Best Practices In Teaching, Learning, and Technology Integration

Welcome to my Blog! I hope to share innovative information that I learn about technology integration and best practices in teaching and learning. Combined with good instructional strategies,technology integration is the key for creating an engaging and rigorous environment for students. Feel free to join the site and follow my blog posts. I look forward to interacting with you and adding you to my Professional Learning Network. Thank you!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Check Out My New Course for Middle School Teachers!!

<Click here> to receive a coupon for $10 off the price of the course!!  This course is a self-paced, self-guided, and interactive professional development course where you will be able to apply the practical information, technology tools, and handouts in your classroom immediately. <View Course>

In this teacher training course you will learn:
1. How to effectively structure and manage your classroom to improve 

student behaviors 
2. How to structure Lesson Plans to engage students bell to bell 
3. How to communicate with students and parents 
4. How to choose appropriate grading and assessment strategies 
5. ...and much, much more! 
Certificate of Completion will be emailed after satisfactory course feedback is completed. View the trailer on Facebook and like my page! Thanks! 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Easing into Technology Integration with Plickers!!

First, I have to give a big HATS OFF to the teachers pictured below. They were a lively, enthusiastic group ready to learn and share on a Saturday morning. I had the pleasure to facilitate training to this awesome group of teachers during their Saturday Technology Academy on 2/4, where the topic was Embracing the 1:1 Classroom.  I shared Plickers as a great formative assessment tool that can ease even the most reluctant or skeptical teacher into integrating technology on a regular basis.  The power was in the live view, where teachers felt good about providing instant feedback to students and displaying results to spark discussions around learning. Teachers were excited that they would know immediately if students "got it" or if they need to reboot and ask different questions to ensure student understanding. The teachers shared other cool features they enjoyed: free, printable cards, survey mode, and non-threatening environment with hidden names.  


Monday, August 1, 2016

Improving Mathematical Thinking with UPS Check Problem Solving Template

For many years, I have watched students catch on to a mathematical concepts, often displaying a huge smile and sense of pride.  However, when it was time to apply that conceptual knowledge to a word problem, sometimes, even the brightest students would just shut down!!  During my work as an instructional coach, I was able to offer professional development to an awesome group of teachers who learned the UPS Check strategy for problem solving, utilized it with fidelity in their classes, and offered feedback to perfect the template and the process. As a result, our students achieved great gains in the area of Algebraic Thinking and Problem Solving.  Students went from skipping most of the word problems to really persevering to problem solve! The template is pictured below.  You may <CLICK HERE> to download it.  Also, check out Ms. Mickle, as she used this strategy as a formative assessment with her Geometry class. Please share if you have other strategies that help with solving word problems.


Friday, September 26, 2014

Increasing Rigor with Accountable Math Talk: Starters for Students

Last time, I shared the need to increase the amount of time teaching conceptually, as compared to teaching only procedural knowledge. As a teacher of mathematics, my work and my coaching are strengthened by visiting several classrooms and observing teaching strategies.  In order to support and build teacher capacity, I often compare practices of teachers with high student value added results and those that are not so high. One take-away I am focusing on is based on the Standards for Mathematical Practices (SMP) #2 Reason abstractly and quantitatively and #3 Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.  Self-reflection and evaluation are two themes that are no longer limited to teachers and adults.  With our increased focus on rigor and standards mastery, it is imperative that students are able to evaluate their solutions for reasonableness, as well as critique the mathematical thinking of others. 

So, what is common in classrooms with high achieving students? One practice that has "stuck out like a sore thumb" for me over the last few weeks is allowing students opportunities to engage in mathematical dialogue.  The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards states that "Accomplished teachers deliberately structure opportunities for students to use and develop appropriate mathematical discourse as they reason and solve problems.  These teachers give student opportunities to talk with one another, work together in solving problems, and use both written and oral discourse to describe and discuss their mathematical thinking and understanding." In classrooms where students are struggling with math, I ask that teachers reflect on the day and/or week, by asking:  1. Have my students had time to engage in "math talk" during my class?  2. Have I intentionally planned for "math talk" today or this week? and 3. How do I know that each student has engaged in "math talk" this day/week?

