Thursday, March 27, 2014

Graphite by Common Sense

Spring break was a blur. We spent a few days with Mickey Mouse in Orlando. When we got back, we had family in town from four states. One cousin got married on Saturday. We had a bridal shower for another cousin on Sunday. It was fun, but we didn’t rest at all!

Every night this week I’ve planned to do a blog post. Every night something has come up. Oh, well!
I got an e-mail yesterday to let me know that I was approved to be a Common Sense Media Certified Educator. They sent on a badge for my blog.


I’m currently waiting for a blog redesign from A Bird in Hand Designs. I’ll add the badge to the side bar once I get my new look. I can’t wait!

One of the other sites I’m having fun with right now is Graphite.


From Common Sense Media, this site lets you search for reviews of apps/websites. It is a really neat idea.

I’d registered and written a field note before. Last night I came across this post. I decided to write two more field notes. As a result, I got an e-mail tonight with the code for a $25 Amazon gift card. The offer ends March 31.

I’ve started working on my application to be a Graphite Certified Teacher. I love sharing technology resources. I think it is a good fit!


Monday, March 17, 2014

Sunday Funday: Consignment Shopping

We are on spring break this week. It is a great time to link up with Molly and Deirdre We started our break with the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade.


Our Sunday Funday was shaped around the Liverpool game. I wanted to go to a big children’s consignment sale, so I left just before 8am to ensure that my children were not left unattended once the game started. (I joke…sort of!)

It was a great day! Not only did Liverpool beat Manchester United 3-0, but I found some amazing deals at the Just Between Friends sale. The last day of the sale, most items are 50% off. I have gotten to the point where I only buy clothes for my kids at these sales. I also only allow myself to shop once they reduce the prices.


The pictures don’t do it justice. My cousin is getting married this week, so I bought my daughter four gorgeous dresses for $3 to $4 each. She is still deciding which one twirls the best. My son is going to wear the Ralph Lauren shirt in the picture. It was $2.50. The athletic shorts were $2 each. They are all branded. The blue outfit and matching hat are from Gymboree. I got all three pieces for just $3.75.

According to my receipt, I paid an average of $2.44 an item. My daughter was having a blast trying everything on. She was thrilled with our little impromptu fashion show.

So far spring break is off to a great start!


On a separate note, please consider linking up your favorite St. Patrick's Day activity if you haven't already!


The linky will be up for another week. I am also giving my Sully Shamrock font to anyone who links up a St. Patrick's Day Post.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Common Sense Media Digital Citizenship

This week my fifth graders were on a field trip so I ended up with an extra planning period. I decided to use that time to work on my application for Common Sense Media’s Digital Citizenship Certification.

The application asks for documentation of how you have shared about the curriculum with the teachers at your school. I realized that I had done that, but I had not shared it clearly enough on my blog.  This post is not an application requirement. I’m not getting paid to post this. I just really think that digital citizenship is important, and I think Common Sense Media does a great job of giving teachers the free tools they need to do just that.

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A friend shared a Common Sense Media newsletter with me last spring. She suggested that I sign up. Once I looked around the site, I fell in love with their K-12 digital citizenship curriculum. I remember being at a conference years ago talking about these same digital citizenship skills that no one is teaching. Who owns this? I decided that the STEAM Lab was the perfect place for digital citizenship.

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My learning goal for my class this year is based on the ELA technology standard for each grade level. I use the elements of STEAM to teach that standard. Each of these lessons is linked to other ELA standards as well.

I was a little overwhelmed last fall so I decided to just teach the lessons as written. There were a few plans that I taught with low expectations. I was shocked at how much they enjoyed it! We had AMAZING conversations. I was surprised how many of our elementary students were I honestly felt like these lessons made a difference. It changed the way many of my students thought about their digital lives. From keyword searches to cyberbullying to copyright issues, these topics are part of our world today.

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I started by printing the entire K-2 curriculum and the 3-5 curriculum. I keep them in a binder so that I have originals to make copies. I did not follow the scope and sequence, but picked the lessons that matched what I had going on. Days I was relocated to the Media Center due to construction in my classroom we did Digital Passport lessons on the library computer. On the other hand when I did not have access to computers, I decided to wait to do the keywords lesson.

Funny enough, I taught most of these lessons before I had computers in my room. They are designed to be as low tech or as high tech as you want/need them to be. One computer with a projector was perfect to guide discussions.

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If you do have access to more, the Digital Passport is a website from Common Sense Media for grades 3-5. My students loved these games. The Twalkers game is the best I have ever seen for explaining the dangers of driving (or walking) while texting.  You should try it yourself. They have also released an iBooks version of the curriculum I plan to use in the fall.

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The resources available make it idiot proof. They have included everything you need – videos, handouts, extension ideas, computer games to reinforce, and more. There are even resources for sharing with parents or other teachers.  It is well worth signing up and exploring these free resources.

* The pictures in the post were from a bulletin board display we did for digital citizenship week. My 3-5 students each created a Twitter strip with a tip or something they had learned about digital citizenship.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 Timer

This will be a quick one. I wanted to share a website I rediscovered this week. It is a musical web based timer from

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We’ve been working on typing in the STEAM Lab. It is not their favorite thing to do, but we have to do it. I found that setting the timer for 5-7 minutes with classical music playing makes the whole process much less painful. My students know that I will reset the timer if they are not working. There was more typing and less talking.

I also use the timer for clean up time. You would be surprised how much faster students move while Mission Impossible is playing in the background!

One tip: I’d always picked my song based on the length. My husband played with the site and wanted to know why I didn’t just use the keyboard to adjust the time on the song I wanted. It took years for me to learn that.

On a separate note, please consider linking up your favorite St. Patrick's Day activity if you haven't already!


The linky will be up for another week. I am also giving my Sully Shamrock font to anyone who links up a St. Patrick's Day Post.


Be sure to check out the others:

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Whooo is ready for St. Patrick’s Day Linky Party

I am married to an Irishman who moved across the pond for me. Every March I enjoy making a fuss over St. Patrick’s Day for him.

I did Irish themed activities with four grade levels. I’ve blogged before about the Tagxedo word clouds that my fifth grade classes made using traditional Irish songs.


Most of the fourth grade was on an overnight field trip, so a few of the remaining students helped me to make Paper Strip Shamrocks.


I love they way they came! I used straight pins to hang them on the giant board outside my rooms.
My kindergarteners made rainbow puff paint pictures. It was a two day project. They started by painting tempra paint rainbows on cardstock.


Once that was dry, they filled in the shamrock with puff paint. I was inspired by this pin.


If you have not tried puff paint, you should! All you do is mix equal parts of shaving cream and glue. To make it green, you add food coloring. The “goop-ier” the paint, the better the puff when it dries. It is pretty neat!

For my first graders, I found instructions on how to draw a shamrock on this post. My husband always makes a point to include shamrocks and not four leaf clovers in our decorations, so I decided to go with it.

The first day we used white boards to practice drawing the shamrocks. I went step by step and then let them practice until they were comfortable with it.

Next, students drew shamrocks on tagboard and outlined them with black or green crayons.


The next class, we painted. They first covered the entire page with light green paint. Then, they used dark paint to paint inside the shamrocks.


All together they make up an impressive field of first grade shamrocks.

So, there you have it! These are the activities I have done this year with my STEAM classes.

Do you have a favorite St. Patrick’s Day activity to share? Please link up and tell us about it!  If you do link up, please leave a comment with your e-mail address and I will send you a copy of my Sully Shamrock font. The linky will be open until just after St. Patrick’s Day.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Thursday Throw Down: Google Forms

I’m joining my blogging friend Erin from I’m Lovin’ Lit for her Thursday Throw Down Linky.

I know I'm cheating just a little. I don't have notebooks in my class, so I can't really enjoy all the interactive notebook goodies, but it is as interactive as I can get in the lab!

I’ve been waiting since October to start a cardboard arcade inspired by Caine’s Arcade. This pile of cardboard has been taunting my students for a month or so.

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That big box in the back has a sign on it. It reads, “Not trash. Not a TV. Just a Box.”  They have been begging to get started.

I have 18 classes. I needed to find a way to have each class vote on a photo booth prop and a game. I handed out little slips of paper for the first class, but it took WAY too long.

During my planning period I created the shell of a Google Form. When my fifth graders came, we filled in their ideas for the photo booth and the same.

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I sent the finished form to the student computers. Each student completed the form and then rushed back to the carpet to view the results on the SMART board.

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I refreshed the results to the sounds of cheers from the winning group. If I had longer than a 50 minute class period I would have used this information for a teachable moment about data. Instead I printed out the information for teachers who wanted it.

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I’ve been using Google forms a lot lately. It is so quick and easy to gather and use the data.

Now we are working on our projects. This is a treasure chest in progress. In the background are a robot and a claw machine.

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This one is ready for paint and decorations.

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Can you tell what it is?

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My classroom is over run with cardboard projects and smells like paint, but we are having a blast!


I hope that you will join me Saturday for my first ever Linky Party. I’m married to an Irishman, so St. Patrick’s Day is a big deal in my house - and my classroom!


I have a few St. Patrick’s Day art projects I plan to share. You can link up any post, new or old, with a St. Patrick’s Day theme. To make sure I don’t end up “Jenny no mates” as my Irishman would say, I’ll e-mail my Sully Shamrock font to anyone who links up.

I’ll leave the link up through St. Patrick’s Day, so be sure to link up your favorite activity! Hope to see you then!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sunday Funday: OverDrive AudioBooks

We have had a great Sunday so far! After our usual Mass and grocery shopping, we headed to the pool. It was our first swim this year. The kids were thrilled. I asked my husband to take a picture of my son eating snacks poolside, but by the time he got his phone out the moment was gone. You have to move faster than that when dealing with two-year-olds!

Somehow we got both kids to nap. It doesn’t happen nearly often enough! I’m working away while enjoying my latest book. As mentioned in the title, this Sunday Funday is about my love for audio books.


Since having kids, I’ve found it difficult to find time to read. For years, I used Paperback Swap to get audio books on CD. I tried Audible after my sister got me a three month subscription  for Christmas.

Then I discovered that I could get audio books from the local public library. I don’t need to worry about returning the books. When the time is up they just disappear. Using the OverDrive App, I can listen on my phone. In the car it links up through the Bluetooth to the sound system.


Audiobooks have been the answer to my problems. It doesn’t matter how late I am, the drive to work is still the same length. I still have time to listen to my book. It makes any day better!

(As an aside, I have also used the same app in my classroom!)