Weekly Reflection: Portfolios

Check out this idea for student portfolios!

Teaching the Teacher

A paper-based e-portfolio.

Sounds like a contradiction in terms.

I’m not a huge fan of paper portfolios.

In fact it is fair to say that I loathe filing bits of paper into folders with the fire of a thousand suns. Supervising a class full of kids updating portfolios feels like a form of medieval torture. Bits of paper are almost always missing or in the wrong place and my patience is in short supply.

Moreover I can’t help but wonder if all those countless hours spent updating, checking, re-checking all those bits of paper are actually worth it. Real learning is messy and doesn’t always lend itself to being filed away in clear files.

Enter digital portfolios.

In theory digital portfolios should be easier to create and curate content for the purposes of showcasing student learning. However in practice clunky content management systems and limited time on computers often add…

View original post 395 more words


On-line, digital Planning at it’s Best! @Planboard review #edtech, #edchat, #elemchat

Planboardapp.com  – 100 free lessonsand hopefully at lot more worry free lesson planning!

I have checked out the on-line planning programs.  I will make a run down of them on Monday if I get time….hopefully, it will be a post sooner than later.  But no promises.  I am getting organized and spending more time with family for 2013!

For now, I am going to jump to the end of all my research and experiences and tell you what I choose!

But first…my disclaimer.  Part of my excitement for my on-line software choice comes from knowing what I needed out of a lesson planning program.

Before starting the search and testing of any software you are CHOOSING to use (rather than being directed by the county), walk through these simple steps.  They should save you frustration and help you avoid the struggle of FITTING to a software program rather than finding the one that FITS YOUR NEEDS.  The set up will be a time investment…so invest your time wisely!

  1. How do you plan right now?  (In a paper plan book, have done the Word doc 8 1/2 by 11 or legal, I’ve done drawing on a drawing pad…stored in a binder.)
  2. Who will see your plans and why do they review them? admin, parents, peers (looking for standards, differentiation, instructional methods, set lesson cycle elements).  If you don’t know, ASK!
  3. What do you need to show in your plans?  Does your county have a set format? ASK!
  4. What would you like to show in your plans to achieve strong results on the new teacher evaluations? (Admit it…this is a consideration you should think about!) Marzano, differentiation, Blooms.
  5. What do you want to show or just want to have in your plans? files, photos, videos  (I hate being so prepared for a lesson, and then setting down that one paper I wanted to show on the dot cam. UGH…NO MORE!)
  6. What do you like about the way you plan now and how they look?  (I loved the block periods, being able to use Post-it and make notes).
  7. Are there areas that are simple and seem to save time? (Some of my time slots repeat…spelling and vocabulary instruction or independent practice…it’s the same standards and I used a core set of centers).
  8. What are the areas that are challenging and take the longest? (I lose my plan book under my ‘stuff’, lose my post-its..even though I bought the expensive, super sticky ones, feel I’m repeating what I write in my plan book and worry it won’t be easy to read or find lesson ideas/benchmarks next year because they will take my plan book away..OH NO!)
  9. How is your day really set up?  Your week?  Your month?
  10. What elements of all this repeat?  or have a structure that seems to be similar enough?
  11. What do you do with your plans once they are written?  (I draw and take notes all over mine.  Add sticky notes.)
Now…there are probably more things to consider…so take a look at your plan book and maybe some plan books of other teachers you admire…then take a few walks.  Yep…I am not recommending jumping right in because the set up will take a good part of a day, and some on-line planning sites require payment first.

Ok…now for my experience.

This was where I put in some elbow grease.I entered the Florida Standards for 4th gradelanguage arts, social studies and I will do math.I also want to add the Fl. Gifted Guidelines.However, Planboardapp.com already has the

Common Core Standards up

and ready to

go for 2014!!

I did try out MyLessonPlanner.com pretty seriously.  I felt the site did more, I’d have my own lesson plan website to share with parents.  It was just under $8/month.

But I’ve been reflecting on making life simpler and this bells and whistles site was really cumbersome to navigate and get set up. I really gave it an effort!  A few hours of effort.

I realized I was fighting the technology rather than using it to make my life easier.  I gave up after using way too much time on it.

I don’t have time to read the directions, I’ll admit it. 
 I need sometime simple to figure out and to use.
This is the lesson from my independent reading block, you can see I haveembedded a video for my ENGAGE!  LOVE THIS!  I can alsoattach files and pictures.  I WILL be organized!

Plus CUSTOMER SERVICE!!!  Every question I asked of Planboardapp.com was responded to quickly (sometimes in a matter of minutes) and cheerfully.  (I’m still awaiting a reply from MyLessonPlanner on a question I asked yesterday morning….)  I’m not impatient normally.  However, I really have a plan for this New Year and I want to hit the ground up and running on Monday.  So I’m motivated and was very thankful for the super customer service. THANK YOU!!!

So…after a few hours on Planboardapp.com, then a few not so productive hours on MyLessonPlaner.com, I asked myself why I was fighting this.

NO…NO…NO more!  Keep it simple.
Back to Planboardapp.com and a simpler (which means FASTER) way of working.
Here is what my schedule looks like.You can see the rotations and periods I set up for my day.You can even see where I started planning and addedFlorida standards.  I love that it has the block elementsI enjoyed in my paper plan book.

I had already been giving Planboardapp.com a go in the morning, started to set up my schedule and periods.  I had found it simple.  I gave the other site the same attempt with much less progress.  So I headed back to Planboardapp.com.

I worked through today and this evening tightening up my schedule and periods – that’s the key.

Then, I started developing my templates.  There are lesson plan templates that I can assign to any day and/or periods that I’d like.

I enjoy the squares in my paper plan book and feel that different areas of my day require different types of lesson planning.

So I created formats for the most common way I think through a lesson and used the strong guidelines for lesson planning.  I’ll share those up close a little later.

In the end I had a plan formats for:

  • my beginning of day routines that include grammar and literature analysis – along with small group pulls that I do.
  • Independent reading time – with engage videos and small group pulls.
  • Whole group reading instruction.
  • Small group instruction with small group enters.
  • Writing lessons
  • Spelling and Vocabulary lessons.
  • And an Assessment Day.
  • Some of my plan formats were for periods like Activity, Additional PE and end of day duties.
Here is where you set up your days. I choose a 5 day rotation with 8 periods.There is a drop down arrow where Inamed each period.
I do teach social studies but it’s completely integrated into the reading and writing blocks.
So, some periods are done for the year!  I wrote them pretty detailed so if I have a sub they can follow along.
I also love that I can print, save as a PDF or send by e-mail my plans to my administrators   In one of the emails I received yesterday, Planboardapp mentioned they are working on allowing us to embedded a lesson plan on a website!!!!!!

I want to show it off for now and then I’ll walk through in a different post how I set up my on-line plans ,if this is something you are interested in.  (Just comment and let me know.)
As far as cost, there is a cost after the first 100 lessons.  But if you share Planboard with friends, each signup gives you 100 additional lessons for FREE!  They allow up to 1000 extra lessons a year for free…but I’ll be honest.  The $29.95 would be worth it if this truly continues to be as good as it seems.

And here is where the beauty lies.  I created templates for areas in my day that I canuse similar lesson plan formats.Then I assign them to the day and the period I intendto use them on a regular basis.

I’m not committed though.  I can change a whole

day anytime I want by editing the day!

Flexible but structured…LOVE IT!

I have already received 500 additional lessons.  So if you find you really can us this on-line lesson plan site, once you sign up, spread the word.

I have to admit, it is very rare that some form of technology really sticks out at making life that much easier.  I love my IPhone…but my IPad is OK.  I’m a laptop user…

Essentially, I have been using and around technology since the 1980s…yep I’m old. I tend to think sometimes in computer-ease.  However, that does not mean I jump at every piece of technology out there.

Over time I have learned to really discriminate, because there is a lot of software and hardware that takes up more of my time rather than save me time (think about how many emails you read and respond to a day).  I had considered on-line lesson planning software this summer…but I didn’t feel the programs I tried out would save me time.  I took a look again over the holiday break and still wasn’t too sold until I came across Planboard.  It had the right look and feel, as well as the flexibility and structure that I needed.

This is what sold me and brought me back aftertrying a site with more bells and whistles (and more cost).It’s the look and feel of Planboardapp and the POST-IT! I can record my observations and/or reflections just like I do now!

Something I learned about myself was that I react to the look of the planning software.  I really like how Planboard is set up. It navigates and looks like a plan book I would use, as well as my passion for Post-Its!  I use Post-its in my plan book to record observations.  That was a MUST for an on-line plan book.  Many had places to take notes…but Planboardapp actually had a POST-it for each day!!!  It’s a visual that I connect with and appreciate.   Especially because I lose more Post-its that I care to admit.  (I even bought the ones with 100% sticky on the back…and those still fell out…ugh).

NO more lost Post-It for my observations and reflections!!!!

I have asked if they would consider allowing multiple Post-Its and being able to change there colors.

OHHH….that would thrill me.  Yes…I’m a simpleton.  Click on any PlannboardApp and give it a go!

I hope you enjoyed my rambling…


How does this work from an iPhone

Alright so word press has a lot to offer as well. But can I insert a picture?



Back to real work…

Back to real work

Chunky Lens, Claunch 72 Monochrome Film, No Flash, Taken with Hipstamatic

I have my blog figured out and need to transfer posts from Edu Blog over as time permits.  I love TUMBLR!  My Nook is out and MACBook is ready to go.


Creating a behaviour management nija – ME!

Have you ever come across a REALLY great IDEA that you knew would REALLY help you and just make life a little easier…but especially MORE effective?  Something that would make you BETTER at what you do?

I have… www.ClassDojo.com

I had a chance yesterday to sit down and go through my PGP and Domain/Elements.  I created an e-PGP to collect evidence and have been working to keep my focus on student progression through strong assessment in the front of my mind.

What came out of it all… just how challenging my job really is… Working to use my Assessment for Learning…strong practice and good teaching and learning with 17 different classes and over 150 different students.

It is mind boggling… my gifted classes are each working on different topics which require different content benchmarks across different grade levels.  My science classes range from K-2 and have different grade level benchmarks.from classdojo.com

I will say….this year it is difficult.  I can accomplish short, formative assessments like ‘thumbs up/down”, pair share, KWL or mind maps…using in depth questioning..but taking observation notes on students for all 17 classes and over 150 students? ugh…my mind truly gets muddled.

I am getting better though…but I only have 40 minutes with my science students.  I notice to really get a good assessment…it takes time…10 minutes and my class is 1/3 of the way over (by the time you count transitions, clean up and such).

I am trying to tighten up those areas…and still I wonder…how will I get through all 4 quadrants of my BEST?  Truthfully, I don’t think it’s possible and I’m probably not expected…but I want to because I know it’s good teaching and learning and I don’t want to lose the strengths I’ve gained as a teacher.

But I’m hanging in there.  Yesterday and today I spent some time really getting my CLASSDOJO.com site better organized and rolled out.  I changed the behaviours (positive and negative) to assessment language and behaviours I am looking for.

On the ‘negative’ side..which I’m not sure that term is what I want up there, I placed common areas of concern that I see with students (difficulty with focus, literacy difficulty, handwriting..ect) as well as behaviours that I might need to tract if a student struggles…focus, needs to move, did not finish..  the negative is more to help me focus on what support a student might need.

from classdojo.com

Hence, I’m not really sure negative is the right word.  Students have cute Avatars!”][/caption]   So today…I fired up my colour nook… and opened each class as they arrived.. tracking attendance and WAWLA! (is that how you spell that?)   However, I am NOT complaining.  Just today I saw…and wanted to keep assessments on…5 grade GSP, K science, 2nd Science as well as a 4th grade GSP class.  Tomorrow I will see 6th GSP, a different K science and the same 5 grade GSP.  It has been doing my head in a bit because I KNOW good assessment ensures my planning is meeting student needs.  Still..figuring it out with 17 different types of classes and being able to record it all quickly and with value has required some thought. We’ll see how it goes…


Assessment for Learning on Google Documents – AFL on the Cloud!

My professional growth plan is coming together.  I have been wanting to reflect on it and get my ideas down.  Tuesday I had the chance to meet with two teachers to just ‘talk it out’.  WOW…how helpful was that!  Just being able to listen and ask questions of another teacher who was thinking out her goals, strategies and evidence.  It was really helpful.

Tomorrow I am meeting again with another teacher.  I have my GSP data together.  Our gifted children have not been showing the desired learning gains so I have been thinking of ways to pull that into a PGP goal.

I wanted to center it on formative assessment but my principal felt that was not much of a stretch.  I hope next year the district considers allowing us to develop mastery for a goal and we don’t have to look for ‘new’ concepts each year.  I worry about becoming jack of all trades and experts at none.

Student work together first to talk it how..what makes sense?
Do I understand what your document is and what you want me to do?
Next…we will give it a go and they can’t talk face to face. 🙂

For this year though…it is how it is.

So I looked at an area that will be new to me….using Google Apps as a classroom instruction, curriculum and assessment tool.

I want to develop the benchmarks in literacy, math, writing as well as their gifted standards within the Google Applications.

So…we jumped in…literally!  I would bet that my students were the first elementary students on Google Apps for our district.  We are learning by leaps and bounds on the good, and the not so great aspects, of digital desktop collaboration.

First… working together on-line seems easy until you realize how clear you need to be in order to get others to 1) engage with a document you have created and want to collaborate on and 2) understand how you want them to work with you on the document.

I also have been thinking about how to develop teacher, peer and self assessment processes that are clear, linked to learning and support progression within our learning targets.

 Assessment for Learning on-line and remotely…that is new to me!

AFL strategy to modify: 2 stars and a wish (on paper) =  (*)Star, (W)onder or (?)Question in the digital world.

On Google App documents you have the option to allow people to view, edit or comment on your work.  If you give them edit or comment capability, others can enter your document, go to INSERT and enter a comment.  If they do it well (select the word/words in the work they are commenting on), the text will turn yellow when the Comment box appears on the right. Then students enter their feedback ‘linked to learning’ targets.

AFL *, W, ?
Assessment linked
to learning using
Comments on Google Documents!

They start with a *, W or ?. A ‘*’ tells the author that you feel that have hit the target!  They have achieve one of our learning objectives that was stated as a learning goal or assessment criteria.

* You can great a Goole Document to share that has a clear title and instructions for use.
* You can collect research on learning spaces that note the original website the data was pulled from.
* You can collect research on the ISS.
*You can collect research on learning spaces.
*You can share, in detail, information about you.

A ‘W’ is a wonder or a wish  After reading their work or research, if there was something that came to your mind that you wondered more about the topic or you wished they might add – these are not a questions (see the definition of ?) – you start with a ‘W’.

W – I wonder why I can’t edit your work but I can comment?  I wonder how many people can work on a document at the same time?
W – I wonder how learning spaces link to learning styles.  I wish you would…
W – I wonder how Russia’s rocket exploding will effect the ISS.
W – I wonder … I wish…

Wonders and wishes are thoughts beyond are learning targets that will extend or enrich the student if they worked to reach for them.  Students do not have to engage with Wonders or Wishes but may want to and create a new dimension to their learning.

Questions start with a “?”… a peer or teacher will leave a question if the work they’ve read is not learn or not clearly fulfilling all the learning objectives/targets.  For example…

? What is this document for?  The title is not clear and I’m not sure what to do?
? Your research says learning spaces need to be flexible.  What do you mean by flexible? 
? What website did you get this data from?
?  You have information on the ISS but what countries take part in supporting it?
?  Where is your research on learning spaces?  I can only find research on learning styles?
?  What books to you like to read?

Questions help the student/author to develop more detail in their work or more closely align it with our learning topics.  These are questions the readers have when reviewing…and if they aren’t clear on what you are trying to say, chances are the teacher won’t be either.

So far this is going well. I introduced the concept from 3rd to 6th grades and have been going back into student work and observing other students using the technique correctly!  We did model and give examples/non-examples of what feedback is when it links to learning and when it does not.

Wait until I share our lesson on ‘What is feedback linked to learning?’  I love AFL!


Reflecting on my digital tools that keep me going…what do you rely on?

from T-mobile.com
I’m up late. There are days (nights really) that this all seems so much… I can see the light and so I press on.  But there is just so much to do. Teaching is very different from the vision people outside of the  school walls see.
We work a lot of extra hours during the school year…it wouldbe hard to keep track because teachers grade papers, do paperwork, read up on curriculum or background info, create materials EVERYWHERE!
I am so thankful for my laptop and my colour nook….and cellphone.  They keep me together.
My cell phone?  It takes pictures of student work when I want to capture an observation of quality work or maybe evidence of possible learning gaps.  Quick..snap…gotcha…upload…!
My laptop…well…it’staking my desk and ability to create everywhere! And I do mean everywhere…. My school has given me a PC, but I always end up on my MAC.
·     the mall
·     Starbucks (my favourite)
·     in the car as my teen learns to drive (should I be watching the road here? ugh)
·       drives to wherever (my husband is used it now)
·      in the mall parking lot (when I tell my husband I’m shopping but really I’mworking…shhhh!)
·     at lunch breaks during training
·     soccer games (yes…I am not proud of that but I SWEAR it’s only during ½ time)
from Apple.com
·     soccer practice
·     at home (of course)
·     by the pool (ok this is really my favourite!)
·     in the car waiting for my husband who is shopping (I’ve done it)
·     on vacation or a trip (yes….yes…but only when my family is getting ready to sleep and don’t notice).
·     pretty much any where…
from Barnes and Noble
And now I have my COLOUR NOOK!!!  So now I can take my reading EVERYWHERE without dropping it all over the ground, getting it wrinkled, losing that 1 page or 2.
I can take notes on most of my PDFs.
So I am reviewing…
·     science standards and curriculum guidelines
·     teaching and learning strategies for K-2
·     The new state gifted framework
·     New national gifted standards
·     New gifted district policies (you get the picture)
·     PGP research
·     the 5 E’s (did you know there are 7 now)
·     PBIL homework
·     OK…ANYTHING someone sends me digitally or paper copy and I can find in a PDF that I have to read is on my NOOK.
What’s on your nook and where do you do your work?
I love my Nook and my Mac?
I’m thinking of upgrading my phone.

Any recommendations?  I’m thinking of the Apple IPhone but what about the Smart Phones?  I really need a decent camera and I’d like the ability to Skype for my online PLCs or site in on some blackboard or other webinars?
Hope you had a good Wednesday!


My PGP – a rework in progress :)

from Erin Acheson’s Blog

Today I meet with my admin to discuss the PGP ideas I had been working on.  Fair enough…the AFL goal I developed this weekend (all weekend..ugh) was not considered enough of a stretch.  What was really helpful was my principal helped me with data and get on the right track!

I love data on students but moving to a different country, data is collected and communicated differently.  I was excited (yes…excited..I’m a nerd) so learn how we show learning gains in Florida.   Florida has the FCAT, which uses levels.  In addition to those levels there are yearly progress standards for reading and math that students should show when they make ‘a years worth of learning.’  That concept is very similar to what we had in England!  Regardless of how bright a student was, every child in England should show a years worth of learning which was communicated as 2 sublevel increases a year.

In Florida, the increase is a number different for reading and math!  So for my PGP, I can look at the percentage of students in 2 grade levels and work to support those who did not make a years worth of learning.  I’m very excited about that!  Going back to my AFL strategies, I can share the concept of a years worth of learning with my gifted students and link that to their formative and summative assessments so we can communicate progression (or lack of) together. Here is a good link…
What are learning gains?

I also need to reflect on my Google lessons.  It is one thing to jump into a new technology and think of it as I would use it as an adult/teacher.  It is another thing to view it as an elementary student excited about communicating with friends as a work around to Facebook.  Did not see that one coming…but a valuable lesson nevertheless.

I have been working to find out how other teachers are using Google Cloud and see if there are lessons learned.  I have found one teacher…but I know there must be more.  I see that people are Google Certified Educators…I need to find out if they can assist me or direct me to more info.

Planned out my science lessons in medium term format and need to tighten up the procedures and resources for the rest of the weeks this weekend.  There are some great resources on NSTA that I am learning about through my weekly on-line PLC.  I need to learn more about the animals in my lab!!!!  Creatures really because some are insects and some are?

I also start my 3rd module for NASA’s Project Based Inquiry Learning lessons.  VERY excited to learn more and develop some for my gifted students.  I ALSO begin my gifted endorsement classes tomorrow!!!  So  much learning…so little time! 🙂


Donuts and TV…a labor day tradition?

Tomorrow is Labor Day. According to my son, who has lived in England for all of his life but the last year or so, Labor Day will encompass all 3 days of this weekend.  In fact, as he reminded us today, the Labor day tradition is to NOT labor and eat donuts ALL day as we watch TV!

I’ve very curious as to where this tradition has stemmed because we are not doughnut eaters or TV watchers.  I did ask if I could elect to not eat donuts all day but fruit instead…”YES!”  (I was thrilled.)

My wonder husband dutifully went off this morning to find donuts – my son suggested 7-11 since we did not know a local Dunkin Donuts shop or we could Google it. (Good little tech user I’ve raised!)

So…the day begins…for them at least.  They aren’t laboring…but are driving to watch my oldest play soccer. My labor day weekend goal is to LABOR lovingly and get well ahead of all my planning and PGP development which I have been doing.

I have cracked how to update my classroom blog and teacher journal (this one) from school to SAVE TIME!  And cannot wait to share it with another teacher who started blogging this year.

Why such a challenge to blog you ask?  Because blogger is blocked by our district internet filter.  Yes… we are on the Google cloud now..but no…we were blocked from using the blogging apps. 😦

I did draft a technology request and am awaiting a review before I send it to my principal and school tech. THEY are very encouraging TECH NINJAs! SERIOUSLY!  This is the first school I am going to have to work hard to keep up with all the innovations happening in technology.

New Chrome Notebook! Light and FAST!

Our tech just gave our gifted class 5 Google Chrome Books!!!!  The speed and ease of getting right into our Google Cloud was unmatched!  They are light and a lovely size for students to use.  I love the exterior which seems rubberized to help pupils have a better grasp.

Must get up…(this is my hubby who is already out the door)

Well its time to GET UP!  I have been working on transferring my journal entries from my county PGP site to my blogger. We can create ‘kind of’ a blog on our Google Site by using the ANNOUNCEMENT layout under our school sites.  However, in order to encourage comments, I have to give everyone permission to EDIT that page.  Just not willing to do it…nope..just not gonna! 🙂

Alright…I’m in a funny mood.  Must go run.  Thought about my PGP ALL night and need to do some planning…and need to get out of bed.


My PGP – Development


Began reading this last week information on Marzano and downloaded some of his research and chapters from books (through our professional development library).  Beginning the process of re-reading Assessment for Learning – Putting it into Practice.  Although I have been introduced to AFL strategies.  I am not an expert.  Black & Williams talk about the teacher development process.  Table 3.2 (p.28 Lists ‘four ways in which teachers adopted formative assessment strategies”.

 Teacher Development Quotes from table  My thoughts
 Experts  Formative Assessment Strategies embedded in and integrated with practice.
 This is my PGP goal!  I would like to investigate the American ideas of best formative and summative assessment strategies for use with students to drive planning and student progression.  I would like to further develop some of the research recognized AFL strategies found in “Inside the Primary Black Box” (AFL in primary and early years) as well as ATI’s Classroom Assessment for Student Learning – Doing it Right – Using it Well by Rick Stiggins and Co.  I would like to work towards “Expert” level as noted by the authors of Assessment for Learning and ensure my assessment strategies lead and guide my planning – and involve students within the process to support motivation, engagement and progress.
I will maintain data to monitor if my students are progressing as ensured by the research on AFL.  If I do not see progress, I will review my use of strategies.
 Moving Pioneers  Teachers who were successful with one or two key strategies, but having routinized these were looking for other ways to augment their practice.
 The first year back in America, I worked on developing my traffic light strategies and working on developing an understanding of the 5/6 grade Florida benchmarks.  I did turn some 5th and 6th benchmarks into I CAN statements and developed a interactive student sheet to use…but did not get a chance because I changed over to working with the KSC education department at Delaware North.
 Static Pioneers  Teachers who were successful with one or two key strategies and who had restricted themselves to these.
 During the end of my QTS, I was able to use thumbs up/down, pair share and some deeper questioning to unpick student understanding.  I needed to develop my questioning more and was showing some integration of AFL into my planning.
 Triallers  Teachers who had attempted strategies but had not embeded any strategies into their practice.
 This was my beginning introduction to AFL.  When I was first evaluated by Dorothy Kavanagh and found to ‘know’ the strategies…but did not have them EMBEDED into my practice.  The assessment was not driving my planning and I could not articulate what specific learning gaps children had.