Dec 31, 2016

Del Dios Trail Half Marathon

On Sunday, December 11, I did my biggest race of 2016, the Del Dios Trail Half Marathon. After a great 10 mile race last month, I thought my fitness level was growing; however, I struggled through the training for this race and my endurance seemed to be at a low point. I couldn't keep a steady pace at all and I have no idea why, just one of those things I guess as I really stuck to my training plan.  I also wasn't totally focused on this race because at the same time, Tony was flying home from Boise, and I was really worried about him traveling through snow and ice and getting to the airport, getting on his flight, etc.  We had planned on surprising Ted by Tony coming home on Sunday instead of the following Tuesday. Tony and I were actually texting back and forth as I was doing this race!

The first half of the race went very well, but I really started to fade during the second half of the race, and I got tired enough that I tripped at mile 9 and had a nice slide out. My time was a slow 2:27, and 11:16 pace. Really liked this race and I might do it again!

Silver Strand 10 Miler

On November 13, I ran my furthest distance yet since my surgery - 10 miles! Also it was on the road, not on a trail. I was really impressed with my race since I have been struggling with my fitness level, and it has been very difficult to get it back!  Below is a screenshot of the stats for my race. I was able to hold a 9:16 pace for the duration of the ten miles.  I did have to stop halfway and use the bathroom, didn't think I could make it to the finish without stopping, so I did lose a minute or two of my time there. My "A" goal was to run the race in an hour and 30 minutes, but I ended up running the race two minutes slower.  I also came in third place, basically tying with the girl that came in second place.  After I used the restroom, I came upon the other girl, and we helped push each other off and on until the finish.

When I finished the race and saw the results, I was totally shocked to see that the lady in first had done the race in one hour and ten minutes. I thought for sure some lady had given her bib to some guy because it is really unbelievable that someone 55 or older could run the race that fast, s 7 minute pace! But there she is in the photo above,  really a freak of nature!  Then when they called the girl in second and then me, the two of us were laughing because we had run the second half of the race together!

All in all, it was one of my best comeback races! I would like to do this race again next year. I really like the 10 mile option. To run the half marathon, you run past the finish line and then come back, something not appealing to me at all!

Oct 16, 2016

Black & White Photography, Light & Shadows

I am really enjoying the black & white film photography class I am taking this semester.  I have learned so much in only two months!  Developing film and making enlargements in the darkroom is a lot of work, but it is much more satisfying to see your hard work pay off when you see the final prints. In digital photography, you can see your photo immediately, but with film photography, you have no idea what the photo will look like until you make the final print. Film photography also allows you to be creative which is something that many of us need more of as it gives us a sense of accomplishment and just makes you feel so proud!

Our latest assignment involved taking photos with a focus on light and shadows. I never really thought about taking photos of shadows before, and when you really look at shadows, you will notice many awesome-looking designs. Here are my favorite prints from this assignment.

Google Forms - Quizzes

I have learned that there are so many ways that you can use Google Forms, so I am going to do a little series on Google Forms in the next few weeks.

First, did you know that Google Forms now has a quiz function? Previously you could use Google Forms as a quiz, but you had to use data validation or an extension to help you with grading. Now you can change your Google Form to a quiz that will provide students with immediate results by the click of a button. Create your Form quiz in the same way, but now add an answer key, and you have a quiz that will give students immediate results. You also have the option of adding feedback to your answer key and giving points to the questions in your quiz. 

(Also, as an aside, another new feature in Google Forms is the ability to use pictures as answer choices.)

After the students take the quiz, you can view the data immediately in different ways.  View the data of the entire class or each individual student.

During the past few weeks, I have been experimenting with Google Forms quizzes in the classes I have visited.  I have had the opportunity to use a Google Form Quiz in grades 2-5, but I'm confident that kindergarteners and first graders could successfully navigate a Google Form quiz as well, especially with the ability to add picture responses. 

Google Forms Quizzes are very easy to implement, and the students get really excited taking an online quiz that gives a score immediately.

To better explain how to change a Google Form into a quiz, I have created a screencast for you.

