Top Five FREE Refreshers for Teachers

lemonade_lime_versionDedicated to the wonderful group known as the #sunchatbloggers…

Sometimes, teaching can bog you down.  You love what you do, but sometimes your schedule, the behaviors, the standards… they just wear on you.  You keep moving forward, but you feel sluggish.  Uninspired.  Unmotivated, maybe.  If only you could just sit in a lounge chair, put your feet in a pool of cold water, and sip an iced cold glass of lemonade…  Starbucks aptly named their pick-me-up, thirst-quenching drinks Refreshers.  I can get behind that.  Sometimes, you just need a Refresher.  Here are my Top Five Teacher Refreshers:

  1. Twitter:  Twitter is the number one FREE professional development resource for educators.  Period.  If you are not using Twitter to stay current, you should.  All it takes is 20 minutes.  20 minutes to scroll through your feed each day and read everything newly awesome and trending.  People share the most amazing resources, including links to free worksheets and lesson plans on Twitter too!  Scared to try?  Start by searching #edchat or #satchat.  These are my two favorite chats, and people use these hashtags all day, every day.  Take a look at what you see.  Like it?  Retweet it.  Click on a profile.  Like what you see?  Follow them.  I guarantee you this:  After a week of scrolling through Twitter, retweeting, and following, you will have built a nice little home feed for yourself.  You will learn from others, and better yet?  Others will learn from you!  Think of how amazing our profession would be if only the really great stuff was shared!
  2. EdWeb.net:  I’m not sure why it took me so long to hear about edWeb, but when I did, it was an a-ha moment.  Where have you been all my life?  Since then, I have viewed a number of their FREE hour-long webinars on topics such as designing learning spaces and integrating computer science in grades K-5.  Some may shy away from signing up for these free professional development opportunities due to the inconvenient times.  Not to worry!  I have only participated in one live webinar.  The rest have been recordings, and I assure, you can get just as much information from the recording as you do from the live feed.  In fact, the ability to pause is pretty awesome.
  3. Pinterest:  My friends know that I have a Pinterest Problem.  When I was first introduced to Pinterest, I was a maniac.  I pinned everything.  From first grade worksheets (that I didn’t need) to Christmas crafts (that I would never complete), if it was cute, I pinned it.  You never know, right?  Well, now I am much more discerning.  I usually create a board for each school year, but I also have a collaborative board for our Makerspace and a Leadership board since I am currently in graduate school.  It is a terrific visual representation of my goals.  And if I don’t have time to investigate deeply right then and there?  No problem.  It will be there later!
  4. Teachers Pay Teachers:  I know there are some who believe that everything that teachers create should be shared without a fee.  And philosophically, I agree.  But I also know how hard some teachers work creating amazingly adorable, structurally sound, deep, and meaningful resources.  And I don’t mind paying for them!  They are usually FREE or pretty inexpensive.  Plus, I absolutely love the convenience of searching for a particular topic, clicking “buy with PayPal”, and downloading directly to my computer immediately.  A few years ago, TpT added the Follow feature which I also enjoy.  I love when my favorite sellers post something new.  It gives me a little spark and inspires me to try something new!
  5. The Library Voice Blog:  If I could only follow one, just one, blog, I would follow The Library Voice blog authored by Shannon McClintock Miller.  “Shannon is a mom and Eric’s wife. She served as the K-12 district teacher librarian at Van Meter Community School District in Iowa for 8 years. Shannon is now an international speaker and consultant who speaks about education, librarianship, technology, social media, and making a difference in education and the lives of others, especially children.” Her blog posts feature tons of pictures and links, and her advice is both inspiring and practical.  She spearheads a number of wonderful, collaborative, international projects that I have participated in.  What a way to engage our local students and make the world a little smaller and a little nicer!

I know there are so many other resources out there.  Where do you turn when you need a little inspiration?  

What are your Top Five Refreshers?  I’m looking to take a sip of something new and sweet!

Open House in the Makerspace

Wednesday was a big day.

It was a big day for our students.  It was a big day for our classroom communities.

It was a big day for our Makerspace.

You see, besides a small group that attended our Family Maker Night in May, not many outside of our district staff had seen our Makerspace.

Until Wednesday.  Wednesday was our Cecil Intermediate School Open House.  Our amazing teachers encouraged the parents to trek to the basement to see our newly renovated space.  And they came in droves.  It was so exciting!

There were four stations set up.

