Meet Tina

A Little Bit About Myself:

Hello!  My name is Tina Nording, I am a fifth grade teacher in Milton, Wisconsin.  How did I get lucky to become part of this group of bloggers?  Well, I was fortunate enough to work with Joanna for two years in fifth grade.  I appreciate her willingness to allow me to become a member of this great group of young and enthusiastic educators!

My Personal Life: 

I would like begin by sharing a little bit about my personal life.  I have been married to my husband, Bryan, for eighteen years now. I am a mother of two boys.  I have a freshman in high school and a sixth grader.  They both attend schools in Milton.  I spend a lot of my free time at football, basketball and baseball games.  I love learning, gardening and riding my bike.   

My husband and me
My boys

My Life As An Educator:

As for teaching, I have been teaching for eighteen years.  I hold a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction.  My how time flies by! I believe I am the oldest teacher in this group.  Why would I want to become a blogger?  Well, I have read many blogs from teachers who explain how they use blogging to reflect upon their teaching and in turn it makes them a better educator.  To me, teaching is a craft that develops over time and needs to be redesigned and nurtured from time-to-time.  In my early years in this profession, I was a consumer of teaching and learning.  I was taking advice and knowledge from the skilled veteran teachers I worked with.  Now, I am moving in the direction of becoming a producer of learning and creating.  It is time to share my opinions, knowledge and advice with other educators.  I am not an expert, I dabble a lot and am not afraid to take risks or fail.

I am blessed to be working in a district where every child in grades kindergarten through twelfth grade has either an iPad or a MacBook Air.  Technology integration is a huge passion of mine along with student engagement.  

My Take Away From This Year:

There are many things I have tried throughout the course of this school year.  However, Twitter has transformed learning in my classroom for both myself as an educator and for my students.  Today, I will be talking about how Twitter is used in my classroom.

Twitter in a fifth grade classroom? Seriously? How could it possibly transform the classroom experience? I know many of you may be thinking this right now.  As I said earlier, I am a dabbler.  I never know where my dabbling will take me.  I also get excited about trying anything new in my classroom.  In turn, my excitement tends to transfer to my students.  They get as excited as I do!

I started the school year off with my classroom Twitter handle: @NordingGrade5.  I requested my parents to set up a Twitter handle and follow the happenings that are taking place in the classroom. Then I began tweeting pictures of the classroom before the start of the school year.  I wanted students who become anxious to experience the classroom environment before setting foot in it.  That was just the beginning of my tweets.  Any exciting science experiment, activity, or just classroom happenings I tweeted out.  To my surprise, parents tweeted back!  I received tweets from parents thanking me for sharing what the day and life of a fifth grader looks like.  Did I just create a positive communication experience with parents?  Wow, the power of social media!

I also have a “Twitter Board” in my classroom.  I post a question of the week and students have to “tweet” a response.  They must tweet back with only 140 characters.  Currently, my students requested to create their own questions to ask the class.  Boys and girls are designing the questions of the week until the end of the year.

Classroom Twitter Board
Student Twitter Sheet

Twitter has allowed me to open my classroom walls to the world. As a veteran teacher, this can be scary!  Yet, I find it very thrilling!  My classroom has participated in slow chats with other fifth grade classrooms and an author.  Every Wednesday, we participate in #SpaceGeo where astronaut Scott Kelly tweets out a location on Earth and we need to use various resources to find the correct location. 

As the year is coming to a close, I am posting great student projects on Twitter.  The power of publishing student work on Twitter motivates students, to my surprise!  Students can’t wait to share with their parents that the teacher “tweeted” their project out for the world to view.  

Do you use Twitter in your classroom?  Please share your thoughts and opinions.  I am open to ideas or suggestions you have to make my classroom Twitter account even more engaging for students and parents.  Until next time, happy Tweeting!


Meet Joanna

Hi! My name is Joanna and I am a: teacher, wife, mother, daughter, friend, colleague, reader, runner, lover of all things Wisconsin, and now...a blogger - a noun I never thought I’d attach to myself, until my wonderful colleague Paige approached me with the idea for this blog. I love the idea of being able to collaborate with teacher friends without the pressure of maintaining my own blog and I’m super excited to get started!

I have been teaching for 7 years. Over that span of time, I have worn many hats within the field of education - substitute teacher, special education assistant, 5th grade teacher, technology teacher and specialist, and most currently 4th grade teacher. I have been married to my husband, Jason (also a teacher) for 7 years and we have an almost 2-year-old daughter, Evelyn.

I love talking about issues and topics in education. It’s my career and passion. While there are seemingly infinite topics to discuss, these are a few that are close to my heart:

Incorporating Technology
I spent two years of my career teaching K-5 technology enrichment as well as serving as our school's technology integration specialist. I loved teaching students that technology was a tool for learning - more than just a fun machine to play games on! Now, back in the classroom, I still try to maintain this philosophy as much as possible and strive to use technology in meaningful ways with my students. My favorite experiment this year has been using Chromebooks through out the entire writing process during writing workshop! 
Another great find this year was Khan Academy. It is a free website with a whole host of programs. Currently, I use it with students for extra skill practice in math!

Other than reading, I don't give homework. A couple years ago I took a graduate course that really challenged and changed my philosophy on homework. Since then I feel like a bit of a renegade in regards to homework, but I feel it is what is best for my students! My students are expected to read every night - an amount of time or number of pages that we decide on together during reading conferences every trimester, but other than that they don't have much. I have eliminated my word study (spelling) homework for the last couple months of school and saw no decline in scores. I did the same with math and my students' progress is better than ever!

Yes, I am one of those teachers with 12 different pin boards dedicated to all types of educational subjects. I have gotten so many great ideas from follow educators sharing ideas with each other and I love being able to collect those ideas in one place! I'm sure as I continue this blogging journey, I will reference Pinterest again! Be sure to follow us on Pinterest!


Meet Stacy

Hello! My name is Stacy Kay, and I am a fourth grade teacher.  I thought I might start out with 4 facts about me.  

  1. In college, I lived in a Scottish palace for 6 months.      
I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with an Elementary Education degree.  I studied abroad with the Wisconsin in Scotland program where we lived in Dalkeith Palace.  While I was there, I was able to spend some time in a couple of Scottish classrooms.   It was so interesting to see how the education system was run in another country.  Traveling was a key priority while I was there.  We visited the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Iceland, the Canary Islands (Spain), Italy, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.  

2.  I have actually seen an egg fry on the sidewalk.
Although I grew up in Wisconsin, I moved to Phoenix, Arizona after college and spent seven years teaching in an inner city school.  I spent four years teaching 4th grade and three years teaching 5th grade.  While there, I was the Structured English Immersion classroom (ELL), Gifted Cluster classroom, and Special Education Cluster classroom.  Phoenix in August + Egg + Sidewalk = Cool Science Experiment.   

3.  I have had stints as a lion tamer, a doctor, and Swiper (from Dora the Explorer).
I have been married to my husband, Chris, for 8 years this summer.  We have two wonderful children, Lucas (Age 4) and Alba (Age 2).  My evenings are filled with a lot of imaginative play (see above “jobs”), puzzles, trips to the park, and lots of picture books.    

4.  Blogging scares me!
Will people actually want to hear what I have to say?  We are all “experts” in our students’ eyes, but how will that translate to adults?  This blog collaboration is perfect!  It gives me the ability to get my feet wet, but doesn't come with all the pressure with keeping up my own blog. I am so excited to start this adventure with my fellow bloggers on Our Elementary Lives!!

Here are two things I love that you might want to check out for your classroom:
Current logo
Donor’s Choose-  Every teacher has a classroom wish list the size of their arm.  Donor’s Choose is an organization with a website that allows teachers to post projects and materials they would like/need for their classroom.  Donors from all over the United States donate money to classrooms they feel would best benefit from their donation.  Donor’s Choose makes it really easy to find materials and submit projects. Projects actually get funded!!   

Kagan Cooperative Learning Strategies-  Engagement is the key in getting students to grow academically.  Kagan Cooperative Learning Strategies are tested and organized to maximize student involvement.  The strategies are based on the principle that all students need to have positive group experiences where all members are accountable and equal in their contribution.  This puts the learning in your students’ hands! Check out the video to learn more if you are interested: Kagan Informational Video


Meet Kristin

Hi! My name is Kristin Pavelec, and I am a third grade teacher.

Being a part of this blog is a new step for me in the world of technology. While I love technology and work to use it often in my classroom, I struggle to find the time to fit everything into a busy schedule. That is why being a part of this group is wonderful! I have the opportunity to learn from my colleagues while sharing with all of you some of the tips, strategies, and ideas I have gained from my nine years of teaching. My teaching career includes five years teaching fourth grade and two and a half years teaching sixth grade language arts. I am now at the end of my second year teaching third grade.

In the midst of all that teaching, I somehow found time to get my master's degree from UW-Madison in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis (to be a principal and curriculum director sometime down the road). I have been married to my husband, Derek, for 10 years this summer, and we have a three year old daughter, Annabel. I love getting to wear so many different hats from mom, wife, teacher, friend, colleague, and more!

While there are many topics that I hold close to my heart in the teaching field, there are a few that are especially important to me at the moment. 

  1. Inquiry- I believe in the power of students getting to choose their own topics of interest and exploring that area to build their comprehension. We have had four cycles of inquiry this year in my classroom where students produce a different product each time (differentiated to meet the learning styles of different students). Students researched from websites: PebbleGo and TrueFlix (purchased subscriptions by our district) to gain their information initially. From there, we used other on-line sources such as Searchasaurus, Encyclopedia Britannica, and even did some search engine digging. Students went to the library to look through books and also watched videos (depending on their topic). I love how my students are teaching me throughout the process and continually want to push their thinking. Kids have made slideshows, mobiles, puzzles, A-Z books, and more. If you are trying to get started in the world of inquiry, definitely check out Comprehension and Collaboration by Harvey and Daniels! This was my go-to guide when I started!
  2. Equity- Throughout the past two years, the idea of equity and culturally responsive practices has been a major thread as I live my own life and teach children. It is through trainings I have attended, conversations I have had, and life experiences that I am just beginning to understand all that is involved with being culturally responsive. In our last book club of the year for 3rd grade, social issues, I find myself having quite in-depth conversations with my students. I am always amazed with how open they are about their own home lives and what they experience with poverty, divorced families, joblessness, language barriers, cultural differences and more. My big encouragement for all is to not be afraid to talk with your kids. To those that live in a world that is less than 'ideal', having those conversations finally lets them share their struggles and helps their classmates understand more about who they are and the barriers that they may never have known existed. There is no time like the present to start talking about and embracing our differences!!
  3. Instill the love of learning in your kids!!! Be able to laugh and have fun. Get to know them all as individuals and remember that for many, you are the person that sees them most in any day. Be that positive person whom they can't wait to see each morning and the person they want to give a high five or hug to at the end of each day.


Meet Paige

Hi there!  My name is Paige Bessick and I am a first grade teacher.   
I am so excited to be a part of this awesome group of elementary school teachers.  I’ve been thinking about starting a blog for awhile, but never wanted to go at it alone.  That’s when I came up with the idea to create a collaborative blog.  I asked some of my incredible colleagues and they agreed to my crazy idea-thanks ladies.  Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”  I am a better teacher because of the teachers I work with. My hope is that by blogging about our adventures, you can sit back and relax, learn a little, laugh a little, be inspired, and gain ideas and resources to use in your classrooms and at your schools.  

I have been teaching for 9 years and I can’t imagine doing anything else.  I knew I wanted to be a teacher from a very young age.  I started as a special education teacher, then moved into the general education classroom where I have taught first and third grades.  I have been teaching first grade the longest and it is my absolute favorite!        
I have been married to my husband, Andrew, for 7 years and we have Owen, our sweet baby boy (can a 2-year old still be my baby?).  When I’m not playing trucks or sports with my toddler, I love to craft, work in the garden, read, follow blogs, browse Pinterest and enjoy time outside with my family and friends.  You will find that I am an organizer, rule follower, list maker and overall optimistic person.

I feel like I have so much to tell you!  My first draft of this post was seriously like 3 pages long.  So to cut it down a bit, I’m just going to give you a quick look into who I am as a teacher.  Here are 3 things I love!

In the classroom, I am all about routines.  I spend a great deal of time, seriously, I mean a GREAT DEAL of time, at the beginning of the year creating, practicing and following the routines that will lead us into a successful year.  My motto is that if students aren’t doing it well, then they were not taught the correct way to do it.  Everything we do has a specific, explicitly taught routine.  Six and seven year olds are so much more successful when they know what to expect and teaching these routines is key!

IMG_1202.JPGTo go along with our routines and in our Reading and Writing Units of Study, we rely so much on our anchor charts.  One of my favorite things to do is to make anchor charts so I’m sure there will be a post about them in the future. Now I’ll admit, I’m not as good of an illustrator as my creative Kindergarten friend Kari, but I think I make a pretty good anchor chart. If it’s an anchor chart I will use over and over again or keep up all year, I will create a quick chart with the kids (it’s so important for them to help create them). I will then remake it so it’s up to my “standards” when I have more time-take this partner reading chart for example. This is a chart we refer to all the time and the kids helped come up with each step.

I have to put in a plug for Instagram and TeachersPayTeachers.  I am very active in both and I believe that they are incredible teaching communities to be a part of.  Make sure to follow us on Instagram (see right sidebar) and I’d love for you to check out my TpT Store: Paige Bessick. I'm just getting started on TpT so make sure to follow me as I am always adding new products! Here's one of my favorite sight word activities for you FREE just for checking out our blog-normally $1.00. Everything else in my store is 15% off until 5/13 in honor of my first blog post and getting our blog up and running. Check it out!
Click here for this freebie!

So, I think it's time to wrap-up...I just love chatting with all of you.  As I said before, I am so excited to start blogging with these wonderful teachers and sharing Our Elementary Lives with you. Teaching is an adventure and it’s so much better with friends.  I hope you will come along with us for the ride.


Meet Kari

Hello!  My name is Kari Nonn and I am a Kindergarten teacher.
I am excited to be a part of the awesome group of teachers who blog on Our Elementary Lives.  I never thought I would blog, but when my friend Paige asked if I would like to join her in this endeavor I thought of the line in the movie Julie and Julia when Julie Powell says, "I could write a blog!  I have thoughts!"  So here we go!

This year is my 8th year of teaching and it still feels fresh and exciting every day.  I have taught 2nd graders and Kindergarteners.  Both are amazing for different reasons, but one thing they have in common is that there's never a dull moment.  I love it!

I got married and bought a house this year.  There is always something going on with the house- gardening, painting, and projects here and there.  I am learning so many new things. 

This year I have really embraced movement in the classroom.  I have always done a bit here and there, but at the beginning of this year I decided to really dive right in.  As we all do, I watched and listened to my students to find out what they need and this was what I found helpful.

On to the teacher talk!  One of my favorite finds of the year has been GoNoodle.  This website has all sorts of movement activities for kids from short brain breaks to full indoor recess videos.  I have become a strong believer in the power of movement in the classroom.

Another movement site I have been using is Cosmic Kids Yoga.
The woman who leads it, Jaime, is fabulous!  Yes, she is in a
onsie.  She tells stories and keeps the kids engaged and moving their bodies.
There are many choices from 20 minute yoga stories to Zen Den

 My final share is a book that's on my 'to read' list.  It's called Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and their Parents).  I think in our ever faster moving world, it is so important that we teach our students how to find their calm.

I hope these tips and suggestions give you some food for thought. 

Until next time!

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