International Dot Day (Week) 2013

For those of you who may not know, a book called The Dot has commanded my mid-September reading for two years now.

The Dot follows Vashti, an art student who believes she has no art talent. “Make your mark and see where it takes you,” encouraged her teacher. Vashti jabs her blank paper with a marker, and proclaims it finished. “Now, sign it!” says her art teacher. Later on, Vashti returns to the art classroom to see her teacher has framed her artwork and mounted it on the wall. Vashti realizes she can do better than that dot, and continues throughout the story to make dots of all shapes and sizes.

Thanks to the wonderful teachers and librarians in my PLN on Twitter, I was alerted to the fact that “International Dot Day” happens on or around September 15th. We had the awesome opportunity to share some of our artwork at the Waukesha Public Library. We created our dots with watercolors, and sent them off to the library for display. I plan on getting to the library soon to take some pictures. The other awesome part of Dot Day (Week) was that we spent the week of the 16th connecting with different classrooms.

Someone on Twitter created a Google Doc where teachers/librarians were able to add in their classroom contact information and set appointment slots for others to fill in their information. My 6th graders managed to connect with three schools and four different classrooms.

What it looked like on our end:

Skype with a class in Austin, TX!

What we looked like on their end:

I even started a custom Google Map so we can keep track of all the locations with which we connect this year. I’m looking forward to adding even more pins on the map during the Global Read Aloud coming up! Hopefully this is one way to help my students understand that they are not alone in the world–there are many more kids out there and they all can make a difference!

Until next time, keep a song in your heart!

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Vocabulary Bulletin Board

My vocabulary board!

My vocabulary board!

I got a huge stack of these cards along with my new reading series. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s “Journeys”) I had no idea what I was going to do with them, because initially they were just going to take up space in one of my cupboards, as many of the ancillary materials do. Then, I had an idea to use the edge of my large bulletin board as a vocabulary area. I just needed a way to keep the cards intact, because if they will be reused year after year, I don’t want to punch holes in them.

I had a few ideas on how I was going to do this — blue goo (the sticky putty that we teachers love so much) wasn’t quite going to cut it, since I know that it can leave a residue after a while. I also thought about going to the dollar store to buy some cheap frames, painting them, and making it really cute. That idea got the kibosh because of time constraints, and I didn’t measure the cards before I left the building the other night.

Enter Target’s dollar section! Yay! They have these cool, round bulletin board tacks that have a rubber seal on the top. They also have two metal pins to stick into the board so they don’t rotate in place. You slide the paper between the rubber seal and the plastic, and voila! A place to hang paper without punching holes in it! I wish they were 2/$1, but no such luck. They were a dollar each. But, for the convenience of not punching holes in papers that will get reused from year to year, it works!

Hope your school preparations are going well! We’re back to school on Wednesday of this week. I’m looking forward to 24 vibrant young people who are eager to learn. I am also supervising a student teacher from September-November. Yikes! I’m nervous, but I’m sure it will be great.

Until next time,
Keep a song in your heart!

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Google Education Summit, Wisconsin Lutheran College

This summer I had the awesome privilege of speaking at the second Google Education Summit at Wisconsin Lutheran College. I was an attendee last year, and I was quite happy when I was asked to come back and talk about my Google Apps for Education/Chromebook experience.

Lunch on the Milwaukee Shoreline

Lunch on the Milwaukee Shoreline

It was another great week at WLC! I was really happy to spend time with all the folks learning how to get Google-fied. I was able to share some great things that we did in my classroom last year, and I hope the attendees found it helpful.

The one big bummer of a moment was during the day at Discovery World. The day itself was awesome– I’m hoping we can schedule a field trip sometime this year. I was eagerly anticipating an email from the people at CUE that run the Google Teacher Academy. I had submitted my application a few weeks prior, and I was hoping for some fantastic news. However, I wasn’t one of the ~50 people chosen for this particular GTA. It would have been great – it was hosted at the Google offices in Chicago. I plan on applying to the next one, and hopefully I can attend!

Finally, here’s a video that WLC put together after the event, and after that is my Google Teacher Academy video.

Until next time, keep a song in your heart!


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Google Adds Search To Link Box in Drive

20130806-222014.jpg

Hi friends!

Sorry I’ve left this site so dormant over the summer! I’ve had so many great learning opportunities this summer, I can’t wait to write about them. This breaking news comes first, though!

Last night, as I was revisiting my presentations for AppFest, I was adding a link to Pernille Ripp’s “Blogging through the Fourth Dimension.” (A great blog on working with Elementary students–check it out!)

Lo and behold, as I was ready to paste the link, a new box popped up and startled me. This is not normal! It’s new! I thought. You can search the web or your Drive to find and link related content. It’s makes things that much easier, again!

Enjoy your new search box–

And keep a song in your heart!

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#WELSEd Twitter Chat

WELSEd Chat using TweetChat web service

One of the new adventures I’ve embarked upon in the recent past is leading a Twitter chat every two weeks. I am attempting to connect educators in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod schools. This is a great opportunity because we can share with each other what is working in our Lutheran schools, we can give feedback on what the Synod and Northwestern Publishing House are working on with creating materials for our schools, and we can support each other in our ministries.

Although some would warn me about adding yet another thing to my plate, I think this is a worthwhile venture to help connect the technology leaders in our synod. I know not all of the tech-savvy are on Twitter, but we can connect those who are already and encourage those who are not. (It’s great Professional Development!)

Last week Thursday, we talked about using technology in our Religion classes. Click through to Storify for an archive of the conversation: [View the story "#WELSEd Chat 4/18/13" on Storify]

I’m always looking for ideas from people on what we can talk about in order to help the most people. Tweet me @aleixa or send me an email through the blog to suggest topics!

Keep a song in your heart!

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April, Already?

Waste less EARTH do less homework[Day270]*

Waste less EARTH do less homework[Day270]* by Chapendra, on Flickr

The teachers and I here are just coming off our first “real” break since Christmas. It was a delightful time for me, a whole week off (almost…still had grad school work to do), and time to visit parents, brothers, sisters, and my nephew. I missed meeting my new nephew by only a couple days! My husband and I look forward to going back to South Dakota to meet him in a few weeks for his Baptism.

And yet, here we are, in the home stretch of the school year. I am so thankful that we do our standardized testing in the fall, because many of the educators I see out there in the universe are all pressed for time because of test preparations. I’m pressed for time because I want to get my poetry unit and another novel finished before the end of school. I want to get through all the human body systems before the end of the year, and we’ve only done skeletal, muscular, and digestive. I want to actually reach the last section of my 6th grade science book, and have the kids make the e-book guide to space and technology that they’re so excited about. (Look for a longer post about how we went about the process of making our ebook in May or June.)

The K-6 reading teachers are meeting tomorrow morning to decide on a new textbook series that will fit our Reading curriculum. I’m glad for this, because coming into my new grade level this year and discovering that there was no textbook was a challenge. I’ve filled our time with visual literacy with CNN Student News, non-fiction texts through Scholastic Scope Magazine, and then a series of four novels, one per quarter. (Freak the MightyHatchetThe Westing Game, and Bridge to Terabithia) I am fairly sure that I met all the curricular goals that we had outlined in our previous curriculum. Now that it’s revised and more CCSS-based, I’m hoping that whatever textbook series we go with will help me plan a little better. I really think I want to lobby for the digital edition for my classroom, since they will have Chromebooks next year, too. We’ll see what ends up happening.

Whatever happens here or in your neck of the woods, know that you, teacher, have a noble calling. We are preparing kids for the world of tomorrow! Do your best, finish strong, and keep His song in your heart!

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Praxis II Middle School Content

As if March wasn’t busy enough with presenting at the Metro Milwaukee Teachers’ Conference, I applied for Wisconsin licensure, too, and have to take the Praxis II in Middle School Content Knowledge test. D-Day is tomorrow! I hope my studying will pay off! I’m taking the computerized version, which will be something new for me.
Prayers would be appreciated, thanks!

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The Un-Conference Experience

Photo Feb 23, 9 36 30 AM

My first EdCamp Session – Google Certification

Last weekend, I gave up my usual Saturday-of-fun to drive over to Madison, WI, and attend my first EdCamp. It was my first experience with the un-conference style, and I fell in love with it.

What is an EdCamp? It’s a grassroots type of organization for people who have an interest in all things education. In attendance last weekend were classroom teachers, media specialists, administrators, and even school board members! I’m sure most teachers have been to a conference before where they have to sign up a month in advance, choose from a static list of presentations, and then sit through those presentations, even if they weren’t exactly what you were looking for.

After having a delicious breakfast, we found our way into the Sun Prairie High School Auditorium. It was then and there that the magic started. We had a blank schedule template of the rooms and times that were available. People filed up, one by one, and offered their session proposals. The sticky notes were then arranged into the schedule, updated on the Google Spreadsheet, and off we were!

Another one of the things that I really liked about EdCamp was the emphasis on “vote with your feet.” If a session was not interesting to you, they highly encouraged you to get up, and go to something else. (I could not even imagine doing something like that at one of our Lutheran School conferences. It seems rude!) But, I did gather the courage to walk out of one session and then find something new.

