Monday, January 27, 2014

iPads, Chromebooks, and ELMOs, oh my!

Principal ponderings...
Here is a five minute video clip about technology integration:
What is technology integration?  Are we integrating technology in our classrooms?  I mean we have iPad carts, Chromebook carts, ELMOs (not the fuzzy, ticklish ones!), projectors, even 2 Apple TVs, but what that really means is we have technology in the school.  We have taken the first big step, but we have a lot more baby steps to take.  Simply having all this technology means we are including it; it does not mean we are fully integrating technology.  We could certainly wheel an iPad cart into any classroom and give every single kid their own iPad to work on...but my question, is that integrating technology?  I don't think so.

I was reading a short piece on the Edutopia site titled, "Why Integrate Technology into the Curriculum? The Reasons are Many."  The post stressed that effective technology integration must support the 4 key components of learning: "active engagement, participation in groups, frequent interaction and feedback and connection to real world experts."  It is important for us to keep these key components in mind when thinking about and planning for technology integration.  I recently came across this graphic that someone in my PLN had posted to twitter.  Perfect timing since I knew I would be writing about technology integration in my next blog post!  Take a look at the chart and think about where you fall...are you more on the left hand column?  If so, now you have some really detailed goals to strive for on the right hand column.  We all have to start on the left, but we can all get to the right; it's just going to take some time.  And if you think you have made your way to the right hand side of the chart...invite a peer into your class and show them how you are supporting the curriculum with technology!

What is your technology integration goal going to be?
Be on the lookout...Coming soon...another Technology Open House Day at Flo Ro!

Currently reading:

Thanks to Mrs. Guernsey for letting me borrow her copy of Love That Dog by Sharon Creech.  We were talking about poetry writing the other day, and she had mentioned this book which is written in free verse form, modeled after several poems.  It was also an appropriately themed book to read this weekend since as I write this blog update, here is a new friend who we adopted this weekend: (I think she would rather have me pet her than type on my laptop!)
Meet Cleo!
I also spent some time revisiting Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller.  The section that I was reading this weekend was focused on read alouds.  Here's a great piece of advice from the author about what kinds of read alouds to select: "Choose books from authors who will lead your students to more books."  At each grade level, I am sure you can all think of authors who have written several books that appeal to your students.  As soon as you read one of their books and show your enthusiasm...then you will have students begging to read other books by the same author.

Events this week:
Monday - Half day kindergarten AM and PM switch
Wednesday - 2nd grade and multi-age chorus practice @ 2:25, Budget Informational Meeting at the PAC @ 4:00
Thursday - School Committee Budget Info Night at the PAC @ 7:00

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Mrs. Morin was working with a student on the touch screen computer...a program the PTA purchased for us...RazKids

  • I managed to catch some third graders practicing with their recorders during music.  They were making sounds like the chickadees do!
  • Speaking of music, Mr. Wiesner and the 4th graders did a fabulous job last week at their school concert and their evening concert for parents.  The audiences were entertained and by the end of the night the 4th graders were letting loose and dancing to "Ease on Down the Road."  And the parents were even dancing in the aisles!
  • Mrs. Goddard was demonstrating to 1st graders how to draw a cardinal by looking and listening and using shapes and lines.
  • Mrs. Hourani was teaching kindergartners the beginning stages of coding.
  • And check out this great stash of non fiction texts that Mrs. Volpe got in the mail last week!  All of these awesome mentor texts were purchased with the help of a GDEF grant and will be located in the Shared Lit Collection.  Be sure and check them out!
Check it out:
An article that was posted last week about the how Common Core has brought about major changes to elementary math teaching:
Mr. Smith and Mr. Crowley's classes will be piloting the PARCC math test in June.  Here is a site that contains sample test items.  I encourage everyone to take a look and see what this test will look like:

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Gaudy Goals

Principal Ponderings....

