Saturday, June 30, 2012

Unfair Science Fair

I wrote this post during the school year, but decided to wait until summer to add it to my blog.  So, here it is, and I hope you enjoy!

I recently posted a blog detailing how to deal with angry parents (find it here if you missed it).  And wouldn’t you know it, I had to deal with a very upset mommy the next day.  (Isn’t it funny how that works sometimes?)

The kids are in the middle of completing their Science Fair projects.  This is the first year they are doing these, so I’ve broken down the project into 4 chunks.  That way the students can get their work checked by me as they’re completing the project, and I can make any corrections along the way if needed.

Well one of my students (let’s call her Jane) was completely unclear about her experiment and left out a lot of detail and I was confused about what her whole experiment was trying to prove.  Another area she missed points on was the section requiring the students to keep a journal of their experiment.  Jane only completed 3 out of the 5 entries required.

So I get this angry email from a mommy telling me that Jane’s father was furious with her, the school, and myself for giving her a bad grade.  She proceeded to tell me that they spent $85 on plants and supplies for the experiment, and it was all for nothing since she got a bad grade (really?  $85 on plants?  What did they buy, palm trees?).  So it was the parents’ understanding that I didn’t give Jane a good grade because they didn’t spend enough money on the Science Fair project.

Really?  I mean come on.  Really?  If that were the case then I would’ve required the parents turn in receipts.  Come on now.

It always amazes me when people expect the worst of me as their child’s teacher.  Like I’m teaching because I enjoy the huge paycheck (I have mentioned before how much I love shopping at the DOLLAR store, right?).

The Resourceful Teacher Blog

Friday, June 29, 2012

What's That Noise?

Rrrr, zzzzz, rrrr, zzzz, rrrr, zzzz, rrrr, zzzz! Really?  What are you doing? I’m trying to teach here!  You all know what that is, right?  In the middle of your lesson or your silent reading or writing block, there’s always that one student who is in love with sharpening their pencil!  I can’t blame them because I love sharp pencils too!  But lucky me, I know where my leads are at all times.  Most students are lucky to know where their lunch is let alone a sharp pencil to do their work.  And because my sharpener is like 90 years old and makes a racket close to fingernails on a chalkboard, my students have to rely on the pencil can for sharp pencils. Not anymore!

Well, I’m happy to say that Troy has entered my life with his Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener, and I’m a happy camper.  What an amazing tool for every classroom.  I was so excited to get mine that I went through the house begging my family for pencils to sharpen.  I dug through drawers, and looked in backpacks, crazy teacher, right?

                                                               Click here for website

You won’t think so when you get your own sharpener.  It’s amazing and every teacher should have one.  It’s worth every penny and your state of mind next year.  So, check out the website, and grab yours before they are all gone!  You won’t be sorry, I promise!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


I know everyone has some floating around, right?  Not only in pockets, but desks, cars, purses, drawers, couches, and who knows. Well, I’m not talking about this type of pocketchange, but the webpage where you can find advice on just about everything and what’s best of the web right now.  Topics found on the shopping blog range from organic products, to clothes, to trips, and you guest it…education.  So, have a little down time today or tomorrow?  Check out Pocketchange, especially Best of the Web no. 69 where I was featured, and let me know what you think!

Best of the Web, Heidi Befort, Globicate
Best of the Web, Pocketchange, Heidi Befort, Globicate 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Explore Morocco

Hi there, I’m Heidi Raki of Raki’s Rad Resources.  Heidi Befort has graciously invited me to do a series of posts for you on using research books to explore different countries.  Since, I’m currently living in Morocco, I decided to start there!

Here’s a little information about Morocco:

- Morocco is a small country in North Africa.  Ancient Ruins of Chellah in Rabat, Morocco

- There coastline of Morocco runs along the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

- French and a dialect of Arabic (called Darija) are spoken by the majority of Moroccan citizens.

- Islam is the main religion of Morocco.

- The biggest cities of Morocco are: Casablanca, Fes, Marrakesh and Rabat.

- Couscous is the most common dish, and is served with seasonal vegetables, on Fridays after families go to Mosque.morocco1

If you would like to teach your kids about Morocco, you can use this Free Research Book that you can download from Google Docs to help them explore some key facts about Morocco.

I’ll be back next week as part of this ‘Learning About Countries Through Research Books series” with information about Egypt.  In the mean time, please feel free to stop by my blog, Raki’s Rad Resources, for more quality teaching tips and resources.

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources   Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Intentional Writing - Dynamics!

Writer's Workshop, writing resources, writing, Heidi Befort, Globicate

          To write with intention means you need to focus and think.  Writing is not a process to be hurried.  In my class, I love to have my students write in a composition book, every other line, in pencil.  I encourage them to just write, write, write…get those thoughts down on paper, don’t worry about errors or form, and enjoy themselves.  Let go; let the thoughts, and mental visions flow onto the paper until your brain is dry! If the words are elusive, I encourage students to draw and write captions, or just create lists of topics or things that interest them.

          Writing is a creative activity that should be honed on a daily basis incorporating in those focused lessons on genre, form, grammar, and skills.  I start my writing workshop each day with a short lesson that includes the Common Core and state standards, in addition to topics across the content areas. Your writing workshop should not be an isolated block of time here and there.  In order to get those creative juices flowing and decrease the amount of frustration, you’ll need a daily block of time for your young authors. 

          There are many ways to approach teaching writing and every teacher has their own routines and secrets, so think about what works and what doesn’t and how you can change it, make it better.  Think about how you have it structured to meet everyone’s needs. I like to meet with 1-2 small groups each day.  The other students will be brainstorming, planning, drafting, editing with a partner, illustrating, or reading.  I also plan on conferencing with at least 3 students each day, in addition to having 2-3 students share their work. 

          My biggest nemesis with writing is grading writing pieces.  Sometimes I look at the stack and I’m so overwhelmed, I just ignore it, but take it from me… don’t!  Grade 4-5 each day and you’ll soon have them all done.  Also, you don’t have to formally grade all pieces, especially the shorter ones, which I call quick writes.  You’ll still want your students to share with an authentic audience for that immediate feedback and recognition, a big part of writing!

          I’ve created my Writer's Workshop Planning Guide that you can download to help you plan for the important aspects and components of the writing workshop. In addition, you can download my Writer’s Workshop S.H.A.P.E. Up! to guide your students through the process. With a little planning, nurturing, and intention, your writer’s workshop will be up and running smoothly.  It will be dynamic and creative, and you might find it difficult to get your students to stop writing versus the other way around.  Check out my next blog on editing and revising, and these websites to inspire your students to be dynamic!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Intentional Writing - Prompt and Circumstance

           So, what's all the hullabaloo about?  You guessed right, the prompt, not pomp! A good writing prompt can make or break your students.  They might be smiling and full of accomplishment, or they may have a disjointed mess that you have to struggle through to read.  Creating prompts that lead a student to an amazing writing piece can leave most teachers sweating.  Whether you're writing your own or using others, here are a few tips to get those students brainstorming and writing.

           The first thing you can do is grab a great book, find an inspiring paragraph, and share a portion that shows great writing techniques. Find one that shows what's happening versus telling the story.  So many students want to tell you what happened, but the true craft of writing comes from the mental picture that the reader gets as they are reading the piece.  All of the wonderful authors out there will provide you with endless examples of pieces to share with your students to get them writing.  Your challenge will be to come up with a prompt from the section you read.  If you are stumped, try my favorite site for mentor texts, prompts, and lessons.

 is the home of the digital writing prompt, an online activity that you or students can use to inspire their writing. Other resources that you can find there include digital photos for writing, 6 trait information, and writing genres, so you should be able to find something to get your students going.  If not, another site to find great prompts is

          Wonderopolis is a site that encourages wonders about our world through focusing on the small things.  And any teacher who teaches writing knows how hard it is to get your students to focus on one idea or wonder.  Well, Wonderopolis will help you accomplish this through prompts each day.  I love this site for it's simplicity, creativity, and wonder!

          Other sites that range from the random lists to the organized prompts include:

     So, don't struggle with coming up with a prompt that you are unsure about, use the ones out there that are tried and true.  You'll be having a little pomp and circumstance for your students when they share their pieces. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Intentional Writing - Mapping A Course

Most teachers are familiar with the typical pen or pencil paper writing assignments that we give our students on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.  The purposes vary from biography to memoir, to fantasy, or informative.  We measure their successes with benchmarking data and mark them up with our fancy red, purple, or green pens and stamps to show our approval.  As we conference with them, we guide them to make improvements and learn ‘proper’ writing techniques.  I usually sit at my conference table, my students sign up for conferencing on the board and go down my list with the precision of an Indy Race Car driver.  The low hum of the students sharing their pieces or conferencing with buddies tells me that work is going on, but as I call names to come sit with me...I get the rolling eyes, slumping shoulders, and gurgle of despair as they approach me for the “conference”.

            I promised myself this year I would change this pattern because I want all my students to have purpose and passion with their writing.  I know this can’t happen every time, I’m a realist, but why can’t it happen most of the time? Well, I think it can if we use the modalities that our students crave.  Yup, you guessed it…technology, the Ipads, Ipods, netbooks, and computers that adorn their lives.  Our little digital natives need the intention and mode of choice to create and write with intention! 

            You may need to start with a pencil and paper, but if you choose to get out of your comfort zone, you may be able to encourage those reluctant writers with a few new sites and apps out there today.  So, starting from the beginning, let’s look at some ideas and graphic organizers to get them started.  First, you could use graphic organizer to help your students organize their thoughts. In this site, students use the map generator to create a bubble map where they can
change text, change the bubble color, and then print out their map if they choose.

           Or, how about Popplet, where students can create a visual map of their writing. This free site also allows students to share and collaborate.

 Text2Mindmap is another great brainstorming tool.  It allows you to take your text and create a map.  So, students could have a list, subject, or topic they are writing about and input their data to create a visual of their writing.

Other sites out there that might interest you include:

            There are so many ways to get your students excited about writing, and this is just for brainstorming and organizing their thoughts.  Check out my next blog about prompts.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Intentional Writing - Part 1

It is well known that getting students to write is one of the most difficult things a teacher needs to accomplish each year.  Common phrases heard range from, “I don’t know what to write!” and “Is that enough?”.  I’ve been there, and done that, but I do know that some of the best writing my students have completed have been small, focused, unexpected pieces.  In the past I’ve mentioned some favorite resources that I use during Writer's Workshop.  One that I like to use throughout the year is the Ralph Fletcher's writing series.  I’ll pick one of his books like, “How Writers Work: Finding a Process That Works for You” and read short bits out loud before we write.  We discuss each reading and what the focus or idea was about.  Then, all of us, including myself, go to our seats and silently write for about 15 minutes.  Sometimes students have a hard time starting, and if this happens I encourage them to brainstorm a list of ideas that they are experts at or draw a picture and write a caption.  Sometimes there are giggles, and silliness, but as soon as we get down to the business of writing, the pieces amaze me.  We usually share out at the end, and more times than not there is not enough time to share all pieces, but I try because students want and need to be heard.  This is the intentional writing piece, whether it’s for the class, their family, the school boards, or even a global penpal, it needs to have intention.  Your students need some type of buy in to the purpose of their pieces.   Ralph Fletcher’s book doesn’t talk about the mechanics of writing, but about thinking and acting like a writer.  It encourages students to make writing a habit...carry a journal, be observant, write about things you know, and choose someone to share it with.  The knowing that it will be shared takes your student’s writing pieces to a whole new level and gives them intention. You’ll be pleased with the results and want to share them with the world!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Urgent Vs. Inspire - Data-Driven Classrooms

Data Driven, NCLB, Common Core State Standards, Portfolios, Data Informed

Two of the biggest buzz words in education right now is "data-driven".  This concept of using data to drive our instruction has exploded on the educational homefront  mostly due to NCLB several years ago.  Teachers and schools now are faced with showing value in what they do, and justifying their existence in the classroom. I personally try not to focus on these issues, knowing that my goal as a teacher is educate my students, and hopefully instill a love for life-long learning. But the question is, how can you use the data to inform your instruction vs. drive it to improve student achievement?

