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Teachers Need Sandbox Time, Too

Teachers Need Sandbox Time, Too

When I first experienced professional development (PD) as a new teacher, the session was not as positive or as promising as I’d hoped for. My school was struggling with academic achievement and as a result, staff was mandated to attend PD sessions twice a week before school, once a week after school, and at least once during a planning period. You might think, “What a great opportunity: so much learning!” And it really could have been great, if my PD experience had been tailored to what I needed as a rookie teacher, a math teacher, or just someone overwhelmed by grading and lesson planning. As it was, I often found myself mandated to engage in activities unrelated to my content or experience.

I recently read an excellent post on Learning is Leading, a blog by Kyle Pace, that resonated with me and the work I do now at Kiddom. Titled, “Sandbox Time” — The Style of PD Teachers Deserve, Mr. Pace describes his experience delivering educator PD, emphasizing the similar needs of teacher learning and student learning. He explains ‘sandbox time’ as “Simply put, it’s giving the group time to play. Time to explore, talk, and get comfortable. Time to discover and create new ideas.” There is much consideration and thought given to how students learn, but too often teachers don’t get the same treatment. Lecturing is an unproductive professional development method, especially since a teacher’s time is so precious. We learn much like students do; in fact, it’s more fun that way. To be lifelong learners, we need adequate opportunities to be inspired. Adults, like students, need ample time to discover new strategies by exploring, by practicing, collaborating, and being given the opportunity to drive their own learning experience.

If you’re a teacher, then you know teacher certification programs and college courses do not set up educators to be adequately prepared for day one in the classroom. We now widely accept that the best instruction is achieved through experience. A former colleague of mine shared that her school in Washington D.C. builds up their first-year teachers by requiring them to shadow a lead teacher for a full year before taking on their own classroom. These first-year teachers receive an excellent PD experience by developing the skills they will need on the job through exploration and practice. Teacher learning modalities vary just as much as student learning modalities. We push personalized learning for students, so how are we not held to the same expectation when serving our teachers?

Kiddom’s professional development was designed to address the hypocrisy in teacher vs. student learning. Kiddom PD equips teachers with resources that are innovative and student-centric, but most importantly, they are teacher-tailored. This year, we facilitated several PD sessions equipping teachers with resources to implement with blended learning models, experiment with a variety of education technology tools, and more. We facilitate PD similarly to Mr. Pace’s “sandbox time,” giving teachers plenty of time and support to explore resources and reflect, collaborate, and plan. There are five components of Kiddom PD tailored to support the teacher learning experience.

  1. Choice

Giving learners choice is generally accepted as a good teaching practice. We should set the same norms for adult learning. With Kiddom PD, multiple learning objectives are presented. Teachers choose their primary focus for the session, dependent upon their prior knowledge and individual learning goals for that day. Giving teachers choice in experience tailored to their individual needs promotes engagement and relevance. We know if teachers don’t feel a particular PD session is relevant to them, they check out. We have all done it and it’s time to acknowledge this and change course.

2. Exploration

Similar to encouraging our students to explore concepts with manipulatives in math class, PD at Kiddom encourages teacher exploration time in PD. Once a teacher chooses their learning objective, they are directed to a list of PD options, including choices for reading, watching, listening, reflecting, practicing, and planning. If we are previewing an edtech tool, learners need time to explore what it offers. Offering flex time for teachers to learn at their own pace and reflect on questions they have is critical to development.

 

 

3. Innovation

Kiddom’s Teaching and Learning team actively seeks new research strategies and cutting-edge resources for teachers, pushing attendees to challenge their ideas of the traditional classroom. When I attend PD, I don’t want to get my hopes up that I’ll learn something new and exciting, but walk away with age-old practices like I have experienced at conferences. PD by Kiddom is tailored to teachers’ individual needs, changing how PD is traditionally offered in schools. Our team is constantly learning, experimenting, and testing instructional strategies and models to adapt for the digital age. We know K-12 education is rapidly changing, so we design PD purposefully to reflect the skills teachers and learners need for the future.

4. Modeling

If I am new to an instructional strategy, I’d like to see it in action first so I can visualize how I can incorporate it when I go back to my own classroom. If I sign up for PD covering blended learning, then I believe the experience should model a blended learning classroom. Participants in Kiddom’s blended learning PD, for example, experience a mixture of online resources, facilitator-led discussions, and opportunities to share and reflect with other attendees. The necessity to model new instructional strategies should be so obvious, as we demand it in our own classrooms!

5. Support

Kiddom’s PD model provides personal support to educators that seek to improve their practice. During sessions, our Teaching and Learning team converse with educators in addition to allotting time for educators to collaborate and support each other. When educators take part in our online PD, support is available at all hours so questions can be answered thoughtfully and personally.

Future professional development by Kiddom will offer mini-PD sessions anyone can take advantage of on their own time. Choosing your own adventure, having a database of actionable, relevant, and useful PD materials to better your practice is what we will continue to build and offer. Unlike some courses that offer self-directed PD with pages and paragraphs of written advice and directions no teacher has time to read through during the school year, Kiddom PD will be bite-sized and digestible, even during tight planning periods.

The clever comparison of educator PD to “sandbox time” resonated with us at Kiddom, so we had to respond and add onto these exciting changes in teacher learning. If we as educators are to market ourselves as “lifelong learners,” then we need to be as convincing for our peers — we certainly owe them high-quality ways to stay inspired and improve their instructional practice. As a former educator now leading professional development, I am so excited to see more thought-leaders in education encouraging exploratory PD. I look forward working with others in the field to rebuild a professional learning culture in schools. One that teachers will look forward to, rather than dread. Then perhaps we won’t even need happy hour afterwards to convince our colleagues to join. But it doesn’t hurt. 😉

Kyle,

Thank you for the work you are doing around bringing quality, personalized learning to educators. We are excited to learn more about your approach to professional development. We would love to hear your thoughts and feedback and the PD that Kiddom offers educators. We look forward to hearing from you.

Flipping “I Do, We Do, You Do”

Flipping “I Do, We Do, You Do”

The first instructional model I learned as a teacher was “I Do, We Do, You Do.” Also known as the gradual release of responsibility (GRR), I thought this strategy was effective when introducing new concepts because it allowed me to “reach” every student at the same time. But like any instructional technique, GRR has its shortcomings: it erroneously assumes all students learn and work at the same pace. And while this technique may have satisfied pedagogical best practices developed in the 20th century, teaching to the average is no longer considered an ideal practice since it fails to optimize learning for the individual student.

When I relied on “I Do, We Do, You Do” in my first few years as a teacher, I immediately saw gaps in student learning. Students that were learning at a rate faster or slower than the pace I set were either bored (maybe they grasped the concept quickly) or distracted (maybe they couldn’t connect to the concept in the way I presented it). I devoted a lot of energy to keeping the whole class engaged throughout the lesson, but this task proved difficult to achieve and often created unnecessary classroom management challenges. The added stress from relying solely on “I Do, We Do, You Do” inspired me to experiment with more student-centric instructional strategies.

I found three components of instruction difficult to incorporate well with GRR: building student choice and voice, offering differentiation, and supporting multiple learning modalities. Using the Kiddom platform, I’m going to explore how teachers can employ student-centric methodologies to address these areas and take their craft to the next level.

Student Choice and Voice

Typically, teachers come to class with a planned lesson, activities, and independent practice. We know, however, that students are most motivated when they’re able to choose their own path to success and voice their opinions throughout the learning process. To increase engagement, students need to be provided with more opportunities to choose and connect. Interest-based projects and Socratic seminars are instructional practices designed to provide students the freedom and flexibility to choose their own path to mastering skills while providing them with a channel to express themselves.

 

 

Preview of the Kiddom project dashboard showing interest-based projects

 

With interest-based projects, where students learn via a complex, but flexible project driven by their own interests. They’re able to explore topics relevant to them, which leads to high-quality of work and deepened conceptual comprehension. Using Kiddom, teachers can easily share different interest-based projects with different students via a standards-aligned content library, a Google Drive attachment, or sharing additional types of attachments. Once the project has been shared, grading and sharing feedback is seamless via Kiddom’s rubrics. The platform comes preloaded with academic and social emotional learning (SEL) rubrics, all of which can be modified. Teachers can draft their own rubrics too: outlining specific expectations for groups of students. Interest-based projects make classroom decisions appear just as much the student’s responsibility as the teachers, fostering a sense of ownership that will heighten investment and long-term learning. The Kiddom platform makes it incredibly easy to assign and manage a wide variety of interest-based projects across multiple classes.

