Googlepalooza 2015

Yesterday I attended VSTE’s Googlepalooza with 3 other ITRT colleagues.  We enjoyed our day of learning!

Google Apps Logo 1

Here are a few quick highlights of the sessions I attended.

Stay Classy, Google!  Be an Anchorman With Hangouts on Air

Principal Elizabeth Mistretta and ITRT Jennifer Arey presented about how they use Google Hangouts on Air for their morning announcements.  While their focus was on how they did the morning announcements, there were many possibilities for how to use this tool in the classroom.  To learn more about Hangouts on Air, check out this site.

Getting the Basics about Google Drawing

Kat Staton did a nice overview of Google Drawing.  I feel like it’s one of those neglected, overlooked aspects of Google Drive.  But there are a ton of ways to integrate Google Drawings into the classroom!  Super cool tip: pre-made graphic organizers!


They had a sandbox/networking area set up at Googlepalooza.  I spent a little time here talking with folks about ideas we learned and plans for the future.

Putting the Pieces Together…Differently 

I enjoyed Jennifer Hendrick’s presentation on using Google tools to enhance instruction.  Her perspective was to start with what you already have in place and upgrade it to make it more interactive and engaging (and paperless).  Don’t reinvent the wheel, just tweak it.  This was an easy entry point for teachers to start utilizing digital tools.

Movin’ and Groovin’ with Movenote 

Movenote for Education is available in the Chrome Web Store.  I think of is as an app that allows you to use static images (jpeg, Slides, PPT, PDF) and capture webcam video of you talking about those images.  Ideas for use: having students explain their mathematical thinking, tell a story based on an image, students narrate a slideshow they created, student explaining a picture or poster they made, etc.

Check out this introduction video that shows how Movenote works:

Thank you VSTE for organizing and provided a great day of learning!


Big Moment

Yesterday, my first group of students graduated from high school. I was fortunate to land a job mid-year at a wonderful school right after I graduated. It was a growth position in 5th grade, as the class sizes were large. So they hired me and created a new class in December of 2007 by pulling a handful of students from each class. It could have been a very tough position for those kids, but they were great sports as we created our classroom community. I’ll always remember that first group! 


Splash Down Day

Earlier this week I got to experience Splash Down Day at the school I’ll be teaching at next year. I was imagining some water games, maybe a slip n slide, possibly water balloons. Let me tell you…my expectations were completely shattered. This day was over the top fun! There were a number of gigantic slides, a dunk tank, sidewalk chalk, hula hoops, soccer balls, cornhole games, etc. The kids were told the expectations for the day and they were free to play as they wished.

I told the principal this was such an awesome day. He was very humble and replied that the kids worked hard and we wanted to celebrate their great work for the year.

I think it’s important for school communities to celebrate accomplishments and have fun. It was absolutely wonderful to see the kids being kids and enjoying life. Especially after going through their state testing the past few weeks.

Check out some of the awesome slides and activities from Splash Down Day!





Behavior Management

As I’m preparing to head back into the classroom next year, I’ve been revisiting my philosophies on a number of items.  One of the big ones is behavior management.  I’ve been reflecting back on what I used to do in the classroom, what I’ve observed, what I’ve read, and what I hope for the future.

One of my biggest guiding principles with behavior management is the importance of building relationships with each student.  I want to know my students as individuals, treat them with respect, build trust, and have them know that I care about them.

In the past I learned about the responsive classroom approach from my time student teaching and really liked their philosophy.  I read The First Six Weeks of School to help set up a positive classroom climate and The Morning Meeting book to continue building our classroom community.  Students always loved this time together to get to know their classmates and me as well.  I think having those stronger relationships helped when behavior issues arose.  [If you haven’t heard the responsive classroom, check out this site here for a good overview.]

I’m currently mulling over whether I need a more formal “classroom behavior management system.”  I know a lot of schools use clip charts, Class Dojo, or a variety of other ideas.

In the past, I’ve done a variety of different systems.  My first year I did a “Caught you being good” ticket system.  If a student was “caught doing something good” – working hard on a project, walking in the hallway nicely, kind act for a classmate, etc. they could randomly get a ticket.  I didn’t give tickets for every good act, so the idea was to be on your best behavior and possibly earn a reward.  At the end of each nine weeks, they could enter a raffle for a handful of items (books, pencils, candy, nerf ball, etc.).  The psychology major in me liked that it was a variable reward system.  The practical teacher in me liked that it was a very low-key system.

My second year of teaching I was team teaching and we all decided we needed to be on the same page with our management systems.  We decided to go with a fake money system.  Students earned money for doing their job – agenda signed, homework turned in, etc.  We could also give them bonuses for an exceptional job.  It was also possible to impose fines when they weren’t doing what they were supposed to.  Each week they could visit the “class store” to get erasers, pencils, bookmarks, candy, etc.  This was a lot to keep track of and got to be a bit expensive.

I think I kept up the money for my third year and then switched back to a type of ticket system the year after.

I’ve never felt quite satisfied with any of the behavior management systems I’ve put in place.  I’m wondering if I can throw any formal classroom management “system” for just building relationships and dealing with behavior in a relational way.

What are your thoughts?  What do you do in your classroom?  What’s worked well for you in the past?

Strategy Game Fun

I was walking down the hallway this afternoon (after SOL testing duties were finished for the day) and I noticed a classroom of students totally immersed in some games. I decided to pop my head in to visit and see what games they were playing. Each table group was playing a different strategy game. Since they were all so engaged, I wanted to observe and learn the different games so I can hopefully purchase some for my classroom next year.

Here’s a short preview of the games I learned today.



Zenith was a cool game with colored wooden triangles. You have a game board where each person takes turns adding their triangle to a spot. You build up by placing your wooden triangles in the middle of 3 triangles. However, you can only add a triangle on top if it touches at least one triangle of your given color. Once you can’t make a move, you are out.  The last person to place a triangle is the winner. There are multiple game boards for variety and challenge and lots of strategy involved.


Zenith board complete. Purple won!



Izzi was really more of a puzzle. You had to put the square pieces together and black could only touch black and white could only touch white. This can be done solo, with a partner, or small group. It’s a simple premise but rather hard as you get down to the last pieces.



Qwirkle was a neat game!  There’s a bag full of wooden blocks that have one of six shapes in a variety of colors. Each player gets 6 blocks. Each player takes turn putting blocks down. They have to all be the same color or shape. Players can put down up to 6 pieces if they have the right combination. You keep building on them similar to scrabble. You get 1 point for each block in your row (you get to count the ones you build on as well).  If you complete a row of 6 that’s called a Qwirkle and you get 12 points!  For each block you put down you get that many blocks to put back in your hand.




I enjoyed all the games but this one was my favorite to watch. Probably because I was catching the tail-end of the competition and the two students were trying to work together to beat their teacher. The competition and strategy was intense!  Each player gets a set of plastic blocks that come in a variety of shapes (think Tetris shapes).  Players take turns laying their shapes down, but you can only lay them down where they touch a corner of the shape. If they touch more than at a corner you can’t lay it on the board. The person with the fewest blocks left at the end wins.

The 20 minutes spent with this class was the highlight of my day. I learned 4 new strategy games that I hope to purchase for my classroom next year. The students were completely engaged and I loved watching their different strategies they used and hearing their thinking.

Do you have any favorite strategy games?  How do you integrate them into your classroom?