Thursday, July 25, 2013

Student BLOGs and Digital Portfolios

I don't know about you... but for some time now, I've been looking for a way to allow my students to securely create their own student blogs. I know what you might be thinking... "You teach KINDERGARTEN!"   Yes...I most certainly do...BUT... I feel like you are never too young to document what you are learning in fun, interactive ways.  So let me paint you a more detailed picture of what I am envisioning. I want to create a digital "space" where each of my students can document their learning...a "digital portfolio" of sorts! back-to-school night, you share with parents a special link to your classroom blog. You explain {and perhaps show the blog on your SmartBoard} that this blog is JUST for your class...a special place to share classroom happenings, upcoming information, pictures, videos and links which can all be easily accessible via their Smartphones, computers or iPads. You continue by telling them that this is a completely secure site that can only be accessed by parents holding the class blog password.  -- Pause here as you see parents' eyes light up and hear sighs of "I'll never have to worry about losing classroom handouts again!" --Then dazzle them with this next tidbit. Explain that not only can they visit the blog to find out about general classroom happenings and events...but that they can also find their own child's name in the side column and check out what their child has been working on in class. You demonstrate this by simply clicking on a child's name and begin clicking on the see mini-videos of the child drawing colored shapes in a pattern, as you hear that little one's own voice explain what he/she knows about creating that pattern. You see another video of the child holding up his/her favorite book, identifying the characters and setting of the book...and then re-telling the beginning, middle and end of the story. You see sample pages from that child's writer's workshop book...and you compare for yourself how much the child has grown in his/her writing skills since last month. And on...and on...

Well,'s not a dream!  It's a reality! And it's FREE!!!

My wonderfully incredible "Accidental Techie" mentor, Lori Elliott {SDE Presentor extraordaire}shared this "techie" tip with me at the "I Teach K" Conference in Vegas this month...and lovingly encouraged me to pass it on to you! If you do not know Lori's high time ya meet her! She is a classroom teacher...turned "accidental techie"...successful educational author...energetic presenter...rockin' momma...and well...just one of my favorite people on the planet!  Check. Her. Out!

Loris Latest Links       

{Before I roll into the simple "how-to" create your own classroom and student blogs/portfolios...let me preface this by saying that in today's post I am only going to explain how to set up the classroom blog site itself. In my upcoming posts, I will be diving in deeper into the specific programs and apps you can use to record and document your students' progress and knowledge. So definitely stay tuned! The programs and apps I am planning to share are AWESOME and can be used for many, many more purposes than creating blogs and digital portfolios!}

Let me introduce you to...

Kid Blog

1) First you will want to go to to create your "Kid Blog" account/class.  Click on the "Create a Class" button at the top right of the screen.

2) This is what you will see next...
Fill out the form on this page.

3)  Next you will see this...

4) First you will want to choose settings for the blogs. To do on the "settings" tab near the top of the page. It's very I won't walk you through ALL of the details. {In the settings you will want to make choices about your theme, posts, comments, and users. You can also add all kinds of widgets, or extra things, or take them away if you don’t want them.}  Below is an example of the "general settings" page.

5) Next you will want to create your "users" list.  "Users" are your students and guests. Simply click on the "users" tab at the top of the page next to the settings tab. You can add your students with a name and password, or students can enroll themselves by using the passcode provided when you set up the class.   You have lots of options on your users. You can password protect EACH student's account with a different password, use the same password for the entire class, or leave them open to free viewing. Play around a little. You will see what I mean! {Each user can --if you choose-- be listed at the side so that each student can have their own account to use as a student blog or digital portfolio.}

6) "Posts" are the place you type the recent news. Click on the "New Post" tab at the top to create a new post. You can simply type text...or add files and media also!  :) The "Review Posts" tab allows you to look at old posts or drafts that you have written. You can edit old posts at any time.

