Spending Quality Time With My Geeks!

This year I am spending soooooo much more time with teachers – which I love. In addition to that, a few principals have initiated Student Tech Support groups or, as we call them, “Geek Squads”! I try to meet with the students once a month and show them how to use tools and troubleshoot through usage.  As many of you who follow me know, the hardest part about this job is being away from kids – I miss them terribly.  So now, I get the best of both worlds.  Today I met with my elementary Geek Squad and we had an amazing time!!

When I meet with each group, I try to combine showing them technical skills through instructional ways.  So today’s technical focus was Google logins, Schoology Assignment split screen on the iPad, annotating through Adobe Acrobat, and Flipgrid.  That’s a lot isn’t it.  But they did a fabulous job of it all!

We used main idea as the curriculum skill and used text about Ruby Bridges to practice the technical skills.

Ruby Bridges with US Marshals on the school steps.


Students opened a Google Doc that I created asking two questions that focused on main idea and supporting details.  They then watched a short video clip about Ruby Bridges and took notes in the app.  It was so cool watching them work in real time!

After that, I airdropped a piece of text to them using Apple Classroom and they opened it in Adobe Acrobat.  They used the Split Screen feature to follow allow with the text (I read) and we discussed potential main ideas and supporting details which they annotated in Adobe.

Using the information they highlighted in the text, they answered the questions and then used that information to put into a FlipGrid video.  It was their first time using most of these tools – especially FlipGrid and without headphones and microphones it got pretty loud.

All in all though, I think they did a fabulous job!  I’m so proud of the work that they’re doing and always look forward to our next interaction!!

Their FlipGrid videos!

Until the next time!

I Love Smore! And No, Not The Treat….

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Today’s blogging challenge: What tech tool are you loving these days? Why?

Whenever I get asked the question, “What’s your favorite tool?”, I always sigh.  Is it because I’m a tech geek that I have difficulty answering that question?  Probably so.  But it is always such a hard question for me!  So I mostly have to drop the multiple names in a random name selector and have it make that choice.

So today’s choice is Smore!  Smore allow you to quickly create great-looking webpages. It boasts of creating online flyers, but it’s way more than that. To me “flyer” implies that you’re creating a single-use PDF and posting it online. Smore’s flyers are not single-use PDFs….they are alive!   The Smore flyers can include so many different media types:  images, embedded links, even video! Creating and making changes  is super easy because it’s pretty much just drag and drop.

They’ve recently created the “Educator Hive” that provides educator examples that can be viewed, adapted and/or remixed!  It just launched last week and they already have or 500 submissions!

Smore could be a great way for extracurricular clubs, teams, or school organization to build simple announcement pages and/or share updates and featured news.

I use Smore for many things, including the weekly DCSD Tech Tidbits newsletter that I share with our entire district once a week.  Since my format stays the same and I just add different information, I just duplicate the one from the previous week to prepare for the one that will be shared out next week.  I also embed them on my blog.  You can find old copies here.

Earlier this year, I used it to highlight activities completed during Digital Learning Day.

So although I will never refuse a piece of graham crackered, chocolate marshmallowy goodness – you can definitely see why this Smore is my favorite!

Until the next time,


To Grade or Not to Grade….That Is The Question

Tonight’s #flipclass #flashblog focuses on grading.  I’m sure that I will definitely be in the minority when I say that grades are necessary.  Do I think that grades are necessary all the time? No.  And maybe not even with all students.  But my students need grades.

I work in a high poverty school.  When you ask the boys what they want to be when they grow up, they all say some type of professional athlete.  If you ask them to come up with a second choice…they can’t.  They are each going to be the one who MAKES IT!  They don’t do my homework or study or read because they have practice. In the fall it’s football practice…in the winter – it’s basketball practice…..in the spring it’s baseball practice.  In this agricultural town where the unemployment rate is 5.8% and the job growth is -0.03% my students need to find a way out.  They need the opportunities to see other options for them.  They need to see that their education is a priority.  One that is more important than any sport they can play. But I digress….

Do I make grades the end all be all? No.  In class, we talk about determining our individual strengths and weaknesses.  I stress to them that the goal is mastery.  If they don’t do well on an assignment they can always redo it.  I work with them in small groups and on an individual basis to see what they know and what they’re stuck on.  I stress to them that it’s not who learns the material the fastest – the important thing is that the skill is learned.

Do I think that the 100 point grading scale is ridiculous?  I do.  How can there be 30 points to show that a student is passing and 69 points to determine failure.

Maybe they don’t need grades, but they need to be held accountable.  If a student feels that the assignment will not be graded – they half tail do it.  So, although I don’t put every grade in the gradebook, they don’t know it.  So, I guess my issue is not necessarily with grading but with accountability.  When I was growing up, my parents held me accountable for learning.  They made sure that I did those things that would make me successful.  That’s not always the case.

