Let’s Get Together Sometime

Teachers.Keeper@gmail.com   April 7, 2018   Comments Off on Let’s Get Together Sometime

We teachers spend far too much time in our own classrooms, dealing with our own students, and planning our own lessons.  Thank goodness for the staff room where we can socialize a bit and come together with our peers.  But what if your peers are on-line and miles away?  Getting together would be a valued event and a special time to really connect.  How do we make that happen?  What would the time be about?

Well, I am currently in the process of planning a gathering of fellow teacher “edupreneurs” that are dispersed throughout my state.  We communicate on-line, and once a year at our national conference if we can all attend. But outside of that, we work independently.  Over the past 3 years, we’ve also chosen to come together once or twice a year in the spring and/or fall to connect, collaborate, and communicate.  It’s a great time for networking, laughter, and sharing of information.  We look forward to it every year.

In the past, my colleagues at 2 Literacy Teachers (http://2literacyteachers.blogspot.com/ ) have planned and organized the spring event.  They always made it a fun and valuable time.  I am hoping to fill their shoes just a little bit this year.  I know that many are coming from more than an hour away, so I want the time to be worthwhile for them all.  That places a lot on my shoulders.  I guess it’s a good thing that my job as an instructional coach requires me to plan and facilitate professional development days.  It makes the planning a bit easier.  But most of all, I thank God for contributors and helpers!

The first thing I needed to do was to determine a place to hold the event.  We’ve held the spring event at a couple of restaurants, and a fall event at one of our colleague’s home.  It was time for a new spot.  Let me just say that it was a huge challenge.  Trying to find a restaurant that could serve a large group of 12+ people , with a separate space so that we weren’t in the middle of the hubbub of the place, and that would let us chose from their menu instead of providing catering, was all in the needs.

I searched the web and sent emails to many places.  Most either wouldn’t reserve a space like that on a Saturday or they wanted to provide us with a menu of a catered meal.  I was warned that this was going to be the challenge, and they were right.  I eventually took to Yelp and looked at restaurants in the areas that might work best.  I refined the search by only looking at those that were suited for large groups.  After over several weeks of searching, I finally found a place!  It’s in a regional mall and I’ve heard good things.  The manager said they could let us individually choose from their menu.  The pictures look like it’s not a very big place, so if we have as many people as I hope we will, then maybe we will just fill up the place.  If it doesn’t work out well, then at least we can go shopping. LOL

Once I reserved the restaurant, I created an event invite on Facebook, and then followed it with posting on Instagram.  Next, I sent out emails to all the folks that we have email addresses for; inviting them to attend.  Within a very short time, I had people sending their RSVP’s.  While some still have not answered, we still have time before the event.  Besides, there’s always those that show up without responding and that is okay.  I plan for that.

At every meet-up we collect email addresses to share.  So, one of the things that I needed to create was a sign-in form that will gather names, business names, emails, or other contact information.  Since it’s our spring event, I used a floral theme.  After the event, I’ll send the contact information to everyone.  This will help us to stay in touch, share resources, collaborate, and possibly participate in Mastermind groups; not to mention following each other on social media.

Once the connection form was created, I turned my attention to door prizes.  Now, I don’t know if other meet-ups do that, but we do and everyone loves it.  Last year I won a large amount of clip art from Teaching in the Tongass.  (https://www.teachinginthetongass.com/ )    I love her work.  That inspired me to seek out other clip artist to see if they might be open to providing clip art for our door prizes.

You see, much of what this group does is to create teaching resources for other teachers around the world.  Clip art is a staple to our creations.

So, I sent a friendly question to several clip artists that I love and to some that are just getting started.  Not only did I want to provide useful prizes, but I wanted to support other edupreneurs, especially those that are fresh into the work.  This type of collaboration is a nice marketing tool for them.  When someone wins clip art, especially from an artist they may not have heard of, it causes them to go to the website and check out the products.  Hopefully, they will come back and make more purchases in the future.

To my delight and surprise, nearly everyone that I requested a gift from has said. “Sure!”  It’s exciting to be able to share this with those at the meet-up.  At this rate, everyone will walk away with some clip art!  If we have more people than I expect, that’s okay, because I have other prizes too.  In fact, today, someone offered to provide a new personal laminator as a door prize!  What a treat!

