Monthly Archives: January 2014

Creation Apps

Discover. Play. Build.


What makes for great instruction that has educational technology involved?  I have designed lessons this year to my K-5 students that answers this question.  As a classroom teacher who taught 3rd and 4th grade for 20 years, I love to equip my students with tools to help them communicate clearly.  In my opinion, technology enhances students’ experiences with communicating.  There are endless digital options these days for students to use to create and to write, but I will focus on just three apps in this post.  Stay tuned for future posts on Tellagami app, Collins Book Creator app, and Book Press app.

After doing an Interactive Read Aloud with my first graders using “A Chair For My Mother” by Vera Williams, I asked students to collaborate while drawing three pictures that showed the beginning, middle and end of the story in the Doodle Buddy app.  Next, they took screenshots of their drawings and placed them in the Comic Maker app where they added speech bubbles with text.  They clearly communicated their understanding of the story while designing a creative digital product.  Could students have retold the story by drawing on paper?  Yes.  Did my students need pencil or paper to do this assignment?  No.  They drew on the iPad with their fingers and typed using the iPad’s keyboard.  I gave them a way to read and respond to books while adding to their ever growing repertoire of digital writing strategies.


In December of 2013 I gave 4th grade students iPads with the “Write About This” app.  They could choose their own picture with three levels of prompts to promote creative thinking.  The student who wrote the story above articulated her thoughts while composing vivid verbs, inserting internal thoughts and approximating proper use of quotation marks.  This image inspired her.  If I had just given her this prompt to write about with paper and pencil, I don’t know if she would have been able to write with such creativity.  Asking learners to type while composing is different than having them write with a pencil.  This learner was not only inspired by the picture, also also embraced the opportunity to type on the iPad screen.  She published a piece of writing that looks like one she could read in a book with a type font and beamed when she shared it with the class.

Learners communicating their thoughts is nothing new, but with the ability to use technology, students can design and dive deep into engagement!  Teachers can show leadership by modeling how to use the apps with their students by using the Airplay mode on the iPad and an Apple TV.  My students love to get their hands on iPads.  As I demonstrate the steps of app smashing between Doodle Buddy and Comic Maker or show the components of the “Write About This” app to students, they appreciate the tips and are ready to start their projects.

“Show mine!!!”


This past week I asked my Kindergarten students to use the  Doodle Buddy app to stamp groups of ten objects and label each row.  I recently got an Apple TV which allows me to share students’ work on the iPads on my big screen.  When pairs of students finished creating as many rows of ten as possible, I would say, ” Would you like me to show your work on the screen?”  Every group would say, “Show mine!”  The ability to choose the Airplay function on the students’ iPads allowed me to share their work.  We all like a little recognition, I suppose, so the faces of the students whose iPads I showed beamed when their work was displayed.  I could see that some students were labeling their second row of 20 as “11” and the third row of ten objects as “13” where the number three was written backwards.  I was able to help these students count the stamps on their second row and then rewrite the number “20” at the end of the row.  Their misconceptions helped me to know how to guide them to a correct way to label groups of twenty objects, thirty objects, etc.  Using Doodle Buddy’s features is an effective way for students to demonstrate their understanding of math.  I loved that my students wanted me to share their work because they collectively contributed to their ongoing story of how counting objects works!


I also received a nice compliment this week when my bulletin board in the school hallway was chosen as “Bulletin Board of the Week”.  I had showcased my students as they presented their Haiku Decks about a topic of their choice and as they gave mini Ted-like talks to deliver their presentations.  I had also printed some of their written comments that they had typed in Socrative, a free app that allows students to give teachers comments as exit tickets.  If you would like to read more about this project, please reference my October 2013 blog post.  I was thrilled that my board was shared with the staff in the weekly letter that my principal sends as being as good one.  There are so many reasons to celebrate students’ work!

Reflective iMovies

Last December, I decided to introduce how to create an iMovie to my 4th and 5th graders.  As they came to my Computer Classroom, I showed them the following YouTube video which give a nice explanation of how to create an iMovie:  I knew that some students already had some prior knowledge of creating iMovies or iMovie trailers from being in my fourth grade class last year or from having their own device.  One fifth grade class had recently even created an iMovie to show area businesses to convince them to support our school as we raise funds to purchase a new playground.  Students were captivated by the video and seemed excited about the possibility of us creating iMovies in the future.

Last week I had my 4th and 5th grade students reflect on the various digital products and projects that they had created in my Computer Class.  After reflecting on the projects that they had done on iPads and on computers, I told them that I wanted them to showcase what they had done by making a Class iMovie.  I showed them the rules for the first K-12 White House Film Festival at which encourages students to make a movie about how they are using technology in schools.  They decided that they wanted to make the iMovie lasting three minutes maximum then have me upload it to my You Tube channel (Maples Channel) and then send the link to the White House.  I divided students into four or five groups per class and had them decide on which digital project that they’d like to talk about and show for around 30-40 seconds on the class iMovie.  Although I had used iMovie trailer templates with last year’s class as they planned their trailers, I decided to have Monday’s classes create their own format for the iMovie.  I asked them to write down their ideas on who would say what about each digital project, but felt that they needed more structure.  After recently reading a new book called  “And Action!  Directing Documentaries in the Social Studies Classroom” by Kathy Swan and Mark Hofer during Winter Break, I knew the importance of having students have a Storyboard to organize their projects and found one I liked at this website:

I printed one Storyboard for each group in each class to use for the rest of the week.  I was thrilled that they embraced the Storyboard sheets which had six boxes with lines under each one to give students an idea of a scene that they wanted to film.  Next, they would sketch out what they wanted the next speaker to say and show.  I was much more pleased with the structure in place to give my elementary students the proper support to plan their iMovies.  I am very excited about the coming week as we will start to film each class as they explain their digital products and projects using Haiku Deck as a presentation tool, Discovery Education’s Board Builder, Hour of Code, Blogging in Gaggle, and apps that they wanted to showcase such as Santa Engineer, Mathamateer, and Science 360.

The White House Film Festival is seeking examples of how students use technology as a creation tool, how students use technology in new ways, and how they use technology to access high quality online content and resources such as the Dreambox, an online  Math program that my school district has purchased.  Some student groups wanted to share how they are using Dreambox and how it motivates them to play a variety of games that adapt to their level.  Other groups wanted to showcase the excellent web resource and which they had used in their research to create their Discover Education Digital Boards.  At my website,, I had given the following directions at the fifth grade tab during second quarter:  Visit Class DOGO news site below and write a blog post about it in your Gaggle Blog.  Read other students’ blog from your class and write a TAG Comment (Tell something, Ask a Question, Give a Suggestion).

Students are new to blogging but many of them enjoyed reading the Class DOGO article about Batkid in San Francisco, CA then creating a blog entry to describe their response.  They are becoming online communicators and using acronyms like TAG to help them remember how to conduct themselves as responsible members of the digital community.  It will be interesting for me to see how the Gaggle Bloggers group will discuss blogging not just about themselves but also about articles that they’ve read.

When I read “And Action!…” during the Winter Break, I discovered that it is wise to show students three ways to plan an iMovie:  a character driven film, an event driven film or issue driven film.  I introduced the project to students by telling them that the film will be structured as an event narrative so that the viewers can see the series of events or projects that we have done.

I also provided students with an Essential Question to guide their thinking:  The question we want our viewers to consider and explore is this:
“In what ways has technology helped me learn?”

I told them that they would need to introduce the topic in a way that will draw the viewers in. I posed the question, “What image or quotes would you want to use?”  Some students whose natural passions are toward communicating creatively would give great ideas in each class and would arrange themselves to plan their part of the film on the Storyboard sheet.

