Literature Circle Reflection

Happy Thursday, friends!

I can’t believe that you’ve made it through your first round of Literature Circles already!  You did a FABULOUS job of being responsible with your reading, asking thoughtful questions and engaging in a civil discussion with your classmates!

Now that you’re finished, I want you to reflect on how it went.  On your blog, please respond in sentences to these questions:

1. What was your favorite thing about the Literature Circle process?  Give reasons for your thinking.

2. What was a question you asked that really got your group talking?  Why did it?

3. What is something you wish, if you participated in another Literature Circle?

4. Give some ideas for a book you might like to read with another group.  Be sure to captitalize and underline the title, and write the author if you know it. 🙂

I can’t wait to read your reflections!  Happy writing!

Mrs. Bearden


EDUC 573: Week 7–WebQuests, BYOD and Educational Equity

Yes, all those things have something in common.  Mainly that I learned about all of them this week. 🙂

One of the big projects for this class I’m taking is a WebQuest.  While the idea of a WebQuest is not a new one (the concept was created by Bernie Dodge in 1995), it’s a new one to me.  Somehow, I’ve gotten through all of my education thus far–including the teaching part–without having done one, using one or creating one.

One thing I wanted to make sure of was that I made a WebQuest that was actually applicable to my classroom and my students; this is hopefully true of all assignments in grad school, after all!   Eventually I landed on making it applicable to a science unit on animals we were about to begin, since it could be self-paced and open-ended like most of the other projects I assign in science.

Outside of the content piece of the project, there was also the process of using Google Sites to create the website housing the actual WebQuest.  The funny part to me while I was working was how much I had ragged on Google last week, and then how the usefulness of so many Google Apps became clear; if only my students had their Google Drives up and running so that they could download and save their papers to use later, or how they could better collaborate if they could use a Google Doc to record their research–at school or at home.  The whole hangup I had with it last week was that I couldn’t see the necessity of it or how it would work with elementary and all it took was one project where I needed it for it to all make sense!  That was the connection I was looking for, right there in front of me.

Another topic this week was the article Left to Their Own Devices by Jeff Weinstock (2010).  While the article was all about the rationale for BYOD, as well as the difficulties districts face in trying to figure it all out, I was touched by a completely different topic than that of the technology involved.  Rather than focusing on the money, time, or infrastructure involved in having students bring their own devices, I zeroed in on the educational equity piece of it all.

The article began:

At Empire High School in Vail, AZ, every student has a laptop, a fully loaded MacBook supplied free of
charge—to the student, at least—courtesy of the Vail School District. “We provide the entire experience,” says
Vail CIO Matt Federoff.
The 1-to-1 program is a cornerstone of Vail’s Beyond Textbooks
initiative, whose goal is an all-digital curriculum. So facing the decision on whether to expand the program to
another of its high schools, Cienega, the district made the obvious choice: No way.

Maybe I’m reading it wrong, but to me it seems that one school got the whole package of a 1:1 roll out and the other got nothing. While I completely agree that the definition of fair is not “same,” the scenario seems a little unfair to me.  What if I can’t bring my own device to school?  What if I don’t have one?  What if my phone only makes phone calls and isn’t “smart?”   Should I not be allowed to access the curriculum?

I agree that the whole topic of technology in schools and BYOD and 1:1 is not that simple, it’s not a black/white thing with easy answers.  Perhaps the school district was making a good decision in going 1:1 in one place and not another, there could be more to the story that I don’t know.  But isn’t one reason for going 1:1 in the first place to level the playing field?  To give all students an equal chance?

Ok, now I’m rambling….so I’ll ask you: what connection to you see between BYOD, 1:1 initiatives and educational equity?  Tell me your stories and share your thoughts. 🙂

Feast Week Part 7: THE FEAST!!

Ok, so I’m not at all sure how it got to almost the end of February and I didn’t tell you about the final part of Feast Week!  I know…I’m sorry!  But you’ve been reading blog all along, right?  We’ve been busy!

But here’s perhaps the most important part of the whole thing we called Feast Week–the feast!  (And just in case you haven’t read the first parts of Feast Week, you can find the first one here, and then the others are linked from there.  It’s worth your time if you haven’t read them!)

The day had finally arrived, and we were excited.  But no, we were not excited about the fact that Winter Break was just a day away, or because we’d be off for 14 days–we were excited because all of our hard work with fractions and recipes and cooking and baking and planning was about to pay off!

And it went even better than we’d hoped.  Thanks to some fabulous parents who were willing to let us throw out this crazy idea of our Winter Party to them (and then just told them to run with it!), we ended up with a lovely, delicious meal that helped us all see the fruits (and hams and green beans and ice cream pies) of our labors.  It was definitely a  FABULOUS FIFTH GRADE FRACTION FEAST!!

Anticipating our fabulous feast as we wait outside the cafeteria!

Anticipating our fabulous feast as we wait outside the cafeteria!

Looks good, doesn't it? Tablecloths and centerpieces and everything!  So elegant!

Looks good, doesn’t it? Tablecloths and centerpieces and everything! So elegant!

Here's our handiwork!  Looks yummy!

Here’s our handiwork! Looks yummy!


That bowl is guacamole–I promise, it was pretty good!

Moving through the line

Moving through the line–sausage snack wraps were a hit!

A toast to food, fun and friends!  (and fractions!)

A toast to food, fun and friends! (and fractions!)

IMG669 IMG670 IMG672 IMG674




EDUC 573: Week 6–Google Anyone?

I am becoming more tech-savvy as time goes on.  For me, the best way to tackle anything new is to jump in fearlessly with both feet, get really wet and figure it out as I go.  Building the plane as I fly it, so to speak.  Not without purpose or meaning, but without having to know all of the ins-and-outs before I am willing to get started.

I’m far enough into my teaching career that I learned long ago that I didn’t have all the answers.   And honestly, I didn’t even try to fake it very long because kids are smart.  They know when you don’t know, and how much more freeing is it when we admit that?  When we learn together and not pressure ourselves to know everything.  I LOVE that it’s known that in our room, everyone is a teacher and a learner.  I think I’ve said before (even here!) that it’s our room, not my room.

Well, then, it didn’t take long on this new tech journey to figure out that I may have times when I don’t really know what’s going to come next, or what to do about it when something goes wrong.  But I’m ok with that.  Like I said in the beginning, for me the best learning is in-the-moment-getting-really-messy learning.  I have to see it and talk about it and try it for it to make sense.  And even with technology this works.  Nothing has broken beyond repair yet, and no one has died as I’ve tried new things.  And we’ve even had a little fun.

So I mentioned that this week was about all things Google.  Well, it was about other things, too, but Google’s the thing I’m having the hardest time dealing with.

Let me explain…

We also read an article this past week by “Orchestrating the Media Collage” (Ohler, 2009).  In it, he talked about how the definition of literacy is changing, and that “being able to read and write multiple forms of media and integrate them into a meaningful whole is the new hallmark of literacy.”  He had many great points about how important writing is to the thinking process (and as much as you know I love writing, you know I totally agreed with that!), and about how quickly people (educators) these days abandon the tried-and-true for the brand new, not necessarily thinking about the consequences.  He noted that one of the most important things we need to be able to do is to know just what tool to use and when; I agree with this statement related to all things education, not just technology.  Having a toolbox full of sharp tools is crucial to any teacher, and knowing just when to pull out which tool for which job is even more important.

And so here’s my Google connection…

This week we also played around with Google Apps for Educators.  Here’s where I will boldly tell you that I am not a fan of Google Docs (I know–gasp!).  As I wrote in my discussion board post this week:

Ok, so I want to like Google Docs.  I really do.  But I’m just not sold yet.

