About Admin

I am a Google Certified Innovator, Google Education Trainer, PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator, Leading Edge Certified (Online & Blended Learning, Digital Educator), CUE Social Media Champ, and presenter. In 2010 I was awarded the Crystal Apple Award sponsored by the local NBC affiliate. In 2015, I was Teacher of the Year at King City Arts Magnet School. I have been an Ed Tech innovator in my district for over 15 years. Currently, I teach 5th grade. As a district technology leader, I pioneered 1:1 Chromebooks in my district. I am the co-host, along with Nancy Minicozzi (@coffeenancy), of the podcast T.L.C. Ninja that can be heard the first and third Monday of every month.

Manipulate This!

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img_2277I don’t use manipulatives enough in math. Over the past few years, I have used fewer manipulatives than ever before. I take partial responsibility for this. I should have incorporated more into my lessons. However, other factors contributed to this: my district not providing any manipulatives, adopting a half curriculum (half because the state doesn’t recognize it) that makes no mention of using any, and the pressure to keep moving along the curriculum/pacing guide. Well, this year I am making a conscious effort to do better.

No more excuses. Last week my class explored decimals and multiples of ten. I didn’t think they were really understanding that they moved the numbers a column (base-10 number chart) because we have a base-10 number system. They could do it, but were they understanding the why? The answer was, no. So, I broke out the base-10 manipulatives (rods, flats, etc.) to illustrate this. THEY worked as a group  (table groups) to prove that 0.26 x 10 = 2.6. Yeah, that lesson was a total failure! Each group created 10 groups of 0.26, but when they combined them they grabbed everything; including the unused manipulatives.

I did not want to give up the opportunity for them to make a connection. I regrouped after the failed lesson and reflected on what went wrong – management on my part. The next day we tried it again with greater success. Once they had their 10 groups of 0.14 I had them clean up the extra pieces (duh). They still weren’t completely making the connection, therefore, several conversations were had. Several finally saw the connection.

I’m not saying that this lesson hit it out of the park, obviously, it didn’t. I do need to make sure the students are getting more and more exposure to the manipulatives. With practice, we will all get better.

For as much as I write about my successes, I need to also write about my failures. This is a lesson that I am still thinking about nearly a week later. How can I make it better next time? Where did I go wrong? Any and all suggestions welcome.

Fail Forward

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Today ended the first week of the 2018-19 school year. For the most part, it was a great success. I had fun, the kids had fun, and it was low pressure. I did have the option to give a reading test this week, but I thought, “Who wants to take a test the first week of school?” And honestly, it won’t do any harm to wait until next week (but that’s another blog post altogether).

Along with all of this week’s successes, I did have a few failures. The biggest one was when I, ambitiously, decided that we would do two mini-reports (created by Jon Corippo). I thought two short articles on cats would be doable for a quick mini-report in one day…done as a group…Oh, how wrong I was.

I quickly realized while reading the first article with the class that it wasn’t going as planned. And for some insane reason, I powered on with the second article. What? Yeah, not sure what I was thinking (well, clearly I wasn’t thinking!). I did, however, extend the cat mini-report for a second day and scrap the dog report for next week. I also realized that I need to work up to two articles.

So…Next week we will read one article on dogs. We will take notes together. Together we will begin writing our mini-reports. I will have them do a portion of it on their own. Yeah, I’m learning. All it takes is one painful mistake for me to remember where to start. THEN, the exciting part is watching how far they will grow!

Get Them Hooked Early

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Today was my first day back with students for the school year. I purposefully planned a fun day. I am a ‘different’ kind of teacher. I am definitely NOT your run of the mill, follow the textbook teacher. I want the kiddos to really get that message. We did art, a Breakout, and created TERRIBLE (on purpose) presentations and presented them.

At some point in the afternoon, one of the boys stated that he wanted to write a book. I thought this was great. I told him that I started playing with an app over the summer that created books. He thought that was interesting. Then, I showed him a short book I created on Book Creator.

Book Creator example by me

The book isn’t particularly good. I was exploring the tool and thinking of ways to use it in our classroom. However, when I showed the boy that some of the possibilities: voice overs, inserting your own image and text his eyes nearly popped out of his head. He looked at me, mouth wide open, and said, “I want to do that!”

I got him hooked! I can’t wait to use this in the classroom. The students will have so much fun creating their own books. THIS is going to be an EPIC year!

Class Culture

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Last year I failed, miserably, at creating a positive class culture. I could go into all the ‘reasons’ why I failed, but in all honesty, they just sound like excuses when I say them out loud. I mean, this is how bad it got: at the end of the school year I ask students to list positive qualities about their classmates. This led to the majority of my class saying, “she gives good burns,” about one girl. And they meant it in an honoring way. They looked up to her because she could cut others down. Yeah, I don’t want THAT again!

So as a part of my reflection, I asked myself, “How can I do better this year?” I decided that ‘Motivation Monday’ might be in order. I’m sure I read or saw this somewhere. The idea is that each Monday (or Tuesday when we have Monday’s off) I will show a short inspirational video to the class; some ‘feel good’ video. I have begun curating a collection of these videos on YouTube. I will continue to add to them as the year progresses. There are so many wonderfully inspiring people, and in some cases animals, out there. I would much rather my students value the uplifting actions and words of others than the cutting ‘burns’ one spews upon others.

 

Classroom Theme

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Each year teachers show off their cute rooms on various social media platforms. I am NOT one of those teachers. I don’t do color schemes or themes. It’s just not me.

I hate that teachers spend their hard earned money on their classrooms. And so many companies and sites exploit this trend. One site that pays other teachers (not mentioning the actual name as I’m not a fan) has sales! What? We are all in this together. Yes, you took the time to make a cute worksheet, but many teachers also create lessons, curriculums, and experiences and share it all for FREE. Yeah, I’m in this camp. Last winter I spend over two weeks designing a Hyperdoc for a novel study (Tuck Everlasting), which I shared for FREE. Then there are all the glossy magazines we get that entice us to buy items for our classrooms. I’m over it!

However, it appears that this year I have a theme. It’s my Bitmoji. I started off by creating a few images for signs in the classroom. I figured it gave the room a bit more of a whimsical feel. And well, I just sort of ran with it. The best part is, with the help of Google Slides and Draw I didn’t have to buy anything, which makes me happy!

Not into Bitmoji? No problem. Google can help you find free to use images to fit all your needs. Simply customize your Slide or Draw to 8.5 x 11 in and you’re ready to go!

The Great Lie: Reading Logs

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Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com

Reading logs; we’ve all done them at one time or another so this isn’t about shaming. This is about acknowledging the fact that it’s a big lie, a sham. Educators, parents, and students all participate in this lie. We, as educators, assign 20 minutes or pages of reading each night as homework. Students go home, and in general, ignore that aspect of homework. The parents sign off on the reading log, knowing their child DIDN’T read so that there are no consequences at school. Finally, the reading log comes back signed, the teacher is fully aware the child is NOT read at home and ignores that fact because, ‘Hey, the Reading Log is signed.’

Let’s just stop lying! We are doing the child no good by participating and promoting the lie. In fact, we are encouraging them to lie and teaching them ‘How to school’. So now that the first step, acknowledging the problem, is out of the way let’s move on to the next step: solving the problem.

One year at Back To School Night I gave this speech. I first asked parents who had knowingly signed their child’s Reading Log with the full knowledge that no reading occurred. At first, there were many nervous looks. Fortunately, one brave soul raised their hand which led to others admitting to participating in The Great Lie. I then told the room of parents that there would NOT be any Reading Logs. THAT got an applause! It was a relief to those in attendance. One parent even thanked me! What a great way to start the year!

Educators have no control over what happens at home. There are many circumstances that lead to the student not wanting to read at home (or ever). So let’s focus on what we DO have control over; that is our classroom. If we want students practicing and taking a vested interest in reading give students time to read in class. I know, sounds obvious, right? But where to start?

Recently Jen Roberts shared some of her classroom tricks with TLC.Ninja. She strategically monitors her students reading. She gives her students time to read a book of their choice (not their Lexile level or AR level). She can quickly scan the room daily for engagement. She also has them fill out a quick form every 10 days or so to further monitor their progress. She is in control of what happens and can check in with students for any guidance they might need. Check out the Episode for full details.

Another idea is to have students do a Booka Kucha. Marlena Hebern and Jon Corippo have created several Eduprotocols that can be used no matter the topic. Booka Kucha can be given to all students no matter the book they are reading. YOU are in control; YOU are actively monitoring.

Heather Marshall has some fun, quote inspired ideas. One idea is to play Game of Quotes. No matter what book the student is reading, their task is to find a quote that fits a given prompt. For example, students are tasked with finding a quote about “Something you wouldn’t want to overhear in the restroom.” The students look through what they’ve read to find something. Once they have a quote, they announce that they, “Have a quote.” Each student reads their quote (they could easily write them on Socrative or a Padlet) and votes on the best one. She also has her students doing Sketch Quotes. So many great ideas!

These were just a few ideas to help get you away from Reading Logs and into more meaningful engagement between your students and their books. I’d love to hear what you do! (And please don’t say AR!)

Pinterest Classroom

It’s summer and I”m doing what most teachers do; reflecting, researching, and preparing for the upcoming school year. Yeah, I know it’s still June, it’s what I do. Recently, I joined a teacher Facebook group. It’s great. Teachers are asking questions, looking for ideas, gathering resources, and the like. Then there was a run on teachers asking about classroom themes and names. This got me thinking.

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Photo by Rakesh Naidu on Pexels.com

You see, I don’t ‘pimp out’ my room with a theme or a cutesy name. I never have. I’d like to say that it’s because of some philosophical reason but sadly, it boils down to sheer laziness. I mean, that’s a lot of extra work. I”m am definitely NOT the type of person who is all on board with creating more work for myself. And so seeing all these teachers being enthusiastic about themes and names (i.e. Ms. N’s RockStars) had me reevaluating my thoughts on the subject.

I came to the conclusion that I’m STILL not going to do that. Why? a lot of the same reasons: I don’t create extra work for myself. But looking at it deeper, why would I want to? Personally, I like to focus my creativity on lessons. I rarely do the same lesson twice. I don’t reinvent the wheel each year, I tweak or change up lessons based on latest research, tools, and needs of my students.

I’m not creating a ‘Pinterest Classroom’; it doesn’t help my students. It might make me feel good to have a cutesy room and others might look at it and think it’s cute too, but that’s not my job. My goal is to help my students learn and succeed. That’s not to say that I don’t try to create an organized classroom; I do. I try to create a safe, calming, relaxing, and a caring classroom. So if your looking for a cute ‘Pinterest’ classroom with a fun name; my classroom isn’t for you. If you’re looking for innovative lessons with successes and failures; look no further.