Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Ron Clark Academy... Excellence in Education!

Have you ever held a dream in your heart for years and years...and then had the opportunity to have it come to life?   My friends, that is exactly what happened to me last weekend.  I've been struggling for several days with how to put it into words so I can share with you all.  On Monday morning, one of my co-workers rushed into my room and asked to tell her all about my experience.  All I could say was, "I feel like describing my trip is comparable to visiting Heaven and then trying to put the indescribable into words."

Now this may date me a bit, but every word is truth.  I remember the year that Disney chose Ron Clark as their Teacher of the Year.   I remember reading all about it.  I also remember the very day that he first appeared on Oprah.   I remember where I was sitting as I watched the show...in awe of this great man. I remember the release of his first book...and his second appearance on Oprah.   I remember him sharing his dream to build his own school.  That very day I recorded on the "bucket list" in my heart that I would visit that school when it came to fruition.

...And last weekend, my dream came true.
I was given the opportunity to visit The Ron Clark Academy.

(Oh, you know...just Ron and I hangin' out after school!)

Now, I have heard Ron speak multiple times over the years at different educational conferences, as I am a bit of a self-proclaimed RC groupie, but visiting the academy itself took the "Ron Clark Experience" to the next level!  You know, like professional development on a bungee corded trampoline. {Uh...yah.  The RCA library truly has one of those!}


From the moment I walked though those Willy Wonka-like gates...it was MAGICAL! Now, I'm not going to do a play-by-play of every moment, as that may steal some of the magic and surprise from your own visit to RCA, but I will share enough to convince you that YOU MUST GO THERE FOR YOURSELF...SOON!   People, it will change your teaching-life.   If you are looking to reinvigorate your passion for teaching, it is simply as easy as clicking the link at the bottom of this post and doing ANYTHING and EVERYTHING it takes to make it happen!

We spent the day observing actual classes, attending workshops and getting to know the students. We learned all about RCA's "Essential 55" and we SAW them in action.  (Side note:  If you are a parent, these 55 rules will do wonders in helping you raise a wonderful, respectful child. BUY THE BOOK!)   It was an incredible, incredible day.  I learned so much that my brain ached!  I took mental notes, physical notes, took pictures, took videos, wrote and performed a "blues" song in one of the classroom cafes with my "peeps"...the learning (and FUN) was endless!   Retaining everything you experience is almost impossible, so instead Ron challenges you to find your own focus "take-aways."  Over the next few months, I'll be blogging about my focus "take-aways"...so stay tuned! 

Until then, enjoy some of the picture highlights of the RCA Experience!

Pictures of the new "wing."  {It's Harry Potter Style, y'all!}

(This is a wall in Mr. King's room.  Just one example of the incredible decor! BTW...He teaches with an electric guitar around his neck!  Talk about engaging and fun lessons!  Whew! Rock it out, Wade!)

(Quick pic of a few of us with Kim Bearden, co-founder of RCA in her classroom after a lesson.  This woman is inspiration personified!!!   I can't begin to say enough about her in this post... THEREFORE, I will be doing another separate post about what I learned from her alone! #bestwomanintheworld #iwantobehalfthewomansheis)

Officially "RCA Slide Certified!" 

Did y'all notice something I didn't mention yet??  
Like who I was blessed with sharing this dream experience with?!!

I was fortunate enough to share one of the BEST weekends of my life with some of the BEST teacher-bloggers in the world.  These girls are truly, truly some of the smartest, most passionate educators on the planet.   And BEST, BEST, BEST of all...they are sincerely some the dearest friends a girl can have! I've come to know them all over years of blogging, meet-ups and PD conferences and let me tell you...they are the REAL deal...hard-working, humble, genuine and kind!  

And to top it all off, one of these sweeties actually teaches at RCA!   The beautiful, passionate and oh, so talented Hope King teaches at RCA.   If you follow my blog at all, you know who Hope is!!  I'm always referring to her incredibly inspiring TPT E-book, Set the Stage 2 Engage! {Folks, if you are looking for a resource to help you take your teaching to the next, out-of-the-box level...snap it up now!!!)

Take a peek at her AWESOME classroom at RCA...

Above is a pic of Hope's classroom door!

(The crew just had to climb up into Hope's reading tree trunk reading corner for a pic!)

Don't you just love her "WONDERLAND" theme!   You should see it filled with articulate and bright children rocking out a story element rap to a rockin' tune! Talk about student engagement! So, so, so proud to call Hope my friend.  She is just brilliant!!!  You will get to see her when YOU go to RCA!   {Because I know you WILL! YOU MUST!!!}

**     **     **     **      **     **     **     **
And as if the visitation day was not enough... 
We had the pleasure of spending the evening with the staff and students at RCA for the grand opening of their new gym!  YEP!  We were part of the official "Dragon Pit" at the first basketball games in the new gym! #pinchme #isthisforrealz

{That handsome man to my left is Wade King, Hope's hubby.  He is also a teacher at RCA! Look for him and his rockin' guitar when you visit!}

{Check out this scoreboard!}

The "Dragon Pit" during a time out!  

Can you find me below??  
(Deanna Jump and I are the blondies a few rows under the "00" on the left side of the scoreboard!)

The basketball team entering the gym!  #NBAstyle
The RCA Step Team performing at half-time! #nationalchampions

WHEW!  All of that happened in one day, people!  #truestory

On Saturday, the girls and I spent the day sharing ideas, inspiration, and of course, shopping!


     We wrapped up our trip with a night out with Kim Bearden!  #superwoman

Finally, to these amazing women...I am blessed beyond words to have you in my life!  Thank you for your encouragement and support!  You are truly THE BEST!    Luv ya! 

Now I know YOU are feeling like you want to go and have the RCA EXPERIENCE  yourself, right?!

Well,  you CAN!!!!   Just click below to find a good date and get registered! Who knows, I might be there too! I'm already planning my next trip too! :) 

The Essential 55: An Award-Winning Educator's Rules For Discovering the Successful Student in Every Child
The End of Molasses Classes: Getting Our Kids Unstuck--101 Extraordinary Solutions for Parents and Teachers (Touchstone Book)
The Excellent 11: Qualities Teachers and Parents Use to Motivate, Inspire, and Educate Children

Monday, January 19, 2015

FROZEN {Science} Fun Friday

It’s SUMMER!  Woo-Hoo!

If you’re a teacher, like me, you are probably lovin’ the freedom and flexibility.  AHHHH.

However, if you are a momma, you know better than to think that summer is stress-free! #wewish

After about the third day of summer break, you probably heard this…
“Mom… I’m bored!” or “What can I do now?”

If you’re like me, you have a summer to-do list that’s a mile long…

Yet, you feel like summer is your chance to reclaim your Super-Mom status after having just spent the last 9 months of school in a guilt ridden too-much-school-work-to-do-to-be-an-epic-parent mode. #isitjustme #teachingisnevera40houraweekjob 

So just how do we do both?!   
You know… Getter’ Done and be Super-Mom.

Well… I have the answer!!!!

It’s  Camp GoNoodle!
Camp GoNoodle
Camp GoNoodle is a free online program for kids to stay active and be creative this summer! If you’re a teacher, then you probably already know and love GoNoodle for the classroom….. but now, as a PARENT, you’ll love this summer extension called…

Camp GoNoodle!

If this is your first time hearing of GoNoodle -- Camp GoNoodle is a great introduction that you can do with your whole family! 

Trust me, your kids will GO CRAZY for Camp GoNoodle!

Here’s How It Works:
1. Head to “camp!” Each Monday starting June 29, a new set of five adventures will appear at campgonoodle.com.   #fourweeksoffun
2.  Go on new adventures every week! Each adventure uses GoNoodle.com’s active videos and games for inspiration, and challenges kids to use their imaginations, get moving, and be outside. Picture building your own DIY jetpack, creating an obstacle course race, or making sushi with things you already have at home. #somuchfun
Example Adventure

3. Sing along! Each week includes two brand new camp songs to inspire creativity and movement! #campjams
Camp Fire

4. Connect with fellow campers! Share your adventures using the #campgonoodle hashtag on social media to join the camp community. Each week, “Campers of the Week” will be recognized as “All-Stars” and earn exclusive Camp GoNoodle prizes. #lovethatgonoodleswag

5. Earn badges! Complete each week of adventure by printing the weekly badge to hang up, loud and proud. #bestcampever

All you need for Camp is...
 GoNoodleInternet MachineActive & Creative
a free GoNoodle account           a device with internet access          a family ready for adventure

Ready to register for camp? 

Simply go to campgonoodle.com on Monday (June 29th) and let the fun begin!

Note: If you are a teacher who already has a teacher/school GoNoodle account, you will need to go to this link to sign up to receive Camp GoNoodle emails:

{This is important because Camp emails are only being sent to parent accounts. GoNoodle knows lots of teachers use their school accounts at home – which is completely fine, they just need to make sure they get those teacher-parents in the Camp email list too!}

So who’s going to join us in celebrating summer with Camp GoNoodle???

Let’s kick this camp off with a summer celebration linky party!

Share a few of your SUMMER loves…
while sharing Camp GoNoodle with rest of this world’s Super Moms (and Dads!)

Here are some of my summer loves...

Now come on, campers! 

 Link Up! 

Below you will find all the needed "camp supplies!" LOL

Copy, paste and fill in your favs!

