Movement in the Classroom: They like to move it move it, so you should let them MOVE IT

Greetings cutting-edge teachers and parents. I want to direct your attention to a current issue that is sweeping the Facebook and Twitter community… MOVEMENT in schools. Ask any teacher about their kids moving in the classroom, and most will let you know how kids can’t sit still anymore, and how disruptive it is. Now, does that sound like a positive child-based approach to the situation? NO!

Strauss, (2014) States that”children are constantly in an upright position these days. It is rare to find children rolling down hills, climbing trees, and spinning in circles just for fun. Merry-go-rounds and teeter-totters are a thing of the past. Recess times have shortened due to increasing educational demands, and children rarely play outdoors due to parental fears, liability issues, and the hectic schedules of modern-day society. Lets face it: Children are not nearly moving enough, and it is really starting to become a problem.”

Here is the link to the full article: Why can’t kids sit still


So, can you identify the issue? I can! Children are being asked to sit in “an upright position (Strauss, 2014)” for too much of the day and not given the correct form of physical activity. The playgrounds designed today are not the same as they used to be. Here are two playgrounds, can you guess which one is from the 1980’s and which one is from today?

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First, the major difference I have noticed is the amount of kids in one area. Current playgrounds condense kids into one single structure. This causes more incidences of injury and therefore rules that make play more like etiquette lessons.

Second, the type of equipment being used is limited. I don’t mean limited in the sense that there isn’t enough of it, but in the limitations on body movement it gives to the kids.

Here are articles about what kids need to be able to do with their bodies in able to form a sense of self and controll:

In one article, Fromberg states that play is the “ultimate integrator of human experience” and”When children play, they use fine and gross motor skills; they problem solve to think about what they are doing or are going to do, they use language to communicate to themselves and friends and respond to a variety of emotions. All of these factors combine to integrate and enhance the development of the cognitive experience (Nachmanovitch, S. 1990, p. 42).”

Do you see these things happening on YOUR playground?

We are so wrapped up in our worlds of everything being top-notch safe, that we have stripped children of the very things they need to be successful.

So, you may be asking “what can we do about it?”

Movement based centers can help with certain motor movements:

You can grab a free set of Motor movement cards here:

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My kids will complete addition, subtraction and skip counting activities and the answer is completed by doing the exercise that they draw a card for. The cards include mid-line crossing, spinning etc… that help to develop gross motor skills.


I also have these in my classroom:

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My kids get to place them anywhere they wish in the room and travel to and from activities on them.

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I have 2 of these spinning chairs, which I picked them up from a thrift store.

I also have flexible seating which allows my kids the freedom to bounce, rock and spin:

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So, before you tell your kids to focus, pay attention and sit still PLEASE consider giving them ways to do this. Without proper movement experiences, kids can’t give you 100%.



Split Personalities: How to teach two whole-group methods at once using Nearpod

Good Morning!

Today, I am embarking on a journey to bring the individualization of small group into whole-group instruction. Can you imagine having two lessons going at the same time? Different questions, by products and assessment measures? This may seem like a small group lesson dream, but it is certainly possible. I am going to teach you how to leverage the amazing Nearpod capabilities to create two lessons, and teach them at the same time.

Step 1:

Create a base-line Nearpod using your standards

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I have decided to differentiate my whole-group lesson on summarizing.

  1. Does your lesson have a learning target?
  2. Does your lesson have success criteria?

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3. Have you included a pre-assessment? (mini question to gauge where a student is BEFORE the lesson begins) 

Notice that there are question prompts provided at the top. I have also included a piece of the text to help the students hold onto information. The students will respond by typing, providing pictures, underlining and/or writing on a white board and taking a picture of themselves. Various means of response will REALLY help them to express what they already know. This mini-assessment shouldn’t take long and will carry throughout the week. If students do really well here, and can’t keep up when placed into a higher slide; provide them with a buddy so they can reach higher. Don’t hold a student back because they can’t jump to the next level, provide them with a peer scaffold. We want them in the proper ZPD level.

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4. Have you included brain breaks?

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Student WILL get fatigued out when you are teaching them at the correct level. Make sure to provide fun break breaks to keep things interesting. These brain breaks should re-enforce the concept and allow them to move and use their voices.

5. Have you included a measure that will track progress throughout the lesson.

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The example provided is of one single slide. The top piece has questions for reflection and the bottom piece includes a summarizing example. The students will respond to the questions in the space provided.

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Here is another example of a slide that can check for understanding. (above)


6. Have you included various means of understanding… if one way isn’t going well, you will need to make sure you can explain it a different way. 

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Above are examples of how students can show you in a different way that they understand the content. I also provide a re-cap of information before it becomes more difficult. Some students will have forgotten the WHY of the lesson. Be sure to remind them.

If students are struggling to match up their previous responses in a new way then I go sit with them and talk them through the process. This is where I become more hands on and form small groups within my whole group lesson. Place the kids who need you to sit with them near each other so you can have a mini-small group lesson while your kids who are doing well work on their own. You can always keep on eye on the large screen and pull kids over who aren’t getting it.

7. Do you have some form of post-assessment? 

After this particular Nearpod I want to make sure my students understand Who, What, When , Where and Why so that they can proceed with creating their own summaries. In order to check for understanding I created a Kahoot that acts like a quiz and provides immediate feedback. I can create my own Kahoots, so it encompasses my targets.

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Kahoot is free for educators and you can create an account here:

It is important to have these items in place when you go to differentiate, so you have a basic skeleton. 

ALL groups will have the same skeleton present. The differentiation begins with the materials and response methods. You will also include different levels of questioning and response structures. 

Here we go:

In this example the students will listen to snippets from the book “Julius Baby of the World”  and will respond to prompts that will help them summarize. The students are encouraged to think about certain pieces of information that are important when summarizing. Do you think that ALL of your students need the snippet? Maybe not! This is where you need to know your students. So, I will ask the same question the first time and go from there. BOTH presentations will include a pre-assessment slide to see who understands and can move forward from the prompts, and who can “hold” information from the story on their own.


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Slide 1 stays the same… questions and snippet.

Slide 2 is where things begin to change…


Hopefully you are with me here at the basics. The next step is to duplicate your presentation here is where you want to go…

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You need to click the “jelly beans” at the top of your presentation (in your library) and hit duplicate. Make sure you re-name your new slide show based on the group.

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My first presentation will be just Summarizing and the second will be Summarizing Level 2

Now that you have duplicated it is time to begin the second whole-group lesson

Remember to keep the targets the same, and chance the way they show their understanding. I will be using a short response to have my more advanced students respond. Instead of having the snippet on the screen they will have to hold onto the information and produce an answer on their own. Here is what it starts to look like…

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The first response slide is the same; it will act as the pre-assessment. The second slide is where things change. Notice that it switches from a basic slide where they can underline to respond to an open-ended answer slide with no anchor piece. These students will need to remember what they read and respond by typing their answer. This will continue until all responses are complete.

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Here is where you can mix things up for the responses… I placed a background image that matched the setting and the students can draw then explain their responses. They will LOVE this.


I am also going to change the matching assessment to a flip grid response where the students will explain The Who, what, when, where and why of the story into a screen and record their responses. The more advanced learners will be given this:

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I will also provide them with a copy of the book being read and the words in there google classrooms. This group will venture off to do this as their first task of the reading block after whole-group. The other groups will complete the matching assignment with me and I will be provided with data for the next day. We will all Kahoot together at a brain break time if time is not allowed. ❤



You have your two separate whole-group lessons complete… what now?


Step 1: Open up the lower-level Nearpod on your main screen

Step 2: Assign your higher level Nearpod into Google Classroom to the students you know will complete that version. If a student doesn’t do well they can always jump into the main screen at any time.

Half of your class will sign into whole-group (lower). Half of the class into student paced through google classroom.

