In the Trenches

Thoughts and Ideas from a Classroom Teacher

Hour of Code

Hour of Code

This week, my students participated in Hour of Code. Tonight, it was my turn.

Check out more information and the challenges HERE!

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BAM! Radio and DEN Zone and Me

I am excited to have been featured on Discovery Educator Network’s DEN Zone podcast recently, with “Trying Something New.” Check out this link to hear from me, my student, and my principal. Check it out!


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VirtCon 2013 – Something New!

Since Fall VirtCon, some of you have been asking for more details about the Something New Project I used with my students this year. I wanted to take a few minutes to share some of the specifics of the project.

This was a take home project. The only class time I spent was introducing it on the first day, having them lock down their ideas and create action plans on day four or five, and then letting them present their projects as they completed them or were ready. They were given about one month to bring in evidence of what they learned or progress they were making toward a goal. When they presented, students could choose how to share, but they had to discuss the math, literacy, and problem solving skills they used while learning. They also talked about their next steps. Students chose everything from baking (we ate lots of yummy snacks that month) to counting in a foreign language to a new song on the guitar to how to kick a football off of a tee. We had presentations that ranged from sweets to eat to performances on the music teacher’s piano to a talk about what it was like to prepare dinner for his whole family.

Here are the directions I posted on our class blog and sent home for parents. Please feel free to use and adapt for your own needs. I hope you will share what you are learning and doing with your classes. Go make something!

Each student has selected “Something New” that they want to learn how to do. These things range from playing a song on the guitar to learning how to count in a different language to how to bake cookies from scratch.
Students have until ___ to bring in evidence of their learning and strategies for success. Their evidence will depend on their project. They can perform for the class. They can bring us cookies. They can bring in a video of them doing something at home. Students do not have to master the project. Instead, it is truly about making progress toward a goal.
How is this “homework?” This particular assignment works on the following skills…
Goal setting: pacing, choosing appropriate goals, coming up with a strategy for learning, perseverance, understanding that learning is a life-long skill
Real world math: most things we do in real life require a skill set of math, including facts, measurement, and problem solving skills
Real world literacy: research for how to do things, exposure to books/internet/interviews, deciding on credible sources, speaking and listening to the class about what is learned
Please help your child come up with an “Action Plan” for learning and sharing. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.
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Fall VirtCon and My First Keynote

On Saturday, October 19th, I had the privilege of delivering the closing keynote for Discovery Education’s Fall Virtual Conference. This was an amazing experience for me, and I’m so excited to share the archive with you!



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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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