Periods of Reflection

Just random musings from an elementary perspective. Views are my own.

Twitter Links and Resources

Twitter for Beginners:

Beyond the Egg Presentation:

Using Live Stream to Engage Parents

My class is currently participating in the Global Read Aloud and we are reading “One for the Murphys.”  There is a chapter with a teacher named Mr. Ruben and he assigns his class a group project about someone who changed the world for the better. I’ve decided to take this idea and run with it and turn it into a class project. Students have chosen to either work independently or in a group with another person. They also had the choice to chose the person they wanted to research. I taught them how to use the “backpack” feature in Edmodo, which is cloud based, so any links they save at school will appear at home when they log into their Edmodo accounts.  I have also given each student a share google doc to utilize, if they chose.  Students were encouraged to demonstrate understanding by developing higher level questions, using various platforms to present (Prezi, Google Slides, Haiku Deck), and answer questions from the class.

Where Does Live Stream Fit In?

In an ongoing effort to flatten my classroom walls and engage parents in creative and interesting ways, I decided to create a LiveStream account, which gives you the ability to watch or stream live events.  Here is a link to use that documents the steps to use to start an account.

Live Stream: Starting an Account 

After creating an account, click create event, give a name for your event, provide a date range, upload an image, and voila, you have just created an event. Click the “Ok, Let’s Go” and share the event with parents.  I used my Remind account, Twitter, and my classroom website to inform parents of our event.  I also created a shared google doc with a schedule that the kids will be sharing.  Within 10 minutes, I had over 20 parents viewing the live feed.

Voila, that’s it.  I use the free account, but if you upgrade there are some great, customization features. Please click the link below for our first Live Stream video with students presenting their reports! I’d love to hear how you are using Live Stream in your classroom to engage parents.

Evernote for Digital Portfolios – Part II

Ok, so my goal of using Evernote for Digital Portfolios is in full swing.  Here is a link to my first post.

What have I been up to?
Well, the way that I have been using Evernote is to upload student responses to texts from Reader’s Workshop. I am only focusing on one subject area thus far. I plan on incorporating narrative stories into their portfolios as well, especially their first draft and their final copy to show growth.  So far, my goal of uploading two documents a month has been manageable and successful. I have also used the voice feature to record students who need to strengthen their fluency skills to hear how they read and to set fluency goals. Each student has a link to their digital portfolio in their Edmodo library.  This way, students have access to the notebook at all times to see where they can improve based on my focused, purposeful comments.  See example below.


In addition to students having access to their digital portfolio, the AH HA moment came when I started receiving emails from parents who wanted to check in on their child’s progress.  This is when I knew extra time it takes to upload documents was worth it, not that I ever questioned it.  I could easily send parents their child’s link with work samples.  I have encouraged parents to bookmark the link because when I send out a Remind to them saying I have updated the portfolios, it is easy to find.  Giving parents unprecedented access to their child’s work flattens my classroom walls and gives them a specific focus at home on objectives they can work on with their child. It also alleviates the surprise moment during parent/teacher conferences questioning why their child received a specific grade.

So, there you have it. Be sure to check back periodically, as I will share my successes and “failures.”  If you have any questions, feel free to find me on Twitter @mrsapia_teach.  As always, comments and feedback are also encouraged and appreciated.

Evernote for Digital Portfolios – Game on

So, after reading Matt Renwick’s Book about Digital Portfolios, I’ve decided to dive right in and give it a whirl.  So, here it goes.  I will be reflecting and providing honest feedback periodically throughout the year to share my successes and failures.  I have decided to use Evernote as the place to house all student work.  Ready, set, go!

I am a new fifth grade teacher this year and my responsibilities are to teach Humanities.  ELA and Social Studies fall under that umbrella.  I also teach at an IB school.  For more information, click here

First Steps:
I created a note for each student.  My colleague and I each have designated homerooms, but we teach each child in fifth grade. We have a total of 40 kids.  Therefore, I created two notebooks labeled as Jimmy’s Homeroom and my co-workers homeroom and put students in accordingly.  

