What You Need to Know About Plickers

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As teachers we all know how important it is to take the temperature of the room. To figure out if our students are following along and understanding the lesson. But, sometimes that can be difficult – we can do a “thumbs up, thumbs down” or “vote with your feet/toes” or even an every student response with white boards. However, there is an easier, more effective, and more efficient way to do this. There is an app called Plickers that has changed the way I check for understanding in my classroom.

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In this post you will find:

  • Pros & cons to using plickers
  • Ideas for using plickers in your classroom
  • Student reviews about plickers
  • What you need to know in order to use Plickers tomorrow (checklist freebie included)

Plickers Pros

 

Plickers Cons

Ways You Could Use Plickers in Your Classroom and at Your School:

  • formative assessments
  • take the temperature of the room (surveys)
  • self reflection (I use them with this daily outcome recording/reflection sheet)
  • lunch choice count collection
  • check in during rotations (from across the room)
  • staff surveys

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I recently did a Periscope tutorial on Plickers. In this 10 minute video you will learn everything you need to know in order to start using Plickers in your classroom tomorrow! You can also use this checklist (a freebie only available to my blog followers/readers) to ensure you’ve done everything you need to do before trying it out (it’s not complicated at all). For other exclusive freebies – be sure to sign up for my monthly newsletter!

**If you’ve read this far – you deserve a special tip: I write the letter choices on the back of the Plicker cards (very very small) to help students ensure they put the correct letter choice up)**

I’d love to hear from you!

If you’ve tried Plickers before – let me know what you used it for and how it went in your classroom. If you’ve never tried it – let me know if you’re going to give it a try now…

If you’ve written a blog post on technology in the classroom (doesn’t have to be plickers) — join my link up below. And if you’d like to join up again next month – sign up for my tech link up newsletter here.

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Thanks to Meg @ Meg’s New Box of Crayons for the awesome conversation hearts stock image.

Metamorphosis in Progress…

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I just want to thank you for reading my blog while it undergoes a metamorphosis… I recently changed the title of my blog, from Mrs B (4th Grade Teacher) to Learning Wholeheartedly. Now I’m in the process of updating my blog with my new colors, logo, header, etc. More on that in a little bit, first, I’d like to provide some background on the name change.

I have loved learning for as long as I can remember. Now, don’t get me wrong, I did not always love learning in the traditional sense. Up until 7th grade I was an average student – maybe slightly above average. I was always in the top class, but never really put much effort into my academics until high school. That being said, I was always interested in “self-help” books (now more preferably labeled personal development books). From a very young age I would browse this section of our public library. I have always been hungry to learn new things – especially things that would help me grow as a person. 

I have also always hungered for human connections. I look back on my days at school and although I did not get along with everyone all the time, I did develop friendships with many different groups of people. I believe I’ve always tried to be authentically me, and live wholeheartedly.  As I get older, and read more books and meet more like-minded people, I feel like I’m developing a better understanding what that means. This is also why I’m 100% content with turning 30 years old this year… because I feel more ME than I’ve ever felt!! I can’t wait to share more about this journey of wholehearted living (and teaching – because it definitely comes out in my teaching too) with you. 

This is another reason why I am so grateful to have made the friends that I have made through periscope, blab, instragram, and teachers pay teachers. One of those friends is Ashley (Ms. Idealistic) from Canada.

Ash is one of the most down to earth persicopers that I have had the privilege of getting to know. She also happens to be a tech and design guru!! She hosts a weekly blab with the iteachtvnetwork called Teaching Tech, every Tuesday at 8pm (EST). Ashley is also one of the most generous and helpful people I’ve met! She designed my logo, my header/banner, and my new signature – and has been SO helpful with my whole “rebranding” – giving me great advice and collaborating with me (which is not easy, since I really struggle with making decisions). If you are on the market for a new logo or just want some design or coding advice – please please check out Ms. Idealistic’s shop here!! She is amazing to work with and very reasonably priced!!

I am so excited for the future of this blog and cannot wait to connect with you more and hopefully collaborate with you! If you’re interested in joining my monthly tech link up – you can sign up for the newsletter here, or read more about it here.

