Thursday, March 5, 2015

Slice of Life Day 5 Digital Maker Playground

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge.  Please visit their site to read other Slice of Life stories.

My friend Cathy and I have a hard time saying no to each other's crazy ideas.  This summer, we started to talk about creating a hybrid MOOC experience for our district.  I wasn't sure how it would turn out.  It might be a flop.  However, after tonight's gathering, I realize I shouldn't have worried.  

Tonight was one of those nights when everything clicked.  The scene was set...snacks that included Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs filled the table (because you can't have a class without Peanut Butter Eggs).  

And the room was filled with teachers who came to play.  Tonight was the first night of our Digital Maker Playground workshop. Not only did we have teachers from our district, we had teachers from two neighboring districts join us.   

Our Google+ community is filled with more great educators who span the globe.  They might not be able to join us physically, but they are an important part of the community who help us stretch our thinking and move conversations forward.  

Our first make was "Show Your Makerspace," the place where you do your creating.  After introductions and an explanation of the make, it was time to get to work.  We stressed to the teachers to make this experience what they wanted it to be.  Want to learn one tool really well?  That's fine.  Want to dabble in something new and try several things?  That's good too.  

So, where to start?

We realized there were three things to think about...
  • Where is my Makerspace?
  • Which tool do I want to use to show my Makerspace?
And one we hadn't considered...How to get the finished product into the community?

And it was perfect because the magic happened.   It wasn't long before folks started moving around the room, asking questions, sharing apps and giving tips.  


As Cathy and I talked afterwards, we reflected on how well the evening went.  You never know with after school PD...teachers are tired and sometimes the thought of 2 hours of PD is more than you want to think about after a long day at school.

So what was right about this evening?

Choice was key.  
  • The teachers who were there wanted to be there.  
  • They had choice in the tools they used and how they used them.  Our participants thought about what they wanted and needed as learners and started there.  
  • We were a workshop.  Cathy and I were two of the learners in the room.  I don't know how many times we answered questions with, "Hmmm, I don't know.   Let's try it and see what happens."  We hopped from table to table learning along with everyone else.
  • Everyone experienced success in one way or another.

The night couldn't have gone any better.   So many great things happened and I can't wait for our next get together.

Want to join the fun?  It's not too late.  If you can't physically be with us, you can play virtually.  Check out our Digital Maker Playground community.  

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Slice of Life #4 Change of Plans

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge.  Please visit their site to read other Slice of Life stories.

 I take my menu planning and grocery store shopping seriously.  It takes me a couple of hours to plan the menu because I like to try new things, so I spend a lot of time looking through my cookbooks and favorite cooking sites.  I am always looking for healthy recipes and am pretty picky about what goes on our menu.   I make my grocery list, scan the coupons and specials, and then it's finally time to go to the store.  It's quite the ordeal.

Yesterday, I had planned on making Mexican Rice Bowl from one of my favorite sites.  But plans changed at the last minute when my niece reminded me that it was National Pancake Day.  Pancakes?  I have wonderful memories of having breakfast for dinner when I was a little girl.  It didn't matter that pancakes weren't on the menu.  I always have stuff for pancakes.  So, I replied to my husband's text with...

I came home to the Betty Crocker cookbook out on the counter with pancake batter waiting to be poured and flipped.  Can you see that this recipe's been used quite often in the last 30 years?  

It wasn't long before pancakes were ready!  I topped them with pure maple syrup and enjoyed every single bite.  

Did you celebrate National Pancake Day?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Slice of Life #3 Letter from the Puppies

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting the March Slice of Life Challenge.  Bloggers, both newbies and seasoned have committed to blogging every day in March.  Please visit Two Writing Teachers to read other Slice of Life stories.  #SOL15

                                                                                           March 3, 2015

Dear Cousin Roxie,

Today was the our first day of Puppy Obedience school.  Our mom tells us that you were never able to go to obedience school, so we thought we would write you a letter and tell you what our parents learned.  (Mom says that sometimes you don't behave very well.  We think Mom is probably not telling the truth about that.  You know her.  She has very high expectations when it comes to doggie behavior.  To tell the truth, we're wondering if maybe it's Aunt Linda who isn't trained very well.)

