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:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

QR Adventures

Okay, so we had a big technological adventure last week in preparation for our Open House. Several months ago, one of our wonderful third grade team members visited a technology conference and came back with a myriad of seriously amazing ideas. One of them was implementing QR codes in the classroom somehow. 
Since this was our first experience with QR codes, we figured Open House was a good time to debut them; rather than using them during class time. So as Open House drew closer, we really had to focus our thought process and decide how exactly we wanted to use these codes. 
Because we are third grade teachers, the solar system plays a gigantic role in our spring curriculum. Through the solar system unit, we do a bunch of different projects with a large focus on a research-based planet powerpoint presentation. Now let me tell you, teaching third graders how to use powerpoint is its own adventure....something I would like to block out for about a year....However! The end result was pretty nice. 
The kiddos researched their assigned (i.e. drawn out of a bag) planet and filled out an outline in order to have their slides managed early on. Upon completion of the project, we teachers created a dropbox file for the documents. 
We figured that was a simple to use, safe place to store the students' digital documents. We even went so far as to ensure that there was a specific account for the documents so that they were secure, though I don't believe that that is entirely necessary if you have our own Dropbox account. From there, Dropbox will assign each file its own URL, which is necessary in completing a QR code. 
All you need to do is right click on the file and select "Share Link."

This will open your link in a new tab and allow you to copy and paste the link into the QR generator of your choice. For our purposes, we used This website is incredibly easy to use and allowed us to pop out about 115 QR codes for the grade level in a school day.

Just copy your link from Dropbox into the appropriate box, select the color of your code if you wish, and then hit download or print. Again, for our purposes, we downloaded everything into a Word document and wrote their names underneath.

Because this was for Open House, we printed the codes and mounted them on cute paper for the parents to scan with their phones or tablets. All of this worked to great success! The parents were happy and the kids were stoked to see their presentation live on a tablet!

Most QR zapper apps work just fine, but we loved using Zapper Scan in our rooms. The application takes you directly to the Dropbox file in order to easily download or save the presentation.

Next step....Dropboxing for the whole school! 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Triumphant Return!

It has been established that I am really bad at keeping up on my blog....or that I have super-powered ADD sometimes...
So here I sit, in front of one amazing episode of Firefly, reliving the events of the past several months at school and realizing that I don't feel like I've even had a moment to sit down until right this second...and even then, I am (very importantly) multi-tasking with Nathan Fillion.

In any case, we are sprinting head-on into the end of the school year (Literally...I'm the track coach), and I'm looking into carrying out some new traditions I've enjoyed seeing.  Last week, we had Open House...which occurred approximately 4 school days after state testing was completed. Needless to say, everything was pretty rushed; however, everything pulled together and went off without a hitch.
Waaaaay back on the first day of school, I had taken pictures of the chickadees in which they had told me what it was that they wanted to be when then grew up.

Being as sneaky as I could, I  hid these pictures away until last week...when I posted them on the wall with a caption "When We Grow Up...Class of 2023."
I had seen a similar idea on Pinterest last summer, but had to wait for ages to finally put it all together. For the end of the year, I plan on writing them little yearbook-esque notes on the back...but I am a procrastinator and still haven't gotten that far.

In addition to that whole Pinterest-y activity, I also decided to try a nice compilation picture where all of the kiddos made a heart out of their hands. This took quite a bit of hilarious orchestrating and me standing on a table...which was super fun when they were in the perfect position and then the classroom phone rang....But the result of all of the staging and squished bodies worked out really nicely, and I do believe that I will do this picture every year!

And I'll leave you with my final activity planned for the end of the year. This is something that I've seen all over Pinterest, and even in a few coworkers' classrooms as the year has gone on: a thumbprint tree. Should take a short period of time to paint the tree, but then I can use it for years to come. I love the idea of documenting each year of students with their only sadness is that I didn't find this activity during my first year of teaching!

Anyway, as we move into summer, I will try very hard to be a better blogger....cross my heart!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

On Days Like Today....

Or on weeks like the last few weeks, it is important to dwell on those wonderful little things that help you get through the tough times.

These kids are amazing. They are talented, adventurous, excited, and filled with curiosity...and even though there are times where it is hard to remember all of those things, it is important to have little reminders in your life.

I've been brainstorming blogs about biomes, velcro, and food lessons for months...My blogging policy to myself is to not blog unless I feel like I have something important to say, and this week has given me plenty of times to count my blessings and move on from a lame post about velcro-ing pencil boxes to things.

Below is one of those things that I keep handy to remind myself how much I love my class:

They were responsible for becoming experts about the African Savanna...and boy did they come prepared! I set up the background of this mural, and the rest was their creation....including that amazing elephant....and the idea to play the initial musical component from "The Lion King" to introduce their presentations.

This week, we have been reading "Yunmi and Halmoni's Trip," which is a cute little story in our reading anthology about a little girl and her grandmother visiting family in Korea. This inspired a couple little chefs in my room (or their families were coerced, who knows) to bring in some Korean food. So today, before math ended, we passed out plates and kimbop to everyone. The deal was: no matter how different the food looked, no matter what you already think you know about the ingredients, you have to at least give it a little try.
The initial complaining was kind of silly..."But I don't like seaweed," "What if there is something weird in it," "But I don't like seaweed!" you know...those sorts of things...However, for the first time this week they were good little direction followers and everyone tried a little bit of the kimbop (including me).

And rejoicing was heard throughout the land!

Not one of them didn't like it :) Gotta love the end result after all of the build up.