2012 in Review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 13,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 3 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Reflection, Teaching

Nothing Like a Little Anarchy



What is the purpose of what we have learned today?  This is a question I have been asked by my students and a question I often ask myself when thinking about the types of things I am going to ask my students to do.  What I notice a lot of the time is that by fifth grade, many kids have figured out that there is a ‘right answer’ and that if they are not 100% sure what that answer is, they are not going to say anything.  In my book, Imagine A School, I imagine the following:


Imagine A School



Often I wonder if I am providing this for my kids or channeling them all down a one way street to sixth grade.  I want to be the kind of teacher that hands out the following oath and dares my kids to sign it like they mean it – and then teaches them like I mean it.




I just finished reading Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks.  The book is told by 8 year old Max’s 6 year old imaginary friend, Budo.  Even imaginary kids can tell the difference between those teachers who “play school and those who teach school”:

“It’s strange how teachers can go off to college for all those years to learn to become teachers, but some of them never learn the easy stuff. Like making kids laugh. And making sure they know that you love them.”
― Matthew DicksMemoirs of an Imaginary Friend


What is most important to you as a teacher?


Four Ideas for Reading in the New Year

I was going back through all the “pin now – read later” items that I had pinned on Pinterest and noticed there was a bunch of really fun finds to do with reading.  In no particular order, here are four ideas for reading in the new year.

Read Your Way Across the USA

I love this.  I have read a few of these books but I like that someone has taken the time to prepare a map of books that take place in each of the 50 states.  For those kids that are looking for a fun challenge or want to expand from their usual genre choices, this might be a fun way to encourage the introduction of a few new authors into their reading life.  My fifth graders have read some of these books but some might be a bit beyond them at this point.  I also like the idea of them creating their own reading map based on books that they have read or want to read and seeing if we can also make our reading way across the USA.

Source: via Sonya on Pinterest

Reading Genres

I have kids who tell me, “I don’t like fantasy” or will ask, “What is the difference between Science Fiction and Fantasy?”.  This guide looks really helpful in helping kids independently make choices about the type of genre they will read next. I like the similarities column as that to me seems to be the way to get the kids to expand from the genres they currently read into new ones.

Source: via Carol on Pinterest

Read Write Think Website

read write think

If you are yet to discover this website, you are in for a treat.  If you are a regular user, you will know how awesome it is.  I did a quick search for “reading” and “strategy guides” and then narrowed down the results by clicking on “inquiry based teaching”.  What I got was a great guide to teaching research skills with an inquiry approach.  The guides are comprehensive, fully supported by research, come with appropriate handouts and/or links to other websites, and best of all, are less of a ‘one stop shop’ to be reproduced and more of a spring-board for your own interpretation and ideas as a teacher.  The detail and depth of this website makes it a firm favorite of mine and really does hammer home the connection between reading, writing and thinking – as it’s name suitably suggests.

Blooms Taxonomy

Encouraging higher order thinking is something that can be done when children are reading.  The following graphic is one which explains the ‘higher order’ and provides kid-friendly synonyms for each level.  I will be introducing this in my classroom as a way of highlighting these ideas to my kids and getting them to delve deeper in their thinking as they discuss and write about the books they are reading.


What tools, ideas or strategies are you reading in the new year with?

Reflection, Teaching

N is for “No”

N is for No



“No feels safe, while yes is dangerous indeed.  Yes to possibility and yes to risk and yes to looking someone in the eye and telling her the truth. “

-Seth Godin “V is for Vulnerable”

I recently supported a Kickstarter project by Seth Godin.  As part of my reward for backing his initiative, I got a couple of copies of his collaborative project with Hugh MacLeod, “V is for Vulnerable: Life Outside the Comfort Zone – An ABC for Grown-ups”.  As I was re-reading it again today, I stopped when I got to the letter N.  N is for No.  This made me think of my kids and the project they have proposed as part of our How We Express Ourselves unit on persuasion.  It started with this, and then this and ultimately ended with this.  A no.

So, what do we do with the “No”. This has been something I have been thinking about since the last day of school before the break.  On one hand, I think the no is valuable. I think it is good for my kids to learn that just because they are adorable and have a fun idea, people are not automatically going to jump on board and give their blessing.  On the other hand, I still find the no valuable – but for a different reason.  For the reason that a ‘no’ doesn’t have to mean the end.  Just because someone says no, doesn’t mean you have to stop and give up.  The whole point of the unit is to develop our powers of persuasion. How are we doing this if after our first no to our first proposal, we roll over and say “OK”?

What do we do with the no? 

This will be the question that awaits my kids when they come back from our break in January.  I will be guided by them as to how they wish to proceed – that is, after all, what an inquiry based classroom looks like.  I will be looking to them to guide me as we try and figure out where too from here. As I continued to flip through the book, I was inspired again by “Y”.  Y is for Youth.

Y is for Youth

“Youth isn’t a number, it’s an attitude. So many disruptive artists have been youngsters, even the old ones.  Art isn’t a genetic or chronological destiny, it’s a choice, open to anyone willing to trade pain in exchange for magic. “

-Seth Godin “V is for Vulnerable”

I think my kids have attitude and I think they are capable of magic.  I can’t wait to see what they do with the no.

To learn more about Seth Godin’s Kickstarter project, go here.

To learn more about Hugh MacLeod, go here.