Getting the Word Out

Parent communication – the bane of a teacher’s existence!  Each year teachers strive to find a means to communicate with parents that will reach all, engage all, and inform all.  There are so many forms of social communication available.  How do you know which one to choose?  How do you even know if you should just choose one?  How do you decide if your communication with parents is effective?

Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, email, Google drive, blog posts, e-newsletters, the list can go on and on.  I’ve used just about every form of communication a teacher can think of.  I usually determine what is best on a year to year basis.  Two years ago I used Instagram successfully.  Last year, the parents of my students (overall) were not interested in Instagram.  I made my own newsletters in Google and sent them via email.  I had more than one parent request they be sent in PDF form as not all parents had a Google account.

Creating a newsletter in Google isn’t difficult.  You can make your own template that can be re-used each week.  You can send these newsletters directly from your drive through a Google email account.  I did that, and also downloaded the newsletter in PDF form for those parents who requested a PDF format.  Here is a screenshot of my Google newsletter.  I made it using drawing tools.  It only took a few minutes to create my own template.

news examp 1

Creating a newsletter through Google or as a Word document and sending it to parents via email is a quick and easy way to keep parents updated.  It is basically a newsletter, conveying through written word, information parents need to know.

Instagram is another quick and easy way to stay in touch with parents and for parents to feel as if they are staying in touch with their child’s classroom.  Create your own Instagram account.  It’s free!  Take pictures of what’s happening in your classroom and post them!  You can even teach kids to take pictures and post.  (We’ll talk about teaching kids how to post soon!)  Parents who are Instagram users themselves generally love following and responding to your classroom.

This year I’m using Twitter and Smore to reach out to my student’s parents.  Twitter is much like Instagram;  take and post pictures with brief descriptions of what your kiddos are doing throughout the day.  You don’t have to post throughout the day, but any and all activities are usually twitter worthy.  Parents can follow you and see your tweets throughout the day as well.  These types of daily communication allow parents to feel more connected to their child’s life while at school.  Remembering to take those photos and tweet them can be a bit hectic at the beginning of the year.  Here is a screenshot of a tweet from a few weeks ago.

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 9.35.30 PM

Smore is an e-news platform that allows you to create all sorts of flyers to keep your parents informed and connected to your classroom.  I’m using it as a newsletter each week.  I can post information about upcoming events, what we’ve been learning, and anything else I want parents to know about.  Photos can be added throughout the flyer.  This gives each flyer a personal and relevant touch.  Smore also lets you see how many viewers have accessed the flyer.  There is a free version and a paid version.  Here is a screenshot of the free version.

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 9.38.33 PM

I’m also creating a flyer with important information about my classroom procedures.  I plan to keep these flyers available all year so parents can go back and access them if necessary.  I will be doing that by creating folders within my Smore account and saving each flyer instead of re-using each flyer.  Once a flyer is complete and ready to view, you just send the link to parents through email or a Learning Management System.

I enjoy taking photos of my students as they are learning and growing.  Keeping parents abreast of what is going on in our classroom is a treat and a privilege.

How do you communicate with parents?  Please share in the comments.  Don’t forget to click the Follow button in the bottom right hand corner to journey with me through classroom technology.

All Things PicCollage


I love PicCollage.  It is a versatile app that can be used in your classroom in multiple ways.  PicCollage is one of the first apps I teach my 2nd graders.  Every year about half of them are familiar with PicCollage and about half are not.  For this reason, I always start with a simple lesson on how to use PicCollage.

We have been learning about Science.  What is science?  What are scientists?  What do scientists do?  What tools do scientists use?  We are preparing our 2nd graders for becoming scientists and STEAM learners.  I used PicCollage to let my students showcase what they learned about science topics.