Those are the "basic" steps for setting up your own secure classroom blog...and student blog/portfolio pages. Play around a bit! Make up some "mock" posts just to practice...and delete them when you are done if you wish. I'm going to stop there for today. I don't want to overwhelm anyone! However...if you have questions, please post them! I will do my best to answer them, and if I can't, I will ask Lori to help us out! Set up your account and be sure to check back soon for further suggestions for using your class addition to some COOL programs and apps you can use to document student knowledge and growth. I can't wait to put my class blog into action...and build digital portfolios for all of my students this year! Won't parents just love them?? Imagine if you were "Mom"...connecting to the class blog from your Smartphone on your lunch break to check class schedules/events...and then taking a peek at your kiddo's digital portfolio and seeing videos and recordings of your child learning new skills and reading aloud to you!  

Just makes me smile thinkin' about it! If you are going to try using this in your classroom this year, please let me know! I'd love to create a little group that can discuss and support each other in this adventure!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

While I'm Away....

As most of you know... I'm currently in Vegas for the "I Teach K" Conference.  And while I'm lovin' every minute of it.... as a "Momma" it is hard to leave my own kiddos back home in Indiana.  {Oh!  I'd better mention it's hard to leave Mr. Spouse too! He might check my blog!  LOL}  I try not to "over-share" on the personal details of my life, as I don't want to put ya'll to sleep....but as a blogger, I want you to know I'm "real" too!

Now, my life is NOT perfect...but I do feel VERY blessed to have 3 wonderful kiddos and an awesome hubby.  Here is a peek at my family, in case you haven't "met" them....
The little dude {on left in solid blue shirt} is Colton, my "baby."   
Alexa and Hunter are my twins {Super BFFs...never fight!  So blessed! Whew!}

Well... I'm a family-tradition "nut"... and one of the tradition-type things that I do is create a "While I'm Away" box every time I have to leave my kiddos for an extended period of time.  What I do is create little bags or envelopes for each day that I have to be separated from my family and fill them with a trinket or "token" type of surprise gift and then attach a goofy little rhyming note to them.  I place all of the bags/envelopes into a bigger box called my "While I'm Away" box.   Each day that I am gone, the kiddos get to open the box, find the marked bag or envelope for that day, read the silly note or poem that I wrote and attached to each one, and open their surprise.  {Now I do not put anything expensive or over-the-top in the packages.  I'm talking surprises from the dollar store.... like silly string, glow bracelets, puzzle books, etc.} My kids LOVE it!  They have gone from crying when I leave, to asking me when I'm gonna get out the door!  LOL   It's nothing spectacular on my part....but just a little love... which helps deter the "Momma Guilt" of going away for a week!  

Ok... Well I just had to share this part.  Last weekend, I left "While I'm Away Box" for my kiddos.  As usual... they gave me big hugs and told me they'd miss me...but they were also anxious to get me out of the door so they could read their note for the day and open their surprise!  Ha!   Well.. I had a little surprise of my own coming!    When I landed in Vegas and got to my hotel, I opened my suitcase. Guess what I found inside???   Yep!  A "While I'm Away" package of my own.  My youngest son, Colton, had secretly put together his own "While I'm Away" box for ME!!!  When I saw it... I didn't even care what he put inside... I just cried!!  What a sweetpea!

Here are a few of the notes and surprises he made me...
{Think "little guy" perspective here!  He gave what he had!}

This note said, "Here you go Mom.  You will need this."
When I opened the package I found his cross necklace. 
The Ehle family LOVES the Lord!

 This package said, "I know I can't come with you...but here is something that can."
Inside was this happy little dude!  :)

This package said. "This should remind you of all that we have done together."
When I opened it I found one of the mini-hats we made together by shrinking a styrofoam cup!
{What can I say... we are an arts-and-craft family!}

This package said, "And here is this... this that I use for all of my advenchures (adventures)."
Masking tape of course!  The kid goes through multiple rolls per month! Ha!


This package said. "I am giving you this because it powers up my time-machine...just like YOU power up my heart!"  
(Colton is an "inventor" to put it lightly!  Just last week he invented a "time-machine" which he built himself out of an old booster seat, misc. trinkets... and LOTS of tape!  He used this gemstone as its "power source.")   This note DID make me cry!   

Seriously...this little man is going to make a great husband one day!

