Saturday, January 17, 2015

Notebooks in the Writing Workshop

Why Notebooks?  

Notebooks provide a safe space for students to document their thoughts, dreams, and growing knowledge of the world around them without the anxiety of producing a perfect piece of work. Inside the pages of a writer’s notebook, students are free to play with written language, doodle, try out bold writing moves, and experiment with a variety of beginnings, endings, and all the parts in between.
The child is the sole audience of the notebook entries until the point he decides to move an idea through the drafting process. “Ownership of authorship” is a critical component to the success of this important Workshop tool. Additionally, the frequency of entries in the notebook cannot be understated as daily practice living the writerly life supports the development of writing. Notebooks are a necessary and integral part of the Writing Workshop!

Personalizing the Writer’s Notebook

Whether the notebook is a handful of notebook paper stapled between two sheets of construction paper, a composition book, or a fancy journal students purchase on their own, the main consideration is that students have ready access to their notebooks on a daily basis to make entries that are uniquely their own. One sure fire way to enhance ownership of the notebooks is to allow students to personalize  them. There is no one best way to do this – let students’ creativity soar! If you have a bundle of old magazines, students can select pictures, words, and phrases to glue on the notebook covers.  You can ask students to bring in special photographs and two-dimensional mementoes from home (send a letter home to parents ahead of time) to decorate the notebooks. How about using technology to accomplish this task? One terrific online tool for the www.collage.com. Here, children can easily locate desired images (from approved websites) or upload photographs and produce a one-of-a-kind work of art. Regardless which process is used, be sure to “laminate” the notebook covers with packing tape or clear contact paper for durability – a terrific project for parent volunteers!

Getting Started

For some children, notebooks may be a new addition to the Writing Workshop. Scaffold their understanding by sharing a few trade books featuring notebook entries to give children ideas for the many and varied ways to use their notebooks.  Some titles to consider are Amelia’s Notebook (Simon & Schuster), Max’s Log Book (Scholastic), and Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Amulet).

It is helpful to decide ahead of time how notebooks will be organized and designate sections accordingly. For example, you may want students to leave space at the front of the notebook to allow for the creation of a Table of Contents or to serve as a place for housing collected phrases and snippets of conversations to inspire future writing endeavors. Pages at the back of the notebook may be reserved for helpful writing tips or lists of potential topics. Of course, the majority of the notebook is for students to WRITE. They need lots and lots of blank pages to try out new writing moves in response to minilessons, conduct quick writes, sketch ideas, experiment with poetry, brainstorm, create mind maps, and all of the many ways in which authors practice their craft in the pages of a notebook.

Strategies to Generate Notebook Ideas 

Once your students understand the purpose of a writer’s notebook, have their notebooks personalized and organized, they are ready to begin the important work of growing as writers! Published texts (of all kinds – think beyond books!) are the typical “go to” for sharing interesting text structures and “ways with words”, but don’t overlook the gems found in student writing samples and your own notebook entries.  In addition to mentor texts, support students in finding their own ideas and writing voice by inviting them to try some of the following strategies:

  • Generate Lists – things that are funny, scary, silly, sad and why they make you feel that way
  • Create Webs and Mind Maps – center on a special event, place, person, imaginary travel, etc. and write down every associated detail that comes to mind
  • Write around Artifacts – ask children to bring in a photograph or souvenir from home and record the memories that surround it (the artifact should remain at the point of writing in the notebook – an envelope can be taped to the page for storage, if desired)

Written by Debbie Linville, September 2014

Dr. Debbie Linville served as the Department Chair of the Elementary and Middle Grades Education at High Point University. She has been involved with NCAEE since 2005 and served as the Director of Region 5 and Chair of the NCAEE Regional Advisory Councils. Dr. Linville has been teaching for over 30 years and her passion is enabling educators to promote the proficient, joyful reading and writing lives of children.

Friday, October 3, 2014

How to Find Funding for the Elementary School Conference

School budgets are tighter than ever which makes it a challenge to find funding for an educational conference. Attending a terrific conference can provide the inspiration and motivation to have a successful year, but it's not always easy to receive the financial support you need. If you are interested in attending the Elementary School Conference in October but aren't sure how to pay for it, here are some ideas to get you thinking. We even have an option where you can attend the conference and pay later!

Are You Asking the Right Person?
Maybe you've asked your principal to help pay your way to the conference, and you've been told that there's no professional development funds. A teacher told me told me that very thing last year... but I just laughed! Why? I was handling registration last year and I happened to know that her county has already registered and PAID for over 40 teachers to attend! As soon as I told her, she laughed too, and said, "Obviously I'm not asking the right person." She immediately connected the dots and knew who she needed to call.

So if you have been told that there's no money, maybe you just need to figure out who to ask. It could be that there's a pot of money somewhere in your district and your job is to figure out who holds the keys to the fortune! Okay, maybe not a fortune, but just maybe there IS money available for professional development and it's a matter of figuring how to get your fair share of it. Be sure to explain how your school will benefit from your attendance, perhaps offering to share what you learn in short professional development session for your staff.

Register Now and  Pay Later 
What if your principal has approved you attending the conference but he or she isn't sure if the check can be sent to us in time? Or what if you've been approved, but your federal money has not come in yet and you aren't sure if those funds will be available before the conference?

We accept purchase orders, so check to see if your school can send one with your registration form. But what if that option isn't available either?

If an administrator is willing to sign a statement authorizing you to attend now and pay later, we have a Payment Authorization Form he or she can complete to guarantee payment by November 15th. Download the forms on the right, fill out the registration form yourself, and have an administrator complete the Payment Authorization form and sign it. You can register more than one person at the same time, but you'll need to have each person fill out an individual registration form. List everyone's names on the Payment Authorization Form and send all the forms to the address given.

Keep a copy to send in when payment is made later. If your funds become available before the conference, bring a check with you along with copy of the Payment Authorization Form. On-site registration costs $15 more than the regular rate, but if you have registered in advance and sent in this form, you will not have to pay the onsite fee.

Registration Fee Payment Options
When you register for the conference, there are three main payment options available:
  1. Online (Credit Card or PayPal) - Pay online with a credit card and you'll receive an email receipt for your records. You might be able to submit it to your school for reimbursement later. 
  2. Check - Download the registration form from the registration page, complete it, and mail or fax it in with a check. We prefer school checks, but we will accept personal checks too. You can register as an individual or as a member of a team. If you are registering with a team of 5 or more educators, you qualify for a 20% discount. Details are on the registration page
  3. Purchase Order - Download the registration form from the registration page, complete it, and mail or fax it in with a school purchase order. 
Remember: If you are not able to use any of these methods, you can use the Payment Authorization method described above.
Reserve a Rom Now!
Please make your hotel reservations at the Embassy Suites Resort Charlotte/Concord by October 4th and use the Group Code AEE to receive the discounted room rate. If you are reading this after October 4th, there's a chance that the code might still be accepted if rooms are available, so give it a try.  If you aren't sure you want to stay at the Embassy Suites, read this blog post for 7 reasons why you might want to do so, including convenience, luxury, the evening Manager's Receptions, and a free hot breakfast each morning!

Wishing you the best of luck with your efforts to obtain funding to attend the Elementary School Conference! We hope you'll join us Sunday at 1 pm on October 19th when the conference begins until Tuesday noon when we wrap things up. Attending the conference will be a terrific way to network with colleagues and learn new strategies for the coming school year!

Laura Candler
NCAEE 2014 President

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

7 Reasons to Stay at the Embassy Suites During the Elementary School Conference

Are you planning to attend the Elementary School Conference next month? It will be held at the Embassy Suites Resort in Concord, NC, near Charlotte from October 19th to the 21st. It's hosted by the NC Association of Elementary Educators, and it's open to all elementary educators ... you don't have to be a member to attend.

If you ARE planning to attend, please consider staying at the Embassy Suites during your visit. NCAEE has reserved a block of rooms at a special discounted rate, but that discount ends on October 4th. You can find step-by-step details for registering at the end of this blog post or at the bottom of the registration page.

If you are wondering about the $50 gift card giveaway, please see the information at the end of the blog post. The contest is over and a winner was chosen!

