Friday I’m heading off to attend and present at EdTechTeacher’s iPad Summit at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston.

ettipad cover sheetI will also be carrying a technology “baton” tomorrow as well.   The folks at EdTechBaton have asked a few of us (Shawn McCusker @smc617 and Jordan Garrett @ilearnandteach carried the baton today) to post on social media about conference ideas we can take back to our classrooms. I’m looking forward to searching out new strategies and sharing them with folks online. You can keep your eye on my adventures by watching the @EdTechBaton feed on Twitter or Instagram. Or, check it out on their website! http://edtechbaton.com/


I look forward to working with folks who are starting to implement mobile devices in their classrooms!!

I’m looking forward to a day filled with learning!!

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Socratic Seminar in Grade 4

This week, I was brave and watched as my students led themselves through their first Socratic seminar. In our district PD this fall, we had learned more about how seminars work, and some strategies for getting kids to participate. So, finally this past week we took the plunge.

Together we read Eleven by Sandra Cisneros. You can read the story yourself HERE.  Students loved the story and were able to connect with the narrator in many ways. I then asked them the following question:

Created using Stationery Studio from FableVision

Created using Stationery Studio from FableVision

Students wrote their answer on our reflection sheet (download a copy of the socratic seminar reflection)

socratic reflection

Once everyone had prepared their response, we were ready! The class was split into two teams – the Inner Circle and the Outer Circle.  (Later on, we would switch roles.) The students created a tightly-fit concentric circle of chairs on the rug:

Click on the pic to watch our VINE video!

Click on the pic to watch our VINE video!

I told them the reason we were doing this:

Socratic seminars will give us the chance to connect with our text and each other in a deeper, more meaningful way.  We will become better readers, writers and communicators through the use of Socratic seminars.

I told them the rules for the lesson:

Teacher:  Observe. Stay quiet. Pay attention to the conversation.

Inner Circle: Be respectful. No interrupting. Everyone gets a chance.

Outer Circle: Be respectful, Do your job. Stay quiet.

While the Inner Circle discussed their answers to the question, the students in the Outer Circle had jobs to do, too!  Each student held a task card that allowed them to be a purposeful observer. Here’s a couple of examples: (download 20 task cards HERE)

Outer Circle Examples

We set the timer for 10 minutes, and the Inner Circle did their thing. Afterwards, we allowed 10 minutes for the Outer Circle to report out on their observations. After switching circles, we repeated the entire process and then debriefed before students filled out their 3-2-1 portion of the reflection. Reading their responses and listening to them during Seminar was very powerful for me as a teacher. When we raise the bar for students, it’s always amazing to see what they can do.

303 students are VERY excited to discuss our next reading. I am looking forward to sharing a very special narrative piece with them soon!

RemindersThis Thursday we will be traveling by bus to Barnstable High School to hear the Cape Cod Symphony perform!  The children should dress nicely for this event.  It would be great to have the ladies wear dresses or skirts and the gentleman to wear a polo shirt or a tie.  There is no need to go shopping, please wear what you have.  We will be eating lunch at school.

Operation Flags for Vets is always looking for volunteers to place and remove flags for Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Flag removal will happen this Sunday morning at 10am at Massachusetts National Cemetery. We go every year and feel it is something every family should experience.

Show up and Serve,

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November 10fourth graders Letter of the week

Created using Stationery Studio from FableVision

Created using Stationery Studio from FableVision

fourth graders video of the weekScreen Shot 2014-11-09 at 7.47.28 PM

Ready to BYOD?

For the past two years, I’ve participated in Falmouth Public School’s Bring Your Own Device program. Teaching students to be responsible digital citizens is something I take very seriously and I love the opportunity to work with them on devices they use at home.


We are going to start this week. I will chat with students on Monday, and will send home our district Student User Agreement for students and parents to sign. Once that is signed, students can bring their web-enabled devices.

I want students and families to be clear that BYOD is NOT required. I have 4 devices students can use (which belong to me), and I can also wheel in one of our device carts to supplement during lessons. We will get rolling slowly to see how things go. I am looking for self-control, responsibility, creativity and hard work in all areas of the curriculum. If the devices are a distraction, students will be asked to leave them at home. Each student will earn a Drivers License, which can be revoked at any time for off-target behavior. I have found that device use has been very motivating both academically and behaviorally for my students.

If it comes time to upgrade your old iPhone or device, consider donating it to Room 303. If it has wifi capabilities, we can wipe the device clean and put it into the service of learning.

I provide professional development for teachers from all over the world, giving them strategies and suggestions on how to integrate technology tools in their classrooms. It will be nice to work with my very own students on these same skills!

Thank you as always, for your support!


Conference sign-ups are coming in, I am filling spots and sending home confirmations. Please plan on being early to your conference so you can review your child’s work in the hallway before coming in to chat!  I look forward to meeting with everyone!!


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November 3

fourth graders Letter of the week

nov 3 weekly letter

fourth graders video of the week

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Next week we head to the Cape Cod Symphony where we will learn more about the connection between math and music. This will help build our background knowledge.

Friday was Frightfully Fun

Somehow, I survived Halloween at school without my laptop, which was accidentally left at home. (SCARY!!!) With a big day planned, I wondered how we would get through it?

If you’ve never been to Mullen-Hall on Halloween morning, you are in for a big treat. All 500 students assemble in lines inside the school, and make our way outside, where we form one very long, long line. Staff wearing costumes are cheering students on everywhere we go.

lining upWe then head down Main Street, where the streets are lined with more staff members, parents and community members. They are excited to see our students every year, and many are in costumes themselves!! Corndog, anyone??

paradeOne of my favorite parts is when all 500+ of us parade through the Falmouth Town Hall.  We see smiling faces at every office!

In... Through... and Out!!!

In… Through… and Out!!!

Student costumes are creative every year.

Halloween Mask

costumesAnd these turkeys seemed SO realistic!!!

Gobble, Gobble!!

Gobble, Gobble!!



We headed back into the classroom, where we spent the rest of the morning studying Jack Prelutsky’s poem, The Witch. After some time spent close reading the poem, I handed out some other Halloween-themed poems. Students got to work practicing and dressing up, and before we knew it, we had our brand-new InTheHall Studios up and running!!

green screen technology in 4th gradeHere are two of our short Vine videos:

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Click photo to play Vine video

Click on the pic to see the Vine video.

Click on the pic to see the Vine video.



This morning I’m heading to Foxboro, MA to attend the MassCUE/MASS conference at Gillette Stadium.  For the 6th year in a row, I will be presenting my Technically Invisible workshop. My workshop is like a buffet of ideas teachers can use in their classrooms when they would like to integrate technology.

masscue pic

Created using Stationery Studio
Click on the pic to get to my Pinterest board of resources.



Collaborative Connections

For the first time ever, I went grocery shopping with a friend today.  My mum (@QuiltMiss18) said that she used to do that all the time ~ long, long ago when each family had only one car —- so everyone had to be creative.  Nowadays, we each have our own car(s), so what led to my shopping with a friend today, you ask???                   Great question!!

wax museum

One of our many 3rd Grade Wax Museum evenings. Mrs. Langmead and I always looked forward to welcoming 3rd grade families!

Mrs. Langmead and I have been friends for a long time.  We have lots in common, and when we get together we have so much to talk about, we never seem to squeeze it all in!  Over time, we have learned many things about friendship and collaboration.

1.  Know when to separate.

Robyn Suzy

Technically, we were separated in this photo. Mrs. Langmead had to splice it together to put us side-by-side.

Mrs. Langmead and I are awfully chatty.  Put us in a room, and we have enough to talk about to last the live-long-day.  That behavior doesn’t go over too well in a faculty meeting, so we have learned to sit apart during those events. Our faculty meetings provide us with important information, and because of that, we need to focus!  Careful observers might notice us winking at each other during meetings, but otherwise, we are focused and attentive.

2.  Trust one another.

flash mob

I know this will come as a surprise to everyone…. Mrs. Langmead and I are NOT perfect!!  WHAT!!!???  lol – We are always searching for ways to improve our teaching, and our health.  It is rare to find someone I can share my shortcomings with, while feeling supported and respected. I know if I tell Mrs. Langmead I need to fix something, I can trust her to help me – not judge me.  I always do the same for her. Mrs. Langmead makes me feel normal, and human, and accepted.

3. Hard work is easier with friends.


Mrs. Langmead and I decided to make a new commitment to our health this weekend.  We had a new meal plan, and a grocery shopping list a mile long. We both knew this new adventure would be easier if we did it together so we chatted about our plan on Wednesday.  On Saturday evening, Mrs. Langmead sent me a text message saying she was going to meet me to grocery shop together. I was thankful (and excited!) and giggling…  Have any of you been to Market Basket on a Sunday morning? Wheeeeeee!!!!  It takes a lot of patience and determination to do your family’s grocery trip during the same time that 90% of Cape Cod’s population does theirs.

