November 30

Shark Cast Podcast (on Spotify)

Podcasts entertain us in so many ways. Whether you are traveling, exercising or laying around you can listen and learn anytime, anywhere. The topics range from a conversation with celebrities to traveling around the world. Sharing this auditory magic with your students, they can listen while working or creating at their seats.

Opening up a new school last year, we needed a way to teach our community about our school. Traditional paths of emails, newletters and website updates are good as long as our stake holders read them. We needed a way share all the details of our administration, PBIS House System and so much more. What better way than to have our students take charge of this endeavor?

A student’s world is full of creation. They create silly pictures, silly videos and hysterical memes. Using a class of 5th graders, I took their talent to the podcasting world. After listening to podcasts in class, the children were beyond excited to take on the challenge of creating a school podcast. Where to begin? What will we talk about? If the goal is to teach our community about our new school, who will we include on it?

Our minds were swirling with ideas but first we needed to start with a plan. Each group of 9 students were split into 3 teams: writers of the script, interviewers and producers or audio editors. Every two weeks we had the same routine. Begin with the whole team brainstorming ideas. Once the idea is

Find the Shark Cast Podcast on Spotify

selected, we moved on to the writers who wrote the script to include the opening, interview questions and closing. Next  the interviewers contacted those named for interviews by email. They learned how to write an email requesting and confirming interview appointments and sharing the questions they would be asked. The interview team met with each person and this is where the recording of the podcast would happen. Finally, our producers would listen to the recording and edit it so the final revision would best represent our topic. When complete, we would post it on our school’s website and Spotify.  The podcast name and logo was created by our students. The 5th graders were responsible for the name.  Our logo was designed by our 4th grade Tech Team who prepared and presented a business proposal to our principal. They convinced him to purchase 2,000 stickers. (This was a great story, but that will be for another post.)

Tips on Creating Your Own Podcast

Throughout the year, our students interviewed school and county administration, House leaders, and our specials teachers. Members of our school got an inside look of the people who make up our school from the minds of students. The method opened our doors to anyone who wanted to listen. The skills covered during this venture ranged from writing, oral communication, and following directions. They worked through challenges by having meaningful conversations, compromising and celebrations. We all know that when our students complete any group project, they learn so much more than the content. To hear what they have learned and loved about being part of this adventure, please turn up your volume. 


November 26

Coaching a float

It’s the season of parades. The big parade was here and many families gathered around the TV and watched all the amazing floats, performers and bands entertain us until the final hero comes at the end.

National TV isn’t the only place to see a parade. This ends up being a project that can be seen throughout our schools. Educators splashing all over social media highlighting the different floats that have been created by their students. Each one is unique with all different crafts, balloons, construction paper, tape, and popsicle sticks. It’s really just a dream of creation. When complete students may walk down the hallway holding them, they may place them on different robots, or they may use different tools where they can create a video with emulating the balloons, walking down the street.

Often the part that we do not talk about is the work that happens before the project. The colleagues that get together to map out the project to make it a success. Last week I was able to see this come out in a few different opportunities and it’s really pretty amazing to see teachers really tap into coaches collaborating for student success. Let’s keep in mind that coaches can come in the form of co-teachers, resource teachers, mentors and technology coaches.

Working in a school which has about 10% of new faculty this year, our coaching staff includes less than 5 faculty members means our seasoned veterans must open their doors and engage in conversations to support our new teachers. Modeling, co-teaching, supporting and follow it up with reflective conversations. Observing teaching in real time is an effective tool for them to see a seasoned teacher handle different situations.  Adding to it, young teachers are excited to hear the coach as she uses intonations inflection, and excitement pausing at key moments in a lesson.

When it comes time to the float build, for example, a veteran teacher may be paired with one of these new teachers where they can learn options when working students and guide using questions to allow for autonomy in a younger teacher’s class. It is a time for seasoned teachers to now model intentionally with young educators, who have less experience. The result is absolute success as the young teacher is able to turn around and practice what she was just seeing as they work with different students. This is an interesting perspective and seeing all the ways that the teachers are learning from each other. It is going to positively lend itself to future projects as the school year continues. It all goes back to why you should open your classroom door a little bit more, observe others, invite coaches and support staff into your room and ask them to lead so we can learn a variety of ways teach students different strategies to tackle any issue that you teach them.

You see this parade was teaching so much more than engineering with the scientific method or building a float. All of the learners are learning life skills that will carry them through their careers be a public school, college, or an educator for the next 30 years of their life.

November 13

A Habitat in Quad D

Each lesson plan that is well thought out will most likely start with the state standards. This week’s lesson will focus on habitats, for example. If you are an educator in Virginia, your plans might start with

2.5 The student will investigate and understand that living things are part of a system. Key ideas include a) plants and animals are interdependent with their living and nonliving surroundings; b) an animal’s habitat provides all of its basic needs; and c) habitats change over time due to many influences. (VA SOL 2nd grade, pg 12)

This is a great starting point. You know where you need to go. In this example the students are learning about habitats and how they’ve changed over time. How will you get there? Thinking back to Quad D, which is learning that is characterized by high academic rigor as well as the application of knowledge to solve real-world problems (The Center for Model Schools), the goal is to have the students think on their own. Traditionally speaking, we can surely find a worksheet or website that will ask our learners to state the information they know. During the time you are teaching the unit, the information can be reiterated and marked correctly on a test. For the time being, the goal has been met. A child can name a habitat or reasons why it has changed. In six months can they answer the same questions? Did they truly learn the standard or just enough to get the score?

Planning document with teacher and coach

This is a great time to partner with an instructional coach. You have both learned pedagogy and now add in the expertise of the questioner and planner. Together you can figure out how to marry both of your expertise so that the end result is students taking a deeper dive into a child’s learning living in a quad D quadrant. A few weeks back I sat down with a teacher with the same standard above and asked her “What can you tell me about your class? What are their strengths and obstacles?” Through this conversation we created a list that contained words like strong personalities, conversationalists, leaders, artists, coders and creative minds that led us to creating a group project. Fostering these real life skills while learning about animals homes will lead us to the educator understanding what your students need, their strengths, areas you would like them to grow , and connecting us all to real world skills.

As the teacher and myself laid out the outline for the project it began with the students completing a worksheet that guided them through research using Pebble Go and drawing a picture of their findings. Moving forward they needed to create a map where their images were combined into one and a coded road was created for an Ozobot to drive through it. As it drove through, the creators of the each habitat had to explain to the class the land, water and animals that would exist in that location.

You see, as we engaged in a conversation of pairing the habitat standard with the traits of her students the project grew and grew. At some point while working on the project all of the individual students’ interests were tapped into allowing each one to shine. Did we, as a whole group, have bumps along the way? You bet! Can you name a group project that doesn’t have them? However the information learned along the way is exactly what was needed from the Science standard listed above to the social emotional components, public speaking skills and collaborative work that will lead the class to success.

November 4

All About the Goal

It’s time to give Kuzma Kronikle a new twist. Previously, it was focused on the tool, and then finding ways to integrate into the curriculum. But with times changing we need to focus on the content, and then find the best way to either dive deeper or connect it the real world. So the new twist is going to explain different lessons I’ve done with different classes, grade levels, content, and how tools were decided during conversations had between myself and the teachers. Finally, I will share how it  translated into the classroom-what did the teacher do with the co-teaching opportunity once she/he is on their own to develop it independently. 


So before I get into describing activities, lesson planning charts or collaborative planning, I challenge you to list all of the tools you have access to in your school, your district or your county. Sort them into whatever categories makes sense to you. Some examples might be content assessment, presentation creation or video. (Click on the image to the right for an example.) You will most likely see that one tool can be used in multiple ways. By doing this you’re able to wrap your mind around the tools that are available to you and begin to think how are you going to use these tools to best have your students create something.

Because, as we know, they do spend a lot of time on their devices, lets connect what they’re creating on their devices and see where it lands on a Quad D chart, thinking about what are they actually doing on their phones might actually surprise you. Let’s take what they know about media combine it with what we know about pedagogy and merge the two so our students can create products that will impact their world. 

March 28

Lead the Way

“They were leaders but didn’t know it until they had the chance to lead.” (2016. Hacking Leadership. Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinanis)

Each morning my day starts with a small group of 5th Graders on our BTES News Show. Their job is to update the script, check all batteries and cords, fill out the job board, rehearse lines and record the school’s news. The news will be comprised of weather, a daily highlight, and possibly a themed focus. If you were to walk in my room while this going on, it will look a bit out of sorts and sound LOUD, productively loud. All students will know their role for the day. Most importantly, the student manning the computer with the recording program is the one in charge. Because the job board is erased each day, jobs change daily. Again, when an outsider walks in it looks like…mass chaos. Yet, the team members know exactly what their job is and how to get it done.

The best part of this process is watching students emerge as leaders. Some come to me ready to take control of all of it while others appear as shy individuals who need to observe before they jump in. No matter how they arrive, they are in a situation where they can lead. As the mornings continue on, they find their niche and excel. Those unexpected moments of success and leadership make this program so successful.

Let’s shift the leader thinking from students to teachers. There are opportunities for leaders but some may appear to be the same folks selected for those positions. As a coach, I love to observe from a distance and locate the quieter leaders. They are experts in their field, often share ideas in small groups and the outcome of their lessons is mind-blowing. How do you pull these leaders out of their shells?

  • Build a relationship with them and name their strengths.
  • Locate ways in your community their talents can be showcased. Is there an event coming up they can be part of?
  • Knowing their talents, pick one and ask them to lead a small training during a grade level meeting. Starting off small will give them the confidence for larger groups.
  • Design a project together. Co-teach the lesson but, as the coach, slowly back away and become their support.
  • Reflect and celebrate. Point out how they acted as leaders and share that knowledge with the team and administration.

Each day we are given a chance to support students of all ages in our building. When we stop and show them what they can accomplish the sky is the limit.