We’re Adopting!

Hey–now that I have your attention, let me take a minute to tell you all about something new and great that started in our room today:



We are now officially a part of Southwest Airline’s Adopt-a-Pilot program!  Marcus Smith, a pilot and a 5th grade parent, came to visit us for the first time today.  Over the next few weeks, he is going to work with us, both in person and via Skype as we learn about all sorts of topics related to math, science, and communication arts.

The purpose of today’s visit was really just for us to meet him and build a foundation for the program.  First up, meet Mr. Smith:


He told us about his journey to his current job, and we found out about how he had wanted to fly since he was in high school.  He told us about his time in the military, and even showed us some uniforms he’s worn in his past “lives.”

After the introduction, he asked us a question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  We went around the room and told our names and the answer to that question.  I heard answers ranging from teacher and veterinarian to dermatologist and architect.  Stay tuned this week for more on this topic–I hope to share videos or blog posts later!

Throughout the rest of the lesson, we watched a video or two about flight (he was a pilot, after all!) and talked about goal setting.  He shared a great acronym with us to remember as we work toward those goals.  It’s based on the word FLIGHT (which makes sense, right?):

As we go through this program (and beyond that, I hope), we’ll keep coming back to these qualities.


We really enjoyed today and are looking forward to next week when he comes back to teach us more!  A few more pics before I’m done:

One of the things we’ll do each week in between visits is figure out how many miles he’s flying.  We’re hoping to find out if he can fly the equivalent of the distance around the world before we’re done with our program–that’s almost 25,000 miles!

We’re excited to see what’s to come! 🙂

Meet S.H.A.D.O.

I really hate it when I have an idea for a post and then time gets away from me.  Eventually I find the time (or I remember the post that I had forgotten to write!) and it happens.  Eventually.  Today is one of those posts.

We actually met S.H.A.D.O. weeks ago.  She is now our good friend.  And boy is she helpful!

Who’s S.H.A.D.O., you ask?  And why is her name spelled like that?  Let me tell you all about it.

This is S.H.A.D.O.:

And she is one smart cookie.  No wait–she’s an owl.  Ok, so she is one wise owl.

Her name stands for:

And while I would love to take credit for creating her, I can’t.  I found her when I was on www.prometheanplanet.com, which is a support site for the interactive whiteboard we use at school.  The flipchart she came from (and that we now reference frequently in our classroom!) was submitted by Melissa McGahan.  So, like many great ideas that I use in my classroom, I did not think it up, I just figured out the right time and place to use it!

Ok, back to S.H.A.D.O.  She has been helping us during the recent weeks as we prepare for MAP testing (which I talked about related to science the other day here ).  She helps us remember that there are some basic strategies that good test-takers use when they tackle a test (whether it’s a state test or just a plain ‘ol end-of-unit test) to help make sense of it.  There are different parts of her body that remind us of these strategies.

Here’s what they are:

I have been amazed at how this representation–in picture form–has been so helpful to so many of my students.  While I have always taught these strategies, I’ve always done it with words, not images.  We have always created a list of “smart” things to do, then had that list displayed in a variety of places around our classroom.  Just like in the past, S.H.A.D.O. is now displayed all around our room, as a reminder when you look at her to do what she suggests.  (As a side note, I love how the other day someone wrote a blog post about how they love S.H.A.D.O., but she’s a little creepy because she’s always watching us with those big eyes of hers!  HA!  The minds of 5th graders kill me sometimes!).  It’s simple, really, and I don’t know why I didn’t think of using a picture before–I’m a very visual learner myself, so it’s something that would have helped me, too!

So since we’ve become introduced to S.H.A.D.O., we’ve tried out her strategies on various assessments we’ve done in our classroom.  Is she helpful to everyone? No.  Does everyone need her reminders? No.  Do we always go through all of the steps she suggests?  No.  Just like every strategy I share with my students, they have learned which steps at what time with which assignment she is helpful.  That’s the key actually–know how to use the tools at your disposal.  So she’s there in our toolboxes if and when we need her.

And as a side note, I believe that S.H.A.D.O. was originally created to help with reading/communication arts tests, but we’ve found that you can apply most of her strategies to other subjects as well.  The other day we tried them with a math test and they were perfect.  Nice how that works out.

If you are a teacher, and you got through this post and you’re still thinking “Great idea, but I already do other things to prepare my kids,” I ask that you focus in on a part of S.H.A.D.O.’s suggestions that maybe you don’t specifically do.  For me, it was the steps related to bracketing and numbering the paragraphs, then marking the main idea next to each one.  Using that step has forced (in a good way!) my students to slow down and really think through each and every part of the texts they read on tests (both fiction and nonfiction–and heck, we even used it on poetry today!).  I think that if there is a magic bullet here, it’s that one.  Having the paragraphs marked like that has made it so much easier to go back to the text to find support for answers.  They now know so much more quickly exactly which paragraph to go to find the information they need.  Genius. 🙂

I’m adding a screen shot of what that step looks like next, because for me the words I just wrote wouldn’t make much sense (See?  Me=very visual):

So, I invite you to introduce S.H.A.D.O. to your class.  Come on, she has great ideas.  And hey, S.H.A.D.O. knows. (Ah, you didn’t think I could get to the end of this post without a joke like that, did ya?)

One more thing…if you’re a parent, I am interested in knowing what your kids are saying about S.H.A.D.O.  Maybe you were already introduced to her, or maybe you have another story about how she’s helped your student in class.  Share with us!

Quote Worthy

I was trying to find a picture of the “before” here, but as usual, I don’t think about it until after I’ve changed it!  So I’ll just tell you to remember the closet on the side of our room that had doors covered in black paper….can you see them?  They have a yellow border around them, and were originally intended for this great idea I had for a graffiti wall that never came to be.

Well now, they’ve become something even better, in my opinion:

Every year, just for motivation in general, but especially for motivation before MAP testing, I start sharing quotes with the class.  We talk about what they mean to us in general, and then what they mean to us specifically related to taking an important test.  So far we’ve only talked about five of these, but the rest (and others to be added this week and next) are coming soon.  I love how this looks and how these doors serve as reminders for us of smart suggestions for our actions!

Ok, the question for you: What motivational quote can you share with us to add to our doors?  What are some words that you live by?  Please leave us your ideas in a comment and we’ll add them to our collection. 🙂

Birthday Flash Mob

Ever heard of a flash mob?  Ever seen one?  Well if you were at our school last Friday, March 30, you could have both seen one and participated in one like we did!

It was our principal, Mrs. Sisul’s, birthday that day, and our head custodian, Mr. Maus’ birthday was on Saturday.  So Mrs. Kesler, our music teacher, helped our whole school learn a dance that we surprised them with that afternoon.  The dance was planned by another 5th grade class, Mrs. LeSeure’s class from Rm. 202 next door.

Check out the video here:

After the flash mob-dancing-singing part, we all got to enjoy an ice cream sandwich treat before we went back to finish out our Friday.  What a great end to a great week back from Spring Break!

Check out how great we all look there on the driveway!  We’re getting ready to surprise Mrs. Sisul.



Mrs. Sisul sharing some hugs with our class!  WE LOVE HER!!

Happy Birthday to Mr. Maus, too!  (Sorry I got your balloons instead of your smiling face!)

One thing I love about our school is that we really know how to celebrate each other!  Great idea, Mrs. Kesler and super job on the dance, Mrs. LeSeure’s class!

How do you celebrate birthdays at your school?  Have you ever seen or been a part of a flash mob?  Tell us about it!