Monday, April 14, 2014

Oh! What an "Energizing" Evening!

by April Gamble, Region 5 Advisory Council Member

From the well-organized registration and helpful student volunteers to the beautifully decorated tables, the energy in the conference ballroom was palpable!  What fun to “Socialize” with other educators at the end of a work day at the Region 5 North Carolina Association of Elementary Educators spring conference held on the pristine campus of High Point University!  

As a member of the District 5 Regional Advisory Council, I can attest to the fact that we worked diligently behind the scenes for months planning for this conference and I can say without a doubt that it was all worth it to see the faces of 140 educators sharing the same space for a few hours and enjoying every minute!  Each conference goer was gifted with several teacher supplies and one lucky educator at each table got to take home the centerpiece!

The evening began with a welcome from Dr. Debbie Linville, Director of Region 5.  She took a moment to recognize me and the other Regional Advisory Council members for our help and support in helping to make tonight a reality.  

And then…it was time to be “Energized” by nationally known, well respected, keynote, Kathy Bumgardner.    She began her presentation with a quote from Mark Twain:   “Teaching is like trying to hold 35 corks under water at once.”   The audience erupted with laughter and the giggles did not stop until she concluded her session on best literacy practices in the era of the Common Core.  I thought one of the most encouraging things she shared was the fact that the climate of education is changing and that as educators we have to be able to handle the change by “planning” for it.  She stated, “If you change nothing, nothing will change.”  I agree.  I must be the change I want to see!

After a delicious dinner, participants made their way to the School of Education to attend two breakout sessions from among a total of 18 choices!  Surely it was a hard decision for conference goers because there were so many amazing choices.   I thoroughly enjoyed the sessions I attended and was delighted to see that all of the time spent planning for this evening was such a huge success.

One of the many highlights of the evening was the 15-minute Door Prize drawing blitz where over two dozen fabulous prizes were given away - including one FREE 2014 NCAEE state conference registration (a $175.00 value), Teachers Pay Teachers gift certificates, baskets of teaching supplies, manicures/ pedicures, restaurant gift cards, and so much more!  

The Regional Advisory Council set up a Presenter’s Lounge which provided a space where presenters could socialize, prepare for their sessions, grab a beverage and snack, and of course, pick up their thank you gifts.  It was rewarding to see that the idea to honor them in a special way was so well received. 

If anyone came to the conference feeling as if they were holding on by a “thread”, not knowing how they would make it through the last quarter of the school year, I feel confident that they left “Revitalized!"

If you missed the Region 5 North Carolina Association of Educators spring conference this year…there’s always next year…and I can guarantee you it will be great!  How do I know?  My Regional Advisory Council members and I have already started planning!

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Coding Breakthrough: My Experience with Coding

by Renee Peoples

“Coding? That is crazy. I teach elementary school!  They can't write code to program computers at this age.” As a third grade teacher, I had NO interest in doing coding with my students when I first heard about it. Just the idea of writing a program for a computer seemed way too difficult for me, let alone eight and nine year olds. Just before Christmas I heard about it again. My mind was more open then because I was looking for something to do that was not a waste of time the last few days before we had break. Watching movies and coloring pictures seemed boring, and we had done all the crafts that I could stand to do.   So this time, it piqued my interest. With no honest idea of what I was getting into, I signed my class up on a free site for children of all ages to learn how to code (, and off we went.

Day 1- The next day I presented it to my students, who caught my skepticism and were not too interested. I had some Chromebooks and iPads that I had secured for my students, thanks to Donors Choose. I also brought my own personal iPad from home so that every student could have a device to use. They used the class code that was provided when I signed the class up, and logged in and gave it a try. It took about five minutes to hook every single child. It starts off with teaching students how to command an Angry Bird where to move. As you would expect, that had a lot of appeal to my students. Immediately, they learned to write the code to move the Angry Bird where they wanted it to go. There are teacher lessons on the website and those created even more interest for the students. When they had to write directions for another group to follow, they started to understand why precise directions matter for a computer program. It took them about 30 minutes online to be better at it than I could keep up with, and I could not even offer them any assistance when they couldn’t get it to work. They were very willing to help each other, though. Within a few hours, I had done a mini lesson on the degrees of angles and watched students write the code to adjust their angles. They discussed it with each other and said things like, “Really, the 120 degree angle was too big, you may need to try 110 instead.” By lunch, they complained that they had to eat when they could be writing code. Students were comparing levels and trophies given for achieving certain levels before the end of the first day.  

