Thursday, February 23, 2012

My Classroom Website

Besides this website, Kelly and I each run a class website to keep parents and students informed about what's going on in our classrooms. I'm going to tell you a little bit about mine.

I update my website,, every Sunday. Then I email a link to that week's post to all the parents I have on my email list. I have about 15 parents' emails on my list (I teach 52 students).

Here's what I include each week:

  • A photo of a group of kids working
  • An introductory paragraph, saying a variety of things (hope you had a good weekend, here's what we have to look forward to, etc).
  • Important dates for this week and next, called "Upcoming Events"
  • Special sections with paragraphs about important items (this week, the important paragraphs are about ordering Yearbooks, the upcoming state writing assessment, and forms that are due)
  • "This Week in..." for all the subjects I teach, including the standards and activities we'll be working with for the week, along with anything that will be due this week in that subject
  • Spelling Words

Each weekly update post gets about 25-35 hits. I want a little more exposure, so this week, my students' online work assignment was to read the current week's blog post and answer four questions about it.

1. What is going to be the most interesting thing you think we'll do this week? Why?
2. What is going to be the most difficult thing you think we'll do this week? Why?
3. What do you think your parents will find the most important? Why?
4. What is one thing you think I should add to make each week's blog post even better?

Most of the kids thought that one of our reading stories, "Peeping Poppers," was going to be the most interesting because it's about a woman who holds the world record for eyes popping out the farthest. They all think it's nasty and/or cool. The hardest thing? Some think our writing test practice will be hard (it's a lot of writing), and some say the social studies test will be hard (they'll have to study - gasp!).

As far as their parents go? Most of the kids thought the forms would be important, some said the PTA program coming up is the most important, and some said the upcoming writing test would be the most important.

The last question is my favorite. What would they add? Some want me to add the menu. I guess I could do that; that would be pretty easy. Some asked me to add words of wisdom; i.e., "Don't forget to study!"

But these two are my favorite suggestions, in the students' own words:

  • I would add a mystery question and let the people answer it and reveal the answer it at the end of the school week.
  • I would add a book of the week. Because people might need a good book to read and they don't know any.
I like both of those suggestions, and I really believe that if I add those sections, it would make my blog update even better, especially for the students. And to think, those ideas came from the kids themselves! That makes it even better!

What do you include on your classroom website? I'd love more suggestions!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Go Paperless!

We recognize that we are living in a digital age; in fact, the way Kelly and I communicate most often is via texting or on Facebook. We share ideas we find on Pinterest. We stalk follow other educators on Twitter. We love living and teaching in a technological time!

We are also living in another teaching age - the budget crunch era. School budgets are down, thus our copy limits shrink year by year. When you teach 55 kids and they need a copy of spelling words each week, plus weekly reading logs, study guides, etc., well... you run out of copies pretty quickly. Giving a good, thorough social studies test takes copies. Copying a reading passage for all of your students? Not much copy quota left. We needed to figure out a way to stop spending $40 a month to pay for our extra copies.

A few months ago, I was letting my mind wander review during a gifted endorsement class, and I was browsing the web at the same time. I googled "apps for educators" and, of course, a million things popped up. Let me just tell you, though, the link I clicked was pure gold.

Have you heard of Socrative? It's AMAZING! It's a great place to make, store, and edit tests and quizzes that your students can take ONLINE. It's paperless! AND IT'S FREE! We just love it.

You can run a test that you write (we've given some 30-question tests on it before), you can run a quiz as a space race for a fun review, or you can put up a single question for a quick formative assessment.

One of my favorite aspects of this program is that it will enable you to download an excel file of the results. Just fabulous!

Students can take the tests on your classroom computers, in a computer lab, or on electronic devices - our students use it on classroom computers and on our iPods and iPads.

Here, I'm going to walk you through how to use this wonderful resource!

 Here's where you can login or sign up. The web address is

 Here is the main menu. You can see that my class number is 6713. Socrative assigns a class number to you. You can change your room number, but in my experience, it's more of a pain than it's worth. I just wrote my class number on the board, and the students know where to look for it if they forget.

You can also see all the menu choices listed.

Here, I clicked on "Manage Quizzes." You can see all the quizzes I've created. Once you create a quiz, you can choose to run it in a variety of ways: student paced, teacher paced, or space race. You can also edit it from this menu.

You can also share quizzes now, which is great, especially if you work on a team. You can create quizzes and share them with the rest of your team members. This is a new feature. Before this, one of us would "write" the quiz, and we'd email it to everyone on the team, and each team member had to go in and retype the quiz in herself. No more of that - woohoo!

 Once you select the quiz, you can choose how you want it paced. I like to select the option that randomizes student answers. If a student is sitting next to another student, even if they are on the same question, the answers appear in a different order.

You can also choose here to disable immediate student feedback. If you want the student to be able to retake that exact quiz, you might want to select this option. Our students love the immediate feedback, so we don't choose this option.

Here's where you can type in a new quiz. You choose short answer or multiple choice. Once you enter your answer choices, just check the box of the correct answer. It's very simple.

This is the Space Race option. You can run any quiz as a game. Students LOVE this! If you have 6 kids playing, you can run 6 teams (each student is his own team) or 3 teams (2 students per team). I project the live results on my Promethean board so students can watch how teams progress!