Since you have aligned and swapped out slide your students will BOTH track through with you… Your lower lever by you at the main screen and the higher level clicking when you say in their student-paced mode.

Some of my student (2) Will also be able to complete the tasks after being introduced like an on-line learning environment. They will be able to respond and move through on their own and complete the tasks without following along. I allow them to do this after I check in a time or two. They can then get started with their tasks for the day (novel study).


There you have it!!!

Happy Teaching!


Articulation and Word Study


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Watching children as they are learning and practicing skill-sets in just as important, if not more important than the act of delivering instruction. The simple act of meeting kids where they are at helps to fill the opportunity gap. Opportunity gaps occur when students are not given the same instruction, interactions and basic circumstances that other high-achieving students receive early on. We want to look at this as an achievement gap, but it really isn’t. If students start out with a deficit due to circumstances that they are born into, it isn’t about achievement. It becomes about opportunity. If we continue to push forward instead of filling the gaps, these students will never reach their full potential.

Now, how can we fill gaps with just the basic data we collect in assessments? We can’t. Assessments don’t tell you the why, they just tell you the what. You actually have to watch and listen to your students in order to figure out what is really going on. I watch my kids everyday. I watch and I take notes. Recently, it has occurred to me that word study deficits in my classroom are not actually word student deficits; they are articulation “gaps”. Why does this make a difference in instruction? Because, if you keep pushing rules that a student knows, and they are still failing… the rule isn’t the issue.

We teach word study in a more systematic way (If you aren’t, please see my post about word study) because we know whole-language approaches do NOT work. Students need rules and structured instructional practices. Let me ask you a simple question… if a student is not producing a sound correctly, and you are not producing a sound correctly… how can you teach a rule based on a sound? You can’t! It isn’t going to happen for them unless you fill that gap and correct what you are doing wrong. If you want to know more about how cultural and ethnic backgrounds come into play in the school system I highly encourage you to read Code Switching. This same concept applies to word study. YOU as the teacher need to ensure YOU code switch to produce speech sounds correctly. The student needs to be taught through articulation lessons how to produce the speech sounds correctly, too.

How do I do that??!!!

I am NOT by any means a professional on this subject, but I continue to research it and apply what I find out. I started by looking into English Language Learner curriculum. If a student or myself are missing something in language, then it makes sense to approach it from a “learners” perspective. Here is what I have started using:

  1. Listen and watch you student. If they are not producing a speech sound correctly STOP and teach articulation of that sound.
  • Commonly mispronounced sounds are:

/j/ for /dr/

/ch/ for /tr/

2. STOP and teach them to code switch while reading, writing and spelling.

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I have created student assigned lessons using Nearpod (you can use google slides if you do not have access) to fill these deficits. They include mouth, tongue and lip position videos. They also include practice. These should be visited during student rotations daily to work on this skill. You cannot expect a student to produce something in writing that they are not producing in speech.

3. Practice this skill in small group. I do this by using cards and sand. I have also recently adapted the Orton-Gillingham based vowel tents into articulation tents.

Sand Tracing

  • The student has sand in front of them in a bin. You say the sound and the word it belongs too. Watch the student as they say the sound. Correct any lip, mouth and tongue mistakes. Remember: You are being WATCHED while YOU speak… YOU must produce the sounds correctly too! An example would be: ch like chip – the students says /ch/
  • The student will then write the sound in the sand. The student is writing the sound not the word.
  • Continue this for 1 minute a day
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Articulation Tents

  • The student has note cards folded with the problematic speech sounds on them. Make sure they are different colors.
  • You will say a word and they pick up the tent with the correct speech sound.

Teacher: “/ch/ in chip”

Student: “ch makes /ch/ in chip” (picks up ch)

Teacher: “/tr/ in train”

Student: “tr makes /tr/ in train” (picks up tr)

Do this for 3 minutes



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What is my Philosophy?


