All Students Deserve a Voice

In every classroom, we teach many students including those less comfortable sharing in a group setting. When we have whole group or even small group discussions, how do we plan for those introverts who aren’t so comfortable in those conversations? How do we give those students a loud voice when we know they have one?

Often technology can provide the perfect outlet for our true introverts. It can give them a voice and a place to participate loudly in our classrooms. Here are a few of my favorite tools for such conversations.

  1. Today’s Meet: this provides a Twitter-like back channel for students. The teacher quickly and effortlessly sets up the “room.” Students get into the room (no login required) by following the link, typing in their name, and answering the question provided by the teacher. OR the teacher uses it as a parking lot space for questions throughout the class. Either way, quieter students find their voice.
  2. this has several functions but one is a wall where teachers can create a question (one on each wall) and students can answer the question. In this space, teachers can send the answer back to a particular student if he/she has not answered it completely or needs more detail. The teacher can organize several walls so that throughout a class period, the teacher could move from one to another as the teaching continues. This way the conversation or reflection moves from space to space.
  3. Padlet: similar to in the wall function except it only has one wall per URL. Although in padlet, students can not only have conversations, but they can also upload videos, pictures, and documents to the wall to then share with one another. Great conversations!

So, if your students aren’t 13 and you’re not using individual social media accounts, these are some good ways to get them talking to one another throughout a class  period or across classes. See what you think!



We all know that there is often more to do than time to do it. AND we all know those people who seem to get it all done so flawlessly. So easily. How is it possible? Here are a few of my favorite tools for productivity to get you on your way faster and easier and with more time for the fun!

Last pass: this is a way to encrypt your passwords. All of them. Think: I never have to remember a password again. I can create a unique, crazy, well-made password for every site and app and NOT remember it. OR I can have lastpass do it for me! That’s right folks! Use the app, website, Chrome extension to get into any of your sites that require passwords. It’s free or for the premium site, $12 a year. One of the few apps I’ll pay money for. If one site is hacked, I know that all my passwords are unique so I don’t have to worry about changing them all.

Calendly: if you rely on others booking appointments with you (administrators or coaches), this is for you. I keep mine in my signature line of my email and when people need to meet with me (on a daily basis), they have access to my calendar. It syncs with your Google or 365 calendar so as long as you keep that current, you’re all set. No more going back and forth in email to create appointments!

Forms: Either Google or Microsoft will do! Anything that I need information about, goes into a form. Data from staff, summer addresses, who is bringing what for an event. It doesn’t matter. It goes into a neatly organized form that I can access from anywhere.

Symbaloo: this is a visually appealing bookmarking site that you can share with others. You create webmixes by subject. For example, I have them about online assessments, PBL, technology, and coding. These can be embedded onto a website or shared with students.

These are just a few. More to come later. What are your favorite ways to be productive and efficient and get things done?





Introduction to #IMMOOC

I never seem to be at a loss for words: whether it’s debating educational policy, stating what I know is best for students, or working with other educators, I usually have an opinion. I often come up with great thoughts for blog posts in the middle of hall duty, lunch duty, or as I drive down the road….always the most opportune times. Then when I go to write the blog post…writer’s block for me. It never fails, I have an endless supply of ideas in my head until I go to write them down. As a result, well, this sparsely written on blog.

I am hoping that with this MOOC I can recommit to blogging. I hope that publicly reflecting allows me to hold myself accountable for what I do; giving me that space to learn openly with others who can push my thinking even further.

And with that I am dusting off this blog to say I will write regularly. Here we go!



Writing Feedback

write, a photo by erichhh on Flickr.
Earlier today a teacher friend of mine asked me what I thought the single most powerful thing a school/teachers could do to impact writing. After thinking for a moment, my response was teacher feedback. Given a workshop-style classroom is already in place and students are writing daily, much of their learning growth will come from one of two times. One, during their daily (or so) writing conferences with their teacher or two, with written commentary on their writing. When I say writing, I by no means mean final papers, graded, finished, no-opportunity-for-learning writing; but rather the formative writing along the way. I often gave my students quick writes that were a paragraph or two, collected them, and gave them feedback on one or two specific items. This way, even when I had 125 students, I could get them back in a timely manner so the feedback was actually meaningful to them. In this case, the feedback was either a few quick sentences or a checklist of items that I was looking for — either present or not. My intentions were that by the time we got to a final major assessment piece of writing, the students would have mastered all the skills being assessed on that piece because through ongoing feedback, remediation, and conferencing, the skills were taught again and again as needed.




Feedback can be one of the most powerful ways that we as teachers impact our students’ learning…if the feedback is specific. This is also where we get into public commentary on exemplar work to hang in our classrooms so that our students know what it looks like to meet or not meet a given standard. After all, what good does it do them if they don’t know what they are working to achieve? I remember in year’s past (not in any of our teaching careers, of course!) when it was a great mystery to determine how one would get a given grade on an assignment. No more are those days. Now, by setting mock models of work with the commentary on them, our students know exactly what our expectations are of them as they are learning. And just think how much more they will learn with the expectation in front of them –in black and white!

After all, what good does it do them if they don’t know what they are supposed to learn?



Writing is the one subject I taught throughout my career. I started as a second grade teacher and made my way through the grades up to eighth grade. I adored teaching it because I learned so much about my students through their writing and felt like I got to know them so well! Early on in my career I felt ill-equipped to teach literacy, so I found myself getting a degree in Language and Literacy. This was one of the best career decisions I made. In my early years I tried hard to model my classroom after gurus such as Nancie Atwell and Lucy Calkins. As with many of us, grammar was the ongoing struggle — until I attended a training by a teacher by the name of Jeff Anderson. If you haven’t read his books or attended one of his trainings, his simple ideas for integrating grammar instruction into the context of writing workshop are amazing. My students didn’t even realize they were learning grammar. It’s inductive, integrated, and appropriate — everything that constructivist, integrated instruction should be.

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