“Stereotypes lose their power when the world is found to be more complex than the stereotype would suggest. When we learn that individuals do not fit the group stereotype, then it begins to fall apart. ” By Ed Koch

Almost a year ago I wrote a blog post about creating a culturally responsive classroom and since then it has been a topic that I have been interested in. To further my practice and understanding of the Whole Child, I have been attending culturally responsive leadership meetings my district has offered, read books and attended sessions at conferences on this topic. I find it fascinating as I love learning about different cultures and how it plays into the education world. Below are some of my take-aways from my learnings over the last year. These are high level take-aways and I encourage you to think about if you are culturally responsive educator and how are you trying to improve your craft to meet the Whole Child.

  1. I was able to hear Manny Scott, an original Freedom Rider at ASCD conference in Atlanta. He was one of the best keynotes I have heard. He made me laugh, cry while also being able to push my thinking around culture responsiveness. Manny gave us a new lens to look through as educators and how one educator made a difference in his life. Here are some of my take aways/reminder from Manny:
    1. What a powerful reminder that dropping out is a process, not an event.
    2. You will not reach anyone if you vilify the things they find important. Become a student of your students. (think about their culture and background)
    3. Giving up on students is unacceptable. We might be the only chance some have in this world.
    4. Do not let labels of students determine your relationship with them.
  2. I thought The Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People was a captivating book. It really opened my eyes to how I look at things. Now I have a better understanding of myself and others. For example how often times we assume our culture is the right culture and make judgments based on our beliefs such as ‘this parent didn’t show up to a parent teacher conference, they don’t care about the students education like they should.’ Meanwhile the conferences are held during the teachers preferred time, not necessarily taking into consideration some parents work different shifts or multiple jobs so their child can have things they need.
  3. I have read a lot of articles/blogs but I highly recommend reading this great article: The Culturally Responsive Educator. It is about how culturally responsive classrooms is more than food, traditions and flags; “cultural responsiveness is a frame of mind in which we view the tasks of teaching through the lens of cultural diversity.” It offers great examples and ideas of things to think about in your classroom or school.


“Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.” By William Pollard


What are sketchnotes you are probably asking yourself?  Mike Rohde, author of The Sketchnote Handbook describes them as “…rich visual notes created from a mix of handwriting, drawings, hand-drawn typography, shapes, and visual elements like arrows, boxes, and lines.” Sketchnotes are a great way to capture big ideas on a topic by making learning visible. It can also improve retention and learning in the classroom. Below are three ways you can use sketchnotes in the classroom:

  1. Have students use sketchnotes to document their learning. For example: The students can explain why you compare two fractions with the same numerator or the same denominator by reasoning about their size. (3.NF.3D)
  2. As students watch a video they can use sketchnotes to identify key facts or details.
  3. Students can create a sketchnote to summarize a book.

Other Resources:

Educator’s Guide: Sketchnotes for Visual Note Taking

Kathy Schrock Sketchnoting

The Benefits of Using Doodling and Sketchnotes in the Classroom

Sketchnoting for Beginners Presentation by Sylvia Duckworth

If you want to find and share great sketchnotes, follow the #edusketch hashtag on Twitter.

“Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.” By Vera Nazarian

New literacies refers to literacy through digital technology.  In todays classrooms literacy needs to look a little different because our students are learning  with different tools and for a different type of world. New literacies still focuses on reading skills, strategies, and ideas but through multi-media digital tools. For example, we still need to teach close reading but not just with reading an article online but also with tools such as podcasts and blogs etc. Below are some good resources  for you to explore and try integrating into your classroom. 


Infusing Technology into the Balanced Literacy Classroom Jennifer W. Shettel, Ed.D. and Kevin Bower, M.Ed.


Literature Map: Students can put in their favorite author and literature map displays other authors that are similar that they might like.

Newspaper Map: Bring any place in the worlds Newspaper to your students finger tips. Click on a location and then on the image icon to pull up the newspaper from that part of the world. Need it translated into your native language, it will translate it for you.

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International Children’s Digital Library:  Find books from all over the world at the on this free site. It doesn’t read the books aloud, but students can read them independently.

Film Canon Project: Films, screen plays and more to add a different type of literacy to your classroom.

Podcasts for Students: Here are curated podcasts that students enjoy and teachers use in the classroom.

