Friday, June 17, 2011

Looking Back

Wow, this year went by quickly, didn't it? Some days it seems like it did. What a great year it's been, though. Did you know this marks the end of my TENTH full year of teaching? Talk about going by quickly!

Maybe it's because it's the most recent one, or maybe because I'm in a reflective mood, but I feel like I've learned more from this past year about teaching than any other. Although, when I think about it, I'm pretty lucky because it seems that each year of my career has taught me many new things. What have I learned in 10 years? I'm glad you asked!

  • Parents Make All the Difference--I have to put this one first because it's most important. Having caring, involved parents makes the learning environment so much better. When you think about the number of hours you entrust me with your children each week, each month, etc, it's mind-blowing. Without your support--the contributions to the classroom, helping with homework, nagging about homework, chaperoning field trips, checking the blog, prepping for Exhibitions, and so on--my job is a million times harder. Thank you for all that you do!

  • Be The Right Kind of Teacher--I try to be two kinds of teacher, actually. I try to be the kind of teacher that I would have wanted as a kid (fun, challenging, engaging, caring) AND the kind of teacher I'd want my own children to have (challenging, engaging, communicative, empathetic, honest, etc.). I not completely there yet, but I'm trying. 

  • Keep Evolving--When I was a kid, the teachers taught the same grade every year. And they used the same lesson plans, activities, and worksheets every year. Year after year. Decade after decade. I just can't be that kind of teacher. It's important for me, and for the students, that I keep trying new things to help them learn. Sure, some successful projects get reused, but that's because they were successful in the past, not because I'm lazy. And even when they get reused, I always look to make them better the second and third time around.

  • Communicate!--Parent-Teacher communication used to be a huge weakness for me. Weeks would go by without me sending notes or newsletters home. Then I had kids. I became a better teacher in a lot of ways after that (see second bullet point above), but one of the most noticeable ways was that I became much better at communication. I hope you've enjoyed the blog. Most importantly I hope the blog has made you feel connected to your child's classroom and their learning environment. I hope it's made you feel like you know what's going on. Because that's why I do it. Did you know I've blogged over 150 times this year?!? Thanks for reading!
Seriously, thanks for reading this really long post. And thanks for a great year. I've definitely learned more than 4 things in 10 years, but those are the big ones. One thing I like about my job is that I'm constantly learning new things. I love learning, I really do. Getting students to do the same is a rewarding challenge for me.

I'm really looking forward to fifth grade already! Enjoy the summer!

Give Calculation Nation a Try This Summer

I've found a great site for math games, Calculation Nation. I like it for a few reasons:

  1. It was created by the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics, so it's based on important math standards.
  2. The games are really fun.
  3. Students can play the games "against" each other.
The only catch is that you have to sign up for an account. So if you want your son/daughter to use Calculation Nation this summer, go to their site and register today!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Summer Learning Page Complete

Just in time for the end of the year, I've completed the summer learning page. In my humble opinion, it's pretty awesome. It includes:
  • A reminder to use Edmodo for discussing summer reading
  • A list of totally awesome books recommended by ME
  • Spelling and Vocabulary learning activities
  • Math games and learning activities (Please check out Calculation Nation, which is pretty sweet. But you need to create an account for your child)
  • Link to the Kid Blog writing project (see my earlier blog post about this for instructions)
  • Ideas for building technology skills. (including a new idea about using Vocaroo to make a podcast...see my earlier blog post for instructions)
Speaking of technology skills, the students have a pretty deep toolkit that they've developed this year when it comes to technology. Anything they learn can be turned into a blog post, a Google Doc presentation, a section of their wiki page, a Glogster project, and more. 

So now it's up to you to keep them busy with all of this. You can find it all by clicking on "Summer Learning" at the top of the page. Maybe a schedule will work best for you--perhaps an hour or so a few times a week reading and playing math games and blogging, etc. I think if you do this, their learning will definitely continue throughout the summer months.

I'll try to blog a few times each month, too, just to say "hi" and to share any ideas I have. I'll be checking my email all summer, too, so feel free to drop me a line.

Happy Summer!

Podcast This Summer with Vocaroo

Here's a site that students can use to make their own podcasts this summer: Vocaroo. It's free and sooo easy. They can make a podcast about anything: their books, their travels, their thoughts, you name it, the sky's the limit.

Here's how to do it:

1. Go to 
2. Click the button that says "Click to Record"
3. In the alert that pops up, click "Allow" to give Vocaroo access to your computer's microphone.
4. Start talking
5. When you're done, click the "Stop" button.
6. Click the bar that says "Post to the Internet." That will give you a web address that they call the "Vocaroo Link"

7. Highlight the Vocaroo link and use the edit menu to COPY it.
8. Paste this link into an Edmodo post or a Kid Blog post so we can all access it.

That's it. Super-easy podcasting. Give it a try...I can't wait to hear what they have to say this summer!!!

Great Summer Writing Idea

When most teachers talk about working on skills over the summer, they usually focus on reading and math. Well, if you haven't figured it out by now, I'm not like most teachers. In fact, I think a good summer learning program should focus on reading, math AND writing. And I think I've found what could be a great project for summer writing...blogs!

I love blogging. I currently have 3 blogs (this one, my blog about poetry, and my blog about using technology in the classroom). I really enjoy the satisfaction of writing for an audience. Knowing that someone out there (even if it's only one someone) is reading what I write makes me try to be a better writer. I think this can work for kids, too.

So I've found a safe and free website that allows me to create blogs for each of my students. My idea is that each student should try to blog once a week (or more!) about what they're up to this summer. Doesn't have to be anything exciting, just write. Hopefully they'll keep in mind that they are writing for an audience and that will push them to write their best.

I'll be going over all of this in class tomorrow, but just so you have them, too, here are instructions for students on how to write a blog post:

1. Go to
2. Click "Log In" in the upper right hand corner.

3. Choose your username from the drop down menu. Then enter your password (it's the same as your edmodo password)
4. To make a new post, click "New Post" at the top of the page.

5. Then give your post a title and type your post in the text field. When you're done (be sure to proofread) click the "Submit for Review" button. No one will be able to read your post until I review it and approve it.

So now that you know HOW to blog, the question is WHAT should you blog about??? Here are some ideas:

  • Write about places you visited
  • Write about things you do
  • Write critiques of movies you see
  • Write critiques of songs you like
  • Write critiques of websites you use
  • Write a post about something that's your favorite. (example: favorite cereal, favorite restuarant, etc.)
My best advice for starting your blog is to check out this blog that's written by a 6 YEAR OLD boy in Iowa:  Once you read it, you'll definitely understand what to do. 

Just remember, two things...

1. Your writing can be viewed by everyone with our blog address. Make it your best! Especially capitalization, punctuation, spelling, etc.
2. Nothing you write will be posted until I approve it. I'll do my best to approve it quickly, as long as I feel it's your best work.

Finally, students are able to view each other's blogs and leave comments. From the blog homepage (, click on any of the student names in the list:

Then you can read what they're writing and leave friendly, positive comments or ask questions, just like on Edmodo.

I can't wait to read what students write. Please encourage them to spend some time blogging about their awesome summers. I'll be following along very closely and leaving lots of comments.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Publication Celebration Tomorrow

Just a reminder, our final Publication Celebration will be held at 12:30 tomorrow. We'll be having a pizza lunch and sharing our keepsake stories.

All parents are invited. I hope to see you there! (My room is really messy at this time of year, but I'm inviting you anyway! Feel free to talk about me behind my back.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Spelling and Vocabulary City for Summer Learning

Continuing my additions to the Summer Learning Page...

Today I added links to Spelling and Vocabulary activities and games. I'll be using Spelling and Vocabulary City for this. They have sample spelling lists organized by grade level for kids to practice with, play games with, and then take a quiz on. They also have spelling and vocabulary games. Finally, I've got some personalized lists on my own Spelling City page. But you have to scroll down to find them...they look like this:

I'll be adding more lists throughout the summer. So check back regularly!!!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Gearing Up For Summer Reading Fun

I've got the edmodo page all set up for summer reading. Today we worked on creating book recommendations. Students posted recommendations of books they've read this year. That way, if students are looking for suggestions or ideas, they have a place to look.

I'll be posting a question or two each week for students to respond to on edmodo. And of course, they can also post questions or comments or replies at any time they want to about the books they are reading.

I also posted my summer reading list of books that I recommend. You can also find this list here on the blog by clicking on the Summer Learning link at the top of the page.

Stay tuned for more info about Summer Learning opportunities!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Congrats Athletes!

The following students passed their fitness test and will be rewarded with an invitation to Mrs. Marbry's field day activities on Monday from 12:30-3:30. (Note: this is different from our third floor field day on Wednesday):

  • Selena
  • Kaelyn
  • Shauntia
  • Keturah
  • Suhmer
  • Kaylen
  • Alexandria
  • Renard
  • Ezekiel
  • Romance

Field Day Info

Wednesday is one of my favorite days of the year--Field Day. Here's the info for you:

Where: Wayne State Intermural Fields (Warren & Trumbull--we'll walk)

When: Wednesday, June 15  Depart at 9:00 Arrive back at UPA at 2:30ish

Who: All 4th and 5th graders

Cost: $5 (due ASAP

Food: We'll be cooking dogs, chips, juice, and popsicles

Dress: Appropriate free dress will be allowed. Gym shoes required. Please dress for the weather (hats, sunglasses, etc.)

What to Bring: Water Bottle

It should be a great time!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Year End Publication Celebration

I would like to have one final Publication Celebration next week. We've been working on typing up our Keepsake stories. I am going to be putting them together into a book. I promised everyone that finished all four of them on time (the last one was due May 31) that they could come to the celebration.

I'd like to make it a pizza theme this time and have the party at lunch on Thursday June 16. If you can help out, please fill in the form below:

Let Them Eat Cake

Our annual carnival is Friday and I am once again helping with my favorite carnival game, the cake walk. We're pretty much ready except for one thing...we need cakes!

If you are able to donate a cake (or any baked good such as cookies, brownies, etc.) for the cake walk, whether it's home made or store-bought, please drop it off to me or the front desk in time for the start of the carnival Friday.

Thank you!

Have You Seen Me?

It's time for that end-of-the-school-year-ritual...packing up the classroom library. There seem to be several missing titles that I'm trying to track down (including several of the popular Bone series pictured above). If there any books hiding in backpacks, cars, bedrooms, etc. that belong to me or the school, please send them back soon. Thanks!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Summer Learning Time

Summer is upon us. There are several things I'll be providing by the end of the next week that will help you  if you're looking for learning activities during the summer months. This will include:

  • Links to vocabulary and spelling activities
  • Links to math games
  • A Summer Reading List
  • An Everyday Math workbook
  • An Edmodo group for discussing Summer Reading books
So stay tuned for more info!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Where in the World is Mr. Curran?

I pride myself on the fact that I blog on a very regular basis. However, lately...ummm...yea, not so much. The end of the year is always tricky when it comes to time management, but this year takes the cake. By "take the cake" what I mean is this: I've been really struggling to manage time, get everything done, and get students ready for exhibitions.

Why after over 10 years of teaching is this year so challenging? Not sure, exactly. But please know that even though I haven't been keeping up with my blogging, the students and I have been working very, very hard in the classroom. Whether it was prepping for authors' night and the Poetry Cafe or trying to get our last writing project done or prepping for Exhibitions or completing the 3-week Amazing Race project or starting to film our Newbery movies or working on a comic-writing and drawing project or finishing our Great Lakes collaborative project with schools in California and Kuwait or having a Skype game show with a school in Anchor Bay get the point. It's been busy.

So fear not. We ARE working hard. And we will continue to work hard, right up until the final minute of the final day of school. There will be no slacking in Room 302. We've got a lot to do and we're going to get it done.

So I'll try to keep you more informed in these last two weeks. Stay tuned for blog posts about the aforementioned Amazing Race project which was, in a word, amazing; the Newbery movies; our final Publication Celebration for our Keepsake stories which will be held the last week of school; field day ($5 is due next Friday for this); and much, much more.

Enjoy your weekend!