Driven by Words: 8 Ways to Build a Strong Blended Learning Culture


If students don’t really care about the quality of the work they produce online, everything else loses its value: the websites or apps they use, the data you collect, nothing really can be utilized with fidelity if students are half present when they are online.

While giving a tour of our blended learning spaces at Ranson IB Middle School, a group of teachers from neighboring schools asked me, “How do you build the culture around Blended Learning so that students will put as much care in the work they do online as they put in the one they do in class?” I was struck by the extreme importance of this question.

I would lie if I said I can guarantee that at any given time 100% of our students are giving it 100% online. We still have a lot of room to grow. However, I can say that in the 18 months since we started our blended learning program we learned the following eight actions have a positive impact on the blended learning culture among our students.

1. Identify Online Learning Exemplar Behaviors

What does it mean to work effectively and independently online without the constant guidance of a teacher? Once you have identified these crucial behaviors, simplify them so they are a part of the language used by everyone on a daily basis.

For example, at Ranson, we now use the acronym PACE (Pause, Attempt, Check and Explain) for the 4 steps we want our scholars to follow to maximize any online learning activity. We also use the acronym OWN (Organize your thoughts, Write in a post, Notify Teacher or Multi Classroom Leader) for the steps to take when facing a challenge during an activity.

2. Model and Narrate These Behaviors Constantly

Everybody on the team, from those supporting the computer labs, to classroom teachers, and even coaches, needs to speak the same language all the time. Start by modeling these key behaviors. At the beginning of the year, we used short Educreations videos as warm ups to model with students how to use these activities online effectively. Continue by noticing and praising students when they display these positive behaviors.

In our classroom rotation models,when I coach other teachers, I encourage them to visit the online learning spaces so that they can acknowledge students exemplifying active online learner behavior. Teachers say things like, “Miyoni is pausing the video to attempt the problem on her own first”, or  “Arsiema is rewinding the activity to check something that is still unclear.”

3. Celebrate Rock Star Online Learners!

If students don’t care about a poor grades in class, a poor score on an online learning activity is not likely to motivate them either. Instead of relying solely on grades, build routines to celebrate and reward weekly students who go above and beyond online.

We did this for the entire second semester and have seen a huge improvement in the quality of the work submitted online. 90% of the answers posted are now completely justified step by step in a well written paragraph, which then allows us to better understand their mistakes. Students don’t need much, just a space and a time where you can tell them how great a job they are doing and give them a token of your appreciation. A sticker and a badge can be enough but don’t take anything they do online for granted: Working on your own on an online activity requires a lot of perseverance and concentration for a middle schooler. Keep noticing and appreciating when they put in the effort!

4. Make Students Explain Their Reasoning Online

Too often, we rely only on the raw data given by a tool to measure our students’ understanding of a concept. We useEdmodo to communicate with our scholars. We ask them to give us feedback on the activities but we also assign exit tickets on the platform. To receive feedback and credit from the exit ticket, students have to submit an answer fully justified step by step in an edmodo post. This way, we know what they need help with the next time they come to class.

5. Provide Students With Written Feedback

Students love to receive personal feedback from their teachers on their work online. It takes quite a bit of time but believe me it is all worth it. I go through several hundred posts a week but I have seen the writing of my students improving dramatically. They also care a lot more about what they do online because they know that several teachers will look at their work and provide feedback on it. Many of our students start their day by checking Edmodo on their smartphone to see if they received feedback on their work. If they don’t they will stop me in the hall to ask me if I have seen their work.

6. Use Data To Make The Right Connections In Class

Show students how online and face to face instruction are connected. If you don’t, they can start thinking that the online portion of your curriculum is dormant. So let them know as they walk into class when they did a good job with their online exit ticket. Use questions from the exit ticket posted online, in class. Use the problems they struggled the most with as class openers. Have a board where you can pin stars with the names of students going above and beyond online. All of these small actions will have a big impact in the long run!

7. Provide Support During Online Learning Time

Being able to respond quickly to feedback is essential. Being able to respond to it on the spot is ideal. As you are teaching a small group of students, it might be difficult to support your online learners, especially if their lab is remote from where you teach. This means that the person monitoring the computer lab needs to be more than a monitor. This person should know what students are working on and what they need the most help with. He or she also should be supported and coached up so they know how to drive positive actions in the learning lab.

8. Create Activities Tailored To Student Needs

While it is absolutely okay to use activities from excellent websites likeCompass Learning Odyssey, do not rely exclusively on them all the time. Would you make your students work from the same textbook every single day, even if it was an excellent resource? Be selective in choosing the activities they need from your “go to platform” but also be creative and make your own lessons using whitboard apps for example. Your students will really appreciate finding your teaching style online and you will also better be able to respond to their specific needs.

If that seems like a lot of work, it’s because… it truly is. Building a strong Blended Learning culture among your students does not happen overnight and is always a work in progress. The rewards are tremendous though, as you will start seeing your students owning their online learning journey and advocating for their needs. Next stop, true personalized learning.

Romain Bertrand


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Enough Scapegoating



This is it. I have had enough.

I was about to say the other day that it had been almost a month without a blog post describing Teach For America as the Evil Empire, responsible for all that is currently wrong with our Educational System. Then I ran into a new twitter hashtag #resistTFA and I realized it was not about to stop…

Let me clarify a few things before I go any further:

  1. I am not a TFA teacher. I am actually French and was formally trained as a Math teacher back home. At the age of 23, I started my career in a high poverty school in the South of France. We don’t have TFA back home (or should I say TFF) and yet our teachers with no experience still have to go learn the job in the most challenging schools, primarily because it is hard to find enough experienced teachers willing to teach there.
  2. I am fully aware of the multiple points made by #resistTFA. These include the fact that TFA corps members, while well coached and supported, do not have the same training as teachers going through schools of education or that the statistics show that they don’t stay long enough in the classroom. I agree — I wish they stayed more and it is rough to start teaching after 6 weeks of a summer institute.
  3. I work in a school where I coach and support several young and talented TFA teachers and my Principal is a TFA alum. Absolutely nobody asked me to write this post. It is simply the result of years of frustration, hearing the same rhetoric over and over.

I know that I am not the first one to say this but I just felt like writing it today: There is nothing worse in a Society than the constant search of scapegoats to hide our lack of courage in addressing crucial issues. This is what we spend most of our time doing when we choose to unleash our anger at TFA because we feel like our profession is being undervalued.

The real issue is the lack of consideration for teaching and this goes way back, way before the creation of Teach For America. Try an experiment tonight to see if I am wrong: pick any decent 80s high school comedy available on Netflix streaming (The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller..) and see if you can find any teacher or administrator not portrayed as a loser making an almost comical salary.  Because when I am  talking about respect, I am also talking about a decent remuneration and opportunities to advance in a career. Was TFA around back then to inspire John Hughes?It wasn’t, of course, but it is much harder to talk about the fact that we don’t respect teaching as a Society. Actually we mostly respect it in words but absolutely not with our actions (how often do we hear at parties: “I think teachers should make so much more than they do”?)

So let’s speak the truth for a second. Here, right now in North Carolina, take away Teach For America, and we will have a real recruitment issue in a lot of our schools. People using the narrative of TFA teachers driving other teachers out of the classroom are in serious need of a reality check, at least here in the South. Why? Because, teaching is incredibly hard. It can be extremely rewarding, which is why I have been doing it passionately for 15 years, but it can also  punch you in the stomach and leave you having to step outside of your classroom for a few minutes…or more. This is true in any school on any day. Finding people who want to commit 12-14 hours a day to do this while being paid $35,000 (or less) is becoming increasingly difficult.

That is the  root of the issue but who really wants to tackle it? It seems a bit easier to target young TFA teachers…

So, yes I wish more of our TFA teachers would want to stay longer in the classroom (and a lot of them do) but what makes them want to leave after 2 or 3 years is often the same thing that makes NC teachers talk about leaving the State or the classroom: they don’t see the way up and they often leave devastated.

Meanwhile, as multiple bloggers have found the “courage” to explain why they chose not to become a Teach For America teacher, our Ranson IB TFAers  are here every morning at 7am and are up planning until midnight. They have made the choice to spend several years of their life giving their sweat, tears and blood to our students desperately in need of excellent teaching. When they leave, it is often to continue to have an impact on the learning of our students directly or indirectly. It breaks my heart every day that they have to do this while feeling almost ashamed to have made the choice they made. They all deserve our respect for joining this fight while others sit on the sideline.

So please, I beg you, let’s take a break from scapegoating and blaming Teach For America for all that is wrong with our Educational System. Instead, let’s roll up our sleeves and come up with solutions for our teaching profession. Ask yourself for a second: What are you doing to bring a positive change? If TFA ceased to exist tomorrow, what would you do to attract and retain talent to our schools? Many of us are out there every day teaching our kids while trying to improve our profession. This blog is a journal of our adventures with the Opportunity Culture model, a different ladder of opportunities in our schools to prevent the best from leaving and to give more pride and respect to the teachers who stay. We do not pretend it will solve all our problems but at least we dare to try something new. What if all of us put our brains together and did just that? In the words of my dear friend, and inspiring TFA teacher, Kayla Romero: “I am, you are, we are the revolution!”