Take Home Ball Puzzles

Puzzle Balls

Magformers

Magformers

Collaborative Zentangle Coloring and Home Challenge Information

Zentangle and Challenge

Volunteer Sign Ups via Google Forms

Volunteers

You can see more special photographs in my video below.  I love the lyrics that accompany this Animoto song.

Keep Being Different.  Keep Having Fun.

ELA Raps 2016

Flocabulary_Logo_post_2013

Have you heard of Flocabulary?  It is a terrific teaching resource!  Flocabulary features “hip-hop videos to teach standards-based skills and content.”  Raps cover ELA, Math, Science, Social Studies, Current Events and more! There are loads of activities and assessments that are built right in, and they even have lessons on how your students can write and perform their own educational raps.

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Challenge Accepted.  [It didn’t hurt that my teaching partner and I are products of the late 90s and early 2000s and have a soft spot for hip-hop from this era.]

We began by analyzing a few of Flocabulary’s raps/lyrics.  We looked at rhythm and rhyme, and highlighted content.  We circled hooks and talked about repetition.  Sounds a lot like a poetry lesson, doesn’t it?

We introduced students to a short list of original Flocabulary beats.  There were just too many to choose from!  Student groups were assigned topics such as the different reading genres and types of writing.  They drafted lyrics and practiced by placing them to the beat of their choice.

Then came the tricky part:  recording the raps.  Once they performed for a teacher, we allowed them to move into a “recording studio” or empty classroom equipped with a tri-fold presentation board.  They downloaded their beat from Flocabulary into their Google Drive, uploaded it to SoundCloud, and started their recording.  Note:  SoundCloud does not allow for editing.  Some of the groups became frustrated when they made mistakes while recording.  However, we decided that this was an important lesson in perseverance.  They had already invested so much time and energy that not one student wanted to give up!

The most ambitious groups reached a new height when they were able to move their recorded raps to the iPads and use the Video Star app to film in an original video.  View some of our top performances below.  What an amazing experience!

Click here to view a free sample of Flocabulary’s product. Learn about the “Rock Stars: Igneous, Sedimentary and Metamorphic.” We’ve enjoyed using Flocabulary and just know you will too!

Fear Project Reflection Video

So, what did the kids really think about the Fear Project?  I decided to ask them.  First, they created reflection posts on Kidblog.  You can view some of them here:

Mrs. Lavallee’s Homeroom Kidblog Posts

I selected some of my favorites to feature in this Animoto video.

I am so proud of the sincerity, honesty, and thoughtfulness displayed in this student reflection video.  Sixth graders have so much potential.  I am lucky to work with them!

The Fear Project

This has been an amazing year for me as a professional.  I hope my students have learned that any effort, no matter how small they believe it may be, is enough to impact a community.

Children Helping Children Overcome Fears at Cecil Intermediate School’s Maker Space Whether you are the chief of…

Posted by Canon-McMillan School District on Friday, April 8, 2016

How Do You Have the Time?

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People often ask me, “I love what you are doing, but how do you have the time to fit it in?”

My short answer is this:  Providing these experiences is a high priority of mine, so I make the time.

My long answer is this:

Learning is fun.

A friend wants to give back to the community, so she spends her free time packing Blessings in a Backpack.  This is her first experience spearheading such a large initiative, so she has had to learn.  She makes the time.

A coworker is renovating a home for her parents and is learning something new everyday.  She is no renovation expert, but she is learning.  She makes the time.

My maker team buddy loves makeup and hair tutorials and thinks she might be able to share a few helpful tips on a website.  She doesn’t know how, but she is learning.  She makes the time.

We make the time to pursue our interests and learn new things every day.  Are we inspiring our students to do the same?

These children are more than a score. My son is more than a score. I want him to have a place where he is encouraged to pursue his passions. I want our students to know that they have skills, right now, that can make a difference in this world. I want them to understand that all efforts, no matter how small they may seem, are important. I want them to understand that connections and communicating with the public are just as important, if not more important, than communicating with me. The Internet has made it possible for them to learn things that we never even dreamed of learning. I want to guide them to these resources and encourage them to learn on their own.  They are not too young to impact the world around them with new skills.

In addition, my value as a teacher is greater than a set of scores. I have too much to offer as a educator, as a person, to let a test dictate how I teach or how my students learn.

I believe the same about my coworkers.  I work with an amazing group of people with the best of intentions and amazing skill sets.

When you wonder how I have the time to deviate from the curriculum, I leave you with two questions:

Would you want to be a student in your own classroom? 

Are you making the time to provide meaningful, relevant, and inspiring learning opportunities for your students?

If the answer is no to either of these questions, you might want to rethink how you are doing things.

Make the time.