Monday, May 15, 2017

What's the point?

Last month I wrote about football and the importance of giving it your all 4th quarter.  If we can find life lessons in football, then we can also find life lessons in the female side of the sport- cheerleading!

My daughter cheers on a competitive all-star cheer team.  Recently, her team finished their last competition, which oddly was scheduled three weeks before the practice season actually ended.  Competitions are always great.  It's the time to give your all for the performance and share what the team has been working on for months.  Hard work is rewarded with cheering and excitement from the fans.  Parents love seeing kids give it their all on a stage or field. The competition ended on a high note, and that day really could have been the end of the season for the girls.

But practice continued the next week as scheduled since parents had paid for three more weeks.  It was my turn to carpool that next practice after the competition.  Usually the girls are so excited on the way to practice, chatting about the routine and everything they hope to be able to do by the competition.

But today was different.  The car was quiet and felt like it was filled with deflated balloons.  Instead of the usual chatter, they started complaining.  "This is stupid.  Why do we have to keep going to practice if there are no more competitions?"

I tried to convince them that it's about continuing to grow in their skills and if anything, being healthy and getting a good workout.  No matter what I said, in typical teenage girls style, they weren't buying it.  And them in my mom-voice, it came down to, "We paid a lot for this, so you are going until the end!"

The car was quiet again and I started to think about school.  How do our students feel when they are learning something if they don't see a purpose?  Learning to just learn isn't motivating enough for them anymore.  How can we be creative and capture their passion?  It doesn't have to be a huge event on a stage with lights and screaming fans.  But how can we create a sense of purpose to learning?

The key is sharing.  Are they completing a project for the teacher to grade and hand back, and nothing more?  Or can we push them?  Celebrations of learning, inviting others to be an audience in the classroom, showcasing their work publicly, and connecting with others online all give a purpose to their efforts.  When kids have a purpose, they perform with more passion and effort.  Can it be a little scary to share what you have learned with others...yes!  But the feedback they receive and the smiles of pride on their faces after they share make it worth it!  As adults, they will need to be able to create work they can share with others for evaluation and feedback.  Our students need a purpose to be motivated.  Otherwise, what is the point?

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

**Best of 2016-2017** #D59chat

We are looking for new ideas and perspectives!  Please consider joining the last #D59chat of the school year!  Great opportunity to reflect and collaborate with new people!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Write a letter to your future self

Did your teachers ever have you write a letter to your future self and then mail it to you years later? If so, share your experience in the comments below.  Writing you to your future self is a great reflective activity for kids and adults.  The modern way of doing this is by email. provides a simple template for composing an email to yourself and setting a date for its delivery.  Here are a few ideas for students to use this as a goal setting or reflective activity.

1)  6th-grade students write a letter and have it delivered to themselves at the beginning of 8th grade.  What was their impression of their first year of jr. high?  What were the highlights?  Challenges?  What would they like to accomplish during their last year of 8th grade?

2)  8th-grade students reflect about their jr. high experience.  How have they grown and changed?  What are their favorite memories?  What are their goals for high school and beyond?   Have this letter delivered around their graduation time from high school.

Since the letter will be sent to an email address, it needs to be sent to a student's personal email, or their parent's email.  (Once they leave CCSD59, their school email will no longer exist. Also, their school email accounts will block out emails from outside the organization.) Once you verify your address, you will get a window asking to donate to the site.  Don't let this scare you is optional! Just click on "No Thanks" at the bottom, and the letter will still be sent.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Global Day of Design

Do your students like to build and create?  Need something to do with the extra periods during PARCC?

The Global Day of Design is filled with STEM-based activities that are great for any classroom!  The final event is on May 2nd, but there are activities you can do anytime.

What is the Global Day of Design?

Students like, and need to make, build, and tinker. The Global Day of Design is one-day that focuses on using the Design Thinking process in school. The goal for the Global Day of Design is to inspire a transformation in schools around the world to incorporate design into an everyday practice with students.

Last year over 40,000 students from 450 schools (and four continents) participated. Click on this link to sign-up and weekly activities will be sent to you.  Want to check out what's already there? There are free lessons plans already created for you to use with your students.  Again, although the official day of design is in May, you can use the activities anytime!  This is a great way to extend the curriculum during PARCC testing!

Example Activites:

Time: 1 hr
Underground Civilization
University of Arkansas
Spaghetti Marshmallow Challenge - Students build towers using only spaghetti, marshmallows, tape and string
MORE: Back to KG???!!! - Middle-school students rediscover the fun they had in kindergarten
Flappy Bird Generator
Time: 20-45 mins
Design Challenge via TED
Time: 20-45 mins
Drone Delivery
Welcome to Middle School- Students role play how to make transition to middle school easier.
The Special Olympics - Students develop a sense of empathy for people in the Special Olympics
Design Challenge (Launch Cycle)
(5 Lessons FREE)
Tiny House Challenge
MARS Challenge

The Classroom Redesign Project - Students redesign a classroom
The Morning Routine - Students redesign their morning routine Native American Culture Design Challenge

These are just some of the highly engaging activities to get students to design collaborate, and problem-solve!

Read more about last's year's Global Day of Design!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Can someone "Tweech" me how to "Twitter"?

Since we are just coming back from break, and it's crunch time with planning, testing, etc., the April 6th D59 Twitter chat has been postponed until May.

We haven't had a lot of jr. high participants, but if you get a chance, check out the  #D59chat thread.  It's a great opportunity to develop your professional learning network within the district. 

Looking for ideas and resources from outside of D59?  Many educators will agree that Twitter is hands down the most authentic place to get up-to-date resources from educators, for educators.  And unlike Teachers Pay Teachers, it's all free!

To help you sort through all that is out there, I created a list of a few popular hashtags for chats from educator groups outside of CCSD59.  These hashtag threads have amazing resources to use in your classroom, specialized to your area of interest.  There is no need to commit to participating in a "chat" at an exact time or date. The resources are always there for you online, anytime!

CCSD59 teachers sharing ideas for a monthly topic
All middle school teachers
Project-based learning
Current educational topics and instructional strategies
Ideas to implement genius hour in your classroom
ELA Teachers
Teaching Writing (rubrics, mini-lesson support, grammar, etc.)
Math Teachers
Middle School Math Teachers
Science Teachers
Social Science Teachers
ELL Teachers
World Language Teachers
PE Teachers
Music Teachers
Art Teachers
Special Education Teachers
For parents or teachers of children with learning and attention issues

For a complete list of education related chats, here's a calendar of topics and hashtags.

If all this information sounds like a foreign language, I'd be happy to visit a team or plan time to explain more about how Twitter is being used as a place to share ideas, provide resources, and overall as a vehicle to help educators.  It doesn't have to be something extra to do.  Think of it this way- instead of searching for resources on Google and getting 30,000,000 hits on a topic to sort through, follow a hashtag on twitter that is customized to your area of interest, filled with information shared by people with jobs similar to yours.  It's a hidden gem!  (Well not exactly hidden since it's online...or in the cloud...wherever that may be?!)

P.S. You do not need a twitter account to access these hashtags.  Just click on the links above, or go to and search what you are looking for.