Summer Vacation Teaching Connections Part 1


Even when I am on summer vacation, my trusty teaching hat remains on my head. The vacation that I am referring to is the one my husband and I take to visit his folks on Cape Cod in Brewster, Massachusetts. This is my annual last “Hoorah” before the hustle and bustle of the school year is in full swing.

One place in Brewster that we visited I would like to highlight is The Cape Cod Museum of Natural History (CCMNH) located at 869 Main Street on 6A. Described as “Cape Cod’s Nature Place”, this nonprofit foundation offers the visitor a plethora of activities to choose from including an aquarium, guided trails, bird watching, family programs, and science workshops. I wanted to note that during the summer, CCMNH offers a variety of indoor and outdoor programs for kids ages 3-15 called KidSummer.

During our visit this year, we chose to spend most of our time on the John Wing Trail, guiding ourselves through 1.3 miles of woodlands and a salt marsh that took us down to the Cape Cod Bay.

Upon arriving at the CCMNH, the hubby and I found the following exhibit on the grounds leading to the walking trail. It clearly shows which everyday goods that are and are not recyclable.


I absolutely love this science lesson on recycling! I plan on sharing this picture with my students this year as a hook for the introduction to my lesson on recycling. The most important reason would be to encourage them to be more environmentally aware of what is and is not biodegradable.

It is almost unbelievable that the plastic and glass we use will not decompose in our lifetime. Recycling is such a simple activity in which my second graders can actively participate.
After pulling myself away from the recycling exhibit, I found a map of the trail that lay before us on today’s adventure.


As a teacher, I have to say that I love the Social Studies lesson shown here of the map which has a pictorial key of what can be found while walking the trail. In fact, I decided to share the first three of the eight listed points of interest in a two part blog.

Observation Point#1: Upland Edges

The most exciting part of this leg in our journey was the osprey nest located in the middle of the picture.


Osprey are large fish-eating birds of prey. The CCMNH provides an opportunity for the public to see the osprey family up close. You can stream ongoing footage of this nest at:
Osprey Camera

Note: This website does require for you to set up an account.
Setting up this account took me about five minutes. Once it was completed I was amazed by what I saw happening within this nest. It appears as though mom and dad osprey are taking turns keeping watch over the nest. I am thinking that sharing this footage with my class this year could create some interesting discussion especially during the unit on habitats.

Observation Point #2: Salt Marsh

As we continued on our way, we found these breathtaking views of the salt marsh. Salt marshes are tidal wetlands growing in salty water. This water is much too salty to drink.
Salt marshes are found in calm waters such as bays and lagoons and in the mouths of creeks and rivers. The picture on the right is the board walk we crossed to get to John Wing’s Island. Luckily for us it was not high tide. Otherwise, this part of the journey would have come to a halt due to flooding caused from high tides.



Observation Point #3: Upland Forest

After crossing the marsh, we arrived at John Wing’s Island and headed up through
the upland forest. Seth and I stopped several times just to listen and take in the calm of the forest. While doing so I snapped this picture below:


Visiting the upland forest was a tranquil experience. It gave us the opportunity to pass by pitch pine and oak trees as well as hear lots of birds singing to their hearts’ content. I find it to be the perfect point to wrap up the first of a two part summer vacation blog. I look forward to telling you about the rest of the journey in my next entry.

Wishing You Well,

A Note From Your Teacher


A Note From Your Teacher

Setting up the lines of communication with students and parents before school starts is an important factor to consider when preparing for an amazing school year. One simple way that I do this is I send postcards to students on my roster a week before school starts.

The day before school starts, my school has a Meet and Greet session where parents can meet their children’s new teacher. My reminder for this event is included on each postcard. It usually sounds something like this:


I like to prepare my welcome back to school postcards well before I report back to school. If I pile it onto the lists of things that have to be done later in my preparation, I lose focus the week I report back to school. Just recently I was trying to figure out where I was going to purchase postcards. A thought came to mind–maybe I could make my own postcards on card stock paper.

There are plenty of websites available in which you can download postcard templates for free. One that I found is:

However, this all changed when a fellow colleague shared that she had just found a ton of Dr. Seuss stuff at Jo~Ann’s Fabric and Craft store.

I was especially thrilled to hear this because Dr. Seuss is our theme for the upcoming school year. I could hear a choir singing when I located the two shelves of Dr. Seuss items. Of all the things that I purchased, the one that was the best bang for my buck was the Dr. Seuss Teacher Reward Kit.
20130730-190538.jpgThis sturdy flip top box comes with labeled index tabs to file various items for teachers, including recognition awards, teacher note cards, note pads, bookmarks and stickers.

I was a little hesitant at first to make the $20+ purchase, however when I compared what it would cost to buy all of the items separately, buying the box came out a winner.
Not to mention that I remembered I had a teacher reward card that got me 15% off my total purchase. Jo~Ann’s Fabric and Craft store offers a discount card program to teachers. They just require you show your teacher badge in order to get it.


You probably noticed it says 2012-2013 with the expiration date of 8/31/13. Jo~Ann’s Store does require teachers to renew this Rewards card annually to update it according to the new school year.

To prepare early, I will fill out each of the Dr. Seuss postcards with as much information as I have for my future students. Then when I get my class list, I can quickly insert their names on the postcards and promptly place them in the mail. BAM! DONE!

It is very interesting to note that when I looked for the Dr. Seuss Teacher Reward Kit at Jo~Ann’s Store online, it was not available. However, I did find the kit on sale for $17.09 ( regular price $18.99) at: Dr. Seuss Teacher Reward Kit
Don’t forget that as of January 2013 the price of postage for a postcard is $0.33.

Specifically this is for: a card having dimensions between:
3 1/2″ x 5″ x .007″ thick
4 1/4″ x 6″ x .016″ thick

The cost to purchase enough stamps for each postcard I am sending out which is 18 this school year is $5.94.

Sending a postcard or some sort of communication is a welcoming touch to the school year that has a positive effect on my new students and their families. I have had parents say their Johnny or Sally really enjoyed receiving their card in the mail before school started. Not to mention, it eases any anxiety that students might have before starting a new school year– especially if they are entering a new school.

Wishing You Well,


Music Notes


“Music expresses that which can not be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”
~ Victor Hugo

This quote is one to consider when thinking about music as a form of artistic expression. Music articulates feelings and emotions in a way that cannot be shared in words. Such a powerful tool can be used in the classroom to help students learn. Instructing through music–playing, singing, and listening to it is a way to reach all seven of Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences.
(For more information on these check out.

Incorporating music into the classroom is something I would like to do more of this school year. This is not just because of my personal appreciation, but for the positive impact it has on the brain.

What Does Research Say?

According to an article submitted by John Hopkins University using the work of Chris Brewer who wrote, Music and Learning:
“Music stabilizes mental, physical and emotional rhythms to attain a state of deep concentration and focus in which large amounts of content information can be processed and learned. Baroque music, such as that composed by Bach, Handel or Telemann, that is 50 to 80 beats per minute creates an atmosphere of focus that leads students into deep concentration in the alpha brain wave state. Learning vocabulary, memorizing facts or reading to this music is highly effective. On the other hand, energizing Mozart music assists in holding attention during sleepy times of day and helps students stay alert while reading or working on projects.”

Music in the Classroom

One quick way I had considered bringing music into the classroom is when doing a quick brain break to get the kids moving and hopefully better able to concentrate. Spencer Kagan, a leading expert on cooperative learning in the classroom, strongly encourages giving students plenty of opportunities to move around when learning in the classroom. What better way to do this than through music? In looking at what the research says about utilizing 50-60 beats per minute (bpm), I was not surprised to find that Spencer Kagan has connected with the musician, Gary Lamb, who often composes music using these tempos.

Sample of Music (60 bpm) You Can Use in Your Class

While writing this post, I turned to my husband, Seth (Sethesizer), a composer, for help. I wanted a piece that could be used to get my students academically motivated. He came up with a piece that has approximately 80 bpm:

“Even Times” By Sethesizer

What are your thoughts about using music in the classroom? Do you use music in the classroom? If so, how often? What types of music do you play? Does it help you as far as behavior management? Does it help you reach your end teaching goal?

*For more information and music by my husband, please check out:

Wishing You Well,

So What I Heard You Say Was…

Sitting with a cup of coffee in hand, I just had the pleasure of sitting and chatting with my mother-in-law who is a retired school teacher. She was very interested in hearing about the things that worked in my classroom this year. I found I focused a lot of attention in my reflection on my experience with accountable talk.

