Monday, April 12, 2021

Classroom Management with a "Consistent" Impact

In Scholastic’s Teacher Magazine, Harry K. and Rosemary T. Wong, explain that, “A well-managed classroom is perhaps even more important to students than to teachers because it gives them a sense of security.” Consistent expectations and procedures give children opportunities to develop habits, self-awareness, and to take ownership for their own decisions; they develop a routine for living. In 2018, the University of Georgia reported that adolescents with predictable routines showed lower levels of stress hormones, were more likely to continue positive habits into adulthood, and also were less likely to develop negative habits like alcohol and drugs.

While the postive impacts of classroom predictability and consistency on children is not news to most educators, trying to maintain those elements in a remote or partially remote setting can be very challenging. When the classroom structure was flipped on its head due to Covid, many Northwest ISD educators knew the foundational importance of consistency and found creative ways to establish new norms in a mostly digital classroom environment. These practices have been carried through emergency remote learning and are being implemented as an ongoing practice that allows students to develop habits and empowers them to take charge of their own learning.

Chisholm Trail Middle School’s Yari Kemp implemented a functional Bitmoji classroom in her Pre-Algebra classes early in the school year. She provided links to the frequently needed resources and course information. Mrs. Kemp evolved this concept into a week-at-a-glance agenda for her students that she now embeds weekly into her Moodle page. This regularly updated Google Slide deck contains descriptions and links to everything done in class and allows students the opportunity to use that resource to plan their schedules, review concepts and assignments, and to take responsibility for the lessons by accessing the resource independently in the digital classroom environment.

Lashaumbe Jernigan, an Algebraic Reasoning teacher at V. R. Eaton High School, uses a week-at-a-glance calendar as well but in addition, she provides an easy to read Google document for her remote students where she records everything done each day. A parent of one of Mrs. Jernigan’s students said, “Mrs. Jernigan is fabulous! She posts everything my son needs right at the top of her Moodle page so that it’s the first thing you see. My student and I can easily see what he needs to do throughout the week and how he should prepare for his quizzes, scheduled on Fridays. Students can use the Daily Lessons chart to go back and look at work they are missing in order to help them stay on top of their own work.”

Many NISD teachers have adopted methods for helping to empower students to have more independence in managing their learning. Teachers frequently put their own twists on these strategies and they use everything from Google Slides to newsletters to automatic emails as a means to help put the responsibility of learning in the hands of their students.

 Amanda DeSimone, a Spanish teacher at V.R. Eaton High School said, “I know they are looking at it because one day I forgot to post it and that was the first thing they asked for so that they could plan ahead for the week...They’re becoming better time managers and these resources help to answer the frequent question of ‘What are we doing today?’” These strategies will carry over with students outside of their digital classroom environment and help them to be successful long after they finish these courses. The time management and organization skills students are developing as a result of these methods impact students in ways that students, parents, and teachers all appreciate. They help to build a rhythm and “routine for living” that can be applied in many aspects life.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

EnRICHed in the Writing Process!


What if you had a million dollars to help America? How would you spend it? Money talks and we can not wait for you to hear from our writers. 

Progressivism is a new unit for NISD 5th graders. Instructional Technology joined forces with ELA coaches Kelli Palmer and Laura Maunsell to make this year’s Progressivism DBQ not only digital, but interactive. The use of Pear Deck and Jamboard allowed for meaningful class dialogue, collaboration, critical thinking, and published communication for both in person and remote learners. Mrs. Rebone’s 5th grade remote class including students from Nance, Lakeview, and Seven Hills along with Mrs. Sprowls in person class at Granger Elementary share their experience. 

