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  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  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

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 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

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.

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! 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 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!)























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:

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!!!


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