Well…What is accountable talk, you say? Accountable talk is conversation that holds the speaker and listener responsible for what is being said. It is a process that involves the teacher first modeling conversation stems such as:

I agree with ______ because….

I disagree with _____ because…

Here are the accountable stem cards I used this school year:



I printed and laminated four sets of cards (students are divided into four tables). At the the beginning of the school year, I gave each table a few cards to read and discuss. After having students turn and share with their face or shoulder buddy what the card says and what they think it means, I debriefed the activity by sharing what I heard and saw students doing as well as the purpose of the cards. I explained to students that the stem cards are guides to help us when sharing our thinking and learning with others.

I had the students keep the cards at their table because at a moment’s notice, I could have them break them out again. I almost kind of make it a game to where at a moment’s notice, students will have to be ready to use the cards to share their thoughts about the lesson occurring in class.

As a side note, some teachers may choose to use these stem cards just in math, but I think implementing them in all subject areas will really help students build their skills in learning to communicate their thinking.

Ultimately, the goal of accountable talk is to have students independently explain, justify, and critique their thoughts and ideas fluently at any point within an academic lesson.
By the end of the year it was truly amazing to sit back and watch students applying accountable talk in many aspects of academic conversation.

**I want to give credit to the blog, 24-7 Teacher for the accountable talk cards that I have attached in this post. Here is the link to access full view of the author’s TPT (Teachers Pay Teachers) website. In order to access this, you have to a) Sign up on the Teachers Pay Teachers web site and b) it will cost you $1.95.

Wishing you well,

Burning Desire


Teaching Math Via Common Core

I always tell students who have a sense of urgency to share something, “Instead of raising and waving your hand around, how about you write your “Burning Desires” on a sticky note and place it on your desk. When I have a chance, I will then come and read your note.”
Well today, you could say I have a burning desire. :0
A colleague has sent me a link to an article on the blog, “The Teacher Channel”, that has videos of teachers across grade levels implementing the Common Core (CC) in one mathematic lessons. Here is the link:

When I have to implement something new in my classroom, I frequently find myself asking the question, “Is there a video of someone modeling this for me?”
I am in luck today because I have gotten a peak at seeing Common Core in action. In this article, Lily Jones outlines and shares insight from six different teachers on what CC means and looks like. Being a second grade teacher, I feel like I got the most out of the first grade lesson, but I don’t want to limit the possibilities to other grade levels. All in all, I felt like this was too good to not share with others.
With CC, students will show significant growth in learning because they are learning to think through the processes of there work and not just memorize formulas! Wow! What an amazing thought!

Reflections On Common Core

Common Core

Oh the strides I envision we will make this year! Entering into its second year of
implementation in the county in which I work, Common Core (CC) continues to be a HOT topic of discussion. Kindergarten and First Grade teachers were required to implement CC this past 2012-2013 school year. During the 2013-2014 school year, Second Grade Teachers such as myself will also be required to teach to the CC Standards. This means that I am preparing to embrace a curriculum that will gradually build upon each grade level. The ultimate goal of Common Core is to create fluid transition of learning in grades K-12. Students demonstrating their understanding of content in a proficient way will be expected. One of the many ways this can be shown is through accountable talk. This includes challenging ideas not people. Also, it has been shared that grade levels will have to band together instead of working in isolation. For example, second and third grade are now tied in together. This may take some time for teachers such as myself to truly grasp. Communication across the grade levels will be the norm. One way this can be done could be in the form of verticaL PLC’s.
During the recent CC Math training I recently attended, we were asked to look at standards for math and write down any that we previously did not have according to the Florida State Standards we were using. This is what the Second Grade Teachers came up with:


Next, we were asked to write what was missing from the math curriculum that we previously had implemented. This is what we came up with:


At the bottom of this chart we listed any AHA’s we observed while working through this assignment.

Also, I decided to take a photo of what first grade reported to be new according to the CC standards:


In hindsight I now realize I should have taken a picture of the third poster as well. With CC, students will have to think outside of the box by using their strategies to solve problems instead of relying on formulas like how I was originally taught. This was an example of such a situation that one group came up with:


In this situation, there are several ways in which you could solve this problem with no particular one being the right one.

How would you help your students solve a problem like this?

I am attaching a link that contains the posters we discussed and Hillsborough County teachers will be using in their classrooms this year:


Ok. I think that is all for today but I will be back soon!