This past fall I had the opportunity to attend the ASCD Educational Leadership National Conference.  This past weekend I was going back over some of the notes I took while at the conference.  The keynote speaker the first morning of the conference was Eric Jenson.  His topic for the keynote address was 'Leading with the Brain in Mind.'  Something that he discussed and I have been processing in my brain for a while is an idea he called 'gaudy goals.'  He stressed the importance of not creating wimpy goals for ourselves or for our students.  James Cameron, the director of the movie "Titanic", one of the highest grossing movies of all time, said, "Set your goals ridiculously high and you will fail above everyone else's success."  So what does that type of goal setting look like for our school?

Setting 'gaudy goals' means setting goals so high that you can't achieve them until you grow into someone who can achieve them.  It means looking at your class and saying 100% of my class will meet the benchmark in reading.  Or everyone in my class will demonstrate an understanding of fractions.  We have to be willing to fail, but more importantly, we have to be willing to challenge ourselves and set high expectations.  If you set a goal that is easily achievable...what's the point?  You want to set a goal so high that when you share it with your team members they look at you like you're crazy, their jaws drop, and they say, "Are you out of your mind?"  If you get that response, then you know you have set a gaudy goal.

During Jenson's talk, he showed us some brain research.  The next time you are doubting what you are doing or you think there is no way all of my students can reach a goal, think about this: There have actually been studies done that show structural changes to the brain after only 5 days of intervention!  If instruction from a teacher can change the brain in only 5 days...think of what you can do for your students over the course of a month, a trimester, a year!  If you set high expectations and provide relevant, purposeful will change students' brains which will ultimately lead to greater student achievement.

What is your jaw-dropping, brain-changing, gaudy goal going to be?

Currently reading:
I have been reading Touch Blue, a book by Cynthia Lord.  Cynthia Lord is an author who lives in Maine.  We are fortunate that the PTA is paying to have her come visit our school!  In March, she will be coming to speak to our 3rd and 4th graders about the writing process.  I ordered several copies of all of Cynthia's books for our school.  She has written several chapter books as well as several picture books.

Events this week:
Monday - No school, Martin Luther King Day
Tuesday - 3rd grade team meets with Grace and Sharon in pm
Wednesday - SPED teachers at training, 2nd grade team meets with Grace and Sharon in am, 1st grade team meets with Grace and Sharon in the pm,  Grade 4 Chorus concert @9:30 in the PAC, 3rd grade electricity program in classrooms in the afternoon, 4th grade students perform the pledge @ School Committee meeting, 7:00 at the high school
Thursday - 4th grade team meets with Grace and Sharon in the am, Kindergarten team meets with Grace and Sharon in the pm, Grade 4 Chorus concert @7:00 in the PAC
Friday - Breakfast will be provided by Liz, Dianna, Carol, Lorinda and Maureen!  2nd grade field trip to the library (Jacques and McEvoy), Grade 4 Wild about Weather program

Great things I noticed last week:

  • 3rd graders in Mrs. Guernsey's class were experimenting to determine which materials were conductors and which were insulators.
  • Mrs. Riley's first graders were working with Mrs. Wynn to collect data and create their own bar graphs.
  • Mrs. Cragg's first graders were diving into non fiction by sorting some of the books in their classroom library into different topic piles.
  • I also caught some 4th graders reading non fiction in the hallway.  I will be trying to "catch" more readers and post my pictures on our front lobby bulletin board so be on the look out for readers in our building!

Check it out:
Take a look at this video clip...the oldest working teacher...she's 100!
A really great post about 8 Things to Remember When Everything Goes Wrong:

Monday, January 13, 2014

One word for 2014

Principal ponderings...

Recently, on Twitter I have been reading about people doing something a little different than the usual new year's resolution.  Many people have either watched this clip from the Today show ( ) or read Jon Gordon's blog or book, and they have taken his advice to simplify the resolution process.  Instead of deciding on a few resolutions that we tend to do for a little bit and then forget all together, Jon Gordon suggests that we decide on one word to focus on for 2014.

I was reading different blogs and articles written by people I follow on twitter, trying to decide what my one word would be for this year.  And then, a few days into the start of the new year, my word arrived in the mail.  I had generated several possible words in my head, but opening up a package with a tiny box in it from my mother made my decision much easier.  In the little box was a necklace with four letters on the chain: H-O-P-E.  That's it, my word for 2014 is hope.

