Thursday, May 16, 2013

"Be the change that you wish to see in the world." Mahatma Gandhi

Dear Mr. President and Members of Congress,

My name is Suzie Lak, I am a second grade teacher at John M. Sexton Elementary School in St. Petersburg, Florida and I absolutely love my job.  I am passionate about teaching and helping to inspire young children to accomplish everything they set their minds to.  I never see a mountain too high that my children can't climb given the right tools and motivation.  My mission in life is to positively educate the youth of today, so that they may be the leaders of tomorrow.  I believe in educating children socially, emotionally, academically and ethically.  I believe that each child is a unique individual who needs a secure, caring, and inspiring atmosphere. I believe it is incredibly important to incorporate digital tools, speaking, listening, and writing into everyday lessons in order for children to be capable adults who can also positively impact and change the world.  I know I can continue what I do in the classroom, impact a group of children every year, and feel happy about what I do.

But I also believe there is more I can do.  Just as Mahatma Gandhi says, "Be the change that you wish to see in the world," I believe that I should live and breathe these words in order to lay the foundation and path for my students to someday follow. I think everyone knows that there needs to be a major change in education.  I agree that the Common Core State Standards are a positive shift in education.  But, I think we have miles to go to catch up to our international counterparts.  Just as our students have learning to do on a daily basis and teachers have learning to do in order to keep transforming their practice, I think the United States has learning to do change our educational system for the better.

I choose not to spend anytime complaining about the state of education.  In order to be the change, I won't dwell on what is wrong, rather focus on what I can do to make things better.  There have been several studies asked of parents about who they trust most to make educational policy, and not surprising the results show that parents trust teachers the most.  I believe this is because we are the people that most closely work with and directly impact their children; the pride and joys of their lives.  So why is it that educational policy is mostly directed by people who are not in education?  The short answer is, that is how politics work. We vote people to be in charge to make the best decisions they can make.  I don't fault politicians for not fully understanding education, as it is those of us who have lived and breathed pedagogy (the science and art of education); those of us who have received our college degree in teaching, advanced our education in a variety of ways and continue to be involved in Professional Development to be the best teachers we can be on a daily basis.

So why don't we work together to make these decisions?  I firmly believe this is the only way to make a complete educational shift in the United States.  Here is my plan.  I think that every politician should pair up with a teacher.  If every politician in local, state and national government had a teacher companion, there would be an alliance between government and education. There are many wonderful teachers from across the country who would love to open up classrooms to share the "behind the scenes" of what goes on in the education world.  For as much as I have thought about leaving the classroom to work on educational policy, I can tell you that my heart just cannot leave.  I wake up every morning with a smile on my face because I know that I have a classroom full of seven and eight year old children who depend on me.  They crave knowledge and want to know the answers to all questions in the world, and I strive to guide them along this path.  But why should I have to leave the classroom to do what it is I really want to do?  I think if educators who are truly passionate about teaching are able to stay in the classroom and help make change, it would be in the best interest of everyone. 

What I ask from you Mr. President and esteemed members of Congress, is to come into our classrooms.  Visit a classroom on a consistent basis and learn about what is important in the world of education.  Come shadow a teacher for a day, in order to help make informed decisions when educational policy discussions happen.  We can share our gift of the love of teaching with you. I believe this is when you will see what is important, what is going well, and what changes can be made.  We can form a bond and you can come to us with your questions and ideas for us to help.  And believe me, I don't think I have all the answers.  But I'm willing to spend my time trying to find them.  I believe I have so much to learn in the world of education.  But I am passionate about education and I want to continue to learn what is best for children.

So I pledge this...I promise to continue learning about education and educating myself on a daily basis. I promise to put my heart and soul into education, not for a paycheck, but for the belief in a wonderfully educated future for all children. I promise to continue finding the most top-notch educational organizations to be a part of.  I will spend my time reading professional articles about education, learning from other educators, and being involved in collegial conversations about education.  I will work with the changing shifts of education and spend my nights and weekends planning lessons that will make an impact o my students. I will reflect on my teaching and make necessary changes.  I will differentiate what I am doing in the classroom in order to help all students succeed.  I will keep up my National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification and follow their guiding principles in order to advance the quality of teaching and learning and help advance all students learning and achievement.  I will work with the National Writing Project and share their mission to improve writing and learning for all learners.  I will attend national conferences which will inform my instruction and help transform my teaching.  I will put in all the legwork of learning and keeping up with every shift and change in education. 