Oct 4, 2016

Mission Bay Triathlon

On Sunday I participated in the Mission Bay Triathlon. This triathlon has a lot of history in the sport of triathlon, and it also has a lot of personal history for me. The very first triathlon took place in Mission Bay at Fiesta Island on September 25, 1974, and consisted of a 6 mile run followed by a 5 mile bicycle ride, and then a 500 meter swim. The cost to enter that race was $1! Soon after that, the sport of triathlon took off, became very popular, and is still growing!

I participated in my very first triathlon on October 5, 2003, at Mission Bay. I have it written in my race book as the "Jamba Juice Triathlon." I didn't have a wetsuit for the race, so I borrowed one to use. As I was putting the wetsuit on near the start, the zipper broke! I had to run back to the transition area to drop off the wetsuit and run back to the start. I swam in the chilly water without a wetsuit, and I remember laughing about the broken wetsuit while I was swimming!

I've done that particular tri 8 times since then, and hopefully I can participate in 8 more! It's a popular race for beginners, and I heard that Sunday's race had about 400 more racers than last year.

My race went well. I felt like I had gained a little fitness since my last tri in the summer, but I am still far from what I was (or ever will be) since before I had my knee surgery.

Next race up is the Silver Strand 10-miler. The training will be a test to see how my knees hold up since this will be the furthest I have run since.

Oct 2, 2016

Google Apps Training Club Anyone?

On Saturday, I attended Edcamp San Diego. An Edcamp is not like a traditional ed tech conference.  The sessions are not preplanned, but are planned the morning of the conference. After you check in to this free event, you fill out a card with what you would like to learn.  Then all of the cards are organized and categorized and sessions are created.

So at Edcamp, I learned some cool add-ons for Google Docs, how to create your own master slide in Google Slides, and a few tools and strategies for implementing inquiry in the classroom. But what excited me the most is talking about Google Certifications

Did you know that you can become a Google Certified Educator? One of the educators in the session shared that she was going to start a club on the same lines as a book club only the club members would learn all the different Google Apps together, study the lessons in the Google Training Center, and ultimately take one of the leveled certification tests. This idea really got me excited, and I would really like to start a Google Apps training club only I would like to make it a little more fun. My idea is to have the meetings at one of the many microbreweries located on Hops Highway (78). Just think! We could hang out at a different place for each meeting, (say once a month), have a beer, and learn an app or study a lesson. We'd just have to make sure the place we choose has wifi.

I would seriously love to start a tech club, so if you are interested in this idea, please contact me and let me know! (Even if you don't live in my area, you could attend by a Google Hangout! Or you could start a club in your area!)

Sep 25, 2016

Adobe Spark

Over the summer, I took an online course from Adobe called Train the Trainer. In this course, I learned how to foster creativity in the classroom, while at the same time I was exposed to some of the many awesome tech tools that Adobe has. When I began taking photography classes, I was required to use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. These programs are not free, but I was able to get an educator's discount. The account I have now is called the Creative Cloud, and I pay a monthly fee to use almost all of Adobe's numerous products. Additionally, I have access to the Adobe Education Exchange, and I can take free Adobe online courses.

One tool that I want to share with you that is totally FREE is called Adobe Spark.  I am really excited about Adobe Spark because you can create some really nice-looking projects, and it is very easy to use.  You will have to create an Adobe account to use Adobe Spark, so students under the age of 13 will not be able to create accounts. Adobe Spark is recommended for students 12+. This USER GUIDE FOR EDUCATORS gives a good overview of what Adobe Spark is as well as suggested ideas for use in the classroom.

Adobe Spark can be used by teachers in many ways. You can create lessons, videos, and webpages very easily. Spark provides a large bank of free-to-use photos and icons that you can use, and you can also use your own as well.  Adobe Spark can be used across devices too.  You can access Adobe Spark on your computer, laptop, iPad, or any mobile device.  You can create three types of content in Spark, a PAGE, a VIDEO, and a POST.  I will provide you an example of each one.

First, here is an example of a Spark Page.  I created a lesson overview on how to write a personal narrative. All of the photos I used in the Page came from within the Page creation tool. In this lesson, I also added a screencast of my own personal narrative, and at the end of the lesson, I added a button for students to click to take them to a Google Doc to begin creating their own personal narrative. You have the ability to make your Spark Page interactive.

Adobe Spark Page

As you can see, Spark projects can be embedded into your blogs or webpages.  You can also share your Spark projects by a link or on social media.

The next example is a Spark Video. To create a video, you select your theme and music. Then you create your slides. To record, you simply press and hold down the microphone button and talk. It is that simple. It only took me about 15 minutes to create this video. Once again, in this video, all of the icons you see came straight from the Spark bank of icons.

The last example is a Spark Post. Posts are most likely going to be used to share on social media, but they can also be used to create posters. I made this post using the Spark app on my iPhone. I had someone take my photo in a museum, and I added the words to the photo and posted it on social media.  To use the Post here in this blog post, I downloaded it as a JPG and added it.

I highly recommend Adobe Spark! You can easily create professionally looking Pages and Videos with this FREE tool.

Sep 18, 2016

Word Sorts with Google Drawings

Word sorts are great hands-on activities for students to work with words. There are many ways you can use word sorts with your students. The most common way is shown in the example above. This is called a closed word sort where the student is provided with the categories (noun, verb) and the words are sorted accordingly. There are also open word sorts that are more analytic in nature where the student is only given words, and they have to use critical thinking to sort the words into their own categories.

I like doing word sorts in my classroom, but I don't like the preparation. First, I have to copy a class set of word sort sheets. Then I have to have them passed out to the class along with scissors.  Then it takes an inordinate amount of time for the students to cut out the words and clean up the scraps.  Then while interacting with the word sorts in class, ultimately a few students lose words on the floor or end up with two of the same words having accidentally mixed up their words with another student's words. Then after we are finished with the paper word sorts, they may be crushed in the back of a student's desk or put in a plastic sandwich bag and never used again.

Well, creating word sorts in a Google Drawing may be a better alternative for you.  A Google Drawing word sort still has all of the same learning benefits as paper word sorts only better.  Once created and shared with students, they are ready to go!  You won't lose the words and they can be used over and over again.

For a tutorial on how to create a word sort in a Google Drawing, I have created this tutorial for you.

Carmet Valley 15K

This is only the third year that Seasick Events has put on this Carmel Valley Trail race. You can participate in a 5K, 10K, or for the first time, the 15K. I believe they also had a kids 1 mile fun run, so this event has something for runners of all levels. Also the price is right for this race at only $50 to $60.

I love to run and/or hike trails, but I don't like going alone, so trail races give me the opportunity to be out there with a group. I never knew there was a trail behind Torrey Pines High School, so I really wanted to check it out.

Trail races are small events, because park permits usually only allow a certain number of people on the trails at a time.  So this event was small with only a little over 300 runners. I really enjoyed this race. It wasn't flat. (Rarely are trail races flat.)  The trail consisted of rolling hills with a BIG descent at the beginning to get you down into the valley where the trail was.  The trail was mostly single track rolling hills.  It was very peaceful out there and not very crowded, so you had a lot of quiet time and some alone time. Then, of course, to get out of the valley and back to the finish line you had a BIG climb at the end.

I had a pretty good race, better than my training has been going. Since I have lost most of my fitness, it has been a real struggle trying to get some of it back, and I run out of gas after about an hour. The big descent at the beginning and the single track trail actually worked to my advantage.  Instead of taking off too fast in the beginning of the race and then running out of gas, (usually how I operate) on this race, I had to walk down the big hill, and then I was stuck in a traffic jam of runners until it thinned out.  So I ended up building speed throughout the race, which is a good strategy to use.  At the end of the race, though, I was still exhausted, and walking up that big hill wasn't a lot of fun!

I ended up second in my age group, 50-59. (In trail races, the age groups go in 10 year increments.) There were only 6 women in my age group, and I was the oldest one!  I was actually the second oldest woman out there. There were only 66 runners who did the 15K, and I came in 36th overall.

Seasick events is a relatively new company. Their next race is at Lake Hodges in December.  They have a 10K and a Half Marathon. I'm planning on being out there for one of those!

Sep 11, 2016

Using Keywords to Search


The beginning of the school year is a great time to teach your students how to search for information on the Internet. A good starting place is teaching students how to use keywords to find pertinent information in a timely and efficient manner. 

