What You Need to Know about Taking Tickets in Class

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“…Tickets, please.” Exit tickets are a valuable formative assessment.

“May I have your ticket, please?”  When I hear this question I envision a train full of passengers with a conductor, in a blue suit and flat topped hat, walking down the aisle and asking those passengers to show him their tickets to ride.   He checks them thoroughly and determines if the rider is going to continue on their journey or get off at the next stop.  If they have the proper information on the ticket, he will punch a hole in it with a personal, handheld punch and move on to the next passenger.  If they do not have the right ticket or any ticket at all, then he may offer to let them purchase a ticket right there or he might take their name and address and send them a bill.  Or he could opt to have the improper passenger ejected from the train altogether.

Train conductors do a very important job keeping passengers safe, operating doors, answering questions, and helping passengers with various needs.  He/she is also responsible for making sure the train stays on schedule, keeping a log, and many mechanical duties.  Much like these conductors, teachers are expected to keep their students safe, answer questions, and help their students in various ways.  Not to mention that teachers do their best to stay on schedule, keep track of data, and have numerous other duties.

One particular element of the conductor’s job that a teacher can use is to check their students’ tickets.  Now I’m not talking train tickets, I’m referring to Exit Tickets.

Exit tickets are a type of formative assessment that shows you what students are thinking or understanding, and what they have learned at the end of a lesson.  Before they move on to recess, lunch, the end of the day, to change classes, or etc., they need to provide the teacher with a completed “ticket”.  The ticket should have the answer to a question, a solution to a problem, or a reflection response to what they have learned.  Exit Tickets help teachers quickly assess who is ready to go on for more of a journey or who needs some reminders and assistance.  They are also very useful for planning your next steps of instruction.

An exit ticket is simply a question that is posed to all students prior to class or a lesson ending. Students write their answer on a card or piece of paper and hand it in as they exit or transition to the next content.  It is a formative assessment technique that engages all students and provides the all-important evidence of student learning for the teacher.

To create your exit tickets, decide on what you’d like to find out about the students’ learning at the end of a lesson.  Write a question or pose a problem on the exit ticket.  Or you might write the question/problem on the board for all the students to see.  Keep it short.

Next, set a specific amount of time for the students to complete the exit ticket.  While they are finishing, you become the Conductor and can stand at the door to collect them as they leave, direct the students to deposit them into a collection spot before they transition, or walk around and collect them yourself.  A variation to this might be to stand at the door and instruct your students to share an idea or concept that they have learned from the lesson.  Each student must answer with a different answer. Allow them time to discuss different possible answers before they reach you at the door.

Following the collection of

Gathering tickets is a valuable responsibility for the conductor.

the tickets, take time to examine them carefully, just as the conductor might evaluate a ticket to ride.  Depending on the reason that you have used this strategy, you might want to sort the tickets into categories.  For instance, you might have a category for “Mastered”, “Approaching”, and “Needs Interventions”.  Whatever your category topics, it’s important to determine which students grasped the concept, which show that they don’t understand, and which might need you answer  to questions and to clear up some small misconception.  Some teachers will then group the students for the next day’s lesson based on their exit ticket answers.  The groups would include one of the students that showed a good understanding of the answer or solution to the problem.  This will provide students with an opportunity to help each other and to hear different perspectives about the solution.  It can lead students toward increased growth and success.

You might also consider starting your next lesson by going over some of the interesting tickets, from the previous lesson, with the students.  You might allow them to explain their thinking and ask further questions.  Don’t be afraid to bring out tickets that show a misconception, especially if it is a common one.  Talking about it with the students can help to clear up the confusion and move them toward the next objective within the topic.

* Be careful not to use this to shame or humiliate any student.  I strongly encourage you to use what you know about your students and only select and discuss misconceptions from students that you know will be able to handle the feedback and tips.

Exit tickets can be used for so many learning opportunities.  Here are some suggestions:

  • To check for understanding of key points within a lesson.
  • To provide students a chance to ask a question about the topic or lesson.
  • To see if students can apply the information in a different way.
  • To help you make groups for the next day’s lessons.
  • To engage students in their learning right up to the end of the lesson.
  • To provide lesson extensions for those students who have demonstrated mastery of the subject.
  • To engage students in reflecting on the information that was presented in the lesson.

