I’m Published!!

My colleague, Rachael Walker, asked if I’d write as a Guest Blogger for the Reading Rockets blog. What is Reading Rockets? As I looked at their website, I learned:

Reading Rockets is a national multimedia project that offers a wealth of research-based reading strategies, lessons, and activities designed to help young children learn how to read and read better. Our reading resources assist parents, teachers, and other educators in helping struggling readers build fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension skills.
Copyright © 2017 WETA Public Broadcasting

I had just tried “spying on myself as a reader” and shared my process with my students, so that is what I blogged about.

Then I sent it to Rachael who allowed me to see what an editor really does! She took my writing and added my photo, clarified a few parts in the middle and added a closing structure. It looked and sounded so much better.

Then she asked if I could include links to the resources I used so I did and that got added, too.

Now, today, October 31st, Halloween, it is on their website!!

I am published!! (Thanks to Rachel!!)

CLICK HERE to read it!!


Writing Publicly

Now all 4-parts of my article about my Maker experience at my school has been posted on the National Association for the Teaching of the Young Child’s website.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

I guess my writing is always public when I add to my own blog. However, I humbly know that just a handful of people know of my blog and a handful read it and/or leave a comment.

I loved having the opportunity to be a “guest blogger” on the NAEYC website. It feels like a different kind of public writing.

I learned a few things by sharing my writing on another’s website:

  1. I enjoyed being able to show my students my NAME as a published blogger. Once I clicked on the website for NAEYC, I could show them “By: Sally Donnelly” under the blog title and also the bio-line stating “Sally Donnelly is a third-grade teacher at Discovery Elementary School, in Arlington, Virginia” It is in print, right there, on someone else’s blog!
  2. I learned from an email I received after Part 1 was posted that using the name “Maker Faire” breaks trademark rules. The email kindly asked that our school register with Maker Faire or stop using this trademarked name. We chose to stop using their trademark and instead, are having a student contest to name the 2017 June event at our school. And NAEYC agreed to change the times I said “Maker Faire” in the article to “Maker Fest”. A part of me felt annoyed by this extra hassle. A bigger part of me respected the importance of words and a group who worked to use a phrase for a movement they cared about. They cared so much that they own the trademark. Another part of me realized how much about public writing I don’t know, like trademarks.
  3. I realized that my school’s Maker Group have a specific definition for a Maker event. My broadly described definition stated in my article helped them to more clearly define what their expectations are for our school’s 2017 Maker event. They want it to be a messy process-based, problem-solving, technology project. A part of me still thinks MAKER can be seen more broadly. I think it could include a projects like the ones I describe in the article, projects related to a teacher’s own passion with kids solving a problem. With my definition, my colleague’s use of the technology of photography to make a video would qualify, as would my pillow project, using a sewing machine and old fabric. Instead, I’ve been told that the 2017 Maker team wants me to start with a problem and let students use recycled materials and technologies to solve that problem and make. So at our 2017 planning meeting, my 3rd grade team picked the project: The problem – there is an emergency and you need to make a shelter. Be sure to check back after June 12th to read about this and see photos of the results.I also plan to use my passion of reading to have my students create e-books written at an emergent reader level for our Kindergarteners to read. I’m still going to do this project. I just won’t call it a Maker Fest project.

Part 2 of my Maker Faire Reaction

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Yesterday I returned to work after a lovely week off for Spring Break. It was a day to finish report cards and prep for the final quarter of the school year and another day for kids to be on vacation. As I worked and worked in the quiet of a normally buzzing classroom, I took a break and clicked on Chrome on my computer. Then I typed in NAEYC, the letters that stand for the national Association for the Education of the Young Child and once on their homepage, I clicked on BLOG on the right hand side. And there it was – Part 2 of my Maker Faire story!!

As I strolled down, I couldn’t wait to have the kids back in our building, especially the now-4th graders. I want to show them the photos that got included of the objects THEY made last year during our first Maker Faire!

However, one “maker” was in the building today so I ran next door. “Sorry to interrupt but look – the next part of the blog got posted and it includes YOUR link to the video you made with your kids! Look, when I click the link, it opens and there is YOU, staring back at me! You got to share this link with your family!” I blurted out to her.

I was excited today to see my blog shared as a guest blogger for NAEYC and just as excited to share all that my colleagues and students created. I can’t thank NAEYC enough for this publishing opportunity! Click HERE to read the post or scroll down to read it.

AND I highly recommend taking 2 minutes and watching the video linked under #2. It is an inspiring video about being BRAVE – a video I plan to share with my students today as we begin the hard work of the 4th quarter of 3rd grade. It’s an inspiring video MADE by my colleague with her students last year to show ways they are brave. Be inspired and watch it!

By: Sally Donnelly

This blog post is the second of a 4-part blog series on the reactions and experiences of a 3rd-grade teacher’s first Maker Faire with her elementary school.

The five third-grade teachers at Discovery Elementary School are a diverse group with various passions. After being introduced to the maker faire concept at the April staff meeting, we met as a grade-level team. We decided collectively how we’d incorporate maker faire work time into our schedules. We each picked a project that matched our personal interests. We agreed that the 107 third grade students could choose which of the five projects to tackle. The art teacher assisted us, creating a list of materials we would need to gather. The materials would be donated, and we put out a call for family volunteers.


Our projects included:

1. A Wind-Powered Vehicle. Two of the third grade teachers liked the idea of an atmosphere-inspired project. They found their project on the PBS Design Squad website and selected the creation of air-powered vehicles as a problem.

A third grader made this vehicle using recycled materials.
Just fill the balloon with air, and it moves!

Watch the video of an air-powered vehicle to see such a machine in action!


2. An iMovie Music Video. Another third grade colleague is a talented photographer. That passion sparked her interest in supporting third graders making a music video. The project was based on a commercial music video—“Brave,” by Sara Bareilles—that the students often danced to during brain breaks . Click here to view the 4-minute video they made: Discovery Brave Video on Vimeo


3. A Computer-Aided Design. A colleague with a love of computers offered to challenge students to design houses using Google Sketchup, which they had no previous experience using.

A third grader learned how to use Google Sketchup
commands to render the beginning 3-D plan for this house.

Another third grader’s 3-D design!

4. A Soft Sculpture Using LEDs for Light-Up Eyes. The art teacher added a sewing choice with a problem-solving layer. The students would use electric thread to sew a circuit with a battery, allowing their stuffed animals’ eyes to light up! For this to work, the students had to complete an electric circuit. One student made Arno, the orange pizza guy from our Zoombini game. Another student decided to make his white stuffed figure a pirate.

5. A Zoombini Pillow. I gathered fabric remnants and pillow stuffing. I made stencils for Zoombini hair, eyes, noses, and feet, and I lined up volunteers with sewing machines to help students make Zoombini pillows.


Stay tuned for Part 3!

Resources on Making

Making and Tinkering With STEM: Solving Design Challenges With Young Children

Activity page for Making and Tinkering With STEM: Solving Design Challenges With Young Children

Now Read This: Books That Encourage Making

Making With Young Learners: An Introduction

Learning Practices of Making

Message in a Backpack: Making at Home

Sally Donnelly is a third-grade teacher at Discovery Elementary School, in Arlington, Virginia.

Reactions to My First Maker Faire: Part 1—From Skepticism to All In

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I had the pleasure of working with the National Association for the Education of the Young Child over the past several months. Their director of Digital Content Strategy, Michael Coventry, and his assistant, Rasheia Harris took my very long blog entry about my first Maker Faire experience as a third grade teacher and made it into a 4-part blog series. Part One posted to their National Website on Friday, April 7th, just two hours before Spring Break began. Yep, I’m excited!

Once I got Rasheia’s email saying it was posted, I pulled the link up on my classroom SmartPanel and told my class, ” I have something I want to show you. I haven’t even shown Mr. Donnelly yet. I am a published blogger!” and I scrolled down so they could see: By Sally Donnelly. A few clapped. I smiled widely. I loved that I could model the importance of publishing. Writing starts in a notebook but it doesn’t have to stay there. It can be published for those in the world to read, learn, be changed.

I feel very fortunate to have my writing be on the NAEYC website, an National organization doing great work to support the learning of the young child. Here’s the link to this first part on the NAEYC website or just scroll and read below.

It was April—the fourth quarter—and as a third grade teacher at Discovery Elementary School, in Arlington, Virginia, I still had lots to do before the school year ended in June. Then the principal announced, “After testing in June, I’d like you and all the students to participate in the First Annual Discovery Elementary School Maker Faire.”

My first reaction was along the lines of “What? Another task to add to my already long to-do list at the end of the school year, when we are trying to wrap up and pack up the classroom? Really?” Then she told us we were free to create our own schedules and to choose whatever project we wanted to lead. Maybe this school requirement was going to be a lot more fun than other end-of-the year tasks.

Just like the third graders I teach, I’m happiest when I have a choice. But I still wasn’t sure how I’d find the time. With the words “choose whatever you want” in the back of my mind, I came up with an idea I wanted to integrate into the maker day: students could make pillows depicting a character from the Zoombini app we played in class. Maybe the principal had just inspired me to find the time!

What’s a Maker?

I admit, I wasn’t sure what it meant to be a maker. Fortunately, the principal had put together a Maker Support Team (the librarian, an art teacher, a gifted resource teacher, and a technology teacher) to guide us.

A maker can be any age. Students, teachers, family members, and community volunteers can all be makers. The Discovery Maker Faire would be a gathering of makers who are crafters, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science club members, authors, artists, tech enthusiasts, and more. A festival celebrating invention, creativity, problem solving, and resourcefulness! Our student makers would spend time tinkering with recycled materials, collaborating, and exploring possibilities in order to solve a problem.The “loose parts” and materials might range from everyday items, like recycled fruit trays, pipe cleaners, egg cartons, and cardboard boxes, to PVC pipes, circuit boards, and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) at the high-tech end of the spectrum.

Basically, maker is a new term to describe a hands-on, playful, creative person engaged in project work. “If that’s the case,” I thought, “no problem! I’ve ALWAYS run a maker-like classroom, because hands-on learning is my mantra.” I believe children (and adults) learn by doing and learn through play. Whether teaching kindergartners or third graders, I use a workshop approach: I teach an explicit mini-lesson daily in each subject, and then I act as a guide-on-the-side. I watch the students work, and I offer guidance as they think, learn, experiment, and explain. While the state standards drive my instruction, my ultimate goal is to help students think critically for themselves, so they can live richer lives today and every day.

When I realized that maker faire was just a new label for my lifelong philosophy of project-based learning, I was a little perplexed. Why was project work being presented as something new? However, I thought back to my days as a novice teacher, sitting wide-eyed at staff meetings. I dutifully took notes to help me implement whatever new initiative was being introduced. Days later, I’d overhear veteran teachers in the faculty room say things like, “How long do you think that plan will last?” and “Isn’t that like what we did years ago, only with a new name?”

I personally vowed early in my career not to become closed minded or set in my ways. Yet, here I was about to finish my 24th year as a teacher, and I felt myself moving toward that veteran been-there-done-that mindset. However, I realized I needed to keep an open mind and keep listening.

In fact, I was really looking forward to working with my colleagues and students on the maker project.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

Resources on Making

Making and Tinkering With STEM: Solving Design Challenges With Young Children

Activity page for Making and Tinkering With STEM: Solving Design Challenges With Young Children

Now Read This: Books That Encourage Making

Making With Young Learners: An Introduction

Learning Practices of Making

Message in a Backpack: Making at Home

Sally Donnelly is a third-grade teacher at Discovery Elementary School, in Arlington, Virginia.