3 Things That Make Me Happy

1. Good Books
I’ve been on a reading frenzy as of late and I’m feeling very inspired. My favorite work related read of this year is titled The Book Whisperer. The Book Whisperer is such a great resource for any language arts teacher! I related so much to author’s detailing of her evolution as a language arts teacher. I feel like I have followed almost her exact learning curve. This book reinforced some of my own beliefs about inspiring students as readers, but it also gave me concrete ideas of how to take my class to new heights. This is a great summer read that will get any reading teacher excited to start school again next fall!

2. STAAR Testing
Tomorrow my students will be taking their Reading STAAR test. I don’t love the test, but I will love having this hurdle behind us. I know tomorrow my students and I will feel a sense of relief and accomplishment. We don’t read to take the STAAR, but we did our best to be prepared for this test and come what may, I know that we have all worked hard and grown so much this school year. I have continued to grow as a teacher and my students have grown as readers. I will be saying many prayers for my kids tonight, and I ask you to do the same, but I am really happy that my kids have had an awesome school year and now we can continue our book clubs without having the test looming in the back of our minds. Tomorrow will be a great day!

3. Summer Goals
I have not started counting down till summer, because it’s much too far away and there are so many things to do between now and then. But I have set a couple of summer goals and I am excited to get started on them as soon as I get the time.

My first goal is to read all of the books in my classroom library. Some of the books that I own I purchased because I loved them when I was a kid. I have several Beverly Clearly and Roald Dahl books that take me back to my childhood. But there are lots of books in my classroom library that I haven’t read, except for the synopsis on the back. I realize that I need to be better at reading genres that will appeal to the boys in my class, fantasy, mystery and non-fiction so I am starting with what I already own. I am taking all of my books home with me when school is over and I will be an expert on my own library by fall. This goal is inspired by The Book Whisperer, in case you hadn’t guessed.

My second goal is to put some of the things that I have created during the school year on Teacher Pay Teachers. I use the site on occasion and I have really benefited from some of the resources that others have taken time to create. I haven’t used the site to share much of my own work, so I plan to spend some time this summer getting a presence on the site. We’ll see how that goes. There is a lot to learn about how it works, but I will keep you posted on my progress.

Wishing you all a great week, happy reading, success on STAAR and a summer of many accomplishments!


Doing What I Love

I can’t believe that 2013 is coming to an end! Where did the time go? I just noticed today that the last time that I wrote on this blog was in October, and I really don’t know how time got so far away from me.  What I have been doing with my time, while neglecting this blog, has been really enjoying my work and the people that I work with. I feel blessed to say that this year has been as busy and stressful as always, but also extremely rewarding and fun. Let me fill you in on my highlights of the past semester that I didn’t write about at the time, but that I really enjoyed in the moment.


1) Global Read Aloud 2013

This was my first time participating in the Global Read Aloud (#GRA13), the brainchild of Pernille Ripp. Pernille is an inspiring educator that I only know of through twitter (@pernilleripp) and EdModo. I would easily give her the award for the Most Influential Person in my classroom in 2013. I’ll let her explain to you what the Global Read Aloud is all about.

My class and I read Out Of My Mind by Sharon Draper, as part of #GRA13 and we connected with other classes reading the same book through different social platforms. We blogged with classes around the world, and we connected with Mrs. Avington’s class in Nashville, TN through Skype and TodaysMeet on a several occassions. Even more exciting than discussing the book with our peers around the country, was meeting people in our own community. We welcomed guest readers from the City of Grapevine and from within GCISD. My students loved talking to all of our guests about Melody and her struggle with Cerebral Palsy. They also enjoyed learning a little about them, their careers and their lives as readers. The book took us 7 weeks to read, and they were disappointed when it was over. The Global Read Aloud sounds interesting and fun, but it was so much more than that. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my career as an educator. Although I have always felt like I inspired my students to read through sharing my own personal love of books, this experience made an even greater impact because they connected with a variety of readers from different backgrounds. I am grateful to Pernille Ripp for opening my classroom to others and connecting me to so many of my hardworking peers around the world.

2) TCEA Region 10 & 11 Conference

It was a painfully early hour for a Saturday morning in early November. My alarm clock’s deafening beeping managed to creep into my consciousness and wake me up, half an hour AFTER  it was intended to. I looked at the clock and jumped out of bed in a panic to get dressed and make it to the TCEA Region 10 & 11 Conference in Lewisville, TX. At that moment I seriously questioned my sanity. Why did I sign up for this Saturday morning conference when I had already been feeling sleep deprived and low on energy for weeks? Was this even going to be worth it?

Ok, that’s not exactly what happened, but I was questioning my sanity for getting up early on a Saturday! Morning person, I am not.  The truth is, I had high hopes for a fun day of learning about technology and education- two of my passions in life. My close friend and colleague, Daniela, picked me up and we headed to Lewisville eager to see what cool ideas we would find to enhance our instruction. We attended sessions on Evernote, vocabulary development and Google in the classroom. It was a busy day with one great session after another.

In the Evernote session, I met a teacher that I follow on Twitter from Anna, Texas, Mindi Vandagriff (@mindivandagriff). We talked through ideas for using Evernote to streamline documentation and record-keeping in class. In the vocabulary development session I found a lot of great resources for teaching vocabulary and I met teachers from Cross Timbers Elementary School, who work with students that were previously at my school. It was a fun time to collaborate with colleagues from the district. In the Google class I met Tech Ninja Todd (@techninjatodd) and found a treasure chest of great resources on his website: http://www.the3techninjas.org.

After spending the day at the conference we left energized and excited to get back to school on Monday! We were so inspired, in fact, that we decided that we wanted more! We started talking about attending the state TCEA Conference in Austin next February. It was a long shot, but we decided we would try to make that happen. We both submitted professional development grant applications to the GCISD Education Foundation, and last week we found out that we were awarded our grants! We are so excited to be heading to Austin! I can only imagine how much we will learn in the three days that we will be in attendance. One early Saturday turned into two great opportunities for professional growth. TCEA in Austin will be a great way to kick off 2014!


3. The Celebrate Texas Public Schools (CTPS) Video Contest


A few weeks ago, we received an email informing us of a 1-minute video contest for students. Students were challenged to make videos celebrating public schools for Celebrate Texas Public Schools week in the spring. It wasn’t going to be easy, due to the quick turn around of the videos.  After selecting 16 students from a pool of over 40 applicants, we had only 3 weeks to get the videos planned, filmed and produced, and during an already busy time of year.


A team of 4th grade filmmakers and a team of 5th grade filmmakers gave up their recess for the three weeks and in turn were able to work on video submissions for the Elementary Education and Spanish Education videos. It was a quick 3 weeks, especially due to the 3 ice days that we missed, but we finished the videos today and the students are so proud of their work! It was one of the most fun times that I have had working with kids. We talked about storyboarding and filming techniques. They learned about new apps and I was inspired by their creativity and enthusiasm.


Our final submissions are below:

Spanish Education submission- Produced by 5th Grade Shutterbug Crew members.

Elementary Education submission- Produced by 4th grade Shutterbug Crew members.

4) Celebrating my amazing team!

This year has been made even more special by my amazing team. I am blessed to work with a team of teachers who love kids and are driven to make them successful through quality designed work and through genuine encouragement and enthusiasm. They are not afraid to take risks and that makes us all stronger.



I hope that you are also reflecting on a great first semester and planning for an even better 2014! Enjoy your much deserved rest!

Poetic Devices in Song

This week we started a poetry unit which I am really excited about! Last year we used this video (below) that we found on You Tube to teach figurative language and the kids loved it. Music resonates with everyone and my class worked hard to interpret the meaning of each lyric. I let the students watch the video on their iPads and take notes and try to interpret the meanings alone or with a friend and then we regrouped and discussed each song to see how they did. It was a really fun lesson and I’m pretty sure they thought of figurative language the next time they heard those songs on the radio. 🙂

This year I made a similar video in Spanish for my groups that are studying poetry in Spanish. I’m really excited to show it to my classes this week and see how they do. Feel free to use in your classes!  Good luck!

Welcome Back!



Welcome back to a new school year! I hope your first few days have been fun and exciting! I have been really looking forward to starting this year, my 2nd as a digital teacher. I learned so much in my first year, that starting this year has felt so much less stressful and hectic. I remember that the beginning of the first year is difficult for new digital teachers because you are doing everything from scratch and you aren’t sure how to incorporate technology into your traditional get-to-know-you first week activities. We’ve only had a few days of school, so we are just getting started, but my kids have really enjoyed using the iPads from Day 1. Here are my student’s favorite activities from Day 1 and Day 2:

1) Meet Ms. Salame Nearpod:

If you haven’t used Nearpod you should give it a try. It is a presentation app that offers several interactive features. I created a Nearpod presentation about my summer to introduce myself and to introduce the app at the same time. My kids really enjoyed it! It helped us break through the first day nervousness quickly and got them all talking and sharing right away. Here are a few slides that I included.

Nerapod Pics.001


I used Nearpod to show the students pictures of all of my travels this summer.

Nerapod Pics.013


Then I included some quiz slides to allow them to share as well and let them test out the different features of the app. I asked them True and False questions, like “Can Ms.Salame play an instrument?” and in Nearpod they each answered and I could see their results. I would follow it up with a slide that would reveal the answer. . .

Nerapod Pics.007


Answer: Not so much. (Look at his face!)



With the drawing feature I was able to have the students find the Czech Republic, one of my travel destinations, on a map and submit it back to me. I think the drawing feature is one of the most unique tools in Nearpod, and it’s something that we used often in math class last year. The developers at Nearpod have been working hard on improvements over the summer and it is evident in the improved drawing functionality. I’m very impressed!

I used the polling tool to get feedback from the students on their own summer experiences. It was an easy and fun way to use our iPads on the first day of school and still spend valuable time learning about each other.

2) A Digital Scavenger Hunt

Today my students participated in a digital scavenger hunt with their table groups. I gave them a list of tasks to complete on their iPads and I told them that I was not available to help. They had to rely on each other and see what they could figure out. I knew that these students had some exposure to iPads last year, but they had not been in digital classrooms. This was a really fun challenge for them and it allowed me to assess their comfort level and familiarity with the tool. Some of the requirements of the scavenger hunt were:

  • Change your background picture
  • Turn off keyboard sounds
  • Add teacher email addresses to your address book
  • Create a shortcut on your homepage to our classroom website (mssalame.com) and our grade level website (tes4tigers.com)
  • Take a screenshot
  • Log-in to EdModo with your 3rd grade account, or create a new account.
  • Turn off app notifications.
  • Take an x-ray picture of yourself.

I allowed them to work through as much of the scavenger hunt as they could on their own and in the end we regrouped to teach each other how to do each task. They really struggled at times, but the excitement when they would have a breakthrough was encouraging to them and me! I was also able to see what was difficult and why. I learned what technology vocabulary they were familiar with (ie., keyboard, screenshot) and what they were not familiar with (ie., shortcut, notifications.) I was also able to see when my choice of words made things more difficult for them, for example, what I referred to as the address book is actually called Contacts on the iPad. It was a great formative assessment that gave me an understanding of how much support they will need with technology to start out the year.

3) Blogging!

We are starting early with blogging this school year. I don’t feel like I truly grasped the value blogging adds to the classroom until the 2nd semester of last year. But now that I have seen the power of blogging we are wasting no time in getting started. Our blog posts today were incomplete because we ran out of time, but we did spend time talking about the value and purpose of blogging and reading other student blogs and discussing them. When I asked what a blog is, one of my students said, “It’s for people who do the same things to share ideas. Like mommies. Sometimes mommies have mommy blogs for other moms to read.” Pretty impressive understanding for a 9-year-old!

We then set-up our own KidBlogs. This is my first year using KidBlog and I would already recommend it to others. The set-up is seamless and the app is easy to understand. The only down side that I had heard from other teachers is that the storage space is limited. They offer 500MB per class, which I determined would not be enough for the year by looking at the storage that my student blogs used last year. Fortunately, I emailed the developers and they are increasing our storage allotment! I really appreciate that you can give feedback and suggestions to the developers and they respond quickly. I plan to get my other classes started on blogging tomorrow and begin to use it to track our growth as learners.

I would like to explain to new digital teachers, who may be apprehensive to get started, that doing these kinds of things is not flawless in any classroom. If you had seen us setting up our blogs today, it probably looked a little less structured than you might be used to. Some might say controlled chaos. But we got through it and the class is so excited – to WRITE! This makes it all worth it.

Best of luck to everyone this year! I hope it is a year of tremendous growth for you and your class!