Whatever reason you might chose to use exit tickets, they will mean nothing if you do not take time to review them soon after the lesson.  In that case, they simply become busy work.  A formative assessment, such as this, is meant to form your next steps in instruction.  They are there to give you quick feedback to your work.  You’ll be able to catch those that seem to be falling through the cracks, to provide enrichment for those that master the topic quickly, and to catch misconceptions before they become ingrained in the students’ minds and cause bigger problems down the line.  The valuable information that you glean cannot be ignored.

When a conductor views the train tickets, he/she also gathers valuable information about the passengers and to ignore this responsibility would be a great problem for the train company.  He’s not only gathering that paid, but what time they rode, how far they went, and how often they ride.  This data is important to the company and is used to improve their service and to let them know were changes need to occur within the schedule and routes.  When you use exit tickets, the data you glean tells you how far the students’ understanding went, how often they are confused or certain, and when they are most successful.   This data is important to guide your work and to let you know when changes need to occur in your teaching and when lessons need to take a different route.   So join the abundance of “Teacher – Conductors” and request tickets from your students too.  It’s a journey that leads to the station of Greater Success.


If you’d like more teaching strategies in an easy to use collection, please check out my Teaching Strategies Toolkit to Engage Learners. Click the image below.

A Teacher’s Toolkit of Teaching strategies.

Do I Really Hate Team Building?

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Team Building Memes fill Social Media

“I hate it when they make us do team building activities in our back to school staff development days!”  I’ve read all sorts of memes about that.  There’s just something about doing an activity that feels forced and takes us out of our comfort zone.  But what if the activity was natural and comfortable?  Is there really such a thing?  I say, yes!  And I say it can be done in your classrooms too.

When I provide staff development for my colleagues, I make every effort for it to be meaningful, easy, and possibly something that they can take back to their classes.  Today was no exception.

It was our Back to School Staff Retreat. (I don’t know why we call it a retreat.  We never retreat to anywhere.  It’s always in our library and is our first day back after summer’s end. But,… I digress.)  Today we had hours of announcements, going over the staff handbook, learning new information, and… sitting. Fortunately, I get to provide our staff with opportunities to engage with their peers and get out of their seat.  I get to facilitate the “team building”!  Yep!  That oh-so-popular team building.

Yet, as I stated earlier, I believe that these activities can be relaxed and easy to do.  One of my favorite activities is actually a teaching strategy.  I like to use teaching strategies as “team building” because not only does it bring staff together, but it is an activity that they can take back to their classrooms and use.  It can allow the staff to experience something that is engaging, purposeful, and easy to replicate.  The activity that I’m referring to here it “Vote with Your Feet”.

Vote with Your Feet

This is a teaching strategy that gets your students (or colleagues) out of their seats and expressing their opinions.  An element of comparison is included as the students get the opportunity to consider their opinion and those of other participants.  This may lead to considering the opinions of others which may cause a change in opinion or a solidification of the opinion held.

In addition, by engaging in this physical activity, students are actively participating in their learning, which helps them later recover information gained from this strategy.

I’ve used this in my classrooms and with staff.  Each time has been fun and successful.  You might use it as:

  • A “Get to know you” activity at the beginning of the year/term. (As I did with my colleagues.)
  • As a preparation for a persuasive writing assignment.
  • A method to teach cause & effect, and fact & opinion.
  • A way to discuss an author’s statements or to analyze a character’s actions or motives.
  • An opportunity to explore a current event, civil/human right, a challenge in society, ethics, etc.
  • A way to deeper explore a hypothesis and have students predict the result of experimenting around they hypothesis. Or even to debate a theory.

So how do you use this strategy?  It’s not difficult and it takes very little prep.  Here are the steps that I’ve used.

