As I look back on 2016 it is definitely a year that will forever be engrained in my memory. Many amazing things happen in 2016, and one of the hardest things I’ve had to go through also occurred in 2016. I lost my best friend this year. 28 years of friendship came to an unexpected halt in October. Katy and I met when we were 3 years old, best friends since daycare. I have learned so much through her life and passing. Since we were kids Katy has inspired me, she has been the most courageous person I have ever known. Through all the trials and tribulations she always came out on top. She was a true leader, entrepreneur, and innovator in her field. Her ambition has inspired me to push forward in what I believe in.
I have come to realize, I have allowed non-believers and naysayers to hold me back and dim my light for far too long. 2017 is the year of no regrets, the year to push forward no matter what others say, this is my year to live like Katy did. Transforming education is my passion. I know there is a great need for transformation within our classrooms to better serve the digital natives that sit patiently waiting to be challenged. The last few years I have tried, failed, and tried again with many “innovative” teaching practices.
One thing 2016 taught me was that anything can happen at any time! We have to be the change now for these kids. It is true “if not us, then who? If not now, then when?”
How can we start back to school in January with a new game plan? We just do it. Come up with a new plan to challenge your students and instill a love of learning within them. What is the worst that can happen? Maybe your plan fails (happens to me all the time) then you just reflect and tweak it and give it another go. So what is my plan for 2016?
Project Based Learning (PBL)
Full on PBL. The first year I implemented PBL into my classroom my students thrived, last year not so much. Last year and this first semester I have gone back and forth with PBL. It is hard to plan a PBL when grade level teams are supposed to be on the same page. PBL is completely student led, it is hard to create lesson plans for a PBL because every student is differentiating for themselves and at a different place at a different time. This is what I love so much about PBL, it is not one size fits all! We began a PBL before winter break and will be completing it once we return to school. After we’ve completed our habitat PBL we will continue PBL until the end of the year. I will let you know how it goes.
My students LOVE BreakoutEDU! They love the challenges they face when trying to unlock locks and find the next clue. It is amazing how much learning goes on during a 45-minute breakout. What if students are not broken out in 45 minutes? I allow them to continue. The ones who have broke out then become the experts and provide hints to those who are not finished. Once students have finished I have them complete a reflection on each lock. The reflection is how I track understanding and mastery of standards. We do not have breakout boxes and have completed all of ours digitally. Amanda Mask and I have even created our own for our students.
Last year my fantastic PIC’s, (Partner in Crime) Amanda Mask and Kristin Mccoy, and myself found a way to please the higher powers who wanted to see tests like questions by creating a badging system. Using reading passages from Mentoring Minds, Readworks.org, and our lovely test bank we put our own spin on things. Students read the passage then choose from a variety of digital and non-digital creation tools to show their understanding. For example, a student may use GoAnimate or Powtoons to write a summary and earn a Movie Creator badge. Students can earn as many badges as they choose per passage. We found by allowing students the freedom to choose how they showed mastery of certain reading standards their mastery drastically grew on standardized (required) assessments.
Another LOVE in my classroom. Anytime we have the chance to make physically or digitally the students go crazy. It is amazing how creative they are when they’re allowed to express themselves. We love the book Make Writing by Angela Stockman https://makewriting.com/ My third graders have used many thought processes from the book to begin their writing. We have also used makerspace to create characters or scenes to write about. Students became more detailed in their writing when allowed to make first. Makerspace is a huge part of my math and science lesson. Students create all kinds of items to measure and calculate. Needless to say, Makerspace is the bomb and all classrooms need one! I supplied my own with my own $$$, however, you could do donorschoose.org or ask your school to supply your classroom. Also, students and parents make generous donations when spring cleaning. Craft supplies, old computers, broken toys, are all great making tools.
This year has been rather challenging allowing students to lead their learning. I have found myself more and more in the teacher led role. I vow to not do that again in 2017! I will make sure to allow my students to run their student-led classroom. Doing all of the above will tremendously help. I also plan to allow them to run a classroom economy. We have innovative classroom seating and often certain seats become very sought after. I plan to use the classroom economy for the kids to bid off seats in the morning. They will earn “money” for completing certain tasks as we do in the real world. I got this idea off Twitter and can not remember who originally tweeted it. I will look for the tweet and update this post.
And always a must GENIUS HOUR will be more than one hour a week for my students in 2017. Be on the lookout for some fantastic Genius Hour Projects coming from our third-grade class and if you’ll be at ISTE come check out Amanda Mask and myself with one of our students innovative Genius Hour ideas “Mission not so impossible: Class set of Chromebooks.”
Sometimes I find myself filling the passion drained from my heart but a quick Twitter chat or Voxer group can fix me right up. Inspiration is everywhere when you are a connected educator. For more information about any of my teaching practices feel free to connect with me: