Happy New Year!


With the New Year among us, consider keeping a positive sayings, funny quotes, great plans, and “aha moments” worth holding onto in your classroom. This is a great way to document the exciting moments and great ideas that flow throughout your classroom.  It’s really nice to look revisit the great moments in your classroom at the end of the school year.



The Minecraft Revolution

Last year around this time, I worked with Ms. Kass on a project in which students used Google SketchUp to create a zoo enclosure for an endangered species. The enclosure had to incorporate elements involving basic needs, comfort, health, and visitor safety, all of it researched by the students. At the time, I blogged about how easy it was to help students to use SketchUp compared to several years earlier and attributed the change to the rising popularity of Minecraft.

Lots of people are writing about Minecraft and how much kids can learn from it. Here is a small sample from the New York Times.

Earlier this year, for example, a school in Stockholm made Minecraft compulsory for 13-year-old students. “They learn about city planning, environmental issues, getting things done, and even how to plan for the future,” said Monica Ekman, a teacher at the Viktor Rydberg school.

Although there are no official Minecraft manuals, kids know where to go to learn and get the latest news. From a dedicated wiki to hundreds of YouTube channels with clever how-to videos, the Minecraft community is all about collaboration and keeping up with news about mods, skins, and all sorts of things that sound rather foreign to many teachers and parents.

Earlier this year, Minecraft was in the grown-up news when the entire country of Denmark was recreated in Minecraft accurately to scale and including all roads and buildings. The Danish government funded the project as an educational experience. Then it made news again when the server housing the project was hacked and the virtual replica was “invaded” by the United States. While hackers are no laughing matter, this incident calls attention to something else kids can learn from Minecraft: digital citizenship. Learning to communicate in an online environment like a Minecraft server helps young kids navigate later experiences.

Spatial and critical thinking, collaboration, perseverance, curiosity, creativity, self-directed learning, digital citizenship. Do any of these skills sound like they have appeared together on any other list recently?

The new item for my wish list is a school account on MinecraftEdu.

Wayside Teaching to Kick Off the New Year

–Welcome Back–

We’ve squeezed in our last summer trips with friends and family while holding onto a few more hours without visiting our “Back-to-School” Pinterest Boards, favorite teaching and technology blogs, and logging into our Edmodo accounts.   Eventually, we revisit our hopeful lists that we scribbled for ourselves back in May to begin the new year with so many bright ideas.  What were we thinking making the list so long?!?

Before planning your classroom themes, station organization, or when to run first week copies; consider the following components as your first planning priority this school year.

  1.  Trust & Respect- How will you establish a trusting relationship with each or your students?

  2.  Sense of Community- How will you make each student feel an appreciated and accepted part of the classroom?

  3.  Student Engagement- What will your working classroom look like to your students, parents, or a passerby?

We, as educators, have the most amazing job in the world.  Our task is to empower a child and truly watch them blossom with our support.  This may entail direct teaching, facilitation, peer teaching, exploration through music or art, it may even require rote memorization.   When you teach the best way for the students, you will see amazing results.  However, it begins with a relationship (and consisent classroom procedures) each and every time.

Need a back up just in case things are not going as planned?  This is an incredible reference!  Being proactive is key to successful classroom management and student engagement.

For the daydreamers, the do-ers, and welcomed challenges.

Happy New Year, teachers!


Looking for an Online Differentiation Tool?

As the New Year is upon us, let’s make an academic resolution to kick up our differentiation!  Zondle is a great tool to assist both within the classroom and for homework or study time.


Zondle’s pitch is simple:

  • Empowering teachers
  • Engaging students
  • Enhancing learning
Goochland teachers who have tried it are using it almost daily in their classrooms.  The best part, there are games and activities for ANY SUBJECT!!!

Interested in learning more?  Watch the Video!

Countdown to the GES Gazette…

Get ready GES… the GES Gazette will be available this coming Wednesday!!!    The crew is busy working on our first school newspaper!

Poster by: Owen Sundstrom

How can we obtain a copy of the paper?

  • Visit Potter’s Press- GES Gazette for a color PDF
  • Googledoc sharing for iPad access
  • Paper copy-feel free to copy enough for a small group

Suggestions for student use:

  • Small group reading- create comprehension questions for students to complete
  • Identify the Author’s Purpose
  • Writing in your classroom with the incentive of being a published author
  • Silent Sustained Reading
  • Fluency Practice

Student Submission Ideas:

  • Creative Writing
  • Non Ficition reports, research, interviews
  • Current Events
  • Comics
  • Riddles
  • Artwork
  • Journal Entries
  • Book Reviews
  • Photography
  • Opinion Article

Student and Teacher/Staff submissions are due to the GES Gazette folder outside the bookroom.  Due dates will be announced each month as well as located on the GES Gazette page on my blog.  ALL students in every grade level are eligible to be considered for student submission for publication.

Happy Writing!

Technology Abounds at RES!

Walk the halls of RES, and you will be reminded instantly of how the teachers are advocating for students to learn 21st century skills!  All in one day you will see technology used at every level from kindergarten through fifth!


Yesterday, students with Ms. Taylor were using Edmodo and posting fluency practice.  They used the site MP3 Record to record the reading of a leveled passage, which was differentiated for each student.  I loved seeing how excited the kids were to improve their time with each recording.  They wanted to keep reading to improve their times and reading expression.  These kind students posted encouraging words to each other about how wonderful their reading sounds.  Her students also used Educreations to practice writing and reading social studies vocabulary.  They used the record feature to share the meaning of each vocabulary word.  Students were illustrating the vocabulary using the app as well!


4th grade students in Mrs. Hadd’s class used Educreations to practice story retellings.  They used an image of a retelling bookmark to guide their own retellings, as they recorded using the app.


4th grade students also worked with partners to complete a Jamestown WebQuest.  Ms. Sprouse spent her lunch time working with students (even working on the floor :) ) to help make the activity a success!


3rd graders in Ms. Goodings class practiced using assessment tools using Interactive Achievement.  They are a fantastic group of listeners and students!


Kindergarteners in Mrs. Tysinger’s class practiced digital skills on the iPads.  They were reading e-books and spelling CVC pattern words in the books they were reading.  Students learned to drag the appropriate letters into the correct order to fill boxes and spell words found in the ebooks.


I had constructive planning sessions with  the 1st grade team, the art teacher (Ms. Edmonds), the music teacher (Mr. Snead), and the school counselor (Mrs. Zorger).  They are all planning exciting projects using digital tools.  Their students will have various opportunities to integrate 21st century skills across all curriculum areas!


The staff at RES is incredibly hard working and inspiring (both to other colleagues and students) each day!  It is a great place to be :) .

SOL Review with “Edcanvas”

While we are reflecting on your classroom environment, try incorporating “edcanvas” to integrate technology into the SOL Review season!  This canvas opens your classroom for a entirely new way to teach, practice, review, and challenge.


 Assessment Suggestion:  

After  analyzing MP data, create a canvas for study groups, home practice, and classroom challenges.  Involve your students in the process by dropping in favorite sites, review games, songs or video clips.  You can even include TestNav sites!  Have fun exploring & reviewing.

Convience Feature–

See something worth edcanvasing while browsing online?

 Add it to your edcanvas it! button:  http://www.edcanvas.com/tools?utm_source=edmodo

VCTM-Math Beauty Contest

Are you looking for an opportunity to differentiate and challenge your mathematicians?  Or consider assigning the Math Beauty Contest as part of a winter break extra credit contest.    

Problems for the  VCTM 2013 Math Beauty Contest

K – 2     SOLs: K15, K 16, 1.16, 1.17, 2.20

Please create a pattern that is either a growing or repeating pattern or both.  Please be sure to tell what your thinking was by writing a paragraph explaining your thoughts about your creation of the pattern.  Students who are not able to write the paragraph may dictate it to an adult who can write exactly what the student says.

3rd – 5th    SOLs: 3.4, 3.6, 4.4, 5.4, 5.18

At the local sandwich shop they made sandwiches that people could come in and get quickly because they were already prepared and in a package.  They made 100 sandwiches early in the morning.  They made turkey sandwiches, ham sandwiches and cheese sandwiches.  They made the same number of ham sandwiches as cheese sandwiches.  They made twice as many ham sandwiches as turkey sandwiches.  How many turkey sandwiches did they make?  How many ham sandwiches did they make?  How many cheese sandwiches did they make?

Check the site for detailed information:


Scratch Habits

This morning I received an email from a teacher asking for help with a Scratch project. A student needed help getting a sprite to appear at a random corner of the screen whenever the game was started. There was a Scratch project attached to the email, but as I read, I realized I did not have to look at the existing code. I could see, in my head, the blocks I would use and how I would assemble them.

It felt really good to be able to solve a problem on the fly, and I realized it would have taken much longer if I had not been spending so much time in Scratch over the past couple of days (conference session at VSTE, workshop at Dinwiddie Middle School, and my own child’s project at home).

When John Hendron and I attended the Scratch Conference at MIT this summer, we heard many speakers discuss the benefits of using Scratch. This habit of thinking logically through problems seemed to be at the top of everyone’s list. I understand that this spontaneous visualization of Scratch blocks in my head is a result of immersion over the past few days. Still, it makes me even more eager to get teachers using Scratch in their classrooms. I don’t mean getting teachers to do a single Scratch project during the school year, but using Scratch consistently over time to reinforce and apply valuable concepts. That’s how it will have an impact on kids’ lives.

Mrs. Creasey

GMS Mock Election

Wow! I cannot express enough thanks to Mrs. Creasey for affording our students the opportunity to vote in the GMS Mock Presidential Election yesterday afternoon. What a great real-world experience it was for them! And praises go to our Mock Election Student Committee who, with Mrs. Creasey’s aid, planned and executed the election. It was a job well done!

Check out the pictures below. I surely hope you feel the excitement that exuded from our students as they stood in line to vote. …and just as I could not wait yesterday morning, THEY could not WAIT to sport that “I Voted” sticker!

Students waited patiently outside the polling precinct (a.k.a. the LMC). ...and they waited patiently INSIDE the polling precinct. Checking in meant giving their names and student ID numbers. Students must have registered to vote prior to the election. The registrars were BUSY! Online voting... and more voting... and even more voting...! Once the students voted, they received their stickers and were sent to class with a pass from Mrs. Creasey!

Please see Mrs. Creasey’s blog here: Mrs. Creasey’s Civics Central


21st Century Skills: So what ARE they and why are they important?

All across the nation, schools are making a shift. When you and I were in school, the teacher stood in the front of the room and lectured as we feverishly tried to take notes hoping to catch everything our teachers had said. At the end of a unit (and a notebook full of notes), we took a test. Today, the classroom looks different. Our teachers are taking on more of a facilitator approach to give our students the skills they will need as they enter the workforce. These skills are called 21st Century Skills.

This booklet will give you a much more detailed perspective.

Parents Guide to 21st Century Learning by Edutopia