needs of your child or plan your day so that you have some quiet learning experiences in the morning and more active experiences in the afternoon.

Have a great time learning this summer. Feel free to comment on how you prevent summer learning loss.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

#edblogaday Day 16: Random thinking/reflection on technology use

This Symbaloo has all of the tools I use in my classroom on a weekly basis.  That's a lot of tools.  Some of these tools do similar things.  I am currently reflecting on which tools I am going to keep for next year and which tools I am going to cut out.  I am also thinking of replacing some tools with other things.  This is a lot of work.

As teachers we reflect on lessons.  Lessons that work, we do again next year.  Lessons that don't work, we tweek or toss.  With technology ever changing it is tough to decide to keep, tweek, or toss.  How do you guys do it?

One of the things that makes me good at integrating technology is that I am always looking for the newest thing.  One of my weaknesses as a teacher is my tendency to keep trying new things and not mastering one type of technology.  So as a work in progress I am thinking about why I use technology, why my students use technology, and why my parents use technology.  I am hoping by doing this that I might streamline my technology use so that I will be more efficient.

If you have any ideas please share.

Friday, May 15, 2015

#edblogaday Day 15: Yikes I got behind!!! and a little Yoda

It's testing season and I allowed myself to get behind.  :(
Life goes on...

So I played this really great game with my students.  It is a very modifiable/adjustable/tweekable game that can be played with or without (*gasp*) technology.  It is so very simple.

I call it "Give and Take".

I gave the students 4 increasingly difficult multiplication or division problems.  Just the equation, not word problems.  The students had to work on the problems independently and quietly while music played and then the fun began...

Ok so you need to know my room set up for this to make sense.  I have my table in the middle (it has my computer and projector on it so I don't have much choice for position).  On either side of my room the students desks are set up like C's with the open part facing me.  So I have a right side and a left side.  When the students first started bringing me their work, it was only one or two at a time.  The paper that touched my hand first was checked first.  Then they started picking up speed so I started making a game of them handing the papers to me.  I would point to one side or another, keeping them on their toes.

Wait-I didn't explain the directions yet.  Ok so the rules are on the computer/smartboard.
1) You will work independently and silently on the four problems given to you.
2) You will show your strategies and all your work
3) You will turn in your work to me and wait for me to score you.
4) If you answer all questions correctly, you may (drum roll please) give or take a point from team 1 team two or team three. I will then give you another sheet of problems to complete.  You may complete as many as you can until the game is over.  (o.k.  right after spring break I put 1's 2's and 3's on their desks.  I use that to bring small groups down to the carpet as I rarely teach whole group after spring break).
5) The team who has the    LEAST    points wins. (I black the word "least" or "greatest" with a blue rectangle on the smart board so I can pull it away at the end)

There is the kicker... I don't tell them who wins.  They don't know until after the game is over if the team with the least points wins or the team with the most points wins.

The class goes wild when you reveal the winner.  It is a quiet and calm game during play but a wild and high energy game at the end.  I loved it.  The kids loved it.  It was great.


  • I "snuck" calculators into the hands of my E.C. students so that they could still participate and practice calculator skills

I will close with Yoda.  Why?  Because he's Yoda and it is Friday and I can do what I want.  It's my blog.

I don't know why I've never used these quote on my students.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

#edblogaday Day12: Helping Students Cope with Testing

I would have given him/her credit :)
Maybe this post should be about how Mrs. Cissel needs to learn to cope with testing.

This is a topic I could greatly improve on so if you have any ideas please share them.

