Coyote Lost and Found by Dan Gemeinhart – Book Review

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise (Dan Gemeinhart, 2019) was one of my favorite all time books.  It’s right up there with “Wonderby R.J. Palacio.  Reading these books to my students becomes a heartwarming journey. Together, we laugh, shed tears, and grow incredibly close to the characters, creating a sense of family among us.  I know that “Coyote, Lost and Found” is going to be one of those book too!

“I’m telling you, you’re an awesome freaking mess.  You’re my hero, Coyote Sunrise”  – Salvador Vega

The narrative of “Coyote Lost and Found” unfolds with Coyote transitioning to a conventional school and home life. Despite her yearnings for these experiences in the previous book, reality doesn’t match her expectations. Her discovery of her mother’s ashes triggers another adventure with her father, Rodeo, and they decide to once again, set off in Yager. In this book Coyote messes up big time by losing something important.  We see a similar storyline to the first book, in which she is trying to fix that problem, without letting Rodeo know.  A delightful aspect of the first book was the various characters they met on their travels. This sequel retains that allure, reintroducing familiar faces and introducing new ones who become equally endearing.  Gemeinhart skillfully integrates contemporary issues into the storylines and in this book, he is highlighting the impact of Covid-19 and the pandemic on his characters.

“And like maybe we can never really become the person we want to be, anyway, you know? 

….maybe we’re just always becoming the person…” – Salvador Vega

Similar to its predecessor, ‘Coyote Love and Found‘ delves into the theme of a child coping with the loss of a parent. This year, in my middle school homeroom, I have several students who have experienced this profound loss, and I am considering the potential impact this book might have on them.  Once of my students lost a parent 3 months ago.  I’m not sure she would be able to read this book right now, but I think it would bring her some comfort if she read it a few years in.  I hope other people who have endured the pain of losing a loved one can also find themselves lost and found, like Coyote does in this story.  The title couldn’t be more fitting!

“How grateful am I?” – Doreen

Echoing the sentiments of Doreen, the character, my gratitude for receiving an advance copy of this book is immense. Just when I thought a snow day off from school was the highlight of my day, reading THIS BOOK surpassed it! It made me laugh, brought me to tears, and deeply touched me with its numerous revelations and life lessons.  Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you to NetGalley and Macmilian Children Publishing Group!  Thank you Mr. Gemeinhart, for crafting a book so rich with life lessons; reading it with my students promises to be a deeply moving experience that will undoubtedly resonate with us all.”

#NetGalley  #MiddleGradeFiction #MacmilianChildrenPublishingGroup #ACR #dangemeinhartbooks


Book Review – Pony by RJ Palacio

This was a very powerful story that I read in 2 days. I quickly connected with the main character, Silas, who is on a quest to find and save his father who was taken by bandits in this story that is set in the past. Silas can see and talk to ghosts which is an interesting twist to this tale. This is the story of Silas, on his adventurous journey through the scary Woods and of the people who help him along the way. It is the story of mother who loves him very much but is no longer with him. It is a story of the power of love that never dies. Even when the physical body might pass, the power of love carries over into the next life. Being a Science teacher, I liked all of the Science references in this book too. Some people are trying to compare this book to Wonder. Pony and Wonder are 2 very different stories. I don’t think you can compare them or choose one over the other. Both are very powerful with their own unique messages. RJ Palacio’s books always pull at my heart strings and I hope my middle school students will feel the same way when they read this new story, which I will recommend to them. Special thanks to NetGalley for letting me read an advanced copy of this book. #Pony #NetGalley #MiddleGradeFiction

