Blog Reflection 2

The process of creating and integrating curriculum and ideas for changing curriculum as a technology specialist was incredibly invigorating and exciting. The process, though difficult was extremely rewarding. I really appreciated and enjoyed that the project itself was also broken up into compartments with different deadlines for us to meet. It helped as far as project and time management goes. I work in a district that allows for failing forward, so, fortunately, I have not faced many if any challenges. Teachers were excited to get on board and try new things as well as learn with one another. I’m extremely excited about my proposal and project still and think that it has the potential to truly help change the face of many math classrooms and allow for true differentiation in the classroom. The most positive aspect of my journey has been hearing the reaction of my students and my colleagues. There haven’t been any negative aspects in my journey, yet but I’m sure they will arise as we continue. I think I would really enjoy a tech specialist and instructional designer position in my district and hope I’m able to find a role in which I can incorporate creativity and technology into multiple classrooms every day.


LAUNCH Book Study- #D100BloggerPD

“The classroom should reflect the world for which we are preparing our students. If we are asking them to create, innovate, and be outstanding as graduates, then our classrooms should be creative, innovative, and outstanding places to learn.” Chapter 8 of LAUNCH by Aj Juliani and John Spencer, opens with this incredible quote by Jennie Magiera. With this quote, Jennie creates a visual for educators, prompting them to truly analyze the culture and climate of their classroom asking, in a world of “preparing future ready students” are we actually making them “future ready.” This quote resonated with me, because having graduated college only two years ago, it was comical to read some of the job descriptions to positions my friends and colleagues had applied. “Entry level jobs are now requiring upwards of five years of experience, but only want you to have a bachelor’s degree. This sparks the idea I think Jennie so clearly defines; we need to give our students these experiences to become innovators and creative thinkers NOW!

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Chapter 8 of LAUNCH discusses “creating.” When people hear the word “creative” they usually assimilate it with a gene that you’re predisposed to at birth. “Susie is so creative; I wish I could make bulletin boards like her, but I’m just not a creative person.” But in reality, “creative work is, well, work.” (John Spencer) Spencer discusses that there is no shortcut to creative work or a specific formula to follow. It’s extremely challenging, complex and often feels like there are more failures in creative work than successes. He also makes the claim that when you really care about a project, you will “pour your entire being into what you make…and expend massive mental, emotional and even physical energy knowing all along that failure is a distinct possibility.” I think this resonates deeply with almost every teacher. Getting to work early, staying late, working on weekends, never leaving your “work” at work. This is the feeling that we want to create for our students. Letting them work in an environment, where they are invested in what they are doing, so deeply, that they would rather be at school working than anywhere else; to an extent of course. Everyone needs a brain break every once in a while. This feeling that has been created for them of “energy and engagement” will ultimately “lead to better learning.” (John Spencer)

In phase five of the LAUNCH cycle, students are creating. According to Spencer, this is the part that students tend to love the most at first because it is hands-on and multi-sensory. In my classroom, we are following the LAUNCH cycle as well and students almost always tend to jump to this portion of the cycle immediately, without even knowing. They are ready to create and ready to innovate without even having the background knowledge to execute. That is because creativity and the need to create is innate within us. We strive for that as human beings. But with creativity comes a lot of constructive struggle. Spencer and Juliani warn that these struggles can seem like mountains at times because students often have visions of creating something that doesn’t necessarily align to their actual skills, ability, or often times, resources. As teachers, we need to remember and foster the idea in our classroom that these “moments are not moments of failure but rather a normal part of the LAUNCH cycle.”  If we can embed a growth mindset in our students, they will be able to identify that we, in fact, learn MORE when we fail than when things come easy to us and we know the answer immediately. When you as a teacher hit these points in your classroom, or the management seems out of your control, Spencer and Juliani state you may want to call it quits, but these are the most crucial moments to model perseverance, persistence, and true team problem solving. Though frustrating and stressful, these moments will “foster the kind of innovation and imagination you home to see in your students.” (Spencer and Juliani) 

Spencer and Juliani also outline six challenges that both you and your students will face during this phase and suggestions, and resources for how to overcome these obstacles without giving up. Below I’ll give you a one to two sentence summary of each.

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Challenge 1: It Takes Time

In a world of instant gratification, it’s hard for our students and for us to realize that “creative fluency” takes time and it is in the moments where we persevere and persist in our work that our learning and growth truly take place.

Challenge 2: It Feels Scary

Fear is the number one reason that individuals do not reach their fullest potential. It holds you back. It keeps you in place instead of moving forward. Fear of flying? That’s cool I’ll just stay home? Fear of heights? That’s okay, I never wanted to go to the top of the Sears Tower anyway. (I refuse to call it the Willis Tower) Fear in this instance is “the force that pushes us away from creative risks” telling us we will never be able to do anything. We need to shut that voice off in our heads and encourage risk-taking and failure in our classrooms

Challenge 3: Classroom Management Issues aka NO CONTROL

We must understand that chaos is important in the LAUNCH cycle.  However, it helps us, as we give up some control, to have an action plan for management prior to beginning. Spencer and Juliani provide some reflective questions for creative learning spaces in Chapter 8 for you to reflect on problems before they even begin.

