In the Trenches

Thoughts and Ideas from a Classroom Teacher

BC 2.5: Inspiration

I love a sports analogy and a classic inspirational speech. This video puts some of the greatest all into one montage! Woot!

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BC 2.4: Blogs to Check Out

I’m going to be totally honest, here. I set up the #bc20 Blogging Challenge as a totally selfish endeavor. I identified  that one of my struggles with blogging has been keeping up with ideas and feeling the push  to  write, even after a long day at  work with my students. I set up the schedule of prompts  so that I wouldn’t have to come up with a topic. When I shared it out to a few friends, I had no idea that  others would find it so inspiring. When it turned into its own hashtag on Twitter, I was amazed!

A positively wonderful by-product of this challenge, at least for me, has been discovering others who are blogging and sharing. Those who share on Twitter using the #bc20 hashtag go right into a column in my Hootsuite account. There have been so many great blog posts shared there, and today, I’m going to share a few!

Check out…


Katrina Hall hosts a blog titled Queen of Mathematical HeartsShe  shares amazing ideas for teaching math, so head over and check out some of her  amazing ideas!

Barbara Day keeps up with Day’s Class Notes where she shares tips and tricks from her 4th grade class. Her last post about Harry Potter was a super one!

CJ Seiling is also keeping up with an inspired math blog at The Math Hatter. Despite the fact that the content is so very different from what I teach in my fifth grade classroom, I’m inspired by his passion and enthusiasm.


Find a complete list of others who signed up for the Blogging Challenge HERE!

photo credit: Ѕolo via photopin cc

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BC2.3: Kerpoof & Idioms




We’ve been studying figurative language and idioms in my class over the past weeks. This week, I shared these stories about Joey with my students. They loved the themes of sports and the  themes to  the idioms. I split students into groups, and each group received one of the stories. They had to identify as many idioms from the story as they could, and then they chose 5 to define. Later in the week, the students chose one idiom and illustrated its literal meaning using Kerpoof. The students had a blast creating their presentations, and they’ve enjoyed the idiom gallery that we’ve set up in our hallway.

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DEN Summer Institute

Discovery Education has announced that the Discovery Educator Network is now  accepting applications to attend the Discovery Educator Network Summer Institute 2014 (DENSI – pronounced DEN Ess Eye). This years institute will be held July 13 – 18, 2014 at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

I have had the honor and privilege to attend this special event twice in the last four years, once in Boston in 2009 and last year in Burlington, Vermont. There will be a thousand ways to explain how this is a spectacular event and opportunity, but will do it justice. The people I have connected with virtually through the DEN and face-to-face with at summer institutes are not colleagues or co-workers. They are friends. They are family. If you are not truly and deeply. passionate about teaching, learning, and sharing, this is not for you. It’s overwhelming. It’s exciting. It’s exhausting. It’s also a whole lot of fun. If you don’t  like fun, this is definitely not for you.

The competition is serious. The application is rigorous. If you get in and attend, you will think all of it to be the tiniest price to pay.

If you are a DEN Star, you are eligible to apply to attend this special weeklong event. See the links below for more detailed information.

Become a DEN Star (Make sure you take 3 minutes to view the Getting To Know The DEN video. My DEN friends share their passion.)

Apply to DENSI2014

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BC2.2: Communication and Remind 101

This is the first year  that I have consistently used Remind 101 with my classes, and I have to say that I love it. I send out project reminders, important dates, and more. Most recently, it’s been a great way to send out information of early closings and delays to my students’ families. When an elementary school closes early due to inclement weather, the phones immediately start jamming with teachers trying to reach parents and parents trying to reach teachers. With Remind 101, I love that I can just log into the website and send the text directly from the web. My parents have expressed their gratitude in knowing what is happening in such a quick manner! If you aren’t using Remind 101, check it out today!

In just a few seconds, set up a class distribution/messaging list that you can send as a text message from your computer. You can also easily set up different lists for different classes. Quickly remind students of homework assignments and due dates, share information and reminders with parents, and even send out notes of emergency delays or early releases without having to fight with the busy school phone lines. The messages will be coming straight from your online Remind 101 account, not your personal phone, so you eliminate sharing that personal information. By the way, it’s free!

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BC20: ReadWorks

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I was recently working on developing a Post Test for an English Language Arts unit I’m writing. I  wanted texts that are on grade level with question sets that I  could easily dissect to determine students’ mastery of sequencing, explicit detail, and vocabulary in context. ReadWorks came to my rescue. I  love how easy it is to find high quality texts that meet a variety of needs, whether for an integrated content piece, differentiated texts, or specific skills. Best of all, it’s free!

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New Tools: IPEVO IS-01

Recently I was contacted about checking out one of  IPEVO‘s newest products, the IS-01 Interactive Whiteboard System. I will say that I have been a fan of IPEVO’s products for years. I, first, got one of their Point2View document cameras a few years ago when they were just $69, which was just unheard of for the time. I used it for everything from the intended document camera to a flexible, portable video conferencing camera. I was excited about the opportunity to check out the new IS-01 Interactive Whiteboard System, which is retailing for just $149.

