Monthly Archives: February 2014

Personalized Learning

Discover. Play. Build.

I have linked up with RuthAyresWrites this Saturday to celebrate personalized learning.  I hope you will head over to the link above to enjoy other bloggers as they share their own celebrations.  Thanks to Ruth for the space to share my excitement about personalized learning.

I will start by saying how blessed I was this week to be mentioned by Sarah Broas in her blog called littlebitofliteracy.blogspot.com.  She wrote that she looked forward to reading my blog each week.  This was the first time someone wrote such a compliment in their blog about my blog.  I love Sarah’s blog and realized this week that due to her words and the words that bloggers write, I have grown personally and professionally.  Blogging about my teaching practices has given me a voice to add to the collective choir of educators around the world. It made me feel special to know that Sarah looks forward to reading my blog and encouraged me to continue my efforts. Blogging is a way to personalize my own learning as I write about what I have learned by trying out ideas that I have developed after reading other blogs, websites or Twitter ideas. My participation in Twitter chats on Monday evenings with the #tlap chat and the #flipclass chat along with the Sunday evening chat, #21stedchat, feeds my desire to make learning personal for me.

I also am celebrating how much I am learning about how to personalize learning for my students. One of the members of my PLN, Jill Thompson of #21stedchat, shared a link last Sunday evening to a video that jolted me into examining how playlists will be the future in education. Take a look here:


One of my responsibilities at school this year is to do morning and afternoon carpool duty.  I really enjoy greeting students.  Standing in freezing temperatures has been tough for me during the winter, but after eight inches of snow last week, we had 70’s this week so the thaw is beginning!  Getting to see the backseats and floors of cars with Barbie Dolls, empty fast food cups, and various other random items as I open the back door of the cars has helped me realize that I am not the only one whose car is not spotless.  I hear parents say one more time, “I love you,” as their bundles of joy scoot out of the seat with a load on their backs and lunchbox in hand.  I have grown to eagerly await this one two-door older model car each morning in hopes that I will get to open this child’s door instead of the other staff on duty.  Why?  Simple.  The mom in the driver’s seat always encourages her child with these final words as I close the door:  “Be the best you! “.   Say this sentence three times out loud.   Isn’t it full of empowerment and a call to rise to the challenge of a new day?  This mom’s voice is filled with joy as she exudes a spirit of confidence.  Her child expects mom to say it.  I expect the mom to say it.  It’s my cup of coffee by reminding not just the child but also me to put my best foot forward and be the best me.  I heard this mom say “Be the best you!” on Friday morning just as it started sprinkling.  As the mom drove away, the bottom of the sky dropped out, lightning began and thunder roared.  It was the  worst time for parents to have to drop off their children due to torrential rain.  The wind blew the rain sideways soaking my face, my hair under my hood and my pants.  Then, after enduring the flood, I entered the school to be the best me and teach.   (Thank goodness for getting to run home and change during my planning period!)

I also want to encourage my students to individually “Be the best you!” by setting up the conditions for them to learn and grow.  I have seen students’ creativity shine as they have designed amazing technology projects this year.  I have introduced them to a variety of new technology tools which they can now choose to use when creating content.  They can reach their potential by having choices in how they demonstrate their understanding.

In schools throughout the world, teachers are also redesigning their thinking about how teachers and students use technology.  The “sage on the stage” model is becoming replaced by the “guide on the side” as teachers allow web based resources such as videos to be shown to students to introduce content prior to the face to face lesson with the teacher.  This type of lesson delivery is known as The Flipped Classroom model.

During the last two years I have heard of teachers “flipping” their classrooms by assigning their students to watch videos for homework then diving into hands on labs the next day since the content had already been introduced.  I had taken notice of Kahn Academy’s videos, You Tube videos and videos placed in Educreations which would share, for example, math concepts with students.  Delivering content via video seemed genius to me since it allowed students the chance to listen to it as many times as needed.  If they missed something, they could just play it back.  I began assigning my fourth graders last year a variety of math videos at www.learnzillion.com.  I would place the links to the videos on my website to help students and to provide their parents with resources on how to help their child understand Common Core State Standards Math.  By combining my face to face instruction with digital sources, I blended the best of me and the best resources that I could find online.  I absolutely love how www.learnzillion.com has expanded their Common Core aligned videos this year!

During this school year, I started placing topical resources together at my website thinking that students could go back as needed to websites that I had bookmarked through an innovative website called www.blendspace.com.  I embed the specific code for the Blendspace that I create into grade level tabs at my website for my K-5 students called bit.ly/elonpark.  I love that Blendspace sends me weekly reports on how many times that one of my Blendspace creations has been used.

Last weekend, while participating in the #21stedchat on Twitter (Sunday nights at 8:00 EST) Jill Thompson suggested that I make playlists for my students using www.opened.io.  I investigated OpenEd and realized that it is a clearinghouse that connects teachers with vast resources that are related to a topic.   I began to see some similarities in my Blendspace topical creations and in playlists created with OpenEd.  I also discovered www.powermylearning.com as a way to search for videos on topics that my students learn.  PowerMyLearning also lets teachers create playlists for students built around specific topics and uses rich media Sources like PBS Learning Media, Scholastic’s Study Jams, etc.  I found an awesome resource for The Great Migration from a museum in Chicago through PowerMyLearning and will use it in my current historical fiction unit.  I put together a Fables playlist using my OpenEd account this week.  The digital resources that exist just need to be harnessed and compiled into playlists so that students can use them.  I can even see how students will create their own playlists that match their interests and levels.  This past week OpenEd just released their app which will allow teachers another way to flip their classroom and personalize learning.  See gettingsmart.com for a full description of how OpenEd is aligned to Common Core State Standards and other national standards.

Blendspace For Schools has just been launched by the Blendspace creators.  I signed up this week to receive a Blendspace for Schools demonstration via a Google hangout session to learn more about how I could use Blendspace.  I discovered that this tool will allow teachers to import their preassessments for students to take, grade the preassessments, and give students appropriate remediation videos to watch to build their knowledge about the topic.  If the student has mastered the concept, then Blendspace would provide the student with the next level of instruction.  Students would watch the instructional videos that had been previously selected by the teacher then take an informal assessment to show understanding of the topic.  Blendspace would show students who did not master the concept on the teacher’s screen then those students would be pulled for a small group.  The teacher would use her Face to Face (F2F) time with students to teach them while students who already mastered the content would move on to enrichment activities.  I was amazed at the pedagogical knowledge that Blendspace has which puts the teacher in the driver’s seat by still giving the teacher control over the resources that will be shared on the Blendspace with students in a linear, row by row, format, instead of in a grid format like the basic Blendspace.  I would encourage you to contact Blendspace and ask for a demonstration of Blendspace for Schools.

I learned that while in Blendspace, teachers can click on the OpenEd icon or the Gooru icon  and then resources can be found through these sites and placed in Blendspace.  I will share the ecosystems Blendspace that I had built two weeks ago, but then added on to it using the OpenEd search feature.  Even though Basic Blendspace doesn’t have the level of personalization that Blendspace for Schools has, I still like it as a way to bookmark web resources for lessons.  I will also share a few other Blendspaces that I have created this year.

Click on this link to see my Ecosystem Blendspace: http://blnds.co/LjRw3S

Click on this link to see my Digital Storytelling Blendspace:  http://blnds.co/17imYGy

Click on this link to see my Solar System Blendspace:  http://blnds.co/1eglq4N

I have allowed personalized playlist ideas to invigorate my thought process this week.  I am beginning to see how that personalized playlists will require a shift in the way teachers plan for instruction and in how they assess students.  Students will need digital devices in their hands to use Blendspace which is a challenge for some schools.  I allowed myself to see the possibilities of how teachers can personalize learning by searching for topics at http://www.opened.io and http://www.powermylearning.com.  I am excited about what is ahead for me as I personalize learning for myself and my students.  #bethebestyou

Please share how you are personalizing learning for your students.  I am eager to know more about managing playlists for each child.

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Digital Innovation

Discover. Play. Build.

