Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Shake Up Your Snow Day!

It's that time of year again where snow days are possible especially in the midwest. There is always seems to be the struggle as a teacher where you are happy that our students don't have to come to school in this dangerous weather. However, you also don't want them to miss learning. So what to do? I know some schools are moving towards digital school days where assignments are online and students complete them from home. Other districts have a folder or packet that students take home and have to complete the work within on Snow Days. I always struggled with both of these because I know my students. Many don't have a computer or internet access. Some won't even open the folder if it is sent home (truth be told do YOU really want to grade a packet of work?...If you do then you are better than me). We have to be creative as teachers and create learning experiences that are engaging even from home. It is possible! There are teachers who are amazing at creating activities or connecting to their students even on a Snow Day. I know you're wondering what are some of these amazing ideas. Don't worry I compiled some amazing ideas that you could try yourself.

  1. Snow Day Challenges: This was an idea I saw a few years ago on Twitter shared by an amazing educator and then reshared by Class Dojo. This teacher created a list of different activities students could do in order to earn Dojo points. I loved this idea and borrowed it! This list consists of so many different activities from helping around the house, spending time with loved ones, to academic websites or activities. I have really enjoyed seeing students doing more than just academic activities. Parents love having homework be something that can help around the house. Also, make sure you ask to share pictures. It is great to see students doing these things. Now this works out great if you use Class Dojo, but you could also print a list of challenge items for students to take home. Parents can initial boxes of challenge items that were completed. I have seen schools where instead of Dojo Points students earn House points, coupon rewards, or just a special reward when they return to school. What you ask the students to do and the rewards you give are really your chance to be creative. 
  2. Snow Day Read Aloud: I will totally admit I saw this over the past few weeks on Facebook and LOVED IT! If you haven't followed Allyson Apsey you should! She is an amazing principal, public speaker and book author of The Path to Serendipity. She has done a read aloud live on Facebook everyday student have had a snow day and its so amazing. Parents and students can log on and watch their teacher or principal reading a book to them. This is fun for all readers. If you have Class Dojo you can record yourself and post it to your classroom or to the school story page. You could even have students log in to their Portfolio page on Class Dojo and record themselves reading their favorite picture book. Such a great way to engage students in reading and share the love of a good book.
  3. Reading Challenge: Speaking of reading, there is nothing wrong with a good reading challenge. I like to create them for my students from time to time and have two going on right now. One I created on a half day last week knowing that we might not be seeing each other for a while due to the snow and cold weather that has taken Illinois by storm. I looked on TPT and found this amazing free resource from More Than Worksheets and tweaked it to work for my Snow Days. I decided to give out Dojo Points as a reward and talked about how students could be creative when trying to accomplish these different challenges. Another challenge I created was where my students are trying to complete 10 books by April 26th. Then they have different options to show what they know like presenting on their book, creating a Flipgrid book commercial, writing/ designing a book report, or taking a test on the book. 