Alright... I'll quit babbling on for tonight!   Can you tell I'm missin' my babies???
I'm flying home tomorrow!  Can't wait to hug my little Ehles!!!
I promise I will  blog more VERY SOON about all of the wonderful things I learned in Vegas!

To all of my "I Teach K" and Bloggin' Buddies....
I miss you already!   Have safe trips home... and love on your families!  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What happens in Vegas.... CAN'T stay in Vegas! I gotta' share!!!

Oh, Friends.... This week in Vegas has been incredible!   I've been soooo busy, I haven't had much time to put up many posts!   I have soooo much to share with you!  There is NO WAY I can share everything I want to tell you in one post.  Seriously... it's gonna take the rest of the summer to get out all these tid-bits without overwhelming you!!!   {I'm about bursting at the seams to share all the AWESOME "techie" stuff I learned today!  Seriously....  life changin' -- at least in terms of teaching!}  The techie-tips will have to wait a few days...but check back because I assure you it will be WELL worth the wait!

For now... I just HAVE to share some "beginning of the week" highlights from the "I Teach K" conference! First off, I should tell you that prior to coming to Vegas all of the "kinder-bloggers" were invited to attend a Teacher/Blogger Vegas "Meet-Up."  I RSVP'ed {<--Is that a word?!  Hee!} like a good little blogger via a specially designated FaceBook group... and also began chatting a bit with others that were going to attend.   A few of us were traveling alone and we decided we should do a "PRE" Meet-Up--Meet Up!    We met for dinner on Sunday night at the Grand Luxe Cafe in the Venetian Hotel.   We were quite the WORLD-WIDE blogging group!

From left to right:  Amy from Texas{}, L.C. from Germany{}, Michelle {} and Tracy {} from North Carolina, Susan {} from the United Arab Emirates, Elizabeth {Kickin' It In Kindergarten} and lil' ole me, Holly {well... if you are reading this you know my blog! lol}

These gals are the greatest!  Seriously... so very, very sweet!  Some have been blogging for a while... and others have just started, but if you have the chance... you should definitely check them out!   Such incredible hearts... and each of them are "real," very down to earth, amazing teachers who love to share ideas and resources!  And isn't that what bloggin' is all about?!

Well... as I mentioned, we did have an AWESOME 
Teacher/Blogger Meet -Up.  
SO FUN!  Seriously...I would have traveled all the way to Vegas for the meet-up alone and it would have been well worth it!  Take a peek at some of the fun!  

Do I even have to write a caption for this one???
Yes... It's the incredibly beautiful Deanna Jump.  THE legend of TPT. 
Ya just gotta love her!  So super-super sweet and caring.  
{And we both feel tall when we stand together!  Hee!}

Hangin' with my buddy, Tad Hill... 
{Author of Rocket Learns to Read and many, many more great k-kiddo books!}  Oh my gosh... He is hilarious.  All I gotta say is that you will have to check out Michelle's blog (see first picture caption in this posting) in a few days to check out some hilarious pics from our... well, let's just say group chat with Tad. I'm sure she will post them! And for goodness sake... If you don't have Rocket Learns to Read and Rocket Learns to Write, GO OUT AND GET THOSE BOOKS NOW!  The kiddos LUV them.. and they are absolutely PERFECT for introducing guided reading and writer's workshop!   Seriously... my FAV books of the year!!!  

Hunk-A-Hunk-A-Burnin' Love!!!
Here we are {Me and Amy from}...with "The King!"   
{Ok.. is it just me or does Elvis look like he might need to use the restroom... or change his pants?! Bahaha!}

Now here I am with "The Queen!"  Hee!
Seriously... Dee Dee Wills IS like the queen to me!
I absolutely, positively LOVE this lady! She makes me a better teacher!
So. Inspiring. 

The beautiful and talented Kathleen Pedersen {Growing Kinders} is the most genuinely warm, and sweet SUPER-BLOGGER you will ever meet.  I sincerely admire her so very much!  She has got to be one of my teaching "soul-mates"... as if every resource she creates and blog post she writes were written just for me.  Hee!  Hee!  I seriously love this girl! Her creativity is out of this world.  Show her an odd shaped container and BAM! She can make a new kinder-game out of it in 2 seconds flat! :)

And Finally... Check out this group of IN-CREDIBLE LADIES!!!
What a super-savvy group of teacher-bloggers!
Thank you to you ALL... You all inspire me!

RaNdOm FUN PiCs FrOm ThE NiGhT......

Alessia Albanese and Deedee Wills
You have changed my "center" life!  Lol

Group shot!

Elvis isn't the only GREAT one!  
These teacher-bloggers ROCK!

Our gracious hostesses for the night!

The sweetest trio in the world!
Rachelle and Natalie {What the Teacher Wants} & Deanna {Mrs. Jump's Class}

Even John and Amy, the "Big Wigs" from TPT were there!
Thank you for supporting teachers!

{Thank you to Rachelle and Natalie for sharing these last few meet-up pics!  Check out for more great 2013 Vegas Meet-Up pics!}

More Vegas fun and learning resources to come!  Stay tuned!!!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

I'm in VEGAS!!! "I Teach K" here I come!

I made it!  I'm sitting in my oh-so-plush hotel suite at the Venetian writing this post!  Seriously, these beds are AwEsOmE!   If you have never been to the Venetian or Palazzo...just take a look at the rooms.  

They are HUGE... and BEAUTIFUL!   Yep, that's right!  Two SwEeT double beds {Have I told you already how incredible the beds are!?  Can I fit that comforter into my suitcase???  Hmmm...}, a giant luxurious bathroom with separate toilet room, and a sunken living room.   Last time I stayed here I had just won a $25,000 grant from Pepsi for my classroom and I brought my whole kinder-team {aides & volunteers}to the conference.   All five us stayed in one room and it was plenty big!   We had the best "slumber party" week ever!  (And learned a TON too!)  Not to mention Pepsi was footing the bill!   Gotta love that!   It's not every day someone gives you $25,000 to re-create your classroom!!!

This is a picture I took INSIDE the Venetian hotel!  YES!  I said INSIDE!
The lower levels of the hotel are filled with swanky shops... AND a canal complete with gondolas and "gondala guys"  (what are they REALLY called??) who sing Italian songs at the top of their lungs! Hee!

 This is me by the Bellagio fountains.

The weather is great... HOT... but great.   They have the nearby wildfire mostly contained and the rains from last week have really subdued the smoke, so that has not been a problem at all.  It is not humid at all... so that makes the heat MUCH more bearable!  Actually, the only time the heat bothered me yesterday was when we were walking the strip.  The pools were PACKED though!  I considered laying out a bit....but when I surveyed the scene and saw every Venetian and Palazzo pool packed like sardines... I decided I may need a a day or two to acclimate to the masses before I dive in to steal a chair or corner of the pool!

This is a picture from my hotel room window.  I took it at 3:40 AM Vegas Time.   Ya see... that is 6:40 AM Indiana time!  That's my natural wake up time...and my body hasn't adjusted to the jet lag yet!   I just had to snap that pic and send it to my hubby back at home with the kiddos.  {I'm sure he was up at that time letting our dear sweet Border Collie out for the morning.  Bet my hubby was LoViNg that!  NOT!}  And did I mention that all of my kiddos 4Hh projects are due this week while I'm gone too?   We shall see how the Mr. Spouse deals with that.   LoL     I think it will do him good to experience a week as "mom!"  He's been sending me lots of "Love U" and "Miss U" texts already.  Just wait til Friday!  Ha-Ha!

Ok... Ok... Back to teaching-related STUFF....   I'm looking forward to registering today and "organizing" my agendas for the week.  <-- I know, what a nerd!?  Right!   Hee!  I know many, many of my "Bloggin' Buddies" are flying in today too!   Can't wait to meet them!   I'm sure I'll have many stories to tell...and many new BLOGs to introduce to you!  I've got my iPhone charging as we speak to ensure some great pics!   I'm meeting up with DeeDee Wills, Deanna Jump, Kim Adsit, Kathleen Pedersen and MANY, MANY more of the "Blogging Greats" on Tuesday night!  Can't wait to share our adventures!   Blessings to you on this Sunday!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Happy Note!

Hello Friends!   Just wanted to share a "warm -n- fuzzy" with you for the week.   I received two emails today from the sweetest blog followers nominating me for the "Liebster BLOG Award!"   One of the reasons I love these type of awards is because it is a GREAT way to find new blogs... and new friends! Also... it's such a great way to learn more about blogging buddies!   Of course, I always love to hear about all the amazing ideas other teachers are using in their classrooms around the world... but it is also so fun to learn about the teacher-bloggers themselves!  With that being said, I realize that sometimes I'm not the best at sharing personal fun facts and interests... so this is a great way for ME to share too!  Here goes!!!

To accept the nomination I must:
1. Link back to the blog that nominated me
2. Nominate 5-11 blogs with fewer than 200 followers
3. Answer the questions posted for you by your nominator
4. Share 11 random facts about yourself
5. Create 11 questions for your nominees
6. Contact your nominees and let them know you nominated them

So first off... I want to say THANK YOU to these fine ladies for nominating me.  Their blogs are be sure to check them out!   
 Learning With Mrs. Brinn       ABC's and Polka Dots

Here are some "facts" about me... prompted by ?s from my "nominators!"

1. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?  One scoop of chocolate & one scoop of coffee... mixed together!  YUM!
2. What is your favorite type of music to listen to?   Christian contemporary (Like "Third Day")
3. What is your favorite subject to teach?  Reading & Writing!!!
5. Do you prefer sweet or salty?   Sweet!
6. Name 5 things that are currently in your purse.  I carry an ultra-small a wallet on a string!  Hee!   I can only basically fit essentials: credit card, driver's license, coupons, cell phone & library card!
7. Where is your favorite vacation destination?  Disney.. although I am ULTRA excited to be going to Vegas in TWO DAYS for the "I Teach K" 
8. How long have you been teaching?  Started teaching in 1994...taught for 7 years...had my babies and stayed home to be "Mommy"... then returned about 5 years ago!
9. What is your favorite children's book?  Pete the Cat is my current FAV
10. Do you prefer the mountains or the beach?  Beach
11. Name one special thing about the town you live in.   I live in the "country" on my grandpa's old farm land.  When he retired from farming, all of the aunts, uncles and cousins built houses on his for about 3 miles in every direction we are surrounded by family.  It is AWESOME!   Everyone in the area calls it "Ehle-ville."   SUCH a blessing to raise my kids here!

Ok... Now for my nominees!!!   There are SO many great bloggers out there! Here are just a few I'm honored to share with you!!!  Check them out! They are not necessarily "new" bloggers...but great ones!

 Always An Adventure  Mrs. Laue's Littles

My Photo

** Nominees... Share 11 facts about yourself... or you can answer the questions I answered above! **

Can't wait to learn more about these fabulous bloggers!   :)
Show your support of them by checking them out!  

Monday, July 8, 2013

Thinking Ahead...

Although the new school year is still several weeks away... I'm thinking ahead as to how to make some improvements to my kindergarten schedule.   Last year I found myself... well... UNSATISFIED with how the end of each school day went.   I felt like I was missing a good, cohesive way to bring the class together, build community...yet get all of the last minute jobs done!  In previous years, our principal would come on the intercom system and share special announcements and lead the whole school in an end of the day prayer.  (Remember, I teach at a private, Lutheran school.)  Well, last year we welcomed a new principal... and some new procedures as well... so no more all-school closing.  I spent last year trying different things... honestly, most of them a bit randomly... and I just was not satisfied.  {If you know me at all... I work best within a well organized, well planned schedule.}  So, I knew I needed to come up with an effective, organized...yet simple and realistic plan for wrapping up our school day with prayer.   Well if you've spent a year in the kindergarten "trenches" yourself, you already know that just asking for "volunteers" doesn't work well.  You instantly have 23 hands in the air.... usually only about 3 of those kiddos actually have on-topic answers for you... and when you call on ONE have 22 others either pouting, or yelling, "HEY!   You NEVER call on me!"   

So, last night I whipped up this....

Basically, you can type in your kiddos' names on the edit-able name strips, print, trim and laminate for durability.  Print and tape on a "Prayer Friends" label to your favorite container.  Place the name strips inside.   Each day choose one student's name and have that student share who/what he/she would like to pray for that day.  Depending on the age of your students, the child could lead the prayer.... or you could lead the prayer based on his/her requests.  Place the name cards that have been chosen into another container, which has the label "Waiting for my next turn!" on it.  Continue calling names each day until all names have been called and moved over to the "Waiting for my next turn!" container.... then return all names to the "Prayer Friends" container and begin again!   
Just a SIMPLE little way to allow everyone a turn to share-in-prayer...
in an organized, efficient way!

Container Label Examples

" Edit-able" labels which you can type student names upon!

LOTS of fun colors and patterns to mix and match!

Click here to check it out in my TPT store!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Favorite Pins Friday!

I'm linkin' up with the fabulous and beautiful Cara Carroll {First Grade Parade} to bring you my favorite pins from this week!   Oh, how I love PINTEREST.   
**LuV**LuV**  It's like window shopping for the soul.  

So with no further adieu... 
Here are my TOP FIVE FAVs for the week!  

{If you like 'em... Follow me on Pinterest... and then join this "LiNkY" and post your FAVs too!}

Example of W.B.T. (Whole Brain Teaching) in action!  
I've been dabbling in WBT for the last year...but am super excited to "step it up" this year!  I have been reading the new WBT book this summer {have read it twice so far this month} and love that this movement has REALLY caught on!  I look forward to sharing ideas with other great bloggers, like DeeDee Wills on this subject!  If you don't know what I'm talking about...just watch the video.  If you like it...follow the pin!

Don't just pin...WATCH. Within 30 seconds I had a new attention grabber and learned so many more teacher tricks...LOVE THIS!!! **This lady is amazing! I just watched all her youtube videos!**

New Classroom Decor Inspiration!
Found this AWESOME Etsy seamstress this week who I LOVE, love, LoVe!!!
She is super sweet and talking with her she agreed to custom design several new items for my classroom!  I CAN NOT wait to see the new pennant window toppers, bulletin board toppers, table runners, etc!    If you like what you see...follow the pin to see many, many more patterns and designs.  And don't forget...she loves custom orders!
Classroom Decor!!  Blue and Green Fabric Pennant Banner via Etsy for SUPER PRICE!

Stylish Family Meal Planner
Take a peek at this little jobbie! <-- I know that is not a "real" word...but I do use it from time to time when I'm excited!  Did ya'll notice that it is CHEVRON?!     :)   Luv!   Luv!
But seriously people, I'm already dreading the "back to school" hectic-ness of evening meal planning.  You should know that  I am NOT a gourmet cook...but I am a fair one.  However, I always seem to get stuck in "ruts"... and when I'm running full steam, I find it more frustrating to DECIDE what to make for dinner...than actually making it.  So... every Sunday this school year, I plan to add this little "jobbie" into our weekly Sunday family meeting.  
Menu board! Could be used as a "homework board"

Strawberry Lemonade
I made this delightful beverage...and loved every drop!  YUM!

Homemade strawberry lemonade, made in the blender using lemons, strawberries and honey. looks really good and pretty easy to make!

Beautiful Jewelry!!!
Ok... I gotta be honest.  This is MY pin... and these pieces are sitting on my dresser right now!  Not only do I LOVE them... but friends, they were ULTRA INEXPENSIVE!  {I didn't pay more than $8 for any of these SETS and the quality is pretty nice!!!)   If you are a jewelry gotta take a minute to follow this pin's link!   I will share my "SECRET" supplier!   It will become your FAVORITE!!!

BEST, most stylish jewelry source ever!!!  Almost everything is less than $10!  These great SETS were less than $8 each!   Check out my BLOG!

Ok... That's it for tonight!  Can't wait to see what YOUR favorite "pins" are for this week!  
Be sure to "link" up by clicking here... or on the "Favorite Pins Friday" button at the top of this post!