“But how will they win?” you might ask.  Well, I’m creating some lottery scratch tickets.  Each one will have a designation of what they will win.  Since I can’t fit all the contact and store information on one ticket, I or the clip artist, have created coupons or certificates to provide the needed information so that the winner may receive their clip art via email.  I’m also providing a full list of contributors.  Once the person scratches off the lottery covering, it will reveal what they have won.  Following that, I will provide them with the certificate or coupon.  It will then be up to them to contact the provider.  I will, however, let each contributor know the name of the person who has won their item/s so that they know who to look for and to verify that they have the right person.  Some contributors have even used a verification code that will be on the certificate and that the winner will provide to them when they first communicate.  I could have just collected business cards from each person and draw from a hat, or I could purchase carnival style raffle tickets and draw from those.  Another idea was to tape the winning certificate to the bottom of the chairs and where they sit is what they win.  These are just a few ideas.  But I wanted to be a bit more creative.

I found the directions for creating homemade scratch tickets on the web.  Here is link to a YouTube video demonstrating how to make the tickets.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0xDwDYC4Hw.   It shows the creator using packing tape.  I used contact paper and it worked just as well.

As I mentioned above, I’m very grateful for those who are helping me.  One is a friend who is making each person a key chain that represents the spring event and our future convention.  She is putting in her own time and money for this and I truly appreciate it.  Last year, 2 Literacy Teachers provided everyone with a souvenir that was a specially bracelet made for us.  The year before, it was a special cup for each person.  Again, I don’t know if other meet-ups do this, but it’s these types of things that make it special.  Other ideas for souvenirs are various types of jewelry, personalized candies, mini-buckets full of office supplies or other items to fit the group’s theme, seeds to plant, pens, cookies, bookmarks, and a myriad of other ideas.  Just look on Pinterest, and I’m sure you’ll find all the ideas you could want.

After all the key chains are made, I’ll place them in special bags that will be placed at the table setting of each person in attendance.  Inside the bag will not only be the lottery scratch ticket, but there will be some magnets that I made. (See my blog post about “Stoned Teachers” http://teacherskeeper.org/?s=magnets&submit=Search )  In addition, each bag will have a $5.00 certificate for free clip art provided by Jessie Miller at Pigknit.  https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Pigknit-Clip-Art

In the past, we’ve been able to decorate the space a bit, but only when we had a private room.  It’s my understanding that this year we won’t have a private room at the restaurant, but semi-private section of the restaurant’s main space.  So, I’m not investing a lot in décor’.  I did want to have a way for all attendees to recognize our group and our space, so I purchased a decorative chalk board and stand.  I will write a simple welcome on it and place it at the table. I can easily use this chalkboard in my daily work too, so it’s a win-win for me.

This year, I want to have more of a purpose than having brief introductions at the beginning, eating together, and simply sharing with the people nearest our own seats.   I’m thinking of having each person share a tip for improving our skills and business.  I’ll take notes, publish them, and send them out to everyone along with the emails.  I’d like to have a mini-PD (about 15 minutes) about a single topic, but I’m not sure what learning is most needed.  Perhaps I’ll save that for next year.  I’ll definitely ask everyone to see if that is even something that they’d like to have happen.

Throughout the whole event, we’ll definitely be taking lots of pictures.  That includes taking a group picture.  We’ll be posting on social media and saving for our own memories.  It is a special and fun time and we all want to share that fun with others.  If it weren’t for events like this, I wouldn’t have nearly as many social media outlets. LOL.  This time of getting together is valuable and definitely worth the time it takes to plan it all.  We’ll laugh, collaborate, share, take pictures, eat, and grow our friendships.  Those are things that all teachers need.  When we can come together in supportive ways, we make for better people, and better teachers.

I don’t know if you have colleagues or teaching friends that are spread around; too far to see daily.  But planning a meet-up at least once a year is something I suggest that you give a try.  It’s a lot of work, but with contributors and helpers the job will be much easier.  Just ask your people, “How about we get together sometime?”


Kindergarten Cutie

Teachers.Keeper@gmail.com   February 6, 2018   Comments Off on Kindergarten Cutie

This morning, as I was greeting our students, a sweet little kindergarten girl called me to her. She was very excited to show me something. She held her hands to her cheeks and opened her mouth. Puzzled, I thought maybe she lost a tooth. Nope. When she saw that I wasn’t responding as she wished, she proudly declared, “It’s Mime!”

Quit Rescuing Your Students

Teachers.Keeper@gmail.com   November 19, 2017   Comments Off on Quit Rescuing Your Students

When students raise the white flag and give up, don’t rescue them.

Quit being the rescuer of your students. When they struggle, hold back and let them struggle.  They need to build grit.  No, I’m not saying that you should just let your students fail and not care about their struggle; I’m suggesting that you step back and let them grapple with the rigor that is expected of them from the learning standards of today. Our students have the potential to be their best and to be problem solvers.  We need to give them the space and opportunities to do so, even if it means it’s hard.

You’ve probably been there: You present a student with an assignment, or task, or problem to solve. They start to work on it and then turn to your for help.  You try different scaffolding supports and the student still says, “I don’t get it.”  In your desire to move forward, you provide the students with obvious hints or directions, or perhaps you show them how to complete the assignment or task, or you solve the problem for them.  To that I say, “STOP IT!!”

When we come to a student’s rescue, we can lower the cognitive demand. Today’s standards for learning include increased rigor.  Our attempt to rescue can actually do more harm than good.

The Common Core and other state standards demand more from our students. They are expected to demonstrate a high degree of precision and skill.  They also need to think critically and to be able to solve problems.  This is rigorous work.  For students to be more successful, especially when they are not characteristically high achieving, they need to have practice with rigorous lessons and activities.  This doesn’t mean giving students more work.  It means that tasks are to be designed to foster a deep understanding and build cognitive demand.

But how do we do that? Let me offer you some suggestions:

  • Design tasks with multiple steps that build cognitive demand.
  • Consider more questions with a Depth of Knowledge level of 3 and 4. (Depth of Knowledge also referred to as D.O.K., is the complexity or depth of understanding required to answer or explain an assessment related item. The concept of depth of knowledge was developed through research by Norman L. Webb in the late 1990’s.)
  • Use Project Based Learning
  • Allow students to try new approaches
  • Allow students to communicate their metacognition (thinking)
  • Have students multiple access points followed by analyzing the info
  • Expect students to use academic language
  • Expect students to support their thinking with evidence.
  • Challenge students to think critically and creatively to solve problems.
  • Allow for multiple solutions or correct responses and visuals
  • Allow students to create models where students represent their findings
  • Design problems that cause students to make sense of them

Once you have a rigorous task, step back and guide. Launch the problem by helping students to make sense of the task without giving too much information.  (Take a look at my video about unpacking learning targets and success criteria where I use some of these strategies to maintain cognitive demand: https://www.facebook.com/TeachersKeeper/videos/1475151799242085/)  Discuss key contextual features of the task.  Explore key ideas.  Develop common language to describe key features of the task.  Maintain cognitive demand.  These steps can be done by chunking out the question or directions. Ask your students clarifying questions to determine their schema.  Level the playing field for all students by asking questions about the scenario presented in the problem.  Highlight particular language and ideas by asking students to restate what others have said. Don’t suggest a solution pathway and don’t directly define vocabulary.  Once you feel that your students have an understanding of what is being asked of them, move into the exploration of the problem.  Allow students to begin to work.

Allow students to grapple with the task.

This is when teachers usually jump in a give hints or suggestions for solutions when they see or hear students struggling. DON’T!  Instead, engage students in more student talk. Coach them toward figuring out a new path for solution.  As students work, monitor their understanding by using open ended and coaching questions.  Pay attention to what students say. You don’t want to scaffold too much, nor do you want to give away too much of the struggle. You might say:

  • Tell me what you do know/get.
  • I heard ______. Let’s look at this.
  • What could this look/sound like?
  • What does this mean?
  • What are you picturing?
  • What does that mean to you?
  • What does this make you think of?
  • Give me an example of that.
  • What have you tried?
  • You’ve tried ____. Is it working for you?
  • What might you do differently?
  • Tell me more about that.
  • What do you know about the problem/task?
  • How is that the same/different?
  • So, you’re saying ______. Try that. I’ll be back to see how it worked. (Then be sure to come back and check.)
  • Does anyone have a different way of solving/explaining this?
  • Do you agree/disagree?
  • Are you willing to try another idea?
  • Would you share with us how you came to that idea/solution?
  • Where else might you find helpful information?
  • What seems to be getting in your way?
  • Why is that so?
  • What might you try next?

