Another way to practice fluency!

Students from Mrs. Adam’s class using Book Creator.

This year at Byrd all second graders have learned how to practice reading fluency using the iPads.  Each class learned this skill using a different app.  Mrs. Swift’s class learned to create recordings using iMovie.  Mrs. Nixon’s class learned to use a voice recording app, and finally Mrs. Adam’s class recently learned to use Book Creator.


iMovie allowed students to take a picture of their fluency passage, and record over top of the picture.  It took about three lessons that were forty-five minutes each until the students could use the app independently.  It was difficult for some students to match the length of the picture with the length of the recording.  Also, we could not turn off the Ken-Burns effect.


Mrs. Nixon’s class used a voice recording app.  They could easily capture their voice time and time again, however, with these types of apps they could not capture an image of their book or passage.  It took the students two lessons that were forty-five minutes each to use the software independently.  There are numerous free voice recording apps out there.  Here is a link to one example, Quick Voice Recorder.


Mrs. Adam’s class learned to use Book Creator to capture fluency practice.  The students learned how to use the app in one, hour-long lesson.  This has been my favorite method by far!  The students have created a fluency book. Using this app students can capture a picture of their reading passage.  Then they can add a recording of the passage.  Finally, we assigned the students a reading skill to illustrate with the drawing tools.  We had students illustrate the main idea of the passage, but we could have used just about any reading skill!  I love Book Creator allowed the students to have a multi-sensory experience with reading.  They were seeing the text, hearing themselves read, and drawing to deepen comprehension.


Have you used any other tools in your class to help students practice reading fluency?

eBooks for Others

This year Mrs. Demas and I have enjoyed bringing various writing activities into the classroom that promote writing for a variety of audiences.  Recently, the students finished up another authentic writing project that gave a new audience a chance to view and enjoy their published work.

The 4th grade students created eBooks using Book Creator for the GES and BES preschool students. To begin this activity the fourth graders had to spend some time investigating other children’s books. As a class we discussed different aspects of illustrations, text patterns, and the amount of text on a page. We also took a closer look at how children’s authors use vivid language and sensory words in their writing. Students had the opportunity to work together in groups to study children’s books.

The fourth graders had a choice to write a fiction or nonfiction book. They could pick any topic to write about, and were provided with a list of preschool interests – which were supplied by the preschool teachers.

Each week Mrs. Demas and myself were more and more amazed by the progress students made on their books. The quality of their writing was phenomenal, and their illustrations blew us away. Students could create their illustrations by using software on the iPad, or they could use paper and drawing tools. Some students chose to combine both art forms. There were even some students that used 3D models as the characters in their books. One student, for example, created her main character out of clay (it was a dinosaur!).


Book Creator (the app we used) allowed students to add text, independently create illustrations, and add audio files to their stories. Students were required to capture all text in an audio clip, thus turning all stories into audiobooks. Book Creator also allowed the students to easily share their work with Google Drive for easy transfer to our lesson website and to the preschool iPads.

Perhaps the most fun element of this project was the day the fourth graders walked over to the GES preschool to share their stories. The students shared stories that warmed our hearts, taught social lessons, and that taught facts to the preschool students. Our fourth graders at GES were admirably caring and patient as they taught the preschool students how to open the books, activate the audio clips, and turn the pages. Now the preschool students have over thirty new eBooks on their iPads to enjoy for the rest of the school year!

We commend the fourth grade students for their focus and enthusiasm throughout this project!

Check out our books on this link!  You will need to download the files on a device with eReader software (iPad and iPhone will work).  We have also posted the materials we used to implement and assess this project.

Watch as a fourth grader teaches a preschool student to use the audio buttons and to turn the pages.

Kindergarteners create digital stories

Teaching lessons involving heavy technology use to kindergarteners is always an adventure!  Sometimes it is difficult to anticipate the flow, timing, and outcome of the lesson.


I always love the opportunity to work with Ms. Burton’s kindergarten students at BES!  They are great listeners and eager to participate in any lesson utilizing technology.  For their most recent project the students learned to use a digital story telling app called 30 Hands.  Using this app the students could take pictures and record themselves reading a story.  First, the students created a character.  Then the students wrote a story about that character.  Students next had to take a picture of their character within the app, and practice reading their story.  The students were able to record their stories within the 30 Hands app.


The next day I returned to Ms. Burton’s class so the students could share their stories with one another.  Since it was our first time using this particular app, we also spent some time reflecting on the project via class discussion.  The students shared that next time they should speak a little louder or position themselves closer to the microphone.  The class unanimously agreed that they loved creating digital stories using 30 Hands!


