This past week we were given the challenge to unplug from a technology of our choice. While reading the Know When to Unplug Chapter from What Connected Educators Do Differently, I started to think about the ways that I engage with technology after I get home from school.

Here are the 5 categories of technology that I engage in each day once I get home. The list is not in a specific order of interest, but rather the sequence I engaged in most nights.

  • Social Media – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
  • Second Grade Prep – Teachers Pay Teachers, Twitter and Pinterest
  • Email – School and Personal
  • Graduate School – Email and Homework
  • Internet – Variety of Websites

Our challenge was to unplug in any way for the week, to think about unplugging in a different way each night, or to follow through with the same activities each night. The Know When to Unplug chapter discussed the three ideas of exercise, reading, and solitude.

Here is my response to the challenge:Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 7.33.28 PM

School Email

I wanted to start with focusing on my school email. I am always checking to see that I did not miss any information, or a parent note or even a reminder for something the next day. I check my email at least 10 times once I get home and truthfully there is probably only 1 or 2 emails each time, most spam emails from technology companies.

During the challenge: I did not find this to be too hard, I made sure that I had finished my emails before leaving for the day. This made me feel more prepared and less anxious about my communication. When I got to school the next day, I only had 10 emails (7 which needed to be deleted as spam) and I felt much better about the challenge.

Slip-ups: I had a meeting before school and needed to get an email to another teacher. I was not checking my email that morning,but rather using it communicate before our meeting.

Social Media 

After I have finished my schoolwork and homework for the night, I can spend up to 1 hour carelessly catching up with posts on Instagram and Facebook. This is not a good use of my time and does not help me with my schoolwork or homework. I also will engage in social media before going to bed, unnecessarily extending my bed time.

During the challenge: This was not hard for me to do. I was proud of myself for stopping my social media engagement and I even decreased my time throughout the day. It did not seem as important to me during the past week.

Slip-ups: While my husband and I were watching tv on Saturday night, I was looking at social media and it was after 9:00pm. I had not consciously watched the clock, but I did stop and focus solely on the television.

Reading Before Bed

I have received the last 3 months of my Real Simple magazine and have managed to put the magazine to the side to engage in other activities. I wanted to make sure that I put time aside to read a physical magian (not on technology) before going to bed.

During the challenge: I have finished 2 out of the 3 magazines and I am half way through the third one. This was the most successful part of the challenge. I noticed how well I slept during the night and I went straight to sleep.

Slip-ups: None


When I get home it is either too late to go outside and exercise or all I feel like doing is sitting on the couch. I wanted to try to sit a schedule to go outside at least 3 times this week.

During the challenge: On Monday I got home from school, put on my exercise gear and got outside. It felt wonderful to be outside in the fresh air and stretch my legs. Unfortunately that was the only day.

Slip-ups: I did not follow through with this part of the challenge. ON Wednesday it was after 7:00pm when I got home and on Friday, I could not bring myself to exercise. My husband and I did make up the exercise on the weekend, and spent most of Saturday walking and being outside. The weekends are normally the days that I get to exercise.

After this week of unplugging, I noticed that I managed my time and was finished with schoolwork/ homework a lot earlier. This gave me more free time as well as time to relax after the day. When I set a schedule or a challenge for myself, I am more likely to follow through. I am going to try to incorporate these challenges into my week.

How do you unplug?

What are some activities that you want to decrease during the week?

What tips do you have to unplug?


What if?

This past week we were having discussions about research questions based on our classroom research project. I am researching if project-based learning increases students nonfiction comprehension. As we discussed the research that would take place, the surveys and questions I needed to ask my students, one question came up that stumped me.

What if a student does not like project-based learning?

My initial thoughts to the question:

  • children love project-based learning
  • children get to collaborate with peers
  • children are engaged in hands-on activities
  • children are in charge of their own learning

Those were some of the reasons that I wanted to use to defend the use of project-based learning and my desire to use the model in my classroom. I then really started to think about the question. What if one of my students does not like project-based learning? What would be some of the reasons?

Some reasons for not liking project based learning:

  • There is not a concrete product
  • It is not comfortable rote practice
  • You have to engage with peers
  • It is more than paper and pencil
  • There are several steps
  • There is a requirement of background knowledge

These are not all the reasons that students would not like project-based learning, but initial ideas I have for the question.

I then started to think about the project-based experience and the way my students engage in learning in the classroom. I want my students to independently make connections, use critical thinking skills and communicate with one another throughout the process. These are high expectations for second graders, but I believe are possible when structures are set in place.

John McCarthy wrote a blog Giving Students Charge of How They Learn. “When teachers trust students to lead their learning by giving more open-ended opportunities that challenge them to find their way, students will delve deeper into content and set their expectations higher than is required.”

McCarthy motivates the students to take responsibility for their learning. He recommends that students help in the process of developing the project, give the students 2 options and let them design a third choice (to be reviewed by the teacher). Have students engage in the design and creation of the rubric. When students are creating the quality of the assignment, they are more likely to follow the requirements compared to a teacher giving the assignment.

When students are given ownership of a project, they are (should be) excited about the process and the learning that will take place. This is not true of all students and takes me back to the question that started this blog post.

In my classroom, I need to have strategies to increase my student’s desire to complete a task. As educators we are models for our students, if I am not excited about an activity, then my students will feel the same way and I could project my feelings onto my students. I need to model what intrinsic motivation looks like for students and be a positive model.

Here is a resource with 27 ideas to encourage intrinsic motivation in your students.

How do you motivate your students?

What projects do your students enjoy?

What projects do your students dislike?

How much ownership do you give your students in the classroom?

Is this real writing?

Each week I sit down with my students and reflect on the weekly activities. I have noticed that this year my students are excited to share what they have enjoyed during the week and what activities they want to do the next week. I feel that it is important for the students to have ownership in the classroom and understand that they are responsible for making decisions for their learning.

This week I learned about student writing list articles in the classroom. The article described how a list article would look in a middle school classroom. I started to think about the different activities that we were completing in the classroom for the week and where I could integrate a list article type of writing.

I decided to use our reflection time as a list article writing session. I first introduced my students to some youtube videos that were shared with me. We started with a video that I knew the students would love. 

My students were trying to guess the animals and many started to follow the countdown.

I then showed a video with a list of 5 dogs.

The students were so excited to start their writing.

The assignment was to

  • find/ join a group 3-4 students
  • discuss activities from the week
  • make a decision as a group what to write
  • write the topic 5 things that had happened over the week
  • make sure to include a reason it was a top 5 activity

As my students created groups and got started, I rotated around the room listening to the discussions. Most groups started listing the activities we had completed during the week.

Here are some pictures of the students at work.


I noticed that as they worked, they discussed what they wanted to write, how they were going to write each of the items on the list and their reasons. May of my students used resources around the room to spell out words, looked at our vocabulary wall, pulled activities from their notebooks, located read alouds and used each other to complete the activity.

I did not have one student ask me “How do you spell…?”. They were all engaged in the activity and not wanting to stop writing. I enjoyed listening to the students working on the spelling and referring back to our Letterland spelling lessons to explain the reason for the spelling patterns. 

Unfortunately we ran out of time and not all groups were able to finish the list. The groups that did not finish spent a lot of time discussing the top 5 list items as well as wanting the explanation to fit the activity.

Here are the pieces that the students completed.

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One group did finish with their Top 5 List and they were very excited to share with their peers.

I was very impressed with my students and the work they produced in a short amount of time. One student asked me “Is this like real writing?”, he was comparing this to our informational writing that we have been working on during writer’s workshop.

I started to reflect on our informational writing unit and our passion projects. I want to find a way to incorporate the list articles into our writing and let my students focus on a short piece of writing that has a clear topic and/ or message.

What writing activities do your students enjoy?

What activities do your students complete to increase written practice?

Is it in the text?

This past week I finished grading my students assessments from first quarter. We covered many English Language Arts (ELA) standards over the first nine weeks, but especially focused on asking and answering questions in both literature and informational texts.

ELA Common Core Standards

Grade 2 Reading Literature:

  • Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.

Grade 2 Informational Text:

  • Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.

In first grade, we focused on the standards in both read aloud and guided reading texts. This year our students have independently read a text and answered who, what, where, when, why, and how questions.

I have noticed that as my students learn more information over the year, they are using their prior knowledge to answer the text-based questions. I started to think about ways to teach my students the difference between using prior knowledge before reading a text and then using the text to answer the questions.

I found an article on Edutopia called Teaching Students the Skills of Expert Readers and thought about ways to incorporate these skills in my classroom. The article summarizes The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Readers.

My literacy centers are structured around Daily 5 model but are differentiated based on my students needs. I have 11 centers, which include 3 teacher groups (myself, another second grade teacher, and a resource teacher). My students do not follow a traditional rotation, but rather each student is strategically placed in a center based on his/ her individual needs and the activity at the center.

Here is a picture of my rotation. Students are homogeneously grouped based on reading level within a group of 2-3.

This type of rotation is very time-consuming to create, but gives my students to opportunity to work at centers that are differentiated to their level.

After reading about the 7 strategies, I started to think about ways to incorporate each strategy into my Daily 5 Centers.

1. Activating:

  • This past week we studied weather and clouds – I have set up a center to complete a small research project on clouds and use knowledge from our lessons to complete the task rather than prior personal knowledge.

2. Summarizing:

  • My students will be locating vocabulary in differentiated leveled text topics that have already been introduced during literacy instruction. Once they find the vocabulary word, they will complete a graphic organizer to summarize (determine) the meaning of the word and use the word to further explain their understanding of the text.

3. Monitoring and Clarifying:

  • Students will work on a clouds research project using differentiated texts to report information about clouds and weather. Students will be given opportunities to work collaboratively on the project for many days and check their understanding through the project.

4. Visualizing and Organizing:

  • When locating and defining the vocabulary words, the students will have opportunities to use a graphic organizer to show their thinking and understanding.

5. Searching and Selecting:

  • The clouds research project will give the students an opportunity to search for information and select facts from the necessary sources.

6. Questioning:

  • This week we will focus on questions during our guided reading. My students can create “thin” questions – questions that can be answered from the text, but have a harder time asking the “thick” questions.

7. Inferring:

  • We also focus on inferring from the text and use student created questions to practice the strategy.

Our school also uses the MobyMax Accelerated Personalized Learning program. My students will also be engaged in focused informational text instruction and questions as well as a variety of stories with questions.

I am excited to use the 7 strategies as a framework for creating my centers. This framework will help me plan a variety of activities and ensure that I am creating a variety of learning opportunities for my expert readers.

How do you create your centers?

What do you think are important skills for young readers?

How do you teach your students to use prior knowledge to read the text, but not necessary use to answer comprehension questions?