Sunday, June 6, 2021

A Path to Equity

For a very long time, we have known that an inequitable environment exists for many learners across the world. It’s no one’s fault per se but a reality, nonetheless. Even with this knowledge in hand, change has been hard to come by. Now many might blame a lack of movement in this area on insufficient resources and differences in income levels of families. While these certainly add to the issue, it is important to focus less and the “yeah buts” that morph into excuses and more on the “what ifs” that represent viable solutions to overcome at least part of the problem.

From a school standpoint, the key to equity is the learning experience that is created for students.  Within the walls of a classroom, this is the one thing where there is a certain amount of control. It begins by taking a critical lens to instructional design. If all kids are doing the same thing the same way at the same time, that results in an inequitable experience. While it might seem fair and equal if every student is blanketed with the same direct instruction or have access to a device, it should not be assumed that there is an inherent benefit. There is a great deal of research and evidence out there that tells us people learn differently, and eventually, success relies on a vast spectrum of strategies.  Think about your own learning and what you need.

A move to a more personalized approach can begin to pave the way for a more equitable classroom and school culture.  It relies on the premise that all kids get what they need, when and where they need it, in order to develop into competent learners. Now, this is not to say that direct instruction and devices don’t have a place in the process. They most certainly do, but they only represent some of many interconnected components that a teacher uses to create an experience grounded in relevant application, appropriate challenge, purposeful use of technology, and targeted support. In addition to these, the most significant advantage of personalization in terms of equity is addressing individual strengths and needs during the school day. It’s about controlling what can be controlled.

There is no one right way to personalize. However, high agency elements such as voice, choice, path, pace, and place can be used to create an equitable learning experience. Don’t overthink things. It could simply consist of concerted efforts to get all students involved during a review of prior learning, checks for understanding, or closure.  Another possibility is allowing kids choice when it comes to demonstrating learning or selecting the right tool for completing a task.  When looking at larger-scale efforts, virtual courses, academies, and smaller learning communities (SLC’s) can be established that has the potential to incorporate all five high agency elements,

Blended learning represents the most appropriate way to ensure equity through personalization. In Chapter 5 of Disruptive Thinking in Our Classrooms, I provide numerous strategies and classroom examples in alignment with the following models:

  • Station rotation: After a short period of direct instruction, the teacher has students move through various activities where they are grouped by data. These stations can consist of targeted instruction, independent work, collaborative tasks, and adaptive learning tools. There is frequent re-grouping based on student progress over the year. 
  • Choice boards (and other activities): Following a short mini-lesson, students are given an array of scaffolded options where they select only a certain number to complete.  One of the most common options is modeled after Tic-Tac-Toe. While the class works, the teacher pulls students based on data for 1:1 support. Differentiation can occur by making available different versions based on ability, which is derived from data.
  • Playlists – A short period of instruction sets up a variety of tasks that a teacher curates into a playlist.  Unlike a choice board, students must complete all of them in the order that they wish. Differentiation can occur by making slight alterations and providing kids the best version aligned with where they are currently. 
  • Flipped lessons – With this approach, the teacher provides a short video lesson that addresses the main concepts that are to be learned, which the student completes at his or her pace outside of class.  Content, modeling, checks for understanding, practice (guided and independent), and closure are included.  During class, the teacher differentiates to meet their respective needs. 

In each of the above models (except flipped lessons), a timer is displayed for pacing and transitions. Once the activities have been completed a short formative assessment is given, which should consider of at least three scaffolded questions to ensure efficacy. To achieve greater equity, visuals with embedded tasks should be made available in the learning management system (LMS) for access in class or at home. 

You can only control what happens during the time you have with your students.  While this isn’t optimal, it does present an opportunity to level the playing field. The path to equity begins and ends with how time is used in their presence to create an experience that meets both their diverse needs and interests in alignment with either the curriculum or standards that you are accountable for as an educator. 

Sunday, May 30, 2021

How to Make Learning Stick

It is no secret how we retain information, construct new knowledge, and develop competencies critical for success in the world of work and, more importantly, life.  Learning is shaped by specific conditions that are either created or engaged in by chance that allow for authentic application through an immersive experience.  If there were a secret sauce, then that is it, but it's not as mysterious as one might think.  When it comes to classrooms and schools getting students actively involved, it isn't a gimmick.  It is a proven way to improve academic outcomes.

As I wrote in a recent post, direct instruction serves a purpose and can be an invaluable strategy to help set the stage for learning.  The key is to not only rely on this teaching technique as it mainly focuses on providing information and modeling as opposed to active learning. Research shows how students learn best, and it's not by talking at them for extended periods.  Take a look at this synopsis from Peter Reuell:

For decades, there has been evidence that classroom techniques designed to get students to participate in the learning process produce better educational outcomes at virtually all levels. A Harvard study suggests it may be important to let students know it. The study shows that, though students felt as if they learned more through traditional lectures, they actually learned more when taking part in classrooms that employed so-called active-learning strategies by scoring higher on tests. 

There are many ways to make learning stick.  Here are things to consider as you develop lessons, activities, and assessments.


  1. Cognitive overload inhibits learning. Too much information results in stress that prevents students from assimilating information effectively (Waddington, 1996).
  2. Learning requires an emotional journey. Emotion has a substantial influence on the cognitive processes in humans, including perception, attention, learning, memory, reasoning, and problem-solving. Emotion has a particularly strong influence on attention, significantly modulating the selectivity of attention as well as motivating action and behavior (Tyn et al., 2017).
  3. Help learners embrace mistakes. By constructing a psychologically safe environment through reframing metacognitive interpretation of subjective difficulty, children can express their full cognitive potential (Autin & Croizet, 2012).
  4. Create opportunities for students to teach each other. When students actually teach the content of a lesson, they develop a deeper and more persistent understanding of the material than from solely preparing to teach (Fiorella & Mayer, 2013).
  5. Find ways to include novelty. Extensive research has shown that you have to navigate through unknown territory when visiting a new place and remember landmarks to find your way back. Quickly learning where to expect danger and where to find rewards is therefore crucial for survival. Several theories have suggested that to promote learning, novelty elicits a learning signal by activating dopamine, making it easier to remember. 
  6. Focus on active application. As noted at the beginning of this post, research has shown that students learn more when they are actively involved in the process. 
  7. Promote collaboration and peer interaction.  Research in cognitive science has illustrated the efficacy and significance of social learning, leading to improved academic and behavioral outcomes (Li & Jeong, 2020, Wood & O'Malley, 1996).

The ideas above set the stage for incorporating a variety of pedagogical techniques such as scaffolded questions, inquiry-based learning, and performance tasks where reflection, movement, and purposeful play can be integrated.  In Chapter 4 of Disruptive Thinking in Our Classrooms, I dive into these practical and realistic strategies and many others that can help learn stick for all kids.  When it is all said and done, the key takeaway is more significant levels of empowerment and ownership.  Learning is and should be treated as a process, not an event.  Hence the need for research-based pedagogies that don't prepare kids for something but anything!  

Autin, F. & Croizet, J. C. (2012). Improving working memory efficiency by reframing metacognitive interpretation of task difficulty. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 141(4), 610.  

Fiorella, L. & Mayer, R. E. (2013). The relative benefits of learning by teaching and teaching expectancy. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 38(4), 281-288.  

Li, P. & Jeong, H. (2020). The social brain of language: Grounding second language learning in social interaction. NPJ Science of Learning, 5(1), 1-9.

Tyng, C. M., Amin, H. U., Saad, M., & Malik, A. S. (2017). The Influences of Emotion on Learning and Memory. Frontiers in psychology, 8, 1454. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01454

Waddington, P. (1996). Dying for information: an investigation of information overload in the UK and world-wide. London: Reuters Business Information.

Wood, D. & O'Malley, C. (1996). Collaborative learning between peers: An overview. Educational Psychology in Practice, 11(4), 4-9.


Sunday, May 23, 2021

Evolving Instruction in a Rapidly Changing World

We all first learned of idioms probably during the middle school years in English class.  There are so many out there, such as “it’s raining cats and dogs,” “you hit the nail on the head,” and “there are bigger fish to fry.” These expressions represent a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words. They have a metaphorical purpose as opposed to literal.  When it comes to practices in education, one of my favorite idioms is “don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.”  It represents an expression of an avoidable error in which something good is eliminated when trying to get rid of something bad. Direct instruction is one such practice.

I have and never will say that this strategy does not have value, but let’s be honest for a second.  For the most part, instruction focuses on the teacher, consisting of what he or she does and the way in which content is conveyed. Learning, on the other hand, focuses on the student. It is a multi-faceted process consisting of what they do, how knowledge is acquired or constructed, and then applied in meaningful ways to demonstrate competency.  While learning is the ultimate goal, direct instruction plays an integral part in setting the stage for it to occur. Thus, the move to a more desirable pedagogy such as differentiation, personalized, blended, inquiry-based, cooperative, or any other student-centered strategy might not succeed without a preceding direct instructional component. 

The key is brevity.  Whereas in the past, teachers could lecture on end with little or no pushback from compliant students, things have changed for a myriad of reasons. One of the most apparent challenges is how difficult it is to engage kids today.  Many of us as adults experienced this firsthand during what seemed like daily and never-ending video calls. While breakout rooms might have been used to foster discourse, the length of the session almost always led to some sort of off-task behavior. Another stems from the fact that it is near impossible to meet the diverse needs using a one-size-fits-all format. 

In Chapter 3 of Disruptive Thinking in Our Classrooms, I lay out tried and true strategies to consider during any direct instruction component of a lesson while setting the stage for learning that empowers students to think disruptively by replacing conventional ideas with innovative solutions to authentic problems.  Below is a summary of things to consider as you plan out your instructional design:

  • Make it brief (10-15 minutes)
  • Include a hook
  • Review previous concepts
  • Build in authentic contexts and connections
  • Continuously check for understanding 
  • Spark higher order thinking with questions
  • Provide a wrap-up at the end of the lesson
  • Leverage technology for all of the above

Let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater in a quest to improve learning for all kids. As a realist, there is still value in direct instruction. In his meta-analysis of over 300 research studies, John Hattie found that direct instruction has above-average gains when it comes to student results, specifically an effect size of 0.59. Another meta-analysis on over 400 studies indicated strong positive results (Stockard et al., 2018).  The effectiveness of this pedagogical technique relies on it being only a small component of a lesson while using strategies that foster engagement and set the stage for empowered learning. 

Stockard, Jean & W. Wood, Timothy & Coughlin, Cristy & Rasplica Khoury, Caitlin. (2018). The Effectiveness of Direct Instruction Curricula: A Meta-Analysis of a Half Century of Research. Review of Educational Research: 88(4).

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Tackling the Status Quo

We often hear about companies who are either unwilling or afraid to change and ultimately pay the price. Blockbuster is one that often comes to mind, but many others have become victims of the status quo.  Robert Brodo shared this in relation to Kodak:

Challenging the status quo is defined as asking “why” and then identifying new and better ways of doing things.  For example, in 1975, a young engineer at Kodak by the name of Steve Sasson invented the first digital camera.  It was clunky and crude, it didn’t use paper and chemicals, and best of all, it was “electronic.”  Yet, the leaders within Kodak refused to challenge the status quo and ask hard questions such as “Is there a better way of capturing the most important moments of life without taking a film cartridge to a camera shop?”  There are hundreds of other similar stories about companies that went bankrupt because they couldn’t and wouldn’t create a culture that challenged the status quo.

Prior to the pandemic, change efforts were often stymied by the status quo. Typically, this came in the form of TTWWADI (that’s the way we’ve always done it), and the result was business as usual.  In many cases, the mirage of great test scores being indicative of a thriving school culture that was adequately preparing learners for success was more than enough to keep trudging forward with a one-size-fits-all approach.  As frustrating as this might be, it is easy to see why this is the case, and it isn’t just because of high standardized test scores. Comfort and fear often keep us in our perceived lanes of success.  In the end, both contribute to maintaining the status quo, and that can negatively impact learners. 

While change in education has historically been both tough and slow, the pandemic disrupted the way school was done across the globe. Many important lessons were learned, and innovative change was implemented at scale in a short period of time.  The “clean slate” moment, as I have called it, saw resilient educators rise to the occasion in response to the most challenging event ever to impact the profession.  While it might not have always been pretty or smooth sailing, the status quo was an afterthought.  We must keep it that way. 

