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.  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!

What’s Your Point?

This post is dedicated to my wonderfully patient colleagues at CIS who may still be waiting for me to get to the point.

I often struggle with spoken communication. This is a difficult admission for an ELA teacher. I should be able to convey my ideas, my plan, my passion succinctly. But I can’t. Because once I get rolling, Ijustcantseemtostopmyself.

This is a problem. I am full of big ideas. I want the best for my students, and I want to team up with others who are likeminded. I want to share. I want to teach. I want to inspire. But sometimes I can’t get over the Big Picture long enough to convey the little details.  And sometimes I can’t move past the little details to convey the Big Picture.

But this is important: I really do know what I am talking about when it comes to certain topics. I’ve been teaching a long time!  I might get too excited. I might get too caught up in the presentation and moment to remember the bottom line.

But guess what? So do our students. Most of them, even those at the advanced level, are still experimenting. They are learning, trying, proving, creating, revising, and editing their learning. They are excited about new things. And it never stops. So please don’t judge me, or them, with a single outcome or evaluation. The words we’d like to convey may escape us.  We will explain it better next time.  We are a work in progress.

And I promise to try harder, to slow down, to check in more often to be sure you get what I am saying. Thank you for your understanding and patience. There is not a personality among us that I don’t truly enjoy. How lucky we are to work with each other!

I promise to get to the point… Maybe next year?

Connections are Essential

If I could only choose one take-away from #BLC14, it would be this…

This is Cecil Intermediate School, my school home 20 miles outside of Pittsburgh PA.  We lead 400 students in grades 5 and 6. CecilIntermediateSchoolCecil

This is my Twitter page, @susie.lavallee. 115 followers. 449 Tweets. ipod teacher twitter.58.33 PM

This is Van Meter, Iowa.  Home of 650 total students in grades K-12. vanmeter_ia

This is the Van Meter Community School District librarian, Shannon Miller,  @shannonmmiller.

This is her Twitter page. 34,000 followers.  67,000 Tweets. Shannon Twitter

At the recent Building Learning Communities conference in Boston, I attended Shannon’s session on how a Makerspace can give kids a voice.

This is me tweeting her a message and sharing a picture of my cuties at the Make Shop at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. pgh kids cuties

This is her favoriting my tweet and replying.

pgh reply

This is how I felt about that connection.


Twitter is digital. Twitter is limited to 140 characters. Twitter appears impersonal. But Twitter is fundamentally human.

What you don’t see is my administrator and I talking with Shannon later that evening where she told me that she thought she and my husband would be good friends as they both like to create things, even if it gets messy.  What you don’t see is her hugging me and taking a picture of my wrist while wearing a bracelet that was made by one of her students. What you don’t see is, perhaps, the smile on her student’s face when she tells him/her that I live far away and am still wearing it.

Connections make us feel good. Connections move us to do more. Connections inspire us to keep trying.

This is Brian Mull, @brianjmull.

Brian Twitter

His New Orleans school building was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. On the 1st day of evacuation, he created a blog to help his displaced school community. This was 2005. He hadn’t been taught how to create a blog. Administrators had never been taught how to comment. On the very first day of turmoil, he had 150 comments. For four months, his school administrators planned their triumphant return to their hometown via Skype. Unfortunately, Brian’s position was considered non essential in the rebuilding process. They had to let him go. He went on to work as a speaker and consultant with November Learning for seven years. Now, he has come full circle. He returned to his school this spring as the Innovation and Learning Design Coordinator.

This is me, using Twitter to confirm plans to run with the BLC14 Runners Club via Twitter, prior to attending.

run shot twitter

What you don’t see is me, running through Boston Garden with the Runners Club on a route created by Brian Mull.  What you don’t see is my administrator and I sitting down with Brian to discuss our districts needs and future.  What you don’t see is how his expertise and experience will affect the students of Canon McMillan School District.

Some critics will argue that digital connections are less human than traditional connections.  

They don’t have to be.

There are no assessments that can measure the value of being connected.

But you cannot dispute that connections are vital in the teaching and learning process.

This post is also dedicated to

@jcoughlin24, @math8lpcsd, @KleinErin, @kathycassidy, @AlyciaZimmerman, @GraceLani1

 and many others that I met at #BLC14,

all of whom use technology to enhance human relationships.

Professional Development and Twitter



Twitter always seemed like such a waste of time to me.  I would see the hashtags as I watched Dancing with the Stars and think, “Why would I ever need to do that?”  My husband could spend an easy 30 minutes browsing his feed sharing tidbits about his favorite golfers and their pre-Masters routines.  What was the point??

And then I started to blog, and I realized that Twitter has become THE BEST free professional development tool out there.  Somewhere along the way, I read an article called, “The Teacher’s Guide to Twitter”.  If you are thinking about using Twitter, you can start with this.  It is bit overwhelming, so let me put out some simple steps.

1.  Create a handle.  Mine is @susielavallee.  I wanted to use the @theipodteacher, but it was already taken, and he’s been using it for some time.  Names are good because, eventually, you may want people to know who you are, and your handle will reinforce this!

2.  Select a profile picture.  Nothing screams “New User” like a preset icon.

3.  Think about who you would like to follow.  Start with those you know.  I currently follow a few coworkers including @mrsbarbarino and @DrTaranto.  Our district now has a feed: @canonmacschools.  However, my best advice is to follow some leaders in our field and some organizations that share terrific content.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Leaders in the Field:

@KleinErin – elementary teacher and #edtech guru; blogger; and Scholastic contributor

@rmbyrne – another #edtech guru; excellent content

@coolcatteacher – blogger, author

@TechNinjaTodd – teacher, administrator, #edtech enthusiast







4.  Now that you are following a few, click on who THEY are following and find a few more to follow!  Specifically, go to @KleinErin.  Click on “Following” and click on “Lists”.  She has a great list of people you can follow to build your Personal Learning Network (PLN).  This is how I started, and I highly recommend this method!

5.  Read, tweet, retweet.  Read what interests you.  Tweet to comment.  Retweet to share and give credit where credit is due.  It’s that simple!

6.  Hashtags can be stressful.  Don’t let them get to you.  You will see patterns pop up as you read and consume.  Basically, hashtags are a way to narrow your stream to particular topics.  #edtech is a popular one.  I also look at a stream of posts with the #edapps tag.  I am attending a conference in Boston next week, so I’m looking at #BLC14 for the latest updates on what to expect.  I found out that there will be a runners group each morning!

I currently do not use Twitter to communicate with students or parents, but listening to @TechNinjaTodd speak at #flipcon14, I may have to revisit this idea.  Stay tuned!



Flipped Learning Network

Flipped learning has become quite the buzz phrase recently.  There are Edmodo groups, blog articles, and conferences featuring this topic happening all around the world.  Well, what is it?  I recently attended the Flipped Learning Network’s 7th annual conference which was held in Mars, PA, and I believe this awesome organization has one of the best explanations:

Flip Definition 1

I love the idea of sending the lower level skills home, or the individual learning space, via video or other resources to focus on higher level skills in the classroom, or the group learning space.  I love that this can be considered a pedagogical approach.  And I love that recent data is proving that it is not, in fact, a trend.

Have I flipped my class?  No, not entirely.  But that is the beauty of flipped learning:  there is no singular right answer or method.  Stay tuned for iPod/iPad tools to help you flip.

In the meantime…Thinking of flipping?  Join this organization for FREE.  You will have access to all of the resources, data, and peers necessary to help you get started.

flipped learning log