What happened today?

Halloween Traditions
October 31, 2011, 11:41 pm
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We have a Halloween tradition that started about four years ago that involves a pumpkin and a good imagination! Students at Oaktree Elementary get to participate in a pumpkin decorating contest. We have had very creative entries every year. This year the pumpkins were decorated with the classroom wagon, too.

Our student council is always looking for ways to make our school an engaging place to be. This is just one of many things our awesome student council does, but it seems to be the students’  favorite! It also shows what a wonderful staff we have. Our crazy contests are always met with great, enthusiastic staff members. This allows our student council to feel empowered! They know they make a difference in our school!

Please take a look at our creations for this year, and please let us know if you have other ideas we could incorporate into our school community!


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Reflections from a Messy Classroom
June 24, 2011, 1:25 am
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Another year is finished. I have my room cleaned and packed up…a feat most think I will never finish on time, but I did with fifteen minutes to spare! The room is silent and I reflected on the wonderful year I had. I was able to teach these 29 students for 9 months and I hope they know how much they all taught me. I was taught to be more patient, that if a student wants to have a messy desk even after we clean desks on Friday to let it go…it is not worth the battle. I have learned that students love to create and I have learned that this group were scientists (they begged to have a science fair…and we did!). I learned many things this year, and for that I am grateful.

My goals for this year were the following:

1. Integrate technology when I can.

2. Make my students’ passion drive what we do.

3. Have a cleaner room….to make my principal happy.

4. Make learning has hands on and engaging as I can.

These goals are not really in the correct order, but that is how they are listed in my notebook. I sat down to write how I did  on each goal and I found examples for each of these goals that made me feel I have made progress on these goals, but I will still have these goals next year and I bet the year after that. My mantra is if I think I have nothing to change about my teaching, then it is time to retire….at the rate I am going I will not retire until I am physically or mentally unable to do so….there is always room for improvement!

I feel I made progress with all of these goals except for number 3. I tried to have a cleaner room and I even had a vacuum cleaner and a broom in my room to help with the mess we create… we failed miserably! I have learned that when you give the students ownership and let them create…it gets messy! My students know that it was OUR classroom not My classroom. They know where to get things in my desk, they know where the creativity box is housed and that they can use all the publishing tools available to them, no need to ask, just create. I have had to take the teasing and disdain from several people about my classroom and it bothers me, so every year I try to make it cleaner and I am beginning to resent that this is the only thing some people focus on. We have a messy room, but we have a great time learning and for that I will not apologize! I make sure the floor is picked up so the custodians can vacuum, but the tables are covered with a myriad of projects. Our Webkinz zoo takes up a whole table and to some observers that may look like boxes, but you ask my students and they will say, “That is our habitat!” This year long project is wonderful because it incorporates social studies, science, reading, writing and students are working in cooperative groups. All that learning that takes place makes some people cringe because there are boxes- decorated by 8 year olds. Our publishing center has many books on the table drying, our science table is covered with whatever science experiment a child has wanted to try and their desks, well they vary depending on the child and I believe that is how it should be. I have also had people tell me I need to get rid of some of my books because I have too many. I just shake my head at that statement…you can never have too many books!

I am tired of defending myself to people and quite honestly I think people that have really clean rooms are not letting their students explore, yet I do not go in their room and make statements like, “You’re room gives me a headache!” or “How can you stand this?!” Quite frankly…I am thinking the same things about the sterile environments that many hold as a standard all educators should strive to be. If I was a teacher that lost all her papers and never could find things you may have an argument, but that is not the case. I lose some things, everybody does, but I have several people come to me for something that was misplaced. So please, if you are only going to concentrate on the cleanliness of a room…just walk on by. If you want to see some really cool things can do if you let them explore, then come on in! We would love to show you how fun learning can and should be!

I am moving number number 4 to the top and number 3 to the bottom…it is still there because I will never please anyone with that goal so it is there. I will try, but I will not let it take too much instructional time or squelch creativity! I make DVD’s at the end of the year that showcase all the learning that took place this year. I made each child 3 DVD’s full of memories of learning that took place this year. One parent called me to thank me and said, “I see why it was so messy, but boy did my kid love school this year!” That is what it is all about!

Here is an example of the science activities we did for our Earth Science Unit. Messy, yes, but very engaging and the class average on the test was a 93%! Worth every bit of teasing about the room!

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Field Day
June 12, 2011, 3:42 am
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We have a tradition at Goodrich that has been in place for a very long time. We have what we call a “Field Day” where we spend the day at the high school track participating in running, field and class events. It is always in June, and we spend the entire day outside. I was lucky to participate in field days when I went to Goodrich, and as a kid it was something we looked forward to all year. I am pleased to say I still look forward to field days even more now that I have the honor of  being a teacher in this district.

Our physical education teacher, Mr. Adams, plans the day for us. Mr. Adams is beloved and we couldn’t have the day without him. I have a soft spot for this man because he was both my softball coach and basketball coach when I went to Goodrich. He was always tough on us, but we all knew he was pushing us to be better.  He has a way of caring about kids and having very high expectations for them at the same time. We have several successful athletes in our district and I believe Mr. Adams has a huge part in helping these kids find their passion for sports. We all have our tasks, but without Mr. Adams we would not have the wonderful day of physical activity. I think it is important day for all students for several reasons.

The main reason I love this day is we get to see our kids in a different environment. Often kids that may struggle in the classroom shine on field day, and we get to see them in their element. I think it is also a good thing that some students do struggle that normally ace everything in the classroom. I think it is a great lesson for students to learn that we are all good at somethings and we all have things we need to work on. The important lesson is that we need to persevere and work through it.

Another reason why I think this is important is that it gets kids moving and highlights physical activity. Keeping healthy and active is a life lesson and this day is all about keeping active. I applaud Mr. Adams for organizing all the different events so that strength, skill and quickness all matter.

Our PTO plans the class events so that students are having fun, but still racing against other classrooms. This is also important because we can model good sportsmanship. We race against other classrooms and it is very important that we help kids learn to be good sports. I find that in the course of the day we all win and lose at something. Learning to cope with both respectfully is a skill that has to be modeled.

I also love the sense of community field days brings to our district! The parents come out in record numbers to support their children. The day ends with the relay race. Being chosen to run in the relay race is an honor and something a child will never forget. We end with the fifth graders…their last hurrah before they go to the middle school. There is a great atmosphere that shows one of the reasons why Goodrich is such a great district to live in. It was true when my parents sent seven of their children through and it is still true today! We are a small school, and we live in a small town. This may be why we are such a close-knit community. I am grateful for the support of the community at all the events we have at Oaktree, and we have a lot events that involve our awesome school.

It makes me proud to chant with my fellow Martians…”We are the Martians, the mighty, mighty Martians!”

Thanks for another great year Mr. Adams! We are lucky to have you!

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Mission Egg Drop
June 11, 2011, 7:11 pm
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One of my favorite projects I have my students do is “Mission Egg Drop” to conclude our unit on physics. It is a great problem solving activity and I love how much the parents get into this project. It is a fun activity, but there is a lot of application of science skills used to create these capsules of awesomeness! The objective of the mission is simple; create a capsule that will keep the egg from breaking.

The slide show illustrates how creative the students and parents are, but my favorite thing is seeing the excitement on the face of each child. Learning should be fun, and I am on a never-ending search to find ways to make my students enjoy what they learn. I wish you could hear the students…they cheered on each other hoping that the egg did not break. After each drop everyone gathered around the capsule and the creator to see if the mission succeeded…it was a great sight to see. The fruits of all this cooperative learning is having a class that acts like a family, and we truly do treat other like we are a huge family! It has been a great year and this was a nice way to help things wind down for the summer.

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Identity Day
June 5, 2011, 8:46 pm
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It was this time last year that one of my friends on Twitter shared pictures from an amazing day he had at his school in Alberta, Canada. I remember seeing the pictures and saying to myself that I wanted to do that next year. I was not alone. Many have taken to the idea that Groege Couros has shared and have implemented Identity Day at their school. I have read blog posts, watched George do a presentations on the impact the day had on his staff and students. I have also seen many educators from all over the globe take part in Identity Day! Reading all of these reflections still did not prepare me for the powerful impact the day would have on our class.

Our Identity Day took place on June third. It was the only assignment all year that was turned in on time by every single student. The students walked into the room excited to share what they had created. I loved seeing kids connect on this level. They were learning about each other. I had several gymnasts, motor-cross enthusiasts, animal lovers and we were even treated to a piano recital preview. It was a great day to be in room 300! We were all learning more about each other and we found out that we have a lot in common with each other. Since my class was the only class in the school to do this, we did get to share our paragraphs with each other. We put our desks in a circle and we watched and listened to each student. I did not make anyone present that did not want to, but most chose to share their passion with the rest of their friends. The students kept saying that this was the best day ever! My students loved learning about each other and they also thought it was cool that I brought in my own stuff to share.

As I reflect on the day I wonder if next year this would not be a good way to kick off the year. We learned so much about each other that it may be something to think about. I do think the reason many students felt comfortable sharing their passion is because we have been together for eight months. We do A LOT of work in groups, and it is my goal that we see each other as a team so we develop a relationship with each other. Relationships are the most important thing to build in my room. I believe we have to not only connect with our students, but we need to find a way to have our students connect with each other. That is where we build acceptance of others and that is what will help with all the bullying that takes place in our schools.

Identity Day shows how powerful social media is and how it can create the change in education we so desperately need. Thank you George Couros for always sharing your thoughts on education. You along with all my Twitter friends have made me a better teacher this year, and I am sure the learning will continue. Thanks for sharing the idea of Identity Day with our Twitter Family. If you have not tried to have an Identity Day of your own, I encourage you to do so next year.

This slideshow does not show the love and acceptance that filled our room that day, but it does show the cool projects and the tarantulas that paid a visit to our room!

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April 20, 2011, 11:41 pm
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I have a new tool that I am using in my classroom called Prezi. I like this tool because I think it has a lot of potential for use in the classroom.  I am a firm believer that students need to create things in order to fully understand concepts. This is the core of my teaching. I am constantly looking for ways for my students to create things using the new knowledge they have just investigated. I say investigated because I also believe that students learn best when they discover the lesson on their own. This is why there is not a day that goes by that we are not doing an investigation in our room. Whether it is looking for punctuation marks to see why they are used, or a typical science experiment, I believe students need to find the answers themselves. I also think the conversations that take place are key to help us all come to a better understanding of the concept, but more  importantly of each other.

I believe that the paper pencil activities have their place, but I do not believe that answering questions on a worksheet is the best use of time in my classroom. That is why I started to look at my study guides in a different light. Why do we spend so much time having students copy the answers so they have it…anyone can copy, but that does not increase their knowledge or synthesize what they already know. There has to be a better use of instructional time. Last year I started giving the students the study guide and then a few days later  I would give them my study guide with my notes. I thought this was an improvement, and I am no longer spending time droning on about the answers. I also free up a lot of instructional time that allows  us to do more experiments. My problem with the answer key is that even though the answers are “right” or what I think they should be, there is no thinking taking place. There is also no conversations to help students that just might not get it to have it explained another way. At home, in the middle of studying for the test, students have a sheet that tells them the answer, but nothing is explained. That bothers me!

