Sunday, March 22, 2015

Mentor Text: Voices in the Park

Buy it on Amazon
The book "Voices in the Park" by Anthony Browne has been sitting on my shelf for several years. Until this week, I haven't found a real reason to use it for instruction. I was pacing around my room thinking about perspective and point of view and had that AH-HA moment. I'm almost positive I said, "I'VE GOT IT!" out loud and completely startled my students. By now... they've become used to my outbursts. I knew I had the perfect book to illustrate the difference between point of view and perspective (something we are stuck on in 5th grade). 

I closed my mini lesson on the difference between point of view and perspective by reading aloud and dissecting Voices in the Park. It was a great discussion! However, it wasn't until later that day when the magic happened...

An avid writer in my classroom (such an avid writer that she had to get a NEW writer's notebook this year because her other one was full!) approached me and asked if she could write a "Voices in the Park" story. We brainstormed what her location could be in the story and we settled on the school cafeteria. Then, she was off! Writing a fictional story about the cafeteria from four very unique perspectives.

Last night as I was thinking about my plans for reading time - it hit me! Why aren't we ALL doing what my little writer is doing? What a great lesson!

From there... the lesson was born. We discussed how to brainstorm a location, time of day, or time period in our life. Then, we picked logical "voices" to play the roles in our short stories. 

The lesson lent itself to great extra mini lessons on voice, dialogue, and character development. We pulled Wonder off the shelf as an additional mentor text. One student piped up, "my character is like Justin from Wonder, he NEVER writes capital letters." 

Our finished products will be published on our blogs next week. I'm equally excited for my kids to publish their stories and be able to read and comment on one another's. 

Have a great week!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Why Do I Tweet?

I've been a member of the Twitter community since the summer of 2009. I was in college and my roommates and I jumped on the Twitter bandwagon and spent waaay too long one afternoon thinking of clever usernames. Luckily for me, a sweet friend had nicknamed me "Furnelly" and I felt like it would be the perfect Twitter handle for my new social media adventure. 

Speaking of which... hey Lauren, I'll need a new handle soon! Get to thinkin', sister!

Now, if you were to back channel through my tweets and read what I was up to from 2009-2011... you would be unimpressed. We'll just jump ahead to when I found the true value of Twitter as an educator. 

Before I continue I must confess: my Twitter feed is a random collection of all things related to my life. I choose to have my Twitter be a reflection of my personality and my thoughts - even if they are strange and rather goofy at times. 

Exhibit A:

I tweet about my favorite TV shows, what's happening in room 52, what my dog's internal thoughts are, and I share anything and everything I feel someone else can find to be relevant to their life. That's the great thing about Twitter - you control who you follow. You control what information is flooding your timeline. If you're a big fan of March Madness... then your timeline probably looks much different than mine right now. Mine is flooding with Scandal tweets and Edchats.  

Back to my question - Why do I Tweet?

For me, I tweet to be connected. I tweet to find out what other great teachers are doing so I can do those things too. I tweet to share great ideas with MY teacher friends. I tweet to learn new teaching strategies and new trends in education. I tweet to find out answers to things I just can't figure out. I tweet for the professional development in my sweatpants.  I tweet to catch up on my favorite celebrities and live vicariously through the lives of my favorite Housewives. I tweet to find out how I can be a better teacher, better person, and more encouraging educator. I tweet to learn how other teachers are enriching their curriculum with technology. I tweet to share what incredible things people in my world at Osage are doing. I tweet to share what we are experimenting with in room 52.  I tweet to show people that kids really do say the dardnest things.

I've found there is always someone willing to share their expertise on Twitter. Whether it's about removing wallpaper in the house we just bought, where to eat in New Orleans, a new recipe I must try, or how to navigate through the app Explain Everything for the first time. Strangers - fellow Tweeters - are willing and ready to offer their assistance in 140 characters or less. 

I tweet to bring the world outside of Osage into my classroom. Last year, my classroom connected with five different classrooms around the country through Skype. All of this happened through a simple hashtag #MysterySkype. From there, my kids were video chatting with students in New Jersey, Texas, and California to name a few. I tweet to bring authors and writers into my classroom without making a formal field trip. I tweet to show my students how it's possible to communicate with astronauts living on the International Space Station.

Welp, those are my two cents on the Twitter bandwagon. If you've been thinking about jumping on board, maybe this is the little inspiration to get started. Good luck!

You can find me @furnelly (you've been warned about my Twitter feed....)!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What I'm Reading Wednesday

You know you've found a great book when you can't wait to start reading it again from the day before. It's the kind of connection with a book I want my kids to find and I'm equally ecstatic when I find it as well. 

Since reading Gone Girl, I haven't found a thriller to capture my attention and put me at the edge of my seat. After months of waiting.... I've finally found the one. I secretly never want the book to end (okay, I'm lying... I have to know what happens) because I love the pace and unexpected nature of the storyline. I literally tell everyone I know, yes literally, they have to stop what they're doing and read the book.
Buy it on Amazon!

If you can't take my word for it.... listen to Chip, he loves it just as much as me. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Pistachio Inspired Tables

This weekend, my handsome fella' and I tackled a little furniture revamping project. To date, this was officially our second project together. Inspired by our favorite power couple, Chip and Joanna Gaines, we decided to give these end tables a second life. 

Here's a peak at the end tables prior to our project:

Fun Fact: Both tables fit quite nicely in the backseat of a Ford Fusion!

First, we decided to give each of the tables a good sanding because.. well... that's what every tutorial told us to do, so it seemed like it was necessary. How's that for an explanation?

After standing in the spray paint aisle for way-too-long (my fault.. couldn't decide on a color), Scott said, "go with your gut!" So, my gut said, "Pistachio!" Therefore, we went with the color "Pistachio" by Krylon. As were were painting and the color came to life, I fell more and more in love with the color! 

Named after my favorite snack: Pistachio!

After a few coats of paint (and another trip to Wal-Mart for more paint...then a pit stop at Home Depot...and online search at Menards..) our finished project was sitting pretty in our garage. 
Chip, our official project observer, gave the tables his stamp of approval. 

Have you painted furniture before? Do you sand? Prime? Spray Paint? Share with me your tips!

My next furniture project involves a sofa table I purchased on Craigslist and chalk paint. Off to the garage I go to soak up this beautiful weather and my final hours of spring break!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

"Simple as That" Project Meets the iPad in 2015

If you've been an avid follower of my blog for years, then you may remember my post in February of 2012 about our simple machines project. 

For the record, if you really have been reading my blog for that long.... I'm sending you a virtual hug right now. 

Now...hop in your time machine and flashback to 2012. 

Using the six computers in my classroom and Publisher my students created advertisements for Wal-Mart selling simple machines that had been disguised as common household products. Read more about the logistics and requirements for the projects ---> here

As the technology in my classroom has changed this project has evolved. Because of our iPads, we were able to do the same project this year... except we gave it major facelift and upgraded to Explain Everything! 

To begin the project, I handed out the project description and checklist. After we discussed what Wal-Mart would be looking for in the ads, I asked my students if THEY could be the teacher this time. Of course, students were more than willing to grade my work. :) While my 30-second ad played, students were checking off things I had included. 

For your viewing enjoyment, "Furnelly's Forks & Company":

I was slightly weary of showing an example to my students. I didn't want to stifle their creativity. However, I really think the example helped get my students in the right direction. The example was a great way to demonstrate my expectations for the project. I was also able to demonstrate how to get your point across - and stay focused - in about 30 seconds. 

Tomorrow we'll be uploading our projects to Dropbox and viewing the advertisements in class. Hmm.. I wonder if Wal-Mart will pick any of our products? :)

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