Friday, April 20, 2012

Why I Think You Should Be on Twitter

Lately, I've developed a Twitter addiction. It all started when I gave up Facebook for Lent. I'm going to sound completely ridiculous for saying this, but it's true. (Disclaimer: I'm not perfect.)

So, I gave up Facebook for Lent in order to gain some time to become a better person. So, naturally, I took up Twitter instead (insert sarcasm here). Before you start chastising me, please note that the only people I really follow on Twitter are other educators*. I simply looked to Twitter during my "free" time to get some new ideas because, honestly, Pinterest was losing interest with me at the time (I'll save that for another post.)

I signed up for Twitter ages ago, but I didn't really know how to use it. So I dabbled a bit, got bored, and never really bothered with it again. Until this Lenten season.

I thought I'd give it a shot, and I'm glad I did. I went from about 20 followers to over a hundred in the last few weeks. I was following probably 15 or so people, and now I'm following over 130 educators.

Why is this so important? I've become a globally-connected educator. I've been getting ideas from all over the world; other US states, Canada, Australia, Great Britain, just to name a few places. I've connected with 5th grade teachers, 1st grade teachers, and college professors. I've borrowed ideas, shared ideas, and helped tweak them in crazy, fast-paced chats. I've debated, researched, and commiserated. I love it!

To illustrate how useful Twitter is for educators, I think you should check out Tom Whitby's article, "What if School Was Like Twitter?" Read it here. What I love about this article is that it illustrates how useful Twitter can be, and how ridiculous it would be if schools tried to pass on this kind of current information and collaboration with our copied-papers-in-the-mailbox way of disseminating information.

When I read it, this is the image that popped in my mind: If an administrator wanted to share current published findings on educational research, it would be copied, put in mailboxes, and then many would be recycled rather promptly.

On Twitter, I can be more selective about what research or information I want to read in my precious spare time. I can decide to click on an article and read it, I can favorite it to read later, or I can bypass it altogether. If I find a great article, I can even retweet it to my followers. I only retweet what I find important, intriguing, or worth the read.

Depending on my mood, I can just be a bystander, watching lots of really amazing conversations happening in #edchat, #elemchat, or #5thchat, or I can be an active participant. I can favorite a lot of the comments, or I can tweet out links of my own.

I've learned about so many neat things I can use in my classroom:, Mystery State Skype, WallWisher, ways to make my students' blogging experience even more meaningful, different ways to use QR codes, and several other wonderful ideas (too many to mention)!

One of the most important things that have come from Twitter is my sense of connectedness (that may not be a word, but I'm going to use it!) with other educators in the world. I was able to chat with an author who is sending me a free copy of her new book to read and write a review! How COOL is that?! (Laurie E. Westphal; click here to find her list of amazing books, or follow her on Twitter: @GTConsultant)

In another sense of connectedness (and quite possibly what I'm most excited about), I have linked up with another 5th grade class in Toronto, Canada, to blog with (April - taking care of our environment, May - standing up against bullies) and a class in Madison, Wisconsin to read and comment on each others' blogs. My students are no longer writing just for me and their peers; they are writing for a global audience as well. In my opinion, that's how you educate a 21st century student.

So, after all that chatter, I hope I have you convinced. If you aren't already on Twitter, sign up. Tom Whitby said, in his article, that Twitter is both the easiest and the hardest website to use. Don't be intimidated. There is a whole community of educators online, and all of them started out at square one. Follow me (@ACommaQueen) and I'll be happy to be your follower!

Here's some advice if you do choose to sign up:

  • Find some great educators to follow (I've blogged about who I follow here)
  • Once you find some educators to follow, follow who they follow (confused?)
  • Download Tweetdeck (or something similar)
  • In Tweetdeck, add columns for the #edchat hashtag. There are lots of other ones too, depending on what you teach: #elemchat, #engchat (for english), ##sschat (for social studies), #scichat (for science) #5thchat, #4thchat, #1stchat (I think you get the drift).
  • Check your hashtag searches every so often. When they have chats, they typically go really fast. It's easier to keep up this way. If you see an educator you agree with, follow him or her! (Here are some times: #edchat happens multiple times each week, I typically catch up with them on Tuesday nights at 7 EST; #5thchat occurs every Tuesday night at 8 EST)
Good luck, and happy tweeting!