Collaboration and Critical Thinking: Jamboard Hook

Mrs. Sprowls In Person Jamboard Work
Mrs. Rebone's Remote Jamboard Work

The unit unit began by capturing student’s attention and allowing them to explore major problems in our country. Task #2 of the hook states, “Pick one problem and explain how solving this one problem would help in solving the remaining six.” This hook was eye opening for students. Jamboard allowed them to discuss and take notes with their partner, whether in break out rooms or in class. Groups brainstormed ideas and thought critically together about problems they would explore later in the unit. Jamboard allowed Mrs. Sprowls and Mrs. Rebone to see each group’s responses in real time. With tools like Jamboard and Pear Deck, students are held accountable to have a response. In fact, remote learner Imanmachi pointed out, “I like the technology we used because it’s not a big worksheet you have to complete. With technology, we had to have an answer for each question. It helped us not get behind.” 

Individual Note Taking: Marking Up Our Text in Pear Deck

Annotating in Pear Deck

It’s important that students connect with texts. Both Mrs. Sprowls and Mrs. Rebone modeled for students as they read the background essay titled, “Where will you put your Million Dollars?” Pear Deck allows students to use annotation tools to mark up their essay for close reading. Additionally, teachers have the ability to toggle between teacher and student paced mode. When modeling, teacher paced mode was used, however, It will be important for students to be able to go back to the document as they progress through the unit to look at their notes and annotations. 

Comprehension: Exploring Documents A-D in Pear Deck

Pear Deck Teacher View During Self-Paced Time

Within the Pear Deck slides, students explored four different documents. These documents covered forestation, child labor, women’s suffrage, and food safety. 

Remote learners explained “We really liked exploring the different problems because it helped us learn about the past. Imanmachi  comments, “I thought way back when, America was perfect, but it definitely was not.” Narrowing the focus and exploring each document stirred up different passions for each student, which was helpful as they started thinking about where they would put their million dollars. 

With Pear Deck, teachers have the ability to comment on individual student responses anytime throughout the unit. They can see which slide each student is on to best know who needs support. Teachers can also toggle to teacher paced mode to lock screens, project anonymous responses, and discuss important topics as a class. Imanmachi adds, “Mrs. Rebone shared some of my responses for the class to see. Sometimes we will say thank you so others know the answer was ours, but sometimes we like to keep quiet.”

Communication: Bucketing and Drafting Our Write in Pear Deck

Mrs. Rebone Projecting Student Responses on Pear Deck

Once the research was done, each student chose where they would put their money. With Pear Deck, each student was held accountable to mapping out their write and choosing their three topics. Mrs. Rebone chose to project anonymous responses and chat about the different paths students in her class had chosen.

Grace explains, “I have a short memory span. Having the Pear Deck slides has helped me organize my thoughts, especially when I get ready to write.” 

Students learned to support their topics with research, They knew everyone would have different essays based on where they decided to put their money. Madeleine from Mrs. Sprowls class mentioned, “My table partner wanted women’s suffrage, but I thought food safety was most important.” However, Elijah and his table partner both chose food safety to be their number one priority. 

Communication: Published Letters to Aunt Bessie

Sample Letters from Mrs. Sprowls In Person Class and Mrs. Rebone's Remote Class

The unit culminated with the students sharing their voice in a final letter to Aunt Bessie explaining and justifying where they would put their money. 

A Big Success

All in all, this unit was a success both for in person and remote learners in NISD. Remote learners in Mrs. Rebone’s class have learned “we all have different opinions. Sharing our thoughts on Pear Deck has taught us to respect different opinions and relate to the opinions that are the same.” Madeleine from Mrs. Sprowls class comments, “I think next year’s 5th graders should do this unit because we didn’t understand the history of America and I bet they don’t either. We learned about history, but also got to provide our own opinions on how to make it better.” Remote learner Grace adds, “I love the mix of working all together, being in groups, and getting time to work alone.” Both Mrs. Sprowls and Mrs. Rebone have done a great job allowing for self-paced learning, teacher led lessons, and student led discussion. This unit was a great example of gradual release and engagement in the writing process.  

