Thursday, December 29, 2011

Oh What Fun!

The day before Winter Break we played school wide Bingo and decorated gingerbread houses! Okay, they were actually graham cracker houses but it was still lots of fun! Thanks again to everyone who sent in supplies and joined our festive party. Thanks also for my wonderful and generous gifts! I loved all of them!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Grinch!

My class agreed it would be fun to participate in a Reader's Theater based on the book, How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss. Using Testmoz, students let me know which roles they were interested in (and not interested in). I did a random drawing for students eager to play the role(s) of the Grinch, Cindy Lou Who, Quotations Who and the much coveted, Max the dog. At the last minute our original Grinch was out sick and the original Max had second thoughts and decided a speaking role was preferable. Luckily, the students were very flexible and we managed to find some willing understudies! We had a ton of fun presenting this Reader's Theater the last day before Winter Break.
Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rosetta Stone

This Set of Headphones (With a Microphone) Cost $5 at Big Lots
We recently announced the exciting plan to pilot the Rosetta Stone program in classrooms in grades 1 through 6 in the self-contained gifted program at Sonoran Sky. Information was sent home last week but here are a few answers to some FAQs. 

The paperwork needs to be completed by January 3, 2012, but we are hoping to get everyone enrolled before Winter Break. Here is an additional copy of the registration form. Parents have the opportunity to explore this program for free through Monday using the log-in information emailed earlier this week. Students will need a set of headphones with a microphone. I will purchase a few spare pairs for the classroom, but obviously it is more sanitary for each student to have their own. Headphones with microphones range dramatically in price. I urge you to look at some of the less expensive headphone options and when you send them to the classroom, it would be helpful if they are labeled with the student's name.  We are planning to have the students access the Rosetta Stone program between 40 and 60 minutes per week during school hours and they will be free to use the program at home as well. 
Regarding Mandarin (which is the fastest growing language in the world), Rosetta Stone uses Pinyin for typing/writing exercises (as do students in China using a computer) and provides the option to view the written language in Pinyin, Traditional, and Simplified characters. Typing on a keyboard requires the Pinyin alphabet as there are far too many characters (40,000+) to use any form of keyboard. Rosetta Stone uses the following interface: typing in Pinyin, and reading in any of the 3 available character types.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions, concerns and if any of the cost of the program itself or the headphones will be a hardship. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Postcard Project

About a month or so ago we started doing some research on Arizona. The class came up with a list of interesting facts, created timelines and put together presentations using Google docs.
We wrote out 49 postcards and mailed one to a 2nd grade class in every single other state. Postcards to us have been trickling in from across the U.S. and we have enjoyed reading them. Below there is a brief movie about the United States postcard project.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Monetary Donations

Many of you have recently asked how you can help with resources and/or what the procedure is to make a tax-deductible donation since the 2011 tax year is coming to a close.  If you are looking to donate we would appreciate any monetary donations to the classroom or to the PVUSD Self-Contained Gifted Program. If you are making a donation specifically to the classroom, there is a Request for Acceptance of Donation and Gifts form in the front office.  You can also donate at the Gifted Ed Website and you may specify Sonoran Sky in your donation.   
Thank you all so much for your constant generosity and support! It's a little bit startling to realize we are nearly halfway through the school year!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

It's December!

Wow, it's already December! We have only 12 more days of school before Winter Break. My focus these next two weeks will to be to keep the class in as much of their usual routine as possible. There are many special events coming up so it will be a challenge!

In Language Arts we have been preparing for the WordMasters ChallengeThe WordMasters Challenge is a fun and mind-stretching classroom competition for Language Arts students in grades 3 - 12. My class is involved because we work at least two grade levels beyond. Over 4,200 school teams, from 50 states, participated last year. Unlike other language-arts contests, which emphasize grammar and punctuation, this competition addresses higher-level word-comprehension and logical abilities and helps students learn to think both analytically and metaphorically. 

Tomorrow we will review what we have learned about analogies and will continue exercises and strategies. The test will be given in the classroom during the school day and all students will be participating. 

In math, the students are very much differentiated but we are continuing to learn about units of measure and geometry as a whole group and are also on the road to wrapping up the timed math challenges.

As part of Social Studies we will be talking about customs and traditions of ChristmasHanukkah and Kwanzaa but if your family celebrates a different holiday I would be glad to incorporate it into the unit. Please let me know! Also, you are welcome and invited to bring in an activity that shares a special holiday or tradition that your family celebrates. Learning about other families and cultures is important in our classroom.  The kids are always very excited about the holiday season and would be thrilled to have a visitor come in and share some knowledge. 

Please let me know if you have any questions, concerns or if you are interesting in doing a holiday project with the class. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Twitter Chat

We had a blast today participating in our first class Twitter Chat! We tweeted with other elementary classes all around the United States and Canada playing "Name That Toy."
We learned some of the Twitter lingo and that we need to keep each tweet to 140 characters (or less). Students enjoyed the challenge of figuring out what toys other classrooms were tweeting clues for.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Last week in Science class, we churned butter. This integrated with a larger Social Studies unit based on Colonial life and Pioneers.
After writing all the materials and instructions for churning butter, along with predicting what would happen, how long it would take for their butter to churn and a few other things....
...students worked with a small group churning a small container of cream to turn it into butter. Students observed the results of their labor and tasted the buttermilk they helped create as well.
Everyone had fun churning the butter but I think everyone had MORE fun tasting the results of their hard work!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving! 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Noetic Math Champions!

National Champions! Both Earned a Perfect Score!
We have a class of outstanding math students this year! Grades 1, 2 and 3 in the self-contained program always compete in the bi-annual Noetic Math Contest. It's an advanced math competition, specifically designed for high achieving math students. The problems involve higher level thinking skills.
National Honor Roll Winners - Scored in the Top 10%
We did very well and had many students place in the top 10% of the country. In my class all of the students placed in the top 50%. Results can be viewed here.

Mrs. P's 'Be A Famous Writer' Contest

Nice Job! Three of The First Ten!
Earlier this year we discovered the website and during some of our dreaded "excessive heat days", we listened to Mrs. P read us a story from her magic library since we couldn't go outside to recess. We discovered she was hosting a writing contest and the students were eager to enter! The first ten students per age category to enter Mrs. P's 'Be-A-Famous-Writer' Contest won a prize! In our class we had four students that were within the first ten to enter nationally! They won an autographed book from Mrs. P! She also sent the rest of the class gold coins and bookmarks for their hard work. 
Our class was also the first to enter the contest as a whole class, so Mrs. P. sent us a big box of goodies including an autographed photo! Students wrote a short story as a class assignment as part of a writing unit and we entered them in the 'Be-A-Famous-Writer' Contest.
Thank you, Mrs. P! We had a great time writing the stories and the students are enjoying their awesome prizes!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Weekly Update - November 14

This week we will be wrapping up our Ramona Quimby Literature Study with a Beverly Cleary Webquest. 
In Math this week we will be using Khan Academy and also studying patterns. In Social Studies we will be learning about Colonial Times and tying into that, we will be churning butter in Science. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Fresh & Easy Night

This Wednesday, Sonoran Sky will be at the Fresh & Easy store at Scottsdale and Shea between 4-8pm for a PTO fundraising event.
My class worked with Mrs. Baumkirchner's Kindergarten class to write some commercial scripts and create the videos. We really enjoyed being the older, wiser buddies in this project!
Speaking of the PTO, watch the video below to see just one of the many ways the PTO has supported the school.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fun Is In Session!

Our Apple Store field trip was a huge success! Thanks so much to all the wonderful parent helpers who were part of this exciting experience. Students learned how to create a movie using iMovie '11.  At the end of the lesson the "genuises" helped each student burn his or her project(s) onto a DVD for them to keep.
Possibly the most exciting part of the trip was when we received lots of applause and loud cheering as we filed out of the store. (I don't think it because we were leaving.) 
Students kept mentioning their "standing ovation" for the rest of the day.

This is a compilation of most of the movies created during our field trip! Impressive work!

Click below to see some photos from this field trip:
Click to play this Smilebox collage

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Family Movie Night

Have you heard about Family Movie Night? It's tonight, on the field and the movie begins at 6:30pm. Gates open at 5:30pm. The movie being shown is Mr. Poppers Penguins (rated PG).
My class worked closely with Mrs. Arn's 4th grade class to fully produce two commercials for the PTO. Roles included scriptwriting, acting, directing, editing and finalizing the production. The students did a terrific job!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Prime Pumpkin Prediction - Part 2

After estimating and measuring circumference, weight and vertical lines of our pumpkins, along with pondering a few writing prompts and answering some critical thinking questions about pumpkins, the REAL fun began!
Students predicted the amount of seeds in their pumpkin and then predicted whether the size of the pumpkin determined seed totals.
Then we dug in! Students worked in partners or small groups determining the best way to count the seeds. Some chose to group the seeds into fives or tens, others counted by ones as they went along. Still others waited until every seed was scooped and then determined a method.
You might be surprised to hear how many seeds the average pumpkin contains. And regarding small pumpkins having fewer seeds than large pumpkins - what do you think? Ask your 2nd grader!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pumpkin Math

Thanks So Much To Everyone Who Sent In A Pumpkin!
Today we began participating in some pumpkin math activities. There are so many math possibilities when it comes to pumpkins!
Using yarn, students measured the circumference of their pumpkin. Then they measured the yarn using a ruler. 
Each student estimated the circumference first, and then figured out the difference between their estimate and the actual circumference.
Each student also estimated the weight of their pumpkin, then weighed themself and then got on the scale holding the pumpkin to figure out its actual weight. A few of the pumpkins were so heavy it was challenging to hold for more than a few moments!
Our activities today also consisted of predicting and counting the vertical lines on a pumpkin and some creative writing. Some of the math vocabulary covered today during this lesson includes: circumference, distance, difference, estimate, vertical, subtraction and decimal. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Khan Academy

Although it has been around for several years, I really only learned about the Khan Academy this past summer. I've taken several courses to learn how to use it effectively and started implementing it in the classroom this week.
Students are able to login using their pvLearners account (because it is a Google Apps for Education Account) and have added me as a coach. The Khan Academy is an amazing resource that is going to make differentiation in (and out of) the classroom easier, and allow students more freedom to work at their own pace. After a few days of using it, I am VERY excited!
There is lots of information available regarding the Khan Academy, and I do not feel like I can possibly cram it all into one blog post. Ask your kids about it, try it out for yourself and take a peek at them using it in the classroom.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


The Founder of WoodQuest - Mrs. Woodard!
Yesterday in class Mrs. Woodard stopped by and explained WoodQuest to my class. She is integrating this inquiry based learning project into Social Studies but as it is cross-curricular, students will be working on it in my classroom at times, too. Some information was sent home yesterday but here is a little more.
The Goal of WoodQuest is to earn "Woodbucks" through a variety of activities. Students will be grouped in "communities" (Jeffersonville, Washingtown, Franklinburg and Jackson City) and are expected to work with their team as well as individually. There are lots of individual activities available on the Choice Board and students are encouraged to choose activities to fit their individual interest and learning styles. The choices include projects like creating timelines, slideshows, posters and reports. Most, if not all of WoodQuest will take place in the classroom but students are certainly not discouraged from working on projects at home for extra "Woodbucks".

