Make a Connection – Shrink the World


There are 7.4 billion people in the world, and you only know a handful of them. It’s time to do a little globetrotting and meet some of your student peers around the world. Today, your mission is to leave a quality comment on at least one of these blogs. You choose the destination, but your challenge is to ignite a two-way conversation. Be sure to leave the best comment you can. Read the other student blogger’s All About Me page–or a post that rivets your attention. Deliver complimentary comments. Notice the student’s efforts and creativity. Do you have something in common? Make the connection. Invite the student you visited to come see your blog. Then, ensure they can find you by leaving your blog’s URL. Always end with a question so they want to head your way and continue the conversation. Let’s get started with our commenting crusade!

Stop One: California

The One and Only Ruby (Ruby is in my friend Mr. Jewell’s class, and her blog looks amazing.)

Stop Two: Australia

Jack’s Black Board  (Take special notice of Jack’s post on why there should be more P.E. classes. I’m guessing many of you would agree!)

Liam’s Legit Blog (Like many of us, Liam only has a few blog posts, but you’ll notice how he used bold visuals to capture your attention. Sports fans will enjoy a trip to Liam’s Legit Blog.)

Stop Three: New Zealand

Caro’s Creative Creations (This colorful blog is bubbling over with blogposts. If you’re a high-volume blogger, you’ve found a friend in Caro!)

Stop Four: Spain

Candelia’s Blog  (If you like to answer quirky questions, like “If you were stuck on a desert with only your clothes, how would you entertain yourself?”, this is the stop for you.)

Stop Five: Canada

HankOnline (Hank–not his real name–likes acting, drumming, rock-n-roll, and spy movies. He sound like a pretty hip French Canadian to me!)

Final Stop: Scotland

Baeleigh’s Blog (Explore all of the pages she’s created…recipes, quizzes, photos, and more. Maybe she’ll inspire your own blog additions!)

Weekends were made for blogging.

With all the free time you have this weekend, check out these fun image makers. How might you use of of these tools on your blog? Show me. No, show the world!

  1. Image Generators such as
  2. Comic Generators like,  ToonDoo
  3. Photo Editors like Befunkyfd’s Flickr Tools
  4. Tag Cloud Creators such as Wordle



Our Student Blogs are Open for Visitors…Come On Over!

After giving another blogging platform a go earlier in the year, I’m back to Edublogs. I love Edublogs, and the autonomy that it provides my students delivers a learning experience unparalleled by other blogging formats. So, I’ve reunited with my one love–and set up  blogs for over 70 students  who are eager  to connect with  their peers around the globe. We just started our last quarter of the school year, but when it comes to blogging, my students are pumped up and ready for action.

I’ve asked my students to post a link to their blogs below. If you stop by for a visit, please stay long enough to visit a blog or two and leave a comment. In addition, you’ll find links to their blogs in the right sidebar. For most of my students, you’ll be the first comment they ever receive. Thanks so much for leaving a note of encouragement for any one of my amazing students.

The Great Mail Race

The Great Mail Race

Hello, blog. I missed you!

Wouldn’t you know it takes snail mail to get me back to posting on my much-missed blog!

A few weeks ago, our school received two letters from middle school participants in The Great Mail Race: Fruit Cove Middle School in Florida, and Godwin Heights Middle School in Michigan. Thank you to Vivian and Arnav whose letters landed in my teacher mailbox.

What is the Great Mail Race? An engaging way to have your students write authentic friendly letters to peers around these great United States. Students choose to type or hand write a letter to a class in another state. Easy-to-follow guidelines are posted on the website, as well as lists of teachers and students who are craving mail.

In our classroom, we’ve opted for the element of surprise. Students identified the middle schools to which they’d write by searching “state name + middle school” on Google. Some wanted specific towns or cities, like “San Diego, CA middle schools” or “Salt Lake City, Utah middle schools.” Digging up middle schools was a breeze. Navigating the school websites and locating an English or Social Studies teacher to whom the student could write required slightly more investigation. Still, my awesome sixth graders figured it out and got busy writing their letters of introduction.

I’m really excited that this writing project landed in my mailbox. The students researched the schools, and went to work drafting letters that showcased our school,  our state, as well as their individual interests. Next week, we’ll print out the letters from Google Docs, tuck them in envelopes, and use our best sixth grade handwriting to pen the addresses. Then, we’ll wait (impatiently, of course) for our shipments to come in.

I’ll report back on our responses, too, when they begin trickling in.

Boy, it’s nice to be back in the blogosphere. 🙂

Mrs. Rombach



Fish in a Tree: Six Word Memoirs

Thank you, Lynda Mullaly Hunt,

for giving my sixth graders a community-building novel

with characters of the utmost character–

authentic young people with whom we’re all identifying.

photo credit: nerdybookclub

photo credit: nerdybookclub

I typically read two chapters of Fish in a Tree daily–before we have independent reading. Each day, I look out into the eyes of my students, and I see engaged learners who’ve begun to feel as though Ally, Keisha, and Albert are classmates, even friends. (Shay, for the time being, isn’t well-liked, but I have a feeling  we’ll start to understand that mean-spirited young lady soon enough.)

Today, after we wrapped up our typical two chapters, I introduced six-word memoirs as a way to give all the Fish in a Tree characters a voice–and show what we know about characterization. Students crafted their own six-word memoirs in their choice of character. Then we shared out, trying to guess which character “authored” the memoir. I’m posting some of these inventive memoirs that crystallized fictional characters in a way that made this teacher mighty proud. Any fellow FIAT devotees who happen upon our blog, we encourage you to try your hand at naming the character behind each six-word memoir. By all means, leave us a comment with your guesses.

When it comes to teaching, there isn’t impossible, only possible. Thank you to all of the gifted authors who enter our classroom and in a few hundred pages alter how we view one another and our world.

Can you guess which Fish in a Tree characters “penned” these six-word memoirs?

1. I am the queen bee, loser. – Sam

2. I am alone. You can’t help. – Michael

3. I am not who she says. – Derek

4. One day, fish will climb trees.  – Zoe

5. Mean is cruel. Add some sugar. – Mackenzie

6. Stuck in a spider’s web. Alone. – Thiviya

7. There are mean people in life. – Amanda

8. Cars and tools are my life. – Ananya

9. Ally is smart. She’s something else. – Cecilia

10. Mr. Daniels is the kindest person. – Bryan

11. I don’t know what I’m writing! – Minahil

12. Star Trek. Star Trek. Star Trek. – Sean

13. Pickle color is my new style. – Kayla

14. The world of chess is unpredictable. – Alexa

15, Stuck under a hovering black cloud. – Rylie

16. Am I doing the right thing? – Spencer

17. Everyone is equal. There’s no favorites. – Owen

18. There’s more inside her, I know. – Rachel

19. Wooden nickels. Silver dollars. Love coins. – Jordan

20. Mental capability isn’t defined by writing. – Marissa

21. Dreams are determined by your will. – Kayce

22. Old things have lots of value. – Andrew

23. Broken. Being fixed by Mr. Daniels. – Ella

24. Why do people pick out differences? – Amanda

25. You can do it. I believe. – Ashrita

Until the next chapter,

Mrs. Rombach




The Thing About Jellyfish – New Book!

“I’ve written about astrophysicists and athletes, cosmologists and Arctic conservators, geologists and psychologists and farmers and awesome children. What I enjoy, above all, is telling a good story.This world of ours is complex, but  it’s filled with plenty of wonder and sparkle.”

– Ali Benjamin

credit: Good Reads


Sometimes, I get really lucky and simply stumble on the kind of book I found in The Thing About Jellyfish, the 2015 debut novel from author Ali Benjamin. On one of my many weekly trips to Amazon’s virtual bookshelves, the stunningly beautiful cover of this book populated my screen. I clicked on the image, read the description, and instantly clicked Add to Cart. I finished The Thing About Jellyfish about two weeks ago and it continues to thump  around in my still-in-awe brain like a damp beach towl in the dryer. 


After her best friend dies in a drowning accident, Suzy is convinced that the true cause of the tragedy was a rare jellyfish sting. Retreating into a silent world of imagination, she crafts a plan to prove her theory–even if it means traveling the globe, alone. Suzy’s achingly heartfelt journey explores life, death, the astonishing wonder of the universe…and the potential for love and hope right next door. 


The Thing About Jellyfish should be on every adult bookshelf, too. Who hasn’t ever hurt or been hurt by a friend, struggled with inexplicable grief, or wanted an impossible happy ending? We’ve all been there, like Suzy and Franny, trying to find our place in this physically and emotionally challenging world.  Plus, there’s real science poured into every delicately moving page.  The Thing About Jellyfish , recently named a National Book finalist, will touch your heart. Below are two videos about the book, one from me, and one from the author. I discovered Kizoa this morning  through Edublogs’ Student Blogging Challenge. I’ve given it a try so I can show my sixth graders  one way they might create a book trailer. See what you think.


Welcome to the wonderful world of blogging!

Today, you’ll open your very own student blog. This is a place where your voice can be heard, your writing read, and your ideas and observations shared with the  world.

Some of you are undeniably pumped about blogging. You’ve asked me “when” ever since I mentioned we’d be blogging. Others of you probably aren’t too thrilled about any kind of writing, especially one that’s new and unfamiliar. Well, you know how I feel about the importance of fostering a growth mindset. We can’t stick with what’s comfortable and easy and expect to grow into the very best version of ourselves.

As we embark on this year-long journey, let’s celebrate the successes and overcome the pesky difficulties. I may be the teacher, but sometimes you’ll untangle the technology faster than me. I promise to deliver my very best. All I ask is that you do the same. Let’s explore and learn together.

Now, borrowing heavily from a post by Susan Lucille Davis, an Edtech blogger, here are six reasons why blogging makes us better writers, communicators, and citizens of the world.

Which one of these six reasons has you most interested in blogging and why? Leave a comment below. 🙂

1. Blogs are authentic.

With a blog, students reach real rather than pretend audiences. When someone from New Zealand or Kuwait is reading your writing, the quality of your work matters more. You’ll raise the bar for your own learning when the audience extends beyond the teacher, the classroom, and the grade.

2. Blogs allow students to give voice to their passions.

Blogs are an immensely versatile, energizing medium. In some ways, blogs are the new “show and tell,” allowing students to share their own infectious love of learning.

3. Blogs invite feedback.

As students unleash their passions, they must learn to respond to and learn from readers in the form of comments. Testing our ideas on others is an important part of our growth. Plus, feedback and connections with visitors makes students accountable for the quality of their work. Students value sincere, thoughtful responses.

4. Blogs provide opportunities for regular writing practice.

Blogs were never meant to be a one-shot deal, like an five-paragraph essay or book report.  Instead, blogs require a commitment to writing, to learning, and to growth over the long haul.

5. Blogging allows students to experiment with multiple media formats.

No other medium so seamlessly blends text, image, sound, and video to communicate a message as effectively to this wide an audience. As bloggers, students learn to consider the impact of the artfully placed photograph, video, audio insert, or infographic. Essentially, blogs allow students to learn how to write with every medium at their wriggling fingertips.

6. Blogging broadens students’ perspectives and connects them to the world.

The first dot from someone outside your home country that appears in your Clustr Map is a big moment. The world suddenly opens up to you. Next, you might find from someone halfway across the globe who’s interested in collaborating on a project or commenting on a recipe.

Blogging for a world audience shifts a writer’s perspective, builds empathy, or concern for others, and reveals new ways of seeing humanity.  

