Small Victories

It’s been a long week. Wednesday was a long day for me and I felt particularly defeated going into our Google hangout session, which is why I was relatively quiet. But at the end I was able to contribute to the conversation while sort of vent at the same time. I’m sorry if it was painful to listen to. I just feel beat up and worn out in this position some days. It’s my first year teaching these specific grade levels and my first year at my school. I’m creating the curriculum for 4 different courses. It’s a lot, but I know there is a payoff; I’m becoming a stronger teacher, a dynamic teacher, and next year will go much smoother. I won’t even know what to do with all the time I’ll save from having my curriculum in place on day one.

I love teaching and I love my students, but I don’t always feel like I accomplish as much as I hope to. I’m sure this is normal. As a new teacher it’s important to appreciate and embrace small successes and victories. Yesteray, I had an unexpected success with my 7th grade that made my day, and so I thought I would share.

We have been reading literature as of late with a “Coming of Age” theme. Among the stories are a couple poems. Noticing the descriptive detail of the poems, I took the opportunity to do a mini lesson on imagery and sensory details. We kept track of the descriptions in each poem and which of the 5 senses it appealed to on a graphic organizer. We even created our own sensory details by imagining a day on the beach. Yesterday I gave them an assignment to go to the travel section of and find a picture of one of the world’s natural wonders. They were to imagine themselves in the scene and write an imagery poem. Since we had never previously written poetry I did not have high expectations for the product they would produce. I was taken aback by how thoughtful and contemplative they were, how they studied the photos, searched for the right adjectives, created their own narrative within the photograph. They were even eager to share with their peers, so I pulled up the specific photo each student wrote about as they read their poem aloud. It was a success. They learned and enjoyed themselves at the same time. And I accomplished more than I hoped to. I posted a few below, along with the pictures that inspired them.

A World of Ashesvolcano

By Zac

Burning tree, buildings in a crumble,

Cities covered in ash, glowing lava

Like fireworks who dropped the rotten eggs.

The one touch burn

put on the earmuffs rushing lave hissing, cooling red, orange, gray,

black, cooling lava once it is over

black everywhere

houses covered in ash,

people stuck in rock cages preserved

for someone else to find

wow the mountain just got bigger.

Sunshine by the Hillelephants

By William

I felt the cool breeze,

I smell the flowers as the wind goes by,

I felt the soft grass as I kneel on my knees,

And hearing stomping from the hill I lie.

The big grey creature stands beside me,

Walking with its child.

I wish I could see what they see,

And try living in the wild.

As the massive blue clouds stood,

The warm sun brightened my day.

I took my time as I could,

I wish I could stay.


By Jaewoo

Lying down, beneath clear blue sky,

Sun shooting at me, with no mercy.

The green palm trees swaying like children dancing.

The crystal clear ocean pounding, tickling my toes.

I hear those greens cracking behind me, as if someone was hiding.

The cold water makes me shiver, but the sun melts me down.

Winds blowing softly as they are touching my face softly.

This is paradise.

I am so proud of the effort my 7th graders put into these poems, and truly impressed by how each of them conveyed their own style. It’s times like this that I am reminded how important and fulfilling teaching is. Celebrate small victories. Happy Friday, #ed677.



  1.  The Beginning of New Things- I understand your frustrations with the endless work you are being asked to assign the students in the afterschool program. I think many teachers agree, especially now with the Keystone tests, that kids do not have enough time to simply be kids. It also goes against what we’ve been learning and discussing, about how technology and play can have a very meaningful place in the classroom.
  1. Hitch- I think it’s great that your basketball team is exposed to so many diverse schools. It’s unfortunate your player had a negative and unfair experience from an opponent. Tolerance is difficult to teach to students. When you are discriminated against, you know how terrible feels. But how to you explain that feeling to a student that has always been privileged, or always been respected by others
  1. I enjoyed Inspired Minds’ post about teaching tough kids! We’ve all been there before! I still have to remind myself not to take things personally.
  1. Miss Double U – Teaching can make us feel isolated! I wish I had more time to collaborate with colleagues, ask advice, browse other teachers’ materials, etc. There’s NEVER enough hours in the day to accomplish everything. My middle school team just created a meeting time every week so we can communicate about goals and student needs. I already feel so much more connected now that we are all on the same page.
  1. I enjoyed the “Girl Rising” collaborative analysis we did last Wednesday. It made me realize that when doing similar activities in my class (analyzing work, writing, poetry, etc.) I need to slow it down and give students time to let the work sink in. I also want to use the approach of “what worked?” and “what do you notice?” and “what questions do you have?”

6. Question–I haven’t seen too many people’s “how to” guides, are we posting our weekly    makes somewhere other than our blogs?

7. Does anyone know how to search the members of the #ed677 class on Google+ so that I can follow everyone’s posts?

My Modge Podge How-To

tile 4

Hello, Friends! Happy Friday! For my how-to guide, I’m going to list the steps to create your own modge podge drink coasters. I saw this idea on pinterest and tried it out on my own about a year ago. You can modge podge lots of different things onto the coasters, from family pictures, to famous quotations, famous landmarks, etc. At a craft fair recently, I saw a set of coasters that each had a picture of a famous Penn State University bar on it. Both my sisters are PSU alumni, (and probably did their fair share of drinking in college) so they loved that idea.

I made 6 coasters as a gift for my boyfriend. Because traveling has been a huge part of his life, I found paper maps from meaningful places he lived or visited, and put a portion of the maps on each of the coasters. For instance, from an old atlas, I used a Jacksonville, Fl map because my boyfriend moved from PA to Jax when he was 14. I also found a NY map that showed St. Bonaventure, his alma mater. From a vacation a few years back I had a map of Paris, so I used Pont Neuf, one of his favorite places from his study abroad experience in college. I realize the idea was a little more sentimental than he’s used to, but he said it was one of the most thoughtful gifts he’s ever received.

tile 22

Here’s what you will need:

-4 to 6 kitchen or bathroom tiles- Try Lowes or Home Depot. They come in lots of designs or patterns and you can buy them individually. Some are as cheap at 30 cents each.

– 1 Sponge paint brush- It costs less than a dollar at a home improvement or craft store.

-Newspaper to cover workspace. Paper clippings and glue can get messy!

-1 Bottle of Modge Podge- MP is a type of glue/sealant. (Sometimes the style is called decoupage) It’s nice because it dries clear and makes your work look glossy. It’s used for collages a lot but it works with almost everything. It can go underneath pictures and on top to keep them in place. Unfortunately, you have to look around for a deal because it can be pricey. I’ve seen it for $18.00 in a craft store, but here’s an Amazon link for only about $6.

I actually opted to make my own. There are tutorials all over the internet (Try Pinterest) on how to make it. The recipe I followed was super easy; I think it was equal parts Elmer’s glue and water, stirred well. Here’s a tutorial video I found just in case you opt to make your own, too.

Once you have your materials set up, there’s not much to it!

1. I cut the portions of my maps to fit the tile, while leaving a little around the edge so show off the tile’s color. I also made the edges of the maps rough instead of an exact cut, just because I liked the style.

tile 2

2. Stroke a generous amount of MP onto the face of your first tile. Place your picture on top of the tile and situate it the way you like. Note—Do this right away! MP is very sticky and your picture can rip easily if you keep adjusting the placement. Finally, paint MP on top of to picture as well so that it seals it and glosses the picture.

4. I let them dry for 24 hours, and then gave each tile a few coats of a polyurethane sealer I bought from Lowes. Remember, if you’re using these as drink coasters, you’ll definitely need them to be waterproof. The poly sealer is awesome for all different kinds of crafts, too. I’ve used it multiple times to add shine to stuff.

5. Finally, I put 4 small, circular pads on the bottom of each tile. (like the ones you’d see on the bottom of the legs of tables or chairs) This way you can use them on any furniture surface without worrying they might scratch.

6. If yours are intended as a gift, look at some creative ways to wrap them on pinterest!

They are great as gifts because they can easily be tailored to the recipient’s style and interests. One you work with MP, chances are you’ll want to keep using it. Here’s a link to AC Moore’s site for decoupage craft ideas. Happy crafting and happy Friday #ed677!

Continue reading My Modge Podge How-To

Seek 7 Sunday

Hi friends, hope you all had a wonderful weekend. Here’s my #S7S for the week.

I liked the remixes this week on Disney Princesses. While I loved Disney movies as a child and appreciate the positive messages they convey for children, I do like to see examples of thinking outside the box when it comes to gender roles and stereotypes.

Hitch- I’ve tried “found poetry” with my students, too. They were stumped at first, but after I showed them a couple examples and let them play around, they had some creative fun with it. Interesting that I didn’t think of that as a remix idea until you posted about it.

Liz- Your Good Grades remix cracked me up. Using humor to communicate expectations is awesome. I’ve seen similar ideas on Pinterest in which teachers use popular memes to teach classroom rules.

Kathleen- I like the Disney World Space Mountain memory and how you compared it to your tackling social media. It’s easy to stay in your comfort zone, but much more satisfying to conquer something new and tricky.

I’ve been teaching an 8th grade unit on persuasion and the power of media advertisements. Last week we analyzed Superbowl commercials and print advertisements, attempting to determine the hidden messages aimed at consumers. I’d like to try to remix some of these ads with my students. I’m thinking the Xray Goggles might work. Any other suggestions for those of you who played around this week?

I wanted to share a website called Instagrok. You can search any term or concept and it creates an interactive concept map for kids to explore. It’s pretty cool for exploring new concepts. My 9th Grade classes used it to explore the Great Depression and Dustbowl as we were preparing to read Of Mice and Men.

And finally, another interesting remix to share… Thug Notes. A comedian and PhD shares his take on classic literature in short video clips. It’s kind of like sparknotes, but he uses slang, humor, and makes it much more entertaining. It’s received a lot of media attention. Check it out, he had covered dozens of famous pieces. Funny stuff.

Another interesting remix to share… Thug Notes. A comedian and PhD shares his take on classic literature. It’s kind of like sparknotes, but he uses slang, humor, and makes it much more entertaining. It’s received a lot of media attention.

Tower Challenge

Today I tried my make/hack/remix assignment with my 7th grade class. Let me give you a little bit of background on my school and its students. I work at a prep school where 90% of the students board. The school is all boys, grades 7-12, and I teach English 7-9. I think moving away from home for school is a huge adjustment for anyone, especially young adolescents. The effects of stress and pressures they face often show in my 7th grade classroom. My students deal with homesickness, learning how to be independent, working with a bell schedule and switching classes for the first time, and learning to cohabitate in a dormitory with a roommate and dozens of other peers. While my 7th graders genuinely care for one another, frustrations build up over time, which makes them lose their cool with each other. So this week we are talking about remaking/remixing something. I liked the example of taking used or average household items and creating something new, like the mobile/wind chime made of toys. Chad’s discussion last night also got me thinking about learning through play and how I can use it in my classroom. With all this in mind, I decided to attempt a creative teambuilding challenge for my students. Not only would we accomplish my ed677 task for the week, but my hope was also that it would also relieve stress, allow them to be creative and tactile, and encourage students to work within their teams to win the challenge.

Here were the rules of the “Tower Challenge”:

Each group received:

2 pieces of paper

1 pair of scissors

10 paper clips

10 inches of masking tape

They had about 5 minutes to talk and plan, then 20 minutes to assemble the highest freestanding tower possible.

They had a blast! Afterward they worked on a reflection detailing their team’s strategy, their struggles, and how they worked together. I’ll post some of the responses along with pictures a little later in the week. I found the idea on Edutopia and I suggest trying it if you’re looking for a teambuilding project in your classroom.


#f5f 2/1

This is sort of a Find 5 Sunday. Fridays are usually pretty hectic. But it was a good week for me, and I really felt positive after our Wednesday night chat. Here’s what I found for the week:

  1. I had my first Twitter chat this week. It had some positives and negatives, but overall I can see how it’s a powerful education tool.
  1. Emblazen-I appreciate the honesty of your blog posts. This week’s post about hearing Mayor Nutter speak, and your frustrations about the education system was relatable to so many of us.
  1. Beginning of New things- “Twitter is to bird as I am to dinosaur.” This made me laugh. While I somewhat enjoyed the Twitter chat, I am right there with you that I have 100 tasks to worry or think about at any given time, so when I do have free time, it’s usually not devoted to social media.
  1. I’ve been talking to friends and coworkers about this class and some of our discussions. This week, I spoke with a friend who works in college admissions about the concept of this class and its focus on equity. We had a very interesting conversation about equity in terms of college opportunities. Just as I noted in my blog post about the Twitter chat, talking to a diverse group of people about the subject matter gets you a lot of interesting perspectives.
  1. Finally, the Twitter chat also got me thinking how I can use Twitter while teaching literature. I’ve seen students make “Fakebooks” to show their research and knowledge of characters from novels, famous authors, historical figures, etc. Has anyone tried anything creative like that using Twitter? If so, I’d love to hear about it. I’m about to begin Romeo and Juliet with my all male 9th grade class. I’m thinking I’m going to need all the creative help I can get!

The Chatter About Twitter


Last night’s #techquity chat with our class was my first time ever using Twitter. I must admit I was somewhat negative going into the experience. Don’t get me wrong, the concept of twitter is pretty ingenious, and I understand why millions of people love it. I just didn’t think it was for me. I’m a somewhat private person in the social media world. I have a Facebook, but it’s mostly for connecting with my friends from college and posting cute pictures of my dog. When online, I typically keep my opinions to myself. While I love a good debate as much as the next person, I prefer having it face to face with intelligent conversation. When I come across heated discussions on Facebook or Twitter, they often lose their integrity when people stoop to generalizations or name-calling. It also seems like random people like hop in and give their two cents without even scrolling to the top to see what sparked things in the first place! Even in the news you hear about twitter wars between high profile celebrities or politicians. It becomes a contest of who can create the wittiest insult or comeback in 140 characters or less. Why do some people think it’s okay to drop communication etiquette and manners just because the conversation is online? So now that I probably sound like a negative Nancy, let me say I was pleasantly surprised with last night’s #techquity conversation. Here’s what I especially appreciated about the experience:

-Because it was a specific hash tag, only our connected learning crew was involved. No random trolls jumping in!

-It was a structured, intelligent conversation, and because the people who participated were from multiple education-related professions and backgrounds, we had a variety of ideas and opinions. It was refreshing!

-It was fast paced. By the time I thought of a tweet or two about one quote, another quote was posted, giving me a fresh idea to springboard off.

– I like the 140 character maximum for this type of activity because it frees me from the burden of creating long, drawn out responses. For our purposes of exploring these new concepts, brief posts were perfect.

See? Lots of positives. I don’t expect to start tweeting daily about my personal life, but I certainly see how it can facilitate productive discussion and be an awesome education tool. I’m interested to read about everyone else’s experience. Have an awesome weekend, #ed677!


1. I appreciated this quote I read from this week’s reading on the challenges of a participatory culture. I realize how much potential technology has to inspire learning, and the last couple weeks made me realize I need to start looking for ways to use it to my advantage!

“We may never know whether a tree makes a sound when it falls in a forest with no one around. But clearly, a computer does nothing in the absence of a user.”

2. I wanted to share this article I stumbled upon, as it deals with #clequity. It’s an interesting read and fits perfectly with our discussion!

3. I appreciated the article about Harry Potter fans successfully pushing Warner Bros to use fairly traded cocoa for their products. It makes me happy to see young people being ethically conscious and taking a stand for their beliefs! I was thinking lately that I would like to get involved in an extracurricular club at my school. I noticed that my building I work in does not recycle, and as any teacher knows, a TON of paper is wasted in schools. I’m exploring the idea of starting a recycling club. Not only would get my students involved in a participatory culture, but it might make them feel good about doing something good in their community.

4. Tahira—I appreciated what you mentioned in your post about the need to teach students responsible use of the internet, especially social media. They don’t realize that what you post online will be there forever! I try to show my kids articles about people who lose their jobs or reputation because of a blog post or picture that they didn’t think twice about before uploading. Unfortunately, stories like that are all over the news these days.

5. Two student teachers started this week at my school. Not only did it remind me of how nerve racking the first couple weeks of teaching can be, but i made me appreciate how far I’ve come since I student taught three years ago.

New year, new hobby

Hi Ed677 friends,

This week I decided to sign up for a six week zumba fitness class at my township community center. I had tried zumba a couple of times before and knew it was fun, but this is the first time I’ve ever signed up for a program (or any program for that matter) with my community center. I spend so much time at work during the week, and when I come home I either continue to work or have a tough time getting my brain out of work mode. I realized that when I try to relax on the couch at night, I actually make to do lists in my head or think about lesson planning. So I decided I needed some sort of hobby during the week that I could look forward to and that would hopefully help me switch out of teaching mode. At the first class on Tuesday, I tried to think about community fitness in the context of equity and connected learning. I came up with the following observations. First off, it was a supportive environment in which all the women encouraged one another. There were many different skill levels, from first timers, to seasoned zumba goers, to others that looked like they probably grew up taking dance lessons. (They were much more coordinated and graceful than me) But no matter what level people danced on, it was a comfortable and supportive environment in which we collaborated, socialized, and shared an interest, much like connected learning. In all, I had fun and I’m looking forward to next Tuesday’s class. Happy Wednesday, #clequity friends!

C’est le weekend!!

#f5f #clequity

Amy–Viewing/posting relevant videos for your classes is a great idea. Sometimes I’ll show a couple minute video of something English related, even if it’s not directly related to the lesson that day. I use it as motivation by saying ‘I want to show you a neat video I found but we have to get through our vocabulary first.’ My kids enjoy how it breaks up the monotony and gives them something to work toward. Have you seen NASA’s parody of the song “All About That Bass?” It’s called “All About That Space.” Pretty funny :)

Lizzy—Your blog looks great, you seem like a seasoned blogger. I took a writing class with Leaf Gustavson a few years ago and I conducted a 6 week writing workshop at Cheltenham High School. The students were awesome and it was a very inspirational experience for me. I bet it’s a great school to work for :)

Bonnie—I love that you start off telling us you’re a teacher, although you don’t currently have students. I think you’re in an awesome place right now, and that you have tremendous guts to leave your comfort zone in search of something more fulfilling. You go girl!

Amy—Setting ambitious, adventurous, crazy goals are so important! Everyone needs a bucket list, even if it’s just to dream of the future.

Kathleen– hearing about your childhood and after school activities made me smile. I remember getting off the school bus, dropping my book bag at the front door, and playing outside until my mom called us for dinner. The whole neighborhood used to get together for games of tag, manhunt, kickball. We made up dances to music, played house, built forts, you name it. I agree that letting children figure out how to entertain and amuse themselves is extremely important for development and creativity! #f5f