7 Reasons to Stay at the Embassy Suites
Here are 7 reasons why you should stay at the Embassy Suites during the conference:
  1. Luxury and Convenience - Staying onsite during a conference means you can relax and enjoy yourself in the beautiful new Embassy Suites hotel. No need to get up super early to drive to the event and look for parking! You might even want to arrive on Saturday to include time for a visit to the spa, golf course, or one of their great restaurants! 
  2. Free Internet Service - The Embassy Suites is offering FREE Internet service to Elementary School Conference participants who stay at the hotel! It's not normally their policy, but they have made a special exception for us. 
  3. Free Manager's Evening Reception - Network with colleagues during the manager's reception where you'll enjoy free drinks and snacks. Beverages offered include wine, beer, and mixed drinks.
  4. Free Hot Breakfast - The Embassy Suites offers a full, cook-to-order breakfast for all registered guests. This year NCAEE is offering a free luncheon instead of last year's continental breakfast, so if you don't stay onsite, you'll need to grab something to eat before you arrive. 
  5. Discounted Room Rate - Our discounted room rate makes the price reasonable, especially if you share a room with a friend. In fact, your half of the room cost will be about the "state rate" for reimbursement. To get that rate, register with Group Code AEE.
  6. Great Shopping - The hotel is located near the Concord Mills Mall, so after the conference ends each day, you can shop till you drop! 
  7. Support NCAEE - Staying at the Embassy Suites is one way you can support NCAEE and make it possible for us to continue hosting the Elementary School Conference. We receive a substantial discount on conference meeting room fees by reserving a block of guest rooms for our attendees. However, if we don't fill at least 80% of the rooms by the deadline (October 4th), we'll have to pay a HUGE penalty. How big? Some years we've had to pay over $6,000 in penalties because we didn't meet that minimum! Yikes!  

How to Make a Reservation
The Embassy Suites has a conference rate of $139 plus tax, which remains valid for reservations made on or before September 27, 2014. When phoning in your reservation, call 1-800-362-2779 or 704-455-8200 and be sure to tell the hotel that you're with the "AEE" group.

To register online, click this link to go to the hotel web page:
  1. Click Make a Reservation.
  2. Enter the conference dates: October 19-21, 2014. (If you want to stay Saturday, enter Oct. 18-21)
  3. Enter number of rooms and people.
  4. Then click Add special rate codes.
  5. Under Group Codes, enter AEE.
  6. Then click on the box to Check Availability.
  7. Complete your reservation. 
  8. Check your email for your hotel reservation confirmation code.
If you haven't registered for the conference yet, please visit the NCAEE website where you can learn more about it and sign up. Thanks for your support, and we look forward to seeing you next month!

$50 Amazon.com Gift Card Contest
To encourage conference participants to reserve a room before the September 27th deadline, we hosted a giveaway of a $50 Gift Card to Amazon.com to a participant who reserved a room at the Embassy Suites by September 27th.

The contest is over, and the winner is Carla Johnson-Royal! We just notified her and she will pick up the gift card during the conference.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Join the 2014-2015 NCAEE Team!

If you're an elementary educator in North Carolina who wants to make a difference, we want you on our team! The NC Association of Elementary Educators (NCAEE) is an active organization with a mission to advocate for elementary students and teachers by providing outstanding professional development across the state. Through our efforts, thousands of teachers have been inspired by motivational speakers and educators like Ron Clark, Dr. Jean Feldman, Dr. Harry Wong, Dr. Marcia Tate, and many others.

We are a volunteer organization, run entirely by educators who have a passion for making a difference in elementary education. NCAEE is led by a Board of Directors, and each year some of our Board members rotate off the Board and we bring on new folks. We also have positions available at the regional level. If you're interested, please read on!

How to Get Involved with NCAEE
There are three levels of involvement in the NC Association of Elementary Educators:
  • NCAEE Members 
  • NCAEE Regional Advisory Council (RAC) Members
  • NCAEE Board Members
Becoming a member is easy! You can join online from our website and pay a small membership fee, or you can attend the Elementary School Conference and complete the membership information form during the conference. Your membership fee is included in your registration payment. Members support our organization by attending the conference and sharing information about NCAEE with others.

Regional Advisory Council Members assist our Regional Directors with determining the needs of their region and implementing one-day regional conferences to meet those needs. Click the map above to see a larger view and find your own region.

NCAEE Board Members include all eight Regional Directors and others such as the President, President-Elect, Treasurer, Secretary, and At-Large representatives from various facets of elementary education including university professors, DPI, central office administrators, principals, etc. Visit our Leadership Page to see a complete listing of all Board members. Board Members attend all Board meetings and have an active voice all aspects of our organization. We generally have two face-to-face Board meetings a year and four or five online meetings. You can read more about our organization on our website and in our by-laws.

State and Regional Conferences
In order to understand the various roles in our organization, you need a learn a little about what NCAEE offers to elementary educators. We are most well known for our annual state conference, the Elementary School Conference that takes place each fall. This year's conference will take place in Concord, NC, near Charlotte, and features well-known speakers as well as practicing educators. A Conference Committee made of Board Members works with a conference planning organization to coordinate this event.

We also seek to inspire educators through smaller, one-day or evening conferences in each of the eight regions in our state. Our most recent conference was the Region 3 session that took place on August 4th in Franklin County and included opportunities for educators to learn about funding resources for classroom projects, attend workshops presented by teachers for teachers, and attend a Q&A panel discussion with NCDPI consultants. The event was a success, as you can see from the feedback we received from Crystal Williams, one of the attendees:
"Thank you for all you did to make the Regional Conference a success.  I appreciate your support.  It was an extremely beneficial conference and I can't wait to share the resources & ideas with others."
Regional Advisory Councils
Who's responsible for planning and organizing these regional events? That's the job of the eight Regional Directors who each work with 4 or 5 Regional Advisory Council members to find a location and coordinate the events of the day. Regional Advisory Council members do not attend Board meetings, but they meet online or face-to-face with other council members to determine the needs of their regions and plan an event that will meet those needs. We currently are in need of several Regional Directors and a good many more Advisory Council Members. All Regional Advisory Councils will hold their first meeting on Monday, October 20th, after the last session at the conference. The time and location will be provided to RAC members before the conference. If you apply to become an RAC member, please plan to attend the Elementary School Conference this year.

How to Apply for a Leadership Role in NCAEE
Getting involved in a leadership role with NCAEE is a wonderful way to share your knowledge and expertise with others in our state. We welcome all educators, including classroom teachers, retired teachers, administrators, and educational consultants. All you need is a desire to make a difference in elementary education and a willingness to work hard to help NCAEE fulfill its mission.

If you are interested in taking on a leadership role in our organization, please complete the Google Doc form on the right. You may not hear from us right away, but we will contact folks as positions become open.
We are excited about our upcoming Elementary School Conference and hope you will plan to join us at the Embassy Suites Concord/Charlotte for that event. You can learn more about it and register now from the NCAEE website. Our organization is growing, and we know that there are many talented and passionate educators across the state who would welcome becoming involved with NCAEE. We look forward to meeting you this October!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Register Now for the Elementary School Conference!

Conference Dates: October 19 - 21, 2014

Are you planning to attend the upcoming 11th Annual Elementary School Conference this October? We're excited that this year's conference will be held in a brand new location, the Embassy Suites in Concord near Charlotte, NC. Our theme is "Mind, Heart, Body - Educating the Whole Child," and we have a terrific lineup of speakers who will share engaging strategies to keep you motivated during the 2014-2015 school year!

Dave Burgess, author of Teach Like a PIRATE is our luncheon keynote speaker, and in his fast-paced, entertaining session he will share ways to dramatically increase student engagement and design wildly creative lessons.

Our featured speakers include The Bag Ladies, Dr. Kathy Kennedy, Pat Calfee, Kathy Bumgardner, and Laura Candler. You can read more about their sessions on the conference registration page here.

How to Register
The Elementary School Conference is hosted by the NC Association of Elementary Educators, but it's not just for NC teachers. It's open to all elementary educators, no matter where they live. Registration is open, and there are many payment options available. You can register and pay online with a credit card, or print out the registration form and mail it in with a check or purchase order. We also have a 20% Team Discount for groups of 5 or more. Get the details on our registration page.

Free Conference Registration Giveaway
To help promote the Elementary School Conference, we hosted a giveaway for TWO free conference registrations!

The giveaway ended on Monday, September 8th, and our winners were Amanda Righter and Lindsey Gaudet. Congratulations!

Please help spread the word about the Elementary School Conference by sharing this blog post with them or by sending them directly to the NCAEE website. We hope to see you at the conference this October!


