.Bring Education to Life is so excited to be sharing Level Up Learning with educators.
Leveling Up Learning Pedagogy
This is the the beginning of a vision we had for advocating best teaching practices across multiple content areas and pedagogy. These practices include promoting gamification through a systematic method for individualized differentiation, personalized learning., cooperative learning, engaging all learners, and building in movement activities. Bring Education to Life has developed pocket charts as a Leveling Up Learning tool that will facilitate implementation of these best practices. Our future goal is to have Level Up pocket chart (gameboard) and card kits available.
While teaching Algebra 2 in an economically disadvantaged school Northwest of Houston, Cyndi found it difficult to reach every students' needs. A coworker shared the idea of having students practice their math in game form that also scaffolded necessary skills as well as differentiated for students with learning gaps. This strategy also helped identify these gaps. Cyndi also noticed how engaged every student was in this activity because all students could be successful, due to the "Level Up Learning" structure as well as the "Cooperative Learning" framework..
April, while teaching at an elementary school on the north side of Green Bay, was also finding it difficult to meet every students needs. She wanted to find away to engage and differentiate to empower all learners across subjects. During a professional development, April had the opportunity to learn more about the concept of Leveling Up from two intermediate school teachers, Amanda Jacobs and Leigh Destache, in the Howard Suamico School District. She continued to see value and has been exploring ways it can be used more efficiently and in other subject areas.
When investigating where the actual idea came from they discovered that Cyndi, Amanda, and Leigh all were looking for a way to engage kids using their interests such as video games and Leveling Up. Both groups started in a very similar way, but Cyndi evolved the idea a little differently.
In the beginning, Cyndi used business envelopes stuffed with math problems from a cut up worksheet. Then, as an instructional coach, Cyndi realized using a pocket chart helped to better organize the activity for students. Teachers' however lacked time to make their own Level Up Learning tools. Thus, when Cyndi provided the tools, teachers observed how this activity greatly increased engagement thereafter some teachers would take the time to create Level Up Learning activities because they saw the value. Our desire is to teach more educators about this strategy and our future hope is to make the necessary tools more easily available.
Being teaching sisters, Cyndi and April discussed teaching strategies, frameworks and methods frequently even though Cyndi's interests were math and April's was reading and word study. When April moved to a new state, she chose to not return to the classroom, but to support education through a new venue. It was a perfect time to explore creating a pocket chart that would more effectively meet the needs of students and teachers.
The original pocket chart was designed and produced in the Fall of 2018. There was a bit of failing forward. Sewing on vinyl turned out to be difficult. Also trying to get the vinyl laid out and kept in place for sewing was a challenge. April tried tape, but that gums up the machine so she had to make sure not to sew on it. The tape left residue which made more work involving goo gone. Finally, April discovered a sewing foot for her machine that glides right across the vinyl. Phew!
Cyndi then tested the chart in classrooms of her school with classroom teachers and students at the middle school level. Cyndi and April reflected on video and teacher observations to determine improvements that could be made.
.They determined the color should define the level, the cards needed to be larger, and the space between the columns needed to be larger. Cyndi also decided a new way of scaffolding across the life cards would be helpful. (see the game instructions for more explanation of these.) Cyndi has been working on the cards and a template that teachers can customize. She is working through trial and error attempts to get the cards to match on both sides for being able to print double sided.
This is how the latest pocket chart and cards came to be. To learn more about level up please use this link. They have been working with manufacturers, but have not found a good fit at this time so the search will continue until a good solution is found..
We often do not know the impact we make with our students til years later. This year, I had numerous moments that have affirmed my decisions about my teaching philosophy. Multiple parents and students have shared their appreciation for the time I took to get to know their child and how they learn. I believe that every student can learn in their time and their way. I want to share a couple of notes I received. On Facebook. (permission was obtained to share as they are). The students are entering high school, but I first met them in Kindergarten and first grade.
April Lippert Padalino I found this today while getting Joey ready for his first day of high school tomorrow; an essay he wrote about a teacher who impacted him most. So sweet that I would find this today of all days and I will remember to tell him to shine his light tomorrow! (My tag line everyday.)