Here is all I ask of you. Please come visit my classroom.  Please visit other educators' classrooms across the country and engage in conversations about what is best for children.   Find an educator that you can continuously talk with, share ideas, ask questions and get suggestions from.  Let us do the legwork. Please don't have those of us who are incredibly passionate about education feel like we have to leave the classroom to make a difference.  Let us make a difference by staying in the classroom and doing what we love to do. Please work with us so we may all "Be the change that you wish to see in the world!" 


2012 Donald H. Graves National Writing Award Winner (NCTE)
2011 Tampa Bay Area Writing Project Teacher Consultant and Leadership Council Member
2010 National Board Certified Teacher in Middle Childhood Generalist

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Nationally Board Certified...and Proud!

Yesterday was Saturday.  It should have been my weekend day, my time away from teaching and my job....but instead I set my alarm for 6 am ready to spend a day at the Florida National Board Summit.  You see, back in 2009, Cheryl (my assistant principal) said to me, "Suzie, you need to go through National Board Certification.  It is the best experience you will have as a teacher."  Cheryl had gone through her National Board Certification several years before, and she seemed to see in me many of the same traits.  After a few conversations, I agreed this would be a great idea.  At that time, I only knew a little bit of what I was getting myself into.  I mean, I had already completed my Masters in Elementary Education in one year, and had been teaching for four years. I knew that I needed something to further myself as an educator, but before I talked to Cheryl, I wasn't sure exactly what that would be.  I was frustrated by the trainings offered in my district.  The trainings where I would sit for about 3 hours and listen to a great idea to implement.  The problem was, they were great ideas, but while sitting, I didn't feel as if I was improving my craft and making changes in my classroom.  So when I looked at the National Board website, I found an organization that I believed the process would change my teaching forever.  The day I decided to go for my National Board Certification is the start of where my life as a transformed educator truly began. 

I realized at the time that going through National Board Certification would be a time commitment, just wasnt sure exactly how much! I also knew it would be a monetary commitment, since it cost $2500 to receive this certification.  Thank goodness the state of Florida had a Dale Hickam Grant which would cover half of my expenses. An even bigger thank you goes to my parents who wanted to help support my dreams and ambitions and helped with the fees involved. I am forever grateful to have parents who have always believed in me and wanted me to reach every goal I have set for myself.  As the process began, I realized that going through National Board Certification would be my life for about six-nine months.  I would eat, breath, teach and work on my National Boards. Throughout that year there would be many sleepless nights, days when I thought my computer was attached to me, and fun times that everyone around me seemed to be enjoying while I would be working, writing, and thinking about my teaching.  I even had to take a season off of kickball, my favorite grown-up sport which I played year round since moving to Florida.  This was a huge sacrifice for me.  In some of those sleepless nights, I wanted to give up and go back to normal life.  But even more, I wanted to accomplish what I set my mind to, being a National Board Certified Teacher.

Planning my lessons, creating my units, integrating my curriculum and realizing my successes and even more importantly, focusing on my weaknesses I consistently worked to improve my instruction in the classroom.  It takes a reflective practitioner who is able to constantly reflect, change, and improve to be a National Board Certified Teacher.  What I learned during that year, is that teaching is always evolving and changing and I need to evolve and change with it.  I need to reflect on everything I do, think about what I did well, and what I can do better.  Then I need to make those changes.  I will never think I know how to do everything.   I can thank NBPTS for all of these lessons.  Which is one of the reasons why now, as education is changing and transforming, I am ready for the task and feeling confident in myself.  I know that I can learn and apply the Common Core State Standards, as I see the huge benefit in this shift in education.  I adapt to the needs of my students and differentiate my instruction to help my students achieve success daily. 