Copy and post this little camp pic on social media to spread the word about Camp GoNoodle!

And as a BLOGGER BONUS.... GoNoodle will be doing a (random # generator) drawing next Saturday (July 4th) to choose one lucky "linker" to win this awesome Camp GoNoodle prize package!  #campswag
Bloggers... Click below to grab the code to put this full linky on YOUR blog:

Now link up YOUR post below!

Brrrr!  It’s been FREEZING here in Indiana these last few weeks...so I figured, why not embrace the cold and have a FROZEN Fun Friday!

You know me… I just had to have a costume to help make this plan come to life!  Here I am as “Anna” from the FROZEN movie…along with my side-kick, Mrs. Kidd, as Elsa!

Are the costumes cute?  Of course…but teacher-friends, let me assure you that what took place in my classroom on Friday was all about the CONTENT not just the costumes.  So why don’t we address that issue right now, shall we?  

I’m a firm believer in the idea that in order to get maximum effort and accelerated learning results from your students, you must first build a relationship with them, and secondly you need to amplify their level of engagement.  The best way I found to do this is by connecting an incredibly exciting learning “hook” to the standard/s you are teaching.

My brilliant friend, Hope King, of Elementary Shenanigans, explains the importance of this concept which she has coined “Setting the Stage 2 Engage” in her TPT Ebook.
Student Engagement: A Guide to Teaching Outside the Box

If you are looking to re-invigorate your teaching, THIS IS THE BOOK FOR YOU!!!  Check it out! This packet is not a collection of printables, but rather a collection of ideas that you can integrate into your own lessons and instruction to amplify the level of engagement in your classroom.  Is it a little more work than the average worksheet? Of course! But the payout? Stronger work ethic, a significant reduction in behavior management issues, and higher quality work.

But don’t just take my word for it… check out these reviews:

"If there’s one resource you purchase this school year, let it be Set the Stage to Engage! Not only is it packed with detailed descriptions of lessons, ideas, and engaging activities, but it is accompanied by pictures to help you visualize them at work in a real classroom! Hope will inspire a renewed sense of creativity and passion within your teacher-heart, and I guarantee she will spark the enthusiasm you need to make this your best year yet. With a focus on kids, creativity, and content, Set the Stage to Engage is perfect for first year teachers and seasoned veterans alike. Add to your cart NOW!"  
Babbling Abby (Teacher Blogger at The Inspired Apple)

"Set the Stage to Engage is a MUST HAVE for every teacher!! Whether you're in need of ideas & activities that engage & inspire, or just a breath of fresh "teaching" air, this comprehensive resource has it ALL! Hope has thought of EVERYTHING you need to engage your kids in fun, yet meaningful & effective, learning. If you invest in anything this year, invest in Set the Stage to Engage and in turn, you will be investing in an unforgettable school year for both you and your students!"    
Cara Carroll (Teacher Blogger @ The First Grade Parade)

**     **     **     **     **

The idea for this unit came to me while I was looking over my science learning standards, which included teaching my students about the basic states of matter.  I thought, what better way to teach my kiddos about the states of matter than to use water in the forms of solid ice, liquid water and steam?!

Throw in an educational hook of FROZEN and... boom!   Instant student engagement! 
Here is a little bit more about how I “set the stage” for this unit…

I prepped for the day by turning my classroom into a FROZEN theme.   As the students walked around the corner in the hallway they saw this…

Then as they entered they saw the frozen touches I added to the room.  (Nothing overly elaborate, just a few things here and there to help set the stage!)

I grabbed some of the cheap “snow blankets” at the dollar store right after Christmas.  I trimmed the edges to look “drift-y” and draped them over all of my computers, bookshelves, etc.   Kind of amazing what about $8 of snow décor can do!   I also used light blue bulletin board paper (with a white backing) to make icy drifts in the hall, over the windows and around my “teaching table.”
Add a few white paper snowflakes and a few cardboard FROZEN cut-outs... and WA-LA!

On to the FROZEN learning fun…
After a royal entrance, in which I (Anna) introduced my sister, Elsa, to a rousing SmartBoard YouTube, sing-along rendition of “Let It Go!” {The other teachers in my hall MAY have shut their doors at this point.  LOL}, we then admired the “snowy” décor of the room. However, Elsa mentioned that she thought it felt a bit warm in the room and suggested that we chill it down a bit by adding some more snowflakes.   We then taught the kiddos how to make their own paper snowflakes.

Again, nothing overly elaborate in this...but the kids were AMAZED and soooo excited!  LOL (I think as adults we forget the magic that can be found in making simple things like snowflakes and paper dolls!)  It was like Elsa had shared real snow-making powers with the kiddos! {Not to mention, I was one happily disguised teacher as I watched all of the small motor practice this involved, as well as close direction following it required!} #squeezelearningoutofeveryactivity  

Next, we demonstrated Elsa’s magical FROZEN powers right before the students’ eyes! {Folks, this little activity is AMAZING and will leave your kiddos and administrators thinking you just might be the REAL Elsa!}  I had pre-chilled a water bottle in the freezer for about 2 hours and 20 minutes, the perfect amount of time to actually chill the water in the bottle to a temp just BELOW the freezing point, yet soon enough that the water hasn’t actually transformed into frozen ice crystals yet… it’s still liquid!   You GENTLY remove the water bottle, pour into a clear glass, then have “Elsa” put her finger into a cup of crushed ice…and then immediately remove the finger (ensuring there is a small sliver or two of ice chips on her finger) and touch water in the glass.   BAM!  The water in the glass will INSTANTLY freeze!   A.MAZING!  Here is an excellent YouTube video that demonstrates the process:

After peeling the students off the ceiling from excitement, Elsa explained that water is pretty AMAZING itself.  We tag-teamed a lively, simple, but fact-filled presentation introducing “matter” and the three basic states of matter: solid, liquid and gas.   We then did some live observations, using our 5 senses, of objects in all of the different states of matter (ice cubes, water bottles, steaming carafes of water, etc).  And of course, we all know hands-on learning is THE BEST…so we demonstrated the behavior of particles in matter when they are solids, liquids and gases with a little whole-body, balloon-bag skit! 

We threw in a little multi-media presentation too, just to “solidify” the learning.  
{HA! HA!  Get the pun?}

Click on the pic below to go to the actual video.

We checked for understanding by using this little “states of matter” sticker activity that I whipped up.
{I'm working on getting this little mini-unit up on TPT...but I haven't had time yet! Check back soon!}

We wanted to give the kiddos a brain break to let all of the scientific info soak in… so we decided to make a snack!  Earlier in the week I had sent out an email requesting a parent volunteer to bring in a FROZEN themed snack for the day.  Look what this awesome “Grammy” came up with and brought in!

I’m not sure exactly where she found the idea…but this one on Pinterest is pretty close!

{Oh!  You’d better believe that the ENTIRE time we were making these snacks, we were discussing if the materials we were using were solids, liquids or gases!}

Next up was Anna’s FROZEN heart experiment…
This will be in my TPT unit too! #searchingforthehourstocompleteit
(You have to do the initial steps in class one day...and wait another day to see the crystallized results!)

And don’t forget our FROZEN FAMILY CHALLENGE!
Here is another one of the activities that whipped up! This little “Saving Olaf” project in order to address these NGSS kindergarten science learning standards:
K-PS3 Energy
K-PS3-1. Make observations to determine the effect of sunlight on Earth’s surface. [Clarification Statement: Examples of Earth’s surface could include sand, soil, rocks, and water] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment of temperature is limited to relative measures such as warmer/cooler.]
K-PS3-2. Use tools and materials to design and build a structure that will reduce the warming effect of sunlight on an area.* [Clarification Statement: Examples of structures could include umbrellas, canopies, and tents that minimize the warming effect of the sun.]

I figured what better way to learn about these standards than by “Saving Olaf?”  (In case you don’t know…Olaf is the sweet and silly snowman from the FROZEN movie!) We built our own miniature snowmen (6 inches tall), placed them inside the shelters we created, placed them outside and observed the effect of sunlight on them.  We made special note of observing which shelters seemed to preserve the snowmen the best. We also compared them to snowmen who were NOT in sunlight-protective structures! We used this opportunity to discuss things like “melting point” and continued our study of the three basic states of matter (solid, liquid, gas). 

This is our "Snowman Village."  
(Uh... It did cross my mind that from afar it MAY resemble an old cemetery.  Eeks!)
 Some project pics...

Ooh!  If you choose to do this activity with your kiddos, you've GOTTA use this little video to introduce the project:

Want to see more pics about our "Saving Olaf" project AND our other FROZEN activities?

Check out this week's kindergarten picture slideshow!  (I make a SMILEBOX picture slideshow like this each week to keep parents informed of what we are up to in kindergarten!  BE AWARE... This picture slideshow is NOT THE BEST... but I'm keepin' it real, people!  I didn't have as much time as I wanted to make it great...so I just "made" it!   #teacherlife   LOL)
Click to play this Smilebox slideshow

Here are some other great FROZEN resources that you might want to check out if you are considering using this theme as a learning hook…

Picked these babies up at the Target Dollar Spot last week!

A quick Google search for "FROZEN coloring sheets" will yield dozens of free printables that you can use for fast finishers!

Hope you found an idea or two that you can use in your classroom!

WARM HUGS until next time, my FROZEN friends....