Monday, March 29, 2021

What's Your Number?: A Mysterious Zoom Experience

With a full year under our belts of learning in a Covid world, we have seen so much growth in our classrooms across the district regarding the integration of technology in new, and exciting ways. We’re seeing technology being leveraged to move learning forward. It’s being used to connect us with learners outside the four walls of our classrooms. It’s presenting opportunities that may not have been considered prior to the pivot we made last Spring. The challenges of this pandemic have been great…but the outcomes of those challenges are worth talking about and celebrating. 

One tool many of us gravitated towards at the beginning of the pandemic was Zoom. Zoom allowed us to reach our learners remotely. It allowed connection when we were all in isolation. It allowed our teachers to check in with their students to support both academic and social emotional needs. Even after our buildings opened back up, we still had a great number of students and teachers using Zoom to connect for remote instruction. Zoom has been an integral part of the successes over the last year. 

Most recently, we have had teachers leverage Zoom to connect their students with students across the district and with students in a neighboring district. An educator from Denton ISD posted on Twitter that she was seeking to connect with another class in another district for a Mystery Number Zoom. The professional learning network (PLN) that Twitter provides is incredible. This was absolutely an experience I knew some of my educators would be interested in. Zoom was used to host a Mystery Number experience in Mrs. Janese’s Kindergarten classroom, connecting her students with students at E.P. Rayzor Elementary. 

During the Mystery Number Zoom, Mrs. Janese’s students were tasked with guessing a number between 1-100 by asking the other class yes or no questions about their mystery number. This included questions like: Is your number even? Is your number greater than 50? Does your number have a five in the ones place? After asking the question and receiving the answer from the other class, students marked their hundreds chart accordingly. The other class then asked their yes/no question. Each group used the questions and answers, their hundreds chart, and their knowledge of numbers to guess the other class’ mystery number. 

“The Mystery zoom was so fun! The kiddos love asking questions and trying to solve the mystery number. They also enjoyed keeping their number a mystery and answering the questions. Mrs. Janese and her students really enjoyed this experience. She said, “It was great to see both classes cheering each other when they solved the mystery numbers. It was wonderful connecting to another class especially now, and we would love to do this again!” Coleman and Braxton, two students in her class agreed, saying, “We loved this and want to do it again.”

Another Mystery Number Zoom took place between two remote classrooms within the district. Mrs. Mogg and Mrs. Thomas, both 2nd grade remote educators in Northwest ISD, were excited to partner their students with each other. This partnership allowed students from nine different campuses to connect via Zoom. For Lyla, it Mrs. Mogg’s class that part of the experience was especially exciting. “I would like to do this again because it was really fun to meet new people from different schools where they are learning some of the same things.” 

During this experience, students were assigned in groups to breakout rooms, where they took turns sharing their screen to reveal clues about their Mystery Number. Students used Pear Deck and Seesaw to share their clues, while the other students used critical thinking and their knowledge of numbers to guess the mystery number. Mrs. Mogg, Mrs. Thomas, and building principals Mrs. Bunch & Mrs. Oster were able to pop between breakout rooms to interact with all students. “I was thrilled to do this Mystery Number Zoom with another remote class”, Mrs. Mogg explains. “It was such a cool opportunity for my students to take ownership of their learning by creating their very own clues to identify a number! They loved getting to share them and connect with students from different campuses.”

If you are interested in partnering with another teacher in our district to create an opportunity like this, reach out to your campus Instructional Technologist for support. 

Monday, April 20, 2020

No One SAW this Coming, but we SEE NISD Keeping Learning Alive!

We can all agree that the current situation is not ideal. Educators are unable to expect what they normally would from students. While teachers can’t recreate their normal classroom environment, our Northwest ISD educators are amazing! They have been able to keep learning and literacy alive, connect with their students, capture their voice, provide personalized feedback, and involve families as an integral part of their child’s growth. For K-2 teachers, Seesaw has been the platform for making these goals a reality. Mrs. Fitch, Mrs. Perry, Mrs. Davis, Mrs. Embry, and Mrs. Moore from Granger Elementary have not only used Seesaw with fidelity all year, they’ve gone up and beyond to meet the needs of their students as they learn and grow from home. 

