Kids are NOT a “Niche” Market

A couple of weeks ago I was at an amazing conference, The MACUL Conference.  It is a technology conference for educators in Michigan.  6000+ educators.  Awesome!

Anyway, while I was there I was charged with checking out some possible classroom environment changes we are looking into for our school.  Specifically furniture.  We want to see what is out there for classrooms, to provide flexible learning opportunities our students.  This huge to me, I love it.  I try to give my students as much freedom to move and sit where they want during our day as I can handle.


I went to the vendors area. I knew there would be some companies showcasing the latest and greatest in classroom furniture options. ¬†I met with a salesman about the furniture he had displayed. ¬†It was great stuff. ¬†Seats that rocked, twisted, were on wheels, easy to move and configure “on the fly” for whole group, small group, and individual learning times. ¬†Tables that rise and lower with ease. ¬†Small couches and bookcases with seating options. ¬†Really amazing stuff. ¬†So I asked, “Do you have any of this for elementary kids?” I explained that I work in a K-2 building. He grimaced and said “no”. ¬†He went on to explain how lower elementary kids are kinda of a “niche market”. ¬†WHAT???? ¬†You see, the amazing furniture he had can be used for upper elementary, all the way up to the corporate training room. ¬†One size fits most. One product line that hits the maximum market available. I get it but c’mon, once again our students are a commodity. Which leaves us to our desks and chairs that were manufactured 30 years ago, designed 60 years ago, for an educational philosophy over 100 years old. ¬†Excuse my language but THAT SUCKS!

Our youngest learners, who are preparing for jobs that haven’t even been conceptualized or created yet, are not a “niche” market.

They are THE MARKET!  

imageWe need to start treating them that way!


Update, although that specific vendor did not have lower elementary stuff, there are other companies that do, and we are looking into options for our K-2 population. ¬†I have a restored faith in humanity again! It still SUCKS that some people view little kiddos as a “niche” market.

Captain Typo STRIKES AGAIN!!!

John and I in Boulder, about to grab a pint and catch up.

We all have that friend. ¬†The one whom no matter what, you have their back, and they have yours. ¬†With that comes the relentless teasing, ribbing, and general Tom Foolery. ¬†Yep, I just said Tom Foolery. For me it is John. ¬†I call him J, or J-bird…don’t know why, just do. ¬†Now John and I have been best friends since the first day of college, almost 22 years now, and we have been through a lot. ¬†Good, bad, crazy…but that isn’t what this post is about.

I have a reputation of making mistakes when it comes to writing. ¬†Spelling mistakes, punctuation, conventional, you name it. ¬†I blame that on being an elementary teacher and reading first and second grade writing for 15 years, but the reality of it is I’ve never been great with that stuff. ¬†In fact as I sit here and type out this post, there are multiple red squiggles reaffirming my struggle…the struggle is real folks!

Since John and I are great friends, and we tease each other about EVERYTHING, he likes to rip on me about my typographical errors. ¬†He calls me Captain Typo. ¬†Whenever I post to Facebook, send an email, text, whatever, he will point out my typos with the tagline “Captain Typo Strikes Again”. ¬†It doesn’t bother me, but it got me thinking.

Teachers aren’t perfect, and our students aren’t either. ¬†Celebrate that! Embrace your shortcomings. Use that to connect with your students. We want our student to challenge themselves, to do things that are hard. ¬†We want them to make mistakes, and learn from them. ¬†We want them to fail, and figure out why. ¬†They may just surprise you, they may surprise themselves, and they may just change the world, ¬†Typos and All!

To Cursive or NOT to Cursive?

Cursive writing – ¬†Do you still teach it? ¬†Should you? ¬†Should we replace it with something else? ¬†Personally I think time could be better spent teaching code, foreign language, Genius Hour, Makerspace…but I don’t get to make those decisions, ¬†so I still teach cursive.

In my district kids learn d’nealian printing, so when it comes to cursive, they pick it up pretty quick. ¬†I don’t have to spend a ton of time on it, but I didn’t want to spend anytime on it. ¬†So I don’t! ¬†Don’t worry I still teach it, but I use a flipped lesson to do the work for me.

Teach a 19th Century Skill, Using a 21st Century Technique

O.K., Cursive probably isn’t a 19th century skill, I’ll GOOGLE it later, but you get the point. ¬†Since I hate wasting a ton of time on teaching cursive, I started flipping the lessons. ¬†I use a technique that we call Flipping IN the Classroom. ¬†It is similar to Flipping the Classroom, but the video lesson takes place at school, not at home. I record short videos on each cursive lesson, then saved them. ¬†Then I post them to my Cursive Academy (I made that fancy name up) website. ¬†My students get their cursive practice page, view the lesson on their iPads, and complete the practice sheet. ¬†Piece of cake. ¬†If the students needs to see it again, the simply rewatch the video. ¬†If the student was absent, the video is there when they get back. ¬†If the student goes to Disney and wants to learn cursive… the’re crazy, but the video is available to them.

I have also done this with spelling lessons. ¬†This allows me to, in a sense, clone myself, and teach multiple lessons to multiple students, at the SAME TIME! It has really provided me with a lot more time in the classroom for more pressing things like guided reading, math support, and of course testing. ¬†Just kidding on the testing…well sort of. ¬†Anyway if you are interested in checking out my lessons, feel free to email me.

Example Lesson Cursive g

Book Creator Does EVERYTHING!!!

I have said on more than one occasion, if I were stranded on a desert island, and could only have one app, it would be Book Creator. That is, of course, if I had a way to charge my iPad. The bottom line is Book Creator is an amazing app to use with your students. Whether you are in a one to one environment, or you only have one device, Book Creator can get it done.

Ways to Use Book Creator in Your Classroom

Create Content: If you are anything like me, the district provided curriculum is good but needs a boost. Enter Book Creator. Take your existing content and add your voice, a student‚Äôs voice, a bad celebrity impersonation, whatever it takes to engage your students. Dump in video, pictures, graphs, charts‚Ķ.the possibilities are endless. You have now created a student friendly, content based, ‚Äútext book‚ÄĚ, saved digitally, that your students can download to their device, and take with them on the go. It is personalized for your group of kiddos!

Share projects: My students are constantly creating content of their own, whether it is publishing writing, sharing what they have learned in science, responding to texts they have read, or what they have learned during Genius Hour. Book Creator gives them an easy way to digitize their learning, and share it with the WORLD! That authentic audience is so crucial to students, and Book Creator allows them to publish ebooks, PDFs, and even turn their book into a video. They email it, tweet it, post it to blogs, and share it with classmates.

Endless other ways: We use book creator to create digital portfolios of our best work to use during parent teacher conferences. We create science response journals, to record observations and photos, create video, and document our findings. We publish our writing throughout the year, and share it with our peers, the school, and the world. We create personalized word study books, and I can’t wait to use it even more!

It is a digital world, we just teach here, and Book Creator helps you navigate it, and use it to your advantage, engaging all students.

I HATE the First Day of School!

Tomorrow will be Friday…TGIF right! The end of the second week of school,, and as much as I love Friday because it is the end of the week, and Friday Night Football, that isn’t what this post is about. ¬†Today I am writing about why I HATE the first day of school, but it isn’t for the reasons you may expect. ¬†Sure, I’m bummed because summer is over, and my alarm clock that I haven’t had to set for 2 months is ringing. ¬†I had to pack lunches for my kids and myself…ugg! ¬†Oh, and wear pants….I hate wearing pants. ¬†No that isn’t why I HATE the first day of school. ¬†I hate it because I have to talk to much. ¬†I have to tell them where to line up after recess, where to find the bathroom, turn in notes, make their lunch choice, what their number is, how to log into drive, and even what my name is….no it isn’t “teacher”. ¬†Although that is necessary at the beginning of the year, it doesn’t need to continue. Teachers talk TOO MUCH! ¬†I pride myself on letting my students do as much of the talking as I can. ¬†I want them to learn from each other and figure it out. ¬†I empower my students to take charge of their learning, give them choice, the basics, then they go do it. ¬†As I sit here reflecting on the end of the second week, my kids are doing that already. ¬†They are asking their neighbors for help, trying, failing….and being ok with it. ¬†They are working independently, making good choices. ¬†I feel like the first day of school was years ago. ¬†How far they have come in eight days of school. ¬†It makes me proud! ¬†So teachers, I encourage you to abandon the “sit and get” model. ¬†Classrooms shouldn’t be silent. ¬†Let the kids talk, learn, fail, because then they can succeed, and exceed our expectations.