Monday, April 9, 2018

Let's Learn From Each Other!

Principal ponderings...
I know that the end of the year race is starting to kick into high gear, but there is still plenty of time to learn something new!  I would love to highlight some of you in these posts so that everyone can see that we have a lot of built in professional development within our school walls.  If you have been doing something that you want to share, let me know!  Or I may approach you and ask you if I can share your awesomeness with everyone else!

Today, I want to share some helpful videos/links that Audra, our digital learning coach, has shared with me.  She has created some screencasts and tips for different tech related things.

Here is a screencast video of how to use the arrange tools to align text boxes and create columns:

Here is a screencast video of how to use the find feature to search for keywords on a website:

Here is a screencast video of how to use the advanced image search to filter your results.  Exclude copyrighted works or include specific images only, e.g. clipart, transparent backgrounds, etc.:

And one more for now!  Here is a screencast video of how to create hyperlinks within an existing Google Slide for table of contents or as you wish:

Have fun learning something new and let me know what you want to share with your colleagues!

Currently reading:
As usual, I have quite a few books going at once.  Looking forward to the vacation week where I hope to spend a chunk of time reading.  I know several of you took books from our book tasting event.  Are you enjoying the book that you selected?  A great new picture book that I read was called It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk.  Josh Funk, a local author, put out another great book!  In the book Jack and the other characters end up having a dialogue with the narrator where they argue about why certain parts of the book are happening.  I think kids will be laughing out loud with this book!
A friend of mine just released a book called Hacking Early Learning.  Jessica Cabeen is a principal of an all K building in Minnesota, but we have connected through social media and met up at conferences.  She sent me her manuscript online and asked me to read and review it on Amazon.  I started to dive into it this weekend; it's good common sense about our youngest learners.  I'm glad someone finally wrote this book! b
I am so excited that this book arrived in my Amazon box Saturday morning!  You know my love of books and I couldn't wait to get my hands on It's All About the Books: How to Create Bookrooms and Classroom Libraries that Inspire Readers.  Tons of great pictures, ideas, book lists, and resources in this book! 
Events this week:
The PTA will be celebrating all of you this week for Teacher Appreciation Week!  Enjoy the goodies in the staff room throughout the week!
Monday - Liz and staff at MRA Conference, PTA Meeting in the cafeteria to discuss principal search with Dr. Chesson @ 6:00
Tuesday- Liz and staff at MRA Conference
Wednesday- 3rd grade chorus @ 2:20, Grade 4 presentation about canoe trip in the PAC from 1:30-3:00, Elementary Curriculum Committee Meeting from 3:30-5:00
Friday- Enjoy your Spring Break!

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Caught this reader really into his book! 
  • I received some amazing persuasive letters from Mts. Potter's class including this gem: 
  • You might have seen me walking around with this lady.  Her name is Courtney Jones and she is a principal of an elementary school in VA.  We have been connected through Voxer and the Moms As Principals group.  Small world...her father lives in Groton and they were up visiting so she surprised me and came to see FloRo! 
  • When I took Courtney around, we happened to walk into this K lesson about how to make a pizza!  Complete with Mrs. Taylor's awesome pizza hat! 
  • These young ladies were so proud of their writing.  I had them come in and interrupt a meeting to share.  They had collaborated and written a book on how to make a fairy house. 
  • Caught these 3rd graders all diving into their reading...if you squint you can imagine them all at the beach reading in their chairs! 
  • I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Leading the Nation event at the State House on Thursday.  I witnessed the swearing in of the new Commissioner of Education for MA, Jeff Riley. 

Check it out:
Here is a quick video from Saturday's Science Showcase!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

To Infinity and Beyond!

Principal ponderings...
Sorry, this is not a post dedicated to the movie "Toy Story."  Even though I can't help doing my best Buzz Lightyear impression while typing out the title of this post...this is not going to be about that favorite Disney movie.  But I was excited to come across the image above...the one with the infinity symbol.  That symbol can also be called a "lazy eight."  Did you know that symbol, infinity, also known as lazy eight, can help students with reading?

I have known about the connection between working on crossing the midline and improving reading skills, but I had not thought about it in a while.  And then I attended a session at the ASCD conference the other weekend and was reminded of this important skill that we should be practicing with all of our students.

