#21stedchat Couldn’t Receive #bammyawards Without All of You

“Perhaps the greatest threat facing all educators today is the relentless national criticism of America’s public schools. The national narrative that is driving the negative public perception of education is leading to a decrease in public confidence and calls for reduced financial support. Today, educators face intense scrutiny and criticism, while what is right in American education is largely ignored.” Bammy’s Creators

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It is hard to believe David Prindle and I started #21stedchat in August of 2012, almost three years ago!  We started the chat because we wanted educators to create a positive 21st century learning environment for students by sharing resources and ideas that has worked in our classrooms and educational experiences. We have been more than pleased with how well it has gone and it has truly made me a better educator.

To this day David and I  have never physically met. We come from different worlds, David is a high school Forensic Science and General Chemistry teacher in MI, while I have taught mostly elementary in NC, but that doesn’t matter because along with all our #21stedchat members we all care about doing what’s best for students. Each week we have a different themes to discuss and in case you haven’t joined us for #21stedchat, it takes place every Sunday from 8:00-9:00 PM EST on Twitter.

We are humbled and honored to be nominated in the best Twitter Chat Community category.  We were nominated by the academy and we couldn’t have done it without all of our #21stedchat members. We want to thank you and ask that you please take a few minutes to vote for us here:  

It Takes a Village to Educate a Child

The Bammy Awards is a cross-discipline award that identifies and acknowledges the good work being done all across the education village. The Bammy Awards was created in response to the tremendous national pressure on educators and education leaders to improve student outcomes, the impact of high-stakes accountability and the intense scrutiny that today’s educators face.

The awards aim to foster cross-discipline recognition of the collective contributions being made to educate children, encourage collaboration in and across the various domains, elevate education and education successes in the public eye, and raise the profile and voices of the many undervalued and unrecognized people who are making a difference in the field.

The Bammy Awards acknowledge that teachers can’t do it alone and don’t do it alone. The Awards aim to recognize the collaborative nature of education, to encourage respect in and across the various domains, to raise the profile and voices of the many undervalued and unrecognized people who are making a difference in the field and to elevate educators, education and the value of life-long learning in the public eye.

Integrating Social Emotional Curricula and the Common Core

“Learning is a result of listening, which in turn leads to even better listening and attentiveness to the other person. In other words, to learn from the child, we must have empathy, and empathy grows as we learn.” By Alice Miller


Tonight’s #21stedchat (On Twitter Sundays @ 8:00 PM EST US with @dprindle and I – @Edu_Thompson) is discussing Social Emotional Curriculum vs. Integrated Empathy. This is apart of what I refer to as ‘hidden curriculum’. To me there shouldn’t be a ‘verse’ between Social Emotional Curriculum/Integrated Empathy tonight but an ‘and’.

Developing students’ social and emotional skills helps schools/classrooms create safe learning environments that help increase academic achievement. I believe that empathy falls within social emotional curriculum and it should be integrated into the Common Core with a focus on 21st century skills so it is cohesive. Below are some suggestions on how you can integrate social and emotional curricula with Common Core standards. My ideas are based on the An Educational Leaders Guide to Evidence-Based Social and Emotional Learning Programs, Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL, 2013)’ and Common Core.

  • Self-Awareness/Management: focuses on identifying and recognizing emotions; self-efficacy; control of oneself; self-motivation and discipline; goal setting; and organizational skills. Connection to Common Core:  CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
  • Relationship Skills: encompasses communication; social engagement and relationship building; working cooperatively; negotiation; conflict management; and help seeking. Connection to Common Core: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  • Responsible Decision Making: includes problem identification and problem solving; evaluation and reflection; personal, social, and ethical responsibility. Connection to Common Core: CCSS.Math.Practice.MP1 Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
  • Social Awareness: empathy; difference recognition; and respect for others. Connection to Common Core: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

There are many other Common Core Standards that these social and emotional basic skills can be integrated with. Many of these skills can also be taught and discussed within books, history and the arts. Below are more resources on this topic:

Social and emotional learning gaining new focus under Common Core

Building Social and Emotional Skills in Elementary Students: Empathy

Empathy: the Key to Social and Emotional Learning

Teaching Social and Emotional Skills in Schools

CASEL website

I would to hear ways that you think social and emotional curricula should be integrated or how you have integrated it. Please share in the comments section

5 Tips in Getting Parents Involved

“A positive parent-teacher relationship helps your child feel good about school and be successful in school” by Diane Levin, Ph.D.


