Sunday, July 28, 2013

Do you Edmodo? Plus a FREEBIE!

Hello readers!

Do you Edmodo? If not, you should! It's a learning community of over 20 MILLION teachers and students online. You know how I feel about learning communities! (If you don't know, I LOVE THEM!) Let me tell you all about Edmodo. I've even included a super-cool FREEBIE for you at the bottom of this post!

Why do I love Edmodo?
It's free.
It's cool.
It's easy.
It's paperless.
It's relevant.
It's engaging.
It's safe.

It's a FREE learning network for K-12 educators. I use it all the time in my 5th grade class. It's a place for you to post assignments, interesting links, quizzes, photos, videos, etc. It even stores student grades. Parents can get a password too so they can see assignments and grades for their kids.

But the cool thing is that it looks like a social media site! (My kids say it's like a school version of Facebook.) That makes it fun for students to use, and they are eager to use it. There's an app, too! Lots of my students downloaded it onto their phones or iPods last year. (The app is for iPhone and Droids too.)

Once you learn your way around, Edmodo is very easy to use. I post assignments from the computer because I usually include a link to a website for students to visit. I do most of my commenting and grading from my iPhone, however. It's so easy! When my son has practice or I'm stuck waiting at an appointment, I can easily grade several assignments in a matter of minutes.

Ooh, and I like that it's paperless - it feels like I'm doing my part to save the environment!

Using Edmodo in your classroom is a way to stay relevant with your students. I can post assignments that are on topics that INTEREST them. I use a lot of websites like Scholastic News, NatGeo for Kids, TweenTribune, etc. TweenTribune is especially great - it's national news written for tweens. It's at their reading ability level and about topics that are important to them that have made the news. Plus, it makes me seem more relevant to them - it shows that I understand them and the way they communicate. They can ask me questions, and I can answer them even before the next school day!

When I post such relevant articles, I always get great student response. Students want to answer, so they are immediately engaged when they use Edmodo. Lots of times, I will also ask students to post their own word documents or presentations on Edmodo, sharing their learning with their classmates. How much is that like our real life? Amazing!

One of the most important factors, though, is that Edmodo is SAFE. Students can send me a private message any time, but students cannot private message other students. Students can only post privately to me or publicly to the whole class. There's no hidden cyberbullying on Edmodo. If a student posts something that is threatening or rude, I can see it. I have the power to delete it. I have deleted a few posts in the last four years that I've used Edmodo, and when I do, I send a private message to that student, basically scolding them and letting them know that if they do it again, they will be removed from my class. That's not cool, because then they lose the engagement with their peers and must do the assignment on paper.

Edmodo has produced a quick video (less than 2 minutes) about why it's a game-changer in education - check it out HERE.

Here are the kinds of assignments I post on Edmodo:
*Read an article, review it, answer questions (always standards-based)
*Create a Prezi about a topic and share it with your classmates. I include the requirements for the Prezi, then the students must load it for me to grade. THEN they must share it with their class. I usually then require each student to comment on at least 2-3 presentations. (We discuss commenting A LOT.)
*Create an online timeline and share it with the teacher and the class.
*Create a Top 10 list. This is always a class-pleaser and it works with any topic. Sometimes it even requires research. What a bonus! (Reading: Top 10 reasons that Janie is the worst antagonist ever. Social Studies: Top 10 reasons that it's important to study the Civil War. Science: Top 10 reasons that electricity is important in our daily lives. Math: Top 10 reasons we need to learn geometry. Grammar: Top 10 reasons commas are important in writing. Music: Top 10 reasons that Mozart is remembered as a musical legend. PE: Top 10 reasons aerobic exercise is important for our health.)
*One of their favorite assignments was related to a book about a shipwreck. I included 4 websites about surviving shipwrecks, then gave students a list of 10 items they might find in the wreckage. Students had to rank on a scale of 1-10 the importance of each item for survival. They also had to provide reasoning for each item.

Have you tried Edmodo? Do you love it? Is this new to you and you want to give it a try? Sound off in the comments!

OH - you can connect with other teachers too! Find me - Mrs. Dallas Thompson!

Click HERE to download my Edmodo Scavenger Hunt for your students! It will take them through all the steps to log in and practice taking quizzes, completing assignments, voting in polls, etc.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

11 Questions

Another 5th grade teacher who blogs and lives in GEORGIA (woot woot) nominated me for the Liebster Award. (Thanks Amber!) Today is a lazy day for me, so it's a good day to answer some questions and nominate some awesome blogs!

Blogs I Nominate:
The Liebster Award goes to great bloggers who have less than 200 followers. Go check these peeps out and follow 'em, 'kay? Pretty much just because I said so ;)

*Note: I'm only nominating 5 blogs, not 11.

What's New in Room 202?

(I happen to agree)

Teaching in an Organized Mess

(Ain't that the truth?)

Here are the rules for the Liebster Award:

Random Facts:

1. I like watching the TV show Castle, just not late at night. 'Cause it's scary.

2. I love Erin Condren planners. Both the school one and the life planner, too. If you haven't heard of her, oooooooohhh.... check it out!

3. I gave up Diet Coke and basically all carbonated/caffeinated beverages last December.

4. I have 2 dogs and 2 cats. Big dog = Peanut, Little dog = Jaqq. Everyone says their names are mixed up. The cats are named Chewbacca and Jabba. Guess who picked those names? (If you said my husband, you are correct.)

5. I am SUPERDUPERINCREDIBLYMEGA excited about the birth of the royal baby! I can't wait!

6. I am terrified of seagulls. 'Cause they are scary.

7. I went to Africa on a mission trip for almost 3 weeks this past May/June. AHHHHHMAZING. I can't wait to go back.

8. I am an avid Apple user! Don't want to use anything else unless I absolutely have to.

9. My to-read stack is getting ridiculously high, but that excites me because I have a beach trip coming up, and to me, that equals reading.

10. I own a Kindle. I think I've read 3 books on it. Ever. I've had it for ages. I prefer the feel of "real books." (Not trying to start a war here.)

11. I am reading the Bible in a year, and it is awesome! I'm learning so much.

Okie dokie, that's it for my random facts. Here are my 11 answers to Amber's questions:

1. How long have you been blogging?
Well, I'm not 100% sure. I'd have to go back and check my first post date to know... hold on... [checking] since January 17, 2011. Is it weird I don't know that off the top of my head? I have seen people celebrate their blogiversaries... Maybe I should? Hmmm... Maybe I will write that in my Erin Condren life planner...

2. What inspired you to blog?
Goodness knows I love to talk, and when I came across some really great bloggers who write like they are just sitting there talking to you, I knew I wanted to share my voice across the Internet. (That statement probably makes some people who know me cringe.)

3. How long have you been teaching?
I'm going into my 7th year. Lucky 7, baby!

4. What is the best advice you can offer a new teacher?
Search for organization ideas. If you can put everything in a place and find it, it will lessen your anxieties. (Just trust me on this one.)

5. What do you believe is the major public education issue of today?
Hmmm... standardization. Testing. Standards. It all is standardized. Which can be good and bad. During my trip to Africa and visiting some of the schools, I better understood a need for common standards to ensure that children in a country are being taught the same things and that all children are held to a high standard. However, standardized testing mandates are getting out of control. In my opinion, too many people who haven't set foot in a classroom since 1960 are making educational policies for 21st century classrooms! This is my open invitation to all policy-makers: come spend a week in my classroom. Then you will have a clue. The end. [Just realized I ranted, and that's not what you were asking. Sorry. Rant over.]

6. If you were not in education, where would you see yourself?
Marketing. Because that's half of teaching. Selling what you believe in to someone who may or may not think they need it ;)

7. What celebrity closely resembles you, not necessarily by looks, but personality?
I have NO idea. Honestly. And I love celebrities. But I don't know. They are all kinda crazy. (Note: I'm pretty crazy too, but my brand of crazy is different from theirs.)

8. What is your favorite television show?
Of all time? Everybody Loves Raymond.
Currently? Castle. Bachelorette. Whodunnit?

9. What is your favorite book?
The Harry Potter series, specifically book 7.

10. What do you do for fun?
Read. Go to movies. Hang out with my son and hubby. Make things. Waste time on Pinterest and Facebook.

11. Describe your family life.
I've already mentioned all my crazy animals. I have a husband who I adore and is a genius named Josh. We met when I was about 3 years old at church. We reconnected as adults and got married in 2006. I have an 8 year old son (who Josh adopted 2 years ago) named Ashton. He's a wild but sensitive kid who blesses my life (and gives me gray hairs) on a daily basis!

Questions for the Bloggers I Nominated

Keepin' these light and simple, friends!
1. Favorite salad dressing?
2. Worst movie you've ever seen?
3. Favorite vacation spot you've been to?
4. One place you want to visit before you die?
5. Favorite subject to teach?
6. Dessert - yes or no?
7. Favorite way to unwind after a crazy day at school?
8. Do you tweet? If so, who's your fave person to follow?
9. Star Trek or Star Wars? (You can't say neither. Be creative.)
10. Favorite holiday or celebration?
11. One age you'd NEVER want to be again?

Okay, basically - TAG! You're it :)

If you're reading this and you just want to comment on any of my randomness, my answers, or my questions, please feel free! I love feedback :)


Thursday, July 11, 2013

New Classroom Setup

Well, I have been a BAD blogger - I haven't blogged since December! Yikes! Is there a blog of shame for those of us who get caught up in a school year and forget to blog? I think I need to set myself up on a blogging schedule for this website like I do for my class website. *sigh...

Anyhow, I've been busy getting my classroom ready. You may be thinking, "WHAT?! It's so early!" - after all, we don't officially go back until August 7th, and it's just July 11th. I get it. BUT my son was in camp from 9-4, so that meant I got a week to work with no interruption. AND I still have a beach vacation, a birthday, and ballgames to attend, so this gives me plenty of time to enjoy the rest of my summer without having to think about what I want to do in my classroom. 'Cause it's done! BOOM! ;)

Here are some pics of my classroom redo for the new year!

 My teacher desk. I love having a small spot of my own against the wall. It's got to be here because my laptop (which is not there yet) will have to connect to my Promethean board. The fan will not be there when school starts ;)

One of my containers from Lowe's that I posted about last year (read it here); it holds some odds and ends I use daily in my classroom. Below is another one.

I made myself a checklist for each day for planning and afterschool. I stuck it in a little clear frame so I can check off my to-do list each day with a dry erase or Vis-a-Vis marker. Easy! (And my favorite for-school lotion, Lemon Vanilla from Bath & Body Works. Yum!)

I have the 3-drawer carts under my desk to hold literature circle books for my reading groups. The Sub Tub is there with info for a sub if it's an emergency (i.e., no plans!). Read about it here.

These shelves are behind my desk. I gave my drawers a makeover from last year with the pretty new chevron border I'm using. LOVE IT!

Folders for each day of the week, office stuff, committees, etc. The colored crates underneath hold files for each subject I teach.

Hand signals - 1 finger for restroom, 2 for water, etc. Part of our schedule is in the blue pocket chart. I ran out of room for connections and dismissal, but I figure that 5th graders can figure that out. I'll have the full detailed schedule posted in the hallway anyway.

I made the big pencil on the right last year for students to move their clips to whichever stage in the writing process they are in. I LOVE this! It worked great last year. The shoe organizer on the left is for students to store their water bottles. I encourage kids to bring in bottled water, but I hate when they are left on the table and start to leave water trails behind (or the worst - when they leave a bottle behind and go to their next period class and someone screeches, "Whose water bottle is this?!?!").

Cubbies for all the kids' stuff. The frames on top have the ridiculous pictures that come in them. I plan to take pictures of the kids on the first day of school in their nice outfits and then put them in the frames. I think the frames and the plants make it look so homey!

The black container is my "pencil hospital" that I found on Pinterest ages ago. One of our team teachers uses it, so I thought I'd give it a try. Top drawer - erasers, middle drawer - dull pencils, bottom drawer - sharpened pencils. The red container holds crayons. The top drawer is for warm colors, the middle for cool colors, and the bottom is for neutrals.

Found "Rich Questions" on Pinterest, but the link has been deactivated! :( Questions like, "Can you prove it?" or "What is another solution?"

I love these posters! I downloaded them for FREE from! I bought some star sticky notes, and I'll choose one every couple of weeks for us to focus on in homeroom by placing a star on it. The blue buckets are for lunchboxes.

Love the director's chair that I bought myself for a birthday gift last summer :) I love to read aloud from this chair. It's the best! The big cabinet there was made by my dad's company and donated to us. It stores my indoor recess games, clipboards, and books I will rotate into the library. On top, I've got a big basket with my favorite read alouds for the year. The bulletin board has some of my favorite posters! "Show Me the Evidence" from Teacher's Notebook, and it's FREE too! 
They will be perfect for teaching Common Core standards.

Saw the "Ketchup and Pickle" idea on Pinterest last year and thought it was too cute! This is for early finishers. The signs say, "Ketchup" on your work... So you can "pickle" another activity to do! Their choices are read, blog, Edmodo, or Boggle.

I love the chevron bulletin board border by Creative Teaching Press! The incentive charts are for students to put stickers by their names when they finish books. I did this last year, and the kids were obsessed with getting stickers! It worked so well that I know I have to do it again this year. The wire cart there is for all my writing supplies - love it! The desk is for my time-out area. [Insert ominous music here.]

Teacher resources on the big bookshelf, student resources on the shorter bookshelf.

Some mementos I brought back from my Africa trip that I can't wait to share with the kids!

Pretty obvious what those are...

Teacher supplies in all the fabric bins - I love that these are functional and colorful. Yes, it was an expensive purchase, but I added to it over the years. I will also put my iPods and iPads up there.

I got the group number signs from the same place I got the other posters - My first three groups are for Reading I, and groups 4-6 are for Reading II. They will have the same daily rotation, so I just put that part in the middle. 

I love this colorful acronym for group work. I bought it on TeachersPayTeachers (get it here) and then had it blown up at the local school supply store.

Social studies bulletin board, pillows galore, and the two white containers on top of the cabinet are for table supplies. I got the idea from Pinterest (see it here). I'll put in colored pencils, scissors, glue sticks, and then when students need something special, I'll toss that in before the project. Since our kids switch classes so much, they don't always bring their art supplies every day. This way, it's a lot easier and everything is in one place if we end up doing an art project in class.

I even made a couple of things for Open House! I got the idea for the numbered stations from the adorable Miss Nannini (see it here). Parents have green numbers and students have orange numbers. 

My reading tables. I had colorful stools last year, but the lighter colored ones showed dirt too easily even after being cleaned. So I just bought one more black stool and went with gray and black to accent this year.

Some wider views of the room...

Under the reading table, I have just enough room for two of these Sterilite containers. I have stored small group materials and manipulatives in here so they are at an arms reach!

I love my gator head. I placed a student station for Open House here beside him.

My library hasn't changed at all. I didn't put out all my books this year. I'm going to try to add new ones throughout the year. The new addition here is the black vinyl lettering on my board! The left is for my weekly agenda, and the other is for me to list my assignments. I'm so excited! If you're in/near Gainesville, Georgia, call my friend Amy to make it for your classroom too! Look up LuLu's Expressions on Facebook for more info :)

So that's a tour of my classroom. Thanks for stopping by! If you are going to share pictures of your classroom on your blog, send me a link. I love this stuff!