Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Maintaining Student Engagement Beyond the New Year Honeymoon

The start of the school year can bring stress to teachers, but there is a certain type of buzz that the students have about being back. Everything is new. New classes, new lockers, new classmates, new clubs, etc. There is a certain honeymoon period at the start of the year where students are more willing to try new things and get along because they are happy to be back. However, that honeymoon does not last forever. Teachers need to find creative ways to keep students engaged beyond the honeymoon period. There are some tips that can help make the post honeymoon class time better for everyone. 

Flexibility is Key

As the year progresses, your students are going to grow and change. As they do, it is important to remember to be flexible. Pay attention to their evolving interests and passions. That cool Youtuber they love might be “super cringe” now. Their hormones are going to change and tempers can become short. Being adaptable during this time is important. Students will need to be shown some grace as they navigate complex emotions. Being flexible with students will allow them to feel those big feelings without fear of punishment. Students will make mistakes and it is important that they are given the space to make them and recover from them. The teacher’s flexibility will really determine how engaged some students will be throughout the year. 

Incorporate Hands-On Learning

I always apologize to my students about the first few days of class because they are the most boring days. Too much of the teacher talking and students sitting and listening. If that is how class is always going to be, students are going to check out and the teacher will find it hard to get them back. Hands-on learning is a great way to keep students engaged in class. Students should be up and moving often in classes. It is good for the brain! This article from Edutopia showcases great ways to bring more movement into the classroom. Getting students up from their desk and engaged in the lesson is a wonderful, and easy, way to get them engaged in the classroom. Not every lesson needs to be hands-on, just more than you might traditionally do in the classroom. 

Harness the Power of Technology

One of the things I have seen used in the classroom that has really changed students' engagement is how teachers are using Kahoot. Students are super engaged in the quiz games and the classrooms are hopping! Bringing tech into the classroom can be a fun change to the traditional day. It can be some that motivates students to do the work because they know there is a Kahoot later in the week. Using tools like Adobe Express or Canva to let the students create digital projects can help increase the engagement of students in the classroom. These free pieces of technology can really help students stay connected to the class and support their long term learning. 

Set Clear, Achievable Goals

One of the things I have seen that have helped students stay engaged in class is to have clear, achievable goals. Sometimes the school year can seem endless and it is hard to get up and tackle the whole year. Breaking that year into small chunks and celebrating when they are completed is a great way to keep students engaged. Throw a mini party when you finish that unit. Reward the students for making it through that exam they were anxious about taking. Make sure the goals are clear and achievable and the students will feel so much better when they get to cross those items off the class to-do list. 

Keep Your Own Passion Alive

Don’t forget to keep your fire lit. As a teacher, it can be tough to keep the same energy level up all year. There are going to be dips, but those can be mitigated. One of the ways to do that is to attend conferences, read articles, and stay connected with the other educators. Also, you can completely disconnect from the educational world on weekends and just explore something that you are interested in and share that with students. I recharge by going to a conference and getting flooded by all of these amazing ideas from teachers across the country. I also know teachers who would rather spend their time being lazy in their garden and they come back energized. Find your own passion and let that drive you throughout the year. 

The ups and downs of enthusiasm throughout the school year are very normal. Yet, by being proactive, adaptive, and responsive to our students' needs, we can ensure that engagement remains high long after the novelty of the new year fades. Remember, every day is an opportunity to reignite that spark of curiosity and wonder in our students.

Hugs and High Fives,


Thursday, October 12, 2023

Draw and Translate on @AdobeExpress! #AdobeEduCreative @RebeccaLouHare

I wanted to share this quickly before I head out for the weekend. Adobe Express has introduced a DRAWING feature! Teachers and students have been asking for this for a very long time. The possibilities are endless and I can't wait to see what students and teachers create using tablets/touchscreens to draw. Adding drawing simply increases the creative abilities of students and teachers. It is very straightforward to use and will provide lots of different ideas. Here are a few quick screenshots I tool 

You can find the Drawing option under the Education and Suggested tap on the new.express.adobe.com homepage. You have the option to create from Scratch or use a template. Here is what I was able to whip up quickly. 

Look out Picasso! You can change colors, styles of brush, thickness of the lines, etc. This is exactly what I was hoping it was going to be and could not be happier. They also have decorative brushes! Look at the bats I created. You increase the size on the left and you can have all types of fun creations with the simple swipe across the page with the mouse. 

I am super excited about this new feature and I hope everyone that loves Adobe Express takes a moment to try it out and share their thoughts. 

Quick addition because I just saw this as I was about to post. You can translate into different languages. Entire documents! What?! Check this out!

These are a couple of amazing features that are going to increase the creativity across the board for even more students and teachers. Check it out and share with your teacher friends!

Hugs and High Fives, 


Monday, October 9, 2023

5 Key Ways to Support Neurodivergent Students That Benefit Everyone. #EdChat #Neurodiversity

In the quest to provide inclusive and comprehensive education, there's a saying that captures the essence perfectly: "When we design for disability, we all benefit." At the heart of this perspective is the understanding that strategies we use to support neurodivergent students can, in many cases, enhance the learning experience for everyone. Here are five essential ways educators can make their classrooms more accessible, taking inspiration from methods employed to support neurodivergent students.

Structured Environment

One of the most common strategies for assisting neurodivergent students is creating a structured classroom environment. Predictable routines, clear organization, and labeled areas can aid in reducing anxiety for students who crave routine. This is something that can benefit all students because having clearly labeled locations for items and solid routine allows very little room for lost time. I have found that students in the middle school really benefit from the strict routine of certain class activities. Whether it is taking attendance or the procedure to use the bathroom, those approaches help all students, but especially neurodivergent students who get anxious at the uncertainty that can present itself in seemingly normal, every day tasks for others. 

Example: Starting every class with a 5-minute overview of the day's lesson, displayed on the board, can help all students set clear expectations and mentally prepare for the tasks ahead.

Visual Aids and Graphic Organizers

Visual aids can be beneficial for neurodivergent students, especially those on the autism spectrum or those with attention disorders. These tools can clarify information and break down complex ideas. The use of chunking is wonderfully helpful for all students. It can be very easy to get overwhelmed with a large project or concept. Breaking it down using visuals can help make it all seem more manageable. I have found that more visuals and fewer long texts really help all of the students stay on task and are more engaged with the content. 

Example: For a lesson on the water cycle, a colorful diagram with arrows and brief descriptions can make the concept more graspable.

Flexible Seating Options

Providing various seating options can cater to different sensory needs. Some students may need movement to concentrate, while others might benefit from a quiet corner. As a teacher, it is important to remember that it is not "your" classroom. It is their classroom and the space should accommodate their needs. The first time a student in my ELA class asked if they could sit on the window ledge instead of their desk, the traditional teacher in me said, "No way", but I figured I would give this fidgety student a chance and it was the most on task they had been all year. Finding different options for sitting can be difficult and costly, but it is important to explore because students learn in a different environments and we should be flexible to that. 

Example: Offering a mix of traditional desks, standing desks, soft cushions, and even wobble stools can provide students the freedom to find their most productive space.

Breaks and Brain Boosters

Regular breaks can help neurodivergent students regulate their emotions and energy. But in reality, all students can benefit from intermittent pauses to refresh and refocus. If you teach in block scheduling, you must have something to break up the 70 minute blocks or the students will not make it to the end of the year as engaged as you might want. Taking time to stretch, walk around, play a quick silly game, etc. are important to keep the students engaged. Neurodiverse students will really need a way to energize themselves after long periods of sitting. 

Example: Introducing 5-minute "brain boosters" every 25 minutes, like a quick stretch or a short mindfulness exercise, can help rejuvenate everyone.

Multi-modal Instructions

Offering instructions in more than one format can make a world of difference. Whether it's auditory, visual, or kinesthetic, multi-modal teaching addresses diverse learning styles. I learned that putting everything online and on the board AND reading over it at the start and end of class is a great way to ensure that ALL of my students have a chance to understand what we are doing or remind them what we just did. I read everything at least twice to make sure everyone heard it because there are students who might be too embarrassed to raise their hand and ask for a repeat. That applies to all students. 

Example: When introducing a new project, provide written instructions, explain them verbally, and perhaps demonstrate a step or two to cater to different learners.

The beauty of these strategies is that they don't just cater to a subset of students. By supporting our neurodivergent learners, we are essentially laying the foundation for a holistic, inclusive, and enriched classroom environment that uplifts everyone. Let's continue to learn, adapt, and grow for the benefit of all our students.

Hugs and High Fives, 


Thursday, October 5, 2023

Future of Education Presentation from the Sunnyvale Symposium #GoogleChampions #AdobeCreativeEdu

I spent the past three days in Sunnyvale, California at the Google for Education Champions Sunnyvale Symposium and it was a very exciting time. One of the interesting conversations we had centered around the idea of the Future of Education. We were broken up into smaller groups and we worked to come up with our own vision and present it to the group. Below is a video of our presentation built entirely in Adobe Express. It was a fun way to share our ideas. We received plenty of positive feedback on the ideas and the animation. Take a look and see what you think. Thanks to Eric Lawson, Jen Hall, Philip Vinogradov, and Krystal Zeigler. Team 6 for the win!