Fun Animal Research


To correlate with my library curriculum, Common Core Standards,  and our Books to Africa project, my second graders have been researching facts about land mammals in South Africa. We used our library iPads, the database PebbleGo (I LOVE PebbleGo!!!) and the app ChatterPix (aka ChatterKid).

I am thrilled with the results because the kids were highly engaged through each stage of the process, including the end where they got to record their mini-report on ChatterPix. I documented the process in this Sway.

If you are interested in making a Sway, check out this link. I love Sways because they are incredibly easy to make and embed in blogs without hassles.

This is my first experience with using iPads in the classroom and as with any project it came with its own set of problems because of my learning curve. I really wish there was a way to transfer files with a USB. After working out how to get files from five different iPads to my iPad (thank you Dropbox), I found one BIG area for improvement next year. I have five second grade classes and the video management quickly became very complicated. Next year I will definitely limit each class to an indepth study of one animal. Lesson learned!

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Food for the Teaching Soul


It’s been nearly two weeks since the E2 conference ended in Budapest, Hungary. I was one of nine teachers from the US who joined about 275 educators from around the world at this conference. Many people have asked about this experience and yet, words like amazing, unbelievable or fantastic don’t capture the experience adequately.


With the climate of teacher bashing so prevalent in the US, going to a conference where teachers are celebrated and treated as rockstars, feels like you’ve stepped into a magical make believe world.


Instead of being questioned about every choice we make in the classroom because someone wants to tear it apart, E2 teachers are questioned about how Microsoft can improve their products to make them work even better for teachers and students.


The excitement of this extraordinary group of educators in one place is infectious. Cameras flash non-stop, OneNote cape selfies abound, and teachers can get pretty silly.


Yet, the conference is work…hard brain work. The lightning fast boot stomping of the Hungarian dance group, Varidance, set the tone for the week.


We listened to the Microsoft corporate Vice-President of Central and Eastern Europe and a member of the European Parliament speak about the importance of teachers.

A panel of speakers discussed how Minecraft has a role in today’s classrooms. In fact, Minecraft was present in breakout sessions, keynote speeches and table conversations. I’m not a gamer, but after hearing how playing Minecraft can enhance student learning, I am interested in learning more about how it can be utilized in the library classroom.

The theme of Hack the Classroom defined our collaborative team work. We had to design a classroom hack in an assigned persona: Gamify, Personalize, Minimize, Simplify and Strategize. Our Hack had to be shared in an Office Mix and couldn’t be over 3 minutes long. Each teacher was assigned to a team, where we had to find a common problem and a solution to it.


Oh yes, and it had to be done quickly, with teachers who speak different native languages. These team challenges are part of the magic of the conference. Everyone is thrust into a collaborative situation that is difficult, and yet the experience breaks down barriers.

team at Budapest

After a couple days of intense meetings, new connections are launched. I am still friends with the members of my team when I attended the Global conference in Barcelona. I hope the same holds true from my Budapest team.

One of our American team members was part of the winning Hack the Classroom team. Here is their classroom hack.

I especially liked the breakout sessions on a variety of topics led by fellow teachers. It’s one thing to hear about a product from a developer’s point of view. It’s invaluable to listen to a teacher model how that product can be successfully used in the classroom. Like at any conference,there wasn’t enough time to attend all the sessions I wanted to visit. I did really enjoy the sessions on using Sway and OneNote Class Notebook. I really hope these tools will be available for my students to use at home. The ability of Office Lens to take photos of documents where you can then store them in OneNote was really intriguing. The Office Mix add-in also offers new tools for recording information within the familiar context of Powerpoint. It’s exciting to see how the new tools can enhancing lessons.

We could also take some of the Microsoft certification tests if we wanted. Taking an intense test was a good reminder of the difficulty it can be for our students. The Microsoft Certified Educator exam tests whether educators have achieved technology literacy competency in six content areas, mapped to the UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers, Technology Literacy:

  • Education policy
  • Curriculum and assessment
  • Pedagogy
  • ICT/technology tools
  • Organization and administration
  • Professional development

The tests takes 90 minutes and I was very excited to learn I had passed. Whew!

During the second day keynote address, Anthony Salcito, the Vice President of the World Wide Education team emphasized the mission of the Microsoft Education team.  We had a chance to Skype with an Arctic Explorer and hear what it’s like to live in such a harsh climate.

On the last day came my favorite part of the conference – the Learning Marketplace! Each educator set up a trifold poster detailing the project they focused on at home with their students. The trick is to be at your booth to meet other educators and tell them about your project AND move around the room meeting others and hearing their stories.




I visited as many booths as I could, but it’s never enough. If I could get my wish, we would have some Learning Marketplace time every day of the conference. More time with colleagues allows for more indepth conversations with each other. This is my third experience at this type of Microsoft conference. The Learning Marketplace has been the highlight of the trip every single time. Getting a new perspective on how to use tools is invaluable. We all bring these ideas home to try with our own students.


The last evening of the conference was the celebration time. Dressed in fancy cocktail attire, we were bussed to the National Gallery of Budapest to spend the evening at the building that houses some of the most renowned Hungarian art. There was an award ceremony where the winners of the Hack the Classroom contest were announced. As each team hurried to the stage, with each member proudly carrying their national flag, we all cheered and clapped for the winners. Whatever national or cultural barriers might exist at home, have no place on the E2 stage. We are all one group of educators who want the best for our students.


As a person who loves the written word, I feel inadequate to explain how this conference is the cherished food that fills my teaching soul. I encourage everyone to apply to become a Microsoft Expert Educator and experience the value that comes from collaborating globally with other passionate educators. Jordan Shapiro, an internationally recognized speaker, lecturer and journalist, who writes about global education and game-based learning published an outstanding article about E2 in this post.

Maybe this video will lend a taste of the excitement, that my words can’t convey. All I can say is Thank you Microsoft! Thank you for changing my life in 2012 when I became part of the MIE family and for each year since. You have taught me how to lead my students to take risks and achieve more through the use of technology.

You can find out more information on the Microsoft Educator Program by clicking on this link here.


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Student Smiles Tell the Story

We had some fabulous news recently from our partner teacher in South Africa! In late February we mailed off two boxes of books to Principal Phuti Ragophala and her students at Pula Madibogo Primary School in the Limpopo Province of South Africa.



Earlier in February, my students raised $1400 in a coin drive to send as many books to our partner students as we could this year.


The workers at the post office always tell me that it will take 7-10 business days for the boxes to arrive at their destination. Believe me – that’s never happened! More like 4-5 weeks is my experience! In any case, I saw this post on Facebook this week.

package mar 2016

The timing of the arrival was perfect actually. They arrived right before the school was going to close for the Easter holidays. The students were glad to have some books to take home to read during vacation!

tinny 734974_1544533925839050_3547552841343206245_n 993585_1544534032505706_8776706450413378021_n 1375641_1544533985839044_4906294010210280538_n 1934390_1544533882505721_6471000720131435950_n 10258781_1544533959172380_7784340770530387042_n 12417773_1544533865839056_7753631869514257229_n

These smiles on their faces really tell the whole story.Students can make a difference in the lives of other students. They just need to be empowered to do it by their teachers and librarians.

How are you empowering your students to be global learners?

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Dr Seuss Guessing Game


To celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday this year, I added a ‘fishy’ guessing game. I found this marvelous box and directions in a closet in my library. Thanks Ms. Metcalf for leaving this game for us to use!

I re-purposed some containers of various sizes and filled them with fish crackers. Then I made up some simple entry forms, ran them off on bright paper and we were off and running on a simple center for any student to use. We only had two rules:

1 – Only one entry per person

2 – The person that guesses the closest to the actual number WITHOUT GOING OVER will win.

It was fun listening to conversations at the table about how many fish there were. Some students were absolutely certain that they had the perfect method for guessing the right number. We had a wide range of guesses from 1 to 1,000,000 which goes to show that practicing math estimation is a good thing to do!


We had hundreds of entries as you can see here inside the box! It took quite awhile to sort through all the entries to find two winners – one for grades K-2 and one for grades 3-5.

The actual number of fish crackers in the box (yes I counted them) was …..


We have two winners! In the K-2 group, one boy guessed 955 and he was the closest without going over.

In the 3-5 group, one girl guessed 987! She was only 2 fish crackers from guessing the exact number!


Both students will earn a prize of a fresh package of fish crackers and a brand new book!


Now I wonder how I will change this for next year! Anyone have any suggestions?

