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