NOVEMBER 16, 2015


I have a lot to say. I hope you're listening.
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Thank you for the time & work that you put into your parent conferences.

This is Generation Texas Week – thank you for supporting the activities that promote college awareness – it makes a difference!

At this week’s faculty meeting, Amy Longspaugh & Becca Williams from PTA will talk to you briefly about class parties, Sophia & Chase will share some take-aways from the Boys In Crisis training they recently attended, & Drew will talk to you about Clubs & get your feedback & share the survey results with you. Drew will also share some information with you from his HR ambassador meeting.

Kelli & I are very thankful for you & certainly count you among our blessings! We extend to you our best wishes for a Happy & RESTFUL Thanksgiving!

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Important Information this week!

  • Our Eagle Mountain 25 Rule #4 – When in transition from one subject to the other, the change will be swift, quiet, & orderly.

  • This is our last week for Clubs until after Christmas.

  • We will be talking to Elkins this week to put a plan in place for Skyping with them when we return after the Thanksgiving break. If you are willing to volunteer to have your class Skype with an Elkins class, please let me know. I need one or two per grade level please.

  • Thinking Maps are in for those of you who don’t have them – please come see me to get yours if you ordered one earlier in the year. I have them for you.
  • You are encouraged to use the Curriculum feedback loop – which is completely anonymous - to give our curriculum department feedback about common assessments, their PLC’s etc. They really do want your feedback!

  • Remember that we are in our THIRD year of PLC’s & your PLC meetings should include discussion of the four critical questions!

  • Please make sure you are using the Writing Checklists that Julie Vu provided for you in her packet of information.



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Ditching the Desk

I decided to focus on learning spaces this year in the classroom and around my school. It led me to create a makerspace in my school's library, but it also led me to take a hard look at the classroom. Last summer, I visited my classroom and decided to change it around. The entire process started with one simple question: "Is this room designed for me or for my students?" It was on this question that I based every decision I made when it came to designing the room.

The Benefits of Desk-Free Teaching

The major change that I made in the classroom was deciding to get rid of my teacher desk. It wasn't an easy decision, but when I asked my one simple question, I realized that the entire room was designed around the desk, making it seem as if this was my classroom and the students were just visiting. I wanted to change that idea. I wanted the students to start feeling that it was their classroom and I was part of it. There were plenty of funny looks from teachers and students when they noticed the desk was gone, but I really learned some incredible things about myself and about my classroom by ditching the desk.

1. Comfortability

By getting rid of the teacher desk, there was more space in the room for the student desks to spread out. I have 32 students in a classroom, and having a comfortable space for all of them to sit and learn is important. One teacher desk might not seem like it would take up much space in a classroom, but removing it allowed me to give a few extra feet back to the students so that they weren't so bunched up. Comfortable students will be better prepared to learn and engage.

2. Approachability

The teacher desk has always created a barrier between student and teacher. Some students won't approach the teacher because of the intimidation factor that the desk represents. By getting rid of it, I had more students coming up to ask me for help or to answer their questions. These little interactions can be the difference maker for a struggling student.

3. Mileage

I have always considered myself an active teacher in the classroom. I'm always moving about the room during class discussions and just have a hard time standing still. Once I got rid of the desk, I saw the number of steps that I took (thanks, Fitbit!) increase dramatically. I averaged an extra mile a day. By getting rid of the desk, I kept active in the classroom. I kept engaged with my students. I was always up at the door greeting them when they came in. An extra mile a day times 180 school days is great!

4. Ownership

By the end of the year, I no longer felt comfortable calling it "my room." It was our room. By getting rid of the desk, I gave the students a reason to feel differently about the space. I was another learner sharing the room with them as we explored the world of literature. With more ownership comes more engagement and respect. I never thought that getting rid of that desk could have such an impact on my students, but it really did something for them that mattered.

Gone But Not Missed

Ditching the desk is not a brand new idea, but it was a crazy one for me to consider at the start of the year. Looking back, however, I can't believe that it took me this long to realize how much of an impediment that desk was to creating a stronger classroom environment. Most people always ask about all of the stuff that teachers keep on their desks and where I put mine when the desk went away. Honestly, it was just stuff that anyone could easily move to a cupboard or the closet. I really didn't miss anything that used to occupy my desk -- especially when I found the changes that I made to the classroom benefited not only my students, but benefited me as well.

Nicholas Provenzano

High School English Teacher/The Nerdy Teacher


After you save it, you can enlarge the pic to read each of the 10 ideas for making your classroom "INSPIRING"
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Skype in the Classroom brings together classes in New Zealand and California
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3RD WEEK - SKYPE - All of us should have an account by now. I expect all of us to Skype with one classroom in this building by the end of the 4th week. Some teachers have already done this and you can get help from them, if you need it.

5th WEEK – SKYPE WITH ELKINS - More info to come

7th WEEK - SKYPE OUTSIDE THE DISTRICT - More info to come

9th WEEK - Mini-Rise coming in January - you've already been given the questions.

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Skype in the Classroom connects classes in California, South Korea and Canada


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Skype Jobs- Students Begging for more Work!


Greeter -1 student – Does exactly that: greets the incoming class by speaking about our class and going over the rules. At the end of the call they are also the ones that thank for the call. Once their job is done they merge into the think tank.

Questioner – 1 or 2 students – they are the kids that ask the yes or no questions, often it is beneficial if these kids have a decent grasp of geography and can come up with questions on the fly.

Filter – 2 kids or more – These kids act as a filter between the runners and the questioners assessing the questions that are coming their way. They have to pay close attention to what answers are and what has already been asked as the think tank often misses an answer. They can then use their common sense to filter the best questions to the questioners.

Answerer – 1 student – answers yes or no to the questions and should have a good grasp of geography.

Runners – 3 students – the runners are responsible for communication between all of the different posts and often wear signs or their shirts to identify them. We love the runners because they keep the chaos down.

Google Mappers – 2 students – Use Google Maps to try to help with questions or find the answer. Should be connected to think tank.

Wall map & atlas mappers – as many kids as you want – part of the think tank but are using any map tools they can to come up with more questions.

Lead thinker – the boss of the think tank – this kid needs to be a gentle leader that can keep everyone organized and on track. They ensure the think tank runs smoothly.

Supervisor – 1 student – this student oversees the entire operation and takes notes on what works and doesn’t work. They lead the debriefing we have after every Skype call to discuss what we need to work on and be proud of.

Note taker – 1 or 2 students – writes down all answers and questions during the call for easy access by filters and if any confusion occurs.

Tweeter – 1 or 2 students – these students are in charge of the backchannel whether through Twitter or Todays Meet and add the extra layer of connectivity to the world live tweeting results and questions.

Reporters – 2 students – these two take pictures and notes throughout the call to then write a blog post on our classroom blog after the call is done. That way we can show off all of the great calls we get to be a part of.

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Monday – Grades are due, PLC’s meet, PBIS Committee meets with 3PM, Tim is out in afternoon for First in Math training, Happy Birthday to Sandi Bowers!

Tuesday – Progress Reports go home, Dr. Rhea is here to meet with K & 1 teachers

Wednesday – Project Liink observations – 9:30 - Faculty meeting – 3PM

Thursday – R-time for grades 2-5, Fire Drill, Kinder Thanksgiving Feast 1:45,

Happy Birthday Amber Cook!

Friday –Eagle Mountain University Clubs – 7:50 – 8:35, Fund Run Assembly – 2PM, Tim is out for Math PLC, Enjoy your Thanksgiving Break!


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  • I want to thank Debbi Roest for the way she coordinated & organized our awesome Veteran’s Day ceremony. We are grateful for the work you put into it! Commander Glavan told me ours was the best one he had been to! Thanks also to Regina for putting the display together with pictures honoring our veterans!

  • A Shout Out to Leslie Hooe for having the best laugh & for spreading joy! You make our school a better place, & your enthusiasm is infectious!

  • Great job to LaRae Witsaman for Skyping with her son-in-law Lt. Travis Roland who is stationed in Fort Hood last week & to Shanna Harlin & Pam English for Skyping with Shanna's cousin, Tyler Sitzes, who is a first lieutenant in the Army stationed in Fort Carson, Colorado. They shared some of their experiences with our students & our kids enjoyed it very much.

  • Our PTA greatly appreciated all of who helped with our Grandparents’ Day on Friday. We had an incredible turnout & our PTA really thanks you for all you did to assist!

  • Thanks a WHOLE lot to Regina for helping Kelli with textbooks for several hours over the weekend! You are golden!

  • Kudos to Sheryl Copeland for another successful Book Fair!
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