Monthly Archives: July 2018

Sticking Together

This past Spring, my school district arranged for teachers to visit other schools to observe elements of Personalized Learning recently.  I loved getting to see K-5 students sitting in flexible seats, conferencing with the teacher, working in small groups, reading around the room and being happy as self directed learners.

One Kindergartener looked up at me as I passed him and his two partners who were working together on solving math problems.  He smiled and exuberantly said, “We’re sticking together!”  I was suddenly struck by his amazing collaboration and excitement to work with his friends until they had solved each problem!

I loved to see examples of STEM bins in a first grade class which kids use to build structures using pattern blocks or other mat manipulatives. They pick up cards that are on rings which have pictures of structures in the world that they could build. How fun!

The kids in each class in math workshop or reading workshop were focused and engaged on their activities. Some of them were working alone, in small groups, in partners or with an adult in a lesson at a table or on the floor. They were collaborating and had ownership of what they were doing. I didn’t see any child off task. They were all engaged and seemed very happy.

In an effort to increase my understanding of Personalized Learning, I attended my district’s Personalized Learning Summit.  It gave me excellent resources!  The CMS Personalized Digital Learning Website has examples of information shared at the Summit!  I love the Personalized Digital Learning Toolkit with resources galore!

A Learner Profile has been developed by my district which you will find more about if you scroll down here.

The Learner Profile articulates the characteristics of a learner.  I hope you will take a look at it!  It seems like that keeping learner characteristics in mind is THE PLACE TO BE!


Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

One of my favorite experiences with partners at the Summit was watching this video.  In this Piano on Stairs Video, I noticed the way that people began to take the steps to allow them to make music together instead of taking the escalator.  They weren’t just taking the stairs, they were navigating the stairs because the stairs had been installed so that music notes would play as their feet pressed the steps.  They collaborated and enjoyed their time on the steps.  As people who were about to get on the escalator saw people making music together on the steps, they frequently would decide not to take the escalator and instead, take the steps.  I love that learning appears contagious in the video.  This short video speaks to the fact that students will have opportunities to learn when conditions are inviting in classrooms!

Another video about Ornie the Pig, is a wordless video.  In it, Ornie sees cookies on top of a refrigerator and tries many times to get to the cookies.  He reflects on what worked and what did not work.  I look forward to showing my students this movie to prompt flexible thinking and a growth mindset as the school year begins.

In my class, I am working toward providing opportunities to allow learners to be able to exhibit the following characteristics from the CMS Personalized Learning Profiles:

Creative Thinkers – Plan for STREAM Learning (Science/Social Studies, Technology, Reading/Research, Engineering/Design Process, Art, Math)

Self Directed Learners – I plan to use more Choice Boards, HyperDocs, rubrics to self assess, Pathways/Playlists.

Effective Communicators – Meaningful dialogue will naturally happen as they work on individual and partner projects.

Collaboration – Accountable talk will occur as they give feedback like in the piano video!

Open Minded – Model and encourage different strategies to accomplish a task in Makerspace Stations.

Receptive – They will do Active listening as they construct Thinking Maps and other responses to reading.

Leaders – Jigsaw model – everyone has a job, model difference between being bossy and a leader, Label certain kids with strengths as an expert and encourage them to help others.

Risk Takers – Be able to continue to have stamina after the “correction” process (editing), Try again if at first you did not succeed.

Flexible/Adaptive – Create a safe environment in class.  We respect all ideas and contributions from others.

I love the ideas that my district has developed around Personalized Digital Learning.  I am excited about continuing my journey as an educator and developing meaningful and fun experiences that kids will want to do and find memorable!


Featured Image Credit


Pool Noodle Robot Creations

2018-05-09 12.53.31.jpgMy second graders loved designing robots out of pool noodles and craft supplies! They taped three pens on the sides and placed an electric toothbrush from the Dollar Store in the robot to power it on then watched as the robot wiggled on sheets of paper to make cool spirals or other abstract art! Here is the video of our process and a description of each stage of our design process below.

I read my students a book called “Nanobots” and showed them videos about the many and varied sorts of existing nanobot technology.

I loved the many and varied teaching ideas that go along with the “Nanobots” book found here:

They went through the Design Process by going through the following stages:


They researched nanobots by taking notes while I read the book and they watched videos. They imagined other types of robots like Swarm Robots. They chose the one that they liked the best and wrote a paragraph to describe what it could do in first person point of view as if they were the robot.  Here is a list of the videos that I showed them:

Swarm robotics:

Great examples of real nanobots here:


They drew a design of what their robot would look like and be able to do.  Their constraints were the following materials:  6 inch pool noodle strips, a battery powered tooth brush, googly eyes, Pom poms, feathers, pipe cleaners, glue, masking tape and three pens which they would tape around the bottom of the 6 inch pool noodle. I showed them a video sample to help generate ideas.  They understood that they would have a prototype of a real nanobot.  They could not make an actual nanobot with our materials but they liked planning their prototype!


In the next session, they used the craft materials to make their robots. They inserted the tooth brush in the center of their foam noodle and turned it on to see it wiggle! They took a picture of it, inserted it into Chatterpix on their iPads and recorded themselves reading their paragraph.  They were stored in a bin to wait for our next class.

In the next session, they added three pens to the bottom of their 6 inch pool noodle and taped them on with masking tape. I had written their names on the bottom of each 6 inch section of pool noodles and gave them back to students in this session.   I placed six pens on each table where partners worked and provided strips of masking tape.  After I showed them how to attach the 3 pens to the noodle with masking tape, I showed them how to insert the tooth brush in the center of their foam noodle, turn it on to see it wiggle! The pens traveled all around a sheet of paper to make beautiful designs! They loved seeing their robot come to life.

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It took a lot of tries and a willingness not to give up to get the pens in the correct location so that the robot would draw spirals.  Sometimes, the robot just drew squiggly lines.  Since the toothbrushes came with cheap batteries, I would have to replace some of the batteries with name brand batteries if the tooth brush would not come on.  Although I purchased 15 Dollar Store electric tooth brushes, sometimes they power button would not budge.  This meant that students had to patiently wait their turns to get a tooth brush that would actually work.  The joy that erupted with students when they saw their creation come to life was worth all of the time it had taken to organize these materials!


I asked them to take their robot home that day to a spot in their world at home and think about how they can make a difference just like their pool noodle robot was designed to make a difference.  During the next class, many of the students told me how that they used electric tooth brushes at home to make their robot work.  One female student stopped in my class before school to tell me that she wanted to be an engineer and create robots when she grew up!  I was so inspired by her and thankful that she had this opportunity to make and go through the design process.

I started this journey at Dollar Tree buying batter powered tooth brushes and at Walmart buying 34 pool noodles, craft supplies, pens and glue.  I former student of mine volunteered to cut each of the 34 noodles into 6 inch sections which saved me a lot of time.  Her willingness to help me allowed almost 200 2nd graders to experience creating a fun robot and go through the design process.  It was totally worth it based on my students’ excitement!  I must admit, my shopping cart looked so unusual in WalMart back in March.  I remember my excitement as I placed the pool noodles in my trunk along with craft supplies and pens!  A local Dominoes Pizza store had just donated pizza boxes which I painted green for backdrops for green screen scenes using the Stik Bot app on iPads.  That’s another post for another time! I know that my students will remember the experience of making a robot and hope you will enjoy the video of them doing it!