Digital Citizenship, Digital Teaching Resources, Flexible Content, Flipped Classroom, Math Rotations, Personalized Learning, Uncategorized

Flipped Classroom

I have been intrigued with the Flipped Classroom for a while. (The general idea is the reverse of the traditional learning environment: delivering instructional content like videos, primary source documents, reading assignments– outside of the classroom. It moves activities, including those that may have traditionally been considered homework, like discussion questions, projects, and activities based on the readings for school.) This video is a great overview.


At the beginning of the year, I promised my kids and parents that I wouldn’t assign homework. I was nervous to try flipping my classroom because I was afraid there would be backlash when I started sending work home. I think I will fully embrace the flipped classroom next year, but for now I’m experimenting with the “in-class flip.”

It was easiest for me to start thinking about flipping my reading and math lessons. I created this choice board with different activities for the students to work on (their choice) while I pulled small groups for differentiated instruction. My students all went straight for the games, and not much else.

Version Two: This math choice board works so much better! There are three choices in dark blue. The students must complete two days in the dark boxes, before moving to the lighter boxes. They spend two days in the medium blue boxes (or they can go back to dark blue). Finally, they can choose the game on Friday or any of the previous activities. I made a similar version for reading but is a little more flexible.

This took a bit of time…I had to link up the videos, Padlet boards, skill sheets, etc., but once they are created, I’ll have them for years. Another issue is that YouTube is blocked at my school. I had to link up BrainPop! videos (students have passwords for this site), and explained that the other videos can be watched at home.  While it’s not a full “Flip” it is definitely a start. Here are the links to my Padlets. It’s so easy to make your own.

  • Padlet Examples:

          Social Studies

Here are some additional resources that have helped me or that I have created to help others in my building.

Digital Citizenship, Digital Teaching Resources, Google Sites, IB, Uncategorized

End-of-Year Lifesavers

If you are like me, those last few days of school are a struggle. The students have finished their end-of-year exams, they know grades are finished, but you’re not quite ready to pop in the movie just yet. I found a  few lifesavers that helped me keep my sanity this week.

  1. Rock on to 5th Grade – Interactive Google Slides
    This is a take on the old paper booklets where students write about their year. I made an electronic version, posted it to Google Classroom (with the option that each student got their own copy) and set a due date. Students had to write about everything from how my future class could succeed in my room, to their summer plans. I even included alphabet pages, where students wrote one thing we learned this year for each letter.
  2. End-of-Year Brain Maps
    I saw this article on Eduptopia and copied the directions in a Google Doc to post on Google Classroom. I gave each table (four students) a large piece of butcher paper, some markers, and they were off to the races. I saw many students using my class Google Site to think back about what we’ve learned this year. A short presentation followed.
  3. IB Exhibition (Part I, II, and III). 
    While “Exhibition” is unique to IB schools, any inquiry based, research project could be completed at the end of the year. Students started by researching man-made systems. They interviewed someone in the field or went on a community visit, then researched a real-world problem that exists within that system. Finally the students had to “take action” in some way to help with the real-world problem. Some students made lesson plans for lower grades, others passed out fliers in their community, and some even started their own farmers market.


Summer is almost here! Enjoy!

Digital Teaching Resources, IB

IB Exhibition: Part II

My students have been working on Exhibition for a few weeks now. (See previous post on how we got started, our Unit of Inquiry, and “Finding Out”.)

After researching man-made systems, my students moved on to “Sorting Out” and “Going Further.” The students chose three key concepts to start brainstorming questions to go along with their unit.

Key Concepts PYP

I then had students think of real-world problems that are occurring with the system they chose. I created a google slide show where each student was responsible for filling in one slide with the problems associated with their system. Make a copy for yourself here.