Sunday morning arrived, and we each had our list. Mine was color-coded on paper, and hers was on her iPhone.  We spent time learning the difference between coconut butter and coconut oil; between haddock and cod; between orange and yellow peppers; between zucchini and cucumbers (ha ha). We read labels. We texted our spouses. We consulted employees. We worked as a team to decide what we needed to purchase.  We even went one step further and figured out what supplies we could purchase and divide equally between us.

4. We are still individuals.

Suzy Robyn

With our baskets nearly full, we both realized there were items we needed to purchase for our families. I certainly wasn’t able to help her choose the best brand of diaper for her babies, and she wasn’t able to shop for those elusive Teenager Essentials.  We knew it was the perfect time to head off in our own direction.  Thankfully, it wasn’t long before we were back together again, making purchases to (in theory) change our eating habits.

With Mrs. Lewis!

With Mrs. Lewis!

At this point, you’re probably wondering why I am writing about Mrs. Langmead on our classroom blog.  Am I right??

Well, it is now almost November, and I’m still looking to see my 303 students “jive” as cooperative learners.  4th graders need to recognize when it is a good idea to work together, and when separating is a better idea.  Trust is an essential ingredient when it comes to cooking up cooperation. When help is needed, we look for others to to be trustworthy in order to assist us without judgement. Because each 4th grade student has his or her unique strengths and weaknesses, it is essential we match up with others to enhance learning.


So?  4th graders? Be helpful. Be trustworthy. Judge less. Help more.  GET TO WORK!!!  Together we can make a difference.

Speak life.

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Mrs. Nickerson’s new class starts on Wednesday. She will have 17 fabulous friends, which will leave us with 22 students. We are all looking forward to supporting the shift in instruction! Thank you for your flexibility!!

October 20

fourth graders Letter of the weekOctober 18 letterfourth graders video of the weekScreen Shot 2014-10-19 at 10.32.40 PM

Pummelo Geography

So, now that I’ve arrived in 4th grade I’m terrified excited to teach geography more in-depth. We’ll be traveling around the United States, Canada and Mexico; learning about national parks, major landmarks and the regions.

Truth be told, I don’t want to mess this up.  I LOVE geography.  I used to be a travel agent. I’ve experienced lines of latitude and longitude and what they mean because I’ve left my own time zone and climate zone. I had to know every country and state capitol and airport code back in the day so I could help folks choose and find their vacation destinations.

Cozumel, 1989

Cozumel, 1989

I have learned first-hand that geography is not written on paper – it is written on the faces of the people you meet and reflected in the sights you see along the way. And let me just say that jet lag is real, people!

I want my students to love these lessons and remember them long after they leave 4th grade. I want to create a veritable army of enthusiastic little geographers running amok around the town of Falmouth.

But… what if I’m boring? What if they don’t find geography to be the same riveting subject I find it to be? What if these lessons become just one more thing in this list of “hard work” they keep speaking of in their letters to me?

engagement matters

What if I can’t do it alone?

Then it dawned on me – I CAN’T do it alone! More importantly — I SHOULDN’T do it alone!  Doing it alone guarantees that boredom will infiltrate my classroom, as I can only be so entertaining (though, admittedly, I am pretty entertaining!).

So, Hello, World!  I’m inviting you into Room 303.  Please help bring geography to life for my students.  I’m getting started without you for now; laying the foundation so students understand where we come from before venturing off.  For that, I’m tuning into YouTube.  According to the statistics provided by YouTube this morning:

  • More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month
  • Over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube—that’s almost an hour for every person on Earth
  • 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute

Craziness, huh?  The amount of content available on YouTube IS crazy.  Rest assured, I am watching more than my fair share of videos in my endless quest to find appropriate, engaging, educational materials to help students learn more about the world around them.

Last week’s video was a pair of crazy 6th grade social studies teachers from Maryland singing about Latitude and Longitude. I had students do hand motions along with the song to make the concepts “stick” a little better.  This week we’ll watch them sing about the continents and oceans (see Video of the Week below).

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 10.04.55 PM303 Students can now sing the entire Wakko’s America song with most parts committed to memory. After watching the video only 10 times over 2 weeks, 75% of students could accurately identify the capitals of at least 40 states.  I think that’s pretty cool.

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Now, our goal isn’t just to memorize states and their capitals. We are also using FableVision’s Mapping the World by Heart to draw our own United States maps from memory.

