“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” By Bill Gates

Why Use Focus Groups?

Focus groups are a great way to gain consensus or to use for improvement from different stakeholders such as teachers, students and/or parents. Having a set protocol will help the time you are holding the focus group be intentional based on what you are trying to gather feedback on for improvement. 

For example in my classroom, I ran focus groups on obtaining different feedback from projects to  overall class structure. With teachers, I ran focus groups to improve professional development by gaining their insights. With schools from my district I ran a focus group to gather feedback on an initiative to see how I could improve it.

Protocol Notes
Before The Focus Group
  • Outline goal
  • Determine questions* and time limit
  • Define roles:
    • Facilitator
    • Note Taker/Timer
  • Decide on space:
    • comfortable and circle setting
  • Invite participants to the focus group
During The Focus Group
  • Take attendance of who is participating
    • This can be anonymous such as 6 boys and 5 girls.
  • Review guidelines and moderate the session so that everyone gets a chance to speak and no one participant dominates the discussion.**
After The Focus Group
  • Compile all focus group data (if you hold multiple sessions)
  • Review the notes as soon as possible and fill in any gaps while the session is still clear in your mind.
  • Report out findings***

*When generating questions make sure:

  • They are open-ended and not “yes/no”
  • They are short and to the point
  • Max of 10 questions, 5-8 is ideal
  • You should have an opening question and exit question

**Script for Facilitator:

Welcome everyone, our topic is…. The results will be used for…


  • No right or wrong answers
  • one person speaking at a time as we are recording your answers anonymously
  • You don’t need to agree with others, but you must listen respectfully as others share their views
  • As Facilitator I will help guide the discussion

Examples to help participants expand ideas/thoughts….

  • “Please tell me (more) about that…”?
  • “Could you explain what you mean by…”?
  • “Can you tell me something else about…”?
  • “Could you give me an example of …”?

***Report out findings:

  • Populate exact statements of the participants
  • Descriptive summary
  • In order to have valid data, you need to have at least a few focus groups with the same questions being asked

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” by Walt Disney
Yesterday I had a great day at #EDCampQC. It was awesome connecting with new and previous colleagues to learn about what others are doing/trying in their classroom. Below are just a few of the cool new tools I learned about and will be trying. I plan on trying one at a time until I master it, so I do not feel so overwhelmed!

  1. Telestory is an iPad app. It allows students to be creators of content and show mastery through different modes such as creating a music video, news report,  writing their own stories etc. 
  2. Kid-Pix: is a tool that allows students to create drawings and flip books.
  3. RoundMe is a paid web site that allows people to create virtual reality. 
  4.  My Maps: Teachers and/or students can create and share custom private maps. You can add icons to locations and insert images and text to that location.
  5. Deck.Toys is in beta and is a real-time classroom engagement platform that allows you to teach and manage students. I like how you do have the option of allowing self pacing for students and that is how I would utilize this.


“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” By Albert Einstein

One thing in education that has not change over the years is how important questioning is in the classroom. Educational leaders from Aristotle and Socrates to Jay Mctighe and George Couros have all discussed the importance of asking questions, as it is a powerful strategy that works in all grade levels and content areas.

Using questioning strategies allows you to provide opportunities for student voice to be engaged in the classroom.  When using the right questions it…

  • create powerful academic conversations
  • sparks imagination
  • allows students to self-evaluate

It is important to allow time for students to think about the questions you or other students ask. You also want to ask open-ended questions that don’t lead to a “right” answer. I like using Blooms Revised Taxonomy as a starting guide to help with types of questions. Here are a few examples of different questioning levels that promote student voice.

Remembering: (Recall, Identification)

  • Describe…..

Understanding (Selection of facts, explaining)

  • Summarize…

Applying (Use of information)

  • Why is ____ significant?

Analysis (Separating a whole into components)

  • What evidence can you list for …

Evaluation (development of decisions, opinions, judgements etc)

  • What do you think about…

Create (generating new ideas, producing, designing)

  • How could you create or design a new…? Explain your thinking.

Other great question stems I like using:

  • What evidence can you present for/against…
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of …
  • Describe … from the perspective of ….
  • What solutions could you suggest the problem of … why…

More questioning strategy resources:

50 Questions To Help Students Think About What They Think

Asking Questions to Improve Learning

Questions Provoking Critical Thinking



Building Student Agency

“What are you doing in your classroom now that you could turn over to students to do for themselves?” By Alan November

Close you eyes and imagine what a typical day looks like in your classroom and ask yourself these questions:

  • What percentage of time are you talking verse your students?
  • How often do you let students create verse consume knowledge?
  • How often do you ask for students ideas or feedback?


Student Agency is one of the most important skills we can give to our students. When we “rescue” students when they struggle or give the students answers because there is not enough time to get through the curriculum, we are doing a disservice and enabling them.

The below ideas will help you to build student agency in your classroom but the most important thing to remember is we (educators) need to get out of the students way and facilitate learning opportunities.

  1. Growth Mindset: Teaching students about having a growth mindset and that they can always learn new things or get better through practice. (See previous blog posts on growth mindsets to learn how.)
  2. Voice: Have students included in the conversations. Ask students how they want to learn in your classroom? Give them surveys about your projects and lessons so they can offer feedback. Another way to allow student voice is through goal setting and refection during class.
  3. Choice: No one wants to be told what to do all the time! Allowing students to choose what they want to work on builds agency and motivation. Often times teachers think that giving them choice means giving them ten things to chose from but that is not the case. Allow students to chose between two things such as which book they want to read,  what product do they want to create or which task they want to do.
  4. Thinking and Questioning: Allowing students to have time to think and process is important. Asking them questions to see what they truely know and have mastered also allows students to not only process things differently but self-regulate. There are different types of questioning strategies you can use in the classroom to also allow more student voice and thinking.  (More coming on this in next weeks blog post)
  5. Opportunities to be a Creator:  We need to change the way we see students, no longer as consumers, but as creators of their learning. Providing opportunities for students to create allows students to self-evaluate, self-regulate and self-motivate whiling showing mastery of content. Having students create podcasts, PSA announcements, iMovies etc allows students to go deeper with their learning too.

Authentic engagement occurs when students have agency and feel like they are apart of the school experience verse it being done to them. What changes will you make to add more student agency in your classroom?

Personalized Learning Center

“Learn as if you were to live forever.” Gandhi

I am excited to be apart of the Personalized Learning Center as a coach, collaborator, and conversationalist!  I recommend taking advantage of this unique opportunity.

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What is the Personalized Learning Center?

The Personalized Learning Center (PLC) is a private Facebook group founded by Bena Kallick and Allison Zmuda, co-authors of Students at the Center: Personalized Learning with Habits of Mind. The purpose of the group is to provide grassroots, educator-to-educator networking.

What will you get as a member of the PLC?

Two primary benefits: networking and group-exclusive materials.

  • Networking: You will gain access to Bena Kallick and Allison Zmuda and — perhaps more importantly — one another. This will strengthen communication of those within personalized learning, continuing to grow national and international understanding of the concept.
  • Group-Exclusive Materials: Materials will be designed with and for you. This includes, but is not limited to: FAQs based on your questions, special publications designed with and for you, a reading/viewing list based on collective submissions, featured opportunities on the Learning Personalized and Institute of Habits of Mind websites.

How do I join?

After filling out the form below, you will be directed to a payment page. Once you’ve filled out the registration form, agreed to Terms and Conditions, and completed payment, you will be invited to the group.

How much does it cost?

Membership to the group is $10 per month or $100 annually for individuals or $400 annually for teams of five members or fewer within a specific school or district. Rates for entire schools can be negotiated. All billing is executed through PayPal.


“There is nothing like a challenge to bring out the best in man.” By Sean Connery

Happy New School Year! This year I want to challenge educators to stretch themselves so that their teaching craft can improve in new ways! Below are my challenges…will you accept?

  1. Try something new this year: Step out of your comfort zone and try something new. It can be a new project for your students or a new technology tool.  When you step out of your comfort zone that is when the real learning begins.
  2. Talk less: Empower students to show their thinking and allow them to have productive struggle time. Turn your statements into questions or prompts such as “Would you tell me how you got the answer for question #1?” or “Can you put that in your own words?” after you give them directions or after another student gave a response.
  3. Don’t give homework (except to have students read a book of their choice): We must challenge the status quo; just because homework has always been given, doesn’t mean that it is the right thing to do. Read my previous blog post about why I don’t give homework anymore.



“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” by Mark Twain

I felt compelled today to do another blog post on choosing to encourage kindness in the classroom even though within the year I wrote one already on Promoting Random Acts of Kindness in the Classroom. I feel this is becoming more and more important in our world today. It is something that is so simple, doesn’t cost money and can be done by everyone. Below I put together a toolkit of resources to help encourage kindness in the classroom.

Projects and Lessons:

The Certified Kind Classroom Challenge  (From the Book Wonder)

Kindness Ninja Challenge

World Kindness Day (Nov. 13th)

Be Kind People Project

The Great Kindness Challenge

Random Acts of Kindness


Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins

How Kind! by Mary Murphy

Harry The Happy Mouse

The Berenstain Bears: Kindness Counts

Kindness Ninja: Recruiting The Team

Kindness Counts: A Story for Teaching Random Acts of Kindness 

I have more books listed on my Random Acts of Kindness blog post.


You Never Know Who’s Day You Have Helped

9 Random Acts of Kindness

A 1st Grader’s Act of Kindness Just Restored Our Faith in Humanity


The healing power of kindness

The Science of Giving: Why One Act of Kindness is Usually Followed by Another

12 Ways to Promote Kindess in the Classroom

Kindess Collection: How to Guide for the Classroom

Please share in the comments ways that you have spread kindness in your classroom or school.

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