Monthly Archives: February 2015

The Power of Social Media

Social Media has always fascinated me. It’s ever growing presence in our society is seriously powerful. There are very opinionated arguments for and against social media in general. People who argue against it say that social media, along with heightened cell phone usage, is depriving our children of real human interaction and damaging their development of social skills. Whether people like it or not, social media is happening. It is part of our society. And as much as I love technology, I agree with some arguments on both sides of that pendulum swing. But today I am all for social media!

I recently read a professional development book called Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess. It is a fantastic book that is funny and encouraging and inspiring. I enjoyed it so much that I wrote a blog post about the book and my experience with it. Much to my surprise, the author of the book commented on my post and tweeted the link to my blog.


Obviously I squealed like a little girl and was super excited about this. (I also got made fun of by lots of people that I told about it because I was so excited, and I still do not care. I am still excited about it.) But It doesn’t make sense to my brain that we should be able to so easily communicate with people like authors. But it really is commonplace in today’s society of social media.

So today I am fully on the social media bandwagon because it allows us to make connections with people we otherwise would not have been able to connect with. Two heads are better than one, and all of us together, via the wonders of social media and the Internet, can do absolutely anything.


I am also fascinated by Social Media stats. I linked each image back to the original site if you want to read further.





My Social Media Sites

I am a very tech savvy person, but I have been resisting some social media sites. I’m not quite sure why, maybe for the sake of keeping balanced or something like that. But then someone convinces me to try something new and more often than not I love it!

I adore Pinterest. I had so many pins on my teaching board that I decided to just create a whole separate account for school stuff. SO many great resources!!! Here is my teacher account on Pinterest. 


And now I have a school Twitter account! This isn’t for my kiddos, but more for me to keep up on PD and education ideas.


How do you use Twitter to help you become a better teacher? Who do you follow? Do you have a teacher account I can follow? Recommendations? 

I also love GoodReads. I had grand plans to use it in my classroom, but there were complications with it being classified as a social media site so it gets blocked on our school’s web filter. But I still use it for me. I do talk to my students about my goodreads account and how I challenged myself to read 100 books in 2015.

Untitled3What other social media do you use as a teacher? 

Teach Like a Pirate

More often than not, I finish reading professional development books or leave a long day of PD feeling completely inadequate. The gist is always, “if you do such and such you will be a better teacher,” or “just add these extra however many lessons and your students will be better off,” or “you just need to do more.” It really tears me down. It makes me feel like I’m never doing enough, or that I’m not a good teacher if I don’t spend an extra million hours outside of my workday working.

The thing about being a teacher that we must understand is that we are never done. There will always be one more thing we can work on, one more stack of papers to grade, one more parent email to write, one more lesson to prep. You can’t keep working until everything is done because that day will never come. I regained some of my sanity when I learned to go home at the end of the day and leave work at work. I’m not procrastinating, but I realized that stack of papers does not need to be graded tonight. (I definitely don’t do this perfectly. I’m still at school about 9 hours a day, but it’s a work in progress.)

Anyway, I just finished reading a fantastic book about teaching that I found encouraging, inspiring, and hilarious. It’s called Teach Like a Pirate and you can get more information about Dave Burgess and his book here.


I wrote a blog post a while back about using your passions in your teaching, which is the premise of Burgess’ book. You can read that post here.

Another main premise in the book is to sacrifice your pride for the sake of your students’ leaning. Look ridiculous and be okay with it! Act silly, use accents, put on skits, do something out of the ordinary to engage your kiddos.

I had a teach like a pirate lesson this week. We started learning about bones so I dressed up in full skeleton costume. The looks on my students’ faces were priceless when they walked in after lunch and saw me looking so silly. But I got them excited about our new unit, which was the goal.

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 I would love to hear what fantastic and inspiring professional development books you recommend. 

On a technology side note, I use two really cool apps to teach bones. The first is Human Body by Tiny Bop. It is really kid friendly and shows many body systems. We look at the whole skeleton and how it moves and also what the inside of bones look like.

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The other app is called D. Bones. It has a puzzle mode where students try to place the bones in the right place (all the while tapping stray snowflakes that block their screen.) There is also a mode that teaches the bone names.


What new and exciting iPad apps would you recommend? 


Everyone knows that it is important to do pre-assessments to see what your kiddos already know about a topic before you start teaching. I do a fair amount of pre-assessing, but I don’t always think that a big formal test pre-assessment is the best approach for every unit, and I get bored of the standard KWL chart.

For my astronomy unit I use a website called Wordle.  This is a great (but sometimes glitchy) website. It creates word clouds. So at the beginning and end of my unit, I ask the kids to write on a piece of paper every word they can think of about astronomy and space. The result is a lot of individual papers that look like this:

IMG_2028This is clearly a post-assessment Wordle list. Lots of great vocab!

Then I go through and either digitally or long hand make a tally chart of how many times a word is written, which ends up looking like this: pre-assessment in blue, post-assessment in purple:

IMG_2030IMG_2029I think it is so cool to see how there are so many more words and more complex scientific words that the kids know at the end of the unit.

Next, Wordle gives you a text box to write the words in. I type the word once and then copy and paste it as many times as I need. Here is where you should learn from my mistakes. Wordle needs the latest Java to run properly, so almost every time I use it I have to update my software. If I forget to update before I start typing, it erases everything I’ve typed! Super frustrating. So now I type it all in a word doc and copy and paste the whole thing into wordle. That way if it gets erased I don’t have to re-type everything. My word doc looks like this when I’m done.

IMG_2040The OCD in me cringes at all the red squiggly lines, but I get over it 😉

Then you hit Go and it spits you our a word cloud. You can change the colors and the font and the formatting to be whatever you want. Here is my pre-assessment astronomy wordle:




And my post-assessment astronomy wordle:



After we have both created, the kids and I look at and analyze them. I ask them to make observations about the differences between the two. On this pair they noticed that there are a lot more words on the post wordle and there is a greater variety in sizeof the word. (The more times a word is typed, the more kids wrote down that word, the bigger the word is in the word cloud.) In our pre wordle the biggest word was Sun, and in our post the biggest word is star. There are also some really teeny tiny words on the post wordle because only one or two kids wrote those down, but they are still great vocab. (I was dupe excited that three kids put geocentric and heliocentric, which we learned in the first lesson I taught in the unit almost 3 months ago.)

So there you have it. A fun new way to do pre-assessments!

What non-traditional pre-assessments do you use in your classroom?