Archive for May, 2014

Conference Time

Posted: May 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

The week of June 9 is going to be a crazy week for me. I leave on Monday the 9th to drive up to Colby, KS for the iConnect iLearn conference. I’m helping out with some of the planning and also doing session on “The Connected Teacher”. If you have a moment and can fill out the form below, I would greatly appreciate it.


After leaving Colby on Wednesday the 11th, I’ll head to my parents in central Kansas for a visit. It’ll be good to see them and visit. On the 12th, I’ll be heading down to Andover, KS to meet up with @Mrs_Smoke, @DanKrutka and @GormanG┬áto prepare for @EdcampKS which is on Friday, June 13. You can still register to attend. Just go to the Edcamp Kansas website.

The evening of Friday, June 13 , I will be ready to return home. I’m excited about the week, but I sure do have a lot to accomplish before then.


Yesterday I mentioned my challenge to my 4th graders about reading 100,000 minutes outside of school time. You should have seen their face in August 2007 when I challenged them to read that much. They were doubtful. I was not.

To start, I gave them each a reading log. The only rule was that the only minutes that counted were the minutes of the students in my class. I told my students that each Friday I would check their reading logs and keep track by putting them into a spreadsheet. This spreadsheet had all the names of the students in my class in the first column. Each column then had the dates of Fridays going across the top. I had a weekly total at the bottom of each column.

What reading counted? ANY!!! I told them that reading an article online or in the newspaper is reading. Now, you can’t just sit and stare at the newspaper saying that you’re “reading”, but if you actually read the article, you read about 2-3 minutes. I also encouraged having a book by their side when watching their favorite television show and during commercials, pick up your book and read. Again, there’s another 2-3 minutes of reading. If you do that for an hour, you can get about 15-20 minutes of reading!!!

To help encourage students to read, I placed a line graph with string in the hallway outside of our classroom to show the weekly minutes read. I would post the number of minutes read above the nine weeks week number. (After the first 9 weeks I figured that it would be easier to start a new line with the second nine weeks).

  • RANDOM THOUGHT: Now I wish I had taken pictures. Each nine weeks was a different color string. We could go back and compare weeks and why some weeks were better than others. We did this often. It was a great way to look at the math behind out numbers.

We had classroom money. Each time a student reached a 100 minute mark (100, 200, 300, etc.) of reading (some reached it weekly, others needs 2 or 3 weeks) then they received $10. When a student reached 500 minutes, they made a bonus $10. When they reached 1000 minutes they had a bonus of $20. That allowed each student to set their own goals and everyone was rewarded. I also gave $5 to each student who read more in the week than I did that week. It made for some fun challenges to get me to read as well.

To help the class work as a team, I had class goals at each of the 10,000 minute marks. We had popcorn parties, move parties, picnics, all sorts of rewards to keep them reading.

When the end of March came around and we were only at 75,000 minutes, I got a little nervous. I offered a family reading night in my classroom for 2 hours. During this 2 hour period students were welcome to come and read in my room. They could invite anyone they wanted to read and everyone’s minutes would count toward the minutes. I had many come in with their entire family for about 20 minutes, then I had one student who came in with her mom and read the entire 2 hours. The night alone added about 700 minutes to their time.

Shortly after May began, we reached the 100,000 minutes of reading. We celebrated in our room all day. It was a great time of bringing the class together. I then shared with them what I had been planning already.

The last week of school we had a day that we walked to the park for a picnic lunch. Many parents came to join. We played games and just enjoyed the outdoors that day. We then walked to Dairy Queen where each student got an ice cream bar of some kind. After walking back to school, parents again joined us for a ceremony. In this ceremony each student received a certificate stating that our class read 100,000 minutes during the school year. At the bottom of the certificate was how many minutes they as an individual read.

Now, did everyone read the same amount? I had some students who read less than 500 minutes all year long. I would challenge and motivate them throughout the year, some weeks would be great, others were tough. However, I did have 5 students who read more than 10,000 minutes themselves. So, in reward, along with the certificate every student also received a sealed envelope. I told them that they could not open them until they were at home. The reason? The more minutes you read, the more you had in there. I had collected certificates from restaurants and other places in town.

Now, in case you think this is too big of a challenge, here are some numbers to go by.

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Good luck and have fun with reading!

Change in Life

Posted: May 28, 2014 in Uncategorized

As I sit here and listen to the birds chirping around me and the traffic go by behind my house, I can’t help but think, wow, I’m a lucky guy.

Two years ago if you would have told me that I would be living in Oklahoma, I would think you were crazy. I was enjoying my job at Emporia Middle School. I saw myself staying in that building for many years to come.

Then I met someone who ended up taking a job at Oklahoma State University, and now here I sit. Typing up a blog post and looking for a job.

First, I’m really excited about his move. It gives me a chance to branch out and get to know a little more about the state that was just a two hours south. It’s a state that is just a little over 100 years old, where the state I grew up in is a little over 150. I’m now in a state that has red dirt. I’m now in a state that everyone stretches out the first “O” when they say the name. (Ok, not everyone, just non-Oklahoman’s do that)

My biggest fear though, is not finding a teaching job before the start of the school year. Yes, I’ve been a substitute teacher before, and I enjoyed it, but the pay isn’t as much. Yes, I have worked outside of the classroom before, but I soon learned that while enjoying it, I didn’t have the drive that I do in teaching.

Throughout this past school year I was thinking about stepping back into the elementary classroom. I remember when I taught fourth grade in McPherson, KS. Boy was I dumb. I did have a class website and I had learned how to Podcast, making me ahead of the curve. However, in the classroom and knowing how to teach cross-curriculum, I was pretty dumb.

Thanks to the experience of teaching at Turning Point Learning Center and working under Ginger Lewman, I learned how to bring those things together. I also learned that I don’t have to be the one to always bring those subjects together, students can assist as well.

I’m excited about getting back into the elementary classroom and try all the new things that I’ve learned. I also will continue to learn from my PLN on Twitter and my new #oklaed friends. I know that is so much more to learn.

One thing I will keep though, is the challenging my students to reading 100,000 minutes outside of the school day. When my students did that in the 2007-2008 school year, they were ecstatic! I’ll share that information tomorrow.

Well, here’s to applying for jobs and hoping the right one shows up!

End of School Year

Posted: May 5, 2014 in Uncategorized

It’s May. Can you believe that? It’s May.

First, the weather here in Kansas sure changed quickly. Check out the change.

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Of course last year we had a couple inches of snow in the first week of May.

But with the end of the school year comes the end of state assessments. Our students are so use to testing now that it really doesn’t phase them. i think there is still stress on the teacher end, but many kids just take them and move on. The struggle I see is that students feel that the learning as ended.

Since many students are starting to feel restless and want summer to come (and let’s face it, many teachers are as well), I came up with a list of ideas to help students enjoy the end of the year.

1) Get the kids out of their seats. They are tired of sitting, and they need to have hands-on activities throughout the year, but it’s even more important this time of year.

2) Get the kids outside. Science is an easy subject to get kids out there, but really just taking a book out and reading in the warm, fresh air is perfect this time of year.

3) Get out of the curriculum. I’m sure you tried to get all of your standards taken care of before testing, so now you can step out of the box and have some fun. When I taught 4th grade I loved to teach students how to score bowling with dice and then take them bowling! Of course, I used the P.E. pins and bowling balls and made lanes in the classroom for a cheaper way.

4) Enjoy the last few days. Let’s face it, this time of year many people are on edge. It just takes one little thing to upset someone, so have fun. Let kids be kids.

Good luck with the end of the school year. It will be over soon.