PicCollage is an app that allows users to take photos or upload photos from the web.  Students can add text, background, and stickers to their collages.  These are simple and easy to use.  There are also templates available.  I always begin in freestyle mode.  I show students how to use the web search feature to find images they are interested in using.  I show them how to add text and change the font.  I show them how to add background.  PicCollage is so user friendly that “how to” lessons take a very short period of time.  Students catch on quickly.  PicCollage becomes a favorite app for use in the iPad station.  Students will create collages for friends, family, birthdays, favorite sport teams, and all sorts of topics they find  interesting.  Very soon, I will be teaching them how to email these collages to the family members for whom they’ve been created.

I love PicCollage for the simple fact that it allows my students who avoid paper/pencil tasks like the plague, a quick and easy way to show me what they have learned.  Many children have fine motor skill issues that make completing paper/pencil tasks pure torture. Many children are so 21st century oriented that they would truly prefer to use technology to show what they know.  I have had students in the past that I truly didn’t see from their paper/pencil activities what they were capable of.  Those students often excel at iPad activities such as PicCollage.  I like to see higher level thinking in my students.  PicCollage allows kids to shine in ways that paper/pencil activities often do not.

Take a look at a few of our first PicCollage assignments.  This is a simple, easy way for kids to show what they have learned and for teachers to assess that learning.



As our skills in PicCollage grow, and we become more fluent digital learners, I will be updating and sharing the many ways we will be using PicCollage in my classroom.  Please share in the comments the ways you and your students apply PicCollage to 21st century learning.

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Making Friends with Teligami

The beginning of every school year brings new adventures, new opportunities, new beginnings, and new friends.  Elementary school teachers spend much time helping students renew old relationships and develop new ones.  We always read stories about friendship and search for new activities to create bonding experiences for our new students.

I love random pairing.  I also prefer to put my students into groups of 2 for partner activities.  I like 2 kids to a group for the simple reason that participation tends to be higher in smaller groups.  With groups of 3 or more it seems like someone is always sitting and observing instead of actively participating.

This week, our first week back in school, we spent a lot of time doing partner activities.  I use a random drawing process to partner my students.  There is always some shock at first.  There is usually some trepidation when someone ends up paired with someone they don’t really know.  Girls and boys who end up paired together usually give each other some strange looks.  By Friday, the kids understood how the process works and for the most part just grinned at their new partners.  I truly believe this random pairing goes a long way in forging new friendships within my classroom.

We undertook all of the usual first week activities for early elementary grade levels.  We read a series of Kevin Henkes books.  Chester’s Way, Wemberly Worried, Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse and of course, Chrysanthemum are just a few of the books we used this week.  He is my favorite author and the perfect author for a Back to School unit.  We played Getting to Know You games.  We prepared activity after activity for partners to come together, work together, and in the process, get to know each other.

On Friday, we had another random partner drawing.  This time we were drawing for friends to interview.  Each student had a brief interview sheet with some basic questions such as age, favorite food, favorite subject, etc.  The two partners then set about interviewing each other.  After the interview process was completed, we watched a YouTube video on how to create a Teligami.  We also watched a 33 second Teligami video that had been uploaded to YouTube.  All of this preparation took about 10 minutes.   A few of my students had used Teligami before, but most had not.

Their task was to create a Teligami introducing their new friend.  They could create an animated character for the introduction.  They could use a Teligami background or they could take a photo of our classroom for the background.  I didn’t let them download from the internet for background images.  We haven’t had that lesson yet.  They could record their voices introducing their friend or they could type the text and let the Teligami app generate a computer voice.  Everyone chose to make their own voice recording of course.

Teli 1

The kids had a great time interviewing friends and creating  Teligami characters.  I got to know my kiddos a little better by observing their tech skills and their creativity.

Teli 2

How do you use Teligami in your classroom?  Please comment to share your ideas.  If you like my blog please click on the follow button in the bottom right hand corner of the screen.










Guided Reading – It’s an “EDpuzzle”

I love Guided Reading time.  I teach reading in the morning, and I love this time to be with my students in small groups or even one on one.  I love the conversations we have.  I enjoy listening to my kiddos share what’s on their minds and what’s going on in their lives.  We alway spend a few precious moments in conversation.  This skill is as necessary as reading.

I love diving into a new book.  I’m always anxious to see how the students will react.  Have they read this book?  Are they familiar with this topic?  Are they interested in this topic?  What do they already know?  Oftentimes, my kids have quite a bit of background knowledge (schema) about one of the books we are reading.  Other times, they have none.  This past spring I discovered a tool to help build background and understanding before my 2nd graders ever come to the reading table – EDpuzzle.

EDpuzzle is a site that allows teachers to choose from hundreds of videos to engage student learning.  These videos come from the EDpuzzle site, YouTube, Khan Academy, and many more.

EDpuzzle videos resize

I love this site because I can cut or trim the video and only use certain parts or I can use the whole video.  I can insert questions that must be answered before students continue viewing the video.

Teachers can login using a Google account or an Edmodo account.  Students can be added easily from both Google Classroom and Edmodo.  I just login with my Google account.  I added my students from Google Classroom.  That was it, very simple to get started.  There is a great tour at the beginning to show you how to use the site.

Edp login new


EDpuzzle teach page

I like to add videos for the whole class as well as small groups.  Sometimes if my groups are reading similar books or books on the same topic I add videos for the whole class to view.  I can have my kids view the video at the Reading table before we begin.  I can also have them view the videos independently or in a small group while I’m meeting with others.

GR EDpuz

GR EDpuz 2

Adding this piece to my guided reading repertoire has increased student engagement and success at the reading table.  My students have grown in knowledge as the videos support the learning that is taking place in the reading group.  They can’t wait to see the new book that will go along with the videos they’ve watched.   I get excited when my kiddos get excited!

How do you use technology in your Guided Reading groups?  Please share in the comments section.

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What Floats Your Boat? The Components of an Elementary STEAM Lesson


Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics!  Adding Art to STEM allows for the creativity side of the brain that is so needed in design.

If you’re an elementary school teacher you probably spend some time thinking about STEM/STEAM lessons.  You probably scour Pinterest for ideas.  Search TPT for more ideas.  Seek the advise and ideas of the professionals you know and those you may not know.  Finding a STEM/STEAM lesson that will truly be a STEM/STEAM lesson can be serious business.  You’ve probably found more than a few lessons that purported to be STEM/STEAM which really weren’t.

What does a STEM/STEAM (from here on, I will just use the STEAM acronym.) lesson need to be authentic. Here are the components my teammate, Leighann, and I used in a STEAM lesson on boat building and buoyancy.  We teach in Texas so we just have to make sure our lessons connect to our TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) and standards.  There are several 2nd Grade Science and Math TEKS this lesson addressed.

Before we began our lesson we took some time to build BACKGROUND for our students.  We used children’s literature.  We watched some videos of sail boats.  We let the kids share their experiences with boats.  The experiences of some our students ranged from fishing on a jon boat to sailing on luxury cruise liner.  Two of our favorite books for this lesson are The Raft by Jim La Marche and Maggie and the Pirate by Ezra Jack Keats.

boat the raft

boat Maggie pirate

Building Background is necessary as so many children today have varied experiences.  Not every child will have the experience of sailing or riding on a boat.  Not every child will have the experience of playing with boats in the water.  Building Background gives them a point of reference for the lesson.

EXPLORATION comes after building Background.  This is also where we talk about the problem or challenge to the STEAM lesson.  In this lesson, students had to build a boat that would float across a pool with weight and without weight.  In the Exploration phase, we show the materials available to use during boat building (the ENGINEERING phase).  We experiment with the materials and a tub of water to see which materials float and which do not float.  This phase is fun for both students and teachers.  I enjoy hearing them “talk” about what will happen to each item placed in the tub of water.  Some of them are very accurate and some are way off on what they think will happen.