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

School Book Fair

My class is scheduled to visit the school book fair tomorrow during the school day. We had an opportunity to browse yesterday. The book fair will be running until October 27 and families are parents are welcome to stop by. More information can be found here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Innovative Ideas with Legos

I challenged my class to come up with an innovative creation made out of Legos, which we could use in the classroom. First they brainstormed and made a list of possibilities on an iPad app. Then out of those ideas we decided which ones were realistic based on time, space and available Legos. The next step was for students to write about what their idea was, write what would be useful about their creation and to draw a color picture of it. The final step of course, was to actually build their creation and try it out.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

October Scholastic Book Orders

Online Ordering Information
Web address:
Class Activation Code: GK9BF

Hi Everyone,

October Scholastic book orders were sent home today. Here is a reminder for the online ordering instructions:
Go to and log in using your user name and password.

If it’s your first time ordering online, use the Class Activation Code shown above to get started
  • SIGN UP at On the parent page, click the “Register” button in the “First Time Here?” section. Register for your own user name and password. When prompted, enter the one-time Class Activation Code shown above. This code ensures that your order is sent to me.
  • SELECT the books you’d like to order—choose from thousands of titles—many more than in our monthly flyers.
  • SEND your order to me online by the due date and your child’s books will be delivered directly to my classroom.
If you are interested in ordering, please submit your order by Friday, October 14. Please let me know if you have any questions! 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Google SketchUp

Before the Google Geo Teacher Institute I knew very little about Google SketchUp. I downloaded it at some point a while back but didn't quite grasp it so I put it on a back burner. After an intensive breakout session earlier this week, I feel like I have a MUCH better understanding of SketchUp and am eager to use it in the classroom. It incorporates math, geospatial reasoning, geography, chromatography and many other educational concepts. 

My session was taught by Allyson McDuffie, the manager of the SketchUp for Education Program at Google. She kept things moving very fast and inundated us with tons of relevant information.

Here is just a little bit of what I learned:
This is "Susan."
Susan Willard is a Google Engineer who worked on the original Google Sketchup. Each time a new version of SketchUp comes out a new model is included to give designers a relative sense of scale. She’s the first female to be the default SketchUp model! Version 8 is out now. 
The "push/pull tool" is designed to expand or decrease the volume of geometry in models.
SketchUp is primary a “click and release” program, generally it does NOT require clicks and drags. The push/pull tool is what SketchUp is known for and it is a patented tool.
My doghouse - complete with a roller coaster and of course, a mini schnauzer.
We spent time in class building a doghouse, which was mainly for practice using the tools, and then we learned how to model a real building that actually exists. It was challenging to learn a program as complex as Google SketchUp in a single day but I walked away realizing that like Scratch, SketchUp has a low bar but a very high ceiling. It is easy to begin using and there are many basic functions, but users can take SketchUp to many levels and go very deep.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Google Maps and Google Earth

Following is a brief summary of a few of the many things I learned in my Google Maps/Earth breakout session:
This is Pegman!
Google Street View is a technology featured in Google Maps and Google Earth that provides panoramic views from various positions along many streets in the world. Google has special boats and bikes to collect street view images from places like National Parks, the Grand Canyon, ski resorts or narrow alleys, etc. Drag the Pegman to places where photos have been taken to view that place in "street view".
Google Street View Camera
In Google Maps you can physically drag your route on a map to change it and it also has shaded elevation layers. Customized Google Maps can be exported as a KML file, which can be opened in Google Earth. KML files can be created within Google Maps.
Google Fusion Table
Fusion Tables can be used with both Google Maps and Google Earth and there is a collaborative option within maps. With the My Maps feature in Google Maps, you can mark locations, paths, and regions of interest on a personalized map, and share it with the world or a specified group. You can even add descriptive text, embed photos and videos, and view your map on Google Earth.
Map Overlay

Overlays are extremely powerful for Google Earth and there are many free overlay maps available for public use. Historical maps as well as modern maps can be used as overlays. Rumsey Historical Maps are a built-in layer of overlays in Google Earth’s Gallery.
Google Earth Had More Than 50 Species of 3D Trees
Now available in the Google Earth Gallery are 3D Tours and they are incredible! They 3D Trees are pretty awe-inspiring as well. 
Google Earth Keyboard Shortcuts:
N = North
U = Up
R = Up and North at the Same Time
Command and an arrow key will allow you to tilt up or down.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Google Geo Teacher Institute - Day 2

Day 2!
Tia Lendo from Google began the day talking about Google Chrome and Chromebooks in the classroom. Chrome was designed by Google to work exclusively with web applications. One of my favorite features of Chrome is that it is so safe and secure, protecting from phishing schemes, malware, pop-ups, and viruses. Chrome warns you if you’re about to access an unsafe website. With the advent of PVUSD becoming a Google Apps District, Chrome ties in seamlessly with the evolving trend of cloud computing
John Nowlin from MLTI was next, teaching us about individualized and community connected learning. His discussion was rich with the importance of pedagogical knowledge and awareness of our student's needs, interests and learning styles. Mr. Nowling reinforced the message from yesterday that digital media should be used within a learning environment to support content and new concepts, and teachers must be adept with 21st century skills. 
Truly GIANT Maps!
Daniel Beaupre presented the National Geographic Giant Traveling Maps next. These truly GIANT maps (26 by 35 feet!) are designed for use in grades K-8 and it tours with a trunk full of accessories including interactive games, geography adventures, atlases and books. Students learning with the Giant Map are exposed to the physical characteristics of the nation they are studying as well as history and varied cultures. 
Our final speaker of the day before the break-out training sessions, was Toby Lester, author of The Fourth Part of the World. He taught us about the actual map, which is still in existence, that gave America its name. In 2003, The Library of Congress paid $10 million for the only existing copy of the map from the year 1507, which was the first map to show the New World and call it "America". Mr. Lester presented a brief history of cartography and the evolution of maps, beginning with the paper map from 1507 to Google Maps today. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Google Geo Teacher Institute - Day 1

The day of learning began with keynote speaker, Angus King, the former governor of Maine. Governor King is very passionate about education, particularly technology in education. In 2002, King launched the Maine Learning Technology Initiative, a program which provides a MacBook to every public school student in grades 7 - 12 in the state of Maine. This is known as a 1:1 program.
The clear message Governor King delivered to the Googlers in the room was this: Classroom technology is a tool and it must be used properly. Teachers need to engage their students and teach them to think, be creative, find answers and understand information. We should teach our students to be good digesters, not good regurgitators. Technology is a powerful classroom tool but teachers must have the training and understanding to use it properly and effectively.
Next on the agenda was Jerome Burg, the creator of Google Lit Trips. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Burg this summer during the Google Teacher Academy and I am more impressed than ever! Google Lit Trips are free downloadable files that mark the journeys of characters from books and stories on the surface of Google Earth. At each stop along the way there are placemarks with pop-up windows containing a variety of resources. The focus of a Google Lit Trip is to create engaging and relevant literary experiences. It puts the the reader inside the story and really only makes sense if you are currently reading or have previously read the accompanying literature. Mr. Burg is quick to point out that a Google Lit Trip is NOT like using Spark Notes or Cliffs Notes. The experience is designed to stimulate higher level thinking skills and allow students to make connections. 
Next up - Michael Hathorn and his amazing tales of he and his students literally putting Hartford, Vermont on the map using Google SketchUp. He and his enthusiastic students created a digital history of their tiny New England town by constructing 3D models of the town's tiny buildings and geo-locating them in Google Earth. More information regarding Google SketchUp to follow - that was my afternoon break out session and I learned a ton!
 Still before lunch I was schooled in Motion XGPS, aggregating data, Google Fusion Tables and Geospatial Thinking. The training was intensive and fast paced. I loved every minute of it! I took notes, tweeted about my experience and basically just tried to keep up. Tomorrow's focus: Google Earth and Google Maps.