In the Trenches

Thoughts and Ideas from a Classroom Teacher

Join Peter H. Reynolds for an Afternoon of Learning

I don’t know what your lesson plans are for 1:00 pm EST tomorrow, Friday, April 19th. I do know what they should be, though! Clear those calendars and check your connectivity because it’s time to spend an afternoon with artist and author, Peter H. Reynolds, sponsored by the Purple Feet Foundation.


Here are the directions to join…

Join us for a thinc Career Chat with Peter H. Reynolds. Peter is a children’s book author, illustrator, bookshop owner, founder of FableVision… and an advocate for creativity and children of all ages.


Friday, April 19

1 PM ET (20-30 minutes)

Hosted in Google Hangouts.

Here’s how you can bring your students to chat with Peter.

1) Let them know you’re planning to attend. Register at:

2) Have your students submit their questions for the guest at:

3) Double check to make sure Google Hangouts are not blocked at your school. On the day of the event you will go to to participate.

The hangout will be broadcast “On-Air” and your students can submit questions via our form, but if you would like your class to connect to the Google Hangout so they can be seen by Peter H. Reynolds and the student interviewers make sure to let Lance ( know in advance so you can be invited to join the hangout.


Go ahead! Sign up! Get your classroom connected, inspired, and ready to learn and lead!

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Techy Ice-Breakers

Today, this set of “techy” ice breakers was shared on Twitter by my PLN member, Phillip Cummings. Ice Breakers are a great way to start a professional learning session or a class, and they shouldn’t just be reserved for the first hour of anything! I loved this selection of ideas and definitely plan to use some of them in the near future. Check them out at Educators Technology! Click on the image for the full article.


techy icebreakers


20 Percent Time – Will It Work?

Thanks to a recommendation from the launch of DEN Reads, I recently re-read Dan Pink’s book, Drive, about what motivates people. He talks extensively about Google’s 20% time. Here’s a bit of background from Google.

So, what does this have to do with my classroom? Especially, my 5th graders? Well, it’s getting close to testing time. When external pressures to help prepare my students to be successful of state testing, some say it would make sense to be putting them in situations where they were mimicking what they will have to do in May for testing. I decided to do the opposite. Test prep bores me… to tears. Really. Tears. Instead, I want my students reading informational text, applying their learning to real world situations and creating content that displays their understanding. Tada! 20 percent time for the classroom!

I already have 45 minutes per day built into my schedule when my students who receive tutoring, special pull outs, etc. go their separate ways on different days of the week. During that time, I’ve run literature circles, provided time for extra self-selected reading, and worked with students individually and in small groups as needed for remediation and enrichment. All of these are a great use of time, and many of these will continue. The difference will be in the fact that if you are not in pull out or working with me for a short mini lesson, you will be working on your 20% Project. For my fifth graders, we are splitting the projects into two week chunks. Yesterday, I told my students that they were all required to do a research project. Groan. But, they could research anything they wanted to research. Head jerk. I also told them that they had to share what they learned with the whole class. Ugh. But, they could chose individually how to report their learning. Whoa!  They are allowed to give a talk, make a poster, write a blog post, share a PPT, or whatever, just as long as they share what they have learned. Today, students submitted their choice of topics. I have students learning about everything from Komodo Dragons to How to Become a Fashion Designer to the Secret of Sasquatch. The best part is that I am rolling into the final quarter of the school year, and my students are more excited than ever. They are begging to research and bring in their own materials. This is a dream! At the end of the 2 weeks, we will take a day or two to share and then choose new topics and go again. I can’t wait to learn more about my students and see them share their learning. I will continue to share my journey, as I navigate this exciting project. Yay!

By the way, Post It Notes were developed during 3M’s version of 20% time. How can anything from which sticky notes emerged be anything but awesome!?

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See Me Talk App FREE Today Only

see me talkCheck out See Me Talk, an awesome assistive app for students with communication issues. It’s normally $59.99, but it’s FREE for World Autism Day, April 7.

It’s an iPad only app, and if you have one, please take advantage of this great offer. You may not have a student or child right now who needs this, but who knows what the future holds? Please share with your SPED and Ed friends who have iPads! Remember, it’s a “today only” offer!



Here is the description from the developer:

See Me Talk is a beautiful easy to use augmentative and alternative communication (ACC) app for those who have difficulty communicating effectively. It is based on a picture exchange system developed for people with speech delays to communicate their needs independently and effectively.

See Me Talk was developed by a Special Education Teacher with over 12 years experience, in consultation with Speech Pathologists and parents of children with speech delays, who saw a need for an app that was visually pleasing and easy to navigate. Additionally, the app was professionally designed by Robots & Pencils, an award winning company specializing in creating iOS apps and who’s owner has a child with a speech delay. Through this collaborative team we have come up with a gorgeous app that is easy to use!

Making See Me Talk gorgeous was one goal, but more importantly See Me Talk had to be easy to use. I think we succeeded! No more searching folders within folders to find that one infrequently used symbol. Now, all the categories conveniently scroll across the top of the screen and the user can see 9 categories at once! No longer will the user have to back up to the previous category to add another symbol to their sentence strip.

Also, to make it even easier, we added a Favourites category. This keeps track of the most regularly used symbols and automatically adds them to the Favourites category. Each time See Me Talk is launched it automatically displays the contents of the Favourites category.

Then, we even added a search function to find symbols fast! Our search ability will allow you to quickly type and find any symbol. No more swiping and tapping different categories to find those infrequently used symbols. It’s all there when you need it!

See Me Talk comes with a basic vocabulary of symbols but can be easily customized by importing pictures taken with the iPad camera, photos from your iPad photo library, or images downloaded from the internet.

See Me Talk uses leading edge voice technology that provides human like sounding voices that make for a more natural communicative experience. The user can choose a male or female voice or no voice at all if you want the user to practice developing their own speech.

Other key features of See Me Talk include:
– No distractions! The settings menu is hidden under the main screen to keep the user focused on communicating rather than playing;
– Easily to customize!  Simple to add, delete or edit cards.  You can even pinch to adjust the size or adjust the composition of a picture;
– Convenient!  Print the sentence strip for schedual strips or social scripts used on the fridge, bathroom mirror at home or the locker or note book at school;
– Easy support!  Contact us for support or when you have feedback for us;
– Easy to use!  Drag and drop or tap to add a symbol to the sentence strip;
– Easy to delete! Swipe up to remove an individual symbol or tap the trash can to remove all the cards from the sentence strip;
– Easy to read! The main screen fades to gray after the Talk button is touched, to prominately display the sentence strip;
– Frustration NOT INCLUDED!

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Love, love, love this graphic shared today at the Supporting Gifted Learners Facebook page. I love that daily frustration is a category! Our kids need to learn more stick-with-it-ness!


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Virtual Field Trips

With all of the time and budget constraints facing schools today, virtual field trips are a great way to go! Check out these awesome options for high quality virtual trips. They are some of my favorites!


Discovery Education’s Virtual Field Trips – all in one place!

Virtual Field Trip to Ellis Island by Scholastic

Plimoth Plantation by Scholastic

Decoding History tour of Smithsonian with David Baldacci

Museum of Natural History in New York City

Comprehensive list from Internet4Classrooms


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