By drawing or tracing or making the shape in the air, students are working on improving visual attention and eye motility which is necessary for crossing the midline and reading smoothly across a page.  If you have students practice this simple skill, you will help them build pathways in their brain, and you will ultimately help them become better readers without even opening a book.  Whether you are working with kindergartners or 4th graders, think about working in some lazy eight practice at different times of the day.  Students could trace the shape with fingers or with pencils.  They could draw lazy eights with their fingers in the air.  Have them try it with both hands, don't just encourage doing it with the dominate hand.  Students can make lazy eights on a whiteboard and trace over their drawing several times.  You can have students practice this before they start reader's workshop or have them do it before they begin independent reading.  You may remember a few years ago when we talked about Brain Gym?  This is an example of a Brain Gym activity that we should have all students continue to practice.

Who is ready to do some brain integration work and help improve reading for students at all levels?  To Infinity and beyond with reading instruction!

Currently reading:
Thanks to the Scholastic book fair and attending the ASCD Conference, I have some more books that I have added to my collection! One fun read aloud book I got is called The Library Book.  It's a celebration of books, reading, and libraries!
Another book that I just had to get from the book fair is called Dear Girl.  It's written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal along with her daughter Paris Rosenthal.  Since Amy passed away last year, I continue to buy any books that she wrote.  This is a book that I will enjoy reading to my daughter again and again. 
I loved finding another book in the Elephant and Piggie collection.  The book We are Growing! is all about blades of grass growing and the conversation they have with each other as they grow.  Check it out! 

Events this week:
Monday - Light it Up Blue for Autism Day!  Wear your blue, Optional meeting with Superintendent about Principal search
Tuesday - School Council Meeting @ 8:00
Wednesday - Staff meeting @ 3:30
Thursday - Liz attending Leading the Nation event @ The State House
Friday - Liz and Melissa at SLT from 8:30-11:00, District half day, 12:15 dismissal, Unit A contract day

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Love seeing the different BINGO boards in classrooms and hearing about all the books everyone is reading for the Read-a-Thon! 
  • I enjoyed listening to K students reading to me their 'how to' books...and is that Mrs. Spiczka using the interactive projector?! 
  • More kindergartners learning about text features in non fiction books. 
  • Ms. Allen, one of our student teachers, was reading a great picture book to students to get them thinking about writing how to books. 
  • These kindergartners from Mrs. Olson's class had fun using teamwork to create Lego houses. 
  • I had fun shopping in the book fair all week, and we had a great time with families during our Family Literacy Night! 
Check it out:
There's a new Twitter chat focused on literacy happening this Tuesday, April 3 at 9:00.  Here are the questions...might be a good chat to check out!  You can follow it at #curiositycrew

Monday, March 26, 2018

A Little Monday Inspiration

Principal ponderings...
I spent the weekend being inspired at the ASCD Empower18 Conference.  I was able to listen to and meet educators and leaders from all over the country and the world.  I was able to listen to Jill Biden speak about how the most important thing to her is that she is a teacher.  I was able to be moved to tears by Manny Scott, one of the original Freedom Writers, who shared his message about connecting with kids and how it was teachers that helped him not be a statistic.  I was able to listen to some amazing principals/education advocates, such as Principal Salome Thomas El who believes that every child deserves to have someone be crazy about him or her.  I got chills listening to Baruti Kafele talk.  And I was lucky enough to listen in as one of my good friends, Lynn Colon, a principal in Virginia discussed how she works hard to create the Disney experience everyday at her school.  I loved hearing a session on design thinking, by Neil Gupta, a district administrator in Ohio, who stressed the importance of taking a humanistic approach when planning for change or problem solving in schools.  I also listened to, met and snapped a selfie with Kyle Schwartz.  She is the 3rd grade teacher who started the #IWishMyTeacherKnew movement.  I also sat through an amazing session where 10 Massachusetts educators did what is called an 'ignite' session.  They have 15 slides that are on the screen for 20 seconds each and each person gets basically 5 minutes to tell about something awesome being done in their school.  The slides keep advancing and you have to share your information quickly.  I think this would be great to try out at a staff meeting!  There was so much inspiration and awesomeness this weekend, and I am still processing everything.  I plan on writing more about specific topics and will share with all of you. 

For now, let me share a few inspiration video clips and quotes to spread the education excitement that I am still feeling after my weekend...

Principal Kafele puts out tons of videos!  Check out his website here:

And here is a clip about Kyle Schwartz and her movement of "I wish my teacher knew..."(Excited that she autographed her book for me!):

An important message from Principal Salome Thomas El:

Hopefully this little post has inspired you this morning.  Now how will you go pay it forward and inspire the beautiful kids in front of you today?

Currently reading:
I was very excited to get two new picture books in the mail this week.  The first one is a new book from Peter Reynolds called The Word Collector.  I love this book!  It's all about Jerome, a kid who loved to collect words. 
Such a great message to all at the end of the book...
The other book I received is called Rot: The Cutest in the World by Ben Clanton.  This book was recommended to me by a principal friend.  It's a funny story about a mutant potato who thinks he could be the cutest in the world. 

Events this week:
*Book Fair in the library all week.  Classes attend during their library time.
Wednesday - 3rd grade chorus practice @ 2:20, report cards should be completed
Thursday - Specific staff at CALM training, 2nd grade field trip to the Aquarium, Family Literacy Night and PTA Evening Book Fair Event from 6:00-8:00
Friday - Specific staff at CALM training, Report cards online for parents

Great things that I noticed last week:

  • The 1st graders did an awesome job at both the school show and the evening concert. 
  • Check out these 2nd grade penguins that I found in Ms. Hoke and Ms. Johnson's room! 
  • This 2nd grader was proud of all the facts that she chose to research and write about...all about amphibians.  If you look closely at the bottom, you will also see that she recorded her word count! :) 
  • I helped a kindergarten class try out an online fluency and reading assessment.  And then after the assessment I caught a kindergartner reading her book and using her pointer finger to follow along on the page!

  • Happened to be coming around the corner and saw this awesome 1st grader helping to create a bulletin board outside of his classroom. 

Check it out:
Slightly excited about the book fair this week...especially since besides awesome books, they have some cool shirts, cups, bags, etc.

Loved this message from Principal Salome Thomas El this weekend...

Monday, March 19, 2018

So Much To Read, So Little Time

Principal ponderings...

Normally, I spend time writing my own blog post.  Sometimes I get an idea and I start adding to it throughout the week.  Other times, inspiration might not hit me until Sunday night.  But besides writing blog posts, I also spend a lot of time reading other posts.  There are so many educators who are blogging across the globe.  And I love learning something new or having my ideas and beliefs challenged by these people that I have often never met.  Instead of doing a lot of writing this week, I want to share with you just a handful of the posts that I have read recently.  Read one or read all of them.  Enjoy!

I have been doing the March Slice of Life Challenge and besides writing my own slice each day, you are encouraged to read other posts and comment on them.  Here is one post that I enjoyed about the importance of being a teacher writer:

Do you know the writer David Sedaris?  Here is a post where he was interviewed and shared his advice for the writing process:

Love this post written by a high school teacher who spent a day teaching 4th grade!  He share his important discovery: good teaching strategies are universal, no matter the age or grade:

Wow, Travis Crowder's post about how powerful books can be is amazing!

I love Laura Robb's post about our hunt for the "magic bullet" where she asks what is it that will help increase reading achievement scores?  Her answer...books!  And here she lists 15 reasons why kids deserve the best books:

Here is an interesting post by a Twitter friend of mine.  She talks about how for some students spring break can make them anxious:

Thanks to Maureen for sharing these two articles through Twitter.  The first one talks about taking a more play-based approach in the early grades: And the second one is an interesting post about what how skills like ability to collaborate with others are more important in the work force than occupation-specific skills:

And one more...this post was written!  Here is a short article I wrote for Principal magazine about mindfulness in schools:

These are just a few of the posts that I read recently.  Have you read some good posts?  Have you been inspired to write your own posts?  Blogging is a great way to reflect, share ideas, or simply decompress and get the thoughts in your head out!  Check out others' writing and start contributing your own words!

