Thursday, February 22, 2018

Interactive Lessons Using Technology

Live Session using Pear Deck
     Student 'voice' is a concern for many teachers.  Classes are filled with those students who always participate and have their hand raised.  But these are the same classes filled with students who sit back and let others do the talking for them.  How can we ensure these students are 'active' participants? One way to make sure that "all" students have a voice is to use an "interactive" digital tool such as Pear Deck, Nearpod, Formative & more.  These tools allow students to share their answers at the same time.  
Being actively engaged!
As teachers can see student answers in 'realtime' there are many advantages to using such tools. Talk about formative assessment! Immediate feedback from the teacher can clarify misconceptions on the spot. Conversations can also be extended beyond the topic depending on student activity.   There are drawing and dragging options too. 
 The lessons can be filled with a variety of multi-media which is engaging for pupils. Some tools allow audio, video, images and web content to be embedded right into your existing presentations. 
Nearpod lesson on Deserts!
      I've used various tools with students and their question at the end is always the same, "When can we do this again?"  When our students are engaged and enthusiastic they are sure to learn!  Students WANT to share what they know! 

What are some tools you use to make your lessons interactive?


The Ultimate List - 65 Digital Tools and Apps to Support Formative Assessment Practices -

Monday, January 15, 2018

Teachers Learn Best from Other Teachers

Ed kicking off EdCampWalpole - Family Feud Style!
It's TRUE! Teachers learn best from other teachers.  Perhaps that is why EdCamps are so popular! They are so popular that  our district has dedicated a whole professional development day modeled after the Edcamp style. (Not familiar with Edcamp - read about it HERE.) 

Paula B. sharing Osmos to Kindergarten Teachers
This is the 3rd year our district has participated in a "modified" Edcamp.  Each year the call goes out to all educators in the system to submit a topic to either "lead", "facilitate" or "explore".  This year more and more teachers shared their craft and experiences with colleagues.  We even had some out of district teachers present. (And a keynote presentation by Alan November!)

It's TRUE! Teachers learn best from other teachers!  Why? Because teachers are passionate!  When teachers are passionate about what pedagogy, it's hard not to get excited right alongside them.  
Sheila R. sharing the power of SPLAT!

Several of the teachers from the two buildings where I work decided to go out of their comfort zone and share their passions with the rest of the district.  These teachers believe in what they are doing with their students.  

These are teachers who share their expertise with their elementary students on a daily basis, but who aren't usually in front of their colleagues. However, their passion helped them come forward, take a chance and present new and relevant information. 
Suzanne G. sharing Flexible Seating in the classroom

It's TRUE! Teachers learn best from other teachers!  Why? Because teachers are sharing real world experiences.  The teachers are sharing what has worked in their very own classrooms (or  how they revised what might not have worked).  

Erica, Laurie & Diane sharing Google Sites
Teachers from my schools shared how they are using tools to communicate with parents through the use of Seesaw or through the use of a website built using Google Sites. These are teachers are fairly new to presenting. Other teachers shared ideas for various Math topics and another on Flexible Seating.  So proud of their hard work and efforts!

It's TRUE! Teachers learn best from other teachers!  Why? Because teachers know they can relate to and reach out to a colleague if they have a question.  

Discussing Standards Based Report Cards
   All who presented shared their contact information and offered to come and help participants if ever assistance was needed. Even after the the allotted time was up conversations continued where further information was given.  

Carolyn K. sharing 3 Act Math Tasks
It was a great day had by all! Again, to the teachers that presented...I'm so proud that they took a chance and shared their expertise!  I encourage others to do so as well.  We all have gifts that we can and need to impart with our colleagues and other educators across the globe! (Thank you also to all those behind the scenes organizers who made the day successful too!) 

So, even if you are not going to an Edcamp or some other professional development day, think about communicating your ideas with your colleague next door, down the hall, across town or share via Twitter or Facebook.  We love learning from YOU! 

In the comments section, feel free to share a topic you'd like to learn more about or even a topic you shared at a conference or workshop! Thank you.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Year, New Learning

On the crest of the New Year many of us think about about making resolutions. It makes me wonder...

What percent of people achieve the goals they set for themselves at New Year's?  This post suggests it is only 8%.   So it's not too surprising to realize I've often been a part of the 92% who don't seem to succeed when it comes to New Year's Resolutions.  (More interesting statistics HERE.)

The Forbes article suggests that people have trouble following through because the goals people set are often many and vague.  Therefore, setting smaller goals which are tangible lead to seeing one's goals to fruition.

In my new role as the Digital Learning Coach, I need to be thinking about the types of goals I am setting for myself and my colleagues.  Positively impacting student learning needs to be at the forefront of all my objectives.

The article above also suggest that stating goals publicly also increases the likelihood of succeeding.   So, here are my goals:

  • Write a blog post at least once a month reflecting on what's working in my role as DLC and what might not be working. 
    • Student Impact: ability to reflect on lessons & make changes that will affect student learning
  • Ask at least 2 questions when working with teachers (using these 15 questions as a guide from TeachThought - they can still apply even though they are meant for students)
    • Student Impact: These questions will focus around student learning.
  • Create & teach at least 2 new Digital Citizenship lessons
    • Student Impact: 
  • Find at least 2 "coaching" blogs to read & follow
    • Student Impact:  learning new ways to help teachers connect technology to content will aid students in their learning.

Should you be interested in setting goals with your students, this site offers 4 Steps to Helping Children Set Goals.   You can email BigJournal and receive a worksheet like this for your students. This site also has some HEALTHY goals for children.

What goals will you set for yourself (or have set for yourself already)? Please share one of your goals with me (as making them public increases the likelihood of succeeding!)

Wishing you a Happy, Healthy & Prosperous New Year!

Sunday, May 7, 2017


Fourth Grade Friends
Fourth grade is one of those pivotal years when it comes to friendships! Some students have been friends for many years, meeting each other in preschool or kindergarten.  Others are making new friends each year in their new classroom.   Whatever the case may be, there's always a lot happening with friendships on the playground, in the lunchroom and during class time.

While the students are at recess,  I'll take a moment to go outside or watch through the window to get a better sense of which students are playing together.  When students come to me about something that has happened outside, knowing a little bit about their friendships helps them maneuver this part of the school day.

As a class we have been focusing on "kindness" this year. Mostly, we have been focusing on the topic through reading books. Some have included Have You Filled A Bucket Today: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids by Carol McCloud; Ordinary Mary's Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson; Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson & The Boy Who Grew Flowers by Jennifer Wojtowicz.  Our class has even participated in two Twitter chats (#4thbookchat) around the last 2 books.  While these books are speak to the theme of 'kindness' they also touch upon 'friendship'.

Qualities of a Good Friend
Recently, the students had a guidance lesson around the topic of Friendship.  The lesson got interrupted and so it wasn't quite finished.  In an effort to wrap up the lesson, I asked the students to share some information about qualities they thought friends possess and to provide evidence of those qualities. Here's a sampling of what these sweet 10 year olds had to say about friendship.  Qualities that were most stated were Loyal, Trustworthy & Caring.

Even more amazing were their responses to the open ended question of "What else can you say about friendship".  Here is what these 4th graders had to say:
  • "Friendship is one of the most important things in your life and you should stay in touch and hang out"; 
  • "If you didn't have friends you would be lonely and not have fun."
  • "Friendship means that your friends don’t make fun of you if you are not great at something or even if you don’t know how to do something. "
  • "In a friendship you should always include others because that's the nicest thing you can do."
  • "Friends help you no matter what!"
  • "Having friends makes you want to be more social and make more friends."
  • "If you are not selfish you will have a better time keeping your friends."
  • "Make good choices with the friends you have. Maybe once or twice you will have a fight but that is normal."
    Lifelong Friends
  • "Friendship is hard to earn but easy to lose!"
While in elementary school we continue to help students navigate the fine are of making and keeping friends, it's nice to know that these students have some definite ideas about mutual trust and understanding. It just goes to show that these kiddos have a strong foundation to build upon.

What do you do to promote "good friendships"?


PBS: Parenting: Raising Girls: Understanding Elementary School Friendships
Parenting Science: How to Help Kids Make Friends
Health Line: 10 Top Friendship Games & Activities
Today's Parent: How to Help your Child Make Friends
Understood: 7 Ways the Teacher Can Help Your Child Make Friends

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Digital Breakouts

MedfieldDLD Promo
A few weeks back I attended a conference in a neighboring district, #MedfieldDLD (Medfield Digital Learning Day!) It was a day filled with lots of great conversations & lots of learning.  Sessions I attended included: Hyperdocs; NEW Google Sites for Digital Portfolios; Homework: Shifting the Perspective and BreakoutEDU.  While I plan to incorporate ideas from all of these in my classroom somehow I was able to start immediately with the help of this BreakoutEDU slidedeck that Kerry Cowell presented.

Kerry's Box
BreakOuts are a game where "players use teamwork and critical thinking to solve a series of challenging puzzles in order to open a locked box." Literally, the box is locked with several different types of locks! (Number locks, key locks, word lock & direction locks)  Kerry's Breakout was related to the "Back to the Future" theme of the day and very challenging. As we worked through the clues, my team and I felt what it would be like for the students to solve such a puzzle since we had no idea of the answers.  It took some creative thinking and collaboration.  (On the BreakoutEDU site there are plenty of games of all levels for you to consider for your class.) 

Since I didn't have a box or locks I decided I would try the  DIGITAL BREAKOUTS site that Kerry shared during her presentation.  The next day I decided to have my students participate in our first Digital Breakout, "Open the Pool. " Pretty much all I did was explain the premise to the kids and then we started looking for clues.  They were hooked!!! Since that time we have participated in 4 others. 

Partnering Up!
It takes about 20 - 40 minutes for the ones we have tried (hardest has been a level 5). I have broken it up over a several days (10 minutes each day). In this way it gets the students excited and their minds in the mood to think the rest of the day!  To place the students in teams before the breakout, I created some grouping statements (around the topic of the breakout). Students had to find their partners without my help. Here's an example of the ones I used for the National Park Digital Breakout.  (This is almost as interesting as the breakout as the students think and work to find their partners!)

Once a breakout is completed there is a little sign or even a little prize.  But the point is not to get the prize, but rather it's the idea to "get to" the prize (if that makes sense).  I have created little stickers to give out at the end of the Breakouts for students to collect, which makes them happy! (But not necessary - their fist pumping shows it was worthwhile!)

One suggestion I'd make, while mostly I tell the students I don't have the answers, I do TRY the breakout before having them complete it so I can give out "ONE" hint.  There is one clue I don't know the answer to in the current breakout. Students take that as an extra challenge to get it before me! 

I can't say enough about the thinking that takes place and the teamwork needed to work through the Digital Breakout. I can't say enough about how much the students LOVE it.  When someone says, "can I do this at home" you know you're on to something!
Let me know if you decide to try one! Good luck!