Sunday, March 9, 2014

Amazing Teacher Honored for Implementing the REAL Program

Amy Mitchell, an awesome third grade teacher at Forest Acres Elementary School, has implemented the REAL Program in her classroom beautifully.  Her students are benefiting from her willingness to create an authentic learning environment for them each day.  I am SO VERY PROUD of Amy!!!!

Check out the video of her classroom here...

Science Means Business!

Last week I witnessed an amazing connection between science and business in Ms. Bowen's fifth grade classroom at Northside Elementary School.  Her students created science fair projects.  That's a typical fifth grade assignment, right?  Here's the difference...

Ms. Bowen implements the REAL program in her classroom, so her students learn through business ownership in the classroom.  One of her students decided to focus on glues used on construction sites.  She chose the topic because she is a business owner in the classroom and was curious if the price of items correlated with the quality of items.  Her father was an influence on her project because he is a carpenter by trade and uses construction quality glues on a daily basis.

The student chose 5 glues to test, all at different price points.  The results were surprising, for sure.  The highest priced glue was at the bottom of the list in terms of quality.  This science project became somewhat of a "Consumer Reports" experiment.  I was very fortunate to meet this student and asked her if she thought her science project would have an effect on the high priced company's reputation if word got out of her results. She and I talked about how science experiments and "Consumer Reports" can prove or disprove society's perception of a project, shifting the reputation of a company for better or for worse.

I love how this awesome student related a classroom science project to the real business world!  That's what REAL is all about...creating real world experiences in elementary classroom settings.  This student's experience as a business owner made her science fair project relevant and full of purpose for her!

Thank you, Ms. Bowen, for being an amazing educator and creating an authentic REAL world learning environment for your students.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Come One, Come All To The Oakway Mall

First off, I need to be completely honest with you.  I love my new job, but I miss classroom teaching more than I imagined I would.  I was having one of those mornings where I was thinking to myself, "Did I make a mistake?  Should I try to go back to the classroom next year?"  And then the Oakway Mall saved my day!  Ms. Prater (who is an AMAZING teacher, by the way!) came to my office door and said, "I'm so glad you're here.  The Oakway Mall is open today and we were hoping you would be here to see it!"

The Oakway Mall is Oakway Intermediate School's awesome whole school event that occurs 4 times a year.  Oakway Intermediate School adopted my Money Cents For Kids program in 2012, and they have done a BEAUTIFUL job implementing the program. I adore seeing the 4th and 5th grade students walking down the hallways with their Money Cents For Kids wallets at Oakway.  AND their AWESOME principal, Ann Douglas, reported recently that the school's behavior referrals have been cut in half since starting the program last year.  That's what it's all about!

I'm sure you're wanting to hear more about the Oakway Mall now, right?  When Ms. Douglas came over the intercom to announce that all store owners could go to the 4th grade hall and set up their stores the excitement could be felt in the air.  I could see kids storming up the sidewalk from my office window.  They had the biggest smiles on their faces and looked to be on a mission with all of their inventory in hand.  I have to say that I was amazed at the kids' creativity.  My favorite store name had to be "Duck Tape Commander."  The store sold all things made of duck tape.  As a fan of Duck Dynasty, this store definitely got my attention, along with just about every other shopper at the mall!

A few minutes into my shopping experience, I was approached by Braxton who asked me to watch his store for a few minutes.  We negotiated a small salary for my work and he was off to shop.  I was selling merchandise for him like someone after "Employee of the Week."  The funniest thing happened when he came back though.  I was in the middle of a transaction with a customer when the customer asked me how much I was charging for the tic-tac-toe game.  I told him that it was $6.00.  Braxton walked up and said, "No way, I'm only charging $1.00 for that!"  Oh goodness, Braxton.  Hush up and take the extra money I just made you!

Once I walked away with my salary from Braxton's store, I was a shopping woman!  I only had $5.00 to spend so I had to choose wisely.  Ms. Douglas, the principal, pointed out the most amazing change purse made solely from duck tape that I just had to have.  It was perfect for holding credit cards.

I saw a ton of amazing work while shopping at the Oakway Mall.  I even saw a group of children who had made English to Spanish cards to help their classmates learn Spanish.  Too cool!

I also saw these super cool pencil holders.  The young lady who made them was up-selling her classmates by offering pencils for an extra charge. She definitely had the entrepreneurial spirit!  She even sold out of pencil holders before the Oakway Mall closed.

The bank was open in the hallway where Ms. LeCroy was making change for students who needed smaller bills to shop.  She was VERY official looking too!  Ms. LeCroy was so busy that it was difficult to even snap a quick picture of her!

At the end of the year, the Oakway Mall will employ those students who are in debt in their Food Court.  This gives those students an opportunity to work off their debt in a productive way.  It also keeps them from having idle hands while stores are open, which is a good thing.  The Food Court is school sponsored.  The office provides all kinds of pre-packaged choices for shoppers needing a snack.  Too cute, isn't it?

I LOVE the enthusiasm Oakway Intermediate has for the Money Cents For Kids program.  I saw this "Fines & Fees" poster on the 4th grade hall and had to snap a picture of it.  It just warmed my heart.  The kids at Oakway Intermediate are getting an outstanding education under an incredibly dedicated and passionate faculty and administration.  Oakway Intermediate kids are lucky kids, for sure.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Mrs. Butler Builds Student Confidence with Dollar the Super Cowdog

Well, friends, I've taken a new position this year.  I've been given the opportunity to expand my abilities outside of the classroom as an educational evaluator for the School District of Oconee County.  It's an incredibly rewarding job.  I get to witness amazing teachers in our schools.  That means that instead of just reading stories from my classroom, you'll get to hear about stories from many different grade levels and teaching styles.  I plan on writing about teachers who are using my REAL (Relevant, Engaging, Authentic Learning) program in their classrooms.  As you know from all of my previous posts, the REAL program most definitely conjures up amazing classroom stories!

This post is about my sighting of Dollar the Dog.  Now, if you don't know who Dollar is let me introduce you...

Several years ago my students asked if we could have a class pet. The first thought that ran through my mind was a picture of me trudging up to school on a snow day to feed our precious little fur ball. Then it hit me….a class pet doesn’t have to be living and breathing, does it?

Our class “adopted” Dollar, a precious stuffed animal that only requires love and respect. Each night a student is chosen by his/her peer to take our class pet, along with the pet’s diary, home. While at home, the student writes in Dollar’s diary about what they did together. This can be anything from what they had for dinner to what happened at soccer practice. The next morning, the student brings Dollar back to school and reads the diary entry to the class. The diary entry can give a great deal of insight into the home life of students. The class may then raise their hands to ask 3 questions about what was read. Most students ask questions like, “What did you have for dinner?” or “Where did Dollar sleep last night?” This is a terrific opportunity for a class to formally interview a classmate each morning, as well as for the teacher to learn more about the home lives of their students.

Dollar's diary is an excellent way to make writing relevant to students. They know that their classmates are counting on them for quality writing and that all ears will be on that writing the next day. Students become quite creative with it too! At the beginning of the year, students tend to write from their own perspective. Midway through the year, students start to write from Dollar’s perspective. This is a great way to teach point of view.

This morning Mrs. Butler's class at Northside Elementary School gave Dollar the Dog a new identity. He is now known as "Dollar the Super Cowdog!"  

Mrs. Butler and her students were so thrilled by the creativity of her young second grader.  When I visited her classroom the student who brought Dollar back dressed as Super Cowdog was definitely the class celebrity.  He was on cloud nine and his confidence was soaring.  Mrs. Butler is such an amazing teacher.  She had lifted this young man up with her praise and pride in him.  This was definitely a highlight in her young student's school day.  Props to Mrs. Butler for supporting taking pride and building confidence in her young learners! Her students are lucky to have such an amazing teacher creating a warm and positive classroom each day.

To order your own Dollar the Dog visit

Monday, April 22, 2013

As the kids say, "It's a Dark Day in Nunamakerville!"

Today was my annual Great Depression lesson.  I realize that I shouldn't look forward to this lesson, but I will admit to you that it is my favorite lesson of the year.  This morning I told the kids that I would double any money that they deposited into their bank accounts.  I had a line of kids chomping at the bit to deposit serious amounts of their hard earned money.  Brooke deposited $273 for a grand deposit total of $546 once it was doubled.  These kids were walking on cloud nine as if it were raining money in our classroom!

After lunch our class bank book mysteriously disappeared.  The entire class was going through the classroom in search of the missing bank book.  I told them that I was very sorry, but if we couldn't find the book all of their money in the bank would no longer exist.  Panic struck!  Then I told them that taxes would have to go up to $5 next week in order to pay for some of the services that we had recently added in the classroom.  Oh goodness, the kids started chanting, "New President! New President!"

The kids had their Monday store time and barely anyone shopped.  I even heard Nolan say that he wasn't going to pay his employees today.  I had a couple of kids almost in tears over their economic crashes.  I let this go over for about an hour, telling the kids that we just had to move on with our lessons and that they could make the money up next week somehow.  This was not a popular statement to say the least!  Unfortunately, I also had to tell them that there would be no more class jobs because the bank has closed down and I could no longer pay them.  Did I mention that "life happened" to a few kids too?  Many kids who had never felt debt in this classroom went into debt for the first time.  Economic woes were felt by all.  The best comment was made when I told the kids that they needed to replace the roof on the barn because the horse was getting wet when it rained.  It was going to cost $100 to replace the roof.  Chris's response was, "Who cares?  The horse will just have to deal with it!"

After an hour of pandemonium and attempts to move on with the school day we began discussing the Great Depression.  We talked about how the kids felt about their situation and how people felt back when the Great Depression hit our country.  We looked at images online of Great Depression times.  And, yes, I told the kids that the money would be back in their accounts tomorrow morning.  Thank goodness for the FDIC!

I didn't get this year's depression on film to share, but you can check out the Great Depression of 2011 at Just click the play button on the right hand picture that says, "Great Depression."  Enjoy living through history with my students!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

College Prep Homework is a Great Way to Prepare for Common Core!

  Each Wednesday students receive the same homework assignment that our class calls College Prep Homework. College Prep Homework translates to:  Research something educational on your own and write two paragraphs (8- 10 sentences depending on the grade level) about what you learned.

The most important thing about this assignment is what the students learn from their research. The goal of the assignment is to develop a student’s ability and desire to learn independently in lieu of simply completing an assignment made by their teacher. The contract between the teacher, parent, and student is to ensure that the goal comes to fruition and the assignment does not represent an opportunity to slack off on homework.

Typically, students take this assignment as seriously as, if not more, teacher-made assignments throughout the week. It is because students are researching and reporting on something that they have chosen. They take great pride in their ability to create their own homework. The term College Prep Homework gives the students a feeling of being “grown up” and accomplished. It is fun to listen to students who excitedly tell you on Monday morning what they plan to research for College Prep Homework that week. Over the weekend, many students actually plan what they would like to research for their next College Prep Homework assignment! Students’ products tend to be a page or more, even though you have only asked for 8 - 10 sentences. In the past, parents have shared comments like, “Annika went to her room and worked for 2 hours on her college prep homework. I couldn’t get her to put it away!” Students become so actively involved in their research and reporting that they don’t even realize the amount of time that they are investing in it.

This is a terrific way to create a love for learning in students. It also allows for natural differentiation as gifted students often research things like Greek Mythology while lower level students research things like the main idea of a book they are reading. The teacher will be able to differentiate homework assignments without even doing anything!  The best part of all is that this works for any grade level!  In first grade I waited until January to introduce College Prep Homework, but once the little ones began researching you could feel their excitement each week.  Too cute!

Common Core is coming our way and it is heavy on student research.  College Prep Homework is a great way to introduce students to research in a non-intimidating way.  You'll see that students' research becomes increasingly thoughtful each week.  Students take great pride in this particular assignment because they are given so much ownership in it.  

One of my all time favorite pieces was written last year by Robin.  She adopted a new puppy and decided to use her College Prep Homework assignment to research how to best meet her puppy's needs.  As an animal lover and a teacher who loves to see students take responsibility this one really stole my heart!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Dollar Walks the Catwalk...And Gains a Cousin!

 Dollar is busy showing off his new clothes in our classroom lately.  First, Carly brought him back to school dressed in a very cool Clemson T-Shirt.  The next thing we know, Nolan brings him back to school with the addition of pants and socks that he and his mother made.  Now Dollar has gained a suitcase and a Build-A-Bear clothing collection thanks to Laniah!  Most recently, Nolan has given Dollar a shark's tooth necklace for good luck.  Is this pet spoiled or what?  It's amazing to watch the kids in action with Dollar.  They show such responsibility for Dollar, always finding a "babysitter" when they need to leave him for any reason.  Brooke shared a brilliant plan for her new business today.  She's planning on opening a babysitting service for Dollar.  I think this will go over VERY well!  I love the critical thinking skills that go into REAL World learning!

This week Chet introduced the class to Dollar's cousin, Dollar Bill.  Dollar Bill was a gift for Chet's 9th birthday last weekend.  Dollar Bill now comes to school too!  The kids were in awe of the "birth" of Dollar Bill and Chet is such a proud dad!

I also had to share this picture of our latest "Nunamaker Idol" competition.  During the "commercial break" our fabulous volunteer, Ms. Schafer (aka Brooke's Mom), led a song with the kids.  The class thought it was too cool to get to sing with Ms. Schaefer.  We ALL adore Ms. Schaefer.  Thank you for all that you do for our kids, Julia!