“Choice strengthens all.” By Neal Prescot

Allowing students to make choices in the classroom not only empowers them to make great choices about their learning but it also motivates them. No one likes to be told what to do, sometimes having a simple choice between two items makes all the differences.  Below are some ways you can start adding in choice and some tips to help make the transition smoother.

  1. Tasks: Have students pick how they want to practice a skill by allowing them to choose the task they want to complete. This can be done by providing a standards based choice board or a self paced pathway.
  2. Seating: Have students chose where they want to sit to learn. Having expectations and teaching students about making right choices is apart of the learning process.
  3. Homework: See my views on why I don’t believe in homework but if you are going to give it, allow for students to choose what they need to work on based on their needs. I promise you that you will actually get homework turned in if you provide choices that are engaging and authentic.
  4. Product choice: Have students chose how they want can show what they know about a topic. Allowing students to make this decision allows for not only ownership but gives them room to be creative!
  5. Genius Hour: Genius hour is based on Google and 3M’s 80/20 theory, 80% of the time you work on the tasks you need to complete in order to move the company forward. The other 20% you work on something you are passionate about. This applies great in the classroom as the students work on the standards for 80% and then they get 20% time, genius hour, to learn about something they chose to learn about that is not tied to a standard.
  6. Reading: Research has shown that letting students choose their own books, makes  them not only better readers but also they will want to read more when given a choice. Often times I am given the excuse but I want to have whole group academic coversations. You still can have class discussions about books by allowing students to choose based on theme. For example, having the topic be leadership and the book choices you give them all have leadership embedded in them.
  7. Morning Meetings: Many classrooms start off the day with morning meetings; why not have the students run morning meetings! Have the leader of the day chose the greeting and the activity. You can provide a safe learning environment by providing them options to choose from by listing different greetings and activities on the board.
  8. Classroom Environment: Have students chose how they want the classroom to look/feel as it is their learning environment too. You can start off small by having a suggestion box somewhere in the room and invite students to use it to express thoughts, concerns, and opinions regarding classroom policies and procedures.
  9. Note Taking: To often I see teachers telling their students how to take notes. Having students chose how they want to take notes will create ownership in understanding the content. Modeling different note taking strategies will help students to make the best choice for them such as Cornell, sketchnotes or interactive note taking.
  10. Assessment: Having students take an assessment when they are ready allows students to feel confident in the content. This tends to scare a lot of teachers but start off small by allowing them to take the assessment anytime during a certain week or provide two days. You can take it on Friday or if you need the weekend to study/practice, you can take it Monday. If we as teachers are truly looking for mastery, we need to remember not everyone masters a concept at the same time.

Tips to Think About:

  • Start small and only chose one way to add choice into your classroom.
  • For any choice you provide, explicitly teach your expectations and think about  potential roadblocks before issues arise.
  • Do not make the mistake of giving too many options as that can be over whelming.
  • If you do a choice board and you have the students pick one choice a day, make sure you have six options because if they do one a day for five days, then it is not really a choice.
  • If providing a choice and it “goes bad or fails” before saying it doesn’t work, analyze what could you do differenty to make it succcessful. Also make sure you are giving it enough times.

“The technology itself is not transformative. It’s the school, the pedagogy, that is transformative.” – Tanya Byron

I am in schools and classrooms daily and too often I see the misuse of how technology should be used. Often times I hear Principals or teachers sat, yes we are using technology, see how this teacher is using ______ (fill in blank with website or tool) but the students are not using anything. Or I see technology beginning used as – lack of a better term – “babysitter”. They will tell me how they use Dreambox or Compass Learning etc as a station or something students can do after they finish their classwork.


Technology should be used to transform the classroom and school to allow fo authentic, real world application. Technology should be supporting the curriculum goals, and helping the students to effectively reach their learning goals.

Here are some questions to help you asses yourself to see how you or your school are integrating technology. Rate yourself by using the scale, zero we don’t do this or 5 we do this with fidelity, in all _______ subjects (if you are a teacher) or classrooms (if you have a school perspective).

  1. Are digital resources being utilized with purpose?
  2. Are teachers/administration modeling for students/teachers using transformative technology in their classroom/school?
  3. Do assignments provide opportunities for creativity and critical thinking?
  4. Do students own their own learning? Do they have choice in what tool they use or product they create?
  5. Do students use technology to create authentic products that are for authentic audiences to show their understanding of learning outcomes?

