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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Hint Cards

Interesting strategy for putting the responsibility back on the students...

How would you use it? Share your ideas in the comments section below.

Friday, November 15, 2013

We are lost without it...

"Curiosity is the spark. Exploration is the fire that burns from it."
--Adam Steltzner, Lead Landing Engineer of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover Project

Friday, September 27, 2013

Is this a marathon or a sprint?

I looked up today and realized that September is almost over. I'm not sure anyone I know has stopped in several weeks, but the pace is maintaining. I keep telling myself, September is just this way; things are going to settle and days will develop routines. There will be a steadier rhythm once we figure out a comfortable enough pace to be awesome until early June.

In the spirit of hoping for a steadier pace, I present you with some new, too-cool-to-miss finds:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Weekly Update: September 11, 2013

As an adult, I find myself taking less time to let myself feel amazed at things that are just awesome for awesome’s sake. I try , especially when I feel bogged down by the daily routine, to give myself a little time to be amazed. Here are some things that have amazed me this week:

Important Information…
Team Pictures: I will take team pictures tomorrow (Thursday) during your planning time. Please wear your new MWE shirts. You may also wear JEANS!

August Staff Development Attendance: Please look over the document at the link below. Find your name and assure that the attendance record for the August staff development days is accurate. I think my memory is pretty accurate, even though I can’t seem to keep up with green folders. Just double check, please.  Also, if you do not see your name at all, it just means you were not registered. Don’t worry! I can still add you. Please let me know by FRIDAY what changes need to be made. Thank you. Link to document:

Curriculum Night: If you would like any assistance preparing a digital component to your curriculum night, please let me know the specifics of how I can help. We are working to make sure our campus and grade level sites are accurate before Curriculum Night; don’t forget to send me any links you would like included on your grade level team sites.

Updated Grading Expectations: Here are direct links to the updated SBISD Elementary Grading Expectations and Exhibits.

Bluebonnet Preview Times: 3rd-5th teachers, make sure you have signed up for a time with Mrs. Lewis. Click HERE to get to the sign-up form.

Upcoming Meetings & Staff Development Opportunities…
Faculty Meeting: September 18, 3:30-4:30; please register at the link below.

ICLE Visit: You should have received a calendar invite from me for the time of your visit with the ICLE representative. Our new representative is Denise White. We will meet in grade level teams to plan lesson using the 2 rubrics of the CIR tool. Teachers, please bring outcomes for a science or Social Studies lesson and bring one math and one ELA standard. We will work together to plan a lesson (phase I).

Claims, Evidence, & Reasoning Science Training: September 28, 8:30-3:30 at WTC

Troubleshooting Computer Problems—Top 25 list compiled by Jacqui Murray
Flipped Classroom Resources & Webinar

Don’t forget you can find more at:
Edmodo Teacher Learners Group: 194zaj (group code)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Don't worry about the rules...

Part of my regular before-work routine includes a few minutes of NPR time each morning during my commute. This morning, I was reminded of an anniversary that I might have otherwise missed in the hustle of my life, and I am thankful for the reminder. Eight years ago today, during my very first month of teaching, hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.

A couple of weeks after her arrival, Houston started receiving some of her victims. I received several new students...they called them refugees. Some were silent. Others were violent. Most of them had lost everything and almost everyone they had ever known or loved.

My class was working on personal narratives at the time, and I shared the assignment with one of my new students. He came from the heart of New Orleans, the ninth ward. He had the most wonderful and welcoming smile I had ever seen. My personal life was a complete mess at the time; I often struggled to get out of bed. But this kid had lost everything...and he was smiling.

I told him about the assignment.

"I cain write, missus. I don' know the rules."

"Don't worry about the rules. Just worry about your story. That's all I care about."

He nodded, took the notebook paper from my hand, grabbed a pencil out of his back pocket, and started writing.

I don't remember if it was that day or a couple of days later when he danced up to my desk with a smile and slapped the page proudly in front of me.

"I did it."

There wasn't a single punctuation mark. Most of the spelling was not correct. But it was one of the most moving things I will ever read. He wrote like he spoke, with a flowing rhythm that was musical. His handwriting even resembled musical notes on the lined paper. It was poetic.

Almost eight years ago today I met one of the most beautiful writers and people I will ever meet. I hope he is doing well.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Weekly Update: Surviving Back to School


My head is buzzing from this week, and it is only Wednesday! My only reflection so far is that I am glad to see students in classes. Wow. I really missed those strange little people! Hopefully I can be more thoughtful and reflective next week. J Until then…I send you love and a picture of my own little weirdo!

Important Information…

Beginning of Year Testing: Please watch your emails later this week or early next week for important information regarding beginning of the year testing.

Technology Tutorial Shorts: I will be adding more to this site, and I take requests!

T-shirts: Be sure to get your orders to Karyn or Becky ASAP.

August Staff Development Resources: Copies of all of my stuff in case you want to go back to review. J

Upcoming Meetings & Staff Development Opportunities…

FREE Learning on Demand!!!
Free courses on a variety of professional development topics. Talk to me about options for receiving credit and adding a course to you professional development portfolio.

West Houston Area Council of Teachers of English (WHACTE) Annual Breakfast
Saturday, September 21, 2013
Sugarland Marriot

Mark Overmeyer at North Harris County Council Teachers of English (NHCCTE) Breakfast
Saturday, October 5, 2013
Hilton Houston North

Webinar: Inquiry in the Garden
Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Great Resources…

Great website for finding high-interest, information-rich news articles.

Graphite: Check out ratings of apps, games, websites, etc. written by educators.

Mentor Text of the Year Program

Teaching Channel Show off your Classroom Contest

Something to make you laugh…

The Obituary of the Student Desk

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

An important part of teaching... having the ability to deliver an impressive evil eye on demand. 

Video clip courtesy of AFV. You can visit their YouTube channel, or watch them on Sundays. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Weekly Update: Being Makers


When you first meet my husband, he doesn’t really seem like an especially creative guy. He is very to the point and he sees things in an incredibly linear fashion. He also has a brain for statistics, which is mind-boggling to me. The thing is, though, he is incredibly creative.

Over the last week, Scott has been making new coffee tabletops out of old barn wood. When he finally finished and moved them into our living room, he was beaming with pride. “I can’t believe I made these,” he told me. “Other than Thomas [our son], this is the coolest thing I’ve ever made.”

This got me thinking about a video I came across a couple of weeks ago called “We are Makers.” I have embedded it below, and I hope you will take about 15 minutes to watch it. In the video, they talk a lot about the value of being part of a network of makers and how making things is cross disciplinary, experiential, and social. The personal expression of creating is intrinsically motivated and provides the makers with a sense of gratification that extrinsic influences don’t provide. What’s even better is how simple it is…all makers need is an environment that provides them with the resources and the safety to create, fail, recreate, and socialize about the process.

My husband may not be able to make a fortune in the furniture-building business, but he did make some pretty gorgeous tables. Now I just need to see what I can convince him to make next…

Upcoming professional development opportunities and district meetings…


August Staff Development
Make sure you have registered for August Staff Development—I will print attendance rosters tomorrow (Thursday)

SBISD Parent U – A Learning Conference for Parents
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Spring Woods High School
Choice Fair & Registration: 4:00 – 5:30 p.m.
Learning Sessions: 5:30 – 8:35 p.m.  (Three 55-minute sessions – present at one or more!)

Be a Parent U Presenter -- Provide parents with tips, strategies and information to help them help their kids succeed!

Presentations (English or Spanish) should align with one or more of these four learning tracks: 

  • T-2-4 – Preparing for Higher Education – You can never start too soon!
  • Academic Success -- Elementary & Middle Grades – Helping Your Child Succeed!
  • The Whole Child – Supporting the Components of Coordinated School Health
  • School Choice – Understanding Choices, Programs and Opportunities in SBISD
Click here for Presenter Application Form

Some Helpful/Interesting Information

Questions about the DRA?
This presentation should address many of those questions. If you need any information about how to administer DRA, I can help you find the online training modules.

Questioning article—very interesting ideas presented (with pictures)

Something to make you laugh…

Don’t forget, you can find more at…
Twitter: @SimmonsCorner
Teacher Learners on Edmodo
Group code: 194zaj