Saturday, May 21, 2016


There are many acronyms in the educational world, but one of the most important ones in my opinion is PLN. PLN stands for Professional Learning Network. PLN’s consist of a group of professionals (in our case educators) coming together to learn and grow from one another.

In college I was told about the importance of networking over and over again in every class I attended. Phrases like, “Networking is how you will get a job.” “People want to hire people they know.” “Networking is the key to getting into the educational world.” etc. These points drove me to substitute out of college to help build those connections. I made up my own little business cards, made sure I met the office staff and principal of every school, and made sure I allowed others to come in and see me sub to give me pointers as to what I could improve on. This networking and professional learning eventually is what helped me land a job. To be honest, I can rock networking and interacting with people but when it came to the interview process, I bombed it every time. I remember my principal even saying you were recommended to me by other teachers and principals in the district who have seen you teach and believe you are a better educator than your interview. All I could remember thinking was, "oh thank goodness." In truth, all that talk about networking in college and putting it into practice actually paid off. I did still have a short interview with my principal, but it was in the hallway of a school after a beginning of the school year training. I rocked the questions, at least I think I did. I was much more relaxed and sure of what I was saying and landed the job I have today.

There is all this talk in college about networking to get your foot in the door and networking to get a job, but not a lot of talk about how important networking is once you are in the door. My first year I would have drowned if it wasn’t for the networking connections I made through subbing. I remember emailing and talking to other educators in my school district about what they were doing or how was I supposed to do this or that. I would walk  around and observe other educators in my building and try to figure out how to format what they were doing to meet my students educational needs. This networking within my district, and school, is still a very valuable cornerstone of helping me to grow and learn as an educator today. It wasn’t until I was invited to attend an Edtech Summit in Palo Alto that I learned about the global scale that networking could take on.

Attending this conference introduced me to 2 social media platforms that would allow me to connect with the people I meet and learned from in California. The first platform that has become my life source of information is Twitter. Instructors would show their Twitter handles on the presentations and ask you to follow them. I knew that I would need to stay in contact with several of them as our school was getting ready to adopt GAFE and tablets in the primary grades. The other big motivator for me to start using twitter was to earn a badge from the conference and possibly win prizes, ( I am definitely very extrinsically motivated and a tactile learner). The second platform we were introduced to was Google+. This one I used less, but what I was attracted to was the similarities it had to Facebook and Myspace, which I had used and am still using. I also loved several of the extras the platform comes with, Google hangouts being the biggest one. I took these two networking platforms home with me to Washington and utilized them to see what others were doing in education, as well as to see who was beginning to follow me. My mind was blown, I was now networking with professionals in different countries and states! I was networking, but for a new purpose of learning, not for getting a job.

I took to Twitter and decided to jump in and immerse myself in it. Instead of handing out business cards I started giving people my Twitter handle. This allowed me to gain access to individuals I have never meet in person and learn from them. It was amazing to me the power 140 characters could hold. I quickly learned about something called Twitterchats. These are live networking conversations on twitter on certain days and times. I follow a hashtag and suddenly I am networking with a whole group of educators that had something in common with myself. As I continued to follow people I learned about new ways to continue to network through both Twitter and Google+.

This last summer I was able to learn from a bunch of educators who were in a #NotatIste15 group on Google+ and Twitter, ( You can read all about that in my blog post named #NotatIste15). I learned about a new networking live streaming app called Periscope. Periscope allowed me to follow around a person who was at ISTE and who would talk to people at the conference I was able to send in questions or add comments to what they were broadcasting. I also learned about Voxer, a message recording app, like a walkie talkie system, that also allows you to send voice messaging or text to another individual or group. There are so many more networking platforms and connections that could be told about here. But for my sanity and yours I am going to leave it here.                                                   
All these amazing networking opportunities, which I will admit at times are very overwhelming, have become an integral piece of me as an educator and lifelong learner. The fact of the matter is, is that these apps and platforms are allowing me to connect, collaborate, learn and grow from people I would have never of been able to learn from before. A PLN helps me be the best educator I can be for my students, which are the most important piece of our job. The power of social media and it’s role on networking, especially in education, is something I wish all educators could experience.

