You Can Learn Anything- LearnStorm 2016

Another blogging hiatus broken by a long overdue post about one of the most incredible days of my life. On January 28, 4 of my students from iSWAT and myself, headed over to the Jesse White Community Center in Chicago on the near North Side to partake in an event that I feel changed all of our lives. Sal Khan, creator of Khan Academy, along with Hyatt, teamed up to bring together some Chicagoland elementary and junior high schools to launch their LearnStorm competition. LearnStorm is a 9 week competition, challenging students across the Chicagoland area, to practice and improve their math skills. Something that we likely all need to work on. Through the use of Khan Academy, a non-profit organization, students login to their account and participate in grade level competitions to help close gaps that they may have in their mathematical foundation. Through mastering mathematical challenges and persevering through tasks that seem difficult at first, students earn badges, awards and points and can reach a top spot on the leader board for all of Chicagoland.


On the bus ready to go. Representing Irving iSWAT in the best way possible.

Along with many other students in our district, we were invited to see acts from the Jesse White Tumblers, hear a speech from astronaut and NFL superstar Leland Melvin and meet Mayor Rahm Emmanuel who all talked to us about the importance of understanding that you can do anything you set your mind to. The most exciting part for all of the students, okay maybe just for me, was when Sal Khan spoke about growth v. fixed mindset. Below you’ll find Sal Khan’s speech that he gave to the students that day which was incredibly uplifting and inspiring for everyone. Sal preached about the importance of having a growth mindset and believing that you can learn anything. Essentially saying, the more you practice something, the better you become.The students left that day inspired, and ready to take on the world. Truth be told, so did I.


Click here to hear Sal Khan’s speech about the importance of having a Growth Mindset.

I was fortunate enough to also spend the evening with Sal Khan at the Merchandise Mart in the city. Sal gave a similar introduction but also gave us educators a vision of something I had never thought of before. He equated education with the construction of a new house. He stated “picture an empty lot, that you’d like to build a house on. The contractor comes and says you have 6 weeks to get as much of the foundation completed as possible. Good luck. The construction workers built and laid the foundation and when the six weeks were up the contractor came back and said, ‘well the cement is still wet over here, that pillar isn’t quite strong enough, but I’ll give it an 80%.’ The builders said, well that’s good enough to pass inspection, let’s keep building.” You can imagine that as the story went on, the pattern repeated itself where the builders were only meeting expectations about 80% of the time. Once they got to the top of the house, the whole foundation collapsed under itself, because the house was never stable to begin with. This, Sal stated, is what we do with education. We build and build upon foundations that aren’t stable and sturdy and expect that by the time children get to upper elementary, that everything will be in place, which we all know is certainly not the case. This is where Khan Academy comes in to play. Giving a “free world class education to anyone, anywhere” is the mission of the program and I believe, it’s living up to it’s potential. It allows for differentiated education, practice, and flipped classroom videos all for free. What teacher doesn’t love free? It also is cross curricular and standards aligned providing for flexibility and data collection. Even better, it’s offered in multiple languages for your ELL kiddos or students in other countries.


From an evening with Sal Khan at the Merchandise Mart.

From simply implementing the program in my classroom on the 29th of January, my kiddos have grown leaps and bounds in their growth mindset and math skills. They take the initiative to learn all they can and are persevering through difficult problems. Of course there are days when they still get down on themselves, but that’s when we share our troubles and remind ourselves that mistakes are gold! I’ve also implemented a new ticket system in my class. For every 20 minutes spent on Khan Academy, either inside or outside of school, my students receive a “You Can Learn Anything” ticket. They can use these tickets to cash in at the normal prize box that we have in our classroom, or they can save them and cash them in for a special “You Can Learn Anything” reward. Check out the reward list, and tickets below. Feel free to comment or message me if you’d like me to send you an editable version for free.

I’ve been so impressed with the work ethic of my students and mostly their perseverance. Last Tuesday, the leader boards were announced officially on the LearnStorm website and I almost broke down when I saw one of my students holding second place for hustle points. These points are given to students who push through hard problems and don’t give up, even when it gets tough. If he is able to hold on to his second place spot in the competition, he will receive an invitation to the final celebration at the end of the competition, a prize he certainly deserves for the amount of work he puts in.

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My student holding the second place spot on the hustle leader board!

LearnStorm and Khan Academy have completely changed the face of our math classroom as a whole. We are now using Khan Academy as a center, not only because of the Learn Storm competition, but because it aligns directly with MAP scores. I can make recommendations based on the students RIT score from MAP which is an amazing way to practice skills and begin to close those gaps that have already been specifically targeted with standardized testing data. With the help of my amazing iCoach, Jenny Lehotsky, over at Teaching and Learning Redefined,  we’ve been able to use our goal planning sheets to personalize our math class even further, by recommending tasks for students based on specific data off of MAP. It’s incredible and has so many benefits for personalized and differentiated learning. I really encourage you to try the program if you haven’t done so already.

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Direct links to assignments on Khan Academy aligned to standard of individual student based off of MAP data acquired in January, 2016.

LearnStorm and Khan Academy have also given us the chance to provide free internet to our students with no internet access for 6 months while the competition is taking place so that they can practice at home. In addition, our school has applied for a DonorsChoose grant through LearnStorm of $5,000.00 to hopefully get some new tech supplies in our building to make differentiated and personalized learning more accessible to our kiddos. As soon as I have the approved link to our project, I will be sure to share it with you.

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LearnStorm and Khan Academy have motivated us in ways that I didn’t think were possible and I’m loving hearing that my students are correcting each other in class by saying “yet” after they hear a student say they cannot do something. Here’s an example. “I don’t understand fractions.”said student A. Student B hears this and says, “you don’t understand fractions…YET.” The power of yet has taken over and has even motivated me in ways I never though possible. What are you hoping to achieve, but are telling yourself you cannot do. Take your can’t statement and put YET at the end of it. See what a difference it makes in your life.


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