I bring this all up because there might be a yearning to get back to the way things were before the pandemic.  Maybe you have even seen this from your lens. Even though virtually everyone changed by necessity, some were not happy with remote and hybrid teaching or using technology.  Others might have fallen into a sense of complacency.  No matter the reason, it is up to you to tackle the status quo head-on.  In Chapter 2 of Disruptive Thinking in Our Classrooms, I go into detail about shifting mindsets and helping others find comfort in growth to move past conventional thinking and ideas. Below are some ways that any educator can challenge the status quo:

  • Ask questions
  • Develop an innovative idea 
  • Move from an idea to action
  • Connect to learning outcomes
  • Empower others through modeling
  • Showcase results through storytelling

Begin with questions such as why has it always been done this way, how might it be done better, and what are the outcomes that can be used to determine if the approach is valid or not? Develop ideas supported by research that can improve both instruction and learning, then begin to put them in place. When actions are taken connect them to outcomes to establish validity. As you find your groove, model to empower others to get on board.  Success breeds success. Finally, the status quo can only be overcome through results.  Embrace the power of storytelling and craft powerful narratives that illustrate why this approach is better for kids. 

Settling for the status quo not only inhibits the creation of a disruptive thinking culture but also negatively impacts our learners.  Don’t let your role inhibit you from becoming an advocate for something better. Always remember that leadership is about action, not position, title, or power. 

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Empowerment Through Choice

Agency in the classroom is about giving students more control over their learning through greater autonomy and purpose. It is driven by many factors, one of which is choice.  The underlying premise is to move learners from a state of engagement to empowerment so that they exert more ownership over their learning.  Consider the following in the context of the professional world of work and employee success.

One of the simplest ways of employee empowerment is to give them the choice to approach their work. The underlying idea in this approach is that choice gives employees a sense of personal control, which can enhance their intrinsic motivation towards their work, resulting in higher morale, creativity and innovation, better performance, more significant organizational commitment, and lower turnover (Chua and Iyengar, 2006).

It is essential to understand just how critical choice can be when thinking about lesson design and pedagogy.  It might be one of the most uncomplicated components to integrate daily, whether you are face-to-face, remote, or hybrid. In Disruptive Thinking in Our Classrooms (chapter 5), I go into detail on strategies such as choice boards, must-do/may-do activities, and playlists while sharing an array of practical examples by grade level.  Each provides students with greater control over their learning while also freeing up the teacher for targeted instruction or support. Best of all, there are unlimited possibilities on how to create these activities.  

Case in point.  Recently I received a text message from Nathan Hall, the principal of Corinth Middle School, where I have been coaching for the past two years.  He shared with me an image during a walk-through of a choice activity that Betty Graham, one of his 8th-grade teachers, implemented with a great deal of success. I loved the image so much that I asked him to send me some more context. Below is what Betty sent as well as the choice activity that she created. 

During intercession, some of my students asked if I could bring back the board they could click on as they enjoyed it so much. They said it was easier to follow. So, after spring break, I worked on making a board for my students. They wanted the links so they would not have to click different places. With this board, they know what they have to do daily, weekly, and what to do when they are finished. One thing I do like about the board, I do not hear, "What do I do now?" They are working. Today I asked my first period what they liked about the board, and they said it was easy to follow, plus they love the links.

It has been incredible watching Betty, and her colleagues at Corinth Middle School grow over the past couple of years.  As I think about what she created, I can't help but reflect on all the many different choice activities I have seen in classrooms or those shared virtually.  Below are some tips to consider as you either develop, refine, or provide feedback on your own options.

  • Use pre-made templates
  • Organize tasks into squares or columns
  • Integrate a timer for pacing
  • Pull learners for targeted support
  • Make available through your learning management system (LMS)
  • Build in rigorous and relevant options
  • Monitor regularly to ensure on-task behavior.
  • Integrate technology
  • Use adaptative learning tools for differentiation 
  • Create a scaffolded formative assessment 

Choice is the great differentiator that helps to meet the needs of ALL learners. Don't think that you need to always utilize the strategies discussed in this post.  It can be as simple as choosing the right tool for a task, topic to write a research paper about, or how to create a product to demonstrate learning.  The key is to always look for opportunities to include choice, as well as voice, during each lesson.  

Chua, Roy Y.J., and S Iyengar. "Empowerment through Choice? A Critical Analysis of the Effects of Choice in Organizations." Research in Organizational Behavior 27 (2006): 41–79.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Student Success Relies on Future-Proofing Learning

Imagine if we all had a crystal ball? It sure would have come in handy prior to the pandemic. What if I told you that we might have actually had one in the form of a retro animated series that aired over fifty years ago that predicted some modern technological innovations? Below is how I opened Disruptive Thinking in Our Classrooms:

One of my favorite shows as a kid was The Jetsons. Even though it only aired for one season in the 1960s, I got my fill thanks to non-stop reruns throughout my childhood. For those who have not seen the show, it focuses on a futuristic family residing in Orbit City, whose architecture looks like it was invented by Google with all the living residences and businesses raised on adjustable col­umns high above the ground. The entire series revolved around the family’s life one hundred years into the future assisted by labor-saving technologies that often broke down in humorous ways. 
The Jetsons provided us with a glimpse into what society could look like one day and inspired people young and old to dream about the future. Some of the show’s bold predictions actually came true, includ­ing video conferencing, robots, smartwatches, drones, jetpacks, holo­grams, and automated homes. Other inventions are within our grasp such as flying cars, driverless vehicles, and computers so powerful they have the operating capacity of the human brain.  Things are moving fast in our world. In the words of the wise Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it.” This is spot-on advice to keep in mind as we enter further into our own Jetsons moment.

Life sure does move fast. Even before the pandemic, it was difficult, if not near impossible, to keep up with all the exponential change as a result of the 4th Industrial Revolution. The “Jetsons moment” has become engrained in our lives no matter where we live or work. In a short period of time, we have seen innovative companies such as Uber, Lyft, Vrbo, DoorDash, and Robinhood disrupt many traditional service areas.  While there might be a consistent focus on disruption now, the fact remains that it is not new and has been impacting the world since the beginning of time.  A ride through Epcot’s Spaceship Earth shows how papyrus paper, the printing press, television, and the first home computer not only disrupted but revolutionized the world.  

Exponential change is the new normal. To adequately prepare students, the key is to future-proof learning, so they are always ready for whatever faces them. While this might seem like a stretch or even impossible, I assure you it’s not. Here is how to begin:

  • Develop higher-order thinking through scaffolded questions and tasks
  • Authentic application of knowledge and concepts in connection with real-world problems.
  • Purposeful use of tech-driven by the learner
  • Equity and cognitive flexibility through personalization
  • Learning environments that reflect current (and future) contexts


Creating a classroom culture that empowers students to replace conventional ideas with innovative solutions to authentic problems can lead to prosperity in a bold new world. Disruption is here to stay, thus the need to future-proof learning. Disruptive thinking is the way to get there. To learn more, get your copy of my new book on Amazon.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Disruptive Thinking in Our Classrooms: Preparing Students for Their Future

The pandemic gave many of us a great deal of time to engage in projects both personally and professionally.  For me, in the case of the latter, that was writing a new book.  My challenge and motivation were to create a teacher-facing resource that would also be applicable to administrators, instructional coaches, and other educators who actively work in schools.   I am so proud to introduce Disruptive Thinking in Our Classrooms: Preparing Students for Their Future which is now available on Amazon.

The world has and continues to change in ways that are difficult to predict.  All one has to do is look at the combined impact of the COVID19 pandemic and the 4th Industrial Revolution. Regardless of the forces at hand, educators play a pivotal role in preparing students for success now and in the future.  In this book, my hope was to make a compelling case that the best way to do this is to create a disruptive thinking culture in the classroom and beyond. Here is a short excerpt from Chapter 1:

If we are to develop students who think disruptively, we must examine and reflect on our current teaching and learning practices. We, too, must become disruptive thinkers, which I define as: replacing conventional ideas with innovative solutions to authentic problems.

It’s time to challenge the status quo when it comes to teaching and learning in our classrooms. Our learners—and their future in a bold new world—depend on it and us.

The premise of it is simple yet powerful.  It’s time to future-proof learning for ALL kids. Broken into four parts, this book combines stories, insight from thousands of school visits, practical strategies, research, lessons from the pandemic, and examples from classrooms to assist educators in transforming their practice. The parts are:

  • Re-thinking “normal”
  • Re-thinking learning
  • Re-thinking the learner
  • Re-thinking our mindset

Each chapter ends with a “disruptive challenge” designed to do just that: challenge educators to disrupt in some way their current thinking or professional practices. I am really excited about these and think readers will find great value in them as they will encourage them to actively apply concepts and share results on social media using #DistruptiveThink.

Readers will develop and understand that….

Disruptive change is the new normal. As such, our mindset and practice must evolve to future-proof learning in ways that help students develop meaningful competencies critical for success in an unpredictable world.

Comfort is the enemy of growth. We must critically evaluate if the way things have always been done in the classroom sets learners up for success now and in the future. Improvement in all we do is a never-ending journey.

Learning is a process, not an event. It requires educators to develop and utilize instructional practices and pedagogical techniques that meet the unique needs of all students.

Outlying practices play a key role in the development of disruptive thinking. Some have increasing value while others do not. It is up to educators to find the right blend of these strategies to empower learners.

Packed with ready-to-use ideas and embedded resources, including the latest digital tools, templates, and artifacts from real classrooms, readers will learn….

  • Why a mindset shift is essential in order to prepare learners for an unpredictable world
  • How to implement strategies that focus on developing critical competencies
  • How to ensure equity through personalization
  • What to reflect on to improve and build powerful relationships

Below is a small snapshot of what people are saying about the book. To see all of the endorsement quotes, click HERE.

This book is an informed reflection from an educator whose experience as a teacher, principal, instructional coach, and persistent learner enables him to affirm the life-shaping potential of teaching even as he chafes in the face of its time-weary practices. Sheninger invites readers to join him in seeking answers to the question, “What makes a classroom become an incubator for student capacity, engagement, and empowerment?” The book reads like a conversation with a worthy colleague as it invites us to reconsider virtually every aspect of teaching. If you have an inkling that getting better at what we do is a non-negotiable for dedicated professionals, join the author as he probes the status quo and provides practical guidance for changing to address the changing needs of the young people in our care.

Carol Ann Tomlinson, Ed.D., William Clay Parrish, Jr. Professor, University of Virginia

This book will disrupt your day–it will challenge your thinking, and it will demand reading every page. The nuggets are there: it asks you to adopt business as unusual, the aim is growth, not perfection, and there are no rabbit holes of fluff. Eric Sheninger captures a method for dealing with the unknown, for making the future the present, and invites consideration of the competencies to make learning lovable for teachers and their students.

John Hattie, Emeritus Laureate Professor, Melbourne Graduate School of Education

Eric Sheninger will help you shift your own mindset and the mindset of your students with this powerful, practical work.

Daniel H. Pink, New York Times bestselling author of WHEN, DRIVE, and TO SELL IS HUMAN

My hope is that anyone reading this book will walk away both inspired and with practical strategies to empower learners to think disruptively in any classroom or school. All of the resources are curated using Google Docs, so they will ways be up to date. I am proud to have partnered with ConnectEDD to publish this book.  They offer fantastic bulk discounts, making it perfect for district or schoolwide book studies or empowering the masses. 

Contact them HERE for more information.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Using Feedback to Create a Culture of Excellence

Growth is a huge component of the change process. In order for each of us to pave a path for success, there must be feedback along the way.  When it comes to navigating the process of change, this might be the most essential element to help individuals improve while also validating efforts made to get better.  Cultures of excellence are created and fostered when feedback is used to commend effort while providing considerations for growth regularly.  In a previous post, I highlighted five considerations to help maximize this powerful tool, which you can see below:

  • Positive facilitation
  • Practical and specific
  • Timely
  • Consistent
  • Use the right medium


In my role as a coach, I am constantly providing educators with feedback based on qualitative and quantitative evidence in alignment with the principles listed above.  On a typical day when I visit classrooms with principals in my partner districts across the country, both the building and district leaders receive a 1000-to-5000-word document laden with practical feedback. They get this before I physically leave for the day.  I have always done this because I know that timely information has been critical to my professional growth.  The best outcome of this process has been the feedback I have received from leaders who have stated how valuable this resource has been for them.

During my recent work with the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), I had the honor of sharing what I have learned from the field while helping them look at and analyze evidence from their change efforts during our time together.  During each virtual coaching session, they were pushed to bring artifacts from their respective cohort.  Recently I shared what Jill Angelucci, an assistant principal from George Rogers Clark High School, created as a result of the project.  My role was to provide then direct feedback on all the evidence shared while also engaging the group to do the same. One of the key points I tried to make was how important it is to do the same with teachers.  It warmed my heart when Amy Rhodes, the principal of Bevins Elementary, shared what she had recently implemented in regard to feedback. The result was “Feedback Fridays.” 

You can see examples of the slips she created HERE and read the summary below:

While our district was on all virtual learning, I began asking my teachers to submit one thing each week they wanted me to give feedback on from Canvas. Teachers could ask for feedback on a module, lesson, or recorded video from Canvas. They could ask me to join a Zoom for the upcoming week or look at a piece of student work. The options are endless. I gave each teacher feedback on what he/she submitted. If the teacher submitted something to me before 2:30 on Friday, I allowed them to leave work 30 minutes early (while we are on all virtual learning and students were not in the building). 

I recently checked back in with Amy Rhodes after reviewing the feedback slips she had shared during the KDE coaching sessions to gain more insight into her views on why and how she moved forward with this strategy.  Below are her thoughts.

Feedback and coaching have been part of my professional growth goal for the last few years.  Being an instructional leader is my top priority, and I know how vital teacher efficacy is to student achievement. When our school closed in March of 2020, we were not prepared for virtual learning. We did the best we could with the resources we had. Going into the new school year in August of 2020, we needed a learning management system and ways to improve virtual learning. Being all virtual, I was unable to observe instruction in the classrooms, and I had to teach myself how to conduct virtual observations through Canvas and by participating in Zooms. 

I noticed that my teachers worked very hard at making their virtual classrooms presentable and designing their Canvas courses so they were easy to navigate. I did not see the sound instruction that I would see in the classrooms if we were not virtual. Some of the things I look for while doing classroom visits, using our district walkthrough document, are learning targets, higher-level questioning and discussion, active engagement, student feedback, technology, and formative assessment. I knew my teachers were already overwhelmed with all the changes, but I also know how vital it is for our students to receive sound instruction rather than be virtual or in person. 

We meet in PLCs every Wednesday and were able to use this time to discuss and have teachers share out their Canvas pages and virtual lessons. When I would see something from the week that I liked, I asked that teacher to share out at PLC. For example, while conducting a virtual observation in Canvas, I noticed a third-grade teacher found a fantastic way to engage students even through virtual learning. I asked her to share her screen I PLC and show her colleagues what she did. This was an excellent way for teachers to learn ideas from others. 

As I already said, my teachers were so overwhelmed, so I chunked the things I look for from our walkthrough document.t I started with learning targets, and I provided coaching and feedback until every teacher had learning targets on their virtual lessons each day. Next, we moved on to formative assessment and then on to questioning and discussion. We chunked the areas and worked on them in small groups. With the coaching and feedback I provided, along with the PLC discussions, it did not take too long until I was observing high-quality teaching and learning virtually!

If there isn’t a concerted effort to improve progress, it is often hard to come by in many cases. Most educators need and want feedback to grow. There is no one right way to do this, in my opinion.  However, once feedback is prioritized and consistently provided, the stage is set for a culture of excellence.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Organize, Streamline, and Empower Learning with Hāpara

The world has radically changed in unprecedented ways. Educators navigate uncharted waters that continually fluctuate as a result of COVID-19 and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Even with all of these challenges, opportunities have arisen to take education in a different and better direction to create a new normal that better meets learners' needs. Teachers have risen to the occasion like never before. With increases in technology and adapting to both remote and hybrid learning, we have seen them become nimble while embracing innovative pathways to create a more equitable learning experience.

As someone who has actively worked in schools physically and virtually throughout the pandemic, I have seen some of the most extraordinary examples of sound pedagogy. I will even go out on a limb and state that what I have seen the past couple of months is significantly better at scale than what was observed prior to COVID-19's emergence. Now don't get me wrong.  There were definitely excellent practices taking place in classrooms across the globe. However, they were more isolated than widespread. All of that has changed in many schools.  

If you are an avid reader of this blog, you have seen examples of what I am talking about in terms of the use of time, differentiation, purposeful integration of technology, and educator collaboration. My role has not only been to provide strategies and ongoing coaching but also to make recommendations on solutions that can make the lives of teachers, administrators, and students easier in the process.  Hāpara is one such solution if you are using Google Workspace (formerly G-Suite).  They offer a suite of tools for differentiation, promoting digital citizenship, establishing productive workflows, providing feedback, and allowing learners to work at their own pace. 



Below you can see all that Hāpara does:

  • Highlights: Encourages a gradual release of responsibility approach to monitoring digital learning to grow digital citizenship and develop critical competencies amongst learners. Highlights give teachers a window into what learners are working on in their Chrome browsers and provides the ability to provide formative feedback and positive reinforcement while also facilitating guided practice.
  • Teacher Dashboard: Simplifies teacher workflows in Google Workspace by organizing all student Drive files into one convenient dashboard. This makes it easier for teachers to access student work and provide timely, consistent, formative feedback. 
  • Workspace: Consider this the place to organize all of those Google apps and tools. Hāpara workspace is a home base for learning that teachers can use to facilitate instruction, automate differentiation, personalize tasks and provide a collaborative experience. Educators can benefit from thousands of publicly shared Workspaces aligned to the local curriculum and customize them to meet their learners' needs. 
  • Student Dashboard: A one-stop hub where learners can find their Google Classroom assignments, Drive files, announcements, and communications from their teachers. Student Dashboard can establish a path to developing more vital executive function skills, greater autonomy, and increased student agency.  
  • Private Library: Allows schools and districts to secure their Hāpara Workspaces in private library collections. Only those within the school or district can see these Workspaces, and they cannot be shared publicly. This has the benefit of protecting licensed content so that copyright is not violated by sharing outside of the organization.
  • Classroom Dashboard: Provides schools and districts visibility into Google Classroom engagement metrics to make better-informed learning decisions. The valuable data provides insight into how Google Classroom is being used, whether or not students are engaged in learning, and developing a coaching and professional learning plan to ensure student success. 
  • Digital Backpack: A flexible solution for equitable distribution of textbooks, resources, and other content. 

The resiliency of educators during the pandemic has not gone unnoticed.  We need to continue to celebrate all that they have and continue to accomplish while also moving forward with pedagogical change that will transform classrooms in ways that future-proof learning. One way to ensure lasting success is to streamline workflows for teachers and students alike. In this case, Hāpara fits the bill for Google users. 

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Learning Recovery Through Acceleration

There is an emerging sense of relief amongst educators as more and more schools are welcoming back students or that the most difficult year is finally coming to an end.  With this excitement comes renewed fears of where many of these kids are academically or will be by the beginning of the next school year.  As such, the most common messaging has focused on the impending learning loss epidemic that is about to plague virtually every school.  While we know there are and will be challenges with re-entry and assimilation, my concern is how the use of a deficit thinking approach to stereotype kids who, in many cases, have experienced immense trauma will affect them.  It’s not their fault that a pandemic occurred. 

A more sensitive and pragmatic strategy is to develop systemwide supports for learning recovery through acceleration.  Remediation techniques tend to address foundational skills and lower-level standards and concepts that emphasize perceived weaknesses—employing an asset-based approach instead of a deficit model shifts the focus to strengths and equity. So why learning recovery through acceleration as opposed to remediation?  Suzy Pepper Rollins provides this take:

The primary focus of remediation is mastering concepts of the past. On the other hand, acceleration strategically prepares students for success in the present—this week, on this content. Rather than concentrating on a litany of items that students have failed to master, acceleration readies students for new learning.

With this approach, as opposed to a deficit thinking focus on learning loss, districts and schools work to develop a comprehensive plan to determine where their learners currently are to help them get back on track and accelerate their learning.  With both a sense of urgency and an array of competing interests trying to advocate for why their way is the best, it is critical not to make the process more complicated than it is.  Don’t overanalyze it or be made to think that just a technology solution will do the trick.  To accelerate student learning, my colleague Kyra Donovan at the International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE) suggests the following:

  • Develop teacher clarity by prioritizing standards using consistent and specific criteria.
  • Implement quick differentiation through vertical alignment of priority standards so teachers can dip down a grade level if needed but move quickly back to grade-level standards.
  • Emphasize rigorous and relevant learning through scaffolded questions and tasks that teach priority standards while allowing immersion in key concepts and skills. 
  • Create checks for understanding by creating and aligning formative. assessments to priority standards.
  • Establish continuous high expectations to instill a belief that all students can and will learn. 
  • Be bold by questioning current assessments and their purpose to determine if you need them all.

It is critical to move past remediations that will further exacerbate learning gaps while identifying and implementing strategies that represent a sound investment to help learners get back on track and accelerate their learning. Below are some more thoughts from Kyra. 

At ICLE, we have developed comprehensive learning recovery through acceleration solutions.  With the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, Congress has made money available to school districts to tackle the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The two rounds of funding are primarily focused on learning recovery but can be used for a variety of professional learning needs. The time is now to develop a longitudinal plan.  Feel free to email me at any time (esheninger@leadered.com) for more information.  

Sunday, March 28, 2021

The Power of Collaboration

There is nothing more gratifying, in my opinion than watching people work together to achieve a common goal.  In a previous post, I shared how members of the 4th-grade team at Red Cliffs Elementary School in the Juab School district collaborated to create a personalized experience that combined choice and data to differentiate.  I was so empowered by what I saw that I captured the story of both teachers. My point was to illustrate an exceptional practice that benefitted all learners and how this might have never come to pass had they not embraced the spirit of collaboration.  It goes without saying that together we are all better, and leveraging others' collective intelligence will only strengthen both individual practices and school culture.

It is rare for me actually to see differentiation during my school visits. Now, this is not to say that it's not happening, but in over thousands of different classroom visits, I have only seen it a handful of times.  The week following my work with the Juab School District in Utah, I traveled to Elmhurst Community School District 205 in Illinois. My week-long visit there was a follow-up from 2019, where hundreds of classroom walk-throughs were conducted with a focus on improving digital pedagogy.  Extensive feedback was provided to district and building leadership, and a plan was developed to begin implemented specific strategies for growth over a period of time.  It was during the return trip that I once again saw differentiation firmly in part of a personalized learning experience. 


  

Upon entering the second-grade classroom, students were observed either completing their list of must-do activities or if they finished a choice board.  Activities were differentiated, consisting of slight alterations in choice board activities, based on proficiency data. The teacher, Lauren Joyce, was observed providing targeted instruction for a few remote learners. Some kids were already at mastery and were able to move forward along their own path. I also noticed Katie Murphy, the instructional coach, playing an active role in the classroom. This was a fantastic lesson that genuinely personalized the experience for all kids where they got what they needed when and where they needed it. 

Naturally, I wanted to capture Lauren and Katie's story, which you can read below.

Teaching during this past year has definitely challenged me, Lauren, to view things a little bit differently and has forced me out of my comfort zone in many ways. Teachers have had no choice but to instruct online, and students have had no choice but to sit on the other side of a computer screen for hours on end. I have had to adapt and think outside the box since I had never taught this way before. Because of the pandemic, this year has been unpredictable and has constantly been changing. Our students have been in school in three formats; all remote, hybrid, and now entirely in-person. I was hesitant at the start of the year about starting small group instruction given the circumstances. I had trouble envisioning what small group instruction would like in a remote and/or hybrid setting.    

District 205 has given us the opportunity to have an instructional coach at each elementary building. For the past four years, Katie and I have worked closely together on different classroom instructional strategies. This year, I knew I would need her support more than ever, especially in leveraging the best instructional strategies using technology. One of my biggest goals this year was to provide purposeful and engaging differentiation in math to meet all learners' needs in my classroom. I had somewhat of a vision about what I wanted this to look like but wasn't sure where or how to start. I often see things as "big picture" or what I want my end goal to be. Katie helped me utilize student data to bring my vision to life. Together, we looked at student data and decided which students demonstrated mastery of math standards and wanted to create more rigorous learning opportunities for these students. This is how Katie helped my big picture vision begin to come to life. A classroom environment was created that integrated the following structures and routines:

  • Collaborative conversations
  • Independence
  • Choice (must do may do) 
  • Self-advocating 

This year has really taught me that we can teach with resilience and still allow for learning to be fun. Katie and I want to make sure learning is engaging and effective. We think with this approach to teaching; we are seeing the students thrive in any setting. They are excited about math as it is personalized through voice and choice while also emphasizing critical thinking and problem-solving. Collaborative conversations with groups help to create the expectations for speaking and listening for them to follow as they work together. Below is a description of what Eric saw during his visit. 

  • Goal was to differentiate math based on pre-assessment data based on proficiency of standards while providing students choice along with teacher instruction
  • Collaborative groups and structures were established where students could work together 
  • Opportunities to follow a unique path to meet or exceed the standard were developed
  • Resources were made available in Google Classroom, such as anchor charts, the daily agenda, and a Google Form for students to communicate with a teacher around their learning.


 

 

One thing Lauren emphasized to me through email was the importance and influence instructional coaching has had on her instructional practice while also improving the classroom environment. She has significantly benefited from Katie's help, guidance, and feedback over the course of their time working together. Katie is the person she goes to immediately with any and every idea she has; her support has genuinely made Lauren a better teacher.

I don't think I would be willing to try some of these things if it weren't for her giving me a gentle nudge and supporting me every step of the way. Additionally, the students view Katie as a member of our classroom community. She has even been given the title "Class Celebrity."

