Absolutely Almost – Student Twitter Chat

Join my 5th grade class for a Twitter chat about Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff.

Join my 5th grade class for a Twitter chat about Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff.

I’m looking for 4th, 5th or 6th grade teachers to participate in a Twitter chat with my class. The topic will be the novel Absolutely Almost. It doesn’t matter where you are in the novel, we can make it work. You can even start the book this week. My class can host (unless you’d like to split the hosting which I’m open to), and we will make sure to include questions that are relevant to your place in the novel. I’m currently reading this book aloud and we’re about a third of the way through. It’d be ideal if we could schedule a couple chats, but I’d be happy with setting up a single, one-and-done chat if that suits your needs better. I’m ready to start as soon as possible, but again, I’m flexible.

Goal: Students will use writing, reading, collaborative, and technological skills to communicate with other classes on a global network. Students will conclude that they can connect with others about books and reading and that they are a part of a global community of learners. Discussing books is cool!

Here’s how it will work:

  1. We will choose a date, time and tag to use for the chat.
  2. Our students will craft a number of questions.
  3. We will meet to discuss questions generated by our students.
  4. Students will discuss each question on Twitter. This is basically a Twitter lit circle, allowing students to connect with each other around the country/world about books and reading.

My ideal schedule (just throwing it out there…it can and will most likely change based on what works for other participants):

Tuesday 12/9 @ 1pm PT

Tuesday 12/16 @ 1pm PT

I hope you see value in a project such as this. Please complete the form below if you’re interested. Fingers crossed! I’m 100% open to your suggestions to make this a success for our students. If you prefer, you may also click here to expand the form and complete it on a full screen.

Check out my Absolutely Almost tag for Absolutely Almost resources (free read aloud or lit circle guide and various other ideas and printables). Click here if you’d just like the guide.

Evaluating Technology Integration: Ready to Use Checklist (adapted from informED post)

First, read the post When Not to Use Technology: 15 Things That Should Stay Simple In Education from informED.  If you like it, you may like to use the checklist I created from Saga Briggs’ suggestions.

We tend to notice the extremes, those who want nothing to do with technology and those who dive in head first and crowbar it into every lesson and project. There is a happy medium. Many of us may feel we’ve found this cozy place, but the informED post is a nice reminder to be mindful of technology integration and make sure it is the best medium before embarking on a project. As I mentioned in my last post, technology itself is a motivator for many students, but we should always check to make sure we are creating purposeful projects.

Do you have a new project to evaluate or would you like to reevaluate a project you’ve done in the past? Use this checklist to help determine if technology is warranted or not.

Should Technology Be Used For This (2)

Use this checklist to evaluate whether your tech integration in purposeful and beneficial. Click the image to print.

Thank you, Saga Briggs for a well-informed and useful post, and for the constructive reminder to keep it simple!

The Key to Student Motivation – 5 Steps to Uncover Student Passions and Interests

I know people write full books about this topic. I’m not looking to dissect motivations here, but shine a light on the basic key to student motivation.

Want to motivate your students- (1)

5 Easy Steps to Uncover Student Passions and Interests

1.   Untitled designObserve students. What sort of activities excite them? This is very telling. A student with a passion for technology may eagerly begin creating a Social Studies PowerPoint, but reluctantly demonstrate the same understanding by writing a story.

2.  Collect information from students. Most of the time students know themselves best. I have students complete this About Me form during the first few days of school. Some students are easily motivated or they know exactly what they like and what motivates them, while others are tougher to analyze. This gives be a great starting place to make sure I am best equipped to meet all student needs.

3.  REFLECTReflect, reflect, reflect. I’m a huge fan of reflections. I provide students many avenues to reflect. To me, it doesn’t matter how it’s done; as long as reflection is taking place, so is growth. We reflect on our goals and at the end of units or projects. Really, we reflect every day, but those mentioned are our “formal” reflections. These reflections enable self-awareness. Also, when reflection becomes a part of your classroom culture, students seem to be more invested. I think reflections alone are motivating to students. That aside, the reflections provide you with more insight into your students likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. It’s a time for honesty, and wow, 5th graders are HONEST!

4. G Set goals. Some students are naturally goal-oriented. Others, not-so-much. Regardless, I’ve found that making progress towards a goal feels good to all students. When you give students control of setting their own goals, you put the student in the driver’s seat. They have just set a goal for themselves to reach. THEY created them, NOT the teacher. This motivates students. It also, once again, gives you the opportunity to see what is currently important to them, what they are motivated to achieve.

multiple-intelligences5. Teach students about the multiple intelligences. You may have an understanding of each student’s unique learning profile, but when students understand it, they become more invested in their learning. I’ve seen it several times – after students learn how they learn, they feel empowered. I’ve seen magic happen by engaging in this dialogue with students.

5 Easy Steps A 6th Step to Uncover Student Passions and Interests

6.  Kidblog. I had to take the easy out of this one, just because it requires that you roll it out successfully first. Through independent posts on Kidblog, you are able to get to know your students even better! You’re able to gain more insight into what motivates your students. For those who really enjoy Kidblog, publishing work to Kidblog is a motivating factor on it’s own. 

Sometimes, around this time of year, we need reminders of the simple things. Just like you and I, students are intrinsically motivated by their passions and interests. They are intrinsically motivated when they are invested in a project or understand its significance.

Whenever I feel like a student is unmotivated, I look towards myself. Have I uncovered this students passion yet? Have I found what drives him or her? If not, that’s where I have to start. The 5 points listed above help me greatly.

A Simple Thanksgiving Reflection



the memories,

the moment,

the time.


the memories with loved ones,

the comfort of conversation,

the quality time being given to you, and from you, to others,

is immeasurable.

Cherish that,

the true gift.

Cherish kindness and generosity.

Cherish this time to give thanks.

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. As you sit at the end of your day, I hope you’re able to identify some moments to be cherished.

How to Launch KidBlog Successfully

KidBlog is a huge hit in my classroom and I find it to be an incredibly useful and beneficial educational tool. The success of KidBlog in your classroom greatly depends on how you roll it out. At any level, elementary or middle school, the class must first discuss internet safety and blogging guidelines. This itself is a valuable learning experience. I’ve had great success with KidBlog in my classroom and I’m happy with the Technology/Character Development lessons that I use prior to allowing students to make their first post.


I go over the following information before allowing kids to post or comment on the class blog. I’ve broken my PPT down below, and I’ve provided a link to download it at the end.

Slide 1: What is a Blog / Purpose: Define a blog to students

Blog Pic 1


Slide 2: What is a Blog / Purpose: Compare + Contrast Websites and Blogs

Blog Pic 2

Slide 3: What is a Blog / Purpose: Summarize Main Characteristics


Slide 4: A Packet’s Tale/ Purpose: Overview of How Information is Transmitted via Internet

This slide is not essential. I include it mostly because students are intrigued by it and enjoy it.


Slide 5: Posting / Purpose: Discuss How to Post Responsibly and Respectfully


Slide 6: Publishing Rules / Purpose: Set Guidelines for Commenting and Publishing to the Class Blog

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Slide 7: Discussion / Purpose: Discuss the Characteristics of a Good Comment (Provide Examples and NonExamples)

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Slide 8: Commenting / Purpose: Discuss the Difference Between Criticism and Commentary.

We discuss these two terms and the difference between them. I then provide comment examples and have students discuss whether they believe each is criticism or commentary. When identified as criticism, I challenge the class to adjust the comment to make it appropriate, supportive commentary. This is always a great exercise that students remember.


Slide 10: Conclusion / Purpose: Remind Students to Pause Before Posting

I really hit this hard. At the beginning of the year, you have the opportunity to set the classroom climate. The same goes for a class blog. Clear guidelines and expectations must be set so the blog runs smoothly and productively.


Click HERE to download Internet Safety and Blogging PowerPoint

Take the time to launch Kidblog successfully in your classroom, and the educational benefits of using a such a tool will be profound. Keep an an eye out for my next post which will highlight the many benefits I’ve seen in my classroom.

In and Out in 20: Conferences

At my school, parent/teacher conferences are scheduled in twenty minute time slots with zero transition time in between. Within twenty minutes, you must welcome parents, review the 1st trimester report card, review last year’s standardized test results, wrap things up and say goodbye. My conferences went well last year (my first year at this school), but I learned a few things. This year, I made some adjustments. Conferences were fabulous!

Here’s what went well.

  •  Before conferences, I wrote 2-4 student strengths and goals. I created the following form to record these talking points.


Printable Talking Point Conference Sheet

  • I placed report cards, standardized test results, and a “decoding standardized test results” one sheet in a folder for parents.
  • I made sure to let parents know that we had 20 minutes to discuss the student’s overall 1st trimester performance, report cards and standardized tests upon sitting down for the conference. I assured parents that if additional time was needed that I’d be happy to schedule a follow-up conference.
  • I let parents know that I like to start with my overall thoughts of the 1st trimester and that we’d get to the documents later. This was an incredible time saver! Having this conversation before parents were able to see the report card (report cards were enclosed in the folder) enabled us to have a conversation about important topics rather than simply analyze grades. Typically, parents get lost in grades. Last year, I didn’t have the report cards enclosed in a folder and parents couldn’t take their focus off of them. When I pulled out report cards this year, we breezed through them, as important strengths or goals were highlighted in advance. By organizing the conference this way, I was better equipped to LEAD the meeting. All of the conferences flowed smoothly.
  • I went ahead and set up a timer this year. I set it to go off two minutes before the twenty minutes were up, so I knew I had to wrap things up to stay on schedule. Parents were ok with this, as I explained the time limitations and the opportunity to schedule a follow-up conference if needed at the beginning of the conference. I’m happy I set the time to go off two minutes early, rather than at the exact transition time, because about two minutes was needed to wrap the conference up and say goodbye.
  • I set up a desk with my binder of 5th Grade Published work outside of the classroom. Parents loved this. It kept them occupied as they waited to enter my classroom. Some of the parents stuck around afterwards to read more of the stories as well. It was definitely a valued addition.

