Monthly Archives: August 2013

An Observation

Each morning, my seventh graders begin their day with at least ten minutes of writing in their journals. We’ve been using those black-and-white composition notebooks as our journals this year. Enter the iPad. Yesterday they asked if they could start writing their journals on the iPad. I was actually a bit hesitant to say “yes.” I know it’s old-fashioned, but I love the idea of being able to look back through a journal, flipping the pages and seeing all of that wonderful writing. But I told my students I’d let them decide for themselves.

All but one or two flipped open their iPads and began typing.

Now, normally when students write in their journals I’ll see some who get right to it. They’re happy to be writing and will often have half a page filled within a few minutes. I’ll see some who take a few minutes to get started and they’ll wind up only writing three or four sentences. And then there are those who will stare off into space and need prompting from the teacher to get writing.

This was not the case yesterday. As soon as they flipped open their iPads everyone started writing…and didn’t stop until I asked them to. And that was only after 30 minutes! We usually only write for ten minutes, as I said earlier. But I just wanted to see what would happen if I let them go. Thirty minutes! And as I walked around the room I noticed that everyone had written at least one long paragraph (and in seventh grade a paragraph needs to be six to eight sentences long).

I was thrilled! But it’s also important for students to see the difference in their writing, so I asked them for a show of hands. “How many people felt they wrote a lot more using the iPad?” Almost every hand went up into the air. “And why do you think that is?” Answers to this second question ranged from “It’s new and exciting to use the iPad,” to “It’s so much easier to write everything down quickly when you’re typing.”

I love it!

One of my goals for my seventh graders this year is to work really hard on writing. The iPad is going to be a tremendous help in achieving that goal!

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iPad Day!

Our classroom was abuzz with excitement yesterday morning as my seventh graders each received their school iPad. I’m not sure my students believed me when I said that I was even more excited than they were, but it’s true! I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. I can’t wait to see what my students discover they can do with this new tool.

We were hampered a bit yesterday with connection issues; the internet was down for several hours. So if anyone wasn’t able to get some apps set up last night, we’ll take care of it today. 

We’ll be using Edmodo quite a bit this year, so I thought I’d share a little bit about the site. Edmodo is a learning management system (LMS) that allows teachers to create a classroom community. We can have conversations online about what we’re learning; students can post questions about assignments or direct message the teacher (they cannot direct message anyone else, just me); I can post assignments and grade them right in Edmodo.

One thing I’m excited about this year is being able to quickly gather information from students via Edmodo and the iPad. For example, let’s say I’ve just given a lesson on word choice in writing. I can post an assignment in Edmodo and, before they leave the classroom, students can quickly write a sentence or two demonstrating what they’ve learned (it’s called an exit ticket). At the end of the day I can quickly go down the list of sentences and see who got it and who needs a little more help. 

How cool is that!

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A Fair Teacher

A Fair Teacher

On the first day of school last week, I asked my students to complete a Google Form that asked the question, “What is your definition of a fair teacher?” Here are their answers, in the form of a Wordle. (In case you didn’t know, the words that repeat most often appear larger in the Wordle.)

I hope I can live up to their definition!



August 25, 2013 · 2:38 pm

The North Star

First of all, many thanks to everyone who was able to make it to Back-to-School Night last night. It was such a pleasure getting to meet so many of you.

In the church last night, I mentioned a book called The North Star, by Peter H. Reynolds. I found a version of the book online that you can read:

Read The North Star

You’ll notice that you can choose to read it in English or Spanish, but you can also choose whether the main character is a boy or a girl. I think that’s just fabulous! The illustrations aren’t quite as detailed as the book, however, so if you’d like to get your own copy (which I highly recommend), you can find it here:

The North Star.

Enjoy the journey!

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We Made It!

We survived our first day of school! Let the learning begin!

I thought I’d share a little bit about what our day looked like. Students walked in to discover a few items on top of their desks: a pencil that says “You are awesome!”, a Welcome bookmark, their new planner, and a letter from their teacher. If you didn’t get a chance to read the letter, here’s what it said:

Dear Seventh Graders:

Welcome Back! Now that you’re finally in seventh grade I have to tell you something:

I’m so excited to get to know each and every one of you!

Not a day passed this summer when I wasn’t thinking about you and our seventh grade classroom (I hope you noticed I said “our” classroom because this space belongs to all of us!) I know I haven’t gotten to know all of you yet, but I do know at least two things about each and every one of you:

  • You Matter! and
  • You Are a Genius!

I believe it is vitally important that every student who walks through the seventh grade classroom door understand that they matter to me. But it’s more than that…you matter to so many people in your life. Stop for a moment and think about it.


How many people can you think about? Parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, classmates…and every single person here at our school. We ALL know that YOU matter! You are a person of tremendous value and you are loved. Never forget that!

Seriously…don’t forget it!

You Are a Genius! Each and every single person in this classroom has genius within them. You may not have found it yet, but I know it’s there and it’s my job this year to help you find it. So, start thinking about it…what is something that you are really good at? What can you teach all of us this year?

Have you figured it out? It’s important that you recognize your genius and here’s why:

We’re going to change the world!!!

So, repeat after me: “I am a genius and the world needs my contribution!” Keep repeating that to yourself all year long.

Welcome to Seventh Grade! It’s going to be an amazing year!

Miss McMillan


After showing the class the brief video at the top of this post, I shared a greeting with them that I created with a cool new website I found this summer: Welcome back to school! (made with geoGreeting). Then they got to learn a little bit about their new teacher. I’m sure it was oh so exciting.

We discussed my expectations for my students and then I asked them to think about their own expectations for their classmates and for me. They should be completing the two Google Forms I created to collect their ideas. Can’t wait to see what they come up with!

One More Thing.

I ask my students to be willing to push themselves outside of their comfort zones when they’re ready. To get them started thinking about this, I ask them to…Be Brave:

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Are You Ready?

Well, ready or not, here it comes…The First Day of School! Your teachers have been at work for a week now, getting everything ready for your arrival tomorrow. And we…can’t…wait!!! A school just isn’t a school until it is filled with students.

If you’re wondering what you will need for tomorrow, read on, my friend. Along with all of your school supplies, you will want to make sure to have:

  • a silent reading book (yes, even on the first day of school there may be time for some reading).
  • a snack (your body needs to readjust to not being able to eat whenever you want; I’m sure you’ll be hungry by the time recess rolls around).
  • a great attitude (hey, we’re in this together for an entire year…let’s make it a great one!)
  • a smile (learning is awesome…be happy about that!)

Let’s Do This!!!

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Every Kid Needs a Champion

In the future, when someone asks me about my beliefs about education or my personal mission statement, I will simply point them to this video. It says it all…and so much more.

This talk is all the more poignant when you watch it with the knowledge that Ms. Pierson passed away this summer at the age of 61. Education lost a true visionary this year.

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August 14, 2013 · 5:58 am

You ARE Special!

Are you as psyched about returning to school as I am?! You will be after you watch this!

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August 7, 2013 · 5:01 am