Finding Your Learning Style – FTW

This week in Social Studies I have students using a Hyperdoc to research information on the Great Plains Indians (the information is then recorded on a Google My Map). This is the 3rd installment in a 4 part study series. In the first 2, I told the students to only use the information provided. I intentionally incorporated videos  as a part of their resources knowing that this learning style suits some of my students better. However, this time, I left off any video resources and added the task of finding at least one of their own resources. They are to record information and the search query used.

Then this happened…


I know what you’re thinking, “Uh, huh. A student found a video and is taking notes. Um, wasn’t that the assignment?” And yes, yes it was. BUT…this is no ordinary student. This is the student that has declared (several times), “I hate reading! Don’t make me read. I’m not reading anything!” This is the student that will play around in order to NOT do work – I suspect much of it is too difficult for Student X. This is the same student that can’t sit still for more than 30 seconds. YET, after Student X stopped freaking out that I didn’t include a video and realized they could look one up, Student X then sat for 40 MINUTES watching the video and taking notes…away from the group…working the entire time.

THIS is what happens when we give students the Freedom to learn in a style that best suits them. Student X knew what style worked best for him/her. Student X researched and learned the necessary material in order to support the group project.

This was a HUGE win!

‘Homework’ Reimagined Update 1

A little over a month ago I shared out my (and my Partner Teacher’s) latest idea of ‘Homework’. Get a copy

Each Friday during Genius Hour I meet with students to review their ‘Homework’. This week I had 4 students that were able to present. Some took a different approach to the homework than I had intended. The results? Amazing!

One student created jewelry from ribbons, beads, and old hair decorations and fastened them with a barrette. This student is thinking of creating more and selling them. Another made a ‘sculpture’ that had a live plant! My students are amazing!

Standing Desk

Recently I submitted a project to Donors Choose for a Standing Desk with a swing bar. It’s not uncommon for any teacher to have fidgety students. I wanted to try one out and gauge its effectiveness to those students. I have heard about many teachers trying it with great success. This week my standing desk arrived.

I also had a matching stool ordered for the desk. This gives students the option to stand or sit. Either option gives the student/students the ability to use the foot swing bar. As I found out, the desk is large enough to have 2 students share it comfortably. Needless to say, the desk has been a big hit with many students testing it out.

This year I have a particularly wiggly student. The student is great, just has LOTS of energy. Wiggly ventured back to the new desk. One afternoon this past week, wiggly student declared that (s)he was going to use it all next week. (S)he has decided (s)he loves it. I silently agreed that the desk was perfect for her/him. At one point the wiggly student was working while (s)he had the swing bar going a mile a minute. The amazing part was that the rest of her/him was content and focused. After being with the student for less than a month, it was the most focused I had ever seen her/him.

I am officially a fan of these types of desks. Will the ‘newness’ wear off with my students? Possibly, but I’m sure that my wiggly student will find success with this desk for the rest of the year. In fact, I’m such a fan I’m going to submit another project for a second Standing Desk with Stool on Donors Choose. So if you are thinking of getting one of these, I say go for it!

Dear Parents: About Your Child’s ID Card

School has started up again or will be in the near future. This leads to many parents posting First Day Photos. We all love them, well, maybe not the older students, but they humor most parents with a small smile before grumbling. And then the new student i.d.’s arrive. Parents are proud of many of the milestones their children are achieving. I have seen photos of some of the i.d. cards. I am a bit shocked…


Dear Parents,

We all love seeing that new i.d. of your child’s. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that you have raised a great child and they have reached high school, are in their Senior year, or are in Middle School, or whatever grade. However, I must ask, why are you posting a photo with ALL information of your child online? I know, it’s probably not something you have thought about.

Just think about this for a moment. When you post a photo of that brand new i.d. without blocking information you have just shown the world the following information:

  • First name
  • Last name
  • School name (possibly city where school is located)
  • Grade (which leads to age)
  • Teacher’s name (in some cases)
  • Picture of child
  • Possible i.d. number (or some variation)
  • QR Code or Bar Code (with who knows what information)

If you’re still not sure why this is a bad thing, think about a stranger calling you and asking your child’s full name, school, location of school, grade, their teacher’s name, a picture of your child (to send electronically), and any other additional information they may want. Would you give them this information? Probably not. Well, by posting the i.d.’s without blocking some of the information, you just gave (who knows how many) strangers that information. If it’s put on the Internet, it can be found.

