Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Paperless Assessments

So, as I mentioned before, I got to play quite a bit with Google Chrome this school year. That came in handy when a group of us went to the CUE Conference in Palm Springs in March and learned that "Chrome is the New Black." I am very far from being an expert, but it was nice to see the incredible places that educators have already gone using this system!

The first place my mind went involved getting rid of some of the paper in my room. I am the queen of piles. As the year goes on and there is more to do, the piles get bigger and bigger. Once those little chromebooks arrived, I immediately knew what I wanted to start with.

Some of you may have the same thoughts: this whole common core thing is killing my students with writing and explaining! We transitioned this year into comprehension questions for each Houghton Mifflin story that involve collaboration and communication. They encourage the students to think more critically and, in some cases, creatively (see what I did there??). The problem we found with these questions was that they took the students forever and a day to write down the gist of what they discussed with their table groups. Enter: Google Forms.

I had dabbled in the basics of Google Forms and sort of knew what to do in terms of setting one up. So, I took the comprehension questions for that week and began to enter them into the Forms template (which provides options for longer/shorter responses, multiple choice, etc...)

*Note, make sure to include a name section when you create a form so that it will tell you who owns each response. Google creates a spreadsheet of the answers.

The confusing part became sharing the completed piece with my class. At first, I shared the form with all of them but immediately realized my mistake: they were all working in the same document. After some trial and error, I settled on creating a Google Doc that contained the links to each set of comprehension questions. I shared that doc with my class and they were able to access the links from there. 

I feel that there is a lot more that I can do to utilize this technology, but for now (and for computers shared with about 8 other classrooms) I am living in a very basic world in order to downsize my counter piles. Plus side: handwriting is much easier to read when it is typed into a spreadsheet!

Monday, July 7, 2014

It Only Took Till July...

Hello, my friends!
I welcomed myself back what feels like ages ago, but here I finally am!
The moment school got out, I jetted off to vacation and left behind all of my classroom thoughts! While all sorts of things happened over the course of vacation and the time following, I have finally found my brain again. I know you're all very excited!

I have not yet begun all of the crafting that summer will entail. It is coming, but for the moment I am fairly preoccupied with the fluffy rug that came home with me a few weeks ago:
I don't quite trust Miss Puppy-Head enough for me to bust out the paint or the glue gun yet. For now, I thought I would chat to you about my technology experience this year. It was sort of a doozy for me.

Back in August, I was asked to be a technology representative for our school site. This job entailed attending meetings and discussing district tech needs and the future of this crazy world we've created. Alongside of that job, I became the go-to on our school site for basic troubleshooting needs. Ironically, much of the tech that I was being asked to help with was not even installed in my classroom! But everything changed during the winter with the arrival of....a whole cart of ChromeBooks!

I'm sure most of you are familiar with the teeny tiny lappy computer that runs primarily as an internet delivery system. 
The device runs Google Chrome and is incredibly simple to use...and I suddenly had 36 of them in my classroom! 

Chromebooks offer the option for users to log in as a "guest," (which we utilized in our upper grades more when time was of the essence) but the students were all given individualized Google accounts that had the social components deactivated. This meant that we could create digital portfolios using Google Drive! We could build presentations using Google Sheets! I could assess my class using Google Forms! We could make spreadsheets about the school's track team using Google Spreadsheets!...oh, that was just me.

Suddenly, amazing doors were open to me! I had always been a Safari user, so these devices gave me the motivation to begin playing with the Chrome Browser and research ways to use it in my class. I can't tell you how exciting it was to have the opportunity to play with these things for a couple of months before having to share!

The thing that was the easiest to play with and is so nice to incorporate even without personal computers in your classroom was KidBlog. This website gives classrooms the opportunity to build a blogging community and teach students internet rules and etiquette. A usual morning in my room would include the assigning of a high-interest informational article (lengths varied) and giving a free response question on the blog. The students were always given the opportunity to positively comment on each others' writing; however, in the early stages of third graders having computers...typing skills are minimal and responses generally took a very long time.

I would encourage you to try out the site. It was very easy to set up and it offers a certain level of security. Students can only enter your blog with a specific password to your specific blog URL. That limits their ability to have things widely read across the wide, dark interwebz. 

Cosmetically, KidBlog has some work to be done, but the fidelity of the idea is there. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Hi there!
Welcome back, Kaytie! It's been a year!

Once upon a time, many moons ago, I switched classrooms. This year has been a combination of rebuilding and getting used to living in a new room with *gasp* actual storage. As we come up toward summer here in a couple of days, I am looking ahead to teaching not only third grade, but also second at the same time. If I classified myself as "rebuilding" this year, I have a feeling "surviving" will be a largely used word next year. 
For now, I am grabbing a billion fonts that I love...I am looking into nerdy quotes to put on cute little chalkboards...and I am looking at more efficient ways to collect and catalog classwork and homework next year. 
Look forward to summer and actual blogging (promise). 
This sweet little girl and I will be planning and crafting together all summer long <3

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Too Many Devices

I have decided that I don't enjoy blogging on the iPad.

Coming soon: An iPad learning experience write up!

For now, I am packing to head off to Comic-Con San Diego. I know, I know...I've kept the fact that I am a huge nerd super under wraps....I don't have an ewok in my classroom...
This is my first experience with the whole Comic-Con world. My friends have gone for years and have watched it get bigger and bigger. Last year when they were there waiting in line for the Firefly panel  enjoying themselves, I realized how super jealous I was. So now, I have all of my best digs laid out and ready to go:

But the one thing that surprised me is that there are legitimate panels for educators at this massive event. Things like:


and finally...

Basically, I've decided that I deserve professional development units for this. 
Not only is the sci-fi /fantasy nerd in me incredibly excited for this event; but also, the educational geek is totally stoked to hang with some of these educators that probably have enjoyed a sci-fi day or two in their classrooms over the years. 

Spirit day in my room at the end of the year....Love, LOVE that this amazing kiddo dressed up as the 11th Doctor!

Having all of those panels in mind, I will try and keep my blog updated through the duration of this trip. It may be iPad blogging, which either I haven't figured out (and hate because of that) or is really lame (and I hate it because of that). 

For now, back to packing because this is happening:

and I need to stop blogging and playing Candy Crush at the same time.

Do you do any sorts of exciting professional development over the summer?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Twitter in the Classroom

There are about 5,000,000 things I should be doing right now...namely, actually getting my act together to leave the house...not happening anytime soon...because one of the things on the "should be doing" list is "blog." It just doesn't feature prominently at the top of the list!

At this point in the summer, a lot of people in the bloggy world seem to have access to their classrooms. If you remember from last summer, I have to turn in my keys before finally going on holiday...and we can't pick them up for another month. So while so many of you wonderful teachers out there are busily working on your rooms steadily, here I sit thinking about my room...

Thought is a powerful thing; however, it doesn't seem to get the job done. I mentioned before that we had a couple of days after the official end of the school year in which we had to go in and do some work. During that time, I moved my classroom and did very little more. Which means that I have not yet gotten to set up any of the features that I loved about my room last year. Namely, I've been thinking about my Twitter Wall.

This wall was something that featured fairly prominently in my language arts program this year. Each child was given a space and a "username" to go with it. I had printed out those pieces, laminated them, and then used my leveling app to make sure that they were OCD here.
My mistake at that time was that I had run out of card stock and just printed on regular paper. Because of that, I wound up sending each kiddo home with their final tweet of the year and plan to re-print on card stock this go around. 

At the beginning of each story, I would ask the students to embody one of the characters and give them a specific topic to tweet about. For example, in the story "Raising Dragons," I told the class that they had just walked into a cave and found a dragon egg (just like the main character)...tweet your reaction. 