Don’t forget to leave a comment! Which of these six reasons has you most interested in blogging and why? Leave a comment below. 🙂


Letter to my newest Sixth Graders

Tomorrow, I’ll welcome 94 brand new sixth graders to my classroom. Am I ready? You bet I am. The past two weeks have been all about preparation–from attending professional development workshops to devoting full days to readying my classroom for its young occupants. I turned out the lights on Friday evening and couldn’t help but smile. I am eager to meet the new arrivals. I’ll be a little nervous, of course, but I simply must remember that they’re 100 times more nervous than me. We’re in this together–from the first day jitters to the last day goodbyes. Some days will drag; others will flash  by like comets. We’ll laugh, we’ll cry (well, at least I will during our many read-alouds), and we’ll make memories together.

One of my first-day activities is  to have every student write me a letter. I’ll read and respond to all 94 letters by Friday. Tonight, I’ve written  mine to them. 

Dear Awesome Sixth Graders,

     I’m thrilled to welcome you into our Language Arts classroom! I know we’ll have a wonderful year together.

     Today, I’m asking you to write a letter to me, so I thought it only fair that I write a letter to you. Let’s start with introductions. Who am I? I’m Mrs. Martha Rombach, teacher, writer, reader, and mom of five awesome kids ranging in age from 12 to 21. I graduated with an English degree from James Madison University, where I met my husband, Mike. I grew up in Yorktown, Virginia, where I built forts, rode my bike for miles, shot archery in my backyard, captured every type of wild critter I could raise in a box or tub, and even worked summers at Busch Gardens when I was a teenager.

     I love being outdoors. I enjoy hiking, traveling to unfamiliar places, and blasting music in my canary yellow Jeep. If I’m not outside, I’m probably curled up inside with a good book. Forget about trying to talk to me when I’m reading. I’m in another world. I read over 20 books this summer, and I can’t wait to tell you about them. In fact, our first read-aloud will be Fish in a Tree, one of my summer best.

     Speaking of favs, I’m a candy fiend. Hot Tamales and Twizzlers are my go-to sweets. Look around our classroom, and you’ll see I’m a huge Steelers fan. Music keeps me grounded; I can’t go a day without it. What am I afraid of? Heights! I’ll happily remove spiders from our classroom, but don’t ask me to climb a ladder or peer over a ledge.

     I’m a teacher who’s connected to technology–Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and a couple of blogs. That means we’ll be using technology in our classroom nearly every day–really! Bring in those devices. 🙂 Before becoming a teacher, I was a newspaper and magazine writer. Now, I write on two blogs–and will open blogs for each of you soon!

      I have the best job in the world. I love coming to work every day because of you. You are one of a kind. You are amazing. You have the power to change the world. As we embark on this year together, know that I believe in you. If there are bumps in the road,we’ll navigate them together. If you have questions, ask them. When you need to talk, I’ll listen. I’m here for you 100%. Be kind, be motivated, be ready to make your first year in middle school absolutely awesome (just like you)!


Mrs. Rombach



Three New Tech Tools & One Call to Action

symbaloo imagelogo-fb



Today has been a sit-in-front-of-the-computer day for me. I’ve been digging up all kinds of technology that I can use in my 6th grade Language Arts classroom. Two weeks from today is when teachers report, so that internal alarm sounded bright and early this morning. Time to get yourself in gear, Martha. Well, while my adventure-seeking daughter and her equally fit pal are biking 35-40 miles into Washington, D.C. on the W & OD Trail, I’ve sat on my slightly sore bum prepping for classroom instruction. (1) I created my first classroom Symbalooan online, visual aggregate of my frequently used websites. (2) Through various searches and blog visits, I discovered Learn2Earn, a teacher-friendly website where my students can track and respond to their reading. (3) My heart was doing cartwheels when I landed on PearDeck, a must-explore interactive presentation creator for all teachers–especially those in schools that have adopted one-to-one technology. My mind is racing with dozens of potential uses for PearDeck!

I’ll spend a little time in the next day or two sharing out a few more finds. Now, however, it’s time to head outside. Have you ever wondered why it’s important that our bodies and brains see the light of day? Take a couple of minutes and watch this video. Then, leave the computer idle for a while as together we head outside and soak up a little Vitamin D. What did you do outside/inside today? Leave me a comment!

photo credit:

photo credit: