In the Trenches

Thoughts and Ideas from a Classroom Teacher

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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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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BC2.1: About Me

I often forget to update my About Me page, and it’s a landing place for people to find out more about me. So…. the first challenge of the next phase of the 20 Day Blogging Challenge is  to update our About Me pages. Head on over and see what I’ve done with the place!


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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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!



BC19: This Week in Learning


One thing that I did this week that I will do again…. hmmm. This has been a crazy week to reflect on this question. Monday, we were out of school in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday. Tuesday, we released  early do to the threat of icy roads at our normal dismissal time. Wednesday, we had a snow day. Thursday, which was supposed to be a workday, became the snow make up day. Friday, then, was a scheduled workday for the end of the quarter and end of the semester.  There was no rhyme or reason to the week. The kids were “off” due to the  idea of snow in our  southern town and the already shortened week. All the while, I was trying to complete mid-year, one on one reading assessments. Sigh. All of this chaos did have one positive outcome. I relegated more class time to self-selected, independent reading. My kids love to read around the room with a book of choice, and there is so much value  in this! I came across this graphic the other day, and I find it to be 100% true! Self-selected books are a way to find this “right book!”


imageThis inspires me to dig into my resources and pull out my Reading Wheels. I’m thinking this is just the thing for the new quarter and a new group of students! For grade 5, there are 4 different choices, with 10 book categories in each wheel. In a quarter, students should choose a book or article from each category to read and reflect upon. I want to make a choice wheel for how students can share their reflections.


Don’t you just love that moment when something you used to, that your students really benefited from and you enjoyed, suddenly pops back into your mind. Yes!

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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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Blogging Challenge – Phase 2

I have been overwhelmed by the amount of people participating in the beginning of the year Blogging Challenge. If you haven’t had a chance, check out the #BC20 hashtag on Twitter or Facebook. There are so many new and renewed educators who are stepping into the blogosphere to share their experiences and expertise with teaching and learning. I will be rolling out Phase Two of the blogging challenge with a new set of prompts at the end of the month. Many of you are wrapping up the initial twenty posts, so take a short break, respond to the posts that you fellow bloggers are sharing, and go back and read your own blog. You’ve come a long way! I will post the new challenge on January 28.


Thank you for inspiring me!

photo credit: Darwin Bell via photopin cc

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BC16: Classroom Grants

Over the years, I have been fortunate to find many great deals for my classroom and earn grants to increase teaching and learning for me and my students. Here are a few things that I check out….

Donors  ChooseDonors Choose is an amazing website that was set up to enable the public to make donations directly to classrooms across the United States. I’ve been blessed with many funded opportunities from Donors Choose and community partners.  I’ve gotten items like digital cameras, playground equipment, board games, a flatbed scanner, books and novels, math manipulatives, and more. I even recently received a MakerBot 3D printer for my classroom. With Donors Choose, I like to keep my projects between $100 and $300. In fact, every project that I’ve ever shared in that range has been funded! Start small, consider breaking larger projects into smaller components, and fill out that form!

Bright Ideas: Our local energy coop funds education grants for teachers. I’ve recently received word that I received an $1800 grant for an outdoor classroom space, including a weather station. Bright Ideas is a North Carolina “thing” but other agencies around the US surely have similar programs. For Bright Ideas, I’ve found that a thorough idea that ties curriculum and community, and provides resources that can be used year after  year, are a great way to start!

Thrift Stores: I’ve found amazing things for my classroom at local thrift stores, including books for my classroom library. When you tell proprietors that you are a teacher, suddenly new “deals” sometimes come to be. One of my favorite local shops in Wilmington used to give teachers BOGO on books that were already in the $1-$2 range. It was wonderful as I was starting my teaching career.


I also follow Grant Wrangler for ideas and updates on grants for teachers.





Check out my friend Dacia Jones, who is a DEN Star, Educator, and grant writer extraordinaire!


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