Hope is a little word that contains so much potential.  Hope is a word that I will certainly be leaning on in my personal life this year, but it is also a word that I know will help me in my professional life as well.

  • I hope that we will continue to collaborate and come together as a school to provide the best learning opportunities for our students this year.  
  • I hope that our teachers will keep growing and learning from each other, opening their classroom doors to each other so that we can always be improving.  
  • I hope that our students will develop a love of reading after seeing their teachers share their love of reading.  
  • I hope that we will look back on this year and be proud of all of our hard work.  
  • I hope that I will motivate others to try new ideas.  
  • I hope that our school district will do some creative problem solving to get us out of the current budget crisis and come out stronger and wiser on the other end.

Yes, I think hope is the perfect word for me.  I am looking forward to 2014 and all it has to offer.  I am full of hope for our school and our students.  And I am going to make sure that 2014 is a year full of hope.

What will your one word for 2014 be?

Currently reading:
I have been reading Tango, The Tale of an Island Dog, another MCBA book.  I have had a little trouble getting into it.  But I'm not going to abandon it, just have to keep going.  I've also been reading a funny graphic novel that Mrs. Fulreader gave me called Hyperbole and a Half.  It's full of short little stories that make you laugh out loud.  I feel like I have been taking a break from professional books, so hopefully this week I will find a good new one or revisit one I have already started.

Events this week:
Wednesday - 4th grade chorus @2:25, Staff meeting @ 3:30 in the library
Thursday - PTA meeting @ 3:30 in the cafeteria
Friday - Para meeting @ 9:00, 4th grade chorus @ 2:25, Dr. Bent and SLT Team will be meeting at FloRo and visiting classrooms

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Mrs, Benkley's 2nd graders were listening to a nonfiction read aloud called One Tiny Turtle by Nicola Davies.  The students had previously heard another book by the same author, Surprising Sharks.  Mrs. Benkley has having the students notice the differences between the way the two books were set up.  Students were begging her to reread their favorite page in the shark book; they loved how the author used different fonts on the page.  And then when they began to listen to the poetic book about a tiny turtle and view the illustrations, I heard one student tell another student, "it's beautiful."
  • If you are looking for more ways to incorporate technology into your students' everyday activities, then stop into Mr. Crowley's classroom.  He has put an old laptop to good use...students use it to sign out for bathroom, water or nurse.  And he is able to keep track using a simple google form.
  • Mrs. Cahill was having an interesting discussion with some 4th graders in Mrs. Nissi's class about the emotions involved when we do something and we have to apologize for our actions.
  • In the lab classrooms, as well as some other classrooms, students have been diving into non fiction.  I'm looking forward to learning lots of new facts from our readers! 

Check it out:
Here are some great pointers that would be good to share with parents about the importance of reading aloud to kids.  I am going to share some of these on the website with our parents.
Here is a list of 20 of the best children's books from 2013.  How many have you read or do you have them in your classroom library?
And a great thought for all of us this week...

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Jumping back in

Principal ponderings...

