Sunday, December 11, 2016

Making Learning Visible Using Technology Tools

By Nancy Penchev

Technology is an amazing tool that can be used by both teachers and students to create, expand, and encourage learning. Using technology to make learning visible gives students ownership over their work and let’s them have freedom of expression. By providing students with an authentic mode of assessment, teachers are building in higher order thinking skills. But what tools are there that can be used that are simple, easy, and affordable? What tools can be used on iPads, Chromebooks, or other tech? Here are several technology tools that I love and students have enjoyed both viewing and using.

MySimpleShow- This is a newer tool for me. They are a very responsive company and want to learn how teachers are using their tool. This tool allows you to create a movie, fairly quickly and easily. The movie shows pictures that match your words, can feature your voice or a voice provided by the company, and looks professionally made. This is a free, online tool so it can be accessed no matter what device you have. After publishing your video, you can upload to YouTube or other video sharing platforms or download as MP4 file.  MySimpleShow teacher example

Chatterpix/Blabberize- Chatterpix is an iOs app and Blabberize is an online version that makes a similar style presentation. They are both free and easy. In three steps you can create a cute, easy presentation. You upload a picture, draw a mouth, and record your voice. These tools are great for book reports, Science, and Social Studies. Chatterpix saves to your camera roll, making it easy to app smash and present with other presentation tools. Blabberize has been known to have glitches and saves to your computer.

Sock Puppets- Students love this iOs app. It is fun, fabulous, and free (but can purchase upgrades). In this simple app you select the puppets you want in your show, pick a background or upload the background of your choice, select your props, then record the message. The app changes your voice to a cartoon voice. The puppet’s mouths move based on the message recorded.

Tellagami- This presentation tool is another free, but upgrades available for pay. With this tool you create a gami (character), add a background of your choice or one preloaded, then record the message. You get 30 seconds on the free version. If you want more time you can pay to upgrade or simply record and save continually, then upload into Perfect Video to put the longer version together.

Perfect Video- Perfect Video is an iOs app that allows you to app smash, which means put together several projects into one presentation. With Perfect Video you can put together all the projects from the apps above. You can add text and voice.

Writing Technology Tools
Snap n Write- This is a great tool for having students create a postcard. It is simple and easy to use. You click the + sign to add text or pictures, add the “address”, and the stamp. My favorite part of the app is adding a stamp with the location. This is perfect for teaching students about summaries because they do not have a lot of room on the message portion. Once complete, you can save the postcard to your camera roll and app smash it into Perfect Video for a book report or other presentation. You can also print it, share it through email or social media. I put together a few different postcards into Perfect Video to make an example.

Mind maps- Popplet is a great tool to create mind maps. It is an iOs map, as well as a website. This can be used to do vocabulary maps, to organize ideas for writing, and as a note taking form during research. Mindmeister is a free tool similar to Popplet, but is a Chrome app. You can create mind maps and workflows.

Word Clouds- Tagxedo is a website, Word Clouds is an iOs, Quora is a Chrome app. All of these tools allow you to input a group of words and create a cloud of words. Students can paste words from their own writing, copy and paste from primary source documents, and many other ways.

For how to guides on these tools and more, check out my blog:
Nancy Stone Penchev is a Coding/I LAB Teacher and Instructional Technology Coordinator for grades K-5th grade. She has 18 years of teaching experience. Her degrees include a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education, Masters in Early Childhood, Masters in Instructional Technology, and she is currently working toward an EdD in Instructional Technology and Distance Learning. Nancy’s conference presentations include local, state, and international conferences. She has published articles about technology in Teaching in the Middle magazine, Association of Middle Level Educators, ISTE point/counterpoint, and was a focus for an article from Coca-Cola on 9 Ways Technology is Transforming the Classroom. She is an ambassador for Weebly, Commons Sense Media,and Wonder Workshop and was a local award winner for the National Council for Women in Information Technology.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

EdCamp Queen City: Makerspace, Motivation and Much More

By Dr. Nancy Betler

On October 1st the third annual EdCamp Queen City (@EdCampQC) was held at Barringer Elementary School in Charlotte NC.  EdCamps are an incredible trend in professional development where the participants guide the training.  I was fortunate to once again be part of a group of dedicated educators who organized this event.  It was an exciting Saturday of learning and growth!
The day started with an overview of EdCamps given by Nathan Stevens (@nathan_stevens).  Nathan shared how the day would run and that the participants had an opportunity to attend sessions that they felt best met their learning needs. The participants not only choose the sessions at EdCamps that will be offered that day but also decide which of those sessions best meet their individual professional needs.

One of my favorite parts of the day was the MakerSpace. In the MakerSpace teachers were able to test out and learn about different tools to use with their students.  Something new I learned about while in the MakerSpace was the augmented reality app Quiver (@quivervision).    Students are able to color and draw pictures and then see them come to life! This is a great tool to use with your students for story writing.  Since EdCampQC I have used this app with several of my students and have seen an increase in not only the amount of text but in the details in their writing.

