Saturday, December 20, 2014

Think **CREATE** Collaborate and Share with Technology

Last year I had the opportunity to take a technology course for a portion of my continuing professional development.  One aspect of the course was to ensure that technology was being used in my classroom space for more than consumption---and to support my increasing focus on student CREATION with technology.  As 2014 winds down, I think it is appropriate to reflect on what technology looks like in the enrichment classroom so far this year with an eye towards student driven creation.

In first grade students are in the middle of creating their own claymation videos that show the life cycle of a plant of their choice.  You can read more of the details of this project in an earlier blog post:
Students are making this film from the beginning to the end.  Although I offer mini lessons and on the go support of technology questions, they are taking pictures, creating iMovie projects (with pictures, voice overs and editing) in small groups.  They  have ownership of the creation of this content and when the video is complete it will share their knowledge of the plant life cycle! Sometimes in this learning process I have found myself wanting to shift the camera before a group takes a picture that has their hand in it....but I realize that just as I would never edit a student's writing as they are writing, I need to allow students to truly experience the creative process.  This has been a powerful lesson for me as a teacher and I feel it improves  learning ownership and student empowerment (and if they want to edit out that hand later, they do!)

In second grade we have just celebrated a month of blogging success.  Students received 128 comments on blog posts that they wrote and published in the month of November (they can be found on this blog by selecting StudentBlogging from the labels menu).  Second graders see themselves as bloggers--and this skill will support their creation of future content in enrichment class, and hopefully beyond! Receiving comments from family members, RES staff, and people in other states really gave students a sense of importance for their creative work.

In third grade I recently had the opportunity to experience an Hour of Code with some classes.  The process of coding is mathematical and logical, and also highly creative!  Students had to use advanced problem solving skills and higher order thinking as they created code to solve a variety of challenges. 

In fourth grade we have been studying media literacy for the last few weeks.  Our goal with this work is to improve student's critical thinking skills and help them to be more careful consumers of content in all aspects of their learning.  One awesome way to support this skill development is by learning about advertising strategies.  As a culminating activity, students created video book trailers, or book radio advertisements.  Students worked on these in small groups or independently.  In two class periods, students were able to put together advertisements that made their classmates want to read the books they advertised, as well as had clear connections to the strategies we had been studying in class.  We provided students with outline sheets and feedback, but work was done by each group from props, to scene development, to filming and final editing!  The final projects can be found here:

Overall I think that students are getting opportunities to use technology to create in the enrichment classroom, and that this creation is allowing them to increase their understanding of content areas and technology skills as well as experience the creative process.  For me the next thing I feel that I need to develop more as an educator is to figure out how I can give students more freedom of choice with technology tools.  I find that I often default to creating lessons and plans that assume a specific technology tool. This makes it easier for me as the lead supporter of the tool use, but it can serve to limit the creative process.  As technology changes quickly, and the knowledge that students come to my class with varies, I am interested in thinking more long term about tool introduction across our school as a means to support students in being able to make a variety of choices when they want to create content.  I have also witnessed the powerful nature of content creation in both solidifying learning, engaging the collaborative process and increasing student interest.  I would like to share these ideas and collaborate across our school to increase the number of technology opportunities for our students.

What type of content creation would you like to see students participate in at RES? I would love to hear your ideas! Send me an email at, or comment below.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Hour of Code

Last week all over the country, students were challenged to participate in an 'hour of code'.  According to the website, hour of code is a global movement encouraging students to learn about computer programming.  Currently the website lists 180 countries and seventy thousand coding events taking place this year!  In a well publicized video about the event, our U.S. president challenges students to not just play video games on their phone, but instead to create them! ( )

As we discussed coding with students in enrichment and enrichment/library class several analogies were discussed. One popular one was the idea of a baseball catcher and pitcher talking to each other in 'code'.  We used that idea to think about how we could learn to 'talk to' our computer via code! I was thrilled to have the chance to participate in Hour of Code with all of the fourth grade classes, and some second and third grade students.

Students impressed me with their willingness to try something new, and to persevere when it was challenging.  Every student in class was able to write multiple lines of code!

As an educator this sample of coding with students is encouraging me to think about how we can bring coding into the classroom to provide other means of sharing our learning! The creativity and student engagement demands that we consider this as a learning tool!  I am sure you will be as impressed as me as you watch these students proudly share the number of lines of code they created in just one hour in the below video!  You can also learn more about our fourth grade lesson and see some of the code in action at:

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Technology and the Life Cycle of a Plant

In first grade enrichment we have been studying the life cycle of plants.  Students are familiar with the idea of cycles from their studies of the farm cycle and the butterfly life cycle, so it is a great opportunity for us to expand their methods of sharing this information by adding a creative technology component.  Students will be spending several enrichment classes creating stop motion claymation videos to describe the life cycle of a plant of their choice.  First students met as a group and made their plan. They selected a plant type and they created backdrops for their video.  Students spent time thinking about what should be included in a healthy plant background, including soil, sun, water, and more!

In our next class students used iPads and an iPad filming stand to take pictures.  Each picture shows a part of the plant life cycle, from seed to seed!  Students made the plants from colored clay.  Over the next week students will be adding words to their plant video.  Stay tuned for our finished films!

These pictures capture students working together and using technology! I love this project because students use clay, technology, teamwork and their knowledge to create!

Learning About Light and Making Geography Connections!

Students in second grade enrichment will be spending time studying the science of LIGHT.  We will explore essential questions:
How does light travel?
What happens when light STRIKES an object?
And we will use inquiry to develop our own additional questions and answers.

We are kicking off this unit of study in December by participating in a global holiday card exchange!  The theme of this years card exchange is LIGHT! Students will be making cards for other schools and in return we will receive cards from 86 other schools! As we receive our cards we will be tracking where they come from and we will also be discussing how the cards we receive make us think about light! This week we made our cards and got them ready to send. Because the holiday card exchange theme matched our science theme, I was excited to get students thinking about light as the introduction to this fun topic with a collaborative project beyond our school walls! The cards which we made used the theme of a star (one natural source of light we will discuss) AND we used a battery and an LED  to light up the card thus connecting to the idea of manmade light sources!  Students also had the opportunity to decorate their card with one of the types of materials we will be exploring--translucent tissue paper!  By playing with these materials at the beginning of the unit for an authentic purpose we will be able to transfer this knowledge to our scientific investigation as we continue with experiments and inquiry! 

The front of our holiday cards say "Shine like a star. Be proud of who you are!"  I am very proud of our second graders and all the great learning that is happening this year! We are a school full of stars!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Performing Arts Enrichment Through the Flynn

Flynn Center for the Performing Arts
Image from:

Each year Richmond Elementary School participates in field trips to the Flynn theater.  As the Flynn coordinator, my role is to work with the Flynn theater and our classroom teachers to provide connected and meaningful opportunities for our students.  Each Spring I have the opportunity to learn about the Matinee series for the next school year.  Next I share this information with our school and classroom teachers decide on which performances they would like to attend with their classes.  When we pick shows we consider curricular connections as well as opportunities for new and diverse cultural and academic learning.  The Flynn does a great job of providing both quality and diversity in their selections and it is always fun to see what shows each grade level will attend. 

The performing arts is a great chance for students to learn in a different way. Physical movement, acting and/or puppeteering are all such important ways for our students to engage in meaningful learning, and to have a chance to experience this in a theater for a live performance with professionals is awesome!

This year students in all grades will be attending at least one show with their grade level, as well as an all school performance in the Spring.  In addition to these shows I am also working with the Flynn School Program to bring as many additional opportunities to our students as possible.  The Flynn provides workshops that bring teaching artists into the school right before or after a theater trip to further enhance student learning.  These workshops have additional costs which can sometimes be covered by grants.  (At one hundred dollars per classroom visit, we are always looking for families to sponsor these events--please contact me if you are interested).

Flynn field trips are a great trip to chaperone as well!  If you would like to plan ahead, below are a list of the Flynn field trips scheduled for this school year! (It is worth noting that chaperones would have to be available an hour before performance time).

Whole School Performance Grades K-4:
4/17/2015    9:30am   African Children's Choir

Grade K:
4/1/2015  9:30am  Harold and the Purple Crayon
Grade 1:
12/2/2014     10am       Charlotte's Web (at the Stowe theater)
2/16/2015     noon        Schoolhouse Rock Live!
Grade 2:
12/2/2014     10am       Charlotte's Web (at the Stowe theater)
Grade 3:
2/16/2015     noon        Schoolhouse Rock Live!
3/16/2015     9:30am    La Maleta  (sponsored by Senora Harris)
Grade 4:
1/13/2015     9:30am     Doktor Kaboom

Do you have questions about our Flynn trips? Do you want to help support additional opportunities for performance arts at RES? Feel free to contact me!

Details about the Flynn Matinee offerings can be found at:

Monday, November 24, 2014

Scholastic Book Fair Supports Learning in Enrichment

In the last year Mrs. Gilbar and Mrs. Woodruff have dedicated time and effort into bringing several of the Scholastic Book Fairs to RES.  This work is on top of their every day tasks, and is done with the intention of adding books to our classroom environments so that we have a literature rich landscape in which to teach and learn.  

After the last Scholastic book fair, I was given the opportunity to purchase some books for the enrichment classroom.  I was truly grateful for this chance to increase our classroom library, and I spent quite a bit of time trying to decide what books to select! 

I am excited to report that the first sets of books have been received and they are a great success.  Because of Mrs. Woodruff and Mrs. Gilbar's hard work, students are energized to read in enrichment!  One book is a Lego play book which provides students with building ideas.  By bringing text and reading into this creative building space this text is giving students an authentic purpose for their reading.  I also selected a set of group reading books.  In my first kindergarten class with these books, I simply introduced that the books were available and let students know they could create their own reading groups and enjoy reading together.  On Friday the first group of students visited the classroom library during their exploratory time and read together.  I witnessed decoding, group reading and real joy in reading!

I am so thankful for Mrs. Woodruff and Mrs. Gilbar's work, and also the RES school community for supporting our book fairs.

Keep reading!

Friday, November 21, 2014


I love fashion I draw  fashion pictures Every  day. Do you like fashion?


To make a endure Portol you need Obsidian I of ender then it makes it.  Have you made an ender portal?


We have been learning about pilgrims.  Today is the last day we arelearning about pilgrims. Since today is special we dressed up. We learned that pilgrims go to bathroom in a chamber pot because they did not have flushing toilets and electricity. Do you know any facts about pilgrims?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Learning with a Plant 'Menu'

First graders have spent the last few enrichment classes using a menu to continue their exploration of plants.  Student menus provide them with a list of 'have tos' and then a variety of options.  Students were also given time in order to add additional classroom choices to their menu. 

This type of learning allows students to have choices in their learning style (some students chose to play computer games about plants in order to test their knowledge of plant parts and the plant life cycle, while others created scientific drawings of a sunflower after viewing a real sunflower with a magnifying class).  A menu approach allows students to find entry points for their learning and it gives me a chance to work with small groups and individual students. I also find that the giving students the ability to move and change between tasks gives them a physical outlet for their energy that is controlled and supports their learning. Plant menu choices included: scientific observation and drawing of a sunflower, online games and stories about plants, creating a plant 'wonder', brainstorming what plants need (one group of students thought of 14 legitimate needs---how many could you come up with?), and reading plant books. In addition to these plant centers, students also had the opportunity to explore and work in a variety of centers around the room from watercolor painting to the kitchen to space manipulatives!

The menu approach to learning requires students to take control of their own learning.  Some students took the knowledge that they had three weeks to complete the menu and spent the first week without completing any of their 'have tos', while other students decided they wanted to get to work right away and save up their choices until the end, still other students spent some time each week making choices. As students are in first grade, helping them to understand how much work they have to do and how much time they have is part of my job as the teacher. It is sometimes challenging when I fear that they will not finish--but experience has taught me that this is rarely the case.  Students relish the chance to drive their own learning and when given the opportunity they show me their independence and enthusiasm for learning.

Next we will use some of our basic knowledge to work on a group project on plant life cycles.  Stay tuned to watch some of our essential understandings of plants come to life in student made videos!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Learning During Playful Exploration

Enter the enrichment classroom on any given day and you may be surprised by the  level of movement, activities going on in parallel and the energy and playfulness of our space.  I think that sometimes this playful exploration can be confused for a lack of planning, or learning opportunities.  This week during enrichment I took a few minutes to capture some of the ways that our students in grade K through 2 use their choice time to support their writing and reading.

You will find that students are engaging in a variety of writing and prewriting activities.  Our earliest writers are drawing pictures and telling stories.  You can find them in the puppet theater, at the easels, in the fairy house or creating islands of sand in their ocean scenes. You might find them collaborating to build structures as they develop a story that explains the details of their design.  Students negotiate and revise as they build and collaborate.  These prewriting activities lead to amazing stories and oral communication.  Our writers are producing stories ( one was even published and placed in the classroom library!), making lists and menus for our kitchen space, creating signs, and even' blogging 'on the chalk easel! In all of these cases, I am not requiring them to write, but instead they see a need and so are driven through authentic learning!