Social media is ever changing and advancing and the opportunities to network with others will continually change, but do not fear it. I think that often times in education, change comes and everyone gets upset, I’ll admit I know I can be this way. The thing about social media and creating a PLN is finding what works for you. Using it to create a group of people you can learn and grow with,and to let you know that you have a support system. That is what a PLN is all about in my opinion, a group of people that you know can support you and help you grow as an educator and person. Yes, it may take you out of your comfort zone at times, but we can not grow as educators and individuals if we are always living in our comfort zone. It is not good for us as a person and not beneficial for our students. I hope you are inspired to find and embrace your PLN.

Until next time Play more, teach passionately,use tech,and be Kinder,

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Global School Play Day 2016

Global School Play Day 2016

I initially heard about Global School Play Day (GSPD) on the Techlandia Blab show. Where @mrsfadeji mentioned how her whole school was participating in the day. She went on to describe the day, as a day with NO curriculum and promoting the importance of unstructured play. I was interested, so I opened a new tab and looked into Global School Play day. On the website I found a great TEDx video of Peter Gray talking about the decline of play with students over the last 60 years. In today's world with the raise of technology we have been able to utilize and play with great new resources in the educational world and beyond. I will be the first one to praise the use of technology in all classrooms with all students.  Technology has also has brought forth a shift of how we play and interact with others, leaving students who come to school not knowing how to interact with others in a social face to face environment that is often associated with interactive play. If you have read my previous post or follow me on Twitter you will see how important I think play is in my classroom.

I emailed the link to my principal saying I am thinking of participating in this day and seeing if any other classes would like to join me. I then sent the link to my teaching team ( other Kindergarten teachers at our school) saying hey do you think you would like to do this in Kindergarten. They instantly responded back saying YES. My principal came in and talked to me the next day saying, “ so this play day thing is for 30 minutes in a day, right?” I said, “ No. it’s suppose to be a full day of unstructured play.” He asked what if an administrator from district walked in, how would you justify not using the curriculum. I told him that we would still have targets for that day related to ELA, Math, and Social Skills. He then said ok, we will use you guys as the test run for our school this year, see how it goes and then maybe invite more people to do it next year.  

As a team we came together to make the targets for the day and discuss how we would justify the day if admin walked in. Our targets included: I can take turns, I can play nicely with others, I can follow the rules, I can read,say,and write sight words, I can count by ones to 20, and I can add numbers together to find a total. As a team we decided that this being our first GSPD, we were going to have a very loose structure to the day. With Kinder classes of 24,24, and 25 students we were a little worried about giving up all control. So we decided to have designated loose schedule here it is:
Board games, Sight words, alphabetical practice games
Outdoor instructional learning through play time
Habitat walk, talking about what makes its habitat in our own backyard
Playdough and Craft time
Free play time
Mathematical instruction with addition games
Possible learning through movement in the gym
Guest reader

The schedule helped to give us a little structure also be able to get to everything the students brought in. Notice no times, just kind of a feel the crowd moment for us as teachers. When we started to see more kiddos bored, tired, or saying I’m done we would adjust to something else on the schedule.

To prep for GSPD we decided it would be easiest to have Ziploc bags for each student to bring their toys and games in. We attached a letter outlining the basis of Global School Play Day and a piece of paper for them to write what they brought to school. Here is the letter we sent home that was attached to the Ziploc baggie :

