Making The Learning Stick – With Adults!

I have sat in so many horrible…horrible….did I mention horrible?? presentations!  Some forced upon me – some straight up voluntary!  Part of my issue is that I am ADHD….like really bad.  So, after a few minutes if you haven’t caught my attention – I’m gone onto the next thing.


Ever been there?


I’ve always been a tech geek, I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about the Tandy computer my dad bought for our family back in the 80’s…..and I’ve always been willing to share what I know with other teacher to help.  I’d presented at my school and for my previous school district many times but I had never considered expanding out.

As I became more involved with technology integration, I took it upon myself to attend different conferences and I began to think…”Hey!  I can do this!”  I mean, I have some amazing kids and we do some amazing things…why not share those things?  And so I did. I saw where a school district was hosting an summer tech conference and I submitted my proposal.  After that I was hooked!

I’d like to think that I am able to share what I know in a way that excites and motivates someone else.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 8.34.51 PM

As I’ve evolved as a presenter, my expectations have evolved.  I really don’t expect to get “wow’ed” every time.  If I can take one piece back to use with my kids (or even in my own presentation), that makes me happy.  The part that I enjoy the most now are the connections I’m able to make through these opportunities.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 8.49.02 PM

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 8.48.34 PM

So many times I’m able to put a face to a Twitter handle (right, @bgoza?) or add to my already amazing PLN.  Sometimes I’m able to have conversations with or spend a few moments with some of my tech heroes and sheroes.  And every single time I’m able to find at least one little thing that I can share with my kids!

Until the next time,



In Over Our Heads….

Question:  How do I balance covering content with student’s stress levels/mental health?

Everything is written in pencil….that’s what we sixth grade teachers say….

One of the things that I struggle with is the stress level of my students. I mean…they’re kids….SCHOOL is their JOBS. All that extra (football, basketball, etc) stuff is just that….extra.

But, as an ELA teacher, I do realize that sometimes the text they’re designed to read is too difficult so I do make accommodations for that.

I make “visual videos” where I record the audio with the text so they can listen to the story as they read it.

I give them multiple opportunities to complete assignments. But, if I don’t MAKE them stay – they don’t.

We have morning “Breakfast Club” and afterschool. We have Homework Detention and we’re allowed to pull students during their elective times to make up assignments or get additional assistance.

One of the greatest benefits of the Flipped Classroom is that I do have more time to work with students in small group or on an individual basis if they don’t get it.

But for many 6th graders, “I don’t get it” really means, “I don’t want to do this”…’s a coping mechanism in my opinion. One that we have to break in 6th grade or else everyone is MISERABLE.

I will continue to make accommodations, but I won’t enable -nor will I lower my expectations. I think that’s my responsibility as an educator….to create responsible citizens. So I won’t stop – I can’t afford to. The lives I shape and mold are too important.

Until the next time,

Student Created Content

Book Review Tellagami

Many people ask me about where my videos come from and if I pull from other places. I’d spent years on perfecting Promethean flipcharts that I was determined would not go to waste. It was so easy for me to take those flipcharts and turn them into screencasts. I prefer using my own videos, because the kids like to hear my voice and I know that the content that I’m presenting contains ALL of the content that they need.  I love Flocabulary, so I use their videos for my vocabulary units and sometimes I do use Learnzillion videos, but the majority of the content that my students access are created by me.

I’m all for student creation….all for it! I think that when students create it shows that they have mastered the content shared. I love when they create because it takes them to a higher levels of Blooms.

In my classroom, students create things like Visual Vocabulary Videos, Book Reviews, and Digital Booktalks – but I’ve yet to have them create content that I would use for instruction.

ELA content is just so complex, right now I don’t think my 6th graders are mature enough to handle it. Plus, I have to continuously make them review their work for careless mistakes, I don’t think I want the hassle.

I have had students create videos that highlight key concepts and they’ve done great with that; but I’m also very particular and maybe just a tiny bit “controlling”?

Maybe I’ll get there – but it would have to be very detailed and thought out.

What are you thoughts? Student Created Content or nah?

Until the next time,

Off the Cuff

Today’s #flipclass #flashblog post:

What is your strangest/most-off-the-wall lesson ever? Where did the idea come from? How did it work?

I live off the cuff.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am THE procrastinator.  Which is probably why I created today’s video at 2 AM this morning.

I do my best thinking in the shower….or right before the kids are gonna walk through the door; so I have a difficult time coming up with an answer.  I’ll talk about my most recent activity – Visual Vocabulary Videos.

We read The Gift of the Magi every year, because I love it so; but I know that the vocabulary is really difficult for them.  This year, I planned a week long unit using some of Erin’s (I’m Lovin’ Lit) materials.