One of the most important things a school can do to help raise student achievement scores is getting parents involved. There needs to be a partnership  between school and parents, working together to better the students academic lives. How can you get parents involved? Below are my top 5 ways.

1. Ask: Often times educators don’t ask parents about volunteering because they don’t want to impose on a parent. Using a site like SignUp Genius, allows parents to sign up for what they feel comfortable doing and have time for. Having multiple volunteer opportunities from brining in snacks, to helping with filing, to creating a bulletin board gives all parents options.

2. Website: Every educator should have a website that has basic information for the parents such as grading polices, helpful websites and class schedule. Embed calendars so parents can record upcoming events, assignments and dates to check to help their children’s progress is also beneficial. If your school doesn’t supply you with a website option, you can create free owns with Weebly, Google Sites  or Wix.

3. Social Media: Communication is huge in getting parents involved and having a school Facebook Page and Twitter is a great way for parents to stay updated.  Don’t believe me: check out these Facebook Stats. Here is a schools Faceebook page from Charlotte, NC: Grand Oak Elementary and a Twitter Page from New Jersey: New Milford HS.

4. Workshops: Having professional development for parents helps them feel comfortable with curriculum and programs helps build trust. An example of workshops that you can have are BYOT  or Common Core so parents can see how they are implemented.

5. Having a Space for Parents: Designing a space for parents helps parents feel welcomed and apart of the school. This space also allows the parents to help the school or teacher without getting in the way of the students learning.

Want more information of getting parents involved read: Education World: Parent Involvement in Schools. Please share any successful tips that have worked for you in the comment section.



Problem, Brain, Challenged Based Learning…Oh My! Distinguishing Between the Methods

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” by Albert Einstein


Fill in the blank and you have heard about some type of ‘based learning’. With all these different terms and methods it is hard to distinguish one from the other.  Many overlap and this post will be my attempt to help distinguish between them all and provide resources if you want to learn more.

Problem Based Learning: (PBL) is student centered instruction where the student learns the content through solving different problems. If you want to get started  or learn more about Problem based learning here is a good site and PBL book

Project Based Learning: (PBL) is where students create a product based on an essential content question being posed. If you want to get started  or learn more about Project based learning here is a good site and PBL book

Challenge Based Learning: (CBL) is Apple’s approach at looking at a big idea and having the students explore and find a real world solution using technology. If you want to get started  or learn more about Challenge based learning here is a good site and CBL book.

Brain Based Learning: (BBL) is taking what we know about the brain, about development and about learning and combining those factors in intelligent ways to connect and excite students’ desire to learn. If you want to get started  or learn more about Brain based learning here is a good site and BBL book.

Passion Based Learning: is allowing students to study what they are passionate about. If you want to get started or learn more about Passion based learning here is a good site and  book.

Game Based Learning: (GBL) is when students learn through playing games. If you want to get started or learn more about Game based learning here is a good site, blog and  book.

Resource Based Learning: (RBL) is an instruction which gives importance to the role of resources in the teaching and learning process. If you want to get started or learn more about Resource based learning here is a good site and RBL book.

Experience Based Learning: (EBL) is learning through experience through critical and reflective thinking. If you want to get started or learn more about Experience based learning here is a good site and article.

Discovery Based Learning: (DBL) is having students learn through discovery. If you want to get started  or learn more about  Discovery based learning here is a good article and DBL book.

Inquiry Based Learning: (IBL) is learning through explanation and discovery. If you want to get started or learn more about Inquiry based learning here are two good sites by Northeastern Illinois University and Concepts to Classroom along with this IBL book.

Technology Based Learning: (TBL) is the infusion of technology and the curriculum. There is a Technology Based Learning book but TBL should be incorporated in all learning styles.

No matter what, as educators, we must engage all learners and equip them with the skills for the 21st century. I suggest student centered learning which is doing what is best based on the student. Yes, that could mean 8 different lesson plans but isn’t that why we are in education, to do what’s best for them!

Applying 21st Century Skills with Common Core and Trading Cards

“Critical thinking is thinking about your thinking while you’re thinking in order to make your thinking better.”  by Richard Paul

My new favorite FREE tool for the classroom, for grades 3-12, is Trading Cards; which is an iOS App and also web based  by ReadWriteThink. This tool is user-friendly  and allows students to practice 21st century skills with integration of Common Core Curriculum. The Trading Card tool gives students a choice to demonstrate their literacy knowledge by creating a trading card about a real or fictional character.

When you use this tool in the classroom, the learners apply all their 21st century skills. The students  have to….

– critically think about the information they need to write in each section. The sections have guiding questions to help the students if they need it.

– communicate the information in 120 characters or less per section.

– create the card adding a picture of the character they are describing.

– collaborate if you have the students work together.

The tool is user friendly and the creator can chose different backgrounds/designs and can also organize the cards by putting them in different collections. My favorite feature is that you can also share the cards multiple ways. One way is you can download them to your camera roll and then upload them to Edmodo or Gaggle accounts and have class discussions about the cards. Having students create cards based on characters in their books help them think about perspective in a creative way. This is also a great way for students to reflect on a biography they have read to synthesize the information.  There are a lot of lesson plans already created for grades 3-12, check them out here.

Here is the one I created on Steve Jobs on my iPad, then saved it to my camera roll.


If you have used ReadWriteThink- Trading Cards in the classroom I would love to know how; please share in the comment section.

Connecting Common Core with Comics Using Chogger

“Once we rid ourselves of traditional thinking we can get on with creating the future.” James Bertrand


Chogger is a new website to me and I learned about during a #21stedchat a few weeks ago. I have been ‘playing’ and exploring with it and think it is a great new web tool for the classroom.

Creating comics is engaging and inspires creativity within students. Creating stories in comic board format helps scaffold students. In Chogger, you have 10 layouts/formats to choose from. You can choose to upload pictures from your computer, webcam, draw your own, or google search right inside Chogger.  This program is easy to use, and the possibilities are endless. Did I mention it is FREE!

Creating comics also promotes 21st century learning skills such as creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration (if they work on the comic with partners or small group.) The best part is you can easily connect many ELA Common Core Standards with Chogger. You can have the students…

  • Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson (RL.2 or RI.2)
  • Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events. (RL.3 or RI.3)
  • Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language. (RL.4 or RI.4)
  • Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence. (W1)
  • Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content. (W2)
  • Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences. (W3)
  • Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.  (W6)
  • Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.  (SI.5)

You can also connect Common Core with Math; as students can create ‘how to comics’ for any topic such as fractions, “How do you add and subtract fractions with like denominators.” If you are in NC, you can also connect the NC Essential Standards for example with Science by having the students create a comic that is about ‘The day in the life of a water droplet’ for the water cycle or any other RAFT activities.

Check out my Chogger Comic here

I am really excited that Chogger is coming out with an educators version! Making it a safer place where students can create web comics, share with their friends, and have fun learning. http://classroomcomics.com. I do wish they had an app! That would make it even better!

Chogger has other great features such as Chog it! Bookmarking to learn more: Click Here

If you have used Chogger in the classroom, I would love to hear how, as I know the possibilities are endless.

BYOT: Our First Month in Review

“A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary.” – Thomas Carruthers

It has been a month for our Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) pilot and it has been a hug success. Each week we have more and more students bringing in devices as parents are ‘seeing’ how our teachers are using them educationally.

Each week our teachers have shared what has worked and what has not worked during their planning sessions. During this time we problem solve on how we can make it better. We have found letting the students use the device how they see fit and giving them the choice has been helpful. Meaning we do not ‘deem’ a day when they can bring their device but rather let the students bring their devices everyday and letting them know when they can take them out and use them in the classroom, just like a book. We did have some trouble as far as workflow and getting assignments turned in because of the different formats but we have found using Gaggle and Edmodo have helped with this.

Every month for the first few months we plan on doing a ‘device dig’. The device dig is when our teachers and students inventory what devices the students are bringing along with how many. We have been using this real world data as a learning experience for the students as well because they have been making graphs by collecting and analyzing the data. Then the students compare all the fifth grade classes as well.

Our device dig data for Nov

170 students 85 are bringing devices – 50%

iPods- 38

Tablets – 18 (iPads, Samsung Galaxy etc)

eReaders – 12 (Kindles and Nooks)

Phones -10

Laptops – 7

We predict after the holiday season we will have at least 20% increase and be closer to 70% of our students brining in devices. We are basing this prediction on the number of phone calls and emails asking what devices they (the parents) should buy. We have also had a lot of questions about the iPad mini’s so I do think we will see this newer device as well.

Here is a graph that represents what our usage is; the blue is internet and the red is our wi-fi. (Remember this is one grade level, 5th grade, in a K-5 school of over 1100 students.)