*The two people I follow who are not educators? My husband and Professor Snape.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Real Class App

So, if you've read our blog, you know that our favorite ways to use our classroom iPads and iPods is to blog (Kidblog) and complete assignments paperlessly (Edmodo). If you want to read more about it, click here to read the post.

For those out there who have iPods and want to add some apps, here's what I've loaded and why:

  • StoryCubes. Kids roll the dice by shaking the device and pictures come up on the cubes. These are writing prompts for students to write some interesting (and sometimes crazy!) stories.
  • Google Earth. I've said this before. It's just cool. My students have found more ways to use it than I ever did when I played with it over the summer. It's great for working in social studies. It is also useful in science if you are looking up certain geographical features.
  • Memory Match. This game looks silly and cutesy, but it requires kids to pay attention and hone their memory skills. It's wicked hard despite how babyish it looks.
  • Learn Sharks. I have a few kids who are OBSESSED with sharks. This teaches about all the different types of sharks in a flashcard format. It uses great photographs and has interesting information. This would be great to use for informational writing.
  • PBS Kids Player. It has lots of fun videos from PBS Kids like Sid the Science Kid, SuperWhy, etc. These would especially be great in early elementary grade classrooms.
  • Citizenship Test 2012. This fits in perfectly with 5th grade social studies standards, plus it's hard!
  • SparkleFish. Kids can use their voices to record words to put into stories. It's like an audio version of MadLibs with the kids' voices. It's a big hit with even my 5th graders!
  • Prose with Bros. This is for older kids. Students have to create a "poetic" username and password. There are lots of words on the screen and kids can arrange them to create poems with different tones. There are other poems that other users have created that students can vote on. This app reminds me of those word magnets I had on my fridge in college.
  • Doodle Buddy. The kids use this app in small groups to record their answers and their conversations so I don't have to waste sticky notes or index cards. Then they can just shake to erase and the next group is ready to write as well!
  • Edmodo. You HAVE to get Edmodo. It's awesome. That's all I'm going to say. The app is for use on mobile devices once you've set it up for your class on the computer.
  • Pioneer Lands. It's kind of like Oregon Trail, only it's not. Kids have to use critical thinking so that they can plan wisely to continue the game.
  • Cut the Rope. I love this game because in order to get all 3 stars, the kids REALLY have to plan ahead and strategize. This game requires a lot of critical thinking. I challenge the kids to keep redoing each level until they get all 3 stars.
  • Hubble Telescope. There are so many amazing images from space on this app! This is great for a space study or kids who are obsessed with the topic.
  • Idioms. This is a fun way for kids to learn idioms.
  • Scrabble Free. I love that the kids are challenged to create bigger words on this game.
  • Dinos. This is like the shark app, just with information about and pictures of dinosaurs. This one is also in flashcard format.
  • Wordsearch. Another fun word game.
  • BrainPop. If you have a BrainPop account, you can watch all their videos for free on your devices and even take the quizzes! If you don't have an account, select videos are free. Love it!
  • Jetpack. This is a fun game for math practice and language arts practice.
  • Pages. This app is expensive, but it's basically Word for the iPods and iPads. Kids can create documents as easily as they can on the computer with this app.
  • Financial Football. This is a great app for students who need to learn economics. Read my post on this app here.
  • NASA. This is a cool free app with lots of information about the planets and space! Great photos and a bunch of important information for your space study.
  • World History Maps. This app gives you just what it says. Great for social studies!
  • Weird Word of the Day. If you are obsessed with vocabulary and words like I am, this is fun. Also intended for older elementary students (or above).
  • Stellarium. This shows the constellations and other neat images.
  • Common Core Standards. This is great to have for quick reference, for both teacher and students. It makes the standards much easier to locate than trying to click on things online.
  • Dictionary. You can get the free one or the the full version. It's a great quick reference. (Be careful about how you set up your safety settings; this app is rated 17+! Read my tips on how to make your devices safer here.)
  • Classic Books. This has a lot of classics, for free.
  • History Books. This has a lot of historical books, for free.
  • Audiobooks (Free). This has several books available for listening.
  • Flashcardlet. This has several sets of flashcards already made, or kids can create their own. Great for studying.
  • Google Translate. I love this because sometimes in a book I'm reading, there will be a phrase in another language. I use context clues to figure it out (and I've modeled this for my students), but I do still think it's fun to find out the literal translation. If I like it, the kids will too. It's also good for English language learners who need to translate an academic word as they work.
  • Kindle. I've downloaded several kids classics for free for students to read on this app.
  • Video Star. We make videos in class, and this enables kids to make videos (for book reviews, of their poster presentations, or just discussing what they've learned) and add some fun effects to the videos.
  • Where's My Water? This is another thinking game that the kids enjoy.
  • Angry Birds. Another strategy game.
  • Songify. Kids can speak the content they've learned into the app, and it puts it into a fun rap or disco song! We love it.
Whew! That's a big list. Now, I don't teach math or science, but I'm sure there are TONS of apps out there for those as well.