Continual Learning: 
Each Sunday, teachers send required and optional assignments home for students to complete. Perhaps one of the best features within Seesaw is the ability to capture student voice by allowing students to explain their thinking. With provided structure through Seesaw activities, teachers can encourage students to take their learning deeper with questions and question stems. One of Mrs. Davis’ favorite activities during remote learning is the Animal Adaptations science activity. Listen to the student’s understanding of adaptation, their language of the discipline used, and their ability to apply this learning to a real life situation. 

Click HERE to Enlarge and Listen

Continual Literacy: 
One of NISD’s goals for this year is literacy. Seesaw has allowed teachers to encourage students to keep reading and share their reading while they’re at home. One of Mrs. Perry’s favorite activities sent home to her Kinder class encouraged her readers to simply capture a picture of themselves reading. Mrs. Perry shares, “This activity not only encourages reading, but gives me a chance to see and listen to them read.”  
Click HERE to Enlarge and Listen

ELA coach Rebecca Maddox points out, “Seesaw is benefiting students, parents and teachers during this remote learning time with it's ease of use. Seesaw has allowed our youngest readers and writers the ability to respond and capture their thinking in a variety of ways. They use pictures and voice recordings to capture their thinking for others to view. It is great to see that students can document their reading and writing lives in this format to capture how they continue to grow and learn!”
Students from across NISD are reading and sharing their reading. The first week of extended break, Mrs. Moore sent an optional Seesaw activity to her class asking them to share about a book they read and one they are hoping to finish. These activities have since led to a deeper knowledge of books as the latest activity prompted readers to not only read, but to stop and jot information about the characters in their book. Get a glimpse into’s Reese’s reading HERE or by clicking the images below.

Click HERE to Enlarge and Listen

Stop and Jot (Week of April 12)

Engaging students in their learning is one of Mrs. Embry’s favorite aspects of Seesaw. She states, “Seesaw provides me the opportunity to create engaging lessons that allow students to respond in a way they are comfortable with. They can create a picture with drawing tools, type, or create a video.” Mrs. Embry, Mrs. Davis, and the Granger second grade team have personalized reading assignments by linking in an Adobe Spark video encouraging students to find fun places to read as they work on their reading stamina. It's fun for students to connect with their teachers by seeing them teach and encourage in the videos they send home.

Click HERE to Enlarge 
Mrs. Embry’s Spark Video
Mrs. Davis’ Spark Video 

Connecting with Students (SEL): 
It’s tough not seeing student’s faces each day. It’s important that students know how to identify their feelings, but also that they have a platform to share and be heard. NISD has prioritized social and emotional learning this year, which has helped equip our students beyond their content knowledge. Granger students are especially familiar with “Seesaw Feeling Checks.” These activities have become especially important as teachers get a pulse for how their students are doing, even when they can’t see them each day. Click on the image below to see an example of Mrs. Perry and Mrs. Moore’s feelings check. 

Click HERE to Enlarge

Mrs. Fitch points out, “My favorite part of using Seesaw is being able to connect with my students! I love being able to post videos directly to their journals and I love getting videos from them even more. It is nice to be able to post work for one student, or the entire class with one click.” Mrs. Fitch continually provides her students with personalized video feedback. Check out how Mrs. Fitch used Seesaw to wish one special student a Happy Birthday and make her feel special even from afar.
The heart of our NISD teachers is what makes students excited to learn!
Click HERE to Enlarge and Listen

Providing Personalized Feedback: 
Another benefit of Seesaw is that it protects the privacy of our students and allows teachers to differentiate and provide personalized feedback for students without displaying that feedback to the entire class. Mrs. Perry is very intentional about giving writing feedback on student work. Click on the image below to see samples from the last few weeks. 
Click HERE to Enlarge
Seesaw allows feedback to be written, voiced in an audio comment, or even a personalized video.
Inviting Families Into The Learning:
Mrs. Davis comments, "By using Seesaw daily, parents are able to see what content we are working on and what products their child is creating.  Parents have been very thankful for this program as Seesaw is sparking conversations as home, and parents are able to connect our learning at school to real world situations at home."
Click HERE to Enlarge
Click HERE to Enlarge

Student Growth: 
Lastly, another NISD goal for the year is that students showing yearly growth. Since Seesaw is the house for these student’s learning, teachers are able to see growth over time. Mrs. Davis states, “We have used Seesaw since day one as our students’ academic portfolio, so seeing growth is easy when you compare assignments from the first few weeks of school to their current work.”
Mrs. Fitch adds, “Being able to provide feedback and having the students go back and check their work has allowed me to see growth in their writing. I have assigned the Daily Oral Language activity for three weeks and have seen growth from week to week.” 
NISD is the Place to Be: 
Our NISD teachers are a walking example of this quote by George Couros, “Technology will not replace great teachers, but technology in the hands of great teachers can be transformational.” Our teachers have thrived in a season of uncertainty. While the situation is not ideal, these teachers have not thrown in the towel. They’ve connected in a way that shows their heart for students and their heart for learning. 

*The NISD IT Team is happy to announce that NISD has purchased Seesaw for Schools for the upcoming school years. This purchase is for all NISD schools ages Pre-K to 5th grade. Click HERE to learn more.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Adapting to a New Technological Environment

While biological adaptation happens due to environmental stressors over long periods of time, mental and social adaptations can happen much faster under certain conditions. What we are currently witnessing in relation to teaching and learning is a change that not only shows what we, as humans, are capable of but also the degree to which our schools are capable of serving students. While education reform seems somewhat out of reach most days, times like this, although unfortunate in many ways, can force our constructs and viewpoints to change and ultimately result in natural and positive reforms. Dr. Derek Voiles put it best in a recent tweet when he said, “The schools we walked out of won’t be the same schools we walk back into when this is all over. Our schools won’t just be different, they’ll be better.”

Northwest ISD is fortunate to have many resources already in place to help make our staff and students successful during times like this. However, the particular challenge brought about by Covid-19 has shined a light on areas of need and allowed us to take steps to help improve things like online access, technology training, and remote communication. In addition, educators in our district have been given the challenge of using this time to really focus on student relationships, learning, and growth in very innovative ways.

Math typically takes a lot of practice and, traditionally, practice looks a lot like plugging away with a pencil, paper, and a calculator to work out a solution. While that pencil and paper practice is an important part of understanding the way math works, NISD Algebra II teachers took it a step further by trying their hands at an app called Explain Everything on the iPad where they smashed it together with Zoom to create incredible videos that bring calculations off the page for students.
In addition, Becky Spasic and Carla Dalton, at Byron Nelson High School, took this opportunity to share their knowledge of this app with fellow teachers by using it to create a “how to” video for implementing this strategy in a remote classroom setting. This strategy is one that adds an element of comfort and personalization to remote instruction while also helping students approach content from a variety of platforms.

When NISD teachers began looking at the shift to remote learning, many wondered how elementary students would be able to learn without being physically present with their teacher and classmates. How could our youngest children possibly manage their own learning tasks? It became apparent very quickly that most of our elementary teachers were teaching a level of independent learning prior to the break and that many of these students were able to adapt very quickly to a remote situation.
Seeing third grade students manipulate Google Slides and Google Drawings to illustrate understanding of ecosystems and food chains is truly an amazing process to watch and it almost makes you forget that you are watching eight and nine year olds as they move adeptly from one application to another while happily finding ways to showcase their knowledge. The teams of teachers creating these lessons know their students, know their capabilities, and have prepared their students to be self-sufficient learners.

Although the changes in the trajectory of society due to Covid-19 are some that we will be navigating for years to come, the world of education is one that is capable of mastering this shift and the obstacles that come with it. Educators are meeting this challenge head on with every bit of creativity and determination they have for the sake of their students. Some critics are predicting that this change will automate learning in a way that will make teaching an obsolete profession. However, through this, we are not only learning how much technology can help produce student independence but we are also learning how necessary human beings are in making the use of these tools relevant to learning and student success. Without previously established expectations and student relationships, these teachers would be dealing with completely different results. Educators are a necessary element to making learning meaningful for each and every one of their students and they cannot be replaced by technology. Circumstances like this will only enhance skills of both teachers and their students and everyone will grow as a result.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Not Just Students, PODCASTERS! Sharing Our Learning One Episode at a Time

What do you hear when you listen to student created podcasts in Mrs. Webster’s class? Excitement, love of reading, love of writing, kindness, empathy, teamwork,  student ownership, laughter, different personalities. Mrs. Webster’s student podcast hosts have EXCEEDED expectations as they make their voice, passions, and learning come to life on a regular basis. Mrs. Webster quotes it best, “These students are meeting the expected standards of learning without even realizing how much thought and work they are putting into it. They just think it’s fun!" She adds, “These pod-casters are writing, coming up with their own plan, reading, summarizing, reflecting and creating.  I feel like they are truly owning their own learning.”

An Ongoing Routine: 
Mrs. Webster's Podcast Wall 
At the beginning of the year, Mrs. Webster had all of her students set up their own Padlet wall as a platform to house podcast episodes. She also had each student include their podcast on a class podcast wall to mimic a Podcast app where listeners can access different podcasts at any given time. Students started the year reviewing podcast expectations and best practices. “When we first started, I would assign a reflection or give students an idea for a book recommendation podcast. Now, students are coming up with their own topics. Mrs. Webster adds, “Along with requesting to review books, some students have even created their own podcasts based on discussing friendships, positive vibes, and funny times.”

Mrs. Webster doesn’t grade podcasts or require a certain number of episodes. This is why seeing that some students have 10-15 episodes is so powerful. Mrs. Webster has also equipped her students to be quality control for the episodes. “As a class, we listen to each other and give feedback on the planning, pausing, summarizing, pacing, etc.” In regards to making time for podcasting, podcast reflections have become a part of Mrs. Webster's afternoon ELA stations. If some students are unable to get to the podcast station, they make time for them to complete the next morning first thing.

Emery, Claire, Nick, and Henry have especially enjoyed their podcasting journey. Emery states, “I love being a podcaster because I get to tell people how I feel, what I’ve been working on, and what I’ve learned.” Henry adds, “I like that I get to work with a partner and choose what my podcast is about.” Claire’s favorite part of podcasting is interviewing other people to see what they’ve read and how they’re doing. Nick loves that they get to work and have fun at the same time.

SEL (Relationship Skills and Social Awareness)
Emery and Claire Working Together to Record an Episode
“Podcasting is a process,” says Emery. “You have to stay focused. If you get too funny, the people listening won’t understand what you’re saying. Claire and I have to work together to make our podcast come to life. We’ve learned that we can’t interrupt each other and need a clear written plan” Emery and Claire talk about resolving conflict when they have had hard times deciding who was going to get to share certain parts of their episode. It’s neat to hear how podcasting has helped Claire become aware of other’s feelings. “Sometimes we just have to pause and talk if we start to argue,” she says. “We’ve learned each other’s strengths.” Emery adds, “for example, Claire is really good at explaining characters and how they act.”

Nick has realized that through his podcasts, he has the opportunity to encourage others. He states, “If someone is sad, we might be able to cheer them up. We try to be really positive. My favorite episode is number eight when I’m talking about my friendship with Henry.” In this episode Nick and Henry talk about their similarities and differences, but how they’ve remained friends regardless of their differences.

Making Connections
Not only have these students learned to collaborate together and think about their partner and audience, they’ve also learned to apply character traits and feelings to their own lives. After recording an episode about Jory Jones’ Book, "The Bad Seed," Claire points out, “This book teaches you how people have their own personalities,” she adds “If you don’t like how someone acts, the lesson is to be kind and make sure people feel welcome.” On this episode, Emery asks, “ Is there anything in this book that relates to you?” Claire responds by talking about her ornery brother and how she should be kind even when it's hard

"Knowing that we're going to record a podcast over the books we've read, makes reading even more purposeful." Claire adds, "Podcasting makes me more excited about what I’m reading. It makes me think about how the characters are feeling and how characters change, so I can talk about it on the podcast." Emery points out, "We go back to our books to remember how characters were feeling. Their actions show how they’re feeling."