By Joey: I learn best when the teacher knows how to teach a topic well and knows ways to allow students to remember that topic for years to come.
A teacher I learned a lot from was Mrs. Padalino, my reading teacher at St. John the Baptist School from kindergarten to second grade. Her teaching style reflected basic skills in teaching young children how to read.
I was a very advanced reader at the time so reading was my favorite subject. Her ways of teaching about the basics of reading were extremely helpful and made me the reader and writer I am today.
In every place where there was a book in a classroom, you could see a chart with four columns, showing each of the four skills you need to develop to read, such as comprehension and fluency. Her ways of teaching were easy to pick up and learn, but advanced enough to allow me to love reading and writing every day.
My most fond memory from that year was reading Dogsong with the advanced reading group, which included second graders. I was the only first grader in the group, and it was an honor to be there. I remember being so proud of myself while reading in that group. The reason I remember the book so fondly is because of the detail in the book, but also because of Mrs. Padalino, I knew how to read and understand every aspect of the book, from the first to last page.
My love for reading and writing that I acquired that year has stayed with me my entire life and might lead to a career choice for me as an author.
My class at St. John’s was very large and very hard to handle, quite similar to the 2018 class at HFS today, but at the end of the day, Mrs. Padalino helped all of us learn and grow in our reading skills. And she loved what she did.
There was never a day where she didn’t have a smile on her face and had fun with the class.
I would like to thank Mrs. Padalino for everything she has done for all of her students throughout her career. She always told us to shine our light and make good choices. I try to remember those words every day.
Can you say serious waterfalls! Whoa! Mind blown!
Another mom chimed in
From Meghan, Ok, I'm literally tearing up over here ! April Lippert Padalino has been an amazing foundation in Portia's education. Portia is VERY left sided. She is an amazing artist, she is empathetic, she is not a traditional student. Mrs. Padalino saw that in her . It is a gift when a teacher sees the whole student as a person, not just their academic inclinations. Mrs. Padalino worked endless amounts of time in order to make sure Portia was reading well and her grammar was on point! I assure you, now at the tender age of 14, she is very quick to correct anyone who writes "your.....but means.....you're" It actually irritates her, lol.
They reminded me of my Why? To advocate for education opportunities that fit the students and teachers. We need to listen to our students and learn from them. We need to listen to our teachers and learn from them too. In the 17+ years I have been in school, I learned so much just from being immersed in schools with colleagues and students, They were and are the best education.
Remember your why, build relationships, and Bring Education to Life for each and every student.
Recently, I moved for my 10th time since I have been married. The moves are becoming a bit of a blur, but they all have something in common. I grow a little bit each time.
I became a teacher while moving. Volunteering in the classroom, becoming a sub, going back to school, moving, getting multiple certifications, etc. This time is a little different. My kids did not move with me and I left a position I loved. Now, I am learning to let go.
I am letting go of my kids to allow them to grow into who they are meant to be. I need to step back and allow them to spread their wings into adulthood. That does not mean I will not be a part of their life. It just means our relationship is a little different. They do not need the same kind of parenting.
I am letting go of Literacy Coaching as I once knew it. It was the best of all worlds. I worked with awesome teachers in and out of classrooms. I worked with students, colleagues, parents, and administration. I read books and networked via social media. Now, I need to do this a little differently.
I am in another new state and more testing to get recertified (Did I mention I have extreme test anxiety). I want the flexibility to travel with my husband and to support immediate and extended family (we are spread out across the world). I want to work with educators to change the lives of our future leaders. So, as with the other moves I will grow.
It is time to learn to be a part of education without being certified in another a state. I still have my education, experience, the ability to read awesome books, network through social media, and volunteer. Who knows what the future will look like, but I am thankful for innovation and a world of possibilities. I am thankful for social media and staying connected. It will help me learn my new place in the world of education. I am hoping to Bring Education to Life through blogging and supporting teachers and students virtually. It will be a new adventure as life changes and the journey continues.