Here are some examples of the students’ work!



Meet Miss Bune

Meet Hailey

Meet Jacob

Virtual Career Fair

Over the last two weeks I’ve had the opportunity to team up with a great group of teachers at Byrd Elementary School to help students learn about various career fields.   The school counselor, Mrs. Albert, initially developed this project.  She collaborated with the 4th grade team (Ms. Singh and Mrs. Johnston) to integrate the project across the curriculum.  Students spent time during guidance lessons to learn about their strengths in the multiple intelligences and to research career fields of interest.  Then teachers supported the students in writing class to further research careers of interest, and to create scripts for the final piece of the project.  The scripts included information about students’ current interests, a potential future career, and what the students need to do to prepare to work in the chosen field.

Finally, students used Voki to create messages to their future selves.  On the Voki site students created an avatar, and then recorded a reading of the script they wrote in writing class (using Google Docs).



You can read more about this project on a page Mrs. Albert created.  You can also view the virtual career fair.


It was obvious during this project that the students were engaged and enjoying learning!

Collaborative Writing Project – the eBook is Finished!

Over the last few weeks, students in Goochland County have been working on an exciting collaborative writing project.  Students in Mrs. Demas’s 4th grade class at GES and students in Ms. Gill’s 5th grade class at RES worked together in a virtual environment to research and write biographies about historical figures, found in our Virginia SOL’s.


The planning process began over one of our many snow days earlier this winter (literally, we met at Panera to plan out the details)!  Mrs. Demas and Ms. Gill wanted students to work on a nonfiction-writing piece that involved a bit of research.  They also wanted students to focus on the editing and revision aspects of writing.  With the writing SOL test right around the corner, we couldn’t think of a more authentic way to get the students writing for a real audience and critically analyzing their own work as well as others.


The teachers assigned partners and provided students with guidelines and a rubric, but the students used Google Docs to communicate with their partners and complete the work involved with this project.  To start with, students wrote autobiographies to introduce themselves to their partners.  Next, students wrote persuasive letters to each other to convince one another to write about a specific historical figure.  Finally, the collaborative research began.  Partner pairs had to decide who would collect specific pieces of information.  Students began writing, and shared their work with one another.  During the writing process, students often left each other “glows” and “grows” to improve their shared writing piece.  The comment feature of Google Docs make it easy to share thoughts.  Students realized that it is a challenge to combine writing styles to make one cohesive paper.  They had to reorder each other’s work so that the essay could flow from one topic to another in an appropriate sequence.  Teachers enjoyed watching the students engage in an extremely active revision and editing process.


The teachers and I were impressed with the end result!  You can check out the students’ book on Google Docs here (if you do not have an e-reader), or the eBook here (if you are using a mobile device).

RES Fine Arts and Film Festival

In April I had the opportunity to participate in a community-minded event at Randolph Elementary School that blended curriculum and the arts with 21st century skills.   It was the RES Fine Arts and Film Festival!  Planning for this event took place over the course of a year and involved participation in our district’s G21 program.  Many teachers were involved, yet the end products were student driven.


The event showcased student artwork created in art classwith Mrs. Edmonds.  Students also had the opportunity to show off their musical talents with Mr. Snead, the music teacher.  In addition, attendees had the opportunity to view student-created films.  Some students wrote scripts and filmed their products with their classes.  Other students worked in small groups.  Individual students were invited to submit their work as well.   There were so many films submitted, that we were unable to show them all!  We created a gallery of QR codes for visitors to view the submitted films, and a website as well.


One of the best pieces of this project was the element to help our community.  All attendees were asked to bring a book to donate to Goochland Family Services.  RES fourth graders made commercials to advertise the event, and to encourage others to bring books to the festival.  You can check out the commercials here (created with 30 Hands on the iPads).


Check out the Kindergarteners singing a song in Spanish.  Their singing was beautiful (and loud :)

Kindergarteners Perform at the FAFF


I am lucky to be a part of such a caring and creative community at RES!

ePortfolio Class

We will use the site below as a guide to tonight’s class on using ePortfolios with students.

ePortfolio Class Site


We will also check out Nearpod by viewing a presentation made with the software.


If you are interested in using Google Docs more to help improve your students’ writing, then check out this great site!

Sign up for STEM Camp!

Time is running out to register for STEM Camp.  This exciting program for students in kindergarten through 8th grade will be held June 16-20.  Monday through Thursday we will be at Goochland Middle School.  Friday we will be taking a field trip to The Science Museum of Virginia!

Students in kindergarten, first or second grade have their choice of Mother Goose Club, Amazing Animals, or Sweet and Sassy.  Each of these programs offer students the opportunity to do, hands-on, children’s engineering.

Students in grades 3-5 take part in the Emerging Engineers program.  They will learn to apply science, technology, and math by making a solar car that they will run on the big track at the Science Museum of Virginia.  They will also launch rockets and eat s’mores made in a solar oven.

Finally, students in grades 6-8, our apprentice engineers, will build a propulsion and electrical system, develop a controller, investigate density and buoyancy while assembling and launching an underwater remotely controlled vehicle, or ROV.

If you have any questions or would like a form, contact Mrs. Spessard at



Byrd Elementary School Spring Farmers Market

Spring Farmers Market – Byrd Elementary School April 22nd Byrd Elementary School will host a Spring Farmers Market on Tuesday, April 22nd from 5:30 – 7:00 pm. The Spring Farmers Market will be held in the multi-purpose room at Byrd Elementary School. Items such as plants, flower pots, wreaths, bird houses, jewelry, and other homemade goodies will be for sale. There will be lots of good food to eat too! Get your dinner from the potato bar or have a hot dog or turkey, ham, or roast beef sandwich. There will also be lots of tasty desserts on sale! The students at Byrd will be donating all money earned to CHaRa – Construction Health and Relief Acts. CHaRa assists schools in Africa by purchasing desks, providing clean water, and supporting the food program for a school. Please plan now to attend this special event! Byrd Elementary is “Growing Great Citizens Locally and Globally.”

What’s Trending at RES

There are always great things happening at RES, and I wish I had time each day to highlight them all!  The activities I do get to highlight are just snip-its of the wonderful things happening there every day.  Today I spent time with Cindy Edmonds, the art teacher, and 3rd graders in Ms. Gentry’s class.  Last week students read a story about the horses that live on Assateague Island in Virginia.  This week we brought to life one part of the story with a stop-motion project.  We used the camera app on the iPad, and merged the pictures together using iMovie.  Last month students spent time studying art work from the VMFA that included horses, and then they built their own 3D horses.

Here is the final movie!


Later the fourth grade team was busy preparing commercials to advertise the RES Fine Arts and Film Festival that will take place next Thursday night.  Students worked together in small teams to plan the commercials, write scripts, and use 30 Hands to create their projects.  Next week we will share their commercials with the entire school.  The commercials remind others of the time and location of the event.  Students also shared that we are encouraging everyone to bring a book to donate to Goochland Family Services.  I was impressed by how quickly and easily students learned to use the app.  In a matter of minutes they were taking pictures, annotating, integrating other pictures, and adding text to their projects.  Every student was engaged and hard at work in fourth grade today!

iPads and State Testing Review

This year GES teachers participating in the 1:1 pilot have done an excellent job experimenting with various ways to use the iPads for deeper learning.  The year has flow by, and we now find ourselves one month away from state testing season!  Throughout the next month teachers will finish teaching new content, and will begin to spend some time on review.  Although we always strive for deeper learning activities, sometimes it is important to provide students with review of material already learned.  Check out some of the options below for using the iPad to review content!  Some activities or sites you may have already used this year, but I hope you will find something new and helpful on the list!  Let me know if you would like support implementing any of these ideas or finding more sites.


Apps specifically for review:

Pass the Past – This app created by the VDOE houses past history SOL test questions.


Websites that work on the iPad:

All subjects

Mr. Nussbaum Mobile site – Houses numerous review games for all subject areas!  All are built with html5, and work on the iPads!  You can link individual games to your blog or post the links in Edmodo.

ThingLink – Teachers can sign up for an account, and create protected student accounts (the program provides teachers with student logins).  Students can create interactive pictures.  Students could add interactive features and information to a science diagram or a painting from history.  It takes a few minutes for a teacher to sign up his or her class, but the features of the site are worth it!

Flashcard Machine – Teachers can sign up for free and make flashcards for your class.  The site will give you a web address for each set of flashcards you make.  You could give students the address by posting in in Edmodo, on your blog, or by linking it to a QR code.



Hooda Math - Practice games that will work on the iPad, that are grouped by grade level.  Teachers could post links to the games on their blogs or Edmodo.

Transum Math - Practice games that will work on the iPad.


Ideas using apps on the iPads


1) Students can create videos in which they ask review questions (play for whole class).  Students can write their own questions, and film themselves asking it.

