#13 and DigiLit Sunday – Transitons and emojis


A few weeks ago, I was in the car and heard this NPR EMOJI STORY:

When I’m reporting from my base in Brazil, I have had entire wordless conversations on WhatsApp, the ubiquitous messaging app, which Brazilians also happen to love. For making a date with friends, I choose martini glass, question mark? The response I get — handclapping and then clock, question mark. And on and on it goes. Portuguese is a foreign language for me, so having all these emojis is really useful. I mean, everyone understands the emoji for getting a manicure.

Then days later, my 3rd grade team ( five classes) introduced the tool Kidblog to all the 3rd graders. For the month of March, we are asking the the students to electronically write small moment stories, post it for the others in their classroom to see and then add comments to their classmates. At a team meeting three days after the launch I asked, “How’s it going with Kidblog?” Another teacher commented, “Fine, but I told them they couldn’t use emojis.” Another said, “I told them only at the end of a comment and just one.” I sat and as typical with me, in the moment, I often can’t find the words fast enough to respond and so I said nothing. I get why they were saying no to emojis. As teachers, we expect to see letters strung together to form a story told across many sentences. Adding emojis seems to just be playing and not writing a story. But I kept thinking about writing and emojis. If we are to write and tell our stories and if an image can help with this, why not use emojis whenever and how often we want?

Then this happened the next day in my room (I wrote about it HERE as my SOL#11):

“Look friends. Dr. Russo (our Principal) just asked me a question about blogging and now she is sitting outside our room typing. I think she is going to add her second small moment story to our blog!” 
As we gathered for Morning Meeting, a friend said, “She’s gone.”
“Should we see if she posted?” I asked.
“YES!” was the unanimous reply. 
I touched airplay on my smartphone to show my phone display on the smart panel. Then after logging into Kidblog, we could see it! She HAD published her 2nd piece. I had no idea what she wrote and I started to read this aloud…

As I read the lines, “Trust me, you (referring to the students at Discovery ES) are teaching all of us adults so much” my voice started to crack. Her words are so true and I felt so touched by words.

Next I heard, “Are you OK?”

Another friend said very kindly, “She’s just happy. My mom does that all the time. You should see her.” I chuckled and was glad he gets adults that cry when they are happy!!

Another student said, “You should add a comment that says you really like her writing and add a happy emoji that is crying.” 
“Does that exist?” I asked.  ALL in the room nonchalantly replied in the affirmative. 
That same day, I got this comment to my SOL#11:
Then today the DigiLit Sunday focus is TRANSITIONS. So I began to think: Are writers in the 21st century transitioning to using more than just the 26 letters in the alphabet? Our iPad makes it so easy to add an image, a music link, a video, and even an emoji. I am now, as Anna mentions in her comment to me, wondering about my definition of writing and I see a transition occurring.
This March, I am participating for the 3rd time in The TwoWritingTeachers March Writing Challenge (where I happily interact with Margaret Simon and learned of this Sunday posting!) As I look back, it has been 3 years of transitions for me personally as a writer. First, I was just trying to write and put words on the page for 31 days. Then the next year, I felt more confident and started adding hyperlinks and pictures to make my daily post clearer and more interactive. Now this year I am bringing my students along for the ride and I find myself only halfway into the challenge, and am pondering what is writing? Can’t it be letters strung together AND also just the right visual?
For me, I am transitioning to be the kind of writing teacher who will encourage 3rd graders to use ALL the tools they have at their disposal to tell their story that only they can tell. And I will encourage them to use emojis if it helps to make their writing clearer.
(And now that I have written about it, I feel ready to speak up at my next team meeting, too!)

"You should add the happy emoji crying to your comment."

I still feel new to the social media world or at least to all the ways one can communicate in writing through now in the 21st century. I’ll admit that I’ve use google to figure out what LOL means. And I like adding emoji to a text but I usually stick to using the same ones  – a heart, a cake with candles, flowers. Today, my students taught me that there is an emoji happy face that is so touched that it is crying.

