In the Trenches

Thoughts and Ideas from a Classroom Teacher

Blogging Challenge – Phase Two

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Here it is, phase two of the Blogging Challenge for 2014. If you would like the Word form, you can get it from Google Docs. Feel free to modify, but I do ask that you give me credit for the original idea and share your modifications. Part of the goal of this project is to increase sharing and collaboration among educators. If you are a librarian or technology facilitator or math coach, your posts will help others so much!


Thank you again for sharing and inspiring me, and others!



BC18: Favorite Books

You can tell I was in a reading state of mind when I posted the blogging challenge for January!

As I am planning ahead  to a heroes biography unit in the coming month, the book Freedom on the Menu came  to mind. This book depicts the actions of a few brave college students in Greensboro, NC, who staged a sit-in at the lunch counter in Woolworth’s. Because we live in Guilford County, this piece of history connects directly to us.


I found this excellent guide to the book from Thinkfinity that can be used for vocabulary, themes, and historical connections.

Here’s a Readers’ Theater script to accompany the book, as well, that we might try.

This website about the Greensboro Sit-Ins is also great for a primary source connection.

This YouTube video shows an interview with one of the Greensboro Four, years after the sit-ins.

There are so many activities that can be done with this book, and I am looking forward to seeing how my students connect with the story. I know we will be able to learn so much!

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BC13: A Book I Love



I love an alphabet book. As an upper grades teacher, we often get steered away from ABC books as being too juvenile. When this series of books came out a few years ago, I was blown away by their content, concept, artwork, and thoroughness. I love teaching about our home state, North Carolina, and this book makes an amazing model for students doing their own writing. In order to write a similarly complex story, students’ research has to be as robust. As a starting point, a book like this is an excellent class project. Students can research biographies, locations, professions, and animals. But, there are some more demanding and challenging ideas, too. What about math concepts? I’m mulling over the idea of challenging my students to write about Algorithms, Multiplication, and Quotients! Watch out kids…. Mrs. Hines has an idea!

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BC8: Book with an Impact

you haven't taught

You Haven’t Taught Until They Have Learned

I don’t look up to many celebrities. I’m not easily swayed by the famous. There are few people in the world of sports that I truly consider to be “heroes.” John Wooden is one of the few people that I would strive to emulate. John Wooden’s legacy in collegiate basketball is second only to his influence as a teacher. There are many books by and about Coach Wooden, and, frankly, I would recommend them all. Wooden is probably my very favorite book of lessons on life and leadership, but You Haven’t Taught Until They Have Learned is a great look at Coach Wooden’s specific teaching practices. Coach Wooden’s quiet demeanor, poignant influence, and overwhelming expertise is infectious. I have his pyramid of success in my classroom, and it always leads to some excellent discussions about life and character. Whether you are a basketball fan, or not, I’m sure this book will impact your views of life, teaching, and learning.

JRW Pyramid Laminate 07

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Blogging Challenge Encouragement

Are you taking the Blogging Challenge?

And follow along with others who have taken the challenge…


Starting Your Own Blog

I am certainly no expert at blogging. I go in spurts. I don’t write my own coding. I use the fonts, styles, and themes from the platforms that I use. I don’t even have my own domain. But, I will shout from the rooftops the benefits of writing, sharing, collaborating, and reflecting in a public space. When I first started blogging, I felt like I had to contribute to conversations about broad educational topics. I set goals for myself that weren’t fitting of my skills or desires. It wasn’t until I realized that my gift, my niche, was in simply sharing what I do, that I found a rhythm. Don’t let anyone else define for you what your blog should look like. Find your own way. You’ll thank yourself. In case you still aren’t convinced, Edudemic put out this great list of 3 reasons why you, as an educator, should be blogging.

Here is a quick tutorial on how to set up a Blogger account. Blogger is a free, easy to use service based on your Google account. I’ve found it to be the most user friendly!

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Little Bird Tales – Whoa!

I started playing around tonight with Little Bird Tales. Whoa! This is so awesome. I started one based on some photos that I took today while my fifth graders were working on science labs on chemical and physical changes. I could totally see some of my students using this as a publishing tool, and I will definitely working on sharing it with my K-2 teachers. cover image


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Teaching Idioms?

Check out this awesome comic from a recent Sunday newspaper! I can’t wait to share this with my students. I’ll be interested to see how many of them “get it.”


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4 Pics, 1 Word

4 pics

Are you playing 4 Pics, 1 Word yet? It’s a free app available for iOS and Android, and the whole idea is to generate one word that would apply to all four of the pictures. I will admit it. I’m obsessed. As I was up playing last night, way past my bedtime, I kept thinking about ways that I could use this with my students. The game asks you to make connections, interpret pictures, find nuances, and have a grand command of vocabulary. How is this not awesome for kids?


So, how could I use this with kids?

  • They could make their own! This would be a great way to teach students about open source images and Creative Commons searches. If each student made their own based on a set of vocabulary words, you could display them as a “real” or virtual bulletin board for students to solve one another’s challenges.
  • Make some for your students based on their vocabulary words or spelling words, and they would have that list to use as a bit of a word bank.
  • Save the app on your own device, and put it under the document camera for all of your students to see and help you solve, especially when you are stuck in that moment of having 5 minutes before lunch or dismissal and you want to keep them busy.


I will make the quick disclaimer that I haven’t seen any inappropriate pictures, but I will not say that there aren’t any at all!


Learn Zillion


Do you feel like no matter how much you accomplish, you always have a zillion things to do? You do, but I’ve recently been checking out a great way to help with that. Learn Zillion!

There are tons of great things out there to help with the transition to the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics, but they are often overwhelming. As I’m learning the standards and making their labels part of my daily language, I want a resource where I can go for lessons, learning, clarification and sharing. That resource also needs to be read-able after a long week of work with my students, my own children and everything else that life throws at me. I love the clarity of organization and tools!

If you are flipping your classroom, this is also a great place to go for lessons and ideas!

I’d definitely encourage you to check it out!

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