I have also downloaded several leveled stories in reading. There are SEVERAL free ones out there. Let me know if you want me to give you specific titles.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and ask!

Monday, April 16, 2012

They Wanted a Hole

I recognize the fact that the title of this post is bizarre. I'm begging you to stick with me on this one. Trust me.

I read this quote from an unknown author on Twitter that really stuck with me, especially considering all the articles I've been reading lately about technology used in the classroom.

"No one who ever bought a drill wanted a drill. They wanted a hole. It's the task that matters."

I've been planning to blog about how we use iPods and iPads in my classroom, and this quote seems to be a great starting point.

A lot of technology in schools articles that I've read have focused on the idea that while technology is good, simply "having" technology in the classrooms doesn't make a classroom, or a teacher for that matter, great.

Case in point: I have 4 iPads and 6 iPods* in my classroom. That does NOT make me a better teacher.

However, the way I use those devices might make me a better teacher.

If I had to take the drill quote and put my own educational spin on it, it might sound something like this:

"No teacher who ever bought an iPad just wanted an iPad. She wanted an engaged learner. It's the student that matters."

My fellow nerdy teacher-blogger wrote about how she uses her iPad and iPods in her classroom. Read about it here. I use my devices in exactly the same way. My favorite way is for students to use Edmodo to complete paperless assignments and to blog on our Kidblog site. Even on a smaller iPod, the students can do some amazing thinking and writing on their blogs! They continue to impress and amaze me.

Having 10 mobile devices, several desktop computers, and two laptops in my classroom means that I can have more students reading online articles, researching, and writing about their learning at one time. Students, through their blogs and Edmodo posts, can respond to each other and create a learning community together. Those tasks make their learning more meaningful. Those tasks lead to higher student engagement. Those tasks lead to students crying foul when you tell them it's time to put down their work and line up for P.E. 

Interestingly, I just read a Tweet from one of the folks I follow on Twitter. He says, "The purpose of education is to learn to think for yourself. No piece of technology will or should ever change that." @sjunkins

I agree. The true purpose of education is not to just give out facts that anybody can Google. The true purpose of education is to learn how to find things, why to find them, and what to do with that knowledge once you have it. That's why creating a community of learners is so important. Students need to take the facts they learn, process them to find why they are meaningful, and share that knowledge and insight with others. 

So yes, my students are blessed with lots of mobile technology in the classroom. That's not the be-all, end-all, however. The technology is not the destination, it's simply the vehicle for traveling on their educational journey. Those iPods and iPads help them reach their goals of learning and sharing with one another. Those devices are just that - devices. Plastic and metal. Little parts with a pretty, glossy cover. 

But those devices lead to the greatest gift any teacher can ask for - a truly motivated and engaged learner.

So here's my advice to anyone who's recently gotten iPads or iPods for classroom use: don't worry about adding lots of apps and games at first. Use it to encourage authentic learning in your classroom. Set up a free Kidblog or Edmodo account. Let students write, research, and share. Let us know if you have any questions about setting these sites up - we love them, and we also love to share!

