Meet My Bloggers

Cross platform applicationsCreative Commons License Tsahi Levent-Levi via Compfight

This is my second year sponsoring a blog club here at Eagle Ridge, but our numbers are dwindling weekly. I need to figure out a way to make blogging more exciting–maybe I should give away five dollar bills. Candy and Top 40 tunes alone aren’t cutting it. Ideas, bloggers of the world?

Right now, we’re participating in Edublogs’ Student Blogging Challenge…six successive weeks of challenges that educate and inspire us to be responsible, inventive bloggers.

What our club is missing in quantity is certainly made up for by the quality of the students with whom I’m lucky enough to share my Wednesdays.

Meet Tiki.

One of my talented seventh-grade bloggers, Tiki loves hibachi food and sleep. Connect with her at


Meet Sid.

Once you’ve stopped by Talking with Tiki Torch, drop in and visit Sid at Sid’s Database. Sid is currently creating an interactive personality quiz so watch for that on his blog shortly. You don’t want to miss out on Sid’s blogging excellence.


I’ll share more Eagle Ridge bloggers next time! Until then, believe anything is possible when you believe in yourself.

Eat candy and enjoy life,

Mrs. Rombach

Rule Number One: Read The Rule of Three!

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four-stars_0Before reading The Rule of Three, I didn’t have one Eric Walters YA novel on my sixth grade bookshelf. Shame on me! After gulping down the 405 pages of this high velocity book, I’m ready for a refill. Here’s why: Eric Walters knows his audience well. He understands the challenges we middle and high school teachers sometimes have convincing a student to read, much less finding a book that will hold a young man’s attention past the first three chapters. Rest assured, dear teachers, there will be no abandoning The Rule of Three.

Sixteen-year-old Adam Daley is going about a typical high school day–eyeing a pretty girl, ribbing his best friend Todd, and trying to get a little classwork done. Without warning, a catastrophic power outage turns their world dark. Not only is electricity lost, but everything from cell phones to modern-day cars are rendered useless. Everything comes to a standstill in Adam’s hometown, and–as they eventually discover–across the globe.

Humans can survive three minutes without air, three days without water, and three weeks without food. Author Walters nimbly goes to work decimating creature comforts. Within hours, looting begins. Within days, widespread panic consumes the region. Riots over food and water erupt. Chaos ensues, but Adam, his police chief Mom, and former CIA agent neighbor design a radical plan to protect the people within their hastily constructed barriers.

What if today, in your neck of the world, the electrical grid went dark, computers died, and communication satellites shut down? What if the only operable vehicles were antique automobiles, gas-powered go-carts, and the occasional private airplane? Eric Walters plants the terrifying seed of possibility in the minds of all his young (and not-so-young) readers. How would we as a nation react? Probably not unlike the citizens of Walters’ fictional world.

I highly recommend The Rule of Three for both middle and high school audiences–particularly young males searching for a high-octane adventure in paperback. The book reads like a video game. Yes, there is violence and death, as to be expected when fighting for survival, but its content is not overly graphic or disturbing. I would say other dystopian novels dip a little deeper into the violence well. As of January 2016, Walters delivered a second and third book in this series. Go get ’em: Rule of Three: Fight for Power and Rule of Three: Will to Survive.



World Refugee Day is Today, June 20, 2016.

World Refugee Day is today, Monday, June 20, 2016. According to the most recent figures from the United Nations, there are more than 65 million refugees in the world. That means that  one of every 113 people on Earth has been forcibly displaced from his or her  homeland. If they were a country,  these 65 million refugees would represent the   21st largest country in the world. Sadly, this is  the largest number of refugees since World War II.

The UN’s Refugee Agency UNHCR reports that more than half (51%) of the world’s refugees are children, the largest number in 10 years. Where are the world’s refugees fleeing from? The majority of refugees come from just three countries: Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia.  One in five displaced persons is from Syria.  Astoundingly, 86% of refugees are  hosted by developing countries, not the world’s leading economies.

It’s easy to ignore the  day-to-day horrors that refugees face when we’re   cocooned in the comfort of our American dream homes.   To better understand the  world in which they’re called to be global citizens, my sixth graders researched four different social issue topics and developed Public Service Announcements for each. Today seems like the right time  to  share a few of those videos with you. Perhaps you’ll be  called to support a nonprofit one of my students identified. At the very least, we hope you’ll want to know more about the refugee crisis that covers the globe. We must ask ourselves, “What can we do?” Then, we must go about doing it. For more info, click here.

Pravallika & Rachel –  Refugee Crisis PSA 

Alexa & Kayce – Refugee Crisis PSA 

Sydney & Nethra – Refugee Crisis PSA

Owen & Eric – Life in a Refugee Camp PSA


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



Spooky Creatures in the Classroom

Just when I thought it was safe to go back into the classroom, the Play-Doh monsters arrived.

On the day before Halloween, outfitted with an Amazon-delivered box of 32 plastic jars of Play-Doh, I launched a hands-on creature creation lab that kept my sixth graders busy for half the class period. First, they came forward and collected their individual 3 ounce jars, and then they got busy molding their Play-Doh creatures–all of which were based on our previous day of monster-sized brainstorming. They got 15 minutes for this artistic endeavor.

While spooky music set the scene, the kids chattered and crafted outlandish creatures–some spine-tingling monsters and others cuddly critters that you’d take home to Mom and Dad. What I loved most was watching a roomful of inspired young authors put their pencils to paper and have to be told to stop. You read that right…told to stop. Many students wrote 2-3 pages and complained loudly when I called time so we could share out our stories. Better still, many returned this week to report that they’d finished their spooky tales.

Will this creature feature become a perennial event in my classroom? You betcha. Give it a ghost of a chance in your classroom, too. You’ll be amazed at the spirited writing that results.


Raise Your Voice: Blog Action Day 2015

The First Amendment of the United States of America gives us freedom of religion, speech, press, peaceable assembly, and the freedom to seek help from or complain about our government without fear of punishment. In honor of this freedom–which is both a tremendous privilege and a responsibility–we’re taking part in Blog Action Day on October 16, 2015.

Your blog is a public space where you can freely express your opinions about issues that matter to you.

For me, I’m worried about the overuse of toxic chemicals and the waste of water to maintain fairy tale green lawns. Did you know that 80% of all homes in the United States have grass lawns? The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that nearly 1/3 of all public water is used to water grass. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports that “homeowners use up to 10 times more chemical pesticides per acre on their lawns than farmers use on crops.” Wow! Most lawn care chemicals can find their way to our groundwater supply. Lawn chemicals are toxic–they kill. I worry about the health effects of these optional pesticides. The U.S. Geological Survey found that 96 percent of all fish tested in major rivers and streams contained pesticide residue. We need to rethink chemical lawn treatments.

What do you care about? What’s worrying you?

What would you change here at school if you could? How can we make Ashburn, Virginia, America, or the world a little bit better? In your opinion, what changes should our government make to improve your future? Speak up on Blog Action Day. How might you help homeless people or animals? Are you concerned about climate change? Or gun control? Or education? Or bullying? Do you want healthier lunches? Are sports too competitive?

Whatever it is, tell me in a quality comment below.

Then, use the internet to find 2-3 facts about your issue. Jot them down and bring to school tomorrow. Be sure to record the websites where you found the info.

Finally, visit another class and leave a comment based on their current post. Just click on the link below! I’m counting on you proofreading your comment carefully. Follow 6th grade writing expectations! Be sure to include our blog URL so the classes you visit can visit us, too! Here’s our class blog URL: 

CLICK HERE for complete list of class blogs in the Student Blogging Challenge (including ours).

Tomorrow, you’ll draft a blog post about what you care about. It’s time to raise your voice!

See you then! Mrs. Rombach




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

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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!

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Poetry Emotion – Teachers Write 7/13/15 (I’m late!)

Teachers Write!


Author Liz Garton Scanlon photocredit:


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Last night, I joined my daughter and one of her best friends for the sold-out Taylor Swift concert at Nationals Park Stadium in DC. Loved every minute of this 25-year-old’s extraordinary performance.

Now, I’m sitting down (ever so briefly) to post the poem I struggled to complete for Monday’s mini-lesson from Teachers Write! guest author Liz Garton Scanlon. Liz is the author of picture books like All the World and Noodle and Lou as well as a brand new middle grade novel, The Great Good Summer.  Here’s the assignment:

1. Commit to writing a 12-line rhyming poem or story.

2. Use either 6 couplets (aa/bb/cc/etc) or 3 quatrains (abab/cdcd/efef)

3. After you’ve written the first 2-4 lines, count the syllables. Even them out as necessary and then stick with that count as you finish the piece.

4. Read it over. Does it make sense? Did rhyme force you to do anything you didn’t want to do? Adjust as necessary.

5. Wrap it up. Read it aloud. Read it aloud again. You hear that? You did that!

Here’s my result, which, despite being less than thrilled about, makes me realize how important it is to exercise my writing muscles. 🙂 I wrote this after getting some cruddy news that sent my stress level through the roof. Rhyming is challenging! Still, I need to work all of my writing muscles, not just the stronger ones. 🙂 I’ll take the next Teachers Write! challenges one word, one line, one story at a time–and be okay with it taking me a little longer than I’d like. This isn’t a race, it’s a self-focused, self-paced education and exploration–for the writer in me. 🙂


The phone calls come in a hurry.

Breathe deeply. Quell the firing nerves.

Questions explode in a flurry.

Situation no one deserves.


Nubby nails, haphazardly chewed

Chattering heart, wildly racing

Squash this madness,; answers elude

Frustratation soars, mindless pacing


Dozens of phone calls required

Monotone voices do not hear

My fear from all that’s transpired

Listen! Did I make myself clear?