I am thrilled to be linking up today with Ruth Ayres to discover other bloggers and to celebrate the courage I’ve had to submit a special application this week. Please join me in linking to Ruth’s website where you will be blessed to find amazing celebrations!

It has certainly been an incredible week for me.  In Charlotte we received eight inches of snow from Tuesday through Thursday.  Needless to say, I only spent a day and a half in school this week.  I have been preparing my presentation for the upcoming NCTIES (North Carolina Technology In Education Society) Conference in a couple of weeks and preparing K-5 lesson plans that integrate technology, of course.  I also have played in the snow with my children and rejoiced over some uncharacteristic weather which gave us some needed downtime.  It also gave me the chance to reflect on my teaching practice and create a two minute digital iMovie which I submitted on Valentine’s Day to become a PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator.  I love to be surrounded by passionate educators who are looking for innovative strategies to reach our students.  The content at http://unctv.pbslearningmedia.org/ is amazing and provides me with many choices on teaching students.  I like the idea of flipping the classroom by having students view videos for homework.  The digital content at the PBS Learning Media website is phenomenal.  I think that they’ve made it user friendly by updating not only the front page of the website, but also by allowing teachers to search by Standard for appropriate content.

I hope to be considered for their program which would allow me to have professional development throughout the year through webinars and support through an expansive Professional Learning Network.  Having a network of teachers with like-minded goals of being digital innovators would be a unique opportunity for me.  I realize that there will be hundreds of entries, and only 100 teachers will be chosen, but at least I can say, I’ve given it my best shot.  I am always looking to get better as a teacher.  I thought I’d share my response to the essay questions that were a part of the application process:

1.   How do you currently share your digital curriculum ideas with other teachers?

I started blogging last year at techencounter.wordpress.com where I document what I am doing as a K-5 Technology Teacher at my school.  I tell other teachers about my site at Twitter chats (My Twitter Handle is @edu_maples, in talks with teachers at my school and by linking online to RuthAyresWrites.com who has a Saturday Link Up.  I read other teachers’ blogs and get new ideas while also commenting on their blog posts.  I have trained my school’s teachers to use the new Dreambox Math Adaptive program for K-5.  I created and use my website, bit.ly/elonpark, which allows teachers and students to use the tabs for each grade and locate a variety of resources.  I send emails to staff and share resources at staff meetings to help teachers discover digital tools to engage students.  I will present K-5 Technology Projects at the NCTIES (North Carolina Technology in Education Society) Conference in Raleigh, NC on March 6, 2014.  I will share a presentation created in Haiku Deck to share powerful images with limited text to engage educators in the topic of teaching digital literacy through the use of apps such as Tellagami,Skitch,Doodle Buddy,Thinglink,30 Hands,Screenchomp,Show Me,Write About This,ReadWriteThink’s Timeline, World Wildlife Federation,Science 360,instaGrok,Collins Big Cat books,Trading Cards, and Comic Maker.  I will share Digital Boards from Discovery Education’s Board Builder where my students have researched topics at http://www.ncwiseowl.com or http://www.wonderopolis.org then created the Digital Boards.  I also enjoy participating in Twitter Chats such as #21stedchat on Sunday nights or the #tlap chat where I contribute and absorb from the ideas presented by my PLN. 

2.    What do you hope to gain from your experience as a PBS Learning Media Digital Innovator?

I would like to have training on increasing my knowledge on the gold mine of resources found at PBS.  I have learned the power of a PLN that reaches beyond the walls of my school with my Twitter PLN of 568 as of today.  After participating in webinars and Google Chats while also being an online college facilitator where I taught education courses, I have effectively communicated with others around the globe.  I would hope to gain a new PLN and have tremendous support as I try new instructional strategies learned from this experience. As a life long learner, I welcome opportunities that will further student achievement and allow students to deeply explore content while engaging in digital literacy.  I expect that I would gain not only resources, but also a community of passionate educators who will be trying out innovative strategies to help students analyze information, communicate, collaborate and create.  As a National Board Certified Teacher as a Middle Childhood Generalist, I am always reflecting on my teaching practice and making adjustments.  As a teacher, I am responsible for teaching literacy to students so that they can function and thrive in the 21st Century.  By becoming a PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator, I would build on my burgeoning understanding of how to implement Balanced Literacy and locate content to draw in not only reluctant readers, but also to enrich and extend the other students.  I earned a Master’s Degree in Reading as a K-12 Reading Specialist in 1996. Since then, I have consistently sought opportunities to surround myself with teachers who want to make a difference in the lives of children.  The PBS Innovator program fits my philosophy.