*Want to know how I got all those iPods and iPads?
1 iPad issued by school to my classroom
3 iPod Touches issued by school to my classroom
3 iPod Touches borrowed from teaching partner :)
1 personal iPad from home, a Christmas gift from the hubby
1 iPad bought with PTA funds (an accumulation over a year and a half plus fundraising $)
1 iPad donated by the hubby when he bought a new iPad for himself

Classroom iPods and iPad

I love having a few iPods in my classroom. I love even more that I have a partner that is an excellent sharer and allows me to use her classroom iPods whenever I need them!
Of course everyone knows how much of a ‘plaything’ they can be, we have managed to find more than a few educational uses.
1. Research – I like to hand out an iPod to a table of researchers after they have had a few minutes with a traditional source. For example, we studied the Turn of the Century this year. They had a few printed pages from an online encyclopedia as well as the social studies text and a few nonfiction books to be shared among the groups conducting research. After they were engaged in their activity I walked around and placed an iPod on each table. I simply said this maybe helpful as you are learning about the people and their important contributions. It seems to work that the iPod is not viewed as toy once they have been working for a period of time. We talk extensively about using out school search engine to find creditable and reliable information. I always have an iPod ready to hand out when students are asking questions. Figuring out how to find the correct information is the ultimate learning!
2. Assessment - – This is by far the best use of the classroom iPods I have found. This site allows me to load a test and have the students take the test on a computer, phone, iPod, or iPad. I am able to see the results as they are happening. There is an option for multiple choice, short answer, or true/false. Teachers can share test and all results are quickly downloaded to your computer for timely feedback. My fellow reading teachers and I have used this for weekly vocabulary and end of unit social studies tests.
3. Blogging & Reading - and – Using the iPods for work on blogs and various assignments posted on Edmodo has worked well. I am blessed to have 6 computers in my room that are functional and busy – the iPods and iPad are faster, portable, and fun. They are so easy for the kids to manage and maneuver. It is amazing how they can type an entire blog, read an article, and reflect on questions and comments from anywhere they are comfortable working.
4. Test Practice - – This is a CRCT prep program that tends not to be the favorite activity on the computer. But if you tell a student that they can login using an iPod, iPad, or iPhone, you will have much more participation.
Since all of the things listed above require that the students have a tangible piece of written work or response of some type, I am very aware when they are off task. I have not loaded my iPods up with many applications this first year. Most of my effort has been on using them as a tool toward a paperless classroom. They have also been great tools for gaining knowledge and teaching an already proficiently technical group how to correctly and safely research and learn.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

One of the (Many) Reasons I Love My Job

I love my job. One of my favorite things, though, is watching students turn into real readers. By "real readers," I mean that they don't just read the books they are made to read, but they choose books and love them. I want my students to love reading.

The fifth graders at our school are lucky, in my opinion, that all the reading teachers in our grade level encourage free choice reading. Students get a lot of time to read every week, and we set high goals for them. Our students have a goal of reading forty books of their personal choosing this year, and many of them have already exceeded this goal. Most of the students are very close to this goal. We know that a few students won't reach forty, but the main point is that ALL of our students are reading far more this year than any year they've read in school.

Let me share one of my favorite things that has happened to me all year. It happened this past Friday. I have two boys in my class who are, shall we say, 100% boy. They are very active. However, they have LOVED reading this year, and I have been blessed to witness this and facilitate it as well.

Students were having their independent reading time, and I just sat back to observe on this particular day. Student #1 was reading At the Edge: Daring Acts in Desperate Times by Larry Verstraete. I overheard student #1 turn to student #2 and say, "Dude, this book is AWESOME!"

Student #2 looks up from his book and says, "Man, I told you so. I knew you'd like it." (This, in and of itself, made my heart do cartwheels. If you could just see these boys! *sigh...)

Student #1 continues, "Yeah, it reminds me of that other book I just finished, Peak."

Student #2: "By Roland Smith? Yeah, I read his other series, you know, Storm Runners."

Student #1: "Aren't there three books in that series? Mrs. Thompson just showed us two of them, right?"

Student #2: "Yeah, but the first one's missing. Someone checked it out from her last year but never returned it, remember?"