Common Sense Media has good lessons on this topic.  The first lesson, Using Keywords, is geared toward K-2. In this lesson, students are given the scenario that they want to get a new pet, and in order for their parents to be more inclined to let them have a pet, they will do all the research on how to take care of a pet. 

In this lesson, students are guided to come up with research questions and decide what the keywords are in these questions. Then they are given a safe search engine, such as, and guided on how to search with the keywords and analyze the results. The students are also taught that one source of information is not sufficient, that information you find on the Internet is not always accurate, and they have to find at least two sources of information for their topic and cite the sources.

The other lesson, The Key to Keywords,  is geared towards students in grades 3-5. This higher-level lesson has students practice searching questions about dogs using keywords. Additionally, this lesson teaches students how to use quotation marks in searches to search for exact phrases.

There are quite a few good student-friendly search engines for students to use.  My favorite is  Other student-friendly search engines are,,, and

It might be a good idea to give students daily or weekly search practice by providing a question or two where they have to choose keywords, search for answers, and cite the sources. For more information about teaching students search strategies, contact your Ed Tech Specialist.


This semester I am taking a black-and-white film photography class, and I am really really enjoying it so far.  To learn how to use the darkroom, our teacher had us create photograms.  Photograms are pictures made without a camera.  Photograms date back to the beginnings of photography.  Some of the first pictures ever made were photograms.

To make our photograms, we brought in any items we thought would make a good picture. I did a little research on photograms and found many examples of cool-looking photograms. One of the examples gave me the idea to use light bulbs as shown in the top photogram. We basically placed whatever items we wanted on the photographic paper in the darkroom, set the lens to the appropriate F-stop, chose an exposure time, and then developed the picture.

At first, I just had the different light bulbs arranged on the paper, but after I made my first test print, I saw that I could arrange the lightbulbs to make it look like an insect flying, and my teacher gave me the idea to add broken glass surrounding the insect to make it look as though the insect may be glowing.  I think the end result is so cool looking!

The second photogram was made out of straws and different paperclips that I bought a long time ago at Staples, and the bottom photogram is a design made out of one of my favorite foods...pretzels!

I had a bag full of items that I wanted to use, but unfortunately we ran out of time. It was so much fun to create these photograms, and I am definitely going to create some more!

Stairway to Heaven 15K

On Saturday, August 13th, I participated in the Stairway to Heaven 15K race put on by Dirt Devil Racing. It was quite the challenge as you can imagine from the photo. This is the second time I have done this race.  The first time I did this race was before I had my knee surgeries, and even though I thought it was very difficult, I think I had a pretty good time. This time, though, was extremely difficult since I have lost most of the fitness I once had. The extreme hills on this course also had me worried about the strain on my meniscus or lack thereof.

This race takes place at Mission Trails Regional Park located in Santee. There are two main climbs in this race, and the climb that names this race the Stairway to Heaven is Mt. Fortuna with steep stairs made of railroad ties and rocks. Another factor that always makes this race difficult is the August heat.  Overall, I think this race was a little too extreme for me after my knee surgeries, but I definitely think I could just take my time and hike these great trails.

Mission Trails Regional Park has many, many trails for every level of hiker and runner.  I recommend this park for a day outdoors. Here is the LINK for more information about this park.

The Book That Matters Most

I started a book club a little over a year ago, and we call ourselves The Page Turners, and it has been so much fun!  This book club has helped me to read a variety of different books that I wouldn't normally have ever chosen to read.  This month our book club chose The Book That Matters Most by Ann Hood. I love books that are so engaging that you can't put down, and this book did not disappoint.

Ava, the main character, joins a book club in the hopes of finding something to do and fulfill the emptiness of her life after her husband left her for another woman. Her two grown children are living and studying abroad, so she feels very lonely and worries about her daughter who has had a troubled past.

I must say the book club that Ava joins is much more structured and higher-level than The Page Turners.  They choose a theme for the entire year and each member of the club chooses a book, and the list is given to the members so they can read ahead if they choose.  Our book club scrambles at every meeting to choose a book to read for the next meeting, but that's okay!  We started out having each member take turns choosing a book and an activity, but that went by the wayside, and now we decide together, and it actually turns out great! I think it's probably a good thing to have a more relaxed atmosphere in our book club after such structured days at school since most of us are educators.