Though it seems like a tall order to draw a US map and label it with states, capitals, rivers and mountains, we are up for the challenge. Having all the states and capitals memorized will certainly help  us!

Finally, to be filed under Memorable Lessons With Good Intentions, I decided to take a page from the Mapping the World by Heart book, which suggested I use fruit to demonstrate the challenge of depicting spherical maps on flat planes.  YES! Students need to understand that many flat maps are only an approximation of what we see on a globe.

I went shopping for a grapefruit to magically transform into a globe. Apparently it isn’t grapefruit season, so instead I bought a pummelo.  Yes, a pummelo (which I’d never heard of, either, if that makes you feel better).

It looks like a grapefruit, huh? I agree - only this one is bigger, and heavier and the skin is much thicker.

It looks like a grapefruit, huh? I agree – only this one is bigger, and heavier and the skin is much thicker.

After using at least 10 permanent markers to draw the Equator, International Date Line and the Prime Meridian. I added some more lines of latitude and longitude for effect. Finally, I scribbled in some pathetic continents using whatever markers still had ink in them.  Students were getting a kick out of the fact that I literally had permanent marker all over my hands, and that my continents were starting to resemble a pitiful Pangaea.

I then spent the next few minutes trying to use old, sharp, rusty scissors to cut the skin and pry it off in one piece without slicing my hand open or getting marker on my arms.  Do not try this at home, kids.

Thankfully, my desperate attempt at creating a globe paid off exponentially.

Pummelo Map

If you look closely, you can see something resembling South America (in green) on the right. Am I right??

Sadly, as I finished removed the skin, the bell rang for dismissal. I was ready to take my Pummelo and go home crying with marker now on my hands, face, arms and clothes.  But then… I could see it. It was educational.  It was valuable. It was everything  what I hoped for.  And? It had to wait another day because everyone was heading home. I stayed after school, eating pummelo, planning my next lesson.

Another day dawned, and I was ready to share with my students.  We reviewed from the day before…

I shared information about Robinson projection maps:

Mercator projection maps:

and finally Equirectangular projection maps:

We talked about the similarities and the differences. We discussed the distortion on each map.  We considered the challenges of making a 3D object appear 2D. Finally, the map I was most excited to share was the one the pummelo showed me.

Can you see the similarities between the Boggs eumorphic map and our pummelo?  Seriously??!!  Look at the shape of the outlines! My pummelo looks like a Boggs eumorphic projection map! It was a great teachable moment I hadn’t anticipated.  Truth be told, it was a lesson I almost abandoned.

In a sense, that lesson, and my experience so far as a 4th grade teacher, seem to parallel this post.  You see the title and expect to jump in and get what you expect immediately.  Unfortunately, it takes a bit longer to get to what is most important.  Hopefully along the way, everyone learns something new. I know I am, every single day.

Speak Life,

MyLiveSignature - My Signatures



WRemindershen planning upcoming costumes for Halloween, remember to keep them appropriate for school. Remember, we have FUN, not FOOD in 303, so please save the munchies for after school. :) Thank you!!


October 13

fourth graders Letter of the weekweekly letter oct 13


fourth graders video of the weekScreen Shot 2014-10-13 at 11.38.02 AM


Building Stamina in Writing

Fourth Graders have learned very quickly that writing is an essential part of our school day. We have been working on writing every day in one way or another. While in 3rd grade we were writing a well-developed paragraph, we now are expected to string several organized paragraphs together.

Extending the length of our writing requires us to write in deeper detail. For some students, this is very challenging. While the first month of school offered students creative, unstructured ways to share their thoughts, we will soon be using graphic organizers and rubrics to guide our craft. Many students will find this additional scaffolding helpful, while some may resist the “magic” at first. We will get there together.

I have been reminding students to pay careful attention to the rules of capitalization and punctuation. At this point, students should know to start sentences and proper nouns with capital letters. They should know that capital letters should not pop up randomly in other words.  Every sentence should have appropriate end punctuation.  This year we will work towards understanding the use of commas.

One of the most important skills students can practice is reviewing their own writing several times before they publish.  I shared how I read and re-read these newsletters many times each week. It can sometimes be the 5th or 6th read that allows me to see some errors.  While I know most students won’t read their writing six times, I am hoping for at least three as a starting point.  Your encouragement and support is always welcome.


There is no school on Friday as we have a professional day. All homework will be due on Thursday. Please remind your student to pack their backpack the evening before so they don’t forget to bring all of their essential items to school!


October 6fourth graders Letter of the week

october 6 letter

fourth graders video of the weekScreen Shot 2014-10-05 at 10.04.55 PM

Rainy Day Gardening

Today was a great day for Room 303 to head to the Mullen-Hall School Garden for the first time.  We had a bunch of lettuce plants to put in the ground, and the softly falling rain was a perfect way to keep them moist. Let’s just be thankful that we had already been to the Gym for Picture Day!!

Students worked in small groups with our awesome garden volunteers planting lettuce in our Room 303 raised bed.


The rest of us took a stroll along the bike path to see if we could find the Shiverick’s Pond swans.  We found them.  Can you see??

swanEach group was able to take a turn at the planting bed, and before we knew it, everything was planted!  Nicely done, gardeners!


Salad, anyone??

Dig Deep,

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Seven Sign-Off Saturdays

Back in August, I made a decision that I didn’t think was going to be a big deal. I decided that I would set aside technology every Saturday in exchange for some down-time.  Anyone who knows me, knows I live a tethered life. My five (yes, 5!!) mobile tethering devices are never far from my grasp, and my weary eyes are the poster children for Visual Fatigue. After years and years (and years) of seemingly non-stop connectivity, I needed an intervention. I was finally committed to unplugging one day per week for my family.

sign off

Now, I know the promise I made wasn’t all that original, or unusual. Folks all over the globe take technology vacations, cut back on connectivity and (like me) ironically post about their experience online.  I know in the whole scheme of things, Saturdays sans technology isn’t THAT big of a deal.

Except it is.

It has been a very big deal.

My first Saturdays were spent in a bit of a lost-puppy phase. Without my Saturday morning technology check-in, I had to re-work my schedule.  The couch beckoned to me.  My laptop lay silent; pouting.  My iPad rang out with a chorus of dings and chimes which were clearly an attempt at a Siren Song.  I restlessly searched for diversions….  laundry, dishes, vacuuming, dusting, weeding, errands and (?!!?) more laundry.  I was trying to keep busy to keep away from technology.

You are probably seeing it already, but it was a lot longer before I did – I was missing the whole point, wasn’t I?

I had given myself the opportunity to connect with others and enjoy some down-time, and instead I was just trying to fill the time with busy work so that Saturdays would go by faster.  Seriously? I wanted to Saturdays to go by FASTER?  Ugh, I needed a re-intervention!!

When I woke up to the realization that I needed to enjoy Saturdays, I saw my behavior patterns change.  I started cooking, and shopping with my kids (it seems teenagers love to shop), and spending time with Mr. Brooks. We went seaglassing.  I took photographs. I volunteered my time.  I began reading actual books!  I started looking forward to Saturdays, wishfully hoping they would last a bit longer.

Tree collage

I also started being very aware of how technology-dependent everyone else appeared on these Saturdays.  After all, it wasn’t like the Internet shut down on Saturdays just because I didn’t show up.  I still received messages, and emails. I was missing photos and videos.  I was putting off responding until Sundays while I payed attention to what I saw going on in my home and in my community.

One of my favorite device-tethered people. My daughter, Kendyl.

One of my favorite device-tethered people. My daughter, Kendyl.

Heads-down and fingers flying, folks around me were Liking and Pinning and YouTubing and e-mailing and Vining and Tweeting and Posting in ways that made me see myself in a new light.  I realized the promise I had originally made to my family was essentially a promise to myself.  I was reminded of all the things I loved doing before technology overtook my very existence.

What surprised me the most over these past seven Saturdays was the fact that I started to crave down-time even more.  So, soon after school started, I designated Wednesdays as Web-Free for Me.  I check my email before leaving school, but now am trying my best to stay logged-off until Thursday morning rolls around.  I’m also finding myself setting aside technology earlier and earlier on Friday evenings; essentially extending my Sign-Off Saturday by a few more hours.

While striving for balance has been a goal of mine for quite some time, I feel that I am finally making strides in the right direction.  Admittedly, I have a ways to go.  Please don’t ask me about Stuck Online Sundays!  If you have any advice or connections to share, feel free to leave a comment!

Homemade zucchini bread, anyone???

RemindersPicture Day is Tuesday! Please have your child bring in their order form.  Thank you!
Thank you for returning your green forms. We are hard at work, trying to reduce class sizes for the benefit of all children. Your support is so very much appreciated.


Speak Life,

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September 29fourth graders Letter of the weekSeptember 29 letterfourth graders video of the week

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