I believe that the foundation for successful teaching is built on explicit instruction. Explicit instruction is direct, purposeful, engaging and targeted instruction. Although inquiry and problem-based lessons help spark creativity and interest, there is always a need for the direct instruction that comes along with it.  Inquiry, creativity, and collaboration co-exist with explicit instruction as the pillars. Without the foundation, the pillars will not stand. Without the pillars, the structure will never grow.

I try to be aware of different ways to teach each subject area, and strive to figure out what works best for my individual students. I believe that nearly all children have the ability to thrive in the general education classroom, and respond to interventions that are targeted and consistent. I look at response to intervention and not the failure to respond as an indicator of concern. It is not the failure that determines the deficit; it is the response to appropriate intervention and instructional practices inside the general education classroom. This information then leads to better teaching for that student.

Reflection is also critical for strong teaching. Every lesson, every moment and every step of my career deserves reflection. I reflect on lessons I teach, plans I make and assessments I am giving. Reflection allows me to take a step back and ask questions about what I did right and what I still need to work on. Teachers are never done learning about how they teach, and reflection helps us to tailor our learning in the best way possible.



As a teacher, I see many different sets of eyes. Every set is different. They are blue, green, hazel and brown. What most teachers fail to see is that some of them are looking, but they are not “seeing”. They tell them to look harder, try harder and do better. This practice kills their passion for knowledge and understanding. I believe that it is my job to be responsible for the learning of every student in my classroom. Student learning happens when good instruction, positive classroom culture and reflective practices live simultaneously inside the classroom. I also feel that I am responsible for tracking learning and responding with interventions or extensions that are appropriate for each individual student. Sometimes this consists of getting other team members together (nurse, social worker, reading specialist etc.) and developing a plan. Other times it means backing away and allowing a group of students to discuss a book they are reading on their own. The most important part of student learning is that it happens for each student in their own way and at their own pace.




It is my belief that the goal of education is to give our students the basic skills they need in order to be successful in any path they choose. This includes character, technology and core skills. I try to give my students opportunities to strengthen critical skill sets that will help them contribute to the world in a global manner. I strive to work on critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and problem solving skills throughout the school year. I try to go beyond the standards to make them applicable to the real world in which our students will reside when exiting our care. Education should set students up to be college, career and citizen ready.


Failure is Beautiful


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Ask anyone around me and they will agree that I love to read. Even when I am not reading you can find me writing about something that I have read. Sometimes, I wish the books would just jump swiftly up and into my brain, but that would take away the visualizing and absorbing of limitless amounts of information contained within the highlighted, folded and tattered pages which I have read and those that have still gone undiscovered. It would also prevent me from feeling the insatiable thirst for what lies ahead between the scent of a well worn book with wisdom that transcends generations and within the crisp fresh off the press aroma akin to that of a dimly lit printing press.

Pages, not computer screens hold a sacred place in my soul, and help to curb my insatiable desire for knowledge. So, it is no wonder that my mission in life has become to ensure that every student that I have the distinct pleasure of teaching becomes fully literate. I am not talking about that kind of literate where the student is able to pass the next high stakes test that deprives them of imagination and is clearly marked by background knowledge not known to all. I am talking about the kind of full passion, love and understanding that comes with the ability to read with such ease that it frees up the brain to complete other tasks that don’t involve processing ink sculptures within pages. These skills teach empathy, provide a means of escaping into another world and engross the reader into knowledge they would otherwise have been unable to obtain.

Now, I am not completely naive to think that I can reach every single child to this level. Even if I awaken that part of their soul that allows them to step into a puddle rather than an ocean, I have won. They have won.

I used to live in the “just a teacher” thought. The notion that makes us unwilling to lean forward and fall for the very reason we became teachers in the first place. I became a teacher because of passion. I always knew mediocrity was never an option for me, but sitting in the back of my mind has always been self-doubt and a desire to please everyone except my aspirations. My desire to truly change things was pushed beneath a fierce rip current associated with stigma and wedged between summative evaluations.

Although the burning desire to please still looms, it has recently been eclipsed by small steps towards high esteem. Although this may seem crass, I am not the only teacher who feels as if their fate is out of their hands. My peripheral vision allows me to look around, but keep moving forwards and turn my attention towards accepting failure as failure instead of defeat. I have worked to place my failures out in the open, exposed and in need of mending… for all to see. This. This. This is valuable.

Failure means that I tried. Failure means that I am willing to do anything it takes to experience success. When we stop failing, we stop learning. We stop innovating. We stop change. Only after failure do I have a chance to reflect, I am my own worst enemy after all and also my best critic.

It is time to rise above those who have told us that we cant or that we shouldn’t. It is time to rise above our substandard pay rate brought about by ignorant individuals. It is time to change how we feel about ourselves and how we allow ourselves to treat others. I choose guidance, acceptance, sympathy and passion.

Choose your passion… HOLD onto it. Don’t let anyone take that from you. No matter what, do it for yourself.

YOU hold your happiness ❤

Technology in Education

“If our children are to excel in a fast-changing, global society, we must harness the technology resources they need to function in a digital age. We must remember our commitment to their future as we set priorities and establish policies on their behalf”

 -NEA President Dennis Van Roekel

 In today’s classroom we are constantly seeing a disconnect between what schools are teaching, how they are teaching those skills and the progressively innovational world around us.

 Classrooms built to decrease creativity and increased assembly line like productivity have become obsolete, but are still being used as if the job market stagnated into this structure unchanged.

 Although the high stakes testing and small boxy classrooms in which we teach have become a constant reminder of days already past, we are seeing an increased presence of technology within the confines.

 Just about every school district out there has produced a catchy motto in order to lure trusting parents into their confines only to fall short of those very skills which were promised. Take a moment to look over your school-district slogan and you will likely find the words technology, future, college and career. But are we holding true to our slogans and mottos that we hold so true to our hearts? The truth is that rapid advancements are eliminating traditional jobs from the market at an escalating pace. Workers who perform routine tasks and who are trained to replicate are becoming obsolete in today’s growing world of technology, and we are not keeping up. Technology is taking over every aspect of our daily lives and is increasingly seen as a necessary prerequisite to obtaining a job.

 As educators, we are seeing a growing demand to provide mastery of certain pertinent technology skills. Our students must obtain these skill-sets in order to be successful in the cutting-edge, career oriented world of innovation that technology offers.

 If we do not address these basic needs for our students, we are setting them up for future hardships. The top five technology skills to put on a resume go well beyond the critical skill sets that should be taught in school. If a students graduates without a firm foundation on which to build these skills, they are already lagging behind in a fast-paced and competitive job market.

 The big question remains: How do I teach these skills AND the growing number of standards that have been placed before me? There is a simple answer for this difficult question… you don’t. The amazing thing about technology is that it works with the standards. If you use technology in your classroom, you are already halfway there. The trick is to use the right kind of technology in the right way, and teaching students how to use it correctly.

 Say it with me “technology is not a babysitter, it is a tool to deliver student-centered instruction in order to prepare my students for the future” Whew…good! Now that we got that out of the way, let’s dive into applications.

How does this work?

I start with my standards and apply it to relevant technology skills that my students will need to be career ready. The technology helps to enhance my instruction, but is not THE instruction.

Here is a lesson about flipping my classroom I posted a while back that shows the use of technology in my classroom. See if you can spot some of the lessons in technology intertwined. The technology never replaces the hands-on component or the me, we you structure doted on by champion teachers alike. The technology is seamlessly woven into the fabric of the lesson, but is never the lesson.


In this lesson some of the skills they are learning are:

  • Fractions
  • Working collaboratively towards a common goal
  • Choice of how to present their answer in a digital form
  • Using drawing tools
  • Using public speaking skills
  • Using a touchscreen computer and projection to submit and present their information
  • Using a computer to submit and store data for later analysis
  • keyboarding
  • creating textboxes
  • inserting images
  • viewing and responding to others presentation of skills

Can you think of where/why these skills are necessary for the future job in which they will need to be competent?