In the Trenches

Thoughts and Ideas from a Classroom Teacher

BC10: Brain Breaks

My kids love these quick Brain Breaks! They are all under 5 minutes and perfect for when your students (or kids at home) have been sitting for way too long. Did you know that 5 full steps sends freshly oxygenated blood all the way through your body? Get that brain refreshed and the mind and body ready to learn more!


And check out these 20 great ideas from Minds in Bloom and these Energizers for the classroom!


Join Us!

Discovery Education’s monthly What’s the 4-1-1? webinar series continues this month with a discussion about being a connected educator.  Join me a fellow DEN Guru, Dean Mantz,  for a deeper dive into how the DEN brings educators together through video conferencing, social media, and blogging for your professional growth and for classroom learning. We will explore these platforms through the lens of maximizing the best professional network around, the Discovery Educator Network.


Wednesday, January 8th, 7:00 pm ET


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BC4: This Week in Learning

OK, so I didn’t quite plan this one right as I was spacing out the blog challenge. I’m not back to school yet! I’m certainly not complaining, but I am looking forward to Monday with my students. I’ve missed them lots! As I’m reviewing my plans for next week, I am going to be starting a unit on Myths, Legends, Folktales, and more. There are three of us who teach 5th grade at my school, and we do all of our planning together. We create our ELA units, and we often do a “rotation system.” At the start of the unit, we plan everything (homework, reading passages, writing lessons, grammar mini-lessons, technology activities, extra reading materials, and whatever else we would need). We break the unit into chunks, and we create a box with all of the materials needed for each chunk. We, then, rotate the boxes weekly (or bi-weekly). This saves us on copies, texts, materials, and more. We are doing this for our new ELA unit, and I am starting with Mythology. Yay!

medium_4838866948I thought today that I would share a few of my favorite resources for teaching mythology! This is an awesome unit to bring in the use of art as media. Ancient art was the storyteller, and it’s representations were like books. What an amazing story telling medium. I like to let my students create story telling urns of their own lives. They truly learn about choosing important events and figuring out how to represent them carefully but simply.

StoryNory offers free audio stories for kids. They are typed  and recorded, so they are perfect for students who need stories read aloud for access.

Mr. Donn’s Website offers tons of resources on Greek and Roman gods, including a comparison breakdown. offers a concise “crash course” on the Gods of Olympus, and there are other great photo galleries and resources to teach in more detail. Note: Beware of Cupid’s “black box”.

photo credit: 5telios via photopin cc

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Holiday Cards


Don’t forget to send the tops of your holiday cards to St Jude’s Children’s Ranch. They use the images for crafting projects with the kids! It is sub a simple way to make a difference!

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Big Huge Labs… Ho Ho Hum?

Today’s challenge was to use Big Huge Labs to create something with an image. To be honest, I was not impressed. I love the ideas behind what was there, but I had the hardest time getting images to upload and didn’t find it to be user-friendly at all.  Don’t get me wrong. I will give it another shot, but I’m concerned about ease of use with my students if I can achieve a similar output with a simpler tool. Anyone have any tips for me that I might have missed?

motivatorcf5056f0f528cd2e01974e04c12fbca6f92f23c5But who can be too mad at this cute little stinker of mine? 🙂 


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Kenan Fellows Application Open Now!


As I look back at the three professional development experiences that we have had through our Kenan Fellowship, a few key ideas come to mind and they are best described with a plant metaphor. I am not a gardener, so I may not do the art of growing justice, but I will give it a shot.

Seeds: The PD institutes we have experienced haven’t been enough to fully grow a garden, but they have been able to plant seeds. Whether it was the use of Augmented Reality in the classroom developing as teacher-leaders, we were exposed to a variety of gardens to grow. There is no way to grow each of these types of seeds, but I think we have all found a specific seed or two that we are wanting to cultivate. For me, these include growing my use of social media in the classroom and developing as an advocate for change in education that is student-teacher-leader focused.

Roots: While there may not yet be tons above the surface, the professional development institutes we have shared have built strong roots for growth. The foundations of knowledge and experiences we have shared have been exceptional at meeting us “where we are” and allowing us to move forward from those points. As a PD leader myself, I’m often the “feeder” but miss out on the opportunity to “get fed.” Our sessions, many with people I have known for ages (like Paul and Jason), gave me the chance to just sit, learn, and grow.

Water: Considering my dip in the Nantahala, this reference is probably obvious

Time: At this point, I’m just looking forward to time. I need time to process, time to reflect, and time to forge a new path for leadership that fits my needs, desires, and personal mission.

Fruit: My Kenan Fellows experience is bearing fruit in ways that I hadn’t anticipated… new friendships, increased professional opportunities, engagement in my own teaching, and learning benefits for my students.


Applications for the Class of 2015 Kenan Fellows are open now. Please take the time to consider this opportunity. It is not for everyone. It’s time consuming. It’s demanding. It’s hard work. But, it’s also an exceptional opportunity for professional growth, networking, and fun! If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch!

photo credit: Jason A. Samfield via photopin cc

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Thanks to Dennis, North Carolina held our first #coffeeCUE session – bringing a little west coast to the east! 1503970_10151804836211048_924869567_n

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More Homework Meme

Today’s lesson: Don’t make too many silly comments on Twitter about someone else’s More Homework Meme 🙂 I enjoyed reading Paul Cancellieri’s post , but I ended up being tagged by my friend (although someone I see FAR too infrequently) Bill Ferriter. It’s time to grab another cup of coffee, and here goes! 