  • you could assign different units/topics to groups or individuals

2) Summarize a unit, or what you know about a topic.  Share movies on Edmodo.


Explain Everything

1) Create visual cues for science, social studies, or math vocabulary (drawing or taking pictures)

  • students can make an audio recording explaining each visual cue

2) Present student groups (or individuals) with word problems (could use QR codes).  Have them illustrate and verbally explain their work and solution.  Then share solutions with the class.



1) Post review quizzes on Edmodo for daily practice

2) Have students watch a video covering information from a content area.  Assign roles to students to review and post information from the video.  Teachers can show the video to the whole group, or post in Edmodo so students can easily re-watch it.  There are lots of great videos on Discovery Education!  This activity is similar to literature circles, but with videos rather than texts!

  • Role 1: define vocabulary
  • Role 2: summarize the information
  • Role 3:  illustrate concepts
  • Role 4: write questions from the video


Google Docs

1) Each student creates a practice quiz on Google Docs.  The teacher could set criteria, such as “must use multiple choice questions.”

2) Create a collaborative class document and have students write everything they know about a topic (could also do on Edmodo).  This would be like a mind dump.

  • Could also send collaborative documents with small groups for the same activity


Book Creator

1) Students could create vocabulary books for units of study (can incorporate video, pictures, drawing, and audio clips).

2) Teachers could assign different topics to groups or individuals, and then share books with class.

3) This app is great for challenging vocabulary or topics because of the easy access to multi-modal opportunities (pictures, video, drawing, audio clips).

4) In Language Arts class create short stories that incorporate facts from social studies or science (could also use Pages or Google Docs)



1) Students create trading cards for famous people.

  • Create a template on your computer, and send it to students using Google Docs.  Students open the template in Pages.  Within pages students can add pictures and text.


Comic Life

1) Students label science diagrams (plants, cells, waves, clouds, etc.).

2) Students create a comic that illustrates a historic event or fact, or students could make a timeline.

3) Students create comics that illustrate vocabulary (could create a page sized comic for math vocab.).

4) Students can create comics that reinforce reading skills (cause and effect, making inferences, illustrating literary elements, fact/opinion, compare and contrast).



1) Create a project as someone from history explaining an event.  You can mash multiple Morfo projects using iMovie if students need more than 30 seconds of recording time.



1) Create a teacher character that teaches information from a science or social studies unit

  • Could also use some math concepts (especially geometry)

Student Learning Slam – Collaborative Writing

Students in Mrs. Dema’s 4th grade class at Goochland Elementary School have been hard at work on a collaborative research and writing project with Ms. Gill’s 5th grade class at Randolph Elementary School.  Listen to Kylie in our Student Learning Slam as she describes how she uses Google Docs to communicate with her partner, share research, and revise each other’s writing.


From this project students learned a lot about communication from afar, and the need to clarify when communicating with others digitally.  Students also had the opportunity to practice constructive critiquing techniques as they revised their partner’s writing.  In addition, students learned more about American history as they spent time delving into research!  Within the writing projects students tried to focus on three elements:  1)  writing good hooks/leads; 2)  focusing on one main idea in a paragraph; 3)  organization of information in a research paper.



Steps to complete this project:

1)  Teachers assigned students partners, and partners shared autobiographies to get to know each other better.

2)  Students in Mrs. Dema’s class choose a historical figure to write about from a list that was shown to the class.  They had to write a persuasive letter to their partner to convince him/her to use the selected person as their research focus.

3)  Writing partners selected specific topics they would research and write about.

4)  Writing partners shared a document in which they collected research, and began their writing.

5)  Students helped to revise each other’s writing and organize the research paper.

6)  Projects will be compiled into an ebook for all students to enjoy!

Historical Perspectives Using Edmodo

The other week Ms. Carter and I spent some time brainstorming ways to help bring the Civil War to life for her 4th graders.  We wanted students to interact with the content in a way that would help them understand the experiences of Americans during this significant period of our history.  We decided to try creating a virtual simulation for students using Edmodo.  Here is what we put together (and had a lot of fun carrying out):

1)  Students picked cards with QR codes from a pile.  The QR codes linked to actual pictures of people who would have been affected by the Civil War.  Students had to participate in the lesson as the person connected with the QR code.

2)  After scanning the visual of their assigned person, the students began to research what life would have been like for that person during the Civil War.

3)  Once students had some time to research their assigned person, the war began.  Using an Edmodo group, we posted announcements throughout class to indicate when notable events from the war were occurring.   We attached primary resources to each of the announcements to help the students understand the events from the perspective of people who actually lived through it.   A few secondary sources were also included.  Students were exposed to real photographs, paintings, letters, journal entries, and newspaper articles.  It was easy enough to google search for primary resources from the Civil War era – there are tons out there!  Most of the pictures came from the Library of Congress’s digital collection.  After the viewing the resources, students posted thoughts and feelings from the point of view of their assigned person.

4)  At the end of class we used the quiz feature in Edmodo to assess student learning from the lesson.

5)  As a follow up activity, students will write a journal entry as their assigned person.  They can include various forms of media to help their person “come to life”.  In their journal entry they will describe their thoughts and feelings during the war, and describe specific events they impacted their lives.  I can’t wait to see what the students produce!


It was exciting to watch the students engage with the primary sources and posts in Edmodo.  Students were actively sharing the information they discovered about their assigned people.  I definitely learned a lot of new information discovered by the curious students!  There was no doubt that deeper learning was taking place.  I have had so much fun working with Ms. Carter and her fabulous 4th grade social studies students this week!

Bugs, Riddles, and QR Codes!

5th graders in Ms. Cosby’s class were given a sneak preview of the work Bea Cantor will share with students on Monday.  Bea is the ITRT at our secondary complex in Goochland County, and she is also one amazing photographer!  She uses iPhone macro photography to capture unique images of insect.  Her photographs show us a rare perspective that illustrate insects as complex and beautiful creatures – she even manages to make some of them look cute!

Her photos are too good to keep private.  Last year she published her own book called Calling Nature on iPhone Macro Photography, which you can check out through the Appel iBookstore.  This year she put her talents to work again, but this time she created a book geared towards younger viewers.  On Monday we will celebrate the release of her book at Goochland Elementary School.  Students with iPads will receive a copy of her book.

5th graders were given a first showing because they created advertisements to ignite excitement among the other students.  Each fifth grader chose one of Bea’s images, and linked it to a QR code.  The QR code was placed under a riddle created specifically for the image.  Other GES students will have the opportunity to read the riddles, and scan the QR code for the answer (which is the image of an insect).


Enjoy some of the students’ work!

I’m yellow like the sun

Yet black like night

I take flights

From flower to flower

My bite has power

What am I?  Answer


It’s eyes look like they were painted

As yellow as a mild sunset

Wrinkly as an old grandma

Cracked like an earthquaked ground

Mysterious as a black ninja

Open jawed as a great white shark

Looks fearless as a grown person

Lazy as its eyes slowly sink

Considerate as its eyes are filled with happiness

What am I?  Answer


My golden body is ruined by my dull black spots, as tiny as I am, my big eyes don’t seem to care. See me in spring, with my crystal clear wings, or catch me being a lady, climbing your sunshining wall.  Answer

Learning to Code, Coding to Learn!

I have had a lot of fun this year maximizing opportunities to teach students computer programing.  At Goochland Elementary School we have an after-school club that meets once a week to work through lessons, practice skills, and play games (created by other coders) on Khan Academy’s Code Academy and Code Avengers.  Starting in March at Byrd, a group will meet after-school to learn the basics of Scratch.  At Byrd and Goochland elementary schools some students learn computer programing by developing projects in Scratch as a part of their GRIP projects with Glenda Hawk and Lisa Brown (these two are amazing, and just presented at the VA Children’s Engineering Conference).  Some may ask, “Why are students spending their time in and out of school learning to code?”  Computer programing is not a required learning skill in the state of Virginia, but it is easy to justify the importance of teaching students computer programing starting at an early age.


In recent years with the appearance of numerous, free programs that teach computer programing with easy to follow lessons, students across the country have started to learn computer programing.  As a former classroom teacher, I understand making a case against teaching computer programing in schools – it takes time!  There is, however, lots of discussion in the field of education that supports the importance of teaching young students computer programing.  I read an article not to long ago that highlighted the anticipated need for computer programmers in the near future, and compared that statistic to the number of adults entering the workforce who are equipped with this skill.  There is now, and will be, a deficit.  The link to that article has eludes me now, but in the process of searching for it I came across a variety of additional articles that discuss the importance of teaching computer programing.


In this article the author mentions that when you learn to code, then you can code to learn.  Students can create programs such as teaching games, review games, and presentations to share information students learn in school.  The article makes an analogy to learning to read and write that helps to make sense of students learning to code in schools.  When students learn to read and write, a whole world of learning opens up to them.  The same is true for learning to code.  As students develop programs for curriculum content, then they will better secure an understanding of that material (all while sharing their products with peers).


The article linked here, titled Kids Learn to Code in Grade School, also brings to light the importance of students learning to code.  This quote particularly stood out to me: “ Programming is just writing in the language of computers, so why not teach kids to code like we teach them to write?”


I highly recommend reading the article Should Kids Learn to Code in Grade School?  if you still doubt the purpose of teaching young students computer programing skills.  The article reminds readers that learning to program is essentially the study of a language, more so than the study of technology.  Once a person understands this language (or one of the many languages), then the ability to create is unlimited!  This article outlines four benefits to learning to code.


I look forward to sharing more future opportunities available to Goochland students in the area of computer programing as we continue to support this endeavor!

Edmodo Explosion!

This year we’ve seen an explosion in the use of Edmodo throughout our elementary schools!  I love the way I see teachers using it to engage students in learning.  In Mrs. Fergueson’s class at Randolph Elementary she ignites conversations with students by posting open-ended questions. She often posts questions that encourage her students to reflect on their learning.  Her students review and discuss what they have learned in class.  In Ms. Thompson’s third grade class at Byrd students record themselves reading, and post their recordings to Edmodo.  It is a great way for students to practice fluency, and to hear themselves reading.  They also have the opportunity to hear the other fantastic readers in the class.


This month our district kicked off a county wide reading initiative called One District, One Book.  Students, teachers, and staff members are all reading Stuart Little together.  We created an Edmodo page to add a social element to the project.  Members from all three elementary schools have joined the group.  Students post questions about the book, answer questions posted by teachers and peers, make predictions, and discuss their favorite parts of the book.

Here are some quotes from the page:

“In Stuart Little chapter 6 I think it was funny when the police officer fell into the water.”



“I wish we could read Stuart little every day, even on weekends, and snow days.”



Edward said, “I’m so glad that Stuart got saved buy George!” Another students replied, “If he wasn’t the story would be ruined!”


If you are interested in why we use social media in Goochland County, I encourage you to google phrases such as social media in the classroom or to check out articles such as, The Benefits of Using Social Media in the Classroom.  The benefits of using social media in the classroom are numerous and varied, including increased discussion among students and teachers.  In addition, social media can bring together students separated by geographic barriers – as has happened in our district Edmodo group for the One District, One Book initiative.


If you are apprehensive about students using social media, then we invite you to join us for a discussion with education and community leaders on the topic.  Our original date was canceled due to inclement weather, but we will reschedule asap!

World Faire!

The week before winter break GES 5th graders hosted a day-long World Faire that was the culmination of months of hard work in Jen Cosby’s class. In October students were put into research teams. Their mission was to work collaboratively with their team to research a foreign country of choice and prepare presentation materials for the World Faire.

To keep research efforts organized students used checklists in Google Docs. As they researched a topic relating to the country, they would update the team Google Doc. Students were able to view each others research thanks to sharing capabilities inherent in Google Apps.

Once research was complete, teams began work on their presentations. They used their iPads to create movies using iMovie, QR codes, and augmented reality overlays. On the non-techy side, students assembled a presentation board. The board showcased pictures, textual information, QR codes, and augmented reality projects.

The entire perimeter of the school cafeteria was decorated with presentation boards on the day of the fair! Students also prepared learning activities (differentiated for various grade-levels), food samples, crafts, games, speeches, and demonstrations to share with other students who visited the fair.

Each grade-level had a chance to come learn from our fabulous 5th grade students. When students entered the cafeteria they were given a passport. A 5th grade tour guide led a group of 2-4 students from country to country. After visiting each country the students received stamps in their passports and goodies to keep in their “suitcase”.  The passports were filled with postcards containing interesting facts on each country.  Students created the postcards using Explain Everything on their iPads.

The day was a huge success in terms of learning and student engagement. Everyone agreed they were exhausted at the conclusion of the event and after cleanup, but that it was well worth the effort!


To see more pictures of this wonderful event, please click on this link to visit our Supervisor of Instructional Technology’s blog, John Hendron.

GES iPad Exhibition

In Goochland County this year we began an incredible journey to explore the benefits of 1:1 devices in learning.  Our pilot began at Goochland Elementary School, where all 3rd through 5th grade students and teachers were given an iPad.  Everyday I am amazed at what students are learning and producing!  Furthermore, I am in awe of the teachers who plan engaging, well-structured lessons to guide student learning!


We are excited to share what is happening in our  classrooms with the community.  So, last Thursday we held an iPad Learning Exhibition.  It was a wonderful evening to meet and talk a variety of people from the community, including parents and students.


The event was set up like a museum, with posters

containing QR codes linked to videos as our exhibits.  Students star in the videos, and are demonstrating activities that are taking place in classrooms.  The exhibits lined the school hallways.   Also, 4th grade students opened a Jamestown Museum down one of the hallways.  They recently visited Jamestown on a field trip.  On this trip students collected information on various aspects of the colony and Native American village.  Upon returning to school, they recreated an object that represented a researched topic, and linked that topic to a video that shared more of their research (using Aurasma). Students brought their families to the exhibit, and led them through as a docent.  We had additional iPads on hand for those that visited without a student. Our hope is to share with others the deeper learning taking place at GES, which is facilitated by 1:1 devices.  Deeper learning means adopting more project-based and hands-on approaches to instruction, and enhancing curriculum by integrating 21st century skills into learning activities.   In case you missed it, you can visit the exhibition virtually through a site that features a number of the videos showcased last Thursday.  Also, John Hendron, our Supervisor of Instructional Technology and a great instructional leader wrote about the event on his blog.

Byrd Farmers’ Market – a HUGE success!

Last Tuesday night the parking lot was packed with cars and the Byrd Elementary School multi-purpose room was bursting with vendors and consumers!  For months Byrd students, teachers, and staff have been preparing for the first Byrd Farmers’ Market.  It was one of the most incredible events I have been a part of this year!


The Farmers’ Market was a result of our school wide G21 project, which “grew” out of our school theme, “Growing great citizens locally and globally.”  Individual students submitted applications to participate as  vendors at the Farmers’ Market.  Classrooms also produced products to sell at booths.  There were over thirty booths selling everything (including, but not limited to) savory foods, baked goods, fresh eggs, Christmas ornaments, jewelry, herbs, starter plants, decorations, crafts, play-dough, accessories, candles, dog treats, and bird feeders.


All proceeds were donated to a local organization that our schools have partnered with for some time, the Goochland Food Pantry.  Byrd raised over $2,200 for this organization in one night!


Byrd students and staff even surprised attendees with a flash mob dance, which was coordinated by Ms. Watts (our music teacher) and Ms. Beatty (5th grade teacher).

BES Farmers Market Flash Mob Dance from Zoe Parrish on Vimeo.


These pictures don’t even begin to capture the energy of the event, so make sure you come to visit us to purchase goodies for a good cause at the next farmers’ market!  Stay tuned for information on the next market, which is slated to take place in the spring!


For more information on the farmers’ market please visit the blogs below!

Mrs. Hawk’s Blog

Mrs. Albert’s Blog

Mrs. Harper’s Blog

So much technology in our schools!

As a teacher, do you ever look back at your week and think, “Did all of that really happen?”  Last week was one of those weeks.  It was wonderfully crazy and filled with exciting events and learning opportunities in our schools.   I did not have time to post!  I hope to make up for it this week by squeezing in a couple posts each night to showcase the wonderful things happening in our elementary schools.  In addition to the Byrd Farmers’ Market and the iPad Exhibition at GES, check out some of the instructional activities that took place!


I had the opportunity to spend more time in Ms. Thompson’s classroom with her fabulous 3rd graders!  Students began a unit of study on graphing.  We taught the students to create Google Forms with questions to collect data from classmates.  Forms allow students to create a survey with an online form.  Students posted their online surveys to Edmodo so their students could answer a variety of questions.  Forms collects survey responses in a neatly organized in a spreadsheet.  Furthermore, students can use a feature in the spreadsheet to create a beautiful graph.  Finally, students analyzed their graphs and wrote questions for their classmates that began with question stems such as How many more, Why do you think, What is the difference, and What might explain.


At Byrd Elementary School we used Khan Academy for the first time with students.  4th graders in Ms. Singh’s class used their Google accounts to sign into the program.  We plan to use it as a weekly math remediation tool.  A group of teachers will work together to assign skills to students.  These skills will be differentiated based on students’ individual needs.  Students will work through the tutorials and practice questions to “master” math skills.  Khan Academy is set up to award points and badges to students for completing modules.  The students loved this aspect of the program, and loved working at their own pace!


2nd graders continued to post information in Edmodo to the classroom in South Africa they are going to communicate with throughout the year.  They shared information about the school’s farmers market, Thanksgiving, and Native Americans.


5th graders at Byrd continued to work on their websites (using Google Sites) to share information about protecting the environment.  I will dedicate a post especially to their work as they complete the finishing touches!  Students in Ms. Sprouse’s class at Randolph Elementary School are also using Google Sites to respond to writing prompts.  Each student has their own page on a collaborative class site, built by Ms. Sprouse.


4th graders in Mrs. Demas’s class at Goochland Elementary School began the next leg of their weather and animal adaptations project.  They have tracked weather data for a specific climate zone.  They also researched real animals that live in that particular area.  This week the students created fictional animals that had special adaptations to help them survive in the climate zone they have studied.  Students work on this activity using Google Spreadsheets and Google Docs.


5th graders in Ms. Cosby’s class began a special lesson to investigate sound waves.  This activity integrated inquiry based learning with children’s engineering.  Later this week I will post a follow-up on this activity that will describe how the students used GarageBand to create music.


Students in our App Builders club continue to amaze me!  I look forward to writing about this special group of students.  They are building an app for Goochland Elementary School (using TheAppBuilder) while using the learning modules in Khan Academy to learn Java Script!  Exciting things will come from this group!


The GCPS STEM Advisory Committee met last week.  Planning is taking place for the 2nd Conundrum Day and also 2014 STEM Camp.  We are looking for parents and community members to help advance STEM education opportunities throughout the county.  If you are interested in joining this driven group, then please contact me for more information at



4th Grade Animal Adaptations Project

Today 4th graders will begin a new research project.  First, they will choose a one of many global climate zones.  Students will use the Interactive Map on National Geographic to choose the climate zone, and a specific location within the climate zone to gather data.  Next, students will track specific weather data in a Google spreadsheet over an extended period.  Then students will research the climate, topography, and vegetation of the area in a Google doc.  Students will also research an animal native to the region.  They will use the information and data they collect to help explain certain behavioral and structural adaptations of the animal.  Finally, students will create a fictional animal that could also survive in the area.  The fictional animal must have behavioral and structural adaptations to survive in the researched climate zone.  Students will learn about elements of nonfiction writing, and will produce a written report about either the real or fictional animal.  The report will describe behavioral and structural adaptations of the fictional animal that help it to survive given the climate, weather, topography, and vegetation of the area.


This image shows the climate zones students will choose from using the interactive map.

iPads at RES

4th graders at RES love to use iPads for reading fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary!  Thanks for the great pictures, Beth Ferguson (check out her blog for great articles about parenting students in the upper elementary grades)!!

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Kindergarteners in Mrs. Alvis’s class were busy today practicing how to wake up the iPads, “swipe” the screen (their term), find and activate different apps, and how to exit an app. They also learned how to use three new apps that they can use during center time. They were having fun while hard at work!


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5th Grade World Fair

This year Ms. Cosby has been planning on a “global scale” with her students to host a World Fair at GES.  The students have used Google Apps to collaborate with peers to complete research and create multi-media projects.  Today, students will work on a portion of the project for students that visit the fair with an iPad.  They will create auras, using the Aurasma app on their iPads.  The element of augmented reality will allow other students to engage in a deeper learning experience with the exhibits on the day of the fair.  The augmented reality created by 5th graders will feature information about schools, school lunches, and transportation specific to their chosen countries.  5th grade students will use the sites below, and conduct their own research to prepare the projects.


Transportation in other countries:

The Weird and the Wonderful

10 Unique Transport Modes Around the World


School lunches in other countries:

What’s in your lunch box?

Nourishing Thoughts


School buildings in other countries:

A kids life in…

Time for Kids

Student Learning Slam #2

Thank you, Jermiyah for sharing your reading response activity! Jermiyah used the free app Tellagami to animate the main character of the story he read. In his final product he was able to animate the main character to tell about a conflict in the story.  Tellagami is an app that allows users customize the look of a character, add a background, and record your own voice as the character’s.  It allows thirty seconds of voice recording time. Finished projects are easily saved to the camera roll and shared elsewhere.

StudentLearningSlam2 from Zoe Parrish on Vimeo.


Looking for more ways to use Tellagami in class?  Check out the ideas below on this post from

  • Have your character tell a story.
  • Pick a person in history and have them introduce themselves
  • Use a plant cell as the background and have the avatar name and discuss the function of each part of the cell.
  • Recite a famous poem or speech
  • Read a poem they wrote
  • Take a trip or go back in time and describe where the location/time period
  • Speak in Spanish, French, Mandarin or any language

Later this year students will create Tellagami videos, or gamis for short, to tell about various career interests.  Students will save these videos in an e-portfolio that they will update each year of school in Goochland County.