Monthly Archives: March 2016

notes to teacher self, round II

Thank you, thank you to teachers who are ready to give us a glimpse into their learning environments as they meet the needs of students.  Leveraging best practices for today’s youngest student requires some heavy lifting, conversation and the courage to try something new. Enjoy these professional insights, and know that it takes soul to put yourself out there for others. Thanks again, amazing teachers. Notes to Teacher Self Round 1 is here if you did not read it!

Hand it Over to the Students

Jessica Craig, 3rd Grade

Roxborough Intermediate


IMG_0192When I’m beginning to feel overwhelmed and I see my weekend and weeknights slipping away, I always ask myself- what am I holding onto that I can, or need, to give over to my students?

I have let my students solve many of my toughest questions and challenges this year, and I have not regretted it once!  Each time I am further amazed at their level of engagement, persistence with challenge, and creative thinking!

Math block not working? Let the kids redesign it.  Needing storage and power solutions for the new Chromebooks? My kids knocked that one out of the park, AND redesigned my entire classroom to give it a fresh new look!  Need to finish planning and finding resources for that upcoming unit? Let the kids take some time in class to research and gather resources in the school library, build a menu of possible activities and formative assessments, deconstruct the outcome, and prepare the inquiry wall!  Classroom management needing a revamp? Ask the kids what would motivate them and let them develop and test out a new system! Have a grant you’ve been wanting to write? Let your kids create a video-grant, instead!

Not only will you save yourself an immense amount of time and sanity, but your students will be given an authentic learning opportunity which benefits someone and something they truly care about!

So, do you really need to stay late or go to the school this weekend just to solve “problem” that’s been on your mind, or could your kids help you figure it out? Chances are they’ll do a better job than you ever could have all on your own!

Our kids are capable of so much more than we could ever imagine, but we’ll never know unless we learn to hand it over!

Using Digital Portfolios, SeeSaw

Sommer Breithart, 1st Grade

Rockridge Elementary

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 7.03.21 AMUsing the Seesaw app on their iPads, my students digitally show and share their learning through video, drawings, photos, and more.  Please enjoy these samples of my students’ Seesaw videos.  They are 100% student-driven and 100% created without teacher help.  I love how empowered they are when they use this app!

Student SeeSaw Example 3

Student SeeSaw Example 4

My Story

Kim Geary,2nd Grade

Legacy Point Elementary

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 6.53.59 AMThe first week of school this year was truly an eye-opening experience for me.  I thought after the students came to Back-to-School Night they would be so excited for this new flexible learning environment, however, the students looked so confused when there were not enough chairs for them to sit on the first day.  Many asked where they should sit, and when I offered the cushions, pillows, or standing station, they looked even more confused. Fast forward two weeks, and you would not have guessed these were the same students questioning where they should sit.  Fast forward once again 6 months, and the students tell visiting guests that they love their classroom arrangement and it helps them be better learners, “because they can be comfortable, so they can learn more.”

I added a makerspace to the classroom, as well.  This has been a huge hit with the students.  They named it the Inventor Lab, and even put the word “inventor” into our class mission.  My biggest obstacle with the Inventor Lab is the management,  as it is definitely be an obstacle if you like an orderly classroom.  Also, I am trying to make the Inventor Lab purposeful.  When I began I let the students create whatever they would like.  As of late, the students are working to tie their creation to something they are learning or have learned. The connections they are making are exciting!Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 6.54.05 AM

Another major change I made  this year was removing spelling worksheets and tests. In previous years, I found students did not improve in their spelling and it became busy work. I am sure this is nothing new to many, but for my school, it is a shift.  There are still teachers who use the spelling worksheets and tests. I am integrating spelling focus in reading and writing. I was already doing this, however, I took the worksheet component out of the mix.

I am continuously working to improve my instruction and environment for students.  This has been an exciting and challenging year!

Cause and Effect Case Files

Kristen Wright & Erin Cordova

First Grade-Wildcat Mountain Elementary

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 6.56.37 AMWhen introducing new World Class Outcomes to our first graders, we often are faced with “they don’t know what they don’t know.”  In order to increase our students’ understanding of their World Class Outcomes, we have created World Class Outcome Investigations.  We do these investigations at the beginning of a unit in order to help our students define what the WCO really means.

An example of one of the investigations we created this year was the “Cause and Effect Case Files.”  Students rotated through different activities.  They followed the directions found in the case file and collaborated to identify the cause and effect.  These activities provided hands-on practice in “assessing the relationship between cause and effect.”  Now our students are more capable of identifying this WCO throughout the day.


Trying Lego Challenges and Makerspace Challenges

Laura Whitaker,1st Grade

Rockridge Elementary

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 6.59.57 AMDuring “Learning Time”, I have introduced a weekly Lego Challenge and a Makerspace Challenge.  The first Lego Challenge was to simply build using only 20 bricks.  The kids were very engaged in their 20 brick creations!  Many of them showcased their creations in Seesaw.  Click here to see and hear about what some students made.

Our class has been reading, Lulu and the Brontosaurus, so for the Makerspace Challenge the students were to create a character from the story that could fit on the display poster.