These are just a beginning to the things that you might say in order to facilitate further learning and to coach students toward finding answers. Your own style and verbage will create authenticity.  Whatever you say, be aware of your words and whether or not they are guiding or rescuing.  I believe that you will find your students engaging in more of your lessons, asking more of the right kind of questions, communicating about their work, and looking more closely at their solution and approach to problems.  They will struggle more. But they will also learn skills and strategies that they can take with them outside of school when there is no teacher there to help.  They can become more independent and not rely on rescue.


STEM Event in the Community

Teachers.Keeper@gmail.com   November 5, 2017   Comments Off on STEM Event in the Community

Are you a STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math)  school?  Are you thinking of bringing more STEM to your school?  It’s definitely building in the world of education. In today’s world we need more students considering the study of these fields.  Getting them started early will open doors of possibilities to their young minds.

Today, I found myself in an event that brought STEM to the community.

My colleague had asked me to go with her to an even called Maker Fest.  We heard that it would be full of entrepreneurs and creative thinkers.   We envisioned 3-D printers, adults sharing ideas with how they had found a problem and determined a solution to solve it, and technology based booths.  What we found was something similar, but better.

Upon arrival, I first noticed a large section fenced off in the middle of the building.  Inside this section were very large shapes made out of the type of foam that pool noodles were made of; in fact, there were pool noodles there too.  These large shapes were rectangular prisms, cubes, U-shaped blocks, cylinders, and more.  They were meant to be manipulated and formed to create new structures.  I hadn’t seen anything like it so I took out my phone and snapped some pictures.  (Sorry about the less than stellar quality.) Not only were these new to me, but those engaged in the manipulation were very energetic and having a wonderful time.  Who were these builders?  Children.  “What a great play place for kids after they had walked around the building with their parents looking at all this science and math stuff.” I thought.


My colleague and I continued on to check out the booths.  As we rounded the outer corner of the path, we found a leather works booth.  At the time, the exhibitor was showing a couple of young girls how they could make a leather fob.  “Well, that’s nice.” And I snapped another picture.  I can’t help it.  When I see kids learning, I’ve got to admire it.


Moving on down the line of booths there were sewing machines, carved wooden boats, and a “take-apart table.”  Hmmm.  Was this a place where other exhibiters could get extra parts?  AS I looked more closely, there was yet another child engaged in taking a part an electrical contraption.  Then it hit me!  This wasn’t an event just for adults.  This was actually an event in which do-it-yourself fans and technology fans came together to share their knowledge and to let kids try things out.  It was fantastic!

We continued around the room finding all varieties of STEM work going on.  We found a young man that had designed his own marshmallow shooter, rubber band shooter, and “balloon shooter thing” (that’s what he named it).  He was not only the designer, but he was showing 3 young boys how they worked and how they could make one of their own.  His proud father joked about the number of marshmallows he finds around the house.


Next, we came across a robotics club from the nearest high school.  They were demonstrating the robot they made for competition and teaching younger kids about how it worked.


I love this!  Continuing on we found an artist sharing her talent of weaving long pine needles into baskets and charms.  She was probably about 12 years old, but she ran her booth like a pro.  Another booth had a special projector that displayed via lasers, I think, onto a sandbox showing the topography of the sand and it changed instantly when children and my colleague (LOL) moved the sand around.  Fascinating!  Yet other booths demonstrated fine weaving, sewing, horticulture, virtual reality, electronics, and more.  We also found the 3-D printer booth which completely fascinated my colleague.  When we ran upon R2-D2, BB-8, and some of his other robot friends we giggled and shot even more photos.  I took picture after picture; each with children and adults engaged in science, math, technology, and engineering.


What a day! I went thinking I was going to be hearing from some very intelligent engineers and entrepreneurs and I wasn’t disappointed.  It was even better than what I had expected.


I noticed that as I was leaving my face hurt from smiling so much.  Not from my love of science.  (My parents will tell you about my struggle with science in high school and my peer-tutor turned boyfriend.  But that’s another story.)  My smile was from seeing children enjoying themselves so much and not realizing that they were learning.


As my colleague and I walked back to the car, our brains started thinking about how this would be a fantastic type of event to bring to a school.  Instead of a traditional science fair, where  kids present their tri-fold poster board touting the experiment they took part in, how about bringing high school students in, local STEM clubs, students with ingenuity and ideas, and a ton of materials for students to play with?  My head is spinning with ideas and inspiration.  That’s pretty amazing for a person that avoids the science classes or science staff development opportunities.  Events like today brought STEM to the people.  Families enjoyed a free day to play and learn, and, today, two teachers had their expectations blown away.

