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The Need to Stretch

Posted in Uncategorized

Day 31. I’ve blogged for 31 straight days. Whew. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was challenging but it was also exhilarating. My plans? I’m not sure yet. Part of me thinks blogging daily is a really high bar…a bit too steep, perhaps? I have this irresistible urge to put a number on it. I’ll blog 2 days a week. Or 7 days a week. What if I just said, instead, I’ll blog regularly. Then again, maybe that’s taking the easy way out. What I know for sure is that blogging is deeply personal and causes reflection which is one of the greatest conduits to growth. So…I think I’ll resist restrictions or hard goals but still find a way to stretch myself. Thanks to the “Two Writing Teachers” for this treasure.

Finding Magic

Posted in Slice of Life

Tonight I spent some time writing a descriptive essay in the form of a “For Sale” ad, which is what I’m having my students do right now. As often as possible, I slide my tired, size 7 feet into my students’ shoes to help me better understand what I’m asking them to do…and I am always, always enlightened by the experience. Somehow, it makes their joy and their sweat more real to me. When I stand in front of them and share a wildly emotional novel I’ve just finished or a deeply personal piece of my writing, it changes the story of us…of our classroom. It’s magical and it happens all day, everyday in our classroom. How do I create this magic? I don’t…I find it. Several years ago, I made the shift from being a seeker  to a finder.  That seemingly small, yet significant shift tilted my world in a whole new direction and I’ve never looked back. What are you waiting for? Go find some magic.

Promises, Promises

Posted in Slice of Life

I want…no make that need to do a good job on this post about CHOICE. Trouble is…I’m exhausted. I need to blog to stay true to the “Slice of Life” challenge. So, we’ll take a slight detour tonight. Tonight…this is my post…telling you about not blogging about CHOICE. I promise to return tomorrow!

It Begins with the Listen

Posted in Slice of Life

As promised, the next five days will be focused on what I call the “Five Elements of Personalized Learning”:

Voice, Choice, Pace, Place, Path

Today I’ll focus on voice. As is true for all five elements, there are many overlapping nuances to the elements and perhaps none more so than Voice and Choice. It’s challenging to talk about one without discussing the other; however, I’m hoping to tease out the subtle differences between the two.

Defining Voice

First Try:

Student voice is the means by which students articulate their needs and become partners in their own learning, negotiating ownership  with their teachers and peers. Students’ personal experiences, perspectives, interests and learning preferences are acknowledged, encouraged and valued. (Cobbled together from many sources.)

I like that definition, particularly the words partnership and ownership. With this first glance, the idea of student voice begins to take shape. Let’s see if we can bring out more dimension, though.

Second Try:

An essential ingredient to voice is the idea that teachers listen to what students have to say and then incorporate their voice into the leadership of the classroom.

There’s another great word…leadership.

Third Try:

“By voice, I mean the ability to recognize their own beliefs, practice articulating them in a variety of forms, and then find the confidence — and the platform — to express them.”

And finally, from  Edutopia:

Fourth Try:

“The term ‘Student Voice’ describes how students give their input to what happens within the school and classroom. Our desire is for students to know that their expertise, opinions and ideas are valued in all aspects of school life.”

In Practice

So let’s get more practical here. What does voice look like in our classroom? This is where it gets tricky…trying to distinguish voice from choice. Let’s see:

  • Students decide how they will show mastery of the curriculum standards. They are given the “I Can” statements and then must find evidence of mastery. That evidence is shared on their digital portfolio.
  • Students have a blog where they are encouraged to post anything relevant to their lives.
  • Utilizing other digital tools such as forums and surveys.
  • Student-led conferences

The Essentialness of Voice

So why is student voice so important? From the book, “Student Voice: The Instrument of Change”:

“When students believe their voices matter, they are more likely to be invested and engaged in their schools. When students believe teachers are listening to them, mutual trust and respect are likely to flourish. When students believe they are being heard and influencing decisions, schools become more relevant to students’ lives and are more likely to be seen as serving their needs.”

Moving Forward

As we roll into the last two months of school, I’m thinking about how I can create more opportunities for student voice. I’m interested in having the students run entire days, ala Paul Solarz from “Learn Like a Pirate” fame. They’re ready. I’ve also dreamed of introducing students to podcasting; there are numerous opportunities to utilize their voices, particularly if our audience is the world. Finally, I’ve tried to incorporate Twitter into our classroom on several different occasions but to no avail. Not one to give up too easily, I’m ready to throw it out there and see what these whiz kids can do.

So…how do you cultivate student voice in your classroom?






Five Days of Reflection

Posted in Slice of Life


I spent some time reading posts from my last blog and found an interesting post I wrote about personalized learning while working with Hannah last year. You can read it HERE.

Now that we’re on the tail end of this school year, it’s fascinating to reflect on my journey thus far. In the next five days, I’m going to reflect on each of the five elements of personalized learning (Voice, Choice, Pace, Place, Path). Look for the definition I use for each element, examples of how we’ve woven them into our learning space, the impact on learning and the students’ thoughts about their experiences. Stay tuned…

The Pen IS the Joy

Posted in Slice of Life

I’ve been told, on occasion, that I am a marketer’s dream. It doesn’t take much to convince me to “give it a try.” So it was, today, when this tweet appeared in my feed:


It was the “INK JOY” that drew me in.

Ink…joy…and the colors…utterly irresistible.

2:30 p.m. today: Journeyed to Staples…$10.00 off.

8:12 p.m. My new friends anxiously waiting to write a brilliant story, create one of many lists, doodle, plan…


My everlasting gratitude to Leigh Anne, Dr. Mary, Twitter…oh, and Paper Mate.

My Compass North

Posted in Slice of Life

Personalized learning. So many beautiful, complex facets to those two words. Distilled to its essence, it has everything to do with respect…a deep, abiding respect for the uniqueness of each person. We. Are. All. Different. That is my compass. Everything I do comes from that space: creating learning experiences, choosing novels, sharing digital tools…they all come from my respect for who you are as a person. So, it’s not so hard to imagine what I believe about behavior, discipline, classroom management…whatever you want to call it. My compass? We. Are. All. Different.

Years and years ago, I used coupons in my classroom; the kids loved it. They collected the coupons and turned them in for “Booga Booga” bucks that they could use to buy extra recess, lunch with Mrs. Harrod, a book. It wasn’t until much later that I realized it had become about the reward. The reward…not the learning. The reward…not behaving because it’s the right thing to do. The reward. The reward.

Today, my learning space exudes a much different vibe. It begins with me knowing each of my students well. It continues with many, many learning pathways created to honor their uniqueness. Behavior issues? I have very few but when they do arise, I deal with them on a person-by-person basis. We. Are. All. Different. Although i occasionally give out tickets as part of our school-wide program, my students have shown little interest in them. Honestly, they are more intrigued by the learning happening in our classroom. Our fun is derived from the incredibly engaging learning experiences students choose to engage in. Don’t believe me? Listen to the interview my students participated in recently.

In the meantime, I encourage you to read a few of the resources that have guided me towards a deeper understanding of behavior. After perusing them, consider your own beliefs about discipline, motivation and classroom management. Do you want your students doing something FOR something? Or is the act, in and of itself, reward enough?

The Risks of Rewards

Declining Student Engagment: Are Extrinsic Motivators to Blame?

Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise and Other Bribes

Before You Hand Out Those Rewards – 4 Questions to Ask Yourself

The Bonus Effect: One Kind of Interest Rewards Don’t Kill

Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink

3 Reasons to Stop Rewarding and Punishing Children by Joe Bowers (Thanks for sharing, Shari!)

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