Ok, so first of all, before Sunday, I didn’t even know this game existed.  Did you?


I mean, I know about Bananagrams, and we had a TON of fun playing a variation of it last year at the beginning of the year.  So really, Appletters is just another version of Bananagrams (and there’s even Pairs of Pears, too)–really it’s just a fruit-shaped bag filled with letters.  But this one was cheaper. 🙂

So like with last year’s Bananagrams, we started by giving everyone a letter.  Then they had to find other friends and make words.  The first time around there are no rules (outside of the one that says you have to make words, hee hee), and we came up with these:

IMG_1151 IMG_1152 IMG_1153 IMG_1154 IMG_1155Pretty great, huh?

So for the second round I added the guideline that the words had to be at least 4 letters:


I wasn’t sure this one was actually a word, but then was informed that it’s a character from iCarly. I think next time we’ll change the rule about names.


I like the story behind this one. It started as “bands” until we noticed that there were two friends with I and T who needed a group. Voila! BANDITS!

IMG_1156 IMG_1159

I am hoping that this is a game we can come back to again and again this year.  I am excited to see how the words we make grow and change as we work with words and vocabulary throughout the year.  I’m thinking I might make it an option during Reader’s Workshop, too, as a word game.

Have you ever played Appletters?  What about Bananagrams?  How do you use them in your classroom? What other games do you play with words or vocabulary?

Finally! Time to Rest and Reflect….

I had forgotten how hard teaching is.  After so many days “off” this summer (while I could get on my soapbox about how teachers are not really off all summer, I’ll spare you the details.  For now. 🙂 ), we’re finally back into the school year.  Today was day 5.  And I am tired.  Exhausted. Sleepy. T. I. R. E. D.  Perhaps it comes from the fact that, even in 5th grade, you still have to do so much for your students this early in the year–mainly just since routines and procedures are not yet in place–or maybe it’s that I’m out of shape.  Either way, I’ve been ready for bed by 8:30 or 9 every night.  Granted, I haven’t actually GONE to bed that early because I’ve had work to do, but believe me, I was ready. 🙂

But by day 5, things are starting to settle down (at least a teeny bit), so I can stop to rest and reflect on how the first week (and then a day today) have gone.  And I’m happy to report that things have gone pretty well.  So far so good!

I mentioned in a post before school about how my team had come up with some great ideas for how to thoughtfully do our community building activities.  This turned out to be a genius move (if I do say so myself!) and I’ve loved how things have worked out thus far.  We even worked out the order together on a Google Doc (which has been a personal goal of mine).  It’s nice to know that even though we’re not trying to be copycat classrooms, we’re all doing similar things in a similar order.  Teams kinda work like that, you know. 🙂

While I would love to share EVERY MINUTE of what’s happened over the last 5 days, I don’t have time (nor energy) to do so–hopefully if you’re a parent in our room you have heard all the fabulous tales from your kiddo anyway!  What I will do, though, is share some highlights.  Then I will promise to eat my Wheaties and take Vitamin C so that I will not be so pooped next week and can instead update the blog more often. 🙂


IMG653One of the team building activities on our list was the Human Knot.  Basically, you “tie” yourselves together by holding hands across the circle, then you have to work together to “untie” yourselves into one big circle at the end.  We did this very early on, very shortly after we had all met each other, thinking (and hoping really!) that it would be hard.  We did pretty good for our first try, actually, and got two parts of the knot undone.  There was a pretty large tangle still left in the middle, though, that was ready to topple over at any moment.  We celebrated the way we worked together and let certain friends step up and lead, and vowed to do better next time.  I’m so excited to try this again after we’ve done some more community building, because I know they will do even better!


I found an activity on Twitter the other day, posted by another #5thchat teacher, that I thought would be a great partner thing to try–Saving Sammy!  The basic idea is that you have to get a gummy worm (Sammy) into a gummy life saver (his life preserver) so that he doesn’t drown.  The only catch is that you can’t use your hands!  Instead you have two paperclips as tools.  I added in a step at the end for partnerships to write about how they figured out what to do and any advice they had for kiddos trying for the first time.  This went pretty well, and they definitely enjoyed it!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


If you read our first day post, then you are aware that we eat lunch around dinner time.  So on Friday I brought the snacks, which included cantaloupe from Terripin Farms CSA (to which I belong and LOVE!), as well as strawberries and raspberries.  These were from the grocery store, but were also tasty.  While I am not allowed to share like I would like to (because of school allergy rules), I do what I can.  I think there is something great about sharing a meal together, or in this case a snack.  Plus, we got to use the new table!  Bonus. And yummy! 🙂

More to come…

Even as recently today, we have had some FABULOUS conversations about grit, played Appleletters, done something called 3 Things and 3 Friends, and almost completed some rather involved work with multiple intelligences.  I hope to update you on those happenings soon!  Please come back soon to visit again and catch up on the great things going on in Rm. 202!

First Day of Fifth Grade!

Wow–how is it already the first day of school?  Seems like it was just the last day of school. 🙂

I only have enough energy to share a couple of things from our day–tells you how busy we were!  I need an early bedtime!

First of all, here’s how I introduced myself to my kiddos today:

I was so excited to read about this idea when my friend Michelle shared it with me from here.  I took a little bit of a different twist on the content, but really enjoyed making it!

While we did not really follow our “official” schedule today, since it was just Day 1, we did try to fit our community building and routine learning activities somewhere near the time they would actually happen.  We read aloud some of my favorites–I Want My Hat Back and This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen, as well as First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg.  We did a 5th Grade pursuit (the old “find someone who” game where you sign each others’ papers), found a new book for each kiddo to read, started investigating ways we are smart (more with this tomorrow!), did our first Math Warm-Up of the year, introduced Writer’s Workshop and wrote postcards home about the first day of school.  Like I said, we were busy!

But even with all that fun and excitement, I’m pretty sure that the only thing my new kiddos will tell their families when they get home is that

Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 8.56.15 PM

Yep.  Definitely gonna be needing some snacks this year. 🙂

So all-in-all it was a great day! Can’t wait to get back in there and do it all over again tomorrow.

But before I go, I have one thing to say to all of new my friends–new to me and new to Kirkwood: WELCOME! You belong here. 🙂

One Kirkwood, One Team

Every year on Opening Day, each school comes with their own school shirt–all different colors with that year’s theme or focus for their individual building.  It’s not officially a competition (because of course everyone knows Robinson would win for the coolest shirts every time!), but there’s definitely pride for your school and the teachers with which you work.

This year was different, though, as the whole district come together with just one shirt.  One Kirkwood.  As we start a new school year, with many uncertainties and possibilities, it’s more important than ever that we are united.  That we are all working toward the same goals.  And seeing everyone in the same shirt definitely helped visually remind us of that unity.

The same is true with my teaching team this year.  Now of course, there is always a level of “oneness” among the team–we have the same curriculum goals, for instance–but this year we’re taking that to a new level.  We are making it our goal, from day one, that every kiddo in our 5th grade knows that they have many teachers, many people to care for them, support them, and help them achieve their best. We’re considering all these fabulous new kiddos OUR kids, rather than MY kids.  This year we’re intentionally including ALL the members of that team–including interventionists, teacher assistants, instructional specialists and special education teachers–in our community building, introductions, class activities, etc.  We are all working together to help make EVERY kiddo in ALL of our classes successful.  Together.

Our FABULOUS 5th Grade Team--Mrs. Cheatham, Mr. Shelton, me, Mrs. Hong (back); Ms. Turken, Ms. Yun and Mrs. Bell (front)

Our FABULOUS 5th Grade Team–Mrs. Cheatham, Mr. Shelton, me, Mrs. Hong (back); Ms. Turken, Mrs. Jeon and Mrs. Bell (front) Mrs. Sondermann, Mrs. Meihaus, the special area teachers and our amazing TAs are not pictured, but still a CRUCIAL part of our team, too!

One Kirkwood, One Team! Go Roadrunners!  🙂

A Little Twist

Remember when I shared my new door idea yesterday?  Well…today my friend and new teammate, Rachael, suggested something that would put a little twist on the whole thing: put in on the INSIDE of the door instead of the outside.

Ok, I know at first mention it doesn’t sound like that big of a deal.  Not really that different from what I did originally.  But really for me it was a huge thing–turned my whole thinking on end, mainly because I had thought long and hard about why I wanted it to go outside: my goal was that I wanted every kiddo (or anyone really) who came into my room to be reminded about who they are, what they are capable of and how much I want them to succeed, every time they came into the room.

But then Rachael pointed out that if my door is open (like it usually is), then all of that will be on the BACK–hidden from view.  And then she reminded me that when we all come into the room (from specials, lunch, etc.) the only way they would be able to see it is if they each came in individually–again, the door would be open and the words would be on the BACK of the door.

Ha!  SO simple, but so obviously not how I was thinking about it.  Don’t you love it when other people get their eyes on things and give you a completely new way of seeing them?  Brilliant idea, Rachael!  And yes, I think I will be moving it tomorrow! (Lucky for me that I didn’t finish attaching it all permanently yesterday! 🙂 )

When did someone help you see something a completely different way?  What did you do in response?

Opening Day!

Today was officially the end of summer–Opening Day in Kirkwood School District!  I don’t know what it’s like in other places, but our Opening Day festivities are something I look forward to every year.  I remember the first Opening Day I went to 13 years ago very vividly, and they’ve somehow gotten even better since then!

We are small enough that we can put everyone who works in our district in one room–a rare thing, I know–but it definitely adds to the family connections that we feel with other teachers.  Generally, the agenda is the same every year: speeches by administration, videos made to kick off the district theme for the year, introductions of all the new teachers and staff for the upcoming year, announcement of support staff of the year awards, presentations of the Teachers of the Year, an address by the district Teacher of the Year, and then a staff-directed skit again tying to this year’s theme.  All of that is great fun (really!), but perhaps everyone’s favorite part is the last part of the morning: a performance by the KHS Marching Pioneers!  They give us a sneak peek of their halftime show, then end with the alma mater and the fight song.  There is so much energy in that room and we end on such a high note–literally (ha ha)!  Here’s a highlight from this morning:

I mean, come on–how can you NOT be excited after that?  🙂

I don’t know if I’ve said before how much I LOVE where I work, but I definitely think that Kirkwood School District is one of the very best places to teach–pretty much anywhere.  I am lucky to be a part of such a fabulous group of people!  Go Pioneers and here’s to a SUPER 2013-2014 school year!

If you’re a teacher, what does your Opening Day look like? 

In This Classroom…

I added another thing to my room today, and I LOVE HOW IT TURNED OUT!

First a story–because of course I couldn’t just show you a picture and be done with it. 🙂

I’ve seen this on Pinterest and blogs before (and in fact, Mrs. Hong has a really great version, too!), and liked it:

Screen Shot 2013-08-13 at 7.52.24 PM

But, alas, I always have to put my own spin on things, so I got thinking.  I’ve been in many meetings over the last few weeks that have been focusing on EQs and EUs and really focusing in on what I want for my students and what I hope they want for themselves.  So I thought of this idea, and then thought I could switch it up a little. Here’s what I came up with:


I’m pretty excited about how it turned out, and excited about the message it sends to my new friends. 🙂

You Matter and You are Smart!

Gotta start with major shout-outs to my teammates–Genie and Rachael–for some AMAZING thinking today as we worked together!  I am totally not surprised, but instead really impressed by what we accomplished together. 🙂

Our goal in getting together today was to collaborate on beginning-of-the-year community building and icebreaker activities.  But what came out of our time were some really intentional and focused plans for how we can plan, organize and order the activities we choose to do–all with the goal of helping make sure our kids know in their hearts and minds “YOU MATTER” and “YOU ARE SMART!”

We have great ideas about how we can better use data we gather with our classes about how our students are smart (using Gardner’s multiple intelligences) to group for community building activities, as well as the order in which we present the many activities we do (ie. partners first, then small group games, then whole class challenges).  After we do each activity, then, kiddos will debrief on how it felt, why it worked (or didn’t) and how each new experience compared to the others we’d done.  I know it sounds simplistic right now, but stay tuned–I promise there are amazing stories to come about how it went!

Because this is the first time our team has been together, we (well, Genie really 🙂 ) had the idea that we should work through the same personality/intelligences activities that we’re going to ask our kids to do.  We hope to gain insights into what each of us brings to the table, what our role will be in the team, as well as just how we should interact with each other based on our personalities.

I AM SO EXCITED about what we planned today!  But beyond that, I’m jazzed about how we’re working so well together to create focused, meaningful experiences for our new friends.

My team pretty much rocks. Just sayin’. 🙂

How do you building community with your teaching team? How do you build community in your classroom?  How do you help your students know they matter?  I’d love to hear what you do! 🙂

My Brain Hurts!

Today was one of those days that made my brain hurt.  Don’t worry, though, it was that good kind of hurt.  The kind of hurt that comes from chewing on really big topics with really smart people as you try to solve really meaty problems.  But it’s on days like these that I am reminded that I am a ssssllllooowww processor, that I need time to continue to chew and contemplate before I can give you my full opinion or take on the issue, before I can commit to what my part will be in addressing the issue.  And when you’re in a room full of quick-thinking, fast-moving people, that can make you feel like you’re being left WAY behind!  Oh well, somehow I feel better since I know this about myself, and I am also glad to know that that kind of thinking is valued by the group of people I was working with, too.  So now is when I can sit down to think.  To make plans.  To decide on what I’m willing to commit to for this upcoming year.  To figure out how I can be a contributing member of the AMAZING community of learners that I teach with.  Wish me luck, friends! I’ll get there eventually! 🙂

Room Updates!

Hopefully you’ve seen the little bit of work I’ve been doing in our room to get ready!

Today I was at school for another big chunk of time, and look who showed up to help me!

IMG_1077Anna and Sophia were busy bees working to figure out that big pile ‘o books that was on the table the other day.

IMG630They ended up with many new categories to divide the titles into, and actually recreated some of the old tubs I used to have–that part was funny to me!  I’m excited to see how these changes (along with some other ideas I have) make our library an even better place to be!


I also got our time zone clocks hung today (and yes, I realize that it’s ten to two everywhere.  Forgot batteries. Oops.)


And then….my favorite part showed up:

It's a beauty, isn't it?  Just like I imagined.  SO EXCITED for what's going to happen around that table this year!

It’s a beauty, isn’t it? Just like I imagined. SO EXCITED for what’s going to happen around that table this year!  Thanks again, Nancy!

Getting excited!