When Ava joins the book club, the theme is the book that mattered most to you in your life, and Ava chooses a book that becomes the basis for the novel.  The novel jumps to different scenes and time periods and keeps you hooked throughout.  The novel keeps you thinking as you turn the pages and read the chapters, and you can't wait to get to the conclusion to see how the puzzle fits together. I highly recommend this book!

Jun 4, 2016

For the Love of the Game

On April 16, 2016, I participated in my first race in about two years after my knee surgery. This small 5K was a trail run on the Lake Hodges trails. I was really excited to be out there, although in the weeks prior since I began training again, I developed IT band pain in the same knee I had the surgery on.  At first, I didn't know what the sharp, stabbing pain was in my knee, and I was so afraid that I was about to tear something else in my knee or that something else was wrong, but luckily the chiropractor/PT I see at San Diego Running Institute knew right away what it was. Since I have been out of commission from running for so long, I guess I have to go through all the same aches and pains that new runners go through.  So on top of my regular PT, I added acupuncture to my treatment regimen, and that helped immensely.  On the morning of the race, I was only having a small amount of pain, and it subsided quickly after the blood was flowing on the run. It felt so good to be out there on race day, and everything went well. It was hard to keep myself from crying because I was so happy to be running, and to top it off, I came in first place in my age group (the old ladies' age group).


Then on May 1, 2016,  I did my first triathlon since August of 2014, the Spring Sprint Triathlon, which is one of my favorites.  I sprinted my heart out and was in the top 3 during the swim and the bike, but on the second loop of the run, my fitness began to run out and I dropped to fifth.  Still, it was so great to be out there!


After the sprint tri, I was given the go-ahead to increase my running outside, as I had only been running outside once or twice a week, and nothing more than five miles.  But as soon as I increased my fitness level, I got soreness and pain in my knee, and now I have to back off once again while my bruised MCL heals up. Then last weekend, I was doing some heavy-duty spring cleaning, and I pulled the intercostal muscles in my right rib cage, and it hurts pretty darn bad.

I'm sad I have been sidelined, but I'm not giving up. My next trail race is a 10K on June 18th, and the next weekend, I'll be participating in another sprint triathlon. And even though I haven't even run outside that far since my surgery, I'll still be out there participating in what I love the most. For the love of the game...

May 27, 2016

Ansel Adams and Robert Adams Project

For this photography project, we learned a little bit about the landscape photography of Ansel Adams and Robert Adams. Both of these artists were landscape photographers, and most of their work was printed in black and white.

Recreating Ansel Adams' photography was very difficult. For one thing, the majority of his photographs were taken in Yosemite, and it was hard to recreate the beauty of Yosemite in North San Diego County. Time was also difficult to come by because of working full time. Ansel would spend all day waiting for the perfect photo opportunity.  I took a couple hundred photographs trying to get the right landscape. I really wanted a photo with clouds, but, of course, every weekend when I went out to shoot, there was not a cloud in the sky!

One of Ansel Adam's landscape subjects were trees.  I captured this photograph just after sunset at the top of Double Peak, just as a storm was blowing in.  I wasn't sure that this was going to be a good photograph to use, by my teacher (thank you) pretty much did all of the editing on this photo!

Below is the Robert Adams' recreation. Robert Adams' landscape themes always showed how the landscape is changing. His photography was a lot easier to recreate than Ansel Adams because our landscape is always changing with construction and development. This photograph was taken at the base of Iron Mountain. On this day, I was hoping to get some great landscape shots with clouds in the sky, but that didn't happen. I was kind of bummed out about that, but after our hike, at the base of the mountain, we came across this heap of telephone poles, and it made a great Robert Adams' style shot!

May 25, 2016

BreakoutEDU - Teamwork!

Have you ever been a part of an Escape Room game?  This fun activity, where adults work together to solve clues that enable them to escape from locked rooms, has become popular in cities everywhere.   And now these escape room activities have come to the classroom thanks to James Sanders, the creator of BreakoutEDU. BreakoutEDU is a fantastic critical-thinking activity for students, and it is gaining momentum in classrooms across the US.

Students are given a set of clues and problems to solve (usually based on a theme) in order to unlock a box with multiple locks. After basic directions, students receive no assistance from the teacher!  BreakoutEDU is meant to get students thinking critically, problem solving, working collaboratively, and using teamwork to unlock the box.  BreakoutEDU is meant to be challenging for students as they only have 45 minutes to unlock the box. The clues should be challenging enough to have students reading and rereading,thinking, discussing, and working together as a team. The only help given by the teacher is the opportunity for the class to use two class hint cards that should only be used after a majority of the class has tried to solve the problems.

Watch this short movie trailer I created after conducting a Breakout session in a fourth-grade classroom:

BreakoutEDU is becoming very popular, and the students love everything about it! It’s not what’s inside the box that is the fun; the students will agree that it is the challenge of getting the box open!

When BreakoutEDU is presented to the class, the students get very excited for the challenge when they see the locked box, and they are very motivated about problem-solving. Teachers have commented that they see their students in a different light when they are actively involved in the breakout session.  

As time is running out and there are only a few locks left to be opened, the tension builds in the classroom, and there is a great sense of accomplishment if the box is opened. After each session, a class debrief is held where students reflect on what went well and what they would do differently if given this challenging task again. If all of the locks are not opened, discuss what could be done differently next time and try another breakout session on another day.
To get started, the website has many published games to choose from, and there are also many games in the sandbox that are awaiting publication. These games are free to use. You can also purchase the Breakout box and kit from the website, or you can also choose to make your own.

The site contains all of the information you need to get started.  After you navigate to the site, you can watch a little intro video.  To get access to the games, click on “Get Started.”  Step 1 explains how to obtain a BreakoutEDU kit, but to have access to the BreakoutEDU games already created, go to Step 2 “Complete the Beta Form.”  Once you submit the form, you will be given the password to access all of the BreakoutEDU games. Step 3 gives you a link to go to the games.  If you choose “Search All Games,” after entering the password, you can use the search engine and use filters to narrow your search, such as content focus, age range, and group size.

Another useful link on the games page is the “Facilitation Presentation.” This link gives a little explanation of how to host a game in your classroom. Sometimes it is easier to see a BreakoutEDU game in action, so if you are intrigued about BreakoutEDU and would like to see a game in your classroom, contact your EdTech TOSA to set up a date and time for a BreakoutEDU session.

Additionally, there is a very active Facebook Community Group that you can join. There are numerous posts from teachers just getting started and teachers who are quite savvy with BreakoutEDU. This community is a great resource for tips and tricks about Breakout EDU.

BreakoutEDU is well worth the effort to investigate.

Mar 29, 2016

Library Thing

Have you ever read a few pages of a book only to remember that you already read it?  Or how about a book series you like so much you want to make sure you read every one? And classroom teachers, would you like to easily catalog all of your classroom library books? 

Well, LibraryThing is a great tool for doing all of the above.  You can sign up for a free account and easily add the books that you read by searching the title, author, or ISBN of the book.  The LibraryThing search engine uses Amazon as its main source.  Your search results will more than likely show more than one result for your search.  If you find the book you've read, just click on it, and it is automatically added to your library and catalogued in many ways.  From there, you can add your own tags, give the book your own personal rating, and add a review. You can see book reviews and ratings written by other readers, you can view the author's page, and you can see other works by the same authors.  If the book is part of a series, you can also view the series page, and every book that you have read in the series will automatically have a checkmark placed next to it.  Additionally, LibraryThing will also give you a list of other suggested books to read.  According to LibraryThing, they describe this tool as a "Book Geekery."

There is also a free app that enables you to add books to your library in the same way, but it also allows you to scan the bar codes on books and have them automatically added and catalogued into your library.  Cool, isn't it?

LibraryThing is free to catalogue your first 200 books.  After that, it is $10 a year or $25 for a lifetime membership.  I was introduced to LibraryThing by another teacher, and she uses LibraryThing to catalogue her extensive classroom library.  I use LibraryThing for keeping track of the books I read, and I especially like keeping track of the books in a series I have read.  I also like to use LibraryThing to see what other books my favorite authors have written. Within LibraryThing, you can join online book groups for some social networking if you'd like to do that too. 