Here is what I do to help students cope with testing
  • Positive thinking-I ask the students to close their eyes and picture themselves doing well on the test.  I do this step by step, very slowly, with my quietest teacher voice.
  • Brain Breaks- If you haven't checked out GoNoodle you need to right now!  This is an incredibly valuable resource for "wiggle-itis" of any kind.  If you have small children, you may want to use this on rainy days during the summer.  Here is a good introduction from Scott Nickel.
  • Strategy/Encouragement videos- Youtube is full of them.  I search "test taking motivation" or "EOG prep"  Fair warning: The rule in Mrs. Cissel's class is if you start singing the "real words" (and yes I use the quotation mark signal with my fingers), then you can't handle that video so we remove it from the playlist.  Last year I had a very long play list.  Then I changed districts and lost access.  So now my playlist is shorter but you are welcome to use it.  I add to it frequently.  
  • Small groups- I have been teaching almost exclusively in small groups for the last two weeks.  Students are more likely to ask for clarification when in a small group.  It is also more calming to be in a small group than in a large group.  Its also easier for me to "take the temperature" of the group.  
  • Putting the students in charge of their own review-We are trying out a new website (at least I've never tried it before) Edmodo.  I am using it to help the students take control of their learning while they are working independently and I am working in small group.  I love the idea of the badges.  I am also using it as a backchannel as I am working in small groups so that other students can ask me questions.  I send answers and video tutorials back to the students for them to work on at their own pace.  I am just now trying this strategy.  The students have choice of which stories (reading passages) to work on.  I created a Quiz for each one.  Edmodo then tells them how they did. 
  • Adopt a classroom-I have a kindergarten class who adopted my class.  SHHHH its a secret.  They don't know who is giving them treats.  Each treat has an encouraging message.  I'll take a picture of one tomorrow and post it.
  • Make the most of recess and "talking lunch"- Let the students PLAY HARD!

  • Pray for them-I pray for my students peace.  I pray for them to remember what they learned.  I pray for them silently in my head and they don't know.  I believe God hears and answers prayer.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Phil 4:6-7

I have a tendency to stress during testing time.  It is important for me to remember this verse.  It is not good because if I am stressed the kids will be too.

 I would love to know how you as teachers de-stress during testing time.

Monday, May 11, 2015

#edblogaday Day 11: Why is it important to ask better questions?

I was working with my students on Edmodo today.  I wanted to use it as a backchannel for them to ask questions they had while I was working in small group.  Some got it and some didn't.  The best question I got was...

What made this a good question.

  • It was detailed
  • It included some of the authors own thinking, whether stated overtly or implied
We need to keep this in mind not only when we have our students ask questions but also when we ask questions.  Especially if the question is geared toward improving student learning.

Good Question

Is homework helpful to students?

Better Question

Are written responses, assigned for home reading, helpful for improving reading comprehension?

Asking better questions leads to better results.  Think about this not only when you are asking others questions but also when you are asking questions of yourself.  Think about this when you are reflecting on your own practice.

Our students deserve the best.  If we are going to ask them to ask better questions then we need to ask better questions.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

#edublogaday Day 9: Best Teacher Appreciation Week ever

What's your big take away from Teacher Appreciation Week?

Here is my take away.  Its all about how you perceive the Appreciation.  

I have never had such a fantastic teacher appreciation week.  I am truly blessed to work at my school.  I have gotten all kinds of cool things; doughnuts, jeans passes, ice cream, catered duty free lunch, a cool emergency phone charging thingy, goody bags, and a gift card. Yet it's not the things that have made me feel appreciated.  It is having a voice that makes me feel appreciated.  It is being recognized as someone who tries hard that makes me feel appreciated.  It's the homemade ice cream given to the cafeteria first thing in the morning by a student who didn't want it to melt so she could give it to her teacher at lunch.  It's the "Mrs. Cissel I want you to be my teacher next year."  It's the "Hey Mrs. Cissel" from a kid at Walmart that I know I've never seen before.  I feel appreciated because I notice the things that inspired me to become a teacher in the first place.

I didn't become a teacher for the little goodies.  I didn't become a teacher for the paycheck. 

 I became a teacher so that what little wisdom I have can be passed on.

  I became a teacher to teach and when I have done that all week long.  It is a great week.

Friday, May 8, 2015

#edublogaday Day 8: Why celebrate teachers?

Today is going to be a short and sweet.

Conversations, always conversations...

Ok so I was having a conversation with a student at the lunch table today.  He didn't think it was fair that I got a little goody bag for teacher appreciation week and he didn't.  His thought was "I sit her all day, what do I get?"

What do I get?????

We celebrate teachers because they give to us the ability to get anything we want out of life.  I'm not just talking about classroom teachers.  I'm talking about anyone who teaches you anything.  You can not function in life if you do not grow.  You can not grow if you do not learn.  We celebrate teachers so that we can grow.

Then we can get whatever our little heart desires because we were given the tools to seek it out.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

#ThankaTeacher #edblogaday Day 7: My inspiration

For #ThankaTeacher I would like to introduce you to my inspiration

Mr. Matchett

Mr. Matchett was my high-school band director.  He has always been my inspiration for how I teach and communicate with my students.  I remember vividly sitting in my chair with my flute on my lap feeling very frustrated because I couldn't get it just right.  Mr. Matchett offered words of encouragement and taught me strategies to overcome my frustration and just do it.  He taught me to feel music.  He challenged me with really really hard pieces and taught me the stamina I needed to practice and practice and practice until we got it right.  He never let me get away with second best.  He pushed me to my limit so I could see what my limit was and surpass it.  He didn't water anything down.  He was never mean or demeaning.  He made me see that I could do anything I set my mind to.

I was not a healthy teenager.  I was often sick and I spent some time in the hospital.  Mr. Matchett was always very encouraging when I came back.  He always asked how I was feeling.  It seems like such a little thing but it was so important to me.  I hated high-school (I'm sorry Mr. Matchet)  I highly disliked high-school.  It was so hard and I felt I wasn't good at anything.  I found it very hard to focus and I was very sensitive to the comments from my classmates.  Band was my haven.  It was my safe place.  It felt so good to play a section of music, look up,  and get a glint from Mr. Matchett's eye that said "that's it...keep going".  Mr. Matchett did not put up with students making fun of others.  He cultivated us into a team and we supported one another.  If it were not for band I don't know how I would have survived my high-school years.  Mr. Matchett is to this day, one of the most encouraging people I know.

Mr. Matchett was my Mr. Falker.  This year when I read this book to my students, I broke a cardinal rule of teaching, "Never cry in front of your students".

At the end of the book Patricia Polacco tells how she meets Mr. Falker and he asks her what she does and she says "Why Mr. Falker, I write books for children.  Thank you Mr. Falker."  I broke out in tears because I was thinking about Mr. Matchett and what his encouragement ment to me.  I told my students about Mr. Matchett and how if it hadn't been for him, I wouldn't be standing in front of them.   I know I would not be a teacher today if it had not been for him pushing me and encouraging me to always do my best.

I know Mr. Matchett is reading this so I would like to say.
"Why Mr. Matchett, I teach children.  Just like you taught me.  Thank you Mr. Matchett!  Thank you!"

Go #ThankaTeacher today!  They deserve to know how much they meant to you.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

#edublogaday Day 6: R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

R- People will REALIZE how much blood, sweat and tears we pour into our work on a daily basis.
E- EVEN the parents who are doctors and lawyers will Ohh and Ahh when their daughter becomes      engaged to a TEACHER.
S- the STEREOTYPE of "Those who can't teach" will blow away in the wind
P- PARENTS and stakeholders will hold us in the same esteem as doctors and lawyers (I guess I'm    on a doctor/lawyer kick)
E-we will EARN what we deserve for the work we do
T- TEACHERS will learn to RESPECT themselves and it will become contagious!

All kidding aside some people will never respect what we do.  They are convinced that we work 9-3 and go home to sip a cocktail, put our feet up and watch a sitcom.  We don't need to impress anyone.  We need to be strong enough of character that we radiate respect and demonstrate respect to others.
  My husband heard a story about Mr. Rogers.  Some teenagers thought it would be fun to steal a car.  They somehow found out that the car belonged to Mr. Rogers.  They returned the car to Mr. Rodgers with a note on the windshield that said "We are sorry.  If we knew that it was your car, we would not have stolen it".  True story or not, Mr. Rogers did not demand respect.  He earned respect.

Let us live our lives and teach in such a way that we earn the respect of those around us.

I love and miss you Mr. Rogers!  "It's such a good feeling"

Student Wahoo of the day!
This wahoo is not a document or technology piece but a conversation.  I had the most wonderful conversation with a few of my students at recess today.  I am trying to be good and walk the perimeter of the playground as the students play.  A few students decided to walk and talk with me today.  One of the students told me he wants me to be his teacher next year and in middle school, highschool and college.  Wow!  That baby doesn't know how good that made his teacher feel.  That was the best teacher appreciation gift ever!  I must be doing something right... (*tear*)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

#edblogaday Day 5: Off topic My first edcamp

Today I went to my very first EdCamp and I loved it.

If you're not sure what an EdCamp is, check out this video.

This was my first Pinnacle (technology leadership) event and I was so excited to attend.  I was glad they let us invite a friend.  I brought my good 5th grade buddy with me.  I attended two sessions.  One was about B.Y.O.D and the other was about writing/vocabulary integration in technology.  My buddy attended a different second session.  I can't wait till we have a chance to chat about what she learned.

In B.Y.O.D I learned

  • kids are going to make bad choices... the end... you may as well prepare for it
  • allow kids to take the responsibility of their learning including deciding what app to use
  • allow students to do what they are going to do anyway (tweet) and use it to your advantage
    • one teacher (highschool) created a # for her class and her students # notes.  she takes a participation grade based on their tweets
    • she said the students compete for who can tweet the coolest fact/note/whatever
    • recommended "today's meet" or google classroom for elementary "tweeting"
  • be clever when sharing devices
  • kids will take pictures of the homework-notes-anchor charts... let them
  • think what you want students to produce rather than what you want them to produce it on.

In writing/vocabulary integration I learned

  • middle and highschool teachers NEED us (elementary teachers) to teach students to annotate text
  • diigo and read&write for google are good tools to use but they each have their own weaknesses
  • you can use doctopus and goobric with google classroom (wow didn't know that)
  • use storify to help students who need help in writing a complete cohesive story
  • use/create fill in the blank notes and sentence starters to help students who don't have the vocabulary to write about a particular topic or in a particular format
  • one I just thought about on my own...we were talking about giving students a word bank... Would it be possible to create a web-based word bank in google presentations or docs that a student could access all year

To sum up... EdCamp is the BEST PD ever.  Not boring, lots of information, learning what you want to learn, not a waste of time.........

#edblogaday Day 5: #TeachingIs ??????

Teaching is...

The first word that came to my mind is "hard".  Teaching is hard.

I was in a resturant, waiting for my table, and I overheard a young girl telling her mother that she was going to be entering the college of education at her university.  Immediately my brain told her (if I had that ability to tell other people's brains "DON'T DO IT!!!".  I fear that when young college students think Education they think...

Teaching is...

When in reality often times...

Teaching is...

Especially at the end of the year those words "hard" "testing" and "accountability" get bigger and bigger.

I will get burned out, disheartened and disillusioned if I allow myself to think this way.

I must remember my purpose.  I must remember my ultimate goal.  Teaching is waiting, watching, and willing LEARNING to grow! (yeah I've been teaching alliteration, not a great example but hey you get my point)

This leads me into my student Wahoo of the day.  J is a student who tries her best everyday.  She impresses me with her stamina.  I think sometimes she would describe learning as HARD, but she tries anyway and never gives up.

Check out her American Revolution Project

Monday, May 4, 2015

#edblogaday Day 4: Celebrate!

What do I have to celebrate today?

  • My new niece Hannah Ruth
  • My son is showing some progress with some strategies we have put in place.  (by the by; if any of you have any great links or resources about Sensory Processing or Nonverbal learning disability feel free to comment)
  • My daughter is a responsible 13 year old
  • My students are meeting dibles reading goals.
  • My sweet husband brought me lunch today.
  • I have a God in heaven who loves me.

Have a great Monday!

Student Wahoo! of the Day.  I love summarizing with Somebody, Wanted, But, So, Then.  Good Job A.

#edblogaday Day 3: My soapbox or TEACH CHILDREN

What's your biggest concern about teaching and what can we do about it?

My biggest concern about teaching is that we focus on the standards and not the kids.  I understand that there are certain things that All kids should learn in order to be successful in life.  I understand that those things can be learned in a logical progression.  I have been trained in these things and I know them well.

My students do not need me to FOCUS on teaching the standards, the students need me to FOCUS on teaching them.

I didn't teach "tying shoes" to my daughter.  I taught my daughter how to tie shoes.
I don't  teach "Multiplication" to my students.  I like to teach my students multiplication.
If the student comes first the learning will come.

So what do we do about it?

Think about your students first and then your objectives.

How do your students best learn?  What do they need to learn first?  How do they like to show their learning?  This takes time.

State lawmakers need to realize that we teach children, not computers.  We do not come in, put the standard in their head, and leave.

Ok I'm done (stepping down from the soapbox)

Student Wahoo of the day:

Check out S. math homework.  She did that all by his lonesome.  See what I mean about teaching the student first.  Look how the learning just took over.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

#edblogaday Day 2 Topic: Why I Love Spring (And You Should, Too!)

Today's post is going to be short and sweet.

I love spring because it represents life from death, new beginnings and salvation.

I love spring because 13 "springs" ago I gave birth to my first born.

I love spring because today I became an Auntie again.

I love spring because it represents God's redemption and mercy.

I love spring because it reminds me that new beginnings are possible, change is inevitable and life is beautiful.

Have a great spring.

Friday, May 1, 2015

#edblogaday Day 1 or Why every teacher should blog.

I took the challenge from #edblogaday to write a blog post every day for the month of May.

Today's topic is "Why is blogging important to teaching and learning?"

Ok so lets split this question up and answer one part at a time (just like I teach my students).

Blogging is important to teaching because it connects teachers in a way never before possible. Over and over again, while I was a preservice teacher, I would hear teachers say "I'm just going to close my door and teach". There is a time and a place for that but when we teach that way all the time, we end up feeling alone and isolated. Someone who feels alone and isolated often becomes embittered and grumpy and.....burnt out. Blogging connects us to the reason we teach. It revitalizes our passion and it helps us to accomplish our ultamate goal, to get students ready to live and thrive in this world (not the world we grew up in).

Blogging is important to learning because it forces the teacher to learn with the student. Blogging and reading the blog's of others help us to research and problem solve, which is exactly what we want our students to be able to do. When we blog (and teach our students to blog) it connects our students to a bigger world than we can give them within the four walls of our classroom. It helps us to hone in on specific strategies that work with our learners to teach our objectives. Blogging gives us purpose for teaching and it gives our students purpose for learning.

Every teacher should blog.  Every student should blog.  Learning should be shared.

My students know that I try to blog at least once a month, and because I blog once a month, they are required to blog once a month.  They are still at the beginning stages of blogging.  They type their text, edit and click publish.  My dream is for them to be able to comment and receive comments on their learning and writing not only from their teacher and classmates but also from other learners and teachers around the world.  How amazing would that be.  My class uses Kidblog.   If you are looking for a blogging platform for kids I would highly recommend kidblog.

I would like to end each #edblogaday with a Student Wahoo!

Today's Wahoo goes out to J. 

I have been working with my students on Meta-cognition "Thinking about their thinking".  I gave them this graphic organizer to record their thinking for the day.  J. took it and ran with it.  I had to give her extra paper.  Wahoo J.!  If you would like a copy of this organizer click here.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tears and Snow Days

I am going to be honest.  I woke up Tuesday morning, learned we were going to have a snow day, and cried.  Yes I cried.  Why did I cry?  Because it was the straw that broke the camels back.  My students have missed out on so much instruction that its not even funny, five and a half days in the last three weeks to be exact. Today we added one more day to the count so that makes it six and a half days.

So what does an educator do when she finds out that more snow days are possible.  She tries to prepare herself and her students and set them up for success.  I made a snow day packet.  I will include the cover-letter for the packet.  You are free to use, steal, copy, edit or whatever you need to do. I will also provide the links where I got the resources but not the resources themselves. That would not be ethical.   I know the snow day packet will not make up for missed instruction, but for those who work on it, it will ensure they are practicing skills learned.

 Days like today are when I wish I taught a flipped class.  I could send my students video lessons that they could participate in and respond to at home and then when we got back to school catch-up wouldn't be so daunting.  I know because of the makeup of my classroom, there is no way that a flipped class could be equitable.  My students do not always have access to technology in their homes.  I find myself jealous of teachers who tweet all of the awesome stuff that they are doing with their flipped classroom.  I have to realize that I teach the students that I teach for a reason.  I believe that they were not put in my classroom randomly.  I must take what I have learned about technology and teach it to my students inside the classroom.  I must instill in them a desire to learn more and seek out "new learning and new life experiences".

All that to say this.  So we missed a lot of instruction.  The job now falls into my hands to ensure that my students, when they are with me, are receiving the best education I can give them.  If they leave my classroom with a thirst for more, I have done my job well.

Resources used to make Snow Day Packet

Reading passage-  (free site)
Fluency passage- Reading A-Z  (paid site)
Fraction sheets- (free site)
Word Problems- Dad's Worksheets (free site)
CUBES strategy- image found here (free)

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