News ELA: Find non-fiction articles based on your students levels.

US Digital Literacy: Chalk full of resources and ideas!


The Reading Strategies BookYour Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Readers By Jennifer Serravallo Practical strategies to help improve your reading instruction

Smuggling Writing: Strategies That Get Students to Write Every Day, in Every Content Area, Grades 3-12 by Karen D. (Dutson) Wood, David Bruce Taylor, Katie Stover 

“Action is the foundational key to all success.” By Anthony Robbins

Final Hands

Personalized Learning (PL) looks different in every school and in every classroom but the foundation to me is that it is about letting students own and drive their learning. PL is not another thing but doing whats best for ALL students through best practices. Here are 10 ways you can start to personalize your classroom.

  1. Allow students to goal set and reflect on their work.
  2. Use the data to help guide your instruction, not just collect it.
  3. Allow students to know and understand their data .
  4. Build in time for morning meeting and/or morning advisory time.
  5. Have students be creators of content verse consumers.
  6. Give students choice in their tasks, products etc.
  7. Build in time for genius hour or passion based learning.
  8. All for students to work at their own pace verse following a set pacing guide.
  9. Triangulate data so students show mastery through multiple ways.
  10. Hold student led conferences weekly verse during parent/teacher conference time.

These are a few things that you can do to help move to a more Personalized Learning classroom. Try one at a time as small action steps make the biggest impact. Here are my previous posts on PL you may also want to visit:

Personalized Learning and Classroom Management

The Shift of the Role of the Teacher

Personalized Learning ‘Look Fors’ In the Classroom

Moving through the Continuum of Instructional Models

Dismantling the Myths of Personalized Learning



“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.” Steve Jobs

Apple announced a few months ago it was debuting beta features to make device management easier for district and school IT departments (such as Apple Admins). With the release of iOS 9.3 on March 21, these features are now publicly available and many are specific to education.

  1. Classroom App offers more functionalities that are helpful for teachers. They included a teacher’s guide as well.
  2. Updates Improve Device Management such as allowing classrooms to assign multiple users to devices so students can share iPads!
  3. New Apple Education Preview Site

Apple says: “With the iOS 9.3 beta, you’ll find a preview of new features that will make it even easier for schools to put devices where they’ll have the greatest impact — in the hands of students.”

There are other cool features with iOS 9.3 such as 3D Touch, notes lock and night shift.

*Note: This update was also to help older Apple products such as iPad 2s work better with the operating system. There have been some glitches but an update has been released to fix this problem.


“Education is the key to success in life, and teachers make a lasting impact in the lives of their students.” By Solomon Ortiz

As we continue to change out instructional practices in the classroom, I think the difference between teacher centered, student centered and student driven need to be defined better. I do not see student centered and student driven as interchangeable as they are not the same. I see these instructional models as a continuum and defined below.Slide3 copy.jpgWe need to help move teachers across the continuum so that our classrooms are becoming places where students are agents of their own learning which is what Personalized Learning is all about. Personalized Learning leads to more student motivation, independence and empowerment. How do we move teachers across this continuum? Here are few ways to start making the shift across the continuum; the most important thing is to remember to start small and at your pace.

From Teacher Driven to Student Centered:

  • Allow students to have choice through a standard based choice board
  • Implement a workshop model
  • Allow students to self assess after a project is complete (self-assessment)
  • Allow students to set goals.

From Student Centered to Student Driven:

  • Allow students to own and track their own data
  • Allow students to chose what task they want to complete off their data
  • Allow students to plan lessons of skills they have mastered

The hardest thing for teachers to do within each model is the release of control to the students. As you move across the continuum, the teacher has less control which often gets confused with not having any classroom management but this should not be the case. There always should still be rules and clear expectations in the classroom no matter what model you are utilizing.



“Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve.” By  Roger Lewin

The Foos is a coding app originally created for ‘The Hour of Code’ by the education company codeSpark. The Foos curriculum is based on research from MIT and Exploring Computer Science and they have mapped it to Common Core standards . Students will learn concepts such as problem solving, critical thinking, algorithms and more. Students start with challenging puzzles and then level up to coding their own games.

Fast Facts:

  • Free
  • Available as an iOS and Android  App and also on all browsers
  • Ages 3-8
  • No in App purchases




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