Differentiating Process with Student Choice Boards

Every student deserves a great teacher, not by chance, but by design! 

Hattie, Fisher, Frey

Teachers in a differentiated classroom understand two things. First, there are standards that guide what is taught; and second, no two learners have the same path in mastering those standards. A differentiated classroom recognizes this and provides various ways through content, product, assessment, and process to meet the needs of all students. And all of this is accomplished by design, not chance!

The one component many educators find most difficult to understand and implement is “Differentiation through Process”. Process is how the learner comes to make sense of and understand topics, concepts, and skills directly aligned to the learning goal. Varying levels of support along with student choice make differentiating process one of the most effective ways to improve student learning.

I write a lot about differentiation and Steven Anderson and I present on how #EdTech can support a differentiated classroom at various events. When we do so, the example of a Student Choice Board is always a favorite with educators!

A Student Choice Board is not a hodge-podge of activities thrown together in an attempt to provide student choice in the classroom. Instead, a choice board is aligned to learning goals, has carefully selected activities to allow students to access and understand information, plus multiple options to apply and demonstrate understanding of a topic or concept.

When designing a Student Choice Board, we like to consider 3 layers of learning, Surface Learning, Deep Learning, and Application.

  1. Surface Learning – Initial exposure. Serves to support and build background knowledge in which students can construct new knowledge upon.
  2. Deep Learning – Students continue to solidify understanding and dig deeper, make connections, see examples, provides practice, and deepen their own understanding.
  3. Application – Students demonstrate mastery of content or skill by applying knowledge and demonstrating understanding.

Here is an example from a science classroom where students are exploring and learning about the Periodic Table. The directions on the side provide the learning goal and student expectations. This clarity provides students the “what” and allows them to own the “how”.

By blending differentiation with the resources provided by #EdTech, educators are able to not only support students accessing information through various modes, but provides a streamlined process in which students are able to choose their process and “own” their learning! Student Choice Boards is one of my favorite ways to differentiate process in the classroom. Why not give it a shot and try it out next year?

Blank Choice Board Template

3 Things To Remember For Every Conference

My friend Steven Anderson and I break down the simple things any learner can do to make the most of their conference experience.

The end of June means, for many education technology enthusiasts, one thing – the annual ISTE (International Society for Technology In Education) Conference is just around the corner. ISTE is one of our favorite conferences because we get to reconnect, face-to-face with those “edufriends” we haven’t seen in the past year, connect with new friends, we learn with some incredible minds in the field, and we get a sense of what schools and districts are thinking about as they look to the future of learning.

If you are a social media user or a blog reader you may have seen several posts related to getting more out of ISTE. Many veteran attendees have extensive lists of ways to maximize the impact and learning of all who attend. And prior to many conferences, people share advice on how to follow the conference hashtag or whose feed to bookmark to make sure you won’t miss a thing. Still, others connect with educators not able to attend (#NotAtISTE) or explain where you can find resources after the conference. Much of the advice you hear is great and definitely worth considering, so of course, we wanted to add our own into the mix.

When Steven and I attend conferences, either as presenters or as participants, we challenge ourselves and our audiences each day to dig deeper, move beyond the surface-level flash, and get the most out of the conference experience. Many will save all year long to attend or travel a great distance, so how can we make the most of conference experience while still remembering our purpose and the need to share what we learn?

We believe there are 3 Important Points to remember, not only for ISTE but for any conference or learning event you attend.

Be a Boundary Pusher

It is easy to attend conferences like ISTE and only go to the sessions led by a perceived “Edtech Guru” or ones where we already know a lot about a specific topic. While there isn’t anything wrong with that, ask yourself are you doing the most with your conference experience? There are so many hidden gems by presenters who may not have a huge Twitter following or award-winning blog that offer incredible insight and ideas.

Push yourself. You are in charge of YOU.

Steven is still a skeptic of flipped classrooms and AR/VR. So he makes a point to attend at least one session where either of these is discussed to widen his perspective. Try to find sessions that you might just be walking away from thanking yourself for attending. Make a point to attend at least one session where you disagree with or are a skeptical about the topic. Go in with an open mind and make the most of your experience.

Reflect. Learning in the Pause

Sometimes the best learning or most lasting impact happens after the session is done, or in the hallway, a corner tucked away from the group, or through my favorite, Learning in the Pause. The thing that holds true for all of these examples is that they are the ones that you remember and talk about long after the event is over, those moments are ones that cause us to stop and reflect.  Reflection, as we have pointed out previously, is an instrumental part of the learning process. Because you are going to challenge yourself and your thinking, it will be important for you to reflect on your learning. The process of reflection doesn’t have to be formal. It’s an opportunity to think about your learning, your thinking, and where you want to go next with both.

Review your notes at the end of each day and write down your thoughts. We love OneNote for this. I can compile everything in one place (notes, drawings, pictures, and handouts) and have it on all my devices. Many conferences are also creating shared Google Docs so that anyone can add in their thoughts and reflections collectively. Check out the conference hashtags as well to see what presenters and participants have posted. It’s also a good idea at the end of the day, when you are exhausted and walking back to your hotel to just take some time and think:

  • What did you see that challenged you?
  • What do you still have questions about?
  • How can you take what you learned and apply it to your students?

Don’t Be A Hoarder, Share Your Learning

Think about if you shared what you learned with 5 people and those 5 people shared with 5 others and so on. The learning becomes so much more valuable. Find ways to share both at the conference (social media is great for that) and when you get back to your school/district. Did you attend as a member of a team? Have your team take 5 mins and share all the resources with those that couldn’t attend during a staff meeting. Flying solo? Post your notes to Twitter or on your blog. However you decide to share, just be sure to share!

Conferences are a cornucopia of people, ideas, and inspiration at your fingertips. Rarely is one surrounded by tens of thousands of professionals learning and sharing around a common goal other than at a large conference. And what an awesome mission and common goal our profession shares, improving teaching and learning for our students!

Enjoy your learning this summer and if you happen to be at ISTE19 be sure to stop by and say hello!

7 Ways to Maximize Hattie’s Effect Size on Feedback

Few would argue the importance of feedback to increase student achievement even without having read the research from John Hattie. With an effect size of .73, Feedback is almost double that of the hinge point .4, making it an effective instructional strategy that is applicable across disciplines and grades. What is clear when distilling information regarding the what & how of effective feedback is that the components are similar in the research and theory but the variability lies in the inhibiting factors and culture of feedback in the classroom.

Top Teaching Strategy according to the research done by John Hattie

So how do we as educators recognize and remedy the variability of feedback to maximize the effect size Hattie found in his meta-analysis involving more than 150 million students to move from Feedback to Punctuating Feedback! as Nuthall and Alton-Lee named it?

Feedback as defined by Hattie and Timperley, “Feedback relating to actions or information provided by an agent (teacher, peer, book, parent, internet, experience) that provides information regarding aspects of one’s performance or understanding.”

Educators and theorists have an often similar definition, relating to students asking and answering: Where am? Where to next? How do I get there?

Punctuating Feedback includes the time given for students to process feedback, an understanding of how to interpret the feedback, and classroom culture to support applying skills gained through the feedback. The greatest impact of feedback occurs when it is supported by effective teaching and learning strategies.

Maximizing a Culture of Feedback

  1. Feedback sits within a formative assessment framework. It includes “where to next” and “how to improve”. Adjusting teaching depends upon this information.
  2. Internal motivation to promote curiosity and willingness to learn and deepen the current understanding. Active involvement by students in their own learning and recognizing growth from where they began to where they are now; not a comparison against other students.
  3. Embedded challenge mindsets, mindframes, metacognition, and deliberate practice, spaced not massed are effective.
  4. Normalizing and celebrating of error is the key to new learning and promotes a culture of actionable feedback.
  5. Equity in learning is maximized through mixed ability grouping.
  6. Feedback needs to be task-related rather than ego-related. Comments vs. grades equal greater gains in student achievement.
  7. All of this is “underpinned in the belief that all students can improve.” (Hattie)

When Effective Feedback is coupled with a Culture to maximize it, variables are lessened and ALL students improve.

Source: John Hattie and Shirley Clarke. Visible Learning Feedback. 2018.

25 Online Poetry Resources

I love teaching poetry. There is something beautiful about the structure and the word choice that portray the exact image and message the poet intended. From Sonnets to Blackout Poetry, having students read, write, and recite poetry allows them to see how to bend language in a playful way to communicate sarcasm or notice the enjambment of words to communicate “this should be read rapidly”.

Poetry is closely tied to music, and it is through music that I often hooked students into considering the magic of poetry. In fact, one of the activities I had them do was locate poetry devices in song lyrics (You can see an example here ). This activity launched them into reading & analyzing, writing, and reciting poetry.

Poetry does not have to be intimidating to students or adults. Connections can be made to music, real life, and social justice. Helping students unlock the mystery of poetry can be as simple as summarizing lines or stanzas, identifying speaker, setting, and situation, and reaffirming that while we may not know the exact intentions of the poet, there are ideas and understandings that are more correct than other ideas.

As April quickly approaches, and many will be celebrating National Poetry Month, I have created a list of some of my favorite poetry websites, resources, and apps to support teachers as they navigate the poetic sea – Enjoy!

Traditional Poetry Websites

  • The Poetry Foundation – is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. It works to raise poetry to a more visible and influential position in our culture. Multiple pages are connected to this website and it is a great place to start.
  • Poetry 180 – Poetry 180 resides on the Library of Congress website. It is designed to make it easy for students to hear or read a poem on each of the 180 days of the school year. Hosted by former Poet Laureate, Billy Collins, a perfect way to incorporate poetry daily into your classroom.
  • Poets.org – Poets.org is produced by the Academy of American Poets. The site was launched in 1996, becoming the original online resource for poems, poets’ biographies, essays about poetry, and resources for K-12 teachers.
  • Library of Congress Poet Laureate – The Library of Congress Poet Laureate website also resides on the Library of Congress website. Students are able to learn about the position of US Poet Laureate, about the current Poet Laureate, and their projects.
  • NCTE Poetry – NCTE Poetry Resources – The National Council of Teachers of English has multiple resources for teachers who want to use poetry in their classroom. Included are interviews with Poets, books to consider adding to your collections, as well as lessons to use with students.

Nontraditional Poetry Websites

  • Split This Rock – Explores and celebrates the many ways that poetry can act as an agent for change: reaching across differences, considering personal and social responsibility, asserting the centrality of the right to free speech, bearing witness to the diversity and complexity of human experience through language, imagining a better world.
  • Power Poetry – Power Poetry promotes a safe space where poets can share their work, as well as encouraging more growth in the organization. Power Poetry is the world’s first and largest mobile poetry community for youth. It is a one-of-a-kind place where you can be heard. “Power Poetry isn’t just about poetry: it’s about finding your voice and using it to change the world!”
  • Song Meanings – In the larger tradition of poetry, there is a strong relationship to music, instrumentation, and oral culture. Textuality, bookishness, I would argue, is the reason why contemporary poets have not been able to ignite a larger following and perception of poetry. Delve into the lyrics, text, and meanings of your favorite songs and learn how poets can SING better.
  • Teen Ink – National teen magazine and website devoted to helping teens share their own voices while developing reading, writing, creative and critical-thinking skills.
  • Poetry Out Loud – Poetry Out Loud encourages students to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. This program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life.
  • Poetry4Kids – The funny poetry playground of children’s author Kenn Nesbitt. You will find lots of funny poems and poetry books for children, classic children’s poetry, games, poetry lessons, and activities, plus a rhyming dictionary, videos, school visit information and lots more.
  • Poetry in America – Poetry in America, created and directed by Harvard professor Elisa New, is a new public television series and multi-platform digital initiative that brings poetry into classrooms and living rooms around the world.
  • Google Arts and Culture – Explore collections and exhibits all about Poets and Poetry on the Google Arts and Culture website. Google Arts and Culture allows students to explore collections from around the world – a perfect primary source.
  • Glossary of Poetry Terms – A website that is part of the Poetry Foundation and is a comprehensive glossary of poetic terms, theories, and schools of poetry. A perfect Reference tool for all your budding Poets.

National Poetry Month Resources

  • National Poetry Month – National Poetry Month each April is the largest literary celebration in the world, with tens of millions of readers, students, K-12 teachers, librarians, booksellers, literary events curators, publishers, bloggers, and, of course, poets marking poetry’s important place in our culture and our lives.
  • Dear Poet Project – a multimedia education project inviting young people in grades five through twelve to write letters in response to poems written and read by some of the award-winning poets
  • Poem in Your Pocket – April 18th is Poem in Your Pocket Day, part of National Poetry Month. Share your poem with everyone you meet. During the day, carry it with you, and share it with others at schools, bookstores, libraries, parks, workplaces, street corners, and on social media using the hashtag #pocketpoem