I have been a member since the summer of 2011, and so far I have read and catalogued almost 300 books! There are many other ways people use LibraryThing, and you can read about those ways on the site. You are probably thinking about the different ways you can use LibraryThing right now as you are reading this!

Mar 28, 2016


Canva is a great graphic design tech tool that anyone can use. Use Canva for creating presentations, posters, infographics, and social media posts.  Canva is easy to use, free, and lots of fun!  Choose your template, add designs, icons, shapes, and/or charts and change their colors and formats.  Add your own photos or those already loaded into Canva - there are many free photos, or choose one for $1 - then publish and share your work!

Here is a quick You Tube Video Tutorial on Canva. Have fun being creative!  Just think of the many ways you can use Canva for your classroom!

Mar 25, 2016

Dirt Devil Racing

On April 16, 2016, I will be participating in the Foxy Trail 5K at Lake Hodges, and this will be my first race since my two knee surgeries. On April 20, 2015, I had my first arthroscopic surgery on my left knee, and then I had my second arthroscopic surgery on the same knee on July 20, 2015.  This has been a trying ordeal for me because I had to put my favorite hobby aside and rehab and heal. My last race was in the fall of 2015, and I am really looking forward to running again even though it is only a trail 5K.  I highly recommend participating in any of the Dirt Devil Races.  They are small races with incredible trails, and athletes of all abilities can participate, finish, and feel proud and accomplished. I can't wait to get out there!

Fun and Easy Reading for Spring Break
When I get some time off, I like to relax and read something fun and something that's easy to read.  If you haven't heard of the Stephanie Plum Series by Janet Evanovich, you should give this series a try.  This series is very entertaining! Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter in Trenton, New Jersey.  She works for her cousin Vinnie at Vincent Plum Bail Bonds.  Stephanie's side kick is Lula, who had quite the unspeakable career before she got into the bail bonds business. Of course, there's two men in Stephanie's life, Morelli, who is a cop, and Ranger, who is very secretive.  Book One is called One for the Money, and it was made into a movie, but the book is much funnier and better than the movie.  The latest installment in the series is Tricky Twenty-Two, and I plan on enjoying a morning or an afternoon during spring break to read and laugh!

A College Visit to ASU

Last month, in February, we took a college visit trip to ASU in Tempe, Arizona. We stopped along the way so I could take some photographs for my photography class, and here are three of my favorites.

This is a long-exposure photograph of the train bridge over the Tempe Town Lake.  I really enjoy taking long-exposure shots and experimenting with the length of time to leave the shutter open.  It is exciting to see the results.

We visited the Polytechnic Campus, and while we were on the tour, I noticed how this blue beach cruiser bike had such a nice contrasting color with the green background.  The sunlight and shadows really added to the soft tone of the scene.

Lastly, on the drive to Tempe, we came across the fields of windmills, and I took many photos, but I like this one the best because of how the windmills look so clean and white against the big blue sky.

Mar 9, 2016

Pi Day

Monday, March 14th, is Pi Day, 3.14.  March 14th is also Albert Einstein's birthday! It just doesn't get mathematically better than that!

What is Pi (π)? "Pi is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.14159."  Here is a website dedicated solely to Pi (π) -  This website contains videos and activities you and your class can participate in on Pi Day. Here is a webquest on Pi Day, and here is one more resource from Education World

An idea that I came up with that students could engage in on Pi Day is having them learn and practice Google Drawings. Here is a simple drawing I made.  I inserted a circle shape and labeled the circumference and diameter.  Using the special characters, you can also add the π symbol.

I hope these resources are helpful to you, and that you have a fun time participating in Pi Day on Monday!

Feb 18, 2016

The Iditarod

I loved reading Balto and the Great Race every year with my third-graders. Balto is a true story that took place in 1925 about mushers and sled-dog teams delivering medicine to children with Diphtheria in Nome, Alaska, through blizzard conditions.  This story was the main reason the Iditarod began in 1973. This year, on March 5, over 80 mushers and their dog-sled teams will begin the race in Anchorage and cross the finish line in Nome, a total of 975 miles.

A few years ago, I decided to have my students choose a musher to follow throughout the Iditarod, and this began a classroom tradition that evolved into many different activities culminating in my class participating in our annual literature parade as a dog-sled team pulling their teacher as a musher.  Here's a VIDEO of my class.