The conversation continued a little longer. I almost cried, sitting in my chair in the back of the room. I don't encourage students to talk during reading time unless they are whispering about the books they are reading and it's meaningful. This is most definitely one conversation I wouldn't DARE interrupt.

Teaching can be tough. But that day reminds me of why I choose to teach. And it is one of the many reasons I love my job.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Trailer: You Make Me Feel Smart

Check out the trailer for my students' new music video, You Make Me Feel Smart!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Some Tech I Love

I was thinking today about some things I really love that I use either in or for my classroom. Here are some of those things.

*Disclaimer: These are not in any particular order. The first one is not my most favorite, nor is the last one my least favorite. I'm tired and overly caffeinated, so these are truly appearing in random order.

#1) Twitter
I don't use Twitter *in* my classroom, but I use it to connect to other educators across the globe. That rocks, my friends. I have learned so much from other people and gotten so many great ideas. Read all the way to the bottom of this post to see some of my newest Twitter faves.

You may wonder what on earth I could possibly have learned from Twitter. Well, I follow some ah-may-zing teachers, principals, and other educators who share their fabulous ideas often. I've found useful websites, interesting classroom management ideas, great activities to use with the students, books to read for professional development, and sometimes most importantly, someone who has the same struggles and love for teaching with whom I can share a story and just simply relate! We all need to rely on other educators as a sounding board and as a community to improve ourselves and better our classrooms. So basically, yeah - Twitter rules.

#2) Socrative
I've blogged about this before (read about it here), but Socrative is a website that allows me to give assessments to my students online, therefore helping me out on my quest for a paperless classroom. Once students complete the test, either on a computer or a mobile device, Socrative lets me download their results and I get my grades in a snap. Saving the earth, my precious time, and money from copies all at once? Triple threat, my friends.

#3) Edmodo
Holy guacamole. I LOVE Edmodo. It's a safe social media for kids to use in the classroom. The only people who can access it are me, the kids, their parents, and school administrators. It's free for K-12 educators and students.

 I post assignments (we use Scholastic News Online articles, articles from Tween Tribune, and other websites and materials for their assignments), polls about activities in the classroom or opinions that the students might have about topics we are covering, videos that relate to content we are covering, etc. Students post articles that they find interesting, they give book reviews, they ask for book recommendations, they give each other reminders about homework... Oh, it's just glorious!

I use Edmodo ALL the time. However, here's why I especially loved Edmodo this afternoon: I was sitting at my son's karate practice after school with just my iPhone. In 10 minutes, I had graded about 10 assignments on Edmodo. All from my phone. Super quick. No papers or gradebooks to lug around with me. LOVE. LOVE. LOVE. I was able to give a student feedback about a project of hers and share another student's work with the rest of the class. LOVE.

So that's what I'm currently loving. There are lots of other things I love too, but right now, these are at the top of my love list!

As promised, here are some folks I'm following on Twitter and why: (again, no particular order, folks)

  • @kellydkennedy Because she's my fellow Nerdy teacher and the other half of my brain!
  • @stumpteacher Very motivating, to the point, great teacher and a parent as well (so he can give both points of view to education topics), and he isn't afraid to tell you like it is. He's also the Illinois Teacher of the Year.
  • @coolcatteacher She has an awesome daily newsletter, and she retweets lots of relevant education stuff. She posts regularly and about a variety of ed topics.
  • @donalynbooks She's the author of the book that has shaped our reading program, The Book Whisperer (buy it here) I read and reread her book all the time. She's just a reading teacher sharing her story of how she puts books in the hands of her students and helps them learn a love of reading. Love everything she writes! 
  • @frankisibberson She's an amazing reading teacher and the co-author of one of my favorite professional learning books, Day to Day Assessment in the Reading Workshop (buy it here). I use a ton of her ideas in my classroom!
  • @mbteach She's amazing with technology and always asks insightful questions on Twitter; she has her students do amazing tech projects in grades K-6. I've found many cool new projects from following her Tweets!
  • @edu180atl This is a group from GA with a new blogger and post every day. The question is always the same - "What did I learn today?" The posts are great and it's so interesting to read what people of all ages and backgrounds learn in their day-to-day lives. It's important for our students, too, to know that learning can occur anywhere and that it never stops. [Shameless plug: I'll be the guest blogger on April 19th!)
  • @thereadingzone She posts about books she's read or her students have read, her thoughts about teaching English, and asks some questions about teaching that really make you think. Tonight, we had a conversation about integrating all subjects into English to make learning more authentic!
  • @sjunkins This guy is connected to all kinds of educators and chat groups. I have been able to connect to other educators by following all the chats in which he participates. He's always involved in some interesting educational chat somewhere on Twitter!
  • @GTConsultant She's the author of professional development books for teachers, specifically about using menus with students in the classroom. She's already published several, and she's sending me a copy of her newest book to review. I'm so excited!
  • @mrsd5107 She's a fellow 5th grade teacher in GA, and that makes her worth following just to begin with! ;) She's got loads of great ideas and always shares things she does with her students.
  • @FlyontheCWall Another 5th grade teacher! Great sense of humor, has amazing ideas and retweets other amazing ideas she finds on Twitter, and moderates one of my favorite Twitter chats, #5thchat
Follow me! @ACommaQueen