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I’m incredibly happy with the outcome of parent/teacher conferences this year. I must have done something right because I even received some emails from parents afterwards thanking me for such a thoughtful and well organized conference…that was a treat! I even printed one of them for my Pick Me Up binder.

I was also told that the conference was short, but meaningful. Well, I can’t do anything about the “short” part, but I’m happy parents felt they were meaningful, and I credit that to the conversations we had based on the talking points I prepared, rather than focusing mostly on report cards.

A Happy Note for a Happy Day

My challenge to all of my teacher friends for the remainder of this week —

  1. Print six of these “Happy Notes”
  2. At the end of the day on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, send a note home with two students.

Recognize the good. 
Make a student and family happy.
Take the time to write a short note recognizing a good day. 

“Happy Notes” are the greatest!

5 Happy-Note-Worthy Behaviors

Click for Printable

Click for Printable

  1. Consistently setting a good example
  2. Excellent participation throughout the day
  3. Making a particularly wise choice
  4. Working hard and persevering through a challenging task
  5. Consistently putting forth great effort to produce quality work

Do it!…and let me know how it goes 😀 .

Elementary Grandparents/Significant Elder Project

interesting-grandparents-day-clipart-1National Grandparents Day is celebrated on the first Sunday after Labor Day in the United States, BUT my school will be celebrating Grandparents Day this upcoming Friday. That afternoon, we have a celebration. The whole school gathers with students’ families, grandparents and grandfriends, and each grade goes on stage to perform or present something. It’s sweet to see how excited students are to have their grandparent at school and showcase something for them.

Last year, we created grandparent similes and metaphors. These were a lot of fun…and funny! It was a hit, and I loved that it was academic. It fits right in with our focus on figurative language in ELA, so I plan to do it again this year.

But this year, I’m also adding something different. A couple questions from a weekly assignment triggered an idea last week…In this weeks Social Studies Weekly assignment, students were asked to respond to the following questions.

ssw copy

imgres-1This got me thinking, Will students really be able to grasp how communicating instantaneously can be detrimental? Which led to — Do they have any idea of what society was like for previous generations? Which led to — My students are always on the go with such busy schedules. Do they ever just sit and chat with older relatives? Do they know how different it was to be a student just 30 years ago? Which led to — I remember doing an interview assignment when I was younger that made me have a conversation with my grandmother about her upbringing and childhood. 

And when my thoughts get going like this, what do I do? Google (because I am in the twenty-first century and I can).  So, I did some researchin’.

2007 ancestry.com study revealed that Americans know “surprisingly little about their own families”. A USA Today article described the generation gap in the workplace today and how different generations are having difficulties communicating because they do not understand one another. This can arguably be connected to the ancestry study, the fact that younger generations don’t know or understand much about their own grandparents. It begins here, with one’s personal prior knowledge and experience, right?

Workplace effects aside, communicating with grandparents fosters a close rgrandparents-grandkidselationship between grandparent and grandchild. Unfortunately, many student’s lives are so scheduled and scripted now that there is less time for dinner conversations and grandparent chats, and many families are scattered across the country. Maybe this is the reason we know so little; we don’t actually take the time, or have the time, to talk and listen.

As an educator, I want to enable my students to have conversations with their grandparents. Hey, if we require an assignment in class, we can facilitate this learning. Make it possible! If my students’ engagement during social studies is any indication of their interest, I believe that my kiddos will love to learn about their grandparent’s history.

Endpoint, I’ve seen the smiles on my students’ faces and their outward joy as they share with grandparents on Grandparents Day, and I’d like to provide another opportunity for sharing (and learning) through the use of a Grandparent Interview Project.  So, with the help a few online resources (credited below), I put the following project together for my 5th grade class.

Click the images for access to the complete printable documents. Contact me if you would like to make revisions, and I can email either document to you.

GPP copy

This Interview Sheet contains 17 questions and a lined page for additional notes. It is appropriate for upper elementary students.

GPPI copy

I pulled information from the following resources to create the 5th grade friendly forms above.
Credit: http://www.deangeli.lapeer.org/lessons/ctb_lesson/student_guide/ and http://www.teachers.net/gazette/AUG08/printables/#one