Day  2- The class rushed in the door, grabbed a computer or an iPad before the announcements and pledge were even done, and got to work. Students helped each other when they got stuck, showed the items they had written code to draw and came to an agreement that I needed to spend more time learning how to write code so I could keep up with them. They literally spent every minute of the day engaged and happily learning how to write code. By the end of the day, they were feeling sad for students who were, “wasting the day on movies and parties when they could be writing code like us!"  They were really able to do a LOT more than I gave them credit for when I first heard about the opportunity to write code. Maybe I found something productive, without even understanding what I was doing.

Day 3- I may as well have stayed home because my students walked in and got on a computer or iPad, taught themselves until it was time to go home and asked me if it was alright for them to write code over the two week break. Of course, I said yes! They also reminded me that I better get to work if I was ever going to catch up with them.

Three Months Later- My students were invited to come (along with local companies, Google, Duke, area colleges) to a Manufacturing Awareness Day to share their coding experience with middle school and high school students in our county and show some of their code. I took six students there to spend the day showing what they could do. The highlight of my day was the high school student who was not impressed and said, “I know how to write REAL code so I don’t need to see play code.” I convinced him to just watch one child, and within minutes he was totally impressed by the coding skills of my third grader. After watching, he told me, "They can do anything I can do!”

Even if you teach third grade and have no time for anything extra, you can sneak a bit of coding between portfolios and parent conference, Read To Achieve letters and BOG tests. Who knows? Maybe the logical thinking they learn in code may help them have more success in math and reading! Give it a try! It was the best thing I ever got into without a real plan and, next year, it will definitely be in my plan.

Renee Peoples is a National Board Certified third grade teacher at Swain West Elementary. She has taught every grade from preK to 5th grade and been in administration in her 30+ years in education. She serves on the NCAEE board. Although she has taught conferences and training for adults (including college level courses) for many years, she always returns to her her first love- teaching children. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

One Teacher's Tips for the Most Successful Classroom

by James Davis 

 Recently, I sat down to interview a teacher at the elementary level, who by every indicator, proves to be an exceptional teacher.  Students love having the teacher, parents request the teacher, test scores are at their highest, and the room is always described as productive, engaging, progressive, harmonious, and student centered. 

I asked the teacher to take some time and think about her multiple indicators for success.  I asked her to reflect, but also speak with kids, consult with parents, and then identify her top five suggestions for creating a classroom as successful as hers.

Her suggestions are included below:

*Focus on a truly invitational classroom.  "If students want to be in the room, it will naturally create a better day for all of us.  I work in a purposeful manner to make sure that our room feels and looks good.  I have alternative lighting, green plants, a candy dish, music, student work, a reading center, and a small water fountain in our room.  If it feels and looks good inside the classroom, students act better and work harder."    

*Master all of your processes and procedures.  "We hear it all the time, but effective teachers have to master their processes and procedures early on.  I have a process for everything from sharpening pencils and collecting papers, to working in a small group and presenting for the class.  Nothing happens unless we have discussed the expectations associated with each process and procedure involved.  If something can go wrong, it likely will.  Processes and procedures help us avoid these unproductive situations."  

*Collaboration is key.  "Students have to have the chance to collaborate with one another on a daily basis.  True collaboration is vitally important for school and it is equally important for life in general too.  I share expectations, I model what I want to see, and I monitor from start to finish.  Afterwards, I make sure that true collaboration takes places each day, with every student, in every class."  
*Treat others as you wish to be treated.  "Although simple, I teach in this manner and I also refer to this statement regularly as I am working with students and handling classroom management issues and disciplinary issues within the school day.  I can't yell, and then punish a kid for yelling.  I can't come to teach in an unprepared fashion, and then be upset when my students come to class unprepared.  I treat others how I want to be treated, and in most cases, they reciprocate."  

*Never underestimate the power of an engaging, well-planned lesson.  "My best defense against everything, is a well-planned lesson.  Although timely, I have to be wiling to put in the time, effort, and energy to create a meaningful lesson plan. My lesson plan has to appeal to auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learners.  I also work to make sure that every lesson has a specific focus on critical thinking activities, effective communication, and chances for students to showcase their creativity."    
Although simple, several of the ideas above are often forgotten as teachers get busy with the many tasks they face.  Focusing on ideas that are grounded and kid-centered can yield successful results for everyone involved.  

This master teacher closed by stating, "With each action and each word that I am in control of, I try to always remember two things.  I remember that I am here for students and my challenge is to teach them well every day. In addition, the power of LOVE is a strong one.  My number one priority is for each student to feel loved, knowing that once they know I care, they work harder, care more, and go further both today, and in the future."       

Per the teacher's request, her name has been omitted.  A special thanks to this stellar teacher for sharing her ideas with others.

Dr. James Davis serves on the NCAEE Board. He received his doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Urban Education from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Dr. Davis has taught and worked as a school administrator for 15 years in North Carolina. He currently lives in North Carolina and begins work as an associate professor at High Point University this summer.   

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Elementary School Conference Scholarship Announced

Have you ever attended the NC Elementary School Conference? It’s an exciting 3-day event that will inspire you to return to your classroom energized and full of ideas for the coming year. If you haven't attended, perhaps you would love to go to the conference, but your school isn't able to pay your way. If that’s the case, you’re in luck! Read on to find out how you might receive free registration and two nights so that you can attend this year’s conference!

NCAEE is pleased to offer the Presidents’ Award again this year. This is a complete scholarship for conference attendance with a value of approximately $500.00! The award will cover the cost of one NCAEE conference registration and two nights lodging at the Embassy Suites Resort in Concord, NC (near Charlotte) where the event will be held.

This award is sponsored by the past presidents of NCAEE who enjoy using this as an opportunity to give back to the organization. The President's Award will be given in the spring of each year with a deadline for application of May 15th. Award winners will be announced by the end of May.

Eligibility Requirements:
  • First and foremost, the applicant must be a member of NCAEE and a NC resident who has never attended the Elementary School Conference before. If you are not a member, it’s easy to become one. You can join online and pay with PayPal right from the NCAEE website
  • Second, the applicant must agree to attend the full conference from Sunday afternoon until Tuesday noon and agree to pay for his or her own travel and meals.
  • Third, upon selection, the applicant must submit a letter signed by his or her school principal stating that the school will release the applicant for Monday, October 20th, and Tuesday, October 21st and that the school will provide a substitute.
To apply for the award, complete the online application form by May 15th. If you are not currently a member, be sure to become a member before completing the application. Just go to the Join NCAEE page on our website to sign up. The winning applicant will be selected by a committee of at least three former NCAEE Presidents.

Also, I want to thank all former NCAEE presidents who have joined me in offering this award. The organization appreciates their unending support of NC elementary educators with their expertise, finances and professionalism! Our presidents are shown on the right in the order of their service.

The Presidents’ Award is just one way that NCAEE supports elementary teachers in and out of the classroom! If you are not a member, visit our website and join now. When you visit our website, be sure to read about our two other awards. Our $1,000 scholarship is available for those seeking an advanced education degree. This year we will also be presenting $100 DonorsChoose gifts certificates to TEN lucky teachers!  Be sure to let your friends and colleagues know about our organization and the Elementary School Conference in October!

By Tricia Smith

Tricia Smith was the 2010 - 2011 President of NCAEE and she currently serves as an NCAEE Board Member. She’s been an educator for most of her life, first as an elementary teacher for 23 years and later as Reading First Consultant for 6 years. She’s now retired and continues to support elementary educators through her work with NCAEE.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

We Created, We Connected, We Collaborated…

Region 6 Conference Reflection
by Lisa Pagano, Melissa Mooney & Nancy Betler

Our second annual NCAEE Region 6 Conference was everything we hoped it would be…and more!  Nearly 75 elementary educators from across our region gathered together on a Saturday morning at Lansdowne IB Elementary School in Charlotte, North Carolina for a fun day of learning, creating, connecting, and collaborating!

After months of careful planning and collaboration, our dedicated Regional Advisory Council arrived early on the morning of March 1st and began preparing for the event. Snacks were organized and drinks were refrigerated, the Presenters’ Lounge was set up, signs were posted, and all technology was checked to ensure our day would run smoothly. We wanted to set the stage for a positive experience for everyone involved.

The day began with an inspiring, uplifting, and informative keynote session by Kathy Bumgardner. She validated the crowd and kept them engaged and smiling throughout her entire keynote with her wonderful sense of humor, entertaining photos and slides, and anecdotes. You could hear the laughter emerging from our crowd down the hallway! She also shared fun, practical, and interactive strategies to help students and meet and exceed expectations for CCSS in English Language Arts.