Another tool that I enjoyed using that day was Sphero (@sphero).  I have used Sphero before with my students but loved seeing all the different Sphero options available.  The brainstorming of ideas with other participants was also amazing!  I learned new strategies to use with my students.  I came back after EdCampQC and was able to share a lesson, Rate Time and Distance, which another teacher suggested with my students.   This lesson is part of the SPRK education program website but I had never used it before.  My students loved it and I plan to use more lessons off the site.

Ozobot (@Ozobot) is a robot that I had heard about and seen in use but had never used myself prior to EdCampQC.  Ozobot is a tiny robot designed to teach kids coding and programming basics.  It is an engaging and easy robot to use with younger as well as older students.  One idea that was shared was having the Ozobot be Little Red Riding Hood and having Kindergartners code how she gets to Grandma’s House!  With Ozobot students have the opportunity to be creative and have fun while they learn.     


Bloxels Builders (@bloxelsbuilders) is another tool that I was able to use in new ways as a result of the MakerSpace.  Bloxels is a hands-on platform that gives kids a chance to build, collaborate and tell stories through video game creation.   There is a free app available as well as a board that you can purchase.  I am currently hoping to get five sets of the board through my Donors Choose ( project.  One teacher in the MakerSpace shared how she is using Bloxels to help students visualize their creations prior to writing.  This is just one idea I hope to use in the future with my students.

I love MakerSpaces and found the one at EdCampQC to be extremely valuable. I spent a lot of my time at EdCampQC in the Makerspace.  I appreciated sharing and learning about strategies and resources to use with my students.  I finally left the area to attend other sessions but found it to be one of my favorite parts of the day.

After leaving the MakerSpace I went to the session on Breakout EDU (@BreakoutEDU).  Although there were many valuable and interesting sessions available this another area that really peaked my interest.  I had attended a session on Breakout EDU at EdCamp Foothills (@Edcampfoothills) but wanted to learn even more about it.  I appreciated the participant and leader excitement and the group was able to breakout!  The more I see this tool in action the better I understand it and the different applications it can have in the classroom.  There are hundreds of free lessons on the Breakout Edu website and they are not only student but teacher friendly.  I love this creative tool and look forward to using it with my students.

As I end this blog post I feel that it is important to note that EdCamps are made even more special through the support that teachers receive from the different educational companies. Squirrels (@squirrels) donated our lunch that day. Yum!  It made everyone’s day to feel so appreciated. Teachers also had the chance to win fabulous door prizes to use in their classroom.   As I have said before it is fantastic that so many different education companies understand the value of EdCamps.  Thank you to Squirrels and all the other companies that donated that day!

EdCamps are amazing and I love to attend them.  I always leave with new strategies and ideas.  I also love the fact that I helped to make this particular EdCamp a success.  I can’t wait to start planning the fourth EdCamp Queen City!

Dr. Nancy Betler is a Talent Development Teacher at Eastover Elementary and primarily works with gifted and high-ability students in grades K-5.  As a National Board Certified Teacher, she fully embraces life-long learning and has recently earned her doctorate degree.  Nancy is also heavily involved with the North Carolina Association of Elementary Educators (NCAEE) and serves as a Board Member. She looks forward to connecting with you on Twitter @nbetler and being a part of your PLN!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Blended Learning for K-2 Students

4.jpgHave you been interested in blended learning in the K-2 classroom but are hesitant to dive in? Have you been told that your students are just too young to truly utilize Chromebooks and tablets? Think again! Read on to find out how two second grade teachers transformed their classrooms into a blended learning environment and how it has impacted their students.

Last year, various teachers across Franklin County participated in a series of professional development sessions know as “EmpowerED”. These were led by Dr. Lisa Hervey from The Friday Institute at NC State. I (Alyssa) had the privilege of being part of this team! In these sessions, we  focused on stepping out of our comfort zone and integrating technology in various ways across the curriculum.  At first,  as a second grade teacher, I was thinking “how could I ever get my kids to do this!” But luckily in each session we got “PLEARN” time, where I could use the tools and start creating things that could work for my students. Before I knew it, my excitement for blended learning grew! As soon as I got back, I pulled Claire into my room and showed her EVERYTHING we did! She jumped right on board with me and we started planning how we could make this work! To start, we focused just on the “substitution” step of the SAMR model. This seemed most realistic for our students who still struggled to log in, find the keys on a keyboard, and know how to work a mouse!

As soon as Alyssa filled me (Claire) in on what they had been doing in their sessions, I was instantly hooked - and I knew that if WE were this excited about it, our kids would be over the moon! As Alyssa mentioned, we knew that we had to keep it simple to start with - and, full disclosure - majority of the time, we are still in the “substitution” phase of the SAMR model. Make sure that if you are wanting to implement some of the things we discuss, you move at a pace that works for YOUR students - if you throw too much at them too quickly, you won’t have the outcome you’re hoping for. Start small, and start smart.

6.jpgWe know that the distribution of technology across classrooms in North Carolina (and the country itself) is grossly unequal. There are classrooms that are 1:1, and unfortunately there are also classrooms that consider themselves lucky to even have one desktop. The best part about implementing this model of blended learning is that with creative planning, it can be done with any amount of devices. When we started this journey, we each had two Chromebooks, two tablets, andtwo desktops (did we mention that we had 27 students? Don’t let your class size deter you either!) See if you can borrow technology from other grade levels - chances are that someone is at lunch or recess during the time that your kids might need devices and hopefully they are willing to share! Donor's Choose is another great option! Organize who is using which device in a way that makes sense to both you and your kids. Labels will save your sanity - assign certain students to each device so that their log-ins can be stored and they won’t have to enter their usernames/passwords each time. Alyssa is a master at organizing  the devices in a way that was equal for our students - she was able to create a rotation schedule that gave students both individual time and time to work with one another on the computers. This set-up was honestly the most time consuming part - but the payoff is worth it!

2 - Copy.jpgSlide2.PNG9.jpgWe chose to focus on implementing blended learning in ELA last year. Students had specific schedule cards (see Trevor’s on the left) and a log-in sheet inside their “Blended Folder” with every username and password they will need!  That way they have a one stop shop for log-ins for any activity they are doing! Utilize free sites first - ReadTheory, Epic, ReadWorks, TenMarks, and Prodigy  are just a few sites where you can create profiles for your students and track their progress. Google  is a life-saver when it comes to linking websites and assignments for your students. Tackk is also a great tool to link websites in one common area that is kid friendly and teacher friendly!  EDpuzzle can also be linked through Google Classroom and you can use it to create a video lesson on nearly any topic you teach! Keep an  out for grants and trials that some websites run. We were fortunate last year to receive a year’s subscription to Headsprout simply by applying for their teacher grant. The money is out there! 

No matter the amount of devices you have access to, the resources that your school allows you to use, or your number of students - the most important thing to remember is that you have to start SOMEWHERE. Choose one subject area and focus on that. Trying to implement blended learning across your curriculum from the start will more than likely leave both you and your students frustrated. Find another teacher to collaborate with. They don’t have to be in your grade level or even at your school - but you will need someone to bounce ideas off of and reflect on the process in general with. Our students will have jobs that haven’t even been invented yet - if we aren’t putting devices in their hands and getting them to collaborate with one another (both in-person and online), then we are doing them a great disservice. Our students are our future and as teachers we need to prepare them as much as possible to be successful! 

Please feel free to contact us with any questions! We would be more than happy to help you and your students! 


About the Authors

Alyssa Kinary grew up in Saratoga Springs, New York and graduated from The College of Saint Rose with a B.S. in Elementary and Special Education and a MSED in Literacy. This is her third year teaching second grade at Edward Best Elementary School in Louisburg, North Carolina. She is currently a part of the EmpowerED and Differentiation teams for Franklin County Schools. 

Contact email:

Claire Roehl is in her fifth year of teaching second grade at Edward Best Elementary in Louisburg, NC. She graduated with her B.A. in Elementary Education and her M.Ed in Elementary Education, both from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is a member of the Gamma Tau chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, is a board member of the Franklin County Education Foundation and was recently selected as Franklin County’s 2016 Teacher of the Year. 

Contact email:

Monday, October 24, 2016

Reflections & Connections on 13th Elementary School Conference

Our 13th Annual NCAEE Conference was last weekend and my brain is still reeling from all of the fabulous information I learned.


Hearing Kim Bearden was an experience I will never forget.  She is such an inspiration!

Kim reminded me that I always need to forgive others.  I need to find my passion and focus on the art of teaching.  I must remain positive and surround myself with people that are great examples of teaching. Above all, when a teacher has an effect on a child, you essentially affect thousands of others.


I was able to make connections with so many people in so many ways.  Social Media is a great tool with which to gain ideas and connect.  My followers on Twitter tripled and I am anxious to see how they push me to become a better teacher!  I even made friends with people outside of my county!  I love my PLN!


I learned so much through the sessions!  Justin Ashley is such a creative teacher!  He inspires me to take my learning to a whole new level with making my classes more exciting!  I now want to be Ms. Frizzle in Science Class!

Jamie Deming really helped me to see Interactive Notebooks in a whole new light.  I want them to be truly interactive and student-centered, not solely teacher-directed.

Laura Candler motivated me to become a better grant writer and to list more on Donors Choose.  She had some fabulous ideas.  They are so easy to implement and every little bit helps when it comes to your classroom!

Kathy Bumgardner is always fabulous!  My reading lessons have never been the same since I heard her speak the first time.  She has created ingenious tools to help students take ownership of their learning.  They are so simple to use that I was able to go back to school on Wednesday and use them!

Jen Jones had fabulous ideas on how to market my TPT account and make some money!  I really enjoyed learning some great ways to “expand my brand” and supplement my teacher salary.

Vendors and Door Prizes

We had some fabulous vendors from
various publishers, to IESS, and the Biltmore House!  We even had jewelry, purses, and GoNoodle!

There were giveaways and prizes galore!  At the end of the event, some teachers took home prizes from NCAEE or our various vendors.  Who wouldn’t want to win a trip for two to the Biltmore House?

I wish I had been lucky enough to win a door prize, but there is always next year.  I do, however, feel like I won something else: more knowledge to take back to my classroom, more experiences, and more friends that inspire me to become a better teacher.  I cannot wait for our regional conference in the Spring and for next year’s State Conference!

About the Author

Megan Charlton is a third grade STEM Teacher at Patriots STEM Elementary School in Concord, NC.  She has taught Kindergarten, Fifth Grade and Third Grade.  She is in her 12th year of teaching, all of which have been in North Carolina.  She graduated from Kentucky Christian University with a B.S. In Elementary Education and Bible.  Mrs. Charlton has recently joined the NCAEE Board as Teacher At Large.  She blogs at

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Impact of Social and Emotional Learning is Clear!

Teachers care for their students. We care that they grow cognitively, socially, physically, and emotionally. It is why we do what we do. In order to help students reach their full potential, it is critical to purposefully support their social and emotional development by teaching and modeling social and emotional strategies. Doing so impacts other areas of development, including academic achievement. Research shows:

  • 83% of students make academic gains when they have learned about social and emotional strategies.
  • 11% is the average gain on standardized tests for students who learn social and emotional strategies.
  • Social and emotional learning improves behaviors and attitudes toward school and prevents substance abuse. 
  • 11% is the average increase in GPA for participation in one program focused on social and emotional strategies.

How can I teach social and emotional learning? 

Begin by modeling successful Emotional Literacy. Students need to be able to label the emotions they are feeling and the emotions others are feeling. Teachers have accomplished this through having students check in as they enter the classroom and select how they are feeling with popsicle sticks and pocket charts, smart board use, and through drawings. This becomes part of their morning meeting and/or classroom routine and is discussed to model successful labeling of emotions in self and others. Teachers have used read alouds and created prompts matched to the text to ask student how characters feel throughout in the story. Using the read alouds they typically use, teachers have asked students to write on white boards, hold up feeling cue cards, and share responses in order to label characters’ emotions. 

How can I foster social and emotional development?

Once you determine how you will engage your students in these learning opportunities, you can determine where your students are growing along a developmental progression and support their development to the next step using the construct progressions developed by the Office of Early Learning. Moving their development to the next step and modeling how to get there is key to their ongoing growth and development. 

Once students can label emotions, they can learn to regulate their emotions. Again, modeling success is important. Students need to see and understand what it looks like to successfully regulate their emotions. You can discover what this looks like and model it for your students using the Emotion Regulation construct progression provided by the Office of Early Learning. 

Both of these construct progressions can be found here for your use: Emotional Literacy  and Emotion Regulation 

The Office of Early Learning is hosting several sessions this year at the 13th Annual Elementary School Conference in October. Join us to learn more about supporting student growth and nurturing the whole child! Register here today!

About the Author:

Dr. Cindy Dewey serves on the Board of Directors for NCAEE as the NCDPI At-Large Director. At NCDPI, Cindy serves as an educational consultant in the Office of Early Learning on the K-3 Formative Assessment Team. Cindy’s teaching experience spans elementary, middle, high school, and university levels. She also served as a literacy coach, building administrator, and central office administrator prior to joining NCDPI. This is Cindy’s fourth year serving NCAEE. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A Summer to Serve: 4 Lessons I Didn't Know I Needed

Working in Nicaragua for a month was the best preparation for starting my first year of teaching because it taught me hard lessons through experience that I was not aware that I needed to learn before going into a school as a new educator. Here are some lessons all of us should consider as educators and role models.

1. Relationships are a lot of work, but crucial to any and every profession. I returned to work at an organization after being gone for ten months and was able to jump right back into continuing to build relationships with colleagues and students. It was an amazing experience to reconnect with people that felt like family even though they were 3,000 miles away. On the flip side of that experience, there were many relationships that needed a lot of work. I had not put much effort into those because they required more of me. The same is true in any school. First year teachers will have to work with parents, colleagues, and students, and some of the hardest relationships may be the most important. That person that might not seem too significant or that we do not feel like we have time for on a crazy day deserves attention and is worth the relationship!

2. Be passionate and appreciative! It is so easy to get caught up in looking for the perfect job in the best school or to complain about the space or supplies available to teachers, but is that the real reason that anyone chooses to go into education? For a big classroom and the highest quality paper? After working in a school where 52 students sat in one classroom the size of a very small American classroom and copied information out of a textbook all day, I am so thankful for the supplies afforded me here in the United States. I have always been a huge proponent of incorporating educational strategies from other countries to improve the education system in the US, and I still think there is room for that; however, I now have a much greater appreciation for the education system that is established here. I am so thankful for a better understanding and appreciation of the system that I will be working in because it will allow me to approach issues with more insight and a better attitude. We will all still have issues that are worth getting upset over, but let us not become so consumed by justified indignation that we lose sight of the daily goal - to impact students for the better.

3. Focus on the present and take advantage of the opportunities in front of you! I chose to go to Nicaragua the summer after graduating before I had a summer job or a teaching job for the upcoming school year. I spent a good amount of time worrying over what I would do when I returned to the states that I overlooked the opportunities right in front of me to invest in my Nicaraguan students. As a teacher it is easy to become discouraged during the school year and cling to the next break coming up or to looking for a new job, but in doing so, teachers are missing the current opportunities with students right in front of them. Even though it may seem like a long time, we only have from August to June to truly spend time with our students before they have moved on to the next adventure.

4. All of the Americans working in Nicaragua joked that we were "running on Nicaraguan time" which meant that a 9 o'clock meeting might happen at 9:30 or 10:30 or even 11:30. Working daily on Nicaraguan time was an adjustment, and while it was often very frustrating to plan a schedule, it taught me an appreciation for a different culture. Nicaraguan time was not the result of Nicaraguans being disorganized or unprofessional; the case was that their culture had different values. I learned to value taking time to communicate well with others instead of running through tasks each day. There is still something to be said for punctuality, but cultural appreciation is equally important. Working in this relaxed environment also meant that I had to take initiative and hold myself responsible for my own time. Over the course of a career in teaching, there may be times where colleagues and administrators are very invested in your work and your time, but there also comes a point where you are solely responsible for deciding how to budget time. Teachers must choose to work diligently for the sake of their students.

The thing about learning new lessons is that it is difficult and requires humility, but once learned, those lessons make you all the more prepared to tackle life as it comes at you. As a teacher, life comes at you fast with a new adventure every day, so let's take on a humble attitude, cherish our time with our students, and learn from those around us, rather we are in a rural town, an overpopulated city, or another country halfway across the world.

About the Author

Ainsley Gompf grew up in Jackson, TN. She recently graduated from High Point University with a B.A. in Elementary Education and a minor in Spanish. She has loved her time in North Carolina and plans to stay in the area for her first year of teaching. When she is not in school she loves to travel, which is what lead her to work with El Ayudante in Leon, Nicaragua during her free time.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Nurturing Passion, Purpose & Potential: An Inside Look at Our Upcoming Conference!

13th Elementary Conference

We are so excited to share details of our 13th Elementary Conference! This year's theme is Nurturing Passion, Purpose & Potential and will take place October 16th-18th. Once again, our conference will take place at the beautiful Charlotte-Concord Embassy Suites in Concord, NC. Concord, NC is minutes away from Charlotte and boasts many things to do, including Lowe's Motor Speedway, Concord Mills, and a variety of different restaurants.

Luncheon Keynote Speaker

Kim Bearden, Co-Founder, Executive Director, and Language Arts Teacher at the Ron Clark Academy, is this year's luncheon keynote speaker.  She is also a best selling author and acclaimed educator who has received countless awards and recognition. Kim will motivate, inspire, and remind participants of the powerful impact that they can have, despite the pressures and challenges of their profession during her luncheon keynote: Creating a Climate and Culture of Success. Kim will also share the importance of building relationships among staff, families, and students that will motivate, engage, empower, and create success for all. She will share how to ignite a passion for learning, provide support and encouragement, hold high expectations for student behavior, promote parental involvement, and ensure a safe, secure environment for all.

Featured Speakers & Breakout Sessions

We have secured a fantastic lineup of featured speakers-- Jen Jones of Hello Literacy, former NCAEE President Laura Candler of Teaching Resources, Jaime Deming, Justin Ashley, Kathy Bumgardner, Eric Rowles will join us to share their expertise and nurture your passion for teaching! Their session  titles and descriptions can be accessed here.

Our Board of Directors recently met and selected presenters for our Fall Conference. Presenters will be notified by mid-June. We selected a wide range of presenters from throughout our state with varying levels of experience as educators. We are confident our participants will find sessions relevant and will be able to apply what they learn immediately. In fact, we think they will have a hard time selecting which ones to attend! From STEAM to Educator Effectiveness to Technology Integration, we've got it covered.

Enter for a Chance to Win! 

Has this post sparked your interest!? Would you like to attend our conference? Enter for a chance to win a FREE conference registration for the 2016 Elementary School Conference. Entering is easy! Check out the Rafflecopter below and complete easy tasks for entries, including comment on this blog post,  to win a free conference registration ($175 value!).

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Teaching in North Carolina, an International Teacher's Perspective

I think I was born with the ‘travel gene.’ Being from England, I love holidaying in warmer (and less rainy!) climates, but more than that, I enjoy seeing the day to day lives of different communities and immersing myself in new cultures. Being a teacher opens doors to experience these things, as well as developing new teaching practices, through teaching abroad. Two years ago, VIF Global Education offered me a teaching placement in North Carolina and I am currently teaching 2nd grade at Carolina Forest International Elementary School in Onslow County.

I’ll admit, I thought teaching here would be an easy transition from teaching in England. After all, I’d visited America before, spoke the same language, was an experienced teacher… how different could it be? It turns out, that first year of being a foreign teacher in North Carolina was one of the most rewarding yet challenging years of my teaching career so far.

To start with, the education system in NC compared with back home is totally different; more testing, the age to grade correlation, the standards and longer school days. I was used to writing one long report for each child at the end of the school year, so report cards every 9 weeks were a new concept. The amount of acronyms sometimes made it feel like I spoke a foreign language, and I’d never had to eat lunch with my class before (in England you get a lunch break). Turning up at school on day one, the biggest surprise for me was resources- how much teachers spend on resourcing their classroom, the concept of asking parents for donations and children bringing in their own supplies. This was all new to me, so arriving to an empty classroom was definitely daunting.

Thankfully, I was welcomed into Carolina Forest by a supportive principal, generous parents and colleagues that have become friends for life. Here I feel part of a team and I have been overwhelmed at times by people’s kindness. The school is a global community, teaching children to become globally aware, so as well as teaching staff and children about my culture, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about others including, obviously, American. I’ve experienced many things for the first time; spelling bees, pep rallies, teacher of the month awards, tornado drills, early release days, Thanksgiving, the pledge of allegiance each morning, the rules of football, biscuits and sweet tea, teacher appreciation week. Most of these are every day norms for NC folk, but the first time I saw an American school bus I got way too excited!

I may have come to North Carolina knowing that I would be teaching children, but what I didn’t realize was just how much they would teach me. Every day has brought about something new. In class, we have incorporated global learning into all areas of the curriculum, whether it be comparing dollars to pounds in math or writing letters to the Queen. My class’s English accents are now better than mine! I hope they have found it as fun an experience as I have.

Although teaching abroad is not everyone’s cup of tea, it is definitely an experience I would recommend. Being a ‘foreign teacher’ in North Carolina has had its challenges for sure, but these challenges have been outweighed heavily by the positives. When I return back to the UK this summer, I will be taking with me an abundance of new knowledge and brilliant memories I will never forget.

Ms. Francesca Buckland is a second grade teacher in Onslow County. She has been teaching for 7 years and holds a degree in Applied Language Studies.  Ms. Buckland has always had a passion for travel, language and experiencing new cultures. She has worked in schools in Thailand, Australia and Fiji.  

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Avoid the Drama: 6 Strong Tips From One Student Teacher to Another

Alyssa Crawford, Graduate Student, High Point University
Dr. James Davis, Associate Professor, High Point University

Each and every day, there a number of ways that students and teachers shine! There are a significant number of indicators that determine whether or not a student teacher will be successful in the classroom. I believe the most influential indicator is the efficacy of a teacher’s classroom behavior management system. Without taking the proper precautions, student teachers often chance to lose their class before they ever even have it. As a current student teacher, I feel that it is important to offer six behavior management tips for future student teachers to follow in order to maintain a happy and healthy classroom environment. Adhering to these suggestions will allow future student teachers to rest assured, knowing that they’ll be ready for anything that comes their way! The journey ahead will be a great one!

#1: Plan to be flexible.

First thing’s first. The key to any successful school year is the art of planning ahead.
Planning embodies every aspect of teaching- schedules, lesson plans, behavior management strategies, rules, opportunities for celebrations, procedures, emergency procedures, transitions, and so much more. Proper and proactive classroom planning will keep you on track and allow you to teach more comfortably, support students in reaching objectives more easily, and avoid frustrations and unpleasant surprises more frequently. With that being said, planning can only take you so far. Even more important than planning is the ability to stay flexible. Students have a tendency to throw curve balls when it is least expected, so flexibility is key. Finding the right balance between planning and remaining flexible might be difficult to grasp at first, but it is critical for your success as a student teacher. Just remember that flexibility is an essential element of planning and you’ll be fine!

#2: Establish clear rules and procedures from the get-go.

This is an area that should be thought-out before ever stepping foot in the classroom. Think ahead about appropriate rules and procedures that you deem necessary for students to follow. Think about these rules and procedures as boundaries. Without these clearly defined boundaries, students have no concept of what is acceptable and what is unacceptable in the classroom. Every aspect of their daily routine should be broken down and discussed to avoid any potential confusion. Be sure to post these rules and procedures around the classroom for all students to see. This is a great way to hold students accountable for their actions and it eliminates any potential confusion or miscommunication. If you can take this suggestion to heart, the result will be a much happier, healthier, and more productive learning environment for you and your students.

#3: Implement an effective behavior management system that works for you and your students.

Without this component, the time spent creating rules and procedures is essentially a waste of time. A behavior management system is a crucial in the classroom. It sustains student focus and effort level on a daily basis, while also keeping them engaged in learning tasks. My recommendation is to get to know your students before investing time in a behavior management system. For the first week or two, use your cooperating teacher’s behavior management system. If this works for you and your students, great! If not, you’ll need to determine what you want to change, in conjunction with the cooperating teacher, in order to get the results you desire. Remember, without proper behavior, students won’t be able to apply themselves academically. It is extremely important to enforce some type of behavior management system so that you can keep an orderly and productive classroom.
Whether it’s a traffic light system (green, yellow, red) or a clip system (students move clip up and down during the day according to their behavior), just make sure that it works for you and your students. Lastly, make sure that your system incorporates an educational component, training students what to do, when to do it, and how to do things differently in the future.

#4: Think wisely about your incentives and consequences.

Just like your behavior management system, this is something that must be decided after getting to know your students. Figure out what motivates your students. Do they respond well to praise? Do they enjoy positive reinforcements like tangible items? Would they like to be your helper for a week? Would they like to eat lunch with you in the cafeteria? These are all questions that must be taken into consideration so that the incentives truly reward good behavior. If you choose an incentive that doesn’t motivate your students, you risk the possibility of eliminating the behavior you so desire. This also rings true for consequences. If you choose a consequence that has no effect on your students, the chance of eradicating the negative behavior is unlikely. Make sure that your consequences are enough to stop the negative behavior from occurring again. This takes time to develop, but it is well worth it when the result is a highly motivated and well-behaved classroom. Just like classroom instruction, your incentives and consequences must be differentiated in order to maximize success.

#5: Be consistent and stay firm.

When it comes to enforcing rules in the classroom, make sure that you are staying consistent and firm. As a student teacher, it’s easy to let students get away with things that they shouldn't, because the comfort level with disciple has yet to be established. Do not fret…this is something that develops with time and experience, but do not let this be an excuse to let students walk all over you. The worst thing you can do is let them get away with something that should be addressed. Once this happens, students will slowly begin to take advantage of you. It’s nothing personal, but if the decision is between wiggling out of trouble and facing a consequence, the choice is an easy one. Make sure that you are being consistent and firm when it comes to enforcing rules, otherwise students will notice the inconsistencies and take advantage of them. In addition, do not make a rule that you are not willing to enforce. This only makes it harder for you to stay consistent and firm. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Choose rules that are easy to enforce, and it will be smooth sailing. You’ll thank
yourself later.

#6: Build relationships with your students.

Last, but certainly not least, is the importance of teacher-student relationships. Believe it or not, building relationships with students will minimize classroom disruptions and improve student engagement. Students know when you are being authentic, so go out of your way to make connections with them. If it’s between eating your lunch in the faculty room or eating lunch with your students, choose the latter. You might feel like you need some time to yourself, but believe me when I say that students will appreciate the time you spend with them. Find out what their hobbies and interests are and speak to them about yours. Having these conversations with students allows them to feel more comfortable with you as their teacher. They will start coming to you more often and your cooperating teacher a little less (which isn’t an insult to your cooperating teacher…this is the goal in a student-teaching experience!). Understand that you have a significant impact on your students’ lives. Think about it: they spend more time with you during the weekday then they do with their own parents! This is a job that cannot be taken lightly, so make sure that you’re willing to devote yourself completely to your students. I guarantee that if you do, it will pay off tenfold.

In closing…
Prepare for a fun and meaningful journey! Don’t let suggestions and tips overwhelm you, but rather, use them as tools to improving yourself as a student teacher. Your students will benefit when you take matters into your own hands, so why go through the motions when you can go above and beyond to be the best that you can be? Good luck, stay calm, and avoid the drama!

Alyssa Crawford is originally from Delaware. Alyssa graduated Cum Laude from the University of South Carolina in December, 2012, as a Public Health major with a minor in Communication Sciences and Disorders. Most recently, Mrs. Crawford was accepted into the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program at High Point University. Alyssa is currently finishing her student teaching internship at Southwest Elementary School. Alyssa Crawford will graduate from High Point University in December, 2016. 

Dr. James Davis ( has been an educator for the past 16 years, serving as a Professor, Educational Consultant, Principal, Assistant Principal of Instruction, Youth Director and classroom teacher. He is currently licensed to serve as a teacher, principal, curriculum specialist, and Exceptional Children’s Director.

Dr. Davis earned a bachelor’s degree in Middle Grades Education and a Master’s Degree in Middle, Secondary, and K-12 Education. He began his career as a teacher, in a middle school classroom. Dr. Davis taught English and Social Studies. While teaching, James Davis was accepted into the Principal Fellow’s Program. He completed a second master’s degree in School Administration and later completed his doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Urban Education.  Dr. Davis worked as an assistant principal of instruction prior to becoming a principal. He worked as a school administrator at both the elementary and secondary level. The majority of Dr. Davis’ time as a principal has been at turnaround schools, priority schools and “majority minority” schools. He has been named both teacher of the year and principal of the year. He has presented and been published at the state, national, and international level.

Currently, Dr. Davis serves as an Associate Professor at High Point University, working in the elementary, middle grades, and educational leadership departments. He consults with numerous states on school turnaround, effective instruction, and effective leadership, at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Dr. Davis lives with his wife and three daughters in NC.

He works daily on his personal mission statement, to "Love Kids, Support Teachers, Involve Parents, and Pass it On."

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Teach Like You Tweet!

We can never underestimate the power of belonging and relationships. As educators, we know the correlation between establishing relationships and student achievement, but have we considered the need to create a sense of belonging in our schools with regard to personal and professional growth and the dynamics of student interactions? Seeking the answer to this question took us on a rewarding journey to teach like we tweet.

Professional Learning Networks (PLNs) make our classrooms richer by giving us a growth mindset. Through PLNs, we learn new ways to think through situations collectively and to solve problems. These networks can help us avoid burnout and provide us with a fresh perspective.

PLNs also allow students to look at the world through a global lens, design, collaborate, critically review, learn from entrepreneurs and authors, and get immediate feedback from each other, the school community, and the larger world. Building relationships, developing a sense of belonging, and facilitating connections is what it is all about in elementary school and beyond.

Setting the Stage

So where did we begin this adventure? After setting the stage with ground rules for students and our peers, we began building our community of teachers and learners with simple free backchannels like TodaysMeet ( Backchannels allow conversations to go on behind the scenes. Participants can be a part of the conversation without interrupting the delivery and flow of the lesson. They can ask questions, give examples, take polls, gather feedback, share links, and more. Reluctant students have an avenue to voice ideas and ask questions. Virtual rooms can be opened for a day, a week, a month, or longer, and transcripts can be printed for student portfolio use or other needs.

Introducing Twitter

Twitter supports the Common Core in many ways, including developing a “deliberate, fewer, clearer, and higher” articulated skill set. Media literacy standards are also woven throughout the Common Core and align nicely with the use of Twitter. How so?

* Media messages are produced for particular purposes and as such are constructs. It is our role to teach students to question specifically and purposefully, and 140 characters is pretty specific.

* Media messages expand the concepts of literacy and encompass both analysis and expression. Students need an ever-evolving continuum of skills, knowledge, attitudes, and actions to become the reflective and engaged participants that are essential for a democratic society.

* Using Twitter can help students look beyond late breaking or “gotcha” news. While media is a part of our culture, we must help students see its social and political implications, how to make informed choices, and how to avoid doing harm.

Armed with a list of digital etiquette do’s and don’ts and a “paper tweet” design that helped students conform to the 140-character limits of Twitter, we began modeling how to teach fact or opinion, summarizing novels, editing and revising peer paper tweets, writing tweets from a differing global lens, and searching hashtags for collaborative activities. Learning to be clear, concise, and deliberate through a paper tweet and learning what makes a “favorite” or “retweet” proved to be engaging, meaningful work for all of us.

Full-Force Twitter

Full-fledged use of Twitter came next, with modeling, monitoring, and more. We all used Twitter—teachers and students—to debate the best ways to solve math problems, teach grammar rules, make predictions, hypothesize, compare and contrast. The skill of communicating in 140 characters or less allowed us to explore, ponder, and think more deeply than ever before.

We also used Twitter to formatively assess a newly learned skill, as students’ short tweets allowed us to see if participants were on track. Twitter also helped us with goal setting, creating connections, crafting ongoing stories and poems, and expressing learning through Common Core “I Can” statements.

Over time the opportunities for using Twitter increased and became more complex: tracking a hashtag, solving a logic problem, tweeting through the voice of a novel’s character, promoting service learning projects, and posting pics of collaborative work or end products. Twitter started conversations, helped participants find answers to their questions, and created change in our classrooms and schools.

As our students became Twitter power users, we introduced TweetDeck, (https://tweetdeck.twitter. com) as a platform for following multiple Twitter feeds, hashtags, and users. With TweetDeck, students can zero in on specific conversations and ideas. TweetDeck facilitates participation in TweetChats. (— exchanges built around a specific topic or hashtag such as #edchat or #AMLEwebchat.

Finally we introduced, a free app that allows users to collect tweets and curate them into a newspaper style format. Think about the possibilities of using Twitter plus to produce team, grade level, or school news through a format of 140 characters or less!

Expanding the Classroom Walls

The increased use of Twitter and the development of PLNs helped us realize the answer is, and always has been, “in the room.” The only difference is that the room is suddenly larger. Twitter helped us build a sense of belonging, create an increased positive culture, and improve student performance and engagement. Facilitating connections helped us grow as teachers and leaders. Learning outcomes improved and social media helped us get there.

* Originally published in AMLE Magazine, March 2015
* Recipient of a 2015 Gold Award for Effective School Communications and Public Relations from the North Carolina School Public Relations Association

Brent Anderson currently serves as the Director of Secondary Services and Susanne Long currently serves as the Director of Curriculum, Research, and Development Services for the Onslow County School System in Jacksonville, NC. Together, they have presented at the 2008 through 2015 NMSA/AMLE Annual Conferences, 2011-2015 NCAEE Conferences, the 2012 NCASCD Conference, the 2013 and 2014 NC Collaborative Conference for Student Achievement, 2014 and 2015 NC Principal Fellows Program, and the 2014 and 2015 NCMLE Conference.  Mr. Anderson and Mrs. Long are also slated to present at the 2016 NCMLE and 2016 NCASA Conference. Mr. Anderson and Mrs. Long also had a previous article published in the AMLE Magazine, October 2013.