Launching a Math Lesson to Increase Rigor and Struggle

Teachers.Keeper@gmail.com   October 29, 2017   Comments Off on Launching a Math Lesson to Increase Rigor and Struggle

I was speaking with a colleague that teaches kindergarten the other day. She and I were talking about how much kindergarten has changed.  It was just 5 years ago that her days were all about teaching students the alphabet and how to count to twenty.  Now her students are required to learn 60 sight words, count to 100, and know how to make ten with different digits.  The expectations have definitely increased dramatically.

Kindergarten is not the only place that this has happened. I remember when I taught 5th grade about 20 years ago, that our prime goals in math were to master double digit division and multiplication.  Now students are using exponents to explain patterns and to denote powers of 10.  Wow!

I know that to be competitive in today’s world we have to raise the expectations and standards. Students are capable of reaching higher promise. In fact, researchers state that students do better when the expectations have been raised (Boser, 2014).  So, what are we doing to help them to make that reach and fulfill their potential?

Are we rescuing students from higher cognitive thinking?

I’ve been participating in several staff development opportunities lately that have increased my understanding of increased rigor in the classroom. It has been well worth my time.  I’ve also been able to practice the skills I learned in various elementary classrooms within my school district.  I’ve been excited about the results.


One piece that has changed my teaching the most is launching a math lesson. Normally, I would glean from students their background knowledge and then proceed to provide them with information that they do not yet have. While determining the students’ schema is still important, I don’t have to shift into delivering the information right away.  I would spend time unpacking our learning target or objective and what they will need to do to be successful.  This will give students a gist of what they will be learning and what they will be expected to do.  I don’t know about you, but I do a lot better when I know that is expected of me.  Why do we not state this to students as well?

After unpacking the lesson’s objective and the ways to success, I can then pose a problem or question that guides the work for that lesson. From there it is very important to make sure that the students understand what is being asked of them.

So often we read a problem to students in hopes to block out language or reading barriers, but then expect them to understand what to do just because we said the words. How many times after that do students then say, “I don’t get it.”  In our frustration, we might respond, “Well, if you were listening you would know what to do.”  But what if the “I don’t get it” statement doesn’t come from lack of listening?  What if the student doesn’t understand what is being asked of them?  Let me give an example.

Teacher asks the students if they have ever been to a bank with their parents. All hands raise.  Then introduces the following problem:

“Mrs. Wilson had $5,000 in her savings account. She earns 10% interest each year.  If she left the money in the bank for a year, how much interest will she earn by the end of the year?”

Teacher reads the problem and asks if there are any questions. No one responds, so she sets the students off to solve the problem.  No sooner does she do this than several students raise their hands to say, “I don’t get it.”

She might ask, “What don’t you get?”

“All of it?” or “I don’t know.”

In frustration the teacher might say, “We’ve been doing this all week. Perhaps you should pay more attention.  Do the best you can.”

The student then stares at the problem and never even tries, which in turn can cause even more frustration from the teacher and student.


Does this sound familiar?

Did the student not listen? Maybe. Did the student not understand the English? It was just read to them.  The class had been finding 10% of numbers all week.  This student did fine on the assignment using the algorithm.  This is just putting the math into a story now. Why can’t they be successful here?

Perhaps it isn’t about the math.  Maybe it is more about knowing where to start, understanding the vocabulary, or how the answer should be formatted?  Perhaps, instead, the teacher could have spent some time making sure that students understood all parts of the problem or level the playing field for all students by asking questions about the scenario presented.  When we launch a problem for students to solve, we must take time to clarify the problem.  This doesn’t mean defining every word or telling them what math to use or how to solve it, but rather, enabling students to make the understanding clear together. It’s an opportunity to use student talk and ideas to further develop understanding without embarrassing any student.  Let’s look at that scenario again:

Teacher asks students how they might securely save money. Students might respond with: a lock box, give it to a parent to keep safe, put it in a safe, or put it in the bank. If they don’t come up with the idea of a bank, the teacher might ask further questions to guide them toward that thinking. “Where might a person place their money for safe keeping, but could still get to that money no matter where they were?”  Ideally, a question like this would generate the idea of a bank.  Having images of banks available would also be a helpful tool, especially for ELL students.