Challenge 4: Not Enough Resources

Just because you don’t have a 3-D printer in your room, doesn’t mean you can’t create true prototypes with your students. It’s about imagination nd dreaming and making things with your hands, even if it’s out of paper and cardboard. Spencer and Juliani describe it best when they ask us to think of a child with a box on Christmas. They’re more concerned about turning that box into a spaceship or a car or a house than the actual toy that came inside of it. Let’s bring that imagination back for our students.

Challenge 5: It Gets Boring

“There is an aspect of creative work that requires us to be dismissive of our feelings.” (Spencer) This is such a powerful quote for all types of work not just in the LAUNCH cycle. If a student “doesn’t feel like doing something” typically what they’re working on doesn’t require any “feelings” so they can persevere through those moments and get down to business. Students must keep trying, making, failing and starting again to really get down to the heart of creating. Students must understand that boredom is a choice, and also find the distinction between boredom and confusion which is an important distinction to model for our students.

Challenge 6: It Doesn’t Have Meaning

As long as your students truly care about a purpose behind what they’re doing, they will have the dedication and buy-in to the project at hand. Even when the process gets difficult, that dedication and passion about the topic is what will help them to push through those hard times and continue to create. In order to help you and your students find what has meaning to you Spencer and Juliani propose a few things:

  • What do you do when no one is telling you what to do?
  • What do you do when you’re supposed to be doing something else?
  • What types of information do you read and watch?


In closing, Spencer and Juliani leave us with an amazing quote about creativity in that it “is as much an attitude as it is an action,” which I believe is howe we should approach everything. What you’re willing to work for and give to something, is what you will get out of it. This is an incredibly important lesson to teach our children early on, so that they truly understand the sense of hard work, instead of having the feeling of being entitled to things they have yet to work for.

Screen Shot 2016-12-14 at 7.42.34 AM.pngIf you want to keep following along in our Book Study make sure to check out all of the previous posts in the series on Chapters 1-7 and then look for Jordan Garrett’s post from iLearn and Teach.

#TLAP in Reading

After meeting the incredible author and pirate, Dave Burgess last year at his Teach Like a Pirate conference, I was enthusiastic to really dive in with my students in their learning experience, instead of sitting passively as a “lifeguard.” This is a reference Dave makes in his book, Teach Like a Pirate. Quick sidebar; if you haven’t added this to your Amazon cart yet, do it now! You won’t regret it! The conference was at the end of the school year, so I never truly got the opportunity to liven up the classroom until this year.


My mentor, Colleen Noffsinger, Dave Burgess and me at the #TLAP Conference

My struggle, as I imagine with many other teachers, was trying to liven up my reading mini-lessons and also to get those apprehensive readers to buy into what I was teaching. Taking notes from my mentor, Colleen Noffsinger at Literacy Loving Gals, our school’s literacy coach, as well as the #TLAP community, I decided to amplify how I was teaching reading mini lessons in the classroom. I thought I’d share some quick and easy ideas I’ve tried and have found successful thus far. I’m always looking for the little “spark” to quickly implement into my lessons to liven them up for my kiddos.


A huge standard in 5th grade is moving away from answering explicit questions from the text and going beyond the text to analyze character, multiple sources of information and author’s craft. Interpreting text is hard for even adults to understand, so for students to conceptualize what I was trying to make them do, I took a page out of my literacy coach’s book when teaching interpretation of a character based on textual evidence.

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Students use their evidence to develop an interpretation about my “neighbor.” 

In order to teach this lesson and generate understanding, I gathered random objects into a bag and told my kiddos I found the bag outside of my next door neighbor’s house. Their job as detectives was to determine what type of person my neighbor is based on each one of the objects in the bag. Students then wrote down qualities that my neighbor was likely to possess and had to support their belief with evidence, showing them that interpretations are never explicitly stated but instead developed from our own ideas and textual evidence.  Thanks again to my literacy coach for this great idea. This one moment motivated me to continue to #TLAP.


Linking Ideas to Build Larger Theories: 


This #TLAP idea came from the simple word in the “I Can” statement. I saw the word “build” and thought, why not play a full class Jenga game with our ideas.  We are using Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate to model these ideas and these lessons in 5th grade which was recommended by the Lucy Calkins units of study. Essentially, each student was given a Jenga piece at the start of our read aloud and was told that when they had an interpretation about our characters or a specific event in the book that they should raise their hand to share. Students began raising their hand to share their ideas and would place their block in the center of the floor. If a student had an idea that “built” on the other person’s idea they would share and expand the idea aloud and then place their block on top of the other idea. Our Jenga towers were all different heights, but it was a great visual for the students to be able to understand that we are “literally” building on one another’s thoughts to create a larger idea.


Readers wear their interpretations as glasses while they read to fit/change their ideas: 


This was one of the easiest #TLAP ideas I’ve implemented. Again, taking the idea directly from the statement about what readers can/will be able to do, I purchased goofy glasses for each one of my students to wear. Again, while modeling with my read aloud, I informed students that they were to think of an interepreation in their mind about our read aloud. As I continued to read they were to think about how the text and new ideas that they were forming either changed or fit their interepation and ideas that they already had. As students began to share and support their ideas with text evidence they received a pair of glasses to wear and were then deemd to share again. It was such a fun way to create buy in and it really engaged them in the content that we were learning.


These ideas are all minimal, inexpensive, incredibly time efficient and oh-so-effective in creating buy-in in your learning. Moving forward, I hope to look for new ways to engage my students in this way. I encourage you to look for little ways to #TLAP in your room to make your day and your student’s day more exciting. You don’t need to be what people call a “creative person” to get creative in your learning space.

Reflective Blog Post #4

At the start of this course, I felt fairly confident integrating technology into my classroom through the use of 1:1 Macbooks. However, not so confident integrating technology using 1:1 iPads. This is because, last year, in my classroom, all of my students had computers and we recently transitioned over to iPads. Through this course, I have learned a great deal about new apps to utilize, new techniques to try as well as classroom management tips to focus on and try. I’ve definitely tried some of the new techniques in my classroom such as movie trailers. In the future, I would like to be able to utilize app smashing with a bit more significance and substance in my class. With the help of my PLN and my colleagues in this class, I feel that I will be able to do that with fidelity. In addition to that, I’d love to be able to share more of what is happening in my classroom to stakeholders as well as parents of students in my classroom. To do this, I plan to do some Google Hangouts on Air or Periscoping some of our classroom activities to bring more parents into the classroom. In doing this, I hope to break down the four walls of my classroom even further so that my students can benefit from real-world connections. These connections and skills are extremely beneficial to all parties involved and will help students develop empathy for others in our world and see beyond themselves.


Hack 7: Vigor v. Rigor

With the educational system constantly changing, it has become increasingly difficult as an educator to establish what “quality content” looks like for our students. In addition to that, there is no solidified “one-way” to teach anything. There isn’t one curriculum that we all follow, there isn’t one method that we all teach. Even from building to building in districts, there are often substantial discrepancies between what is being taught to students at the same grade level. Generally speaking “the unknown” causes significant anxiety amongst the human population and looms an even darker cloud over teachers: the group of the human population that NEED A PLAN!

This anxiety is what educational vendors feed on to build their business. They create and instill this “fear”  within us to make us believe if we don’t have the latest “common core aligned” reading, writing or math curriculum, we are preventing the learning of our students. If we don’t have the most recent revision of a teacher’s guide, we are made to believe what we are doing is not “rigorous” enough for their future.

But what does that even mean? Rigor? Michael Fisher talks about this idea a great deal in his incredible book, Hacking the Common Core. If you haven’t had a chance to read this work in the Hacking Education series, you can catch up via the D100 Blogger PD with the last six hacks. To do this, follow the links below to read some of my colleague’s amazing reflections. In Hack 7, Fisher talks about creating “vigor instead of rigor” in our classrooms. Essentially stating, “vendors who do not know [our] population of kids personally, should never be the ones directing traffic in [our] classroom.” Fisher proposes that we replace the “r” in rigor with a “v” for vigor. When we create vigor in our classroom instead of worrying about rigor, Fischer says, (and I believe most teachers and administrators would agree) that we create “authentic growth” in our students, generated from “organic and authentic learning moments.” Essentially, how will you create the “buy-in?” If students are not engaged in what they are learning, and the teacher provides little meaning for what they are learning, students are less likely to remember the content.


Fisher has some proposals for what you as an educator can do in your classroom tomorrow and long term, to make the change from rigor to vigor. He proposes, “tomorrow” you can do four things:

  1. Appraise your current week’s curriculum or lesson plan
    • Take a peek through your lessons for the week and see if there are any places you could liven it up. Meaning, if there are continued monotonous activities you are doing, take one, and replace it with something new and exciting. Throw in a game, visuals, manipulatives or even tech to spice up what you’re doing.
  2. Share your intentions 
    • Exactly as it says, talk with your team about how you plan on taking your lessons to the next level and try to develop engagement strategies together.
  3. Practice engagement habits
    • It’s important to ask yourself two questions when practicing these habits.
      • How often am I creating engaging opportunities for my students?
      • In what ways am I creating engaging opportunities for my students?
    • Fisher says that offering choices to students is the easiest way to answer these two questions.
    • How are you creating choice and promoting student voice in your classroom? The more choice we give students, the more ownership they have over their classroom. The more ownership they have, the more responsible they feel for their learning and take that external motivation to intrinsic motivation. This is a very nice transition into our final, “what you can do tomorrow.”
  4. Ask the students 
    • Just as I articulated above, Fisher writes, “student voice and input are essential to buy-in and real learning more than ever.”
    • Choices can come in the form of process or product. But even, seating in the classroom can be a choice. Giving students the opportunity to determine which way they learn best is one of the most important lessons you can teach them. We are truly doing a disservice to our students if we don’t help them figure out how they learn best.
    • As a fifth grade teacher, I am constantly providing choice for my students in nearly every way possible. What that choice looks like in my classroom is different in every subject.
      • Seating- we have flexible seating in my classroom and students are able to select a seat that they think they will work best at throughout the day, every day.
      • Content areas
        • Reading- students choose from a reading menu during reading workshop to select activities that they would like to complete during reading. In order to hold them accountable and also keep them on track, the follow a schedule and have selected times in their schedule when they can make those open choices. This could be a good solution for teachers who are a little bit afraid to let go of the reigns.
        • Math- students learn in a blended learning model. They are able to watch a screencast created by me and answer metacognitive questions. I am able to see all of their classwork live on my device as well so that I can monitor their work. They also have multiple choices when working on PBLs and unit projects. More on that here.
Just because we as teachers have curriculum that appears to come from a “vetted” source, doesn’t mean that it is the end all be all of learning. For a full implementation of taking rigor to vigor, you can take the steps above and amplify them a bit more.
  1. Appraise your curriculum
    • Take your year-long curriculum and see where you can “inject joy, creativity, awe, technology, PBL, STEAM, engagement, and personalization” says Fisher. The key to making this integration successful, however, is making sure that the verbs in your unit plans match the verbs in the standards so that you are still keeping validity in your teaching. Much of this appraisal reminded me of #TLAP or Teach Like a Pirate, in which author, Dave Burgess pushes teacher to dive into the water with your students instead of being a lifeguard.  This applies in this instance as well.
  2. Create a culture of shared curriculum design
    • Amplifying your units can seem like a big undertaking alone, but when you and your team put your heads together, it becomes much easier. Ask your colleagues and even your students to help you design something substantial and meaningful.
  3. Make learning fun again
    • Plain and simple, if you are bored, they are bored. Creating meaningful learning ensures that all students are capable, engaged and enjoying their learning experience, while most importantly remembering what they are learning. Fisher says it best when he writes that “vigorous learning makes acquisition and application of knowledge so memorable that teachers can simultaneously engage enduring understandings and work above the curriculum…” What an incredible concept!
  4. Introduce PBL and STEM/STEAM
    • Having problem-based learning as well as units or lessons integrated with science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics “open up multiple options for students to research and study authentic projects… and build opportunities…for deep learning.” Anything that provides an opportunity for hands-on learning will promote student learning and growth.
With change comes pushback from stakeholders. To overcome this pushback, it’s important to keep the following things in mind, according to Fisher.
  1. Regardless if you have time for fun or not in your classroom, if you care about learning and performance then you have to care about fun and engagement.
  2. If your administrator is on board with adding vigor to your classroom but also needs you to utilize your curriculum the focus here needs to be collaboration and communication to spice up your lessons.
  3. Your students not working at grade level should not be a problem here. Providing choice and interest in the content is what really matters when it comes to vigor.

Fisher sums it up best at the end of the Hack when he states that “finding ways to engage students in opportunities for deep, rich learning” is the true definition of vigor. We have to get rid of our “this is the way we’ve always done it” mantra to make way for re-invention of our lessons and our students learning. How do you plan to spice up your lessons and make room for vigor?

Continue following along in our book study and read the next installment from Grammar Mama on October 19. Also, make sure to join us tonight for the #D100chat on Twitter- with Michael Fisher himself as our co-moderator. Did we mention how much we love him?


Links to the previous D100 Blogger PD Hacks from Hacking the Common Core:

Hack 1: Reading and Owl of the Above 

Hack 2: Teaching and Learning Redefined

Hack 3: Miss K’s Classroom 

Hack 4: Ms. Frizzle IRL 

Hack 5: Responsive Literacy Responsive Literacy 

Hack 6: The Bazz Blog

Blended & Virtual Learning

*The following post was created as an assignment for graduate school, and was crafted around pre-determined topics of discussion.*

Blended and virtual learning are two buzz words that are overwhelming in education right now. But what do they really mean? Blended learning, according to “The Clayton Christensen Institute breaks it down into three components…”

  1. Online with some element of student control in the form of place, pace, or path.
  2. Physical location takes place away from home.
  3. “Modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.” (p. 99)

Last year was my first year of teaching, and upon starting my career as a teacher, I, like many others, was plagued with the problem of reaching and challenging each one of the minds in my classroom. Essentially, how do I accommodate students that are understanding mathematical content at a 7th-grade level and a 2nd grade level in a 5th-grade classroom? After succumbing to the fact that grade less/ageless classrooms were the solution, I decided to dive into my incredible advantage of working in a 1:1 district, and utilize the technology at my fingertips to create a completely blended and personalized learning model in my classroom. My goals in doing this were extremely similar to that of Mandell School, the institution addressed in UnCommon Learning, in that I wanted to personalize my students learning while providing meaningful collaboration, and identifying areas for activism both within their own educational career and beyond. Below, I’d like to take you through how I set up a day to day learning experience in my classroom within math. As a reminder, I am a 5th-grade general education teacher. Last year, I was in a co-taught room and had 9 students with individualized education plans, with students learning as low as a second-grade level, to students learning as high as a 6-7th grade level. My idea, was very similar to that of Mandell in that I wanted “individualized paths with heterogeneous groups.” (101) Below you’ll find the outlined model of my math classroom. If you’re interested in hearing more about how I personalize learning in a global platform, please consider attending IETC, in Springfield, where I will be presenting on November 18.

Personalized, Blended Math Classroom-

 In order to establish what student receives which level Blendspace, each student is given a pre-test at the beginning of every unit. If students test out of the unit, they move on to the next unit as means on not wasting academic time. Based on these results I then group my students as above level, on level, or below level and let them move throughout the content at their own pace.

At our school, we utilize, Schoology, an LMS platform that allows students to access online content that I curate or generate quickly and easily. Daily, in mathematics, my students log in to Schoology where they find an individually assigned link to access their Blendspace. If you do not have Schoology or a LMS platform that you trust, this differentiting can be super done easily through Google Classroom.


Blendspace is an incredible online tool, also knows as TES, that allows teachers, and students to pull content into a “checklist” of sorts from all different areas of the internet and self-created material. Below are two images that depict what Blendspace can do and is a sample of what my students see every day at the start of math. In the boxes below, I’m able to embed and link content that I want my students to work through on a daily basis in math. Every day, students know what they are expected to complete. Boxes one and two I change daily, boxes three and four I change weekly, and box six is changed with every unit. Box five is Khan Academy in which students are working on specific activities through Khan Academy organized in individualized folders for them, based on their NWEA Map Scores.


The image above is a screenshot of their Blendspace and is what my students see every day, regardless of the level in which they are learning. 


Below is a description with hyperlinks to my lessons as well as the websites that I use to make this come to life.



Students begin each day with box one, which contains their notes.  I create a screen cast of the notes that students need to take. This is done on a plain notebook file and I record my screen with Quicktime. After the screencast of notes is created, I upload that to Youtube and embed that content into the website, Playposit, formerly known as EduCanon. With this tool, I can ask my students metacognitive questions about the notes and monitor their understanding live. Meaning, that if “Nick” is not understanding something, and is answering questions incorrectly, I can go up to him, intervene and ask what specific parts of the notes he is confused about, before he even moves on to any class work. The answers come in live as students are answering and it it is all paced for them so they can move as quickly through the notes or as slowly through the notes as they need to. I’m also able to chat with my students which is great for those kiddos who are shy when it comes to raising their hand, or can’t express verbally what they need. The notes change daily, based on general pacing of the class and overall comprehension of content.


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This is an image of what I see on my end when students are taking notes every day. I can gauge their overall understanidng quickly and effectively. 


Here’s an example of my screencasts that can be found on my Youtube Channel.


The second box is their in class work, which is on “GoFormative.” GoFormative allows me to see my students answers live as well. I can physically see what they are writing as they are doing it, live on my device. I can also create multiple classes to provide opportunity for differentiation and toggle between class views to see all of my students responses. As I’m noticing that students aren’t understanding the content, I can flex group and pull students based on their understanding. In addition to that, students have the freedom to approach group and leave group at their own will. If they only need to stay for one question to re-direct their thinking, they are free to do that, if they want to work through the class work together, they are welcome to do that as well. Again this Formative is self paced and as students finish and have the correct answers, students can move on to box three.



Here’s what the live view looks like on my end while on Formative. Their answers allow me to flex group and I am able to provide them with immediate feedback from my device, while I’m in group with other students.


You can check out GoFormative’s free library of assignments to help you get started if you’re not sure where to start. This tool has been completely transformative in my classroom.

Box three is their PBL. Every week students are given three PBL’s to choose to solve. They are to pick two PBL’s to solve on their own or with a partner. I pull these PBL’s from MARS Tasks, Illustrative Math Tasks or the GMTTC5 challenge, and place the three choices on a Google Slide for students to copy and then ideally work collaboratively with other students in the class. Students solve two PBL’s throughout the week and get them checked and okayed with me. Once they have the okay they can move on to box four which is their screencast. The GMTTC5- is the global math task twitter challenge in which you challenge another classroom to a PBL from across the United States. If you’d like to learn more about that and see how effective it was in our classroom, read here.


Students are expected to screencast on one pbl per week, by themselves or with a friend delegating the speaking roles evenly. The purpose of the screencast is not to teach the listeners how to complete the task, but why they were able to solve what they did. I want my students to be able to explain their thinking. These screencasts then go through a screening process and once passed, I upload them to our classroom Youtube Channel to share with the world. Here’s some samples from our class. 


Finally, if students finish all of that content, they will move on to 20 minutes of Khan Academy at their level, based on their MAP scores and individually assigned, and then to our unit project consisting of some challenge and themed based content. Here’s a link to some checklists that I created for my students to inform them of what Khan Academy activities align with their MAP RIT score. Feel free to use them if you’d like. Khan Academy also transformed my students learning last year. During their LearnStorm competition, one of my students progresses so heavily through the program that he was actually named number one for “hustle points” for 5th grade in all of Chicagoland. Here he is at celebration! More information about the LearnStorm program can be found in one of my older blog posts.  The unit projects are from Teaching With a Mountain View on TPT. She’s amazing!

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Once again, I want to reiterate that this is all personalized and at their own pace. Students visibly look like they are working on the same content, but in reality, they are working on content which is at their own level. An example of this in action would be my kiddos who are on level working on their blendspace and our unit project, but my above level kiddos worked on a project where they took measurements of themselves and scaled themselves down to 1/24 of themselves and created a stop motion animation film when they were finished.


It’s important to me that differentiation happens on all ends of the spectrum and that each child is challenged appropriately. As a means of better articulating this to you from a students perspective, I’ve included a video that a student made last year describing what we do each day in math, and WHY they do it. It’s important to me that all of my students understand the why behind their personalized learning and how important it is to their success in this class. My students were fortunate enough to present about our math classroom at TECH 2016 last year. Here they are presenting at our state capitol. Screen Shot 2016-09-28 at 9.38.49 PM.png


I would encourage anyone who is not already, to gradually move toward a personalized learning environment. This pacing, placement and product has completely changed the face of my math classroom, and to be quite honest, I don’t know what I did before this. It has helped so many of my students, in so many ways. It allows students who need additional support to receive that support, and gives students who would typically be bored in class without being challenged, a CHALLENGE! 1:1 technology has the power to provide our students with opportunities that were previous inconceivable.

21st Century Educator

21st century EVERYTHING. We hear it all the time, in a multitude of ways. 21st-century learning, 21st-century educators, future ready students, millennials, but what does it all mean anyway? In this blog post, I’d like to take some time to reflect on my 21st-century practices as a second-year educator in areas that I think I do well, and of course, areas that I would like to improve upon. Below, I’ll list each characteristic of a 21st-century educator and discuss my personal reflection on each characteristic as it pertains to me.

Collaboration, Communication, and Connection: 

Collaboration in education can mean a slew of things, and is most typically found inside the walls of your school building, or on the rare chance that you get to gather as a district. However, in today’s world, collaboration is taken to a whole other level through the power of professional learning networks. For me, collaboration is KEY and integral in all parts of 21st-century learning and education. What do I mean by this? Teachers need to be demonstrating to students, through modeling, how important collaboration actually is. This can be done in a variety of ways. The easiest and personally the most effective way to do this is through Twitter. Twitter has a slew of networks and educators for your to connect, communicate and collaborate with. This can be done by simply exchanging ideas from your classroom to another around the world, or participating in twitter chats surrounding a topic of interest to you. Here’s a calendar created for educators with the dates, times, hashtags and topics for some of the most popular twitter chats around. Aside from Twitter, many other social media networks allow you to perform the “3 C’s” relatively easy. Instagram and Facebook, of course, allow you to connect with other teachers, but other communities such as Google+ have provided educator groups where you can reach out to teachers across the world to connect in a variety of ways. One of the most popular ways to connect is Google Hangout or Mystery Skype. Both are extremely powerful tools to utilize in the classroom. Mystery Skype is a tool that allows you to video chat with another classroom across the nation or sometimes the world and try to guess where they are located in the world. Below, you’ll see some pictures of that in action in my classroom. In addition to that, Google Hangout is another powerful tool. I was fortunate enough to collaborate with a teacher over twitter and participate in the #GMTTC5 with her class as well as do a group talk Google Hangout with her students and my students around Valentines Day, where we shared our virtual valentines and also had conversations about similarities and differences in our classrooms. For more information on this, take a look at my other blog posts surrounding the benefits of global connectedness here.  This area is definitely one of my strengths and is something that I am fortuante to present about to other teachers around the area. However, I am always looking to push myself and grow and forutnately, I’ve found a lot of great teachers across the nation who are looking to do the same thing and we are able to grow and learn together.

Innovation and Inquiry

Innovation and inquiry are also something that I feel I am able to contribute greatly in to my classroom because of the incredible district I work in. I’ve been blessed to work directly with an iCoach, who has helped me look at both my lessons and units to see how I can take them above the SAMR line, by partnering SAMR with TPACK. Through this model, I feel that I’ve been able to bring a lot of innovative practices into my room to benefit my students significantly.  Along these lines, I like to think that self-paced and self-directed learning is another strength of mine that I focus on for myself as well as my students. My students all work at their own learning level for each unit and each content area in my classroom, promoting advocacy as well as self-directed and self-guided learning in the classroom. 

Competency in Digital Literacy + Media-

This is an area, that while I believe my students are able to master, that I would like to continue to work on. I want my students to leave a positive digital footprint on the world and understand plagiarism rights, copyright information and regulated for reuse cues. I’m hoping that this year I’m able to provide my students with more information about proper use of websites, republication and social media, etc.


2015-2016 End of Year Recap

To indirectly quote Cory Matthews, from Boy Meets World, “if I had to dream of the perfect school year, it wouldn’t even come close to last year.” Last year, my first year of teaching was the best professional and personal year I have ever had. Being completely transparent, I didn’t want to be a teacher. My student teaching experience was dreadful, and to say that I second guessed my abilities as an educator would be an understatement. Up until my students walked into my room, I was sure I wasn’t cut out to be a teacher. Was the year perfect? Of course not. Did I make mistakes? More than I care to admit, or even count. However, as I reflect on last year and look into this year I am so fortunate for all of the learning opportunities I have had, and will continue to have. I am rooted next to some of the most amazing people to learn from and cannot wait to push myself beyond any limit that I have created for myself. With this reflection blog post, I hope to capture some of my end of the year accomplishments and reflect on new goals I’d like to achieve for this upcoming school year.

April 2016

GEG Chicago Leadership Camp

In April, I was fortunate enough to be selected to join the Google for Education Leadership Camp. I joined together with 5 other incredible educators and coaches to develop the Innovation Incubator, a Google partnered organization that is going to take student and teacher collaboration to a whole other level. Through design thinking, students and teachers will join together throughout the year to establish a “community problem” and persevere throughout the year to solve that problem. It has already been immensely successful and I cannot wait to see how the remainder of the year unfolds.

iEngage Berwyn, April 30

In April of last year, my best friend at school and brilliant educator, Grace Kowalski, and I joined together to present at our district’s very own educational technology conference. Grace and I decided to model our presentation off of the incredible, “Hacking Education” book, and now series as piloted by Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzalez, (no relation to me, unfortunately). We presented on personalizing learning in your math classroom with a general focus on technology integration. We had a full room, with lots of engaged audience members who were full of great questions. Despite the fact that it was in our home district, it was so amazing to be able to present for the first time and it gave us the drive to want to present our findings elsewhere. We will be presenting together again on November 18 at the Illinois Educational Technology Conference in Springfield, IL. To register for the conference, you can follow this link.

May 2016 

TECH 2016

On May 10, myself, along with two of my students headed down to the state capitol to present to our state legislature on the importance of technology in the classroom. My students reported on Personalizing Learning in a Global Community and how we “broke down the walls” of our math classroom. It was an incredible day where my kiddos got the chance to speak about the amazing things that they do in our classroom, day in and day out. It was such a special event, being able to walk into the state capitol and hear both of them represent our district so tremendously.


The incredible program, goFormative, is something that I utilize daily in my classroom. goFormative gives you the ability to see the answers and results of your students live on your device, which provides amazing potential for differentiation and flexible grouping. I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to work for them and run their social media part time. I love being able to explore and learn all about educational buzz words and learning from other educators around the world. It’s amazing how much I have grown already from this position.

Reflecting on this past year I genuinely can’t believe all that I learned and all that I was able to achieve. This year, I hope to push myself even further than I thought possible. I’m starting the year off with flexible seating to allow for more student voice and choice in my classroom. I already love everything about it and have experienced so much overall engagement in the classroom already.

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I want to begin to utilize design thinking in the classroom, find new and innovative ways to improve my teaching practice, and continually learn as much as possible so that I can be the best educator I can be. I’m excited for all of the upcoming opportunities that I’ll be blessed with and hope that through hard work and dedication, that I grow and develop into a well-rounded educator.

#D100bloggerPD “What Teachers Make” Ch 16-18

It’s been 4 months! 4 months since I’ve sat down in front of my computer and typed up a reflection, a thought, a fun fact. 4 long months to forget some of my favorite memories from my first year as a teacher. I’m sad this happened, especially considering my last blog post was about how I need to take time for myself…that worked out well. Sometimes life gets away from you, and then some.

Despite my absence, I find my return to my blog is only fitting. At the start of last school year, my incredible mentor and the amazing face behind Literacy Loving Gals, Colleen Noffsinger, took me under her wing and asked me to join a book study with some other teachers across the district, and I haven’t looked back since. #D100bloggerPD is one of my favorite “tribes” and is compiled of some of the most incredible educators I have ever met. We read quite a few books throughout the year and have even had the chance to connect virtually with some of the authors of our book studies through Twitter, Periscope and Facebook. These connections, both with the teachers in my district as well as the authors of these incredible works have been nothing short of life changing and I cannot wait to see what year two brings. If you missed the post from the incredible, Bazz you can follow the link to her blog here.

For the past two weeks, we have collectively been reading “What Teachers Make” by Taylor Mali. If you’ve never seen his TED talk or read his poems be sure to check them out before continuing on. The book is a small, short read, packed with power, sentiment and praise “of the greatest job in the world,” teaching! You can find my reflection on the next three chapters of the book, below. If you missed any of our book study, make sure to check out the schedule at the bottom of this post to back track to the beginning.

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My Bad (Apologize and Mean It!) 

In this vignette, Mali talks about what an apology truly means. He opens with a quote stating, “learning how to say you are sorry is a skill and an art, and an absolute necessity” not only just for teachers to do in their life, but for them to model and teach their students as well. In a society where sarcasm is at the heart of what we do, saying sorry, or being mindful of others feelings can sometimes be hard. Mali says an apology does not consist of “I’m just joking!” or “just kidding,” because if you were truly “joking” two people would be laughing not just one. I have always made this very clear to my students, we do not laugh at the expense of someone else’s feelings, and I still hold true to that this day. However, I am definitely guilty of ending sentences with, “I’m kidding” to my sister or my mom, and have either been seriously worried about the repercussions of the comment or faced the serious repercussions of my comment. On the flip side however, I feel I say “sorry” too much. It’s always been something I’ve done and people close to me and others who I work with are consistently and actively telling me to “stop saying sorry.” I do it in stores, restaurants, anywhere, mostly when there is nothing to apologize for doing. I’ll start a sentence with, “I’m so sorry to bother you” (in fact I think I did that to my principal two days ago) as means of not upsetting anyone. I hate to inconvenience people, or make them upset, so I over apologize which likely in turn annoys people, and makes them upset anyway. With all that being said, don’t over apologize, making your apology worth nothing, and don’t end your apology with a “just kidding” because both or all people should be laughing, if you are telling a joke. Be sure to model this with your students and explain to them the importance of apologizing and meaning it, and furthermore not having too much pride to even apologize in the first place.


MEG: Mali’s Electronic Grade Book & Teachers Make Technology Work 

I decided to combine these two sections of the book because they are both related to technology and tie in nicely to one another, essentially I’m hoping not to be repetitive in my post.

In these two sections Mali discusses technology in his teaching life and how much of a role it played for him in helping him complete tasks more efficiently and effectively. I am lucky enough to work in a 1:1 district, meaning every student is given a device to use throughout the school year, and is able to take it home with them. I am also allotted a device through the school. This has helped transform both my teaching and my students learning in ways I could have never even imagined. We are able to personalize learning in a classroom of varying needs and give individualized attention and feedback whenever necessary though the use of these devices. The students are able to keep track of their work in student portfolios and learning management systems and I as well am able to do that on my end with products such as Schoology, Evernote and Google Classroom.


In these two sections Mali talks much about an electronic grading system he developed and coded to do much of the bulk work surrounding equations that would calculate student grades. All Mali would have to do by the end of the semester was finish typing in the numbers into cells on an excel spreadsheet and it would not only generate the grade for that student, but it would also generate a generic comment for that student’s grade as well. Today, we have many platforms allowing us to do this in education. In our district we use a system called PowerTeacher. However, what really stuck out to me about this section was not necessarily the technology, but instead, his wording surrounding the grades themselves. We utilize Standards Based Reporting in our district which allows students to be assessed specifically on the standard itself, and in my opinion or my teaching style, allows for students to be provided with authentic learning opportunities in the classroom instead of asking the question “what do I need to get on this test to get an A in the class.” To be honest, I’m not concerned about my students grades, as much as I am about their authentic learning, and if they can comfortably sit with me and show me their understanding of the content. I want to be able to consistently and constantly say, “I know where each one of my students is learning at and why,” and that is possible with conferences and SBR.

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He also references utilizing technology in the classroom the right way and making it work. Our district is really great about this because, with the use of the SAMR & TPACK model, they are able to assist us in taking our teaching above the line. In essence, we don’t want to be utilizing technology in the sense that we are taking a worksheet and uploading it to Notability and that’s all we do. We want to use technology to enhance our lessons and do something that was never possible before. For example, in the book he talks about creating whole class virtual flashcards that could then be used to study at home that the students all compiled together. This is a great use of technology and a wonderful demonstration of doing something that could never have been done prior to technology. I myself experience this daily in my classroom, when I connect my class with other math classrooms across the world to do PBL’s or when I’m able to watch their responses of their in class math work live on my computer thanks to the incredible platform goFormative. Using technology to enhance your lessons and give students learning opportunities they otherwise may not have had, is the proper and appropriate use of technology in the classroom and is something that all teachers should strive for. To read more on SAMR, here’s  great blog post from ADE, Shannon Soger.

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Up next in the #D100bloggerPD is the amazing, Leah O’Donnell over at Responsive Literacy. Be sure to follow along with the rest of the crew as well as catch up on any posts you’ve missed by using the schedule below. I hope to have an end of the year reflection up before school starts up again just to start off on a fresh and positive note. Thanks for joining us!

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I Will…

During any “break” that I have from work or school, it doesn’t take long for my anxiety to begin eating away at my enjoyment of time off. This may sound crazy to some of you, because to most a break is something we THRIVE off. However, for me, breaks give me just enough time to realize all the things I could be doing better and all the things, I’m not doing at all. If I’m not up by 6:00 a.m. working, I feel I’ve wasted the day. If I wait until the last minute to finish my screencasts for math, or finalize projects for reading, I’m constantly worried they’re just “not good enough.” This hat trick, of being a full time educator, business owner, and student has recently got me feeling a little bit down on myself. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love everything that I do. I feel incredibly blessed to wake up every morning genuinely happy and excited about what lies ahead of me. However, wearing all of these different hats, as an educator, business owner, and student, has left me forgetting about the other incredibly important hats I wear as well. I am a daughter, granddaughter, niece, sister, friend, girlfriend, dancer, reader and so much more. I have, very quickly and quite vigorously, forgotten what it means to be all of these very important things that make me who I am. Blog2

Over this spring break, I finally broke the mold and monotony and went out with friends I haven’t seen in years,  spent time with my best friend, went to a Holi celebration at a Hindu temple, went to they gym almost every day and actually spent one whole day napping and watching TV before going to rehearsal. Mind you, most of these were events that were planned prior to their occurrence, but nonetheless, they were just for fun and just for ME!  Before this break I could not tell you the last time I did something just for “fun” and “non-work/school/business” related. It was rejuvenating, invigorating and I genuinely had a great time! I understand this is something all educators struggle with; finding a work/life balance, because whether we want to believe it or not, the line between our work and our life is almost transparent. Our students quickly become our kids and their well-being and success is what gives us life and purpose. However, in the mix of providing what’s best for the 28 adorable faces that stare back at us day after day, we cannot lose sight of what our purpose is as a “daughter,” as a “friend,” as a “human being.”



Picture of me and my best friends after the Holi Celebration! 

With all this in mind and with arguably the busiest 6 weeks of my life swiftly approaching (aka tomorrow), I wanted to take time to reflect on my experience this past week and the mindset I hope to continue to maintain as best as possible moving forward. I will continue to provide the absolute best education for my students, staying up to date on the latest research so that my students always are given a fair chance. I will maintain strong connections with my PLN as well as my business networks providing the best customer experience for all parties. I will continue to pursue and nurture my love for education in school, always trying my best.

But, at the end of the day I WILL make time for me. I will strive to remember how important it is to foster the fact that I am a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, a niece, and a friend. I will make time for people who matter and stop giving my time and myself to things that are not as important. I will learn what and who those things are. I will prioritize. I will GO TO THE GYM! I will laugh. I will have “just-because” fun. I will go put my grandma’s Christmas decorations back in her crawl space, yes I’m aware it’s April. I will learn to say no every once in a while. I will dedicate myself to happiness and realize that it’s okay to take a break and also to ask for help.. I will embrace everything and LIVE!