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December Currently

Linking up with Farley at Oh Boy 4th Grade for the December Currently!

The Newsroom is SO good. I love this show! I'm super bummed that it is in it's final season. If you haven't checked it out, you should. It's smart, funny, and current. Love it.

Christmas decorations everywhere! I love it. I am extra festive this year, maybe it is because its my son's first Christmas? I'm not sure- but I LOVE it all. The music, the lights, the decorations, the movies, you name it. LOVE.

The next three weeks are going to be tough. You guys all know what I'm talking about- the kids are amped up, the days are short, and we are in the thick of the curriculum. It's not going to be pretty.

A vacation! I desperately, desperately want a vacation. My district (and most other ones in my state) did not have the week off for Thanksgiving. We only got 2 days- Thursday and Friday. So, needless to say, I'm ready for the break! 18 days until 2 glorious weeks of peace, quiet, and snuggling with my little guy. I can't wait!

Seriously- I can't WAIT for the TpT sale! I have my wishlist full of things that I want to buy, and I am ready to fill my cart and check out. I'm practically counting the minutes until the sale starts. WOO! My store is participating, too. Don't forget- the code is TPTCYBER.

It's the holidays, and I feel like giving. If you would like to enter to win a free copy of my newest TpT product, Probe Notebooks. To enter, make sure you follow me on bloglovin' and TPT and then comment below. I will use a random number generator to select a winner! In the meantime, check out my blog post about how I use them in the classroom.

Happy December!

Addressing the Common Core Research Standards

Hi friends! I've been thinking a lot lately about the implementation of Common Core, specifically in the ELA subject area. I have been looking closely at my teaching, and analyzing the activities I engage in with my students. Are they meeting their needs while also addressing the standards? Are they developmentally appropriate but also challenging? Are they differentiated to engage all students with rigor without producing rigor mortis? Honestly, I'm not sure, and I think this internal conversation is one that will be ongoing throughout my career as different students come through my classroom and as the standards evolve and change. For now, though, I have to share something I think really works!


My students have been working in PROBE notebooks this year to meet the research component of the CCSS. I got the idea from a colleague who has been working in PROBE notebooks for years. They are homework projects which are due every two weeks. The premise is simple- they receive a topic to briefly research, and complete a short report on the topic following a basic template in a composition notebook. They must write a fact page (in their own words), draw a border that is relevant to the topic, include 4 illustrations with captions, and sum it up with a sentence or two stating what they have learned.  The kids love it because it involves coloring and decorating, parents love it because it is a predictable assignment, and I love it because I have the opportunity to work with students on their research and report writing skills regularly. As a bonus, the students have a composition notebook full of their writing and they can reflect on at the end of the year. It is so fantastic to see the kids recognize their own growth!

Best of all, they address the research standards, which will teach the students skills that will serve them through middle school, high school, college, and beyond. From the CCSS standards:

To be ready for college, workforce training, and life in a technological society, students need the ability to gather, comprehend, evaluate, synthesize, and report on information and ideas, to conduct original research in order to answer questions or solve problems, and to analyze and create a high volume and 
extensive range of print and nonprint texts in media forms old and new. The need to conduct research and to produce and consume media is embedded into every aspect of today’s curriculum. In like fashion, research and media skills and understandings are embedded throughout the Standards rather than treated in a separate section.
-Common Core ELA Standards

 This addresses the College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing:

7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating
understanding of the subject under investigation.
8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each
source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

As well as the CCSS W.7 and W.8 for 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grades.

I put together a PROBE Notebook activity bundle over the past few weeks. It's the complete one-stop shop that you need to set up and start using PROBEs in your classroom! The file contains a a rubric, completion checklist for students, exemplars, research graphic organizer to prevent plagiarism, a poster for your classroom, a sample schedule, and an editable schedule. Colorful and blackline versions are included.

The research notes is my favorite part, I must admit. My fifth graders struggle to avoid plagiarism. I created this document to help them to understand how to combine sources and put things in their own words. The students first identify the question that they are going to answer with their research. I've identified the topic for them, but they must narrow it down a bit. For instance, I chose "The First Thanksgiving" for our last PROBE, but the students needed to decide what aspect of the First Thanksgiving they would be writing about. Then, they complete the research. I ask that they read the information FIRST, then turn away from the computer to take notes. They write down what the big take away was from this site, then go back to the source to add dates, locations, or other info they couldn't remember. Of course, they can use the same source more than once. This ensures that it will be in their own words and note a direct copy from the text. The sample completed research notes page below is from a special education student I scribe for. We completed it together.

The research question will also help students to develop a topic sentence, as they have already focused their research on a specific area. Having the source listed on the graphic organizer also helps students to create their bibliography easily when they are finished! 

I'm totally in love with PROBE notebooks. I used them last year and really enjoyed seeing the student growth throughout the year. This year, I am even happier to be using the PROBEs as we will be taking the PARCC assessment which includes a written research component. Completing PROBEs with my kiddos will prepare them to meet the standard!

So check it out... as a flash freebie! The product will be going back to paid shortly, so grab it for free while you can. If you do download it, please consider rating it.


Most of you know what a crazy busy year I have had. I had a baby, bought a fixer-upper to renovate, and my husband got a promotion that requires him to work longer hours. I am always looking for something to help me organize or track information in some way. Well, friends, enter Plickers.

I'm a technology addict, so I admittedly love a good bit of ed-tech in my classroom. Sometimes other teachers in my school aren't as interested in things I'm using because the technology is hard to manage. I've got to say, though, this ed-tech is SIMPLE and 100% free. It's a student response system that uses an app on your smartphone and some free printable response cards. Optionally, you can display the question via a projector to a screen or smartboard.

To use plickers, you have to enter questions into your library on their website. You can select a "correct" answer or just enter the responses to poll the students.

The screenshot above is from my account's "library" where I can assign the questions to my class. Once it is assigned, I can easily access it from the app. Select the class name, and click on the question you would like to ask. The question can be displayed on the projector as the class responds, as well.

Whatever question you select from the mobile app will show in the "live view" section of the website when you log in. More on that in a minute.

The standard student response cards are the size of half a sheet of paper, but larger ones are available. Each card displays the student number (this card is number 1) and has 4 choices for responses: A, B, C, D.  The kiddos select their answer and hold the card with that letter facing up. In the card above, the answer being selected is "B."  The letters are itty bitty and in a light font to ensure that kiddos can't copy each others answers, and that kids are not afraid to answer honestly. No one will know if they don't get it correct. 

To record the responses, you open the app from your phone. Have the kiddos hold up their cards and scan the room with your phone. No need to walk around the room and scan them all up close- if you can see if, it will pick it up within a reasonable distance. In my classroom, which is fairly large, I am fine to stand at my spot and scan the room with the app. Once I start scanning, the student names highlight showing they have responded. If you are showing the liveview on the projector from the website, it shows what students have responded with a checkmark (without confirming their answer or if it was correct). I LOVE this because the kids can be sure that their answer was recorded! You can also optionally have their answers shown on the liveview, but that wasn't something I thought I'd use.

The app (screenshot above) also shows me which students have responded by highlighting them. It also shows the student response graph as we are working in real time. If a student responds correctly their name is highlighted in green, but if they respond incorrectly it is highlighted in red. This allows me to wander around the room and ask students to check their answers. It also begins building the student response graph in real time! You can see the breakdown of student responses as they come in.

After the students are finished responding, you can view the completed graph in the "reports" section of your online account. This is the graph of the student responses after I asked my kiddos if they liked plickers. I told them to be honest because we could stop using them if they weren't fans. This is just after one use, but so far the plickers are a win!

I printed the plickers on cardstock and have the kiddos keep them on their desks while they work. I have had a couple of my more organizationally challenged friends misplace them, and I think I am going to have the kids glue them inside their notebooks. You can't lose them, that way!

I've found a few different benefits to using these in my classroom. I often give quick checks to my students to check their progress. I like the immediate feedback that a 2 - 3 question assessment gives at the end of a lesson, or the beginning of the next day. I don't like to use these for grades, necessarily, but I do like to record progress. The plickers help me to see how the kiddos are doing and record their answers quickly without having to grade and record all those papers. LOVE this.

I also love the fact that they get the students excited to complete their work. They are itching for the opportunity to use their plickers! They are definitely excited to give their answers. I did find that this was a double edged sword, though. They were rushing and not checking their work to make sure they could answer the questions at the same time as everyone else. To solve this, I started giving worksheets with the "quick check" questions for the kiddos to answer. Once we are all done our work, we pull out the plickers and answer all the questions. 

I also like to do "polls" among my kiddos to see their thoughts on a topic, assess their feelings about their understandings, and quickly see how they performed on classwork or homework. We used to do "heads down, eyes closed votes" where I have each kiddo raise his or her hand at the appropriate time for how they feel or what their score was. It was kind of hectic copying down all their responses! Now, I can use the plickers and have it recorded for me. Talk about a time saver!

Seriously- I don't think I've found a 100% free with no option to pay more for something extra app that has been loved by both me and my kiddos before EVER. You can tell I mean it because I used italics, capital letters, and underlining in that sentence. It's that serious. You can learn more and sign up for a free account on their website

Thanksgiving Weekend 5 for Friday

Linking up with DoodleBugs for a Thanksgiving weekend edition of 5 for Friday!

I am crazy in love with my little one. I really enjoyed his first Thanksgiving! It was full of family, laughter, and love. There is nothing better.

I am all prepped and prepared for the TpT Cyber Monday sale! I filled my cart up with goodies, and set my store to participate. Use code TPTCYBER on your purchases!