I’d also love to get some feedback on my blog as it continues it’s metamorphosis… What do you think of the name change, the new header, logo, etc?

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How to Change Your Students’ Lives

Isn’t this the big questions all teachers want to know? I know this is why I got into the profession – because we have such an amazing opportunity to shape the future leaders of our world. To help mould young children to become happy, kind, educated, passionate, and driven adults who can make a difference.

As a teacher, I know the feeling of despair when you have one or two (or five, or six) students in your class that you just can’t seem to reach. They’re the ones that keep you up at night, or have you in tears at the end of the day. We comfort ourselves in the knowledge that we can at least make a difference in the lives of 85% or 90% of the students in our class that year.

But, what if I told you that the GREAT teachers make a difference in 100% of the students lives in their class. I’m not talking about the standard “difference” teachers make by simply doing their jobs – I’m talking about substantial, life changing difference. What they do is not rocket science, and it’s not a secret…

Kim Bearden is one of those GREAT teachers.

If you don’t know who Kim is, I’ll give you a very brief overview – she is the cofounder of, and an ELA teacher at, the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, Georgia.  She is also one of the most self-reflective, self-aware, passionate, whole-hearted people that you will ever get to know. 

You can get to know Kim through periscope (or watch her past broadcasts on katch.me) and through her book Crash Course: The Life Lessons My Students Taught Me

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It is through this book that I have found the “recipe” for changing students’ lives. I think we can mostly agree (I wish I could say all, but I know that there are some nay-sayers) that the Ron Clark Academy is making a difference, and there are many many teachers who dream of recreating that magic in their classrooms and schools around the world. Well, in Crash Course, Kim gives us a very intimate glimpse into what the Ron Clark Academy is all about, and how any teacher willing to put in the work, can recreate that magic.

I’m going to start by giving you a brief review of the book itself, then I’ll share some of the key takeaways that I had while reading. Last, I’ll outline the things that I’m going to do differently to help bring some RCA magic into my classroom and school.

About Crash Course:

The book is organized into 17 short chapters. With topics ranging from creativity and improvisation to faith and generosity. Each of these chapters includes vulnerable stories from Kim’s life. She is very transparent and honest in her writing, and never claims to have all the answers. These stories help the reader not only connect with Kim and her students, they are the backbone of the book – the life lessons her students taught her. They also helped me as a teacher, formulate a more detailed dream for my students. Every chapter ends with a bullet list of the chapter’s important points and homework. The homework lists 2-4 steps you can take to help with that area of your life and work as an educator. They are practical ways for you to reflect on the chapter’s lessons and synthesize what you learned and how you can apply it.

My Biggest Takeaways:

  • The recipe for recreating the magic at RCA: passion, creativity, rigor, and the importance of giving back to the community
  • The teachers at RCA are human… they’ve all been exactly where we are, they’ve made mistakes, they’ve struggled, and they still do
  • The students at RCA are just like my students and your students – Kim shares how new teachers at RCA always seem surprised to learn that the students’ transformation into what we all think of as “Ron Clark Academy students” begins with the teachers
  • The teachers have very very high expectations for their students (and themselves)- and accept nothing but their best efforts. They are also willing to do anything and everything it takes to make sure that every student reaches those expectations. The chapter on expectations was my favorite, and you can hear Kim talk about it here.
  • The school also fosters a culture of creativity, magic, play, and family. Kim writes about how schools today often destroy students’ sense of wonder… isn’t that heartbreaking?
  • We need to teach students in a way that prepares them for the world – they need to learn how to communicate not only their academic understandings, but their insights, their feelings, and their beliefs as people. They also need to learn how to handle the challenges that the real world will bring them – we need to teach students about race and culture and how it “will affect their reality”.
  • To reach all students, we need to take the time to get to know each and every single student. We need to find their gifts, nurture their creativity, and identify their fears. We need to ask them what they love, and then design lessons around those things. We need to sit at their desks and see life from their perspective. We need to start fresh every day – do whatever it takes to get every student excited about learning.
  • The smallest gestures can become the tiny seeds that will one day grow into amazing trees. What you say to students (through words or body language) matters. Taking time to get to know students and their families matters. Taking time to create special moments and memories with (and for) students matters.