Students then reached out the the community for interviews. We had responses from around the city. I had students interviewing local chefs and farmers about the “farm-to-table” movement, two members of the Charleston Ports Authority and Boarder Patrol came to hand-deliver their interview questions to one group, and still other students went to local software companies to discuss computer coding and hacking. We were overwhelmed with the positive support form both teachers in the building who had local contacts and the responses from around our city who had no affiliation with our school.

This will then move into our “Taking Action” portion of exhibition. Students will take action in some way to address the real-world issue researched above. See my future post on “Taking Action.”

Digital Teaching Resources

Breakout EDU

Ever since doing a Breakout Room in Miami on vacation, I loved the idea. Three friends and I (all with graduate degrees) did not make it out of the “Pirate” room in the 60 minutes but we had a lot of fun. As soon as I heard about the educational version, I created a Donor’s Choose project and got my breakout box funded ($125).


Luckily, my partner in crime, Lisa Stewart, got her own Breakout EDU box delivered on the same day. We settled on our test breakout, “Alien Invasion” and got to work. We decided to use both boxes, in two rooms, so students could work in smaller groups.

Note: There is a lot of front-end prep work for the teachers. We had to print out documents, write on them in invisible ink, and set all of the locks. These videos were helpful. My box was also missing a directional lock, which I had to order on Amazon

We hid the things around each of our rooms. We divided the class in half (this time it was girls versus boys) and read the story line and let the kids go. Lisa found this amazing YouTube video which has a 45-minute timer that also played suspenseful music. This added to the excitement in my room.


This breakout is listed as for ages 5-10. Since I teach 4th Grade, we started with this one. We now realize that we could do some middle school ones since the girls finished with 11 minutes to spare and the boys with 8 minutes. I am so excited to try this again, and we will be doing The Lost Lincoln Letter next week during our Civil War Unit. I will be using the ones that match my state standards/units, but the alien one was a great place to start. If you are interested in other Breakout EDUs, they can be found below:


Note: Some of the breakout games require things not included in the box. There are helpful video tutorials for each game that I would recommend watching beforehand!


Genius Hour

Genius Hour: Part IV

This has been a pretty cool journey, and is by far the most fun we (consistently) have each week. During our science and social studies lessons, questions constantly come up and we add them to the Genius Hour wall of questions. The students also found this website from School in the Cloud with other big questions posted by people from across the globe. An abundance of questions has never been our problem. But putting together meaningful presentations has. Here’s how we solved the problems from Genius Hour Part I, Part II, and Part III.


Problem 1: Students were boring their classmates with their presentations.
Solution: We started videotaping the presentations and posting them to Google Classroom. Not only would any absent students be able to see what they missed, but the actual presenters could watch their own presentations and analyze it to improve for the future.
Proud Teacher Moment: One group did a presentation answering the question, “What is sketch comedy?” They were very much interested in doing a mock news show but their presentation was just a video of them talking to the camera. After watching themselves, they re-did their presentation adding b-roll footage and it was much improved.

Problem 2: We were having a hard time keeping track of who was doing what, and when.
Solution: We created a Genius Hour Record sheet in Google Sheets. This is posted in Google Classroom and students can access them at any time. Each time we meet for Genius Hour, students  are  expected to record what their topic/question is and what they did that day (researching, preparing presentation, etc).


Problem 3: Students were copying and pasting large chunks of information from the web into their presentations.
Solution: We (the GT teacher and I) decided we must approve genius hour questions before students can do the research, and they have to show us their research before they start working on their presentation. We also required research and presentations must be presented with bullets. No complete sentences! This threw the kids off for a few weeks but they are getting better at trimming their information down. This helped for presentations too, because they couldn’t just read from the board.

Problem 4: We (students and teachers) were getting overwhelmed watching 10-20 presentations in one sitting.
Solution: We created a Google Calendar where students can sign up for 5 minute presentation time slots throughout the week. I get an email alerting me a few minutes before and the students write it down in their agenda. These are peppered throughout the day  during transition times, like after lunch.


Anyone else doing Genius Hour? What is working in your classes?



Digital Teaching Resources

Digital Reflection for Kids

I’ve always loved exit slips, but I often forget to do them, or run out of time during class. In the past, I’ve used exit slips to assess everything from new math strategies to how the class was feeling emotionally. The exit ticket that I used up until recently was the stoplight strategy I saw (stole from) a conference with Carol Ann Tomlinson. The students recorded their response to one of the following three statements:

  1. Something I learned today….
  2. Something I have considered…/I still have a question about…
  3. My learning stopped because…


I always learned so much about my kids from these little pieces of paper. I once saw a student had posted on the red (my learning stopped because…) and had written that his grandfather had recently been diagnosed with cancer, his cat had died, and his mom had been in  car accident. No wonder he was acting out in class! These are the little tid-bits that students might be too shy to say out loud, but reminded me of the NY Times article about what students wished their teachers knew. Here are some gems, one from each category:


More recently, I’ve been doing digital reflections or exit slips. I will either post a question on Google Classroom, or I will create an exit slip in Google Forms. These can be posted during class and take very little effort. I still use the questions above, but now I can go further. The benefits of posting a question on Google Classroom are that I have them all in one place (no more post-it notes all over the place!), I can easily see who has finished them (and who hasn’t), and I can read them whenever (even from home).


I also use Google Forms as exit slips. I can post a picture, say of a straw that looks bent in a glass of water, and have the students explain what scientific phenomenon is occurring. Or I can ask one math problem and have the students post a Doceri video where they work the problem and record their voice as they explain the steps. These can also be private, so only the student and I can see them, if they felt more comfortable than sharing publicly on a poster in the classroom.


Lastly, I’ve used Today’s Meet. This is a website (that works great on iPads, too). Here I can post a discussion question and my students all get to respond. The best part is, like Twitter, they only have 140 characters to respond. I also ask that no answers be repeated. This keeps the kids on their toes, as they have to constantly be reading the feed before they post. I can post the link to Google Classroom and the students love to use this one. Another bonus is I can select how long I want the meet to last, for example one hour, and that way students can’t log in later and have a side conversation when I’m no longer monitoring the feed.



SOLE: Self-Organized Learning Environment

This blog could easily have been called Genius Hour: Part IV.

I have been doing Genius Hour for a while now. It all started with the TED talk about the School in the Cloud experiment in India. Sugata Mitra designed the School in the Cloud, a learning lab in India, where children could explore and learn from each other — using resources and mentoring from the cloud. His vision led to the creation of SOLE or Self Organized Learning Environments.

Screen Shot 2017-02-19 at 1.25.43 PM.pngThis is very much like Genius Hour…students start with a big question or idea, they choose their own partners/small groups, and they present their findings at the end. The teacher walks around and helps when needed, but does little in terms of instruction. SOLE does differ in that each small group (3-5 students) can only use one device. This helps with collaboration and teamwork. Also, members of the group may leave the group, to share or get ideas from other groups, but must ultimately present with their original group.

This video is probably the most profound thing I have read, seen, or watched in many years. “Before the internet, there was great value in knowing and remembering. Yet, this is the lowest level of learning.” With Google at our fingertips, why does a 4th grader need to know how many cups are in a pint, or how many feet in a yard? While it is good to have a frame of reference for these things, no longer do we need to spend so much time memorizing facts. We have the world at our fingertips! “Today it is more critical to know how to find answers than it is to remember them. We are able to free up our educational process on high order skills such as evaluation and creation.”

Screen Shot 2017-02-19 at 1.35.56 PM.png

My role as a teacher is no longer to be the “keeper of the knowledge” standing in front of rows of students, imparting my “wisdom” into their brains, but as a facilitator; someone who sets a process in motion, then stands back as learning occurs naturally. I am grateful for the GT instructor at my school who originally showed me Sugata Mitra’s TED Talk, and helped get Genius Hour rolling for my students, and for a co-worker who reminded me about SOLE and how to use in my daily teaching! Borrowing and stealing!