Video:  Describe how you are leading innovation in digital teaching in your classroom to promote student engagement and achievement?

I embedded the iMovie video that I made into the top of this post.  Teaching is such a phenomenal profession.  My favorite teaching plaque near my desk at school says:  “Teaching:  The Profession That Creates All Others.”  Wow.  Whether I am selected or not, I am pleased with my willingness to enter. I will find out if I have been selected by March 14.

“I make a difference,” as Christa McAuliffe would say. “I teach.”

Top Ten Topics

I am linking up today with Ruth Ayres at her Celebrate Link Up.  I have enjoyed reading other blogs by authors who’ve linked to her Celebrate Link each Saturday.  I will share many awesome finds that I discovered during the last week in my Top Ten Topics below!

Discover. Play. Build.

1.  “Today” poems

In a recent blog post of mine, I mentioned how I was inspired to use the Copy Change Writing Technique to compose a poem about the snow and borrow poet Billy Collins’ “Today” for my inspiration.  I shared this idea with my fifth grade students this week.  I did an Interactive Read Aloud while reading “Today” by Billy Collins and students turned and talked about their thoughts as I stopped at various places in the poem.  I shared the “Today” poem that I had written about the snow day and showed them how I generated my writing by copying the first word or words from Billy’s poem.  Next, they learned to open a Google Drive Document and compose their own “Today” poems while beginning lines of their poems in a similar way that Billy and I did.  I have them in the Technology Lab for 45 minutes and was amazed by their passion to write a poem about a day of their choice.  They printed themselves a copy and me a copy for the bulletin board, but are excited to know that their poems are stored in Cloud Storage and can be accessed through their Google Apps for Education accounts.  My heart skipped a beat when a fifth grade boy just started talking to me as I passed his computer.  He looked up and with genuine words he said, “Mrs. Maples, this is the first poem I’ve ever written that really says something.  My other poems have just rhymed.”  For a boy to tell me that he values his words as they are composed just made my day.  All of the writers in my class were able to compose an entire page of words that captured their thoughts on a summer day, a birthday, a spring day, a winter’s day, a snow day, etc.  In the Copy Change style, they thanked Billy Collins and me for inspiring them to write a poem using the “Today” poem as a starting place.

2.  ZigZagging through education and technology

I love to be inspired at zigzaggingedtech.blogspot.com.  The teacher who writes this blog has helped me during the school year to develop lessons and ideas that integrate technology.  Her name is Meghan Zigmond and posted this week on Feb.6, 2014.  In this post, she shares a poster that she made by using Smore at www.smore.com.  I have experimented with having my own children make a Smore poster about a topic that they’ve learned about in school.  When I saw the pictures of apps that she placed in her Smore Poster, it validated me because I use most of the same ones with my K-5 students.  I hope you will check her poster out and get great ideas on how to use App Smashing to help students create Math Presentations.  The apps she mentions are certainly not limited to Math, but can be applied to Literacy and all subjects.

3.  Celebrating President’s Day at www.flocabulary.com

Check out the 44 Presidents song with each president’s image.  It’s a nice way to share the names of American Presidents in chronological order to our students on President’s Day which will soon be here.  Due to snow, my district will use President’s Day as a makeup for one of our Snow Days.  I think this video will celebrate our rich American Presidential history and resonate with students as it is sung to a rap beat.  I have enjoyed sharing Flocabulary videos with students in the past, but I would always recommend previewing each one to ensure that it is appropriate for your intended audience.  One of my favorite things to do with Flocabulary songs is to click on specific words in the song that have been Hyperlinked to other articles about the word.  For example, when I clicked on Abraham Lincoln’s name, a paragraph pops up with his image that gives interesting, accurate and age appropriate information about his life.  Perhaps students could explore an Essential Question such as “How have American Presidents shaped the history of the USA?”  Once they explore the Flocabulary song, they could dive into other research about their selected president.