Book Review for Willodeen by Katherine Applegate

I loved this book and read it in one sitting! It was a wonderful mix of reality and fantasy. The story is about a 10 year old girl named Willodeen who has suffered great loss. She is different and doesn’t always fit in, a theme that young readers will certainly understand and relate to. Willodeen feels more comfortable with nature than she does with people. She especially loves and closely observes one special kind of animal called a screecher that most others consider a nuisance or pest. The survival of her town depends on the arrival of the hummingbears each year who make beautiful bubble nests and bring in tourists. When the hummingbears dwindle and then don’t arrive at all, everyone is looking for a solution. Does Willodeen’s careful notes contain an answer to their problems? You will have to read it to find out! I am a middle school science teacher and I think this will be a wonderful read aloud for the beginning of the school year. Even though she doesn’t know it, Willodeen is a scientist. This will be a great example of real world science. Being observant and asking the right questions will lead you to the correct tests to run. This would also be a good book to read for Earth day because it has environmental themes as well. I think this book will be a big hit and I am thankful to NetGalley for giving me an advanced copy! #MiddleGradeFiction  #MiddleGradeFiction #NetGalley  #TinyGifts

Geocaching – Family Friendly Outdoor Fun


As those of us in the eastern part of the United States move into the 11th week on stay at home orders due to Covid 19, I wanted to share a family friendly outdoor game/hobby that has brought me great joy over the last 5 years.  Geocaching  – the world wide outdoor scavenger hunt!

Geocaching started when GPS was created as a way for them to test it to see if it really worked.  The idea was to hide a container in the woods and then use GPS technology to see if you could find it.  Fast forward 20 years and there are now over 3 million geocaches of all shapes and sizes hidden in over 190 countries!  Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find a geocache (container) hidden at that location.  They are all managed and listed on the website.  For more information about how it works, watch THIS VIDEO

How do I play?

In order to play, you need to create an account on the site and then download the Geocaching app to your smartphone to help you navigate to the caches near your current location.  Once you arrive at the GPS location, you can refer to the app/website for clues as to what kind of geocache you are looking for. The cache page will give you a description telling some background information as well as the size of the geocache.  

Geocaches come in all different shapes and sizes.  Those marked as “large” might be an ammo box or other large container in the woods

Others marked as a “micro” or “nano” might be a small magnetic container under a table.

What do I do when I find a container? 

Success!  You’ve found the geocache!  Now what?  Carefully open it up and see what is inside.  Each geocache contains a log book that the player must sign to prove you really found it.  Some bigger geocaches might also contain “swag” which includes keychains, small toys, and other treasures.  Swag items are traded by replacing an item you take, with an item you brought with you of equal or greater quality.  What child doesn’t love getting new trinkets?  When I went geocaching with my 8 year old nephew, I would keep small items in my car that we could use to replace items he took from the geocache. After you sign the log book, mark that you “Found It” on your account, and get a smiley face for that cache on your map.  I have 229 smiley faces and counting!  In your geocache log, it’s also nice to tell a story about how you found the geocache and/or thank the CO (cache owner) for placing that cache.  When you are finished, be sure to close it up and return the geocache to the EXACT location that you found it so it will be ready for the next player.



Geocaches also come in different categories.  There is the Traditional cache which is the most straightforward.  You go to the location, find the container, and sign the log.  A second kind is the Mystery or Puzzle cache where you need to solve a puzzle before you know the GPS location.  An Earth cache is a special geological location people can visit to learn about a unique feature of the Earth. Earth cache pages include a set of educational notes along with coordinates and players often have to answer a set of questions and submit them in order to log the find.  One of my favorites is the Multi cache which includes more than one location with the final one holding the log book.  As you visit each part, it will give clues to the next location.  You can read more about the different kinds of geocaches on THIS PAGE.


The cream of the crop for me are the ones with the clever or creative containers.  People of all ages work hard to make this game fun to play!  Some geocaches have tricky compartments.

While others really try to blend in to their surroundings.

Then there are the ones that are just over the top!

What do I need to play?

The only thing you really need is a GPS device or smartphone with the app.  Creating an account is free and gives you access to a certain number of caches.  You can upgrade to a become a premium member with full access to all of them on the app for a fee of $30 a year or $10 for 3 months.  Other tools that are good to have on hand are:

  • A pen to sign the logbook
  • Gloves in case you need to touch something suspicious
  • Tweezers – some of the smaller logs are hard to get out.
  • Toys or trinkets to trade in a cache
  • A camera/phone to take fun photos

Why is this a good family activity?

  • Screen free activity that is fun for all ages. – We’ve found geocaches with relatives that include my 6 year old nephew all the way up to grandma.
  • Get outdoors – Take a walk in the woods and spend quality time together while getting exercise.
  • Exercise your mind- Solving puzzles and trying to figure out where the cache might be takes teamwork and brain power.
  • Worldwide – They are literally all over the world so you can do them whenever and wherever you want and/or have the time.
  • Learn something new – Many geocaches are located near historic sites and/or others places you might never knew existed if you weren’t looking for a cache
  • Lasting memories – My family and I have started a tradition of finding a special geocache together every Mother’s Day.  One year as we walked in the misty woods and searched hours for a particularly difficult geocache, my daughters’ wished they had a mom who only wanted to get her nails done on Mother’s Day.  Our geocaching adventure that day made for a much more special family memory!

 So if you’ve been stuck indoors for a long time and the kids are getting antsy, I hope you will consider hopping in the car and looking for the nearest geocache.  Many are in parks which will allow you to have a family adventure while also maintaining important social distancing rules.  If you have any questions, feel free to leave me a comment.  Or if you give geocaching a try, comment to share your experience, favorite memory or another tip to share with readers.  Happy caching!



Tina is a teacher in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  She has done a Geocaching after school club as well as helped both Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts earn their Geocaching Badge. 


Google Meet vs Zoom for Video Conferencing with Students

Last Friday we found out that our governor was shutting down schools for 2 weeks in order to slow the spread of coronavirus in our state.  Even though we knew it was probably coming, we were still in a bit of shock and left scrambling to figure out how to manage this uncharted territory of remote learning for our school of over 300 students from PreK – 8th grade.  One thing we knew we had to do was still be able to connect with students to support them and maintain our learning partnership. 

mohamed_hassan / Pixabay

Besides creating flipped learning type videos, teachers and students also need some face to face time.  Whether it be for a live lesson, “office hours” for questions, or just a gab session so we can catch up on each others lives, share experiences, and just have fun in this scary time in our world.  Over the weekend my colleagues and I spent several hours testing out two different platforms available for those live video conferences:  Google’s Meet and Zoom Meeting.  During those tests we had teachers in school and at home log on so we could run some tests.  We also tried them on different machines including a Mac, a Windows desktop, phones and a chromebook.  Here are our findings for those of you who might be trying to decide.

Things that apply to both platforms:

  1. Free for schools to use during the coronavirus outbreak
  2. Support up to 100 participants
  3. Live meetings can be recorded 
  4. Backchannel Chat feature during the call.
  5. Screen sharing abilities
  6. Can be used on all different devices including Chromebooks, Macs, Windows devices and mobile phones
  7. Others participants can be invited by email invite, link or can call in with a phone number

mohamed_hassan / Pixabay

Google Meet Pros:

  • Extremely easy and user friendly which is great for teachers who may not have experience running live video conferences
  • Runs great on Chromebooks which is what most of our teachers and students are using
  • Any attendee can record the meeting but the recording is only stored on the Drive of the Host

Google Meet Cons:

  • The person who starts the call has the ability to mute other attendees but the attendees can unmute themselves.  There is no way to lock them all into being muted.
  • Anyone can present their screen at any time.  There is no way to lock it to just one person.
  • Participants can mute and remove other participants.  My colleague started the call but I was able to remove him from it.  That means a student could (either advertently or inadvertently) remove the teacher from the call.  
  • There is no way to manage the Chat feature so students can be talking to each other on that during the meeting. 

mohamed_hassan / Pixabay

Zoom Meeting Pros:

  • Host can lock the other attendees into mute and then unmute one at a time so they can speak.
  • Chat can be managed so that participants can chat to everyone, only the host or it can be turned off.   
  • There is a virtual green screen type background option so all participants have the ability to change their background to a picture. (Great for people who might be in a messy office and they don’t want others to see that).
  • Fun icon features like a thumbs up and applause. There is also has a raise your hand feature so the host knows someone would like to speak even if they are muted. 
  • The host can “pass the baton” and give another attendee hosting privileges so someone else can share their screen.  When finished, the host can take that ability back.  So only one attendee at a time has the ability to present their screen to others on the call.  
  • Only the host has the ability to remove someone from the call.  They also have the ability to stop the video of a particular attendee.

Zoom Meeting Cons:

  • Because it has more features, it is a bit more complex to host which might be overwhelming and scary to teachers brand new to this.
  • Some features don’t work on a Chromebook, including the applause, thumbs up and virtual background. 
  • We also could not find the ability to record a meeting when running it from a Chromebook.  You could, however, assign another participant the ability to record. 
  • When using a Chromebook, the meeting can be run in a browser but for better quality, an extension should be installed.

White77 / Pixabay

After all of our tests, we still aren’t sure which platform would be the best for our school campus.  Another thing to think about is bandwidth issues that may arise from so many people trying to work from home.  Is it even going to be feasible to run these live sessions?  We are planning to discuss these findings with our full faculty today and maybe leave it up to them as to which platform would be best or should we use something different altogether?  I also offered to be a backup person on the call for my teachers while they try out this first week of video conferencing with students.  It can be very helpful to have a tag team when running a virtual meeting.

If I have any new findings after we have our first week of remote learning I will update this post.  Please leave me a comment if you have experienced any other Pros and Cons of these platforms.  Thank you for reading and good luck with your virtual classrooms this week!


Update: March 18th – We chose Zoom.

We have now had 4 successful Zoom meetings with students in grades 3, 5, 6, 7 & 8.  A few teachers were asking how we went about it so here’s what happened.

We are using the Flipped Learning approach of teaching during this time of home learning.  Each morning teachers post a welcome video which includes morning prayer (we are a Catholic School) and their message for the day.  Each teacher also posts a checklist of work that has to be accomplished that day.  This information is on a new Google site that we put together over the weekend called SIS Flexible Instruction  Teachers can post work directly on that Google Site or on their Google Classroom.  Because of parental work responsibilities and bandwidth issues, we decided not to use Zoom for instruction, at this time.  If the social distancing becomes a long term problem then we might change our minds.  We did want the children to be able to check in with the teacher for questions and/or be able to see and talk to their friends.  So we held our Zoom meetings as “office hours.”

Our set up was as follows:

  1. Teachers always work in pairs.  It is nice to have back up so that one person can be handling the meeting and the other one is doing the chat and tech support. At this time Zoom only allows one person on the call to be the Host.  I reached out to them on Twitter because it would be great to have at least 2.  
  2. Students are set to be muted when arriving.  With everyone home, there is too much background noise – dogs barking, dad on a conference call, babies crying, etc. 
  3. We unmuted any teachers on the call and then unmuted each student one at a time so they could say hello to everyone first.  The 3rd graders were happy to share what they were doing and to show everyone their room or their pet. 
  4. After that we used the “raise hand” feature under Participants or a real raise your hand for any questions about posted assignments.  Again, students were unmuted to talk.  
  5. We set the chat so that the students could only talk to everyone or privately to the host.  We didn’t want any private chat between them.  
  6. Other logistics – We did not have them wait in a meeting room.  We only had the meeting start when the host arrived.  The teacher created the meeting and posted the link into Google Classroom about 10 minutes before the meeting started.  Parents were emailed about the meet ups the night before hand and the reminder was on the Daily Checklist for the class.  We did not record the meetings because we are mostly using Chromebooks and recording doesn’t work on there.  That’s another reason why we want 2 teachers on the call in case there was a claim about something that happened on the call.  

We have received several emails from parents tonight saying how happy they are with the way our instruction has continued.  The children enjoy our daily videos and are happy that they got to see their teacher and friends at least once this week.  We did have a little bit of slow internet issues, but since it was only a check-in meeting, it wasn’t a big deal.  

I got this great resource on Instagram from The Techie Teacher of a Zoom Directions Doc for students.  We posted this in Google Classroom beforehand and emailed the parents about downloading the app beforehand.  

Hope your flexible learning is going well too!