Since this tradition of following the Iditarod was such a great learning experience (and a complete blast), I wanted to share some activities and resources with you.

First of all, there are many different leveled readers about Balto to introduce how the Iditarod came about. Balto and the Great Race and The Bravest Dog Ever are the two books I used in my class, but there are plenty of others out there.  After reading and discussing the stories, I would introduce the students to the Iditarod website.  Under the Race Center tab, students can read all about the mushers participating in the race and view maps and checkpoints of the race.  I would have the students carefully choose a musher and fill out a form giving information about their musher and why the musher was chosen.  Here is an example of a musher form.  After the students chose their mushers, I would decorate my classroom with a race course by simply drawing a line using sentence strips and place the 23 checkpoints along the line (kind of like a long number line).  Then I would write the name of the student and the musher they chose on a paw print from a package of paw prints you can purchase at the teacher store. I would place their paw print markers at the starting point on the race course.  I also purchased a map of the Iditarod race course from the Iditarod website to post in my classroom.

On the day of the race, which is always on a Saturday morning, it is broadcast live on the Internet, and some or all of it is always recorded on the website.  So on the Monday morning after the start of the race, I would show some of the video to the students, and they really enjoyed it, and that let them get a better visual of the race.

Then during the race, every morning we would check the stats of the race, and the students would move their paw to the corresponding checkpoint.  Also during the race, I would pretty much theme every subject area to the Iditarod.  There are many activities that you can search and find on the Internet.  There is also an Education tab on the Iditarod website that provides many ideas and activities. Additionally, the Iditarod chooses a teacher every year to be a part of the Iditarod, and the "Teacher on the Trail" posts a blog along with lesson plans for every subject area, which are pretty amazing. This year's teacher on the trail is Laura Wright, and here is her blog along with curriculum links.

All in all, following the Iditarod is a great learning experience, and I highly recommend it!  Feel free to contact me with any questions or suggestions for implementation and ideas.

Jan 19, 2016

Multi-Media Text Sets

Do you have a collection of online resources that you would like to share with your students?  Well, one way to make a convenient document containing resources and tasks for students to view and complete is by creating a multi-media text set.  I learned about multi-media text sets while I was reading in the Google for Education Training Center.  A multi-media text set is simply a Google Doc that you can share that contains links to videos and websites that you would like your students to visit.  Also contained on the multi-media text set is a list of activities you would like students to complete.  For example, you can have the students make their own copy of the multi-media text set and have them type answers to questions that you ask them.  You could also link other Google Docs for students to type on, or you could also link Google Forms for students to fill out.  There are many ways that you could create multi-media text sets.

Here is an example of a multi-media text set that I have created on Martin Luther King, Jr.  Feel free to make a copy of the document to use or modify. You can get very creative with multi-media text sets. Entire lessons could be created on one Google Doc and shared and copied on Google Classroom.  The ideas are pretty much endless! Multi-media text sets make it much easier for students to navigate to online resources and complete tasks all in one convenient place.

Jan 12, 2016


In this blog post, I am going to tell you about

What is Gooru?  Gooru is a new free online learning community. Teachers can find, revise, and share web collections on any K-12 topic or standard. Search for videos, interactives, assessment questions, and more. Create collections that you can tailor to meet your students’ needs. You can also upload your own content to create your own custom collections. In Gooru, you can create your own classes, collections, and assessments and share them with your students and colleagues.

Here is a short introductory video about Gooru:  Introduction to Gooru.

Here is an example of a collection that I created about Martin Luther King, Jr. Feel free to use it with your class. You can even post the link to this collection in Google Classroom.  Using Gooru collections will make it easier for students to navigate through Google Classroom because all of the links will be placed into one assignment.
If you would like to learn more about, you can create a free account, and then you can join this class:  Becoming a Gooru Guru.  You can join this class by using the class code RY4XSHP.  This is a short but comprehensive class that will teach you the basics of Gooru.

Here is another great link that gives great ideas about how teachers are using Gooru in their classrooms:  Instructional Uses of Gooru

I have attained Gooru Guru status this school year, so I would be more than happy to assist you with is really worth checking out because it just keeps getting better.