Each and every one of these points (and many many more) are elaborated on in the book – with stories to help you understand how important they are and how they can change students’ lives. These points don’t even begin to do the book justice – if any of them resonate with you… do yourself (and your students/teachers) a favor and read the book.

My Personal Action Plan:

  • Develop deeper more meaningful relationships with my students by
    • taking the time to think about how each of them feels in my classroom, at school, at home
    • taking the time to ask them what they love
    • making it clear that I believe in them by holding them to high expectations
    • making each and every one of them feel like they are my favorite student
    • finding their unique gifts and talents
    • being intentional with my comments and compliments
    • finding out what their fears are, and helping them overcome those fears
    • letting students know that every day is a clean slate – when I “fuss” at them, once it’s done, it’s done
  • Create more magic in my classroom by
    • brainstorming ways to make lessons more magical (think classroom transformations, even on a smaller scale – simulations)
    • playing more
  • Teach my students how to support one another by
    • modeling how to encourage others
    • teaching them about other cultures
    • helping them help the community
  • Seek out relationships with people who fill my soul by
    • evaluating current relationships
    • spend more time with people who inspire me
  • Be more grateful by
    • keeping a gratitude journal & writing in it daily
    • letting others know I’m grateful for them
    • praying more

 

Now for some real talk…

I know that this is going to take a great deal of time and effort. Time out of my personal life… time that I will not be paid for. The effort required will be tough to give, because the results are going to take time. I know that if I dedicate myself to this – there will be times that I will want to give up.

I also know that there will be more tears, and many many sleepless nights. Because let’s face it, when you open your heart and make the effort to develop these deep and meaningful relationships with students – you are opening up yourself to hurt and failure. You’re allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Some of our students face very difficult lives, and I know that I will learn things that will break my heart, some of them will treat me badly. Also, I’m not always going to be enough. What I can do in my classroom (and out of it) will not always be enough.

But… this is why I became a teacher. I didn’t become a teacher to help students pass a test. I didn’t become a teacher to have fun with students from 8 – 3pm. I became a teacher to change lives – it’s my passion, it’s my calling, and I believe the difficult times and the failures I’m bound to experience are worth it. Because at least I can say I truly tried, I gave it my all.

If you aren’t willing to do whatever it takes, what’s the point?

What You Need to Know About Kahoot

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You know that feeling you get when you hear about an exciting new app or website? The angel on one shoulder says “my students are going to love this and it will make learning more engaging and rewarding for all of us”. Meanwhile, the devil on the other shoulder is reminding you of the time it will take to implement the new website or app and besides, you did try that fun web hunt a couple of months back. That’s more tech than some teachers have tried this year. You’re doing the best you can…

I know that feeling… especially since connecting with so many amazing teachers through Periscope and Blab. The ideas are endless, and seem exciting and fun! But, it just seems overwhelming. Well, as I have blogged about previously, one of my goals for 2016 is to actually implement new tech (a website, an app, etc) once a month.

I want to help you see how easy it can be, if you just take the leap and give it a try. I’m also hoping it will help save you time to learn from my newbie mistakes.

So here it goes…

I created a Kahoot quiz to review math concepts before a district assessment. Here are my take aways.

I would use Kahoot for: 

  • fact fluency practice
  • timed drills
  • facts that students need to have memorized
  • fun review quizzes (not math or something that will require problem solving though)

I would NOT use Kahoot with/for:

  • gifted and talented students who may become anxious with the time limit
  • problems that require time to solve or consider

 

Want to give it a try with something fun but valuable? Here is a Kahoot that will assess your students’ learning styles. I did not create it, but it’ll be a great way for you to test it out before creating one of your own. There are a lot of different public Kahoots out there. In order to use this Kahoot, here’s what you need to do:

  • Open the link on your computer & project it so that all students can see
  • Make sure each student has a device or laptop (students should go to kahoot.it)
  • Click Play, and then Start Now
  • A game pin will pop up – students will need to enter this pin to access the Kahoot
  • Students will then be prompted to input a nickname (ask them to use their real names)
  • Go through the Kahoot
  • At the end, download the results so that you can see what learning styles your students are

Have you tried Kahoot in your classroom? Would you agree with my pros and cons? Did I leave anything out that you think new users need to know? Let me know in the comments below.

Trying new tech in your classroom isn’t about luck any more than getting rich is about stumbling across a leprechaun in the forest with a pot of gold. The teachers who survive just keep going.

Sometimes you do the right thing and it goes great, sometimes it’s a complete flop. But, in each and every case, you will learn something about how to be a better teacher. Even if you do mess up, your students will still be there tomorrow and most of the time they won’t even realize you messed up. 

It means that it’s okay to not implement new tech seamlessly. It means you can make mistakes. It means your trepidations are perfectly normal, and you’ll get through it. 

So keep your chin up, do something outside of your comfort zone, make some adjustments, and most of all, believe in yourself. If you’re determined, and you persevere, your lessons will be enhanced with engaging tech and your students will thank you for it.

And when they do, it’ll all be worth it.

If you’re ready to make a commitment to yourself, and your students, join my mailing list here. I’m going to be starting a monthly link up, so that we can keep one another accountable and encourage each other when the times get tough. I will be emailing once a month to remind you about the link up and share a publish date (the last Friday of every month). I will also be creating a link up image to include in your posts. I hope you’ll join me on this journey to help empower teachers to try new tech without fear!

Five for Friday…January 8th

**Happy first week back to school!**

I hope your week was as awesome as mine was! I’m going to share some of the things that made this week awesome. I introduced a couple of flexible seating options to my students (working our way up to full immersion into flexible seating), I have my whole week planned for next week without doing any work at home, I participated in a really fun weekly blab, I found some fun ways to teach Responsibility to my students, and I’m finishing a really fun fiction book and am about to begin an awesome book that you have to check out!

If those sound like things you’d like to read more about… buckle your seat belt, because we’re going to run through them quickly (I know we all have things to do and places to be).

Five for Friday doodle bugs teaching

 

 

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Not long into the start of the year I realized that I had a very active class of students – they find it difficult to stay in their seats, to keep still, and focus. Our P.E. teacher is amazing, and she helped me get floor pedals, and our Special Ed department helped me get a hold of some busy bands (they are like exercise bands that you put around a student’s chair or desk for them to bounce their feet on). I also used a couple of extra desks as “standing desks” – for students to work at standing up. They’re not any higher than regular desks though.

You may have read about my Donor’s Choose project last week – but this week I decided to add a couple of additional alternative seating options, while we wait for the project to be funded.

I brought in an extra yoga mat I have and a lap desk that I never use. I also taught my students about stacking their blocks and showed them the different ways they can improve their posture while sitting, standing, or laying on the floor. I told my students they could sit/lay anywhere on the floor during independent work, as long as their blocks are stacked. Another option is to sit/lay under their desks and to use an extra blanket I had to curtain off the underneath of their desk to help them focus. They can use the lap desk, the yoga mat, the pillows we have, clipboards, etc.

I hope to add additional options this week – I want to lower another extra desk I have, so that there is an option to sit on the floor and use a desk. I also want to see if there is any possible way to raise the two desks I allow students to stand at, to emulate standing desks.

My students definitely love laying under their desks. Here are the students taking a reading quiz yesterday. The student quote in the picture was said during Math, when we have students from other classed come into our room. I did not have to explain anything, my students told them why they’re allowed to lay on the floor, and they did a great job modeling the correct way to do so.

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One of my goals for this year is to get into a zone with regard to productivity and focus – so last week I planned out every aspect of my time. My time at home, my time in the morning at school, and my planning time at work.

I was determined to plan an entire week of lessons during school time. I am proud to say MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!! The only thing I have not planned (with resources saved and activities planned) is guided reading. But, my mornings are actually only dedicated to “prep” work for the day, so I could plan each day’s lesson in the morning.

I knew I could accomplish this, because last Sunday I set a 30 minute timer for each of the subjects I teach, and planned a week’s worth of lessons in that time – so when I assigned a subject to spend time planning this week – I made sure I allocated at least 30 minutes for that subject. I also assigned time for grading. I assigned this time using my google calendar – which syncs with my phone – so that it’s easy for me to stay on track.

Don’t get me wrong – I still have some work to do at home this weekend, but I’m determine to minimize it and only spend at the most 2 hours on the weekend doing school work.

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Last Saturday I participated in my second blab! If you’re not sure what blab is – you’ve got to check it out. Especially if you are on periscope and love it as much as I do. I love periscope, but I find that it’s difficult for me to come out of my shell when I’m “by myself” or the only one talking. I’m a shy extrovert, so it usually takes me a little while to feel comfortable being 100% myself around people. On blab you can be online with up to 3 other people – similar to Skype or a Google Hangout, except it’s like periscope in that other people can tune in and participate via the comments. Also – if only 3 seats are filled on a panel, the open seat is usually left open so viewers can call in and participate in the discussion too.

The blab I participated in is Craft & Chat with Jamie. It’s a weekly blab where teachers will get together and create something fun. Last week we created paintings of our word of the year. There is one finishing touch I need to add to mine, but I’ll add another picture when I do that.

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Like many schools, our school has adopted a character curriculum and we teach it during morning meeting every day. We take one character trait a month and do a variety of activities and lessons with the students to help them understand what it means to exhibit that character trait and why it’s important.

This month we are focusing on Responsibility and we did two really fun activities: What’s on Your Plate? and Fill the Jar.

First, for What’s on Your Plate? – students had to think about all the things they are responsible for, they also thought about the things that they like to do for fun. Then, we did the Fill the Jar activity so they could understand the importance of prioritizing. When we take care of our responsibilities first, we have time for the fun stuff. You can check out this activity here, it’s a freebie in my store!

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Last, I’d like to share the books I’m reading or getting ready to start reading. I am about to finish 11/22/63 by Steven King.

51gir4mu2b2l-_sx321_bo1204203200_It’s a really good book and if I wasn’t so busy trying to focus on work and blogging, etc – I believe I would have finished it in a couple of days. There is a Hulu 6 part series getting ready to start in February, which I am very excited about! Have you read this book or seen the trailer for the series? What are your thoughts?

 

I plan to start reading Crash Course by Kim Bearden (the co-founder of Ron Clark Academy) tomorrow. I’ve heard great things about the book, and I love Kim!

518ly3ayxtl-_sx327_bo1204203200_If you want to keep up to date on what I’m reading – you can always check the goodreads info on my side bar —->

 

How was your first week back? Have you got a planning schedule in place that works for you? I’d love to hear about it. Do you use flexible seating? What professional development book are you currently reading, or dying to read? I hope you had an amazing first week back, and that the second week is even better!!! 

If you’d like to join the 5 for Friday blog link up, you can click the Five for Friday image at the top of this post.

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How I plan to make 2016 top 2015

January 2gether we are betterOnce upon a time there were two passionate teachers. They shared both a passion for teaching and a passion for creating TPT products. One day, they went on an exciting adventure all the way to Vegas to explore the TPT conference. While they were there they stumbled upon a magical app called Periscope. Periscope made these teachers a little nervous, but it kept calling their names… so, they kept scoping and sharing the excitement from the conference with other teachers in lands far away. Soon… they had started what I like to call #theperiscopeteachertakeoverof2015. When the teachers had returned from their adventure, they decided that teachers need to be more connected – to learn from one another. And so… the #2getherwearebetter blog link up began.

This month we are discussing our plans and goals for 2016.

Incorporate MORE technology (1)

Something that I’m really passionate about, is implementing and using technology in the classroom. I have recently started having my students use the SMARTboard during Math rotations. I have purchased some awesome digital interactive notebooks from the amazing Danielle Knight. I did 1 hour of code with my students, which was awesome! I use Edmodo for guided reading extension lessons/questions/quizzes.

But, I know that I could still do so much more – so my goal is to (first – use the digital interactive notebooks I bought, then) try one new app or website or technology tool a month. Here is one example of an app/website that I think would be awesome for collaboration in the classroom. Padlet is a bulletin board type website, where users can add posts, photographs, voice notes, videos, or files. Whoever creates the padlet can make it private and just share the url with people he/she wants to collaborate with.