  4. Design You Own Math Adventure: Students don't always love math. They do enjoy a great adventure! This is something I came up with on a whim and I will tell you it does require a little more work. As much as I love reading I wanted to create a math challenge to get students excited to practice skills we have been working on in class. It would also be a chance for students and parents to work together and possibly see where their students are struggling and see what we are working on in school. 
    • (Now before I start explaining this weird, some might say a crazy idea; I need to let you know I have a flair for the dramatics. I love a good costume and Halloween has always been my favorite holiday because I got to be someone I'm not. Teaching is fun in that way because we can be characters and dive into lessons to get students engaged that adults might find strange. Regardless, I know that not everyone is comfortable putting on a costume. Or comfortable being loud and crazy like me. No worries there are still ways to modify it to fit you and your personality!) 
    • So after waking up and eating breakfast, I wrote out a quick script. I wanted there to be two characters, one good, and one evil. The whole goal would be to defeat the evil character, in this case, the Ice Witch from taking over the world with snow and ice. The students were put in the role of the Math Wizards and had to complete 4 challenges in order to get parts of a spell to send the Ice Witch packing. So here is my script: 
      Queen Lilac and the Ice Witch 
       It was nothing too epic, but simple and helped to relay the goal and give a sense of urgency. I then looked through my closet at home to help me find items to wear to make the characters come to life. After I had created my outfits I used my iPhone to film my short videos. The hardest part was listening to them back. To listen to yourself will always be awkward but you want to make sure you can be heard. So alas I listened. In all honesty, they were not going to get me an Oscar but I kept the first take almost everytime because it was the most me. Students want to see you engaged and having fun no matter how strange it might be. If they see your willingness to go all out they will too. 
    • After filming the 5 videos I then used a free app called LIKE. This app allowed me to add digital effects to my videos like ice, snow, and flowers to make them more exciting to watch. After saving them to my phone I was able to upload them to Class Dojo as I pleased throughout the day.
    • As for the 4 challenge I created my own math problems and found free Teachers Pay Teachers resources that I used and modified. 
    • To start with every hour or hour and a half I posted a video and a math challenge to complete on my Class Dojo Story page. This allowed all parents and students to be able to view it. Some students printed the pictures others wrote down the problems. After completing them the parents would send a photo of the work back to me and I would check it. If the student got a problem wrong I would tell them to look it over, give them hints, or even send youtube videos to help. If the student got the math right they would earn a part of the spell to cast the Ice Witch away.
    • The Spell was just a short 4 line rhyme I created and at the end, I asked students or parents to film students casting the spell and send it to my email or record themselves on Class Dojo. I had so many creative videos with expression, dogs, and even wands! 
    • Was this a lot of work? Yes. Did it have me committed to my phone and laptop all day? Yes. Was it worth it to see students learning and having fun? YES!!!
    • If you are willing to take the time to make something like this it can be so worth it, but don't think it has to be just like mine with videos and made up spells.
    • Consider: 
      • You could post challenges on Facebook if you or your school has a Facebook page
      • Post to Twitter, send it through email. or post to Google Classroom
      • Type a Story instead of filming a video with clipart
      • Use gifs and attach them to challenge questions
      • Make a tic tac toe board of math questions
      • Find fun math riddles or puzzles like on Mash Up Math
      • Have students design their own math questions and share them
      • Post challenges and give clues to a keyword or letters instead of giving parts of a spell.
      • *So many ideas, comment or share your own!
  5. Snow Day Project: Have students create, research or design a project of their own choosing or focused on a single theme. Since it's so close to the beginning of 2019 why not have students create their own Vision Boards at home. Set goals for themselves and create action plans to achieve them. It would be an awesome chance for family time and discussion. Also, a great chance for students to present when they return to school!

There are so many ideas to keep students learning and motivated during snow days you just have to think outside of the box!

Share Your Thoughts!
What are some things you do during snow days or your days off to keep students learning?

Share your ideas with me on Twitter using: @teaching_power   #teachingpower
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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Reflections on BURNOUT!

I have spent the first part of this school year focused and exhausted. I've been focused on trying to teach my students and get them farther than before. Also focused on figuring out the best way to teach math since we departmentalized this year. What I have done in past years doesn't always work or is as effective especially with the time frame and the number of students I see now. I'm constantly reevaluating and changing my curriculum along with my lesson plans. It's exhausting. I love what I do. I got into this profession because of how important I find this job. I want to show students learning can be fun, show them that they matter, and shape students who are better, more openminded people. Over the last few years, I have started to wear thin. What used to bring me joy is exhausting me more and more. I have gotten to a place where I do want to be better and help my students, but I also need to find time for me. I have given countless hours to school activities, planning events, committees, presenting, edu chats, and so much more. Now I need to slow down, take a step back, and focus on what matters to me.

As educators, there is a balance that we have to work towards. The balance between what we give to students and what we give to ourselves. In the age of social media, I feel like this makes it harder. I constantly see things that I want to do with my students or want to create for my classroom. I never feel like I am content with my class. I'm constantly working to do and create more. There is a part of me that is like, "That's a good thing Megan! Reflection is good and you should always be innovating and updating." Yet, there is a part of me that is shouting, "BREATH! Slow down, you can't do it all and you need time for you too!" I watch amazing teachers daily who have mastered the art of being powerful educators and masterful parents at the same time. I'm getting to a part in my life where I know I want a family and I know I will have to master the balancing act in order to make it all work. I know I'm not the only one feeling this way, but I also realize in the age of social media we post the successes and not the lows. So here is my low: Burnout is real and I might be struggling with it.

I have really been struggling with this the last year or so. As we start in 2019 I wanted to set some goals for myself in order to be better. So here are my resolutions to grow as a person this year while still balancing my career.

  1. I want to read 9 books this year because I do love reading, but I never make time for it anymore. 
    I love Once Upon A Book Club!
  2. I want to workout 2-3 times a week because it does make me feel good and proud. 
    All runs should end with taking your dog down a slide.
  3. I want to post on my blog once a month because I do love to share, but the pressure of posting weekly or biweekly was too much for me. 
    I loved being able to blog about my experienes and ideas
  4. I want to spend more time connecting with family and friends especially outside of the school setting. 
    My fellow educators and friends at our college reunion.
  5. I want to create one new creative lesson for my classroom that I can add to my toolkit. 
    I loved my rockstar day and I hope to make it even better!
  6. I want to plan more trips and take on more adventures. 
    The Bucket List Family is inspiring.

I write all this to say its ok. I know that these feelings are not only personal to me. I want those who connect to these feelings to know that you will be ok. With the title of teacher comes great responsibility and sometimes that responsibility feels like that of a superhero. We feel like we should be fighting every battle, creating new and unique moments, and be present at every single event when truth be told we are allowed to be human. We are allowed to take moments to ourselves, say no, and relax. I will never stop innovating, sharing, and creating but I will be working on myself too. I want to be a healthier, stronger person and sometimes that means breathing the fresh air. Never let your job define you, but instead, let your inner passion shine through your job. It's ok to admit that feeling of burnout, but it's not ok to not do anything about it. You are amazing and you matter so take care of yourself and don't feel bad about it!

Friday, August 3, 2018

Before School Starts...

Summer is winding to a close and many teachers are returning to their classrooms to decorate, get things ready and begin the new school year. I for one know the feeling of sadness, excitement, and worry that seem to embody any teacher starting another school year. It seems like a cycle is ending and a new beginning is just on the horizon. We all feel that little bit (if not more) of sadness rush us knowing that once again we will be back to work. So long are the days of sleeping in, enjoying the time to ourselves, and the all-important ability to pee when needed. Soon our schedule will not be so free, but instead will be full of meetings, meeting our new students, planning and so much more. The closer time ticks towards these moments the shorter the sighs of sadness become and instead we muster ourselves together to take on the challenge of a new year.

I have met two types of teachers. Some who dread returning and are tortured by it for they are the ones that lost their spark, their twinkle. Other teachers may have a moment or two of dread, but as they begin they are fully committed and excited to start the new year. These are the teachers that spend hours on Pinterest, in teacher stores and roam Target finding, creating, and buying things to make their classroom even better. Some decorate and make their room look magical and amazing. Others work hard to change their lessons or create something that makes students so excited they don't even realize they are learning. Tis the season of the bright-eyed teachers full of wonder and zeal ready to take on the challenges that lie ahead.

That excitement and joy are what we all need. We need to look at the new school year for what it is, a fresh start. We are getting a chance to start over with new students and try things we might never have done before. To that, I say BE BRAVE! Push yourself out of the box and try something new. Ask for help and be open with those around you about your failures and successes. We, teachers, need to be willing to take risks for us, as well as our students, to grow.

I recently posted in a Twitter chat that you can choose to worry, but it will get you nowhere, or you can choose to run, it will get you somewhere. I hold true to that as the time ticks down. I can choose to worry about "what if's" and be full of self-doubt or I can choose to run. I can choose to run after my dreams, try new things, and just be willing to push myself further this year. I might fall, I might look silly, I might make mistakes, but what if I soar? I will learn from every triumph and every failure and be a model for my students. I think as teachers we preach to our students about how it is ok to make mistakes, but sometimes we fear to make them ourselves. We have to be willing to put ourselves out there and try something new. I'm not saying change everything overnight, but try one or two big things this year. Take a leap and reflect. You never know what is possible unless you try.

Now there might be naysayers. People who doubt you and/ or your students. Block them out. You have to be your own champion and your students champion too! I have always loved being the underdog. People will count you out before you begin and then you have nowhere to go but up. If you put in the time, reach out to others for help and support, the sky is the limit.

Now that we are in a digital age there is support at your fingertips. You can find people to talk to on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and more. Don't be afraid to ask questions, ask for help, or just share because the teaching community is strong and supportive. You will find amazing people out there who are running just like you and have similar goals. Don't be afraid to run together and learn from one another.

With that being said don't fill yourself with doubt or fear. I know right now there are a million lesson ideas and classroom designs being posted. Don't let it get you down. Don't think you have to do it all! There are some amazing teachers doing amazing things out there, but just because your room doesn't look like that or just because you aren't creating something doesn't mean you aren't amazing too. I have gotten sucked into that Instagram rabbit hole where you look at all these amazing classrooms. Everything is perfectly organized, beautiful anchor charts, amazing lesson plans already made. I am not that teacher and though I try I am not perfect. But that is ok with me. I know what I do works for me, my students, and my classroom. Do I still try changing things a little bit? Yes, but I never try to weigh myself down with changing too much.

I say this to remind you that you are awesome! You are working in a profession where you get to impact lives and make a difference. No matter how small you are doing amazing things. Don't worry and fret, but instead smile when the new school year begins. Be open to taking on any challenges that come your way and learn from them. I'm in your corner rooting for you! You Got This!!!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

ISTE 2018 Reflections: Day 3

The final day of ISTE was full of relief and a sadness. I felt relieved that my brain would finally get a break. I would have time to look over and research all the ideas and tech I had experienced during this conference. I bit sad because I was going to miss this. I was going to miss being around all these educators, tech gurus and how much passion was in this building. I also felt like I was going to miss out on something. There was so much to see and do at this conference. I wanted more time to do all these things, but all great things must come to an end. With a full backpack and my bags packed I was ready to take on my last day and make it better than ever.
1st Stop on the Last Day!

I walked up the stairs with conviction and excitement ready to take on the day. We made it to the Expo by 9:00 and got coffee. We walked around and saw some of the booths we missed the day before and some new ones. We stumbled upon Renaissance which is the creator of Accelerated Reader. I loved their interactive booth! People were able to write their favorite children's book on a spine of a book. This books were on a "bookshelf" and posted on the board.
The bookshelf behind the coffe stand

Which one is my favorite? Write your guess in the comments!

After writing ours on the board we headed to a session at View Sonic. I had been following the ISTE Ladies Road Trip and was eager to hear them speak. Alice Keeler, Lisa Dabbs, and Christine Pinto all stood up and talked about the importance of the 4 C’s. In full disclosure, I had never heard of or thought about the 4 C’s before this ISTE conference. I realized I put these in place in my classroom.  Though, I had no concept of their importance and value in Tech until this conference. It was great to hear these three ladies talk! They discussed the amazing value of critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity in the classroom. It was also great to see them in person. I had followed Lisa for a while and talked to her on Voxer. Alice and Christine were talked about (by fellow teachers) so much during ISTE that it was great to put a face to a name. They gave me hope and strengthened my conviction to do amazing things moving forward.

Following this mini presentation I ended up attending Goog-smacked...yes that is what it was called. To be honest it was what I needed. It was a great format where three main presenters: Matt Miller, Kasey Bell, and Eric Curts. They went through many different apps, websites, or tips that could help teachers. There was a focus in certain subject areas, grades, and helpfulness to teachers. I loved how much information was given and the format was great especially on the last day. It was a lot of information, but it was all  practical information that I can use and share with others in my building. It covered a wide amount of material briefly, but efficiently. I loved it. Here is a link to their presentation: Goog Smacked

After this, I tried to get into a session but I got there too late. So I decided to go back to walking about and checking out the Expo. This is where I stayed for rest of the day until my BOYDex session. I enjoyed wandering and talking to different people. It’s funny how no matter how many times you wander through the expo you always see something new. I even won a hat and a bookmark! I also found the later it got the more booths started giving away things, which is something I am all about! I don’t care if its a sticker I am all about free stuff.
We met Moby!

Time dwindled closer to the BYODex session so I headed that way. I was excited to learn about resources that were considered an ELL Superpower Toolkit. After waiting both in the hall and in the room for a total of 25 minutes we found out the speaker was not present...bummer. So on our way out, I stopped one more time by the ball pit in was gone. It felt like as quick as this experience had started it was ending as quick. Saddened, I stopped by the Microsoft Vending Machine. All you had to do was tweet with the hashtag and out came a prize pack. We can all say that’s awesome! I have never seen something like that and to be honest I’m all about Twitter Experiences. We traveled for the last time to the Expo. We wandered through picking up freebies and crossing our fingers. With 2p.m. on the horizon, we were hoping one of us would be chosen in the raffles held across the expo. As 2p.m. came and went we were disappointed with no wins. I guess Hannah won big with the Hamilton Tickets so we were done winning for this trip, lol.
Alejandro made a few drinks while we waited around the Expo

I don’t want to end this all on a sad note though. As sad as it was to leave, and trust me I was sad to leave, I had such a great experience. I have so many ideas! I learned about so many products, met so many great people (including some rock stars of education), and I overcame my anxiety to make this all happen. This was a great conference and I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t gone before. I am doubtful I will end up in Philadelphia next year. If it ever comes back to Chicago ( I hope it does) then I will be there! I am so thankful to all those who spent their time to share their knowledge. I am so thankful to my colleagues for going on this awesome adventure with me. When we submitted our names for PD Scholarships we never thought we would get the chance to go and have such a great time.


  1. What is something you learned this summer?
  2. What PD would/ is #OneInAMillion to you?

Tweet out your reply to me @teaching_power
Use the hashtag: #teachingpower

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Monday, July 9, 2018

ISTE 2018 Reflections: Day 2

After a very long and exciting first day at ISTE I found myself back again for more. This day I had a better understanding of where everything was and also what I wanted to attend. I spent the first part of the morning once attending poster sessions and then jumping into the expo. I was excited to wander through the expo and see new products but also see favorites that I use in my classroom daily. I stood in line for what felt like a long time. In order to try and get a free book from Kasey Bell. However,  I literally was the cutoff. I was that one person who wasn’t going to get a book, darn. Well I kept pushing and with a little bit of coffee ended up finding Pear Deck, Wonder Workshop, and Lalilo. It was nice to be able to get hands-on learning and talk to the people who know the product the best.
So excited to find these ribbons!

Pear Deck was one of the places that I was excited to go. I dabbled in it prior to ISTE, but did not use it. After hearing about the added features, uses in the classroom, and seeing the possibilities reminded me of why I started using it. This showed how it can be used with Google as an add-on extension. It is easier than ever to create slides and use Pear Deck to get students further involved in the lesson. I got so excited and can’t wait to use this going into this next school year.

Wonder Workshop was exciting because they are the creators of Dot and Dash Robots. I had never operated one before and to be honest I was like a little kid. I was so excited to try and they had a whole station set up for people to program Dot to make a basket using coding. I was not very successful, but my mistakes helped my boyfriend make a basket on his first try. I fell in love at that moment with the robots and I am eager to use them ever since. My school will be starting a Robotics Club this year. Though I know nothing(about robots) I’m considering helping or running the club. I figure we can learn together. The day we attended the expo there was a sale going on their website to buy a Dash and get training included for $150. I thought it was an amazing steal and bought one that night while in the hotel room. If you don’t need training they are currently cheaper on Amazon. I’m excited to learn and it might be my classroom to design it with a hockey stick and a helmet. LOL

Lalilo was one of those booths in ATT’s Pitch area. I had never heard of it prior to ISTE and after them giving us a handout my colleagues and I wanted to learn more. It is still in the Beta testing stage, but it is a free online program that focuses on the primary skills. The skills of reading, word recognition, sounds, blends etc. Now you may wonder why this would be something important to me? Well even though I am in 5th grade I do have students who have IEPs and struggle with some of these skills. I also have ELL students who are the first generation.  They are learning English after traveling from the DRC (the Dominican Republic of the Congo). This is a site that a few of my students could use, but I can also share them with other teachers at my building (as well as all of you!).
Love the Set up!

After spending an hour at the Expo we made our way to the Ditch That Panel. At this panel, we would hear how educators are taking on Matt Miller’s ideas and utilizing them in their school or classroom. I remember getting in line and some people coming up and asking what we were in line for. This was because the line was so long, after answering many chose to leave. To be honest, once we headed into the room it wasn’t bad at all. People get defeated before they try. One thing I realized is that many people see a line and freak. You have to remember the doors don’t open until 30 minutes till so if you get there 30 minutes before you should be good. Patience People!
Regardless we got seats and in all honesty, I thought we were at a teacher concert. The lights, the stage, and giant screens got my energy up and excited and the show hadn’t even started yet. Once again the presenters were out in the audience. They were passing out stickers and getting people excited for the presentation. I even got to talk to Tara Martin who walked by and like my shirt. The previous night, I had gone to her book launch party and I bought an R.E.A.L. shirt and her book. I’m currently reading it but I’m so excited to share once I’m done!). Once the show got started it did not disappoint. There were eight different people on the stage. They all were so well informed on Ditching that Textbook in their line of work. It was awesome to hear how teachers, administrators, and tech advisers were ditching the textbook. An important takeaway was the collaboration and connection between classes with technology. Once two teachers talked about how they connected their classes, I immediately tweeted about wanting to connect my class to other classrooms. I have wanted to do this before but it has been difficult. Luckily with Flipgrid and many other apps, it is easier. My hope is that Twitter will pull through and make this year awesome and full of connections for my class.
Amazing Panel!

We ended up running out of this session to hurry back to the NewsELA booth at the Expo. At noon they were pulling names to win tickets to see Hamilton in Chicago later that night. I am a huge Hamilton fan and I was hoping to get tickets so my colleagues and I hustled up the stairs and into the expo. We made it in time to hear….my friend and colleague's name called! Yay!!! How awesome of a moment and what about me you wonder? I won the chance to be “In the room where it happened.” (Hamilton joke) Hannah has such great luck and great ideas! You should follow her and her class @MrsOrellana
Hannah was soooo excited! 

Following this experience, we spent some time eating and wandering the expo hall. I ended up wandering upon two awesome booths. One I knew about and was excited to see their product. It was Qball by @peeQ. I had seen the product on Facebook and was so excited about the possibility of adding it to my classroom. It is a  microphone ball that can be thrown. It allows someone to speak into it and it amplifies in the classroom via a speaker. I have looked at this tool many times but never held one before. I saw the booth I ran straight there. I wanted to get my hands on one of their Q-balls and they were so welcoming and willing to let me try it out. I wasn’t expecting them to be so soft and light to be honest. I worried about them hitting the floor. I felt at ease. The people at the booth said that it would be fine. They have worked on it to make it safe and make it possible to handle wear and tear.

The other booth I never heard of before was Woot Math. This booth I stopped at to drop off a raffle sheet but in the process, they gave us a quick rundown of their program. My building is departmentalizing this year. I am taking over math for my entire grade am very open to any math resources. I loved that it was free for teachers to use. There seems to be a formative assessment tool and also adaptive practice for students to practice skills. They can import your class roster from Google Classroom and get them started. They have a dense problem bank based on the Common Core Standards and I’m excited to try it out this year. I will say so far I am impressed with their customer service. They are willing to answer questions and help you get started.
Such a great session!

I then made my way to the Sketchnoting session: Visualize. Connect. Doodle. Repeat: Sketchnoting to Enhance Learning with Explain Everything. This session was put on by Carrie Baughcum @heckawesome and Dana Ladenburger @dladenburger. This session was focused on the basics of sketchnoting and how to get started using the app Explain Everything. I have always loved drawing and even doodle when in meetings. When I heard about the idea of sketchnoting this past year I was interested. Yet never made the time to learn more. I wanted to attend this session because I wanted to learn more about it, but also just try it out. It was a nice session to end the day on because I was drawing and writing in a quiet room. This was peaceful and almost put me in a meditative space. I had never noticed how much sketchnoting I already do in my notebooks, but found ways to improve. For me I know I need to find other fonts I feel comfortable with and practice them more. I also need to create an icon vault. I have to create and practice different icons that I can use when I am taking notes. Explain Everything is an app that I had never heard of prior to going to this session, but after using it I am excited to use it more on my new 360 laptop. I came home after ISTE practicing my sketchnoting skills. I even created one based on what I was reading in Teach Like A Pirate. It wasn’t the greatest, but I realized after tweeting it out and tagging our presenters I have entered a whole new community. I have gotten so much support over my sad drawing, first Sketchnote and Carrie messaged me to give me some tips. I am so excited to take what I learned and practice moving forward. This session was more for me as a person, but I now am open to teaching my students when taking notes in class.

This concludes my awesome second day at ISTE.

  • What is something you are learning for yourself? 
  • Can you/ have you brought it into the classroom? 
  • What is one new resource you found recently?

Share your ideas and tweet them to me @teaching_power
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Saturday, July 7, 2018

ISTE 2018 Reflection: Day 1

So all I really have to say is WOW!!!!! I have never been to an ISTE before and didn't know what to expect. This place was completely amazing. This year ISTE was in McCormick Place in Chicago only an hour Metra ride from my family home. I need to let you know that as close as I used to live to Chicago, I rarely traveled there. One of many reasons one being anxiety. I get nervous when I'm in a big group and I get such huge butterflies when I’m on a new adventure that sometimes I shut down. That’s why when entering McCormick place I was both overwhelmed and excited. There is something about over 24,000 people in one place at one time. It evokes some anxiety in me. Yet I also liked the idea that the whole place was full of educators, technology gurus, and companies. They were all trying to make education better filled my heart with joy.
When we see a photo booth we have to stop!

Lucky for me (and especially my anxiety) I was not on this trip alone. I was able to attend with two awesome colleagues and one amazing boyfriend. I found the registration to be stress-free. Though with there being so many people it was hard to find an area that wasn’t hustling and bustling. I realized that if you are on the walkway you better move. Otherwise, you were going to get run over. People were committed to getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible. This makes sense since people wanted to make it into these amazing sessions. I remember finding a small wall to stand against and thinking to myself, “Where to?” It is funny to think I had planned the week prior. I made a schedule but at that moment I couldn’t think of one thing I wanted to go to. Luckily I had used the ISTE app to log a few items I really wanted to attend. After that small freak out we headed towards the poster sessions.
AR & VR were very big in the poster sessions

We walked into this huge space, but it seemed so much smaller because of the number of people. It was great to see so many educators share what they are doing in their classrooms or schools. To be honest it spoke to me the most as a 5th-grade teacher. These were people like me who are in the trenches and using these tools to make an impact with students. I was very excited to learn and take in whatever I could. Many presenters had QR Codes that made things even better. I could listen then use my phone to scan the QR code to get the presentation. I ended up storing all the presentations along with notes on my Google Keep. This made note taking and storage so much easier and I didn’t even need to take out any other device besides my phone. One thing I found surprising was the number of students who attend and share what they are learning. Caught off guard by a young boy asking me if I wanted to see his project and I was in awe. There is something about students excited about their learning. So much so that they are willing to explain it to complete strangers. This got me to stop at almost every table. Students taught me about DoInk, PowToon, and HP Reveal (formally Aurasm). It was so sweet to see nervous students approach you to share. Once you listened they got so excited to show you everything. This whole experience is about listening. Listening to presenters, companies, educators, and students. Listen to learn more than you ever thought possible. You have to be open to ideas and resources that might change your school or classroom for the better. I went in with an open mind and heart and I learned so much from so many people.
Kasey was so nice and I loved her positive attitude and her southern accent

After the poster sessions, I went by myself to Kasey Bell’s session on Dynamic Learning with G Suite. My anxiety cranked up. I had heard that many people weren’t getting into sessions not to mention I was going by myself. Lucky me I went about 30 mins early and got a seat! Now I knew of Kasey Bell. I knew she was an author, she was a tech guru, and I was even on her email list, but I knew little else. My goals walking into this session were:
  1. I wanted to learn more about how to better use G-Suite in my classroom. We are a 1-1 Chromebooks district.  I wanted the chance to uncover more ways to better utilize technology in my classroom.
  2.  I wanted to know if Kasey Bell’s book was for me. I had yet to buy her book because I have sooooooo many edu-awesome books that I haven’t read yet. Kasey’s book never made it to the top of my list.

After arriving I was surprised by the kindness of those around me ready to learn, but also by Kasey herself. She spent time before the presentation running around the room talking and passing out stickers. She even took the time to make sure the back row (where I sat) got stickers. Her energy was inviting and once she started her presentation I was hooked. I was engrossed in her ideals and ideas with my fingers typing feverishly on the Ipad taking notes. I am pumped to use Google Slides to create Digital Choice Boards and creating Comic Books. I also got excited to use the Google Keep feature as a way for Students to reflect and track their goals. The one huge takeaway for me was, 

“Start small, think of one way to go beyond.” 
This quote means many things:
  1. Kasey explains that you can use G-Suite for more than typing papers and completing worksheets. It is our choice to go beyond that and find out of the box ways to utilize this tool.
  2. I personally love this quote because it reminds me that you don’t have to do it all right now. I’m a runner when it comes to new ideas. I want to try everything and I’m ready to jump, but sometimes I need to slow down and try one thing.
  3. With that said I know some teachers are scared of taking the jump. They need to know its okay to try something new. Dip your toes in the water and try one new thing because the growth exceeds the fears.
Kasey’s presentation was a great way to start my ISTE experience. It gave me hope that I can take on tech in education one app at a time. And yes I ended up buying her book right after ISTE!
My excitement when I found this was at an all time high!

After that awesome presentation, I ended up playing in the ball pit. Why not? It was nice to have a fun childlike experience between sessions. I challenge ISTE to make more of those happen!
Andi was so down to earth and so nice! So excited to learn from her!

I ended my day attending a Genius Hour Presentation by Andi McNeil. I had done one Genius Hour project with my students this year during our library time. I had very little background knowledge of genius hour and jumped in and tried it. It wasn’t the best but wasn’t the worst. After more research, I realized that Google Slides isn’t the only way to display their knowledge. I need to work on how I present Genius Hour. Needless to say, I was hoping this presentation would help and it completely delivered. Some things that I noted:

  • We need to focus on 4 C’s (communication, collaboration, critical thinking, & creativity) plus Reflection
  • There are 6 P’s to Genius Hour Projects: Passion, Pitch Plan, Project, Product, and Presentation
  • Thrively is a great site to dive into the interests and passions of the students.
  • Wonderopolis allows students to find answers to things they wonder about. Also, having students do this and fill out short google forms helps the teacher gauge students interests.
  • is a great site that takes students to future careers. It allows them to practice certain skills that could help them in those careers.
  • Open up the classroom to outside experts. Make a google form for experts to fill out and help students connect. Let students ask questions of experts for the subjects of their research.
  • Trello is a great site to help teachers keep track of where students are in the Genius Hour process
  • Students can present their information in a variety of ways. Such as a Weebly Website, S’more poster, Book in Book Creator, or a community event.
Other amazing people to follow!

These are a few of many notes I took. One thing I walked away with was I NEED to buy Andi’s book. I know, not another book, but if you plan on starting or developing your Genius Hour this book is what you need. I ended up purchasing one right after ISTE. This was based on the great presentation. I knew it would be what I needed to develop my Genius Hour in my classroom.

My first day at ISTE was long and truly a great experience. What have you learned from ISTE or from me? What is one thing you want to try in your school or classroom?
Tweet me your answers @teaching_power and use the hashtag #teachingpower
Stay Tuned for the rest of my ISTE blogs!
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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

WITcon Reflection 2018

As I have discussed in past blogs WITcon (Whatever It Takes Conference) is a educators conference primarily focused on technology and how to incorporate it in the classroom. I have had the privilege of presenting at this conference each year. This year I got to present twice! Once on Digital Tools in the classroom like DoInk, SeeSaw, and the newly free Flipgrid! I also got to share ideas for a school-wide reading challenge that got so many of our students excited to read. I always enjoy sharing my experiences and meeting so many amazing educators at this conference. What I truly love the most is learning about new tech and ideas to bring to the classroom. It is funny I always feel like I know how to use these different tools and apps, but then someone will show you a different way to use it or a trick and my mind is blown again!
One of my two presentations

This year I just wanted to share a few things that have stuck out to me after the many sessions I attended.

1) Merge Cube
Ok, so I saw this awesome device on facebook months ago. I saw what it could do and promptly went out to my Walmart to look for these awesome items. I found them in the clearance aisle and wanted to buy 15, as they were $1 each. I had my cart loaded up and then that little voice (my boyfriend) asked had I even tried it out myself? Well, I said no and he, being my conscious, reminded me that maybe I should do that first. So I only purchased one. It was the end of the year, I hadn't really tried out the cube. It was just sitting in a box in my classroom up until WITcon. Well, when I saw a session I dragged some colleagues to it because I told them, "This is sooooooo cool!" Well, it was and let me tell you I had no idea all the amazing apps they have to go with it!
The presenter showed us all the apps she played around with and some she hasn't played with yet. If you are a science teacher you will love this AR Experience for your class! It allows students to view planets in the palm of their hand, hold a human heart, excavate dinosaur bones and so much more. I also found out about an app called 57 North that works like a choose your own adventure story. I think this would be amazing to use as a class reward for behavior or end of the school day! Now I will say that many of the apps you have to pay for but the experience is worth it. It runs on ios and android and will be working with the newer Chromebooks soon. They have found a great market in educational technology so I'm hoping the more teachers use it the more they will be willing to make apps for our classrooms. They have done beta testing for 3d shapes and historical statues. I'm excited what they will do next. Definitely, a must try if you want to dive into AR and bring experiences to life in your classroom. Check out the facebook group for amazing ideas and new products and follow them on Twitter!
Take a Picture of the sides of the Merge Cube and share digitally if you don't want to buy a class set.

2)Literature Circles are Not Dead
In all honesty, I never really thought they were dead, but with recent shifts in curriculum and technology, I haven't seen as many teachers utilizing them in the classroom. I went to a session in which a teacher discussed how to take the typical literature circle and update it using tech.

  • Having students create posters using Google Drawings 
  • Make Youtube playlists for characters 
  • Using Flipgrid for initial reactions and reflections after lit group time
  • Creating choice boards on slides or Google Drawings
  • Creating Twitter Chat Centered on Big Ideas encompassing the stories and following that up with a vlog using Screencastify, WeVideo, or Flipgrid
  • Having a big final project that is graded using student-created rubrics
So many great ideas that I can incorporate for my 5th Grade class to make Lit Circles more relevant and exciting. Shout Out to Traci Johnson!

3) Connecting Globally and within your own Community
I really want to find more ways to connect my students with other people and connect beyond our four walls. I went to a few sessions that gave me some great ideas on how to do that and engage the community we currently live in as well. When thinking Globally there are a few sites I was unaware of but I'm excited to try in my classroom next year. One is Belouga which allows your classroom to connect with other classrooms from all over the world. I love how this site allows students to ask each other questions to learn more about each other and recognize they have more in common than they thought. It also allows students to earn points that they can put towards helping schools in need of clean water, supplies, and food. They also are so willing to help you in any step of the process and have even created permission slips and notes to help you get started. Another neat site is Google Lit Trips which allows you to dive into a book in a different way and allow your students the chance to see where these characters lived and walked in the novels. For me, I'm excited to try this with the book The Watsons Go To Birmingham
Belouga Website

As for Community-based connections, I got to learn from another district some fabulous ideas to get your staff in good spirits and get the community excited about your school. I loved the ideas this school shared on staff support and events. You can really tell that they love and support one another with the different staff bonding they did such as:
  • WOW- Work Out Wednesday
  • Lip Sync Battles
  • Staff Sports Games
  • Photo Boards
  • Pineapple Charts
I thought these to be soooooo important because we all know as the year goes on the stress can pile up too. We have to have fun and relax sometimes in order to be our best selves and make school a fun upbeat place for our students. I also loved the idea that they had to have a community open house where the doors were open for everyone with kids and without to attend and learn about what types of things are going on in the school. I also like that it gave students and staff alike a chance to showcase the cool things they are doing in their classrooms. If you are interested in following this school you can check them out on Twitter.

Another successful year at WITcon in the books and so much to think about how to utilize for next year! I especially loved this quote from the amazing Eric Sheninger, "We need to focus more on the "What ifs" than the "Yea Buts""
From Eric Sheninger's Keynote Presentation

What are your "What Ifs" this summer? 
What questions can you ask yourself to better switch up your lessons?
Let me know your thoughts! Tweet to me @teaching_power 
Be sure to share your experiences and you try some of these tools using #teachingpower
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