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Showing posts from January, 2019

When Schools Get PD Right

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Yesterday, I sat through one of the most productive collaborative days of my five-year teaching career and it made me wonder what made that one day so much better than all the rest? How could a day with 30 teachers in the Career Center of my school be so much more productive and better than the past five years? 
I tried to find one thing, one magic component that made it stand out. Was it the trainer? Was it new resources? Was it the technology? Was it the snacks? I realized as I pieced together the day that it had nothing to do with the day in isolation, there was nothing particularly special about the day itself but instead, it had everything to do with the past year and a half leading up to this point. 
You see two years ago, as it became clear that our school would be adopting a BYOD program our school leadership knew that in order for BYOD to be successful teachers would need more training and support. Our leadership also knew that we had an invaluable resource for blended learn…

Why I Am Leaving Canvas LMS for Google Classroom

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I consider myself a team player. A few years ago when our district announced that the Learning Management System they were supporting was going to be Canvas LMS I stopped using Schoology and started learning as much as I could about Canvas LMS. Right away I could see the potential, there was a ton of back end data that Canvas was collecting, it was designed with mastery and personalized learning in mind, and you could complete customizations of your pages with just a tiny bit of knowledge of basic HTML.

So I committed to using Canvas as my class website and used it to host all the blended assignments I was creating. I spent hours reading the incredible Canvas LMS community learning all the things it could do that could potentially make my teaching more engaging, more personalized, and more about meeting the needs of my students. 
You see, Canvas does have some remarkable features - you can create quizzes that pull from a question bank so no two students have the same quiz, you can cr…

Grading Practices Mega Post

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I realized today that I have written a lot about grading practices. So here is a post that links to every blog I have written on grading practices in one place. I will try and keep this updated as I write and reflect more on this process.

Some Posts To Get You Thinking About Grade Reform https://mrsbyars.blogspot.com/2018/11/6-articles-to-get-you-thinking-about.html
https://mrsbyars.blogspot.com/2018/12/thoughts-on-grade-reform-what-does.html
My 5 Step Guide on How I Approach Standards-Based Grading https://mrsbyars.blogspot.com/2018/07/where-to-start-with-standards-based.html
https://mrsbyars.blogspot.com/2018/07/where-to-start-with-standards-based_11.html
https://mrsbyars.blogspot.com/2018/07/where-to-start-with-standards-based_12.html
https://mrsbyars.blogspot.com/2018/06/standards-based-grading-step-5-stop.html
Thoughts On Student Accountability 
https://mrsbyars.blogspot.com/2018/12/grade-reform-you-can-still-hold-kids.html
Tips on How To Approach Grade Reform in a Traditional School…

How I Find Balance When Teaching Is Insanely Demanding

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I decided to get a little too honest with the title of this post. I had every intention of starting this semester on the right foot, never staying late, spending time working on hobbies and things I love, and then last Monday hit and I felt like there was no way I would ever get through my to-do list. I stayed late almost every day and never really made it through what I needed to as new concerns and issues pilled up. By Friday, I was thinking that every goal I set for myself this semester was just an out of reach dream, how had I forgotten how demanding and taxing teaching is? How did I forget all the little stuff that pops up each day that has to be handled? I was tired. I was frustrated. I felt like a failure.

And the truth was I had failed. I had failed at planning my downtime and so I often found myself spending too much time trying to decide which task to tackle that by the time I reached a decision my time was already gone. I was wasting minutes trying to decide "Should I…

Assessing Skills in a Standards-Based Classroom

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How do you approach a skill that you will work on all semester? How do you take a Standards-Based Grading approach to skills while still allowing for feedback, formative assessments, and without going insane from the workload or record keeping it creates for you as a teacher?

The truth is: you have some options.

As a social studies teacher, I am responsible for teaching a boatload of skills. Maybe not as many as an ELA teacher but when you have content standards and literacy standards combined, it can feel very daunting and overwhelming to take an SBG approach and often it can feel like something will fall through the cracks.

First of all, there is a difference between what you teach and what you assess. You can probably teach it all, but where do you most need to focus your time and energy for assessing and grading?

Second, something will probably fall through the cracks so wouldn't it be better for you to make a decision on what? Even Marzano Institute, the education research g…

How Routines Can Help You Embrace EdTech in Your Classroom

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Last week, I wrote a little bit about how I want to establish more clear routines and procedures this semester and it got me thinking about where and when routines benefit my students and me the most. As I wrote before, my big takeaway from the first semester of this year was the need to begin and end each class, in the same way, each day so students know where to find the information they need to be successful.

But another area where I know from experience routines are helpful is when implementing technology. Now, I am not talking about how you check out devices (though that does help) I am talking about the actual lessons you do.

When you are new to using technology in the classroom it can seem overwhelming at first, there are just so many apps and tools and cool lesson designs and incredible ways to connect your classroom with the world and so on and so on. But if you are new to using tech in your classroom there are three realities you need to face: 1) you can't do it all 2) …

To Be Read: 5 Books I Am Excited to Read in 2019

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I am obsessed with reading. It might actually be an addiction. I love books in all formats, lengths, and genres. The holidays meant I got some Amazon gift cards and so, of course, I used those to fill my Kindle with books. Here are 5 books that I am really excited to read in 2019.

So You Want To Talk About Race
I use GoodReads a lot to help me find books and this one came up based on other books I read in 2018 and then I found this interview with author Ijeoma Oluo and knew this was a book I needed to read immediately.


I don't think I read enough books on race in 2018. It is essential that I make time and space to educate myself on what experiences my students are having that I never had and never will have. This is one of several books on my 2019 reading list that I hope will help me better serve my students and my community. 
A Teachers Guide to Standards-Based Learning 
A Teachers Guide to Standards-Based Learning 
I've read a lot of books on grading practices and grade ref…

Reinforcing SBG for Your Students in a Traditional School

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There is a small but mighty force at my school site that is experimenting with Standards-Based Grading but at a school of almost 5000 students, the truth is that most of my students see traditional grading in the 5 other classes they attend. This makes the shift to a standards-based classroom even more challenging for me because not only do they have 9 years of traditional grading to contend with but they also have over 25 hours of traditional grading per week.

That makes it even more important for me to make sure students understand the how and the why of what I am trying to do. While my syllabus spells it out very clearly and thoroughly, no one REALLY reads the syllabus and besides students learn best when they apply the knowledge they have so here are some ways I make sure students understand not only how I grade but what is expected of them.

Teach them how it works through a low-threshold activity.  The 0-4 Scale is one of the most challenging things for my students to wrap their…

New Year, New Goals

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I am one of those people that absolutely loves the idea of New Years Resolutions. I like reflecting on the past year and finding places where I can improve and change. I'm usually pretty terrible at keeping my personal resolutions but pretty decent at keeping the ones I make for my classroom. So to start the year off right, here are three resolutions I'd like to make for my teaching practice and what inspired me to make these changes.

1. Know My Students Better Than Ever
I was inspired by this article from Cult of Pedagogy on student engagement to find something new and more purposeful I could do to better build relationships and trust. While I feel like building student relationships is one of my strengths overall, I know this last semester those relationships really suffered because I was out of the classroom a lot more than usual. This is why I am going to start dialogue journals with all of my students.

I want to know more about them and find ways to be there for each of …