Follow this questioning with, “Today we’re going to look at a question that involves money that has been placed in a bank and what might happen to it. Let’s look at that question.”  From there the teacher shows the question and reads it to the class.  Questioning continues with, “What do you notice about Mrs. Wilson’s money?”

Students might respond with, “She has $5,000.” Or “It’s in her savings account.” Or “She earns interest.” And other noticings.

The teacher continues to unpack the problem by asking questions such as:

  • “The problem mentions a savings account. What is meant by that?”
  • “What do you know about accounts at a bank?”
  • “What are you picturing?”
  • “How long does she have the money is the bank, according to the problem?”
  • “It states that ‘She earns 10% interest each year.’ What does that mean?
  • What do you know about interest in regards to money?”
  • “What is the problem asking us to determine/do?”

After a short time, and the teacher feels that the students have a good grasp on the problem, the students can be sent to work on the problem independently, or in a group if more support is needed.


From asking questions such as these, you are helping students make sense of all of the information and to discuss, together, any key contextual features of the task, as well as developing common language of the task. All this is done without lowering the cognitive demand for the students.  The questions are asked in a way to elicit students’ understanding and thinking before beginning the technical task of doing the math and to help them gain further understanding of those elements that may block their success as they try to solve the problem.  The teacher has not given the definitions, nor has he/she provided scaffolds that will give clues to how to solve the problem.  This method engages students in applying previous knowledge/learning in a challenging context and making sense of it, but does not rescue them when it gets tough.

By launching the task as a whole group, students also gain understanding through their peers’ thinking. Teachers are facilitating the discussion and understanding, but not providing the knowledge.  The teacher has become more of a coach and less as of a lifeguard who rescues when the student isn’t getting to the answer quickly.  The students are allowed to grapple with the problem together, and then are set out to complete it independently.

All in all, the teacher makes an effort to not lower the cognitive demand by using too many scaffolds or supports, but instead guides the student to their own understanding and pushes them to keep working on making sense of the problem.

As I have engaged students in this type of launch, it has yet to go precisely as I had predicted, but that it okay. They types of conversations that the students have had are fantastic and thoughtful.  The types of solutions we are seeing are much more complex and successful.  And, the numbers of “I don’t get it.” comments have reduced dramatically.  I’m still no expert at this, but I do believe in its potential and will continue to practice this with classes to refine my teaching practice.

More information can be found at: https://connectedmath.msu.edu/classroom/getting-organized/lesson/

Self-Scoring Digital Task Cards

Teachers.Keeper@gmail.com   October 25, 2017   Comments Off on Self-Scoring Digital Task Cards

I’m very excited to announce that I am now creating and selling digital task cards, hosted at BOOM Learning! I’ve a growing library of resources for the elementary school classroom. These digital task cards are self-scoring and can be played on a PC, tablet, cell phone, or Chromebook. I love the ease of use and the quick data. Come check them out!

New Teaching Resources for Back to School

Teachers.Keeper@gmail.com   August 2, 2017   Comments Off on New Teaching Resources for Back to School

The Back to School Sale has got me shopping; lots to do and lots to find! I hope that you are finding the resources you need for your classroom.

One of the ways that I want to help you is by updating my resources. If you shop Teachers Pay Teachers, I encourage you to check out your purchases page and look for those “update” notifications. I’ve updated quite a few of my products on TpT so far, and I suspect many other sellers have too. I will be looking at each one of my resources on TpT and determining how they need to be updated for 2017-18.  Keep an eye out for those updates!

Recently, I and fellow TpT’ers, were visiting at Rachel Lynette’s home and she shared with us digital resources through BOOM Learning. https://boomlearning.com/It reminded me a lot of the resources that can be made with SMART and Promethean Boards, but these task cards can be used on PC’s and tablets so that students can learn and practice individually. If you have tablets, there’s an app for that!  Boom Learning even scores the work automatically. Talk about a time saver!

(Check out Rachel’s View.  Dreaming here.)


I love using technology to help our students today. This Boom learning was right up my alley. So I began creating Digit Task Cards on BOOM. I’ve recently created a free one for primary students about how to make a Jack-o-Lantern to go with my sequencing resource. https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/How-to-Make-a-Jack-o-Lantern-Procedures-with-Differentiation-2164926

I invite you to try the task cards. 

After completing this fun resource, I began to create a set of vocabulary decks. They currently have students practicing prefixes, but I plan to make more for suffixes and other morphemes. I’m excited about it! These sets are geared for grades 3-4, but anyone who is working on these skills can benefit. Check them out!



But if digital isn’t your method of practice, don’t worry; there are plenty of printable resources too. Come on over and see what is new!

Teachers’ Keeper

Compliments in the Classroom

Teachers.Keeper@gmail.com   May 20, 2017   Comments Off on Compliments in the Classroom

Eat a Cookie and Give a Compliment

Today I was privileged to be in a classroom while they shared in “Compliment Cookies”.  As I walked into the room, the students were very excitedly moving their desks to the edge of the room. I asked one of the boys what was happening and he joyfully said, “We’re doing Compliment Cookies!”  So, I just had to see what this was all about.

The teacher had asked all the students to move their desks to the side of the room so that they would have plenty of room on the floor to sit in a circle together. After the students, the teacher, and I all gathered together, she brought out a bucket of letters and numbers shaped cookies. (She happened to get hers at Trader Joes) 

The students’ excitement heightened.  The teacher explained: Each student was to select one cookie from the bucket – without digging through it. If the cookie they selected a letter, they were to give a compliment starting with that letter.  If it was a number, they were to give that many compliments.  But to whom?  Well… the teacher used her popsicle sticks with student names on them to determine.  After a student selected his/her cookie, she drew a stick from her cup and told them who they would be complimenting.  There was no complaining.  The students simply said things like, “That’s different.” Or “I wonder who I’m gonna get.”

I can see this being done in various ways as well.  You could have the students give the compliment to the person to their left, right, or directly across from them.  You could have the student whose name was pulled be the one who gives the compliment to the one who selected the cookie.  Or many other ways.

Once the compliment was given, the cookie bin was moved to the next person in the circle and the compliments continued. 

The kids were great. Some of the compliments I heard were:

“You are a good friend.”

“Best at basketball” or “…soccer”.

“You’re pretty, nice, smart, helpful, intelligent, and a good friend.”

“Really nice”

“The best at being quiet.”

And so much more.

One of the fun elements to this was that if a student selected a broken cookie in which they couldn’t tell what letter or number it was, they got to “pop” it in their mouth and select another. Bonus!  The kids secretly hoped they’d get a broken one too, but it only happened a few times.

It was a privilege to be a part of this and to share in the compliments of others. It was apparent that this class had built a trusting, caring community lead by their teacher.  The students were excited to give a compliment and to receive a small treat for themselves.  In today’s world of division, bullies, animosity, and selfishness, taking time to regularly teach students how to give and receive compliments is so important.  I made sure to tell this teacher just how great the activity was today.  I also wrote about it on our staff “brag board” where we get to compliment our colleagues.  Maybe more of us will incorporate these important moments and lessons into our days here at school and maybe even at home.

Teachers.Keeper@gmail.com   April 7, 2017   Comments Off on

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Leading our Response to Intervention Team

Teachers.Keeper@gmail.com   March 27, 2017   Comments Off on Leading our Response to Intervention Team

Coming together to seek out ways to help students be more successful and be stronger learners is a very important part of our work.

Response to Intervention (RTI), Student Support Team (SST), Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT), Behavior Intervention Team (BIT); it can be called by a myriad of names. It is this team that comes together to discuss challenges and successes that students are having within the school setting. The team will discuss interventions, environmental factors, assessments, growth, and action plans. At other times the discussion is around how the student responds to the interventions tried.  I am fortunate to be able to lead this team at my school.  I love being able to be an advocate for our students who are struggling in our world of education. It is rewarding to know that we are making learning more accessible and successful to students.

RTI is a school-based, multi-leveled system to maximize student achievement and to reduce behavior problems. With RTI, schools identify at risk students, monitor the students’ progress, provide evidence based interventions, monitor the progress of the students within the intervention, and adjust the interventions needed in regards to length, intensity, or activity depending on the outcome or response of the students to that intervention.   There are 4 necessary components of RTI, as determined by the National Center on Response to Intervention. http://www.rti4success.org/ They are:

  • Multi-level, three tiered, prevention system
  • Universal Screening
  • Progress Monitoring
  • Data Based Decision Making

I’ve created a set of forms and documents to meet the needs of the various steps in the process of: determining the needs of a student, creating an action plan, engaging in interventions, recording or documenting the interventions and their outcomes, and revisiting these outcomes. After walking through these steps, it may or may not lead the team to consider evaluating the student for special education services or seeking out a 504 plan.  These forms may be helpful to you and your teams as well. Click here for a preview of this resource that can be found in my store on TpT.

One of the first things that I have teachers do when they have a student that they are concerned about is to have them complete our RTI Referral Form. This provides us information regarding the students general information, a cumulative file review, any known information about their health and life outside of school, their strengths and challenges, assessment scores, and the types of interventions already tried. I can also ask those that have provided some sort of intervention to provide their observations and data. This is followed by setting up an appointment with our team, which includes inviting the parent/guardian. If a teacher would like to first talk with the team privately, we may make that accommodation.  I also provide each team member with our agenda.

In my building we are fortunate to have a well rounded team of educators and specialists. We have: the principal or vice principal, instructional coach (me), teacher, interventionist, school psychologist, school counselor, a special education teacher, our family liaison, a speech therapist, and occupational/physical therapist, and our school nurse. I recommend having many representatives from the various departments within your school or district. Since each of these members view the student through a slightly different lens, we are able to come up with ideas that may have not been considered otherwise. The expertise of each member is a benefit to the success of the child.

After setting up the meeting, I then copy the documents that the teacher has filled out, as well as the completing and copying a full set of assessment scores that we have access to, and provide them to each member of the team before the meeting. This allows the team members to get a sense of the child before hand, allowing them to think about the child and generate possible ideas ahead of time. It also reduces our time spent in the meeting going over the teacher’s concern. Not to say that we don’t ask the teacher to share, but it aids in managing the short amount of time that we have in our meetings.

At the time of the meeting, we will start by going over our norms, and reminding ourselves to focus on the facts. We begin with having the teacher answer the questions, “Why have you brought this student to the team? What is it that you think he/she needs that he/she is not getting now?” Other questions to consider are:

  • What do you know about the student outside of the school setting?
  • How might race/culture/ethnicity impact this child?
  • Have you communicated with the family your concerns?
  • Tell us more about the interventions that have been tried already. (This would bring us to the point of using the Tiered Intervention Documentation form.)

We continue the conversations around the needs, challenges, and successes of the child. It’s important that notes are taking about the conversation.   As we talk, we are able to come up with an Plan of Action, which is also documented. Each element of the plan, the time line for the intervention or action, and who is responsible is included. A review date, usually about 6 weeks out, is set.  We also begin to fill out a Progress Monitoring Tool, which is then given to the responsible parties.

After 6 weeks of trying and documenting the accommodation/intervention listed in our action plan and progress monitoring forms, we meet again to see what the results are. Hopefully, the student will have made growth and gains. If so, we may opt for an additional 6 weeks of interventions to see if they will continue to impact the student for the positive. If the result of the interventions did not bring about success, we might move to bring the student to the evaluation team, which is a following step to consider evaluating the student for special education services.

Sometimes students move or withdraw in the process or at the end of the school year. So I have created a page that has several strips with our school logo and a statement declaring that the student was being discussed and possibly monitored by the team. I copy these onto florescent paper, cut them into sections, fill them out with information stating the school year, student’s name, area of concern, and whom they may contact for further information, and then place them into the student’s cumulative file that will move with them to their next school.   To respect privacy, I do not provide the RTI notes and documents to the file, but instead will share them with the school upon request and with the parents’/guardians’ permission.

I’ve also included a “Red-Flag List” for teachers to complete at the end of the school year. This is where they name students that they are concerned about and would like the team to consider discussing next year.   Many times the students on this list are those that are brand new to the school in the spring, that are making strides with interventions but should be further monitored, that the team may have ran out of time to meet about, or that teachers were “on-the-fence” about. It will be from this list that teams might start the following year.

I truly enjoy my work with our RTI team.  Not only are the members great to work with, but I love that we come together to advocate for a student who is struggling.  These students need someone to campaign for them and it often takes a team of educators with the family to find what is just right for that student.  We all know that no child learns exactly like the next, so coming together to seek out ways to help students be more successful and be stronger learners is a very important part of our work.  It is rewarding not only for us, but, ultimately, for the students.

Please note that these are the forms that my team and I use, but that are not endorsed by the Center on Response to Intervention.