Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Do You Really Need That New Resource Book?

In Michigan, we begin the school year with kids the day after Labor Day.  This year I am embarking on a new journey.  After 14 years of teaching 3rd grade in the same school and the same classroom, I am making the transition to 5th grade.  I am super excited for this change, as I will be able to have some of the same students I had 2 years ago, and I will be focusing on Social Studies, teaching all 5th graders about American History!

The teacher that was in the room before me retired in June 2014, and she left many things behind in the event a brand new teacher was assigned 5th grade.  With that not being the case, and 16 of year of educational accumulation myself, my first day in the back was spent going through the bookshelves to keep what I wanted and pitch what I thought was unnecessary.  It was like going through the Educational Resource Museum!  I was able to see the path of our reading assessments in Walled Lake...Basic Reading Inventory, Qualitative Reading Assessment, and the Developmental Reading Assessment. I was also able to notice something else as I went through resource books she had on the shelves…


I found 3 grammar books from 1978, upon opening them, they looked just like the practice sheets that I have assigned from time to time.  Then I opened up a grammar resource book from the 80’s and 90’s...again, it was pretty much the same. There were at least 20 grammar resource books that were essentially the same regardless of year published. In resources that I inherited years ago, I came across pronoun practice cards from 1967.


As you can see they are pretty straight forward.  I am pretty sure there are cards that have been created in the last few years that have the same type of mission...who does the pronoun refer to?  I imagine there are more colorful borders and a fancier box, but the content really hasn’t changed over the years.  Pronouns are pronouns, punctuation is punctuation, and yet millions of dollars are spent each year on these types of resources.
If you go onto many of the digital resource sites like Teachers Pay Teachers and Super Teacher Worksheets (one of my favorites), I am sure you will find practice sheets that are essentially the same.  

Then I found Fraction Bar sets.


Here are 2 versions of the Teacher’s Guide.  The Fraction Bars for each set are essentially the same.  I know I have taught fractions with fraction bars before, but I have to say, these sets were pretty comprehensive.  I actually wished I had been able to use these, as I there were some activities that were new to me and probably would’ve been helpful to some of my students who struggled with fractions. Again, the content was essentially the same.  

Nowadays, there are plenty of sites for digital fraction bars.  My favorite is ABCya.  In fact, Alan Tortolani, the founder of ABCya got his start creating an app for virtual fraction bars, as he was sick of his students losing the real ones.  The best thing is, ABCya is free to use!
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I am sure that as I continue to set up my classroom, I will continue to find artifacts for my Ed Museum of Teacher Resources. Perhaps I will even tweet them out using the hashtag #EdMuseum.  If you have things in your classroom that would qualify as vintage teaching materials...tweet it out too using the hashtag!  

And if you are thinking of buying new teacher resource books, you may want to look through your vintage materials...things really haven’t changed much OR go online and find it for free!

Cheers to Back to School,
Jennifer Bond

Thursday, August 20, 2015

It's Great to Feel Valued and Supported!

Last year there was buzz on our #MichEd Voxer group about America Achieves and the Michigan Educator Voice Fellowship.  There was curiosity about what it was, who was behind it, and what they ultimate goal was.  To be honest, I think most people were a bit skeptical.  After the first cohort went through the training and connected with other educators from around Michigan, they were able to share out about their experiences, and we learned that America Achieves was really out to amplify teachers’ voices. I was also able to see the close connections of the educators that were part of the first cohort when I attended MACUL last March, and it was clear that there was a special bond between the members.
I was fortunate enough to be nominated by Heather Gauck, who is now a Lead Fellow for America Achieves. She has been such an advocate for the program since she became part of it, and I was excited to have the opportunity to join.  At the beginning of this week we had our first convening at the beautiful Amway Grand Hotel in Grand Rapids. I was unable to attend a majority of the sessions on Monday, as I was presenting at the Oakland Schools Educational Technology Conference, but I was able to still get the main idea of this program...support for teachers!
America Achieves and the Michigan Educator Voice Fellowship is truly there to amplify and support the voice of educators!  Through the sessions, we learned the tricks of the trade in speaking with policy makers, giving elevator pitches, writing opinion editorials, and using social media to the fullest to share the awesome things happening in our classrooms and schools.  The fellowship allows us to have resources to get our voices heard, much like our personal PR team.  It was empowering to know that they were on our side and valued our opinions...something we as teachers don’t always feel.  In fact, over the last few days, I have felt much more empowered.  I feel empowered to let other teachers know how awesome they are and to encourage them to find their voice, empowered to speak up and impact the changes happening in our schools, and empowered to go after opportunities that I haven’t tried before!

        I am truly looking forward to being part of this fellowship, as I have always been interested in impacting the bigger picture and improving the education system as a whole!  I look forward to the wonderful opportunities that will be presented, and I am very honored to be part of such an impressive group of teachers and principals from around the state of Michigan.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Cheers to Vocabulary Spelling City

In the spirit of the conference season, I would like to take the time to highlight some of my favorite edtech companies! First, I would like to start with Vocabulary Spelling City, a site that I have used to support our spelling/word study curriculum for at least the last 8 years.  

I was fortunate enough to be able to escape the frozen Michigan tundra and the sub-zero temperatures a few weeks ago and soak up the sun in Southern Florida.  My husband had a day planned with his dad, so he told me to find something to do with the kids. I thought about all of the obvious things to do in Florida: beach day, putt-putt golf, shopping, pool day, etc., and then I thought about Vocabulary Spelling City! They have their headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, so I decided to send Robert Laundrie, the National Sales Manager, an email to see if we could pop over for a behind-the-scenes look at Vocabulary Spelling City. I first met Robert at ISTE 2012 in San Diego, as we presented together at the Edmodo booth, and I have stayed connected with both him and Nancy, another wonderful Spelling City team member, over the years.

We arrived at Spelling City’s parent company, Time2Learn, and I was instantly drawn into the awesome collection of past technology innovations ranging from phones that crank to ditto machines and pastel cassette players from my youth to old cameras.  It was a neat collection to browse while we waited for Robert.  Robert graciously gave us a tour around the entire company and introduced us to the talented people behind the codes, voices, support, and more of Spelling City!
This is Robert and my kids. Notice the awesome tech museum on the shelves behind them! 

We were able to meet with John Edelson, the Mayor of Spelling City.  We learned a lot of neat things from him, including that Spelling City began in his living room 10 years ago!  He showed us a site that has a ton of games he and his team created called Learning Games for Kids. I had not visited it before. My students now play some of the games on it!  He was wonderful to talk with about features of Vocabulary Spelling City and was genuinely interested in the feedback that we had!
The Mayor of Spelling City, John, and my kids! 

My kids loved getting a behind the scenes tour too!  
My daughter loved seeing the graphic designers drawing new characters and graphics!  My son loved getting a sneak peek at a new game and meeting the lady that says, “Get ready for the test. Don’t peek at your list! Begin.” We even got posters and pencils to bring back to Michigan!  Overall, we had a great visit!

From being wonderful hosts while touring their headquarters to providing engaging ways for kids to practice their spelling, learn new vocabulary words, and assess spelling easily, Vocabulary Spelling City is a wonderful educational technology company!

Thursday, February 12, 2015


As a child, I had a memory book for each grade level, and each year I was able to check off what I wanted to be when I grew up.  Among actress and singer, teacher was always a box that received a check.  I couldn't wait for the day I would be able to use a chalk holder as a teacher!  I was very fortunate to have great teachers that inspired me, cared for me, and gave me leadership opportunities in all grade levels.  I knew that I wanted to be a part of the educational world!  In high school, I was able to volunteer in a Kindergarten class, as part of my National Honor Society service hour requirement.  This solidified that my childhood dreams of being a teacher were still relevant, and I went right into Western Michigan University with a set plan!
      I am now in my sixteenth year as an elementary educator, and I am still confident in my career choice!  I was able to look back and reflect on my experiences by looking through my teaching portfolio.  The things that I thought were important as an undergrad are still the things I think are important, which makes me very proud that I have stayed true to the ideals I had set for myself as a young adult.  Of course I have evolved, yet my value system remains.  I value creativity, classroom community building and risk taking, technology, and the integration of the arts into curriculum. The contributions I have made to education and the impacts that I have had all fall within these themes.
      Creativity is the heart of my teaching!  I strive to give students opportunities to express their learning through their creativity, as well as give students the opportunities to develop their creativity.  My greatest contribution through the years has been managing Destination Imagination, an after school creative problem solving program.  I have been involved for 15 years, and I have worked with over 400 students developing their skills in collaboration, creativity, problem solving, STEM, and the arts! I have taken many teams to the state competition, and I was blessed to join a team at Globals! I received an email from one of my former students, and this is how she closed it: “I believe that learning to think critically and creatively in DI set us up for a lifelong love of learning and the skills that accompany it that will get us far in life.  The creative and challenging environment you provided for me as a student and DI participant affected me in ways that will stick with me forever.”  I hear things like this often from past Destination Imagination members, and it is what drives me to continue offering this program to others.   This year I have even extended my love for creativity to a pilot program I am doing for the Imagination Foundation. I am facilitating an after school program at Hornung Elementary (the school that my own children attend) to promote creative play on a weekly basis. The Hornung Imagination Chapter has been a wonderful addition to my life, and I am looking forward to helping the program grow and grow throughout the years! Creativity is at my core and it makes me #LoveTeaching!
      As a teacher who is passionate about technology, I am constantly evolving the set of tools I use in the classroom (something that has been even more fun than getting to use a chalk holder!)  Some of my highlights include being the first Edmodo user in my district.  Edmodo is a social learning platform often called a Facebook for classrooms.  This led to a leadership role in launching it out to the rest of our district.  In addition to helping teachers in my district with Edmodo, I have also led sessions around Michigan and the United States to help educators integrate Edmodo into their classroom.  In recent years, I have become a leader for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) with elementary children, which was highlighted in the educational documentary, Look I’m Learning.   I have allowed my students to bring their devices for the last few years, and I now see other classrooms adopting this as well.  I know I have made a difference with my students’ use of technology, and it is wonderful to see other teachers open up to it as well.
This week in particular was a great week letting me see that kids love my teaching. Yesterday I received a handmade sign from a student that embodied my motto for life...Live, Laugh, Love! She did this just because...something that I am lucky enough to get very often. Third grade students tend to have an enormous unconditional love!
Another awesome thing that I got in the mail yesterday was an invitation to the Walled Lake Northern Musical, Cinderella...complete with a personal note from a former student.  She reflected on the shy, self-conscious student she was back in third grade, and she expressed that she had grown by leaps and bounds in the personality department since...even giving me credit, as I pushed her out of her cozy, little shell. She is now playing the part of a sassy step-sister, and I am looking forward to seeing her shine on stage!  

What I love most about my job is building the social intelligence of my students.  I know that I have made a difference when I can help students find and celebrate the gifts they have inside!  It makes me #LoveTeaching!  

      I went into teaching because of the wonderful teachers that I was blessed to have in my life, and I believe I am making the same type of difference in the lives of my students.  Through creativity, technology, and the arts, I have been able to impact and inspire, and I know that my greatest contributions to the world of education are tucked away in each and every student’s heart and mind!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Hornung Imagination Chapter Update!

I posted this on my Hornung Creative Play Blog today, so I thought I would share it here too!

(Logo created by Heidi Gates of Blue Platypus)
Years ago I was getting rid of some small electronics, and instead of throwing them away, I decided to turn it into a learning station in my third grade classroom.  My students LOVED opening the things up to find out what was inside!  Last year we had a take apart station for Sunday School and the kids turned the guts of the electronics into wall art. Take Apart stations are an awesome way to expose children to electronics, circuitry, and give them insight to what products are made of!

The Hornung Imagination Chapter had 2 weeks of take apart action, and they had a wonderful time!  Fortunately, I also had the help of extra parents too! Last week the kids took apart their small electronics, and today they turned the dissembled parts into imaginative creations.  From games to robots...the chapter members collaborated and created some cool things.  Here are some photos from the past 2 weeks!


 As the kids discovered the circuits, I walked around with the SparkFun Inventors Kit to show them what the parts looked like before they were soldered into the electronic.  It was neat to have them make the connection with the resistors. We are going to focus on circuitry later on this spring, so this was a great pre-teaching experience for them!
 Kids were super pumped to manipulate the parts and make things move! Gears were a favorite!


Each child put their electronic guts into 1-2 gallon ziplock bags, and they were able to take their bags today and get to work on making something from the pieces.  Creativity was flowing as the little bits and pieces turned into many cool things.
 The students above collaborated to create one large, awesome robot for their classroom.  I am sure Mrs. Giannandrea is going to love it!  I was very proud of how well they worked together as a team!
 Even the students that were not here last week were welcomed into new groups! There were plenty of spare parts to share!

 The CD Player above was combined with a dissembled computer mouse, and a super cool carnival game was created!
 This student did bring her small parts back this week, but that didn't stop her from creating!  She went to the odds and ends that I had out for the kids and created this creature! Toothpicks for teeth, a gear for an eye, a goggly eye for the other eye, and a clothespin!  We may just use this type of an idea for a cute Valentine activity.
 Safety glasses were a hit!  Perhaps we should invest in a chapter set!  The above alarm clock pieces were turned into a house with the addition of a cereal box and glue! Thankfully his mom was rocking the hot glue gun station!

One of the best parts of Imagination Chapter creations is the home sharing.  My daughter couldn't wait to share her game with her brother and her dad right when she walked through the door...she didn't even wait to take her coat off!

Once again...give the kids time, some odds and ends, and they will let their imagination take over!  (And I bet they were able to learn a thing or two about engineering, circuits, motion, etc. along the way!)