One lesson I learned as a classroom teacher was that arranging students in groups (close proximity) did not automatically mean that they would have meaningful learning dialogue. I can remember giving students a group assignment and saying, "be sure to talk with your group members and give feedback."  But, now I am sure that students were thinking to themselves, "what does she mean or what should I be saying or asking?" While preparing for National Board Certification, I learned that this communication skill must also be modeled and taught.  In my research to offer assistance with this in my schools, I took several of the "starter phrases" and put them together in card form so each pair of students can have readily available examples of how to have "math talk" when they are defending their work to come to a consensus. Here are 3 examples of the 16 cards that are held together nicely with a small ring binder. Click here if you would like to download the entire set. 

I also encourage teachers to go a step further and generate reflective data on students' mathematical discourse.  In other words, how often students respond with the correct or incorrect answer, and from what level of Blooms Taxonomy or DOK do these questions come. What valuable data to have for reflecting on lessons, using in parent conferences, or preparing for special services. This can be done with a chart on a clip board or using one of my favorite tech tools, the Stick Pick app, which conveniently serves as a random student picker as well as a tracker of total student responses, % correct, and Bloom's level. Click here to view the Stick Pick Blog for more information. 

Below is a snapshot of data from Stick Pick. Feel free to comment. I would love to know how you ensure and track student accountable talk in the classroom.  

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Teaching Mathematics for Conceptual Understanding

There is a common thread with many students I have come in contact with over the last few years, when teaching and discussing mathematics.  Many students are:  1. not remembering math from year to year; 2. not able to easily transfer math skills to other subjects, and 3. not able to problem solve. As a teacher of mathematics and math coach, this is troubling. 

In this microwave era of, “I want it now,” and “what’s taking so long,” many teachers of mathematics have resorted to equipping students with a series of algorithms and procedures to commit to memory.  However, as we are preparing our students to be college and career ready, long gone are the days where mathematics equates to numbers only.  To equip our students to compete locally and globally, our focus must shift to helping students develop insight, versus only procedural skills.  Thus, the much debatable topic of teaching for conceptual understanding and learning is worth delving into. It is not surprising that when polled, many K-12 teachers are not familiar with what teaching conceptually looks like, and how it is carried out in the classroom. Many of us sat in classrooms where we watched a teacher go through solving a problem, wrote down the “steps,” and then proceeded to practice fluency by working another 25 to 50 problems. No wonder many parents have labeled their child’s math homework as “new math!” This is understandable because of the early focus in education to produce industry workers (i.e. assembly line workers, welders, automobile workers). But what this teaching lacked was equipping students to: make sense of problems and persevere in solving them, reason abstractly as well as quantitatively, construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others, model with mathematics, use appropriate tools strategically, attend to precision, look for and make use of structure, and look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.  Sound familiar?  It should, because these are the Standards for Mathematical Practices, the way in which we should deliver math content. Now, our task as teachers is to prepare students for jobs and careers that may not exist yet, and teaching through the lens of the Standards for Mathematical Practice will ensure conceptual understanding. This knowledge takes them far beyond procedures and fluency, arming them with the critical thinking and problem solving skills needed to be successful today and in the days to come.

The Learning Principle from the NCTM Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (2000) is a good resource to gain an understanding of conceptual knowledge.  This principle states: “Students must learn mathematics with understanding, actively building new knowledge from experience and prior knowledge.” This supports the fact that rote memorization is not the key to high achievement in mathematics, especially if our students don’t understand the math.  However, I do not discount procedural fluency in any way.  But, there must be a balance in order to improve student achievement. 

So, how do we correct this lack of conceptual understanding in the mathematics classroom?  Allowing students to model concepts, use manipulatives in class, and express their findings in words will help students gain an understanding of complex ideas.  Give students opportunities to express and defend their thinking, as well as receive constructive feedback from peers and the teacher. This should not be limited to learning at the elementary level.  Take time to incorporate the practice of estimating.  Also, giving students an opportunity to express math concepts in multiple ways leads to conceptual understanding, in essence, understanding the why before practicing procedural fluency (the how).  Dan Meyer says it best in his TED talk, Math Class Needs a Makeover, and offers examples on how to begin changing our delivery to best meet the needs of students of mathematics.

