Change is Scary

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Change is terrifying. But it’s good. I have learned in the past couple of years that I never want to be complacent. I hope that I always want to learn and grow and evolve as a person and a professional. Whether it is in the classroom, administration, or as a coach I never want to stop. Because when that passion stops, when the excitement of learning ends – we are done. Four years ago I could not even set my computer up in my classroom when the school year started. The amount of wires overwhelmed me. Thankfully my husband would come up at the start of every year and tame that wild beast for me. However, things started happening at WISD. We received iPads, and it turned my classroom and my career upside down. I fell in love with learning again. I fell in love with technology (something I stayed far away from) and with hands on learning. I let Cherie bring a SMART Board into my classroom, and I actually used it! Then Karen Ford signed me up for grad school. Something I said that I would never do. But I did. I finished, and I now have a degree in Educational Technology Leadership. What? The girl who could not set up a computer? It is so crazy to me still.

And then this happened – Last week I did the scariest thing of my professional career. I applied for a new job, and Friday I found out that I got it! I will be an Instructional Technologist at WISD alongside Cherie Stanley. I am beyond excited, scared, nervous, and very emotional. My heart is in the classroom with kiddos, and it always will be. However, with this new position I will be able to be in a ton of classrooms instead of just mine. I am praying that God will use me, and that I will really be able to help teachers and students in the area of technology use.

Two things have weighed heavy on my heart throughout this process. Not being solely with kids all day will be strange. I have taught all the Schroeder kids, but I won’t get to teach Brock next year. And the Kings…I will miss out on teaching the youngest two. There are several other families in Warren with precious children that I won’t get to work with one-on-one now, including my Maggie. Also, my women. They have mothered me the past eight years. They have been with me through firsts, lasts, births, deaths, heartaches, and happiness. God knew I needed them. They are my best friends, my moms, and my mentors.

Although my heart is heavy, and change always terrifies me, I know that good things are on the horizon. Exciting things are happening at WISD, and there is no other place I would want to teach or send my kids to school. Cherie and I are excited about the future. I can’t wait to dig deep and research different approaches and tools that teachers and students can utilize. I have purchased a website that I will launch by the end of May that will house tech tips, lesson plans, and activities that teachers from all over are using in their class. I hope this will inspire teachers to bring some technology into their class. One thing I know for sure, if this non-techy teacher can do it – anyone can.

The Opportunity of a Teacher!

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As I sit here and write, tears fill my eyes from the thoughts of the future of education for our students. Teaching is not a job and it is not an obligation. Teaching is an opportunity to inspire young kids to dream big, believe in themselves, and to know anything in life is possible.  Teaching is an opportunity to show compassion and kindness. Teaching is a chance to share life lessons and model integrity. Teaching is NOT a babysitting job.  It is NOT, “Oh you just teach because you are off in the summer and get paid!” Our salaries are already low and get divided over 12 months. I am blessed to have a husband that has great job and I am the 2nd income. What about the ones that are both in education or on a single income? This new house bill will have a huge impact on families across our state. Teachers put personal time after hours and during summers for our students. We do this because we love our students and we want the best learning experience possible.  We push our students to be better.

What is teaching? Teaching is so much more! I am rewarded every day with smiles, warm hugs, and “I love you, Mrs. Moses!” I get the opportunity to watch students grow in learning.  My students become a part of my family. There has not been a day go by in my career that I have not heard my name being called in a grocery store.  Their eyes light up and it makes them happy to make that connection even for just a moment.

Teaching should be valued.  Do you value the education of our students?  As a parent, do you want the best for your child? Shouldn’t we have their interest at heart always? If we value education, then we should value teachers.  We will continue to lose wonderful, compassionate teachers if state bills continue to pass devaluing educators in the education field. The teachers are at the core and heart of the system and truly care for the students.

We can’t let them take our spirit.  We are the champions of our classrooms and we CAN fight for the future of our kids.

