iPad Photography

This year my district is 1:1 with devices.  My 2nd graders each have an iPad to use in the classroom and take home for homework.

I always start my lessons with Digital Citizenship.  I use the K-12 Scope and Sequence from Common Sense Media.  These lessons are ongoing throughout the year and the kids love them.  They learn and internalize so much when you make digital citizenship a daily discourse.

After our first digital citizenship lesson, we began to explore the camera app on the iPad.  There is an excellent Brainpopjr video on taking photographs.

We learned how to select photo or video.  We learned how to pinch to zoom in and zoom out.  We learned why we might want to zoom in or zoom out for a photo.  We learned to make sure nothing is blocking the lens. (Like our fingers.)  We practiced taking selfies from different angles. (One of my sweet friends has 175 selfies all taken at the same time from different angles on his iPad.  I just had to laugh.)  We learned about framing our shots so that we get the image we want.  And most importantly, we learned to ask permission before taking a photo of another person.

I made this Hyperdoc so that we could practice some of our new skills.  Please feel free to use this.  You will have to make a copy in order to do so.

My students love taking photos, especially selfies.  I want them to learn, grow, and be responsible with their devices.  So far, we are off to a great start.

A New Year Awaits

The start of a new school year is always exciting and exhilarating.  Teachers are filled with new ideas.  Goals are being determined.  Plans and activities are being formulated to achieve the goals and dreams that every teacher has spent the summer dwelling on.

Students & parents have goals and dreams for the school year just as teachers do.  Parents may want to be more involved in school activities. Students may want to make better grades or have more friends or investigate a new interest.

We all, teachers, students, and parents arrive at the beginning of a new school year with success as the ultimate goal.

There are so many wonderful additions to education.  Changes and innovations occur daily.  The advent of 1:1 technology in my district brings many new ways to achieve the success in which we are all invested.  Online student portfolios, digital assessments, Hyperdocs, blogs, Google Classroom, learning management systems, YouTube channels, iTunes U, Twitter, Instagram, and the list of tools available for success goes on and on.

Some of my favorite tools for my elementary classroom are:  Seesaw, Common Sense Media, and Epic Books.

Seesaw  is a learning portfolio that is student driven.  Students can showcase their learning in a variety of ways with Seesaw.  They can use and annotate photos.  Students can create video, take notes, upload files, create a drawing, and add links.  Learning journals for each student allows work to be shared not only with teachers, but family members.  Seesaw also has a blog feature.  As a new Seesaw ambassador, I have learned so much more about Seesaw and I can’t wait to use what I’ve learned to empower my students with skills that will transform their learning experience.

I am also a new Common Sense Media ambassador, as well as a Common Sense Media Certified Educator – Digital Citizenship.  Common Sense Media is free to teachers and parents.  The K-12 Scope and Sequence enables me to teach Digital Citizenship to my students in ways they can relate to and embrace.  For teachers, Common Sense Media offers tech reviews, professional development, and lessons to enhance the multifaceted role we facilitate daily in our classrooms.  For parents, Common Sense Media offers a variety of book and movie reviews, as well as tech reviews.  Common Sense Media should be a trusted and go to resource for every teacher and parent.

Epic books is a favorite with my students year after year.  Epic is free for educators.  There are literally thousands of books, videos, and quizzes available for grades K-6.  Epic also allows teachers to create groups and assign books.  My students always enjoy Epic just for the sake of reading.  I enjoy the love of reading that begins for many of them with Epic books.  I love the fact that I can assign books and use Epic in reading groups.  Epic is not free for parents, but well worth the investment to have 25,000 books at your child’s fingertips.

These are some of my favorite technology tools with which to begin each school year.  These tools allow myself, my students, and their families to begin accomplishing our goals right away.  As I look forward to all this year holds I know we will find the success we are all committed to for our young learners.

Summer Must Reads – The Noisy Paint Box

The Noisy Paint Box tells the story of Vasily Kandinsky, The father of abstract painting.   This inspiring and enriching tale was written by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by Mary Grandpre’.  My 2nd graders love this book.  The text is as vibrant as Kandisky’s art, “The swirling colors trilled like an orchestra tuning up for a magical symphony.”  “The canary-colored mailbox whistling as he rode to work.”  “The scarlet sunset haze ringing above the ancient Kremlin walls.”

This story allows the reader to paint vivid pictures in the mind.  The words enhance the story and as you talk about what each eloquent description means and in turn enhance the vocabulary of your children.

We always enjoy some abstract painting after reading this lovely book.  I put out several different colors of water based paint and let the kids create.  They become engrossed as they try to capture the ideas now flowing through their own thoughts and imaginations.

Cultivate the mind and heart of a child by reading this classic work about a classic artist.


Summer Must Reads: Esperanza Rising


Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan is one of the most touching books I’ve ever read.  This tome about a young girl who goes from privilege to migrant worker after the death of her beloved father is a must read for all ages.

This is the perfect read-aloud for parents and teachers.  The author imparts a host of life lessons that can be used to start meaningful discussions with children.  The dialogue will have adults digging deep within their own hearts to take stock of personal beliefs.

Esperanza means to hope in Spanish.  The title character finds her hope as she triumphs over trials and difficulties.

If you’ve never read this book, pick it up this summer.  It is truly one of the best books in which I have ever gotten lost!


Sensational Summer Science: DIY: Wagon Garden

This summer take some time to explore science with your kids.  We are learning about the sun at my house.  We are experimenting with heat and light.  There are many ways to do this.  Here is just one idea.

Plant a garden.  Watch the video below to see how to plant a wagon garden.  This video was filmed with the time lapse effect and placed into iMovie.



Variations:  Use the wagon to hold pots of flowers or herbs.  Move the wagon into sunlight as needed.  Water each individual pot as needed.  Plant a fairy garden or a rock garden in a wagon.  Keep your gardening tools and supplies in the wagon as you head off to work in your flower beds or vegetable patch.

Hint:  Snapdragon flowers grow very well in a wagon garden.

Share your summer fun ideas in the comments.

Sensational Summer Science – Backyard Discovery Zone

Magnifying glasses are a fascinating scientific tool at my house.  This summer we are using playtime to learn more about the world around us.  We used magnifying glasses to explore some treasures we found around the house.  We went into the backyard to scout for new mysteries.


We also decided to melt candy with a magnifying glass.  We used a plastic tray and a metal tray.  We had a marshmallow, some skittles, a peppermint, and a chocolate covered almond.  The Texas sun was hot and the items on the metal tray melted faster than the items on the plastic tray with the magnifying glass.

Another engrossing activity is finding, observing, and even catching bugs.  We never get tired of the various bugs to be found in the backyard.

I have a Backyard Discovery Kit that makes playing outdoors a world of fun.

I have a Bug Catcher with a small net.

And of course Magnifying glasses.

A plastic bucket and shovel and some gardening tools.

I try to throw in new items that we can enjoy every once in awhile, hence the Sweet Basil growing kit.  I also have a new Solar Kit that will be a fun surprise.

You can make your own Backyard Discovery Kit.  Just fill it up with fun items your kids will enjoy using to ferret out all the wonders in the world around them.

Summer Must Reads

Are you looking for some great literature to read this summer.  I’m going to be sharing some of my favorite books.  The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry is one of my all time favorite books.  I read this book to my class every April around Earth Day.

There are many activities you can do with this book.  After reading the story, have your kids research one of the animals in the story on a tablet.  National Geographic Kids is a great place to start.  Check out San Diego Zoo for kids for some fascinating and easy to read information about jaguars.  For a higher reading level try Animal Fact Guide.  Go to Ranger Rick and find out how to make rain music.  Go to YouTube and search for RAINFOREST sounds for kids.  Your kids can hear what the rain forest must have sounded like when the story begins.

You can let your kids make animal masks or puppets.  They can act out the story.  You can research what is happening in rain forests around the world.  You can take a walk around your neighborhood and pick up trash.  There are endless activities you can do with this book.

I hope you love The Great Kapok Tree as much as I do.

Blasting Into Summer

Welcome to Summer!  That time of year when teachers can rejoice, recharge, rejuvenate, and renew for the upcoming school year.

I spent my first official week of summer at Camp Invention.  We built castles with flags on a pulley.  We had a joust.  We built snowball launchers (AKA slingshots).  We created targets and launched rockets.  We put together Bubble Blasters.  We truly had a blast this week!

The kids enjoyed creating and building with recyclable materials.  They thoroughly enjoyed designing and bringing their ideas to life.  Most of them didn’t seem to care when their Snowball Launchers failed.  (We didn’t have quite the right materials.)They had a blast just using their creative talents.  They couldn’t have been happier getting soaked when we launched their Bottle Rockets.  They may not remember the complete definitions of lift and trajectory, but they will always remember how far their rocket flew and how wet they were afterward.

I love Camp Invention.  There are no guided reading levels to attain.  There are no assessments to prepare for.  There are no RTI groups to facilitate.  We just had fun!  We had fun learning.  We had fun creating.  We had fun challenging ourselves to new heights.

If you, your child, your grandchild, or someone you know and love, gets a chance to participate in Camp Invention, don’t pass it up.  You will revel in an experience that makes learning and having fun synonymous in way that was always meant to be.

Each group added to the original castle constructed. The kids were all excited the next day to see how their castles had changed.
These castles formed an alliance and a treaty. These words weren’t part of our content, but we learned them anyway.





Snowball Launcher (AKA Slingshot)
Target practice!

Why Technology?

The purpose of technology in the classroom is to enhance instruction.  Simple explanation, but what does it mean?  The word enhance means to magnify, intensify, raise to a higher degree.  That is the purpose of technology in today’s classrooms, to raise instruction to a higher degree.

A prime example of raising instruction to a higher degree can be found in a recent Reading and Social Studies unit 2nd graders at my school completed.  We combined Reading and Social Studies TEKS in a biography unit on famous Americans.  Our students checked out library books on the famous American of their choice.  Our 2nd graders love to go to the library and get new books.  They enjoy reading a variety of genres, including biographies.  We read lots of fun stories about famous Americans to our students.  We also use technology to raise our instruction to a higher degree.

We created YouTube playlists of famous Americans to supplement the reading material our students found in the library.  We visited websites to discover more about our famous Americans.

A study of George Washington included a virtual tour of Mt. Vernon.  NASA was a great place to discover photos and information about John Glenn.   Some of our friends discovered a new passion for all things Laura Ingalls Wilder.

How did watching videos on YouTube and visiting websites magnify our instruction?  Seeing the places we were reading and learning about and how they look in real life enhanced (raised to a higher level) our students interest in all that we were learning.

The payoff?  Our students are still searching and exploring people they find fascinating.  Jean Michel Basquiat, the subject of the 2017 Caldecott Medal winner, just a few pages in and my kiddos were chomping at the bit to go find his artwork.

The bigger payoff?  These 2nd graders have unlocked a whole new world of learning and discovery.  They know that NASA is a great place to find all sorts of information about space.  National Geographic Kids is a favorite site to learn about the animal kingdom.  DOGO News is the place to go for news lovers.  Science Bob is captivating for my scientists.

Learning to use technology in the classroom is teaching our students how to be in charge of their own learning.  Learning to use technology in the classroom teaches our 2nd graders how to delve into new worlds in a safe and responsible way.

We owe our students an education that opens new horizons in this global world.  We can provide our students with an education that enables them to navigate this global world to raise their learning and awareness to the highest degree imaginable.

YouTube Playlists and Canvas LMS

Last week’s blog post showed how to create a YouTube playlist and load it into Google Classroom.  This week shows how to load a YouTube playlist into Canvas Learning Management System.  I hope you find it helpful.