I decided that I wanted to vocab activity to be more in depth, so I decided that students would create Visual Videos. HUGE hit!  I did a little research and found out that New York Times does a yearly competition and I let students use that as a resource.  Find them here.

Students had to act out the words and they LOVED it.  I showcased my favorite last week (Idiocy – you can find it here), so tonight I’ll share another groups.

I thought they did a pretty doggone good job for two day’s worth of work!


Until the next time,


Deeper Learning

Flash Blog Topic: What does deep learning look like in your classroom? How has it changed your/Ss role? How have Ss responded?

Deep Learning – It makes me think of Dead Poet’s Society (but without the dying).  People in cardigans passionately discussing what “it” all means.  Before I decided to flip my class we hardly got a chance to actually read and discuss ANYTHING because I was trying to make sure I COVERED everything!  Oh the stress!

Plus the issue of so many of the students getting stuck on the text – there wasn’t a lot of room for deep learning.  It wasn’t until I decided to make accommodations for those things did we get to where we needed to be.  Students now have the option to listen to every piece of text we are discussing in class.  Through my “audio/visual” text, they are able to rewind and reread until they feel comfortable.  Plus, it’s much less stressful sharing your thoughts and ideas in a group of 5 than a class of 25!  Most of our discussions are held during small group.

The part that I enjoy the most – that I think demonstrates deep learning is what students are able to create based on what they learned.  This is the part that I think has really changed the roles in my classroom.  Although I’m “in charge”, students have to opportunity of CHOICE which is often missing; mostly because I think teachers are sure what will happen if the loosen the reigns a little bit.  When students are given a choice, it allows their natural talents to shine through…it gives them confidence.


Initially my students whined and complained.  And I have to admit – it is really difficult in changing the mindset; look how long it took me!  In addition to the fact that they are expected to adapt to so many changed….they go from 3 teachers to 6 teachers, add lockers, and two of the meanest teachers on Earth (my math partner and I), middle school is daunting.  And on top of that I really want them to think? *gasp*  But when they see what they’re able to accomplish on their own – it changes them.  It makes them stronger; it makes them better.

One week, I told the kids, “I’m not gonna lie.  This text is HARD!  But we’ll get through it together.”  That night a student sent me this message.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 8.55.03 PM

Made my freakin’ day! 🙂

Until the next time,


Fitting It All In


Being an ELA teacher is tough. I mean, who else has to teacher 3 subjects in one? Reading, Writing, and Vocabulary….each with their own set of standards!

I have to admit, since I flipped my classroom, I no longer have quite the stress that I’ve had in the past.

Let’s do the math…..60 minute periods…..25-30 students…..3 subjects…..6th graders! Before flipping, sometime it would take me a week to get through a lesson! Now that I’m flipping, that same lesson is done in one day. Students alternate between reading and writing instruction through videos which allows me time to work with students in small groups and/or on an individualized basis. I also have more time for students to create based on their learning…..Ah-Mazing!

To be honest, I have at least touched on every standard and most of them I’ve been able to go over in depth, assess, and reteach. And I almost don’t know what to do because this has NEVER happened to me before….NEVER.

And I have to tell you that it’s the BEST FEELING IN THE WORLD!!!

Until the next time,

Late Work? What’s My Policy….

Yikes!  I can’t believe I last posted in August….

Shout out to #flipclass and Cheryl Morris (@guster4lovers) for the extra push with the #flashblog  idea.  I’ll be talking about accepting late work.

As a 6th grade teacher, this is our student’s first year in middle school and a HUGE adjustment for them.  For this reason, I will continue to accept late work up until the last week of the quarter.  The Social Studies, Math teacher, and I all do some form of blended learning, which has helped us considerably with keeping up with assignments.  Students that don’t do their assignment the night before are pulled in during lunch to complete assignments.

Since we use Edpuzzle and Edmodo, it does wonders for allowing us to keep track of missed assignments.  All I have to do is click on the assignment and it shows the progress.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 8.30.05 PM

So before the day starts I already have my list ready of students that I will keep during lunch/recess.

What doesn’t work for me?  Extra credit!  Towards the end of the quarter I have students that will ask me for extra credit.  And they get the DUMMY LOOK.  Wait…so you want me to come up with an alternate assignment for you to do when you didn’t do the original?  That I have to grade? Uh uh…no way…no how….sorry.

Flipping my classroom has definitely assisted me in keeping track of what I’m missing. As long as I handle it immediately – it doesn’t become a burden or overwhelming.  Win/Win.  The kids get the assignment done and I know who needs remediation.  BOOM!

Until the next time,


Flipping Instruction with Edpuzzle

flipped class

I’m flipping! My classroom that is…. I’d been thinking about it for a while and then because of personal reasons it became a necessity.  What is flipped instruction, you ask?  According to Wikipedia, Flip teaching or a flipped classroom is a form of blended learning in which students learn new content online by watching video lectures, usually at home, and what used to be homework (assigned problems) is now done in class with teachers offering more personalized guidance and interaction with students, instead of lecturing. Now because about 80% of our students don’t have access to technology, I will be doing what has been called the “In Class Flip”.  Learn more about it here.

In my classroom, students rotate through stations that focus on reading comprehension, vocabulary development, and writing.  The focus concept will be a video that is a station and I’ll be a station as well.  Transforming my classroom in this manner really helped me to spend quality time with my students through small groups.  I can’t wait to start out the school year this way.

Once I realized that I would be spending a huge chunk of time away from my classroom, I decided that students would have to continue to receive core instruction even though I wouldn’t be there.  I had all of my flipcharts ready to go, but how could I get that information to them in a way that would keep them engaged and focused.  Enter Edpuzzle!


Edpuzzle allows you to take just about any video (from on the internet of self-created), edit it down to the portions you want, add audio notes and questions for students, and create virtual classrooms where you can monitor individual student work.  And it’s all FREE!

Through Edpuzzle, I can add checking for understanding questions for my students throughout the video that will self grade.  Win/Win!  It can be embedded through Edmodo, and students can log in through their Google or Edmodo accounts!


Here is a screenshot of the data I am able to get of what students are doing.  This allows me to streamline my lessons and form small groups for instruction.


Did I mention that students can’t skip ahead in the video?  Another WIN!


So if you’re interested in flipping or blended instruction – or just want to find another way to keep students engaged in learning…try Edpuzzle.  I’m sure you’ll love it! 🙂

Until the next time,


DCMOOC…..What I Learned About Digital Citizenship


Photo Credit: ToGa Wanderings via Compfight cc

For the past month, I participated in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on digital citizenship.  What is a MOOC you ask? A MOOC is an online course that allows unlimited participation and open access via the internet. MOOCs use traditional course materials such as videos, readings, and problem sets as well as creates a community for many people from many different places to collaborate and learn.  In this MOOC, participants had access to a focused weekly webinar focused on digital citizenship with other webinars available that focused on ways that educators could build an online presence and make connections.

What did I learn from this MOOC?  I learned that I have a whole lot to learn! 🙂 I will use our Week 5 questions to share my final thoughts and next steps.

What is one big take-away for you from #DCMOOC, and what will you do with that information?

One big take-away revolves around making sure that as a teacher I continuously stress digital citizenship with my students.  Digital Citizenship is not just a course and/or curriculum that is taken and forgotten about it, but a mindset that should pervade every part of a person’s life.

Going forward, what else do you feel you need to know about digital citizenship, and what will you do to learn about it?

As I look at my students and the community I work in, I think that finding inventive ways to educate households about digital citizenship will be a huge undertaking.  I plan to continue to connect with the people I’ve met through the MOOC to share ideas and brainstorm ways to assist with this.  I also need to work with my students on copyrighted information.  I’ve found various ways to find and access pictures in the correct way and I plan to work with them on showing them the process.

Will you continue to stay connected and engaged with the #DCMOOC community, and, if so, how do you plan to do so? What are your suggestions for continuing to learn about and discuss digital citizenship together after the course ends?

I definitely plan to stay connected with the #DCMOOC community through Twitter and Google+.  I use TweetDeck as my Twitter platform so I have tabs for DCMOOC hashtag (#dcmchat) and the DCMOOC Twitter list.  I also have a tab for the Digital Citizenship hashtag (#digcit).  The resources that are available just through Twitter are a great help, but I also continuously search for other resources and Common Source Media is a definitely an amazingly comprehensive resource.

Big shout out to my colleague, @TechRhett, who shared this MOOC with me.  It was my first, but it definitely won’t be my last!

Until the next time,


The Teaching Tribune {Worksheet Wednesday}

Today’s theme in The Teaching Tribune’s Summer Bloggin’ series is Worksheet Wednesday.

TTT Summer Bloggin-Wednesday


The worksheet I’m sharing is my Differentiating Point of View worksheet.


In elementary school, students are taught to search for the pronouns to determine point of view.  As they get older, dialogue in text can confuse them, so I encourage them to ask the following questions:

1.  Who’s telling the story? 

  • Inside narrator (character):  first person
  • Outside narrator:  third person

2.  How much does the narrator know?

  • Thoughts and feelings of one character?  third person limited (limited-omniscient)
  • Thoughts and feelings of all characters?  third person omniscient

This seems to help them greatly and we hardly get point of view questions wrong, now!

I hope this will be helpful to you.

Until the next time,