All posts by Maryellen Graziani

This week 5th grade students at Burlington Elementary were busy creating books about the early explorers.  They spent time examining who the explorers were their aims, obstacles and accomplishments as well as the impact exploration had on Native Americans. In this learning activity students worked on the skills of paraphrasing and using textual evidence.  Students were broken into groups of three to create a section of a book, once each section was complete Ms. Rovnak compiled the work into two class books. Check out their creations below!


Kapow! Remixing the Superhero Myth

LiamThe dashing and muscular young man flying in to save a damsel in distress is an image that has woven its way into the fabric of American culture.  Karen Ranglos of NHS challenged her students to think about this myth and the significance it has in modern day society.  After studying various parts of Marvel comics she challenged her 9th grade students to change this myth by remixing an existing hero and story to better represent a part of American culture that is under-represented.  Students both worked on changing the physical stereotypes of their superhero as well as remixing a part of the story.  Students then spent time analyzing the complex question of, so what?  How did these changes alter the story and why does that matter?

Stay tuned to see examples of the students’ remixed comics.



5 Links Monday (On Tuesday 4/19)

Welcome back to 5 Links!

Link #1 – Autodizactic

Zac Chase and Ben Wilkoff, Director of Personalized Professional Learning in DPS, are engaging in a virtual discussion #LifeWideLearning16 about education, life and on simply being human. Each day Ben and Zac pose questions to each other and respond openly and thoughtfully on their blogs.  Their discussion is a great example of digital discourse.  See Ben’s responses to Zac’s questions at Learning is Change.

Link #2 – American Panorama 

The University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab created a set of digital maps for the “American Panorama” project.  Currently the set includes four maps, The Forced Migration of Enslaved People, The Overland Trails, Foreign Born Population and Canals.  A great way to get a dynamic and visual representation of various parts of American History.

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Link #3 – PeaceCorp Lesson Plans and More

I wish I had known about this site when I was teaching world studies not only does it have lesson plans created by former volunteers but it includes rich photographs from the field and letters and stories written by volunteers during their time of service.  Each resource is equipped with great narrative and detail by the volunteer who took the photo, wrote the story or created the lesson plan.

Halloween Chadian Style - visit the site to see a more detailed description
Halloween Chadian Style – visit the site to see a more detailed description

Link #4 – Parallax News

Parallex News offers three differing viewpoints on current policy issues.  A great place to see how presidential primary candidates  or policymakers view different issues.

Link #5 – Erik Weihenmayer’s Journey to Everest

I have always been fascinated by those who have the physical and emotional strength to climb Everest.  In this video blog viewers can follow Erik Weihenmayer’s journey to summit Everest.  What makes his journey even more remarkable is that Weihenmayer is the first blind person to successful reach the summit.  Thanks to Science Coordinator Mike O’Toole for this awesome resource.



5 Links Monday (On Tuesday 2/9)

Link #1 – Super Bowl Commercials

In case you missed the commercials this Chicago Tribune Article grades them for you.

Link #2 – Screen time that supports learning 

ipadWith the increase in mobile devices children are getting more and more screen time.  This Mind/Shift article examines what literacy means in the digital age and provides points to consider when kids access screens.  The American Academy of Pediatrics  recently convened a Digital Symposium to discuss screen time recommendations and began to look at educational vs. noneducational uses.  Check out these articles to learn more about the AAP’s new guidelines

Link #3 – Growth Mindset Misconceptions

A growth vs. fixed mindset is something frequently discussed among educators.  This article discusses five common misconceptions about the idea of a growth mindset.

Link #4 – History of Valentine’s Day

heatsWhat does Lupercalia, Emperor Claudius II and the start of  mating season for birds have in common?  All of these events help to build the modern construct of Valentine’s Day.  If you are interested in other Valentine’s Day facts watch these videos from The History Channel

Link #5 –  Blueberry Coconut Oatmeal Pudding 

oatmealTypically I do not like oatmeal, however, this dish has made me a convert.  I love the vanilla and slight coconut flavors.  I make a big batch on the weekends and reheat portions during the week.  Some modifications is that I reduce the honey to about 1 TBSP, skip the blueberries (I hate warm fruit) and add a bunch of diced pecans.

5 Links Monday (On Tuesday 12/15)

Last time I wrote 5 Links I was hoping for a snow day… turns out we got our wish a month late.  I hope you are able to carve out some time for yourself this snow day.

Link #1 – National Education Technology Plan

EDThe National Education Technology Plan was released last week. The 2016 Plan, Future Ready Learning: Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education is the first national EdTech policy.  The policy addresses five topics: learning, teaching, leadership, assessment and infrastructure.  One part that resonated with me was their discussion about the Digital Use Divide.  Our discussion has moved from the digital divide which implied access to a divide that occurs between students using technology to transform learning opportunities and those using it to complete the same activities they did before except now with a device.  Our very own Zac Chase helped to draft this documents.

Link #2 – Jobs of the Future

Thanks to Becky Peters, Program Manager of the Innovation Center, for sharing this article with me.  The author Thomas Frey not only discusses jobs that will become obsolete but projects 162 jobs of the future. My favorite ones are the job options under Micro-Colleges or The Dismantlers.   

Link #3 – Common Sense Holiday Gift Guide

present-147168_960_720Are you still scrambling to find some presents for the holidays?  Common Sense Media sorts gift ideas for children by age offering suggestions from movies and books to apps and games. Also included are budget friendly gift ideas. Beyond gifts it offers ways to unplug your holiday

Link #4 – Real Clear Politics

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 12.54.43 PMMy favorite time to teach US Government was during the primary and election seasons.  This website has a wealth of political information from disaggregating polling data from various sources to posting current political cartoons.   

Link #5 – Healthy Breakfast Cookies 

IMG_2672One of our snow day activities was to bake breakfast cookies!  I am always looking for quick and healthy breakfast options.  In this recipe I skipped the chocolate chips, halved the cheerios and added some ground flax seeds.  In the future I will try to cut down the honey and substitute with more banana or applesauce.  Hope you enjoy them!

Schoology Tip – Organizing

If you frequently use Schoology to post class materials it can quickly become a long list resources.  A great way to help students find the correct materials is to organize them into folders.

Here are a few ways to organize with folders:

  • Put materials in folders by unit
  • Put materials in folders by week
  • Put materials in folders by category (warm,ups, handouts, assessments)

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Another way to help students find resources is to organize your materials with the most recent one on the top.  The default in Schoology is to automatically place new materials at the bottom of the list.  To do this simply drag them to the top.



5 Links Monday (On Tuesday 11/16)

As I write this Monday afternoon I hope a large snow storm has enabled you to read this post while under a blanket with a warm beverage of your liking.  In the more likely event that the snow just made your commute miserable I hope these links brighten your day.

Link #1 – Ice Volcanos? 

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 3.13.26 PMScientists recently discovered volcanoes on Pluto that spew ice instead of lava!  The discovery is the first of its kind in our solar system.

Link#2 – Digital Citizenship 

WikiProject_Globalization_Logo.svgAs our students become increasingly connected, digital citizenship education is an essential component to our curriculum.  This article helps to outline some of the major points everyone should know.

Link#3 – Scientific Peer Review 

Science-Girl-300pxAlan Alda  created an annual competition for scientists, The Flame Challenge, in which scientists answer basic questions.  The catch is that the judges are 11 year-old students who judge the answers not on accuracy but on how well they engage and inspire students.  This year’s question is: What is sound?

Link #4 – On Demand Pods

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 3.35.09 PMComing from New York I grew up taking public transportation to many places including the beach and the city.  I miss the ease and convience of wide spread mass transit.  This article talks about the future of urban transportation, on demand pods that you can order and will connect to other pods.

Link #5 – Super Simple Cranberry Roast

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 3.21.25 PMI made this dish last week and it was super simple and delicious. To make this an easy week night meal I made some mashed potatoes over the weekend and reheated them on Monday night along with a quick cucumber salad.  The author of this website creates easy crockpot dishes that usually require no more than five ingredients and requires very little prep work.

5 Links Monday (on Tuesday

Link #1: Facebook App Drains iPhone Battery

Facebook_logo_(square)When I updated to iOS 9 I was shocked to see how fast my battery drained.  Apparently my Facebook App is part of the problem.  This article discusses two ways to stop the app from draining your battery.

Link #2: Sparking Curiosity 

AJ-Books-2-300pxAuthor Jamie Holmes recently penned a book Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing, which states that in order to spark curiosity in your students classrooms should be a place of inquiry where we acknowledge that our understanding of a subject is never complete.

Link #3 : New Teachers, It’s OK to Cry

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 1.19.59 PMOctober is a hard month for everyone.  For students the newness of the school year has waned and they are feeling academic pressures, teachers are tired, and Thanksgiving seems far away.  No one feels this pressure more than new teachers.  This NPR article discusses the demands of the first year in the classroom and a few ways to prevent teacher burnout.

Link #4: Student Data and Privacy

Big-Data-300pxThe issue of student data and privacy is becoming increasingly more important as data is moved online and educational resources have online platforms requiring account creation.   With devices in the hands of (almost) every 6-12 SVVSD student we need to be cautious about the programs we use and what they are doing with student information.

Link #5: Black Bean Quinoa Salad

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 1.06.14 PMThis meal isn’t a quick weeknight meal but it is a great lunch idea that will keep you full all day. It is pretty easy to make and the majority of your time will be spent chopping.   The recipe calls for dried black beans but I always use canned.  It was a big hit with my 4 and 1 year-old.

5 Links Monday on Tuesday (10/12/15)

Link #1 – Struggling for Smarts? How Eastern and Western Cultures Tackle Learning

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As teachers, we know that struggle and even failing is part of learning.  This link discusses the difference in how learning is celebrated in eastern and western cultures.  In western cultures we tend to celebrate and honor the successful student, the model.  In eastern cultures the struggling student is highlighted and their path to learning celebrated.  So I challenge you to create a culture where the struggle of learning is rewarded.

Link #2 – El Nino

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 11.51.19 AMWhen I moved to Telluride in 2000 people were still talking about the winter of 1997-1998 – an epic El Nino winter.  Although this warm fall would never make you believe we are in for a big winter, scientist disagree stating this winter could rival that of 1997-1998.

Link #3 – When Schools Overlook Introverts

As classrooms change to become dynamic learning environments including collaborative and project-based learning it is important to remember that not all students flourish in social environment.  Although these important learning goals should not be abandoned we should remember to balance our learning environments to meet the needs of our extroverted and introverted students.

Link #4 – Google Keep on iOS 

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 12.23.39 PMOriginally an android app Google Keep now has an iOS version.  This organization tool allows you to create and color code sticky notes and set reminders.

Link #5 – Crispy Chicken with Corn Salad 

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 12.16.40 PMTry this quick and easy dish for a great weeknight meal.  I made a few substitutions by using bread crumbs mixed with grated parmesan cheese instead of corn flakes.  It was a quick meal that even my 1 and 4 year old devoured.

Photo Stream in the Classroom

photostreamUntil recently I never considered using Photo Stream in the classroom.  I thought it was a great place to store my pictures but that was about it.  A few weeks ago I was able to learn and use Photo Stream during professional development and realized that the tool had several instructional applications.

1) Warm-ups/BOBs/Bell Ringers 

Create an album in your Photo Stream and add pictures to activate prior knowledge or review key concepts from a previous lesson.You can differentiate this by creating different albums for different sets of kids depending on their abilities. You can set any album to become a slideshow by taping on the slideshow button.  The slideshow will automatically put music to it but through the options menu you can change themes, music and set it to repeat (if desired) or take the music out.

When you are in the album tap on the slideshow button in the upper left hand corner
Change theme and music from the options setting







2) Formative Assessment

Create a shared album with your students.  Have them take quick snapshots of their work or short video discussing their learning. Have them add the media to the shared photo album and you will have a quick collection of student progress. Since Photo Stream also allows you to comment or like a photo (similar to Facebook) you can have students provide feedback to each other through this album as well. Students can post photos to a teacher or another student’s share album by following these steps:

1) Select the desired photo                              2) Tap iCloud Photo Sharing








3) Add a comment (optional)                   4) Select the appropriate album








Tap Post







3) Exit Tickets

Similar to formative assessments have students take a photo or short video that summarizes their learning or reviews the most important concepts from the lesson.  You can quickly review the photos/videos to check for understanding.

4) Student Curation

Have students create albums and share them with you to demonstrate their learning.  This is a great way for a group to work together to gather media surrounding a certain theme.  The group is forced to communicate and make decisions about which visuals best demonstrates learning.

Things to Consider: 

  • This guide from Apple will walk you through the steps on how to create a shared album from both an iPad and Mac computer
  • Does the album need to be shared?  If you are using it just to display images to students you might not need to share it.  It could be posted on a website or projected in the room.  If you want kids to add content or comments it must be shared.
  • Sharing requires you to enter email addresses.  Consider creating an email group for your class so that you can just type in the email group (as opposed to individual names) when sharing.