20 – 25 Score: You are showing mastery with using technology to transform learning. Ask yourself, “How can I contribute in helping others integrate technology to transform learning?” Use this as your next step to empower others.

10 – 20 Score: You are on your way with using technology to transform learning. Look at your lowest score for the questions and ask yourself what can I do to make this better?

0 – 10 Score: You are starting your journey in implementing technology into your school or classroom. Take a look at the first question and see how you can improve in this area. If you did well on this question, then look at the next question as the question go in order of transformation. Only select one question to improve upon to not overwhelm yourself or anyone at your school.

Other resources and ideas to help you integrate technology into your classroom:

Previous blog posts on integrating technology

The 4 Stages of EdTech – The SAMR Model for Technology Integration


“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.” By Isaac Asimov


Quick writes are an instructional strategy that are brief, timed writing opportunities that require only 5-10 minutes to integrate writing into any content area.  Quick writes are great way to start or end a class as it will become part of the students routine and daily practice.

Here are five ways you can have your students quick write:

  1. Reflection: Have the students reflect upon ___________ (fill in the blank with lesson, concept or the students goals)
  2. Assessing student knowledge: If you want to see if students grasped a concept, have them write about what they know.  Then you can use that data to see who needs a reteach, more practice or have mastered the concept.
  3. Critical Thinking:  Have students take an alternate point of view on a topic or character.
  4. Creative: Have students write about an image and tell a story
  5. Personal Connection: Students write about a connection they have to a topic that is personal to them.

*Tip: Have the students do there quick writes in a Google Doc so you can provide them feedback virtually. You don’t need to give feedback everyday, I used to do once a week. I would have a schedule and do a few a day so that it became a habit for me.

Quick Write Writing Resources:

Emoji Prompts: Start with an emoji image and continue to click ‘and then’ to reveal a new emoji. Use these images to write a story.

Story Starters: This site generates story starters that can be used to start writing but if you do not like the story starter sentence generated for you, you can click on the button to get another one!

365 Creative Writing Prompt Ideas: Pick on a day for a year!





Teachers as Leaders

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” John C. Maxwell

A few years ago I wrote a blog post called, 10 Ways to Build Teacher Leaders.  I feel it is such as important topic, I wanted to add to it because enhancing teacher leadership can help schools and districts with:

  1. Improve teacher quality
  2. Improve student learning
  3. Provide opportunities for professional growth

Teacher leaders assume a wide range of roles to support school or districts. Some roles that teachers can take to become teacher leaders:

  1. Instructional Coach
  2. Mentors
  3. Professional Learning Specialist
  4. Data Coach
  5. Lab Teacher

To recognize all teachers, here are some ideas to try that can help build teacher leaders:

Super Teacher of the Week: Each week at staff meetings, one teacher is recognized as “Super Teacher of the Week” based on nominations from other staff members. Their nomination is read out loud at the staff meeting. Reward: They’re given a superhero pin to wear all week.

Teacher Shout Outs: Celebrate teachers accomplishments and/or failures to show it is okay to take risks.  Reward: Shout outs are given at staff meetings. If you have sponsors or PTA, gift cards are a nice perk.

Above-and-beyond the Call of Duty: This recognition would go to a teacher that went above and beyond the regular job requirements. Reward: You can take a teacher’s duty for a day.

Spotlight on Support: Establish a bulletin board in the workroom that ‘spotlights’ a different support staff each month. This would be a way to recognize TA’s, Custodians, Bus Drivers, etc. Reward: Hang a bucket or envelope from the bulletin board where staff can fill out notes to recognize that support staff member for his/her special talents etc.

Other teacher leadership resources:

Ten Roles for Teacher Leaders

The Many Faces of Leadership



“Learning is an experience. Everything else is just information.” By Albert Einstein

Over the last few years micro-credentialing and badging have been buzz words in the education world. Yet if you look closely into what micro-credential and badges are; they have the potential to transform what professional learning for educators looks like. 

Micro-credentialing recognizes educators for the skills they learn in order to build learning experiences for their students. The perks of micro-credentialing includes the ability to have choice, pace and personal growth needs met. School districts can use micro-credentialing to provide incentives for educators to deepen their knowledge. Badges are the physical representation received once proficiency is met. 

Digital Promise is leading the way in Micro-credentialing and have characteristics  that distinguish the micro-credentialing approach from traditional professional development systems:

  • Competency-based: Micro-credentials allow educators to focus on a discrete skill related to their practice — for instance, checking for student understanding — and collect the evidence — such as classroom videos or student work to demonstrate ability in that specific skill.
  • On-demand: Through an agile online platform that clearly identifies each micro-credential’s competency and required evidence, educators can start and continue the process of earning micro-credentials on their own time. (Our district currently using Canvas to build our virtual courses)
  • Personalized: Because educators are able to select the micro-credentials they wish to earn, they can create their own professional learning journey aligned to their specific student needs and school-wide instructional goals.

Currently in my school district we have been using micro-credentials in isolation by department. For example, the Personalized Learning Department has a set of badges while ESL has a different set. This was a great start to micro-credentialing but we came across a few barriers such as:

  • Each department criteria was very different. If we continued working in isolation we realized the badges would not mean as much because they would lose their “value”. How do we build expectations to meet all department needs?
  • Each department was grading their micro-credential course work but some departments are smaller than others. How do we scale micro-credentialing to meet district needs?
  • Teachers are required to be continuous learners to renew licensure. How can we connect micro-credentials to credits without it being compliant?

In order to help overcome these issue and barriers, our district created a micro-credentialing steering committee. The steering committees goal is to unify the requirements, build consistency and sustainability for all educators in our district.

I hope our experience can help those that have not yet started with micro-credentialing learn from our mistakes. I would love to hear what other districts are doing with micro-credentialing so we can learn from your experiences. Please share in the comments below.


100 Word Challenge

“Words are a lens to focus one’s mind.” By Ayn Rand

I first heard about the 100 Word Challenge on Twitter and thought it was an awesome idea. The 100 Word Challenge is a free weekly creative writing challenge for children under 16 created by Julia Skinner.  Each week a prompt is given, which can be a picture or a series of individual words and students can use up to 100 words to write a creative piece. You can learn more about the 100 Word Challenge here.

I have helped teachers implement this concept in their classrooms different way; so I thought I would share a few ways as one of the ideas might fit your classroom.

  1. Have a picture up on the board for morning work each day or during transitions if you are in secondary. If you don’t want to do it everyday, some teachers have “Moment Mondays” where they participate in this concept. It is a great way to also bring in global relevance and/or current events.
  2. Use an image to open a new unit (such as the one below, I have used to open up the  water cycle unit) and or close out a unit.
  3. When you finish a lesson early, have a few pictures ready to use. Or have a folder of pictures for students to chose from when students finish their work early so they can be working on it.
  4. Use as a fun homework assignment. I am not a fan of homework (read previous blog post: Why I don’t give homework anymore) but some schools have policies that teachers have to give homework and this is a meaningful and purposeful homework that allows for students to be creative and critically think.
  5. I have used this as a way to start off Professional Development. I tweak it by saying 100 characters vs words.  I have them create a Tweet or caption of the photo as they are walking in. This gets the participants to start thinking about the topic through their lens.

*For younger grade such as K-1, you can have them do a 10 word challenge.

It doesn’t have to be a paragraph story but you can change it up and have the students write a 100 word song, poem or letter etc or even better let them chose! The main focus is to integrate creating writing through critical thinking (hence the 100 word rule).

Here are some picture examples and/or ones you can use to help get you stated.






* Make sure to always use an image that has a creative commons license, which means you are free to copy it/share along one that is appropriate for the age level you teacher.

“Design is how you make your first impression with your consumers. Make sure it is a lasting one.” By Jay Samit

Tired of using the same old templates. Why not create your own! Below I give you step by step directions so you can create your own Google Slide templates in only a few minutes. Make them for your classroom, meetings or professional developments!

  1. Start by opening a new Google presentation and choose the “Simple Light” template.
  2. Decide what image/design you want for your template. For example, I am creating a template for a Google Training I am doing; so I am going to use the colors of Google as my background!
    • Tip: I like creating my images/designs in Google Drawing as it is FREE. Once I finish my image/design then I click on File, Download As, PNG. I can then later upload the image for my background.
  3. In your Google Slide template, click on View and then “Master”.
  4. Then click on rename at the top of the slide and name it based on what fits best for you. 
  5. Next click on the master slide and background. Here you can choose your color or upload the background you created from Google Drawing.
    • Tip: If you would like to change the fonts, this is a good time to do it because you will only have to change it in the Master slide verse changing each slide.
  6. To exit, click on the X in the top right corner and you are done!!

My Master Google Slide Template

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