The breakout sessions were amazing!  We could not have asked for a group of better presenters.  We had sessions on topics such as Using Interactive Notebooks in the Content Areas with Jaime Deming, a session that taught teachers how to effectively utilize interactive notebooks into the content areas to help you differentiate instruction to Expanding the Impact of Great Teaching with Blended Learning with Romain Bertrand, which shared how blended learning can allow you to reach more students in a personalized way.

We also had sessions on technology integration, balanced literacy, student leadership, and differentiation to meet the needs of all learners. Our interactive and engaging breakout sessions truly provided something for everyone. Our participants were able to customize their experience at our conference. Experience our conference through the eyes of one of our presenters and attendees, Gretchen Schultek. Click here to read her blog post and see the terrific pictures she shared!

We enjoyed a delicious lunch from Firehouse Subs while connecting with one another. Each participant was entered for a chance to win door prizes. The two big door prizes were a session with Kathy Bumgardner and a Kindle Fire! These lucky winners were so excited and can’t wait to take advantage of their prizes.

Thank you to everyone who made our 2nd Annual Region 6 Conference a great success!  We can’t wait to start planning for our 2015 Region 6 Conference! In the meantime, you can keep up with our region by following us on Twitter, joining our Facebook group, and checking out our website.

We are thrilled that the 11th Annual State Elementary Conference will take place in our region-in Concord (October 19-21, 2014)! Have you registered yet?  We hope to see you there!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Create, Connect, & Collaborate

Updates from Region 6
by Lisa Pagano & Melissa Mooney

Region 6 has been hard at work to ensure that our second annual conference is a positive and inspiring experience for all!  Last year we hosted our first regional conference and it was a great success! Nearly one hundred educators across our region came together for  a thrilling half day of learning.

This year, our regional conference will span an entire day and features renowned educator and consultant, Kathy Bumgardner, as our keynote speaker. We know she will set the tone for a fun and energizing day full of learning, networking, and collaboration! Our theme this year is Create, Connect & Collaborate. and that is just what we will do on Saturday, March 1st at Lansdowne IB Elementary in Charlotte, NC.

  • new learning opportunities for our students
  • to show what you have learned
  • with other educators across our region
  • with your students
  • with content and different strategies, and tech tools to make learning come to life!
  • with one another
  • to grow professionally
In addition to our incredible keynote speaker, we will offer a variety of highly engaging breakout sessions facilitated by distinguished educators across our region! With sessions focusing on differentiation, balanced literacy, science, and technology, there is sure to be something for everyone! You can find out more information about the breakout sessions here.

We guarantee that our conference will equip you with the knowledge and skills needed to help you encourage your students create, connect, and collaborate. After all, these are just a few of the critical skills our students need to be successful in the 21st century.

We hope you can join us! Click here to register and create, connect and collaborate with us!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

4 Terrific Classroom Library Makeover Tips

By Dr. Debbie Linville

Now is the perfect time to give your classroom library a facelift.  The books you took great care to shelve by genre or place in labeled bins in August have likely found new homes in nooks and crannies around the room or are simply MIA at this point in the school year. The meeting space rug is soiled, the book doctor basket is full, the beanbag has more duct tape than beans, and the plant that once gave the space that special touch has failed to survive the drought. Sound familiar?

No worries!  Now is the time for starting fresh, tidying things up, and recharging. Sprucing up the classroom library will no doubt require you to roll up your sleeves and possibly, moan and sweat a bit, but what could be any better motivation than knowing your efforts will have a direct impact on promoting engaged, proficient, joyful readers? The research is clear....reading more is directly linked to reading (and writing) better. So, what are you waiting for?  Let’s get started!

While there is no single "best way" to set up a classroom library, there are four tips I have found helpful in setting up a classroom library that I am eager to share with you.

Tip #1:  Organize for ease of retrieval and replacement

Organization is key! When you think about how to organize the plethora of titles you have generated over the years,  think about the importance of grouping texts together that have something in common and think about labels that let everybody know exactly what texts they should expect to find in that section. You may prefer to sort by genre, author’s last name, topic, theme, or any number of ways. Maybe now is the time to shake things up a bit – why not try a new organizing scheme and get the students involved in the process? The most important consideration is to look at the titles you have and determine what makes sense to you and your learners. Labels are critical! Having labels on the texts and corresponding labels on the shelves, bins, baskets, or other storage devices enable readers to be independent in both the retrieval and replacement process.  Here is a great website for FREE labels – print, laminate and fasten!