I have been dabbling for a little while, but until this week I hadn’t really looked in earnest at the how/why/what, etc. of how Docs could work in the classroom.  I have participated in Google Docs collaboration as an adult (mainly in staff meetings and as a means of rewriting our school’s mission statement with a small group of teachers), but haven’t seen any examples of how to use it with my students in a way that makes sense to me.  In many of the videos and such I’ve seen online, the scenarios involve high school or middle school, which is obviously a very different world than I live in.  Every kid in my school has a Google account (given to them by the district), so they have access to their own Google Drive.  I know that could be a place to store our work rather than fussing with the server we usually use, but even the logistics of getting that all initially set up makes my head hurt.  Here’s another bit of brutal honesty about Google Docs–I’m a font snob and the way they look is so unappealing!  As a visual learner (and just being me in general), aesthetics and look matter to me and not having the same options as in Word or Pages is a major reason why I haven’t yet jumped in with both feet.  I like the idea of collaborative writing–and writing is a passion of mine, too, so connecting it with tech could be a great marriage–but am not sure how yet to incorporate this.

So obviously I’m on the fence.  I want to commit, but haven’t yet seen enough that Google Docs does differently that what I’m already doing in other places or with other things.  Can you help convince me?  I’d love more elementary examples of real, meaningful work that can incorporate Google Docs or forms.

I got some suggestions for what to do from both classmates and my PLN on Twitter, but I’m still having the hardest time understanding how and when it makes more sense to use this  than what I’m already doing. I cannot seem to wrap my head around this whole “collaboration” thing with Google.  Maybe the hard part for me is that we are always collaborating in our learning, but I don’t see why we’d do it online when we could just talk to each other, or share a pen.  My students very rarely do projects at home (which is one place/time that I know is mentioned when talking about benefits), but maybe what’s also good is that whatever the file is that is being created can be accessed by everyone whenever they need it?  Like if someone is gone and they’re the one who has all the “stuff”–the rest of the group can still function?  Is that it? Even in that scenario, though, I can easily see how we could figure out a way around it using what we currently have in place.

Another classmate suggested that perhaps in the beginning I use my Google Drive more as an archive for my students, uploading documents and other things that they may need to see or reference for an assignment.  Someone else mentioned how there is the capability to add other fonts to use in your Docs, which is encouraging to me.

But I’m still not convinced that right now is the right time for me to make the jump into this part of the Google world.  I don’t want to be too quick to abandon my tried-and-true for the brand-new, just because I hear that I’m “supposed to.”  I guess for now I will continue to dabble, perhaps by trying another Google App that makes more sense to me.  I am thinking about installing Google Reader, and am also working a little with Google Sites because of this class I’m taking; I can see benefits with both of these apps really easily.  Perhaps after a little more time spent swimming around in the shallow end of this pool, I’ll be ready to jump in deep and give Docs a try.

What advice to you have for this Google newbie?  Which is your favorite Google app to use with your students?  Why do you love it?  I’d love to hear from anyone who’s willing to share, but especially from elementary teachers who are farther on this journey than me and loving it.  Share your thoughts in a comment below! 🙂

Math Warm-Ups February 11-14, 2013

Another 4-day week for us, but only a 3-day warm-up week because of some very messy cubbies that needed to be attended to on Tuesday morning.  Happy calculating!


IMG157Can you catch the mistake I made in this warm-up question?  I didn’t catch it until we started discussing how to do it and figured out that you can’t round a decimal to the hundredths place if it’s already a hundredth!  So we changed it to tenths.  Oops.  HATE it when that happens, but LOVE that it continues to teach my kiddos I’m not perfect.  Teachers don’t know everything and they do make mistakes.  And we know how to solve problems like that when they happen.  So I guess in some ways this was a double-whammy warm-up: two lessons in one!  Only wish I’d planned it that way….:)


Oh, yeah, we were cubby cleaning.  There was too much mess to take a picture, so nothing to share here.


IMG158We had been working on place value and rounding with decimals for about a week and were ready to move on to adding and subtracting, which I was figuring would be pretty straightforward, and so relatively easy.  The way this one was worded, though, caught a couple of kiddos because they wouldn’t remember what “sum” and “difference” meant–definitions we reviewed as we went over the problems.

That second problem sparked another one, too, which was a goodie:

IMG159What do you do when you have a whole number and you subtract a decimal?  There isn’t a decimal to line up.  Or is there??