But if you don’t Love Them

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My children’s pediatrician retired after practicing for 60 years. I didn’t realize yesterday when I needed to take Maggie somewhere new exactly how emotional I was over this. Dr. Derrick loved my babies like they were his own. I felt it in the atmosphere of his office when I walked in for the very first time when Maverick was a year old. I was 22 years old, and I was scared to death. Luckily, Dr. Derrick loved Frank and me, too. He was always genuinely concerned with how our little lives were going. It’s not because we were special. This is the way he treated everyone. It did not matter your race, your economic status, or what you looked like when you walked through those doors – you were his patient. You were important. Last night I kept thinking, “There are so many great doctors in this area; what’s the big deal, Daisy?” The big deal is that no matter how knowledgeable they are, no matter if they treat us with respect, diagnose us correctly, heal our ailments….if they don’t love my kids, if they don’t form that bond, I will never feel totally comfortable. I will never fully trust. A relationship will never form. After all, relationships are the pivotal key to any thing successful happening. It made me sad. Maybe this isn’t a big deal to some, but it is extremely important to me. I am in the people business. People matter. You can be what people perceive as the best coach, the best teacher, the best boss, the best writer, but if you don’t love the people you are serving (because we are here to serve) then it’s simple….you are not. You are not the best. You will never be the best. Your company will never truly be the best. Your school, your class, your team, your business. It will all be in vain. My prayer is to never forget this because people remember how they felt when they were around you. And that matters.

Dear State – You Got it all Wrong

Dear State,

You got it all wrong. You really did. If I had to assess you off of a one-day parade then I would have to say no. No, you are not acceptable. No, you should not get promoted. You see I have taught 4th grade writing for 8 years. Every year I see kids progress throughout my short span with them. Kids that could not write a sentence are able to write a whole story by the time that they leave my class. Kids that could not put their thoughts down on paper can draft beautiful stories that are focused and creative by May. Then you come in with your bubbles and overwhelming questions and the doom and gloom associated with your name and you ruin it all. You scare my students so badly that they cannot even function the day of the test. Some leave throwing up. Some start the morning off in tears. Students that have grown, students that have learned, students that are proud of their accomplishments will be told that they are not good enough. So, State, I am mad at you. Come May you will saunter in with your numbers and data and teachers that are amazing, teachers that have taught for decades that know the trade in and out will be told that they are not good enough. They will be told to work harder, and then you will give them even more ground to cover when you never let them cover the basics in the first place.

State test you are so omnipotent that it’s all we can think about. The most stressful day for a teacher is the last class day before their “test”. It’s go time. It’s the last inning with two outs and a full count. It’s 2 seconds on the clock and you’re a point behind. And it shouldn’t be. Let me tell you what really bothers me. My grandmother passed away, and I am headed to Dallas the last class day before you show up. I should be grieving for her right now, and I am. I should have the opportunity to reflect upon and honor the matriarch of our family, but because of you State I am not granted that right in full capacity. I am not fully capable of putting all of my focus on my grandmother right now. You are lingering. I’m always thinking about you. Always wondering if I did enough. If my kids are ready to tackle you on Monday. So, today I am grieving for my students because on the last class day before my test, their test, their number one fan will be missing. For the last play of the game I will be gone. And it makes me sick. You’re not a teacher, so you don’t understand how I feel. State, you don’t know how it is to hold 75 hearts in the palm of your hand. To tell them day in and day out that you love them, that you are proud of them, that they can do anything and then not be able to show up and blow the whistle. To give them their final pep talk. You DON’T know. State, you are killing kids, and you are killing teachers. You are way too important. There is way too much focus on you. Some things should take precedence over you. However, you are an attention hog. You are the talk of the town, the belle of the ball, and the shiniest red shoe on display that I’ve ever seen. You have stolen our attention, and you have stolen our thoughts.

Dear State, I hope you realize what you are doing, what you have done. I hope that you come to your senses before it’s too late. I hope that my six year old does not have to endure the pressures of state testing like my eleven year old has. I hope that this one-day parade era will end soon, so that when stuff comes up, when life throws you a curve ball, teachers, students, and parents are able to place their focus where it should be. I hope that you will see that students should be assessed differently. I hope that you will see that every child is different, yet amazing in their own way. I hope that you will let them be. I hope that you will let them learn. I hope that you will let them be kids. State, listen to your parents, your teachers, and your students. Open your ears and your heart. Please.