Tip #2:  Move beyond the cozy corner                   

Think about the successful book stores. Books and magazines are everywhere! For me (a self-professed bibliophile), the aesthetic allure of being able to reach out and touch oodles of my paper friends at every turn is irresistible! This is what we want for our readers – the inability to leave book shelves, bins, and baskets without one or two titles in their hands. Most classrooms boast a cozy corner, which is fantastic, but what about branching out and making texts available all around the room? Just think about the possibilities. Could nonfiction titles be located in one part of the room and fiction in another? What about a special space for poetry, Big Books, multiple copies of titles for buddy reading, magazines, newspapers, graphic novels, wordless titles, and student created works? Get creative – look at the texts you have and the layout of your room through new eyes!

Tip #3:  Create Attractive Displays

When you walk into a public library or book store, think about which books catch your eye. The ones on the end cap, featured on a table top, or on the shelves with the covers facing you, right? Try mimicking that in your classroom and watch the titles fly off your shelves!! Try a new display with books by a featured “Author of the Month” or permit students to make recommendations to peers and feature those in a special spot in the room. Try having a section called “Teacher Picks” – you will not believe how desirable these books are to your students!!  Do you have a special event or fieldtrip coming up you can frontload with independent reading material? What about supplementing required content area reading with many and varied texts across genres and levels of challenge? I guarantee that if you rotate titles often enough and make them visually appealing, they will find their way into the hands of engaged, happy readers! Don’t have enough bookshelf space? How about gutters?  That’s right…..rain gutters! The image below shows how rain gutters can make an easy way to display books.

Tip #4:  Build Your Library and Catalog your Texts  

Classroom libraries are living organisms in that they continually grow and change over time. I think two things are important to keep in mind:
  1. Take stock of the genres presently in your collection and see where there are holes – fill those in with new acquisitions before you add to existing genres. Teachers, me included, can be guilty of purchasing titles in genres they enjoy. If science fiction is not your cup of tea and you have no offerings for that 4th grade reader who talks nonstop about time travel and space adventures into galaxies far, far away, you could very well miss out on that one opportunity to propel him to new reading heights. It is critical we stay on top of what is “hot” and learn about new authors so that we can make appropriate recommendations to our students. There is nothing more motivating for a reader than for his teacher to say, “I was thinking about you when I read this and I bet you would really enjoy it. Have a go and then let’s talk about it together.” Wow!!
  2. Know what titles you own! This is one thing I wish someone had told me about sooner! In my first few years of teaching I gobbled up books as fast as I could and donned with my personalized ink stamp, I made sure to place my name on the inside cover of every one of them. The trouble was, I had no idea which books I owned, how many, or what genres – I was happy just to see my shelves, buckets, and bins expanding. Big mistake! I realized the error of my ways and rectified the situation.  It was a slow process, but it was totally worth it. Whether you are just starting your teaching career or you have been teaching for decades, it is not too late. There are many ways to catalog, but I am happy to share LibraryThing, a terrific tool I really like.

When you have plentiful offerings across all genres, topics, and degrees of challenge (and a way to see at a glance the current text inventory), you can be certain there is something irresistible for every reader on your shelves!  Do you have a checkout system and if so, is it for classroom purposes only or do you permit students to take books home to read? Whether or not you incorporate a check out system, I would encourage you to have a formalized “shopping day” system in place. This will ensure that all readers have a time every week or two to browse and choose titles that are “just right” for them to read independently.    

Benefits of a Classroom Library Makeover

Revitalize, refresh, and rejuvenate your classroom library with two purposes in mind:
  1. To optimally support your instruction
  2. To grow proficient, engaged, and lifelong readers
I hope you decide to make 2014 the year to overhaul your classroom library. One thing I know for sure, it will be time and energy well spent. The payoff is enormous – a classroom full of students with large reading appetites, engrossed in texts they simply cannot put down….it does not get any better than that!  

Dr. Debbie Linville is the Department Chair of the Elementary & Middle Grades Education at High Point University.  She has been involved with NCAEE since 2005 and is currently 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.