Saturday, December 24, 2016

Author Visit: Barbara O'Connor

Although it took many months to work out the logistics, Barbara O'Connor's visit was a big success! O'Connor's books have been nominated for awards in 38 states and she has traveled the country visiting schools and speaking at conferences. 

It was a pleasure to meet Mrs. O'Connor!

Read more about it in the Mount Airy News
Check out her website at

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Makerspaces 4 of 4: Get Started

What can I do RIGHT NOW?
  • Display books about creating
  • Highlight free digital tools students can use to create
  • Create a bulletin board of students and their creations
  • Start a Wonder Wall where students post their questions (and then help them answer the questions)
  • Do a Bag Challenge – What can you create with just this bag of these materials?
  • Cover tables with bulletin board paper and let the kids draw an imaginary world.
  • Create a DIY Inventor’s Kit with items from your junk drawer.
  • Have a take-apart station with items that don’t work (reverse engineering).
  • Use rocks, acorns, leaves, and twigs to create nature masterpieces. 
  • Ask for donated scrapbook supplies for creating bookmarks or mini-books.
  • Ask your principal and colleagues if there are extra materials around the school
    (ex. K’Nex kits, science kits, math blocks, paper)
  • Kindness Carts – ex. Cards for veterans, an ornament for someone at a nursing home
  • Challenge Cards – ex. Build a bridge out of paper. Whose bridge can hold the most blocks?
  • Collaborative art projects – Design a leaf for a group tree, add a bird, write your name in graffiti
  • Recycled art – ex. Turn old magazines into beaded jewelry, Blackout Poetry with discarded books, Milk Carton creations
  • Home challenges – ex. repurpose a plastic bottle, create something out of newspaper, fashion show out of recycled materials

Virtual Makerspace
  • Check out Stephanie Bode’s Maker Symbaloos at
  • Makey Makey projects are at
  • Scratch
  • Apps like PBS Scratch Jr

Participatory Displays
  • LEGO walls
  • Building materials left out on tops of bookcases
  • Magnetic Marble Trax on AC unit
  • Chalkboards/Whiteboards
  • Weaving 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Makerspaces 3 of 4: Tips

  • Let students know which stations/supplies are available to use. Rotate supplies.
  • Mark certain containers/supplies to let kids know that they need adult supervision.
  • Ozobots, LittleBits, and other electronic items can easily get misplaced or even stolen.

Recruit Volunteers
  • Guest speakers (local crafters and artists, former student now a computer programmer)
  • Maker Workshops
  • Lab Dads
  • Helpers

Easy Ways to Get Started
  • Connect it to a lesson
  • Make it available during circulation
  • Have a Maker Day/Week
  • Start a Maker Club
  • Spotlight students’ creations

Choose a Theme to Maintain Interest
(Monthly, Quarterly, or Yearly)
  • Gifts for Others
  • Arts & Crafts
  • Just Build It (Engineering)
  • Coding & Robotics
  • Character Lab

Overcoming obstacles
  • No experience with robotics? Watch a YouTube video or learn with the kids.
  • No space? Use a cart, think vertical (LEGO wall, tops of bookcases, sides of filing cabinets)
  • No money? Ask for donated materials, write a DonorsChoose project, use the Scholastic Resource Catalog
  • Do some people think it looks like playing and free time? Spotlight the benefits.  Share photos on social media.  Talk about how it connects to their curriculum.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Makerspaces 2 of 4: Resources

Favorite Makerspace Items
  • Arts and craft materials
  • Snap Circuits ($20 for a basic set)
  • LEGO sets ($99 for the LearntoLearn set)
  • Laser Cutter ($175 for Silhouette Cameo)
  • Keva Planks ($50 for a 200 piece set)
  • Avoid buying Maker kits on Follett.  They are overpriced.
  • Mackin has a new resource and their prices are reasonable.

Favorite How to Books
  • Big Maker Book by Colleen and Aaron Graves
  • Maker Lab: 28 Super Cool Projects by Jack Challoner and Jack Andraka
  • STEAM Kids by Anne Carey
  • Make book series (ex. Make: Start Making)
  • Worlds of Making by Laura Fleming

Read Alouds
  • What do you do with an Idea? by Kobi Yamada
  • The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
  • Roxaboxen by Alice McClerran
  • Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty
  • Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty

Student Books
  • Art Lab for Kids
  • The Art of Tinkering
  • Duct Tape Projects
  • Books in the 740s

Available through the Scholastic Resource Catalog
  • PowerClix Magnetic Blocks
  • Makey Makey (Classic and Go)
  • LittleBits (Try the Base kit first)
  • StikBot Studio (for animation)
  • Kaleidoscope Maker Pack
  • Circuit Madness
  • Be a Maker book series
  • Cool Industrial Arts book series
  • Cool Great Outdoors book series
  • Origami books

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Makerspaces 1 of 4: What They're All About


Makerspaces are about:
  • The Design Process
  • 21st Century Skills: Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, Critical Thinking,
  • Real world connections and authentic learning
  • Student choice and student voice
  • Engagement and reflection
  • Building community
  • Providing opportunities for divergent thinking

More about Making
  • The process of creating is more important than the products you have in a makerspace.
  • It’s not all day every day, but it does begin to embed itself more and more. It’s about changing the culture and creating innovators and makers.
  • It’s about providing equitable access to materials. Not all classrooms have robots. Not all students have access to these maker supplies.
  • Failure is part of the process. That’s how we grow.
  • The writing process is similar to the design process.
    Ex. Brainstorm, research, rough draft, edit, product, share

  • Students are more excited about learning
  • Great for visual and kinesthetic learners
  • The materials can be made available for Genius Hour
  • Inspires students to research and read
  • Provides the foundation for Project Lead the Way in middle and high school

Examples of Makerspace Curriculum Connections

  • Science: Circuits, Forces, Simple Machines, Light, Energy, Sustainability
  • Technology: Computer Science, Code, Robotics, Graphic Design
  • Engineering: Design Process, Building
  • Math: Calculation, Measurement, Patterns, Sequence,
  • Language Arts: Retelling a Story (ex. w/ LEGO bricks), Reading Instructions, Speaking
  • Other: Music, Visual Art, Global Connections, Making a Difference, Empathy

Thursday, September 1, 2016


How cool is it that those are our teachers on Ozobot's Instagram page?  Please look over the shorts.  This was an optional workday that landed on the Friday before school started. Preparing rooms can be hot, messy work!

We took a little time out of our day to have an Ozobot Tryazon party.  Everyone who came and played with the Ozobots really enjoyed them. Several people said these were definitely going on their children's Christmas lists.  Shhhh!

As an elementary educator and mom, I LOVE these powerful little robots! I first won an Ozobot through a grant and I've since been able to expand my collection. I believe the 2.0 is the one you need if you want to use it with an iPad, but you can still do plenty with the original Ozobot. They work by reading codes written with markers. 

You can create original codes or you can simply use the ones included in the kit. This Starter kit comes packed with the markers, instructional materials, and even fashion show accessories. You can use the high quality markers included in the starter kit or you can use other markers. 

If your Ozobot is not following the code, make sure you don't have any white spaces on the line it is following. Also make sure the line is thick enough. These are great for home, school, and makerspaces. There are tons of lessons available here:

These teachers are ready to get some for their classrooms. 

DonorsChoose is a great way to add Ozobots in your curriculum. My colleague Shaunda just added several to her fourth grade classroom by writing a DonorsChoose project.  

Rachel won one of the Ozobots and she and her daughter LOVED it!

Thanks, Tryazon and Ozobot! This was such a wonderful opportunity to share new STEM materials with my colleagues!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Summer Reading

Our school system's Media Director encouraged the elementary media coordinators to offer summer reading activities. A couple of schools had a book bus that traveled out into the community providing free books for children. Some schools offered open library times. Other activities included giving away free books before school let out for the summer, working with the local libraries, hosting maker afternoons, and visiting Bible Schools and ball games with free books.

Our first summer reading activity was to allow each child to choose 3-4 books for the summer. One child said it was like a free Book Fair. There was a lot of excitement that day!

We also sent home calendars with reading activities, an invitation to visit our Little Free Library, dates of summer reading activities, and passwords for digital resources.

Our local library does a fantastic job offering summer programming. My friend Robin and I made the front page of the local newspaper as we were cheering at their first event, a pep rally for reading.

Photo Credit:

We also got to meet two lovely NFL cheerleaders.

I hosted a Comic Con Jr the next week. We had fun making crafts, playing games, listening to the book Captain Perseverance, and showing off our costumes.

In July our school hosted a Garden Morning. Each child received three free books. Mrs. Lowe, one of our reading teachers, heads up our school garden. Many hands make light work and it was nice to prepare several beds for planting. The best part is that the food goes to our students.

This past Saturday I helped Robin with a book giveaway at the first ever Dave's Family Fun Day. Dave Wilmoth died at just 24 and his friends and family set up a foundation that assists local student athletes and law enforcement officers and families. The Fun Day was very successful and I even saw several new ideas for our reading celebrations.

I have been impressed with my colleagues' activities and I have loved seeing kids get excited about new books. Summer programming is definitely here to stay!

ISTE #Can'tShushThis

One of the perks of being an Imagination Chapter leader is connecting with the other chapter leaders. They are amazing!

I have mentioned Dave Hartzell, a fellow North Carolinian who reached out to me in August; Steve Auslander, whose class did a Mystery Skype with one of my classes; and Steve Sherman, who led several Google Hangouts with our classes.

When I say chapter leader, it kind of implies that is all they do. These leaders are involved in so much more. They are like superheroes.

Kristina Holzweiss is another fabulous chapter leader. Kristina is the 2015 School Library Journal and Scholastic School Librarian of the Year. She's also a DonorsChoose guru who has helped her school earn more than $240,000 in materials. In addition, she founded the SLIME Expo, a public makerspace event for hundreds of kids in Long Island. (The list really could go on and on.)

Kristina spoke at the International Society for Technology in Education Conference in Denver this summer.

She shared how school libraries transform student learning. It was so nice to be included in her speech and have our students' photos included in her presentation (

The slide showed our students displaying an invention that won Honorable Mention in the international Inventor's Challenge, second graders using a Finch robot, fifth graders putting together a drone, and third graders working on a research project.

Kristina, thanks for sharing our stories. I have learned so much from you and you continue to inspire me each and every day.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Inventor's Challenge

Why am I writing about something from March? I realized I never wrote about one of our most exciting events of the year!

Back in March, I had just finished up the Book Fair, was celebrating Read Across America Day, competed in our district's annual Elementary Battle of the Books, and submitted my first ever yearbook. It was a busy month! But now it's time to share about our first ever Inventor's Challenge.

As an Imagination Chapter we participate in three big events (in addition to weekly activities.) They are the Global Cardboard Challenge, the Inventor's Challenge, and the Earth Day Cardboard Challenge.

I had previously served as Science Fair Coordinator for about eight years so I was familiar with the process of coordinating a school-level science competition. The Science Fair is for third grade and up.  I decided to open up our Inventor's Challenge to K-5.

I introduced the competition during my regular media classes, just like I do with the Science Fair. Students really enjoyed Kid President's video How to Be an Inventor!

I then shared Kelvin Doe's story. Kelvin, who lives in Sierra Leone, taught himself engineering so that he could broadcast his own radio show. Here's a kid who is picking through trash, working during the night, overcoming obstacles of all kinds...  He ends up involved with MIT and Ted Talks and he becomes a viral sensation. 

We researched other kid inventors and went through the design process.  Check out all of the resources here. I also sent information out to teachers and parents.

The goal of our Inventor's Challenge was simple: kids were encouraged to make something original, cool, useful, maybe even wacky… They needed to invent something that solves a problem in their schools or communities

They could create, design, or invent one of these or something else.
  • Toy
  • Game
  • Board Game
  • Safety Feature
  • Health Solution
  • Technology Device
  • Something with recycled materials
  • Something new

Students had to complete the following information.

  • What’s the name of your invention?
  • What problem does it solve?
  • What does it do?
  • What inspired you to create your invention?
  • Who does your invention help?
  • Did you run into any challenges? How did you overcome them?
  • Share your ideas, sketches, and prototypes.
Classroom winners shared their projects during our Invention Convention. Check out the pictures!

First place went to a pair of students who invented LEGO-Opolis, a LEGO board game. That cute kid on the left is actually my own, but the judging was by several other people. Second place went to Ever who invented medical tape that left a line showing where the end of the tape was on the roll. 

How exciting when we learned Kendall and Brycen won Honorable Mention at the international level in the Imagination Foundation's and AT&T Aspire's Inventor's Challenge. 

The President of AT&T sent them this letter. There were hundreds of entries from kids all over the world.

After the Inventor's Challenge, I began to see a lot more inventing around the school.  Kids would come in and tell me about their new ideas.  We delved more deeply into the design process.

I wonder what inventions we will see next year!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Teaching & Learning Conference

Educational conferences are a great way to become inspired, renew passion, learn new skills, and connect with others in your Professional Learning Network. 

I am grateful that I am able to attend the North Carolina School Library Media Association's Conference each year. Our school district even pays for the fees. I was also able to attend the American Association of School Libraries National Conference back in 2009 when it was held in Charlotte, NC. I've been fortunate enough to attend a few conferences hosted by the North Carolina Technology In Education Society.

I have learned that many teachers are not able to attend conferences. Our school system decided to hold its own mini-conference each August. Three years ago our school system invited all teachers to apply to teach at the district's annual Teaching & Learning Conference. This will be my third year teaching at it.  Here are my resources from those conferences. I hope you gain something from them!

Free Tech Tools for Teachers (2014)

SciGirls - STEAM for Boys AND Girls (2015)

1 Year, 2 Teachers, $10K in Free Materials (2016)

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Basics of a Twitter Chat

Why Twitter?  
Twitter is the happening place for educators. It’s full of great ideas!

Why an edchat?  
It helps me grow so I’m helping my kids more.

Introduce yourself at the beginning of the chat.
Ex. Hello! Tonya Fletcher, Media Coordinator, Franklin Elementary #SCSEdChat

Answer a question like this:
A1 Student voice means students having options, students having opportunities to lead direction of instruction; personalized ed #SCSEdChat

Tweets are limited to 144 characters.  

Remember, everything you say in a tweet is public. I try to keep it positive.  You are able to private message a follower (friend), but be sure you are in the Message box.

Abbreviations are used a lot.  Ss stands for students, Ts stands for Teachers, etc.

You can go use the Search box to search for tweets for your chat (ex. #teacherfriends).

There is a “Top” feed and a “Live” feed.  The live feed shows you all tweets as they happen.  If you are just popping in to read, favorite, or retweet something, the Top feed includes the most popular tweets.

Chats go very quickly.  I’m not always as fast as everyone else.  It can be hard to keep up.  You don’t have to answer all of the questions. It does help to know what the questions will be, but that's not always possible. Interact with other people during the chat.

Before you leave, follow at least five new people.  Grow your Professional Learning Network. I used to worry about “keeping up” with so many tweets if I followed lots of people.  Try not to worry about that!

We are #BetterTogether!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

EPIC Academy

EPIC Academy: Game Inspired Professional Development.  What's that, you say?  PD that I can do from the comfort of my living room?  I can earn CEUs for having a Pinterest board?  For tweeting?  I can compete against others by earning XP (experience points)?  Count me in.

Lucas Gillispie is the force behind this. He's our system's Director of Academic and Digital Learning. He's also got a lengthy resume of some cooler sounding titles, like international speaker and winner of a Virtual Excellence Award. He blogs at (Sidenote - I attended his session on MinecraftEdu at NCSLMA way back in 2012. Who knew he'd be in our Central Office a couple of years later?)

EPIC really has been a game changer for me.  It is what got me hooked on Twitter as an educator.  It's why I started blogging. It is how I've been exposed to some high quality thought-provoking content online (ex. Ted Talks.) For each quest there's usually a reflective component or a performance based task, such as creating content for your lessons using Google Apps. Other topics include Skype, coding, augmented reality, and SAMR.

All in all, I'm proud of how far I've come this past year or so.  I feel like the Imagination Chapter and EPIC experiences have made me a lot braver. I am certainly more open to taking more risks. And thanks to Twitter, it's easier to find opportunities like the Finch Robot Loan Program.
Go check EPIC out.  Sign up and tell him Tonya sent you.

PS Check out my cool banner!

Monday, July 18, 2016

21st Century Learning

The Surry County Schools Educational Foundation raises funds for mini-grants, STEMmersion experiences for educators, and endowments. The Foundation held a dinner in May to thank its major supporters. 

My colleague Shaunda York and I were able to share some of the 21st century learning our kids are doing. 

All in all, it was a very exciting night and I'm so glad we were able to spotlight our students!

21st Century Learning Presentation

News Article 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Summer Reading Activities

Franklin’s Summer Reading Project
Top Ten Things to Do this Summer

1. Read, Read, Read! Enjoy your free books!

2. Use your Reading Calendars.  Color in a block whenever you complete that activity.  Complete 30 activities from the whole summer and you will receive some cool prizes in August. (You do not have to do the activity on the specific date for it to count.)

June     English Spanish
July       English Spanish
August  English Spanish

3. Visit our Little Free Library in front of the office.

4. Go to the Mount Airy Public Library’s Summer Reading programs. These are held every Thursday June 23-July 28 at 2pm. The first one will be HUGE!

5. Join us at our Comic Con Jr event on Tuesday, June 28 from 3:30-4:30pm. Dress as a favorite character, receive a free comic book, and have fun making some comic creations. There will be prizes!

6. Come out to our Garden Morning Monday, July 18 from 8:00-9:30 AM. You will love the free books we have.

7. Read an ebook. The public library has a great selection!

8. Explore digital resources like PebbleGo and TrueFlix.

9. Keep a journal.

10. Snap a photo of you reading in a special place – maybe you are on a trip or maybe you have a favorite spot.  Send those as a message to our facebook page or email them to

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Memorial Day Group eBook

Thanks to Shannon Miller our school was able to participate in the Winter Around the World global ebook project. She started a public Google Slide and invited schools to participate.  More than 250 schools did! 
The next group ebook she hosted was Celebrations Around the World. We made a Padlet about how we celebrate our birthdays (after researching birthday customs around the world).
We are currently researching Memorial Day. Today one of my classes suggested that we talk to someone online about the holiday. I decided to create a Google Slide and invite other schools to add pages.  Fingers crossed we get some responses!