WiFi Usage and Internet Usage

In order for our parents to ‘see’ what we are doing with our BYOT in the classrooms we take many photo’s and post them onto our Twitter and schools Facebook Page. We also make movie trailers as a quick, easy way to grab some parents attention.

Grading in the 21st Century

“Life is an error-making and an error-correcting process, and nature in marking man’s papers will grade him for wisdom as measured both by survival and by the quality of life of those who survive.” by Jonas Salk

Tonight’s #21stedchat (Sundays @ 8:00 EST) topic is Grades and Grading in the 21st century. I have many mixed feelings about this topic and though through a reflection, I might be able to have more clarity of how I really feel. I know this is something that I can not change as it is based on the district and state policies but it is still worth thinking about as grading is always a ‘hot topic’ and it’s important to have an open mind.

My first thoughts are, I don’t think we should grade elementary school student’s. In elementary school we as educators are trying to build the foundation of skills so the students master reading and basic math. I think grades in elementary school turn off many students causing them low or no self confidences and is the start of ‘hating school’.

I think standards-based education is what our students need. Students require ongoing teaching and learning where each student can demonstrate mastery in Common Core standards. Using standard benchmark concepts and skills, will provide an alignment among classrooms and schools yet take away the added pressure of grades.

If we eliminated grades we could focus on true learning. Teaching and learning is a cycle that should measures student achievement through a variety of formats and assessments along with ensuring multiple opportunities for students to learn until they reach mastery. I think that students should be able to retake assessments until they show mastery. I understand some educators concerns that it is not ‘fair’ because those students that worked hard the first time, should not be ‘penalized’ but isn’t mastery what learning is all about and isn’t that what we want for all students? I heard a great quote recently, “Fair doesn’t necessarily mean equal” which fits this situation perfectly.

Portfolios, I am a huge fan of student portfolios and student goals. I think all students should have a portfolio and work at their speed. Growth is what we want to see in students, portfolios are a great way of doing this. Having student lead conferences are a great way to show their growth and lets the student take ownership of their own learning which is what we want to build within students.  Portfolios can have assessments within such as performance tasks or PBL, which can be ‘graded’ or can show mastery based on a rubric.

With all this grading talk we must talk about rubrics. Again, I have mixed feelings on rubrics. I like rubrics, I think they are a great way to grade fairly and set expectations. However, I think rubrics also stunt creativity sometimes and hinder students because they either know what they have to do to get by or they don’t think ‘out of the box’ because it is not in the rubric. I have come to the conclusion that like anything you need to have a good balance which is why sometimes I use rubrics and sometimes I don’t.

I think 21st century skills such as critically thinking, communicating, collaborating and creating can all be  assessed multiple ways no matter if you are using a grading system or not.

As you can see I have mixed feelings and am excited to learn tonight from others around the  world. If you can’t make the chat or missed it, I still would love to hear your thoughts.

My New Challenge – Twitter Chat #21stedchat

“Communication, collaboration, and creativity are the skills that will help people be globally competitive in the 21st Century. For the first time in history, we are preparing students for a future we can not clearly describe.” by David Warlick

 It is hard to believe a year ago I started blogging. The reason I had started was because I knew if I was preaching 21st century learning to my students, that I needed to be practicing what I was preaching. While reflecting on my year of blogging, I realized how much it has helped become a better educator.

When I first started my blog, I was told to have a vision; my vision was, “to collaborate with educators to make a difference in education through improving methods and reflecting. I want to seek new perspectives, take risks and continue to pursue my passions of curriculum and instruction, technology and 21st century learning.”

This past year I have met my vision! I have succeeded, failed and learned throughout-out the process. Blogging was a great challenge, that I am glad I made last year. But of course, this got me thinking, how am I going to challenge myself this school year! After thinking about it, I realized I needed to start a twitter chat about my vision. I needed to take these ideas to the the next level. I talked with a virtual friend, @dprindle, and we discussed ideas and he agreed to co-create this chat with me.

So that’s right folks, we are starting our own twitter chat. The chat will discuss 21st century teaching and learning in all grade levels and in all subject areas. Our hashtag is #21stedchat, it will be on Sundays @ 8pm, starting next Sunday, Aug 5th! We have started a site that is still under construction, http://21stedchat.wordpress.com.  Please join us as we look forward to learning and growing as better educators with all of you.