  1. Before beginning the activity, create various statements that will evoke an opinion.  These could be opinions about life, current events, a text read, getting to know each other, or so much more.  Example:  “Would you rather…?  Or “I like/will/need, etc…”  Or “Do you agree with the author that…” For my colleagues, I started with something safe and pleasant.  I asked if they had children, grandchildren, fur babies, or none of the above.  We continued with questions about social media choices, languages known, preferences of seating arrangements in the classrooms, and into deeper questions about beliefs around teaching.
  2. For yes/no or A/B statements, have students make two lines facing each other on either side of the classroom or meeting space.  Assign the space in between the 2 lines as the “yes” space or the “A” space.  The lines they stand in will be the “no” or “B” space.  (You can also have multiple choices and have students stand in the four corners of your room based on the opinion choices, much like I did with the questions about children above.  Example: Having children was corner #1, grandchildren corner #2, fur babies was for corner #3, and none of the above became corner #4.)
  3. Remind students that there are no wrong or right answers and that minds can be changed.  It’s all about opinion.  Also remind students to be respectful of others’ opinions.
  4. Read the first statement.
  5. Students move to the space that fits their opinion.  Example: “What ice cream would you rather eat…a) vanilla or b) chocolate?  If a student would rather eat vanilla, they would move to the center, while the students that would rather eat chocolate stay in their line.
  6. Provide the students time to confer with the other people in their position/corner.  This allows for safe conversations since those in the group are in agreement. They may take 2-5 minutes to discuss with the students in their space why they have made this decision.  This may be helpful to students when they are asked to explain why. (No one should be forced to talk.)
  7. Ask for students in one of the spaces to share why they chose that position.
  8. Students in the opposite space may ask the students to defend their reasoning.  (visa/versa)  After each discussion, allow participants to reevaluate their thinking.  If the defending student/s manages to persuade the others to now share his/her opinion, the opposing students may change their mind and move to the other space.

You can easily vary the activity by having:

  • Students stand in a circle and the inner space is the “yes” or “A” space.
  • Students stand on a continuum line and vote for where their opinion lies between “strongly agree” and “strongly disagree”.  (See steps below)
  • Students stand or sit instead of moving to a space.
  • Conduct a “vote”, then instruct students to read a piece of text, watch a video clip, or observe some other form of information.  Next,  have the class vote again.  If reading a text, I recommend that you instruct students to highlight any evidence that they might find that will support their opinion.  Take data regarding the vote.  If you do a second vote, collect the data again and discuss or analyze any differences.

The imaginary or physical line represents the various levels of agreement and disagreement we might have with a topic.

If you’d like to try the Continuum Line style then you’ll need to use the following steps:

  1. Before beginning the activity, create various statements that will evoke an opinion.  These could be opinions such as: “I am a loyal friend.”  “I enjoy using technology to study.”  “I believe that…” etc.
  2. You might want to place tape or draw a line on the floor as well as make 2 signs that state “I strongly agree” and I strongly disagree” to place at the two opposite ends of the line.
  3. Explain that the imaginary or physical line represents the various levels of agreement and disagreement we might have with a topic.
  4. Point out the ends of the continuum as “strongly disagree” and “strongly agree.”
  5. Explain that each person will choose to stand anywhere on the line in between these two points. Model the different positions on the line with a sample question or statement.  Use personal background knowledge or text support as your evidence.
  6. Read the question or statement that you created previously and that fits your needs.  I recommend reading the question or statement twice and to give students about 30 seconds to determine where they might chose to stand on the continuum.
  7. Students will quietly move to place themselves at a point on the line.
  8. Once everyone has voted, have students near each other on the line discuss why they selected that level of the continuum.  They should be able to determine the evidence that they will use should they be asked.
  9. Use follow-up prompts to invite individual, paired and/or full group reflection on individual and group opinions.
  • “What did you notice about the responses?”
  • “What did you learn about the opinions of others?”
  • “How might these statements or opinions cause us to think differently?
  • “Why is this important?”
  • “How does this change your understanding?”
  • “How can this information help you moving forward?  Etc…

What questions shall we ask?

So now you’ve got the steps.  But what are some of the types of questions you might ask?  The options are endless. However, I believe many of you would like some suggestions. Here you go:

  • Would you rather…?
  • I agree or disagree with the author when he/she stated…
  • I like/need/want/hope/am/have….
  • Is it better to ___ or ___?
  • Is this a fact or opinion?  (Statement)
  • In your opinion, should we…?
  • The text stated …  Do you agree or disagree?
  • If you used ___ strategy, stand (place).  If you used (a different) strategy, stand ___.
  • The best ____ is _____.
  • And many more…


When I use this strategy with my colleagues, they find it casual and easy.  They don’t mind talking about the topics, and knowing that others are in agreement helps them to find commonalities in their peers that they may not have known otherwise.  I find this especially helpful for our new colleagues who may be feeling alone and unsure about how they will get to know the others on the staff.

When I use it with students some like being able to give their opinion without having to say a word, while others love the opportunity to talk with their peers and to “argue their case”.  It also provides the teacher with beneficial data about students’ communication skills, confidence, understanding of a concept, and even some of the dynamics within the classroom community.

No matter when I have used this strategy, I have always been able to provide some sort of safety and ease about the task.  Students find a natural way to express themselves; physically, verbally, or both.  Today, my colleagues learned numerous new things about their peers; even about those that they have been friends or coworkers with for a very long time.  In fact, I was told by one of our primary teachers, “That was my kind of team building.”

To that, I say, “Yeah!!” and “Do you think your students might like it?”

“Oh, for sure!”

This is my kind of team building!

So do I really hate team building?  My answer is “No”.  Are you one that dread the team building activities and who posts the memes on social media to express your frustration?  Perhaps this might be an activity that you might like to incorporate into some of your teaching, to share with the leaders of your staff development, or for your own facilitation of team building activities.  I trust that you and yours will find an equal amount of success.  I’d love to hear your stories about “Vote with Your Feet”.  Please feel free to share!

Back to School Sale!!

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Back to School Sale 2018

  Load up your shopping cart with those items that you’ve been wanting for the 2017-18 school year!  August 1-2 will be the annual Back to School Sale at Teachers Pay Teachers.  Let me tell you about some of the awesome resources that you can find on sale at my TpT Store; Teachers’ Keeper.

Are you looking for classroom decor’?  Click here.

Perhaps you want more information about teaching strategies.  How about my toolkit.



For Instructional Coaches, I’ve got you covered.  Take a look at my various resources just for you.

Or perhaps you’re looking for literacy materials for your elementary classroom.  You can find an abundance of my resources if you click here.

Not into literacy?  How about Math Games?  I’ve plenty of those as well.

But what if you are looking for digital resources.  I have many resources through BOOM Learning.  You can check them out here, as they are on sale too.

Not to mention:

No matter what you’re looking for TpT probably has it.  So I invite you to come and shop.  Don’t forget to use the code BTSFRESH to receive extra percentages off the already reduced prices, AND use your TpT Credit Balance to receive even more.  (Don’t know about credits?  When you provide feedback to any item you have purchased, you will receive valuable points toward discounts on future purchases.  These discounts can be added on site sales too.)  If you haven’t taken advantage of that, you might want too see what you can do about it.  Whatever your teaching needs, the Back to School Sale is the time to shop.




Using Social Media to Engage Your Students

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I guided the children through the practice of “checking in”.

Today’s students are all about social media.  If it’s not Instagram, it’s Snapchat, Twitter, or Facebook.  If it weren’t for school rules regarding phone usage in school, we may never see the faces of our students but merely the tops of their heads as they check the plethora of status threads that they follow.   So how might we grab a piece of that attention?  Well, why not use faux social media to engage our students in learning, especially in literacy lessons?

Years ago, I used the premise of Facebook to facilitate active listening during story time for young readers.  Before a particular story was read, I instructed students to listen for details that would be an appropriate status update on a Facebook page.  With that, I proceeded to create a faux Facebook page on large butcher paper.  Along the top was written “Facebook”.  Below the title and centered were the words “What’s Your Status?”  To the left was a picture/drawing of the main character.  You could focus on any character, but I chose to focus on the main character.  Then, each time that the students heard an appropriate status update, they would write a complete sentence highlighting the character’s status on a sticky-note and post it on the board.  At various points, I would stop reading and discuss the updates with the class; being sure to ask for text evidence for the post.  For younger students, you might make a faux Facebook page on a large chart and then have the students raise their hands when they think they found a good idea of a post.  After a brief discussion, the post should be written on the chart. With students that are much younger, a teacher might write the comments instead of having the students write it, but that is simply up to the teacher.  Today, I probably would have the students write their posts on the board.  It could be used as a teaching tool for writing as well.

For my work, I had read Patricia Polacco’s Thunder Cake the day before we started this strategy.  On that first day, we had identified and talked simply about the basic elements of the story.  The following day was my second reading and I had planned to consider the main character more intently.  I felt that the faux Facebook would be an engaging way to accomplish this.

To identify the setting and to start the faux Facebook session, I guided the children through the practice of “checking in”.  For those of you that have Facebook on your smart phones, you may be familiar with the button that allows you to identify your current location.  This status shows as a “check in”.  So, since the setting was stated in the first sentence of the story we were able to make our first post.  I wrote, “Patricia checked in @ Babushka’s farm in Michigan”. Continuing on, at specific points in the story I would stop and ask the students, “What would Patricia post as her status?  What is she thinking?”  Below is a snapshot of the status statements that the children generated.

This strategy would also be beneficial to those lessons regarding sequencing and retelling. Seeing the status updates in descending vertical line, students will be able to read the sequence of the story.  Visual learners can see the sequence of the story represented in that descending vertical line posts. At a basic level, the Facebook page that was on my classroom wall was a tool that transformed the abstract concept ‘sequence’ to a visual and kinesthetic object.  With further practice, students should be able to write their own faux Facebook pages.  It can also be a creative activity in lieu of a book report.

Upon the completion of our class generated status updates, I reminded the students of the opportunity for Facebook friends to comment on the status posts that real Facebook members post online.  With that, I instructed the students to write a comment to follow Patricia’s posts.  This was a great avenue for writing a reading response.  Not one of my students declared, “I don’t know what to write.”  Their thoughts came easily.   I walked around the room and took notice of their “comments”.  The following shows some of the comments that I gleaned from the children’s writing.

I instructed the students to write a comment to follow Patricia’s posts.

It was a productive day in room 403.  My students engaged in thinking about the main character of Thunder Cake in a new and unique way.  Their writing was more authentic and connected.  I trust that this will not soon be forgotten.

But what about the other social media platforms?  I envision students creating images to demonstrate events happening in a chapter book and posting it as an Instagram page.  Other students could like and comment on the IG posts.  It might be a great way for inspiring readers to try a new book.  If they get to know the character, the setting, problems and such, they might want to pick up the book in order to know more.

As for Twitter, it might fun much like the Facebook strategy; expect that students would be required to write just the gist since Twitter limits characters.  That could definitely help students summarize and improve their ability to write succinctly.

To imitate Snap Chat, students would need access to a video camera or their smart phones in order to use the camera.  I also see that this one could depend a lot on technology.  Students could create a 10 second video in which they reenact a portion of the text.  This could then be downloaded to a program in which students could share their video with the class.  If a group of students were reading the same book they could be assigned to different sections of the book and directed to produce a ten second movie about that section.  These small Snap Chat-esque movies could be shown to the class where discussions could follow that dig deeper into the understanding of the text.

Whatever social media you’d like to imitate, be sure to allow you students to keep you abreast of what is current and popular.  Who knows what new media will pop up next?  Don’t be afraid to try new versions of it within your classroom.  By using the popular tools of the day, students are likely to engage in your lessons and remember it for a long time.

If you’d like a set of 30 Teaching strategies, with this one included, check out my Instructional Strategies Toolkit here.

A Instructional Strategies Toolkit for Teachers

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How to use Concentric Circles for Meaningful Discussions

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Students can find out new things about their peers and/or make friends quickly in a safe environment through this “speed dating” protocol.

Have you ever tried speed dating?  I have not, but I hear that it can be quite an event.  It was created with the idea that it would save the individuals’ time and enable them to meet many other daters in one night.   Usually, finding the time to meet 6-7 people that might be potential dating material can consume days if not months.  For those with limited time, or short attention spans, the idea of speed dating can be right up their alley.  In addition, the idea of short dates is perfect for getting a quick introduction to someone and to, hopefully, leave you intrigued enough to want to know more about that person and to continue on the conversation.  Teachers can create similar opportunities to save time and to intrigue students with an engaging teaching strategy and discussion technique known as “Concentric Circles”.  This technique/strategy gives students the opportunity to respond to questions quickly and with various peers in a structured manner, much like speed dating.

What is it?

“Concentric Circles” is a discussion strategy that is a structured, quick paced activity and that allows participants to exchange information with a partner until a signal is given to move to a new partner.

Save time and intrigue students with an engaging teaching strategy and discussion technique known as “Concentric Circles

How to Use:

  1. Split the class/group into 2 groups. Determine which of the two groups will form the inside circle (A). The other will form the outside circle (B).
  2. Have the “A” circle group form a small circle in the room. Then have the “B” circle group form their circle around those in circle group “A”.  (Visual here)
  3. Provide the participants with a question to be answered. Give each participant time to consider their answer. (About 10 seconds)
  4. Ask the participants in the inner circle to share their answer with the person in the outer circle that is facing them. When they are finished, they should ask the person in front of them what their answer might be, at which point the outer circle partner will share their response. (I like to give about 2 minutes per person, per round.)
  5. On your signal (after about 4 minutes) have the inner or outer circle take one step to the left or right. This should place them in front of a new partner. They may either discuss the same question, a variation of the original question, or a completely new question.

When to Use:

  • Use the Concentric Circles at anytime to engage students in meaningful conversations about the topic at hand.
  • Before introducing a new topic or new material
  • During lessons to help students process important concepts before moving on to the next element or before moving into independent work
  • As an ice breaker in staff development or at the beginning of the year or term
  • Before a test in order to review material
  • After a shared reading, in order to discuss a variety of elements within the text
  • To engage students in sharing their methods for problem solving
  • To have students teach one piece of information or content to partners, making it less of a discussion strategy and more of a peer teaching strategy


  • Instead of making circles, two lines can be made where participants face each other. When the signal is given to change partners, one line takes a step to the left or right and the person on the end without a new partner will walk down to the other end to meet with the single member there.
  • Have students move desks to face each other and form a small group (6 or more students work best). When it is time to change, students get up and move to the next desk in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction.
  • Students in one of the circles can be directed to find out information from the other person in the circle by using questioning strategies.
  • Students in one of the circles provide a vocabulary word and the peer in the other circle must define it, or a definition is given and the partner must provide the vocabulary word.
  • Pairs answer questions about themselves in a “getting to know you” circle.
  • If there are an uneven number of students, select one student to be the “host” and provide the others with the questions of each turn.

“Concentric Circles” is a discussion strategy that is a structured, quick paced activity and that allows participants to exchange information.

Once you teach your students this strategy, you can use it anytime.  I recommend teaching this early in the year; perhaps even on the first week of school for the purpose of getting to know each other.  Let your students “speed date” their peers.  Have them discuss questions such as, “What do you like to do during recess?  What is your favorite lunch?  Talk about your favorite thing to do when you’re not at school.  Who is someone that you look up to?  What clubs are you hoping to be a part of?  How do you like to be acknowledged for a job well done?” Etc.  Hopefully they will find out new things about their peers and/or make friends quickly in a safe environment.  Try it out.  Concentric Circles can be just the tool that you’ve been looking for.

Bring Engagement to your Classroom Gallery

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Before you hangs various framed images of seascapes, historical times, graphic design and timely works of art.  You take in the image; paying close attention to the details, noticing shadows and hues that may have been overlooked if you had simply rushed by. You continue to evaluate the art; thinking about it and looking intently to give it some sort of meaning.  Finally, you breathe deeply and find some connection.  It is interesting, detailed, meaningful, and makes you feel something.  This time of reflection urges you to share it with others and you look forward to bringing others to its engagement.

You continue to evaluate the art; thinking about it and looking intently to give it some sort of meaning.

How much does an art gallery affect people in different ways?  While I might find the impressionist period to be enchanting, you might find it to be unimaginative.  Where some may be beguiled by Asian art, others are enamored by photography. The various art mediums and styles affect us in different ways because we each see, feel, and connect to things differently.  A student’s experience in a classroom and the lessons we present can be received with similar understandings.  So in the same way that gallery visitors are provided the opportunity to slow down and take in the complete work of art, we too should provide our students with the opportunity to take time to engage in and reflect on the work of learning.

One way that we can provide this opportunity is to engage students in Gallery Walks.

What is it?

A Gallery Walk is a protocol to use that allows students to be actively involved as they walk throughout the classroom, looking at documents, images, problem solving situations, texts, documents, or realia.

When might you use this?

Use this strategy at any point in a lesson to engage students in conversation.  For instance, you might use it to examine historical or scientific documents or images; before introducing a new topic to determine your students’ schema; after students have created posters, anchor charts or other types of displays; to generate ideas; after a story to discuss ideas, themes, and characters; or even after completing lab work to discuss the findings and next steps.

How Do You Use This?

