Student Blogs

The best assignment is when it doesn’t feel like one.

Student-Voice-Education-through-LeadershipStudent blogs are the best project I’ve ever assigned. I’m not only reading their posts and assessing their writing, I’m learning so much about each of them. Not putting limitations on the blogs was the best “live in beta” decision I could have made.

When I made the assignment and the rubric (because students are receiving a grade), I required three posts before Christmas break. I didn’t require a certain number of photos, polls, different topics…etc. I just opened it up for students to make the blogs their own. They’ve exceeded my expectations, and I’m encouraged to make more projects with fewer guidelines. (Crazy thought, huh?) Fewer guidelines allows students to feel ownership in their projects because it is uniquely theirs.

This assignment is the perfect example of giving students the tools to create, learn, and communicate on their own without holding their hand through the process. I made it clear that I didn’t have all of the answers and we would be learning some of the program together along the way. They respected this honesty without question.

I knew this assignment was executed correctly when a student who is not in my class came in and asked if I could help her make a blog because she heard about it from my students. Absolutely!

Feel free to check out their work!

Teachers Who Tweet

Many people roll their eyes at the idea of school getting out early once a week or sparatic days off for professional development throughout the year. Even students sometimes question, “What do you do when we get out early?”

The truth is, professional development days too often include lists and lists of announcements and procedures. Little actual professional development occurs. Where does that leave educators who wish to collaborate and continue experimenting with new ideas in the classroom? Twitter! I spend countless hours on this tool each week benefitting from other educators. Whether I watch live chats or search specific hashtags later, Twitter is the best professional development tool I’ve found. It allowed me to connect with real people at ITEC because I was following them on social media prior. It connected me to the Voxer group I use for positive teaching energy each week, and it helped me create new lessons for my students because of other teachers sharing their professional blogs. I even communicated with another teacher who is going to share her student’s blogs with me later this year for my students to correspond with her class.

Twitter is what you make it, but I’m telling you it can be the best tool if you follow the right people. Here is a list of education Twitter chat times. Remember, if you can’t tune in live, just search the hashtag anytime to view the powerful conversations.

Another thought for Thanksgiving week comes from Patrick Donovan. He’s encouraging teachers to share something this week that has worked in the classroom. Are you up for his challenge?

Gift of Galena

image2image1 Back in May, my parents gifted me a Galena getaway giftcard to the The Irish Cottage for my graduation. With a summer full of travel, John and I decided to save the gift for the fall. We picked a great weekend to take in Galena. The storefronts were lit up for Christmas already, and the town was busy with early holiday shoppers. My mission was to find the perfect caramel apple. I’m proudly displaying my apple pie caramel apple in the photo. Words and photos won’t do this delicious treat justice.

We spent two nights at the cottage reminiscing about our Ireland trip two and a half years ago. Complete with live music, irish dancers, Guinness and Harp with Irish cider, authentic Irish breakfasts, and lots of relaxation, the weekend was the perfect gift. Thank you, Mom and Dad!

Serial Podcast

My last post included a poll to identify how many people listen to podcasts. Over half of you don’t utilize this resource. My goal is convince you to tune in. Keep reading!

Podcasts are digital audio files. Basically, they are radio shows or digital books that can be downloaded and listened to even when you’re not connected to the internet. I’ve listened to podcasts while I’m working out, driving, or even while shoveling snow this past Sunday morning.

Creating a podcast was one of my professional goals going into this school year. I consider it partially achieved. I had one of my students create a pocasts at the beginning of the year with our local news station. They talked sports, specifically the upcoming football season. It was entertaining to listen to this talk show style program, but students haven’t showed a lot of interest in creating additional ones.

IMG_0283Through the educational Voxer group, I was introduced to Serial Podcasts. (Thanks, Aaron!) These free podcasts have been downloaded over a million times per episode. The series is designed to be listened to in order, and fans are eagerly awaiting the final episodes. These nonfiction podcasts discuss the ins and outs of reopening a 1999 murder case in Baltimore. (More of a summary can be found here.)

If you like mysteries, murder mysteries, books on tape or just listening to something other than the radio while you pass the time, download these podcasts.

You can listen straight from your computer or you can use your free Podcast app (if your phone doesn’t already have it, download it from the app store) and search for Serial. It’s the most popular podcast right now, so you won’t have a hard time finding it.

If murder mysteries aren’t your thing, there are podcasts available for every genre: Sports, News, Business, Politics, Religion, Entertainment…etc. Think Satellite radio without the additional price.

Download just one Serial podcast, listen, and let me know what you think!




Before the start-gun sounded, the announcer said it was -3 degrees with the windchill. I couldn’t feel my toes for the first two miles. I knew I was moving, but it was hard to process how fast when my legs were brittle icicles. Thankfully I had lots of layers on, and it was pretty easy to motivate myself since I knew the streets and the route. After the halfway mark, I finally felt warmed up and finished the race in 40 minutes. The 8k might be my favorite race distance. I just need to find one with better weather conditions to PR.

John ate my plate of pancakes. He earned it after standing in the cold to cheer. I just wanted a steaming shower and hot coffee.

Luckily, we beat the snow, which John is now loving in his 4-wheel drive!IMG_0268IMG_0270

Grab a Date

holidaydrinkI’ve blogged about this Starbucks BOGO every year in effort to spread some caffeinated spirit to my readers. Tomorrow the seasonal promotion is back. Buy one seasonal (Gingerbread Latte, Caramel Brûlée Latte, or Peppermint Mocha) from 2-5 p.m. and get the other free. This deal runs Wed.-Sun. My recommendation over the years has stayed the same: Caramel Brûlée. Thankfully, my husband agrees, so we’re looking at a few coffee dates this week.