This is what it would look like on your live results screen. This is just one team. Not very exciting :)

Once students finish the quiz, you can email yourself the report or download it.

Here's what the results look like when you download them. The green answers are all correct, and the red indicates incorrect answers. I can tell at a glance that the first two questions are pretty good, a few kids missed the third questions, the fourth through sixth are pretty good, but I need to work on reteaching that 7th question. I love having data I can use!

I hope this Socrative tutorial has been helpful. Let me know if you use this (or anything like it) in your classroom!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Stuff I Actually Made from Pinterest: Classroom Edition #2

This post is a continuation from my previous one about things I've actually made from Pinterest. (Find the earlier post here.)

Yesterday, I posted a picture of a chart I made with tips on how to have a good conversation about learning in the classroom. When showing off my poster to my teaching friends at an inservice training today, they made fun of me for leaving out the word "me" on one of the conversation starters. Whoops. I'm not perfect. But the funniest part of that is that I've read that poster out loud to every small group, every day, for the last several days. I've NEVER noticed, and either the kiddos didn't notice it either, or they were just too dang nice to point it out. Leave it to my friends to create an entire dialogue out of it to poke fun at me. Thanks, friends! ;)

Because I was in a training meeting today, I wanted to post the Sub Rules I wrote out for my students:

this idea was pinned from
(I don't think I left out any words here!)
According to the note the substitute left, I think (mostly) everyone did a good job following these rules today! I definitely wanted to leave these for today because sometimes, I think the lovelies need a reminder. This was posted in the front of the room, smack dab on the Promethean board. Hard to miss!

The next picture I want to show is something that I found a long time ago, actually on Facebook, but I recently saw it pinned. I painted this a while back, before I ever saw it on Pinterest. Therefore, I haven't pinned it, but I suppose it could count as something I've made that is also on Pinterest...?

I'm no artist, but here's the canvas hanging in my classroom:

Now, it's not perfect, and don't ask me what all the confetti worms are at the bottom, but I enjoyed making it. This is another example of something the lovelies need reminding of every now and then as well! (The same goes for me sometimes, to be honest!)

Tomorrow, I want to post about how I decluttered my closet. I'm so inspired by the Clutter-free Classroom and all her posts about cleaning out! She is right, and so is FlyLady - you can't organize clutter! I wonder if it's too late to link up to her post... but I cleaned out my closet and I am so proud! More on that to come tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Stuff I Actually Made from Pinterest: Classroom Edition #1

I have admitted many addictions on this blog, but here's my latest: Pinterest. I love and loathe it at the same time! Do any of you have that love/hate relationship with it? I find SO many good ideas on it, and my Teaching Ideas board is blowing up! I find a lot of inspiration from things pinned by other nerdy educators like myself. (You can follow my boards by looking for the Pinterest button on the right... *hint*)

But oh, to have the time to make all those things! *sigh... I wish I had more time to make all the great things I find there. I GUESS if I spent less time looking at Pinterest, then I'd have more time to make things. But if I spent less time on Pinterest, then I wouldn't find so many wonderful ideas! It's a vicious circle, people, vicious!

A friend and I had a conversation about this today, and I told her I did make a few things that I'd pinned, but not enough. So after I straightened up after the lovelies went home, I took out my iPhone and began to snap some pictures of what I'd actually made or done in my classroom because of an idea I found on Pinterest. As it turns out, I've made a lot more than I'd thought!

So, in honor of my new addiction, I'd like to start posting some things on our blog that I've actually made. Maybe you will find it useful.

*Side Note: Because of Pinterest, I've also started following lots of teacher blogs. They have thus inspired me to start blogging again. I post weekly for my parents and students on my classroom website, but I need to post more here and share it with my friends. I hope you enjoy it!

Here's the first thing I want to share. I pinned this little baby early on in my Pinterest addiction. We use Instructional Conversations in our fifth grade classrooms, and the students engage in conversations about the topics they are studying. Sometimes the students will need a little reminder about how a polite conversation is supposed to go, so I created this:

when I click on this pin, it says it originally came from
in browsing that site, I realize I've actually gotten a lot of ideas from her!
(maybe you should check it out...)

Okay, so mine looks almost exactly like hers. But I did add the 3 little phrases off in the bottom righthand corner.

The kids LOVE it! I have found them looking up at it during conversations to look for a convo starter or to be sure they are behaving like a good conversationalist. Before every conversation (they are done in small groups, 3-8 students), we review the SLANT procedures and the talking points.

After the conversation, I ask them to grade themselves on a sticky note with a T-L-C (not tender lovin' care):
T = Talking (on a scale of 1, 2, 3, or 4)
L = Listening (also on a scale of 1, 2, 3, or 4)
C = an area of Concern that they want to Concentrate on next time (sitting up, listening, waiting their turn, giving their opinion, referencing the text, etc.) I find that often times, their "C" is something off of this chart!

So there! I do make stuff that I pin! But maybe I should spend more time making than browsing. No guarantee, though, just a maybe!

For my next post, I plan to share a little something I used for a substitute teacher...

What have you pinned that you made for your classroom? Do you love it?