  1. Post around the room various questions, prompts, images, presentations, posters, charts, lab results, or similar items depending on the current topic of study. Each posting should be different from the next.  Creating about six stations is a good number to manage.
  2. Group your students into teams of three to five students, depending on the size of your class. Assign each team to start at a different station. Provide each team with a set of sticky notes and a different colored pen/marker.  Have the teams determine who will be their recorder.  If you’d like to engage more students in the writing, you might have teams switch recorders at each station.
  3. At each team’s first station, have the students read or consider what is posted. They should quietly discuss the question, item, and/or material. Sometimes I like to have them think about specific questions or ideas, such as: “What do you see or notice?  Describe it with vivid words.  What meaning can you get from this item? How do you know? What does this remind you of?  What connections can you make? Compare and/or contrast this item to… What compliments might you give to the team that created the item?” and similar discussion prompts.  I also leave the time open for students to find simple noticing and wonderings.
  4. The recorder will write the team’s thoughts, comments, compliments, and questions onto a sticky note and then place that sticky note on the gallery item. For individual accountability you might have each member of the team write one thought, comment or question on a note-taking form for each station.
  5. After about 5 minutes at the station, have the teams rotate to the next station. (Prior to beginning, determine which direction students will rotate.)  Students first take time to read and discuss the previous teams’ comments and then will add their own sticky-note of thoughts, and questions.  Repeat the rotation until each team has visited each displayed item.
  6. As the teams rotate, discuss, and leave notes, it will be important for you to monitor the work. You may need to be available to answer clarifying questions, redirect engagement, or provide support when misconceptions occur.  This is an important step.  Not only will you be of assistance to your students, but you will be able to glean helpful information about your students’ understanding, stamina, and skills.
  7. After each team has visited each station, have them return to their first station to read all that was added to their first response. If one of the items is a presentation/poster/chart made by a particular team, allow them time to revisit their creation in order to read the comments and questions left by other teams.
  8. Finally, bring the class together to discuss what was learned and to make final conclusions about what they saw and discussed. If the items were student made this is a nice time to have others provide compliments about the work presented.


  • In shifts, have the student that made the item stand by their product so that when teams come by, the creator can orally tell about it and answer any questions. This is nice to use with primary students.  Depending on the number of students, you might have 3 or 4 shifts, with visits being 2-3 minutes each. This allows everyone to be seen and heard by all their peers.  It might be easier to do one shift a day for a week.
  • Graffiti Art Gallery: Use ideas or concepts or even math problems posted on large sheets of chart paper around the room. Students get to write their responses, draw pictures, and record their thoughts right onto the chart paper. Encourage them to use colored markers to make the wall interesting and to be able to identify each student’s work/response.
  • Use the Gallery Walk for students to receive feedback from their peers. Post students’ work, projects, drawings, visual representations, posters, etc.   Have students visit each item and provide constructive, respectful feedback to the creator of the work.  You might even have them record one thing that they liked, one thing that they wondered about, and one tip. This can be done before work is turned in to the teacher so that students can use the feedback to revise and improve their work. I suggest using sticky-notes for the feedback left by students.
  • Instead of having students place sticky notes with thought, have them place a colored sticker if they agree with the solution or data. I avoid having students use another color for disagreement, but you might find reason for this piece as well.  If they do disagree, it would be worth it for the students to explain why they disagree; to justify their reasoning.

If you have other variations to this protocol, I’d love to learn about it.  Please leave a comment below.


Must I Stand and Deliver or Turn and Talk?

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As anyone in the world of education, today, will tell you, we have changed a great deal since the classrooms of the twentieth century.  We have moved away from the old “stand-and-deliver” types of teaching.  No matter what television or stock photos will tell you, we no longer want classrooms set up with desks in rows and the teacher’s desk at the front where the teacher will stand in front of a chalkboard and deliver instruction and wisdom.   Just go to Pinterest and search “classroom set up” and you’ll find a myriad of images showing how things are very different from those stock photos and stereotypical television shows.  But what Pinterest can’t show you are the ways that teaching, itself, has changed.  We should no longer be standing in front of the class, with students taking notes, followed by students completing a worksheet while the teacher walks around and watches for students who are off task.  We need to connect our students with their learning and make our instruction more engaging and students focused.

We no longer want classrooms set up with desks in rows and the teacher’s desk at the front where the teacher will stand in front of a chalkboard and deliver instruction and wisdom.

In an effort to help teachers find great success in their classrooms, I’d like to share a series of posts regarding various teaching strategies/protocols that are engaging and focus the work with the students.  By using various and specific teaching strategies/protocols, we enable our students to learn through multiple intelligence styles and purposeful activities.

Within my posts, I plan to describe the strategy/protocol, explain why it is used, and provide instructions for how to use it.  Some of the strategies/protocols that I plan to share with you are:

  • Turn-n-Talk
  • Gallery Walk
  • Concentric Circles
  • Vote with your Feet
  • Exit Tickets
  • Accountable Talk
  • 1:1 Conferring
  • Launch, Explore, Summarize
  • Back-to-Back and Face-to-Face
  • Text Share Triad
  • Stop and Jot
  • Total Physical Response
  • Philosophical Chairs
  • Affinity Mapping
  • Whip-Around
  • Give One, Get One
  • And more.

Students talk with their partner for a limited amount of time.

Some of these strategies will enable students to gather their thoughts prior to discussion or writing about their reading or study.  Others will serve as a tool for formative assessment, provide time for listening, hold students accountable, push students’ thinking further, help students to take risks, problem solve, and to work collaboratively, as well as building habits of effective and efficient learning skills.  You’ll find strategies that seem to suit your needs and personality to a tee, and those that you might save in your teaching toolbox for another time.  Whatever the case, I hope that you will find this series of posts helpful, and feel free to share!

So with that, let’s get started.


What is it?

Students will engage in a brief yet meaningful conversation with another classmate.  This strategy is used to provide every student a voice in a discussion, instead of just a few selected students. All of the students can process their learning with a partner, as the lesson is occurring.

When Might You Use This?

This strategy can be used at any time throughout a lesson.  You might want to use it as an opener to a lesson where you pose a question about the topic in efforts to pull out the students’ schema of the topic. For instance, you might say, “Turn and talk with your partner or neighbor about what you know about Outer Space” just before beginning a unit about the solar system. Or you might chose to use it at the beginning of a day’s lesson in order to have students share about what they learned from the previous day’s lesson.  You could also use this strategy at various points in a lesson, read aloud or presentation, asking students to talk about what they had just heard or learned.  Another situation for use might be just before you send students off to begin independent or group work.  You could have students retell the directions with their partner, or ask clarifying questions if they didn’t understand the directions.  At the end of a lesson, this strategy might be used to review information and learning as well.


How You Use This?

  1. Pose a Question or prompt. Ask the students a question, such as given above, or provide a prompt that you want the students to finish.  An example of that might be, “Finish this thought with your partner.  ‘Today I learned that an astronaut might …’ And be sure to tell why you know.” Or “Tell your partner your answer to this math problem and how you solved it.”
  2. Have students turn to a neighbor or specific partner. I’ve often used “elbow partners” (those sitting next to them), “account-a-buddies” (previously assigned partners) or “season partners” (Students select 4 students to partner with.  One is for each season.  The teacher would then instruct students to meet/talk with their specific season partner.  E. “Talk with your spring partner.”)
  3. Students talk with their partner for a limited amount of time. (2-5 minutes) You might want to use a timer. During the time that the students are talking, the teacher moves around and listens to the conversations.  This is an important step that some teachers neglect.  By moving around and listening to specific conversations, you’ll not only help with accountability, but you’ll receive important information about what students’ are saying, can redirect misunderstandings, and can use it as a formative assessment (information that informs your next steps of instruction).  This may also help you to select pairs for the sharing portion of the strategy.

    After the allotted (short) time have students share what they said or what their partner said.

  4. After the allotted (short) time have students share what they said or what their partner said. Some students might not feel confident in their own thoughts, and by allowing them to share what they heard can provide them with success and/or take away some anxiety having to share their own ideas of which they don’t trust. You might also use this share time to have those partnerships with which you had heard insightful, important, or useful thoughts speak in the talk time. You might even want to record comments shared on an anchor chart about the topic.

Possible Turn-n-Talk opportunities:

  1. Students predict what will happen next in a story
  2. Students define words
  3. Students talk about the methods of solving a problem
  4. Students answer a teachers prompted question
  5. Students finish a sentence stem
  6. Students share a connection to the text
  7. Students state the next step in a procedure
  8. Students brainstorm ideas
  9. Students practice a conversation in the language they are learning
  10. Students explain the tools they will use or the directions in their own words
  11. Students share their opinions
  12. Students share their answer and how they got it
  13. Many more…


I use the Turn-n-Talk strategy every day.  Students become very familiar with the practice and they learn that their voice is going to be heard; no one gets left out.  I also love that it also breaks up the amount of time that I am in charge of the conversation.  I want to give students opportunities to talk, and want them to become invested in their learning, not just idle observers.  This strategy doesn’t let the quiet, under-the-radar, type student fly low enough to disappear.  Yet, it provides a safe way of participating, since the conversation is with a peer.

Please check back soon for my next post in the series.  If you’d like more information or to receive email news and updates please contact me with the form below.

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Teachers’ Keeper



A Fun & Valuable Way to Meet with Peers

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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 might want to look for door prizes that fit the needs of your peers.)

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” https://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 Excitement Was Not What Was Expected

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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!”

It’s Good for Students To Struggle

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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.