After sharing these ideas with my middle level colleagues, I was pleased to find that several teachers have changed their practice to include the modeling of concepts with an understanding of why/how it works, before delivery of procedural knowledge. Also to my delight, while conferencing with a reflective teacher, she shared a new practice she will incorporate to begin assessing conceptual understanding.  By simply inserting a “think check” component into her daily lesson, she will learn if students are taking away an understanding of why, and not only how.  This will also remind her to plan for conceptual understanding in her delivery, so students will be able to answer such questions each day. 

Here is an image of an example:

Related Resources to aid in teaching mathematics for conceptual understanding:

Teaching Student-Centered Mathematics: Developmentally Appropriate Instruction for Grades 6-8 (Volume III) (2nd Edition) (New 2013 Curriculum & Instruction Titles) - Illustrates what it means to teach student-centered, problem-based mathematics, provides references for the mathematics content and research-based instructional strategies, and presents a large collection of high quality tasks and activities that can engage students in the mathematics that is important for them to learn.

LearnZillionInstructional VideosSee visual, conceptual explanations of the Common Core State Standards, along with guided practice and note-taking guide.

3-Acts Math Tasks Inspired by Dan Meyer - Storytelling to provide a framework for certain mathematical tasks that is both prescriptive enough to be useful and flexible enough to be usable. One minute of video or one photo to tell the start of a mathematical story that will engage learners in asking a question.

Mathalicious -Real-world lessons help middle and high school teachers address Standards while challenging their students to think critically about the world.

Conceptual - Promotes math as a tool for understanding yourself and the world around you.

Statistics Education Web - Improve statistics education at all levels, with relevant, useful, and meaningful applications.

Works Sited:
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (2000). Principles and Standards for School Mathematics. Reston, VA: NCTM.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Teaching Problem Solving to Young Mathematicians

Problem solving in mathematics is an important skill as outlined by the first CCSS Mathematical Practice: Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. Students who master this skill early are better prepared for more complex math and problem-solving tasks. So, why do our young learners have a difficult time mastering this skill? As a math coach, I have been stressing integrated problem solving with my teachers. However, last week I was able to observe a teacher as she worked through a problem with her students, and realized that students would have benefited from being familiar with strategies to assist in thinking and problem solving. She also recognized that most of the students were fearful when viewing so many words written closely together, providing information about the problem. It is math class for goodness sake! 😅 Middle school students are still at the stage where they need visuals and mnemonics to help with recall and understanding. So, I found the visual below, shared it with my teachers, and they thought it would be useful. So, how do we as teachers of mathematics help our students reach a proficient level in problem solving? A practice guide entitled, Improving Mathematical Problem Solving in Grades 4 Through 8, published by IES outlines 5 recommendations to improve mathematical problem solving by our students. These research-based recommendations have specific examples of how each should be carried out. View the practice guide below. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Formative Assessment with Mastery Connect: Best Find So Far!

Most educators agree that formative assessment is a powerful practice when it comes to improving student achievement.  After-all, how do we know how to tailor instruction if we don't make "spot checks" along the way?  I attribute my successful track record of growing students in the mathematics classroom to frequent formative assessments. In 2010, my favorite tool of choice was the SMART Response interactive response system, generically know as "clickers."  I was able to assess students quickly and often, while tagging questions with standards. This allowed me to differentiate for each student and learn what standards students had mastered and when they were ready to move on.

Now, in the age of mobile devices to aid teaching and learning, the "clicker" has taken a back seat to several on-line tools and Apps.  I recently discovered Mastery Connect, which has a free version that allows teachers to track the Common Core or state standards for every student.  What a powerful tool!  With the free version, up to ten questions can be administered to students, where they answer on their iPad or fill in a bubble sheet that is scanned by the teacher's mobile device (iPhone/iPad) or Web Cam.  Students get immediate feedback and results are tagged with mastery, near mastery, or remediation.  Several math teachers that I have shared this with are excited to have this data at their finger tips. Another plus is the collaboration with a huge network of teachers who have uploaded assessments to share. Watch the video below to see how some of the features work.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Reframing and Refining the Worksheet | Edutopia