You will also find students tucked into a space in the classroom library, or sharing a book with friends.  Students are reading and writing by choice and this freedom is exciting and engaging.

It is empowering for students to be given space and choice in learning and I am lucky to be able to be a participant in their learning journey!


All classes love enrichment.It is sooo fun.We study everything from plants to light.Sometimes she lets us have choice.
I love Mrs Rankin.

RES Cougar Cats

Cats are the symbol of RES because there are paw prints on the walls. Cats make paw prints.


I really like underwater creatures. My favorite one is the underwater dinosaur. Do you have a favorite sea creature?

Rabbit Show

It is really fun to watch puppet shows.   I like to do puppet shows with the bunny.  Do you like puppet shows? Do you like bunnies?


This week many people will take time to reflect on what they are thankful for.  In school we  help students make projects of thanksgiving.  My thanksgiving reflection comes at the end of a busy few weeks and I find that my thoughts keep going back to our RES school community.  For the past two years I have been lucky to become a part of our Unified Arts team here at RES.  This team has motivated me to be a better educator and they have each taught me an enormous amount about education.

I am thankful for an amazing teacher librarian.  I am grateful to consider Mrs. Redford a teaching partner in our fourth grade classes, but I am also thankful for her talents as our school librarian.  She goes above and beyond to make sure students have books that support them as readers.  I have watched as Mrs. Redford sends books home with families in need.  I have also seen first hand the amount of time she spends curating our library so that every class and every student feels that their voice and their needs are heard.  This week Mrs. Redford spent additional time bringing an author to our school.  Giving students the opportunity to meet a writer is an amazing chance for students...but it takes time and effort that Mrs. Redford is always willing to put in!

I am thankful for a physical education educator who is the Vermont PE teacher of the year!  Not only does Mr. G provide amazing daily classes for students to learn athletic skills and teamwork, but he works tirelessly to ensure every child has a chance to ski or ride during their elementary years, provides extra classes throughout the day to give students additional movement breaks and is constantly striving to make connections with our students.

I am thankful for Mrs. Elliott who helps students to create beautiful and meaningful pieces of artwork.  I appreciate her efforts to support the Farm to School program with soup bowls for the Harvest Festival.  I appreciate her gentle and kind manner with students that provides a risk free environment for them to learn and critique their  art.

I am thankful for a music teacher who brings technology into the classroom to develop student's music skills and knowledge.  I appreciate the games and techniques that Mr. Arthur uses to help students learn creatively and the fact that he provides all fourth graders with an additional chorus time each week.

I am thankful for my 'roommate' SeƱora Harris and her dedication to helping all students learn Spanish. I also appreciate her geographic and cultural knowledge and how she adds these components to her curriculum so that students are learning language in a connected and meaningful way.

I am thankful to be a part of this awesome teaching team!

I hope you all have a fantastic Thanksgiving and take time to thank those people that support your learning!
Mrs. Rankin

Friday, November 14, 2014

Ava's cooking

I love to cook. My favorite is when me and mom made my sister's birthday cake!One time mom put vineginr in the cooke's! I also like when me and mom make my birthday cake.MOm said's cooking is science. Do you like cooking?

A Giant drawing .

This is a giant drawing that i made thinking of  really big things .one of the big things i thout of was a book about a giraffe with a tall house what does it make you think of?

A dog blanket

I love dogs, so of course I will make a dog blanket. It is supposed to be a dogblanket . Do you like dogs? 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


All activities are fun .even if it me me means just chilen .some peppel like to cook.others prefer crafts. if your a sporty person you like sports. some times what activites you like now depends on what job you have when you grow up. I like to dance and to do art. Some people  like to volinter which means to work with out being payd. Some people are silly so they do silly stuff like type stuff like this htujhdjtjjhjjtjjfjtjjrjtjjjjtjgjykkkujjjjklkrhk.  the end

I like Animals

I like Animals because they are cute.  Do you like Animals?  Doyou have A favorite animals?  by makayla.  My favorite animal is a cat and dog and fish.  i have a pet.  I have a cat and a dog, 2 of each animals. I got rid of my ferrit.  the end.

All About Trees

Trees were alive a longtime ago.  Trees are nature.  nature lives outside it can live inside.because plants can Live inside and plants are nature.  Trees make us breath and trees make buildings for us.  Trees are still alive they start out as seeds and grow.