 Regards,

     Daisy Marino

                        Teacher, Mom, & Human

The Week Before STAAR

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Mrs. Marino’s 4th Grade Class

The week before the dreaded test. The test that makes teachers and students across the state shudder, stress, and scream. I have decided that I am over that mindset. I’m tired. My students have worked incredibly hard this year, and so have I. We are ready. We have made progress. Am I worried about the outcome? No, I am not. How can I say that? I say it because I have full confidence that on the day of the test my students, my babies, will absolutely try their very best. They will do THEIR best under THEIR circumstances. I hope they have slept. I pray that they have eaten. I hope they had running water the night before so that they are able to take a bath. With all the bubbles to fill in and boxes to check on the big STAAR test, the state missed a few. They don’t let us fill in if the kid has running water, electricity, or if their parents are currently going through a divorce. They don’t care if a family member has recently passed away, if their dad is in jail, or if they are sharing a one-room house with ten other people. The state didn’t ask me if I thought my students had slept enough in the past month to even focus at school. I don’t get to check a box that says, “We are simply surviving.” You see I am kind of mad right now. I am a little ticked. I am mad for every momma, every teacher, every administrator and every student that has to adhere to the scrutiny of not being good enough because of one day. I refuse to let one day define me. I refuse to let one day define my students and my school. So this week, the week before the test, we are going to have fun. We are going to be bigger and better than a one-day chance. We are going camping! On Monday morning my students will walk into the school and see a huge sign that says, “Welcome to Camp Write-A-Long – Where every kid is a STAAR!!” I hope that they are beyond surprised. Now let me say this – I’m not fancy, and I’m certainly not rich. All the decorations that I have made are what I had. I also robbed my husband’s camping equipment. The only thing I purchased for this would be the contact paper that looks like wood. It was two dollars a roll from the dollar store. My sweet friend Kaylee Aulbaugh told me about this idea, and I thought it was just what we needed at WES. So Maggie (my 6 yr. old) and I worked Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in my class in hopes that we could take some stress off the test for these kiddos. Here are some of the pictures of the stations that we created. I think I ended up with 14 stations. Kaylee sent me a camp song to start each morning off with, and let me tell you they are CUTE. On Thursday we will sing all of the songs, and then I will pass out the camp mail – the letters that I write my students each year. We will also have some yummy trail mix. I hope that this week is fun, engaging, and effective. I hope that my students will start the week of the test refreshed and rested. I hope that they know that I love them.

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The creek has writing prompts written on the fish. This is where they will practice introductions and conclusions. I have four tables set up like the one with the whiteboards with different activities at each.

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This activity is described in the picture above.

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The “tent” is where they will write their expository this week. The fishing net is for students to send mail back and forth to each other. The sleeping bag is an area for them to edit examples of stories.

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The index cards have magnets on the back of them. The students will place them with the correct article. The paper covered in wood contact paper is where they will create Sassy Sentences with adjectives. They will be able to write on the contact paper and then erase it right off. Fun!

There are several other stations not listed. Like I said – nothing fancy. However, I know my students are going to have a fun week of learning instead of a dreadful week of drill and kill.

FEAR is a powerful word! By: Angela Moses

If you go around being afraid, you’re never going to enjoy life. You have only one chance, so you’ve got to have fun.

Fear is a powerful word.  The great thing is we can determine how powerful.  I teach my students to not be afraid to move beyond fear.  For beyond fear is growth, courage, and new-found strengths.  I am currently having to listen to my own words and thoughts.  I will be starting a new chapter in my life in less than a week.  I will start grad school for a degree as a school counselor.  This has been something I have wanted to achieve since becoming a teacher.  Life has seemed to challenge this goal for many years.  I am registered, been accepted, and enrolled in my courses.  The past few days I have been second guessing my choice.  Am I making the right choice?  Will I be able to balance work, family, school, 2 boys in baseball, and all other things in my life??  I don’t have the answer which scares me.  What I do know is if I don’t take a leap of faith then I will never know the answer.  This is where fear can either take hold of you or it can fuel your fight to achieve your dreams. I am thankful to have a wonderful support system.  I have an amazing husband that supports me everyday, 2 wonderful boys that inspire daily, and the most amazing group of friends that give me strength each day.  The unknown path will remain unknown unless we begin the journey.  I am looking forward to finding where my journey will lead me.

