Quotable Quotes: Amal Unbound

I just finished Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed and loved it! I know there are several reviews out there already, but I wanted to share some fantastic quotes from this book. 

“Write about what you see! Write about your dreams!” -pg 3 

“Only now that I was trapped did I understand the heaviness of forever.” -pg 132

“It was worth the risk to have books in my life again.” pg 140

“Strong? What did it mean to be strong? Did I have any other choice?” pg 158

“…to call me a guest in the only place I ever belonged–the word cut like a jagged stone against my heart.” pg 161

“They weren’t bad people. They were just lucky enough to have no idea of the reality I faced.” pg 169

“Just because something seems impossible, does that mean we just don’t try?” -pg 205

“You always have a choice. Making choices even when they scare you because you know it’s the right thing to do–that’s bravery.” -pg 210

“…it turned out chance, no matter how good and necessary, came with a price.” -pg 218

“I thought not knowing would scare me, but I didn’t feel afraid. Today I was free, and even if I didn’t know what the future held, I knew I was going home. 

And right now, in this moment, this is enough.” -pg 226


Tech Review: Tour Creator

Tour Creator is a tool from Google that allows you to create your own VR expeditions. It is SUPER easy to create, a little glitchy when I presented it, but overall a good tool.

I was super hesitant to try this because I thought that this was linked in with Google Expeditions which is a tool that I tried for 3 months to get up and going and failed because of issues with the Peer to Peer Network. I really didn’t want to invest energy in a tool that I couldn’t get working. It turns out that this is a separate program that you use on your computer and it gives you a link to share with kids.

I had to create my tour with my personal account to start out because my Google Admin didn’t have it turned on. When I shared my success with her, she was happy to turn it on.

To Create

  1. Go to https://poly.google.com/creator/tours/
  2. Put in the basic details of your tour (name and a cover image)
  3. It takes you to a page where you can pick your Google Street View 360 view you want added. If you can find an address on Google Maps, you can pick a 360 view!
  4. Add descriptions and points of interest
  5. Once you are done, it gives you a link to share with students. Here’s my example Tour that I used with ELA students to go along with a reading on Sept 11th: https://poly.google.com/view/04McCTEh9Hf


To Use with Students

  1. Figure out how you want students to access the link and if they are using their own devices. I decided to use bit.ly to give them a shortened link
  2. I used ipods that my library owns. We had the students open safari and insert the shortened link
  3. It then gives you the tour to be inserted in VR headsets. There is an option for 360 view

Issues we ran into

  1. Sometimes the navigation bar at the bottom disappeared in presentation mode and it was hard to navigate between screens. We had the kids close Safari and reopen it and navigate to the scene the class was on.

Student feedback

The students loved it! I loved the flexibilty of the views since I could pick anywhere from Google Street View. We’re looking into using it as a student project and have them design their own VR tours and plan the navigation for a geography project.



App Review: Mr Body

I was a little hesitant to get Merge cubes, because I honestly had other things to focus my energy on, and I didn’t have time to hunt for more apps. Earlier this year, we used the Merge Cube and Mr. Body App with my health teacher. Everyone loved this activity!


App information: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mr-body-for-merge-cube/id1253085120?mt=8

When I was planning this lesson, I saw a lot of reviews that discussed HOW the app worked and the WOW! factor, but I haven’t seen a lot that show how teachers are actually using this, so I thought I’d share our experience with it.

I have a Nearpod lesson that I use that uses the 360 views of a “Body Works” museum exhibit where we can see bodies without skin. These views are mixed in with interactive questions and models that review big ideas that they covered in a body system webquest. I had a feeling that the Mr Body wasn’t going to fill a whole class, so I fit that activity into this lesson.

We have 6 merge cubes and a class set of ipods, so we worked in small groups to explore the app. I gave them 2 minutes to explore different body parts. We then started into a game. I had gone through the app and found all of the body parts that had descriptions. I would list the body part, and they would have to find it. We then went a step farther, I had a few questions that I knew were listed in the description. They then had to find the correct body part.

If you are thinking of other ways to use this app, I could see a lot of potential for a test review game with this tool.


This tweet accurately sums up my emotions on this. I LOVED hearing the conversations that were going on. Students are super awesome at finding something interesting and sharing it with their table mates.

This did take a bit of time to get set up. You do have to put in the Merge code into each ipod and verify your email. I had some volunteers do it for me ahead of time, but it only needed done once, which was awesome!

Prancing through Poland: Just because it’s scary, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try it (or why Skype gives me anxiety)

Making things work comes with the territory of being a teacher. Sometimes things don’t work out and we have to quickly shift. This program has been making sure I practice that skill well and reminds me that I am good at that skill. I’ve been more empowered to plan things that I am almost positive will fail, only to be excited when it goes well!

One thing that had been rescheduled several times was my tour of the public library. When staying in a small town, not everyone speaks English and I had to make sure I came at a time when there was someone who spoke English working. We had some miscommunications in terms of time, but when we finally connected, I was so happy to see that they have a vibrant library program. To me, it felt like a mix of a public and an academic library. The library is very new and modern, because it’s only 8 years old. When the library opened, they reached out to embassies around the world for rocks from all over the world. Because of this, they have several rocks from around the world, including a rock from the Alexandria, Egypt. They do a lot of programming for kids and teens, have a variety of special collections, and do a lot of traditional library programming. I was surprised that it had a section of closed stacks. I’m used to public libraries not having the space or staffing for that.

Tuesday had a variety of challenges. I had my students write and “I poem” or a “Bio-poem” about themselves using a template. Some of my groups could barely handle the template, whereas other groups moved onto the final copy and made beautiful poems. Every group has a very specific set of needs, so I feel like we were adjusting ourselves constantly.

For my oldest group, I knew that their attention spans wouldn’t handle to final copy, so we ended up going to a room that had a computer and played Geoguessr. I loved hearing their thought process about which state they thought we were in. Then we went to 360 cities and I let them look at 360 views from the cities and states of their choice.

We also Skyped with students from my American school district. It was a little tricky because it was the end of the day (so my kids were tired), and we were having 90 kids on my end speak to 20 kids on the American end, but since we organized it well, it went really smoothly. We made sure to pre-select the questions so we had participation from each group and had a variety of questions. Each kid asking a question had a post-it note with their name, question, and number. This was the only thing about my Poland trip that I was stressed about (and I was going by myself to a country where I don’t speak the language!). Doing Skype events terrify me because you have to

  • put your faith in the other person that they aren’t going to have tech issues
  • put your faith in the tech people/tech that they aren’t going to do something to sabotage you
  • recognize that not everything is in your control and there are kids watching you.
  • Something ALWAYS goes wrong.

Even though Skype/Google Hangout scares the living daylights out of me, I do it because I see that value. I go through this anxiety with Skype/Google Hangouts even when I do these in my home district. I think every teacher has some program or technology or something that scares them and they don’t trust, but they do it because it’s good for kids.

Today we practiced clothing words by having some fun! We had a fashion show and when the model finished going down the runway, we described what they wore. The kids LOVED it! They had so much fun dancing along the runway and posing. They got so excited that we had to do some line dancing just to get them all doing the same thing and start paying attention. One group was SO excited, that we finally went back to the room and color pictures of outfits and described the types of clothing. This was another day when every class, we did something different, and I appreciate my TA for rolling with me as I switched plans really quickly depending on our needs.


Prancing through Poland: Sometimes lesson plans fail…

Well…I’ve missed a few days of reflection, so this one may be a long one. Friday started out relatively normal. It was Polish day, so my group was dressed up in red and white. In the morning we did classes as normal. I was doing a “pre-Skype” activity to make sure that they Skype event I have planned on Tuesday goes smoothly. I sent my TA into the hall and had her facetime me. This way, we could discuss taking turns when talking, asking questions. We then brainstormed questions to ask the American students, and looked on a map to see where these students are located and looked at some pictures from the school. The Skype event happening on Tuesday will have all 90+ kids at camp participating at once, so I want everything to be clear.

After the Skype prep, I had my homeroom do a game to stretch their creative muscles. I had them draw a scribble on a piece of paper and pass it to the right. That person added another scribble, it got passed to the right a third time and then that person had to create an animal from the scribble. We then went around the room and shared our animal.

For my other classes, I had the students choose a postcard from a pile I had collected over the past few months, and they had to write a letter in English home about what they’ve learned at camp.

In the afternoon, the students put on a pageant for Polish Day. We were treated to traditional folk music and dancing and each class put on a skit or song. I was so proud of their creativity and hard work. I was also so impressed with the TAs for putting on such a great show.

On Monday, I was a little hesitant to embrace this day. This was a day when I was working with the younger kids, and my lessons were writing heavy. Even though the goals of this camp are academic, I’m trying to keep things as fun and interactive as possible. We started with doing postcards with my homeroom. I ran into some issues, because I tried to be brave on Friday afternoon and start the activity without 2 of my TAs in to translate. That was a bad idea. We had several hiccups and confusion, but the kids did really well.

I was told when I started this program to be prepared for lessons to blow up in your face, and to be prepared to throw away plans because of the specific needs of the student. Last week I was very lucky with activities that I was 50% sure that they would go badly, and instead they were really well received. It’s sometimes nice to be reminded that some lessons flop. Some lessons don’t go well, but we pick ourselves back up and move forward.

Especially since my group was having trouble with postcards, we decided to create our own version of “Simon Says” with Uno cards to play after the pre-Skype activity. Each student was given a Uno card, and we had them stand if they had the color we were calling out, and then we went around and shared what numbers they had. We then went into the hallway and used those colors and numbers to tell the students what to do. (ex. If you have a 5 come give me a high five, if you have a yellow card, touch your head). That then transitioned into a game of “duck, duck, goose.”

Prancing through Poland: Making adjustments

I am so appreciative that I started out with lessons that can stay the same for each group, but be adapted up or down quickly. Today is day 2 of doing body mazes, which means we get the younger groups. I made sure to do a lesson in the hall where we all moved left, right, forward, backward, up, down and make a big step. We ended up having teams of students help the blindfolded student through the body maze so they could help each other with their English. I noticed most of my younger kids in 3 classes had issues with the “eh” sound in “step” and instead pronounced it as “stop.” I tried to correct it, but I know that’s a speech pattern that I’ll have to keep an eye out for.

Each group had to have the activity with a different variation. One group needed a strong lesson before the activity and we could break into 2 groups and create 2 mazes. One group needed a strong lesson, and I wasn’t confident to have the kids go through the maze, so I had them guide my TA through the maze. Two  groups had one big maze with several students guiding their peers through.

Some groups I had finish early for one reason or another. While we waited for class to end, I gave them bookmarks with facts about Pennsylvania, and asked them if they recognized any English words on the bookmark.

I handed out Reece’s to my homeroom today and I was interested to see how they took their time eating the candy. And during snack time, we were given Grzeski candy bars. They reminded me of my childhood when my parents would always buy vanilla wafers.

During the afternoon, I helped in the movie room. We had a little hiccup when the power went out for a few minutes, but I gathered some coloring books and the power came back quickly. We were watching American movies on Netflix with Polish subtitles. I appreciated the Polish subtitles, because I could try and pick up a few more words. We were watching Spirit, Stallion of the Cimarron, so I was able to point out the setting on a map and talk a little about the time period to help out the kids.

I think the biggest thing that the teachers and TAs keep sharing is that kids are kids no matter the culture. Yes, we have learned about some cultural differences, but these kids are great at trying and love to have fun! I know right now, I’m checking my lessons to make sure they are engaging enough and will help them enjoy this experience!

Tomorrow is Polish day, and I can’t wait to listen to them share their culture with me!

Prancing through Poland: Mad Libs and Maple Syrup

Sometimes it’s just fun to share a part of yourself with someone else. I grew up in Western New York, and my parents make maple syrup from the handful of trees in their front yard.  Because of that, the theme for homeroom was “Mad Libs and Maple Syrup.”  I downloaded the Mad Lib app (thank goodness, it’s free!) and had my students give me different words to help generate the story. I then told the story, one sentence at a time and then had my Polish TAs translate it. I was so proud of the work my TAs did translating the story. The students enjoyed it. Then, I found a video on CBC about different ways to make maple syrup. I then showed them photos from my parent’s house and then we enjoyed some maple favored cotton candy. The students really seemed to enjoy it!

Then, I started working with the other groups. My big idea based on the theme for the camp was, “Can you be a good friend?” and my big idea that was content based was “can you use directional words in context?” The students had to build a human maze (with bridges, tunnels, and paths that their peers would go around), and lead a peer through the maze. They could touch the person and could only use their words. Some groups struggled and needed a mini lesson to refresh words they could use. In this situation, we lined up and practiced going left, right, forward, and backward while saying the words. The groups loved working together to build the maze and were very good about helping their peers steer through the maze.

In the afternoon, I helped with the friendship bracelets station. Another teacher put on American Pop music, and a Polish TA and I were dancing and doing bad karaoke (well…mine was bad, his was pretty good) while helping the kids. I was amazed how many kids sang along. I ended up helping kids make beaded snakes, and the kids were very good at practicing their English. I had one kid that sat with me for a while, so I figured I’d let him play teacher. I went and tried to say the colors in Polish and he told me if I was right or wrong.

After our small groups, I did a practice Skype call to make sure we are all set for next week.

After school, I had asked a TA to help me find the library. Not only did he and his girlfriend walk me there and we had a chance to talk about Polish school and Polish books, he asked the staff if anyone spoke English so I can have a chance to talk with a Polish Librarian to learn how they do things! I’m excited for that tomorrow!

As you notice, I mention how much I am grateful for TAs. I have a memory from when I did the Philadelphia Urban Seminar in a bilingual school that made me nervous about coming here. I know that it can be very hard when your students speak a different language than you. When I was in Philly, we had a parent volunteer to help translate for the bilingual classes. Even still, I remember small children coming up to me and saying “He said a bad word in Spanish” and not knowing the best way to handle it. I have had very little discipline issues with the kids in this camp, but the TAs are very good at encouraging students to stretch their English skills and filling us in if there is an issue.