While reading Chapter 1 of Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth by Aaron Hogan, I found myself reflecting on how to help students engage more with the texts they are reading. Even when they appear to be reading, they are not always having a conversation with the text. Many students do not realize they should be. I am amazed at the difference when I am modeling inner voice by having a conversation with a book. Then, I ask them about the inner conversation with their books. Initially, they do not have much to say. The more I model and reteach; the more they practice what they see and hear. A
After reading The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller and Readicide by Kelly Gallagher I also realized they need choice. I have learned to ask myself “Are they interested in what they are reading?” We may want them to be learning about a certain topic, but have we considered the options available for learning and provided voice and choice. It is like providing a choose your own adventure book, but with a variety of options, including articles, ebooks, multi media, and traditional books. In some cases it is good to let them do the research (make sure you have taught them how) and encourage them to find the materials; giving them voice. The empowerment with appropriate support can yield amazing results.
I wonder how Twitter can help me connect with others and grow to become a more effective leader of literacy and Bring Education to Life for students and teachers? This was my inquiry question at the beginning of 2017. I am amazed at what I have learned so far and the PLN that I discovered because of it.
My introduction to Twitter started with one of my reading certification classes with Jeanette Armstrong at Viterbo University in a cohort in Green Bay, Wisconsin. A couple years later, it was reintroduced by Susan Tegen in a Foundations to literacy class and again in my new teacher cohort at Howard Suamico School District by Brian Nichols. Brian really got us Tweeting Out during our boot camp into the district. A few of us became quite good at sharing out as a way to connect with others. Then, our Literacy Coaches started offering opportunities & Jessica Budek offered an opportunity with Brian to teach us about Twitter Chat at our district Creation Days PD.
Learning about Twitter chats lead me to a place where I could reflect about myself and then find other people with similar passions. I felt like a whole new world had opened up to me. That is where I met Meredith Johnson and Tara Martin, the founder of #BookSnaps. Tara introduced me to my favorite way to respond to books, #BookSnaps and how awesome Bitmojis are to communicate visually. I was not big into Snapchat so used Book Creator because that was what I knew and the kids had available to them.
Tara held a #BookSnaps challenge so I lead some teachers and students on the journey. I learned how engaged students can be when the right platform is presented. It was like we were meeting them in their world. They were writing, digging deeper, and asking for feedback. This provided opportunities to conference with students and increase writing skills through micro writing.
I was honored to be invited by Tara Martin and Book Creator to collaborate on a blog that was shared out in September. We collaborated totally via the internet and without ever meeting. We even made a video using Book Creator to make Booksnaps. That blog was read all over the world and I met people in Russia. How cool is that!
Tara lead me to George Couros and the #IMMOOC PLN family. I learned a lot about keeping up with a fast Twitter chat through some serious fail forwards. The amazing thing is when you make mistakes the PLN family helps to show you the way in a safe environment. We are all taking risks out there, so everyone wants to help you on your journey to learn. IMMOOC also taught me about using a blog as a professional portfolio to document my professional growth.
From there I met Dave Burgess and Aaron Hogan, who helped to encourage me to continue to blog. I read Teach Like a Pirate and then, Lead Like a Pirate by Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf. They taught me about sharing appreciations abundantly, about being visible, using hooks, and numerous other treasures found in their books
Through Twitter and chatting I have met so many educators such as Mena Hill, Tisha Richmond, Emily Francis, Cori Orlando, Heather Marrs and Brett Salakas from Australia. I even joined teachers in Australia for a chat on a few Sunday mornings at 6 AM and others in Oregon at 11:30 PM. Time change was an issue for chatting, then I realized how to join the chat after it happened. (That could be a whole other blog.)
Once school started my chat time decreased, but my knowledge was in full swing. I am hoping to get back into my routine of making my favorite chats a few times a month. My PLN family is my driving force that helps keep my passions alive and moves me forward so I do not stagnate. They keep me focused and reflecting on my ultimate goal “what is best for learners of all ages?” We are all on a journey of learning; it doesn't matter where we are on the path, only that we keep moving forward in our growth and shining our light for others to follow.
