Sunday, May 29, 2016

Reading, Reflecting & Recommending.......

Reading, Reflecting & Recommending.....Part 1

Dear Readers,

When I first thought about blogging, @smgaillard suggested I blog about my passion......books! Although I have written several blogs highlighting individual books, there are so many amazing resources I have yet to share! 

I decided I would do a series of posts because I just can't fit everything in one! I am dedicating this post to all the amazing "Pirate" books put out by Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc. Once you read one book put out by Dave and his crew, you will want to read them all. 

I hope you find something that peeks your interest......happy reading, learning and sharing!

(My apologies in advance for any authors I may have inadvertently left off.)

I was a "Pirate" before I knew what it meant......

  • It may sound silly, but this book completely changed my instructional "world". After reading it, I felt like, "THIS is how I think." @burgessdave has amazing ideas and his philosophy is just what educators who think outside the box need.

  • I absolutely love picture books and to find one targeting an adult audience? Awesome! Written by @burgessdave and his lovely wife @burgess_shelley. 


  • @PaulSolarz @gcouros and @jmattmiller challenge how we look at our instruction. If we want innovative students, we need to be innovative adults. If we want to grow student leaders, we need to provide opportunities for them to develop those skills. 

  • Alice Keeler, @julnilsmith and @donwettrick make you look at Google, media and learning in a whole new way! 
  • We were fortunate to have 1:1 Chromebooks for 8th grade this year. Google docs and classroom are invaluable! I am able to conference with students 1:1 consistently through Google docs. No more waiting for the teacher to be available, I am able to chat with them anywhere and anytime on their writing and give feedback. 
  • Social media is an entirely new world to our students. They need to know how to safely and effectively navigate such a world. We put phones (aka mini-computers) in their hands without hesitation, but do we support that with education? 
  • What student would not want to learn about a topic of interest? The more invested they are in their learning, the higher the engagement and learning. 

  • @jedikermit & @mrmatera have opened my eyes to bringing gaming and play, yes you read that correctly, into my classroom. My wish list right now includes Play-Doh and Legos. I have fidget toys and puzzles all over my middle school classroom. Who says that big kids don't like to play? Just walk in my room anytime and see a soccer ball being kicked around, "clackers" being spun around and stress balls rolling across the floor.
  • Students today live in a gaming world, we need to teach to that world. Virtual worlds, badges, quests, oh my! 

  • @thezenteacher shows us how extremely essential it is that we find balance between professional, personal, health, etc. If we don't take time out to care for ourselves, we cannot be our best in any aspects of our busy lives.

  • @McLane_Ryan & Ericlowe21 showcase the awesomeness of their schools in very creative ways! Building that home-school relationship is so incredibly important. 

  • @5watersbook is a hidden treasure I just discovered! Great connections to leadership and teaching. 

I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I did! Have a wonderful week!


Sunday, May 8, 2016

Gamification in the Classroom

Ms. Gross and Gamification???? WHAT????

Dear Readers,

As a teacher, I know for maximum engagement and learning, I need to meet students where they are and enter their worlds. Young people today are growing up in a digital environment and as educators we need to embrace these changes. 

I had heard of Gamification, but what was it really? I knew many of my students were "gamers" and had seen the word on Twitter. I decided I needed to investigate. 

I lurked a little bit on Twitter and of course, Dave and Shelly Burgess to the rescue. EXPLORE Like a Pirate by Michael Matera is an amazing resource for those (like me) with little to no background on the virtual gaming world. 

Although the information was a bit overwhelming at first, it offered me some concrete ideas to begin my journey. 

Won't you join me as I take you through my first attempt at implementing an extremely modified "Gamification" into my classroom?

Step 1: Elements of Gaming

My first step was to learn about the elements of gaming. I turned the class over to the students and learned about worlds, characters, levels, motivation, rewards, incentives, etc. They also made recommendations of various titles to investigate.

My biggest take-away from these conversations was that students were motivated to continue playing despite set-backs embedded in the game. For example, loss of characters or "rewards". Their perseverance for continuing the game was remarkable. 

Step 2: Creating a Virtual World & Character

My next step was to have students create their ideal virtual world and characters. For some, this was a challenge, while for others it was so natural. I challenged students who are not traditionally gamers to think outside the box. As a model, I also created my virtual world and character. Although I was intimidated at first, the answer quickly came to me. My world would be a library and my character a book worm.

Examples of worlds created include a mall, softball/soccer/lacrosse fields, basketball court, horse stables, farm and forest.

Step 3: Creating Levels and "Tokens" to be Earned

Now came the challenging part for me. What would my levels be? In keeping with a literacy theme, I decided on the following:
  • Level 1: Ms. Gross' Classroom Library
  • Level 2: Middle School Library
  • Level 3: Public/Community Library
  • Level 4: NYC Public Library
Additionally, what would they earn? More importantly, how would they "Level Up"? Embracing my literacy theme, I found book templates.
  • 1 Book=2 points
  • 1/2 Book=1 point
Leveling Up:
  • Start at Level 1
  • Level Up to Level 2=5 books
  • Level Up to Level 3=10 books
  • Level Up to Level 4=15 books
It was also recommended to incorporate individual success with group advancement. So, based on their individual intervention, they have the opportunity to earn personal points.

Step 4: Creating Group Challenges

I had read about quests and elaborate challenges educators have created. I was in awe at examples I read about and saw! For this step, I included students in the discussion. The compromise we reached was:
  • Challenge 1: True/False Questions
  • Challenge 2: Solving Riddles
  • Challenge 3: School Wide Quest (I would create.)

Step 5: What's a challenge without incentives?

The incentives and what to work toward were completely student driven and chosen. They brainstormed different ideas and decided as a group what their reward would be if they won. Individual winners will also have a choice.


  • How can we engage and motivate students to become resilient learners just as they are resilient gamers?
  • How do we create learning environments that appeal to ALL students?
  • How can we develop intrinsic motivation for students to want to "Level Up" and be risk-takers and challenge themselves?
I am extremely excited to begin our gaming this week! Thank you to the incredible people in my PLN that I learn from every day.

A sincere thank you to my students who are risk-takers every time they enter my classroom! You never know what Ms. Gross has up her sleeve for the day!