I am a person that loves to play with any Web 2.0 thing out there. I play with it to see if it is something that will engage my students, something that will help them create , something that deepens their understanding , and finally how  easy is it to use. While I am playing with Prezi I see the YouTube feature and a light clicks on for me. There are lots of videos of experiments that people do or Bill Nye snippets that could help explain a concept to a child. If I am not at their house helping them study, why not have Bill Nye the Science Guy there to give them another look or another idea to help these concepts make sense? So this is why I am now using Prezi to create my study guides.

I am interested in knowing if you and your child found the Prezi helped your child prepare for the test better than the old answer key. Please let me know! I always love your input!

Thank You Therapy Dogs
December 30, 2010, 3:20 am
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We are very lucky to have a group of therapy dogs visit our classroom. The dogs and their owners volunteer their time to allow my students to read to them. Being able to read to Annie, Maggie or Lily is a treat for every child. The dogs are the ultimate reading buddy! No matter how the child reads their reading buddy enjoys the attention. My struggling readers get the same kisses and nudges the “better” readers do. This is a huge confidence builder for every reader! There is no questioning or assessing how fluent the reader is…it is reading at its best! This is for pure enjoyment, which is a grade level expectation in the state of Michigan.

Reading should be an enjoyable experience, and these amazing therapy dogs and their wonderful owners make it the best part of the day. I am so grateful for the experience you allow my third graders to have. The effect you have had on my students is not something I can measure on a test , but I know that it has made a HUGE impact on my students! When I have a student that would hide under the table during reading workshop in September run up to me and beg to be the first to read…you have given that child something he will have for life…a love of reading!

You can see the joy in the faces of each child! We love to have you visit and we look forward to reading more books to you in 2011!  We are so grateful for the time you spend with us! It truly is priceless!

Having Fun in Room 300
December 29, 2010, 7:15 am
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Recently one of my students wrote a blog post thanking me for always doing fun stuff. I cannot tell you how much I appreciated that post. When you see the smiles in the videos you realize that school is a fun place to be. I do get a lot of people that question why my students are playing games or working in groups. I think these videos show why…they are engaged learners! Having students engaged in the learning process is overlooked by many people.

There is a push to practice skills over and over again so that we can do well on tests. My concern is not that the child does well on the test, but that the child truly understands a concept. I have found that worksheets do not accomplish this goal for many students. Many students need to have many different experiences before the concept is understood. I believe that if  the child understands the concept…the tests scores will come. When students love going to school, then I feel I have done my job. If students are bored, then I have more work to do.

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Top 100 Classroom Blogs
December 13, 2010, 10:10 pm
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I have had many educators ask me, “Why do you blog?” The reasons to blog are many, and the reason I blog changes with each post. The main reason I believe in blogging is that it gives children an authentic audience. I started this blog to communicate with parents, but now I use it as a way to model how and what we can blog about with my students. The list of blogs that are in this article written by Alexis Brett  is a great resource for educators to use.

When you look at the blogs on this list you will see what I mean about blogs being used for many things.  There are blogs that are a reflection of what we do as educators, blogs that are primarily written by children and blogs to share ideas. I think every educator needs to start using this valuable tool, and using this list is a great place to get ideas on how to use a blog!  This list is separated so that you can see what Kindergarten classrooms do …yes they can blog too, all the way up to high school and college. Please peruse this list and try to use blogging in your classroom! I have found that blogging is the best thing I have my students doing! They love to blog and they see themselves as writers!

Science Alive
November 23, 2010, 10:44 pm
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We are so blessed to have an awesome PTO in Goodrich. Our PTO works very hard to bring amazing programs to our school each year! This is my FAVORITE thing we do every year! I am an animal lover, and most students are, too. The people at Science Alive do an incredible job with the animals and the students. The presenters are so patient and knowledgeable. My students learn so much from them each time they visit our school.  We are impressed with the Science Alive team because they keep records on what animals we have seen and ones we have not, so it is never a repeat.

Thank you so much PTO for bringing this amazing program to us every year! We love it!!! We want to thank all of the parents that support the PTO. Without your generous support we would not have the opportunity to view such amazing things in our classroom! It is very cool!

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What is happening in room 300?
October 18, 2010, 9:12 pm
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The Principal’s New Clothes: A Lesson in realtionships and Measurement
October 5, 2010, 10:09 pm
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OuThe Principla's New Clothesr school has a new principal! We are blessed to have a principal that loves to visit our classrooms. I think building a report with children is so important, especially for the principal. Students need to see the principal as an important part of our building , not just a person that sits in the office all day…and Mr. Ellis is just that type of principal!

Mr. Ellis asked if he could come in and read to the students,  of course we all invited him in. Watching him read the stories and interact with the kids was great…I got the feeling that this is the right fit for this principal and the kids LOVED it.

After he finished reading the book I asked him if he would mind if we took some measurements so we could make him some new clothes. I let the students decide which measurements we needed and they decided on the arm length, leg length, the chest and the hips…that was it. Part of me wanted to push for more measurements, but I wanted the students to have to think critically, so we wrote these measurements down. As they were taking the measurements, Mr. Ellis and I both knew that they were not correct, but again, I wanted the students to figure that out on their own. We thanked Mr. Ellis and after he left the room we started our creations.

I love this activity because students learn, in a meaningful way, what it means to create items using a scale. We have been looking at several maps of Michigan, so to help them understand what a scale was we started talking about our maps and I asked,”Is this how big Michigan is?”  It took a little discussion, but we finally agreed that Michigan was much larger than the maps we had. Many students started to see that these maps were all different sizes…after some searching one student found the map scale at the bottom of one of the maps…and the light bulbs came on! After learning about map scales I said that is what we are going to have to do to Mr. Ellis…we need to shrink his measurements.

As a class we decided that an easy way to “shrink” Mr. Ellis was to make all of the inches we measured into centimeters. Once we decided what our scale was going to be I brought out the scrapbook paper. This made their day! All the colors and patterns they could put together made them excited to create their new designs. I learned a lot by watching them measure. I also saw a lot of problem solving. The scrapbook pages were too short for some of the measurements (on purpose) so it was interesting to see how students solved this problem. What was wonderful was the kids started to realize that they needed more data…”How wide do we make the arms? How wide are his legs? How long is his shirt supposed to be? And my favorite…who measured the tie? It is only 3 centimeters according to our scale! That is when we stopped and had a discussion of what we could have done differently. It was an awesome discussion! Students started to talk about how they measured. If it was close they just went to the next number or if it wasn’t too far past the number they just rounded off. Students learned that we need to much more accurate in our measuring and many students shared their strategies of how they used their ruler.

Great learning took place that day! It continued after the creations were finished. As you can see they are all different sizes! We decided that if we were all accurate…they would not be so different!

Thank you Mr. Ellis for teaching my students the importance of measuring accurately and for being an awesome principal for our building!

Click on the link below to see our awesome creations!!

Weeks One and Two
September 21, 2010, 8:43 pm
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September 8, 2010, 1:19 am
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Are you afraid of anything?  I am! I am deathly afraid of bats. I freak out when I see one outside, and usually head straight to the house when I see one.  I remember when I was little we had a lot of bats get in our old farm house, and I was always the one hiding under the first piece of furniture I could find screaming like I was in a horror movie! I recently had a bat in my house. I was hysterical! My heart rate started racing, my legs did not want to work and I could not think!  I got under the table…then it hit me. I have to get this bat out of my house. I started with a pep talk to myself, ” I am a science teacher, I have had several pythons draped around my neck, surely this little bat is nothing!” I thought I had convinced myself that I could do this and as soon as I crawled out from the table, there it was swooping towards me! I was a prisoner under my table! I could see my phone and was able to get in and out fast enough to get the phone to call my dad! After he stopped laughing he did come to help. He lives 7 minutes from my house, but I felt like it took him an hour!

As I sat under my table I started thinking about how everyone is afraid of something…maybe not as silly as my fear of bats, but we all have something that we are scared of.  I started thinking about kids, and how many of my students express that they are afraid of different things. Some children are afraid of what will happen when they get home, of school, being embarrassed, bullies, bugs…the list is goes on forever. As I sat there, shaking, I realized that I needed to be more compassionate when my students are scared of something.  I started thinking about the students that were afraid to write, speak in class, do math,  make friends or scared of their teacher. I thought about those teachers that say they want their kids to be afraid of them so they behave. Being afraid is a miserable feeling! I felt embarrassed that I could not handle this on my own, I felt like I was a failure and overwhelmed. I am sure students have these same emotions when they are afraid. How can anyone learn with all that going on in their head?

I have always concentrated on making my students feel safe the first few weeks of school. I want them to feel comfortable taking risks. I believe that getting to know each other the first weeks of school is crucial for a successful year. If I find out what students are afraid of I can help be there for them to help students feel supported. After the bat incident I realized this is even more important. I was having trouble breathing, so I am sure trying to learn something at this point would be next to impossible until the fear subsided.  I want my students to feel safe at school, so they can learn and be successful!

As much as I hate bats, I am glad this did happen. I can see that I need to really get to know my students. Maybe the reason a student is struggling has to do an emotion that is getting in the way of learning. If I do not take the time to find out what my students’ passions and fears are I may never find a way to engage them so they can learn.

As for the bats..humor helps me get through it! My family loves to tease me about my fear of bats. I even have a “Bat Motel” sign my sister put on my house…and I have slept with a tennis racket ever since!

First Day!
September 7, 2010, 6:05 pm
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August 22, 2010, 4:49 am
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Welcome to Third Grade
August 16, 2010, 8:47 pm
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Hello to all of  my new students and parents!

I hope you enjoyed your summer vacation. I am so excited to start the new year! We will be very busy this year. I know that many students and parents are a little worried about third grade because we are in a great, big, new place for you to explore! Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have. I am always available to help in any way that I can! I have the gift of getting to spend  over 9 months with you, and I want you to feel comfortable for the entire journey!

Here is a little bit of information about me. I am a graduate from Goodrich High School. In fact, I attended Goodrich from K-12!! My parents still live in the old homestead that was actually built by Dr. Gale…sound familiar? Gale Road is named after this important man in our local history! I am the youngest of 7 children, so believe me, I know what it is like to be picked on. I went to the greatest university on the planet Earth. Needless to say I am a huge Michigan fan! One look in my classroom and you can tell I am passionate about my team, and I am just as passionate about teaching!  I love attending events my students participate in outside of school as well, so please do not hesitate to ask me to attend. Many parents send in a copy of their child’s sport schedules.  I treasure any time that I am getting to know my students! Seeing them shine in all areas is a great way to form a lasting bond! The only time I cannot make it is…you guessed it…during  Michigan home games!

Kindergarten at Reid Elementary

My goal is to keep you informed of everything that is going on in our room. You will find your child’s Blackboard Site to be very helpful! I will post the newsletters, kids projects, our weekly work on the SMART Board and tons of links for you and your child to investigate in each subject area. Your child’s Blackboard site is the first place I would check. I am not in charge of posting things to my website, so I have no control over when an item is posted, therefore it tends to be out of date! The second place I would check is our blogs. This is the blog I use to write and model for students. We have several blogs we comment or create posts for, and It would be great if you commented on our blogs! Kids love to see the comments!!! Knowing other people read their blog help students  become better writers because they now have an authentic audience.