Reframing and Refining the Worksheet | Edutopia ( An Insightful article which expresses the need for periodically using worksheets in the classroom, but in a meaningful way.)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

7 habits of highly effective teachers Always Prepped Blog

7 habits of highly effective teachers Always Prepped Blog This is an insighful article written about the habits of effective teachers with regards to using technology.  I love the first habit, "Don't use technology for technology's sake!"  Click on the link to read all 7 habits.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Using Prezi for Student Projects

PREZI is an online presentation software tool with a zoom-able canvas, that makes it fun to explore, and is visually captivating to  your audience. Watch the video below to get an example of what students can do with Prezi for project presentations in all subjects!

Virtual Museum Projects

What is a Virtual Museum Project?  ...basically, a collection of electronic artifacts and information resources - practically anything that can be digitized.  Virtual Museums can be created in Microsoft PowerPoint, with non-linear slides.  A collection may include paintings, drawings, photographs, recordings, video segments, etc.  This "non-linear" presentation gives the viewer the option to "jump" over slides to specific groups of slides.  So, students would create “rooms” where researched information is housed, with links back to the “entrance.” Virtual museums were first presented at the ISTE (NECC) in 2005.  Now, with several ways to "spruce up" Microsoft PowerPoint, virtual museums are a welcome, well-sought-after way to engage students, which creating amazing projects. Teachers from Keith Valley Middle School, in Pennsylvania shared their slideshows, where they begin using these museums to replace traditional art history reports.  Students can easily develop virtual museums from scratch, and use these museums to further their knowledge of curricular objectives in academic subjects across the curriculum.  This project promotes student creativity and engagement.  Below are a few links where you can view additional information on virtual museums.  View the video below to see some student examples.  How could you use VMs in your classroom?  Comment below with ideas or questions.   

Benefits & Purpose:
o They allow for integration of  21st Century Skills into traditional learning.
o They promote cross-curricular integration by having students link ideas.
o The museums provide new, meaningful, and contemporary opportunities to integrate technology.
o They help students gain presentation skills.
o They motivate student learning through high-interest activities.
o Research for the museum and the construction of the museum requires students engage in higher-level 
o They encourage reluctant students to write.
o They appeal to students who are visual learners.

Virtual Museums to teach integrated subjects:
o  Students can create rooms about topics other than history (e.g., math, science, literature, civics, geography).
o  Students can create rooms on a single theme with each room representing a different content area (e.g., If
    studying Galileo, one room may focus on geometry, one about daily living during his time, one with a written biography, and one on the science of his time).
o  Students can present the rooms in the form of an auction with bidding starting at a set amount for each 
o  Have students use the same pictures in each room, but use different writing styles for the placards (e.g., 
biography, persuasive, descriptive).
o  Use the museums to teach research, notetaking, and writing skills.
o  Have students create museums as portfolio assessments of all content areas from a single semester.
Excerpts Taken From: Educational Virtual Museums Developed Using PowerPoint

Resource Links:  

Friday, March 16, 2012

April is National Poetry Month!

Would you like a way to integrate technology into your poetry unit? It can be difficult to do anything more with a poetry unit other than reading and writing poems. Educators need to integrate technology into their lesson plans more and more as companies are demanding future employees with computer skills, and the technology generation is growing bored with traditional teaching methods. Many states now mandate technology to be a part of the curriculum. So, here are few ideas:

1. Using Photo Story 3, you can turn your class poetry into a narrated video for students to enjoy and take home! Photo Story 3 is a Windows program that creates slide show videos using digital pictures. The program is very user friendly, allowing users to keep it as simple as possible or more polished if they choose. The options included in the program range from cropping and rotating pictures, using color effects on pictures, to transitions and music/narration. The example below is a Photo Story of the poem "Candlelight" done by Charlotte S; Poem written by Coreena Lindquist:

Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

2. Using an electronic Flipbook, you can turn your students into published poets!  Issuu is allows you to publish books and magazines in a digital format, where the pages actually flip as if you were turning a paper magazine or project.  Students and parents really like this feature, and projects can easily be posted on your webpage.  See an example below.  

3. Using Voicethread, you can have students illustrate and narrate their poems, and comment on each other's work.  This is a great way to promote dialogue among students.  Below is an example of a third grade class in Brooklyn New York.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Embracing the New Interactive Classroom

Some of you may ask, “Why do I need a NEW classroom?”  “What’s wrong with the classroom I’ve always had?”  I manage my students pretty well; My test scores are good; My students come back to see me year after year. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills conducted a poll, and 80% of voters said that the kinds of skills students need to learn today are different from what they needed 20 years ago. And 99% of voters said that teaching students 21st-century skills is important to our country’s economic success.  Students are ready for this shift to multimedia—even enthusiastic. "Students are more comfortable experimenting with technology and visual media because these are a regular part of their lives outside of school.” So, this PRESENTATION clarifies what these skills are—and some new engaging ways to teach them!

Generating Multiple QR Codes with Google Docs Spreadsheet

QR Codes have become extremely popular in schools lately.  Please view my PRESENTATION to learn some ways that they can be used in the classroom.  Many teachers that I work with have incorporated video book reviews by the students as a formative assessment.  A great way to "publish" these book reviews and share with other students is to generate QR Codes to adhere to the books.  Students can scan the codes with their smartphone, iPad, tablet or laptop/PC (with webcam) to see a peer-review of the book!  Dutch Fork Elementary School has  set up a QR Code station in the library for students to view the opinion of their peers on video before deciding to check out a book.

Generating several codes can become time-consuming if you are using any of the QR Code generating sites.  However, you can decrease the time dramatically and organize your codes by using a Google spreadsheet.   Tammy Worcester provides this Tip of the Week: Click on this TEMPLATE to enter text or URLs, and a QR code will automatically be generated for you.  Then, simply copy and paste the code to your desired designation. Or save the codes to any location on your computer.  In order to view the codes in the Google spreadsheet, be sure to change the view from normal view to list view. 

Are you using QR Codes in your instruction, or do you plan to?  If so, please comment and share some ideas about what you are doing or plan to do. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

TimeToast: Create Interactive Timelines in Minutes

This online Web 2.0 tool allows students to create timelines in minutes.  Yes, it's free!  See the example below, as a student displays his research on the American Revolution.  Try it yourself at

Friday, February 17, 2012

Mimic Twitter in the Classroom to Increase Engagement

Embrace the backchannel and engage your students with which allows you to create a room where students can participate in a real time conversation. In the classroom, what a great way to supplement the showing of a film, increase engagement during presentations, and more! Check out the introductory video below:

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Flipped Classroom: Will you be "Flipping Out?"

In November, I facilitated a professional development workshop for secondary mathematics teachers on technology integration, based on Marzano’s instructional strategies, with positive feedback and implementation of the Flipped Classroom by several teachers.  The LiveBinder for the presentation is in a previous post.  One strategy that yields a 20% gain in learning is Homework & Practice.  However, research shows that students should adapt skills while they are learning them.  Speed and accuracy are key indicators of the effectiveness of practice.  That being the case, what does it say about students who get home and become stuck while trying desperately to follow the day’s notes to complete homework problems?  Often this results in feelings of frustration and ineffective practice. 

The flipped model of instruction is an innovative teaching strategy that can elevate those frustrations and have students prepared to work problems in class, where the teacher can assist.  This also creates more time for application activities or labs, where students will be able to cover more material with a deep understanding. I used this model with great success in the mathematics classroom (on a small scale) to differentiate instruction, but only periodically as remediation or enrichment. The reaction from the students was extremely positive.  They enjoyed being able to learn at their own pace by pausing and rewinding at will.  EDMODO was a great tool to post lesson videos and elicit student feedback.  While reflecting and searching for new resources, I stumbled across this video.  The flipped model of instruction will take some teachers more time to become sold on the strategy.  This is a paradigm shift for teaching and learning.  Instead of our traditional role as “sage on the stage,” we are now the “guide on the side.” Watch the video below to see how the success of this strategy convinced a high school principal to FLIP HIS ENTIRE SCHOOL!  What do you think about this model of teaching and learning? Do you think there are any content areas the flipped classroom wouldn’t work for?

Additional Resources
Flipped Class Network:
Co-learning Network:
Great Webinar: