Wax On!

In case you didn’t hear, the 3rd Grade Wax Museum is less than two weeks away! Talk about ramping up! I thought I’d take some time to make sure we are all on the same page.

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Last week I sent home some important deadlines for students so we can have them prepared for the 29th.  All students should be bringing in their Wax Museum speech this week so we can see if it needs adjustments, and to start practicing.

On Tuesday, students should bring in all of their materials for the Wax Museum. This includes their costume materials, props, final speech and button.  We will begin recording each student as they perform their speech.  Wednesday will serve as a day for overflow recordings.


Some students are asking if they can bring in large props, furniture, etc… I have told them they can bring in whatever they would like, but they need to remove everything by close of school on Friday.  If you have logistical questions about large items, (or anything else) please let me know.

The topic of memorization has come up dozens of times. By having speeches due by today, students are now on the road to being prepared to recite their speech from memory. That doesn’t mean that a small note card with key words listed to trigger memories isn’t allowed.  We do not want any students reading sentences or paragraphs during their speech, so our week will be spent “becoming” our character so it feels natural to talk like him/her.

The night of the Wax Museum, we ask that all students be inside the building by 6pm. Parents and other museum-goers will wait outside until the “Big Reveal”.
The past 6 years has proven to me that 8 and 9 year olds are amazing performers. Their efforts will shine in the halls of Mullen, and I can’t wait for you all to see it happen!!
Thank you for your support!!

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May 19

Video of the Week


Wow! What a Whirlwind Week!

I cannot believe what a crazy-busy week this was!! I thought I’d share some of it with all of you, as I know you’d like to see what your kids have been up to in Room 204:


iPad Day – the kids are great at using QR codes to scan into their assignments. This time our code brought us to a Google Form to work with a video we love.  All of our work (including the looping video) was posted on the front board so it was a great way to get rolling first thing in the morning:

qr morning

That afternoon, we had a Skype call with my niece in law, Jessica Marie Garcia who plays Willow on the Disney Channel’s Liv & Maddie, and plays Becky on ABC’s The Middle. She was awesome with the kids, and they had great questions for her. She shared some great advice for their upcoming Wax Museum performances – strategies to memorize speeches and reasons not to be nervous.  Thank you, Jess!

jessskype call


Later in the day, the third grade received 24 anoles.  We have 5 in our classroom and they were there for more than 2 hours before anyone noticed them, ha ha.

Mrs B anolelizards

Anole smiling for the doc camera.

Anole smiling for the doc camera.

Crickets begging to be set free.

Crickets begging to be set free.

Wednesday & Thursday:

MCAS – this group of students was so well-prepared for the test and all of them worked really hard with positive attitudes. They loved their before and after snacks, and their notes always make us smile. Thank you for your support.

noteOur playground looks AMAZING after all the work done after our Spruce Up Day.  It seems that the grounds are welcoming to wildlife, too.  Students with a keen eye were able to spot a baby bunny bounding through recess on Wednesday, and a pair of chatty ducks on Thursday.  Quack, Quack!!




Today was Walk to School Day. The fog did nothing to dampen our spirits as 500 students made their way up from Surf Drive Beach.

walk to school day

Today we finished up our (ssssshhhhhhhh) Mother’s Day projects, too!

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If your  child sleeps like a rock tonight, you’ll certainly know why.  Mrs. Price, Mr. Persico and myself are wiped out, as well! Sweet Dreams, Room 204 Families!

Teachers Appreciating Teachers

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week, so I thought I would do just that. 90% of my school memories are from elementary school alone. I attended a neighborhood school from grade K to 6 and I adored my teachers, my classmates and the experience.

teachers day

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I am fortunate enough to be connected to several of my school’s amazing elementary teachers via Facebook.   This morning, I asked them some questions about teaching, and learning.  I thought I would share a couple of responses with you!


Mr. Monaghan & Mrs. Noble (thank you for the picture, Carol!!)



Mrs. Noble was my 4th grade teacher. I loved her to pieces and one of my fondest memories was our end-of-year barbecue at her house.  I couldn’t help but smile wide when she shared with me a photo of myself from that day in particular, as it was a favorite memory of hers as well.  Common memories tie us together and make life special.


Clearly, my athletic talent and potential was so apparent, even way back then…. lol…. (1979)

Mrs. Noble taught fifth grade for four years, fourth grade for three years, kindergarten for three years, and has now owned a preschool for 28 years! She is still working with children and loving it.  Life is so different now, than it was when I was in elementary school, so I asked Mrs. Noble what she wished she had available to her in the classroom back then, and/or what do she wished was still the same in today’s classrooms…

“I wish we had computers for communicating with kids and families back then. I wish that we still had the flexibility to spend more time on the whole child instead of focusing quite so much on the “standards”. Play and social skills seem to have taken a bit of a back seat, which I think is a shame. My teaching advice is remember to smile and take time to enjoy the children. They can tell if you really love what you do!”