Google announced today that they have extended Meet premium features to all users through July 2020 to support teachers and students as they learn and work remotely.  Here are some of the changes:

Only Meeting creators can mute or remove other participants

Participants cannot rejoin the meeting once everyone has left

You can read about those changes here

I think it is great that Google stepped up to help.  However, since we have already trained our teachers and student on Zoom, we will be sticking with that for the time being.  It is great that we have Meet as a backup if we need it.  

Cultivating a Love of Reading

2009 07 03 Old Classics sdobie via Compfight

After teaching 3rd grade for the last 14 years, this year I have moved into the role of Librarian/Technology teacher for the whole school, PreK3 – 8th grade.  It has been an adjustment to say the least, but I am really enjoying it now that I have settled in.  This job has allowed me to teach my 2 favorite things – technology and the love of a good book.  One goal that I have is to motivate my students to read everyday for enjoyment.  Here are a few of the ways I’ve tried to incorporate this goal in my new position.

  1. Read Aloud to the Children Every Time I See Them – I think it’s easy for teachers of younger students to incorporate this practice on a daily basis, but as students get older and work gets harder, it’s one of the first things teachers cut out of the daily routine.  When I was teaching 3rd grade I tried my best to read every day.  My favorite time of day was before dismissal.  I would get the children all packed up about 15-20 minutes before dismissal and then I’d read whichever chapter book we were into at the moment.  It helped to alleviate some of the craziness that can happen at dismissal and it was an enjoyable way to leave – sharing a great story together.  In my new position I see grades K-4 twice a week and grades 5-8 only once a week.  I’ve been pretty good about always starting off with a story from 4th grade down but it’s not always as easy with the bigger kids since I only see them once a week.  But read on for ideas on that.
  2. #Classroom Book A Day In my search for library lesson plans this year I can upon this idea started by Jillian Heise and based on Donalyn Miller’s #Bookaday challenge.  Her idea is to read aloud a picture book every day of the school year to students of any age.  Having been out of the picture book scene for the last 15 years or so, this has been a great resource for sharing fun, now favorite, new picture book titles like We Don’t Eat Our Classmates, Creepy Pair of Underwear, Creepy Carrots, The Book with No Pictures, Potato Pants, Nerdy Birdy Tweets and The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors, to name a few.  If you are looking for an easy way to incorporate real alouds into a busy classroom, give this a try.  You can get some book titles ideas from the Heise Reads website or by following the #classroombookaday hashtag on Twitter.
  3. Live Video Conference with an Author – When I was in grade 3, I would always be searching for author’s that would Skype with us for free.  Over the years we had live sessions with authors like Kate Messner, Mike Artell, K. E. (Kristin) Rocha, and Peter Raymundo.  There is something that motivates students to read when they talk to the author live.  I remember ending the session with Kristin Rocha where she played games and taught the kids to speak in the bear language mentioned in her Bearhaven series.  As soon as the Skype ended, I had 26 kids running for the 4 or 5 copies of the books that I had in the classroom.  It wasn’t always easy to find authors who would do the live session for free, however one great place to look is Microsoft Education’s Skype in the Classroom.  This year in my new role, I found another great resource from Scholastic.  When you host a Scholastic Book Fair at your school, you can get Scholastic Dollars as your payout.  Not only can you by books and equipment with those funds but you can also buy Skype sessions with authors.  The way it works is that you purchase a set number of books by that author and then the Skype comes with it for free.  They only post these Skypes a few times a month and they sell out fast but I was able to purchase one this year.  Last week we Skyped with Sandra Markle, author of over 200 books including the What if You Had animal series.  Now I had bought that series for our library in October after seeing a few of them at our Book Fair.  They include colorful funny pictures and facts about different interesting animals.  I had been trying to get the kids to check out the books over the last few months without much luck.  Then last week grades 1 – 4 took part in a 30 minutes Skype with Sandra.  She did some Science magic, showed photos of the books, talked about her research which included interactions with live animals and answered questions.  She ended by saying that every time the kids read her books, they will think of that Skype experience.  Each child went home with a copy of her book What if You Had Animal Eyes.  The children just loved the experience!  I’ve had several parents tell me how excited the kids were when they went home that night and now they are fighting to check out her books.

4. Hold a Book Tasting – Often times children come into the library and don’t know what to read and sometimes they are not willing to give news books a chance.  Try holding a book tasting to get them to into something new.  In a book tasting, students are given a choice of books to “taste.”  They look at the cover and book jacket, if applicable.  Then they spend 5-10 minutes reading the book.  After that they jot down whether they liked the book so far or not and why on their “book menu.”  I’ve done one with grade 2 students and I’m planning one with my grade 3 kids this week.  I tried to choose books in a series for these tastings so there would be several books for them to choose from.  Not everyone loved all of the books choices but they all found something new that they liked.  Here are a few photos.

5. Keeping Track of Favorite Authors and Making Recommendations to Others – Many adult readers love Goodreads for keeping track of their favorite books and learning about good books from others.  Recently I was looking for a similar, free, social media type sharing website for students to do the same and I found Biblionasium.  Teachers set up free accounts for their students.  You can search for a book and it will give a short summary and reading level.  Both students and teachers can write reviews for the books and recommend them to others in their group.  I just set up account for my grade 3 students as a trial and if all goes well, I’ll create accounts for other classes as well.

6. Reading free eBooks with Epic Books – One of my issues this year was finding something for the large group of children to do while I am helping small groups of students check out books. Epic books has worked out great for this.  Teachers create free accounts for their students.  Students can log in and either listen to audio books or read ebooks.  Everything is free during school hours and there are many good titles.  If the children want access at home, they would need to subscribe.  Epic Books is available as a web version or with an app.  Another great way to get students reading something new.

One of my favorite moments of this school year was when I was reading Shiloh to my grade 4 students.  I usually only read a chapter or two each class period and then we move on to either a library or technology lesson.  On this particular day I was about 3/4’s of the way through the book and when I tried to stop they kids all yelled out, “NO, please keep reading!  We have to know what happens!”  After we finished the book, I had students fighting over the chance to check out the other books in the series.  I smiled and thought, “Goal accomplished for today!”  I am looking forward to trying some reading challenges and digital book reviews later in the year as other ways to encourage young children to make reading an everyday part of their lives.

If you have any other ideas to share on this topic, please leave me a comment below.  I’d love to get some new ideas.

How Do I Find Time for Meaningful Professional Development?

I’ve been teaching 19 years and for the last 14 years, I’ve been teaching 3rd grade.  I really enjoy this age level because they are old enough to do a lot of things for themselves but they are still very excited about learning.  However, teaching the same material over and over again, year after year can be a challenge.  I always tell my parents at Back to School Night that I sometimes get bored of teaching the same lessons, and if I’m bored, I know my students are probably bored too!  So I am always looking for new ways to spice up my classroom and make learning fun for the children.  The problem is, how do I find time to fit in that professional development?  Luckily, my own 2 daughters are in their 20s and pretty much self sufficient.  However, I still have papers to grade, bulletin boards to cover, lesson plans to write not to mention laundry, cleaning, errands, cooking, exercise, and time to relax and recharge.  There aren’t enough hours in the day!  I teach in the state of Pennsylvania and we are mandated to get 180 hours of PD in a 5 year time period so that does force us to learn something new.  But for Catholic school teachers like myself, that also means paying for it out of our own pockets or doing something for free just so I can get those hours finished.  Where can I get meaningful PD?  Places to learn a new tool that I can quickly incorporate into my classroom tomorrow?

Rich Czyz has some wonderful ways to answer that question in his new book, The Four O’Clock Faculty.  This book has very easy and practical ideas for finding that spark that we teachers need to get our juices flowing again.  Some of the ideas mentioned in this book I am already doing, ie using Twitter, attending EdCamps, but he also gave a multitude of other easy ways for making connections with others to share ideas.  Here are a few of my favorites.

  1. #CoffeeEDU – This is an esay way to share ideas over coffee.  Choose an establishment, pick a topic and invite other educators to join you in your discussion.  Tweet it out with the hashtag and maybe you’ll get some folks outside of your school to join you to enrich the conversations and sharing.  Often times you can even get an educational vendor to send prizes and/or pay for the coffee!
  2. #TechMexTuesday – In this method, Rich suggests utilized those 15 minutes or so before or after school that teachers are required to be on property.  Invite teachers to come and learn or share about a new website or tool while snacking on some grab and go Tex Mex treats.  This could be a weekly or monthly meeting where the technology coach or principal share new ideas with the staff.
  3. The 1 – 5 – 15 Method by Rob Sahli – Each week Rob sends out a newsletter that contains 3 links for his staff members to continue their learning.  The first link takes one minute to review, the 2nd takes 5 minutes and the 3rd takes 15 minutes.  Maybe different educators in your building can take turns doing this throughout the year.
  4. PD during your Commute – Download an educational podcast and listen on the way to work if you have a lengthy commute.
  5. Lunch and Learn – Last year my school got a new reading series and we were all having a bit of difficulty adjusting and getting use to the new format.  Several times a week we would share our frustrations during lunch which also led to us sharing our success stories and resources we’d found to help.  At the end of the year, several teachers commented on how much they enjoyed those discussions and sharing.  Why not make this a routine?  Choose a topic to discuss and invite your colleagues!  If you have the means, bring the food too or make it a BYO.
  6. Have a Genius Hour during your next PD day. – Many of us have heard of trying this with students – giving them time to work on a topic they are passionate about – but I never thought about doing it during a teacher professional development.

These are just a few of the numerous ideas that Rich mentions in his book.  It’s an easy read with many anecdotes we can all relate to and both a summary and discussion questions at the end of each chapter. (Who’s up to do a Book Club with this book? We can even do it virtually using the Twitter hashtag #4OCF or the Voxer app as Rich suggests).  I think this book would be a good read for principals or other leaders who are in charge of professional development, technology teachers or coaches looking to share ideas with staff members, and teachers who are looking to go Rogue.  Rogue as defined by Rich is Relevant Organized Group of Underground Educators.

Some of the best educational ideas that I have gotten have been from talking to other teachers about something they are doing in their classroom.  Several years ago I became involved in the Global Classroom Project which was a group of educators from around the world who came together to provide and lead projects to connect their students globally.  We’ve since had to let go of that label due to time constraints to maintain the projects.  However, once a month there are 15 or so of us who get online and video chat about what is going on in our classrooms.  We are from different countries and different walks of life (both higher and lower grade teachers) but I really look forward to connecting with those educators and sharing our ideas.  I have come to see them as friends even though I’ve never met most of them.  When we do meet up (usually at ISTE) it’s like I’ve known them forever and we pick up our conversations right where we left off during the last Skype session.  When I have a problem or need some advice, I know they are there to help.  Every teacher needs a PLN both inside and outside of your school building.

The world (and education) as we know it is changing at lightening speed and it’s important to our students that educators change with it so that we might properly prepare them for the future.

To learn more about Rich and his book visit the Four O’Clock Faculty website.

How do you find time for meaningful professional development?

3 Easy Ways to Make Global Connections with Students

#EdublogsClub Prompt 7 – The Listicle

Becoming a global educator is very important in today’s society.  Even the youngest children can benefit from making global connections but many teachers have no idea how to get started.  Here are some easy ways to make that happen.

  • Make Connections with Blogs – Blogging is an easy way for students to get connected with other classrooms around the world.  Two of my favorite websites to use for that are “The 100 Word Challenge” and the “Student Blogging Challenge.”  Each challenge has a weekly writing prompt to give the children a topic to write about and each encourages the participants to leave comments for others.  Both of these challenges are rich with international participants which provide my students the opportunity to get into conversations with children around the world.
  • Video Conferencing – Using Skype and Google Hangouts to speak with other classrooms is a big thrill for my students.  Not only are we learning about others around the world, but the children are learning the 21st century skills of asking and answering questions.  Our favorite type is the Mystery Location where the children ask questions to figure out the location of the other school.  We’ve also done video conferences with scientists studying penguins in Antarctica, a marine biologist who works with sharks in Bimini and several authors.  One of the best places to get started finding partners is Microsoft Education’s Skype in the Classroom website.  If you’d like more information about how to go about doing a Mystery Location Skype, you can read the guest blog post I wrote a few years ago on Corkboard Connections which is linked to the photo below. 
  • Global Projects – Another way to make global connections is to take part in an organized global project.  Here are a few of my favorites.
    • The Global Read Aloud is a global project centered around the love of a good book.  This project kicks off in October.  You make connections with another class and then discuss the book as each teacher reads it aloud.
    • Projects by Jen is a sight that runs several projects throughout the year.  Our favorite is the OREO Project that runs in September.
    • The Peace Crane Project is a project that stems from International Peace Day in September but it runs all year long.  Participants each fold paper cranes with messages of peace and send them to the other school.
    • If you are looking for a more intense project, try a Flat Connections Project.  There are different projects for children ages K-12.  Each project lasts for about 12 weeks and they are rich with international participants.  Julie Lindsay and her project managers run an awesome support system for participants.  This project got me started and made me the global educator that I am today.
    • My students are just getting started in a global project called If You Learned Here.  In this project the participants create a global eBook and use it to ask and answer questions about school and life in other classrooms.

Don’t be afraid to take the plunge and become a global educator!  Trust me, once you give it a try, you will never go back.  You will see the excitement and learning opportunities for your students and realize that it’s easy, fun and totally worth it.

Favorite Free Web Tool –

Last month I signed up to take part in the #EdublogsClub – a weekly writing club for educators to blog about a different topic each week. I’ve been so busy that they are on prompt 5 and I am just having time to get started. This week’s theme is to share your favorite free web tools and I’m happy to provide my thoughts on this topic.

Online Worksheet  Our school is is a GAFE school and the students are 1:1 with chromebooks.  We are trying to get away from running off paper and doing more work online.  However, there are often times when I’d like my 3rd grade students to have a bit more practice in something that we are learning.  With, I can create a digital worksheet for my students to complete.  Once I log in, I select a theme and decide what type of question I need from a wide variety of choices which are listed below.  Some questions also offer an option for students to leave a voice recorded message instead of a typed answer.

Once I choose my question format, it is very easy to write up the questions.  At the same time I write the questions, I can also input the answers so the test will be self marking, or I can leave them open ended to review myself.  When I have completed the test, I save it.  Here is an example of one section of a Science worksheet that I recently made.

My next step is to assign the worksheet to my students.  There are several different ways to assign the worksheet using Google Classroom, Edmodo, a private link, a pin number or an embed code.

I usually assign the worksheet via Google Classroom.  At home my students log into their Google Classroom account and click on the link to view and complete the worksheet.  When they finish they hit the “Hand in Work” button at the bottom.  Then next day I log into my teacher account on and I can view each individual worksheet that a student has submitted to see how many they got correct or incorrect.

My students enjoy this format of homework much more then doing a paper worksheet.  They love using technology so this is fun to them.  I enjoy the fact that they are reviewing the material at home and we didn’t have to waste extra paper in the process.  To preview this entire worksheet, click here –  Ecosystem Science Worksheet worksheets can be created and completed on any device and it is completely free.  Some of my favorite things about this site are the variety of question types and the fact that my students don’t have to join a separate platform to complete the worksheets.  Another great option for teachers is the ability to search for and use worksheets created by other members.   I am very happy to have found this resource for this school year!

I hope this post was helpful to you!  Feel free to ask questions or share ideas by leaving me a comment.  I’d love to hear about what new web tool you are using with your students this year!

Wavin our Flags for Peace

This year my 3rd grade students at St. Ignatius School took part in an International Peace Day Video along with 19 other schools from 10 different countries including Germany, Guatemala, Malaysia, New Delhi, Australia, Greece, Venezuela, Ireland, India and the USA.  Special thanks to Lisa Parisi and Our Global Friendships for making it all happen!


Watch our submission video here – Global Peace Day Song 2016