The people I have met this year on Twitter taught me we are all leaders in education no matter what our title is. We lead from where we are. You just have to #Believe! (my one word for 2017-2018)
As this school year has started their have been some challenges and changes that I have had to accept. I have had to determine the things I can impact and the things I have no control over. It was easy to get caught up in the negative mindset, but then I asked myself “How is this making the situation better? How is this going to impact my students?” This questioning brought me back to one of my favorite prayers. This prayer is not saying that I can not change things. It is not saying I can not be Innovative. It is actually saying just the opposite. It reminds me sometimes I have to be more creative because there will be obstacles. I need to be able to evaluate the activities and situations and determine if or how I can make a difference. Then, focus on those. As I have changed my mindset to focus on what I can impact, it helped me to be more productive and find creative options. It is not always easy, but if we focus on what matters and keep our WHY in front of us... We will be able to come up with innovative ways to accomplish change, within the confines of what we can control.
"What I discovered over time, is that PASSIONATE leaders also need PATIENCE if we want to ignite a fire in our schools and districts that lasts. Once we light a spark, we need to give it time to catch… we need to nurture it, feed it, stoke it, give it our constant attention and let it develop into a slow and steady burn that ultimately engulfs our school or district community. “
This segment from Shelley Burgess' blog grabbed my attention. I think about how excited I can get about new resources and ideas. But, not everyone will be as excited as I am. Recently, I was talking with the principal I work with about a recent presentation by Pernille Ripp. Something that struck her from a conversation with Perenille was “...we have to remember there is a person in personalized learning.” It made me think about how we need to consider how much we are putting on the plate of our teachers and students. It is important to consider they are a person with a life outside of school and we do not necessarily know their whole story. After all isn't our mission to educate a whole person.
This conversation was followed by a conversation with a teacher. I had left a note on my door … “What literacy magic would you like to happen this year?” A teacher responded with, “Personalized learning.” We have been implementing personalized learning for the past couple of years. Later, the teacher let me know she had added the response. We had a conversation about the need to work to get better at some of the current initiatives instead of adding more. This is where I see we need to nurture, feed, and stoke the fire. Teachers want to do what is best for kids, we all just have different perspectives about what that is. Those who already are participating in implementation need the time to allow the fire to grow. Others need us to nurture, feed, and stoke the process. With a little personalized coaching and a lot of understanding and trust, magic will happen.
This year, I will be in the new role of literacy coach. As I go into this new role I need to remember my passions are not everyone's. My perspective of what is best for students will not always be the same as everyone. To help me to maintain my passion for education and stay patient with others, I am taking the #LeadLAP challenge and committing to the following:
I hope to do all this while staying true to the district mission and the passions that drive me.
I always thought my “WHY” came from my son and my students. Then, all of a sudden I realized, my “WHY” originated with me. Thank you PLN, Dave Burgess, and Aaron Hogan, one question about vulnerability on a Twitter chat and it all flowed out easily.
( The value of a PLN is immeasurable)
I did not start off wanting to be a teacher. I wanted nothing to do with anything that meant more education past a four year degree. I especially did not want to write. I am not sure where my avoidance of writing originated, but it has been there as long as I can remember. I avoided AP English, because there was a lot of writing. Then, in college it was unavoidable. I ended up in an independent study, one on one with a professor, because I was not prepared to be a college level writer. Why did I end up in that situation? I was a straight A student, in the top ten of my class in High School! Now, in college I needed an intervention for writing. Huge blow! I managed through, but still did not develop a love of writing. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Merchandising Management.
As my children entered school, I was again faced with education. A kindergarten teacher was let go mid year for one of my boys. The students had had 5 subs in 6 weeks. Yikes!
Something told me I needed to step in. The next thing I knew, I was in the principal’s office offering to sub for the remainder of the year. That was it! I was hooked and back to school for a Master's in Elementary Education. Thank goodness for an understanding and loving husband in so many ways. From supporting our family to cooking, cleaning, and helping me edit and revise numerous papers.
That wasn't the end. We moved to Wisconsin and my desire to help those struggling with reading, writing, and spelling led me back to school and MORE WRITING. I was fortunate though some professors were starting to use technology and included options to remove some barriers for me such as presentations with Prezi, Animoto, PowerPoint, etc. That was when I fell in love with app smashing. (I just didn't know the name for it then)
My last certification for Reading Specialist turned out to be the most difficult. There was a lot more writing and an instructor that ended any chance of me loving to write. I fully understood how an instructor could change everything. I was done writing forever. I had struggled before, but never had I felt my papers knit picked apart so much that there was nothing good about them. Content was not addressed, it was all about the grammar. I was ready to give up completely. Of course, my husband did not let me and re-focused me to my task and “WHY” I was putting myself through this. He is good at reminding me about how I would work with my students and turning me around even if I am not in a good mindset at the time. (Sorry Honey! Thank you for sticking with me.)
So “WHY” I do what I do to the best of my ability for myself, my son, and my students is that we deserve every opportunity to learn the way we learn best, allowing us voice, choice, path and pace. That includes being empowered to thrive with constructive feedback that includes success as well as what we can improve. We need to give learners the benefit of the doubt that they are doing their best and encourage them to grow.
So, thank you #tlap and #teachermyth PLN for the great chat and helping me to realize I need to be in the game sharing my voice and reflections for my students, peers, colleagues, and PLN. Our voices together is what is going to make education for our students great.
Are you wondering where my blog title came from? It evolved from my original idea of “Bringing Books to Life”. It was pretty simple, I wanted kids to fully experience books. We teach them the reading strategy to visualize the book in their mind, but not all kids get that visual. It is like trying to create a dream while you are still awake. One day, a student said to me “Mrs. P. when I am reading THIS book it comes to life.” That is when I REALLY believed this idea of expressing books coming to life was working. Can you guess what book he was reading? If you guessed The Red Pyramid, by Rick Riordan, you would be correct.
Did you know the Merriam Webster Dictionary has 20 different meanings for the word life? When I started to talk about Bringing Books to Life I did not look up the meaning, but instead used my experience of using the word life. I knew I was talking about animating, vigor and energy. Most of my students knew it was figurative language.
Now let’s get back to the original idea of Bringing Education to Life. What does this mean? It means nurturing the wonderment and curiosity that is naturally part of being human beings. Remember the two and three year olds always asking Why? Why? Why? Where do they go? I see a few in our schools, but so many have lost their curiosity. Bringing Education to Life grew from my curiosity about how to bring it back for those who have lost it and keep it going for those who have it.
Today’s education system was designed for a different world than the one we live in today. If we want it to change, the right conditions for educators and students need to be available. We need to provide safe environments for risk-taking, celebrate the strengths of all our learners (both educators and students), and fail forward. Use the attempts for success as chances to learn. Bringing Education to Life will be a place where I share my thinking about what I am learning about empowering learners to wonder and be curious so they can grow.
Are you wondering how to get your students writing about books? Tara Martin has shared a new idea to spark creativity into the world of books. It is called #BookSnaps. She has provided some great resources to help you get started on her blog. You can check out some great examples of #BookSnaps on Twitter, just search #BookSnaps to see examples. Two of our the students earned the opportunity to be guest bloggers, with Tara Martin, from her #BookSnaps Challenge. Then, #BookSnaps became contagious and other students were asking how they could respond to books with #BookSnaps too! Since then a classroom has participated in a Google Hangout and two more students will be guest bloggers on Tara's R.E.A.L. Blog.
To help students and teachers get started I created a video of how to create #BookSnaps with Book Creator. Then, to my surprise and excitement, Tara asked me to be a guest vlogger. The resulting video can be found here. You can also use other apps to create #BookSnaps. Find out more about these on Tara Martin's blog.
Now, you may be wondering what Micro-writing has to do with #Booksnaps. Micro-writing is just what it sounds like, it is writing in small snippets. The cool thing I am finding is students are choosing to write in a creative way about books. Some are using voice, but they need some work on conventions and expressing ideas in words. #Booksnaps help to provide small pieces of work to focus in on skills each student needs.
I don’t know about you, but time for writing used to be an issue, because they spent so much time trying to get started. Now, many of them can’t wait to start, even those who are normally reluctant. But, remember students need choice. Make sure #BookSnaps are a tool to achieve the student's goals. They need to be the ones choosing to respond to reading in this way. Let them choose how they respond, including using visuals to express their thinking. Consider how this would work in YOUR classroom, set the parameters, and let them CREATE!
April Padalino and Cyndi Dull
We are educational coaches with a passion for learning and empowering students, parents, and educators to Bring Education to Life.