Global Read Aloud 2016


The Global Read Aloud is the beautiful brainchild of Pernille Ripp who has inspired close to a million participants this year to make connections through a shared book.  Starting October 3rd through November 11th, classrooms will connect around one of five age-appropriate selections above.

If you missed  EdCollaborative Day of PD, I hope find time to view some of the 19 workshops, along with Christopher Lehman’s Introduction and Katherine Bomer’s Keynote.  One workshop not to be missed is Workshop 11 with Pernille Ripp.    It gives information about the history of the Global Read Aloud and suggestions for implementation.  but the highlight was to hear students speak about the impact that GRA has had on their lives.  You will be signing up for Global Read Aloud right after hearing these articulate young people speak so movingly.

Let me know if you would like to connect over one of the GRA books this year!


Make It Stick Book Review


Memory is the mother of all wisdom.


                                              Prometheus Bound

Reading the first sentence in the preface of Make It Stick by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III and Mark A. McDaniel made me roll my eyes:

People generally are going about learning in the wrong ways.

I’m familiar with the most efficient ways to learn.  What can be new under the learning sun?

Well, as I started to read, I quickly stopped the eye-rolling and grabbed a pencil to write down all the practical new ideas and extensions on tried-and-true practices gleaned from this book:

You learn more by testing yourself than rereading

The authors emphasize that asking yourself questions and/or being asked questions during the learning cycle and at regular intervals afterwards does more to embed new information deeply into your brain than anything else, including rereading.  Students are encouraged to, “Read a little bit and test yourself” while teachers are encouraged to give students regular low-stakes quizzes with clear ground rules, such as “Students can drop 4 quizzes, no make-ups, no exceptions.”

A teacher in the book runs “testing groups” rather than “study groups” with the emphasis on closed books and the discussion and exploration of questions and ideas.

I love the example where the teacher asks the group a question and records their answers on a whiteboard.  (Students are encouraged to answer from memory, not notes.)  The teacher asks students which of three answers they think is correct by a show of fingers.  Then, the teacher asks each student to find someone with “a different number of fingers,” and talk it out.

QuickWrites Plus

The book details a teacher who asks students to write everything you remember for ten minutes at the end of class.  What I like is that the teacher has all the students go back and look at the notes to see what information the student did NOT remember and come into the next class cognizant of the weak areas.  This metacognitive twist is powerful and this quickwrite plus activity would help students figure out not only what they do now but what they don’t know.

Three other ideas gleaned from the reading are

  1. a)  regular sketchnotes to show learning visually
  2. b) “learning paragraphs” where students get the opportunity to respond to test questions well in advance of the actual test.
  3. c) Answers to test questions are keyed to Bloom’s taxonomy levels and students are handed that sheet and their test and asked to determine what level their answers reflect.

Read this book if you would like to refresh your approach to teaching and learning while striving for your students to replace “the illusion of knowing” with wisdom.

Here is a Reader’s Companion that I created based on some ideas from the book.

Look Around! A Learning Framework for VR


Image Source:

I was very excited and honored that my VR lesson was included in a “Getting Smart” article, “3 Ideas for Using Virtual Reality with Place Based Ed” by Emily Liebtag.

This article touched on the use of VR before and after trips to actual destinations but the same thinking can be applied to a completely virtual learning cycle.  Trips to grand locations are not always possible in reality but much can be learned by “visiting” these places virtually.

VR contributes to a democracy of experiences.  A teacher may not be able to provide students with an actual tour of the Grand Canal of Venice but, through VR, students can gain a greater experience of this place than ever before possible.

The use of a single powerful VR image, repurposed for different points in the learning cycle, can provide an engaging visual scaffold for learning.  Here is a learning framework that can be used with any VR image:

VR Learning Framework

ENGAGE Working in partnerships, students could be given a blank VR image and asked to explore and then “tag” it with at least ten questions, including appropriate attribution for the original image.
EXPLORE Students explore the Abaiang Atoll guided lesson or other teacher-created VR lesson, responding to teaching points and capturing their thinking in notebooks or responding within the image, using Google apps to other interactive links.
EXPLAIN Students would then be asked to return to the original image tagged with their questions and create an updated tagged VR image which explains what they have learned. 

Students can add tags that:

*respond to their original self-generated questions

*showcase learning through artwork/videos/captions/reports/blog posts/commercials created by the students that demonstrate understanding.

*add ideas generated from the self-guided lesson.



Students would be asked to research to find or create another 360 image of a place that has been or will be impacted by the teaching theme (global warming, in this example)) and tag it with information and anaysis.
EVALUATE Students and teachers would use checklists, rubrics and/or feedback forms to evaluate learning and use feedback to improve VR projects.

(A “I used to think….  but now, I think…” scaffold may be one option for reflection)

Students would reflect on the one or two VR learning artifacts and write a ½ page reflection, perhaps in response to the unit’s  Essential Questions, which could be posted along with the tagged VR panoramas in a digital portfolio.  

Some of the next steps for VR are to compile a list of easily searchable databases of VR images that can be used in the classroom, as well as creating lesson bank for VR lessons that includes mentor images and student samples.

Would anyone like to use a VR lesson in an upcoming lesson?  I would love the opportunity to partner with you and share ideas!

Look around!  The future of VR in the classroom looks bright, don’t you think?




September Multimedia Contest: Inspired by Peter H. Reynolds

screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-12-25-16-pmThe T

For eighteen years, I had the pleasure of hosting a monthly Writing Contest at Kensico School for Grades 3-5.  I loved the process of selecting a theme, creating flyers and certificates but, most of all, being able to read and celebrate the amazing student work.  I am currently working on a handbook for teachers interested in administering classroom, school and/or community multimedia contests in order to foster strong home/school connections.  Stay tuned for more on that!

One of my goals this year is to connect with a larger audience while exploring how social media can positively impact literacy.  Voila! Here’s the first monthly contest and it’s open for all ages!  Please feel free to offer any feedback.

The Dot is one of my favorite books to read in September. Its message of “create from your own soul” always sets a powerful tone for the school year, inspiring us all to try, just try, whatever the venture.

If you decide to participate, I look forward to seeing what you create!

The HyperDoc Handbook


The HyperDoc Handbook is one of those rare professional development books that truly will transform your teaching.  This book shows you how to take your existing lessons and digital resources and combine them into a streamlined presentation that increases student engagement, accountability and agency.

You will be provided with a myriad of resources along the way, most notably the Teachers Give Teachers site, which allows you to search for freely given HyperDoc lessons, customizable for your own classroom or Professional Learning Community.  This site is truly an amazing collection of high quality learning resources, including this guide, authored through teacher collaboration, to the novel, Pax.

This book so inspired me that I signed up for the HyperDoc Bootcamp, taught by the authors.  I highly recommend this course after reading this book because I was able to learn much more about HyperDocs and Google apps and extensions, like Read&Write, as part of a community of vibrant and generous educators.  As part of the course, we were guided to create, share and assess HyperDocs.  The culmination of the 4-week course was a “Sharefest” where teachers were invited to share their HyperDocs in a Google Hangout with the group.

Here are three of my recently created HyperDocs:

A Reader’s Companion for Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan

A 6-Week Creative Writing Bootcamp for Teachers

Learning about Virtual Reality/360 Panoramas

(Note that a HyperDoc does not have to contain ALL elements of your lesson, like responding in notebooks or sketchpads, just those suitable for the digital environment.)

I highly recommend this book if you are looking to embark on a journey of learning that will positively impact all your future students and keep you organized in this age of information overload.