Classroom Success

Today I experienced a moment that made me proud to be a teacher. It was one of those moments that makes you look around and say to yourself, This is what a classroom SHOULD look like. 

This afternoon, after an hour of morning State Testing and an hour of afternoon testing, my students were focusing on finishing their Boston Tea Party Tasks (part of a larger hyperdoc). They needed to discover the events, people, and reasons for the Boston Tea Party.


Yes, that would be 2 green screens, several groups collaborating, and a whole lot of learning going on! They are posting final videos this week on our website.

Social Studies Poetry Slam

Earlier this month I wrote about setting my students up for success. We were studying Cortes and Montezuma. The idea was to give students the information so that they could synthesize, analyze, and collaboratively create a writing to be performed in a poetry slam style. Many of the students turned the assignment into a rap – which is fine with me. The idea, after all, was to understand the information. The outcome…Success! Here’s one example – viewpoint: Montezuma

CUE RockStar – Tahoe Edition

One of the best features of CUE RockStar events are the small sessions. Because the sessions are generally 10:1 – or smaller in some cases – AND 2 hours, attendees truly get individualized attention. Everyone gets to experience the tools and ideas first hand while surrounded by knowledgable educators. The energy in the sessions is amazing. We are all learning from one another!

For me, one of the most memorable sessions was one in which a high school teacher was inspired to recreate her assessments. She had her students reading The Glass Menagerie. After discussing different tools, she decided to play around with Animoto. One thing led to another and soon her excitement let to a whole new way of assessing her students on the book. She created a video for her students to watch. From here, her students will respond to the prompt creating a video using Animoto! It was such an awesome idea, and she was so enthusiastic and inspiring I just had to share this story.

This is why I LOVE CUE RockStar!

Unfortunately, I do not have the teacher’s example, but I do have an example of something that my students created on Animoto.

Real World Vs. Standardized Tests

Today began our Second Trimester Benchmark Assessments. Fortunately, I am in a 1:1 Chromebook classroom. This means that my students are able to take the assessment online. My students work online daily, so this is no big deal – or so I thought.

The students had 1 open ended question to answer. As I was checking them, I noticed that two boys, who sat next to each other, had the same wording for their answer. My immediate thought was, “Oh great, they cheated.” That wasn’t really the case.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Enokson

When I spoke with them, I asked why they both had the same answer. One boy, honestly answered, “We were helping each other.”

And that’s when it hit me. With or without Common Core, we still have a disconnect between how students learn, and how we ‘record’ their knowledge.

Common Core has students working and collaborating together. Common Core encourages students to problem solve in groups, using technology to assist them.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Laurie Sullivan

And then what do we do? We (not just my district) then decide that in order to show us their knowledge, they are to take a test, on their own – in isolation. I’m sure I’m not the only one that sees this disconnect.

How is it that we expect ALL students to do well when we teach, and they learn, in one way; then have them take a test in isolation? No wonder my students thought nothing of helping each other on the Benchmark Assessment, it’s what they do daily.

Here’s a crazy idea: Let’s ditch the tests altogether. Yup, class tests, district assessments, state, national, PARCC, and SBAC. As a nation we need to focus on learning, problem solving skills, collaboration, and teamwork. THESE are the skills that employers are looking for, not can someone take a test on their own.

What employers want








Credit: Dr. Beverly Young, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Academic #ccttcd2014

Fractions and Recipes

Students WorkingCombining a fractions lesson and recipes is a natural combination. It connects the real world with a student’s learning. For the past month or so, my students have been learning about fractions: what they are, adding, subtracting, and multiplying them. Combine that with a teacher who is easily board with the norm, and you get a FANTASTIC lesson. One in which students ASK, “Can we work on our Recipe Project now?” Yes, students wanting to learn and were engaged.

What did we do? Well, we found some recipes. Okay, actually I found them in a cookbook that I had, from when I was a kid. They definitely weren’t the most healthy, but they were kids’ cookbooks, and worked well. I went through and found several recipes that involved fractions. Some had 2 fractions, others had 5 or more and included mixed numbers. Our student teacher handed out the recipes. Because there were various difficulties with the recipes, this allows the teacher to differentiate based on a student’s ability. The students were allowed to work together, but must hand in his/her own paper. The students had to: list the original ingredients, double the original recipe, cut the original recipe in half, and then make exactly 28 servings – one for each student, the student teacher, and myself. This took a few days. Fortunately, I do have a student teacher in my room so we were both able to filter around and help struggling students. Once they were done with the math portion, they had to create a presentation to show off to the class – and put in their ePortfolios.

We worked on this project for 3 or 4 days, including polishing the presentations. Each day the students would ask, “Can we work on our Recipe Project now?” Even the most reluctant, insecure math student was completely engaged. There were students strewn throughout the classroom at desks, under desks, and sprawled out on the floor. One group of boys worked outside to create a cardboard oven for their presentation. Other students chose to use Animoto and Google Presentation. They projected their ‘work in progress’ presentations on a big screen TV to get input from others. The room was so engaged and buzzing with creativity and learning, I HAD to call my principal down to see. He was impressed, and began asking the students questions about fractions, their algorithms, and gave suggestions for their presentations. The lesson was such a hit, my students told the other 5th grade teacher that she HAD to do it with her class, because it was so much fun. My students were happy to hear that her students had begun the project too.

Presentations will be next week. I admit, this was so much fun and worthwhile, that I am on the hunt for more lessons like this. Anything I can do to engage my students, I will. THIS is what Common Core is about: the four C’s. And this lesson had them all! Here is the lesson: Adjust a Recipe

This group will be incorporating an Animoto video into their presentation. Last week, they were practicing what they were going to say along with their video.

Yes, I found the lesson online. It is my belief that there is a plethora of information, lessons, and ideas out there. I do not need to reinvent the wheel. I am thankful to all who FREELY share. In turn, I FREELY share what I have found, my knowledge, and lessons I create. We are all here to help one another, and to help our students learn.