Something old, something new

brain-2062053_640There is a whole world out there that I’ve been unaware of. I’ve never listened to a podcast before and I’ve never watched a Digital Story! I’m glad I’ve had this opportunity to explore these different avenues of learning.

When I was little, I loved going to the city library or having library day at school where we would be read to by the librarian. This was my heaven.  I’ve tried to bring a little bit of this into my high school English classes. We read our novels {mostly} aloud, in the group, discussing as we go.  Podcasts could supplement this and help us meet our listening standards!  I’ve been listening to “Serial” on Pandora and I can see why it is so addictive to people, especially students. {I love cop shows, so I guess I’m biased!}

However, I do have concerns.  The language and content is sometimes inappropriate for a school classroom.  I have a strict no cussing or inappropriate talk rule in my room, so I can see the students seeing this as a double-standard issue.  I also don’t appreciate how the author makes it sound like the “average American teenager” drinks, smokes weed, and has sex all the time. {I was a teenager [and am a young adult] who never did any of that junk.} I live my life as an example of how life can be lived without that garbage and I don’t know if I want to show my students someone else that thinks all of that is “normal” or “okay.”

exchange-of-ideas-222786_640Another thing I have been wanting to add into my classes are discussions- I think it is vital that we teach students how to debate and discuss since they aren’t seeing good examples in the media or presidential “debates.”  This “Serial” content would be an easy way to bring this into the classroom.  Students could present their sides or cases about Adnan’s guilt or innocence.

I am one of those teachers that wants to have resources included and prepared assignments/activities to tie into standards, the story, etc.  The article said there are resources available, but I’m not sure my district would be thrilled about buying them. [We are still in the process of remodeling our building!]

I definitely see the benefits of including audio-based lessons into the classroom.  I think it would improve listening skills, critical thinking skills, debate skills, etc. I will look into different podcasts that might have less vulgar language.  I also love how you can use other resources (maps or pictures) to learn other skills or make it more personal.  My mind is reeling with the possibilities this could bring to my classes!

ds what?!?

Last night when I opened up the new week’s assignments, I saw “ds106” and immediately panicked.  panic-button-1375952_640I knew nothing about it, but when I continued reading the sheet and saw that it continued into a 20 day challenged, I freaked even more.  emoticon-1659346_640I even turned to my husband and asked him if he knew what any of it was. Nope. Great, no help there!

After doing some initial research this morning, I have learned a little more about ds106, but I’m not sure how I feel about it.  Ds106 is a way for people to tell stories via technology. I also saw something about it being done without a teacher? As a teacher, I find this peculiar, but I want to see how it works! The whole concept of ds106 sounds really cool and the ones I watched are quite amazing.  This excites me and terrifies me at the same time.  I’m excited at the thought that I, too, might be able to create something as nifty as what I have seen. I’m terrified because I have ZERO computer background. I can use a typing program and an excel program, but that is it when it comes to my knowledge of doing things!

The ds106 website was set up well and I was quickly able to find information about different programs and tools that will be helpful in all of this. I just downloaded Photoshop Express, a free version of Photoshop.  Going through the tutorial, it looks like it should be easy to use! I’m very excited about this because I’ve often wanted to know how to do some editing and now I will have a reason to! {Anyone that is a pro in this area, feel free to give me advice or pointers!}

I’m imagining using ds106 in my Journalism class, as well as occasionally in my English classes! I could have the Journalism students create news casts digitally!  Students in English could use it to give book reports or other presentations.  I have some kiddos that are very techy that would probably love the opportunity to utilize their gifts and passions in the room!

I’m excited to do this ds106 for myself because I’ve always been a little jealous of people with tech skills that can create really neat videos.  Now I will know, at least a little bit, how to do it myself! I’m imagining making one to show my students on the first day of school to introduce myself to them.  Playing a video might be a way to draw them in and let them get to know me, as well as show them I am open to creativity!

This might be my biggest challenge of the course, but I am very excited for it!

Improving my PLN

The term “Personal Learning Network” may be new to me, but the general concept of it and how to improve it are somewhat familiar! Some of us discovered after day 1 of making our (purposeful) PLN that we already had one (perhaps small and weak) already started.  Thanks to “How to cultivate a personal learning network,” I am learning how to make my baby PLN grow stronger and more helpful to me! 

  1. Exploring and being open.  I have to listen to this point! I’m very closed off on my social media. Maybe it’s all the “creeper training” I’ve had, but I don’t venture outside of my comfort zone of friends.  That has changed this week! I had to follow 100 new sources on Twitter! This simple action has already changed my Twitter outlook immensely! I was following about 10 people (my students) and being followed by those same 10 people.  My feed was rather boring and uninformative..unless I was wondering who was going shopping or if someone broke up!  Now my feed changes every second and I have all sorts of resources at my fingertips! Venturing out has already been beneficial!
  2. Search tools- This point will take more work on my part.  To be honest, I’ve never even heard of the three different tools he mentioned! More homework for me!
  3. Resubscribe? This point is also a good one.  Now that I have 100+ things I’m following, I need to check on their value for myself.  Is this person adding things that matter to me? Or are they full of a lot of “fluff”?  Unfortunately, some of the people I want to unfollow are my students.  However, I feel that I need to keep them.  Suggestions for this?
  4. Point Four goes right along with point 3 to me.  Weed out people/feeds that don’t interest you or give you accurate information. Then I need to make sure to add someone new in to make sure my PLN keeps growing instead of shrinking! (I do this plenty on Pinterest, so hopefully it isn’t that hard on Twitter!) His 900 people he is following is quite an impressive number! I may aim for 200 by the end of the summer!
  5. Feed others.  I need to keep this in mind when I tweet and blog.  People are following me, so I need to make sure to retweet or share blogs with them that I think they would enjoy.  It’s not all about me! (Also a great life lesson!)
  6. Engage.  This is a requirement of this course, and I see why.  Even though we are online, we still need to be polite and engage in dialogue just like we would in real life.  This is also something that we could show our students as our personal examples of digital citizenship when teaching them how to behave online!
  7. This goes with 6 to me, making sure to ask and answer questions well.  This is something I need to work on.  I’m horrible at thinking of meaningful questions to ask so I usually just compliment them and say “good job!”  I really need to work more on this so I can show my students how to do it!
  8. Respond.  Here’s another requirement of this class! (Well done, teacher!)  This is one area I think I already do a good job with.  I always try to respond to all messages (email, Facebook, blog, and Twitter) the moment I see it! 

This article is full of good information that I need to keep in mind throughout the rest of this course, as well as my digital life! Hopefully it is helpful for you as well! 

Our first course… ILP #1

This week has been the first week of exploring my Independent Learning Project.  I finally decided to center mine around food! Originally I was going to say “baking,” but then I realized that my husband and I are trying to eat healthier and desserts won’t help much with that! Therefore, I’m working on cooking, creating, and will do a bit of baking as well!

Being a farmer’s wife, I’ve had to learn to adapt to change. #1: My husband’s arrival time is different every night, so I’m never sure when supper should be ready. #2: We live 30+ miles away from the closest store, so ingredients end up as more of “suggestions” than requirements! I’ll discuss these a little bit more with each recipe!

Meal #1: Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup

Delicious! This one earns 6 of 5 gold stars to me, and it’s husband approved as well! (Yes, we had soup in the middle of summer!)  I got the recipe off of Pinterest, of course! soup 1This is all the soup part consists of. Pretty basic soupy stuff! (The best part will come!)

The main ingredient is noodles, which are always WAY better homemade! I used my husband’s grandma’s recipe (it’s the best that I’ve found!) Very simple, only a few ingredients needed, as you can see. noodle ing.  The noodle process is kind of fun! You start in a bowl, but then take it to the counter to work by hand for a little bit. noodle 1  Then you get your rolling pin and start spreading it out. noodle 2 You could do the entire process this way, but I have a sweet noodle maker my mom gave me! You just roll the dough through a few times, changing the thickness each time to make it a little bit thinner. It even comes with an attachment that will cut all the noodles for you, but that makes more cleaning and I don’t mind cutting them myself! noodle 4  After I got it to the thickness I desired, this is what it looked like. noodle 5  Then you cut it up and let them dry for a couple of hours! noodle 6

When you’re done with the noodles, go back to the soup base.  Put all of the seasonings in the pot, along with the whole chicken breasts and cut veggies.

Just a side note about my cutting board: It was a wedding gift from some of my closest friends and it’s probably my favorite, most used gift! board Being a farmer’s wife isn’t always easy, but I’m proud to be a member of the club!

