Jump In

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Sometimes the empty title box and + at the beginning of a blog post can be intimidating. Sure, you may have plenty of things to say or share, but looking at the empty space can make you hesitate, second guess, and procrastinate. I liken that to both the start of the new year– be it in the fall when a new school year is beginning, or in the winter, when the whole year is in front of you — and a swimming pool. Some people like to dip their toes in the water to get them used to the temperature as they ease their way in; others just jump right in.

In this case, I am going to offer you both: things you can jump in and use right away with your students and other things you can dip your toes in to try out as you ease your way in to the new year.

The first two are from PBS Learning Media, a favorite of mine for all subjects, all ages, and all types of content.

First is for our younger elementary students: Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum. This series of episodes, lessons, games, and activities is based off the book series, Ordinary People Change the World. The group of lessons is designed to help children make the connection between the character strengths of the historical figures and the same strengths they may also have. So far there are lessons on Zora Neale Hurston, George Washington, Cleopatra, and Isaac Newton.

Next is geared toward upper elementary, middle and high school students in grades 4-12 and it is a collaboration between PBS Learning Media and Ken Burns called Ken Burns in the Classroom. I first read about this in this article from the Washington Post. Ken Burns has been photographing and creating documentaries on all subjects and this partnership with PBS Learning Media is a “one-stop destination” of “classroom-ready content.” There are lesson plans, media, photographs, a gallery, and documents searchable by era or film beginning with the Revolution and the New Nation in 1754 to Contemporary United States from 1980 to Present. Each lesson comes with supporting materials and articles and links to additional content. Just by clicking on the lesson tags will bring you to even more content from PBS Learning Media. For example, I started here with Ken Burns’ Civil War and Reconstruction, made my way to The Civil Rights Act of 1964 from the Library of Congress, then to more materials on Civil War and Reconstruction housed in PBS Learning Media.

If you are thinking about flipping your classroom, this article from KQED offers a few tips from a teacher who has been flipping her math classes for the last several years. First, a flipped classroom model is when your students view content at home, often in the form of a video or another online option, then use class time to work on clarifying understanding, working in small groups, or working through the problems at school. This allows for more interaction between the teacher and the students during class time which, in traditional models, can often be spent delivering instruction and covering content. In this article, Three Simple Tools to Make Math Thinking Visible, Stacy Roshan shares her flipped learning journey and some ways she has iterated on her original model including how she uses Flipgrid, Edpuzzle, and Sutori to enhance the interactivity with her students.

Next, you know my fondness for what Pooja Agarwal shares to help make learning stick. This past week she and her co-author, Patrice Bain were interviewed (again) as part of the DITCH Summit and this download is notes from their session, Using Powerful Teaching to Remember and Thrive. You’ll find easy-to-implement tips, practices, and tools that you can begin using with your students tomorrow like brain-dumps, retrieve-taking instead of note-taking, and Just two things.

Last, do you want to build a snowman? How about an app? In his recent, “Favorite New Updated Tools of 2019” post, Richard Byrne shared Glide Apps. Glide Apps creates an app from content in Google Sheets. If you can add information to columns and rows, you can build an app with Glide.

So, which one of these will you jump into and which ones will you choose to dip your toes in this new year?

Just Keep Reading

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So many books, so little time. ~Frank Zappa

The last couple weeks have been busy! I like reading on my Kindle and often get my books using Overdrive which I have mentioned before. When I borrow from Overdrive, I get 21 days to read and complete my book before it “expires” and is no longer available as part of my Kindle content. I can put books on hold using Overdrive and then when they become available, they are automatically loaned out to me. Yay! So I have found, as long as I do not go to my home screen on my Kindle, I can keep reading a book even after it expires. Herein lies my problem: if I am in the middle or nearly finished with a book and it has expired, I have to finish it before I can read my new content. So this past week I was hurriedly finishing Building School 2.0: How to Create the Schools We Need by Chris Lehmann (highly recommend- I did a lot of tweeting about this as I was reading) so that I could start The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros for the #IMMOOC (you can read my first post about that here) AND When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (this book came and went from my Kindle library via Overdrive during the summer when I was trying to finish The Signature of All Things (yep- it had expired, or at least I thought it had- and so I could not visit my home page for fear of losing the book and I had come so far) so I had to get that started before I lost it again.

Anyway, to make a long story short (which it seems like I did not do at all), I have not shared anything recently and that is because I was busy reading.

So here I am and there are a few things to share. Don’t be fooled by the brevity as there is a lot packed into the few.

First is another really thoughtful, practical article on changing  students’ math mindsets from KQED MindShift titled, “How Showing and Telling Kids ‘I Believe in You’ Can Empower Them at School”. The article is an excerpt from Jo Boaler’s book ,Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students’ Potential Through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative Teaching. I wish everyone would read these articles (or get the book) because they include ways of thinking about and speaking to your students that can make an impactful difference in their attitude and achievement. Two quotes stood out for me:

“If students are placed into ability groups, even if they have innocuous names such as the red and blue groups, students will know, and their mindsets will become more fixed. ”


“’I am giving you this feedback because I believe in you.’”

Next and last, but certainly not least, is this gem of a find from Control Alt Achieve that will keep you busy learning and doing for quite a while. 23 GSuite Ideas to Excite Your Students About Learning with Eric Curts. This is a podcast by Vicki Davis where Curts of Control Alt Achieve shares different ways you can use the Google Suite of apps with your students including: “Choose your own adventure stories”, blackout poetry, tangram shape drawings, and more. You can listen to the podcast here.  Davis links to all resources but I have included  the Slides resources here, the Drawings resources here, the Docs resources here, and the Sheets resources here. Open when you have time to appreciate- there is A LOT to see!

Math Mindset


Success in math does not depend on how many answers you know, but by what you do when you don’t know the answer.

~ author unknown

This week’s focus is on math. It just so happened that the tabs and things that I clicked on all happened to have that common denominator (pun intended!). Get ready- lots of great resources within . . .

It all started with this guest post by John Stevens on Matt Miller’s blog titled, “How to Assign Challenges Instead of Math Homework”. Intrigued? Of course I was and so I opened it right up and found several links to sites like this that go beyond computation towards more conversations about math. Curious? Then click.

I’m sure at one time or another whether in your classroom or even your own home, you have heard a child say,”I’m bad at math.” In this article, Sheila Tobias, Carol Dweck and others discuss how to respond when one of your children says this.

Of course what would be a post of mine without some mention of Alice Keeler. In this article from MindShift KQED News (if you don’t follow them, you should), you’ll see how Jo Boaler has influenced Keeler and how Keeler uses the GSuite tools to enhance math exploration and understanding.

much of traditional math teaching focuses on numerical representations, teachers demonstrating procedures, and memorization, when it would be more effective to try to strengthen connections between the various parts of the brain needed when working on math. ~Jo Boaler

You can see Jo Boaler’s Cue17 keynote, and learn about her site, Youcubed (from my Happy end of school year post). 

While looking for a great quote to share, I stumbled upon this post of Carol Dweck quotes that I think would be great to either print out and hang in your class or read at the start of each day. One of my colleagues (Carole K) has printed different motivational quotes and applied them at each of her students’ tabletops as a subtle reminder to her fifth grade students.

For more fantastic articles and resources, please visit this week’s Shipley PLN Lower & Middle School Edition where you will see posts like this one: “Neverending Problems: Math Tasks That Keep on Giving” ; this one, “How a Strengths-Based Approach to Math Redefines Who is ‘Smart'”; and this one, “Kahoot! Debuts Studio of Curriculum-Aligned Games for K-12″ including a math collection!

photo credit: dullhunk Who needs Pythagoras’ theorem? via photopin (license)