So parents, we do want to see those great photos: first day, i.d.’s, special moments, but we want to keep everyone safe. So please, block important information.

Thank you.

Elementary Mornings

I HATE busy work! I am done with the ridiculous morning routine of giving the kids something to do – usually a worksheet – while I take attendance, check in on certain kids, and take lunch count.

So many of us give our students a ‘spiral review’ sheet to work on. Which we then have to check. Which sucks up more precious time during our day. And since we assigned it, we want the kids to at least pretend to take it as serious as we do and actually complete it. Which leaves me being the drill sergeant getting after the ‘usual suspects’. You know, those same students that talk and never complete the assigned morning work.

Yeah, I’m done! My mornings are so much nicer and more relaxed. Over the summer, a colleague and I were talking about things we were going to change in our classroom. She relayed an idea she had read in a blog post. Have the kids do low risk, NO paperwork, play type activities.

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So now my students come in and play games: Uno, Connect 4, Snap Circuits, checkers, or geometric shapes. I will switch out certain items throughout the year, but for now, everyone seems happy. And most importantly, I don’t have to get after anyone for not completing a paper that no one really cares about.

As I said, my colleague gave me the idea. She is using this in her 1st-grade classroom. She allows her students, by table, to choose their daily activity. By contrast, I set out an activity for my students. They have the same activity for a week. This allows them to dig in or really learn strategies of a game. Many of them are learning to play checkers or Uno properly for the first time.

This is a great way to start the day!

NOTE: I would like to give credit to the teacher who originally wrote the blog post, but I don’t know who it was.

UPDATE: Credit goes to Brown Bag Teacher (@brownbagteacher) for the idea and conversation starter.

Place Value Basics

Last year, I began using Jon Corippo‘s 8 p*ARTS . I saw great success with the repetition. As a result, I thought I’d like to do something along similar lines with Math. Now, I will admit, what I came up with isn’t nearly as fun. However, the repetition is there. This is for 5th grade and can easily be modified for other grades. Here’s what I came up with.

Place Value Basics

The plan:

  • Today’s Number – Have the student of the day decide on the day’s number anywhere from billion to thousandths place. However, the number must be at least to the tenths place.
  • 10 times greater – Take the original number and make it ten times greater.
  • 100 times greater – Take the original number and make it one hundred times greater.
  • 1,000 times greater – Yup, take the original number and make it one thousand times greater.
  • Add 10 times greater and 100 times greater – add the numbers.
  • Write a number that is GREATER – Have students change ONLY a digit that is AFTER the decimal.
  • 1/10 times less – Take the original number and make it ten times less.
  • 1/100 times less – Take the original number and make it one hundred times less.
  • Subtract 1/10 and 1/100 – subtract the numbers.
  • Write a number that is LESS – Have students change ONLY a digit that is AFTER the decimal.
  • Prime factors of the first 2 digits of the whole number – Only take the numbers in the ones and tens place and find the prime factors.

An example is given on the second slide. This should be done daily, with an assessment each week. The first week or two should be done as a group until the class understands what is expected. Once they ‘get the hang of it’ all that is needed is the number and the students can do this independently.

Lead By Example

At our first staff meeting, my principal, Brad Smith (tweet at him, he’s terrified to tweet #truestory), encouraged each staff member to look into the Google Educator tests. He reminded us that we are, indeed, a GAfE district. He went on to state that anyone that passes the level 1 Educator Exam, would receive their test money back (out of his own pocket, and since we have no money in our budget I know it’s literally out of his pocket).

This is where he began to lead by example. He gave the staff the resources needed. Then today, he sent us a quick memo. At the bottom was his Educator Level 1 badge!

He is the type of leader we need. Someone who does what he challenges others to do. So, seriously, tweet at him!