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Trying to reach 800 students with a stylus, an ipad and…


When I embarked on this exploratory journey toward the concept of Multi-Classroom Leadership, some pieces of the puzzle seemed to fall faster into place than others.

I knew the six teachers in my pods would want support and coaching. I even learned this year how to provide feedback live while in the room with them. I also knew I needed to reach students directly. I wanted to create a structure allowing me to respond to their needs during their online learning time. That is how the math genius bar was born.

Another question was much harder to answer: How could we also expand the impact of great teaching to 800 students learning online?

This question was critical but it wasn’t just a question for me to answer. To support our Blended Learning implementation in 6th and 7th grade math, we also created two Blended Learning Teacher positions. The idea was to give these two (awesome) teachers more planning time (too little they would probably say) and support (enough I hope) so that they can find and create online content relevant to all our students’ needs while continuing to teach their 130 students every day:  quite a challenge!

At the beginning of the year, the three of us started from an almost blank canvas. We knew we had a good resource in Compass Learning Odyssey. We also knew we wanted to use rotation models as we had 1 computer for every 2 students on our teams. We also liked how these models were allowing us to differentiate our instruction and work with small groups at a time. Everything else was left to build from the ground up for our two grade levels, which at Ranson IB means 800 students. It was both an exciting and daunting task.

Far from me is the idea that we have it all figured out by now. Every single day we are learning new ways we can make improvements for our students. Three tools have however become irreplaceable for us in less than six months: An ipad, a stylus and a whiteboard app.

First, what are whiteboard apps?

For those of you unfamiliar with the likes of Showme and Educreations, whiteboard apps allow teachers and students to record presentations with a touch screen and a stylus (or your finger if you write better than I do). Imagine being able to record your teaching while drawing on the screen of your tablet as if it were the whiteboard of your classroom. Imagine being able to send the link to this presentation to all of your students in a second through Edmodo or a blog. This is what these fantastic free apps allow you to do. Personally I have finally opted for Educreations for its user-friendly interface and the fact that you can also use it in a web browser (CMS teachers, let’s put those HP Revolves to work!) Now the most important question remains: What in the world do we do with these apps and how can it impact Blended Learning on such a large scale?

How do we use them in our Blended Learning models?

Teachers have been blogging for years about these whiteboard apps and their power in a flipped classroom in particular. What we have discovered this year is how these apps can help a large Blended Learning program like ours be more responsive to student needs by expanding the impact of great teaching every single day. Here are 5 key applications that have transformed the way our scholars learn as well as our collaboration process:

1. To flip from within : Through our rotations, we often want our scholars to explore new content on their own before meeting with their teachers as a small group. It enables our teachers to be more questioners than tellers and our students to move to the application stage faster. Here is a flipped lesson on scale drawings:

2. To create our own scaffolded activities: Every week, our team thoroughly evaluates existing online activities to determine the best lesson plans we can put together for our students learning online. Often, we end up creating our own activities with Educreations or Showme because we can scaffold and teach them exactly the way we want. Of course we had to model for our students how to best use these interactive activities. At first, some of them were hitting play and watching them through. Now the huge majority of our students use them at the pace that suits them. They pause them to solve problems on their own and resume watching to check that they are on the right path. Here is an example of a practice activity on solving proportions:

3. To offer differentiated instruction “a la carte”: We all know this feeling. We start teaching a new lesson and quickly realize half the group gets it and is ready to be challenged more while the other half needs more guided practice. Previously, it was hard not to ask one group to wait or the other one to rush. Now, we create video podcasts every week around key concepts of our curriculum but at different levels of scaffolding and at different paces. This way, when our students are online, we can help them choose the pace and level that is right for them at a given time. For example, here are two versions of division of fractions in 6th grade:

We also work on  building a growth mindset in all our scholars so that they will keep challenging themselves and not become complacent during both their online and small group learning time. In other words, start at the level and pace that feels right now but keep pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.