Here are some videos to help you with Blackboard Site and the blogs:

How to log into Blackboard tutorial:  Click here

How to leave a comment on a blog tutorial: Click here

How to navigate the blackboard site: Click here

Thanks for visiting our blog! I hope you found some useful information!

Junkyard Wonders- A Model for Teachers
August 9, 2010, 2:42 am
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My  favorite children’s author is Patricia Polacco. She has a way of inspiring me and my students to write. Her voice is so engaging and comforting.  My students beg to have me read her books! We read as many of her books that we can before my students publish their own family stories. I have every single book she has written. I really had a hard time choosing my favorite…until now!

Patricia Polacco ‘s new book  The Junkyard Wonders is a story that should be read by every educator. I believe that the teacher in this book is a role model for everyone that deals with children. She gets the most important lesson that all educators need to learn….the students need to come first.  Mrs. Peterson works on building relationships with her students. She creates teams that work together,  and the awesome effect is these kids  believe in themselves.

My favorite part of the book, that still brings tears to my eyes when I read it, happens after the kids are upset when the other kids say the kids in her class are from the “Junkyard” because they are different from the other kids.

“We’re all junkyard kids, even though you try to make us feel better about it. We’re throwaways,

junk, and everyone knows it.”

These kids know, no matter how wonderful this teacher is,  they still feel  that something is different about them. Then this amazing teacher says what I feel about my students:

” Oh, my dear, that’s where you are wrong,”

“Everyone of you is my wonder!…Don’t you realize what a junkyard really is?”…

“Oh, it is a place full of wondrous possibilities! What some see as bent and broken throwaways are actually amazing things waiting to be made into something new. Something unexpected. Something surprising.”

A junkyard has lots of possibilities, just like our students. This books shows us how to look beyond the labels, and look at ALL children as a “Junkyard Wonder” something unexpected, something surprising and a wonder to all of us! I love that her kids come first, even when the principal tries to ruin it…she does what any teacher that loves her students would do…she fights back for them. This book has inspired me to keep fighting for my students, to continue to put their needs first over the curriculum because as you find out in this book…put the kids first and the rest will fall into place!

Food for the Teacher’s Soul
August 5, 2010, 12:42 am
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Being an educator is one of the greatest blessings in my life. I absolutely love what I do. I am a giver and being a teacher I am asked to give a lot of myself, which I gladly do. Teachers give freely of themselves and sometimes I get run down. I  feel empty and need nourishment for my soul. It is a rare occurrence, in my life, that I just get to sit back and let people take care of me. The Reform Symposium allows me to do just that!  All the brilliance that exists in my personal learning network (PLN) is at my finger tips. I feel pampered! I am able to sit in my own home, wear my comfy clothes, wear no make-up and learn at my own pace.  That is such a wonderful gift! I do not have to pay to attend, fly to get there or beg for permission to go from my administration. I am able to catch those I did not make the live session,  and I can go back to watch all of them again. The amazing thing to me is the best professional development I am able to be a part of is the reform Symposium…and it’s FREE. I know my district has spent thousands on professional development that make me contemplate getting a root canal to avoid the boredom!

The Reform Symposium was food for the teacher’s soul because each session reached a different part of  a teacher’s soul that needs nurturing after the long, difficult school year!

The areas of the soul that are nurtured:

  • Relationships keep us going, and I believe is most important! Connecting with people, all people, makes life worth living. Having ideas or strategies to connect with thestaff you work with , and most important,  bonding with your students is  the Identity Day presentation! You learn so much more about how to be the type of school we need to be for students!  The focus George Couros has on students is amazing, and he  is a role model for all educators.
  • Many sessions nurture the creative part of my soul. I do many things in my classroom that the presenters share in these sessions, but I do not have a person that I can share ideas like this in my building. Seeing all of the different ways I can use these tools make my creative juices start to flow!  I use blogs with my kids, but Sue Waters opens a whole new world with her session Student Blogging.  Seeing other examples of book trailers in the session Creative Text Response by Judith Way has me seeing this in a whole new light! I have better ways to approach research in my classroom with the strategies Russ Goerend and Nate Kogan give in the session Research and its Movement from Analog
  • The sessions even nurtures the tree hugger in me! Shelly Blake -Plock has a session called What We Do that shows we really can go paperless and be MORE effective! I am so impressed with what he does in his classroom and it makes me want to back to high school…really!
  • Intellectual aspects of my soul are awakened  when I watch Kevin Cruetz and Higher Order Thinking/Technology Skills that shows how technology allows us to reach the higher orders of thinking of Bloom’s Taxonomy. The Nerdy teacher, Nicholas Provenzano,  relates teaching to movies in Everything I Learned about Tech Integration I Learned from Movies.  Tim Gwynn points out that we need to change how we teach because…This Ain’t Your Mother’s Classroom. Students roll in the classroom is not a passive one as Jerry  Swiatek shows that students can teach teachers.
  • My need to have support and give support is illustrated very well by Tom Whitby as he explains how  to create a Personal Learning Network. I am able to cheer on one of my favorite Twitter Friends Joan Young and her friend Lisa Dabbs helping the new teacher survive the first years of teaching, gain many tips for helping teachers that are new to our profession, and learn a few tips for myself!
  • My inner child comes alive when I watch how Maria Anderson supports my deep belief that playing is learning!
  • Being involved in a worthy cause is a need we all feel. It gives us that feeling that we are doing what we can to make life better. The closing keynote is worth watching over and over again because Steve Anderson gets you fired up to do something. Stand up and try to make the reform in education mean something. He is the reason I wrote this blog. As you can see, by my past posts…a blogger I am not!