Lauren and Katie exemplify the power of collaboration and the positive impact on both kids and school culture.  The moral of the story here is to work smarter, not harder, and great things will happen.  Be sure to leverage all the resources you have available, the greatest of which are the colleagues in your school.


Sunday, March 21, 2021

Differentiating in the Personalized Classroom

I love visiting classrooms around the country to not only support but to see educators in action.  In my opinion, I learn just as much, if not more, from them as they hopefully do from me.  During the spring of 2020, I connected with the Juab School District in Utah and began what would be two years of longitudinal work to help them take personalized learning to the next level.  The pandemic derailed our planned first face-to-face day. As a result, Royd Darrington, the assistant superintendent, asked me to create asynchronous models for the staff to watch at their own pace. The first was an overview of foundational instructional strategies and pedagogy, while the other five focused on voice, choice, path, pace, and place. 


During the summer, I worked with the entire staff and visited each school to make some observations while offering feedback to the principals. Recently I visited the district where I met with each school to visit classrooms and see how they were progressing with personalized learning. Little did I know that my visit to Red Cliffs Elementary was going to blow my socks off. Upon entering the 4th-grade classroom of Jordan Jones, I saw probably the best examples of differentiation I have ever physically seen in real-time.  One of the hallmarks of personalization is the purposeful use of data, which can be used to group, regroup, facilitate targeted instruction, or differentiate. Upon questioning Jordan, she was implementing all of these!  There was also choice in the form of a must-do and may-do that varied for each group. Below is the picture I captured.  


I could not contain my excitement and awe, so I decided to reach out to get her perspective on this activity. Below is her detailed explanation of what I saw and why she created this activity. 

I have done small group instruction for years. Although it felt differentiated, most of the time, each group was receiving nearly the same instruction. I had a hard time grasping how to personalize instruction to my students' needs because I didn't truly understand which skills they were missing. This year, I have been dedicated to using and analyzing data. This has completely changed my classroom. I can honestly say that I know my students this year better than any other group in past years. Learning how to read and understand student data is what started me onto this personalized learning path.

Starting out this year, my students were in 4 reading groups, similar to what I have always done. Students each went to the same groups, and when the timer went off, they would rotate to the next one. It worked, but it was far from personalized. I had data, and I knew what students needed, but I wanted to find a way to truly make my groups targeted and intentional.

This is when we (my teammate and I) came up with the Must Do; May Do idea. There are certain things that I want each student to complete each day, but these are different for different students. Each group has its own Must Do, and May Do activities. Must-Do activities are intentional activities that target individual student needs. May Do activities help reinforce content and skills that have been taught in class. Some activities stay the same each week, while others change. I have found that mixing up activities with different technologies has helped keep students actively engaged.

While students are completing these individualized activities, my instructional assistant and I can work individually or in small groups with students. In these groups, we use data to identify reading and/or phonics skills that students have not yet mastered and then teach them explicitly. Data is the most significant piece of the success of this format of teaching and learning. Groups are formed based on DIBELS data and data from our i-Ready Reading digital component. Students who are working on skills with myself and my instructional assistant are reassessed every three weeks. This helps me know whether the interventions and instruction that are being given are working if the student has mastered the skill, and what to teach next.

During the week that Eric visited my classroom, students completed a Padlet as a Must Do. On this Padlet, students had to write a character analysis paragraph about a character in a book that we have been reading. We chose a Padlet to complete this task for multiple reasons. The first was to help engage my students in a new way to complete this specific task. In class, we had written these on paper, as well as on Google Docs. The second reason was to allow students to see how others had written theirs. This gave students the ability to read their peers' writing and possibly use them as a model.

I have never felt so confident in my teaching. This year, I can honestly say that I am the best teacher I have ever been, and I am growing every day. I feel confident that my students are getting the instruction and practice that they need. My students have learned to make choices that help them learn the most. I had a student last week say, "I don't care how long it takes. I am here to learn. I like to learn."

A few days later, I learned that Jordan had a partner in crime on the 4th-grade team and collaborated on this activity.  So naturally, I needed to reach out to Crissa Peterson to get her take as well. Success is typically a team effort, and it was so refreshing to hear how shared goals are achieved by working smarter, not harder.  Below is Crissa's take on the activity. 

My teammate and I felt that we needed to create a personalized learning experience that was meaningful and engaging to our students. We didn't want our students just completing activities as busywork. We wanted all of the activities to have meaning and value for that specific student. In order to create our groups, we looked at a few different data points. We used DIBELS data, a Phonic Screener for intervention (PSI assessment) that aligns with 95% group phonic skill interventions; we also used the iReady reading diagnostic results and then teacher discretion. From these results, we grouped students with similar learning needs/levels.

We also wanted to create activities that emphasized what we had been working on during our ELA module and All-Block tasks. We knew that Padlet would be a great option because students can share ideas with one another and modify them later if needed. It gave them a chance to enhance their typing skills as well while reinforcing the ELA standards we had been working on during that unit. We also felt that Nearpod was a great way to assess learning. It is an engaging and interactive tool that provides instant feedback to our students.

In creating our groups, we wanted to give our students voice and choice as well. In doing so, we decided to make our groups using the "must do" and "may do" templates. Each group is assigned different personalized "must do" and "may do" activities," so this means students are doing a variety of assignments throughout the block of time. Using this platform also allows the students to work at their own pace, and it also will enable students to master a standard/skill before moving on. "Must do" activities are the activities that are required for students to accomplish. These are personalized for them based on their learning needs. If students have finished their "must-do" activities, then they can go to a "may do" activity for the last round.

Students often tell us that they love being able to choose the order they complete their tasks in and that the activities frequently change for them. I, as a teacher, love that it gives my students the freedom and accountability to finish their assigned activities while keeping them engaged. Most of all, I love that I am personalizing their learning activities based on their individual needs and providing them the opportunity to work at their own pace, all while using technology and interactive tools.

Personalization is about giving all kids what they need, when and where they need it, to succeed. The dynamic combination of differentiation, choice, and targeted instruction does this. By capturing Jordan's and Crissa's story, I hope that other educators will not only see that this is doable whether or not we are in a pandemic but results in an equitable learning experience for learners.  


Sunday, March 14, 2021

8 Elements of Effective Coaching

I absolutely love coaching educators in small groups.  During these sessions, I get to see firsthand how they are implementing ideas and strategies into practice to grow.  While giving keynotes and facilitation workshops is something I love, both lack an on-going component, which is one of the most critical aspects of professional learning that leads to scalable results.  While one-and-done and drive-by events are great at establishing the why once the excitement dies down, people are often clamoring to figure out how to make what they just heard a reality in their specific context. Having multiple touchpoints and small groups allows for more engagement, personalization, mentoring, feedback, and the time to dive more deeply into concepts.  