Originally, I had all the students under a “Digital Portfolio” notebook, but quickly realized after uploading photos of student work to each note, it become laborious to scroll and find, so I divided them up into classes under the stack “Digital Portfolios.”  Learning experience number one! Work smarter, not harder.



a hr


Today’s lesson focused on students listening to “The Invisible Boy.”  They were then asked to answer two comprehension questions in their Reader’s Notebooks.  As students completed the assignment, I corrected their work, took a photo, and uploaded it to their note.  I am sure as the year goes on and we get deeper into the workshop model, I will have to complete this task at home.  Below is a sample response. 

The names are not listed to protect the innocent. :)

The names are not listed to protect the innocent. :)

So, there you have it.  Step number one.  Any questions. (((HANDS RAISED)))

What is the purpose of using digital portfolios?

I’ve decided to utilize digital portfolios this year because I would like to do a better job of keeping parents informed about their child’s progress, as well as having an organized system for goal setting with students.  After all, we need to work as a team, right? This can easily be done by sharing the link with parents to flatten the classroom walls and enhance engagement.  Keep in mind, when you share a link, the link becomes public, so DO NOT put anything confidential in a note.  

I am still deciding how often I will be able to upload their work, so that’s an unanswered question.  I am sure I will have many, many more as this progresses.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?  Sure, there work will be already completed in their Reader’s Notebooks, and the notebook can be send home.  However, what if it gets lost?  I am sure this experiment will have it’s ups and downs, but I am willing to take that risk.  If you like what you’ve read, feel free to follow me on Twitter @mrsapia_teach

I’d also love to hear your feedback and how you’re using digital portfolios!


New Teacher Orientation Links

Aloha New Educators,

Congrats on the first day of your new career. As I mentioned during my presentation today, here are some helpful links as you begin your new journey as an educator.  I hope you will find them helpful. 

Haiku Deck Presentation

Here are a couple of links to books that I HIGHLY recommended you read.

Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess
Passionate Learners: Giving the Classroom Back to Students by Pernille Ripp
Falling in Love with Close Reading Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts
Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller
Mindset by Carol Dweck

Highly Recommended Apps:

Remind – Connecting with Parents

Google DriveEvernote – Workflow apps to keep your notes, thoughts, and to do lists organized.  All Cloud based. 


Notability – Can annotate PDFs and SO much more.   

Educreations – Free Interactive Whiteboard app. Great app for content creations across all subject areas. ***

Explain Everything – $2.99 Interactive Whiteboard app. Great app for content creations across all subject areas. ***

Haiku Deck – Elegant and beautiful minimlistic presentation software ***

Skype – Video Conferencing ***

Google Hangouts – Video conferencing  ***

Raz Kids – Online guided reading program with interactive ebooks, downloadable books, and reading quizzes.

Kidblog – Kidblog is designed for K-12 teachers who want to provide each student with an individual blog. Students publish posts and participate in academic discussions and connect with others around the world! ***

 – Edmodo provides a safe and easy way for your class to connect and collaborate, share and create content, and access homework, grades and school notices. ***

Tellagami – Tellagami is a mobile app that lets you create and share a quick animated video called a Gami. ***

i-nigma – Easily scan QR codes ***

*** – denotes app can be used in any subject area! Remember, always focus on the process of learning and the outcome, then the tool!!!


List of Twitter Chats by day and time

Twitter in Educations:

Guide to tweets, hashtags, and all things Twitter:

Twitter for Teachers:

Guide to Twitter:

40 Educational Tweets Everyone Should Know About:

More Educators to Follow on Twitter:


Digital Citizenship:

Cybraryman’s Digital Citizenship Page


Student and Parent Surveys, courtesy of Pernille Ripp:

Beginning of Year Student Questionnaire 

Beginning of Year Parent Questionnaire





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Yesterday was my third Ed Camp experience. It never ceases to amaze me when you walk into the “Living Room” of the Ethel Walker School in Simsbury, CT and see a complete immersion of educators looking to enhance their craft and being  learners first. Every attending educator is clearly intrinsically motivated to learn because they are attending on their own accord.