At the beginning of my school year, I look at, "What do my students know, where do I need to take them, and how are they going to get there?" This could be equated with the concept of "driven", but have you actually looked at what that word implies?  Well, according to Merriam-Webster, the definition is: having a compulsive or urgent quality, propelled or motivated by something - used in combination. I definitely feel urgent and impulsive when I know my evaluation is based on what these kiddos achieve each year, and compelled to teach my heart out so I can keep my job.  What we really are doing is using the data to inform our students. Inform is defined as: to give or impart knowledge of a fact or circumstance, to supply with knowledge of a matter or subject, to give evident substance, character, or distinction to; pervade or permeate with manifest effect, to animate or inspire.
Our job really should be to inspire achievement and excellence in our students.  We can still use the data and but let's focus on being informed vs. driven!  

Here are some ways to inspire, empower, and engage your students this year!

1. Know where your students are in their learning spectrum and what multiple intelligences are they strong in.
2. Know where you want them to be and what you can do to help them achieve even more.
3. Involve them in looking at their own data to inform and inspire their achievement.
4. Encourage them to reflect on their efforts realistically through conferencing.
5. Help them to create a plan for changes and improvements.
6. Share and communicate their results with their world.
7. Celebrate their successes both big and small.
8. Support them in all areas to reach, meet, and exceed their own expectations.
9. Give them choice and responsibility with their learning, and encourage organization of data.
10. Empower them to grow mentally, physically, and globally.

I use data binders and portfolios for each student to keep them organized and to empower them to make decisions about their education.  The process of creating them and conferencing each week takes time and commitment on the part of the teacher, but the knowledge gained will be unparalleled in the end. Your students will feel informed, empowered, responsible, and organized giving them a sense of achievement. And you will be able to show your classroom and teaching are "Data-Informed". In the end, you'll be inspired by all of their successes!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Creating Picture Books

The extrememly creative author, Mo Willems, has written several books starring his beloved creature: The Pigeon. 
I did an activity with my students where I read 3 of his Pigeon books to the class.  Then I separated the students into 6 groups and they created their own Pigeon stories.  Some of the more creative titles the kids came up with were: Don't Let the Pigeon Fall in Love, Pigeon Wants to Travel, and Don't Give the Pigeon 10 Dollars.  The pictures below show what the writing process looked like.  
On a side note, the illustrations were quite simple for the kids to do.  I even drew a few on the board so the kids could copy them.
The Resourceful Teacher Blog

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Chase Against Time

literature books, novels, series, Globicate, Steve Reifman

Chase Manning is just like many students we see each day in school.  Good kid, enjoys school, has special talents that set him apart.  Those special talents land him the key role in Steve Reifman's book and series, "Chase Against Time".  This novel is a page-turner for your tweens!  They will be thoroughly engrossed in the single-day mystery of finding the prized cello before the auction starts to save Apple Valley's music program.  Chase and his school are the perfect backdrop for a suspenseful story that will keep them guessing until the end, definitely a cliffhanger!  The best part about this book and series is that it resembles so many of today's schools with budget cuts and issues that both teachers, students, and the community struggle with.  Grab a book for your students or child and have some fun summer reading together.  I guarantee you'll not want to put it down either!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Promoting Literacy Through Quotes!

quotes, literacy, books, classroom resources, Globicate, Steve Reifman

            For the past fifteen years of my teaching career, I have incorporated the use of quotes into my classroom’s morning routine to inspire my students, start the day on a positive note, and build lasting habits of character. Discussing well-known sayings brings out the best in children and helps them focus on important ideas. It is my enthusiasm for this exercise and my firm belief in its effectiveness that led me to write my new book, Changing Kids‘ Lives One Quote at a Time: 121 Inspirational Sayings to Build Character in Children.

            In addition to its character-building mission, our “Quote of the Day” conversations also offer a powerful way to promote literacy. When I speak of literacy, I am referring to the specific skills of reading, writing, speaking, listening, and thinking.

            In its pure form the discussion begins when a student volunteer reads the “Quote of the Day” on the board. It is critical at this time to provide approximately thirty seconds of “wait time” so each child can think about the quote, make sense of it, and perhaps even come up with an example of how the quote’s meaning applies to everyday life or connects to a habit of character.

            To maximize student participation, the kids follow this “quiet think time” with a brief pair-share, in which each child has an opportunity both to express ideas and listen carefully to the partner’s thoughts. Next, a few volunteers share their interpretations of the quote’s meaning with the entire class. Finally, I close the activity by sharing some thoughts of my own. Whenever possible, I like to share a personal story that brings out the quote’s meaning in a deeper way. Storytelling is a powerful teaching strategy, and kids are likely to remember the stories and the lessons they contain for a long time.

            Parents can follow the basic outline of this procedure when discussing quotes at home with their children. In addition, there are several ways that parents can modify this conversational structure to strengthen literary development.

   Put one quote per day or week in your child’s lunch and discuss the quote’s meaning after school. Reading a quote at lunchtime is a novel experience for children, and the timing provides kids with several hours to think about the quote to prepare for the evening discussion, which can take place on the ride home, at the dinner table, or at bedtime. For example, with R. Herzog’s quote, “It is better to light a candle than complain about the darkness,” it may take children a while to figure out that the saying is telling them to adopt a problem solving attitude when life’s inevitable frustrations arise, not complain about them.

   Analyze quotes for excellent word choice or interesting word play. With Rudy Benton’s quote, “7 days without exercise makes one weak,” discuss with your child how the word “weak” is spelled. The quote is not referring to a week on the calendar, but to the fact that if we don’t exercise, we will become physically weaker.

   Consider writing a quote or a set of quotes on your child’s placemat and discuss these sayings during a healthy breakfast. Over cereal and fruit, you and your child can discuss Bonnie Hopper’s quote, “The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little EXTRA!” Together, you can talk about how consistently giving that extra effort in school, in sports, and other endeavors can make a huge difference in the long run.

   If you’re trying to sharpen your child’s writing skills, consider using quotes for journal writing. Simply choose a quote and ask your child to respond to it using one of the prompts listed below. (More prompts are provided in Changing Kids‘ Lives One Quote at a Time.)

       • Describe a time when you or someone you know demonstrated the main idea of this quote.
       • What do you think this quote means? Give examples.
       • Why do you think the speaker said this quote in the first place?
       • Describe how you can use the meaning of this quote to help others.
       • Describe how this quote can help you get along more effectively with other people.

For example, with Vince Lombardi’s quote, “If you'll not settle for anything less than your best, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish in your lives,” children may address the first prompt by describing a time when they finished a writing assignment at school and then continued to revise it to improve the story’s word choice and sentence structure, rather than put it away because they simply wanted to be done.

• Choose a quote and ask your child to say whether (s)he agrees or disagrees with its meaning and then explain why. This type of exercise builds the critical thinking skill of evaluation (the highest level on the well-known Bloom’s taxonomy) and develops persuasive speaking skills. For example, when considering John Hancock’s quote, “The greatest ability in business is to get along with others,” a child may choose to disagree and argue that knowing how to do one’s job with knowledge and skill is more important than getting along with other people. This would likely lead to a very interesting conversation.

            Discussing quotes with children is a powerful, engaging way to build character in children and develop valuable literacy skills. I hope you decide to give it a try. 

You can also read Steve's article on reluctant readers below:

Steve Reifman is a National Board Certified elementary school teacher, author, and speaker in Santa Monica, CA. He has written several books for educators and parents, including Changing Kids’ Lives One Quote at a Time and Eight Essentials for Empowered Teaching and Learning, K-8. Steve is also the creator of the Chase Manning Mystery Series for kids 8-12. Each book in the series features a single-day, real-time thriller that occurs on an elementary school campus. For weekly Teaching Tips, blog posts, and other valuable resources and strategies on teaching the whole child, visit You can follow Steve on Twitter at!/stevereifman.

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