It all started when I said, as the students were arriving, “Look friends. Dr. Russo just asked me a question about blogging and now she is sitting outside our room typing. I think she is going to add her second small moment story to our blog!”
As we gathered for Morning Meeting, a friend said, “She’s gone.”
“Should we see if she posted?” I asked.
“YES!” was the unanimous reply.

I touched airplay on my smartphone to show my phone display on the smart panel. Then after logging into Kidblog, we could see it! She HAD published her 2nd piece. I had no idea what she wrote and I started to read this aloud.

As I read, “Trust me, you are teaching all of us adults so much” my voice started to crack. Her words are so true and I felt so touched by words.

Next I heard, “Are you OK?”

Another friend said very kindly, “She’s just happy. It’s like my mom. You should see her.

I chuckled and was glad he gets adults that cry when they are happy!!

Another student said, “You should add a comment that says you really like her writing and add a happy emoji that is crying.” 
“Does that exist?” I asked.
ALL in the room nonchalantly replied in the affirmative. Just as Dr, Russo said in her post, “You are teaching us adults so much….Thanks for helping us grow.” INDEED!
These are some of my students’ comments to this post (also teaching me by their example!):



Our class photographer took this photo while she was typing in the chair outside our classroom. He used his Skitch app to add the labels and then airdropped it to my phone so I could tweet it out! 



Blogging with 3rd Graders – Better than I Ever Imagined!!

As they arrived in my classroom today, they read this Morning Message:
     Dear 3rd Graders, 
               You will be leaving early today and I will be spending the afternoon teaching teachers about blogging. I need your help. Please complete this sentence on the index card at your seat – 
     I like blogging because_____________. 
                                                                        Thank you,   
                                                                               Mrs. Donnelly

Backstory – I introduced the idea of blogging to my students on February 29th (10 days ago) and today, our class of 23 students, one teacher, the librarian, the Principal and the school-based sub (a total of 27) have posted small moment stories and taken time to make “positive comments to keep the writer writing”. As I check the total posts and comments on the dashboard right now, it reads:

POSTS – 111

Yes, those are both 3-digit numbers and not a typo. My kids LOVE having a place to write their stories that their peers can read. They also LOVE giving comments.

How do I know?
This is what was written on the index cards:

  • I like blogging because when someone comments on your small moment, it really encourages you to keep writing.
  • I like to blog because I can tell stories about what I’m doing when I’m not in school!!
  •  I like blogging because I like share what I’m doing every week.
  • I like to blog because I like to read story and comment.
  • On Kidblog my favorite thing is expressing my comments. When I asked why, the response was: Because I like making people want to feel good about their stories and making them write more.
  • I like to blog because you can tell a story of something that happened to you. If it is sad or happy or anything. Also because you got to see the comments that people give you to keep you writing.
  • I like posting and commenting. I also like just reading a blog.
  • I love to blog because you get to share moments of your life with students.
  • I like to blog because -comments -making stories -commenting on other people
  • I like to blog because you can tell people about your life and you tell people without meeting them.
  • I like to blog because you can say how you liked their story and you can write stories and you can blog about whatever you want whenever you want! I love blogging.
  • I like to blog because commenting on everyones interesting stories and then writing one of your won and reading all your comments
  • I like blogging because your brain is learning and also your friends read it. It’s like you’re a real writer.
  • What I like about blogging – writing stories  – leaving comments  – I like to read other people’s stories
  • I love to blog because I like writing and hearing other people’s comments on my story. I also like that I can look at other people’s stories and comment on them. I also like that I can see the teachers’ stories too, I (heart-shape) blogging!!!
  • I like to blog because you can add comments and the photos are cool.
  • What I love about Kidblog is that I can share things about my life out loud.
  • I like to blog because I like sharing my stories about what I am doing. I also like seeing what other people are doing and comment on stories.
  • I like to blog because you get to see other people’s hard work and you can comment on it.
  • I like blogging because it is fun and is a good place to privately share your experiences.
  • I like to blog because you can tell people cool stories that happened to you without having to say it so many times for everybody to hear it because you just write it once and everyone can hear it.
  • I like that you get to comment on people.
  • I like that you can share what you do outside of school.
Once the kiddos left today, as a staff we had time to grow professionally. I volunteered to share why I like to blog and how the 3rd graders were doing with this new tool – Kidblog. A few colleagues chose to join me for a discussion where the first thing I did was share the index cards!
Special thanks to Kathleen Sokolowski who shared a presentation she did on WHY BLOGGING HERE.  Reading through her powerpoint and even borrowing a slide, inspired me to create the things in this folder:    My Blogging Folder
It contains the powerpoint I share today with my staff that tells My Blogging Story and the powerpoint I used to teach the 3rd graders about blogging. It also includes 2 handouts I sent home to the parents as an introduction to Kidblog and the March Writing Challenged inspired by TwoWritingTeachers! Thank you so, so much!

New to Kidblog and LOVE IT!!

As I read and was inspired by Margaret Simon’s blog this morning, I decided Kidblog would be my slice topic today. In her slice, she compared the process of practicing techniques in art class with practicing techniques in writing workshop and how important the practice of technique is. I recommend you reading her slice!

I just added a new tool to my writing workshop in March – Kidblog. I did so because many teachers I follow on this blog and on twitter suggested it as a great writing tool.  I even reached out and emailed questions to Margaret Simon, a wonderful teacher that I only know through her blog posts and twitter tweets. She kindly replied and her encouragement pushed me to not wait any longer and to try this tool now.

Before this year, I was never in a school where kids all had a devise so I used that as an excuse not to try Kidblog. This year, my school gave every 3rd grader an iPad so I had no excuse.

Yet, I did have a few hurdles to jumps through in February in preparation for kicking off blogging as part of the March Slice of Life Writing Challenge. My district, in order to protect student privacy, won’t allow students under the age of 13 to interact individually on the internet. Yet, Kidblog has the option that we can just share among our classroom! As Margaret explained in an email, “You have complete control over approving posts and comments, as well as, whether or not they are public.” Armed with this information, my tech teacher helped craft a letter to the 3rd grade parents which shared with them the Kidblog’s privacy rules and asked for their permission for their child to use this tool. This was shared on a Friday and by the following Tuesday, I had all returned signed to me!

My next hurdle was to get the Kidblog set up for five 3rd grade classrooms for a total of 100 students. But I shouldn’t call this a hurdle at all because Kidblog made it so easy!! However, I must give a shout out to my daughter who is also the school-based sub at my school (and also a fun writer in this SOL challenge – look for her at: http://presentperfectblog.com/). She sat with me and together we tried a few test posts and test comments. Having another to talk through the process definitely made it easier to set up the blog classrooms. And I’ll admit it helped me to have a twenty-something guide me, a fifty-something, to understand this technology!!

Then it definitely helped that 2016 was a Leap Year. We used Monday, February 29th as a KICK-OFF of Kidblog!! All 100 3rd grade students met in my rooms and I walked them through the process. Topics covered included:

  • What is a blog?
  • Log In directions
  • Making a Post – Adding a header, a title and your small moment story
  • What is/isn’t a small moment, slice of life story
  • Setting a goal – how often will you post?
  • Commenting – how to comment in a specific and positive way to keep the writer writing

Now, on Sunday, I am blown away by what my own twenty-three 3rd graders have done in just not even one week!!! They are posting small moments. They are reading others’ writing. They are thoughtfully commenting. They are naming the techniques they see writers using in blog posts.

As I check now, 2pm on Sunday, just 6 days after launching this writing tool, the entire third grade of 105 students has posted 188 posts and made 434 comments!!!! WOW!!
And in just a week, I have already decided that next year, I’ll be using the Kidblog as a tool from day one of the school year! As a newbie to using Kidblog, I LOVE IT!!!
Here’s a glimpse – one small moment story and the seven comments received!!




Reflections on Teaching Tools

Yesterday, as I watched the live broadcast from Boston of the ALA announcements of the  Caldecott and Newbery winners in my classroom, I started thinking about how many different tools I use today as a teacher. My first year of teaching was the 1986-87 school year. I taught 24 kindergarteners in a Catholic School in Falls Church, Virginia. Now I teach at a brand new, state-of-the-art public school in Arlington, VA. Here’s a quick comparison as seen through the lens of technology used during these two years as a teacher:

Reflection on Technology as a Teaching Tool
Way I Taught Kindergarten,
my 1st year
Way I Teach 3rd Grade
Using a VHS video camera to film a class presentation and sent the tape home, student by student, so they could watch it with their family. At the end of 2 months, all families could view it.
My students took turns using their iPad camera to make a video of a class presentation. Then the file was shared via airdrop to all in the presentation so they could share it at home that evening on their iPad.
Reading about the Caldecott and Newbery winners in the newspaper or learning of it by seeing the medal sticker on a book at the library.
Watched the 2016 live broadcast from Boston of the ALA announcement of the winners on my classroom SmartPanel and heard the winners with my students the moment it was announced to the public.
Orally sharing at the parent-teacher conference and in writing on the report card about the kind of reader their child is.
Posting to twitter a photo taken of children in my classroom reading and being lost in a book as a way to show the kind of reader we are.
Having heavy dictionaries available to use to find the spelling of a word and feeling like looking for the word is like looking for a needle in a hay stack.
Typing the spelling of a word into the Google browser and seeing “did you mean …” and seeing the correct way to spell the   tricky word on the screen so it can be copied into our writing correctly.
Talking to my husband about a cool thing he saw at work that day many hours later.
Watching a video texted to me by my husband the day he saw the Pope’s motorcade as he walked to work. Then I airplayed it on my SmartPanel so my students can see this historic figure just 5 minutes after my husband saw it in real time.
Using a Kodak camera and snapping pictures. Then waiting a week for the film to be developed to then share with my class.
Taking a picture on my iPhone and tweeting it in seconds. Sometimes one of the 309 followers I presently have LIKE it and/or RETWEET it and then more people see it and like it and retweet it…
Using a blackboard with chalk and a mimeograph machine to make ditto copies and distributing the worksheets to my students to complete an assignment.
Using Google Classroom to assign paperless assignments. Students easily share their assignments by airplaying them to either the SmartPanel and SmartTV that I have in my classroom to then teach the class about the assignment.

My, oh my! How my teaching has changed since 1987! Just this year, by teaching 3rd grade at a new school with 1:1 iPads, a Macbook Air, a SmartPanel, a SmartTV and Apple TV in my classroom, my approach to how I teach has changed. I still teach students. I still teach similar content standards. However, with the 1:to:1 iPads, lessons become more visually appealing, making the students more engaged and focused. Many lessons go quicker so students have more time to practice. Always, students have a choice of how to show and share their thinking and with choice comes endless possibilities.

How about you?

Celebrate – cable installed in new house today!

Today I celebrate being connected once again to wi-fi and TV cable….

However, it has also been a bit freeing to move on Dec. 23rd and NOT have wi-fi and TV installed in my new house for 11 days.

However, it wasn’t like I was totally unwired. I still had my cell phone but was careful not to do too much on the phone for fear of using up the data allotment. It did give me the opportunity to learn from my daughter that my phone could be used as a “hot spot” allowing me to pay a fee bills online at home on Dec. 31st.

Without wi-fi, my biggest treat was to I stopped binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy on my kindle through netflix and just READ!!

I ended up reading 6 books:
1. Who Was Maurice Sendak by Janet Pascal
2. Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan
3. Orphan Train by Christian Baker Kline
4. Wait For Me by Judith Viorst
5. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
6. Platypus Police Squad – The Frog Who Croaked by Jarrett Krososczka

And I realized that the 2 netflix DVDs that arrived months ago could be watched without cable hookup. So I also enjoyed watching The Wizard of Oz and The Theory of Everything on my TV screen using my DVD player.

But now I can sit and blog at my dining room table using my newly installed wi-fi. And I’m looking forward to watching Downton Abby tomorrow night on my newly installed cable.

Today I celebrate the friendly cable guy who hooked up our house with cable and wi-fi!

I disagree with this author’s opinion about having an iPad in a 3rd grade classroom

I just read this article on the front page of the Outlook section of Sunday’s Washington Post:
When I Powered On Their iPads, Conversations Shut Down

This article is one tech-novice teacher’s opinion. I also am a 3rd grade teacher in Arlington. I am a novice to having one-to-one iPads in my classroom but not a novice to teaching. As I began my 24th year as an educator this year,  I was given 22 students and 23 iPads (one for me!).

As a teacher, I reflect often. If I saw less talking between my students once the iPads arrived like the author of the article did, I’d reflect on WHY. Then I would problem-solve to ensure that this tool isn’t causing my students to talk less because I value talk. By talking it out, we show our understanding. I would NOT simply blame it all on having an iPad in the room, as it feels like the author of this article is doing.

Instead, I tell my students, “The iPad is a tool you can choose to use to do the work. You can also choose paper and pencil. You can choose white board and marker. You are the learner so choose what works best for you.” By telling them this, I set the tone for why we gave them an iPad, “not a toy but a tool” and the expectation is set. “You choose how best to do your learning.” Then, as with all my lessons, I provide lots of time for “turn and talk” so we can talk to another about the concept we are learning with our tools next to us to support our talk. As an educator, I remain open to learning along with my students about how this new tool can help us to grow and learn best in the 21st century.

It is only December and together my 3rd graders and I have learned lots with an iPad alongside all of us. I am glad to have the opportunity to have this tool to use this year in 3rd grade.

Do you have an opinion on the use of technology in the classroom and its impact on talk? 
Please share it!!

March 23 – People are reading my writing from ALL around the globe

Saturday I had 14 people comment on my slice. Sunday I had 9. Yes, definitely the most comments in one weekend, which probably was a direct result of the fun Comment Challenge suggested by the TwoWritingTeachers. (Great ideas and great prize!)

The volume of comments had me do something different. Usually, I just read a comment, smile and have that jolt that happily motivates me to keep writing. This time I decided, for the first time, to actually use the blog as one way it is intended to be used. I replied to many of the comments I received. When I began this virtual dialogue, I discovered some things:

Kristi teaches 5th grade, just like me, but in an international school in Lebanon.
Alan lives in Australia and is a published author of a book I think I should buy about how he helped his students learn to write.
Beverly was a teacher for 36 years and now is retired and discovering art again. I’m only at year 23…
Marcie lives in upstate NY and loves TCRWP, just like I do.
Mary Ann lives in Ireland.
Darlene, in Chicago.
Fran is from Iowa. I follow her on twitter and will look for her Saturday at the TCRPW Saturday Reunion as she is coming all the way from Iowa. (And to think, I almost wasn’t going to take the 3 hour train ride from DC to NYC)
Ms Victor is the comment that got me started on this hunt to find out WHERE people actually live. She posted:
You have put into words what I have been thinking as this challenge has progressed. I am definitely getting more out of it than I thought I would! I want to live somewhere that gives me easy access to lots of authors!

After reading this, I wondered WHERE does she live? When I clicked on her name, I discovered she lives in Malaysia!

I discovered this weekend a new reason why comments can be so motivating. Somehow, when I know that someone far away, who also loves reading and writing as much as I do, is reading my slice and taking time to write a comment, it makes me smile and it REALLY makes me want to write more. TwoWritingTeachers – you rock!! This March Challenge gets better and better!

This slice was written by a humble slicer living in Arlington, VA, a county across the river from Washington, D.C. but connected to thoughtful writers around the globe via the internet @ https://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/

March 22 – inspired by TEDtalks

This week I watched two TEDtalks that I’ve suggested others to watch.
To make it easier, here are the links along with why I liked them:

1. Marc Kushner’s talk is called Why the buildings of the future will be shaped by you. Being married to an architect, I was immediately drawn to watch this talk, as I am drawn to all things architecturally. I agree with his idea stated in the beginning that we spend “90% of our time indoors surrounded by architecture” and that architecture makes us feel. He points out that architects use symbols as what he calls “a predictable emotional trick” to get us to feel a certain way when surrounded by a certain kind of architecture.  He ends by suggesting that we should all work with architects to create the spaces we want to live in, feel in.

I know I am lucky. My husband has designed a house for us. One of the principles of the house is to bring the outside in. Whatever room I stand in, I will have more than one view to the outside and all the windows are wide and long. On the second floors, it literally feels like I’m in a treehouse! On the third floor, I can sit on the rooftop terrace! I know I will love the feeling of living in this house once it is completed!

I encourage you to listen to Marc and then think about the SPACES you like being in.
Click HERE to hear architect, Marc Kushner’s TEDtalk

2. David Eagleman is a neuroscientist whose talk is called Can we create new senses for humans? The introduction to the talk states: As humans, we can perceive less than a ten-trillionth of all light waves. “Our experience of reality,” says neuroscientist David Eagleman, “is constrained by our biology.” He wants to change that. His research into our brain processes has led him to create new interfaces — such as a sensory vest — to take in previously unseen information about the world around us.

I watched this talk and kept thinking “Who thinks this stuff up?!” I have watched it two times and still don’t think I totally get what he is doing and how he is doing it. It did give me a better appreciation of the animal kingdom, which has different biological ways to perceive and survive in the world.

I encourage you to listen to David and then think about the senses you do have and what it would be like to wear that vest.
Click HERE to hear David Eagleman, neuroscientist

I am a big fan of TEDtalks. They inspire. They allow me to hear about new ideas. They allow me to try to understand different ways to approach ideas. Over winter break, my daughter was reading Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, a historical fiction novel set  during the 1893 Chicago’s World Fair. We don’t seem to have World’s Fairs anymore. Maybe TEDtalks are a kind of 21st century virtual World’s Fair.

Enjoy TEDtalk viewing!

And in preparation for National Poetry Month in April, I recommend watching these TEDtalks:
Billy Collins – be sure to watch to the end…his last poem is the best, in my opinion!
Sarah Kay – amazing performance poet!

And for inspiration any day, from a great teacher, watch Rita Pierson, my champion!

Mac Barnett
Brene Brown

March 10 – Technology…love it / hate it

Looking around my living room/dining room last night I saw my school mac laptop, my blue iPhone 5C, my kindle, my husband levova laptop, his surface and his windows phone. Just the two of us have LOTS of tech devices in our lives. At times, I love it. At times, I hate it!

I love technology when it works for me…

I love the March writing challenge. It is just my second year and at firt, it seemed like a lot of tech to figure out to participate. But now I easily understand how to post to my blog, copy my link to the http://www.twowritingteachers.com and how to click and leave my comments. Lots of steps but now I can do it seamlessly and I love the writing and reading practice I am getting!

I love Wed night twitter chats with #tcrpw. After a year of “lurking”, I have started to post my own tweets during their hour conversations.

I love connecting with my daughters who live far away from home now. I can text them. I can call them. I can view their instagram photos. I can check their status on facebook. Using technology, they don’t seem so far away.

I love having my map app on my phone help me drive to a new location.

I love downloading a book to my kindle and reading a new book without needing to visit the library or bookstore.

I loved binge watching House of Cards and viewing other stories on Netflix and being inspired by online Tedtalks.

I hate technology when it doesn’t work for me…

I hate it when at school, I can’t connect to a printer, (which seems to have happened lots lately and I don’t get why).

I hate it when I can’t remember my username and/or password to log into a site I really want to get into.

I hate it when I sit and listen to the PARCC webinar (what I did yesterday from 3:30-5pm) that is explaining how I am to administer the online PARCC test starting Wednesday. The voice says a step. My brain begins to comprehend it as another important step is shared. The webinar screen changes and I have no idea how to make my computer screen change also. Lucky for me, a repeat webinar is occurring this morning at school. I plan to go. Afterwards, I hope I will say that I love how easy it is to start the PARCC assessment using my computer!

Technology…I love it sometimes and I hate it sometimes.
But I guess that is how it is with most things!