The day finally arrived I was really nervous and really excited. My students came in super excited. I explained to the volunteers how we were going to start with board games, and activities that had to do with Reading, Writing, Grammar, or Phonics. I had pre-printed some wonderful signs I had gotten in Tara West’s Math Centers Super Pack 3 on Teachers Pay Teachers, it included signs for how many people can play at each center,we used it to tell how many students could play each game. I found this helped right off the back as lots of students rushed to one or two games, and the students had to count and look at the sign and problem solve who was going to have to leave for the time being. The students had a wonderful morning of play. When we went to specialist, I asked what did you learn this morning. The student’s piped up and answered, “ How to share and take turns.” “How to solve our own problems.” “That I like center times when the class is quiet.” “Yeah, when it is quiet I can do my job better.” At this point my jaw was on the ground! My 5 and 6 year olds verbalized exactly what I was wanting them to learn that morning. The bonus of them finally seeing the benefit of voice level during centers blew my mind. I swear these are all real things my class said, just WOW! I thought this was awesome, very powerful, and that was only with a hour and a half of play.

In the afternoon, we played with math games and toys, such as building, shapes, counting games, etc. Students got to experience some amazing games they had never played before. Jenga was popular, and opened a wonderful opportunity for me to play with my students as many of them had never played the game before. It was so nice to be able to just love on ALL of my kiddos and have fun playing a game I love. Here is a picture of some students playing math focused games.
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After about an hour of Math games they were starting to fade, having indoor recess for the 2nd day in a row at lunch time didn’t really help. The rain had let up a little, so I took the opportunity to take them outside and go for a walk. Right outside our door was a HUGE spider (EWW! Mrs. Richardson strongly dislikes spiders!), the student’s pointed it out and said hey it’s house is the school. Hey Mrs. Richardson is a spider’s habitat a wall? I thought, “did you guys read my plans for today?” YAY, for self created learning from the students! We had a wonderful conversation about where we had seen spiders before. As we walked around our conversation continued about what else has a habitat in our own backyard (schoolyard). When we got back into the classroom we did arts and craft activities for another hour. Students painted, drew, colored, built with legos, and other crafty things they came up with on their own. After art and craft time died down a little, we pulled out our toys that we brought from home and had free play time. Then at the very end of the day our school counselor came in and read the students a fun little book by Julia Cook called The Bad Case of Tattle Tongue. This was perfect, it gave me time to check bags to make sure all toys got home and clean up the paint. The students were totally on top of sitting and listening to a story at the end of the day. Then the students packed up and went home.

3 big takeaways from #GSPD2016
  1. It was so nice to be able to have conversations with the kiddos and just sit and play games, do puzzles, or cut paper and not feel the demands of the curriculum.
  2. The students learned so many social skills. They learned how to ask for help to play a game, how to problem solve their own problems, how to work independently with lots of distractions, and much more.
  3. MARBLES is the ultimate game to beat in Kindergarten. This was by far the busiest center. Students had a hard time waiting their turn but did a wonderful job and we got through everyone.

In short, Brownsville Kindergarten teachers will be participating in #GPSD2017. I highly encourage you all to join us by going to and signing up. If you have a hesitant administrator let others on Twitter know and we will come up with strategies to help try and make this wonderful day of play happen for you.

Until next time Play more, teach passionately,use tech,and be Kinder,


Saturday, January 30, 2016


I know it has been awhile since I have blogged, with school starting and life I have been quite busy. I am really excited to be back and blogging. It’s amazing how therapeutic it can be to let others know what you are doing and just to get your ideas out there. So before I get to the good stuff a quick update on an exciting and eye opening adventure I got to experience recently.