They would head to the back of the room with a dry-erase marker, and write out their tweets underneath their own username. My students loved it! Especially when they could write messages to their parents for Back-To-School-Night and Open House. 

I also linked up an actual Twitter account for my classroom that I used to tweet out homework reminders, compliments for the day, spirit day ideas, etc...This was something that I had sort of idealized in my head this year. I love the idea still, but I let it fall flat when other things were more important. Also, I didn't encourage parents to follow as much as I should have.

It is my intent this coming year to make a point of asking families to set up an account, even if they are only following me. This will be a quick, easy way to keep the families appraised of what's going on. 

Things to note:
-Tweeting will never take the place of a phone call or email to parents if there is something important going on. Even though we live in a very tech-available world, not every student or family has access to the internet and tweets shouldn't be used to pass along super-important information.
-Much like on my blog, I avoid using student names or faces. Twitter is still the wide-open-interwebz, and what you put there is around forever. Even if your students' family signed off on the photo-release for your school, it is probably wise to keep their faces and names private.

And finally, I did make an update this year and created a new account. Last year's account was my school/room number....but as I've mentioned several times...I moved rooms! So now I have a slightly more generic one....

Okie doke. Here's to text-heavy blogging with coffee in hand. Off to work on some of the things on my list!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Cupcakes Over PDFs

This time of year, going to the Central Valley is probably a bad decision. However, when you're having a family gathering, I guess it's okay. 

Instead of doing any of the work that I planned on doing while I was there, I made cupcakes instead. Cookies and cream cupcakes, mind you.

For the first time, instead of a teaching post, I want to share this recipe with you! It makes some nice vanilla cupcakes with a fairly light cream cheese frosting...but here's the kicker: add Oreos. 

You will need:
1 3/4 cup cake flour
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup butter (cubed and at room temp)
4 eggs
1 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup Oreo crumbles
24 Oreos

(Recipe adapted from

3/4 butter (cubed and at room temp)
4 oz light cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp milk
Extra Oreo crumbles

Ok, so I've been playing with cookies and cream cupcakes all summer. While I've been fairly happy with the result, I've been looking for a cake recipe that yielded a sturdier cake. This wins. 

*Note, food processors work really well for crumbling the cookies. I forgot I had one at first and made some really crazy looking models the first time.

**Note #2: I always use a bit more vanilla than called for...who doesn't like vanilla?

Start by lining your cupcake tins with liners while your oven preheats to 350. 

Add a whole Oreo to the bottom of each liner. This makes each one have a cereal box prize in it! 

This was my favorite part of the recipe...dump the first five ingredients into a bowl and combine them with a fork. Easy peasy. 

(I used a stand mixer here, but arm mixing is just as effective.)

Drop in small-ish portions of the cubed butter and stir to combine each portion.

Mix in the eggs one at a time. 

Pour vanilla into the milk and pour the solution into the rest of the batter in small splashes (a whole lot of sloshing happened when I got a little excited mixing.)

Once everything is combined, fold in your cookie crumbs. Your batter should look like this:

To fill my tins, I love my old, beat up, hand-me-down ice cream scoop. Fill each tin (on top of the pre-loaded Oreo) about 2/3 full. I probably could have gone more, but was worried about massive conjoined cupcakes. 

Remember how you pre-heated? Load these guys in the oven for like 15-20. Don't be surprised if it takes 18 minutes, there was not yet any golden brown happening. 

While they baked, I made the frosting, which consisted of washing the mixing bowl, dumping all of the frosting ingredients in, and turning the mixer on. If the frosting is too thick, add more milk. I've adapted this recipe a few times, and this combination has so far turned out the best. 

At this point, you should have cooling cupcakes and completed frosting. All that's left is to frost and then sprinkle some extra cookie crumbs on top. 

Cupcake success!

I'll get back to real teacher blogging soon...but for now, I have cupcakes to eat!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Random Summer Mash-Up

My dear friend, Becky, over at Musings From the Foreign Teacher has been putting me to shame....
Don't worry, I'm busily planning my trip to visit her as we speak...rather than blogging...or really doing much of anything.

School got out ages ago, and I have spent a lot of time looking at the file box that is lingering in the back of my car waiting to be sorted into a lovely orange binder that will spend lots of bonding time with the other binders I made last summer. However, the amount of work associated with that project has left me with little motivation to do it, and lots of motivation to plan for Boyfriend's and my trip to London.

Similarly, I have been trying to get back on the running bandwagon ever since I got back from visiting a friend in Scotland over spring break. So my Doctor Who socks and I have been spending a lot of miles together on the treadmill.

I've also avoided work by doing mindless work! 
This year, our district started the process of adding in days that had been previously removed due to budget issues. For the moment, this consisted of us teachers coming in and putting in two full days after the kiddos had left the building. When all was said and done, I really enjoyed this process. In the past, we have had a deadline of 4pm on the last day of school to be over and done and closed up for the summer. With all of that extra time this year, I could have procrastinated a lot more! 

But instead of procrastinating, I had the joy of moving my classroom across the hallway and into a much more spacious/storage-ready center room. Having lived as a crazy minimalist (or as much as a teacher can) for the last two years, I found that I have more empty cabinets in this new room than I do filled ones!

Much to my OCD's dismay, I wasn't able to completely settle in or get totally unpacked. There wasn't much of a point. All of the desk-y things needed to be stowed away no matter what, so a lot of my "unpacking" consisted of shoving things into a file cabinet and locking it.

This is why there are no pictures yet.

Instead, I slowly set to work trying to figure out what I wanted to do in order to semi-cover the windows that connected me to the classrooms of six other teachers. Originally, I had wanted to put cute contact paper up on said windows to create bulletin board spaces that separated my room from the next (there are two windows and a door for each of the six rooms)...however "cute" and "contact paper" didn't wind up working together in the merry land of the interwebz, so I started over.

It came to me at a one year old's birthday party....bunting flags. 

I love them. They're adorable. They can suit any space. They're easy!

I like it! So, since I'm being super frugal and going to Michael's just about every week; I popped over there and grabbed some books filled with cute scrapbook paper.

If this blog has done anything, it has brought to light my tendency to go overboard...having purchased my scrapbook paper, I fell in love with two different sets of color combos. (i.e. two different forms of orange/pink/teal...but mostly orange...) Being me, I set up to cut out enough flags to re-do my windows a few times this year.

Start by making a triangle template out of cardboard.
The best decision I made for efficiency purposes was to fold the 12"x12" scrapbook page in half and therefore got 6 total triangles (based on the size of my template) out of each page.

I pulled out my trusty cutting board, traced a billion triangles, and used my slide cutter to cut them all out.

Now I have an over-achiever amount of triangles.

This was the time that I high-tailed it over to Lakeshore to laminate all of the crazy triangles...because, go big or go home. Plus, the ladies at Lakeshore always like the ridiculous projects that you laminate at their big laminator, right?

So this is the projected final product. I am currently in debate over whether I want to use the orange yarn that I have here (out of cheapness) or to get plain white ribbon...

Currently though, I have been getting majorly distracted by lame things like Candy Crush Saga and Facebook and still have a bunch of triangles to cut out of the big lamination sheets. Doesn't help that blogs like Skinny Runner keep pulling me away from actual teaching productivity with their shiny awesomeness.

I am looking to figure out how to add PDFs of some of the adorable chevron printed Daily 5 pages I've been making on here...while it feels like I am being counterproductive, I am actually doing a good amount of reading/making things dealing with that system. I'll keep doing my homework and update as I go!

And also, mostly because I need to catch up to Becky, I will work to blog tomorrow and answer all of the things she assigned to me with the Leibster Award.

More on that tomorrow!

For now, here's a cute puppy: