Monday, August 29, 2016

As the Sun Sets on Summer

Summer Reflections

Dear Readers,

It has truly been an amazing summer of learning and getting to know my PLN! 

While some people take a break from social media during these months, I am the exact opposite. It is the time that I am able to engage in many chats, thoughtful discussions and relationship building with educators around the world. Please join me on my 2016 summer reflection of learning and connecting.


I was extremely fortunate to co-moderate #LAUNCHBOOK Chat with several members of my PLN. The discussion ran through July and was a tremendous hit! A huge thank you to @ajjuliani and @burgessdave for allowing us to use the hashtag. In addition a sincere thank you to all the participants that joined in each week. It was a blast!

I am happily integrating what I learned into the classroom this year.


I was honored when @SteveWyborney  asked me to co-moderate a slow chat using his book The Writing on the Classroom Wall. The chat has continued throughout the month of August and we will be finishing up on Labor Day. A sincere thank you to all participants who have engaged in our discussions over the past few weeks. I have learned so much and met so many amazing educators! 

I am incorporating Big Ideas into my classroom this year!


I have always used current events in my instruction, but @MathDenisNJ has me looking at the world in a completely different way! I am much more observant of my surroundings and how they could be used as teaching tools. For example, the above rock wall generated some captivating conversations among my PLN!

I also posted this sign that led to some interesting comments and questions as well....

Sketch Noting

If you follow me on a regular basis, you have probably noticed all my "visual representations" I have enjoyed creating. I started out making them for myself, but soon realized they were more fun to make for others. Here are some of the requests I honored..... (@PaulSolarz @jedikermit @MathDenisNJ @SteveWyborney @JonHarper70bd @OrganicLeaderVB)

Guest Moderator

I was so thankful to be a guest moderator for a couple of my favorite chats! Thank you to......

......@burgess_shelley for allowing me to moderate #satchatwc in June and @MagicPantsJones for allowing me to moderate #2pencilchat in July.

The Gif Crew


I lovingly refer to this group as "The Gif Crew". This group is an absolute pleasure to engage with! It has now become a tradition to meet up in chats and see who can "out Gif" the other. I am astonished at the speed in which they can produce Gifs during chats. Unfortunately, the speed of my computer and inability to multi-task during chats, hinders my participation. However, I am usually laughing hysterically as I answer questions and watch the number of my notifications increase dramatically! Thank you for bringing fun into my "Twitter PLN". 

Friendships Across State Lines

One of the most special moments of the summer was when I met @itsmespiri for the first time over my birthday weekend. She was on her way to visit family and graciously stopped to have dinner with me. I was then invited to her home in August and met her absolutely fantastic, amazing family. People who are not on Twitter and think you cannot make friends, do not GET it. I feel closer to some people I have never met than those I see on a regular basis. Thank you Justin, Spiri, Sophie, Gabe and Sara for opening your hearts and home to me. I cannot wait to see you again soon!


The #XPLAP chat, moderated by @tishrich and @mmatera is one of the most supportive communities I have engaged with! Their weekly chat on Wednesday evenings (8:00 PM EST) has really helped me to begin understanding Gamification in the classroom. 

I am hoping to use the strategies I have learned to incorporate gaming into some of my classes this year. Here is my end of the year attempt in June....

Twitter Chats

People have commented that I am "everywhere" during the summer on Twitter and it might seem that way! Here are a few of my favorite chats that I participated in....I highly recommend them to all!

  • #fitnessedu (7:00-7:30 PM EST)
  • #LeadWithGiants (7:00-8:00 PM EST)
  • #LearnLAP (8:00-9:00 PM EST)
  • #TLAP (9:00-10:00 PM EST)
  • #2PencilChat (7:00-8:00 PM EST)
  • #DivergEd (8:00-8:30 PM EST)
  • #EdTechTherapy (8:00-9:00 PM EST)
  • #XPLAP (8:00-9:00 PM EST)
  • #OhEdChat (9:00-10:00 PM EST)
  • #MakeItReal (9:30-10:00 PM EST)
  • #whatisschool (7:00-8:00 PM EST)
  • #engagechat (8:00-9:00 PM EST)
  • #satchat (7:30-8:30 AM EST)
  • #LeadUpChat (9:30-10:30 AM EST)
  • #satchatwc (10:30-11:30 AM EST
  • #EduGlatiators (11:30 AM-12:00 PM EST)

Wishing You a Happy School Year!

I sincerely hope everyone is off to a great beginning of the year, a fabulous middle of the year or an awesome end of the year depending on where you are. Thank you for a fantastic summer of connecting and collaborating!



Saturday, August 20, 2016

Knowing Ourselves as Learners Can Improve Our Instruction

Do You Know Yourself as a Learner?

Dear Readers,
As back to school season is upon us, we are all thinking about how to build relationships, form connections and create a classroom community of learners.

As important as it is to find out your students’ “favorite things”, it’s equally as important to get to know them as learners.  Your students should never feel they have to adapt their natural way of learning to your instructional delivery, in fact your instruction should meet the needs of various types of learners.

I happened to be in a few Twitter chats recently and was talking about myself as a learner. I am not an auditory learner. For example, I struggle to recall numbers, I need them repeated several times and in small chunks. While many people turn to audio books, they are quite honestly a nightmare for me. I have difficulty hearing in crowded rooms with many people and a lot of noise in the background. I tend to sit in the front or on the outside layout of the room. Over the years I have found that is my ideal learning place. I rely heavily on handouts, visual presentations and asking questions. I learn most effectively through language. I read a ton and at a fairly fast pace. It is my strength and I use it.

Additionally, I am a hands on learner, but perhaps not your traditional thinking of what you consider hands on to be. I love taking notes, it keeps me focused and helps me process verbal information. It is like a math manipulative, but for a language minded person. I make lists, write in books, highlight, add post-its, I truly interact and annotate professional resources, articles or texts.