4. To share teaching methods within the team: By sharing all these resources prior to the teaching of a new concept, we can help the entire team preview what’s to come and align their expectations and teaching methods with each other. Imagine the impact it can  have on a brand new teacher or somebody who has never taught math before! This leads us to our final point…

5. To better support substitute teachers: For several weeks, we had a substitute in one of our 7th grade math classes and he had no experience teaching math at this level. I was able to record an Educreations presentation for his class every day, which allowed him to become more familiar with the content before teaching it. At times, he would even play the video for the whole class if he was unsure of an answer or an explanation. Could this become a sustainable way to support our substitute teachers?

Today, after a semester of experimentation with these whiteboard apps, I can’t imagine going back to the days you always had to be near your classroom whiteboard to teach. Often, as I walk through our building now, students stop me to give me feedback on one of these online lessons: “The challenge problem yesterday was a bit too easy, make it harder next time!… You have got to work on this handwriting Mr. B.!… I loved the video today, it really helped me.” I walk away smiling, thinking that we are getting closer every day to reaching all our students through different mediums.

Then the smile grows bigger as I remember what my dad would tell me every day when I was a student in his 3rd grade class: “Romain, you must work on your handwriting…” I now officially have 800 reasons to do it.

Romain @htdcompletely

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Meet Ranson IB Math Genius Bar


In our journey to explore ways a school can expand the impact of great teaching, I saw a unique opportunity this year to revamp the way I was teaching, enabling me to better connect it with blended learning. Here is pretty much how it came about:

  1. Thanks to blended learning, we had access to a lot more information on what each of our students were truly learning and with what they needed the most help.
  2. We also had time slots during the day during which groups of students were online working on their own learning paths while their teachers were instructing in a small group setting.
  3. As a Multi-Classroom Leader, I had the opportunity to set-up my schedule in a way allowing me to reach specific students during this online learning time to provide them with personalized support.
  4. If it had to happen, my gut feeling was that it should be in small groups of 6-8 students maximum, for a portion of their lab learning time (25-30 minutes) to break with the traditional classroom model and give them a lot more chances to receive feedback and interact with me and their peers.

We just had to find a catchy name for this new process. I had seen in an early article about blended learning the term “genius bar” being utilized for flexible teaching time in connection with online learning (I wish I could credit this article here but I completely forget:(…). The Ranson IB Math Genius Bar was born! I have been running it for a semester now in 6th and 7th grade and we are starting to see the promising potential of this process as well as ways we could make it even better.

Early encouraging signs

It all starts and ends with students. At first I was a bit nervous about their reaction. Would they want to leave their computer and come work with me and a small group of students for 25-30 minutes? After all, this generation was born with a laptop in their hands…

Quickly, I realized that they would love it. As soon as they see me entering the lab or the classroom, they stand up, gather their stuff and walk out happily to come to the Genius Bar. They truly enjoy having a small structure dedicated to their growth. They are always a bit surprised to see that I know so well what they may be currently struggling with. They often leave feeling re-energized and more confident in their ability to overcome their difficulties. I had to be out for 2 weeks at the beginning of January for some painful back issues. Students would send me messages through Edmodo, asking me when I would be able to work with them again. It sure made me want to recover quickly.

My teams’ feedback on their work and behavior in class after having joined the Genius Bar has been constantly positive. They tell me that students often come out of their shell to participate more. They exhibit more confidence. We also track their growth from one common assessment to another and most of them benefit from the process.

The key for me is to keep the rigor and pace of instruction high during that time. One of my mottos is that nobody should feel overwhelmed but nobody should have to wait or be bored either. I always prepare tiered remediation tracks for this 30 minute time and I make sure to differentiate my support within the group so that everybody feels challenged and supported appropriately. As a result, they often tell me before leaving that they are surprised to see the number of problems they were able to solve in a short period of time. They also often cannot believe 30 minutes have gone by. That is music to a teacher’s ears.

Working on making it better

Now that the foundation is there, this semester will be dedicated to continuously improving the structure to better serve our scholars’ needs. Here are a few areas of growth we have been focusing on:

  • Our 7th grade Assistant Principal, who is also my instructional coach, gave me great feedback this week during our weekly coaching meeting: While we try to focus on students who struggle the most with a concept we currently teach or re-teach, there is a huge opportunity to also use this process to push our “high flyers” even further. We already use their online learning time to offer them a playlist of more challenging activities. However, there would be huge value in supporting them in small groups while they push themselves online. We are going to experiment with this soon and we will keep you posted.
  • Connections between what they do online, in class and in the Genius Bar can also be improved. Instead of (or in addition to) a data tracker, I really need to keep a Google drive journal of all my observations on each student and share it with the team so that we can better collaborate on what these groups need daily, may that be online or during the face to face time with their teachers. The only challenge is that I work with 180 students a week through this process. But with my Ipad and the right tool, it should be do-able.
  • I am working on ways to be even more reactive to their needs than I am now. Outside of the time I work with them weekly, I want to use Edmodo and our Ranson IB blended learning blog as a platform to constantly communicate with them and respond to their feedback faster.