Mr. Monaghan was a teacher on our 6th grade team. 6th grade was the year we participated in Outdoor Education – a week away from home in the woods of Ossipee, New Hampshire. It was during this week I came to know what a great teacher Mr. Monaghan was.   He taught Language Arts for thirty-five years: ten at Fisher Elementary School and twenty-five at Johnson Middle School. Each year he had four sections of ELA and one session of either Social Studies, Math or Science. For eight years at Fisher, he was the Grade 6 Music teacher. Throughout, he was involved as a drama coach either collaborating or working alone. At Johnson, the drama workshops were for Grades 6-8. His enthusiasm was (and still is) contagious. See for yourself:


“I miss the contact with children, their parents and my colleagues. I loved building the students’ self-confidence, meeting the different learning styles and helping kids navigate those tricky pre-adolescent years. Times change, but a child’s issues haven’t. Kids want to feel good about their life, their schoolwork, their friendships. The teacher creates positive memories that sustain children when the going gets rough.

Teaching is the best and the hardest job around.  I have teaching anecdotes for a lifetime. I am very lucky to still be in contact with many of my former students.”


I love being connected to these and some of my other former teachers all these years later.  I hope each of them have come to know the difference they made in the lives of  their students. My teaching style has become a mixture of the best my teachers had to offer.  Over 30 years later, they still make me feel special!


Have you connected with a former teacher lately?  Why not do so this week?  As for my current students – I always encourage them to write or visit anytime. Though I don’t always recognize their grown-up faces, I ALWAYS remember who they were and what they meant to me.  Those feelings never go away.  Thank you for sharing your children with me, I will cherish them always.

Dream Big,

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Video of the Week




May 5


April Showers Bring Many Projects

It’s funny – I took out a blank calendar and started adding in all of the upcoming presentations, projects, lessons, assemblies, visitors, celebrations, field trips and such… After all was said and done, I think I was left with less than an hour of open time.

Though I’m exaggerating to a certain extent, I also cannot believe we are in Post-April-Vacation mode already. The rest of the year is a down-hill slope, which will zip by faster than you think.

Math MCAS is next week. Snack Bags will come home later this week for the same routine as last time. Homework this week will have some practice problems so you have an idea of what your children will be working on. I think they are very well prepared, based on the hard work they have been doing all year.

Wax Museum will be a HUGE focus in the coming weeks.  Students are required to have their book and research materials at school each day. They are allowed to bring them home if needed, but they MUST remember to bring them back to class. Students who forget will come home with a Forgetful Frog, reminding them to bring in their materials.  Ribbit!
Books for Babies is also a big deal, now. Students will bring home a board book to read overandoverandover. Be sure this book also goes to school each day, in case we are practicing or recording students reading their books.
Forgetful FrogBook Talks are done, but will be replaced by Wax Museum prep. BE SURE to use these evenings to prepare for the Wax Museum. Activities can include researching, costume planning, prop collection, speech writing, memorization and practice.  Each year, all students are asked to make every attempt to memorize their speech.

wax museum 2014
June 20th will be our Family Farewell Celebration at 2:00.  Please make every attempt to join us, as students love having their families present.

I know. I just wrote about a June date. It goes against everything I believe in, but I can’t escape the inevitable.  As these weeks fly by, be sure to reach out with questions as we soar. Dream Big!
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April 28Video of the Week


My Friend Tippy

A few years ago, we had a tiny little friend who would come visit us every night on our front porch.  [NO - this was not the tiny little friend who visited INSIDE our house - that's a different story!!] This was a baby opossum, and he would climb and wiggle his way into my cat’s food bowl to eat some of her dry leftover cat food. While I never seemed to snap a picture of him (I know, shocker!), hearing the sound of the bowl tipping on the porch would cause us to come running to the windows.  “Tippy” (and probably his identical relatives) visited us many times over the years. We were smitten. In fact, every time we witnessed an opossum who had met his untimely death on the side of the road, we hoped against hope it wasn’t Our Tippy.

Our 19 year old kitty died about two years ago, and during that time we’ve had no visits from Tippy or his progeny.  No cat bowl = no Tippy, it seems.  Sigh.  That was, until a few days ago.