Over the break, I jumped back the pool that is.  I've always been a swimmer and when I was a teacher, I often swam several mornings a week before school.  I have fallen out of the habit, but this break gave me the opportunity to get back into the water.  There is something so relaxing about swimming back and forth up and down the lane.  I can tune out the rest of the world while I'm in my underwater world.  While I was swimming I couldn't help but think of how swimming reminded me of one of my other favorite activities...reading!  Let me share with you my top 4 reasons for why swimming is just like reading:
1. Swimming is a skill that takes time to master, but once you know how to do it, you never forget.  When I dive into a pool, I no longer have to think about what I'm going to do, my body responds automatically.  Reading is also a skill that we all had to take time to master.  But now that we know what to do, we can read wherever and whenever we want, and we really don't have to think about how we read anymore.  But what we should remember is that our students are still learning to read and have not yet mastered this skill, but with our help, they will.
2. There are all levels of swimmers.  When I swim at the Y, there are young kids just learning to put their faces in, there are ladies who like to sidestroke and chat while they do their laps, there are college students home on break who effortlessly swim a mile in under 30 minutes, and there's usually a retired fellow walking his way halfway down the lane and then floating on his back for the rest of the lap.  Everyone may be at a different level, but they can all enjoy swimming.  Similarly, there are all levels of readers.  Our students may pick up reading very quickly or it may take some a little longer, but the ultimate goal is that they can all enjoy reading at their own level.
3.  When I am swimming, my mind has a chance to wander.  Even though I'm in the pool, swimming up and down the lanes, I can be somewhere else entirely in my mind.  In fact, I often try to count how many laps I've done, but because I start thinking about all different things, I lose count...a lot.  And that's the great thing about reading.  When you are into a book, you can be in the classroom, but the book can take you to all sorts of places.  You can get lost in a book.  Hopefully during the second half of this school year, our students will have an opportunity to lose themselves in books during independent reading time.
4. Swimming is one exercise where you can do more with less.  You get minimal impact on your joints, all you need is a pool and a bathing suit, and you get a great workout.  Plus it definitely helps relieve stress.  And reading is an activity where you can do more with less.  All you need is a book, the perfect reading spot, and you can escape.  With one simple book, you can learn something new, you can laugh out loud, you can gain a new perspective.  As readers, our students will have the ability to do more with less.  While swimming can build muscles, reading can build minds.
Happy new year and here's to a great 2014!  Let's all jump back in with your young readers!

Currently reading:
Well having 2 weeks of vacation/quiet time in the office meant that I did a lot of reading!  I will just share a few books that I read over the break.  I enjoyed reading Jake and Lily by Jerry Spinelli.  The author does a great job of telling the story from the 2 different perspectives of twins.  I also read My Life as a Book.  This is a great book to recommend to a reluctant reader because, well, it's narrated by a reluctant reader!  I spent the morning of New Year's Day in bed reading The Tiger Rising.  This is a sad story about 2 different children who are dealing with loss.  Kate DiCamillo is an interesting author to me.  One of my favorite books of all time to read aloud is The Tale of Desperaux.  And now that I think about it, that is another book that deals with loss, but in a different way.

Do any of you use Goodreads?  It is a website that allows you to keep track of books that you have read, want to read, are currently reading, etc.  It also allows you to connect with other readers and authors.  One feature they have on their site is a reading challenge where you can set a goal for how many books you want to read for the year.  On January 1, I set a goal for myself.  I am going to try to read 200 books this year!  It's a lofty goal, but I'm all about setting high expectations and striving for them!  As I read and record books, the Goodreads site keeps track for me.  How about any of you?  Have you thought about setting a reading goal for yourself?

Events this week:
Welcome back!  Hope everyone enjoyed the extra long vacation!
Monday - We have several new students starting today!  Here are the teachers who will have new students in their classes: Mrs. Taylor, Mrs. Wilkins, Mrs. Riley, Mrs. Margolius, Mrs. Cragg, Mr. Rider, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Crowley.  If you see one of the new faces, please welcome them to our school.
Tuesday - Mrs. Hoke's class will be going to the Groton library
Wednesday - 4th grade chorus in the gym @ 2:25, School Council meeting @3:30 in the library
Thursday - Dr. Bent visits the school in the morning

Great things I noticed last week (before the break):

  • Mrs. Miln's 2nd graders were participating in a book swap, how fun!  Students brought in a wrapped used book from their house, and then all the books were put into the middle of the circle.  Every student got to open a present...a new book to take to their house!

  • Mrs. Cahill got into the spirit on Wednesday for tacky holiday outfit day.

  • Shivani was our fabulous Principal for the Day.  She had a full day of doing classroom walkthroughs, recess duty, helping in the cafeteria and reading to a kindergarten class.  She even met with the assistant superintendent to talk curriculum!  She was definitely tired by the end of the day
  • Here is a sample of the beautiful singing by the high school students who visited us on Friday.

Check it out:
Just something to make you smile on a Monday! :)