 

The Busy Mom – How to Survive Grad School

When I started on my Master’s about 18 months ago I was terrified. I’ve said before how I did not even sign myself up, my assistant principal did it for me. I was not confident enough in myself that I could do this, but she had enough confidence in me for the both of us. And I made it! I start my last five weeks at the end of January where I finish all of my logs and Action Research Project, and then I walk in May. I am a completely different person from when I started on this journey. I am confident that I can do anything I set my mind to (with prayer and God’s will). Did I mention I am going to graduate with honors? Was this easy? Nope. I whined the entire time. I cried. I prayed, and I missed out on stuff. But I did it. And you can, too. Since I am now an expert (joking) here are a few tips to get any busy mom through this stressful yet exciting journey.

1. Get a house cleaner:
Not even joking. My husband and I paid for someone to clean my house once a week for the first year I was in school. Are we rich? Am I spoiled? Not even. I am a teacher, remember! But we knew for my sanity, and his, this was a must. So, I traded in pedicures and manicures for some extra help in the “homemaker” duties. After the first year I finally figured out how to manage my time, my classes, and I had chilled out a little. I also let go of some of the self inflicted pressure to make a one hundred on every single assignment. So, we let our wonderful house cleaner go (I will be forever grateful to her), and we are managing to maintain this beast by ourselves now.
2. Make a plan:
Seriously. On Sundays I looked at everything I needed to complete for the week, and then I set my own timeline. I knew if I did not stick with the timeline I set that I would be extremely overwhelmed. A lot of my classmates would go ahead to the next week’s work, but I just could not mentally do that. I had to make my plan and stick with just one week at a time.
3. Learn to say no:
It’s the hardest part of this journey. You are going to miss out on stuff you normally would not. You are also going to want to just rest when you get a chance. So, you learn to say no. This may be one of the best lessons that I learned during school because I have always been a “yes” girl. You somehow grow-up and realize that you don’t have to make everyone else happy all the time, and that if they truly are your friend they understand anyway. Prioritize. For me I never missed church because I was tired or had homework. God first. I never missed anything for my kids. Absolutely no way. I cut back on TV and even long phone calls with my baby sister. Luckily, she understands the end goal. I did not do my school work at work (huge pet peeve of mine) because that would mean that my students would suffer. If I am working on my stuff, then how am I teaching them any thing?
4. Form a great support system:
Number one is my husband. I only freaked out on him once. (Sorry!) He has his MBA, so he understands the work that is put into this. He also (thank God) is extremely independent, which takes a lot of pressure off of me. Also, he likes cereal for dinner. He does not care if there is a pile(s) of laundry that needs to be folded. He will help the kids with homework. He will give them their baths if needed. He also would take the kids out to do fun activities when I had huge deadlines, which was good and bad. Good because I could work. Bad because I wanted to be with them. The struggle. I have smart friends surrounding me that helped me answer questions all the time. I know I drove them insane. I also formed strong relationships with three other ladies in my classes from the first month. We have walked through this together from the start. We have cried, whined, prayed, and just been there for each other.
5. Be ready to flip out:
Go ahead and know that you will flip out. You will fall apart. No matter what type of facade you want to keep up of yourself it’s going to happen. You will crack. You will think that you should just quit. You’re a failure. Guess what….you’re not. You are just human. So call your sister or your best friend and scream and cry. Hit your knees and pray for God to give you strength, and then pick yourself up and move on. All the work will get finished. You will make a good grade. And before you know it you will be walking across that stage with your diploma in hand. This is life. It’s not easy, but it’s so worth it.
6. Put the books down:
You have to walk away from it all, or it will make you crazy. You have to have fun. You need to have fun. Life is good, and you don’t want to miss it. Have movie nights with your babies. Snuggle on the couch with them. Just CHILL! And smile.🙂
7. Never stop praying:
The most important part of this whole journey is to never stop praying. I don’t know how else I would make it through anything without a strong faith in God. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. It just means that I can rest easy because God will carry the load. He keeps my mind focused on what’s most important. He never lets me down. He is my best friend. He makes me happy.

I hope that this helps someone. Someone out there that is doubting. Someone that thinks there is no way possible that they can do this. You can, and I am proof. I started off very afraid and without confidence in myself. I am finishing strong with faith and confidence that with God’s help I can do anything. I know that God is going to use me (and my new degree) for His glory, and in the end that’s all that matters.

Get Kahoot! – Get Krazy!

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Mrs. Marino’s 4th Graders

So I knew I wanted to use this tool for awhile, but I live by my “Fav. Four” rule. I try to only introduce 2-4 apps the first and second 6 weeks. This way I do not overwhelm students or myself. I teach these tech tools as a way to later help with learning and understanding content, and it works. When students familiarize themselves with a few apps from the beginning of the year they are then able to create and design from then on out. Guess what? Today was the 2nd day of the 3rd six weeks, and it was time to try something new. I am absolutely going to have to move Kahoot to one of my tools that I teach within the first week of school from now on. The kids went KRAZY! In a good way, of course. They loved using this tool to review in class today. I seriously gave them less than a minute of instruction, and they were off and running. The cool thing about today was watching their faces. They were so focused. So intent. They were happy. It was such a good experience. They already asked if we could Kahoot again tomorrow. Well, absolutely we can! Check out the below picture.

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That’s me during our Kahoot session. One of my students snapped the picture with their iPad. So of course students love this…it’s a game. Let me tell you why this teacher loved it. Between each question I had the chance to go back and reteach concepts that were not mastered, and because we were doing this Kahoot style I had their undivided attention. They were eating it up.  Fun, easy, positive, hands-on, engaging…..seriously teachers you have to try this out. You know some days you leave work and you think, “Dang, I love my job!” Today was one of them for sure.

Mommy Guilt – The Struggle is Real

 

 

 

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Maverick & Maggie – my heart and soul

Even as I write this blog I am struggling with the fact that I will be putting my raw emotions out for everyone to read. I like positivity, and I like happy. I don’t like seeing negativity spewed all over social media because it makes me sad; however, I feel like this is a post that I need to write for myself and for my kids, so when I look back in a few years I don’t forget the struggle. Because the struggle has been very real. I said I would never go to grad school. I had my teaching degree, and that is all I ever wanted. I did not need to go any further because being a teacher (and a mom) was my dream since 2nd grade. But…..I came to a stand still. I was over the TAKS, the STAAR, the worksheets, the mundaneness of doing the same thing over and over. Then Warren ISD adopted a 1:1 iPad initiative. The community as a whole was very hesitant as what this would mean for our students. Teachers were concerned and administration did not know how all of this would pan out, but there were certain people put in place that knew whole heartily that this was the best decision for student success in the 21st century. After all, isn’t that what this is all about? Thank goodness that all of this started happening because it ignited something inside of me that had disappeared after years of boring lesson plans and teaching to the test – guilty as charged. We were so excited. There were so many cool things that we could do with the new technology in our hands. After forming PLN’s on Twitter our eyes were opened up to a whole new world again. Project Based Learning, Augmented Reality, thinking outside of the box, collaborating with other teachers and students from all over the world, all of these things made lesson planning exciting again. I could not wait to get to work the next day to see my students actually excited about learning. One thing led to another and my assistant principal decided to sign me up for grad school. She paid the admission and everything. And just like that I was going back to school. I was really excited, scared, doubtful, so many emotions all rolled up into one. I was so scared that this would take too much time away from my kids. I did not want them to feel slighted. I did not want them to grow up thinking that their mom thought other things were more important than them. I have struggled with these emotions the entire span of grad school. I have cried. I mean ugly cried. I do not even want to say how much stress chocolate I have eaten. I have wanted to give up. A lot. My oldest sister literally had to talk me down a few months ago (over text messages) because I was so utterly overwhelmed that I did not think I could see this thing through. My husband would take the kids out for the day to allow me to work on homework, but then I would sit here feeling guilty because I wasn’t with them and sad because I wanted to be having fun, too.

