Blended Learning Event Hosted by Simple K12


Mark your calendars! On Wednesday, October 14th I’ll be doing an extended Q&A about blended learning and my bestselling book Blended Learning in Grades 4-12.

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 10.02.26 AM

I’ll share my journey shifting from a traditional approach to teaching in a low-tech classroom to a blended learning model by capitalizing on my students’ connectivity and devices. Learn how to engage students online to give every student a voice and use valuable class time to put students in the center of learning where they belong.

I’ll provide an overview of my book for teachers and administrators interested in blended learning. This will be followed by an extended question and answer session about blended learning and my book. If you haven’t read my book prior to the webinar, don’t worry! Simple K12 will be giving away a few of copies of Blended Learning in Grades 4-12 as well as my newest book, Creatively Teach the Common Core Literacy Standards with Technology, to attendees.

Here is the direct registration link for the webinar provided compliments of Simple K12 for my blog readers:

I look forward to chatting about blended learning and how it has transformed the way I teach and the way my students learn!

Posted in Learning | 2 Comments

Avoid the One-Size-Fits-All Classroom

When I volunteer in my children’s elementary classrooms (1st and 3rd grade), I am struck by how frequently the teacher finds time to work directly with small groups of students to offer additional support, review concepts, assess understanding, and practice skills.

At the secondary level scenes like this are less frequent. Many middle school and high school teachers feel immense pressure to move quickly through the curriculum. As a result, students are forced to progress lockstep through a lesson without much room for individualization or differentiation.

My excitement about blended learning stemmed from the realization that learning, both inside and outside of my classroom, can take many different forms. In the physical classroom, I enjoy designing lessons that break my students into smaller groups, so I can work with small groups much like elementary teachers do. I’ve affectionately termed the group that works with me “Tucker Time.” When students are at the learning station with me, they have my undivided attention. It’s an opportunity for me to reinforce concepts, clarify confusion, and support those students who are struggling.

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 8.50.42 AM

In the lesson pictured above, I wanted to review the concept of explicit versus implicit information in a literary text. My students were reading Of Mice and Men and attempting to complete an explicit/implicit chart. As I assessed my students initial attempts at completing this chart, I realized many were not understanding the difference between explicit and implicit information. I knew I needed to work directly with small groups to review the difference and model what it looks like to read a text and identify both explicit and implicit information.

In order to work with small groups, I designed three other stations to engage students while I worked with small groups.

Group 1 researched the Great Depression and discussed its impact on the novel.

Group 2 worked collaboratively to create a timeline of John Steinbeck’s life and discussed which events impacted his writing of the novel.

Group 3 practiced writing and critiquing theme statements on the whiteboard in the back of the room.

Group 4 was “Tucker Time” reviewing how to identify explicit and implicit information in the text.

We have a 90 minute class period, so we rotated groups every 20 minutes. Sometimes my rotations will span a couple of days depending on how much time my students need in each station. I love the flexibility of working in this model. It makes it so much easier to design tasks and challenges that foster communication and collaboration.

I can group students randomly or by ability, interests, or learning preferences. If I’m targeting the development of a particular skill, then I will group students by ability and the assignment in a particular station can be differentiated for each group that moves through that station. For example, if we are working on close reading and I have students at different reading levels in a single class, I will use an online resource with texts at different Lexile levels to ensure the text is at an appropriate level to challenge each group.

For those teachers who are frustrated by large class sizes, the wide spectrum of ability levels in a single class, or a general lack of time, I suggest experimenting with blended learning and creative lesson design using technology.

For more on blended learning, my bestselling book Blended Learning for Grades 4-12 is available on Amazon.

Creatively Teach the Common Core Literacy Standards with Technology  Available NOW! 

Posted in Learning | 8 Comments

Flip Your Back-to-School Night

Back-to-School Night is the one evening each year when I have the opportunity to connect face-to-face with my students’ parents. Unfortunately, not all parents can attend Back-to-School Night. Some of my parents work at night or they are at home with their other children. So, three years ago I began flipping my Back-to-School Night presentation in the hopes of reaching more of my parents.

This is how I flip my Back-to-School Night.

Quick Introduction – My Teaching Philosophy

I use QuickTime, a free program on my Mac, to record a short video. I introduce myself to parents and share my teaching philosophy. I know my class is not your typical English class, so I want parents to understand why we do what we do. I explain why I believe it’s important to place students at the center of learning in the classroom and how I use blended learning strategies and technology to create a student-centered learning experience.

I emphasize that the way students communicate is changing and that directly impacts how I approach the design of our class. Students engage in face-to-face conversations, asynchronous online discussions, and 140 character Twitter-style interactions. I want parents to feel confident that I am teaching their children how to navigate online spaces in a kind, respectful, supportive, and substantive way. Most of their students are already stomping around the internet, so I want to make sure their digital footprints are something they can be proud of.

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 9.07.23 PM


Virtual Tour of Our Classroom Resources

I record a screencast taking parents on a virtual tour of our class website, shared Google calendar, flipped YouTube videos, StudySync site, Google Classroom, and Schoology online discussions. I want parents to know where they can find out what’s happening in class, access resources to support their students, and which go-to web tools we’ll be using on a regular basis.

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 9.31.57 PM


Animoto Video Featuring Their Students

I take photos of my students in the first few weeks of school and use those photos to create an Animoto video to share with parents. Since most parents never get to see their high school students in the classroom, I like to provide them a window into our classroom so they can see their children working, discussing, collaborating, engaging, and creating. This is a favorite with parents!

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 9.40.28 PM
I send each parent an email with links to my flipped Back-to-School Night and Animoto videos. In the body of the email, I also include instructions for signing up for text message reminders with Remind and a link to a parent survey using a Google Form.

Even the parents who attend Back-to-School Night have said they appreciate the email with videos and links because Back-to-School Night is a blur of information (much like the first day of school). They know they can go back and rewatch the video if they want a review of the class or need to find a resource.

Flipping my Back-to-School Night is also a wonderful way to introduce my students’ parents to the flipped classroom model. This is a strategy I use for vocabulary, writing, and grammar instruction, so it’s helpful to allow parents an opportunity to experience it for themselves. Once parents have had the chance to engage with information in a flipped format, most are excited to hear that I am using that same strategy with their students.

Creatively Teach the Common Core Literacy Standards with Technology  Available NOW! 

Posted in Learning | 6 Comments