You let the base ingredients boil for an hour. {Smells amazing!} When it’s done, remove the chicken and shred it up! (I also remove the veggies so they don’t turn into complete mush while the noodles are boiling!) z1

While the noodles boil, it’s time for things to get funky! (This is the best part!) Cream sauce! z7  It’s a basic roux or white sauce.  The recipe calls for 2 cups milk and 2 cups heavy whipping cream. Since this wasn’t a planned meal (I’m nowhere cool enough for that yet!) I didn’t have heavy whipping cream so I just used all milk. That makes this healthier, right?

Once the noodles have cooked to your desired consistency, add back in the chicken, veggies, and white sauce! Let it all cook a little longer to blend nicely and then it’s ready! z3 (I apologize I’m not very good at photography! You can’t see the carrots or true details of the soup, but it’s all there and it’s all delicious!)

This is where timing comes in. I just took it off the burner and let it sit.  I was going to put it in the fridge until Hubby came home, but he came while it was still warm so we were able to eat it rather quickly! z2 Husband Approved!

For dessert I just cut up some strawberries and blackberries. Super easy and ready at any time! z5

Snack #1: Granola

Another Pinterest find! I like to tell myself that granola is healthy if it’s homemade.  The oats and honey have to be, right? This is a very simple recipe! Combine the oil, honey, and brown sugar and bring to a boil. Make sure to boil until all the grainy stuff dissolves! Mix with the oats, cinnamon, and salt.  Put on a baking sheet and bake for an hour, stirring every so often. (I had to cook mine over an hour. Possibly the humidity?) When it’s done, cool it and then break it up and put it in airtight containers! g1 This makes an easy snack! Eat it by itself or put with yogurt and fruit to make a parfait!

Meal #2: Steak and potatoes

Time can sometimes be on your side! Marinating gets better the longer you leave it, so steaks can often be a good choice! I haven’t found my “go-to” steak recipe yet, so I like doing some experimenting on my own. These were the ingredients I found to play with last night:

I started by brushing on a touch of BBQ and worsheshire sauce. Then I sprinkled a touch of the other stuff on them.

For the potatoes, I decided to do wedges because they cook much faster than baked! s4 I just chopped them up and then mixed up everything else and smothered them.  Pretty simple 🙂  Here was the finished product! s6  Unfortunately our grill broke last week, so we had to use the little George Forman so we didn’t get the beautiful grill marks or that flame taste. 😦 Hubby really liked it all and even asked what I put on it! (That’s a huge compliment coming from him!)

For dessert we had some of that granola from earlier along with chopped up strawberries and vanilla Greek yogurt! g2 I apologize for not taking the picture sooner, when you could see all of the pretty layers.  I’ll keep working on that!

Helpful Hint: Cheese

Living on a farm is an amazing blessing. Farm fresh eggs, homegrown beef and pork, along with space for a garden. *Heaven*  If only we had dairy cows to make butter, milk, and cheese, we could go off the grid! But that would take entirely too much time and energy, so we still buy that stuff 😉 We like sliced cheese to put on sandwiches, cheeseburgers, and so on.  I’ve found that the cheapest way to buy this is in a huge package.  c1I’ve discovered that if you chunk it up, then it is much easier to manage!  Wrap each section in plastic wrap and then place in a baggie.  When you run out of the one in the fridge, just pull down a new one! This is way cheaper than buying the individually wrapped ones! Just a thought! c2

I hope you’ve enjoyed my discoveries from week 1!  I’ve really enjoyed getting to purposely explore more with food! I’ve learned that I like taking pictures as I go.  I feel like I’m a TV show host saying “Like so.”  I love watching these shows, so I apologize if you don’t!  (I also apologize for the insanely long post!)  If you have any suggestions of things I should try in the future, feel free to leave a comment!

Making Connections

star-209371_640I’ve always heard of people “networking” or “making connections” to further or help their career.  I just never thought I would need to be one of those people! After doing some reading on the subject, I have discovered that Personal Learning Networks help your career and are just a smart idea!

Teaching is probably one of the careers that can benefit the most from a PLN.  I didn’t realize it, but I’ve been working on mine for over a year now! I’ve been lucky enough to go to several different workshops and seminars this year where I have met people that have helped me learn and grow.  These people have become Facebook friends, email companions, and Pinterest followees. (I’m not sure if that’s what you call the people you follow or not, but it sounds fun!)

Twitter, as I am learning, is a wonderful place to learn new information and get additional ideas or help from some of the top educators out there! This is a bit of a challenge for me because I am still rather new to Twitter and I’m not sure how to find credible people to follow.  I must be searching incorrectly because I put in “high school English” and the first feed that popped up was completely in Spanish and based in Spain. Hmm… I decided to Google my inquiry instead and I think it worked! I found a blog that has a list of names and explanations that are helpful! Feel free to check it out for yourself if you’re also having difficulties or are looking for more inspiration! So far I have added a few, but I will continue to search for great experts to follow!  Here is another list of educational feeds that looks interesting as well!

As I have mentioned, Pinterest is one of my favorite things in the world.  If you are also on it, feel free to check out my teaching pages: Here and here for English ideas, and here for general ideas.  I’m not the best at following people or pages, but I will work on that as well! I love just searching something specific I have in mind or going to the education feed and browsing! I just found a page to follow specifically for High School ELA teachers! Yay!

I’m truly discovering the power of technology and everything we have at our fingertips that can truly help us continually improve ourselves for our students! I’m excited that I am learning these things early in my career so I can quickly improve myself to be the best teacher for my kiddos that I can be!

Steps to do to work on my PLN: Search, find, follow on Twitter, blogs, and Pinterest. Repeat!

Here is one tweet that I found that will be helpful for myself!

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>A little late, but wanted to share our literary device posters <a href=””>#languagearts</a&gt; <a href=””></a></p>&mdash; Mrs. Cillis (@angelica_cillis) <a href=”″>June 19, 2017</a></blockquote> //


What to do?

So many times in my life I am faced with decisions to make.  What should I wear? What should I make for supper? What should we do in freshman English today? What about senior English? Oh, dear.  I have always been a horrible mind-maker-upper. I think I get it from my mom, but I’m not sure.. 😉

Today’s big decision is what to do for my independent-learning project for class.  This project is going to have to be interesting enough to grab my attention {willingly} for several hours each week for the rest of the summer.  I wonder if perfecting the Art of Sleep would qualify!

There are a few different things that interest me, but would I want to stick with them?

As I’ve mentioned, I’m horrible at Spanish. I would love to be able to learn this so I could talk to not only my sister-in-law and niece, but many people around my community.  BUT, I hated the class and I’m horrible at it, so maybe that would just make for a horrible summer.  I think sign language is amazing, but there’s so much I think I would have mind-overload! Sewing looks cool and would save money, but I have no idea where to even start. *Sigh* I would love to really work on my technology skills since that’s what this class is all about! It would be neat to create my own lesson planning book, planner, and grade book. Once again, I wouldn’t even know where to start on that! Baking? Mmmm I LOVE food. Especially desserts. But my husband and I are trying to diet in preparations for our redo honeymoon in August.


(This is my mind right now!)

Those last two sound really tempting to me.  A planner combo would be useful and save money. But baking is fun and delicious. It also makes people happy! I wonder if I could smoosh them together somehow. Maybe bake some beautiful desserts and then take pictures and put them in my planner? That’s probably cheating though!

I’ve always loved learning and I’m sure I will learn a ton doing whatever I choose.  (I’m sure that after I start one I will have an epiphany of several other ideas I would love to do as well!)

Though all of my attempted decision making, I am realizing something: I am thinking through possible projects, outcomes, blogs, and lessons for each of the different options.  I really want to include one of these in my classes.  I would love to see my students thinking through their different passions to explore!

~All pictures creative commons from Pixabay!~

Hacking is Helping

hacker-2371490_640I’ve always thought hacking was a horrible thing that criminals do! Thanks to a TEDx talk and a blog I’ve recently read, I realize that’s not true.  Hacking is actually a good thing that helps improve what is already out there. {Mind blown!}

Logan LaPlante’s talk really opened my mind.  I’m intrigued by this “hackschooling” that he discusses. I wish he would have gone into more details of what it is and how he does it.  I’m scared that several parents would say they are doing it with their children, but then slack off and not actually put in the effort to arrange those special meetings and experiences for their children!

However, I would love to try to implement some of this mindset into my classroom.  I would love for my students to think of creative ways to display or investigate their learning.  But how is this possible? (If you have ideas or information on this topic, please leave a comment for me!)

What I think I love most about Logan’s talk was how he addresses people that ask “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  He simply answers that he wants to be happy.  Wow.  That’s something that we don’t expect when we ask that kind of a question!   But what an impact that answer has.  It really makes you stop and think about that kiddo and the life they must lead to feel the need to wish and dream of being happy.  I wonder what my students would say if I asked them that question.


*Small personal rant*  What would we say to a child if they said they wanted to be a carpenter? Or a plumber? Electrician? Manufacturing assembly line member? Line man, mechanic, or anything else that doesn’t require a fancy 4 year degree? I remember when I was in high school and trying to decide what to do with my life.  I always wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom, but society thought that was ridiculous because it would waste my potential or ruin me for not going to college.  What about all of these other skilled workers that we need?! They are shamed for not wanting to go to college! If these jobs make those people happy, who are we to tell them they can’t or that they have to go to a university?!  (Personal because my parents never went to college and my husband only went to one year before needing to go back and take over the family farm. People often look down on them, which I hate!)  *Rant over*

Bud’s article adds to the video because he is also discussing how hacking is a good thing. (I think I will put out a tweet, asking my students to hack my classroom and help me make it better!) My favorite part of his article is the “Making” section.  I would love to see my students making more things to aid them in their learning! (Once again, if you have ideas, please let me know!)

~All photos are creative commons from!~

Is School Encouraging Learning or Damaging It?

George Couros wrote an interesting article about how school and learning aren’t necessarily the same thing.  As a teacher, this is almost a slap in the face! But in true reflection, you have to stop and think…he has a good point.

He lists several ways that the two are separated, but his biggest point is “School promotes starting by looking for answers.  Learning promotes starting with questions.”  This is so true! Every day I asked my students “What is the definition of _____?”,  “What does _____ mean?” and so on! I kept them busy searching for answers when I should have had them create their own questions and then find/think of the answer for themselves!

In school we are usually given a topic to study or research.  If you were like me, you probably thought your topic was pretty boring and you’d never think about it again after you turned it in!  How can we fix this? Projects that are passion-based! This is a new style of education that is coming about where the students use their passion to drive them to learn! {If I hate reading, but love butterflies I will be more willing to read a book about butterflies than cars.}

I’ve tried to use this in my classroom already, without realizing what it was! Instead of having my lower students read The Grapes of Wrath, we read Divergent.  Students that usually hated reading were reading ahead (a new challenge!) and loving reading! {Teaching win moment!}

Another way that teachers can help with passion-based learning is by getting excited and showing that excitement to the students. That excitement can be contagious and soon everyone in the room is in a good mood and ready to learn about something they would otherwise hate!

This is also a tested approach in my room! Believe it or not, but eighth graders and all the way up to seniors are NOT that excited about English and learning different parts of speech or reading novels about things they don’t care about.  Unfortunately, these things have to be done at least some of the time so they can truly learn things that they need to know!  In order to get this done, I’ve had to embarrass myself in front of them {which is difficult since I am only a few years older than they are} by singing or even rapping about words. After the blushing and sweating became normal, I could see the students smiling and enjoying learning! I would even hear them singing or rapping as they were in the halls or when I gave them review/study time! {Teaching win!}

I would love how to do more effective things like this in my classroom and really improve myself to improve my students! Reading these articles really make me feel better about myself realizing that I’ve only taught for one year, but I’ve already done some good things!


Stop Learning?

Today’s assignment was to watch a TED talk of our choice.  I chose “Forget what you know” by Jacob Barnett, a 14 year old that is also a PhD student in quantum physics.  If that’s not astonishing enough, he was diagnosed with Autism. {This can really reshape your view of “special needs” if you think about it!}

Jacob’s main idea was to stop learning in order to think.  At first, this doesn’t make sense. However, as he explained his thinking it became clear.  He gave two great examples, as well as his personal story.  Isaac Newton was forced to stop learning because the college he was attending shut down because of the plague.  During this time, he thought of several things that added greatly to what we know about science today. {I’m not sure exactly what they all are, but you can click here to read all about it!}

His next example was Albert Einstein. He wasn’t allowed into college because he was a Jew living in the pre-war era with Nazis.  Once again, he had to stop formal education, but that didn’t stop him.  He kept thinking and did more amazing things! {Here is a link to where you can read more details about him!}

Jacob was put in the Special Education at room where he said he didn’t learn anything.  Instead of sitting there and doing nothing, he read and learned high-level math and science by himself.  He then went on to solve a science problem on his own as well as several other accomplishments, earning him much publicity. {Don’t ask what it all is; It’s all above my head! This is an interesting article about him!}

I love history, but never knew about Newton or Einstein’s experiences.  I find it amazing that two of the “fathers of science” are most famous for things they did on their own, without support of an advisor or anyone else “teaching” them.  This really makes me think of my own students.  What could they accomplish if I gave them time to truly think on their own. How can I help instill that desire to learn and do things in them?!