For those of you unfamiliar with the EdCamp model, please click this link.

Great discussions happen in sessions. There is no arguing that. But the true magic, at least for me, comes in the form of side conversations while you’re walking down the hallway, outside on the grass talking about how to implement a new school wide idea and provide follow through, or piggy backing off someones idea in a session.

This is what happened for me yesterday. I decided to attend a session about making the curriculum engaging and meaningful. Unfortunately, the “facilitator” of that session accidentally double booked. In the true spirit of improvisation, a discussion formed and took on a life of its own. There was a young 17 year old girl in attendance. She was a product of public school, but decided that this setting was not meeting her individual needs as a learner. She is now home schooled, with plans on attending a speciality school in New Haven, CT.  The name of the school has currently escaped me.

I asked if here past teachers ever took the time to get to know her learning style.  She replied, “No!” I went deeper and asked her what she looks for out a teacher.  Her response was quite simple.  She wanted teachers to get to know HER, take the time to talk and ask questions, and listen to her voice to create an autonomous learning environment where she can demonstrate learning of the objective how she sees fit. She felt her creative spirit was not engaged because of her “drill and kill” experiences in public school.  While I acknowledge the fact we have many uninspiring directives students must complete, we must harness the power of student voice in many other situations.   This is what education should be about.  Creating a classroom environment where student voice is valued and heard.  We can make learning messy by utilizing a project based learning model that holds students to very high expectations, while ensuring the standards are meet.  Think about it.  If we systematically put this model in place, we can hit many more standards than a traditional environment.  Her voice reaffirmed my beliefs of what’s possible in a classroom.

It was also a light bulb moment because  I realized Ed camps are missing an important component. This is an area where they can be improved.  Let’s get young scholars involved in the process.  By inviting them to these events, virtually or physically, we can hear their voices and use their feedback to bring back to our classrooms.  After all, they are our most important stakeholders.  How can they not be involved?  It’s a refreshing reminder that we as educators must take the time to not only listen to students, but use their feedback to make constant improvements to make learning meaningful and memorable.  My challenge is this.  Next time you plan an Ed camp, invite students to facilitate and/or participate in a session.  I promise, you will leave with inspiration and new-found knowledge.

Finally, I’d highly recommend reading Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess and Passionate Learners: Giving the Classroom Back to our Students, by Pernille Ripp.  Both of these books provide a very strong foundation for creating an exciting learning environment for our students, while ensuring their voices are heard!

Using Remind101 in the Classroom

Looking for more ways to engage parents and students? Try taking Remind101 for a spin.  This is a tool that I have been incorporating into my classroom for quite sometime, and the feedback from parents has been fantastic.


Let’s be honest.  Increased communication with parents is vital to ensure the most successful year possible.  Frankly, it’s a non negotiable for parents to be aware of current activities and beyond happening in their child’s classroom.  Study after study indicate the importance of working collaboratively increases student achievement.


It’s super simple to sign up.  Simply visit the Remind101 homepage and fill in the appropriate fields in the right column.

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After signing up, you will asked to create a class name.  Type the name in the blank field and click add.

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You will then be presented with a unique phone number and class code.  You can then have parents and/or students text the number and code.  By doing this, they will be automatically subscribed and will receive text updates.  There is also an option to receive email updates if they chose.

Once parents and/or students sign up, you can send out a message to everyone, or select a specific individual or group.  I teach elementary school, so I only have one class. But if you teach middle or high school, you also have the option to create multiple classes on the left column.

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There is also an option to schedule messages for a later time, as well as sending an attachment with your message.  Keep in mind you are limited to 140 characters, so brevity in the name of the game.  There iOS app is designed beautifully for ease of use.

Additionally, you have the option to embed a widget into your classroom website.  This is done by clicking your name in top right hand corner of the page and “My Widgets.”  This will generate code to copy and paste into the HTML of your website of blog.  Click my classroom website for an example.

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The possibilities for types of messages you can send to parents is limitless.  Let’s increase parent engagement and make them aware of all the wonderful things happening in our classrooms! So, what ways are you using Remind101 to engage parents?

Springdale School Read Aloud

Inspired by the Global Read Aloud, Springdale Elementary School has decided to host its first annual Springdale School Read Aloud.  Grade 3-5 are going to participate, due to time constraints of the primary grades.  Our specialists and ESL teachers were also given a copy of the book to read to incorporate discussion and activities into their respective classrooms,too.

The book we are reading is “The Tale of Despereaux,” by Kate DiCamillo.  Anyone who has read the story can attest to how beautifully written it is.  Our timeline for reading is below:

March 17-28:    Chapters 1-15        Pages 11-81
March 31- April 11:    Chapters 16 -33     Pages 82-171
April 21- May 9:   Chapter 34-Coda   Pages 175-270

The administrative team and I drew up this plan to continue to build on the positive momentum of  creating a community of readers.  It’s imperative to teach our students skills and strategies to become better readers.  It is equally important for teachers to read aloud for the sake of pure enjoyment. The playing field is leveled and it gives classrooms an opportunity to connect, share ideas, and discuss the book.

Students will be meeting with different classes, on a bi-weekly basis, to show creative ways to demonstrate their understanding of the text.  This will be done every other Friday for an hour.  The possibilities for collaboration are endless and the conversations already happening are so powerful.  Students have been talking about making book trailors using Animoto, Haiku Decks, Google Presentation, Kidblog, and good old fashion poster board.  Their voices will be heard in this process and creativity is encouraged.

Students will be promoting the book over the PA during morning announcements as well.  Students will be discussing vocabulary, sharing thoughts about plot lines, and overall impressions of the book.  There has also been discussion about having a centralized bulletin board for students to use during the read aloud.

Sample activities and questions can be found below using my social bookmarking link on Diigo.

Tale of Despereaux Diigo Links

I plan on updating my blog frequently about the successes of this read aloud and what we can improve on for next year.  As always, feedback and comments are always welcome.  I’d love to hear from teachers and/or administrators about how you implemented a building wide read aloud.

QR Code Scavenger Hunt

Amazing.  Unbelievable.  Engaging.  Collaborative.  Energetic.  FUN.

These words quickly come to mind when reflecting about my scholar’s first experience with a QR code scavenger hunt.  The level of teamwork, engagement, and enthusiasm circulating my learning laboratory during this lesson was outrageous.   As you can probably tell, I will be doing this again.

How To:

Below I will explain how I conducted this scavenger hunt.  There are multiple ways to complete it, so feel free to do what’s best for your style.  The first step was to create a free WordPress page to house all the clues.  The web address I chose was  I chose a DOT WordPress because I am very familiar with the platform because I use it for my classroom website, as well as my personal reflective blog, and because it’s free.  However, there are many other free and easy to use platforms on the web to choose from.

Next, I created a new post for each of my clues.  After publishing the post and copying the link, I then navigated over to QR Stuff to paste my link and download the actual code.  I repeated this process 10 times for a total of 10 clues.  All in all, this process took about 20 minutes, so it wasn’t too laborious.

I then printed the QR codes and hid them around the classroom for students to find.  For the first few clues, I had 5 QR codes printed out to avoid a traffic jam.  As the clue numbers got higher, I had 3 QR codes for each clue.  Students were encouraged to scan the code and move aside to solve with their partners.  On each QR code, I labeled the number of the clue.  Students were expected to go in numeral order.  Additionally, students had to have the correct answer prior to moving to the next clue.

Students were placed heterogeneous groups of 3, with two groups with 4 in each.  This was done because I only had access to 6 iPads at the time.  Yes, iPads or any other mobile device with a QR code app is very necessary, obviously.  I used i-nigma.

Academic Area Focus:

I chose to focus on math for my academic area, although you can align it in any subject area.  I have recently administered our mid-year math exam and I created questions based on the student’s needs.  I know we live in a “data-driven” world these days, but it’s very important to ensure that you’re using data to drive your focus and implement technology purposefully for a lesson like this.

Here is a link to the questions I created.

Next Steps:

Put on some music and play it loud.  I played “Eye of the Tiger” to get the kids pumped, and released them into the laboratory.  The next musical choices were Kid Bop songs on Spotify.  It was pretty awesome to see them grooving and dancing, while solving the math problems!

I walked around the classroom and monitored their progress and gave them clues, but did not provide the answers.  That was their responsibility as a learner and as a team.  It was also really fantastic to see students spontaneously using our Idea Paint walls to solve problems.  Slowly groups started to finish.  Most teams were finished in about 30 minutes.  (Side note, be sure to have an activity planned for the fast finishers.)

Prior to the scavenger hunt beginning, we had a discussion regarding expectations of behavior and being a good sport.  This type of appreciation in constantly instilled in my classroom, so for the most part, students did rise to the occasion and were both responsible and respectful.


Thinking about what I can improve on for the next time, I would do the following:

  • Have an answer key printed out so I don’t hold up any groups from moving on
  • Hide the QR code clues a little better
  • Expand the hunt beyond my four classroom walls, without disturbing other classes

I also had a meeting to debrief with my scholars about the lesson to hear about what they thought went well, and what could be improved.  They had the same suggestions as the ones above.  Be sure to involve students and listen to their voices, because the feedback and suggestions they provide can be extremely valuable to the overall learning experience.

I will elated about how this process went.  Check out the photos below and the Instagram video.  As always, if you have any questions or feedback, I’d greatly appreciate it.  If you’ve made it this far, feel free to follow me on Twitter @mrsapia_teach

QR Code Scavenger Hunt Photos

Instagram Video

How I Use Idea Paint in my Learning Labratory

I first heard about Idea Paint from a couple of teachers in my professional learning network.  Idea paint can transform many surfaces into a dry erase surface.  Simple premise, with an enormous amount of potential to revolutionize how students can work collaboratively in a classroom.

I moved forward with my vision and created a Donor’s Choose project.  Before I knew it, I was fully funded by the generous donations from parents in my classroom, as well as other parents of students who attend my school via a post on our PTO Facebook page.  In addition to the Donor’s Choose donation, another parent from my building caught wind of this project and donated an addtional can of Idea Paint! Score!!

How Will I Use Idea Paint?

As I stated above, I am looking to augment how scholars work collaboratively in my classroom.  Looking around my classroom, I realized that there was so much valuable space in my room that was under utilized.  This is our time to think outside the box of what a traditional classroom can look like.  Check out the photos below for before and after examples of my classroom.





Throughout my years of teaching, I’ve learned an unbelievable amount of information about how to run a classroom.  The list can go on and on.  One of the most important lessons I’ve learned was to talk less and allow scholars to work collaboratively in a purposeful, concise manner.  The impact of such a collaborative classroom has impacted my scholars because I have more time to work with groups and individuals to meet their specific needs, leading to greater academic success.

My scholars are changing by using this model because, as I stated above, scholars learn by doing, not just by listening. I have started to use this model with math, because I use a centers based approach, so scholars can learn and help each other because of the increased collaboration and flexibility of the model. Scholars collaborate with different types of learners, which will benefit them as they proceed through their educational career and into the workforce.

I am also using Idea Paint during Reader’s Workshop and small group instruction.  After modeling a specific skill that day, scholars are asked to demonstrate that skill during the work period.  If the lesson calls for group work, Idea Paint is the way to go.  I can easily monitor scholar’s progress, while working in small groups, because of the size of the surface.  I can provide easy redirection to get scholars back on track, if needed.  I can then snap a photo and upload it into their digital portfolios using Evernote for future reference, when I remember.

Here are a couple “Vine” videos Demonstrating the use of Idea Paint.

Solving Multi-Step Word Problems

Identifying Author’s Point of View

While this is only my second week of full implementation, my scholars and I feel really enthusiastic about its potential.  My hope is that with the second can, I will be able to paint many desks in my classroom, with administrative permission of course!

As a proponent of student voice, I have heard and listened to my scholar’s feedback about how to best use Idea Paint.  I look forward to continuing to look for creative ways to use Idea Paint in my classroom.  If you have any feedback or suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

If you’d made it this far, feel free to follow me on Twitter @mrsapia_teach


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