After exploring what the materials will do in water, we begin the BRAINSTORMING phase of the lesson.  Brainstorming can be done as a whole group or in small groups.  In this phase students discussed ways to build a boat that would float.  They discussed which materials they thought would be best for floating and carrying weight.  They also shared some of their ideas on how they wanted to construct their boats.

Build Boat Brainstorm withblur

When Brainstorming is completed, we split the kids up into small groups for the PLANNING phase.  Groups of 2-4 work best.  I also like to use random pairing to group my students.  When the small groups are formed, the kids begin to plan with their team how they will design their boat.  They will discuss together.  Every team member gets to voice ideas.  They sketch their ideas and list the materials they will use in constructing their boats.  They “write” out their plan, including measurements.

boat planning 1 with blur

Finally, we are to the ENGINEERING phase of the lesson.  This is where the teams actually build their boats using the materials designated for the challenge.  They have explored the materials, brainstormed for ideas, and created a plan for constructing their boat.

boat 1   boat 2

They are very proud of their engineering skills!

Thus begins the TESTING phase.  Real engineers test their inventions in some way.  Whether it be a prototype or the actual invention, or both.  The work is tested to see if the problem or challenge has been solved.  Our students had to float their boat across a pool with and without weight.  We used a fan as a source of wind to help the boats sail.  I will never forget the cheering and encouragement as the students tested their boats.  They wanted the boats of every team to float all the way across the pool!

boat test 2  boat test 3

The final phase of the lesson is the REFLECTION phase.  In this phase we visit with teams, either whole group or small group.  We discuss the success or failure of their boat.  We also discuss what they would do differently next time.  We have the students talk and write about what they learned.  This is an important phase!  Don’t skip it; this is where we make sure learning has taken place and that students understand exactly what they have learned.

These 7 phases (BACKGROUND, EXPLORATION, BRAINSTORMING, PLANNING, ENGINEERING, TESTING, and REFLECTION) of a STEAM lesson are my version of the components of a successful STEAM lesson for elementary students.  There are many great resources available.  Find a resource that works for your classroom and enjoy creating and teaching STEAM lessons that will enhance your students math, science, problem solving, and collaboration skills for years to come.

Here are some links to some great resources.

Link 1                                          Link 2                                   Link 3

If you have a successful STEAM lesson, please share in the comments!

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Camp Invention

This summer I participated in Camp Invention.  This is an amazing program designed to engage kids in STEAM activities.  Kids will participate in challenges and activities designed toward problem solving and 21st century skills.  I was the facilitator of the Maker Studio of the Epic Park series.  Students going into grades 1-6 rotated through the activities every day.  In Maker Studio the kids bring a machine from home to take apart.  The idea is to learn how the item works by reverse engineering.  As kids take the machine apart, hopefully they are learning what each part is and what each part does to make the machine work.

Camp Invention 3

Camp invention 2

Camp invention 4

These youngsters learn how to use tools such as screwdrivers, hammers, pry bars, and allen wrenches. They learn about power sources with batteries of different voltages.  They learn about manual power sources such as a hand crank.  They watch videos of inventors that challenge their problem solving skills as well as their creativity.  After a few days of taking apart the machines, these young inventors get to start planning how they can re-purpose the parts into new inventions.  The Camp Invention program supplies all materials needed.  The kids bring take-apart machines from home and recyclable materials to use in various projects and inventions.  Campers brought old VCR machines, flashlights, radios, DVD players, mixers, and many other types of machines to take apart.  One camper brought an old sewing machine.  They also brought many, many, many different recyclable materials:  egg cartons, boxes, carpet squares, legos, puzzles pieces.  You name it, someone probably brought it.  It took two large classroom to hold all of these materials.  On the last day of the week long program, campers showcase their inventions and parents visite the showcase to see all of the wondrous learning that has taken place.  This was an exciting week!  There are many different kinds of summer camps:  baseball, football, soccer, and just about every other sport camp imaginable.  Some communities offer various music camps.  Camp Invention is a place for those kids not interested in sports to go for a week of summer fun.  Don’t get me wrong though, Camp Invention is for all kids!   Every child who participates will walk away with new ideas, concepts, creations, and inventions.  Every child will walk away with a sense of accomplishment and a keenness to keep inventing!

Here is a link to the Camp Invention website.  Check it out, you won’t regret it.

Field Trip E-Readers

Every year after we finish learning about pioneers and early Texans, we take our 2nd graders to Dallas Heritage Village.  If you are from the Dallas area, this living museum use to be called Old City Park.  Teachers, students, and families love this trip.  We always have as many family members attending our field trips as students.  This support makes a wonderful day even better!  We usually go in the spring when the weather is at its best and let students and their families roam the park at their leisure.   The park provides information, but this year we decided to do a Photo Scavenger Hunt.

DHV Photo Hunt

Students and their family members sought out the suggested locations and took pictures.  Most people used their cell phones.  Some of the kids took the pictures themselves, but remember they are 2nd graders, so they mostly wanted to be in the photos.

After the field trip, family members sent the photos to teachers in an email.  Teachers uploaded the photos to a file in our Google Drive.  We shared the file with our students.  Next we taught our students how to make a Google Slide Presentation.  Students chose the photos they wanted to use and wrote about each picture.  We gave them parameters, such as how many slides needed to be in each presentation.  We wanted them to use correct capitalization, punctuating, and syntax.  They knew we were going to make these presentations into E-Readers they would share with their families.  Students shared their presentations with teachers, and we made some editing suggestions.  In the end though, we accepted the work they presented.  The kids loved making these E-Readers!  They had no difficulty in working with Google Slides.  Some of them did have a hard time deciding which photos to use.  When they completed their presentations, we saved them as a PDF.  We sent the PDF E-Reader to families in an email.  We chose to do PDF E-Readers because they can be opened on any device.

The students learned so much about creating a slide presentation.  They learned how to use the photos and write about them.   We also made End of the Year Memory Book E-Readers, as well as, Life Cycle of Butterfly E-Readers.

Click on the links below to view a couple of sample E-Readers from this field trip.

If you have done something similar with your students please click on the comments and share your ideas!

Dallas Heritage Village Aden

Dallas Heritage Village Shelby

21st Century Classrooms

I teach 2nd grade in a building that was new in the late 1980s.   It is a wonderful building.  Our classrooms are large.  We have storage space that most teachers would envy.  Our district does it’s very best to keep us updated in the newest trends.  They are updating our wireless infrastructure this summer.  It’s the best place in the world to teach, with parent support, administrative support, and community support in abundance.  But it is still a building constructed in the 1980s.  We are working hard to transform our teaching, our materials, and our building into a 21st century school that will enable our students to grow and excel to their maximum potential.  We are adding a MakerSpace in our library.  We are adding furniture and innovative classroom ideas to speed along this transformation.  A few of my teacher buddies and I painted our reading tables with Dry Erase paint.  Watch the video below for a step by step tutorial on how to make your own Dry Erase Table.  Then check back here periodically to see all of the ways we are becoming a school of the future.


Welcome to

Welcome to I love classroom technology.  I have been wanting to start this blog for quite some time.  Let me tell you a little bit about what I envision here.  I want this to be a place where educators can find new ideas and share some of their own.

Education is undergoing a revolution.  STEAM, MakerSpace, Genuis Hour, and one to one classrooms are the foundation of what 21st century classrooms need to have in order to prepare our students for the world in which they are learning to navigate.  One day they will be in charge of this dynamic new world.  I believe as parents, educators, and mentors we have a responsibility to prepare our children for this world we ourselves may find intimidating.

That is the purpose of this blog.  I want to have a place to share what I am learning and doing in my own journey as an educator, parent, and grandparent.  I want others on this same endeavor to find this blog a place where we can all learn and grow together.  I want this to be an online 21st century learning community for all who want to see our children become the leaders of this “brave new world” they are meant to be.

Join me here each week as we seek to make the most of this educational revolution.