Wednesday, April 3, 2019

You Must Ask The Right Questions

Take a lesson from Dr. Lanning of iRobot.
If student responses are limited,
you must ask the right questions!
Are you are getting little or no responses from your students about their learning? Do students ask, "Is this the right answer?"

If student responses are limited, then you may not be asking the right questions.

Give students the right answer. 

Then ask questions that guide deeper learning.

Mindshift Article
When asking students to complete a task that has a right answer you may actually be limiting creativity and deeper thinking.  Consider ways to shift the focus from finding the right answer to understanding why an answer is right or how a change would affect the right answer. When you decrease the quest for a 'right answer' you increase creativity and critical thinking.

Many times, math worksheets are a series a of problems for students to solve. Don't forget to show your work to earn all the points! With tools available today [like PhotoMath] students can simply take a picture of a problem and that answer and all the work are provided for them. Look for ways to have students explain, clarify or elaborate their thinking.

Instead of this
Complete the function table

Try this

Version 1 - Record yourself explaining how this rule works and how you know if these answers are right or wrong.
Version 2 - Create a new table where you increase or decrease one of the values in the function rule. 
What decisions did you make to create the new table?
In any subject, try giving students the right answer, then ask them to explain why it is the right answer or how a change would affect the answer. You can also ask them to use the information to innovate and design new ideas.

A science example: 
Go from this: Draw and label the parts of the plant that help it survive grow and meet its needs. 

To this:  Choose one of the parts of the plant that help it survive, grow, and meet it's needs.  Use it as an idea to design something that helps solve a human problem. [NGSS 1-LS1-1]

For more ideas about how to ask the right questions, check out this choice board for #NoWorksheetMonth.  April 2019 is #NoWorksheetMonth and educators all over the globe are going worksheet free and creating authentic learning experiences for their students. Join the movement to give your students a break from canned questions at

Your students will never let you go back to worksheets.

Want to know more about how worksheets kill creativity? Check out this blog post, Autopsy of a Worksheet, by Matthew Weld.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Time Saver Tip for Teachers: Amazon Share A Cart

If you have ever wanted to send your Amazon cart to someone, boy do I have a tip for you!
No more having to give someone your Amazon Login or making a special wish list.

With the Amazon Share A Cart Chrome Extension you can easily send a shopping cart to someone else.  I use it all the time to send a list to my secretary, so she can create a purchase order and order my items. The great thing about Amazon's Share A Cart is that it includes amounts of each item. When I have shared a school 'wish list' before, it never allowed me to indicate if I wanted more than one of any item. I would have to include that in an email. Making the process more complicated and inefficient.

Here is a 2 minute tutorial on how I use this extension. I hope you find it useful!

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Paper Circuit Teacher Name Tags for the First Day of School

Paper circuits are an excellent way to bring technology and science into any lesson or activity. At the beginning of each school year, I focus staff PD on learning new ways to incorporate technology into the classroom. This year we tried paper circuits and even made light up LED name tags to wear on the first day of school to welcome students.

A paper circuit is a low-voltage electronic circuit that is created on paper or cardboard using conductive copper tape, LEDs and a power source such as a coin-cell battery.  Creating paper circuits is a good way to teach the basics of electricity and how circuits function. In addition to being educational, they can also be a fun makerspace project that helps to bring artwork and paper craft to life.  By adding sensors, buzzers, and motors to your circuit, you can also add another dimension of interactivity.

For a recent staff development, my teachers used the Simple Circuit Template and to create their own paper circuit.

Then they used their knowledge of how to make a paper circuit to create a fun name tag to wear on the first day of school.

Here are some of our creations:


Here are the paper circuit materials we used. We added craft supplies to make the name tags.

Then we explored ways to use paper circuits in a lesson or activity about ELA, Maths, Social Studies, or Science.

Here are some examples:

Teachers selected an idea to try with students during the first trimester.

Activity/Grade Level(s)
Supporting which standard?
First Grade mapping skills.
Social studies standard H/S 1.2
Where are we? 3rd - 5th
Local map making with circuits
History-Social Science Standards: 3.1.1. and 3.1.2.
We are doing the Design and Modeling Unit (PLTW) for science. (grades 6-8)
SCI PS 1.8 & PS 3.A (transfer of energy)
Math 8G.1-3 (geometry)

We had a lot of fun doing this activity together and learned how to troubleshot and deal with issues that might come up with students trying this activity. I can't wait to see the paper circuits our students create!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

My Spring 2017 Student Blog Challenge

Last year we adopted Kidblog as our district blogging platform. To get more students blogging and writing, I thought I would create a blogging challenge for my district. We kick off on Monday, April 3rd and I can't wait to see what students create.

It is called the Spring 2017 Student Blog Challenge and will consist of a topic per week for 8 weeks.

Using resources and ideas from the amazing Pernille Ripp and Ronnie Burt's 50 Ideas for Student Blogging, I came up with the challenge outline.

Currently, we have over 900 students using Kidblog and I am hoping many of these students participate in the challenge and share their ideas and creativity.

You can follow the challenge and see weekly student posts highlighted on my Kidblog page.

Do you have students who want to participate? Feel free to use my challenge to support digital writing and publishing in your own school.

Have you created a challenge like this before? I would love to hear your ideas and comments.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Parent Conference Ideas and Supports

To support my teachers I developed a few tools using Google Docs and Google Forms. If they are helpful to you feel free to make a copy and edit as needed.

Parent Conference Form - start with the positive

Student Self Evaluation - let students lead the discussion

Parent Conference Schedule Template - let them decide

Parent Contact Form - keep current information