First, I need to share 11 random facts about me that you probably don’t already know.  I’m sad to say that my hashtag proficiency does not match Paul’s. Here goes:

  1. I have never seen the complete Star Wars movies nor a single episode of Star Trek.
  2. I was a French major in college and spent a semester studying at the Sorbonne in Paris. 
  3. McGyver and Leroy Jethro Gibbs are my all time tv crushes.
  4. I believe napping is an inalienable right that deserves its own Constitutional amendment. 
  5. In my 15 year teaching career, I have taught at 9 schools in 8 different districts across North Carolina. The longest I’ve spent in one school is 3 years. 
  6. David asked me to marry him 4 months after our first date. This was longer than either of our sets of parents dated before getting engaged. 
  7. At my first doctor’s appointment for our first pregnancy, I asked the ultrasound technician if she was sure there weren’t two babies. She laughed, and then she realized that I was right. I knew I was having twins. After she saw the second one, I told her to quit looking. That was enough. 
  8. I know what to do if your long, coarse, curly-haired dog gets covered in a jar full of Vaseline. 
  9. Hot and Now Krispy Kreme donuts gross me out. I love their glazed donuts and could eat a dozen in one setting, but will only eat them if they are cold. 
  10. I am a classically trained pianist. I took lessons for over 10 years and entered many competitions. I have even performed at Thalian Hall in Wilmington. I even played in the jazz band in high school.

Next, I am expected to answer 11 probing questions posed by Bill.

  1. Grande Soy Green Tea Frappuccino with Extra Whip or House Blend Black?  House Blend Black. Coffee makes me happy. 
  2. If you were going to write a book, what would its title be? You Can’t Make These Things Up: Life as a Mom of Three Boys
  3. Rate graphic novels on a scale of 1-10, with 1 representing “useless” and 10 representing “simply amazing.” I’ll go with 5 out of pure ignorance. I’ve only read one comic book in my entire life, and it’s one that my grandmother had in her toy closet when we went to visit each summer in Indiana. I get the idea of them, and I have reluctant readers that will go for them every day. They can’t be all bad. 
  4. What member of your digital network has had the greatest impact on your professional growth? I’m going to go with Dan Froelich. Dan was the leader of the technology part of NC Teacher Academy when I came on as a trainer in 2008. Thanks to him and NC Teacher Academy, I got to be a part of many engaging trainings and conversations about edtech! 
  5. How do you feel about the holidays? I have Christmas curtains for the windows, holiday sheets for the beds, and no less than 10 giant totes of holiday decorations. I will let you draw your own conclusions. 
  6. Rate the following movies in order from best to worst:  Christmas Vacation, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Story, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (animated version). How the Grinch Stole Christmas , Miracle on 34th Street, Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story (And Paul, we may not be friends after your rating) 
  7. What is the best gift that you’ve ever gotten? Before my Grandmother passed away, she gave me her mother’s wedding ring and a ring that my great-uncle got when he was serving in WWII in Germany. I wear them everyday, on the same finger. Family first. Always first. 
  8. If you had an extra $100 to give away to charity, who would you give it to? Purple Feet Foundation 
  9. What are you the proudest of? OK, so I’ll re-establish my friendship with Paul on this one. My kids, hands down. The twins are 10 and at the age where we argue, a lot, but they are outdoor loving, book reading, momma hugging boys who are caring and compassionate. I couldn’t be more proud to be their mom!
  10. What was the worst trouble that you ever got into as a child? I don’t know if it’s the worst trouble I ever got into, but I used to torment my little sister. Until she was in middle school/I went to college, I could convince her to do some really strange things. My parents weren’t so excited about that. 
  11. What was the last blog entry that you left a comment on?  What motivated you to leave a comment on that entry? It would be one of the posts at! I love that the posts cross curriculum and geography. 

Now, I come up with 11 questions for others to answer.

  1. When you brush your teeth, are you a pre-wetter or a post-wetter? (toothpaste on the toothbrush, sillies)
  2. What is your favorite dessert? 
  3. What is one skill you wish that you had? Why? 
  4. Fruitcake. Yay or nay?
  5. If you weren’t an educator, what profession might you have chosen?
  6. What is your favorite read aloud to share with students or with your own children? 
  7. What is one book you consider to be a professional “must read”?
  8. If you had 3 hours completely to yourself, what would you do? 
  9. What is your strongest scent-related memory? 
  10. iOS or Android? 
  11. If you could pass off one chore for the rest of your life, what would it be? In other words, what one daily/weekly chore do you just abhor? 

Here are the 11 bloggers I nominate to continue the More Homework meme.

  1. Tim Childers
  2. Rafranz Davis
  3. Jen Wagner
  4. Dennis Grice
  5. Andrea Keller
  6. Steve Dembo
  7. Conni Mulligan
  8. Kate Nagle 
  9. Alison Schleede
  10. Jennifer LaGarde
  11. YOU! 


Here’s how it works:

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer.
  5. List 11 bloggers, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.
  6. Post back here with a link after you write this. Go on, you have homework to do.

Voki for Techmas


I had a blast playing with Voki for today’s Techmas challenge! I am excited to use this more with my students, but I always want to keep the content first. For me, using this as the best instructional tool is sometimes not as obvious as other tools. I do think it would be a great addition to our class blog, though, with some welcoming information.

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Haiku Deck of State Symbols

In January, the 5th graders in my school will be researching the state symbols of our 50 states in order to create commemorative stamps of each of the states. I love the idea of using Haiku Deck as a way to share their findings and get artistic inspiration!

haiku deck

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