I have even struggled with my Christianity throughout this grad school thing which makes my heart hurt because Jesus is and always will be my top priority. I have not read my devotionals like I should; however, I have prayed just as hard as I ever have. I can promise you that without my prayers and the prayers of my family and friends that I NEVER would have made it through this. I have not missed church no matter how tired I was. But I have had to listen to some people make pointy comments toward me. Things like that really get in your head. Make you question if you are doing the right thing. Questions about my lack of cooking. Questions about me going back to school in general while my kids should be my main focus.  Some have questioned me as to why I want to teach my daughter all of this “technology” when I should be teaching her to cook and clean and take care of a house. “We should be teaching our daughters to take care of a husband and her kids,” they say. Well, I agree. However, I will also teach my daughter how to take care of herself so that if something happens to her husband she will not have to depend on or run to another man to take care of her. She will be able to take care of herself. There is not a thing wrong with a woman having an education. My husband has an MBA that he earned two years ago while having two small children. No one questioned him. No one asked him if he thought that meant he was putting things before his children. I am lucky that he feels just as strongly about education as I do – for our son AND for our daughter. He also does not mind eating a bowl of cereal for dinner because his wife has homework. (Thank goodness)

Yesterday I passed my LCE, and when I got in the truck I cried. Relief, I guess. Knowing that I am so close to being finished. Maybe. When I started grad school I said that I was not going to “walk” that I would just get them to mail me my diploma. I have definitely changed my mind. I may do flips across the stage. This is the hardest thing I have ever went through. Not the classwork (I have a 98.3 cumulative average) but the time management, the many different hats that I wear daily, working full time, wanting to teach my students awesome things, wanting to teach my kids about Jesus and about kindness, balancing it all, and the occasional laundry – just feeling worthy as a mom and a woman in general in this Pinterest crazed era. You know what I mean. So props to all you moms that are doing it all, being it all, hugging your babies, and being the best YOU that you can be. You are AMAZING. You are not anyone else, so don’t compare yourself to them. My kids are proud of me, and I know without a doubt when I walk across that stage that Maverick and Maggie will be standing up screaming my name, which is Mom.

Psalm 46:5

 

 

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Moving beyond the Worksheets

Mrs. Marino’s 4th Grade Class

It has been my mission the last two years to cut worksheets out of my classroom. I am not a fan, and neither are students. This means I have two choices: think outside of the box and plan something original or reach out to my PLN on Twitter or Pinterest. There are so many great ideas floating around out there, and I do not mind using them! This is why it is so important for teachers to share what they are doing. In my opinion quotation marks are one of the harder concepts that 4th grade needs to master. I used to do worksheet after worksheet after worksheet of quotation marks – never again. I have started thinking (and searching) for ways to teach quotation marks other than the worksheet. Here are a few ways that we have worked on them so far this year. The first picture you see is my white board. I put characters together in a box and told students to come up with dialogue between them. They loved this activity. I think it is better than worksheets for so many reasons. It’s fun. Students are able to be creative. They are writing their own sentences, which allows them to work on so many other concepts besides quotation marks as well. The kids could not wait to share the dialogue that they created.

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I am sure that y’all have seen this one. I call it Macaroni Quotation Marks. I found this idea on Pinterest last year, and once again my students loved it. I gave them their own bag of macaroni to keep this year. This way they can pull the macaroni out at anytime and work on quotation marks. Several students have been writing sentences on their individual dry erase boards and moving the macaroni around for commas as well. That was their idea not mine. This proves that if you allow students to work with engaging, hands-on materials they will start to think outside of the box all on their own. It’s amazing to watch.

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Another activity my students like to do is making up comic strips using quotation marks. This allows them a lot of creative freedom. They decide what they want to draw, say, etc. I like this because they are excited to do it. It does not seem like “work” to them. It is so much better than handing them a worksheet with quotation sentences on it to edit. This is engaging, it’s fun, and they are creating their own sentences, which once again covers more concepts than just quotation marks.

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The last activity we tackled this week targeting quotation marks was created on the app Write About This. We love this app because it can be used for so many different things. The students took a picture of their friend and uploaded it into the app using the custom prompt feature. They then had to create dialogue from their friend using quotation marks the correct way. Students love working on the iPads. They especially love emailing their finished products to their parents and teacher. This is a win win activity! This was the assessment for the week on quotation marks. It was easy for me to check their work from my phone or Mac Book. As a teacher these activities are so much better for me to check over than a worksheet. Sometimes I find myself cracking up laughing at things they have written. If I like these activities more than worksheets than how do you think my students feel? It’s time to step up our game, put in the work, and engage these learners.

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Now check out the picture below to see how awesomely hilarious my students are. Have an amazing outside of the box week!

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