As soon as Mom put our collars and leashes on, we knew something was up.  We really don't like walking on the leash or wearing our collars.  Jem tried to hide in the crate and wouldn't budge even with the promise of treats.  Dad told us we needed to hurry as he scooped us up and carried us to the car.

Don't even get us started on the car.  It is SCARY!!  Who ever thought it was a good idea to put puppies in a vehicle that goes 55 mph was crazy.  We whined and shook the whole way.  Mom's sweatshirt looked like she'd been rolling around in dog hair.  (Maybe that'll teach them to make us go in the car).

We were a little nervous going into the school.  The good thing, we met some new friends.  We don't remember their names, but they were nice dogs...a German Shepherd and a black and white friend who, like us, doesn't really know her heritage either.  GS (German Shepherd for short) was extremely noisy.  He whined like a grown puppy.  We're not sure why.  He was the biggest and oldest one there.  Marlo, our teacher had some good treats.  We're hoping Mom and Dad buy some of those Pupperoni things instead of the boring sweet potato bites they give us now.

Anyway...we are off track.  We were able to teach Mom and Dad quite a few things.  We taught them how to give us treats when we waited quietly.  We taught them how to walk beside us.  They sounded hilarious, saying, "Heel," in their fake confident voices.  They weren't fooling us.  We knew they were comparing their skills with the other dogs' people, worrying that they might not be doing as good of a job.  We also had to work on helping them stay with us.  If they got too far behind, we'd stop and wait for them to catch up.  And then we'd take a treat every time they did a good job of walking next to us.  It took them awhile to get the hang of it, but eventually they learned.  We then taught them how to stop when walking us on the leash and give us a treat as we sat down next to them.

All in all, they did a pretty good job tonight.  The best part?  We trained them to buy us special treats after class.  We're just going to lay back for the rest of the evening and enjoy our rawhides.

If you want more tips on how to get Aunt Linda trained, let us know.  We are going back to class next week.  We'll be sure to pay close attention so that we can be as much help to you as possible.


                                                                                           Scout and Jem

Monday, March 2, 2015

Best Laid Plans Gone Awry...Slice of Life Challenge Day 2

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting the March Slice of Life Challenge.  Bloggers, both newbies and seasoned have committed to blogging every day in March.  Please visit Two Writing Teachers to read other Slice of Life stories.

When I woke up this morning, I thought I knew what I was going to write about today...introducing first graders to Slice of Life writing.

I love first grade writers...their enthusiasm is contagious!  I had grand plans for my post.  I paid particular attention to our before lunch gathering, keeping mental notes of what my piece would look like.  The kids were so excited as they left the room, talking about what they might write about and making plans for inviting the principal to join them.

However, best laid plans...we all know how that goes.


"Mrs. Johnson, are you alone?" came the voice of the school secretary over the intercom this afternoon. That "are you alone" phrase is never good news.

"Yes," I replied.

"Can you teach kindergarten this afternoon?  Mr. S. is ill."

"Sure," (although inside my head I'm thinking about all the time I've missed with my reading groups due to testing).

12:30 pm

I head over to kindergarten, half-eaten salad in hand.  This was a last minute absence (Mr. S. stopped at Walgreens on his way to our school to get a strep test and lo and behold...he was positive).'s another Slice of Life I could do.  Although notice, there are no pictures.  I was too busy doing kindergarten.


I say good-bye to wonderful kindergarteners and head upstairs to after school digital writing club, questioning whether maybe I'm too old to teach kindergarten.

More introductions to Slice of Life writing...(maybe another Slice of Life, or combine both stories of getting kids excited about the challenge).


I send a text to husband:  I had to teach kindergarten and I'm really tired.  Can we go out to eat?  His reply?  Yes!  (Thank goodness, because otherwise it was going to be PBJ for dinner).


We had a lovely dinner at the local Mexican restaurant.  Chips and salsa are always good for making you feel better.  As I crunch through the basket of chips, I dream of heading home and collapsing into my bed.


Finally, I walk in the door, and drop my coat and bags on the chair.  I let the puppies out, feed the puppies, and grab my computer.  Deep sigh!

6:31 pm

I trudge upstairs...put on pajamas and plop into bed.  My plans for Slice of Life fizzle into a puddle of exhaustion.  There will be no deep thinking tonight.  

Tomorrow is another day...

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Slice of Life Day 1 Challenge: New Slicers

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting the March Slice of Life Challenge.  Bloggers, both newbies and seasoned have committed to blogging every day in March.  Please visit Two Writing Teachers to read other Slice of Life stories.

"I want to do that Slice of Pie thing you put on email."

Abbey, a brand new teacher, and I meet once a week to see how things are going.  I'm her mentor and I'm try not to overwhelm her with too many new things.  I had put an all call out on our school email about the March challenge and hadn't heard from anyone that they wanted to jump in.  I was disappointed, but also understand that teachers are overwhelmed right now with testing, so I didn't pursue it.  

My heart did a little happy dance when I heard Abbey's words.  Apparently, my friend Debbie, another first grade teacher who did the challenge last year with her third graders was talking it up with her new team.  She saw the power in writing every day with her students and wanted to take the challenge with her little ones.  One of the reasons I love Debbie is that she is willing to jump in and try new things and she's not afraid of messy.  On Friday afternoon I found out that all four first grade teachers wanted to participate in the March Slice of Life challenge.

We all pitched in Saturday afternoon.  We made almost 100 Slice of Life journals in the sub-zero office...copying, folding, stapling in our own little assembly line.  It was great fun and tomorrow we share our plans with the first graders.  I can't wait to write alongside them and see what they come up with.

Now for that slice of pie...I definitely think Abbey and her team deserve a little treat!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Slice of Life Tuesday...Writing Love

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life Tuesday.  I invite you to visit their site and read others' slice of life stories and leave a comment.

It's become a habit.  Once a month, a small group of us meet for dinner, writing and feedback.  This time together feeds my writing as well as my soul.

Tonight we were treated with homemade red beans and rice...the real thing,  a drawer filled with a lovely assortment of teas, served nice and hot on this bitterly cold evening, fresh veggies and peanut clusters dressed in chocolate.

We sit around the table filling each other in on how things are going. We talk about the newest books we've read.  We share stories and laughter.

And then it's time to write.  We find spots to settle in and before long, the room is quiet except for the sound of computer keys being tapped.  There are periods of furious typing and then a lull as we stop to think and revise at different points.

We end with sharing and feedback.

I relish this time together.  These ladies are more than my writing group.  They are my friends and I am so glad we've worked to carve out this time to support each other on our writing journeys.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Digital Maker Playground

Thank you to Margaret Simon for creating this space where educators can share how they are authentically using technology in their classrooms.   Please visit Margaret's blog, Reflections on the Teche, to read other teachers' posts.

 This summer, I participated in the Connected Learners MOOC, also known as #clmooc.  I spent 6 weeks making different things based on themes that were created by different writing projects.  As would be expected, I learned a lot as a digital tools, reflection on crafting moves, and I got connected to new people.  It was a powerful experience.  

During the summer, I got a message from my friend Cathy Mere, wondering what this #clmooc was all about.  We chatted about it, I shared my excitement for the possibilities and a new plan was hatched.  We have a way of nudging each other into new projects.

We wanted a space for teachers to create, collaborate, connect and learn from each other.  One of the most powerful aspects of the summer #clmooc was the support provided by the other community members.  Everyone came with an open mind, expertise in different areas, and a willingness to grow.

We designed the Digital Maker Playground, using the structure of the #clmooc from this summer.  We're offering it to staff members in our district as well as anyone else who wants to participate virtually.  We are really excited about the possibilities.  Anyone who lives nearby can join us every other week for face to face workshop time (see dates and times on the S'more flyer).  It doesn't matter if you can't join us physically.  You'll be able to see each theme there on our Google+ Community as well as share your makes.  The beauty of the Google+ Community is that we can have continued conversations around our work.

If you have questions, don't hesitate to contact Cathy or me through our blogs or Twitter.  See the S'more flyer for details.  We hope you'll join us for lots of fun and learning.

See Cathy's blog for more information.