During the certification process, I could not have survived without the help of some really important people.  Cheryl Maggio, my inspiration for going through National Boards helped me every step of the way.  She read, read, and read my pages of writing and spent her free time helping me (and she had very little free time, so I cannot thank her enough). My mom, an amazing educator, whom I always aspired to be like, was just a phone call and computer away.  I was able to call her daily and bounce ideas and get support. She was a supporter, helper, friend and also an editor to all my work.  A co-worker, Stephenie, even volunteered her time to read my work and help me revise, and helped me tremendously as she was a fourth grade teacher and we buddied our classrooms together (2nd and 4th) for some of my activities.  She was always ready to support me when I needed it. There was even a weekend "Editing Party" where people came over to read and give suggestions before I sent off the box.  During that party, when I ran out of ink again and again, my sister Jenn was a life-saver who would run back and forth to her house and print more pages for me.  She helped so much by reading and giving the non-educator view on my work.  Every person involved, I am forever thankful for their support.  I will never forget the day I sent off my box, after checking it once-twice-three times...okay who am I kidding, I am pretty sure I checked through everything about 100 times before bringing it to the Post Office.  I felt as if I was sending my life away.  I cried, at the Post Office, feeling so silly that I couldn't control my emotions. But I knew that I was shipping off my blood, sweat, and tears for others to critique.  I knew I had to trust in the process.  When I went to do the writing portion of test, I had more confidence since I was only two years out of my Masters Comps and having taken the GRE and receiving the highest score of 6 on my writing, I had the confidence that I would be successful.  But then, the waiting game came and seemed to last forever.

It was amazing to me that the day finally came when I would find out my results.  And truthfully, the day it happened, I didn't even know it was happening until a co-worker said, "Did you look at your score? Did you pass?"  I was at school, and I couldn't believe the scores were ready.  I wanted to know, but I was so afraid that I would not pass.  They say that it can take three years to pass, and to be prepared for this.  So I walked up to my computer and put in my Candidate ID #.  I started to shake and the tears started flowing again, as I was waiting to see my results.  Time seemed to freeze as I finally arrived on the screen that said, "Congratulations, you are a National Board Certified Teacher."  I sat and stared and felt a combination of relief and jubuliance.  I was once again very emotional (okay, I am a girl, it happens to the best of us!).  I was beyond proud, and that is a moment I will never forget.  I knew that my life as an educator was forever changed. Not because of the certification, but because of the journey I took and the transformation of my teaching. 

That was in 2010, and I have since gone on with my teaching and made a lot of forward movement.  The next summer I went through the Tampa Bay Area Writing Project, and then last year worked through my application for the Donald H. Graves Excellence in Improvement of Student Writing.  I have always applied every strategy, especially the importance of reflection, which I learned through my National Board Certification process.  But I haven't been able to stay as active with other NBPTS certified teachers and I felt disconnected to other like-minded educators who went through the process just like me. 

So when I saw that there would be a Florida National Board Summit on Saturday, May 4th, I was very excited to sign up and be involved. I was very enthusiastic to see what this experience would be like.  And I found everything I was hoping for. I found other educators, passionate about teaching, learning and National Board Certification.  We had a great meeting, which is the first of many I hope.  What I will take with me as I move forward is, I should be proud to be a NBCT.  I need to add it to my signature line on my e-mail, on my business card, and I want to let other educators know how wonderful and transformative this organization is.  I realized ways I can advocate for education in a variety of ways.  I felt welcomed and secure in a place where teachers are talking about positive changes in education and ways that teachers can feel empowered.  I learned that parents have the most confidence in the teachers to make the educational policy, and our voice needs to be heard. These are things that I might have realized in the past, but I feel even stronger and more confident now.  I learned that we all have a story, the wonderful stories of the students we have impacted and how important it is to share those stories and believe in the difference that we make every day.

Even though I set my alarm for 6 am on a Saturday, I would do it again in a heartbeat to continue working with educators with visions and ideas for transforming education, the importance of our profession, and to help National Board Certification be something that every teacher strives for and works toward in their career. I want to make an impact in education and help make the changes to education which will change our students' lives of today and in the future!