Thursday, April 5, 2012

My Testing Nightmare

That time is upon us. That time that causes all teachers dread. That time that gives all students stomach aches. It's Testing Season. [Insert dramatic movie scream here.]

Usually I'm pretty calm during testing season. The worst part of it is how ABSOLUTELY BORED OUT  OF MY MIND it makes me. Have you checked out the Love, Teach blog? Holy smokes, she hit the nail on the head! Read her post about it here.

I pass out the tests, I read aloud the directions (and in my head, I crack up the whole time because the words and the syntax are just ridiculous. No one talks like that), and I make the students do some breathing exercises to calm them down and get rid of any distractions that might still be in their brains (the theme song to Spongebob Squarepants, perhaps?). Then - the test begins.

AND I AM BORED TO THE POINT OF INSANITY. For the next two or three hours.

I start off by circling around to be sure they are in the right section. That seems to be the big fear. That they will bubble in the wrong section. I guess since that seems to be a big deal to powers that be, it's a big deal to me too. So I check it. Religiously.

Then I circle around again, making sure everyone has a good eraser on the tip of their pencils. If not, I bring them one from my eraser drawer. (Yes, I have one of those.)

Then I circle around again, making sure that they have a backup pencil. If not, I bring them one from my pencil drawer. (Yes, again.)

That has taken up all of 8 minutes. Each testing segment is 70 minutes. We have two testing segments. Every day. For five days. It's at this point each morning when I realize it's going to be a long day.

I do something different each time I circle. Sometimes I pat them on the back. Sometimes I sing their names (silently, in my head of course) to that Banana-Fana-Fo-Fana song. Sometimes, I try to say their whole name backwards. Sometimes I try to picture them 10 years from now.

Of course, the whole time I'm making sure they're bubbling in the correct section.

As if this in itself is not enough of a nightmare, I had an actual nightmare about it last night.

Our big test is two weeks away. We are about to start reviewing our year from August until now. Yikes. Anyway, we're hittin' the review hard, folks. I don't like to review for a month because OH MY GAWD. I'd rather spend my time teaching it well up front and reviewing at the end instead of rushing through everything in order to have eons of time to review.

So today, I'm planning my review. That must be why, last night, I had the nightmare. Here's how it went down:

It's Wednesday. The math test. Reading and language arts are out of the way. We are about halfway done. I am feeling confident.

I pass out the test booklets. I read the directions (again, laughing like crazy in my head). Then, I start to READ THE MATH PROBLEMS OUT LOUD TO EVERYONE. This is a NO-NO, people! No way, Jose! Bad, bad bad! Illegal! STOP! DO NOT PASS GO! I couldn't believe I was doing that!

I wasn't even reading them out of a teacher manual; I was hunching over a student to read them out loud. After I read the question, the kids started to huddle up and discuss the problem. "Well," one of the darlings said, "the problem with this question is that there is irrelevant data. We need to sort through everything provided to see what we actually need and what serves as a distraction." I should have known RIGHT THEN that this was a dream! I do encourage thinking like this, but not one of my eleven-year-olds talks like this!

Now, dream-me knew that the kids weren't supposed to discuss the answers and processes for solving questions on these big standardized tests. (Why dream-me didn't know not to read the questions is beyond me.) So, I started yelling at them. "STOP! You can't discuss this! What on earth are you doing?"

Another darling said, "Mrs. Thompson, you encourage us to talk things out. Why should this be any different?"

"BECAUSE," dream-me screeched, "IT'S NOT ALLOWED! DON'T YOU KNOW THIS IS A STANDARDIZED TEST?!?!?!?!?!!?" I'm pretty sure I was jumping and pulling my hair out as I was screaming this at them.

The darlings all looked at each other, shrugged, and kept on discussing. My hissy-fit continued until I heard rapping coming from a backpack. That can only mean one thing. Cellphone.

The darlings know how I feel about cellphones going off in class. The talking stopped immediately. I marched over to the backpack that was rapping and pulled out the cellphone. The darling to whom the rapping backpack belonged was mortified. (In real life, not just dream life, I've confiscated his phone more than once.)

Usually, I tell the kiddos I'm going to lock it in the vault and their parents will have to come get it. That's standard procedure. Except in this dream, apparently NOTHING is standard procedure.

I answered the phone. That's right. Dream-me answered a darling's ringing cellphone.

"Hello?" I asked with just a hint of drama queen.

"Uh, yeah is [insert darling's name] there?" the grown man on the other end of the line asked.

"Yes, he is. This is his teacher, Mrs. Thompson. You just called and interrupted a very important test that he has to pass. What do you have to say for yourself?" My hand was on my hip as I spoke.

Nothing. Not even crickets.

I continued. "And why, may I ask, is a grown man calling an eleven-year-old during school hours on a school day? Just who do you think you are? Don't you know he's supposed to be in school? How important is this phone call right now? Does his mother know you are calling? Why aren't you at work?" Oh lawd.

He apologized very quickly and hung up. I turned around in a very sassy way and put the phone on my cabinet. The darling in question was still mortified, which satisfied me. I was about to restart the testing when the kids started freaking out over the phone call.

Dream-me climbed up on a table and started shouting at the kids. I mean, full on SHOUTING. I threatened to get the principal. And just as I was yelling really good, the principal walked in.

That's when I woke up.

Do you know that moment when you've had a nightmare and you've just awoken, and you wonder if it was real? That was me. I was in a panic. Then I realized I'd been dreaming, I laid back on my pillow, and I prayed for an easy testing week when it comes.

I still have two weeks until our big test. I can only hope that the nightmares don't get any worse the closer we get. 'Cause that one was a doozie.

Going Viral

I got an email telling me that my class's video from two years ago is going viral! That sounds great, right? I still just can't stand the term. It makes me feel like I should go wash my hands...

But that is really exciting! Have you seen my Test Taker Face video yet? It's an encouraging music video about doing well on the big end-of-year test (in our case, the CRCT). It was based on the Lady Gaga song, "Poker Face."

Two years ago, I showed my students some other CRCT videos on YouTube. My students said, "Mrs. Thompson, we can do that!" So we decided to do it. In three days, we made the decision to make a video, I wrote the lyrics, the kids choreographed it and decided how to film it, and boom - we had it finished by the end of the third day. This also included learning the lyrics, singing it, making an audio recording, and editing the dang video. Whew! Talk about a whirlwind!

We actually received a little bit of negative feedback, telling us that it showed the kids too fast. My students really wanted to show all the students in the school because they said the video was for them. So yes, some of the clips go by super fast, but I was proud of the students' idea!

The kids LOVED it and I had wonderful support at school. It was so much fun! If you haven't looked at it yet, please check it out. I still see the kids from that fifth grade class, and they still talk about how much fun making that video was. I'm pretty sure that they think they're celebrities ;)

Another class made a video based on Taio Cruz's "Dynamite" - called Rock This Test! It doesn't have as many hits; could you help us out with that? ;) (Shameless plug)

And of course, best wishes to all teachers out there who are entering the testing season!