 

Kiddom dashboard to Track Standards

 

Socratic seminars place deeper learning directly in students’ hands. Prefaced with a pre-reading, the seminar facilitator leads conversation with open-ended questions, teaching students to think critically, cultivate higher-order questioning, and comment on peer responses. Provide students feedback during Socratic seminars with these rubrics via Kiddom. Attach the Socratic seminar rubrics to give students thorough feedback as they reflect after a seminar. Kiddom’s SEL rubrics include categories like Self-Assessment, Active Listening, and Speaking, which when appended to a seminar assignment can give students the opportunity to reflect on their own performance. Where GRR limits student involvement in the assessment process, the Kiddom platform keeps the line of communication open. Qualitative feedback in addition to a score motivates students to participate and continue improving.

The Question Formulation Technique (QFT) is a student-centric protocol that guides students to form questions most meaningful to them within the context of a class unit. Provided with a “focus” by the teacher, students create various questions, then prioritize them after reflecting on what they want to learn as a group. Using Kiddom, teachers set up a “QFT focus” as an assignment description or Google Drive attachment, directing students to upload their question list as a response to the assignment or in the comment loop. Leveraging Kiddom’s content library to provide launch activities for question formation makes lesson planning easy. SEL rubrics such as Decision Making, Problem Solving, and Relationship Building, can be aligned to QFT tasks. Give students feedback as they create questions to drive learning. Student engagement with this method will alleviate the stress of finding the “perfect topic” and guiding questions to hook students. Let them lead the way!

Differentiation

One of my biggest challenges with “I Do, We Do, You Do,” was differentiating well. Differentiating appropriately for an entire class working on the same task, at the same time is near impossible. In the 21st century, educators should expect education technology to adequately provide the information necessary to differentiate content, process, and product for a class of students.

Interest-based projects are a space for differentiation as students are able to pursue topics appropriate for their performance level and interests. Engagement for students at any level is achievable here as students pursue projects that challenge them to improve from where they started. With guidance from their teacher, students can engage in an interactive feedback loop via comments. Students can ask questions and receive responses they can refer back to while working independently or in homogenous groups. With Kiddom’s Google Drive integration, students can also submit interest-based project materials via a Google document, slides, or spreadsheet, providing proof and evidence of their learning. The ability to modify assignments provides differentiation that GRR simply cannot.

Socratic seminars help students learn from each other and reflect on their ability to engage in academic discourse, taking differentiation to an interactive level. Choosing an accessible pre-reading is important to start. Passages can be found in Kiddom’s content library filtered for different grade levels or attach links to leveled readings online in an assignment for students to prepare. Differentiated guiding questions can be asked during the seminar, then after, students receive feedback to improve. Guiding questions can be sent via Kiddom to students in need of extra time before engaging in a discussion. The platform provides teachers with the data needed to differentiate discussions and assess students at appropriate levels. And while Socratic seminars are meant to be open-ended, providing students with feedback is vital since sharing ideas can make some students feel vulnerable.

 

Kiddom project student progress dashboard

 

To differentiate with the Question Formulation Technique, have students come up with their own questions via Kiddom’s Google Drive integration. Students brainstorm questions from the topic with their peers and submit the product to their teacher for review. Alternatively, teachers may post a link to an outside resource in the assignment description to launch discovery of a new focus, then students can upload their list of questions in Kiddom as an attachment. The teacher can help prioritize questions to pursue as projects afterward. Having students create their own inquiries from one guiding prompt cultivates higher order thinking skills much more efficiently better than “I Do, We Do, You Do” allows.

Multiple Learning Modalities

We know planning a lesson that incorporates auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learning well every day is a Herculean task. With Kiddom, preview and assign standards-aligned content and assessments from Khan Academy, CK-12, CommonLit, and more all from one place. The ability to filter resources by keyword, grade level, and subject area allows teachers to assign interdisciplinary, appropriate content for students working on projects and exploring new units. This is a great way to find out which learning methods students prefer.

 

Kiddom screen shot of content library dashboard

 

For example, Socratic seminars are initiated typically as a follow up to an assigned reading or a prompt for students to consider. Assign articles and passages leveled appropriately from our content library directly to the student dashboard for pre-reading to Socratic seminars. Since all of our content can be filtered by student interest and topic, interest-based projects can be launched as students explore different resources via the Kiddom dashboard. Or, assign students a video or activity or link an outside resource to a Kiddom assignment to set students up to create their formulate their own list of questions to guide their learning with QFT.

 

One of Kiddom's content library science resources

 

Choose small groups of students to assign a video from Khan Academy and a different small group of students an article from Common Lit. Afterward, have students share what they learned with each other, allowing students the opportunity to be the master and expert. This level of student ownership is empowering and not typically seen within the I Do, We Do, You Do framework. If students are engaging with different kinds of learning materials and can explore those together, the learning experience becomes unique and exploratory for all.

More Time to Connect and Inspire

The “I Do, We Do, You Do” method certainly shouldn’t be retired entirely, but teachers should challenge themselves to guide students to take the lead. The student-centered approaches outlined above can really remove the unnecessary stress the GRR method creates. More importantly, these approaches give valuable time to work directly with students in small groups or one-on-one. While students excitedly tackle their own interest-based projects or explore questions they created, teachers get to focus on connecting with and inspiring students. Note that with the Kiddom platform, the most important work still takes place in the classroom, via interactions with students. Sound education technology should expand these interpersonal experiences. These are the experiences students learn from and remember most. Happy teaching and learning!

P.S. If you’re looking for one-on-one support when experimenting with these strategies using the Kiddom platform, reach out to us! We offer professional development via demos, tutorials, consult sessions, and live chat. Our team of former educators (including myself) would love to learn more about your practice and how you’re using Kiddom to work directly with your students.

“Disrupting Traditional PD.” Practice What You Preach!

“Disrupting Traditional PD.” Practice What You Preach!

Imagine you’re a chef and you’re about to participate in a cooking class with Bobby Flay to get some professional development. You’ve been a chef for years, but you’re seeking to expand your knowledge of the culinary arts. The trip is booked and you’ve packed your favorite cooking utensils and a camera to capture the moments. Most importantly, you just can’t wait to get in there and cook something new. You’re confident you will leave Flay’s class equipped with innovative recipes and new strategies to better your restaurant.

As it turns out, this won’t be the case. When you arrive, you discover you’ll be listening to a culinary representative speak about why the culinary arts are important, outlining traditional ways one can improve as a chef and a diagram dissecting some of Bobby Flay’s best culinary creations. No Bobby Flay, no chance to practice on your own, no inventive new recipes, no skills to take home, and nothing to capture what you didn’t already know. You’re crushed: you were promised a learning experience you didn’t receive!

 

 

I experience this feeling often when attending professional development (PD) sessions at large education conferences.The workshops advertise the “most innovative” educator PD, but I typically leave disappointed, disengaged, and sometimes even confused. Case in point: I eagerly attended a PD session earlier this year titled, Disrupting Traditional PD: Innovative PD for Educators. Unfortunately, this session did not disrupt anything nor was it innovative. I left wondering how the facilitators missed it. It included the usual players: chart paper placed on tables, wordy PowerPoint slides, and scattered scented markers for stop-n-jot moments. While some of these materials can foster meaningful and deep conversations, educators are really craving actionable PD: What is something new I can learn that I can bring to my classroom tomorrow? If 21st century teachers are tasked with personalizing instruction and developing lifelong learning mindsets, why can’t they experience a similar approach to their own growth?

As a former educator, I attended PD before school, after school, and during planning periods: almost all were lackluster. Today, I lead Learning and Development at Kiddom, so I actively search for non-traditional PD opportunities to share with our educator community. My ongoing lackluster PD experiences have inspired me now more than ever, to build better professional development experiences for our educators. I believe PD should be a space where teachers are given the opportunities that students have in dynamic classroom environments. Educators’ learning objectives should be relevant based on their prior experiences. What is learned should be actionable, and should expose teachers to resources they haven’t seen, read, or used before. PD should by design assume educators are self-aware, can manage their own time, and are interested in their own growth. And finally, the experience should model what teachers are there to learn about. Is it a blended learning session? Then blend the learning and incorporate technology so participants can actually visualize a model. We expect teachers to model in the classroom, so how can we expect teachers to walk away from PD and implement what was learned without a model?

Today, Kiddom’s professional development spans across blended learningstandards-based gradingsocial emotional learning, and using educational technology to personalize learning. And we’re in the process of designing these PD experiences to better utilize educators’ time, since by nature of the profession, little time is allocated for anything beyond planning, teaching, and grading. We’re designing PD to allow educators to identify what they’re seeking and then “choose their own adventure.” We’ll offer mini-courses complete with supplementary materials to meet learning goals. When an educator participates in a Kiddom-designed PD, they will explore, plan, research, experiment, and learn. And in the not so distant future, we’ll offer credentials to educators who complete multiple sessions of PD on various topics. These credentials will highlight 21st century educator skills and further validate the time spent developing and improving pedagogy. I know that if I’d been given the incentive to receive ongoing credentials and achievements, I would have been more motivated to “do the work,” instead of brainstorming my next lesson plan. I believe that with ongoing education, teachers can and will lead the charge in elevating their own profession.

So let’s utilize 21st century resources in tandem with chart paper and post-it notes. Let’s challenge ourselves in the same way we challenge students. Change will make us stronger, which will make our school communities better, fostering lifelong learning environments for everyone. And finally, we can’t design personalized PD experiences without your input, so I have questions for you:

1) What have you always wanted from PD?

2) What quips do you have with PD? How might you suggest solving them?

3) What are you interested in learning more about via PD?

Leave your answers below. We’d love to hear and learn from you!

Merging Social Emotional Learning and Academics: Process, Rewards, & Rationale

Merging Social Emotional Learning and Academics: Process, Rewards, & Rationale

At the end of every school day, behavior trackers inevitably found their way on my classroom floor, in the trash, or forgotten under the stacks of papers on my desk. My school was attempting to track how students communicated their feelings with classmates and teachers through individual social emotional goals to boost classroom culture and address student development. Goals were reviewed daily, but unfortunately progress was lost to the netherworld of misplaced student papers. Social emotional skills were seen as a separate, “ungraded” progress report, and students were not invested.

My classroom experience demonstrates the inefficiencies schools often experience in addressing social emotional learning (SEL). Without clear guidelines and a means to observe progress over time, we didn’t have an effective method of providing students with feedback. The developmental skills were typically separated from core content classes. Since our gradebooks were designed for academic skills, it was difficult to track and monitor SEL. There had to be a better way to instill positive communication and deeper learning that would hold beyond a 45-minute class.

I taught SEL skills effectively for the first time during my third year teaching by carving out academic instructional time. This investment paid off tenfold. I stepped over the advisory period barrier and disguised behavior trackers as components of my lesson plans. That year, I incorporated Accountable Talk, a method of classroom discourse encouraging positive communication, relationship-building, accountability, and rigorous content engagement among students. One component of Accountable Talk requires students to be self-aware and in tune with the emotions of those around them, interacting with others positively and productively, even when disagreeing. For my 6th graders, I anticipated this would prove challenging, but I was determined to establish the norm in my room that when we discussed math, we would do so by learning from each other and building these socio-emotional skills. I would later learn these skills were not only valuable to our classroom culture, but also in improving math skills overall.

At the time, I didn’t realize the competencies I was teaching were called “social emotional learning.” These skills exist in a group of national standards defined by CASEL, the Collaborative for Academic and Social Emotional Learning. I incorporated these skills by building in time to introduce conversation starters, sentence stems, how to respectfully agree or disagree with classmates, and how to build on each others’ ideas. I taught them how to be aware of their own opinions and feelings and how they would influence those around them. They observed their classmates model this behavior, they watched me model it, and they were given guidelines and suggestions for how to improve. Over time, with feedback and dynamic conversations, my students began to really enjoy the communication and would remind each other to speak respectfully and provide thoughtful feedback. The students required less prompting from me as it became a part of the class culture. Though I didn’t have a surefire way to monitor my class’s progress with Accountable Talk at the time, I saw this growth day after day.

One component that made this a success was teaching these skills in conjunction with our math skills. Whenever my students worked together on a project, discussing their strategies and approaches to the answer, they worked through both the math standards and the social expectations I’d put in place for Accountable Talk. In my lesson plans, I intentionally wove social emotional learning throughout the math problem by having students practice considering another student’s feelings in their group while explaining their approach to converting fractions. Accountable Talk prompted empathy in my class. This took time to cultivate, but the practice built stronger relationships, opened dialogue, and broadened understanding.

Today, these social awareness competencies can be tracked with technology, alleviating the lost paper tracker abyss and opening opportunities for sharing, viewing data, and making adjustments for improvement. Kiddom’s platform supports CASEL’s competencies, which would have aligned perfectly to track Accountable Talk in my class. I could have given them individual progress reports on how they were doing, an added report I didn’t have time to produce because I was overburdened writing lesson plans, making worksheets, grading assessments, the list goes on. Kiddom makes so much of this faster and actionable for teachers.

We owe parents the ability to track how their children are developing self-awareness and building relationships, in addition to science and social studies. Click on a button to download a standards-based progress report for parents that doesn’t look like a spreadsheet? Yes, please!

 

Actual photo of me saying, “Yes, please!”

Kiddom can help you align academic standards and social emotional learning standards together in one math project or ELA paper. Then, you can send feedback for both sets of skills. Social emotional learning should not be taught separately from content: it’s importance is amplified if it’s taught in tandemwith academics. When SEL is taught in a silo, it’s importance is undermined and inconsistently addressed. In reality, the skills necessary to be empathetic, relatable, and compassionate are the skills that drive student success in school and beyond.

 

 


 

 

If you’d like to learn more about teaching SEL in tandem with academics, grab SEL 101: our free guide to support your students’ social emotional development.

5 Ways to Start Strong this School Year

5 Ways to Start Strong this School Year

The first few weeks of the school year have always been so precious to me throughout the stages my life, even as the “first days” changed in purpose over time. The air becomes cooler, summer activities wind down, there’s a feeling in the air unlike any other.

 

Always ready for “back to school”

 

For most years, the beginning weeks of school were inaugurated with buying new notebooks, new №2 pencils, “back to school” outfits, reuniting with friends, and seeing whose name was written in the textbook from the year before. Before I was old enough to go to school, my mother would find me staring out the front door as the school bus drove by, holding my child-sized backpack in hand.

When I became a teacher, the beginning of the year was my time to begin fresh. Time to establish a positive classroom culture, to apply effective routines, to learn everyone’s names, plan ahead as much as possible, all while decorating just enough to keep my room welcoming and warm. It was a busy time, but I loved the chance to organize a new year, a new class of students. I accepted conflicting feelings of excitement and nervousness every August.

The start of school setup is absolutely critical to how we as educators feel going into the new year. Now leading Learning and Development with Kiddom, I’ve gotten to see other teachers as they set up their classes, reaching out for assistance and best practices as they navigate integrating new technology. The capabilities through Kiddom make many of these startup steps much simpler and less of a headache for teachers. I’ve found from my own experience and from others, there is a series of necessary “back to school” steps every teacher takes part of. From getting your student list to deciding what you’ll teach to investing your students early, we know what we need to start strong. As you read, can you relate to these instances of getting back into the swing of things? If so, why wait for another year to come around when you can start saving time now?

Rosters

My student list would inevitably change multiple times throughout the year, especially in the beginning. It was often several weeks into school that student schedules and classes were ironed out completely. I’d have to throw away class lists I’d written by hand, mark out student names that had left, and begin all over hoping this was the last change. Teachers I’ve been coaching through Kiddom are happy to see how easy it is to edit rosters as their student lists change, deleting and adding students to pre-existing assignments, helping them start the year strong with ease. We can help students feel welcomed and included even when their schedule unexpectedly changes. No more white-out or botched class posters with crossed-out student names. Teachers have also liked being able to customize their class through their settings, making the class their own, fitting their style. Rubrics that teachers have used for years can be added into their class, attached to any assignment they create. One of our teachers messaged us — “Wow! Thank you! I love the rubric and standard options!..Kiddom might combine the two to make my life more manageable!!!” Well, now that you mention standards…

Standards

I’ll never forget when my school transitioned to Common Core standards; I pored over printed spreadsheets comparing the new Common Core standards to the Tennessee state standards I had just used the year before. Alarming and overwhelming are words that come to memory. But it had to be done! In order to create a yearly scope and sequence, I educated myself. When our teachers set up Kiddom classes, all of the national and state standards are already there in clear buckets, plus, the ability to create your own competencies are available to you. Phew. One user expressed my thoughts exactly: “Yea. That’s what I’ve been waiting for. :)” Another added, “I really like that it includes Marzano alignment since that’s what my school/state uses. I also like that it shows me the status of my students in each standard.” The scores given to students populate some pretty awesome data for each standard you assess. Keeping these standards options open for teachers who track hundreds of different skills is important.

 

My 8th grade math classroom

 

Content

Looking through my oversized content binder for 8th grade Math, a mixture of printed and hand-made lessons, from the year before was a ritual every year. What resources did I create last year that were good enough to deliver again, what could I improve, what needed to be thrown away? Recreating the wheel was my specialty. To be fair, I created many excellent resources, but I can also attribute hundreds of hours of work doing so. A teacher’s curriculum is their bread and butter; it’s what will carry their class from day to day. We know this is crucial to starting strong, so teachers can now search and assign content through Kiddom by keywords, grade-level, and type of resource, “I think you guys nailed putting assignments into a system and being able to grade them quickly.”— after many of our teacher conversations, there will also soon be a curriculum planner, unit suggestions, and even more content partners. This totally would’ve helped me save time. If only.

Investment

While administrative tasks were taking place, I was also thinking about my kids and the classroom culture they would be part of! How do I encourage positive behavior, track their development, and send meaningful updates home to parents? On top of everything else. I wanted to invest my kids early. Many teachers I’ve worked with are excited to know that social-emotional learning (SEL) can also be assessed along with academic standards. Teachers have been educating students all this time on how to work in groups, communicate their feelings, and be responsible — but most have never had a place to see their development progress tied to data and reports. Now that we’ve partnered with CASEL, you can. One of our users responded to our emphasis on SEL with, This is about time kids learn to be respected, to handle conflicts, to feel safe expressing their emotions and given the tools to do so in constructive ways. Good for you!” We agree that truly, this should be the priority.

Coaching

Meetings with my assistant principal, curriculum coach, or grade team were too few and far between. There were days I needed help now, but so did everyone else in the building. My third year teaching, I was blessed with an outstanding Math coach; I only wish every teacher had access to their expertise. Helping educators adapt to Kiddom is something we love doing, and is at the top of our list during the busiest times of the school year. Whether we are on the phone, at a school, or chatting online, our teaching staff at Kiddom provides an extra hand in getting started. “Whether I’m having trouble with a feature or have a suggestion, someone always seems to be on the other side paying attention. 🙂 More than I can say for a lot of things we pay for!” Yes, our assistance, like our platform, is totally free and comes straight from us — we even help teachers put on PD at their schools as they begin adopting these tools. It brings us joy seeing teachers improving their classrooms with Kiddom.

Starting the school year strong was non-negotiable for me. Similar to building a house, the structure will be unstable if there is not a solid foundation set up beforehand. It wouldn’t be until the third month of school that I felt like the foundation had been built and we were in a productive, fruitful rhythm. The longer it takes to reach those rhythms, the less time we have to devote to learning. The faster we can establish the routines, the more my students got to take part in classroom culture and daily wins. Technology should be created with the goal of closing the gap in this process.

Although the beginning of the year could be busy and overwhelming, it was still, and always will be, my favorite time. Creating a space where students are receiving personalized learning, individual intervention, and feeling motivated was my goal. Setting students and teachers up for success is our goal at Kiddom. Start strong, and the rest of the year will follow in its footsteps.

 

 

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