Here are some video highlights as well!  Enjoy!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

My Recent Adventures with Creativity

I have a passion for all things creative, so I am naturally drawn to opportunities to bring creative opportunities to children.  I am celebrating my 16th year leading teams of children in creative problem solving through the Destination Imagination (DI) program.  If you haven't heard about DI before, you HAVE to check it out!  It is one of the best after school programs out there!

This year I am tackling another after school program that focuses on creativity.  I applied to pilot an Imagination Chapter through the Imagination Foundation, a program to foster creative play in children. Since I already run DI at Glengary Elementary, the school I teach third grade at, I decided to begin the Imagination Chapter at my son and daughter's school, Hornung Elementary, in Brighton, Michigan. So far we have had 2 meetings, and we are off to a great start.  To communicate all of the adventures, I have created a blog called " The Buzz on Creative Play."  (Hornung's mascot is a hornet, so thus the buzzing bee connection! )  I look forward to impacting the lives of around 33 students in grades 2-4 on a weekly basis, in addition to the 35 kids at Glengary Elementary through Destination Imagination.  2014-2015 is the Year of Imagination for me, and I am looking forward to the awesome adventures ahead!

**** For other adventures with creativity and innovation, check out my web page!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Making Memories at Maker Faire Detroit

This past weekend, I had the wonderful opportunity to share Maker Faire Detroit with a handful of my students from last year.  During our Goal Time last year, our own version of Genius Hour, there was a group of students who created the T-Spa and began a sugar scrub business.  With the funds collected from their sales over the year at Glengary Elementary in Walled Lake, we were able to purchase materials for Maker Faire Detroit, and teach other people how to make their own sugar scrub.  In addition, a second business was created towards the end of the year making paracord bracelets.  C and J’s Paracord was also able to attend the Maker Faire.  Together, the businesses merged and became SpaCord. Maker Faire Detroit waived the fee to sell things, as the kids wanted the profits to go to foster kids. There is a resource for foster families in Livingston County called Hope's Closet that helps out foster families with getting clothes, hygiene supplies, and bedding for foster children.

We were lucky enough to be able to join together last week to prep our materials for Maker Faire.  We were not sure how many to prep, but we wanted to be efficient at our booth. We spent about 2 hours getting things ready! I was thankful for the help of supportive parents as we planned for the weekend!

My garage became a staging area for the weekend, complete with small 4 oz. cups of coconut oil, 60 pounds of sugar, marketing materials, and more!  I wanted to have a formal banner for our booth, and I lucked out, as Staples Copy Center was having a sale on banners.  I was able to get a grommeted banner for $25.00.

Here are some photos from Maker Faire Detroit!

My students shared the steps in making your own sugar scrub. 2 parts sugar...1 part coconut oil! 

There were awesome glasses that people could geek out with duck tape. 

Here are some members of my PLN making their own scrubs...Rachelle(@Miss Galang) and Mary (@WeverWorld)! 
We all had fun with our geeked out Maker Faire glasses! 
In addition to showcasing our Goal Time projects, I also promoted Destination Imagination, a creative problem solving competition for K-University students. I was fortunate enough to have promotional materials from the Michigan Creativity Association, as well as instant challenges I put together for the attendees of Maker Faire. People of all ages loved trying out the tasks, as well as learning more about this wonderful after-school program.  I am embarking on my 16th year as a team manger/coordinator, and I loved sharing my passion for the program with others! 
The challenge was to create a device that would balance a cup at least 6 inches about the table using an index card, a straw, 2 paper clips, and 1 label. :)

I have to give a special thanks to my family.  My husband had to make a special trip back to Brighton to pick up the banner that I left behind, and he hung out at the booth doing a great job of marketing our sugar scrub!  He's a salesman by trade...so he worked his magic on the attendees of Maker Faire! 

My own children enjoyed hanging out all over the Maker Faire.  They wandered around each day finding awesome things to do, in addition to helping out at our booth.  My daughter loved Theatre Bizarre, as well as taking apart laptops at the MSU/4H booth! 
One of the highlights was having Dale Doughtery stop at our booth!  We had tweeted back and forth at ISTE last month, and I tweeted him again while we were at our booth. 

 He found us and hung out for a bit!  We even sent him off with his own sugar scrub sample! 

Our Maker Faire Detroit experience was cut short due to Mother Nature.  We knew the rain was coming in, and actually it held off longer than I was expecting.  Luckily I had a wonderful family that helped me with our booth materials...even though we all got soaked in the process!  Thank-you Zube family! I left Maker Faire looking like a drowned rat and chilled to the bone, but inside I was thankful for the experience and glad that I participated as a maker! I received wonderful comments from the families that participated, and I am so glad that I was able to continue my impact on their lives...even in the middle of summer! 
My daughter and I were soaked from the rain but still smiling!