Like most of the east coast, we got some Thanksgiving eve snow here. Check out the view out my back window on Thanksgiving morning... pretty isn't it? We are pretty close to the MA coast, so we got spared the bit hit that many other places got. Just 30 minutes away in NH there are tens of thousands of people without power STILL! Many had to spend the holidays in restaurants and warming shelters. My Dad is without power, but fortunately has a generator to keep him (and his tropical saltwater fishtanks) warm. 

I've been working on something new for my store- soon to debut! Keep your eyes peeled for a Cyber Monday flash freebie. :)

It's too snowy and cold to lug my little guy around shopping today. It's ok with me- I am going to snuggle with my little guy and listen to some Christmas music. Maybe even decorate the house for Christmas! We will enjoy our day together. These quiet, snuggly days are so precious to me.

Week of Thanks

Linking up with BlogHoppin' for a week of Thanks!

I'm a lucky girl. I have a lot to be thankful for! I'm totally cheating and linking up a few today, so I can enjoy all the things I am thankful for this weekend.

A - A good book

I am a total reading fanatic. I can't get enough!  Once summer, I read almost 100 books while on vacation in Paris. It was better than watching the local TV and only understanding half of what was said! Whenever my little dude is napping, I'm reading. I don't have much time anymore, but I still get in at least a book or two each month. Here are some of my recent favorites.

And the classics I love reading to my son:

N - New friends

There is a lot of new staff at my school. We generally have pretty low turnover, but this year a lot of people transfered or moved to new districts. Half of my team is new this year. I have to say- I love them all! We all have really complementary personalities and get along well. We all share ideas and resources, and our teaching styles are pretty similar. A good team makes life a better place!

K - Kids

I'm thankful for the kiddos. Without my students, I wouldn't have a job! More than that, though, I am thankful for their silly little smiles and funny comments. Every day I find something to laugh at. They are smart, sassy, and really incredible. I love my job, and I love the little ones that I work with all day.

S - Sharing ideas on with bloggy friends

You guys, I'm a serious teaching blog addict. I downloaded the bloglovin app on my phone and I read blogs all day! I swear, it's a sickness. They should make a 12 step program. Although, if they did I would have a serious lack of ideas. Reading about other teacher's ideas really inspires me! Maybe it's for the best- I'll keep my teacher blog addiction!

Thanks to all who entered the Moby Max giveaway! The winner is Beth M. You will be getting an email shortly!

Thankful week: H is for....

Linking up with Bloghoppin' for day 2 of the week of thanks!

Today's letter of the day is H. I'm totally going to cheat and tell you TWO things that I am thankful for that start with H! My home, and my husband. They kind of go together, really, because my husband renovated my home for me. Last year, we set out to buy a fixer-upper. We wanted a house that we could really make our own, and the best way to do that seemed to be to buy a house that basically needed EVERYTHING. Well, we found it! A seriously run down and out dated (but relatively clean) house in our ideal neighborhood. We made an offer, and after some negotiation our offer was accepted! In early August 2013, we signed the papers to set up a closing on September 30, 2013. We were SUPER excited to do everything in the house together. My husband is really handy, and I can follow directions pretty well, so I figured I'd be a good assistant. Fast forward to September 23- just one week until closing. I felt kind of weird and "off" for a few days so I decided to get a test... and.... SURPRISE! We were expecting our first child. :)  There goes the plan to work on the house together! I could do some simple things, but we weren't comfortable with me being around chemicals or construction dust. So, my husband did it himself. Seriously- all by himself! I can't even believe it. It took months longer than expected (we moved in during April break instead of the originally planned Thanksgiving break) and it isn't quite "done" but he has done so much.

I don't have current "lived in" pictures, but I do have some from moving day and construction. I should really get on that... But, I think these pictures say a lot, even without decorations and curtains! This is a seriously tiny sampling of a HUGE 1920s house renovation project. I picked 4 of our 12 rooms to show.

My study..


You can't tell from the picture, but that trim is a faded light greenish yellow. So bad.


Refinished original 1920s hardwood, some paint on the trim, and some GORGEOUS wallpaper. What a difference! Since then we've also refinished the radiator and put in a radiator cover.

The Kitchen



Adios, pink and brown tile! I don't miss you at all.

Farther along "during" (I should really work on getting an "after." It's beautiful now!):

The yucky sheet laminate flooring was replaced with stone tiles and a marble threshold.

I love the tile pattern!

The Pantry

Before (UGH):


I love the cheerful yellow walls in the small space. They really perk it up! We offset it by putting in black labrador countertops and refinishing the cabinets to be white. We also took that nasty scalloped trim down and ripped out the paneling.

The house was full of strange quirks, like a pass through closet between two bedrooms!

But he fixed it :) One wall length shared closet divided into two separate closets. 

This is all on top of reinsulating the home, fixing some structural issues, and attacking a seriously scary overgrown yard. I am so, so thankful for the home I got to basically re-design. Everything is new or refinished- floors, walls, finish, trim, appliances, light fixtures- you name it! We are (and by that I mean he is) working on new windows now. It will never end! :) It's only right that I am also thankful for the man that has worked so hard to make this house our home. 

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