This Winter break I took the week before Christmas off ( I know ambitious but only time my husband and I could get off of work) to go to Europe for 3 weeks. It was one of the most amazing adventures I have ever experienced in my life. We were in London for a week, Paris over a weekend, Munich a week, and visiting family for another week. It was very hard to come back to the hustle and bustle that is life in America and teaching Kindergarten. I learned a lot about different cultures and even a little about the educational system in Germany. I would love to go back and just learn about the schooling systems in these countries. To just  see how they teach and be able to connect with other educators. Here are a couple of photos from my recent adventure, you can also see me add some as I update my Twitter account, follow me @hawkskhaleesi   (also if you like this blog it’s a great place to hear about my blog updates, thoughts on education, technology, Seattle Seahawks and life).
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This year I have really been bugged by the amount of curriculum preaching (curriculum driven whole group lecture type teaching) and testing I have been having to implement in my classroom. I was noticing many of my Kinders having bad attitudes about learning. It was very disheartening, I wanted to say I know kiddos I hate this too. So, I changed my teaching to include more centers, shorter sermons, and more movement. This helped immensely with the attitude change in my students and they were more excited about learning. I still was feeling unsettled like I was missing something. I started seeing more and more about the importance of unstructured/creative play time especially in the younger grades in blogs and tweets that I read. I talked to my librarian about the makerspace she was starting to create and thought how cool that would be in a classroom as well. Then winter break came and I went on my trip.

When I got back to teaching, I realized that in all the other countries I saw kids playing more. I came back with a resolution to try and realize that my job is to help students learn, yes, but also expose them to a LOVE of learning. If I am cramming things in to try and get it done for administration, that may not necessarily be what is best for my students. I wanted to incorporate more hands on activities, play, and learning tuned to their needs. Now, it is not like I wasn’t doing this before, just came back more focused to incorporate these changes. I continued talking to our librarian about how it was going creating the makerspace, what is it suppose to look like, how makerspaces worked and what we had read about them. This in combination with my resolution, created my personal classroom makerspace.

In education there are A LOT of buzzwords that fly across a screen in a blog, pinterest, twitter, etc. Makerspace is one of these words/concepts. My definition of a Makerspace is a designated space that holds materials that promotes creating for kids. Materials often include legos, blocks, crayons,paper,paint, scissors,recyclables,knex, etc.  If you stop and think right now, many of you probably already have makerspaces in your classroom without knowing it. Before I started I always pictured makerspaces as these grand areas for creating that were all beautifully decorated and designed. As I started to look into it more I found that this was not the case at all. These areas are easy to put together and have a very low cost. In my classroom I have a designated corner and table where all my maker stuff is located/stored, then students can take their creation to anywhere in the classroom to create. I have snap circuits, goldie blox, blocks, dinosaurs, legos, cars, paper, scissors, tape, and colored pencils to mention a few things.

Students play with snap circuits at a desk or the floor. I have removed the batteries to avoid any potential shock scenarios, but when they are ready to try their circuit I bring the batteries over and we see if what they created works. If it doesn’t work it always opens up great discussion and problem solving where I have to say very little to promote learning. Which is always what we want to see. Students self motivated to work for the FUN and curiosity of learning. Here are the kiddos hard at work on their snap circuit.

In addition to snap circuits we use blocks and pattern blocks. Here are some of the creations they have made.

Creating a makerspace is fairly easy, but finding the time for a makerspace can be more difficult. I know that with some curriculum's it can be trying to find time for kiddos to create. One way that I am currently incorporating makerspace time is through extra recess.This is an indoor play time, where students can choose to work on makerspace creations or play with other toys. Additionally, I try to incorporate time to use the resources at the makerspace area in lessons. Using stuffed animals to talk about habitat, then prompting students to build the stuffed animal a home with certain items in the makerspace. I have been thinking about making makerspace a center in my morning rotations starting this next month as another way to promote the makerspace with my students.

This blog was to let you know of what I am trying and give you a couple of ideas on how I am incorporating a makerspace into my classroom. I am by no means an expert or claim to know very much about makerspaces. Feel free to check out other sources on makerspaces. #edtechchat just had a wonderful chat about Makerspaces and MakerEd, where you can find more ideas of how educators are implementing makerspaces in their classroom. Click on link above and then click on the document called MakerEd and Makerspaces with @nathanstevens. I encourage you all to try makerspaces in your classroom. It’s a great way to incorporate play and exploration.

I recently learned of another initiative on bringing play back into schools called Global School Play Day, which is on February 3rd. Look for my next blog on how this day went in my classroom.

Until next time Play more, teach passionately,use tech,and be Kinder,