In addition to recording episodes about books they've read, students have written their own stories and fairy tales! They’ve enjoyed interviewing each other as authors. Emery recorded an episode over a story that Claire wrote, titled, “Lucky Puppy.” On the episode Claire states, “This book really has a connection to me and my life when I was little.”
Mrs. Webster states, "I love all of the episodes, but some of my favorites are when the students make connections with the books they have read and discuss how a book may have impacted them deeply. There seems to be something magical that happens within the physical act of talking it out for them on a podcast. When students are recording in a smaller group, they tend to express deeper thoughts than maybe they would have written down or shared in a whole group setting. At times, they can get really deep and other times they can get really silly, but overall, they feel completely safe in sharing their unique personalities and creative ways throughout the podcast, and this I absolutely LOVE with all my heart!"

Next Steps: 
Sharing Our Podcasts at Expo 2020
These students got to share about their podcasting journey last Thursday at Expo 2020. It was a powerful presentation as these students shared an ongoing routine that means so much to them.

Henry would like his next episode to be about a current favorite book of his, "Flames of The Tiger" by John Wilson. I'm sure there are many more podcast episodes to come from Webster's 3rd grade class. They are also interested in sharing their episodes outside the walls of their classroom, possibly with one of their favorite authors.

Explore Claire's Podcast and the Writing Template Students Used to Prepare: 

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Monuments & Mysteries: An Innovative Jigsaw In Language Education

At Northwest High School, AP Spanish teacher Ginger Cline is doing more than teaching a language. She works hard to truly connect her students to the cultures of the people who speak the target language -- that takes intentionality and innovation. Fortunately for her students, she is committed to both.

In addition to language, culture can be found in the stories told and monuments recognized. Whether a globally-celebrated landmark or simply a local treasure, monuments hold meaning, and by learning about them we can learn more about the culture and ideas that they represent. That said, it would be impossible to teach every student about every meaningful monument across Spanish-speaking cultures. That’s why for this assignment Mrs. Cline put a few engaging twists on a tried and true method -- the jigsaw method.

The traditional jigsaw method works like a puzzle. First, students take on the role of investigator and teacher; they work in small groups to understand and become experts on a part of the overall collection of information before then teaching their small part to their peers. Even though students are initially only responsible for learning and teaching one part, through the presentations at the end, all students have the exposure to and opportunity to learn all of the material. Because students have become experts on part of the information with the purpose of teaching others, this process gives students ownership in their learning.

screen grab of Padlet
But more than exposure, Mrs. Cline also wanted her students to create and to have a cross-class collection of student-created resources that they could look back on for this information. That required some creativity on her part. Here is what they did:

Students selected a monument they were interested in and were tasked with creating a screencast about that monument in their target language (Spanish) that both introduced the monument and explained the story behind it. Then, students shared their screencasts on a collaborative Padlet. By having students create screencasts in their target language, Mrs. Cline was able to assess each student’s language learning through an authentic product.

Preview of a Bingo Board created by Mrs. ClineThe next step was to bring the learning together. Through Padlet all students could access and watch each video, but Mrs. Cline motivated them to do so by creating BINGO boards based on the videos students created. Playing BINGO together not only ensured that students would watch the videos, but that students’ had an authentic audience in their peers. Students could also see the relevancy in their purpose for creating -- knowing someone will see your work and find value in it makes learning more meaningful.

Mrs. Cline’s Mysteries and Monument Bingo is a reminder that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to be innovative, but you do have to push the boundaries of tradition. She started with an established, sound teaching strategy -- she kept the most valuable parts and then skillfully integrated technology to create a deeper and more meaningful learning experience for her students.