There are so many ways to implement coaching effectively, but some specific strategies are listed below:

  • Ask questions
  • Listen intently
  • Be non-judgmental
  • Align ideas to research and evidence
  • Model strategies
  • Provide honest feedback
  • Create a safe environment that encourages conversation
  • Utilize positive reinforcement


The other day, I facilitated a coaching session with leaders as part of a year-long partnership with the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) on digital leadership.  The stage was set in separate large group sessions described below:

In order to fully understand the impact remote learning has on teaching and learning, we must be purposeful in the role we play in supporting and leading teachers in a digital environment. We must inspect what we expect. The only way to do this is to roll up our sleeves and jump into the digital learning environment with our teachers and students. To best assess our current levels of teaching and learning performance in a digital environment, we must understand how to collect the evidence that helps shape our overall understanding of learning now and in the future. 

Once we have gathered the appropriate evidence of teaching and learning in a digital environment, participants will be led through the process of analyzing and interpreting evidence collected in an effort to understand the current conditions teachers are creating, and students are learning in each day. Once there is an understanding of the current landscape, practical ways will be shared in how to coach teachers to keep sound instructional design at the forefront of teaching and learning.

During these touchpoints, I offered specific ways for leaders to successfully gather and interpret evidence of teaching and learning to be in a better position to lead pedagogical change. In between two major workshops have been many small sessions where participants have been tasked with bringing evidence to illustrate how they are successfully leading change in their districts and get valuable feedback.  Each coaching cycle has been designed to personalize the experience for all participants.  My facilitation partner from KDE, Ben Maynard, has been incredible at using Google Jamboard for participants to upload artifacts, ask questions, and brainstorm strategies that the leaders hope to implement in the near future.  

During one session, Jill Angelucci, an assistant principal from George Rogers Clark High School, shared an extraordinary artifact that resulted from professional learning that had been implemented throughout the year.  Since things have been challenging during the pandemic, her school wanted to move beyond the challenges and instead focus on the positives.  What they came up with was having teachers routinely present on what’s worked well. In my opinion, this was genius and not only shared effective practices but also built people up in the process.  

Teachers presented for approximately 30 minutes once a month on Thursday. Below you can see on example of what was created using Canva as a result of the sessions at Jill’s school. You can see all of them HERE


She was able to model digital strategies and ways for teachers to incorporate voice, choice, and path into their learning. It created a second piece to the overall strategy of ‘Think Tank Thursday’ where they continually share and identify other strategies made available to all staff. This was all accomplished while students were remote and almost entirely through Google Meet sessions. An innovative use of space and time was made available, and they plan to continue this while kids return to the building.

The artifact above was one of many that have been shared during the longitudinal work with KDE.  The effective elements of coaching listed earlier in this post weren’t just used by me, but instead the entire group. It was a collaborative process where tangible outcomes were shared and analyzed.  Coaching takes the “why” and moves educators along a continuum of effectively leading change and what can be used to show success.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Digitally-Enhanced Exit Tickets

I love coaching as it provides a lens to see how teachers and administrators act on feedback to grow and improve. It also provides evidence that strategies aligned to research and sound instructional design are implemented in practical ways. Even though this year has been dramatically different as a result of the pandemic, I have found myself even more busy supporting districts through job-embedded and on-going professional learning.  Whether face-to-face, hybrid or remote, the elements of learning and good teaching remain the same.  

No matter where I am, one aspect of instructional design that I often identify as an area for growth is closure.   I have written in the past how important including this strategy is, no matter the grade level of students or the content being addressed.  Closure draws attention to the end of the lesson, helps students organize their learning, reinforces the significant aspects of the concepts explored, allows students to practice what was learned, and provides an opportunity for feedback, review, and reflective thinking. It is hard to determine the effectiveness of a lesson or whether learners understood the concepts presented without some form of closure.  


While there are many strategies out there, the exit ticket is probably the one that is utilized the most. While learners can solve problems or answer specific questions related to the content or concepts addressed, more general prompts can also be used, such as:

  • What exactly did I learn?
  • Why did we learn this?
  • How will I use what was learned today outside of school, and how does it connect to the real world?

A few weeks ago, I received an email from Dr. Nathan Hall, the Corinth Middle School principal in Mississippi.  I have been coaching in the district for over two years now and have written extensively about how the schools' staff have been open to innovative change with the evidence to back it up.  Below is a message that Lori Snyder, one of his 7/8th grade math teachers, sent him regarding using exit tickets for closure:

I had asked about a program for my exit tickets.  I need something like Padlet that allows them to enter their answer anonymously but will not show everyone's answer until I am ready.  I want to use it for real-time feedback. The trouble with Padlet is that they can see everyone's responses as they are posted, and some are copying others' answers instead of doing their own work. Mentimeter won't let them type in numbers. Canvas discussion is not anonymous. You had said something about asking Mr. Sheninger before he came for his next visit.

After thinking about it, I suggested GoSoapBox.  Dr. Hall then passed this along to Ms. Snyder, and her feedback is below:

When they are online answering, the barometer at the top tells me if they need help.  After seeing that some require the problem worked out, I add it to the exit ticket page.

It is always a great day when a teacher or administrator shoots me an email looking for ways to improve.  Little did I know that I would see the GoSoapBox exit ticket in action a few weeks later.  As I conducted my monthly coaching visit at Corinth Middle School, here is what I saw in Ms. Snyder's class:

  • Students solved math problems on dry-erase desks and then submitted their answers.
  • Their work was added to their notebook, which both they and the teacher could refer to see where issues were.
  • The teacher was able to see where misconceptions were immediately.
  • Names were removed from public view, so students weren't embarrassed.
  • The teacher was able to address issues that the majority of the class was having right away by modeling or re-teaching.
  • Individual students who had misconceptions were emailed after school to maximize class time.


I am so proud of this teacher for looking for ways to implement exit tickets using technology.  From the bullets above, you can see the many positive outcomes one small, yet significant, change made.  The key lesson here is that there are always elements of practice that can be tweaked, adapted, or changed in order to improve.  Great educators never stop chasing growth. 

Corinth has been selected as an Innovative District and will be presenting at the Model Schools Conference this June in Nashville. To learn more and register click HERE.