IMG160There’s a joke in this warm-up (that’s probably only funny to me and my class).  See, we were noticing on Wednesday that many of the word problems we have in our math book involve running (Sally ran .89 of a mile on Monday, 2.3 miles on Tuesday and .5 miles on Wednesday, etc.).  In our groups we’d been talking about how guilty those references made me feel since I’ve been REALLY lazy about my running the last few months.  So Thursday I made the problem all about my running.  But since I can’t lie about what’s really happening, I made sure to say that we should pretend that I ran all those miles last week.

But aside from making us all laugh at my funny joke, there was another reason I wrote the problem the way I did.  We are going to be moving into multiplication of decimals next week and I wanted to see what they could do with that.  The problem could easily be answered without multiplying, too, for those that weren’t ready yet–and some just used repeated addition to get the answer–but some did try multiplication as a strategy.  Many of those figured out just what to do with the decimal point, and did so in a logical way–which I loved!  Rather than spouting off the rule about having the same number of decimal places in the answer as in the problem, they used what they know about the problem.  They got to the number 2282, and when thinking about what the final answer should be, thought “Well it can’t be 2.282 because that’s not even as far as she ran in one day.  It can’t be 228.2 because number is WAY too big.  22.82 makes sense because 3 miles times 7 days is 21 miles and the answer has to be a little bigger than that.”  THAT is the kind of thinking I look for and was so excited to see as I threw them this new concept.  It makes me excited to hear and see more as we dig in deeper this upcoming week!

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things (To Read To My Students!)

Remember how I told you about EdCampStl?  One of the great people I met (or was actually reintroduced to) was Ms. Ferguson, who had done some work in my school several years ago.  We found out we both teach 5th grade and are both named Jen, which was a funny coincidence.

Well, since we are both 5th grade teachers, the conversations we shared were mostly around comparing what we do and how.  So when she asked about my favorite read-alouds, I figured that both for her and for me (and for you!), I’d write a whole post about it! Here are a few of my favorite things to read to my students!

I have written about read aloud before here and here, and you can probably tell it’s a big deal in our classroom.  I am so excited to share a good book with a group of kids who have never heard of it before, and even more excited when they love it as much as me!  Let me tell you about some of my go-to reads:

1. There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom by Louis Sachar (When I taught 4th grade, I always started our year together with this one.)

2. Crash by Jerry Spinelli (One of my all-time favorites that I read EVERY YEAR! Well except this one, because they heard it last year.  😦 )

3. Clementine by Sara Pennypacker (Even big kids love the antics of Clementine!   It’s a great end-of-the-year fast read, too.)

4. Fig Pudding by Ralph Fletcher (See that note about Crash?  DITTO on this one.  Read it EVERY YEAR and it’s a classic, for sure!)

5. Who’s Stealing the 12 Days of Christmas? by Marsha Freeman

6. Who’s Stealing Halloween? by Marsha Freeman (These are great, easy mysteries that my kiddos always love.)

7. The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White (As a child, I have fond memories of my 3rd grade teacher reading this one aloud to me, and so I had to return the favor to my students!)

8. The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau (I did this one totally backwards and saw the movie first, but once I read the book, I was really sold!)

9. Pleasing the Ghost by Sharon Creech

10. Granny Torrelli Makes Soup by Sharon Creech

11. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech (This is another one of my EVERY YEAR reads.  Oh, and can you tell I’m a Sharon Creech fan?)

12. Frindle by Andrew Clements (I’m not usually an Andrew Clements fan (I know–gasp!!), but this is a great first book because it’s fun and easy for everyone to dig into.)

13. Go Big or Go Home by Will Hobbs (I found this book because it was nominated for the Mark Twain award a couple of years ago and it’s on my “good” list now.)

14. Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix (Also a Mark Twain nominee–what a twisty story!  We were on the edge of our seats the whole time with this one.)

15. I Am David by Anne Holm (This was another saw-the-movie-first one, but I am now so in love with David’s story that this is an EVERY YEAR book now!)

16. The Boys Start the War by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (Great beginning of the year read aloud–everyone loves it!)

17. Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson (I found this one last year after a recommendation from my husband, who is also a teacher.  It’s a little graphic, but is an interesting non-fiction read aloud that kept my students riveted!)

18. Marshfield Dreams by Ralph Fletcher (Also a recommendation from my husband, this is Ralph Fletcher’s memoir and is the PERFECT companion to read with Fig Pudding.  Perfect picture of how your writer’s notebook informs your writing!)

19. Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea (This is a brand new one, but will become an EVERY YEAR book next year when I read it again!  What a great beginning-of-the-year read to set the tone for the year.  We learned a lot about how to treat each other well with this one!)

20. Wonder by R.J. Palacio (WE LOVE AUGGIE! This is one of the most heartfelt, meaningful reads I’ve come across in a long time.  Another EVERY YEAR read!)

21. Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer by John Grisham

22. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo (Yet another recommendation from my hubby–man does he know good books!–that will become an EVERY YEAR read for me.  Great, moving story with amazing vocabulary.)

23. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (Just started this one with my class, but I KNOW they’re going to LOVE it!  This one just won the Newbery, which confirms that it’s a great book, but I as already in love.  Moving and life changing.)

Whew!  That’s a lot longer list than I thought it’d be!  There are just so many good ones!

What are your favorite read alouds?  Are any the same as mine?  Share your favorites here–maybe I’ll have to add them to my list! 🙂


EDUC 573: Week 5–I Went to School on a Saturday

Yep, you heard me right.  I got up at 5:45 (which is WAY earlier than a school day), drove my kids 30 minutes to my mom’s house, then drove about 40 minutes in the other direction to go to school on a Saturday.  And it was all by choice.

EdCampStl was the reason.  What’s EdCamp?  Well, it’s honestly just a bunch of teachers who all gather at a school together on a Saturday to learn together, and what that learning is is not decided until we all arrive.  Sessions are planned on the fly, based on what people know and what they want to know.  You’re encouraged to sit in on as many sessions as you can, moving from one to another if it doesn’t end up meeting your needs.  For more about what your brain looks like on EdCamp, check out Krissy Venosdales’ blog where she wrote about it this weekend.

I attended my first EdCamp last year, and this was even more fabulous!  Last time I went alone, which was a little bit daunting, because I am not the most outgoing person.  I had a fine time, but didn’t really talk to anybody or make any new connections.  I did learn more about using social media in the classroom, but didn’t really take away anything I could implement right away.

This time, I was really excited to be able to finally meet some of my online “friends” in person, putting a real face to the avatar I’ve been looking at for the last year!  This was better than I even anticipated, and will make the connection we share online even stronger.  I attended some pretty great sessions, too, where I  learned about a new iPad app, how to use Google forms in the classroom, more about collaborative groups and had a discussion about the impact of ELA Common Core on what we do in our day-to-day teaching lives.

For me, it was the conversations that made this year different.  We’ve been talking alot about PLNs lately, and I definitely have some pretty fabulous people in mine.  Being able to sit in the same room as them and share ideas was a little bit surreal.  Kinda like nerd heaven, really.  And the best part was that since we’re connected on Twitter (which is where I learned about the whole EdCamp experience in the first place), we could keep  the conversation going even after the day was over.  Our learning continues beyond the conference, which is not always something that happens.

I feel really lucky to be a part of a PLN of some really smart, risk-taking, innovative educators from whom I learn something new every time I log on (which is pretty much every day!).  I can truly say that without them, I would not be the teacher I am today. 🙂

Are you a member of a PLN?  Why do you like it?  What do you learn from your PLN?  Have you been to EdCamp?  Tell me about it!


Math Warm-Ups February 4-8, 2013

We had a pretty much normal week with warm-ups, so I have five to share!  This week we started working on decimals, and our warm-ups were related.





IMG134There are two notes to make about this warm-up: 1) that should say “expanded form” rather than “extended form”, and 2) I realized after I’d written it that they weren’t ready to talk about that yet.  Sometimes I’ll do a warm-up about a brand new concept, especially if we’re going to talk about it that day in rotations, but that just didn’t make sense for this one.  I was out with a sick baby, and we weren’t going to talk about it for another couple of days, so we skipped that part until later.






IMG136So this was the day when we came back to expanded form.  I was glad that we waited, because I could tell from their responses that they didn’t have a clear idea about what it meant.  Many wrote the number in words–which is word form instead of expanded form.  Once I showed them what it was, many remembered, and so after the whole number we tried it with a decimal (the part at the bottom).  The whole idea of expanded from with decimals is new (both to my students and to me!) and was added in because of changes we’re making to align closer with Common Core standards.  Once you start talking about how it works, though, it’s really the same idea as with a whole number.  Most picked up on it pretty quickly.




New Friends in New Jersey

Yes, we did it again.  Third Skype in three weeks!  This one was a little different from the first Mystery Skype and the second one we did last week.  This time the location wasn’t a mystery; 4th graders from Lakehurst, NJ wanted to connect with students in the Midwest since their class was studying our region, so we just chatted.  SO many thanks to Mr. Bedell (@jasontbedell) for setting it up and Ms. Lambusta for being game to try Skype for the first time with her class!

The structure was similar to what we’ve done before, but since we knew that our new “friends” were going to ask us a whole slew of questions, we decided to find a way to give everyone more “screen time” during our Skype session.  I paired everyone up and they had two jobs: answer a question and ask a question.  We went through the first round and they asked us, then we asked them some questions.

IMG_0706IMG_0712 IMG_0711 IMG_0708

We were really interested to find out that one of the “specials” classes the 4th graders went to was Spanish.  There were lots of ooohs and ahhhs when they shared that nugget; kids in our school district don’t have an option for a foreign language until middle school.  We learned that Minecraft is a big deal both in NJ and MO, that they lived close to the ocean and were affected by Hurricane Sandy, and that their school is near a naval base.  Pizza was a popular school lunch (as are chicken nuggets!), and kids from both classes like to play sports games on their game systems.


We had a great conversation with our new friends in New Jersey and then began thinking and talking.  We talked about whether we liked Mystery Skype or this type of chat better.  It was pretty much 50/50; many liked the “guessing” part of a Mystery Skype because it was a challenge to their brains, and many others liked the “regular” Skype because they liked the opportunity to ask and answer questions more related to them than geography.

That got us thinking about other ways we could use Skype.  Ames suggested that there were probably lots of other things that could be a mystery when we Skype besides location.  That comment made me think of a list I read from Krissy Venosdale (@ktvee) where she shared ideas for just that!  We also thought we could combine them both and first figure out the location, then get to know them better like we did this time.  Both great ideas!

I am so excited with how excited my students are during these types of activities.  They thirst for new ideas and enjoy trying new things, especially when they involve technology.  I LOVE that they trust me when I say, “Hey, I heard about this–how about we try it?!”  They are game for ANYTHING!

Besides being excited to try this again, we’re excited to invite other classes to join us!  One of our 5th grade neighbors is going to sit in on our next Mystery Skype so they can learn more about it.  Maybe we could even start marking our Skypes on our map of connections and try to get every state!  Wouldn’t that be cool?!

So…do YOU want to Skype with us?  Comment here or contact me on Twitter (@jenbearden).  We’d love to meet you!


Happy Literature Circle Day!

Aren’t you excited?  It’s the first day of your new Literature Circles!  I’m excited to see where this journey will take you, and to hear all the FABULOUS conversations that will result from your close reading of your book.

I would love you to share your first thoughts with the world, so today’s response will be on your blog, not on Edmodo.  After your group has met, please compose a post that includes these things:

1. What is the book that you are reading and discussing (include the author and UNDERLINE the title!)

2. How would you describe the conversation?  Pick only ONE WORD and be sure to tell why you chose it.  For example, you might say it was LIVELY because everyone was really excited to share (and no, you can’t use that word.  It’s mine. 🙂 ).

3. What was something you did to contribute positively to the group?  On the other side of the coin, what is something you could do differently next time to make your conversation even better?

4. What are you looking forward to in your next meeting?

As always, be sure to show what you know about what good writers do (use correct mechanics, choose appropriate words, write in paragraphs, think about the audience, etc.)!  I should see proof of what you know in your writing, as well as see the answers to my questions!  Oh, and use the tags literature circles, reading and fun for your post (plus any others you want to add!).

Can’t wait to hear how it went! 🙂