Put the Devices Down If you’ve ever been to one of my sessions, you know I want teachers to feel empowered to put aside devices–or use them to design opportunities– to teach, talk, and play with their students.  I attempt to model this in my own classroom.   Currently, I am home on maternity leave and struggling to practice what I preach. Being Present as a New Mom Two months ago, I had my first child.  Before Nouarie’s birth, I knew that I would have to decrease my use of technology to care for her. I read Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise aRead More →

As the weather warms up, I remember the summers I spent at Camp Whispering Oaks, a Girl Scout resident camp in Southern California. Now that I am a teacher and a mom, I know that I can’t go back, but I can bring camp into my classroom.  The improv game Questions Only is one of the games that my students enjoy. As a little background, at Camp Whispering Oaks, the entire camp attends a large opening campfire on the second night of each session to welcome the girls.  These are upbeat evenings filled with singing, staff introductions, and skits performed by counselors.  In order toRead More →

Community circles, or proactive restorative circles, are an easy way to give each student an opportunity to speak, but sometimes they can take too long.  This post describes how think-pair-share can be incorporated to increase student talk time without consuming too many instructional minutes. Community Circles Time Management On one of my first formal teacher evaluations, my principal noted that he wanted me to work on time management.  Many years later, I still occasionally struggle with this.  I tend to overplan my class periods and overestimate my students’ abilities to transition and complete activities.  This challenge is especially apparent when I am leading community circles.Read More →

Sometimes zombies (students) just need help discovering what they have in common in order to create friendships.  Play the icebreaker, As the Wind Blows, to help your students build face-to-face connections. An Icebreaker to Spark Friendships Some days sound like my classes of seventh grade English learners and emerging readers socialize too much.  But, even on these days, I sometimes notice my quieter students go from the chatty line outside my door to the rush to the cafeteria without saying a word unless it is part of the lesson.  Sure, these quieter students help to balance out the chatty ones, but I worry that they have notRead More →

When most people think of team building activities, they often picture elaborate events, such as ropes courses, or games that involve supplies, such as the popular Saving Sam activity. Even though I have never saved Sam, I have led hundreds of Girl Scouts through a ropes course and understand the value of asking a group of people to work together to complete a challenging task followed by a debriefing.   I regularly use team building activities to build camaraderie within classes and to prepare students for group work.  This year, I’ve had to search for a few new games to add to my list sinceRead More →

When I was little, I was obsessed with letter writing. It began with pen pals at elementary schools in my district, expanded to international pen pals in Turkey and India, and became a weekly habit when my best friend moved across the country.  The letters to my best friend, Hannah, were filled with detailed narratives and reflections.  Even though I have yet to establish a pen pal program in my classes, my students regularly write letters…to their “invested adults.”    In my middle school classroom, I give my students letter templates filled with sentence frames at the end of each month. The sentence frames promptRead More →

Like many of my favorite games, Honey, If You Love Me comes from Girl Scout summer camp.  I don’t remember when I actually learned this one, but I remember that we often used it as a simple instant program.  To explain, at camp, there are times when units of campers and counselors have a few minutes to spare between activities.  Instead of allowing the girls to just sit around, the counselors are trained to fill these gaps with what is called instant program to keep the girls engaged. In schools, we often refer to similar activities as time fillers to support bell-to-bell instruction.  However, IRead More →

Last spring, I used station-rotation blended learning in my English 9 and 10 classes during a literature unit. For this unit, students were assigned to teams based on their most recent reading scores on a district assessment.  Each team read a different novel and participated in lessons to increase their understanding of literary elements. To help my students actually complete the reading, I adjusted my standard stations that I explained in Teachers vs Zombies Station-Rotation. Instead, I used the following groups:   Teacher: Small group lessons analyzing literary elements in novel and discussions Keyboard: Extra Team: Reading novel in a small group Team: Reading novelRead More →

When I first began using station-rotation blended learning in my classroom, I worked in a district that had purchased licenses for Compass Learning Odyssey.  Compass was mainly used as a credit recovery curriculum, but I was able to pull out specific lessons relevant to the content standards I was teaching in my traditional English 9 & 10 classes.  Initially, I used these lessons during the Headphones station in my classroom. (You can learn more about the Headphones Station’s role in blended learning on this blog post.)   As I began integrating more project-based learning into my classes, I discovered that sometimes I needed shorter videosRead More →

When I work with teachers, I hear that planning activities for the teacher station of station-rotation blended learning, is actually the easiest station to plan.  This station provides opportunities to conduct the small-group direct instruction that can be almost impossible to squeeze into whole-group instruction.   For those of us who use a formal curriculum, our teachers’ manuals contain a variety of differentiation/universal access lessons that are perfect for this station. I remember that as a new teacher, I would just skim these, recognize their potential use, but move on after realizing that I did not have a way to just teach the lesson toRead More →