4.instaGrok app

I celebrated a fabulous app that I have recently discovered called instaGrok by sharing it with my staff this week at a Staff Meeting.  If you type in Abraham Lincoln’s name or an event such as “Civil War”, a graphic organizer displays on screen showing associated words that describe the topic.  A list of websites, images, and videos also appear to help children go deep into researching.  Teachers can also set up class account so that children can take notes about their topic.  One of my own daughters began researching Betsy Ross this week using instaGrok and was glued to the iPad screen as she explored the images and websites.  From her research I found a website that I placed on my school website called http://www.softschools.com/timelines/ and students used it this week on our school computers to research their famous person.  I love all of the other resources on other topics that I found at the parent site http://www.softschools.com.

5.  Celebrating Drawp For Schools app

I wanted the teachers at my school to hear about the special free year subscription to a new app that was just released at the end of January so I shared it with them also at the Staff Meeting.  It is called Drawp for Schools.  On first glance, you may think it is just a drawing app.  Students can draw then type descriptions or sentences on their drawings and export it to another app or save in their own personal digital portfolio within the app.  Teachers can assign students to do things if they have signed up for the app which is a $99.00 value.  I look forward to sharing maps with my students in this app and having them annotate on screen.  The possibilities are endless.

6.  “The Giver” book and upcoming movie

I just found out that “The Giver” by Lois Lowry will be released in theaters in the summer of 2014.  After watching the video of various teachers and authors speaking of their experiences and memories of reading “The Giver”, it made me remember how unsettled I felt when I read it in college in my Library Science Class.  It affected me and caused me to consider the many issues that arise such as what a “perfect” society would look like and what it would not look like.  I plan to read it again this year because I’d like to experience my reaction as an adult.  Since it is a book that allows children and people of all ages to entertain questions and ideas about love, family, caring for the elderly among many others, I would hope that readers of all ages will read it before seeing the movie.  If you haven’t seen it, take a look at the You Tube video below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-lxdLTPvJo

7. 100th Day of School and Digital Learning Day

Yesterday was the 100th Day of the School Year.  Kindergarteners walked around the school with special hats they made or shirts they made with 100 objects on them.  The local ABC news channel came and filmed our students whose classes had collected 100 items for local homeless shelters and charities.  It was truly a special day.  In honor of this day and Digital Learning Day, I created a hall display to celebrate the ABC’s of Digital Learning.  I will share a picture of it in a later post because I forgot to take one, but it is a word wall of 100 words that are related to Digital Learning.  I looked back through my lesson plans and reflected on the learning that has happened due to my students accessing digital learning tools online and on iPads then developed a list of 100 words!  It will remain up for the rest of the year and will be viewed by all of our students.

8.  500 Twitter Followers – Hurray!

I started using Twitter in April of 2013 at the nudging of a teacher friend.  Since becoming connected, I have discovered that I can have Professional Development about the latest and greatest topics at any time of day.  I learn from my Professional Learning Network who this week rose to 500 by the 100th Day of School!  I celebrate this milestone because the words of my PLN invite me to consider best teaching practices and open me up to new possibilities.  None of this would have been a reality unless I had signed up for a Twitter account at @edu_maples.  I hope you will look me up and connect with me to enrich my life as a teacher.  Hopefully, I will add to your repertoire of teaching strategies as we share on Twitter.

9.  Sochi Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony

Wow!  I was amazed at the digital storytelling that happened through cutting edge technology on the floor and in the air of the new arena in Sochi as I watched the Opening Ceremony.  The one ring not lighting up in the Olympic Ring Display was a mistake which led to the fireworks not coming out if all the rings had lit.  This reminded me of all the things that I had planned but haven’t always turned out like I had planned in life or in my classroom.  If the WiFi connection is not working one day at school, then our students can’t do some of the things we have planned which happened this past week. We always have a Plan B and the show goes on, but isn’t it interesting with all the best laid plans, that the ring incident happened.  The Ceremony Show continued and the athletes will compete in the coming days but there will be gold, silver and bronze given which means some folks won’t meet their goals.  The process and the experience of becoming the Olympic Athlete and a Teacher is sometimes grueling.  We don’t do it for the awards.  We do it because it is our passion.   If we never try new things as people and as educators because we are afraid of the mistakes that we will make, we miss out.  I love my job as Technology Teacher for K-5 students but knew that leaving behind my Classroom Teacher role for 20 years would most likely, come with a few bumps in the road.  Yes, there have been many stressful moments in this new job, but ultimately I am happy that I made the choice.  During a Kellogg’s commercial during the Opening Ceremony I heard a sentence that echoed in my heart which truly embodies my experience as one who has tried a new teaching role:  “The only impossible journey is the one never begun.”  #greatstarts

10.  #greatstarts

Speaking of Great Starts, I laughed so hard this week when I viewed the Hashtag Video that Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake made as they made fun of the use of Hashtags.  If you need a good laugh, please watch it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57dzaMaouXA! Although it was made in Sept. of 2013, I had never seen it although 21 million others had seen it on YouTube! I saw it on Twitter this past week.   Some of my teacher friends and I talked about the use of Hashtags and a few of them admitted that they don’t see the purpose in them.  I have seen long hashtags on Facebook and short ones that said a lot.  I like how they provide a concise commentary acting as a reflective exclamation mark at the end of a  sentence.  I reflected on my school year as a Technology Teacher and came up with the following Hashtags that could have been on a description of my days:

#mychildlovesyourclass (A parent told me this last night at our school’s Funky Town Dance.  Her child is publishing a book at the http://www.bookemon.com website in my Technology Lab.)

#rockstarstatus (My K-2 students saw me at the dance last night and thought it was so awesome to see their teacher at an after school event.  They would scream, “Mrs. Maples!!!”, run up to me and want a hug.  I am so glad that I am held in such high esteem by these awesome kiddos!)

#amazed

#bethechange

#Ichosethis

#makeitagrowthday

#blessedtoteach

#intense

#willkindergartenerslearntologon?

#shakinginmyboots

#balance

#loveipads

#create

#communicate

#modelstrategicthinking

#zoneofPD

#21stcenturylearners

#giveanditshallbegiven

#beresourceful

#hourofcode

#ignite

#engagement

#apps

#digitallearning

I am so excited that Jimmy Fallon will soon move into Jay Leno’s place on The Tonight Show. I remember Johnny Carson and have enjoyed Leno through the years.  I usually don’t stay up late enough to watch now, but see video clips via Twitter, Hulu or You Tube now.  On his old show, Jimmy would select a hashtag for people to write about each week and then he would read the Tweets on air. Connect to the link here and scroll down to see him reading a Tweet to a hashtag:   http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/media/as-late-night-ends-five-things-jimmy-fallon-should-bring-to-the-tonight/2164247

As a way to connect with our 21st Century Learners, wouldn’t it be neat if we asked our students to write about a hashtag topic in 140 words like a real Tweet and shared them on our Morning News via live TV feed or on bulletin boards to model how to respond concisely in 140 characters?  Could teachers have students respond to a theme in a book by responding with a hashtag relating to a moment in the book?  I think I’m on to something here.  I’ll keep you posted on how I run with this new #greatstart!

Here’s to more great starts to each and every day!!!

“Today” in Evernote – My Writer’s Notebook

I have enjoyed linking up each Saturday during 2014 to Ruth Ayres Writes and her Celebration Link Up.  Thanks to Ruth for creating the Celebration Link Up!  Today, I am
celebrating the gift of TODAY.
Discover. Play. Build.
It snowed in my southern town this week, closing schools and ushering in welcomed Snow Days.  I am always writing lesson plans and lists but I usually don’t stop to reflect on nature.  As I sipped on my coffee and looked out of my window on the first Snow Day, I just couldn’t pass the opportunity to reflect on the snow surrounding the trees in the forest of my backyard.
On the morning of the first snow day, Jan.29, I read Stacey Shubitz’s blog post “Writing About Reading in the Writer’s Notebook” at her blog where she shared a writing idea that motivated me.  Her idea was to generate a poem while imitating another author’s poem.  So, I wrote a poem inspired from “Today” a poem by Billy Collins found in his book “Amazing Love”.  I used the Copy Change technique from Tony Romano that he shared at NCTE in 2013 where you imitate another writer’s technique and thank him/her for the inspiration.  I got this writing idea from Stacey Shubitz after I read her blog and read the beautiful poem that she wrote while being inspired by “Today” by Billy Collins.  She had heard Tony Romano at NCTE.  I am grateful to Stacey for sharing because her blog post inspired me to write and reflect, something that teachers are always asking students to do.

I am always using the Evernote app as my place to jot my thoughts much like a Writer’s Notebook.  I have found during the last year that Evernote is my go to place to organize my life and especially to curate lesson ideas as a teacher.  I recorded my poetic thoughts in Evernote while toggling between Stacey’s blog where she had a copy of “Today” by Billy Collins.  I would study his first lines of each stanza and analyze Stacey’s “Today” poem that she had written.  Closely reading the poems gave me eyes to see the way that Billy and Stacey had carefully crafted their poems causing me to want to emulate their style.  Poetry enriched my life on my first Snow Day. Here is my feeble attempt at writing my own “Today” poem:

Today
By Lisa Maples (Thank you Billy Collins and Stacey Shubitz)
If ever there were a winter day so perfect
so uplifted by the sparkling snow
That it made you want to explore
wondering if it will ever be like this again
And open the door to the chill
As it latched on and invited me to come outside
A day when the trees and
The snow at their feet
Seemed so peaceful
That I felt like
Zipping up my coat
And watching my girls make snow angels
A day when the sun came out
And the air
Seemed frozen like the snow on tree limbs
That I felt like taking
A deep breath
Observing the beauty
Releasing feelings of gratitude
From my heart
So that I could forever
hold on to this moment and look
Into this larger dome of a Snow Day.
Well today is just that kind of day.
Next week I plan to share “Today” by Billy Collins along with Stacey’s poem that she wrote using the Copy Change technique with students in fifth grade at my school.  I will ask them to describe a day in their life using the Copy Change technique to inspire them as they read “Today” by Billy and by Stacey.  Students should be exposed to Poetry throughout the school year to enrich their lives so that they can analyze mood and become invested in the poem.  After I share the “Today” poems in my  Technology Classroom, I will also have my students have a go at being poetic by generating their own “Today” poems.  Typing a poem while generating it is a way for students to realize that our digital tools like Evernote or even a Word document are places to document their thinking.  Too often, I feel the students see computers as places to publish only.  Even though the goal would be to publish perhaps on their blogs, I think that students would benefit from using their own BYOT devices, iPads or computers as their Digital Writer’s Notebook.  I have revised my “Today” poem several times and love how easy it is to make changes in Evernote.
I have also selected One Little Word to describe my mission for this year.  I heard on some blogs I read that there was wisdom in selecting ONE word to focus on throughout the year.  After my experience with writing on the Snow Day, I realized that my One Little Word should be “Today”.  There is always so much forward thinking that I do as an educator, but I am trying to balance my personal and professional life each day so that I don’t miss special moments with my family.  Each morning as I wake, I focus on prayer and looking ahead to a great new day that is about to unfold.  I think that if I honor God, embrace my family and inspire my students then I have successfully navigated through the day.  I am just one person who can at times, feel overwhelmed leading to frustration.  I have to be able to enjoy my life and the world around me so I must release any stress and be present in each moment. This means that I must let go of Yesterday and posture myself for the possibilities and opportunities of today.  I was sincerely in awe at the beauty of the untouched snow in my backyard on January 29 and realized that I should reflect on the unusual gift that winter had brought to my town.  So, I grabbed my iPad and started composing my poem.  TODAY I am experiencing joy, thankful for the snow and for how the writing exercise I did brought clarity to my journey as a person and as a teacher.