Remember, we are living in the State of Mayhem since our house flooded in December. At times, I will put things on the back deck (including the huge trash bag) during the day to make space to work.  This particular night, I was heading to the deck to bring it in, when I noticed some movement outside….


Awwwwww…..  It was Tippy!  He was here to visit!  I ran to grab my camera, turned on the floodlights and plopped myself down on the floor in front of the sliding glass door.  Tippy and I had a wonderful visit… I reminisced about all those noisy nights on the front porch, while he tried incessantly to break into our steel-reinforced Hefty bag.  {Note to self: It seems that Contractor’s bags are impervious to opossum teeth!} 

After what seemed to be too short of a visit, Tippy came right over to the window to say goodbye to me.  The look in his eye seemed to say so much….  “I promise I’ll be safe out on the roads.”  “When are you getting a new cat, for crying out loud??”  “How about going back to using the old trash bags….” or perhaps….. “Nice bunny pajamas, Suzy!”

But really, it was his smile that left an impression on me – and perhaps it will on you, too.  It reminded me that smiles make everyone feel better.

Tippy smileSo, as I stood up and went back to life in Mayhem, I silently thanked Tippy for his smiley visit. It was long overdue.

What are some of your encounters with creatures from The Great Outdoors?  Be sure to share them by leaving a comment – and if you have time, read the story about our surprise living room visitor HERE.


9 Ideas You Can Steal from Teachers

After stumbling across Portent’s Content Idea Generator, I had a bit of fun… I threw in some favorite topics and generated some pretty giggly blog post ideas:

What’s YOUR idea??

10 Freaky Reasons Creativity Could Get You Fired.

How Learning Can Help You Predict the Future

12 Ways Technology Could Help the Red Sox Win the World Series.

20 Things Spock Would Say About Schools.  <~someone should totally write this!!


But those are all topics for another day….

9 ideas you can steal from teachers

So I started thinking about one of the topics that Portent generated….  What are ideas we teachers have, that others would find worth stealing?

Here goes!!

attention1: Attention Please

Whether teachers are clapping, chanting, counting, calling out, or throwing up Peace Signs – they are getting the attention of students coast to coast.  So, next time you need to get attention at the dinner table, or at the deli, or on the subway – try some tried-and-true teacher tricks.  Clap a rhythm, shut the lights off, or count backwards from 10.  Soon you’ll have the rapt attention of all those around you.

2.   Everything is more fun with Music

Music is a powerful medium. I can still remember all of the words from all the Schoolhouse Rocks videos of my youth. I can still sing my multiplication tables from 3rd grade (thank you, Mrs. Lynch!).  Classical piano and guitar help drown out all of the distractions of Real Life so I can focus on one thing at a time.  Sharing music in the classroom helps keep things calm and lively; serene and silly.  Students respond to rhythm, to rhyme, to rap, to relaxing tones.  So, try rapping that pesky list of chores to be done around the house, or singing the steps to cleaning a bedroom.  A little classical music during dinner never hurt anyone.

3.   Read-alouds are good for everyone.  

Read-Aloud time is one of our most favorite in Room 204. Whether we are sharing the next chapter in Charlotte’s Web, or rhyming along with Dr. Seuss, during read-aloud every student is engaged and involved.  Perhaps the next time you’d like to get an important point across to a family member, you could do it in the form of a read-aloud.  Gather them on the rug in front of you, muster up your best fluency skills, and have at it.  Whether you read the DVR user’s manual, summer camp brochures, or the latest junk mail, I guarantee you’ll have a committed audience.  Sell it.

4.   Mix things up.

We all know there is comfort in routine. Classrooms are environments based on routine – but even the best-built routines need shaking up once in a while.  Changing the schedule, the furniture, the materials we use, or the people we eat lunch with can all help avoid monotony at school.  Kids love it!  Give it a try yourself!  Switch up meals, schedules, furniture, and responsibilities – it will breathe new life into your predictable day.

curious5.  Reach out and help each other

Students are encouraged to work collaboratively together every day.  Teachers are always looking for opportunities to work with colleagues on projects as well.  In a busy world, with many responsibilities and little time, we must rely on each other to persevere.  Reach out! Helen Keller was right when she said “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”  Buddy up!


6.  We are all icebergs.

One thing I’ve learned as I have aged, is that everyone is far more than they appear on the surface.  My work with students has only solidified this belief. Students are complex creatures growing into even more complex adults. In most situations, we are only able to see each other as iceberg tips; what lurks beneath the surface is always far more than appears.  Remember: everyone’s iceberg foundation is made of positives and negatives, of strengths and weaknesses, of similarities and differences.  When we can truly accept and respect those differences, we can learn more together.  “Iceberg ahead!!”

swing7.  Recess Rocks!