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E2 Educator Exchange

BudapestHungaryOn Saturday I will be leaving Seattle for this fabulous city in this photo. Do you know which one it is?  I’ll give you a couple hints. Hint #1 – It’s not in North or South America, Africa, or Asia.  Hint #2 – It is a landlocked country. None of its borders touch an ocean or sea. Hint #3 – It is in the “EU” but uses its own money, called the Florint. Hint #4 – The Danube River flows between the two parts of the city.

Have you guessed it by now? Yes, this is a photo of Budapest, the capital and largest city in Hungary. I’m going there because in January I received this email invitation.

WIN_20160302_21_50_13_ProI was invited to participate and represent the United States as one of the 15 US teachers in the Global Educator Exchange. For three days I will be surrounded by some of the most creative and innovative educators from around the world. We will share our experiences, collaborate on projects and learn new techniques to integrate technology in our classrooms. Some of the event highlights include:

WIN_20160302_21_50_05_ProThe conference will be at the Corinthia Hotel Budapest. I don’t know anything about this hotel, but judging from the photos I’ve seen, it appears to be a beautiful example of restored Hungarian architecture.

53dabbe16dec627b149fee28_corinthia-grand-hotel-royal-budapest-budapest-hungary-106366-3 83_6ad013b2I also was invited to visit The American International School of Budapest on Monday with some other educators. We will be touring the school and talking to fellow teachers about their techniques. I am really looking forward to visiting the library of course!

When I travel I am always fascinated by what the money looks like. I got some Florints – their currency- from the bank. The money is beautiful!

WIN_20160302_21_51_26_Pro I’ve had a lot of questions about what the weather will be like. I can’t say I know for sure, but my weather app tells me that it will be in the high 50’s with mostly cloudy weather during the week. So, mostly like Seattle.

This week will be learning, learning, learning! I know I will return with a tired brain full of new ideas to share and try at Cougar Ridge. As much as I am able, I will share photos and blog. I will also tweet photos on our library Twitter account @CRidgeLibrary.

See you back at school on the 14th!

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Reflections on NCCE 2016

Last week I was able to attend the NCCE (Northwest Council of Computer Educators) conference in Seattle. It was by far the best conference I have been to in years. Here are my top reflections from attending the TeacherLibrarian Summit, the Keynote sessions with Kevin Honeycutt and Cheryl Strayed, and the numerous sessions I attended.

ncce 16

  1. Try makerspaces with your students

One of the major topics of the conference had to do with the makerspace movement. What strikes me the most is that anyone can have a makerspace and you can make it your own. There is no perfect way to start – no perfect way to have one in your library or classroom. You have to find what works for you, your students, and budget. Have no budget? Start with donated items, cardboard, tape. Just let the kids create and make. Stand back and watch their genius shine.

  1. Wikipedia is not your enemy

I think probably most teachers have said it at least once, “No you can’t use Wikipedia as a source in your paper.” Yet, did you know that every article in Wikipedia is rated by a strict rubric, which you can view? The highest rated articles achieve that rating because they have been reviewed by experts and academics. Open any article, click on the talk tab next to the article tab. Scroll to the article rating, and open quality scale. You will be able to view the rubric. Be prepared to be surprised.

  1. YouTube works in the classroom

Why not YouTube? Videos are engaging. You can teach content with them. Students can create their own content and publish on YouTube. Plus, with websites tools such as Zaption, you can turn videos into interactive assessment tools that engage students and deepen understanding.

  1. We need to be global educators

Our students can’t afford for us to keep learning within the confines of our classroom walls. We need to open connections with the world around us. Try out International Dot Day, Talk like a Pirate Day, World Read Aloud Day. We can’t teach students to be global citizens if we never open the world to them.

  1. Share your story

Kevin Honeycutt and Cheryl Strayed, author of Lost, along with nearly ever presenter at the conference said it numerous times. Share your story. Share what you are doing in the classroom with others. By others I mean, people outside of your school and district. Again,we can’t ask our students to be global citizens, if we don’t model it ourselves. Blog, write, share.

  1. Persist through the blisters

Often the best learning comes from the mistakes we make from taking risks. Kevin Honeycutt talked about how students who want to learn to play guitar often quit at the blister stage. They quit when the learning gets hard. We all need to risk, and learn through the blisters. We need to model persistence and help our students develop the tenacity to push through the hard muck to the reward on the other side.

  1. Meet the new Office tools

If you haven’t tried some of the new Microsoft Office Tools, now is the time. Check out how you can flip your classroom with Office Mix, and PowerPoint. Create dynamic presentations with Sway where the content is the focus and Sway takes care of the design. Use OneNote Notebooks to save teaching content in digital notebooks that you can access from any of your devices.