I have recently discovered a love for creating visual representations of what I am learning. I do not like to draw, however I use language to create visual maps that I see in my mind. It is putting my thinking on paper for others to see. It is a great tool to see how people think about information.

I can also be an introvert or extrovert based on the learning I am doing. For instance, as a technology learner, I need to be in a small group, fairly quiet environment with a patient, encouraging and supportive facilitator/instructor. I embrace technology and social media and am not afraid to try new things, but I must feel comfortable doing so. If I were to be a student in your class I would need things broken down in chunks, repetition, ability to ask tons of questions and 1:1 “conferencing”. I would most likely be on the quieter side as I need to listen, process, reflect and then try. I also need to walk away, try what I learned and then come back for more.

However, if I am at a language or literacy professional development I thrive in a fast paced environment with many individuals and for my thinking to be challenged. Most likely I am going to exhibit more extrovert behaviors because it is my comfort level and strength to talk about language, reading, writing, speaking and listening. As a student in your class I would need to be challenged and spend more time engaging in thoughtful conversations than being “talked at”. I would get bored easily if the pace was slow and it was more of a lecture style learning environment.

Knowing yourself as a learner can help you see learning from your students’ perspective and help create a comfortable learning environment for them.

I wish everyone a wonderful start to the school year!


Friday, August 12, 2016

Sketching in the Classroom

My Sketchnote Notebook 

Dear Readers,

I have recently found a love for creating visual representations (aka "Sketchnotes"). I was first introduced to sketchnotes when Matt Miller (@jmattmiller) created one based on my first blog post on becoming a Literacy Teacher.

I have always incorporated anchor charts (thank you #tcrwp) into my instruction to develop independent learners and capture our lessons and thinking.

Student-Centered Learning

A book that really resonated with me this summer was Learning to Choose, Choosing to Learn by Mike Anderson (@balancedteacher). In it, he discusses the important of student choice. As I reflected on my instructional practices, it made me think about different ways to offer students choice in their learning. Many of my students love to doodle and draw. I started to think about how I could improve my teaching practices by offering more options for note-taking or responding to literature.

After seeing Stacey Lindes' (@iruntech) 100 day challenge to herself of producing 100 sketchnotes in 100 days, I was extremely motivated to try it. Here is my journey thus far in the world of sketchnotes.

Step 1: Trying to Capture My Understanding After Reading a Text

While I was moderating #LAUNCHBOOK Chat, I was interacting with the text very closely and making tons of annotations in my book. I wanted to create a visual poster of my thinking regarding the design cycle. 

Step 2: Combining Several Anchor Charts into a Single Cohesive Chart

Last month, I was teaching a modified Genius Hour summer session and after brainstorming with my students, realized I had four different posters on creating and revising research questions. I wanted to combine all of our thinking so students could see it as a process. 

Step 3: Co-Created a Poster with Students in Real Time

Instead of waiting until after class, I wanted students to see the process of going through the formation of a sketchnote. As we discussed ideas for research stamina, I captured it as a process. 

It worked extremely well! I was able to show them how sometimes we go back and repeat steps. It also showed them that thinking is messy! We want it to be messy! 

Step 4: Sketchnoting While Reading

My next step was to try sketchnoting in real time while I was reading. As I thought about building our classroom community this year, I was inspired by ideas from Reading in the Wild and The Reading Strategies Book. 

Step 5: "Pirate Books"

At this point, I wanted to see what it would feel like to have a sketchnote notebook to start capturing ideas while learning. I bought this:

Some of my biggest inspiration comes from Dave and Shelley Burgess who always put out really creative books with amazing authors. The content of the books are so diverse and quite frankly, just plain fun! I knew I would really be able to bring my creativity to sketchnotes using their publications. My sketchnote notebook began.

My first creations were using Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess (@burgessdave), P is for Pirate by Dave and Shelley Burgess (@burgess_shelley) and Instant Relevance by Denis Sheeran (@MathDenisNJ). 

Step 6: "Pirate" Author Requests

I was having so much fun that I decided to take some requests! I asked Paul Soloraz (@PaulSoloraz) and Quinn Rollins (@jedikermit) to choose their favorite chapters and I would create their custom-made sketchnotes! 

I asked Quinn what one of his his favorite chapters was and he chose action figures. Then I asked him one of his favorite children's books and his first choice was Harold and the Purple Crayon. 

Paul chose chapter 3 as one of his favorites! 

Step 7: Capturing a Twitter Chat

Now I was ready to take on summarizing a chat! I am honored to co-moderate the slow chat #theclassroomwall with Steve Wyborney (@SteveWyborney). I looked back through the responses to and captured common themes and ideas for Question #1. 

Step 8: My Personal Mission Statement

As I started to fill my notebook, I decided to add my personal mission statement that hangs in my classroom. Here is what I came up with:

Next Steps

My next sketchnote will be based on the following Young Adult book:

I want to see, from a student perspective, how I can use sketchnotes to respond to reading. First, I will choose a writing prompt and then respond to it in the form of a sketchnote.


As I reflect on this journey, I can see many benefits to introducing this learning tool to students. A few things come to mind when I consider the benefits to student learning:
  • use language and/or pictures/symbols to capture their learning in an organized way that makes sense to them
  • choose key words/phrases/ideas that are essential to their learning
  • write down as much or as little information that they need
  • give them options for taking notes, conducting research and making their thinking and/or learning visible to others
  • collaborate together on tasks
  • offer an alternative to traditional writing in response to reading essay type tasks
  • offer more options for the pre-writing stage of the writing progress
There are so many more! My hope is to create an anchor notebook for them to draw ideas from.

I cannot wait to see where my creativity will go!