In the Trenches

Thoughts and Ideas from a Classroom Teacher

Cloud Resources

I teach weather concepts as one of my first big science units in 5th grade. One of the things that is new to weather learning in our grade level is clouds. Kids love learning about clouds, and it is a great way to teach affixes and word parts as a literacy connection. Today, I came across these great resources for teaching about clouds.

S’COOL Cloud ID Chart – printable, full color, and available in many languages

Reading Passage – can be used as a reference or as an anchor text in a literacy block for learning about clouds

Cloud ID Key – questioning chart that helps students identify types of clouds

Cloud Circle – cutout chart to be used for students, could also be modified to have students make their own based on their research

And, then there’s this! I LOVE Mr. Parr’s YouTube channel of science songs!

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NC Science Resources

DENR logo color

Did you know that the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources office maintains a “Contests and Awards” page that is full of opportunities for schools, clubs, individual students and teachers? Many of these contests can serve as the basis of student science projects (group and individual) and may also lead to funding or in-kind support for ongoing projects or activities. The contests include (but are not limited to) poster, art and photography contests, school and community service project awards, teaching awards, recycling awards, gardening awards, speech and essay contests and more. The can always be found on under the “GRANTS” tab (which you also need to keep a check on) or link directly at

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Dot Day – My Favorite Time of the Year

I spent part of yesterday working in my classroom, and one of the first things that I needed to do was prepare this…








It is just an empty space right now, but it is ready – and so am I! We are ready for International Dot Day! I have to admit that this is one of my favorite activities each year, and it is one that I always use within the first week of school. If there’s anything that I want my students to do throughout the year, it is to be inspired and connected. If you are interested in participating this year, there are few easy ways to get started.

1. Sign up on the Dot Day website.

2. “Like” the Dot Club Facebook page and follow them on Twitter for updates.

3. Read The Dot by Peter Reynolds. Love it! Read it again.

4. Check out these ideas for inspiration from Peter Reynolds.

5. Decide how you want to display and share your students’ dots and help them mark their marks!

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Donors Choose Requests

Grant writing is a big part of how I am able to get extra supplies for my classroom. I love Donors Choose as a way to find outside funding for special projects. Over the last 7 years, I’ve received everything from non-fiction readers to digital cameras, all of which wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity of others.  I usually start each school year with a few ideas that need some extra support, and this year I’m asking for a new set of board games. Playing is the ultimate way to learn, so it’s time to keep my kids busy this year! Now, I just have to wait for my project to be confirmed and posted! Fingers crossed! Oh, and here’s a little hint, watch the sites for updates on matching codes. Tell your friends and family, including parents of your students, and you can be well on your way to a funded project even sooner. For example, right now you can use the code “INSPIRE” or “DREAMS” for a matching fund!



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Remind 101 & Twitter Feed


I know I blogged about this about a few weeks ago, but I set up my Remind 101 for my homeroom class this year. I’m also adding a Twitter feed. On Open House night, I am going to do a parent/student checklist. One of the things I’m going to have them do is go ahead and sign up for our text updates from Remind 101 and our class Twitter feed.

Here are a few of the things that I want parents to understand about these two forms of communication…

1. They are not two-way. Lots of things I do are designed to be two-way forms of on-going communication, like email, our webpage, and more. This feed and text alerts are not, inherently, designed for that. Remind 101 will not allow parents to text me back, and the Twitter feed will not follow parents.

2. Texts will be for important reminders only. I am not going to blow up people’s cell phones with non-stop updates. I will post important reminders of dates, upcoming events, and deadlines via text. Texts may also be a reminder for parents to check the website, or their children’s bookbags, for a specific piece of communication, but I won’t send every ounce of the information via text.

3. Twitter is about our learning. I am hoping that parents will follow our Twitter feed as a way to follow our learning. I’m hoping to post concepts, project outcomes, and discussion ideas to our Twitter feed, in hopes that parents will use these as a means to start meaningful conversations with their children. I hate it when I ask my own kids what they learned, and they say “nothing.” Instead, if I can start a conversation with “I saw that you were learning about ecosystems today. Tell me something about that.”, I know our parent/child conversations will be more meaningful.

4. If parents have questions about what they are receiving from text or Twitter, they should contact me directly. Limited characters on Twitter and text are not always ideal ways for parent/teacher conversations. If parents have specific questions or concerns about a project, learning objective, or assignment, I want them to contact me via phone, email, or face to face. Our social media can’t be a replacement for more detailed conversations!

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Back to School – This



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Back to School – Anchor Charts

Anchor charts, anchor charts, anchor charts! I have a love and hate relationship with anchor charts. They are useful, student centered, and focused on needs. Yay! They take up tons of space and paper. Boo! I can’t stand cluttered walls and feel that they can be overwhelming for many of my students. I need them for my county’s learning requirements, so I have to find a way to make them accessible and meaningful. Tada!

Anchor Charts

Last year, I decided to post some of my more frequently used math Anchor Charts in a web album to link on a webpage. Finally! I could get ride of the clutter. I’m definitely going to do the same thing this year, and I will be able to use some student examples as well. I will set up albums for Science, Social Studies, Math, Reading, and Grammar. They will be embedded on our blog so that as I update the albums, they will also update. Students and parents can access them at home, or at school. I don’t have to worry about keeping up with posters and papers. Yay! Once they are set up and linked with my Picasa account, they should auto sync and make my life easier, too!

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Back to School – Class Websites

As I’ve been building my student and parent surveys for the first days of school, I want to make sure that my class websites are up and running. I have a district mandated website that I have to keep. Policy states that it must be up-to-date and pretty uniform with the rest of my school. I’ve always had a hard time keeping this one current, when our activity was housed more on the blog. This year, I’m going to revamp things a bit.

My district website is going to be a landing page with contact information and links to our Twitter feed and 180 Days of Learning blog. This way, I really don’t have to “keep it up,” as it will just direct people to the more interactive elements of our learning space.

Screenshot (7)

The real “meat” of what we are doing will be at our learning space, our class blog. In an unconference session at DEN Summer Institute this year, Dean Shareski shared the idea of 180 Days of Learning as the theme for a blog or sharing space. I fell in love with this idea, and I’m going to adapt it as the focus on my blog this year. My goal is to have my students share at least one thing they have learned each day as a class. It may be an “a-ha” moment from throughout the day, or a closing activity for our day. It is my hope that students will, after modeling this for the first few weeks of school as a class, want to be the sharer for the day!

We will also continue to use the blog as a place for reflection, “show off” space, and more. But, I am most excited about the 180 days of learning that we are going to experience together!

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Back to School – Student Survey

Yesterday, I shared the beginning of my back to school planning process with the form that I have parents complete. This year, I am also going to have my students complete a form on the first day of school. As part of a recent in-service on data that I attended with the Kenan Fellows, we talked a lot about how collecting and evaluating your own data is an essential part of being a well-rounded, data-informed educator. Throughout the year, it is my personal goal to collect various types of data, including key points of information that will help me make decisions about individuals and about my class, as a whole. This form is my starting point. It may evolve some in the coming weeks, but I am happy where I am starting. Would you add anything else?


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First Days of School

It’s August 1st. I can’t believe it’s August 1st. In nineteen days, it will be time to report back to school for the 2013-2 014 school year. I’m excited about this school year, just like every year. As a need to come back to blogging comes over me, I get stuck deciding on what to say. So, since I am thinking about going back to school, I figure that I will blog about that.

First, my parent contact form. I’ve included it here. For a few years now, I’ve used a similar form for parents. I pull it up on my classroom computers for Open House, and I try to get as many as I can to fill it out then. I’ve found that having my parent contact information in my Google Drive is so much easier for quick, searchable access. I’m working on updating my form for this year, but I’m not exactly sure what I will change yet. What do you include on your parent surveys to help you access your families throughout the year?



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