This is just the tip of the iceberg! I have many more to session to watch and learn from. Please take time to learn from theses amazing educators. The coolest thing is even after you watch these videos there is a wonderful place you can get even more support! Twitter allows teachers to share ideas, learn new tools, get help and my favorite thing about Twitter is you can ‘meet” the most amazing people! Please visit the Reform Symposium to see all that is has to offer. If you want education to change you have to be willing to help in the fight, and this symposium will give you the tools to do so!  As Steve Anderson says in his keynote “FIRE UP!”

Blackboard Tutorials
July 28, 2010, 1:55 am
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Blackboard is a wonderful tool to use. I have been training teachers how to use this great resource  for the last three years. Below are links to Jing Videos that explain how to do many of the things you need to know how to do to make the most out of Blackboard for you and your students. Please feel free to e-mail me at kalford87@gmail.com if you have any questions.

How to get started in Blackboard by creating buttons:

Button Video

How to create announcements and banners in Blackboard:

Announcement and Banners Video

How to add folders:

Folder Video

How to add items to your folders:

Adding to Folders Video


Creating Tests and Exporting Tests

Test Questions Multiple blanks, Essay, and Add A File

Test Questions continued

Last of the test questions


Collaboration Session:
Working with Groups:

Group Video
Virtual Classrooms:

Virtual Classroom Video

at Video

Discussion Boards:

Forums, Threads and Subscriptions

More Blackboard Tutorials to check out. Many are on You Tube, so if it is blocked at school, please check these out at home!

More Videos

Science Alive
June 20, 2010, 9:25 pm
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Music and Buddy Picnic
June 20, 2010, 9:20 pm
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Field Day
June 12, 2010, 3:49 am
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Thanks for the GREAT Year!
June 5, 2010, 6:14 pm
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Thanks for the great year! I hope all of you have a safe and eventful summer! Please keep in touch with each other over the summer!

Zoo Trip
June 5, 2010, 5:57 pm
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Thanks to all the parents that attended the zoo field trip with us! We had a great time…as you can see here! Thanks for the great year! I appreciate all of the support through the year!

Reading Response Blog
April 26, 2010, 2:05 am
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I am finding that using a blog to conduct our class discussions is brilliant. My students beg to blog with each other about things and they are blogging from home…by choice! I am seeing improvements in editing because now they have an audience that is authentic and they reply to what is written. My students feel empowered as writers…they actually see themselves as writers now.My students are third graders and they can blog with the greatest of ease! Please consider using blogs if you do not already use them. you will find your kids more engaged as writers and communicators!

This is our blog page. Please feel free to respond to my students’ writing. http://responsetoreading.wordpress.com/

April 25, 2010, 2:53 am
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Today I learned the importance of creating a PLN-Professional Learning Network. I attended a virtual conference sponsored by Discovery Education and it was just what the doctor ordered! I often feel very isolated because I do not have a lot of collaboration in the school I teach in…they see me as a tech geek and I cannot convince them that using technology makes my job easier and more enjoyable, but the most important thing is that it engages your students!! So many resources were shown today. I have decided that Twitter is the greatest resource for ideas for teachers!  This site has everything you need to start using Twitter as a learning tool. Please visit: http://sites.google.com/site/edtechlearning/resources-1

The Week of October 19th
October 26, 2009, 6:58 pm
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We spent this week working towards our virtual field trip to Flint. We are working with a second grade class in Flint to work on our measurement, collaboration, and writing skills. Each class built a monster. In our class we had 6 groups and each group built a part of the monster. Once we built the monster we had to write directions for the second graders in Flint to follow. We then were given directions for the second grade monster and we built it. As we were building the monster we started to think that maybe our directions were not as specific as we first thought! We also started to talk about our rainforest project we are doing with other 3rd graders across the county. We picked our jobs and we looked at our blog page we will be using. Students were also given their Wiki Account log-ins and passwords this week. We are starting our virtual zoo this week and students will need to use the Wiki pages to post information they have learned about during the research for the animal.

October 13th
October 13, 2009, 10:11 pm
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     We continued with our capacity measurement. Today we learned that liquids have two characteristics. One they can be poured and two they take the shape of the container you pour them into. We measured the capacity of 8 different containers using a graduated cylinder. We danced in gym! We went to library and we made a flip chart for the last three plant parts. Miss Alford passed out lab notes to help us with our plant study guides.

This afternoon we did the MEAP!

October 12th
October 13, 2009, 10:07 pm
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     We started measuring the capacity of different containers. We used a new measurement tool called a graduated cylinder. We also talked about the many tools we have to measure the capacity of items such as measuring cups, beakers, and cups. We learned that capacity is how much something can hold and when we are measuring liquids with the metric system we use liters. Standard measurement is a little tougher because we can use many things such as ounces, cups, quarts, pints and teaspoons just to name a few. We learned in science about farms and we made a salad  with the different plant parts we learned about. In social studies we talked about how humans have changed the environment in Michigan and how we have had to make adaptations to live here. In computer lab we blogged with each other about David Shannon and Mike Thaler.

In the afternoon we took our spelling test. We missed last Friday due to the pumpkin math! We also did shaving cream spelling. We read another David Shannon book and talked about how he uses family members as his inspiration.

Ocotber 9th
October 10, 2009, 1:08 am
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Today was a great day for pumpkins! We weighed , measured, compared and even gave them a bath. We were shocked they floated! We also used place value to count the seeds! We put our seeds into groups of ten and then every time we were able to get 100 we put them in a baggy! One person had over 700 seeds!!! We used shapes to carve our faces, too. We found out that the scale we used today was different from the scale we used yesterday! We used a scale to measure weight. We found out that 1,000 gams=1kilogram and that 2 pounds is about 1 kilogram. We also learned that we can uses ounces to measure weight or capacity. We ended the day by starting our “Seed Adventure” stories. We are using a story board like Mike Thaler to create our tale of how a seeds turns into a plant and then back to a seed. Thank you Mrs. Swaisgood and Mrs. Braur for helping today…they got really messy, too!

October 8th
October 9, 2009, 2:34 am
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   We learned the difference between mass and weight today. We used a balance scale for the first time and we worked with different gram weights. We learned that to get the balance scale to balance is pretty tricky sometimes. We played a game that was a virtual green house today. We were able to pick different amounts of water, different amounts of sunlight and different types of soil. We tried many different combinations out and found that too much water is not good for plants. We also learned that sand is probably not the best soil. We learned about Michigan’s state symbols. Did you know that two of our state symbols were chosen by students? Pretty cool!

     Today is Mike Thaler’s birthday! We read his autobiography and we made him birthday cards. In the cards we asked him  questions about his writing. We played word study games and we had Mrs. Wallberg come into our room and read us a great book! This book was about being a bully and how it feels to be bullied! We all learned a lot! We are still publishing comic books! We also picked out our pumpkins for our math and science day with pumpkins!

October 7th
October 7, 2009, 8:49 pm
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      Today we investigated calendars. We learned which months have 30 days, which months have 31 days and that February can have 28 or 29 days. We learned that plants have starch or stored food. Today we tested all the plant parts with iodine to find out how much starch each part has. We found that fruit, roots, and seeds all have starch. We learned that the smaller the seed the more starch it had. We decided that seeds probably need more starch for germination and the smaller the cotyledon, the more starch it would need. We compared our climate to the vegetation in Michigan. Today we had to write about what we learned about both Michigan’s vegetation and our climate.

     In the afternoon we played word study games and used our sand trays to write our words. We also added our spelling words to our Wiki pages. Some students still need to work on their Spelling Wiki Page tomorrow. We finished the Black Lagoon chapter book today. We worked on publishing our comic books and Black Lagoon books.

October 6th
October 6, 2009, 8:34 pm
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   This morning we worked with money to find out how we can divide money into equal parts and combine money. We used our   paper money to help us. We watched our first Bill Nye the Science Guy movie on plants. We had questions to answer and we stopped the movie several times to go over the questions. We also continued to investigate the vegetation in Michigan and we compared it to the  average temperatures and precipitation amounts. We found that the orchards and forests grew in areas with lots of precipitation. We also found that the orchards grew in the warmer areas of Michigan.

This afternoon we worked on choosing words for next week’s spelling test and we did Twizzler Spelling. Students continued to research humor books. Today we found a book called Good Night Goon. We talked about parodies  and how this person used Good Night Moon to inspire this book for Halloween. We looked at the book  The Field Trip From the Black Lagoon and students looked for different punctuation and use of words. We  read another book by Davis Shannon. We read No Davidand found lots of commands. We noticed this author chooses different fonts. David Shannon talked through the whole book and never used a quotation mark, and we are still wondering why he does that. The class also noticed that DAVID Shannon wrote the book and it is about a boy named DAVID. We think he is writing about himself.

October 5th
October 5, 2009, 8:23 pm
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       Now that the school year is underway I finally have time do write my daily blogs. We have spent a lot of time with assessment and getting routines established. Using Snapgrades is wonderful, but I had to get used to the amount of time it takes to set everything up!

       We started blogging today in computer lab. The students are using blogs instead of a reading response journal. I like this for two reasons. One, if the student is only writing to me the whole year, they only get my point of view. This way the students get to see what other students think. Lastly I love the fact that kids LIKE to blog. Even reluctant writers will blog because they think it is cool.

    We are also getting close to the end of our plant unit. Today I passed out the labs I have corrected over the past 5 weeks. We put them in our folder so we can use them for studying.

       We also looked into Michigan’s vegetation and found some interesting patterns. The largest orchards on in the Lower Peninsula on the western side of the state. That the state and national forests are all north of us, and the only commercial forestry is in the Upper Peninsula.

     We have been reading Mike Thaler and investigating how he uses punctuation and plays on words. He makes up words or changes one word to make things funny. We also looked into David Shannon today and noticed he uses a lot of one word sentences. We found some of these are really a sentence called a command and that others are not complete sentences. Our word sorts this week center around the short u and long u sounds.

April 9th
April 9, 2009, 10:26 pm
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Today we investigated fractions, graphing, range,mean, mode, mean and median with Skittles. We also used our Skittles to review division. We went to computers and we used Kerpoof. High School Musical star Giselle (not sure I spelled that correctly) visited our room today! We celebrated Drew’s birthday and Grandma Pat brought in an Easter treat!!! I hope everyone enjoys their Easter!

April 8th
April 8, 2009, 8:59 pm
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Today we used jellybeans to investigate many math concepts. We graphed, sorted, counted, added, divided, found the range, mean, mode and median and we also polled our classmates to see which one was their favorite. We also had several biography reports. We had Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Edison, Jackie Robinson, Abbie Burress, Auntie Annie, Ruby Bridges, Angus Young. Nadia Comaneci, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Michael Jordon visit our room today!

April 7th
April 8, 2009, 11:51 am
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Today we made fraction bunnies out of biscuts! We used 4 whole biscuts to investigate halves and fourths. We made a model of the eye and labled all the parts and talked about how the eye works! We had Drew’s dad, Mr. Mallery, read Drew’s favorite book. We met some interesting people during our biography reports! The science study guide was sent home, along with another fun night for the kids that invloves High School Musical, and the Alford’s Articles for this week was sent home.

April 6th
April 8, 2009, 11:44 am
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SNOW DAY!!! I do not ever remember having a snow day in April! I guess Prince was right…”Sometimes it Snows in April.”

April 3rd
April 3, 2009, 8:39 pm
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Today was the movie reward day. We did get our checks, clean our desks, and progress reports were sent home. We were able to go see Mr.Hemingway get dunked by lots of kids! Drew and Morgan from our class dunked him!

There was another letter warning us about stranger danger!!!!

April 2nd
April 3, 2009, 8:17 pm
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We used Cuisenaire Rods to investigate fractions. We found as many ways to make fractions as we could. Then we drew pictures of different fractions.  In science we investigated shadows. We made our silhouettes and we wrote clues to help people guess who they are. Native Americans of Michigan are still a topic we are working on. It appears there were several types. We used a Michigan map and mapped out a tribes movement. We also labeled the Great Lakes that surround Michigan. We read another parody of a folktale, but actually it incorporated 3 or 4 of them. The book was called Pig Pigger and Piggest. After reading this we decided to try to mesh other fairy tales together.

April 1st
April 3, 2009, 8:07 pm
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Today we investigated fractions using Mike and Ike candy. We found out that there is about 10 in each box. We also tried to make one whole as many times as we could using pattern blocks. In science we investigated how the eye works and what the parts of the eye are. We started to investigate the Native Americans that lived in Michigan after the Hopewells. We also reviewed what we learned about the Hopewells and many thought it was cool that they were here before Christ was born and after he died. They disappeared in 400 A.D. We continued on our quest to research fables and fairy tales. We continue to write our own versions.

March 31st
April 3, 2009, 8:01 pm
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Miss Alford was at a technology conference. Our guest teacher was Mrs. Tallman!

March 30th
March 31, 2009, 5:24 pm
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Today we used Dot Candies to investigate fractions. We learned also figured out the range, mean, mode and median of the boxes we had in our classroom. We were amazed that they were all 6! It is not often the data is this easy to work with. In science we looked into how light can reflect and refract. We used our Michigan relief maps and added the great lakes and the Underground Railroad Routes. We continued to investigate folktales and fairy tales. Today we looked at another version of Cinderella. We then listed the items we needed to have to make it a Cinderella story. We worked on creating our own version of this tale. Some interesting ideas were shared. The weekely newsletter “Alford’s Articles” was sent home along with spelling words for this week. There was a note sent home aboutcool ideas you can do inthe summer through Genesee Parks and Rec.

March 27th
March 31, 2009, 5:15 pm
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Today was wear your Pj’s and Read Day. We had the bank and the store as well. We did clean desks and the weekly progress report was sent home today!

March 25th
March 25, 2009, 8:53 pm
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We made our own fraction bars today by folding and cutting our paper. We then tried to see how many different ways we could make one whole. Interesting combinations were found! We will be using these for some of our fraction games. We also got a pizza box we had to fold and make into the box to house all of our cool manipulatives. We get to take all these games home at the end of the year! In science we looked into shadows. We learned that a shadow gets larger when the light source is closer. We also learned that a shadow can change by the angle and the position of the light. They are always black, even when we shine a red light on it. We reviewed for the sound test that is tomorrow. We knew many of the answers and Miss Alford said if we get a class average of an A we get Jets Pizza….so study!!! We worked on our books and read more folktales.

March 24th
March 25, 2009, 8:45 pm
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Today we investigated fractions by sharing “brownies” with people. We also culminated our sound unit by making instruments. Boy did we have fun. Each child had to explain what was making the sound and many found several ways to make different sounds on the same instrument. We talked about the different pitches we heard in the same instrument. We decided that size is not the only thing that can change the pitch! We think that what the object is made out of effects the pitch, too! What great scientists I have this year!! We continued on the vowel sound search. We were perplexed to see that that ou team can make a short u sound like in trouble. Weird! We are trying to figure out how that happened and if there are more words like that. We read another legend. We are pretty sure that legends are stories that explains how something came to be like an island, flowers or the sun. We are looking at these folktales to see what we would like to write for our very own folktale.

March 23rd
March 23, 2009, 8:37 pm
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We used Hershey Candy bars to investigate fractions. We learned what equivalent fractions are. We made drawings of all the fractions we could find. We went to science lab and we learned that light has many colors. We see white light and really it is red, orange, yellow, green. blue indigo and violet. We learned that the primary colors of light are red, green and blue. Megan brought her dog Tank in for a visit. That is an appropriate name for the dog. It is huge!!!! The nonfiction reading groups finished thier posters. We are working on traditional literature. We are reading legends, fables, fairy tales, and folktales. We are trying to find the differences between them. The vowel teams we are working on this week are not true vowel sounds. We are looking at the oy and oi sounds and the ue and ew sounds that we call the “refrigerator vowel sounds”. We also have the “band aid vowel sound” that you hear in the word ouch. We are on a scavenger hunt for words with these sounds. Spelling words and the Alford’s Articles went home today.

March 20th
March 20, 2009, 8:12 pm
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We celebrated the first day of spring with cinnamon rolls. They were yummy! We worked on our math using tangrams. We also conducted an experiment using chopped up cookies as rocks and cookies and cream ice cream as a glacier. We studied how rocks from the Upper Peninsula ended up in the lower peninsula. We had bank and store today. We took our spelling test and chose new word for next week. We are still stiking with words that have the long i sound. An order form for Spirit Wear went home today, progress reports went home, all the sound science papers should be in the backpack with all the other work, and I send some notes to help you study for the sound test.

March 19th
March 19, 2009, 8:47 pm
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Today we used tangrams to investigate fractions. We used “thumper tubes” to study sound. Students tried to play popular songs with them first and tomorrow we will try to make our own music. We watched The Magic School Bus and the Sound Museum. This was a great review for our sound unit. We wrote in our journals and many are publishing a second nonfiction book. We read another legend and we are starting to see a pattern with the legends. Our Nonfiction groups got together and many finished their posters today!

February 6, 2011, 7:23 pm
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I just made a new Voki. See it here:
February 3, 2011, 6:21 pm
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