I am a Nationally Board Certified Teacher, and I am Proud!!

A picture from Florida National Board Summit on May 4, 2013

My National Board Certificate

National Board Certified Teacher in Middle Childhood Generalist 2010
Tampa Bay Area Writing Project Teacher Consultant 2011/Leadership Council Member
Donald H. Graves Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Writing National Winner (NCTE)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Common Core Classroom Video...What Parents Need to Know

Early on this school year, my county asked me to share what I was doing with the Common Core Standards in the classroom. They came and visited, filming my students and asking me a series of questions (along with a middle school educator, a district staff member, and a parent whom I have had both her son and daughter for the past two years).  Common Core is really changing the way we teach in the classroom on a daily basis.  Although the lesson I was teaching that day, Non-Fiction Text Features: Glossary was only a small piece of common core instruction, it provided a great basis in October for my students to understand and apply the standards as my students are both reading and writing. 
New State Standards coming to Pinellas County schools. Common Core in my Classroom
About this video
"Beginning in the 2014-2015 school year, all Florida Schools, including those in within the Pinellas County School District, will use a new system to evaluate students. Common Core State Standards will replace the current Sunshine State Standards, as well as FCAT. District staff is working hard to make sure the transition is smooth for students, staff and parents. The Common Core Standards encourages students to take a more active role in their education. The new assessments will help educators and the students themselves, compare their progress with other students around the nation. The standards will help students read, understand and write answers questions, regardless of subject." Shared from

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Multicultural Day Event

Well, we did it...Multicultural Day was a huge success!  The students did an amazing job on their Multicultural Day celebration.  We used the theme, "Embrace Diversity, Embrace Our World!"  I found that great slogan at NationalDiversityDay (a website celebrating Diversity that will take place on October 4, 2013)  which seemed to apply perfectly to the work my students did.  During this unit the students learned about their cultural heritage, exploring the countries that their ancestors came from.  This was completed through a six week unit in the student's Take Home Book Bags, which parents were asked to be involved answering questions.  They helped by sharing heritage questions, family traditions and holidays, family recipes, and ancestor immigration stories.  These were pieces that were woven into the country book my students wrote.  When I started planning the work, I looked at all the Common Core Writing Standards.  I wanted to include pieces from each standard.  I also looked at the Reading, Speaking and Listening Standards as I was planning this book.  The book was broken into several sections.  The first section of the book was informative text which shared about the country's physical location, government, food, traditions, holidays and flag to name a few.  They completed this research through both books and online text.  They made sure to include a Table of Contents, Glossary, and Bibliography to share components and cite research.  The second section of the book included a country opinion piece, which the students wrote their reviews of why you should visit.  They also included their favorite recipe from their family in this section.  They wrote a review of why you should try the recipe.  The recipe was included in the classroom cookbook also, which each child recieved a copy of.  The last section included a Multicultural Fairy Tale which the students wrote.  They chose their favorite fairy tale which they changed to take place in their country and included elements from this country.  The completed selection was a masterpiece.  On the day of the event, we did a combination of activities.  We started with the song Hello to All the Children of the World shared by Wee Sing.  Several students then shared the back of their books, enticing the audience to want to read their book.  Then the students collectively sang Like Me and You by Raffi.  After reading a few more book backings the student created, we shared a Shel Silverstein poem title Children, Children Everywhere.  After the final group of students read the back of the book we ended the program with It's a Small World from Disney.  Our special event lasted about 30 minutes.  It was so wonderful to have representation from ALL of my students families!  The event day was a wonderful experience for both my students and their families.

Backdrop of Multicultural Day with a stage set up in the classroom and all the students' books ready to be shared with the audience.
Stars were placed on the maps of all the countries we studied.

A view of the front of our classroom including the special touches for families to see.

The backdrop I created using a $1.99 Goodwill sheet and flags and letters created by my students at my school. This was done inexpensively, but students felt very special.
Our welcome table with a sign in sheet, programs, and an evaluation for visitors to fill out.

Definitions discussed during our special morings activities.

With our backdrop discussing diversity, we spent a lot of time discussing what the word diversity means.  Students then each put a definition on this chart paper to display. 

A sample of student created text, along with a unique item that represents the country which was proudly displayed on their desk during the celebration.

A few more examples of completed student work which each child had a chance to share with the class and all the families involved in our celebration.

I loved teaching the multicultural unit and incorporate many strategies into my students instruction.  It was great being able to sing songs, share poetry, and create back covers to convince our audience to read their wonderful created work.  My students completely feel like authors during this occasion and are able to justify the work they complete and share with the classroom and the community!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Me on the Map...and Other Map Activities!

My passion for travel spills over into my classroom in a variety of ways.  I love to teach my students about the world around them and open their eyes to places beyond our Saint Petersburg home.  I think that's why one of my favorite units of the year is teaching map skills to my students.  I love their curiosity and inquisitive nature in exploring the world.  This year, we are completing an extensive unit that started with map skills and will be culminating in a Multicultural Day with presentations of student created country books.  In order to begin preparing my students, I read the book Me on the Map by Joanne Sweeney.  My students completed graphic organizers with the understanding that the world gets bigger starting with their house, street, city, state, country, continent and world.  We read stories about places around the world in reading, studied map skills in Social Studies, and wrote travel adventure stories in Writing that integrated imagination, creativity and facts from different places.  This integrated unit touches upon many Common Core Standards and is exciting for the students.  The students also created maps of an imaginary country which they made up, and had to apply the use of map keys, map scales, and a compass rose.  These activities were all done prior to teaching a multicultural unit that includes a parental involvement piece.  Students have read several stories in their Take Home Book Bag, and for the past 3-4 weeks parents have been involved in this weekly homework with questions about ancestors, heritage, family recipes, and cultural celebrations.  Students then chose one country from their heritage to focus on a book project.  They are researching facts and information and making a country book with 3 sections: Facts and Country Information, a Country Opinion Writing Piece, and a Multicultural Fairy Tale they create using elements of fairy tales and key items from their country.  This project includes most Common Core Standards for both Reading and Writing.  The children are super involved and their is lots of learning and investigating going on daily.  I love to guide my students on their quest for knowledge.  More on this project and our special celebration coming up soon!

Borrowing ideas from both Clutter Free Classroom and Sunny Days in 2nd Grade blogs, I loved the idea of having the students create flip books and hold up the world with their little pictures.  Each child posed with their hands in the air for these posters.

A student example of the completed Me on the Map activity!

Me on the Map Writing Activity.  Students chose which place on the world map they would want to visit and shared their adventure in both a story and created Voki character.  Students found maps of the country to include, and researched facts to add into the story.  They loved the creativity involved in this project. 

So much fun with maps, can't wait to teach them more!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Studentreasures Publishing

Have you heard of Studentreasures Publishing Company?  It is a wonderful company where your students can publish books!  Since I teach a primary grade (K-2) they offer a chance to publish a class book.  I have done this with my students for the past three years, and the results have been magnificent. Each year, I choose a theme for my students to write stories about.  We bring these pieces through the writing process, and write a final draft version on the pages sent to us by the company.  We then send our completed pages back to the company one week before our assigned "Press Date" and about 2-3 weeks later, we receive copies of our published book in the mail.  The great thing is there is no pressure to buy the book, they will send you a copy for free, BUT if your families are interested, they may purchase copies of the book.  Each year, I have several families who choose to purchase the book for a treasured memory of second grade.  My former students have come back a year/two years later and shared how it is still one of their prized processions.  My young writers truly feel like published authors when the books get delivered to the classroom. They really understand the Writing Process, and they see the importance of Pre-Writing, Drafting, Editing, Revising, and Publishing!  If you are looking for a wonderful way to publish writing in your classroom, take a look at Studentreasures!

This year our theme was Once Upon a Dream... Stories where we entered a dreamworld and shared the many adventures before waking back up. Last year our theme was Our Imaginary Pets.  I try to choose a theme that allows for creativity and imagination of each of my budding young authors.

An example of the student created story

The day our books came in, all students were engrossed in the treasured book, reading each others stories and sharing in the excitement of publication.

To find out more about the company, check out their website here:

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Informative Text Writing can be FUN!

I love teaching writing in the classroom. All types of writing.  Not only do I enjoy teaching narrative and opinion writing, but I also enjoy explanatory writing.  At the beginning of second grade, it is the perfect time to teach my students how to write informative text.  I start with teaching the elements of paragraph, breaking it down into parts.  We watch video clips, sing songs, and create paragraphs together.  I teach them how to use a topic sentence, three detail sentences, and a concluding statement.  The students get excited for this process.  Once they learn how to form one paragraph, we can stretch it to two, three, and four paragraph essays.  All this in 2nd grade!


                    I teach the Stoplight Method for paragraph writing. Students will learn that Green means GO! Start with a topic sentence.  Yellow means Slow Down and share the important details.  Red means STOP! Make a closing or conclusion sentence that wraps the paragraph up.
The Paragraph Song
Sung to the Tune of Itsy Bitsy Spider
Introduce the topic in a general way.
Next, you add 3 details of what you want to say.
Then you write a closer, put this sentence last.
Now you have completed,
Youre great paragraph!

I feel like this helps my students to grasp onto the concept.  I like to next remind children how to indent by teaching them the thumb rule.  I print out mini thumbs for them to stick on their papers the first time they try this, and remind them of this strategy throughout the year.  It really helps it stick in the minds of my seven and eight year olds. 
After we practice writing paragraphs, I introduce the research report.  I let my students choose between a variety of science concepts to study.  This gives them some choice, but still has focus.  I bring my students through the process of note-taking, a discussion on citing sources and plagiarism, and the important elements of informative text.
Wanting my students to understand many non-fiction text features, I focused on several features for them to include in their research report as well.  My children wrote a 3-4 paragraph essay, then went through and put five important words in bold print for their glossary, where they could define these words.  Next they drew an illustration to match the report, included captions and labels and put on a title. At the end of the project, my students created their bibliography to cite the sources. 
Check out our completed research reports below.
I put this up in the hallway for two reasons.  One, to showcase my students beautiful work giving them pride in their work and an audience. The second purpose was for all other students around the school, putting up a "Can you find these non-fiction text features?" hunt for all children to learn!

                                       Three examples of student work:

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Presidential Election 2040

When the election season was upon us this school year, I wanted to do something special with my students.  In the past, I have had students write speeches and read them to the class. They have voted for a Class President and the runner up was Vice President.  This year, I took it a step further.  My students first wrote speeches for presidential elections, sharing everything they wanted to do to make the country a better place.  And yes, they were all written in seven year old writing.  I let them feel free to express the changes that mattered to them.  The next step involved my students creating a Voki avatar character of themselves during the 2040 Presidential Election, which was the first election all of my students would be eligible to be president. Each of my students created their avatar and typed in their speech.  We discussed what clothing they might wear, what background they would have and other important ideas.  On election day, we watched each of the Voki characters after the students introduced themselves.  We then ran the election with a voting process, a voting booth, and a ballot.  Each child had the opportunity to vote for who they thought should be president, vice president, and had to share three reasons why they voted for this person.  They could not vote for themselves, and could not state a reason such as: "I liked it because they are my friend."  With these stipulations, my students really voted for people who wrote powerful speeches and would make a great president.  I took the top person voted as President, the 2nd as Vice President, the 3rd & 4th as Senators and the rest of the students were the House of Representatives.  This shared a little of our government and offices with the students, and they were all able to receive an award.  It was a very special occasion for my students, and it should help them remember the election processs for the years to come!  I then displayed the student's work in an interactive display outside of the classroom.

                                    Our Class Bulletin Board Display

Class President: Marlee
Class Vice President: Sierra


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Read Aloud with Accountable Talk

I love doing read alouds!  I have always read aloud books during Reading, Writing, Science, Social Studies and even Math.  I really enjoy sitting down with students and sharing the written word.  I feel that there is a perfect picture book to go with just about every concept that can be taught.  But until this year, I didn't have a specific time in the day that was "Read Aloud" time, where I read a chapter book/picture book and discuss it for many different reasons.  I am not saying I never had a read aloud time of day, I just don't think I used it the best way I could have until now.  Now, I dedicate 15-20 minutes at the end of every day for Read Aloud time.  My students have their Read Aloud Response notebook that they bring with them.  This time of day does not tie in with one specific teaching point, rather I cover MANY different points with my students.  I started this at the beginning of the year, we got into a great routine.  My students now expect this time, look forward to it, and get really sad when we miss this time of day.  What I love the most is students get so wrapped into the books they do not want this time to end.  Each day I use strategies such as Turn-and-Talk, Stop and Jot, and Stop and Sketch.  I honestly think that my students LOVE Stop and Sketch so much, and they are really thinking as they are drawing their pictures to match the text.  There is not much time dedicated into the day for drawing, so a few days a week, when they have to sketch during read aloud, the students' inner artists come out.  During this time, I bring in strategies that good readers use, writing techniques that great writers use, and pull in other content area connections.  Chapter books we have read this year include: Magic Tree House series; Sarah, Plain and TallSkylark; The 13 Clocks; The Stories Julian TellsMy Name is Maria Isabel; and many, many more.  We fly through the pages of chapter books, and my students love to continue reading books in the series, after I start one.  One of my favorite moments occurred when I started The Criminals in the Caymans by Connie Lee Berry, and no sooner had we left the rug, then all the books in the series were borrowed with pleas to take the books home and read them that night.  How can I say no to students who can't wait to read?  Did I mention, I love the read aloud time a day in the classroom?  It's the best time of day to spend with my students, getting them excited to read, read, read!!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

KidBlog in the Classroom

Hello!  I know it has been awhile since I have been blogging, but I am back and excited to share about the experiences in my classroom this year.  One of my absolute favorite websites that I have integrated into the classroom is  It is an excellent kid-friendly website that allows classrooms to have a blog and share work.  This year my students have created Voki characters, Glogster posters, and Animoto videos.  It has been my hope that students would be able to share their work and comment to each other about their work.  Trying to find a website that was user-friendly and seven/eight year old friendly seemed to be a small challenge. Then I found KidBlog.  This website allows each of my students to see each others' work and make comments. I have taught my children how to do the "Ladder of Feedback" in a response.  At the start, students would make comments such as "This rocks." and "Wow, cool video" Since we have done lessons teaching children how to value the work, share a concern and make a suggestion, student's have been offering great advice to each other.  It is very second grade friendly and my students LOVE to go on KidBlog.  We often times use this website when students finish classwork, or when we are in the computer lab.  Children are given a whole new purpose and audience to share their work in an online format.  I have also shared the link with the parents in my classroom, so they too can go on and see all the work that is being created in the classroom.  The best part is that KidBlog is also private, and only people with the log in code (students, teachers, and parents) can access our site; so we don't have to worry about children's work being out on the world wide web for all to see.  As an incentive for students to go on at home, if they go on an make five comments on five different students within the week, they get to come to a Monday Lunch Bunch in the classroom.  Children LOVE spending lunch in the classroom and eating with me.  What an easy motivation tool for my students.  I was recently in Washington D.C. to speak with House of Representatives members of Congress about education programs.  While away from the classroom, I was able to write letters to my students and share pictures of my trip and they were able to comment to me and ask questions.  It was great having a connection to my students, even from afar!

Here are a few samples of student comments to each other on KidBlog:

Dear C, I really liked how you explained that the book was enchanting. Nice job using juicy language. I think you could add more facts that are from the book.  love, D

Sk- I think you did a good job on your bio poem because I think you you used good word choice. I think you need to work on different facks about describing Barack Obama. Like famous and attractive, serious, and smart. -W

Dear Ka, I really like when you used wow words!I wonder why you put he feels there should be peace? I suggest you should put more words describing his accomplishments. your friend, Ki

Dear Miss Lak,
I cann’t wait until you get back! Is your mom and sister Jen in that picture with one friend? Did you get to see the president? Mrs.Germain sent in the stories into the post office for the contest. I miss you! what other things did you see besides the Capital Building? Who took the picture? Did you get to go inside the Capital Building? Who was in the picture with you?  Love, S