What was really evident the whole day is that everyone wanted to be there. Many of the mandatory conferences my coworkers and I are expected to attend have a feeling of obligation hanging over the attendees, but EdCamp didn’t. Yet another thing that makes EdCamp a unique experience…

I really want to thank all the organizers of the Madison EdCamp for providing an awesome first experience. I want to thank the sponsors who made the event great, too! I’m drinking out of my Edutopia water bottle, and rocking the Kidblog pencils/magnets! I love the t-shirt I won as a prize, too.

If you’re looking for an EdCamp near you, head to http://edcamp.wikispaces.com and search the map for something happening in your area. EdCamp in Milwaukee is coming up on May 11th, and registration opens tomorrow, March 1st! Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend, since I am already scheduled to work at our school’s track invitational that day.

Overall, the EdCamp structure is really awesome. The attendees are those who really care about the future of education! I’d encourage you all to get to one if you can!

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Final Project for “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (Link to Amazon Mass Market Paperback)

There are some days where being an innovator is really cool. There are other days where you attempt to try something new, and it fails miserably. This is one of those “fails miserably” stories.

In the second quarter, my 6th grade students devoured Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. I knew this book was going to grab my readers, as it has done for decades. In my quest for 1:1 Chromebook pilot nirvana, I wanted to make sure these kids had an epic in scope, creative, collaborative project to do at the end of the book.

I came up with a plan for the students to create a series of interview questions, as if they were a journalist interviewing the main character, Brian Robeson. They were to come up with ways to show how Brian had changed over the course of the book, including citing specific statements from the text supporting their thoughts. (By the way, I believe this project fully covers at least the first six literacy standards in the Common Core for 6th grade.)

This part of the project was awesome. The kids took up the challenge, and with their partners, they scoured the book for examples of Brian’s thoughts and feelings. They wrote drafts and edited them, they took things out and put better things back in. They typed up their final questions and answers in Google Docs and shared them.

Then.

Then it came to the point where we needed to record.  I knew the Chromebooks had a built-in microphone, but I wasn’t sure as to its quality. I have successfully video chatted with others, so I knew it worked well enough. So, I planned to use a site called Vocaroo. I had shared this with my friends at the WELSTech Podcast as a tool one could possibly use in the classroom for podcasting. (They used it as one of their “Picks of the Week.”) It seemed easy enough. Hit the record button, and when you are done recording, hit the download link, and save it as a mp3 (or other file type of your choice).

Some of my students were successful. Here’s Benjamin and Sean with their podcast interview: 


Unfortunately, that was the best of what came from Vocaroo. Here’s what most of them sounded like (sorry, Matt and Riley):


So, Vocaroo with Chromebooks was a bust. When enough students got supremely frustrated, I let the remaining groups use my MacBook Pro with Audacity to record. Here are two examples:

Grace and Zach:


Evah and Eden:


The point: being an innovator means you need to learn to fail with grace. Pick yourself up, and try something else. Hopefully I showed that attitude to my students (and they learned patience and how to deal with failure) during the whole ordeal.

P.S. For those readers who may wonder what happened with my dad and his heart vessel bypass surgery: We had a little scare when they were attempting to take him off the bypass machine at the end of surgery, but he made it through and is now at home recovering. Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers!

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Reflections: Third Quarter Slump

Photo by mrspierson

The only thing that’s keeping me going right now…

Hi readers. Loads and loads going on here in my world. I’m going through the highs and lows of the third quarter slump. For those of you non-teachers who may be reading this, the third quarter (at least, at our school) seems to be the longest stretch of the school year, with not very many breaks. We had MLK, Jr. day off, but the teachers had a full day of CPR and PD. We had last Friday off due to water main break (because of the cold), which was a welcome break, but it just didn’t seem to do the trick.

Perhaps the biggest thing happening with me has to do with my father’s health. He was in the hospital with chest pains at the end of January, and he is scheduled for a five-vessel cardiac bypass surgery this Wednesday. Being eight hours away from the man you first loved is difficult. My dad and I have always been close, and it’s scaring me a bit knowing that he’s about to go through this challenge. God has always and will always provide, and I know that, but it’s still concerning. I will not use the word “worry”! He is in the capable hands of qualified professionals, and his angels will be watching over him. There will be multitudes of people praying over him on that day, and I welcome if you’d join with them.

I have just been on an emotional roller coaster lately. Two days ago, I was in a groove, excited, and I tweeted about how I want to go change the world. Today, I would have liked to roll over and not see anyone.

We have a field trip to my alma mater (high school) this week, and another Mystery Skype session lined up for Thursday. I really hope I’m back up to a high point again for those things in particular!

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. (Psalm 62:1-2, ESV)

Until next time, keep a song in your heart!

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February 4, 2013 · 2:11 pm