So I’m sure you’re saying “MAKE UP YOUR MIND!”  So here are my final thoughts.  Grades are a necessary evil as a part of holding students accountable.  Are my students more than a grade?  Heck yes!  Do we focus only on grades in my classroom?  Heck no!  And so continues this tight rope that I walk….

Until the next time,


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.

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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.

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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,



Keeping Students Engaged via Backchannels!

Today’s post focuses on a website that I can’t live without. I decided to focus on websites that are perfect for back channeling.

What’s a backchannel, you ask?




Backchannel is the practice of using networked computers to maintain a real-time online conversation alongside the primary group activity or live spoken remarks. The term was coined in the field of Linguistics to describe listeners’ behaviors during verbal communication,

Think Eric Think

It’s a kind of parallel discussion, a collectively shaped comment on some ongoing conversation. An alternative channel, often with a different conversational modus.

Lee Lefever

It’s a little like passing notes in class- except via the Internet. Wireless Internet connections at conferences and lectures are allowing people to use laptops and other tools to communicate in real time during presentations. These communications occur in what is called the “backchannel”.

How can I use a backchannel, you ask?

Anytime you want to get immediate feedback from students.

  • Skype Sessions – During our Skype sessions, we use a backchannel to document what’s going on.  This allows everyone who is participating to show their perspective.
  • Book Study – While participating in the Global Read Aloud with Out of My Mind, I added polls and discussion questions to students while we were reading.
  • Greek/Latin Root Study – When students are studying new roots they share words that use that root and the definition.  We use that information to vote on our Root of the Week.
  • Checking for Understanding – While learning new content, students can post questions and/or extend the discussion without interrupting the facilitator.  I can also ask questions about the content and receive immediate feedback from EVERYONE!
  • Watching a Video – While watching a video, students type in their reactions to what they see and I’m able to answer questions that show up as they watch the video.

What backchannel should I use, you ask?

I’m going to share with you my Top 3:  Today’s Meet, Socrative, and GoSoapBox.

Today’s Meet 



  • Free
  • No account necessary


  • Little control
  • Fewer features
  • You have to send out a link – it’s too difficult  to have kids type in the entire web address
  • It’s difficult to focus the conversation.




  • Students don’t need an account, they simply enter the “Room Number” (which teachers can custom create) when the teacher has the activity open.
  • Easy to create a quiz and you can even use their excel template to create a quiz then import it into the app
  • Changing order of questions is easy
  • Can share quizzes with other teachers


  • You can’t add images to questions
  • Students have to do questions in order. They can’t skip a question and return.
  • Explanations can be given after the question (I see this as a disadvantage as I have wanted to add a hint prior to students answering a question, not after)
  • If you’re doing a quick multiple choice or true/false question, you can’t type in the question.  You either have to continue to repeat it or write/type it somewhere that the students can see.




  • Works equally well with cell phones, iPods, iPads, laptops and desk top computers
  • Allows multiple choice and short answer quizzes/tests
  • Allows polling
  • Allows discussions with and among students
  • Allows back channeling during lecture,  films, presentations, discussions
  • Can require students to sign in to use the site and have their name show up with the comments
  • Free for up to 30 users at a time.
  • More than 30 users costs $90/year.  

If you are looking for a way to engage students, this is definitely a way to go.  Try it out and let me know the results!  

Until the next time,

My Brain Is Breaking! {20 Day Blogging Challenge}


As a middle school teacher I stopped short when I saw the blog post about brain breaks/indoor recess.  I’m thinking, we only have 60 minutes….we don’t have time for brain breaks!  But I did a little research and I’ve actually seen some things that are applicable to me.  As I was looking I thought, “This is a great way to keep students motivated, so I’m linking this post with my friend Joanne over a Head Over Heels for Teaching for her “Spark Student Motivation Saturday” party!


During standardized testing, we take brain breaks about every thirty minutes….we stretch, wiggle, roll our necks, etc.

The Happy Teacher has a great blog post about it.   Students pull these ultra cute craft sticks from a mug when it’s time for a brain break.  If you’re interested, click here to read more about it. 

Courtesy of The Happy Teacher

Courtesy of The Happy Teacher

In 60 minutes we have about 3 different changes.  I’m going to implement a brain break during those transitions.  I love to dance, so I think my brain breaks will involve a couple of line dancing songs…..Cha Cha Slide, Wobble, Cupid Shuffle, etc.

 I’ll let you know how it goes…..

Until the next time,


If They Love You….They Will Work! {20 Day Blogging Challenge}

Today’s post has me focusing on a professional read that has had an impact on me.  I have read so many professional books, but this one struck deep to the heart of me.

Opening Minds


This book stresses how by focusing on the heart of a child you can affect the head.  In Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives, Peter Johnston shows how the words teachers choose affect the worlds students inhabit in the classroom, and ultimately their futures. 

This book, recommended to me by our Title One Coordinator, solidified everything that I’ve believed in from the beginning.  If you show a child, a parent, a community that you care – you can change the world.  .  Students will work their hardest for you if they know you care about them.  Parents will support you no matter what, if they believe that you care for their child.  A parent may not be able to help their child with algebraic problems, scientific notation or euphemisms – but they can tell their child, “You will not misbehave in that teacher’s classroom, because I know they care about you and they want what’s best for you.”  And that is the best gift they could ever give me – their trust. 



Until the next time,


Jefferson’s Bucks…A No Cost Money System {20 Day Blogging Challenge}


Jefferson’s Jam!

It is my belief that children desire a well structured environment.  A well managed classroom is imperative in children being successful in your classroom.  You can be a wealth of information, have creative ideas, and amazing lesson plans – but none of those things will benefit anyone if the children are running around the classroom like wild animals.  And although we all think that the rewards for learning is a smarter brain – that just doesn’t cut it for all of our students.  Enter Jefferson’s Bucks!

Check Register

With Jefferson’s Bucks my classroom runs smoothly, my children are well behaved, and they know the “cost” for being unprepared.  Students that are on task and follow instructions are awarded incentive money.   I don’t have students take out money for inappropriate behaviors, but I do charge students for needed materials.

Say a child doesn’t have a pencil or paper or forgot their homework in their locker….you know what I’m talking about, right?  Instead of going on a tirade about how this is school, their job, and they should come to their job prepared…..blah…blah…blah…. I just hand them a pencil/paper/eraser/etc. and tell them to take money out of their account.

I hear you asking, “Isn’t that costly?  Spending your money to buy materials that parents should buy?”  Nope!  Parents donate these items and their children are paid for their donation in Jefferson’s Bucks.

At the end of the quarter I host a Jefferson’s Jam – the coolest party on the planet that has food, music, and games.  Plus, students get a chance to miss a class to participate!  And that costs me nothing either!  Parents donate items for the party and their child is compensated.

It’s a Win/Win situation!  And it makes for stress free days! 🙂

Until the next time,



The Backwards Writing Design {20 Day Blogging Challenge}


I think I’m a pretty good writer.  I don’t love to write – but I can and will.  I absolutely despite teaching writing.  I think it’s unfair to expect me to teach reading AND writing in a 60 minute block.

I’ve noticed that despite the fact that I’m sure all teachers have preached “prewriting….prewriting….prewriting….” not much of that gets done.  This week as we began our persuasive writing I only had one student out of ninety-seven begin their writing with a graphic organizer…..ONE!  I knew that would happen, so this week I planned for us to use the Backwards Writing Design model to show my students the importance of prewriting.

After they’d written their rough draft, I shared with them an exemplary paper.

Facility Exemplar Writing

We then used colored pencil to highlight the key components of this paper:  Hook, thesis statement, topic sentences of body paragraphs and supporting details.  When you teach four classes, sometimes your last class gets the best of you, or they get the worst of you, if you know what I mean.  This time, my last class got the best of me.  I was able to tweak my lesson each period so that by the time 6th period ran around it was definitely a well oiled machine!

After we highlighted those key elements in each paragraph, we used my writing graphic organizer to see what this person’s pre-planning looked like.

Writing Graphic Organizer

They then had to take their writing and complete blank graphic organizer.  I heard so many “Oh man, I have a lot of work to do!” and “My graphic organizer is blank! I don’t have enough details!” and “I forgot to add my ___________ (insert word here)!”

I’m really excited with what I’m hearing. Come back tomorrow to see how what I have planned to finish it up!

Until the next time,


I’m Going to Stop Procrastinating…..Tomorrow {20 Day Blogging Challenge}

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Today’s challenge topic is to share ONE thing I wish I were better at.  That would definitely be my difficulty in staying focused on a task – or rather not even getting started on work that needs to be done until the last minute.

For example, here I am working on blog post #5 for this challenge when I have a crate full of papers that need to be graded. The upcoming week will be the last week of the second quarter and grades will be due. Ugghhh.  I just don’t want to do it!

I went out to school Thursday and Friday and I was able to clean up my classroom, get lesson plans done, and make copies for the week.  I’ve carted that crate to and from work both days without even touching it!

This picture describes me perfectly……


Courtesy of Tumblr

If I could kick this procrastination habit there’s so much I could do!  Consistently blog!  Upload numerous items to my TpT store! Kick some of this stress!

I know I can do it!  I’ll get it together…..tomorrow!

Until the next time,