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Community Engagement is a Win-Win For All

by Dr. Rebecca Smith

Children succeed educationally in environments where community, parents, and school stakeholders are all committed to the same priorities for student learning.  Such settings are represented over and over in educational research that demonstrates schools that are “beating the odds” for student performance.  Our schools are an essential part of the development of our communities and the sustainability of progress for our future. Therefore, the commitment of partners to learning is at the nexus of a school’s success.  So the question is why are we not involving our community supports in our schools to the greatest possible extent?  In many cases – it simply is because educators may be reluctant or overwhelmed due to the many demands of their time, focus, and priorities in an age of accountability.  However, partnerships with parents and community can be a best practice for reducing the stress and providing necessary support to lighten the load of such demands resulting in positive outcomes for all who are involved. 

In high-performing schools, community members, parents, civic groups, Faith Based partnerships, and businesses can help develop, understand, and support a clear and common focus for learning.  Prioritized and aligned academic, social, and personal goals contribute to improved student performance and the support of varied partners has a meaningful and authentic role in achieving these goals.  The educational community works together to actively solve problems and create win-win solutions.  Mentoring and community- engagement models make for a win-win for community and schools with our children ultimately being the benefactors of such efforts. 

Some examples of ways for parents and communities to be involved include:

  • Lunch, breakfast, book club and field trip, club and special interest activity buddies
  • Tutoring supports before, during and after school 
  • Mentoring relationships which provide modeling of specific job skills, educational attainment, visits to successful work and post-secondary environments
  • Community partnerships for funds or in kind contributions for food, gas cards, school supplies, and clothing needs on site for families/ students who have emergent or hardship needs.
  • Access to quality and interesting books and support for parents on specific skills to help support their emergent readers
  • Expanded learning opportunities via partnerships with Arts Councils, Theater Groups, Universities –(events on campus that are developmentally appropriate, athletic events, etc. which provide cultural capital and experiences for children)

Early Literacy efforts with book and numeracy supports for school feeder programs including daycares, Head Start, and Pre-School programs that are connected to the school’s literacy and numeracy goals.

All schools need and benefit from successful partnerships within their community.  There are a variety of business, civic and publisher opportunities for such efforts that offer free resources and support. Check with your school to see what is currently available, reach beyond the school and initiate partnerships and be a catalyst to engage the community at your school. You will personally benefit from your efforts and so will the community and children who are impacted by your efforts!




Dr. Rebecca Smith has a background of 32 years of work as a teacher, administrator, and trainer K-12 at the school and district level as well as undergraduate and graduate teaching experience. She has Masters degrees in History and Educational  Leadership  and a doctorate in Educational  Leadership. Dr Smith  has published various curriculum guides and articles on effective teaching models and has provided training for staffs across her district and state via staff development and state conferences.    

She has most recently served as Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction for Rowan Salisbury in NC where she was able to create and lead  multiple literacy, technology, global ed, Common Core, Poverty awareness, brain based learning efforts, and various school reform initiatives.  Dr. Smith also wrote, secured and managed  many state and national grants for her district and worked on collaboration models to foster 90 new partnerships for the schools and community.  She is currently working on a publication on Reducing drop out rates and helping teachers improve student engagement.  Working with teachers and students to make learning relevant and interesting for reluctant readers  is her passion.  Dr. Smith serves as an adjunct professor for graduate education  for the University of Cumberlands in Kentucky and provides online instruction and advising for their School of Education.  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Engaging Students with Project Based Learning

by Dr. Nancy Betler

As an educator, it is important to continue to learn and grow.  I currently teach students who are gifted and  continually need to be challenged.  At the end of the last school year I reflected on how the year had gone and decided that although things went well I wanted to push my students to another level.  There was a need to help them grow even further.  During my research on how to help students grow I came across the strategy of Project Based Learning.  Project Based learning is active learning that is student-centered.  Students learn about a subject through the experience of problem solving and creating a project.  According to the research, Project Based Learning helps the students develop flexible knowledge, effective problem solving skills, self-directed learning, effective collaboration skills and intrinsic motivation.  This was just what I needed to push my students. The Project Based Learning environment changes the roles of students and teachers and puts learners in the driver’s seat.


My next step was to discuss this idea with the teachers who I work with at my school.  I wanted to get their insight and collaborate with them to help enhance my growth as well as student growth. The teachers I connected with were enthusiastic about trying this with our students.  We planned how we would implement this active learning strategy during the next school year.

Over the summer I developed and adapted two Project Based Learning projects based on what I had found on the subject to use with my students.  The initial project I started with was to have the students answer questions about a cupcake bakery in our project Cupcakes Configurations.  After being introduced to the project with cupcakes students were required to work in groups and develop the best way to package cupcakes for transport. The students had to discuss potential problems when transporting cupcakes.  They also had to make a list of possible solutions.  They had to create and defend their model.  They also had to discuss pricing and decide on a fair price.  This was more complex and had more pieces than what we had done in the past.  The teacher I was team teaching with and I were excited to get started with the students.  We could not wait to see how they responded to this learning opportunity.

When the problem based learning questions were introduced during our math lesson the students were thrilled.  There were leading questions and the students had to incorporate multiplication and division.  They were allowed to work in pairs or groups of their choosing.  The students began to work immediately and started to plan their strategies.  This process was different for us as teachers since we had to let them plan rather than take our usual role of teaching the topic.  We could guide but not give direct instructions on how they should answer or what they should produce.  They had to be prepared to present to another class their final finding.  We had to let the students be active learners and it was amazing!


The quality of their solutions and the models they created were fantastic.  Students were able to incorporate technology as they presented using PowerPoint or their Gaggle accounts. Some students created video demonstrations, some created songs to get their points across and others developed full scale models.  One student dressed as a giant cupcake to give her presentation.  It was a positive process for all involved and the teacher that I was working with and I decided that this would not be the end of Project Based Learning for the school year.  I wanted to work with the students and help them learn through there various learning styles.  Not every child learns the same way and it is essential as an educator to make sure that the students have opportunities to learn in different frameworks.  One student said that “this was the first time I felt that my project for an assignment was actually my project.”

Through collaboration with another teacher, we determined that we would also use Project Based Learning for another group of students.  We decided to have the students solve the following problem based on our curriculum.  We used a project that had already been developed and added to it.  Students were told that the state fair would no longer be held at its current location.  They were then told that the governor had chosen their team as the representative and event coordinator of their region.  It was their job to convince the governor and his advisors (an unbiased group of students from your school) why the state fair should be held in their region.  The students once again were allowed to pick their own groups and were guided through the process.  We met with the students to confer and go over the question, their solutions and the rubric.  The student projects were once again outstanding and incorporated different learning styles and the use of technology.  The final step was that the students presented them to other students in our school.  They presented with rave reviews. Project Based Learning definitely has helped my student develop the 21st century skills of critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity!


As a result of the research, collaboration with my professional community and student learning I grew as an educator through the use of Project Based Learning.  I shared this information and the work that my students completed with our Talent Development Department.  I contributed to our district wiki some of the problems and enhancements I have used.  This is something that I am proud of as a professional.

This October I will be presenting with another teacher, Melissa Mooney, about Project Based Learning at the North Carolina Association of Elementary Educators Conference.  We will be sharing an overview of the process, tips, lessons and student projects.  It is exciting to me that I am now considered an expert on this topic.  My pedagogical knowledge has bloomed on this subject.  During this school year I have grown professionally in response to the need of the students.  The students needed to be challenged more and to be able to use this approach to teaching in which students explore real-world problems and challenges has really helped my students grow. Next year I plan to continue to integrate Project Based Learning into my instruction.  I plan to refine what has already been created as well as create new ones.

To learn more about Project Based Learning and how it can be used to enrich learning experiences and engage learners, check out the archives of a recent #cmsk12chat, which I co-moderated  with Joshua Lemere. The archive for our PBL-focused chat can be found here.


Dr. Nancy Betler is a Talent Development Teacher at Eastover Elementary and primarily works with gifted and high-ability students in grades K-5.  As a National Board Certified Teacher, she fully embraces life-long learning and has recently earned her doctorate degree.  Nancy is also heavily involved with the North Carolina Association of Elementary Educators (NCAEE) and serves as a Board Member. She looks forward to connecting with you on Twitter @nbetler and being a part of your PLN!