The White House Film Festival movies are due by January 29 so time is of the essence.  If I had more time, I would allow students to generate a fuller script for each person to say during the movie.  In the future as they research an Essential Question, I will ask them to locate images that support their findings and to create iMovies about these powerful images with developed scripts of narration to read as the images are shown.  The process that I have had them go through has been setting them up to do small group research online then to create an iMovie after careful thought about their presentation by planning it on a Storyboard.  Students need support as they plan presentations and not just be told, “One of your choices is to make an iMovie.”  I think that students who used the Storyboard sheet felt confident as to how they would present their digital product or project and will be able to use this support structure in future iMovie projects.

Giving students the chance to collaborate in small groups to plan their part of the iMovie was a needed scaffold because they were able to frame their piece of the whole movie, so in essence, I used the Jigsaw technique to arrange the class.  Some classes wanted to even bring their own digital devices to my class to show how they are using BYOT during the school day so their part of the iMovie will also contribute to the overall feel of how we use Technology all day at school, not just in the Computer Lab.   Next week, we will put all of the pieces together and film the iMovies!  I will mirror the iPad that filmed the iMovie on the board using our Apple TV, then have students decide how to best edit the video clips of each group, add any voiceovers, add text to screens, and add music.  I will upload their iMovies to my YouTube channel then enter each 4th and 5th grade class into the White House Film Festival by January 29, 2014.   I know that my students will use the 45 minutes that they have in my class to creatively present their group’s digital product and show that they are using technology to communicate, critically think, collaborate and create as 21st Century Learners.  They will be creating documentary, event driven films for the world to see!

Timeline of Water Overflow

Timeline of Water Overflow

I made this timeline using the Free Timeline app found at It shows the progression of events after our toilet overflowed due to a blocked drainpipe. I am celebrating that we were able to stop the water from flooding our whole downstairs! Damage was done. My throat got sore that night, and I started being sick leading to a trip to the doctor on Friday. Again, celebrating that I was given meds to get me better and get my voice back. The coming week will be challenging, but I am celebrating in advance that all things work together for good to them that love the Lord!

Celebrations of Comfort and Joy

One of the benefits of being a teacher is having a long Winter Break.  During this time off, I have felt such peace, comfort and joy in my heart.  I want to share a couple of the moments when I celebrated comforting peace and joy.

Visiting my home church in Greensboro, NC – I was raised singing the hymns of the Christian Faith.  As a child, I loved to hear my mother harmonize and sing the alto part of these hymns.  On December 22, while standing next to my mom in church, she started harmonizing during the chorus of “O Come All Ye Faithful”.  As I sang soprano alongside of her, I felt such warmth and peace flood into my soul.  Not only were the words of the song uplifting, but just being with my parents and hearing my mom sing was the beginning of a celebration of peace.  Another precious saint, Sandra J. was singing harmony right behind me.  I also love to hear her voice and recalled memories of Sandra singing in church through the years.  Hugging Sister Broach, my childhood Sunday School Teacher, again showered me with such comfort.  I just felt a special peace while hearing Pastor George deliver the hopeful message.  The visit to Greensboro gave me the chance to connect with those who have meant so much to me during my life.

Last night, my husband and I took our children to see the movie “Frozen”.  Prior to the movie, we ate pizza at a great spot, TRUE Pizza, near the theater.  We bundled up and walked to the movies after our tummies were full and laughter rose from our table.  Smelling the popcorn and using gift cards to buy the tickets gave me great comfort.  We loved the movie!  When it ended, all of the small children who had packed the room with their parents, clapped.  Who doesn’t like a good story, right?  I told one of my children later at home that I loved to hear her laugh during the movie.  As I tucked her in at bedtime I mentioned, “Did you know that the Bible says that a joyful heart is good medicine?”  She replied, “A joyful mama is good medicine too!”  Wow!  I began to realize that I had felt so much joy during the Winter Break and that I must be reflecting that joy back to my children.  Note to self:  choose joy because people notice!

My hope is to nurture comfort and joy both at home and at school.  During January, I am excited about having my first graders publish their How To Writing at the Bookemon website this coming week at  I want their writing voices to be heard.  Just as I revisited the amazing people at my parents’ church in Greensboro, my students will be able to reread their published books anytime they want during their lives.  Being a writer will allow my students to build unique memories and develop their feeling of accomplishment which leads to joy.

Balance Begins

The excitement that a new year brings is here!  With all of the many Tweets of those I follow, I sense that goals are being set and the resolves of many are strong.  I also have been examining my life and wanted to see how to best prepare for 2014.  I love my job and my students, but I have often found that I spend inordinate amounts of time on schoolwork at home including connecting to Social Media more than spending quality time with my family.  I am always perusing resources that my Twitter PLN describes, adding educational pins on Pinterest, watching webinars, lurking or participating in Twitter chats, reading educational blogs and putting together K-5 Technology Lessons for my students, while also checking emails on my school email.  I have decided that my balance will begin when I FIT IN the time that I spend within my digital world with the time that I have with my family each day.

First, it is an honor to be a wife and a parent.  I will be a better teacher if my home life is better balanced than it has previously been.  So how will I promote balance this year?  I will encourage my family to set goals each week.  These goals will be as follows:

Get Homework Done within an hour and a half each night

Exercise three times during the week

Eat healthful meals

Meditate on truths found in the Bible and pray

Limit Social Media presence to one hour per day including playing of games, Tweeting, Facebook, Pinterest, and Emailing at home

Have meaningful conversations while spending quality time with family

Realize that we will never have another week quite like this one so disconnect from work and school while engaging in quality family time

Clean up after self.  Mom will do laundry a couple of times a week.

Make wise purchases.

Participate in Christian education at church twice a week (once on weeknight and once on weekend)

Evaluate how week’s goals were met at end of each week and refine them for specific reasons such as preparing for projects that require weekend  time to prepare.

Here is an example of how one night might look after I leave school and join my children:

After school, assess how long each subject will take to complete as homework, set a timer, and do it.  I will make dinner as homework is done and throw in a load of clothes.  Next, we will go to the gym for a Gymnastics class for one child and a workout on the elliptical machine and with free weights alongside my other child.  Get home, kids get baths, finish homework,  read Bible to instill values and to develop a personal relationship with God, pray, sit with husband on couch to connect and develop our relationship, pray with kids after discussing a truth from the Bible using a devotional book, tuck them in, put away dishes, wrap up cleaning of kitchen, then rejoin husband on couch.

I have loved every minute of Winter Break as it has given me time to reflect on how to make the most of my life.  Once school gets started, I am determined to stay focused and balance my home and family life.  My marriage and my children deserve ME and my presence.  My job is tremendously important, but I must nurture my family.  Even as I wrote this post on the iPad, one of my children made a card for me with a picture of a seed and flowers growing with a smiling sun along with the following words:  “You help me grow into a flower like the others…so thank you for helping me grow.”  My children realize that I help them grow and they want my support.  I had helped her in the last hour with her music theory book in preparation for her upcoming weekly piano lesson.  She needed me and I need her.  I don’t want her to grow up feeling like I wasn’t here for our family due to interacting constantly in the evening and weekend with my iPad and computer.

I want to use time wisely at school to design and develop my plans.  I know that on two nights a week, I have to do extra homework to type my plans after I have been preparing them all week at lunch and during my planning times at school.  Balance is about crafting time blocks into my day and using time wisely.  If I mismanage money, I would squander it and be in poverty.  If I mismanage my 24 hour day, I will also impoverish my mind, my family and my job.  Let the balance begin!

I would love to hear from other teachers on how to find balance as a mom who works outside of the home.

This past week I was tagged in the Homework Meme craze by Jill Thompson. It helped me to get to know Jill, a blog follower, for the person she is, besides her digital persona. I decide to participate as I think it is meaningful for my readers to get to know me as well.


  1. My first paid job was to play Christmas Carols on the piano at a party at my local Community College when I was around 15.
  2. I am an only child so some might say I am bossy, while others call me a leader.  I have strong likes and dislikes.
  3. I am still friends with my 4th Grade teacher who married the man who used to be my dentist.
  4. I love to read the Bible and be challenged by the truths found there.
  5. I worked at Sears Auto Center in College.  While taking 19 hours of classes one semester, I also worked 20 hours a week at Sears, greeted customers then took their auto repair orders.   I made the Dean’s List for the first time that semester and learned how to manage time.
  6. I grew up being afraid of dogs but married a veterinarian (Well, at the time we got married 16 years ago, he had just gotten in to N.C. State’s School of Veterinary Medicine!)
  7. I like Teen Beach Movie and dance along while the movie is playing!  I also love One Direction’s songs like “You’ve Got That One Thing” and “Story of My Life”  whose video is currently my favorite, Katy Perry’s “Eye of the Tiger” and Christian Worship songs.
  8. My heart breaks to hear when someone’s marriage breaks apart.
  9. After my first year of teaching in 1992-1993, I entered Graduate School where I proceeded to teach 3rd Graders all day, then go to school at night and summers from 1993 – 1996 back when we didn’t have the internet and advanced degrees in education took at least two years to complete.  I discovered Social Constructivism, Rosenblatt’s Transactional Theory of Reading, Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development and Sam Miller, the best Education Professor ever at UNC-Greensboro!)
  10. I cry very easily when thinking about my blessings and am thankful for my life.
  11. My husband bought his own Veterinary Practice, South End Veterinary Clinic, in Charlotte, NC in 2012.

Jill’s 11 QUESTIONS:

  1. If you could give your younger self some advice, what would it be? (Spend time with your husband, not schoolwork, every night and weekend.)
  2. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go? (Hawaii)
  3. Have you paid it forward? (As a teacher, I have spent hours of time outside of school time to plan lessons and prepare for my students.  I suggested to my church that they pay the rent for a homeless child who was in my class but lived in her grandma’s car and the church agreed.  I have volunteered a lot in my life:  Choir Director, Accompanist for Choirs, Camp Counselor, Leader of Science Olympiad at my school.  I have given to charities.  I have focused on raising my own children and developing their moral base to provide a strong foundation for their adult lives.)
  4. How many states have you lived in? (ONE – North Carolina)
  5. What is your favorite device? (iPad)
  6. If you were going to write a book, what would its title be? (“Listen Well”)
  7. What is your favorite holiday? (Christmas)
  8. What is a goal of 2014? (Lose Weight)
  9. Who was your favorite teacher? (Rita Layton Harrell – 4th Grade Teacher)
  10. If you could be on a reality TV show, which one would you be on? (HGTV – House Hunters –  I don’t like regular Reality TV as it wastes my time.)
  11. What would your last meal on earth be? (Steak and a baked potato with garlic bread)


Monica Burns

Ms. Mastin and Ms. Dixon

Laura Candler

Margot Guy

George Couros

Stephanie at

Christopher Lehman

Krissy Venosdale

Sarah Broas

Katherine Sokolowski

Stacey Shubitz

Here’s how it works:
  • Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  • Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  • List 11 bloggers.
  • Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

My 11 Questions:

1.  What are your gifts?

2.  If you were stranded on an island, what message would you send in a bottle?

3.  What were three traits of an influential teacher that you’ve had?

4.  What is a word that people think of when they think of you?

5.  What restaurant do you like?

6.  Describe one of your best days ever.

7.  If you could travel ahead in time, what would you see in the world?

8.  If you could speak to an American President, what would you ask him?

9.  Do you prefer chocolate or something else?

10.  What advice would you give a new teacher?

11.  What Title would you give a new book that you might write?