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Showing posts from March, 2017

Until Tuesday...

I'm not sure what to write for this last slice of the March Slice of Life Challenge. It's the last day and I'm a bit stuck for ideas.

Today was a cold, rainy day.
It has been cold and raining for several months now.
I wish it would stop, even if for just a little while.
A few sunny days and blue skies would really help pick up my spirits.

This weekend is the second round of elections in Ecuador. It has been a long, dirty campaign season.
Many accusations have been hurled across a great divide. Some fear a new spate of violence on Sunday when the polls close at 5:00 p.m. I'm hoping this prediction doesn't come true.

This weekend is also for writing progress reports. This snuck up on me, though I know I'm not the only one feeling this way. It must have been on some calendar that progress reports are due on Monday, but somehow it got past all of us. Too many other things running through our minds.

This year, I've been thinking a lot about how to make reading …

A Day in the Life of a Fifth Grade Class

Is it Friday, yet?
Phew! What a week!
Lots of good stuff happening!

Here's a glimpse into a day in the life of a fifth grade class:
My students are knee-deep into their PYP-IB Exhibition of Learning projects. They love this time of the day because it's an opportunity to work in groups on topics of interest, such as: homelessness/joblessness, bullying, orphans, and terrorism.

My students joyfully shared their memoirs with a partner. This was our end-of-unit celebration. Although it required little preparation, it was a hit! In fact, one group of three asked for more time because one student hadn't had time to share his memoir. "But, I want to listen to Bruce's memoir," piped up Isabela. And, of course, I couldn't say, no. 😊

My students struggled with an order of operations problem in math; they all made the same mistake - an easy one to fix.

My students didn't want me to stop reading Number the Stars. They sensed we're at a turning point in the story, ev…

It's Almost April

It's almost April.
After that, the year will rush by
in a whir.
Summer days get closer and closer.
Keeping students' attention
on learning
will be hard.

Progress reports due in five days.
Didn't we just do these?
Two stars and a wish.
Compliments and areas for growth.
Dear Student...

Two days away from the final day of the #SOL17 March Challenge.
I enjoyed slicing this year.
Not like in other years.
Late night slicer.
Never felt pressured.
2 hours and 25 minutes till posting closes for today.

Three days shy of April Fool's Day.
A Saturday.
I'm glad.
Accreditation visit on Monday.
5 days away.

Twelve days until Spring Break.
Late this year.
My birthday comes at the tail end of our break.

Seventeen days until my birthday.
An important decision needs to be made.

Mini Lessons

Sometimes, I plan too many teaching points for one lesson. For example, instead of focusing on one strategy that students need in order to become more proficient readers and writers, I try to teach several strategies at the same time. 

Sometimes, I stretch out a teaching point beyond the 10- or 12-minute time limit I've given myself because I worry that my mini lesson wasn't enough or my students won't have understood what I intended to teach. So, sometimes, I beat the lesson to a pulp one too many times, or forget to have the kids practice the lesson before they go off to read or write. (Asking students to practice a lesson after you teach it, with you right there to observe and help guide students through the process, is very effective. Try not to skip this step!)  

Here's an example of a mini lesson that lasted less than 10 minutes and resulted in better learning.

My students are in the second round of historical fiction book clubs. In a couple of weeks, we will start …

Without my laptop...

Today I forgot my school laptop at home.
I had to get to school before the 7:00 am "pico y placa" restrictions, based on my license plate, went into effect. It wasn't until I got to school that I realized that the feeling that something-was-missing when I walked out the door was because something was missing!

Not having my laptop proved interesting.
I had to borrow an iPad from the tech office for the day.
For those things I couldn't do on the iPad, I used my phone.
Not ideal either way.

This experience made me realize how dependent I've become on computers to accomplish work at school.

Without my laptop, I couldn't use my document camera.
Without my document camera, I couldn't project the set of math problem solving strategies and some practice problems I had planned on doing with my students.
Without the use of the projector, I had to write everything on charts.

Without my laptop, I couldn't access any of my documents that weren't on Google Dri…

My Burning Question(s)

+Margaret Simon has challenged #DigiLitSunday bloggers to think about this: what is your burning question?

My first response? I don't have just one burning question. I have many burning questions. There is so much that I still don't know even though I've been teaching for many years. You'd think that I would have things pretty clear by now - structures, routines, and lessons established in my head and replicated from year to year. But, of course, the fact that every year we have a new group of students entrusted to our care means that, while some things can stay the same, many things cannot. We have to reinvent our classrooms from year to year to meet the strengths and needs of our students.  

When I reflect on this prompt, I invariably start with the should know's and don't know's before coming up with burning questions. Although I'm sure that's not where this question was hoping to take us, I feel compelled to get those out of the way first. So, her…

Today I slept in...

Today, I slept in. I didn't set my (two) alarm(s). I didn't rush out of bed to do anything. I just rested for a while and watched the sky get lighter and lighter. I had hushed conversations with my husband; my son was still asleep.
Today, I slept in.  I contemplated potential changes in my life. Possible moves, professional and personal. New challenges. The unknown.
Today, I slept in. Change used to scare me. I never wanted to leave the Bay Area in California. I never wanted to live anywhere but there.
Today, I slept in. I thought Ecuador would be our last stop for a long time..the first time. Then, we went to Canada. And, it seemed like we would stay there forever. Well, six years can seem like forever. But, then we decided it was time to return to Ecuador. Build our dream house, which we did. Go back to a school I loved, which I did.
Today, I slept in. The future feels uncertain again. Anything is possible. Even no change is possible. But, I'm not worried. At least, I try not to worry...too much.


Today's post is short and sweet because I just got back from a night of playing Bunko with friends. 

I share some questions I'm grappling with in my classroom. 

No answers. 

Just questions.

(1) What purpose do math stations serve in my classroom?

(2) How can I continue to engage writers without overwhelming them or me?

(3) How can I determine if my tangled readers are learning to be better readers from the books they choose to read?

(4) How can I strike a balance between student choice and making sure my students learn what they need to learn at any given time?

(5) Am I demanding too much from my students?

As I find responses and solutions to these issues, I will post some ideas on my blog.

Any thoughts are more than welcomed! 

SIPS of Learning - PD by Teachers for Teachers

Yesterday, teachers at my school, Pre-K - 12, participated in an afternoon of professional learning courtesy of our colleagues. Every two to three months, a call for presenters is made and teachers volunteer to conduct a 30-minute session to their peers about an education-related topic. There are usually about ten workshops for teachers to choose from and teachers attend two different sessions during the afternoon.

Yesterday I participated in a workshop conducted by our 7th grade science teacher. She led a Critical Friends Group using a protocol to help teachers get ideas from others for a problem of practice. There were five of us altogether in the session and two of us got to share a difficult problem that we wanted help with.

The teacher who is looking for suggestions (in this case, me), talks for approximately 5 minutes about her particular classroom problem. Then, everyone asks clarifying questions. Next, the presenter recounts the issue at hand including what the teacher is aski…

Math Expert Groups, Take #1

Today we did expert groups in math for approximately 20 minutes.
It was my first attempt at organizing students into self-selected groups with one student responsible for teaching the rest of the group a particular math skill.

First, I asked my students to think of something in math they felt comfortable teaching someone else. Then, they wrote this down on a sticky note. Next, I collected the sticky notes and selected four students to lead four different groups. Finally, my students sorted themselves into groups by math topic.

At first, my students were reluctant to write down something in math they felt they could teach their classmates. They were reluctant to play along with me because their roles were not clear, even though I had prefaced this activity by saying that we were going to experiment with a new structure. In other words, we were bound to make mistakes and flounder our way through this event. Afterwards, we would talk about the next iteration of this activity.

Some stude…

Writing Every Day

Oh, oh.
I don't know what to write.
I'm tired and I'd love to stop trying to write so that I could curl up with a good book, instead.
If it weren't for the March Slice of Life Challenge, I would most likely log out of my computer right now, so that I could grab one of the many books I'm reading, like...

I would open up my book and get lost in the lives of the characters.
Then, as my eyes would start to close, I'd put down my book, turn off the lights, and fall into a deep sleep until morning.

So, I'm glad it's the middle of March and I'm participating in this challenge.
If not, I would have stopped writing long ago.
So, how can I keep the pressure on, so to speak, to keep writing every day and posting on my blog?

Maybe I could set a challenge for myself.
Pretend it's an April SOL challenge. Then, May. And, so on.

I'm going to pressure myself to keep going.
Hold myself accountable.

Here's to writing every day.

Creativity and Innovation

Creativity and innovation...

I've been thinking a lot about both of these topics lately.
Probably because I've been reading George Couros' book, 
The Innovator's Mindset and because +Margaret Simon has nudged some of us to write about this topic today. 

So far, one of the biggest takeaways from reading this book by +George Couros has been the idea that innovation for innovation's sake is not good enough. 

We innovate in order to create something NEW and BETTER than what we had before. To create something new that doesn't enhance student learning, is not worth our time. And, of course, an innovation could be a new iteration of an old idea as long as it will do want we want to do, but better. in this case, we want to help students learn better and more effectively.

Keeping these ideas in mind has really helped me think more clearly about innovation. 

Although I'm still reading and still thinking, this idea has somehow lodged itself into my brain and won't leave …


Developing relationships with students is a very important part of what teachers do at the beginning of the year. In fact, it may very well be the most important thing teachers do to make sure that the year goes well and learning happens for every student. As the year progresses, these relationships may change and thereby need to be nurtured and cultivated.

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, teacher-to-student relationships don't gel right away. They take effort, intentionality and honesty for teachers to grow healthy relationships with some of the more challenging students in our classrooms.

Although it's already mid-March, I feel like I am just now developing relationships of mutual trust, respect and genuine appreciation with some of my students. I realize that the reason this has taken so long is because I let curricular demands get in the way of what's important.

However, the last couple of weeks I have begun to feel like my old self again. I'm more relaxed wi…


That's my predominant feeling tonight.

I just got back from a TGIF at my principal's house.  There was food, laughter and great company.

As soon as I got home 
I took a hot shower and
I got into my PJ's.
I realized I hadn't drunk any water all day. 
I filled a tall glass.
I grabbed my computer.
I sat down to write this post.


We still have three weeks left of school before Spring Break. 
I need to hang on for a little while longer. 
It shouldn't be a chore because my class and I are on a roll. 
And, I plan to do everything I can to keep it that way.


I feel as if I'm slowly fading away.
Sleep beckons me.

Good night. 

One Part Patience, One Part Artistry, One Part Trust and Many Parts Faith

Today I got home close to 6:00 pm.
Almost 12 hours after I had left to go to school.
I took a shower.
I cleaned up the kitchen
while my husband cooked.
I had dinner with my husband and son.
I cleaned up the kitchen again.
I sat down to flip through my FB and Twitter feeds.
Then, I checked my email.
When I looked up at the clock and realized it was getting late,
I panicked. What am I going to write today?
I had no idea.

It's almost 10:00 on the east coast.
It's almost 9:00 here.
I open my computer to start a slice
and realize, again. that I don't know what I'm going to write.

I think about the tasks in my bag
the ones I lugged from school to home today.
Every day I think I could tackle at least one of these tasks before I go to bed.
But, after dinner I am tired.
I'd prefer to read a good book,
talk to my husband and son,
write a little,
watch the soccer game that's on TV right now.
Anything but do schoolwork.

I've been having such a great time with my kids.

The Weather

Slicing every day in March!!

We don't have to worry about shoveling snow or trekking to work in the snow or driving in the snow.
It is freezing!
It rains every day. I haven't seen the sun in what feels like weeks. We've had indoor recess several times this year already.
So what's normal for this time of the year?  Although it does rain, we do have many sunny days  and some of them are even warm.
This is the coldest winter I've spent in Ecuador in all of the years I've lived here. Which begs the question. Is it due to global warming? Climate change? Why is this happening all of a sudden?
No answers. Just wondering. In the meantime, I am wearing layers at school and at home. Hoping to stay warm. Hoping it will get warm again, soon.
Is it spring, yet?

Perfect Day!

Slicing every day in March!!!
Today was a wonderful day with my students!
We finished reading Moo by Sharon Creech.  We were both sad and happy at the end of the story. And, we put aside some of our routines to tape an upcoming episode for Book Club for Kids about Moo. Take a look at the Book Club for Kids Facebook page for the announcement!

We had an awesome lesson with our Primary Years Program (PYP) Coordinator who introduced the Design Cycle to my students. They had to create the tallest free standing tower in a group of four. They were given two opportunities to do this. The second time there were some adjustments made so that the groups could incorporate research, more planning, and reflection into their final product. All of the groups were successful on the second try. This was a great beginning to the work students will need to do for their Exhibition of Learning projects starting this week.
We learned a new game in math that gave students practice with rounding whole number…

Waiting is so Hard

Waiting is so hard.
I don't like waiting.
I get impatient.
I want answers now.

Waiting is so hard.
Patience is not a strength of mine.
Yet, I've had to be patient before.
Waiting, watching and teaching at just the right moment.
Waiting until a student understands a concept.
I try everything I know until I see
the light of recognition in a child's eyes.
That aha! moment when a child finally gets it!

Waiting is so hard.
I want instant gratification.
And, I'm not even from that generation.

Waiting is so hard.
Yet, I know that waiting
is bearable.
If I can let go.
Enjoy the moment.
Live and love in the present.

Waiting is so hard.
That's why I stay busy.
As I wait for news
of a new job,
a new project,
new opportunities.
I stay busy.

Waiting is so hard.
Reading alleviates the anxiety.
Watching a movie helps me relax.

Waiting is so hard.


A Short Post


Slicing every day in March!!
Today was a long day.
The last day of our annual 3-day Fine Arts Festival.
The kids were not at their best. They were fidgety. They were silly.  It's 5th grade and it's March.
We suspended our regular schedule to participate in some of the Fine Arts Festival activities. The kids made self-portraits.  They viewed some art work created by high school students. They wrote blog posts about their morning activities. They listened to a 4-school choir perform together for the first time.
Some of us read while others wrote long on a sticky note from our historical fiction books.  We continued reading our read aloud, Moo by Sharon Creech, not once, but twice today. We're getting to some funny parts; my students are really enjoying this book. 
I'm glad it's Friday. We all need a little break. To recharge. To relax. To forgive and forget.
I look forward to Monday. When we can be together again. We're clicking as a class. A little later than wh…

Math Games

Slicing every day in March!!

In a recent blog post, The Teacher Next Door described how to play 8 different math games using dice.

Today I taught my students the simplest of the 8 games.

Most of the games have one or two variations that make them more challenging. Once the kids have the basic game down, they'll probably want to change things up a bit and the variations will help them do that.

Most of the games, if not all, only require dice, paper and pencil. or individual whiteboards and white board markers.

Today we played Build It Big or Build it Small, a game where you had to either build the largest or the smallest number. I played against the class. First, you decide if you are playing with two, three, four or more place values and draw that number of dashes on your paper or whiteboard. Then, you throw the die once and write the number you roll on either of the dashes. Once you write down a number you can't change it.

We played a few rounds and kept the game fresh by add…