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Showing posts from September, 2017

Bring on the Fun!

It is pretty awesome to witness students getting excited about a class, activity, something they learned, or content area. It is my belief that creating an engaging environment starts with offering a place where students feel safe but are also able to have fun. The Neuqua Valley Business Department brings the fun on a daily basis, and the students love them for it! How do you create this type of awesome learning environment, you ask? Read on for some tips and tricks... 1. Set the Tone Lighten the mood and make the students smile before they walk into your classroom. Play some music, hand out candy, and encourage the students to step out of their comfort zones. Watch the video below to see the Business Department's Dancing Fridays in action. 2. Get to Know Your Students Learn more about your students and their unique character traits. Ask the students to fill out Google Forms throughout the year in order to learn more about their passions, struggles, and hopes for th


I'm sure you can agree with me that one of the scariest dreams a teacher can have is losing control of your classroom. Have you experienced this type of dream? When all of the students act crazy and completely defy you when you are trying to lead a lesson. The classroom is just...out of control. I usually have about 2 of these dreams a year, and while this has never really happened in my own classroom, the dream still makes me short of breath when I wake up and think...thank God that was just a dream... Control. Something teachers need - but also need to let go of - in the classroom. Our society continually tells us that our students must be future ready and to do so by incorporating the 4C's - Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Creativity - into our classrooms on a daily basis. In order to help our students take ownership of their learning and become problem identifiers/solvers, we must put control into their hands and help facilitate their learning. This

Students First

It is amazing to witness the variety of classrooms, students, and teaching styles happening around our building. Each classroom is unique due to the teachers and students that help it come alive on a daily basis. I've enjoyed visiting our Special Education department this week and am excited to share what I observed and learned from our awesome teachers. Technology is not always the solution when it comes to motivating students to learn. As I met with math teacher, Ms. Teri Braband, and her co-teacher, Mr. Kevin Bullock, I learned that their students struggle to navigate through the various resources offered on the Chromebook. With this, they shared that they spent too much time in class getting the students set up and not enough time on the content. They've been brainstorming ways to alleviate this issue. One consideration is to start by utilizing the Chromebooks for short, reflective style assessments or assignments. Ask the students to reflect on how they are learning and

Staying Organized in a Digital World

Living in a digital world, it can be difficult for teachers to focus on content but also teach our students how to effectively use technology in order to stay organized. I've had the pleasure of visiting the Special Education department at our Neuqua this week, and in our conversations, I've learned that staying organized is a task that they are trying to tackle this year with their students. Here are three instructional practices our teachers are utilizing in order to help our students stay organized: 1. Give students time to organize their Google Drives Now that most classes utilize tools like Google Classroom, the students' Google Drives are full of artifacts of learning. The problem....there is way too much there, and it is not organized. Ms. Gretchen Parejko and Ms. Cat Bishir, who co-teach American History, gave their students time to create folders and drag items from previous years and classes into designated folders. It is amazing to see how many untitled doc

Promoting a Healthy Lifestyle

Happy Friday! I am feeling energized after a week of classroom visits and super motivated by our awesome teachers in the PE, Health, and Driver's Ed. Department. This is my second post this week as I've had so much to share about the fantastic instruction I observed over the past five days. Thank you to all of the teachers that welcomed me into their classrooms this week and shared more information about their lessons and curriculum. I must admit, after visiting these classrooms, I believe that adults should be encouraged to take classes like Health, Driver's Ed, and PE; great reminders and information were presented that I learned in high school but are applicable in my life today. For example, I had the pleasure of visiting Mr. Wayne Hartmann's Driver's Education class, and the students were reviewing road signage using Kahoot and learning about awareness on the road using Pear Deck. While I took Driver's Ed in high school, I was reminded how similar some of

Training the Mind and Body

We are half way through the week, and I must say that I've had so much fun visiting PE, Driver's Ed, and Health classes throughout the day in order to check out some of the amazing things happening in our classrooms. Our teachers and students sure did not disappoint, and I learned so much in just a few short days! I must admit, I have not spent much time during the school day down in the PE/Athletics wing. After visiting a few classes, I was hooked and super impressed with the curriculum options we provide for students. As I walked up the stairwell to see one of the dance classes, I was greeted with various tapping sounds. Low and behold, Ms. Marie Valente was leading a class of students and teaching them how to...wait for it...tap dance! All students were wearing tap shoes and learning a routine that Marie carefully explained and modeled for them. Later in the day, Ms. Jordan Fandrey taught the same class, and she also was able to dance and lead the students as they learned

Student Ownership

As I wandered the halls of the Birkett Freshmen Center this week, I felt thankful to have the opportunity to split my time between this building and the main building. The energetic spirit of the freshman building is contagious; it has been a pleasure visiting classrooms and witnessing student learning and engagement. In most of the classrooms, desks are set up as collaborative pods or groups which provide a welcoming environment immediately upon entering. Teachers are teaching, students are listening, and students are working together in order to solve a problem, create a question, or complete an activity.  When I walked into Joe Polanski's AP Human Geography class, students were working in groups of 4 on their Chromebooks and appeared to be deep in conversation about the topic at hand. Mr. Polanski was utilizing the Question Formulation Technique, and each student in the group had a role: (1) Question Writer, (2) Advantage/Disadvantage Writer, (3) Reflection Writer, (

Building a Learning Community

Guest writer, Steve Wick , discusses the importance of creating a connected and collaborative classroom environment. “ Can you remember who you were , before the world told you who you should be? ” ― Charles Bukowski We are back! It is awesome to see students again! A week before school started, I discovered an Edutopia article about community building in the classroom. Relationships Matter More Than Rules - Community building in the classroom starts on day one. Try these strategies to begin forging strong relationships. This article inspired me to rethink how I start the year, so last week I welcomed my students to the 2017 - 18 School year with a collection of activities that I hope will help us build a more powerful learning community. Here are a few reflections on my first week of getting to know my students. Day 1: Note Cards and Seating Charts Students chose their own seats as they walked in the room. I enjoyed this more than telling them where to sit. I

Patience and Progress

As we reach the end of a super productive, high energy week, it is crazy to think about how much progress was made over such a short period of time. It started with patience... Last spring, we started to prepare for the beginning of this school year. Anticipating our new 1:1 Chromebook environment, we worked through the spring and summer in order to create Hyperdocs, slides, and videos to introduce our chosen Google Essentials to students. If we want them to successfully use these devices to learn, we need to model effective practices and provide opportunities to grow as digital learners. On Monday and Tuesday, we added 20 minutes to the first two class periods in order to introduce a new Google Essential: Chrome, Classroom, Drive, and Keep. With this, teachers were asked to take time away from instruction and facilitate these activities. In addition, all students were asked to have their Chromebooks, fully charged, and actively use them to explore these essentials. The scary part..