Digital Citizenship

Over the past three years we have administered the exact same Digital Citizenship pre and post test to our second and fifth graders in the district.  Below are the results over the years:

Second Grade Results:

Second Grade 16 17 pretest average 16 17 post average   Second Grade 17 18 pretest average 17 18 post average   Second Grade 18 19 pretest average 18 19 post average
KME 55.52% 75.75% KME 67.45% 76.59% KME 62.77% 74.60%
KSS 62.58% 81.57% KSS 60.04% 80.59% KSS 69.39% 84.09%
KBK 65.60% 73.13% KBK 60.40% 70.18% KBK 71.91% 73.23%
KST 56.23% 71.52% KST 69.00% 81.81% KST 59.89% 80.11%
All Schools 59.98% 75.49% All Schools 64.22% 77.29% All Schools 65.99% 78.01%

As you can see our overall district scores in second grade have improved over the three years from the pre to the post. However, in 16-17 our growth was 15.51%, 18-19 was 13.07% and 18-19 was 12.02%, which slightly declined over the years.  But if we look at the pre test scores, the students came in higher each year – 16-17 at 59.98%, 17-18 at 64.22% (+4.24) and 18-19 at 65.99% (+1.77). In looking at specific questions for the second graders, three questions from the category of cyber-bullying consistently scored high, with a second grade district average of 97.26%, 97.29% and 96.46%

Fifth Grade Results:

Fifth Grade 16 17 pretest average 16 17 post average   Fifth Grade 17 18 pretest average 17 18 post average   Fifth Grade 18 19 pretest average 18 19 post average
KME 75.66% 83.40% KME 79.54% 81.72% KME 83.27% 88.35%
KSS 75.57% 86.70% KSS 82.95% 84.31% KSS 78.00% 85.68%
KBK 74.30% 82.25% KBK 75.40% 84.31% KBK 81.04% 86.77%
KST 76.77% 80.80% KST 79.18% 84.04% KST 80.99% 83.96%
All Schools 75.58% 83.29% All Schools 79.27% 83.60% All Schools 80.83% 86.19%

Fifth grade scores have increased too over the years for their pre and post data. Similar to our second grade data, it showed that students increased by 7.71% in 16-17 for their pre to post, 4.33% in 17-18 and 18-19 5.36%. When we looked at specific questions, the fifth graders like their counterparts in 2nd grade, consistently scored high in the category of cyber-bullying too. The district fifth grade average for the three questions were: 98.22%, 97.75% and 98.45%.

With cyber bullying being in the forefront of the digital age, it is reassuring to know that our students are aware of what it is, what it feels like, and what to do if it happens to them. Should you have any questions about the data above, please let us know.

A Closing Note

Dear Kaneland EC-5 teachers,

I want to take this blog post to thank you.  Thank you for opening your doors for me. Thank you for allowing me to learn about your day and your students and the challenges and joys that you face.  This year has been an amazing opportunity that I never could have anticipated and yet wouldn’t give up for the world.

If I am being honest, I was a bit anxious about this year.  I believe in coaching. I believe teachers need support to help us stay standing.  There are so many new things that get pushed onto an educator’s plate and coaches have the ability to provide support to allow teachers to continue to feel empowered in his/her profession.  I wanted the person that came into this position at the EC-5 level to be a coach that could support you and help you grow. I took the spot hoping that I could fulfill that role, knowing that I would have a steep learning curve when it came to the day in and day out of the elementary classroom.

You took me in and made me part of the family.  You answered my questions, even when they seemed silly.  You let me read with your students. Your students impressed me with their abilities to talk about their learning and the level of creativity that they have.  You listened to me and made me feel valued in this community. I cannot thank you enough.

As I head back to the world of high school, please remember I am always an email away!  Kaneland Pride!



Reflecting on Writing Data


The coaching blog has had quite a focus on reflection the past few weeks, which is perfectly appropriate for this time of year.  There are numerous facets to our roles as educators, prompting reflection in so many areas. After spending 6 consecutive work days on norming writing, I thought it would be appropriate to take some time to reflect on our norming process and results for narrative writing.

I want to celebrate the depth of conversations teachers are having about what grade level expectations do and don’t look like.  There were times throughout the week that I thought forward to our work next year on proficiency tables and absolutely feel that we are on the right track.  An addition to our conversations this spring was the acknowledgement that many of us have bias when grading writing from our own students. With that in mind, several teachers intentionally selected papers to give to their peers to score in recognition that they wanted an unbiased look at that piece of work.

Working to score writing the same, which can be very subjective, is and will be an ongoing focus.  In an attempt to capture our common expectations, I have compiled a folder with writing exemplars for each grade level.  The papers that were selected have scores as close to the grade level target as possible. This is still a work in progress and will be complete by the end of the school year. Each file name has the score in all three areas of the rubric.  Please refer to the chart for grade level point expectations.

While we will continue to reflect and hone this norming process, the data acquired is a valuable representation of your students. However, many of you have expressed that it is hard to make heads or tails of the information. As a participant in all grade level norming for the past 4 years, I have become quite familiar with the rubric and how the numbers fall. We have often reassured teachers in grades 1 through 5 that a score of 75% means that a student is on grade level. Kindergarten, who is using this rubric for the first time this year, identifies grade level at 67%. As we all know, data tells a story. In order to make sense of that data story, it is important to know more than just that one target score or average in order to reflect. When looking at Matrix, you can see individual points scored in each of the three categories of structure, development, and conventions. Below are the listed grade level expectations for your grade level.

The Kindergarten rubric scores look a bit different because the rest of the grade levels span from 2 grade levels below to one grade level ahead.  Kindergarten does not have a level below Pre-Kinder.

While the rubric spans two grade levels below for 1st through 5th grade, it is important for you to recognize where your students fall in comparison to the grade level above and below.  Please note the range that exists between each grade level expecation.



When you look at your Matrix scores, you can easily scan the three areas for your students.  It is important to take note of the range of points that can be scored between grade levels. In looking at the post scores for this third grade class, I can see that the overall class average is 66%.  That does fall below grade level, but it is also important to recognize that it is closer to the grade level target than the 50% score of the grade level below.



As I scan the student scores, I can see that this class scored the best in Language Conventions because the grade level target is 6 points and this class average 5.64.  The area that falls the shortest here is Development, scoring 1.92 points below the grade level expectation. The ability to scan individual student scores also helps to recognize a few outliers that need some intense support in a specific area as well as student strengths in each of the areas.

I hope you all take the time to look over your scores as you finish up your grading.  We have zoomed in on what proficiency is for a narrative piece of writing. Where are we?  What are our next steps? As we reflect on the passion we pour into working with our students, this is also a time that we can reflect on their growth.  If we take a look at the same students from the beginning of the year, it is clear the significant gains these students have made. Writing is a challenging process and students all develop at a different rate.  Our common understanding of grade level expectations will result in more targeted feedback to students and will continue support their growth as a writer.


End of the Year Reflection

“Self-reflection is the school of wisdom.” – Baltasar Gracian

Self-reflection is what teachers do every day. How did that lesson go, did the students learn today, etc.,  the list could go on and on. But as we wind down the 2018-2019 school year, it is always good practice to self-reflect and take a pulse on how the entire school year turned out. It is not only important for teachers to self-reflect, but it would be meaningful too to have your students do the same. Remember one important aspect of personalized learning is the reflection piece.

Listed here are a few teacher reflection questions to ponder:

  1. What does the student data reveal about their growth this school year?
  2. What changes, if any, would need to be made to improve student performance?
  3. Finish the sentence — The students really responded to . . .
  4. How has your thinking grown or changed this school year?
  5. Don’t forget to celebrate all your accomplishments — list them here:


Next, have the students self-reflect on their school year. 

  1. What is something you accomplished this school year that you are proud of?
  2. What was the most challenging part of this school year for you?
  3. If you could change one thing that happened this school year, what would that be?  
  4. Was there something you or your teacher could have done to make this school year better?
  5. If you were given the opportunity to write a letter to next year’s students, what advice would you give to them?

Once they have completed their self-reflection, have the students take the time and go in an update their learner profile.

If you have the opportunity, take the time for you and your students to reflect on these questions, it will definitely be a learning experience for all.


A Reflection on Coaching

Over the past two years I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to work alongside so many wonderful educators in District 302! Coaching enabled me to get into the classroom and assist teachers in taking risks, trying new things, attempting personalization,  and allowing teachers to get the most out of their students. Coaching also enabled me to get to know individuals on both a personal and professional level and to build relationships that I never had experienced before.

I have already noticed an impact that coaching has in the classroom. Many are still reluctant, which is understandable, but I feel that everyone should just give it a try and then make your judgment. Earlier this year I wrote a blog entry about the idea that everyone needs a coach at some time in their career. I referenced how even Michael Jordan needed one, allowing him to reach the highest level of achievement. I still believe this statement is true and that yes, we have so many excellent teachers in Kaneland, but there is always a chance to become better.

As I head back into the classroom next year,  I can look back at the experience I received as an Instructional Coach. I can also look at all the possibilities that have been opened up for me.  I had the opportunity to witness excellence in over 70 classrooms throughout our district! Through my daily learning walks, the many conversations with teachers, and the cycles that I was involved in, I have learned so much about education as a whole. The things that I have learned will only better my own production in the classroom.

Just recently I was asked if I would ever make a  request to use an Instructional Coach once I get back in the classroom? That is a most definite YES!  Why wouldn’t I? It’s another set of eyes in the classroom, someone I can bounce ideas off of, someone that can help me research and get answers, a person that can guide me along the way, someone I can co-teach with, and someone that I can count on to get the most out of my students. And most importantly, someone that I can reflect with. There’s actually a running joke within the Instructional Coaches team that so- and-so is going to set the record for the number of cycles. I intend to be THAT someone!

So how is this coaching going to help me in the classroom? Well, now I can become a better coach to my students. By using the same techniques that were used with teachers, I can now use them with students. The key is listening- listen to what they need, what they want, and what they expect to become successful. Guiding them along in their decision making instead of making the decisions for them. Having conversations with them to allow them to become better students. There really isn’t much difference in coaching students and coaching teachers- the end result is generally the same. And, more importantly, the experience should make me a better teammate.

As I head back into the classroom I will be saying goodbye to a great team of coaches, not only at the elementary level, but throughout Kaneland.  But now it is time to take the experience that I received and share the information with my new team. As I look forward to next year I realize that I will be joining yet another excellent team and moving into a new environment.  My goal is to bring the knowledge that I have received over the last two years to the classroom and to my newest teammates. I can’t wait!

Slowing Down to Go Faster: Building a Solid Foundation Part 2

Part 1

There is a certain rush that we as teachers feel as the school year draws near the end.  Will we have enough time to get to everything? How do we keep these kids in line? Have we done enough? When does summer begin ☺?

There is also the pressure of looking forward to next year.  Are you shifting grade levels? Adopting new curriculum? Jumping into a pilot? Focusing on proficiency based feedback? Or asking how am I going to keep my head above water?  

Take a step back.  Take a breath….and let’s talk.  In order to gain some control and confidence as you move forward, it may benefit you to slow down. Slow down and know that you have support to help you develop a system that allows for a deeper understanding of your standards.

This year I have had the privilege of working with a few teams of teachers to help create a system that allows them to dig deep into their standards and find ways to identify what proficiency means.  We have worked together to identify reporting standards and move those into rubrics or proficiency scales that use language and student examples to clarify what proficiency looks like, sounds like, and can be described as.  These documents are not created to be kept hidden in our ever growing Google Drive. These are living documents that are evaluated weekly and tweaked to help create clarity amongst a team of individuals that are all teaching students in the same grade span.

When thinking about the best way to write about this process I realized that I did not have the best version of the process to tell.  I decided it would be best to reach out to those that have gone through the experience this year and have them share how this process has helped them gain clarity and a solid foundation to move at a quicker pace moving forward.


From the Classroom Teacher’s Perspective

By: Morgan Padalik

When approached with the opportunity of norming in the fall, much like many teachers, my immediate thought was … and when do I have time for this? Up until that point, and even still afterwards, the feeling of not having enough time is always a pressing issue for teachers and there never seems to be enough of it. Being as transparent as possible, the issue of time will always be there, HOWEVER the efficiency and productiveness of time can change and norming has demonstrated that.

As a classroom teacher that specifically focuses on the STEM side of the grade level content, I felt like I had a pretty solid handle of the standards that my kids were being asked to master. Fractions, got it!, Multiplication and Division, you bet! Decimals, piece of cake! As a grade level, we were trying new strategies and structures to meet the individual needs of the kids. Again, as transparent as possible, the new math continuum was a bit overwhelming as it was uncharted territory for not only students but also for us as teachers. Recognizing the nature of the continuum and the proficiency component that is embedded within it, the proposition of norming fell smack dab on our laps at the perfect time.

Fast forward to this spring, we are now fully entrenched in the norming and proficiency process. At this point, we have met as a collective team to create proficiency rubrics for three days and meet weekly to norm our student samples.

We are far more reflective in our marking of students and their progress as we have established consistency and actual parameters of what it means to be proficient. We have edited our completed rubrics again and again and again as we have realized over time how to make them better.

We collect student samples of models of the different proficiency levels and document. Etc…

YES, a lot of time as been put into this adventure however that time has also been invaluable! As a team, our constructive conversations have led to clarity, consistency and a thorough understanding and unpacking of the standards. While the norming process has bitten off a big chunk of our time this year, the transition back into school and math next year will be a lot friendlier based off the work and conversations that we have had this year. We thought we were taking a few steps backward while in reality, we were jumping many steps forward! The time that we have spent has truly been worthwhile as the work produced was lasting work that made a difference not only in student achievement but also teacher performance!

While those in the thick of the proficiency and norming mania can go on and on about the benefits and progress they have experienced and seen, my biggest piece of advice is to JUMP in and start slowly! By no means is anyone expecting you to have it down pat in record time so for that reason, start SLOW! Get into the knack of norming, start to unpack your standards, have meaningful conversations… You have nothing to lose and EVERYTHING to gain. ☺

From RTI’s Perspective

By: Rachael Willson

Believe it or not, math is not as black and white as we all think it is. There are an abundance of resources and activities that address each standard we teach. Unfortunately, not all of these resources and activities are consistent with what the standard actually means. Some go beyond while others just skim the surface of what is truly expected.  Just like these inconsistencies in the resources and activities, within our team there were differences in interpretations of what it looked like to be proficient in the standards we were teaching. Even though each one of us knows the standards, the level of expectation differed from classroom to classroom.

This sparked and ignited a discussion with Lauren. Our team decided it was time to meet and create proficiency based rubrics for essential standards within the current domain we were teaching. Yep, another task we added to our plates but in the end so worth it.  Our first meeting was an all day affair. We spent pretty much all morning discussing our goals for our meeting and establishing norms. In addition, we examined the standards we were going to identify as “power standards.” Just these two agenda items took time to discuss but they were an integral component for our afternoon task of creating rubrics.  The in-depth discussion that took place was valuable, but it was difficult especially if we were not on the same page as far as proficiency. It is important to be open to others’ ideas and opinions. This discussion took a lot of collaboration as well as compromising. Making time to meet, the quick turnaround on providing student samples and using the rubric to norm and then time to discuss the samples we were not on the same page on was a very slow process in the beginning. It takes commitment from all team members involved.

By taking the initiative to begin this process and creating norming rubrics as well as providing student samples to look at and discuss,  helped our team align our expectations on proficiency. I am not going to lie and say it was easy at first. Now it is just part of our routine. Norming student work as an individual teacher and comparing our rating with our peers, forced us to step outside of our comfort zone. Flexibility and being open to a living rubric are crucial components to this process. The definition of proficient may change as students display their knowledge. Therefore, there may be a need to tweak the language. In the long run these difficult conversations have brought us closer as a team and the level of collective efficacy has strengthened. We are still working through kinks and tweaking but I feel the time we have put into this process has made us more cognitive of the feedback and activities we provide for our students. Our worthwhile discussions promoted a deeper understanding of the standards as well as what we expect students to know in order to show proficiency.  Isn’t this worth the time?


By: Courtney Ward

We were fortunate to be an integral part of the utilizing the math continuum this year. While we started with a proficiency based checklist  to monitor student’s achievement, we were finding that it was very cumbersome and pointed out a glaring problem that we weren’t all on the same page when it came to what was proficient. This isn’t to say we didn’t know our standards or what we were supposed to be teaching, just what I thought was mastery level work wasn’t the same as my colleagues, which was surprising because we have taught together for years. There is where the problem lies. We assume we all hold our students to the same level of expectations. Did it mean that one of us is a better teacher than the other? Absolutely not! All it did was provide us an opportunity to become a stronger team of teachers that will do better for students.

We needed a better tool to report; that’s where it all started. How do we create a more useful tool that is less time consuming but would give us a better picture? Rubrics and norming. I would be lying if I said this wasn’t a time consuming process, but I would also be lying if I said this wasn’t the MOST worthwhile PD I have done as an educator. The process wasn’t pretty… we debated… A LOT, we were frustrated, we comprised, but our team left stronger, smarter, and with a clear picture of what proficiency looks like for our students. This led us to weekly norming meetings where we pulled student samples and evaluated each piece using the created rubrics. Initially, the meetings took some time because we again debated on the scores that we all didn’t agree on, but now there are weeks we don’t meet because our scores are all in sync. We have become an well-oiled machine.

Moving Forward with Better Conversations about Personalized Learning

Student voice and choice is at the core of personalized learning.  This is an area where we have all shown growth over the past few years.  At times, we struggle with balancing voice and choice with how or what we present to our students.  Teachers like to craft lessons, it is part of how we were trained! However, we must adapt and change to meet our learners and how they respond.  This same concept applies to how professional development or opportunities for teachers must evolve as well.


A few months ago, Natalie and I presented the opportunity for a Twitter Chat among our four buildings during morning collaboration time. This opportunity was truly inquiry based with the goal of us exploring together.  We hoped it would bridge communication among buildings as we all strive to learn about personalized learning. We were thrilled with the initial response of over 30 participants. We asked for your ideas of topics, what schedule would work best for you, and offered twitter support.  While we gave you a voice in how we developed the Twitter Chats, our participation has dwindled. Although we personally may love Twitter Chats, it is clear to us that this format isn’t working for everyone.  It seems clear that there is a desire to connect and learn about what is happening in other buildings, so we are faced with deciding what the next steps are in determining a new format.  We want this collaborative opportunity to be one that is valuable for you, so we are once again asking for your voice. Just as teachers and students can co-create a path to learning, coaches and teachers can do the same.


Please take a few minutes to fill out the survey in this link, so that we can alter our path in a way that is meaningful for all of you.  Please fill it out by next Thursday, April 18th.  We will reach out soon with new opportunities.


Revision in Writing

As we are now in the midst of having our students publish a piece of narrative writing to collect district data; the students are given the option to either revise their submission from the beginning of the school year or to create a new piece.

An important part of the writing process is revision. But exactly what is revision? “Revision is the stage in the writing process where the author reviews, alters, and amends their message, according to what has been written in the draft. Revision follows drafting and precedes editing. Drafting and revising often form a loop as a work moves back and forth between the two stages.” See below.

Image result for writing process image

Revision is not easy. Our writers need to be explicitly taught strategies on how and what it looks like. We cannot just tell our students — go revise your paper, they will be lost.  Below are some strategies on how we can get our students to revise.

  1. Provide models for the students to see what this looks like. Take a piece of writing from your own journal and model in front of them what it looks like to revise.
  2. Add details to your writing” – we’ve all heard and said this to our students. If a strategy has not been explicitly taught, they will probably just go back and add one word. One strategy that is powerful in “The Big Book of Details” by Roz Linder is called Zoom In. Linder describes zooming in as focusing “more on highlighting a physical or personality trait of a person, an aspect of an object, or an experience.” She suggests trying this with your class by zooming in on objects in the classroom and do a shared writing. Below is an example of zooming in on an object (outside classroom):

Example: My pickup truck made its way down the road to school.

Revised:  My old, tattered, and rusty pickup truck made its way, chugging along, down the road to school.

  1. Delete the unnecessary – Our students will sometimes write without clarity and muddy the true intent of their writing. After your student has read their writing, here are a few questions you may ask them:
  • Do you have a better understanding of the subject?
  • Can you picture this in your mind?
  • Did you stay on the subject/topic throughout?

Revision can be taught during small group or individual conferences, depending upon the need of each student. If you are wondering what this might look at your grade level, below I have included a Learning Progression for the Writing Process on revision.

Level 1:          Beginning of Kindergarten

  • With support, writers can go back and tell new details about the event/topic. They can point to their pictures, add on to the pictures, and perhaps label.

Level 2:          Mid-Year of Kindergarten

  • When nudged, writers reread their work, and revise by adding to pictures, making new pictures and sentences and adding labels.

Level 3:          End of Kindergarten/Beginning of 1st Grade

  • When nudged, writers revise their work by “stretching” out a picture, that is, drawing more pictures to show parts of the event and then writing sentences to stretch out the story. The writer may also add more sentences (between three and six sentences to the book).
  • A writer at this stage is also starting to learn that revision can help focus a piece of writing and may begin to take off parts.

Level 4:          End of 1st Grade/Beginning of 2nd Grade

  • A writer at this stage has a small repertoire of revision strategies (add more dialogue, take away parts, add more details, stretch out the most important, etc.). She knows to use a chart for visual reminders of learned strategies.
  • A writer at this stage knows that there are predictable places that are important to revise (e.g., the beginning, the climax, etc.).
  • The writer begins to revise with more purpose, considering craft and the effect different craft choices have on the way a story sounds to a reader.

Level 5:          End of 2nd Grade/Beginning of 3rd Grade

  • A student at this level will write an entirely new draft of a story. In previous levels, the child may have written changes on an original draft and published that, and now she is ready to make significant large-scale changes and then write a second draft outside of the notebook. She has a small repertoire of revision strategies and knows that there are key ways revision can always pay off (i.e., revising beginning, ending, key parts, rethinking audience, topic, etc.). Her new draft does not just feel like a reworked version of the first but rather shows significant large-scale change. She knows to begin working on a new piece immediately after “finishing” one.

Level 6:          End of 3rd Grade/Beginning of 4th Grade

  • The student at this level can take one piece through a sequence of drafts, each feeling entirely new and benefiting from large-scale changes. Students at this level have multiple revision strategies, They “write until the water runs clear” and know that more rewriting will lead to better writing. The child also understands that revisions bring out the significance of the piece.
  • The writer is starting to not wait until revision to make a piece stronger but considers this while drafting.

Level 7:          End of 4th Grade/Beginning of 5th Grade

  • At this level, students have an internalized sense that yesterday’s revision strategies become today’s drafting work, and they bring all they know about revision into the initial drafting of their stories. Their revision is large scale and targeted, and they have multiple strategies to draw from. Students at this level begin to look closely and critically at mentor texts during this stage of revision and ask themselves what the author did that they can try.

Level 8:          End of 5th Grade/Beginning of 6th Grade

  • At this level, students revise not only drafts but also entries, choosing to find ways to ratchet up their own work using strategies they have learned, mentor texts, and talks with partners. Rather than following strategies to revise key places, a student at this level might instead or also read through a piece searching for places where the writing feels stronger or weaker and marking and rewriting those over and over.
  • A student at this level might also start to revise by experimenting with craft to bring out significance. For example, a writer might not just rewrite her lead starting with dialogue, description and so on but rather look more closely at varying sentence lengths, word choice, punctuation moves, and so on.

As always, let us know if we can help you further.


Works Cited

Calkins, Lucy. Units of Study in Opinion, Information, and Narrative Writing. Heinemann, 2013.

Linder, Rozlyn. The Big Book of Details: 46 Moves for Teaching Writers to Elaborate. Heinemann, 2016.

A Spring Break Bucket List to Rejuvenate

This blog post is dedicated to a colleague and a dear friend. Lorrie, you will be missed and many of these thoughts and ideas came from the many fun times that we shared. Heaven awaits a very special person. Rest in peace my good friend!


It’s almost here! We have persevered through three months of winter. We have dealt with the treacherous weather conditions, the task of fighting off the many classroom illnesses, the turmoil of state testing, a recent tragedy, and the everyday grind in the occupation of teaching. Spring Break is finally upon us!

Although there’s still a lot left to do with our students, breaks are something teachers really need. Spring Break re-energizes us! Many of you might have plans of a luxurious vacation in paradise, while others may just be traveling to spend some time with family. However, I’m guessing that the majority are just spending the time at home or just plain catching up. Whatever you might be up to, this blog’s sole intent is to kick off your well deserved Spring Break and give you some tips on how you can successfully recuperate and ready yourself for the final run. Enjoy!:


Plan Nothing- Imagine a day without anything to do.  A day without meetings to attend or appointments to be made. A day without anything is a day of relaxation. A day spent in your pajamas.

Don’t Set Any Alarms- Oh the joys of a 9- day weekend. Bring back the days of college- rise and shine at the crack of noon? How fun it is to wake up when you want? No need to worry about your snooze button.

Read a (Whole) Book- How many times have you picked up a book to read, only to find out something else comes up? Dig deep into that book that you’ve been putting off for a while. Indulge yourself with some uninterrupted reading. A nice cup of coffee or another favorite beverage will make it so worth the while!

Blast Your Music & Dance!- If there ever was a time to let loose, do it now. If the weather allows, open those windows and crank those tunes- let it all out! I’m thinking Tom Cruise in Risky Business!

Road Trip!- Take one, or several, quick two-three day road trips- take in some sights in the Heartland of America or venture out to our neighbors to the north or south. Spending a couple days away does wonders for the soul! Don’t forget the SELFIE at each state’s Welcome sign!

Buy Something for your Other Rooms- So many times we’re buying things for our classrooms. It’s time to splurge on your own house. Walk around your house and focus on your own flexible seating! Find a relaxing project that takes care of your own needs.

Catch up on Life!- We all have things that we put off- now is a great time to get caught up. Whether it’s emailing a friend, adding to a scrapbook page, or finishing up some tax filing, get it done, then get back to relaxing!

Indulge in March Madness- Is there a better time to follow the NCAA tournament than during Spring Break? Cheer on your favorite team (probably not a local one) or just track your brackets. If you’re lucky enough, head out to a host site and catch some action!

Get Back into the Exercise Room- If there is ever a time to get yourself back into a routine, it is now! This is a great time to blow off some steam and get yourself ready for the summer! Get that schedule started now- it’s easier to get started when you have nothing else planned!

It’s Opening Day- Take Me Out to the Ballgame- enjoy the start of the baseball season! Spring training games are wrapping up and the regular season official start is March 28. Make an attempt at one of those road trips and catch the action live. There’s also a good chance our high school and college teams are hitting the fields.

Throw a Dinner Party- What a great way to catch up with friends and neighbors! Give it a Spring Break kind of theme while you’re at it. Fire up that grill and take it outside if the weather permits. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, make the most of a night to enjoy with friends.

Pamper Yourself- Get that relaxing massage you’ve been putting off. If you need your nails done, what better time? Maybe you can even soak up some sun! For those golfers out there, what’s more relaxing than time on the range?

Binge Watch- All those Netflix shows you’ve been putting off, this is the perfect opportunity! Coach’s tip: Need some humor? Search Netflix for The Ranch. If you’re a fan of The Office, this is the ideal binge for you! I’ve also heard that Jack Ryan is a big hit!

Stay Up Late- Remember those days? Who needs a bedtime during Spring Break? If you’re sleeping in, why bother watching a clock? Great way to make the most out of binge watching as well.

Get out and Enjoy the Weather- I am so hopeful that this is possible (fingers crossed)! Take a ride on your bike or a stroll through the neighborhood. Get out those shorts and flip-flops. Enjoy your morning coffee out on the deck and just listen to the sounds of Spring in the air!

Call your BFF and Just Chat- When was the last time you actually had this opportunity? Your teaching BFF does not count– this needs to be that friend or sibling that you just haven’t had the opportunity to chat with. Reach out and indulge yourself in the conversation.

Start Planning Summer Vacation- What better time to start? Get a game plan going- plan out each week so you’re not wasting away precious time during the summer.

Finally, RELAX!– Enjoy your time away by just going about your day like you just don’t care. Get yourself healthy- get those doctor visits out of the way. Dedicate your break to taking care of yourself and rejuvenating for the final two months of the school year.


Have a safe and refreshing Spring Break!


Slowing Down to Go Faster: Building a Solid Foundation

In a time of constant change, it seems as if we can never really keep up. As we rush to keep up, the haste to move forward can create systems that haven’t had the opportunity to solidify a foundation. In a time where things are so hurried, it might be time to think about slowing down. Slow down and build your solid foundation.  Slow down to get procedures in place in your classroom. Slow down to deepen your understanding of your learning targets and create clarity in what it means to be proficient in your standards.  This slow down will pay back in dividends.

Because by now we all know I struggle with brevity, this will be another two part blog post. I decided to first address what you could reflect on in your classroom today; focusing on procedures, structures, and planning.  Next month, I will follow up and offer some ideas and suggestions about ways to deepen your understanding of your learning targets and creating clarity on proficiency.


Paradox of Planning for Personalized Learning

On the Kane County Institute Day, I was able to present on planning for personalized learning.  I started my presentation talking about how planning for personalized learning is a paradox. A paradox is a contradictory statement that when explained displays a truth.  (An example of a paradox would be something like “it is the beginning of the end” or “I know one thing; that I know nothing.”)

Personalized learning often gives us the feeling that we need to hand over the reins to the students and let them experiment and create for themselves. Personalization feels like it should be a free flow of ideas based off of what the student wants and needs, which means it would be near impossible to plan or create structures for all the students we see each day. Yet, as we start exploring personalized learning with students, I believe we are starting to understand how incredibly vital good procedures, structures, and planning are in order to create an environment that allows students to personalize their learning.


Procedures and Structures

Procedures are the routines in the classroom and structures are the organizational elements that need to be understood for there to be a safe and productive environment.  These guiding elements give students stability and create a room where learning can be varied and yet still organized. Procedures and structures are often times focused on at the start of the year, but begin to slip as the year goes on.  Have you re-calibrated your classroom lately?

Kaneland adopted the CHAMPS model to assist in creating a common language about behaviors and expectations for procedures and structures.  Did you take the time to train your students on all elements in CHAMPS? When was the last time you revisited the expectations for behaviors or procedures?  Does it seem to take forever to get students to truly understand and follow through on the expectations? Go slow.  Make sure students have full understanding.  By taking the time to solidify procedures and structures, less time will be lost at the end of the day when students are moving independently. It is one of those situations in the classroom where you need to go slow to go fast.

If you are setting up your classroom for personalization, do your students know and understand:

  • Conversation levels?
  • How to request Help from the teacher or a peer?  What a student can/should do while waiting for help?
  • Expectations of an Activity?  How to move through the task?  Where the materials are to complete the activity?  Where to find a new activity or where to turn in something that has been completed?
  • Movement in the classroom?  When should they be moving around?  When they should select traditional seating versus when alternate seating?
  • What appropriate Participation looks and sounds like? Do they know how to conference with peers? Do they know when it is best to work with a partner or group or when it is best to work independently?
  • The rules and expectations of your room?



Planning is a structure that helps teachers and students gain clarity before a unit begins.  As a new teacher, you were trained on how to create a traditional lesson plan. You knew your objectives, activities, resources, and ways that you were going to differentiate for a variety of learners.  How many of you still use this form? I know at the start of my career I was intentional about my planning. I used that form. My planning began to shift in year two when I purchased the traditional lesson planning book and just jotted down my activities for the unit.  By year five, I was sometimes using my planner and other times would go back afterwards and plug in what we did. As I gained experience I relied a lot less on that planning book.

Personalized learning is a new way of doing things for those that are first year teachers, as well as veteran teachers. We are shifting our standards into “I can” statements to create learning targets that are student friendly.  Do you have lesson plans with these on them? Do you have a map of how your learning targets build together versus live in isolation of one another? When you do a culminating activity or project do you and your students fully understand all the targets that were building blocks?  

It is time to go back to lesson planning.  To create a unit takes time. It can slow you down. This slow down is needed to prepare yourself as a teacher for the clarity it takes to be able to guide students through personalization.  As you are planning for personalization:

  • Start with your end in mind.  
    • What does proficiency look like for your standard? (We will take a deep dive into this next month)
    • What foundational skills do students need to be successful at the end?
    • What are a few different options for students to display what proficiency looks like?
  • Backtrack and scaffold foundational targets.  
    • What information/skills will be new to all of your students?  These ideas/concepts/knowledge often times require a full group instruction, often times referred to as legacy or seminar instruction in personalization.
    • What information/skills will lend themselves to small group instruction? What targeted instruction will you provide? How are you differentiating for a variety of learners and coaching students?
    • What new information/skills can be built as a student team without much teacher assistance?  Where will you strategically use flex grouping to allow students to have academic discourse?
    • How will you allow students the ability to personalize as they are gaining these foundational targets?
  • Create formative assessments.
    • Do you have formative check in points scheduled?
    • Do your formative assessments focus on knowledge and skills?
    • Does your formative assessment actually evaluate the knowledge or skill that is identified in your learning target or standard? (If you have an “I can” statement about finding the capital on a map, does your formative assessment have a map or are you asking students to list the capitals of certain cities?)
  • Identify resources.
    • What materials will you have available to students?
    • Do you have a variety of resources (print, online, community, etc)?
  • Allot time for student planning and reflecting.
    • When will students be able to set goals or create learning plans?
    • How will students learn about the learning targets and see models of what it is like to hit the learning target?
    • Where is reflection imbedded in the daily routine?
  • Plan for a variety of student ability and rate of completion.
    • What are some ways you could modify for those struggling?
    • What can be done for those that move quickly to proficiency?

If you are looking for a new template to do your personalized learning lesson planning on here are two versions from Edina Public Schools:                                Version A                     Version B


Wrap Up 

Please remember that personalized learning doesn’t say that you should not help students make academic decisions. Students need structures, guidance, options, and coaching in order to help them grow as learners. Personalized learning allows students to have a voice and choice in how and what they are learning as they become co-creators in their education.  A teacher needs to have the ability to give students clear examples of proficiency, suggest appropriate activities and resources for learning, and a way to provide formative feedback to learners. Personalized learning is not about setting students free to fend for themselves. Thoughtful and thorough planning is crucial for teachers offering personalized learning experiences.


*Link to Presentation: Planning for Personalized Learning