Monthly Archives: June 2015



I’m #notatiste15.

I have a love/hate relationship with that hashtag.

The #ISTE2015 conference is in full swing, and I’m not there. It was my choice and things at home necessitated that I stay here.  I’ve never been to ISTE, and in fact haven’t been to any professional conferences in a long time.  This year my heart is aching a bit though.

I decided to participate virtually by registering for ISTE Live, a way to participate in a limited number of session through webinars.  Yesterday I spent nearly the entire day watching the ISTE Live sessions, connecting with other educators, getting dizzy following Twitter Feeds, following @tonyvincent’s live feed on Periscope, saving web resources, and in general being envious of all of those who were there.  Today I expect more of the same.

The session go by so fast but I’ve found some real inspiration in some of the speakers and their messages.  Rafranz Davis (@RafranzDavis) introduced my to the power of an Ignite presentation (five minutes, 20 slides.) She spoke so eloquently about diversity.  Soledad O’Brien’s (@soledadobrien) opening keynote address focused on equity of access and the true power of technology in education.  Yesterday I had the the privilege of listening to George Couros (@gcouros) in his session on creating a culture of innovation.  What an amazing leader!  I also had the opportunity to feel like a true #ISTE2015 participant when Monica Burns (@ClassTechTips) made the extra effort to pull in the virtual ISTE Live audience as part of her presentation on wearable technology in the classroom.  How excited was I when my questions and comments were repeated by her to the ISTE crowd in Philadelphia!  She truly made me feel like I had a voice. Finally, Tony Vincent (@tonyvincent) has been kind enough to walk me through poster sessions, the blogger’s cafe, and the exhibit hall with his live feed on Periscope.  I got to virtually meet Angela Maiers (@AngelaMaiers), Erin Klein (@KleinErin), and Jerry Blumengarten (@cybraryman1).  There has been so much more and I’ll be glad when the archived sessions are posted so that I can go back and watch some again!

Today will be another booked day! I never imagined that I would be so consumed by the virtual experience.  Looking forward to the opening keynote by Jack Gallagher and the other ISTE live events planned for the day.

Inspired Idea: Virtual Summer Reading Club


In the midst of my end of the school year rituals, I received an email from a parent.  Her daughter, a voracious reader, was having surgery and would be bedridden for a lot of the summer.  This mother wanted to know if I knew of any opportunities for children’s virtual book clubs.  I told her that off hand I didn’t but I would check into it.  The idea began spinning around in my head and I realized that I could provide this opportunity.  With just enough school year left for some publicity, I launched my 2015 Virtual Summer Reading Club.  (I know… not a very original club name, but hey, I was proud of myself for just getting it off the ground!)

I created a group in Edmodo and posted a link for the club on our library website.

Here’s how our reading club works…

This summer we will read three books, one each in June, July and August.  All of the titles are nominees for the 2015-2016 Pennsylvania Young Readers Choice Awards. Our virtual book club will meet on Edmodo and discussion questions and replies will be posted at least once a week. Club members could simply read what others have to say, but are encouraged to take an active part in the conversation!  (See the directions below.)  Students can earn Edmodo badges for participation.  Using Edmodo has been a bit of a learning curve for all involved, but I think that the participants are starting to catch on.

The Menagerie

The Menagerie, by Tui T. Sutherland and Kari H. Sutherland. Image from Harper Collins Children’s.

To date there are 47 members of the club (teachers and students) with new members joining every few days.  We have about 10 really active participants but (disappointingly) many members who have only logged on once.  Our first book is The Menagerie by Tui T. Sutherland and Kari H. Sutherland.  All of the active participants seem to really be enjoying the book and the discussion has been very impressive!

From Owen B. : “When i was reading the book before bed, i was only going to read a chapter but i read two chapters. Mrs Shenefiel was right, i can’t put it down!!!”

From Mrs. H.: “I just started the book today, so I’m late, and my first thought when I saw the book, was this wasn’t my kind of book, BUT I’m really enjoying it!”

As we move through the final chapters of the Menagerie, I’m hoping that the club members will be just as excited about the second title (which will remain a mystery until we’re ready to start!) Look for an update later in the summer.

FYI…here are the directions/reminders that I posted: 


  1. As you read, make tracks or keep notes, and notice details about the characters, setting, plot, and writing style.
  2. After you have finished reading the section please post at least one discussion question related to the character, setting, plot, or writing style. (You are welcome to post more than one question.)
  3. Finally… after you have posted your discussion question, please reply to at least one other question posted by another club member. The whole point of this club is to spark an online conversation, so post and reply as much as you wish.


  • Discussion questions are open-ended and may not have a right or wrong answer. Good discussion questions may allow for different opinions supported with evidence from the text.
  • If you choose to read ahead, please do not post spoilers (or questions that might be spoilers.) Spoilers are when you give away something about the plot that should be a surprise to the reader.
  • Be respectful in your posts. We may have different opinions about what happens in this story and that’s OKI We don’t always have to agree with everyone. We do have to respect those differences though. I reserve the right to make your membership “read-only,” if your posts or conversations becomes disrespectful.

Summer Reading: A Long Walk to Water


A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Recommended for: grades 5 and up

Based on actual events, the story of two children into different time periods, facing life-threatening struggles in the country of Sudan.

Topics/Themes: drinking water, Sudan, family, Sudanese Civil War, The Lost Boys of Sudan, global issues, helping others, survival

My Two Cents: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️  Each chapter in this book intertwines the stories of two children trying to survive in circumstances that the average American child can barely imagine.  Nya’s twice daily trek to fetch drinking water for her family seems like such an antiquated prospect to us, and yet this event is a reality for many children today. Salva’s story begins with the bombing of his school by Sudanese rebels and his subsequent escape from his village.  Separated from his family he will travel on foot for hundreds of miles over several years through the deserts of southern Sudan, then Ethiopia, on to Kenya and finally to the U.S.

A Long Walk to Water is an inspirational story of struggle, survival, and giving back.  (I’m thinking One Book, One School!) It is also a story that begs us to get involved, take action, and make a difference in our world.  Salva Dut founded the non-profit orgaization Water for South Sudan to help the people of South Sudan drill for clean drinking water in their villages.  On this website you can find more information about A Long Walk for Water and other resources related to the book.

Watch this moving video about how Water for South Sudan is changing the lives of the people of South Sudan:

Water for South Sudan from Water for South Sudan on Vimeo.

For a more in-depth look at this book, check out Linda Sue Park interviewing Salva Dut. (Also from the Water for South Sudan website.):

Pair with: 

Hoping for Peace in Sudan : Divided by Conflict, Wishing for Peace by Jim Pipe.

Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan by Mary Williams.

The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney

A Thirst for Home: A Story of Water across the World by Christine Ieronimo

Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate

Ryan and Jimmy: And the Well in Africa That Brought Them Together

Summer Resolutions


The first week of summer vacation… sitting on the burning deck… sunglasses on…a tall icy glass of lemon water (or something)… catching up on the reading…  If you’re anything like me (and many other teachers) summer break is a time for closure, renewal, and planning.  To me it also feels like New Years.  On that first official day of summer break I’m always making my list of summer resolutions:

  • Exercise more
  • Read one book everyday (ok… maybe every other day…)
  • Spend one hour a day tackling house projects
  • Take an online class
  • Plan all of my displays for next year
  • Do something new every week
  • Cook more meals
  • Clean out my photo library (again)
  • Update my blog
  • etc., etc., etc….

When I think of it, I actually make A LOT more summer resolutions than New Year’s resolutions.  I’m also just now realizing why, about a week into break, I want school to be back in again.  (This list looks like disappointment waiting to happen…)

So what’s that one summer resolution?  How do you keep it?

Summer Reading: The Mighty Miss Malone 


After a very, very long hiatus, summer reading is finally back! Check back periodically to read my book reviews as I read away the hazy hot and humid days of summer!

The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis

: historical fiction

Recommended for: grades 4 and up

Deza Malone and her family struggle to return to normalcy after a tragic accident involving her father forces them to leave their home in Gary Indiana.

Topics/themes: families, African-Americans, the great depression, Joe Lewis (boxer), resilience, poverty, character development, alliteration, words

My two cents:⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I’m happy to finally have had the opportunity to have read this book. It was recommended to me by a colleague shortly after it came out and I’m just getting around to it now.

As I’ve seen in many of Curtis’ books his characters rely on the strong relationships with family and friends. Deza and her family are smart and caring and were it not for the fact they are African-American and living during the Great Depression their story might be completely different. In his afterwards, Curtis talks about poverty in America today.  This book could be a great springboard for conversations about education, and children, and the impact that poverty has on their lives.

Pair with:

Children of the Great Depression by Russell Freedman

Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor

Bird in the Box by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Lucky Beans by Becky Birtha

Bud Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis