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Be Savage Not Average: Why It's OK to Fail and Not Feel Bad About It

Saturday, April 28, 2018
If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you've probably seen me post on the #BeSavageNotAverage hashtag or post a picture with that phrase on it.  When I saw that phrase on Pinterest over a year ago, it immediately stuck out to me.  It has driven a lot of my passion and projects over the last year and a half and I want to share with you exactly why I love it.

Be Savage, Not Average: Why It's OK to Fail, teacherladyky

The phrase itself exudes power.  Savage, by its Google definition, means fierce, violent, and uncontrolled in regards to an animal or force of nature.  My mind first travels to the thought of a lion hunting down a gazelle.  It's fast, it's strong, and it's uninhibited.  The word savage can sometimes have a negative connotation, but consider it in a positive light.  The savage lion gets the job done quickly and efficiently.

In education, that means that a savage individual attacks the problem, issue, or project with such intensity and focus that it's almost near impossible to stop them.  Being savage in a classroom means that you are doing the right work and doing it with such passion that no one will question your intentions.  You have a goal and you are going after it.

Consider the second part of the phrase, however.  "Not average."  According to its Google definition, average means the typical or central value in a set of data.  Within the context of education, that might mean what's happening in most classrooms.  It might be referring to what's happening in a typical school.  It's not to say that average is bad, by any means.

But it's not savage.

Personally, I love the message "Be Savage, Not Average" because I believe it gives you permission to fail.  In order to escape average, you have to step outside the box.  You have to live outside the norm.  It's not easy and it's not always effective.  But it's necessary.

In order for change to happen in schools, we must dare to be savage.  That might mean that you're trying new teaching techniques, incorporating technology in ways that transform the classroom or designing schools that truly meet the unique needs of learners.  Whatever it is that you're doing, it's different.  It's daring.  It's savage.

And the intention behind that - to be different and to change the status quo - that intention gives you permission to fail.  It tells you, it's ok that this might not work, as long as you tried.

Be savage, not average reminds me of another one of my favorite quotes, "Ask for forgiveness later, instead of permission now."

Do it.  Go for it.  Make it happen.

Be Savage.  Not Average.

Be Savage, Not Average:  It's OK to Fail

Guest Post on JCPSForward Blog

Friday, April 27, 2018
I am excited to announce that I've published a post on the JCPSForward blog titled, "Do Teachers Make a Difference?"  I'd love for you to head over to the post and tell me what you think!

You can access the post here: https://jcpsforward.org/2018/04/26/do-teachers-make-a-difference/

So You Want to Flip Your Elementary Classroom... Now What?

Friday, April 20, 2018

In my latest blog post, I talked about what I learned from flipping my elementary classroom.  This is an approach I took to teaching as part of an action research project and I learned a lot about best practices for implementing the flip.

Flip Your Elementary Classroom, Flipped Learning

My hope with this post is that you learn something you can take into your classroom tomorrow to help with a flipped classroom model.

Let's start with the basics.  Which model will you use?


A flipped classroom is an instructional approach that removes the whole class direct instruction to a video that students view at home before a more hands-on or in-depth lesson at school.  The idea was started by Jonathan Bergmann and you can read more about a flipped classroom approach to instruction in his book Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day (affiliate link).

There are alternative models of the flipped classroom approach.  If your school is 1:1, for instance, but the devices stay at school, you can have students watch the videos as they enter the classroom.  Or, close the class with the videos that correspond to the next day's lessons.

In my case, I only have 6 classroom devices (four desktops and 2 Chromebooks), so I implemented an in-class flip with a station rotation model.  You can read more about this model in this Edutopia blog by Jennifer Gonzalez.  In essence, students rotate through stations and watch the flipped lesson videos at one of the stations.  The other stations provide opportunities for students to work in small groups and pairs to dig deeper into content.

This in-class flip is the model I took in my third-grade classroom and it seemed to work out well for us.  The first step in implementing a flipped classroom approach would be to decide which model you're going to use.

Which content and which portion of your lesson are you going to flip?


It's silly to think that you can flip your whole reading, math, science, or social studies lesson.  Especially in elementary school, each content area is full of different components.  Break it down and start with something small.  You can build from there and flip more components if it's going well.

Here are some ideas to help you frame your thinking about which components of your elementary classroom you want to flip.  Remember, this is often direct instruction that is moved to video format.

Literacy

  • Introducing vocabulary words
  • Explicit phonics instruction
  • Read-aloud
  • Reading strategies
  • Explicit grammar instruction
  • Modeling a graphic organizer or written response

Math

  • Introducing vocabulary words
  • Introducing/modeling a strategy
  • Modeling an algorithm
  • Build background knowledge by connecting a prior concept

Science/Social Studies

  • Introducing vocabulary
  • Building background knowledge

Where will you get the videos you share with students?

There are two main approaches to take to this problem: find videos made by others or create your own videos.  I, personally, chose to do both when implementing my flip.  There are a ton of wonderful videos out there already made, why re-invent the wheel?

I also found, however, that there were some topics or strategies that were not already available.  For those, I made my own.  I actually really liked making my videos because I found that they were more engaging for my students (what elementary students don't love seeing their teacher online?) and I was able to tailor my instruction for my students using specific texts and strategies we were using in class.

Below, I've listed some of the resources available for finding or creating your own videos.

Pre-made video repositories:


Programs to make your own videos:


Flip Your Elementary Classroom, Flipped Learning

How will you share the videos with students?

There are several ways to share videos with students.  I've used two different free platforms - Google sites and Google classroom - and I've found advantages and disadvantages to both.  I prefer Google classroom because it's much easier to push things out to students and hold them accountable for assignments or quizzes.  A Google site is a great place to house videos as it doesn't require a login, but it makes it harder to hold students accountable.  Although I haven't tried sharing videos in this way, ClassDojo might be another option.

If your school or district pays for a learning management platform like Schoology, Blackboard, or another similar platform, this might be a great way to get content to students.

How will you assess your students and/or hold them accountable?

When I first started, this was a struggle for me.  You ultimately want a way to make sure that students are watching the videos and getting something out of it.  EdPuzzle has a built-in question feature that allows students to show understanding at points throughout the video chosen by you, the teacher.

In my classroom, I use Google forms/quizzes to give students a short quiz after they've watched the video.  I love the data that I glean from the Google form and, because most of our other online work is in the G-Suite of tools as well, it's extremely intuitive for my students.

Though I haven't personally used them, I've heard that PlayPosit, Vizia, and MoocNote are good ways to hold students accountable and assess in a flipped learning model.

Hopefully, this guide has provided you with a good place to start in creating a flipped classroom.  Have more questions?  Drop me a comment below and let me know!  I'd also love to hear if you know of other technologies that would be helpful for anyone implementing a flipped classroom!


Flip Your Elementary Classroom, Flipped Learning



What I Learned by Flipping My Elementary Classroom

Monday, April 16, 2018
This post is a reflection of the implementation of my flipped classroom.  If you're looking for how to implement your own flipped classroom approach, check my post So You Want to Flip Your Elementary Classroom, Now What?

I took on a giant project this year by flipping my classroom.  The flipped classroom approach is something that I've seen floating around in the education community for a few years now, yet I'd never felt like I had sufficient resources to make it happen.  This year, I jumped all in.

Probably prematurely, admittedly.  But the learning is in the mess, right?



As part of my Ed.S. program at Bellarmine, I had to design and implement an action research project focused on increasing student achievement.  I felt like this was my opportunity to take the risk that I had wanted to in my classroom, and I knew I would have the support of my administration, my Ed.S. mentor, and my colleagues.  I am a huge proponent of educational technology and I'd recently acquired two Chromebooks thanks to a Donors Choose project bringing my count of classroom devices from four to six.  With six devices, I felt like I was ready to change the world.

I even made a Google folder called, "How to Change the World This Year."  I can be a bit pretentious at times.

That being said, I spent a lot of time researching flipped classroom approaches, designing and creating videos, monitoring student progress, and reflecting on the process along the way.  I did some things well and there are many things about the process I would change.  I'd like to share some of my learning with you in hopes that it will help your flipped classroom transition smoother.

Let me start by saying that my approach to a flipped classroom was and is much different than the typical flipped classroom.  In a typical flipped classroom, students would watch a video about the topic for the next day for homework and then come to school the next day with some prior knowledge and experience, ready to dive into more hands-on experiences.  For my third grade students, many of whom don't have internet access or devices at home, this wasn't possible.  I opted for an in-class flip using a station rotation model, where one station was the viewing of the video and interactive components.  Other stations I used in my classroom at the time, were a modified version of teacher-led guided reading, independent reading, and partner practice.  You can read more about a typical flipped classroom approach in Jon Bergmann's book called Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day (affiliate link) or at his blog here.

I would also encourage you to learn more about the alternatives to the typical flipped classroom models.  There are some examples from Jennifer Gonzalez over on Edutopia.

Four Things I Learned By Flipping My Classroom


1.  It's better to start small and build up.

In my original action research, I stated that I'd increase reading achievement of my students by flipping my classroom.  If you're an elementary teacher, you are immediately aware of the problem with that statement.  What component of reading?  Within my third grade classroom, I teach phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.  In a typical lesson, I'd try to teach each of those components within a common theme or unit, using one or more texts and pulling as much out of it as I could.

So, when I first started my flipped classroom, I kind-of, almost, might have tried to do it all at the same time.  I was overly ambitious.  I learned right away that it was too much - for me to prepare and for my students to find beneficial - so I had to back down.  I ended up flipping just the phonics portion of my lesson, then slowly adding vocabulary and comprehension. It was much smoother once students knew the routines and expectations.

2.  Make sure routines and expectations are explicit.

Students have to know what they're doing and why they're doing it.  In my school, the constant infusion of technology into my students' instruction was new for many of them, which caused some confusion on how it was to be used.  Because I was so excited to just get started, I glossed over routines and expectations which was a terrible idea.  Always start with your routines and expectations.

Some ideas for routines to teach when flipping your classroom:

  • How to transition in between stations
  • How to get out technology/devices and put them back
  • How to access the videos/activities (e.g. the learning platform you're using)
  • What to do when you're finished
  • How to ask for help
  • Voice levels during the station

3.  You still need to differentiate.

In my mind, a whole group lesson was the same for everyone and differentiation came in with the other stations.  However, when my students struggled with the flip and I really began to reflect on my teaching, I realized that I did differentiate during whole group instruction, it just wasn't as explicit.  For instance, I might stand next to a student who was having trouble focusing or prompted responses when students struggled.  There is a definite benefit to being face-to-face with students when teaching so that you can gauge their reactions and understanding.  This is much harder to do through a screen.

You can still differentiate a whole class lesson through a flipped approach, it just takes more work.  For example, add several videos for students to watch.  If they understand (and show understanding through an online activity like a Google quiz) after watching the first one, they can stop and move on to something different.  However, if they're still struggling, they can watch more videos and have multiple tries to show their understanding.  This helps personalize the experience of a flipped classroom for each student and allows them to take more ownership of their learning.

4.  Assessment and accountability go hand in hand. 

Assessment is just best practice.  When I started my flipping my lessons, I originally had it set up so that students watched the videos, then came to a guided reading group, where I did the assessing.  But I soon realized that students were not being held immediately accountable for the learning in the video, so they came to the table and had I to teach what they were supposed to already know!  It defeated the entire purpose of the flipped classroom.

So, I started utilizing some wonderful tools to hold my students accountable and help with assessment.  The G-Suite for Education (specifically docs, slides, and forms/quizzes) is a great way to do this.  They are relatively easy to set-up and intuitive for students to use.  You can read more about how I've used Google forms to assess my students on a previous blog post.

The flipped classroom model was a learning experience for myself and my students.  If and when I do this in the future, I've got a much better idea of how to approach it so that things run smoother.  Have you implemented a flipped classroom?  Did you do the typical flip or a modified in-class version?  I'd love to hear your successes and horror stories!  Comment below and let me know!





Education Podcasts: A List of My Favorites

Thursday, April 12, 2018
Up until a few months ago, I hated listening to podcasts.  I found it so hard to focus on what they were saying while I was distracted doing other things.  However, I started listening to them on my commute to and from school and I can't get enough!  I don't even like to listen to the radio now.  If I'm driving or walking, I've got a podcast going.


Podcasts are wonderful tools for professional learning.  Like most online media, they break down the barriers of time and space to allow for learning at your leisure.  However, unlike most online media, they also remove the barrier of visual learning.  You don't need to watch a video with this online professional learning, as long as you've got speakers or a pair of headphones, you're set.  In fact, with most smartphones these days, podcast apps are built right in so all you have to do is stream and go.

Favorite Education Podcasts by TeacherLadyKY


Podcasts are great ways to learn "on-the-go," as there are literally thousands to choose from.  A few weeks ago, I put out a call on social media asking for your favorite podcasts.  After listening to ALL of them, I finally decided on a few of my favorites that I'd love to share with you! 

The Google Teacher Tribe Podcast

Hosts:  Matt Miller & Kasey Bell (Twitter: @jmattmiller & @shakeuplearning)

Category: Educational Technology

The Google Teacher Tribe podcast gives you all the tips and tricks for using G Suite for Education in your classroom and school.  On each episode, they share the newest releases and updates from Google, dive deep into a specific aspect of the G Suite, and share tips from listeners.  They've built an amazing online community called the Google Teacher Tribe, which you can follow on social media using #GTTribe.  

My favorite episode so far is 41: The Google Infused Classroom which features special guest Holly Clark, who I got to meet in person at the EdTechTeam conference in Louisville!

Google Teacher Tribe podcast, TeacherLadyKY

Shifting Our Schools Podcast

Host:  Jeff Utecht (Twitter: @jutecht)

Category: Educational Technology

The SOS podcast, as it's better known, is part of the Eduro Learning podcast network and is all about educational technology and innovation in the classroom.  Jeff and his guests chat about everything from 1:1 models, project-based learning, administrators in a tech-rich environment, and teaching your students how to be You-Tubers.

My favorite episode so far is 42: Highly Structured, Loosely Organized.  Jeff talks about how he uses a "highly structured, loosely organized" approach to using educational technology and what that looks like in a sixth-grade classroom.  He gives practical tips for using devices in the classroom while keeping engagement high and pedagogy intact.

Shifting Our Schools Podcast, TeacherLadyKY

Truth for Teachers Podcast

Host: Angela Watson (Twitter: @Angela_Watson)

Category:  Teacher Self-Care and General Education

On the Truth for Teachers podcast, Angela and her guests talk about general truth for educators.  Angela is a teacher self-help guru and she often shares ideas about making your teacher week more productive and fulfilling.  Angela is the queen at talking about the teacher guilt we all experience as teachers and gives suggestions to combat that guilt.

My favorite episode is 122: Your #1 job when you don't feel motivated.  In this episode, she discusses how the most important thing to do when you're lacking motivation is to find motivation.  Everything else on your to-do list can wait.



Cult of Pedagogy Podcast

Host: Jennifer Gonzalez (Twitter: @cultofpedagogy)

Category: General Education

The Cult of Pedagogy podcast seems to have a strong following within my own PLN and for good reason.  Jennifer talks about everything from instructional strategies to classroom management to professional development and everything in between.  She offers a variety of podcasts at different lengths as well so you can find just perfect one for your drive, no matter how far.

My favorite episode is 92: Frickin' Packets where she talks about the dangers of worksheets in the classroom.  I'll be completely honest and say that it took me almost a week before I listened to it when it came out because I was afraid I'd hear things I didn't want to hear.  😓  We all use worksheets, whether we like to admit it or not.  But this episode is fantastic and starts with the audio of a frustrated student in a classroom, an authentic voice expressing a very real problem.  It's definitely worth a listen!

Cult of Pedagogy podcast, TeacherLadyKY

Transformative Principal

Host: Jethro Jones (Twitter: @jethrojones)

Category: School Leadership

The Transformative Principal podcast is, of course, geared towards school leadership like principals and superintendents.  Jethro Jones is a school principal in Fairbanks, Alaska and he interviews others about their leadership styles and invites his guests to shares ideas and tips for becoming a transformative school leader.  Every episode is very conversational between Jethro and his guests.

There are so many wonderful episodes, but one of my favorites is The Principled Principal with Jeff Zoul and Anthony McConnell, where Jethro and his guests discuss setting up a school climate and culture conducive to collaboration and learning.

Transformative Principal podcast, TeacherLadyKY

These are just a few of the podcasts I've been listening to non-stop for the last few weeks.  Do you have a favorite?  Drop a link or title in the comments below... I'd love to learn from you and to give it a listen!

'Tis the Season for Professional Learning

Wednesday, April 4, 2018
It's already the beginning of April and I can't even begin to explain what an exciting time the past six to eight weeks have been for me.  My last blog post was posted right before Valentine's Day and I've been seemingly absent from blogging and social media since then.  But don't take that as my being lazy (although, there might have been a few of those days).  I have been extremely busy planning and attending some amazing professional conferences and professional learning experiences.

In just the last few weeks, I helped to throw the biggest professional learning party in my district (ECET2Lou), facilitated a virtual learning session for some teachers over Google Suite for Education in the classroom, attended and presented at the Kentucky Society for Technology in Education (KYSTE) conference, hosted a Google professional learning community at my school, and attended and presented at the Derby City Google Summit by EdTechTeam.  It's been a wild February and March.  I have learned so much in the past few weeks and it has, once again, reignited my passion for this job.



If you're a teacher, you should LOVE professional learning.  But far too often, I hear teachers complain that they have to go to PD.  It breaks my heart.  Lifelong learning is something that many educators want to instill in their students, but they don't' often model a learning lifestyle.  I am of the notion that you can and will learn something new every day, which helps me in the classroom and at home!

Professional development, or professional learning, has gotten a bad rap for far too long.  It's probably because we come from an era of sit-and-get, though I've rarely attended one of these as of late.  Professional learning has come a long way and there are many reasons why you should love it!

1.  You get to learn new stuff. 

I got into the teaching business because I love to learn.  I wanted to share my love of learning with another generation.  My favorite part of professional learning is that I get to learn new things.  I am always searching for new strategies and tools to add to my metaphorical teaching backpack.  Most districts require teachers to get a certain number of professional development hours, so take that opportunity to pick sessions that you want to attend and will help you in the classroom.  Interested in learning more about how to integrate educational technology into your practice?  Seek out EdTech conferences like the EdTechTeam summits.  Want to start a discussion over a problem of practice you're having?  Find an EdCamp and create your own session. 
Keep in mind that professional development doesn't have to be in-person either.  There are literally TONS of online opportunities from a variety of sources.  ASCD has free webinars listed on their website.  PBS Teacher Line has both facilitated and self-paced online courses.

I also recommended following some great podcasts.  I've recently gotten into podcasts and I don't understand what took me so long!  If you're into educational technology or innovative schools, check out the Google Teacher Tribe or Shifting Our Schools podcasts.  If you're in school leadership, make sure to check out the Transformative Principal podcast.  Keep on the lookout for another blog post about my favorite podcasts coming soon!

I realize that sometimes there is mandatory professional learning that you can't get out of, but take the opportunity to add something new to the conversation.  Participate and share while you're there, as that's where the true learning comes.

2.  You're given the opportunity to network with other professionals and build your PLN.

If there's one thing that's expected in our profession of education, it's collaboration.  It didn't use to be this way, but the rise of a global community and professional learning communities means that you can't afford NOT to collaborate.  What better way to do so than get out there and connect with others?

Let me preface this by saying, I understand all too well the social anxiety of getting out there and mingling with people.  But one of my all-time favorite professional learning moments was when I attended our district's EdCamp and I finally got to meet all of my Twitter friends!  It's a powerful thing to be in the same room with the best and the brightest.  Make the most of it and introduce yourself.  Your professional learning network (PLN) will be there when you need help in the classroom, motivation to press on, references for job interviews, and so much more!  You can read more about how to build your PLN in my blog post from last summer.

3.  You can sometimes get FREE stuff!

Almost every professional conference I've been to gives away door prizes.  At the EdTechTeam Summit I went to in March, they gave away two Google homes, a host of professional books and other prizes.  At the ECET2Lou conference in February, they gave away gift cards upon gift cards.  I've even been to conferences where they gave away printers, Smore subscriptions, and flat screen TVs - at FREE conferences!

And, if nothing else, you'll probably get a sticker to put on your laptop.  Who doesn't love stickers?

I hope you'll find a true love of professional learning as a teacher.  If I've said it once, I've said it a million times:  the world is changing.  It's evolving quickly for us as adults and quicker for our students.  If we can't find it in ourselves as adults and educators to be true lifelong learners and model that for our children, they will have a hard time navigating this world.  Take a step outside your comfort zone and learn something new this week.

Did I leave any good reasons off the list?  Why should teachers love professional learning? Drop me a comment below to let me know! 

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