Here’s a bit from IPEVO’s specifications… and my comments on my experiences:

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  • Turn your existing whiteboard or projector surface into an interactive whiteboard
  • I totally turned my dining room wall into a whiteboard. I grabbed my netbook, a spare projector, and the box, and that was it! The wall was rough, but it worked beautifully and it is clearly a smooth process. The touch is light, very much like my experiences with a SMART board and my current Epson pen. 
  • Easy setup and calibration; start using IS-01 in less than 5 minutes
  • 5 minutes was right… and that included downloading the software from the IPEVO website since my netbook does not have a CD drive to run the included CD. I loved that everything we needed right in the box, all the way down to batteries for the pen. 
  • Control your computer remotely; use the Interactive Pen as a computer cursor
  • photo 3I love this! My own boys were testing things out at home, and they picked it up very easily. It immediately made me think of possibilities for homework help and home schooling. Because it serves as such a portable and easy-to-set up option, it’s got great potential  for non-traditional learning set ups. 
  • Annotate your text and images with our free IPEVO Annotator software for PC or Mac
  • This was simple and straight forward. If you are expecting something robust and full, it’s not. It does cover the basics, offer a space for note taking and problem solving, and even includes a solution for bringing in additional images and screen captures for annotation. 
  • Even more teaching possibilities when you use IS-01 with an IPEVO doc cam
  • photo 2I can’t wait to try this out! The possibilities for annotation and screen capture are exciting. 
  • Lightweight, compact and portable for teacher or classroom changes
  • I think this is where the IPEVO IS-01 has the potential to be a game changer. It’s easy to set up. It’s light weight and portable. It doesn’t require additional equipment that is cumbersome or hard to find, and provides a solution for non-traditional and mobile classroom teachers. I’m imagining my gym teacher having the ability to do lessons on his gym wall, my librarian being able to reach the too tall screen in her library, and some of our tutoring teachers to be able to make successful  use of non-traditional spaces. And, at $149, it is workable for even the tightest budgets! 


Check out everything  that IPEVO has to offer – smart and successful  learning solutions for today’s classrooms!

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BC11: A Favorite Website

2013-07-17 19.14.46One place I go to every day is Discovery Education! If you know me in person or online, you probably know that I am heavily involved with the Discovery Educator Network (DEN). Some of my most amazing personal and professional relationships come from experiences I have had thanks to the DEN. I figured that for this blog post I will do a Top 5 list of the reasons I love DE!

1. Advanced Search in Discovery Education allows me to find resources specifically targeted to my students’ needs. I love the games, math explanations, and songs. Even if your school does not subscribe to DE services, they have partnered with tons of community and corporate sponsors to create free lessons, games, and resources for teaching and learning.

2. Contests and sweepstakes like the Belk Service Learning Challenge and the Siemens Young Scientist Challenge give schools the opportunity to connect with corporate sponsors who want to make great things happen for young students. If you are a DEN STAR, you definitely look forward to Teacher Appreciation Week each year! DE does it right!

3. Face to face and virtual events offered by Discovery Education, the DEN, and their partners are amazing opportunities for educators and students to connect with the learning world around them. We have connected with the Weather Channel in an awesome Google HangOut, Peter Reynolds in an amazing Thinc Career Chat, and one another at events like DEN Summer Institute and DENapaloozas!

4. Discovery Education is about sharing! To become and maintain a DEN STAR, you have to do events. But, never fear, thi is not a giant production. No, sharing to DE is about getting 3-4 people together and talking about how you are using DE resources to improve teaching and learning in your classroom. Become a STAR!

5. Discovery Education is about providing the best teaching and learning resources. The DEN is about the people, the best network of caring, compassionate, and dedicated educators on Earth.

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BC9: This Week in Learning

My students are currently wrapping up a unit on adding and subtracting fractions with like and unlike denominators. It is essential that fifth graders have a working conceptual understanding of fractions, as well as an ability to practically solve problems that involve operations. By this point, they should be able to extend their ability to model into their ability to solve using algorithm. This week, we will be spending some time working in Thinking Blocks. Thinking Blocks has recently moved to Math Playground, but they also have newly developed apps for fractions, multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction. It integrates modeling, algorithm, and word problems. I am hoping it goes well with my kiddos this week. I’ll let you know.


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What other sites do you use for an integrated approach to teaching operations with fractions?

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BC6: Getting Better

Confession time: When I set up my self-initiated blogging challenge, I never imagined it would grow like it has. I am amazed, inspired, and awed by all of the exceptional educators who have taken on this challenge to blog more consistently. The range of ages, levels, content areas, geographical locations, and more astounds me. What I love is the authenticity of the challenge. I am on this journey with each of you!


This challenge has also led me to tackle one of the areas where I have wanted to improve… reading and commenting on others’ blogs!

So what am I doing about it?

I have set up a column in my Hootsuite for #BC20 on Twitter so that I can see what posts people are sharing each day. If you aren’t using #BC20, please do! It is a great way to support one another on this crazy ride.

Many of you are tagging me on Facebook and Twitter, which I love! I’m trying to read as many of the posts as I can find. I’m already getting so many great ideas from you that I’m starting phase two of the blogging challenge based on what I’m investigating from you!

My goal: Read and comment on at least 2 posts per day. I know this won’t cover everyone’s, but I have to be realistic and fair to my time. I tend to be one who obsesses and goes a little overboard with pressuring myself to be perfect. It’s actually hard for me to let go of the idea that I can comment on every single one of everyone’s posts. Argh.I’m also checking out the list you’ve added to HERE on our encouragement page. Again, if you haven’t signed up yet, go for it! I promise that no one will seek you out if you don’t complete the challenges, but there’s just something about “signing up” that makes you want to finish!

photo credit: Ѕolo via photopin cc

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