Every day, recess provides an opportunity for students to be free from obligations. On any given day, you can observe an intense game of football, or a creative music performance. You can see children swinging to the sky or rolling on the ground. Time is their own to fill as they choose, and it fuels the remainder of the day.  What can recess look like OUTSIDE of school?  Don’t we all need breaks? Couldn’t we all use a little refueling?  Remember – recess is more fun with friends!  Get out there!!

patience8.  Practice Patience

Patience is required by all of us, throughout the school day.  We need patience to deal with behaviors, with the learning process, and waiting our turn. We need patience when we misunderstand, or are misunderstood.  I wish that patience packages were sold at BJ’s in big club-sized boxes, as sometimes even I run a little short by the time I get home.  Patience is valued outside the school day even more so than in it.  Outside school, we still need to have patience with behaviors, with the driving process, and waiting for information.  Outside of the classroom, we need patience when we misunderstand, or are misunderstood. We could all stand to practice (and receive!) a little more patience every day.

9.  NEVER stop learning

Life is a classroom.  When we all start believing education occurs inside and outside school, every day of the week, for the entire length of our lives, the more we will all learn.  Look for opportunities to tie School into Life in much the same ways we work to tie Life into School.  Ask questions, research answers, share findings.  Read articles. Share articles. Write articles! Watch videos. Share videos. Create videos!  Imagine if EVERYONE consumed AND created learning content within our society?  What would change?


Well, it seems to me after writing this, that there aren’t any real secrets teachers have, that everyone else doesn’t already know.  Hopefully what you already know and believe about teachers includes their all-consuming commitment to reach every child, every day, every year.  Hopefully you already know teachers are icebergs who use their foundation and experience (sprinkled with patience) to bring the real world into the classroom.  Hopefully you already know that teachers love recess and read-alouds for all the same reasons kids do.  Hopefully you already know reaching out to help your children and their teachers makes all the difference in the world, so keep on doing it.
Thank you for your attention.

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Be sure to send in your choices for our upcoming Wax Museum. Students will receive their assignment on Thursday so they can look for a good book over April Vacation.  If you have any questions or need more information, be sure to let me know. :)



April 7

Video of the Week

We are still researching the importance of reading to babies…  The folks at Scholastic shared this video for parents, but 204 students will find lots of ideas, too!!

Fluency Finders

“The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” ~Dr. Seuss

For the 3rd year in a row, I just logged off of the Scholastic Book Clubs website, where I used all of my Bonus Points to order some board books.  You might think that board books are a bit babyish for our mature 3rd graders, right? Well, we have a Big Project in the works, and those board books will play a big part!

Students in 204 have already spent considerable time learning about fluency skills employed by great readers. We will continue next by researching and exploring early literacy, and reflecting on what our own experiences have been as readers.

As soon as the shipment of board books arrives, the real work begins!  Each student will receive a board book to keep for a few weeks.  They will read that book, upside-down, backwards and sideways until they are expertly fluent.  When everyone is ready, I will record them reading their chosen book and burn their recordings onto a CD.

Enter the gift bags: We will fill each bag with one board book, and one CD, along with a carefully planned, perfectly edited letter…  These persuasive letters will be written to parents of brand-new babies, informing them as to why reading to babies is so important, and convincing them to begin immediately!

In May, we will deliver all of our gift bags to Falmouth Hospital, so they can be distributed to all the new 2014 babies.  Who knows? If I stay in teaching long enough, I could see one of those cuties in my class someday!!
Visit the blog for updates and more information on this exciting project! If you are willing to donate a few board books, please let me know, as we are short by a few. We’re so, So, SO excited!!!


RemindersMr. Persico has opened a GoFundMe page and has some great literacy ideas in store himself!  Be sure to stop by his page and check it out.  Also, mark your calendars for next Thursday, April 17th, when he will have us all gather at Eight Cousins and build a new library together.  Details to follow, soon!!

April 7

Video of the Week

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Project-Based Learning

I recently presented a webinar for teachers on Project-Based Learning and was asked if many areas of the curriculum can be integrated into one project. I answered yes, and gave an example relating to a real-life project I am swimming in now: Putting our home back together after our Big Flood.

If you’re never renovated an entire home all at once, you are missing out on a great learning experience. And by great, I mean HUGE (not necessarily wonderful…)!


Photo by Richard Haag, taken at Bloedel Reserve

We’ve had to integrate problem-solving, conflict-resolution, cooperation, budgeting, design, communication, negotiation, patience, skill development, planning and scheduling in order to move forward.  Like it or not, we have touched upon every possible 21st Century skill!

On Saturday, we worked with my brother to begin installing kitchen cabinets. There was lots of Direct Instruction as we started the day, as he has lots of experience, and we have none.  By late afternoon, we had moved on to Guided Practice, because he was here to help every step of the way if we needed him. My understanding of fractions rose to a new level as we measured accurately to fit everything together.

work collage

With my brother gone on Sunday, it was left to Mr. Brooks and I to take things from there.  Our Independent Practice was a challenge in every way imaginable, and reminded us once again why we aren’t doing this for a living.  Progress slowed to a screeching halt as we hit the current ceiling of our combined abilities.

I was reminded again of the importance of scaffolding when it comes to teaching and learning.  There are many tasks which have challenged us, and we have struggled in many ways. It is through that struggle we have learned the most. However, there are times when the struggle is too discouraging, and we have to rely on someone else to teach us a bit more.

You know the saying….   Two steps forward, one step back.

end of line

Our Screeching Halt.

So, half of our cabinets are up, and look great. But it’ll be another few weeks before my brother comes to help us with the next steps…

before after

Before & the “After” – so far…


Thank you for the wonderful notes you sent in with snacks during MCAS. Your children LOVED them!Those positive messages go a long way – get ready to do it again in May for the Math MCAS.

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March 24Video of the Week
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Fly Higher, See Farther…

Room 204 students have been focused on eagles lately.

“The bird that flies highest, sees farthest.” – Richard Bach

We recently read a story entitled Fly, Eagle, Fly by Christopher Gregorowski.  We often chat about the benefits of activating our prior knowledge before we dive into a reading.  With so many great eagle resources available, we really dove deep!  Because students were so interested in the conversation, I thought I’d post about some of the photos, videos and websites we shared.


My family and I were lucky enough to see many eagles during our trip to Alaska this summer:

These were taken in Ketchikan, where the adults and juveniles perched all along the jetty, hoping to catch their next meal:




We moved on to Juneau, where we were treated to  feeding frenzy at the end of our full-day fishing and photo safari.  Talk about fireworks on the Fourth of July!!



Here is a video as we watched dozens of eagles swoop in to eat chicken. Yum!


This last one was taken at the end of our trip at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Girdwood, Alaska.

Adonis is a gunshot victim found near a remote village in Alaska. His wing required full amputation, and he has lived at AWCC since 1995.

Adonis is a gunshot victim found near a remote village in Alaska. His wing required full amputation, and he has lived at AWCC since 1995.

I also shared the following site with students – but we cannot stream it at school (it uses too much bandwidth). Perhaps you’ll have time to check it out at home….  In Decorah, IA, there are a pair of American Bald Eagles who have made their home alongside a trout farm.  There are webcams trained on the nest, and they broadcast 24/7 for viewers to observe the comings of goings of the Mom & Dad eagle, as well as their eaglets.  This year, there are three eggs laid, and though the cold weather has threatened the viability of two eggs, it appears as if the 3rd egg will hatch in a few weeks.  Stay tuned – it’s pretty cool!!!

If you have any eagle wisdom to share, be sure to leave us a comment! We’re super excited to learn more. :)


“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.” – J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan

A Break in the Action

You will notice that our homework this week is a little different.  Hopefully the weather will cooperate, and students in Room 204 will get a chance to enjoy the change of pace.

Homework is an important part of school, but with MCAS this week, I felt that everyone needs some down-time.  As a parent, I LOVE nights when there’s no homework, but unfortunately, they are few and far between.

So, this week, students will have homework of a different kind altogether.  See the homework sheet for more details.

After I present them with their homework in morning meeting, there are bound to be some questions.  All I am asking is that they complete all of their items before Friday, pretty much like a regular school week.  They always ask if they REALLY have to do all of the things they see on the list.  OF COURSE they do!! Don’t let them wiggle out of it!  :)

Before we know it, the weekend will be here, and the Language Arts MCAS will be a wonderful third grade memory.

Praise your children for the hard work they have put in all year, as it truly pays off in the efforts they put forth.

PLEASE let me know if there are any questions about our Snack Bags for MCAS.  I would like to have 100% participation as we had the last three years!  Students LOVE their parent notes!!

For those of you new to MCAS, the results of both the Language Arts and the Math tests will be mailed to your home address sometime in October.  It’s a long time to wait, that’s for sure!

RemindersPlease be on time this week, as we will get rolling right after our morning routine.  I don’t want students to feel rushed.
We will be doing an art project in class this spring. Please send in empty, flattened cereal boxes.

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March 17Video of the Week

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