  1. Start using Social Media

If you aren’t on social media yet, what is stopping you? Don’t want to read posts on what a friend had for dinner or see their latest baby photos? Have professional accounts or classroom accounts. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter classroom or library accounts open the world of global citizenship and connections for your students. Here is where you can share what your students are doing with the world.


  1. Teach digital citizenship

Our kindergarten students were born into a world with technology at their fingertips. Many were learning to swipe a phone or iPad before they could walk. What our students don’t know is how to be a responsible digital citizens. We need to teach them. Common Sense Media, Mike Ribble, Craig Badura, YouTube, NetSmartz and iKeepsafe all have materials you can use in your classroom.

  1. Skype in the Classroom or Google Hangouts –

We no longer have to think we need to be the experts. With the speed in how everyday knowledge changes, we can’t be. So, bring the experts into your classroom. Use Skype in the Classroom or Google Hangouts to talk with experts, authors, or take virtual field trips. Bring just-in-time learning into your classroom.

  1. Primary coding for young kids

Coding isn’t limited to the older high school, computer nerdy kids and teachers anymore. Students can code at any age, and the younger we start, the more skills they will have by the time they graduate.

  1. Don’t marry the tool

Sometimes we get hung up on whether Apple, Google or Microsoft is best. Hello? – can we all get along now? It’s not the tool that matters, it’s what you do with it to make learning better. If that means using a Surface in the morning and an iPad in the afternoon, then do it. Use the tool that makes the most sense for what your students need to learn.

  1. Empower Students

We need to empower our students by sharing their voices. Publish their work and open up the world to them. Andy Plemmons talked about how he has a Student Book budget team who is given a set budget and then is empowered to decide the books they want to buy for the library. Kevin Honeycutt emphasized that we need to honor the work of kids by helping them publish or sell their work. We need to let them inspire the world with their ideas on how they can help others.

  1. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable

Cheryl Strayed and Kevin Honeycutt both emphasized the risk taking theme.

“Innovation is all about risk raking and being willing to fail.” Cheryl Strayed

“Wanna make change? Break into the classrooms and burn down the file cabinets full of lesson plans.” Kevin Honeycutt

  1. Reflect

This blog post has helped me reflect on what struck me the most   at   the NCCE conference, so I can narrow my focus to some key elements and bring them into my library classroom. We teach our students to reflect, but we also need to do it ourselves. When you take a risk and it flops, ask the hard questions. What happened and why? Learn, adjust and try again. Don’t quit at the blisters, develop the calluses and keep moving forward.

If you want to learn more about sessions at the conference, you can still learn from the comfort of your home. Visit the NCCE conference website here and the presenter resources here.

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Some Kind of Courage


My students and I are BIG fans of Dan Gemeinhart. When he published The Honest Truth, I couldn’t wait to share it with my students.

dan gemeinhart

This novel of a boy with cancer who wants to make his own choices, tugged at my heart. I don’t have time to make many book trailers these days, but I made time for The Honest Truth. I convinced my husband to take me on a road trip to Mt. Rainier, so I could capture photos of the scenes in the book. I shared the finished trailer with Dan and he published it on his blog.

My students fell with it too, and soon even four copies weren’t enough to circulate in the library. They begged for me to see if we could Skype with Dan. He told us last spring about the new book he was doing the final edits on. We were all eager for January 2016 to come.

Then I switched schools and had a new group of students who had never read The Honest Truth. What would be their reaction to this fabulous book? Would it be similar to my last school? The answer is a resounding yes! Again, I had more students wanting to read this book than I had available in the library. Many students bought their own copies at our book fair and teachers bought copies too after hearing the buzz from their students.

So, when Some Kind of Courage was released in late January, I was eager and nervous to read it. I loved The Honest Truth so much, I was worried that Dan’s second book wouldn’t measure up to my expectations.

I was silly to worry. Dan scored again with Some Kind of Courage.

Set in 1890 in Eastern Washington state, this historical fiction book is the story of Joseph Johnson, a twelve year old boy in search of his beloved horse Sarah. Sarah is the only family he has after his father, mother and sister die. When Joseph finds out she has been sold, he is determined to get her back as fast as possible.

Joseph faces numerous obstacles along the way, but never gives up. Joseph is the kind of realistic character, that as a reader you feel like you know him, and feel his heartbreak at every turn. At many points I wanted to bring him home and go get that horse myself to put him out of his misery.

And that’s Dan’s gift. He knows how to create characters that you relate to emotionally. Every trial the main character faces hurts and each success is a celebration that you feel as much as the character. This historical adventure story will take you on a ride full of hope, angst, and courage. Bring a tissue, you might need it along the ride.

Some Kind of Courage

Dan Gemeinhart


Published by Scholastic Press 2016

Honest Truth Book trailer

Dan’s blog



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Hack the Classroom

On Saturday, January 30th, Mrs. Moynihan and I were very fortunate to be able to be part of the Hack the Classroom live studio audience on the Microsoft Redmond campus.


During the event we had the opportunity to listen to Hadi Partovi (founder of, speak about his experiences with computers growing up and the importance of teaching students how to code as early as kindergarten. The same morning President Obama gave his support for coding in his morning address.

“In the new economy, computer science isn’t an optional skill — it’s a basic skill,” Obama said Saturday in his weekly television and radio address. “I’ve got a plan to help make sure all our kids get an opportunity to learn computer science.”

When we think of programming, we often think of teenagers huddled over complicated script, but coding works with the younger children too as demonstrated by Canadian teacher Leah Obach. Leah teaches first grade and her students have been coding most of the year. Her class was chosen to be featured in the Hack the Classroom event. Here is her classroom in action.

Seeing how easily her students approach computer programming has inspired me to try more in my library classroom.

Another one of the speakers was Dale Dougherty, founder of Make Magazine and Maker Faires. He brought attention to the fact that our students need time to be creative in the classroom. They need time to make things because it helps them develop their critical thinking skills, perseverance and expand their creativity.

3D Magna Tiles

3D Magna Tiles

Richard Snyder, a middle school librarian in the Lake Washington School District asked Dale what the role school libraries have with the maker space concept. The librarians in the audience were thrilled when he said, “My secret weapon in class is the school librarian.” Makerspace time is so important to bring into the libraries because we work with all the students.

Jeff Kash spoke about how he uses OneNote and OneNote ClassNotebook in his classes. Students using OneNote no longer lose all their papers or have trouble organizing themselves. OneNote stores everything digitally, so students and teachers can access anytime from any device.

Rafranz Davis explained how she uses Minecraft edu in her classes. I’m probably the last person on earth who hasn’t played Minecraft yet, but I am intrigued by the higher level thinking skills that are engaged when playing this game.

If you would like to watch the recording of the Hack the Classroom event, this link will take you to the website, where it will be available for about 90 days.

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Coin Drive Exceeds Goal

Our Coin Drive to raise money for postage to send boxes of books to our partner schools in Ghana, Lesotho and South Africa exceeded our goal!


In the course of three days we raised – - Glitter Graphics – Glitter Graphics

How absolutely fantastic is that?! Our goal was $1,000 and we raised over $400 more than our goal!


Most of the money we raised was in coins. We had over 4800 pennies donated! It took hours to sort and count the coins. Thankfully there were many volunteers (students and staff) to came to help! We did use Coinstar to count the pennies otherwise it would have taken hours to count and roll them.

IMG_7856 IMG_7857 IMG_7858

Now that we have money, we can box up donated books and send them overseas! Each student will have the opportunity to sign a book and create a book mark to insert in the boxes.

2014 shipment 1


In a few weeks, we will see some happy faces from some children who can really use these materials. Here is a photo from Mr. Malakane’s classroom in Lesotho taken last spring. His students often use these books in lessons as well as free reading at home.


I want to thank our school community and especially our students who donated their own money to help a student in another part of the world.  Your generosity is amazing. Whether you donated a penny or a dollar, every cent helps. Your actions matter!


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African Animal Research for 2nd Graders

Our second graders will be doing research using the database PebbleGo about an African mammal. Today we are collecting information about which African mammals to study in each class. We are using Excel Online to collect our data. The data will help us form study groups about different African mammals.

Please, if you are not a second grader at our school, please do not take our survey!

White Rhino Valentina Storti via Compfight

African Mammal Survey Link


Britain's Next Top Zebra

Scorpions and Centaurs via CompfightCreative Commons License Tambako The Jaguar via Compfight

If you would like to learn how to make an Excel online survey, this QuickTip video will give you all the directions you need to get started.

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