Thursday, November 23, 2023


Our district has been through a lot of changes this year. I would be lying if I said this did not cause a lot of anxiety and stress. However, there are some things I am truly grateful for:

1) My team. I work on an unusual team. Half of us are brand-new teachers, half of us are veterans. We both learn from each other every day. They bring excitement and passion, we bring what is hopefully sage advice. It really works.

2) My students. They come to school every day willing to learn. Our school day was extended a full hour this year. I know by my last class that those kiddos are tired. But they pay attention, they participate-I couldn't ask for anything more.

3) My administrators. I have worked for a number of different kinds of leaders in my 23 years. We are lucky to work for administrators that are so supportive and open to ideas. They don't always say yes, but they are willing to discuss it with you. 

4) My online colleagues: this little ole blog has led me to meet many people over the years-Tammy, Terri, Kimberley, Donna, Ian, John. This has led to opportunities to present my ideas to others and to learn and collaborate from people with the same passions.

What are grateful for this season?

Thursday, November 16, 2023

What if....?

Sometimes my mind wanders and I wonder what things would be like if....? What would our world be like if we adapted our culture to that of the Native Americans? What if the cell phone had never been invented? What if people ran for office but did not take donations-they would just make speeches on their positions and we would vote? Shows like The Man in the HighCastle where it re-envisions history had just a few things been different make me think.

Whether it's a Do Now writing activity or a journal entry, I like to challenge my students to think about a world of what ifs.

Some journal ideas:

What if we had no clocks?
What if dinosaurs were not extinct?
What if velcro had never been invented?
What if electricity had never been invented?
What if the continents never separated?

With my 5th graders this year after learning about the Revolutionary War we wrote about what would have happened if we had not fought back against King George. Here's what some came up with:

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Thanksgiving with Kaplan's Depth and Complexity

I LOVE using Kaplan's concepts of Depth and Complexity to challenge my young learners. Here is how we can incorporate it into our Thanksgiving themes:

Over Time

I love the book:

It details the way making whipped cream has changed over the years. Not only the technology of electric beaters but also how refrigerated things were stored and how shopping at Wal-mart to buy the ingredients was not how it has always been. I like to have the students actually try to make whipped cream the old-fashioned way while I read the story-we pass around a big bowl and they whip it with a whisk.


We make placemats to deliver with Meals on Wheels. I just cut out different colored squares and they are expected to create a pattern around the outside.

You could also examine the different patterns in Native American art, pottery and beading projects.

Language of Discipline

Think like a Historian. Talk about what artifacts they have found from the past including the drawings on cave walls. Have students make mud paintings of things historians of the future would discover about Americans.


Change the title of the Plump and Perky Turkey-add different adjectives. What other details of the story would change.

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Native American Unit

I don't like to judge other teachers, but this is the time of year I just cringe when I see some of the activities teachers use with their students. There is so much more to Native American History than creating our NA names and a headdress. I make a conscious effort to show my students not only the traditions of the past but that Native American people are among us today-they do not dress up in feathers and moccasins.

Some books I really like:

Fry Bread does have a part where they talk about the Trail of Tears which may be too much for the very young ones to understand.

Beautiful story, beautiful illustrations. I would have my students paint their own illustration to go with the story if we extended it.

A little girl is sad she doesn't feel well enough to participate in her family's traditional celebration. Again, I really stress that this is something the Native Americans do when they celebrate, not how they dress every day.

Maybe more for upper primary students but a great way to tell the story of a famous Native American.

We compare and contrast the different kinds of homes the Native Americans lived in -again their history is much more rich than just tipis. You can have them make graphic organizers and compare different characteristics of different tribes. You could even have them invent their own kind of home.

New Uses for a Feather-what else could we use a feather for other than decoration.

Making Pottery-there's a great segment from Reading Rainbow where he reads the Legend of the Indian Paintbrush and then shows the traditional dances and the way they make pottery. The women in the clip literally stomp on the clay with their feet to soften it because they want that connection to the earth.

Then we made our own pottery using playdoh. They didn't come out pretty but they did copy the rolling they saw in the video.

Just remember that we need to set the example for our students when it comes to cultural sensitivity.

Saturday, November 4, 2023

Gratitude Theme

November is a great month to really dive into a unit on gratitude. We keep Gratitude Journals in my class throughout the year, but I still don't think the subject is an easy one for most kiddos to grasp. The world revolves around them you know. :) 

We read books like:

For our journals, we usually just free write-what am I grateful for? But I also sometimes give them prompts "what are you grateful for that does not cost money?" "what are you grateful for that you cannot see?".

We also do bigger projects. It's easy to say I am grateful for my family or my friends. But I encourage my students to dig deeper-can you come up with a posterboard full of things you are grateful for?

Personally, I am very grateful for many things this school year. We have gone through a lot of changes but I really enjoy the position I was given. I am thankful for a wonderful team and supportive administrators. I am also thankful for my bright, creative students.

What are you grateful for?


Monday, October 30, 2023

Halloween Rigor

If your students are anything like ours they are fired up in anticipation for this upcoming holiday. :) These are the times we see a lot of fluff in the classrooms. I wanted to give you some alternatives in case you were looking for something to do with your kiddos that involved higher order thinking.


If you are not familiar with this acronym, it's a great way to add rigor to your activities. It lends itself well to holidays like this.

S-Substitute-substitute something else for pumpkins to decorate for Halloween. I like to give them areas where pumpkins may not be plentiful-Africa, Alaska, Hawaii-what would they use to decorate?

C-Combine-combine Halloween with another holiday-what would that look like? You can even incorporate rules from Depth and Complexity here. What is always true about Halloween?

Adapt-Adapt Halloween celebrations for other places or other creatures. How would a monster celebrate Halloween? How would a tiger?

Modify-Modify Halloween candy to make it healthier-invent your own new healthy candy.

New Use for an everyday thing-what is a new use for a pumpkin or halloween candy.

With Kaplan's Depth and Complexity:

Rules-using what is always true about Halloween, create a new tradition or way to celebrate.

Details-using details we know about characters-what do you think they would dress up as for Halloween (my favorite has always been the student who said Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz would dress up as Woody from Toy Story.

Multiple perspectives: compare the perspectives of a Jack-o-lantern and a plain pumpkin.
Write from the perspective of a haunted house, etc. How would it feel, what would it see, what would it wish?

Trends-analyze the trends in Halloween costumes over the years, predict what future trends will look like.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Powerful Words

One of the things I always tried to impart into my students was that words have power. Whether it is in a speech, argument or story. We need to be careful about the words we choose in order to have the best impact possible. 

I share this video originally shared by Terri at Engage Their Minds.

Then the students make their own lists of words they consider powerful. One asked if he could write "hate". I say yes because it is a powerful word. They make a triorama and glue two together.

Here are some our 4th Graders came up with: