Exceptional Instruction

Flipping the Classroom

This teacher is modeling how students should work through and take notes when watching a video lesson at home.

Prairieview teacher, Kim Swaekauski, and Lakeview math teachers, Karin Snodgrass, Annie Diver, and Sarah Focken, recently attended a seminar that presented strategies to successfully “flip” their math instruction. “Flipping” instruction allows the students to take a more active role in their learning. Teachers can create video lessons for students to watch at home or independently in the classroom. This enables students to take in the information at their own pace, view the video or segments of it more than once if needed, and pause the instruction to record notes. An archive of videos can also be created so that students can access lessons when reteaching is needed or as an option for review before assessments.


There are other benefits of video lessons. Studies have shown that shorter or condensed video lessons are more engaging than live lecture. Video lessons allow the teacher to be with the students at home – this is very valuable to students who are absent from school. These pre-recorded lessons also allow the teacher to “duplicate” his/herself in the classroom. While playing a video lesson, a teacher can walk around the classroom to promote student focus and engagement, and answer individual questions. Finally, students will have time for more active learning DURING class – engaged in discussion, collaboration, and projects.

This is an example of a paper slide video lesson. The teacher is able to monitor students and keep them on task while the lesson is being viewed.


Another aspect of “flipping” is to have students create video lessons of their learning. Here you can see Kim Swaekauski recording student “paper slides” to demonstrate how they could solve various real-world problems using the different methods of multiplying fractions.

Students provide a verbal explanation and can point out steps in their work as the teacher records.

Kudos to our teachers who took the risk and tried out these techniques in their classrooms right away!

Ramping Up Heath Education

Mrs. Conley has made some exciting new changes to the way students encounter her Drug Education curriculum. Disseminating this information to students is a tricky task! As a 1:1 school district, our students have access to lots of information at the tips of their fingers.  A routine Google search could lead students to inappropriate content, which is why Mrs. Conley likes to carefully control the resources with which her students engage.  Additionally, Mrs. Conley was motivated to freshen up her curriculum.  In past years, the majority of this unit was delivered through slideshows, lectures, and class discussions.  While this isn’t inherently bad, it didn’t allow for much variance in the modality that students would receive information.

Mrs Conley decided that using a HyperDoc through Google Sheets would be a way to freshen the unit up while addressing the sensitive nature of the carefully considered content and resources.  HyperDocs are Google Docs – or Slides – that are self-contained lessons or units. The idea was developed by Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton, and Sarah Landis.  One feature of HyperDocs is that they contain questions, with links to videos, info-graphics, websites, or other resources to help the students discover new information. HyperDocs also contain tasks for students to complete.   

Mrs. Conley’s HyperDoc served as one-stop-shop to organize and distribute the unit’s resources, activities, assignments, and discussion questions to her students.  Her students now encounter the information through carefully selected websites, manipulatives, private interactive class discussion boards, sorted descriptors and terms, an interactive game, and many other ways of learning new things on their own terms and at their own pace.   Mrs. Conley also designed the HyperDoc to present the information in a “stations” format.  Students were required to complete four activities within the two week unit.  However, they could choose which activities they wanted to work on each day.  Mrs. Conley’s HyperDoc has been an overwhelming success!

From a logistic standpoint, using a HyperDoc was effective and efficient. Mrs. Conley loved how the HyperDoc was the one resource students needed for the unit.  There weren’t multiple handouts, pamphlets, or binders to have to remember to bring to class.  As she reported, “It was nice to have all of students’ work – their notes, homework, and discussion points – organized and easy to access in one place.”

Additionally, the HyperDoc was well received from students.  “My students seem to have really liked using the HyperDoc for the unit,” stated Mrs. Conley.  “I observed them to be on task and engaged with the activities.   Also, students reported that they enjoyed being in control of their learning each day by having the choice of which activities to do and when.”

Indeed, when interviewed, students shared how much they enjoyed using the HyperDoc, which offered a lot of student options.  In the words of one student, “One day, I wasn’t in a social mood.  I liked that I had the option to watch and respond to the videos independently that day.”

Moreover, using this modality for disseminating the unit’s content enabled Mrs. Conley to have deeper, more meaningful discussions with smaller groups of students more often.  As students worked through the unit, Mrs. Conley circulated the classroom checking for understanding, clearing up misconceptions, and responding to students’ questions.  Mrs. Conley reported, “I loved having the ability to circulate as students worked through the unit and speak with students in a small group setting.  I’m not sure that all students would have contributed so openly in a whole class setting.”

Kudos goes to Mrs. Conley for wanting to revisit the way she delivered her Drug Education unit content to students.  She was open to new ideas, she was willing to take risks in leveraging technology in a new way, and provided her students with the power of choice to help them be in charge of their own learning.  All of this resulted in a successful, effective, and engaging unit of study!




Wiggle While You Work

The second grade team at Elizabeth Ide School is piloting flexible seating options this school year. They have introduced different types of seating and the rules/expectations for these types of seating options within their classrooms. Students now have choices in seating. They can choose from plastic wobble chairs, stability balls, picnic chairs, carpets, small rugs, crates with cushions, bean bag chairs, or a traditional desk chair throughout the day.  The second grade teachers hope these seating options will help to improve student focus, engagement, and allow students to choose and have an understanding of how they learn best. This choice also provides a sense of ownership to our students. 

Here is what the children say about the flexible seating options:

“They are fun!”

“I like wobbling around.”

“I have trouble sitting in the hard chair all day. I like the soft chairs we use on the rug. I can lean back in it.”

“They are really comfortable!”

“You might feel a little stressed out because you have so much to finish, and they help you relax.”

“They help me focus. I need to move around a little.”

“The chairs keep your energy out, so you don’t goof around.”

Students can rock back and forth or side to side on plastic wobble chairs.


Students can gently bounce on stability balls.


Students also have other alternate seating options.  


The Code Word Is…

Some of our 3rd grade teachers are finding ways to introduce computer coding into the classroom. Why would we want our students to learn the basics of programming? First, we recognize its significance in the digital age. Although our students use technology on a daily basis, it is important for them to understand the science and logic behind it. Coding allows kids to become actively engaged in the process of computing, not just passive users of technology. Also, knowing our reliance on technology will only increase over time, we want our students to be future-ready learners. Another reason coding in the elementary classroom is beneficial to our students is that the type of thinking involved influences the development of a child’s brain. Students gain a deeper understanding of cause and effect, and it sharpens their ability to troubleshoot and solve problems.Image result for quote by steve jobs about coding

Third graders in Mary Pellin’s and Heather Lopez’s classrooms were introduced to coding using activities found at code.org. This is a great resource for any teachers who would like to get their students started with the basics of computer programming. Students in Mary Pellin’s math class can be seen here completing a hands-on activity to learn about binary code.

It is wonderful to see our students expanding their knowledge of technology. They are quick to learn, and coding skills will help our kids thrive in a rapidly changing digital world.

Portfolios at Prairieview Going Digital

ClassDojo, Artsonia, and Seesaw, oh my! So many ways teachers and students can showcase the learning happening in the classroom. Digital portfolios allow students to track and demonstrate their growth over long periods of time, and they can follow students throughout their entire school careers. Creating digital portfolios has many other benefits as well. Parents don’t need to wait for a special invitation to “enter” their students school and view work. They can access it anywhere and any time! Also, portfolios foster sharing and collaboration. Students, teachers, and parents can all comment on posts. Although teachers must approve posts before they can be viewed by others, this feature allows for a discussion of digital citizenship on topics such as online etiquette and safety.

ClassDojo is actually a tool several Prairieview teachers started using as a way to promote positive behaviors like participation, working hard, and active listening. A few teachers have now started to utilize a recent addition to ClassDojo, called Student Stories. This is a way students can record and share their learning and accomplishments digitally. Students in Heather Lopez’s room are seen here using a QR-code to access and add to their digital portfolio. In the last two pictures, you can see students in Samantha Gari’s room adding their Science projects.

lopez-class-stories-2 lopez-class-stories        gari-add-to-class-dogo-story gari-adding-to-story-in-class-dojo

Artsonia is a way students are archiving their learning in Art class. Miss Smeltzer has step-by-step directions displayed in her classroom so that students may post their work independently as they finish. Later, students add an “Artist Statement” to share about themselves, their artwork, and their perspectives as artists. Students writing about their inspiration for an art piece, listing the materials (media) used, and describing what they did to create their art help them (and others) gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for their work.

artsonia1 artsonia-2

Seesaw is a digital portfolio option that several K-2 teachers in our district are using. You can learn more about Seesaw by reading an earlier post focused on instruction at Elizabeth Ide. No matter what the choice for capturing student learning, a digital portfolio is a powerful tool for students, teachers, and parents!