Unique Poetry Resources and Apps

  • Bot or Not – When AI (Artificial Intelligence) meets poetry you have Bot or Not. A fun game that tests your identification skills to decide if the poem in question was written by a human or by a computer.
  • Poetry Machine – Students can create an original poem on this website using one of the 48 templates listed. Everything from acrostic and haikus to animal poems; there is something for all young poets.
  • Instant Poetry 2 – Poetry 2 is an iOS app the reminds me of magnetic poetry. Create your own poem with images and drag and drop words. Upload your own image to use, or refresh to get a list of new words. Write and share poetry with anyone! 
  • Rhyme Zone – A website that allows students to search for rhymes, synonyms, and definitions. Perfect for poetry and writing lyrics.
  • Poemix – Remix text into simple poetry. Source of text can be anything from your favorite book to tweets. Fun and simple to use.
  • Mesostic Poem Generator – Type in your name and a short bio and this program will create a mesostic poem for you. It is similar to an acrostic, but with the vertical phrase intersecting the middle of the line, as opposed to beginning each new line.
  • Poem Generator – Poem Generator allows students to choose the structure, enter words based on prompts and parts of speech and the website does the rest. With 14 structures to choose from, students can have fun exploring and writing.
  • Blackout Bard – Blackout Bard is a free mobile app that parallels blackout poetry in a digital form. Students can choose a block of text, blackout words, and style the remaining ones to create and share a poem.
  • Facing History and Ourselves – Facing History and Ourselves Poetry Section can help students explore and connect with issues of identity, group membership, and belonging, as well as provide models and inspiration for how they might tell their own stories.

Have I forgot to list any of your favorite resources, websites, apps for Poetry? Be sure to comment below and remember to share your National Poetry Activities that your students are doing this year.

My New “EdVenture”

Well, friends, I am excited to announce that today I begin a new “EdVenture”. I am thrilled to have been offered and accepted a position with Open Up Resources.

A child’s zip code should not determine the quality of education they receive, nor should it determine the access educators have to curriculum and professional learning. Every child, everywhere, deserves and can receive a high quality, equitable literacy education with the support of OER (Open Education Resources) and evidence-based, high-yield instructional practices.

This is why I am honored to join the team at Open Up Resources as the new ELA Community Manager and Professional Learning Associate.

For the past 20 years, I have dedicated my life to education and literacy. Lifelong learning starts with a strong foundation in literacy, impacting a student’s personal, professional, and civic lives. Opportunities are opened and potential is realized when one can discern information with a critical eye and communicate their message effectively. As a classroom teacher and regional support consultant, I navigated the perils and success of literacy learning, honed my craft through professional learning communities, continued my education, and consulted research.

Now, I begin a new chapter in the education field, continuing to advocate for high-quality literacy learning while supporting teachers and district leadership implementing the ELA curriculum from Open Up Resources across digital platforms and face to face.

Technology not only changed my teaching but opened the world for my students. In 2008, I became a 1:1 laptop teacher, meaning, all of our students were given laptops to use during the school year. Because of this, I am a connected educator, blogger, and Tweet regularly. The connections I have made over the years have positively shaped me into the educator I am today. The sharing of resources, relationships made with educators across the globe, and the access to information are benefits I wish all teachers could capitalize upon. Along with these benefits, the growing awareness and use of OERs is an economical way for teachers to update content, differentiate in the classroom, and use, reuse, and redistribute material for all students.

Part of my role will be growing and supporting educators implementing ELA Open Up Resources in their classrooms; EL Education K–5 Language Arts & Bookworms K–5 Reading and Writing. Through regular Twitter Chats #OpenUpELA, online webinars and book clubs, and communication through FB Communities I hope to connect educators across the nation with a focus on ELA and OER. Open Up Resources has a vibrant Math Community that is supported and led by my new colleague, Brooke Powers, if you are not following her on Twitter, do so now, she is amazing and I can’t wait to learn from her.

The second part of my role will include Professional Learning. Collaboration with the team, designing and evaluating Professional Learning, and providing feedback from the implementing teachers; I hope to utilize my skill set and expertise to enhance literacy learning for ALL students.

Here are a few quick reasons why I am excited to be joining Open Up Resources:

  1. Our Mission: To increase equity in education by making excellent, top-rated curricula freely available to districts.
  2. Open Education Resources (OER) awareness is growing across the nation and Open Up Resources is a leader in this education community
  3. Blending of all of my passion areas
  4. A work/life integration with a value on family
  5. Incredible team made up of top-notch educators

Feel free to ask me anything about OER and the ELA or Math Curriculums we have at Open Up Resources, K-12 Literacy, or Technology in the Classroom. I would love to have a geek out session with you! Changing education is tough, why not do it with other passionate educators in your tribe? A huge shout out to the team at OUR who took a chance on me, time to roll up my sleeves and get to work.