Posted in Teacher Life, Teaching

A View From the Kitchen

vegetables-791892_1920I fell in love today with Adobe Spark! Visually stunning and SO easy to manipulate, this app is a must-have for creating digital stories, blog posts, and more.  For you, I’m posting my Mexican Potato Salad recipe so you can see this wonderful app at work.  I’m not sure which one you try first, Adobe Spark or the potato salad, but both are DELICIOUS!  Mexican Potato Salad

Posted in Teacher Life

Overcoming the Creative Writing Rut

Sometimes pictures really are worth thousands of words.  Eric Byrd, who authors Byrdseed, a blog for teachers and parents of gifted and talented students, offers this activity to move your creative writers from fair to fantastic with their creative writing endeavors: 


During a recent presentation on remixing, I shared some ideas for narrative writing prompts and had some great ideas shared back. Of course, don’t feel restricted to writing. I’m sure these could inspire lots of other creative tasks!

Prompts: Begin or End

First, read Joelle Trayers’ explanation of how she used backwards writing prompts with her young students.

Similarly, I once gave students the choice to begin or end a narrative with a prompt: the (very) short story Knock.

The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door…

Despite initial protests, the results were fantastic. Thirty-six different stories, from suspense to action to romance (!).

You could also use proverbs, idioms, or other sayings as the beginning or ending point of class narratives.

For example, let’s write a story that begins or ends with one of these sayings:

  1. Curiosity killed the cat.
  2. When in Rome, do as the Romans.
  3. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.


Pictures are an easy way to get kids out of creative ruts. My favorite sources for visual prompts include:

Harris Burdick

And finally, a few teachers at my recent OCC GATE session recommended the picture bookThe Mysteries of Harris Burdick as a way to inspire student writing.

The book features fourteen beautiful and perplexing black-and-white illustrations from the creator of Jumanji and The Polar Express. Each image is accompanied by a title and a sentence which only adds to the mystery of each page.


There is no plot. Rather, the reader is expected to create their own tale about each illustration, or try to link the strange scenes together.

Update: There are contests and examples of student writing based on Harris Burdick at thebook’s site. Thanks to Wendy on the Byrdseed Facebook page.

Fourteen professional authors (including Stephen King, Lois Lowry, and Kate DiCamillo)tried their hands at constructing stories inspired by the illustrations from Harris Burdick.

Posted in Teacher Life

To Do List Before Summer:

I don’t know about you, but I have difficulty with creativity if my “space” is in chaos.  Each year, during that last week of school when the kids are wild, I begin my packing, organizing, and preparing for the next school year.  If I can accomplish the following tasks before leaving for summer vacation, I can return in August and go straight into curriculum planning and creating lessons that are fun and engaging:

  1. Ask responsible students to change your bulletin boards with a “welcome” theme ready for the new school year.
  2. Organize and “weed out” at least 1/2 of the files in my file cabinets.
  3. Get rid of text books and materials that I really KNOW I won’t use.
  4. Change family and desk photos, or prepare to replace with new summer photos.
  5. View school website information.  Copy, paste, and save the information from EACH page onto a Google Doc. This will make my life SWEATLESS when upon returning to school in August to discover my district has changed web platforms.  Ask me how I know this. :/
  6. Pack a box of summer items to include: 3 professional books I wish I had time to read, my favorite curriculum books or folders, summer fiction/non-fiction, a folder of ideas to peruse.
  7. Remove some items from walls and give my room a slightly new flavor.  I’m going from flowers and Van Gogh to a vines and jungle theme next year.  I can remove 2 or 3 floral posters and replace my bulletin board’s floral theme to a jungle theme with very little effort.  Keep it simple, but fresh.