Just finished a great four days of LEARNING….

Returning from the MACUL and MRA conferences, my thinking was pushed in so many directions; I was overwhelmed with where to start. I spent one whole day listening to George Couros who a speaks about harnessing the power of technology and social media to lead. He said that after a good session at a conference, he often skips the next session or the rest of the day and finds a quiet place to reflect. Although I could not bring myself to leave the room, I realized that I created this blog to make time for reflection. I have not made time since early December. It is time to make this a priority again.

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Reflection is critical to learning

I believe this is true in a person’s personal and professional life. This is true for our students as well. I left feeling that every student and staff member should have a blog or what we used to refer to such reflections as a journal, diary, etc. The benefit of a blog is that it is something searchable and accessible. It should be a record of new learning, growth, thinking and much more. I want this record of thinking, learning and growth for our students, for my children. A place they can go, reflect and create.  This a place they can share their ideas and voice. This is a place they can find an authentic audience and be heard. People need to know that their voices matter and blogging is a platform that will allow space for thinking, innovation, creation and learning…. publicly.

I decided if I want our students and staff to learn publicly – to make their learning visible, I better commit to the journey myself.


Gamification increases engagement and student motivation. 97% of students game whether on a computer, tablet, gaming console, phone, or handheld device. How can teachers compete with the hyper engaged environment of games? Schools will have to compete with and leverage gaming dynamics to simulate  hyper engagement that students feel while playing games. If technology is an obstacle to bringing in game based learning (GBL) for students, there are dynamics that can be leveraged.

Why? If engagement is not enough, game based learning presents players with situations in which they have to infer, think critically, problem-solve, collaborate,and synthesize. Games are about engaging the player in a satisfying experience.. Below are gaming dynamics that can be incorporated into the classroom without using technology.


Power up- This is a tool or skill that is awarded that improves the ability of the player. Maybe the student is awarded a calculator, computer, or the key to a map. 

Leveling up- If you are not proficient, you do not go to the next level. We have been doing this in schools fore

ver but not in an engaging way.  Gradual and scaffolds new learning, leveling is about 

Badges- Students earn points (maybe on assignments, for consistent attendance, participation, asking good questions, etc) These points earn badges once mastery or proficiency is achieved. Different badges can represent different things; for example, critical thinker, problem solver, innovator, etc. represent different skills you are looking for in your students. These should be visible to students like a leader board.

Progress Bar/Countdown- Simple tool to use to give students motivation to complete tasks. If there is a project or unit with multiple steps, have students fill out a progress bar and display that in the classroom. They can manage their own bars for management purposes. A countdown acts in the same ways only driven by time (4 days until essay is due.)

Google Drive forms includes a status bar option
Progress Bar Timer (Google extension)

Challenges/Quests- This can be a class project, a collaborative presentation, the designing of a webpage. It can be any activity that involves reaching a final, tangible goal. Students thrive on challenges and when they begin to figure out difficult problems, engagement goes up.

For more, a great slide show on gaming dynamics and what makes a good game.

Planning and Preparation

Posted: November 11, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Preparation and planning might be the most important part of teaching. If well prepared and intentional in delivering a lesson, learning is sure to follow. There is a lot that goes into planning a dynamic, differentiated lesson that is targeted and aligned to meet the needs of every learner in a classroom.

Be Intentional

Begin by stating your contentions
Clear learning targets driven by essential questions
Standard alignment and balance
Describe where the learning is situated in the broader scope of the course
Outline scaffolding and extensions for struggling and advanced learners

Be Flexible

Consider different pathways to learning
Predict and plan for possible student misconceptions
Allow appropriate time
Provide meaningful and timely feedback

Be Engaging

Include appropriate learning activities that appeal to various learning styles
Highlight real world connections
Plan several transitions that minimize loss of instructional time
Identify 21st century learning skills or strategies that would enhance the lesson

Be Informed

Identify what learning will look like
Assign appropriate groups with specific roles and responsibilities if applicable
How will you formatively assess whether students have it or not
List questions that touch all depth of knowledge levels

Electronic tool

Literacy is…

  • not teaching kids how to read and write but how to learn from reading and writing
  • being critical consumers of information
  • the job of every teacher
  • ever evolving
  • critical

Teaching kids tools to improve literacy across contents will be essential in preparing students for life’s next steps beyond high school. I am challenged by educators who struggle with how to teach kids reading and writing to learn. It is not an easy question to answer. In efforts to provide concrete examples, strategies and tools, I have compiled some examples of ways to integrate literacy into elective areas. Many of these strategies can be cross curricular and used in all course areas. I chose the elective areas because there are a lack of resources making content literacy tangible for elective teachers. My hope is that this will help clarify and support literacy in all classrooms. Please adapt, modify, or throw out the examples below, but do teach literacy in your content area.

Industrial Arts (Woodworking)
Analyze a manual for readability
Develop technical vocabulary journals using Marzano’s vocab strategies
Write technical directions for a project
Write a technical guide
Draw and label a diagram of a project

Financial Literacy (Accounting, personal finance, business, economics, marketing, etc.)
Understanding taxes
Analyze and interpret tax code that may impact students
Article of the week (Gallagher strategy) exploring current issues impacting personal finance (NY Times)
Your Life , Your Money– lessons exploring debt, saving, etc.
An online magazine- Young Money

Nutrition, Food Science, Health Sciences
Identify propaganda, subliminal messaging and bias in food commercials (Got Milk, McDonalds, Subway.)
-What does it say?/What does it not say? (Gallagher strategy)
Compare two ingredients that are commonly found in food- Sugar vs. Splenda
Article of the week (Gallagher strategy) exploring current issues (NY Times, IMag Nutrition, complete list of online food magazines and food newspaper sections)
Charting calories
Writing a recipe and instructions

Physical Education
Article of the week (Gallagher strategy) exploring current health and wellness news (Student Health 101NY Times)
Chart calorie intake, physical fitness stats, strength gains, etc. and summarize predictions or reflections
Physical Education and Literacy — The Odd Couple or a Match Made in Heaven?
Students conduct research comparing the impact of exercises on heart rate in class summarizing results

Fine Arts
Analyze Author or composer’s voice
Read a painting
Compare works of a time period, from an artist/composer, or a specific medium
Title a piece of artwork or music and support your title.
Develop vocabulary using Marzano’s vocab strategy
Interview an artist or musician
Comment or respond to a blog, photograph, etc. online

Article of the week (Gallagher strategy) exploring current trends in technology ( PC Magazine, Discover Magazine, TechSpot)
Show movie clips and have students reflect- Digital Footprints and Digital Shadows
Analyze a 3 websites with common content to determine the best site and defend your recommendation

1. I learn/grow with my PLN (Personal Learning Network.  As educators we talk about life long learning with our students, parents and colleagues but walking the walk is more challenging. Traditionally the cost of classes, geographical constraints, lack of quality professional development, etc. have stunted professional growth. Every educator has sat in a large auditorium or conference center and listened to a research supported lecture for too long and taken a couple practical ideas away. Often these professional development opportunities are more “Do as I say and not as I do.”

Those days are gone. Whether you are connecting on social media websites like Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, through MOOCs, or at Edcamps, being connected is easier than ever and more beneficial. Not only are educators collaborating and sharing resources, but they are providing support, encouragement and inspiration. I feel rejuvenated and inspired.

2. Opportunities to impact and interact with the world. As educators we are always trying to make real world connections and stay relevant for our students. Being connected allows for students and staff to interact in authentic ways with authors, politicians, business professionals, scientists, and more. Students can problem solve real world challenges. Not only does this provide purpose, but it is highly engaging for students.

3. Inspires innovation and risk. There are so many ideas, tools, and technologies out there for educators, it can be very overwhelming and almost defeating. When I read my Twitter feed in the morning, read articles from my Paper.li account, or reflect on my learning through this blog, it is difficult to keep from thinking that I should be doing so much more. Instead of feeling bad about myself or throwing the towel in, I take a step forward and try something new. Sometimes it is something small or simple, and sometimes it is overhauling how I provide professional development. The point is when weighing the cost benefit of change, being connected with others who are taking risks gives me the courage to go forward. Sometimes, I fail, but sometimes I succeed. In the end, I hope to model to my colleagues that we should be willing to take chances and be innovative.

4. The power of feedback. Once I take risks and put myself out there, I get authentic feedback from my PLN. This provides me opportunities for reflection and it pushes me to grow as an educator. Feedback and reflection are incredibly powerful.

5. Connect and Collaborate. I spend an incredible amount of time trying to plan professional development, staff meetings, lunch and learns, orientations and more. I have found that collaborating with others in my position has changed the way I function in my role. Everything I do is created in a platform where I can share that work. I have found others who are conducting their work in the same manner, and we are able to work together to frame different initiatives and trainings. This has not only saved me time but made me more effective. I have a sounding board that transcends geography, time, and bureaucracy.

Being connected has improved the way I think, communicate, plan and work.

2 New Tools

Posted: September 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a day of professional learning with Kelly Gallagher last Friday. In addition to being inspired by great conversation  and leaving with a deeper understanding of literacy strategies, I learned of two new tools for teachers to implement that will help with our focus on literacy. Below are descriptions and links to these tools.

NEWSELA: For categories/areas- science, law, social studies, language arts, money, kids, current events

Read closely.
Think critically.
Be worldly.
Newsela provides limitless leveled news articles with common core aligned quizzes. They take the same article and break it down into four leveled articles (by lexile score)  to provide a differentiated approach to literacy. Each article is tied to common core anchor standards. You can sign up your class and assign articles or you can print them off and allow students to “Mark them up.” For those struggling with challenging ALL students with content appropriate text, this is a great tool!

Graph of the Week: Math and Science focus

this site provides an introduction PowerPoint to explain to students how the Graph of the Week will work. They provide a template for student to work from prompting them with specific questions and room to respond. The graphs are relevant and expose students to current events while asking them to infer information based on their analysis.

According to Kelly Turner, This assignment not only helps our students to become lifelong critical and analytical thinkers, but also benefits them in the following ways:

•Improve academic literacy

•Engage students in oral discourse

•Link mathematics to real-world situations

•Develop students’ Habits of Mind

•Improve written communication

•Give students current events awareness

•Build community among all grade levels

•Improve  Common Core assessments

After reading “Is Content Curation in Your Skill Set? It Should Be.” written by David Kelly, I begin to reflect on whether I have a skill set that enables me to be a curator. First, I need to understand the context in which David uses the word curator. If you are not interested in the article (which is an interesting read and a good choice to use with students – real world application), it basically states that with information at our fingertips and exponentially growing,  curation when navigating the digital world is a necessity. Anyone who has access can be a curator. The article outline 5 types of curators and highlights tools for curation.

“Curation is an important skill to develop, especially in an environment in which more and more organizations shift towards self-directed learning for their workers. Now is the time for learning and performance professionals to develop this new skill set.”

With this being said, I am a curator. You are likely a curator as well. We need tools for curation and to develop our skills. At our first monthly “Lunch and Learn” Thursday, September 26th, Jill Runstrom and I will be exploring All Things Google with a focus on Google Drive. Among other tools like blogs, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Evernote and many more, the Google suite is a powerful tool to begin this notion or charge that we should all be developing this new skill set becoming better curators.

A few Truths about curation according to David Kelly:

1. The amount of digital information that is available is staggering, and finding what you need online is increasingly challenging.
2. Those that are able to find information and bring it to the audience that values it are creating tremendous value.
3. The amount of data available, and the need to find someone to curate it, increases every day.

Quote  —  Posted: September 22, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Learning through Leading

Posted: September 16, 2013 in Uncategorized
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I was fortunate this past week to meet with teachers and pre-conference setting professional goals, talking about how I could support those goals, what I might expect to see in the classroom and more. The most powerful part of the conversation was determining how we would assess whether or not our strategies  are working. These were hard conversations because it is difficult to measure literacy because it is complex, and we are not trained in assessment writing. I contend that we are better than we believe but through discussion, study, research, and collaboration (PLNs, ) we will improve our practice. As I proceeded through conference after conference, teachers amazed me with their creativity and innovation when it came to formative assessment ideas.

Creativity has been in the forefront of my mind since watching the Sir Ken Robinson TED talk. In a time with increasing formalization, standardization and accountability, I believed creativity and teacher autonomy was in jeopardy. What I am learning through leading is that teachers are being more creative than ever utilizing technology, new teaching strategies and pedagogies, and working together to meet students’ needs.  Although I am not shocked at teacher innovation and creativity, I am inspired to share. Below are some of the ideas that were shared in pre-conferences to measure our building literacy goal. Some measures are formal and others are very informal. We must not forget that we are highly trained professionals who can trust informal formative assessment measures and our perception of student learning as measures of efficacy. A balanced look at assessment includes all measures. I hope these help you think about assessment differently and take away confidence in your ability to measure student learning. If you have an innovative way of assessing student learning, please share your methods using the comments feature.

Perception Data (What students think and believe about their learning):

  • Ask the students if the strategy worked for them:
  • Fist to five – Student raises hand with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 asking a question about understanding, preference, etc,
  • Reflection sheet including strategies and asking student to indicate preference based on performance or interest
  • Use white boards to respond
  • Clicker response systems
  • Exit tickets
  • Time for student to reflect
  • Polls using Google Forms, Poll Everywhere, etc.

Summative (To assess learning):

  • Require students to interact with teacher feedback-  resubmit writing/assignment with corrections based on teacher feedback
  • Literacy questions modeled after ACT test questions
  • Utilize GAINS and released test passages and questions
  • Short answer and essay quiz and test questions
  • Essays
  • Blogs
  • Cold reads including charts and graphs
  • Tests and quizzes
  • Portfolios
  • Intentionally grouped students (discussion, projects, presentations)

Formative (Used to inform instruction):

  • Observations
  • Discussion/Debate (Take a stand, 4 corner dabate, etc.)
  • Polls (using Google Forms, Poll Everywhere, fist to five, etc.)
  • Blogs
  • Discussion boards
  • Collaboration using Google Drive
  • Learning Logs/Blogs
  • Graphic organizers
  • Peer/Self Assessment
  • Portfolios/journals
  • Intentionally grouped students (discussion, projects, presentations)

Passion and Practice

Posted: September 8, 2013 in Uncategorized
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A new year brings new problems, people and passion. The start of this year was a little different from others. We hired new administrators, new teachers and have many new students. Although there was sweat, tears, and laughter, passion permeated conversations, team building activities, and professional learning. I recognize a perpetuating climate of anxiousness, exhaustion and a feeling of indifference. It is a culture for which each of us are responsible. I challenge each of us to own that responsibility and take the time to pat each other on the back, say good morning with a smile, ask each other how you made a difference in a student’s life (because you do,) and assume the best in others first.  WE need to work harder at being optimistic. Angela Maiers posted 12 ways to Let People Know They Matter – easy, practical ways to begin this work! I commit to use #1 this week and make an effort to begin and end sentences with the word “you.” YOU make a difference in the lives of hundreds of kids. What kind of difference are YOU making?

A letter from a Mother of Sandy Hook Victim to teachers….

Welcome Back

Posted: September 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

As the 2013-14 school year is upon us, I am expanding my professional practice to include more reflection and improved communication. In an effort to be efficient, I am going to use this blog as a vehicle for both. In hopes of pushing out curriculum information, resources and updates, I will be blogging weekly. With your patience and help, I hope to make this blog a useful resource for you to get information, inspiration and motivation to continue to do great things for Cadillac kids. My focus will be for secondary educators, and I welcome input and positive contributions from all interested in furthering opportunities for kids.

Below is a quick video advertisement that made me laugh and reminded me to bring a positive, high energy attitude to school this year.