Saturday, February 25, 2017

Why Guided Reading, Planning, and Preparing Are Becoming Part of My Past

How Does Planning Whole Group Instruction, Embedding Social Studies and Science into ELA, Teaching Guided Reading, Engaging in 1:1 Student Conferencing, and Progress Monitoring Work My Classroom?      

Two Words... 


This post is brief in length, however, dense with thought/wondering. In other teacher worlds, maybe it is possible to find time to plan for multiple reading/math groups, manage, collaborate, record, use, and then repeat daily for all that needs in a classroom. 

However, in this teacher's world, it is impossible. So, I don't even try. At least for now. PLEASE, I am begging you to understand that this is not a challenge, nor insubordination against my school's expectations.  I work hard, my students learn hard, and are growing exponentially for it!

Please allow me to explain:

Although I do ALL of the things that I am expected to do as a teacher (basically everything that I say in my title don't work), I have figured out how to make the students more responsible for them than myself.  Yes, 6 and 7 year olds are teaching themselves, thank you very much. 

I know you have read in the past about me using Google and HyperDocs to teach my kids, however, over the past month, I have noticed a significant change in the structure of my classroom because of these tools:

1. Students are taking responsibility for their own learning daily.

I no longer run Guided Reading/Strategy Groups and my students are still growing. The reason I don't run them anymore is because the STUDENTS run them. They have a wide open space to read, write, collaborate, and give feedback to each other every single day. Not just on Tuesdays and Thursdays or once a week like I used to do with a typical Guided Reading schedule that may or may not happen due to constant interruptions due to weather, meetings, absences, etc.

Life and learning don't work like that and I refuse to believe that I am the gatekeeper of reading/writing/math knowledge. And if kids as young as 6 can teach each other while I am conferencing/progress monitoring, then I know middle and high schoolers can do it too.

2. Students are doing homework or work during recess, because they WANT TO. 

When I embed a HyperDoc into Seesaw, students have access to it FOREVER (or at least the whole school year). When they moan and groan because we are going to move onto a different topic of study, I simply reiterate to them that "You can learn whatever you want, whenever you want to. You don't need me or this classroom to learn. Do it at home!" At first, this confused them, however,  I have even had students ask lately if they can stay in from recess to keep working. WHAT. IS. THIS. LIFE? 

My students understand my role is a facilitator in our space. I am not just the "boss." I make mistakes, they make mistakes, and we learn from them and move on. We teach each other. We work together. Our room is no longer a classroom, it is a room of collaboration, noise, and real work.

3. I am done with "work" when I leave my classroom at 4:00. Don't judge me. 

Do I have to do some things at home sometimes, of course I do. I'm a professional, for goodness sake. However, my days of spending weekends and evenings preparing EVERYTHING for my students are far behind me. 

Life does not lend itself to having everything done for us in an adorable little package, so why should I teach my first graders that this is what learning and life is going to be for them? Why should I provide them with pre-made, cutely packaged, flawless pages filled with illustrated smiling white children to make myself feel like I am doing my job as a teacher? Those days are done. 

My kids make their own graphic organizers, draw their own thoughts, create their own connections and stink at it! That's where I do the most work. When they totally mess something up, fail, and generally don't get it, this is where my work happens. It is not planned, not perfect, and certainly and arguably, not what I was taught to do in college. However, if it is wrong, then why do my students consistently grow?

This post is meant to do two things: 

One, to let you all know that I am really struggling with the amount of expectations that are put on educators, who are paid like factory workers, yet expected to work like scientists. I also want to let you know that I have figured out how to work it all out for the benefit of my students. 

Two, to ask for your input. How do you manage your day? Do you plan everything out for your kids? What IS the structure of your day like? Are you handling it okay? Are you spending all hours of the day after school planning, printing, and entering data?

Here are links to the latest HyperDocs that students have been completing in my classroom:

Disclaimer: I got all of the images for the HyperDocs that I created from Google searches. I do not take credit for any of the images or videos that are embedded in any of my HyperDocs. 

Solids, Liquids, and Gases - Doc with images from Google. FIRST attempt at embedding Science into ELA using a Hyperdoc. Definitely a lot of changes need to be made for next year, but change whatever you need to to meet the standards!

Awesome Animals! - This was one of the first that I created and there were a lot of videos. Next year, I will embed more reading/response to reading. HOWEVER, they are reading and following all of the instructions themselves!

Weather - My excellent teaching partner, Cassie Stine, tried her hand at her FIRST ever HyperDoc and this is what she created. I edited it a little, but I love that she just dove in and went for it! You should know that our school has a subscription to RAZ Kids, RAZ Science,  and Seesaw for Schools. We use both of these as resources for instruction and student research.

President's Day in First Grade - I used for the passage. It is completely FREE! Sign up for a TON of resources!

Mapping our World and Community- A WORK IN PROGRESS... will share out the whole doc when completed!

Burn on!

Live in Northeast Indiana? I would be happy to facilitate a discussion about Seesaw and/or G Suite and how to use them in your school and classroom! Contact me by emailing me at

Follow BiT on Twitter: @burnedinteacher

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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Updated Seesaw Post for IDOE!!!

Hey, Burnies! I am SOOOOOO excited to be asked to guest blog for the Indiana Dept of Education's recognition of National Digital Learning Day in February! I'm so excited, in fact, that I couldn't wait to give my readers first dibs on what will be posted on the IDOE's site later this month!

If you remember, I posted about Seesaw back in November, however I amped it up for the IDOE, so I thought I would share it with you FIRST. Enjoy and Burn on!

My name is Amber Harper and I am a Google Trainer and classroom teacher at East Noble School Corporation in Northeast Indiana. I currently teach first grade at Avilla Elementary. Our school corporation has been a 1:1 device district for the past several years. At ENSC, grades K-4 use ipads and grades 5-12 use laptops. I am in my 10th year of teaching and am so incredibly honored to be contributing to the IDOE’s recognition of Digital Learning Day by blogging about the love of my teaching life, Seesaw. If you haven’t heard of it, hold onto your hats, because I am going to share with you a digital tool that can change your teaching life today.

Are you ready? Alright! Here we go!

What is Seesaw?

The best way to describe what Seesaw is is to show you. Click the links below to see some examples of what I have had my kids do on Seesaw, how I have used it to flip lessons, as well as how I use Seesaw to communicate with parents. Check out these examples of student work and  of me flipping my lessons:

Student Example 1          Student Example 2          Student Example 3

Student Example 4          Student Example 5          Student Example 6k

Flipped Example 1           Flipped Example 2           Flipped Example 3

I could show you thousands more examples of how my students and I use this tool every day in our classroom (8,142 examples to be exact), but we simply don’t have time for that.  

Seesaw is basically Facebook for the classroom (with a focus on sharing our best work, of course) and has transformed my life as a teacher and my students' lives as learners. Students can post their work, comment and offer feedback on each other’s work (if you allow them to), edit their work, and you can even have them post work from home! They can also draw, type, label, point, and record to explain their thinking. It is truly the best way to see what students are thinking and learning on your journey together through the school year!

Seesaw is also a great platform for sharing eLearning lessons and for students to post their work. I use it to embed my Google Slides which contain videos, links, explanations, and instructions for posting their work.

Why do you need this tool in your classroom?

Seesaw was completely foreign to me when I started at my new school in 2015. Even though I was unsure of what it was exactly, my teaching partner was doing it so I thought, "Why not?" Little did I know that my life as a teacher would be forever changed. I fell so in love with Seesaw, that I became an ambassador and preach its features anywhere to anyone who will listen.

What's so great about this platform is that you can use it to best serve you and your students in the way that is best for you and them. The possibilities are endless. You can:

  • create folders in any way that works for you

  • share student examples and teach students digital citizenship by opening up commenting capabilities

  • flip and differentiate assessments

  • embed links from YouTube to teach/enhance lessons
Screen Shot 2017-01-29 at 10.02.19 PM.png

  • differentiate lessons by sharing with specific students
(Click here for an example of how I differentiate and share several different spelling lists each week.)

  • communicate and interact with parents
  Screen Shot 2017-01-29 at 9.44.48 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-01-29 at 9.51.01 PM.png

  • encourage student choice in ways that they share their understanding by app smashing
Screen Shot 2017-01-29 at 9.42.11 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-01-29 at 9.43.22 PM.png

  • embed Google Forms and multi-media text sets (aka HyperDocs) into Seesaw for easy access for younger students (and to share eLearning lessons)
Screen Shot 2017-01-29 at 9.38.52 PM.png Screen Shot 2017-01-29 at 9.49.41 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-01-30 at 9.12.52 PM.png

In November, through Seesaw Blogs, we did a Google Hangout with a class from another state. Last week, I was contacted by a school from Hong Kong and asked if we would like to connect through Seesaw Blogs. Talk about breaking down classroom walls! My students are beside themselves with excitement! When I say that Seesaw is a game-changer, I mean it.

My students love it when they see that students from halfway around the world have commented on their work or pictures! (See below.)

Screen Shot 2017-01-29 at 9.54.34 PM.png

Bottom line, this online student-driven portfolio is AWESOME and FREE. Yes. Free. Watch these two YouTube video tutorials from Seesaw about how to begin using it TOMORROW. You can do it!

Seesaw hosts many ‘PD in Your PJ’s’ about how to use this tool in different ways. It is such a huge help for those just starting out as well as those teachers who are ready to take their Seesawing to the next level! Follow them on Twitter (@seesaw) to be notified when they are hosting a new "PD in Your PJ's." If you miss it, they also post them on YouTube.

Give Seesaw a try. You won’t regret it.

Happy Digital Learning Month!

Live in Northeast Indiana? I would be happy to facilitate a discussion about Seesaw and/or G Suite and how to use them in your school and classroom! Contact me by emailing me at

Burn on!

Follow me on Twitter: @burnedinteacher

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