I hope you will find this post helpful as you are potentially exploring ways to use the Multi-Classroom Leadership model in connection with blended learning in your own schools or districts. Opportunity Culture models open brand new doors when it comes to the way teachers can lead their teams using a multitude of actions ranging from real time coaching to direct teaching. The sky is the limit. The path is ours to trail blaze. Meanwhile, every second of this ride is so much fun. I go to work every morning thinking I am blessed to have a chance to do what I love for a living. That is priceless.


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Transformative Learning Experiences


Jocelyn J. Todd, director of Instructional Technology at Cary Academy

This past week, I had the chance to visit several schools implementing blended learning in the Research Triangle near Raleigh, NC with a group of project LIFT leaders. While touring great institutions such as Cary Academy or Centennial Magnet Academy , the same reassuring trends surfaced:

  • Each of these school’s vision centers on great teaching and meaningful individualized learning experiences, not on putting a computer in front of every student
  • Great teachers can truly transform the learning experience of students with their technology and they can expand their impact on the entire staff when given the right structure and time to do so
  • None of these schools want instructional decisions to be taken away from their teachers and put solely in the hands of adaptive software. They smiled every time we asked them this question
  • Students are way beyond the point of finding it cool to learn with their tablets or computers. They can call your bluff (to be polite) when you drop an activity on their device that is not suited to their current needs. They are not passive consumers of technology anymore and they own their learning path

I find these 4 trends extremely reassuring and along the lines of what we have been observing after one year of blended learning at Ranson IB  middle school.


Leslie Williams, Math Teacher and Instructional Technology Facilitator at Cary Academy

Our vision behind blended learning is to empower our excellent teachers so that they can expand their reach while differentiating their instruction more effectively. Technology is just one of the mediums of this change process. Creating an Opportunity Culture around this movement is another one, as it will help our best teachers see a path for professional growth and expanded impact within our school instead of seeking it elsewhere, often outside of the education world. For multiple reasons, the teachers we met at Cary Academy and Centennial Magnet seemed so proud to be part of this movement and miles away from considering leaving the school or the profession. They felt respected and valued. They carried themselves as if they were college professors. A career in education seemed possible to them and nothing to be ashamed of.

Why should we give up on the idea that all our public school teachers in North Carolina could see themselves this way?

When we give up on this idea, you know who else we are leaving behind to pay the bill for our lack of courage? Our students first and especially the ones who are born in a zip code where it is a constant battle to attract and retain excellent teachers. And if our students are hurt, our entire society will eventually have to pay the tab.

Teachers and Leaders of our schools work so hard to take two steps forward and they often have to take three steps back when their best colleagues leave. We have an immense responsibility to stop this bleeding and start building a new culture of growth and opportunities.

At Cary Academy, I was particularly struck by our meeting with an outstanding History teacher, Michael McElreath. His high school class is a blend of online learning and face to face instruction. He showed us these mind blowing projects where students were designing 3D models and blueprints of monuments honoring our veterans in Washington, DC. Their projects were supposed to convey in their architecture and design what a particular war had meant for these soldiers and the American people. In one of the memorials to honor WWI veterans, you would walk through a trench and as you climbed out you would see the WWII memorial right away. Why? Because, as the student explained in his research paper, in the conditions of the World War I peace treaty, already lie the roots of World War II…

I was speechless, blown away by the quality of the thought process of this high school student. I was also impressed by how the technology helped him integrate his ideas into a 3D model. It really was a transformative use of technology in a challenging learning experience conceived by a fantastic teacher. I first smiled, thinking I would have loved to take his class. I even laughed thinking I may actually have failed it as it was so rigorous and creative. Quickly, my emotions changed and I started feeling sad and somehow angry. I was mad and I still am today. Writing this post helps me dealing with this emotion. It is nothing personal against this great teacher and his students. I am happy they can have this life changing learning experience. I would not take anything away from this as it is a snapshot of Project Based Learning in all of its beauty. Far from me also is the idea that it is easier for him than it is for us to design this learning path. Only a fool would think that teaching at this level of rigor does not require hours of work and an immense amount of brain power.

My emotion and my anger simply come from the realization that all our students could also have a similar experience in our schools from pre-K to the end of High School if we committed to drastically change the way we attract, support and reward our teachers. Don’t get me wrong, students still have this chance multiple times throughout the decade or so they spend in our schools, they often have it at Ranson IB right now with talented teachers who work endlessly to ignite their flame for learning. How many times along the way however, do our kids still suffer from having one of their favorite teachers leaving the school? How many times is the word vacant still on their beginning of the year schedule or showing on the door halfway through the year?

Imagine if we could build a culture in all of our schools that would ensure that our amazing teachers want to continue to teach and grow within the organization… Now imagine the impact it could have on the learning of all our students, their High School and College graduation rate. This is the culture we are trying to build at Ranson IB and in project LIFT and I am proud to be part of this movement. Will we succeed? Time will tell but at least I am at peace with the idea that we are fighting for this change with all the energy and passion we have every day. Will you join the fight?


(Proud) 6th and 7th grade Math Multi-Classroom Leader

Ranson IB middle school

A Project LIFT school

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Ranson IB BL/OC Presentation

  • Presentation:

  • 6th grade lab rotation:

  • 7th grade classroom rotation:

  • Math Genius Bar


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3 tips to finish 2013 strong with your students

I always give this advice to my first year teachers when they are entering a crucial phase of the year (and which one is not?):  “Think about how you feel right now going to work every day. Now imagine your students feeling probably the same…to the power of 2 because, well,… they are kids! Now you have a good idea of how to best prepare for them tomorrow”.

How does this apply to this crazy time of year, between the end of Thanksgiving break and the beginning of winter break (only 3 weeks away!!)? Well, let’s be honest and lay out some of the thoughts we may all be having today:

  1. How can this break have gone so fast?
  2. I need a vacation to recover from all this cooking/eating/shopping…
  3. All these holidays related movies/commercials/songs make me nostalgic and impatient
  4. How many teaching days left already?
  5. Could it snow tomorrow so I can finish my lesson plans I started writing today…

I went through these 5 thoughts in the last few days whereas you know, if you read this blog or work with me, how passionate I am about my job. I wouldn’t do anything else in the world, but it is simply human nature to have these thoughts after a short break and right before a longer one.

Now think about our elementary or middle school students coming back tomorrow. Could you imagine them with the same thoughts magnified by the childhood lens? Knowing this, how can you best prepare for the three weeks ahead? Here are 3 precious tips that have never failed to help me in the last 15 years:

1.  Set some concrete goals for you and your students, achievable in the next 3 weeks

The risk during this time of year is that you and your students might delay any major improvement for the beginning of 2014. You are too tired, they are exhausted, let’s cruise through. That is the recipe for a long and unproductive stretch of classes. Instead greet your students right away tomorrow with energy and help them set some short term goals to finish 2013 strong. Here is a 20 minute presentation I created for our students tomorrow. It is meant to be energizing and funny. Of course, feel free to steal some ideas!

Re-inspire, re-energize after the break

Make sure goals are both ambitious and manageable and inform your students that you will help them stay true to their words. It could be improving on a concept that was hard before the break, getting extra credit assignments done or challenging themselves to try a “spicy” activity online or in class every day. Do not be afraid to have them post these goals on a “Finish Strong” bulletin board in the class. Share also with the class what your personal goals are and ask them to hold you accountable for reaching them!

2.  Take nothing for granted, be ready to celebrate small progress every day

Once you have laid out this foundation, be ready to notice, acknowledge and celebrate progress toward their goals right away. The dynamic of a class can at times mirror the one of an old couple. As soon as you take for granted great things students do every day, you stop noticing them and you launch a negative spiral focused solely on their shortcomings. This is true at any time of the school year but it is even more vital in the next 3 weeks: Multiply opportunities and ways to celebrate student improvement. If you were making 5 positive phone calls a week before, shoot for 5 a day right now. Your kids and parents will notice and it will help them and you cross the finish line happier and stronger.

3.  Embrace the moment rather than trying to fight it

We have all been this teacher one day who pledged nothing remotely close to candy or a costume should be seen on Halloween day. How did this turn out for us? Instead, embrace the moment with your students. They are feeling excited because it is a time of year they love. There is nothing wrong about this. What elements of this spirit can you infuse in your activity? They are impatient for a break during which playing will be the main focus for two weeks. It would be a great time then to bring more games into play during your class! Enjoy the moment and have them learn through!

These 3 tips have always helped me and my students re-focus and finish the school year strong. I would love to hear what your tips are to do more than survive this crazy season of teaching.


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