Hey — let’s make it official…. I always work better when I have people counting on me. So, I’ll start doing a monthly blog post reviewing the new app/website that I tried out, and how it went in my classroom!

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I love periscope and always enjoy it when I get on and start scoping…however, I always psyche myself out. My self doubt creeps in “you don’t have anything worthwhile to share” “no one is going to watch”…etc etc.

But, my word of the year is ZONE (more on that later) – so I am going to burst out of my comfort zone this year and just do it. I’m going to be 100% me, and trust that I am worth knowing and that I do have something to offer. It might not be the same type of thing other people have to offer – but that’s even better! I’m one of a kind – as are you! So don’t hold back this year! Put yourself out there with me, be vulnerable and let’s push the boundaries of our comfort zones together!

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As you can see – I am off to a running start, but we all know the beginning of the year is “easy” in terms of keeping up with new goals – but I have a plan for this… which I’ll share in a minute. Blogging has always been something I enjoy – I’ve had 3 blogs in my life. I keep my family in South Africa updated with my adventures in the USA with a weekly blog. I did that for 2 years and then my blogging slowed down quite a bit, finally when I started teaching, it passed away peacefully in its sleep. About 6 years ago I started a very personal blog about my struggles with infertility – but gave it up after about a year because I chose to step away from that community because it was holding me back from finding happiness in the present. Now… I’m trying to get into a groove with blogging about teaching – which I can honestly say is my life’s passion and calling.

**I just watched an awesome periscope by Bri Miller about the book Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. Bri mentioned how our fear of not fitting in can hold us back from truly being ourselves or putting ourselves out there and being vulnerable. She also spoke about how we are all vulnerable in different ways – some people may be able to connect with others via video, or in person, or through blogging. I totally had an “ah ha” moment. Being truly vulnerable on periscope is hard for me, but here… on my blog – it is so easy. I am so grateful for that scope tonight – because it made me realize that we truly are all different, and even the way we connect with people could be different, and it’s okay – it’s actually more than okay, it’s something to celebrate! Our differences! **

small goal

This is a small goal because I’m not 100% sure yet if TPT is going to be something I commit a lot of time to. I haven’t spent enough time on making products to really know. So, really my goal is to make more products to see if this is something I am good at, and enjoy. I’m going to start by making products that I need for my students, and see how it goes from there. I’ve already made 2 simple products today to use with my students next week – I just need to make covers, etc and I can post them. I’ll be happy with 2 quality products a month to start with. Once I get into a groove, I hope to be able to exceed that goal.

Plan

  • Single tasking (focusing on one simple task at a time for an allocated number of time – this is a great app for this!)
  • Using a notebook to record ideas and inspriations
  • goal sheet to set weekly goals
  • Using my phone’s calendar to schedule all social media chats, weekly or monthly periscopes and blabs as well as gym classes, lesson planning and time for ME!! I am going to use this to also plan out some periscopes – to ensure that I have no excuse not to scope more often!

My new monthly blog about technology will help keep me accountable for trying something new every month. Maybe I’ll make it a link up… except I’ve never done that before, and not sure how to, or if it’s even possible with WordPress…if you know – I’d love you forever if you let me know in the comments. Also, if you’d be interested in joining a link up like this – let me know.

I also started a Facebook group with some other teachers to help share blog ideas and to keep one another accountable for blogging at least twice a month. If you are interested in joining the group – just let me know and we can connect.

New Year Blog Challenge

The last thing I want to share is my #otw (one little word) for 2016. Ali Edwards started this project, on her website she says “[in] 2006 I began a tradition of choosing one word for myself each January – a word to focus on, mediate on, and reflect upon as I go about my daily life.” Here is my word for 2016 – it reflects how I want to not be afraid to be vulnerable and how I want to be more productive and goal focused.

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Don’t forget to let me know in the comments if you are interested in joining our #teacherblogchallenge2016 facebook group. Also, if you would be interested in joining a monthly link up to share your experiences trying some new technology in your classroom, let me know. I’d also love to hear what your goals are for 2016! 

>>If you’d like to join the link up – click the banner at the top of this post.

 

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