Tuesday, November 7, 2017


Welcome Edu-fans!!! My name is Bazz and I am the proud principal of Pershing Elementary School. I just gotta start by telling you to stop reading this blog for a hot-second and open up your Amazon account and order this book if you don't already own it! You seriously must do it immediately! Hacking Engagement should be a part of every educators toolbox! It is one of these easiest reads ever and each hack on engagement gets better and better! James Alan Sturtevant is a genius for compiling all of these exceptional tools in one place! Alright, without further ado, let me take you through Hacks 41-45! I hope you enjoy them as much as I did! 

HACK #41 Gather Students Around the Campfire

Who doesn't love a great story, right? Yes! We all love to hear stories because we connect to them! We latch on to the characters in the story and can often relate to them. The little old lady that reminds us of our great-grandma or the spunky little girl that in our minds could be our little sister. We could all use a few more stories in our lives....Students on the other hand, don't always get the storytelling aspect of presenting information. Hack 41 is all about creating better storytellers in students so that their presentations aren't so very mundane and robotic. I can recall being in my 5th grade class and being so excited to see my students gathering information on their chosen topics, watching them learn new information about a person or topic they were studying. I would think to myself how proud I was of their effort, and then the dread would set in... "At some point I am going to have to read all these papers, or listen to all these presentations!' In Hack 41, Sturtevant says we need to "challenge our students to harness the power of a great story.' "Build a campfire" in your room and let students get creative with the stories they tell! Talk to students about why some stories make them want to listen! Engage your kiddos in being the storytellers in the calssroom! THE HACK: COMMISSION STUDENTS TO ENGAGE CLASSMATES WITH STORIES

Check-out the pics of Mrs. Bacol's 3rd grade classroom. She had a slightly different way of incorporating her classroom campfire! The kiddos pretended they were at a campfire and read with flashlights. On each flame students wrote different facts about an animal and then threw them into the fire! Each student was asked to pick three flames and create a story based on the facts on their flames! What an engaging way to get kids sharing, creating, and storytelling, not just presenting!


HACK #42 Corral the Word "Like"

This hack will take a little courage on your part! You will have to search for your inner Brene' Brown and be a bit vulnerable with your kids but it will be worth it in the end! Make sure your students know you are human! Sounds simple, right? It really is! Your students need to know that you can make mistakes, be wrong, and get embarrassed! In fact Sturtevant says we should be asking for our students to help us with a bad habit, all in the name of creating relationships and bonding! THE HACK: DEPUTIZE YOUR STUDENTS TO HELP YOU BREALK AN ANNOYING HABIT

Things you can do tomorrow...
  • Identify an innocent personal habit or tendency.
  • Announce your goal to students.
  • Challenge students to confess an annoying habit they'd like to eliminate.

HACK #43 Surround Yourself with Ancient Greeks

Creating a safe and trusting culture in a classroom is no easy task. As a teacher you have to be pretty deliberate about it. It's especially important when complex topics arise and we need to hear from our students. This is unfortunately when most students decide to take a back seat and be more passive in the learning process. Sturtevant's 43rd hack requires students challenging one another for the good of the group. Making sure that students understand that questioning or challenging one another's ideas and how we think is a great way to learn. THE HACK: CONDUCT A SOCRATIC CIRCLE

Things you can do tomorrow...
  • Identify upcoming meaty, complex topic for Socratic Circle.
  • Create a number of thought-provoking prompts & provide them to the students prior to discussion.
  • Intervene ONLY when absolutely necessary.
Check-out pg. 174 for a killer resource from Matt Copeland's book Socratic Circles
QR code 43.1

HACK #44 Show-&-Tell 2.0: The Open Mic

Had this hack been around when I was in school, my life would have felt complete! I love me a microphone in my hand, just ask my friends! Creating opportunities for your students to showcase their talents can really create a "family-like atmosphere" that every classroom really needs. Performing in front of your peers and being not only accepted, but celebrated for it can completely change the dynamic of the classroom. Feeling like you belong will up the engagement level in any room. This absolutely takes some behind the scenes work on the teachers part to make sure the students understand the importance of acceptance and trust. THE HACK: CREATE THE OPEN MIC DAY IN YOUR CLASS  Make sure to scan QR code 44.1 to hear Jennifer Gonzalez and James Alan Sturtevant discuss the idea of THE OPEN MIC on the Hacking Engagement podcast. Oh and in case you are thinking of investing in the perfect mic for your classroom, this is the one I have! Enjoy! 

Things you can do tomorrow....
  • Approach an outgoing kid about the idea.
  • Prompt students with an anonymous survey.
  • Turn it into a guessing game.
  • Promote The Open Mic.

HACK #45 Mandate Meritocracy Mondays

Extrinsically rewarding students has gotten a bad rap but I don't think it always should. Hack 45 made me see the positive spin it could have on a classroom of learners. Yes, we want students to be intrinsically motivated but adding an incentive day to your week will most likely up engagement and also be just what your students needed. Students can be rewarded for any number of things from effort, to kindness, to how helpful the feedback given may have been. Clearly you would know what would work for your class.  THE HACK: INSTITUTE MERITOCRACY MONDAYS This can obviously work on any day of the week. What I liked about this hack were the ideas they gave for incentives...A chance to eliminate one question from the next assignment, A heart-felt compliment, a special seat in the room, maybe even a badge of honor to be worn all day? The rewards don't need to be costly and shouldn't interfere with learning. Everyone appreciates being recognized for a job well done. Why not create a day in your classroom when you are very deliberate about letting your students know how proud you are of their accomplishments?  

Things you can do tomorrow....
  • Create cool titles for Monday through Friday.
  • Compose a list of reward options.
  • Complete a Bonus Day Bonanza Survey. 
  • Share the results.
  • Plan games.

Well this is where we part ways! I hope you enjoyed reading my spin on Sturtevant's hacks and I especially hope I have enticed you to pick up the book and read through all his engagement hacks. They really are THINGS YOU CAN DO TOMORROW, so quick and easy! Thanks for checking out my blog and please feel free to leave a comment! I am always in the mood for some feedback! Have a great day everyone and remember to check out Krisitin Richey's Blog on Nov. 9th as she creatively brings this session of our #D100BloggerPD to a close! 



Wednesday, October 12, 2016

#D100BLOGGLERPD HaCkInG tHe CoMmOn CoRe: HaCk #6 PrIoRiTiZe

Hack # 6  Prioritize

I just have to start with a question... Why hasn't every teacher read this book? All of the "HACKING" books are good, but this one?  Oh, this one is just so perfect for teachers. Talk about breaking things down and spelling things out.  It's sort of the exact opposite of the CCSS themselves.  A word that tends to be synonymous with the CCSS is OVERWHELMING.  There is so much meat in those standards that often times teachers are intimidated by the unpacking. I myself have felt this way about the standards. As an administrator I am not looking at the CCSS like I used to for planning but still need to be knowledgable about them in order to support my teachers.   The Common Core Standards do not have to be scary and intimidating.  This book and especially this HACK helps to take some of the pressure off and shows you how to PRIORITIZE THE STANDARDS.

According to Michael Fisher, "to truly make a difference in student learning, teachers need to understand that some of the standards have priority over others."  Start with your assessments. Look at what you are assessing and decide if you are covering critical or priority standards. Are you assessing foundational knowledge or repeating concepts that come up over time?  It is okay to weed things out that don't pack that much of an educational punch.  Probably important to note here that others may disagree with that statement. I love Fisher's idea of changing the preposition: "Your job isn't to teach to a test but to teach for success on any assessment."

The next suggestion from Fisher is to THINK IN BUNDLES.  When you know what standards lend themselves to one another, you can cut down on your time spent integrating them into your lessons bc they are naturally covered throughout the content.  Listening and speaking standards are almost automatically present as students demonstrate their learning.


STEP 1:  IDENTIFY WHAT WILL BE ASSESSED :  Check out state testing guides before state assessments occur.  We here in Illinois would look at the PARCC Model Frameworks to help us narrow our focus on the standards covered.

STEP 2:  DISCERN WHICH OUTCOMES HAVE LEVERAGE IN OTHER CLASSES :  Some of the standards are covered throughout different content areas.  Consider collaborating with content specific teachers and possibly creating an integrated project of sorts.

STEP 3:  IDENTIFY LIFE LONG SKILLS : Any concept or idea that students need that will serve them into the future.  It is imperative we not gloss over those foundational skills which then create bigger gaps in learning.  

STEP 4:  EVALUATE STUDENT READINESS : This is an extension of step 3.  "Pushing students before they have the capacity to learn also forms gaps over time and their frustration creates lifelong anti-learners who aren't willing to try."  In short, students need to be ready before moving on.

STEP 5:  KNOW WHAT TEACHER EVALUATION ENTAILS : (Hack 1 is helpful here) Make sure that instructional shifts, college and career readiness capacities, and mathematical practices are represented in your curriculum and every day practices. 

STEP 6:  ENSURE THAT YOUR CURRICULUM FREQUENTLY PRESENTS PRIORITY STANDARDS :  Dig into your curriculum and find redundancy and overlap with priority standards.

STEP 7:  REORGANIZE AND RE-IMAGINE YOUR CURRICULUM TO REFLECT PRIORITIES: Analytic reading, foundational math concepts, and scaffolds for sophisticated demonstrations of learning should show up on a regular basis in your teaching/learning.


D100 gets a big thumbs up here.  We have been in the process of getting our curriculum and assessment cleaned up. The leadership team in D100 has been working with the Center for School Improvement (CSI) to concentrate on creating goals for future success.  Aligning curriculum and assessments are a pivotal piece to the puzzle.  Pushback is going to enter the equation when things aren't clear or instruction doesn't align to the standards. If communication isn't happening at all levels then consistency isn't happening and then you find yourself getting pushback.  
Currently we are all working on creating rigorous assessments.  But Fisher warns us against aligning our assessments to new standards without actually changing our instruction at all. Two questions teachers should ask themselves to help deter this from happening: 1) Does my professional practice represent what is in the best interest of my students, and 2) Am I trying to hang on to the way I've always done it?  We can't just focus on changing the assessments without changing our instruction.

"Find the priorities, look for overlaps, and work smarter, not harder!"

Thanks for reading everyone! Let me know what you think or any insights you have about Hack # 6. Check out Hack #7 Vigor vs. Rigor with Ms. Gonzales

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

~WhAt TeAcHeRs MaKe~

If you missed any of the terrific insights in this #D100bloggerPD, you can start from the beginning with Colleen Noffsinger's post at Literacy Loving Gals.   

Hi Everyone!  Thank you for stopping by to check out my quick reflection of chapters 13-15 of Taylor Mali's book, What Teachers Make.  

~ChApTeR 13~  Lessons You Can Touch...  

Please tell me you have experienced one of these lessons, either as a teacher, or student!?!  You know the ones I am talking about. The type of lesson that you will probably never forget.  If you are an educator, possibly the type of lesson that you were a part of that made you want to teach yourself!  Oh how I hope that all of you reading have experienced at least one of these lessons in your lifetime. Taylor schools us on some of his favorite ways to turn ordinary lessons into extraordinary opportunities!  Here are just a few examples...

Math: Describe the associative, distributive, & commutative properties; In dance, Choreograph it, show your work, Points off for clumsiness

Social Studies: Prepare two Civil War marching songs, one North one South, Sing it in four part harmony, show your emotion, Points off for flat notes

English: Carve a sculpture that expresses Hester Prynne's solitary courage, the cowardice of her lover, the beauty and strangeness of her child

Science: Bring in a broken toaster, doorknob, or wind-up toy, fixit, you get extra credit for using leftover parts to make something new; Points off for reading the directions

Taylor tells us stories about what he called his SMACK DAY, (definitely check it out).  We learn all about how creating extraordinary lessons, ups the engagement and energy level in the classrooms. When you are creating opportunities for students to participate in lessons that THEY CAN TOUCH, you are always making an impact.   

~ChApTeR 14~ The Value of What You Cannot Test

Ahhh state-testing!  It is these two words that tend to bring teachers to their knees. The fear of mandated state tests tend to keep teachers from planning the EXTRAORDINARY lessons discussed in the previous chapter.  

In this chapter Mali refers to words of wisdom from a very handsome advocate for teachers & public education, Mr. Matt Damon...

"As I look at my life and the things that I value most about myself - my imagination, my love of acting, my passion for writing, my love of learning, my curiosity- all of these things came from the way that I was parented and taught.  And none of these qualities that I prize so deeply, that have brought me so much joy, that have made me so successful professionally-none of these qualities that make me who I am can be tested.'

To this I say true, absolutely without a doubt true, but the tests aren't going away and neither are the high stakes. 

Good teaching and engaging lessons can happen and will happen when you form relationships with your students.  Bells and whistles are great for some lessons, but not everything can be a big "to-do."  I remember many of the lessons we did in my 8th grade class, not necessarily because of the way the lesson was presented, but because my teacher cared enough to get to know me and my learning style. 

Finding a healthy balance in your lesson planning is key. I believe that once relationships are formed with your students and you find a way to reach them, they will be motivated to work for you. 

~ChApTeR 15~  No One Leaves My Class Early For Any Reason

Forgive me for the shortness, but this chapter can be summed up with one simple quote from Taylor Mali...

"Great teaching moments happen in the classroom all the time when you least expect them! It would be a shame if a student missed one just because he or she had a short attention span or had a habit of cutting out when things got slightly uncomfortable."

Creating an environment where students understand the importance of being present in every sense of the word will add to the classroom community. Let your students know that you expect them to be active participants in their learning and no one is getting a free pass.

Thank your checking out my blog!  Feel free to leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you! Make sure to check out Miss G Does 5th for the next installment of the #D100bloggerPD with What Teachers Make.
Wednesday, February 24, 2016

~MoVe YoUr BuS~ Chapters 25-26

Good Morning All~
I hope everyone is enjoying our #D100BloggerPD thus far…we are nearing the end of our journey with Ron Clark and his book Move Your Bus. I was given the charge of reflecting on chapters 25 -26, which totals about 9 pages so this will be short and sweet.

If you have been following along, by now all of you know the drivers, riders, walkers, joggers, and runners, in your organization.  As a driver, one of the many jobs you have is SHOWING YOUR WALKERS HOW TO IMPROVE!  The strategy that Ron Clark suggests is being a good ROLE MODEL!  Yes, everyone knows that they need to be a good role model for students/children, but I wonder how many drivers actually think about this in regards to their staff?!? 

Being a driver means many things and comes with an enormous list of responsibilities. Being a good role model is quite high on that list.  My take away here is that you can’t just direct as the driver.  You absolutely need to get your hands dirty.  Dive right in and lead by example.  As a principal, you could easily sit in your office all day reading and responding to emails, but is that really being present?  I think leading by example means that teachers in my organization see me struggle with decisions; They need to see my work ethic and know that I am willing to go above and beyond for the good of our kids and our team.  This could mean subbing in a classroom when there are no substitutes available, taking down or putting up a bulletin board, being present in classrooms, doing whatever needs doing.  

Making sure that my teachers know my expectations and know what success looks like is a key component to getting those walkers to start picking up the pace. Being a life-long learner and being able to say, “I don’t know, but I will find out,” and learning from my mistakes are things that make me human and will also make me a great driver (I hope). This doesn’t sound much different from what my teachers do day in and day out with their students.

In order to get those walkers to pick up the pace, you have to form relationships and find out what motivates them to be their very best self.  Create high expectations and make sure the staff is equipped with the necessary tools to get the job done. 

Thanks for stopping by to check out my reflection on Chapters 25-26 of Move Your Bus by Ron Clark.  I have got to hand it to the lovely ladies that have covered the chapters before me in this installment of the #D100BloggerPD… You gals are killin’ it!  Make sure to check out Michelle at Big Time Literacy on 2/26 for the next post!