ELA 101

Leading. Laughing. Learning.

Job Shadowing Mrs. Cornwell

Today, I job shadowed Mrs. Cornwell to learn more about being a teacher. I learned a lot from her and I think that being a teacher is still something I want to do. Mrs. Cornwell had me work on a few projects, and help her in the classroom. I also had the chance to observe her while she taught, which set a very good example of how to interact with students and help them learn. Mrs. Cornwell told me about things that I never realized were part of being a teacher, like how hard it is to grade essays, the difficulty of making plans for when you are gone, and changing little things based on what group of kids you are dealing with. She also showed me a few websites and things that I might have to use on a daily basis if I become a teacher. I really found these things helpful.

This was a great learning experience to have, thank you Mrs. Cornwell!


The Truth According to US!

Throughout the first quarter, we spent time talking about truth.

  • What is it?
  • How do we know?
  • Where can we find it?
  • Does it change?
  • Is Truth (with a capital T) different than truth (without)?

After all was said and done, students spent a few days reflecting about their own personal truth.  They created these beautiful projects and inside they explained why they chose the images they did.  We hope you enjoy learning about the logos and symbols that are important to us, the words that represent what we want out of life, and the images that reveal what is true, and what we wish wasn’t true about our world in particular or the whole world in general.



Artistic Interpretation

We’re well on our way through Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan as a class read aloud. Actually, it’s a class read aloud 2.0. Throughout our reading we are listening for stand out lines that represent excellent language, word choice, training our ears to hear the figurative language and the deeper meanings beyond lines like “Humans waste words,” and “Anger is precious,” and “Here, I have no one to protect.”

We’re also writing and thinking and predicting and drawing. I recently asked students to select a style of drawing – Ivan or Julia – and create an illustration while I read. I then scanned in their drawings and put them to music by using an Animoto free trial.  If any readers use Animoto on a regular basis or have thoughts to share about using it, I would love your input.

I was amazed by the talent some of them displayed and I learned a few things myself – half sheets of paper, landscape orientation work best for the videos, scanning papers to my email as images is a lifesaver, and given time, space and opportunity students will create masterpieces. That last one, I knew all along, but it was great to see it in action again!


Adopt-a-Classroom Feature

Several years ago, I joined Adopt-a-Classroom as a way to streamline the way parents can support our efforts in the classroom.  We’ve had a handful of donors support our classroom and we’ve been able to purchase new materials from time to time.  This year, I have approached the school year and funding opportunities with a renewed sense of dedication.

As I shared in a previous post, we have already been approved for at least one grant and I’ve applied for several others.  In conjunction with Adopt-a-Classroom, I entered an Instagram photo contest and I also completed a submission for their #IAmATeacher campaign which they were planning on unveil today, World Teacher Day 2015.


When I received the email today sharing the announcement of their project, I was excited to read through all the profiles of teachers, especially those fellow teachers from Michigan, not realizing that they were selecting only one teacher profile for each state.

So imagine my surprise and gratitude to find that our class page is listed for Michigan.  While there are many frustrations and challenges that come with the use of technology, this opportunity to put our students’ needs and our plans to meet them in the forefront of people’s minds is one of the amazing assets!  I am so grateful for this opportunity and hope that our classroom is adopted as a result!

Help Our Classroom – Vote!

Throughout this first month of school, I have mentioned to students that I am always seeking funding opportunities such as contests, crowdsourcing, and grants.  This year alone, I have already submitted applications for at least three different grants.  I have already heard that my Portland Area Education Fund grant has been approved, another grant from the Meemic Foundation for money to spend at our Scholastic Book Fair will be announced within a couple of weeks, and the final active grant proposal through Farmers Insurance in conjunction with Adopt a Classroom, is one that requires public voting throughout the month of October.

This is the first time I have submitted a proposal through Farmers Insurance Thank America’s Teachers, so I’m uncertain exactly how many total grants will be awarded, and whether or not the awards are based solely on the number of votes received.  However, given than we have the month to vote, I’m guessing that the greater number of votes received, the better!


We have the opportunity to be awarded $2500 as early as November!!  That means a direct benefit to your child this school year!  The proposal I submitted was to add 10 Chromebook computers to our classroom to be used on a rotation model for students to implement blogging as a form of authentic writing as well as venue for reflecting on their reading.  Additionally, I would like our class to participate in a Global Read Aloud (GRA)  project where we connecting digitally with other classrooms around the world by reading and discussing a common text.  Finally, a portion of the funding would be used to purchase books for the  GRA and to fill our classroom library with books the beg to be read!

How can you help?

  1. Visit ThankAmericasTeachers
  2. Search for “Cornwell”
  3. Log in with Facebook
  4. Click Vote
  5. Check out other proposals and vote for those you find most inspiring
  6. Repeat daily throughout October!
  7. Share this post and/or the voting link!

This is a national endeavor, so votes from across the country will count.  I know I plan to share our goals and encourage my family in California, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, and Maine to cast their votes as well!  The only rule that I’d like to point out specifically is that voters must be at least 18 years old, so students – NO VOTING!  We want to play by the rules and not be somehow disqualified!  Encourage your parents, grandparents, and other eligible friends and family members to vote since you can’t.

