Continents and Oceans

Thanks for your patience — I’ve finally had a chance to post our sweet “Continents and Oceans” song!

I’m a little disappointed they only used Robinson projections in the video, though. You already know my favorite projection, the Dymaxion map.

Raleigh Edition Dymaxion Map

I’ve already discovered a pretty rad geography video to share with you next week! Wheee!

Creating Fancy Scanable Assessments!!!

Word on the street is that they’re going to permit us, the lowly elementary teachers, to make our own scannable assessments this fall!!! (Middle school and high school teachers have already been able to do this for a year.) In preparation for this, I’m starting to scan some social studies items so my students can be assessed on Document-Based Questions. But I really didn’t know what to do, step by step, and since I use a non-district-supported Mac, I couldn’t go to my IT department. I mean, I’m COMPLETELY AWARE you can just open the PDF then take a screen capture of the image you want, but I wanted to preserve the quality of the scan as much as possible.

So if you’re in the same boat as me, here’s a step by step guide to scanning your current hard-copy assessments in and getting them ready to be turned into a Pinnacle assessment.

1. Scan in each page of your current assessment. If you can scan them in as JPGs, then you’ll just be able to crop the image out of each page, then re-save. Mine were scanned in as PDFs, so there are a few extra steps.

2. Open the PDF in preview.

3. Use the selection tool to capture the image you want to save. Go to Edit, Copy.

4. In the File window, open “New from Clipboard.” This option won’t be available unless you copy your image!

5. Go to File, Save As.

6. Make sure you change the format of your document from PDF to JPG.

All done! Not too bad, if you didn’t have to spend 384925671254 minutes trying to figure out how to get a high-quality image. That’s what I’m here for friends, asking the stupid computer questions so you don’t have to.

Burke Museum!

 We went to the Burke Museum today, and it was fantastic! Not only was the lesson really interesting, but everything was perfectly appropriate and well-organized. The kids had a chance to touch First Nation artifacts, and everyone had great feedback. They adored the Carnaval exhibit, too.

Here are a few photos from our visit.

Learning about First Nation artifacts.
Students wearing carnival masks in front of giant puppets (people stand inside the puppets to hoist the giant people up on their shoulders)
RAWR. Red fox.
Listening to different Hawaiian instruments (look at everyone dressed appropriately in uniform!)
Mask and costume from Carnaval exhibit.
Stereotypical Seattle behavior — recycling and garbage separated outside at lunch.
Heading home. The weather held out all day!

A million and a half thanks to EVERYONE at the Burke Museum. Everyone we encountered, including the patient gift shop cashier, treated us with enthusiasm and kindness.

Huzzah! Next up: third grade field trip to Seattle Children’s Theatre’s production of Frog and Toad!

“Deep, deep thoughts.”

Today I was catching up on our Letters to Ms. Houghton, a weekly homework assignment that I stole from Mrs. Chan where my students write to me on Tuesday and then I write back.

Letters to Ms. Houghton

One student wrote, in response to my question of what teachers could do to become better at their jobs, that we should talk with our kids about their “deep, DEEP thoughts.” Rather sage advice from a well-spoken third grader.

I am fortunate enough to have learners who are willing and eager to tackle tough conversations that include their deep, deep thoughts. When I embarked on our first themed literature unit, I hoped we’d be able to just touch the surface of issues of civil rights and standing up for yourself. I had no clue that we’d be having discussions about

  • Why so much time passed between Lincoln and MLK — my students thought that they were contemporaries.
  • Why the North didn’t “need” slavery
  • Why it took so long for black public officials to be elected
  • How Chicano-Latino Americans and Asian Americans were being treated during all of this.
  • the Emmett Till murder and trial
  • the librarian of Basra, Iraq, shuttling 75% of the city’s library to safekeeping
  • Busing — When black kids wanted to go to traditionally white schools (circa Brown vs. Board of Education), did white kids want to come to black schools? (!!! X, thank you for your insight on this one!)
  • Who judges are, and what they do
  • How people of color were able to learn and be taken care of when they were sick if they weren’t allowed into certain schools and other public places. And then how black people became teachers and doctors if they couldn’t go to traditional colleges. (!!! This one blew my mind, my kids are SO SMART)
  • The role of power, money, and religion as being at the core of most conflicts.

My kids have been incredible. They are able to apply these questions to the text we’re reading and the activities we’re doing, so it’s not like we’re spending all our time going off on birdwalks. They are interested when we watch grown-up documentaries and talking-heavy historical footage.

They know that some parts of the past were awful, but they’ve been incredibly mature in not seeking out super-gory details. I firmly believe they understand that the intent of our work together is not merely to discover shocking facts, but to learn from our history and see how we can apply its lessons today.

There are a few more books we’ve related to our theme that I didn’t initially expect we’d use:

Rosa, by Nikki Giovanni
The Librarian of Basra, by Jeannette Winter

My kids also asked that I include this one, because Dan and Amy stand up for themselves even when other family members play dirty, and even when their own aunt gave up on them:

The Maze of Bones, by Rick Riordan

Who knows what else we’ll learn in the next week before the month is over! I can say that I’m definitely ready for something a little less heavy. So our theme for next month might be something along the lines of, “Curiosity leads to discovery.” Discussing inventors and scientists and nonfiction texts…


44 Presidents

In the 3rd grade social studies curriculum, we study our communities and the 50 states. We’ve also been talking about the presidents in our study of the book So You Want to be President. What a perfect time to introduce the 44 Presidents rap I discovered. I don’t know if it’s the original version Ron Clark used, but it’s pretty awesome and kind of ridiculous.

You can watch a video of it here:

And I made a Powerpoint of the lyrics so we can have them to reference as we practice.

44 Presidents



I wrote a letter…

… to President Obama, after I read the text of his address to students that will be delivered tomorrow. We’ll watch it tomorrow morning in class.

Some school districts have been upset that President Obama will be speaking to students. I don’t like to talk about politics, because as a teacher, I believe we need to teach students to make their own decisions, but I think it certainly can’t hurt to be told,

“No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future. That’s what young people like you are doing every day, all across America.”


But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.”

and finally,

I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.

I love you all so dearly and I expect greatness from every one of you. It was very encouraging to hear the leader of our country say he expects the same.