Currently reading:
So this pretty awesome friend of mine, Dianna Fulreader, gifted me with...more books!  I guess she knows me well.  One of the books she gave me is called This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel. Even though I am reading a few other books right now, I jumped right into this one.  Looks like it's going to be a good one; a quote from the back of the book "a beautiful novel about the unexpected curveballs of parent and sibling relationships and the limitless boundaries of family love."
Dianna also gave me this great picture book: Of Thee I Sing: A Letter To My Daughters by Barack Obama.  I can't believe I didn't own this book yet!  It is a truly beautiful book, one that I can't wait to read to my daughter. 

Events this week:
Monday - Liz and Melissa at a Women in Leadership Conference, Read-a-thon officially starts!
Tuesday - 1st grade chorus practice from 11:30-1:00, Liz and Luke at a K-12 science meeting from 2:30-4:00
Wednesday - 1st grade school show from 9:30-10:05, Staff meeting at 3:30 in the cafeteria
Thursday - 1st grade chorus concert @ 7:00
Friday - Liz and Melissa at SLT meeting from 8:30-11:00, Book Fair being delivered and set up

Great things I noticed last week:

  • K students managed to squeeze in their animals in winter enrichment program even with 2 snow days! 
  • Caught a 2nd grader utilizing digital-blocks to help him solve some math problems. 

  • Mr. Smith was talking with students about character development and making some predictions about the read aloud.

  • Students were doing some science experimenting in MskerSpace. 
  • Community Reader day was a success!
  • And all of the students did an amazing job this weekend in Shrek! 

Check it out:
I think I probably gave you enough material to check out in my post above!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Reading + Giving = Awesomeness

Principal ponderings...
FloRo is going to do a read-a-thon this month!  The Student Council members did a great job brainstorming and planning what will happen over the next several weeks.  I am excited that the students decided they would like to raise money to give to an organization called Reach Out and Read.  This organization is a wonderful non-profit that gives young children a foundation for success by incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging families to read aloud together.

I have worked with an company that will help us with the donation side of the read-a-thon.  Parents will be able to share the link to a site and family and friends can donate money through the site.  We will be able to track how much money is being donated throughout our read-a-thon.  Our goal is to hopefully raise over $5,000 to donate to Reach Out and Read.

The Student Council has set a goal of reading 2,500 books over the course of several weeks.  We decided that K and 1st grade will simply count one book as one book.  2nd graders will count 20 pages as one book.  3rd graders will count 30 pages as one book.  And 4th graders will count 40 pages as one book.  For every 5 books that any student reads, they can come to the office and receive a raffle ticket.  At the end of our read-a-thon, we will be drawing names of students to be Principal for the Day and Assistant Principal for the Day.

We will be giving out charts, similar to our kindness thermometers last year, for classes to keep track of how many books they are reading.  The Student Council came up with the awesome idea to make the charts look like books, pages, book spines, etc.  They are a very creative group!  If we reach our school-wide goal, there will be some interesting things happening to the principal and assistant principal.  Something about a human ice cream sundae!?

I will be sending more specific information to each classroom through an email, but I wanted to first share through here and get everyone thinking about our FloRo Read-a-Thon!

Currently reading:
I just started reading a book called Passionate Readers: The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child.  The author of this book is Pernille Ripp, a 7th grade teacher, who writes and speaks about her passion to get kids to love reading.  She blogs regularly on her website called 'Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension.'  I highly recommend that you take some time to read what she writes.  Like the Lorax who speaks for the trees, Pernille speaks for the kids, all kids.

Events this week:
Monday - Kicking off the FloRo Read-a-thon! End of Trimester 2 (report cards will be available March 28)
Tuesday - Oh no...please no more snow!
Wednesday - Play Preview at 2:15 in the PAC
Thursday - Community Reader Day!
Friday - Half day, 12:15 dismissal, no lunch served, parent conferences during the afternoon

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I caught some 2nd graders from Mrs. Wenz's class launching their straw rockets they created.  Students were excited to measure how far their rocket could fly! 
  • Check out our March Madness Book Bracket in the lobby!  Thanks Melissa for creating it.  Wonder which books will move on to the elite 8 this week?! 
  • If you were in the hall around 10:45 each day last week, you might have seen the 4th graders trying out their marshmallow catapults!  There were some very interesting and different designs, many which really made those marshmallows fly through the air quite a distance.  
Check it out:
Just a few articles to check out about reading...
And I have shared this before but it's always a good one to revisit...Donalyn shares tons of resources and research about the importance of independent reading...