Voters do need to have a Facebook account and for questions about why that is or concerns regarding the use of data, feel free to see the responses to FAQs here.

Building our Reading Community

In my opinion, successful communities begin with a sense of unity and a set of guidelines upon which they agree.  As part of our classroom this year, we are a learning community – a group of readers and writers.  One part of our learning is connecting with books.  Rather than tell you all the rules for the classroom library, I would appreciate your input.  Please read through the form below and submit your response.

Happy New Year!

I’ve always loved the way the start of a new school year seems like a new beginning in life. Just like those January resolutions, I find myself being more mindful of healthy habits and taking on new challenges like resolving to stay more organized or carve out time for reflection and wonder.

This summer, I fell in love with a singer/songwriter and have played her entire playlist on YouTube about a million times. So when I heard this song, it aligned so nicely with the start of the school year that it became a bit of a mantra for me.   I shared it with my students today in hopes that they too will “train our eyes to find the light, that makes this the best year yet.”

Since I resolved to be more reflective, I wanted to capture a bit of our learning environment here.  It’s often challenging to make the best use of our classroom space given that we are limited by the furniture we have and need to accommodate upwards of 30 students in different hours.

This is the board students see across the room when they walk into class.  It refer to it as our “at-a-glance” board.  They’ll be able to find the daily schedule, current grades, class announcements, homework reminders, etc.


From the front looking back, students see our classroom library, which is organized by genre and then loosely in alphabetical order.  I try to keep series books together on a separate shelf and I have space available to display new additions to our library, and a place for them to make suggestions for books they hope to see added.


Nearest the door is our Reading Graffiti bulletin board, which I will model with our read aloud and students will use throughout the year as they complete their own independent reading books.  The small bookshelves are where we keep some of the supplies we will use in our Interactive Journals and other class projects.


Here, students will find a folder where I put extra papers for anyone who was absent.  There’s also a “charging” station” for devices if they need to power up.


The “green table” is shared space for me and the students.  If they need pencils, highlighters, erasers and such, they are welcome to get them from here.  I also use this to “stage” the papers I might need for each day’s lesson, and to house back-up supplies I’ll use to replenish what I have set out for students.  The subway art sign changes with the seasons, which keeps them intrigued.  The bulletin board here is about our classroom rules, which is basically an acrostic poem of the word RESPECT.  I’ll post a picture when it’s finished (though you can see it better in the next photo).  Right now, it’s just the vertical word until I “highlight” one or two of the  concepts each day the first week of school until we’ve spent time discussing each one.  Whenever possible, I try to incorporate positively phrased classroom expectations such as “Remember to bring your journals to class,” instead of “Don’t forget your journal.”  I’ve tried to be very intentional about incorporating that same idea into the classroom posters, anchor charts and even in my conversations with students.


One change I made last year was to eliminate my teacher desk and opt for a small table instead.  Truthfully, it’s been helpful and I found that I wasn’t really using my desk much anyway.   This is my view if I am at my table/computer.  I love being in the back of the classroom as it allows me to look over the whole group during their work time.  When I do need to be up front giving direct instruction, I just pop to the podium for a bit and use my wireless keyboard from there.


It always feels different once I get students in seats, and so far I think this arrangement will work fairly well.  I will likely use cooperative groups as an alternative seating arrangement as well, but I like to start the year is most everyone facing forward.

I’m excited to start leading and learning alongside these new seventh graders this year!  Happy New Year!

Going with the Flow

After months of planning and a promising weather forecast, our seventh grade students were able to enjoy a fantastic day on the Grand River.  Students chose who to partner with and set off for a 45-minute cruise from Thompson Field to the Portland Municipal Dam.  Some of the highlights were spotting geese (and lots of goslings), a heron, a sandhill crane, and lots of turtles along with finding a few rocks below the water’s surface and learning how to work together as a team in paddling and navigating toward our destination.

All in all, we had a terrific time and I couldn’t be more proud of how our students behaved and enjoyed themselves on this trip!


Canoe Feedback

Hands-on Learning

We’ve been reading Phoenix Rising by Karen Hesse.  Set on a sheep farm in Vermont, I’ve always worked to build background knowledge for students.  This year we’ve watched videos of border collies herding sheep and I’m hoping to bake bread with students within the coming weeks.  However, just yesterday, we were honored to have Mrs. McNeil come and share information about her sheep.  She brought photos, books, fleece, roving, yarn, her spinning wheel and several products made from the wool of her sheep.  It was fantastic!  Students were able to feel the lanolin on the fleece and compare it to the roving that was already washed, carded and neatly rolled.

It was terrific watching students step up and use the carding paddles themselves or take a turn spinning.  Most of them said it was much harder than it looked!  Having timed the reading so that students were reading the chapters where our main characters, Nyle and Muncie, have just gathered pulled wool from fences and were carding and spinning it, I think they were able to understand it far better than if they hadn’t had this experience.  Thank you, Mrs. McNeil for sharing your wealth of knowledge!

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