Thursday, November 16, 2017

Co-teaching: How to Make it Work

Teachers and specialists learning about using
Wordle as a tool for writing reflection.
Photo Credit: Misti Werle
What a great workshop! One of the best I’ve been to in a long time - the strategies were quick and easily adaptable for all levels. My co-teacher and I shared lots of thoughts on how to implement immediately. We are currently co-planning a unit on modern civil rights struggles. With help from Anne Beninghof, who gave us many different models and expectations, we’re sure to be successful! 
-Angie Siewert, LMS at BHS

What is co-teaching, you might ask yourself?  Many Library Media Specialists, Levels of Service teachers and General Education teachers attended Anne Beninghof’s training on co-teaching in October.  According to Anne Beninghof, co-teaching isn’t defined as teachers taking turns teaching in the classroom, but teachers teaching together.

Teachers and Specialists sharing ideas.
Photo Credit: Misti Werle

“Co-teaching is one of the most powerful skills for promoting student growth.  It makes the teaching I get to do as an LMS authentic and purposeful.  Anne’s workshop on co-teaching provided us with an abundance of strategies we can use through co-teaching to meet student needs  It not only gave us quality skills we can utilize, but it also provided a model of what effective co-teaching would look like.  I am super excited to work with my fellow colleague by co-teaching in the area of reading.”
 -Michelle Kuhn, LMS Solheim

Anne Beninghof is a special education teacher, by trade.  She co-teaches with general education teachers at her school.  She spoke to BPS teachers about what a co-taught classroom might look like and what it does not look like and gave a lot of tips and tricks to make co-teaching work. She also showed the teachers different, quick but effective strategies for any classroom.

The co-teaching workshop was one of the most valuable workshops I have attended. Anne Beninghof is a master teacher! The techniques she shared were simple, yet powerful. I appreciated that we were given time to prepare a lesson with our co-teacher and able to implement some of the strategies we learned immediately.” -Robin Kress, LMS

 Anne shared that when you enter into a co-taught classroom you will see both teachers active in the teaching.  There is never one teacher waiting in the wings, but both teachers working with, teaching and helping students around the classroom. Co-teaching can look different in many ways.  Co-teaching can have each teacher taking turns teaching to the whole group, while the other teacher is monitoring behavior, quietly collecting observational data, or helping one individual with the lesson while the other does the teaching.  Also, co-teaching can have both teachers running small groups in rotations to differentiate instruction or lead different parts of a lesson.  In any scenario both teachers are busy working with students throughout the whole lesson and each adding their own expertise to enhance the lesson.   Anne shared that when you enter into a co-taught classroom you will see both teachers active in the teaching.  There is never one teacher waiting in the wings, but both teachers working with, teaching and helping students around the classroom. Co-teaching can look different in many ways.  Co-teaching can have each teacher taking turns teaching to the whole group, while the other teacher is monitoring behavior, quietly collecting observational data, or helping one individual with the lesson while the other does the teaching.  Also, co-teaching can have both teachers running small groups in rotations to differentiate instruction or lead different parts of a lesson.  In any scenario both teachers are busy working with students throughout the whole lesson and each adding their own expertise to enhance the lesson.  

Teachers learning about the Plickers App.
Photo Credit: Misti Werle
“I had not attended a workshop for a long time and did not know what to expect. The Co-teaching workshop was very valuable. It is definitely something that I will be able to implement in my classroom. I would have to say my favorite part of the workshop was the simplicity of the techniques that can be used. Our Library Media Specialist and I are looking forward to working together to enhance our student’s knowledge of the content.”
- Kerry Oberlander, Classroom teacher at SMS

The main problem most teachers and specialists discussed during this training was TIME.  How do two teachers involved with co-teaching find the time in their busy schedules to do the co-planning that is necessary for a well-planned co-taught lesson?  In order for co-teaching to work there needs to be common planning time put into the schedule to put together quality lessons.

It might seem difficult at first to figure out what each teacher might be doing during a lesson, but here are some quick and easy ideas Anne Beninghof listed on her website,, to help you get started:

Teacher A leads the lesson while Teacher B could be:

  • Writing color-coded notes on the board or laptop
  • Echoing key words from Teacher A
  • Pulling up an online site (thesaurus, encyclopedia, media) to support instruction
  • Providing kinesthetic tools, manipulatives, aids, and props
  • Counting down, giving time clues, or managing a visual timer
  • Prompting engagement with directions such as: “Stand up if you …, Turn and talk about …,  Stomp your feet if …”
  • Going on-the-spot to websites to show visual images
Although co-teaching can be challenging, there are a lot of benefits to having two teachers working together, using their own expertise in guiding a lesson. Anne has included many resources and tools on her website to help you get started. 

Here are a few more comments from teachers and specialist about Anne Beninghof’s co-teacher training: 

“Not only were my co-teacher and I able to plan, but throughout the training, strategies were shown and used that can be added to our toolbox for students. We are looking forward to implementing what we learned and creating a video to show others at our school what co-teaching looks like.” Alisha Kelim, LMS

“The Co-Teaching workshop gave my partner teacher and I some valuable time to be able to plan.  I also loved that being there together gave her and I a shared understanding of what co-teaching is.  I also loved all the little strategies and techniques Anne Beninghof shared with us - they were so simple but yet very impactful.  I learned things that I could implement the very next day along with developing a co-teaching relationship that will continue to grow long after the training!
-Stacy Olson, LMS

“Amy Dahmus and I have co-planned and co-taught one math lesson on fractions so far. It required lots of planning and prep. We over-prepared; this lesson will become 2 lessons.”
-Dana Gendreau, LOS

“We have already reflected on our lesson and have thought about our next steps on extending it in the future.  The advantage of the lesson was differentiating by dividing the class into two groups.  It was helpful to have the time in class to prepare. “
-Amy Dahmus, Teacher

“Nola Steier and I have completed our initial planning and can’t wait to implement ideas that we learned in Anne Beninghof’s Co-Teaching class.  We have developed a planning doc to which we can each add elements of the lessons. We will begin implementing our plans soon and are eager to reflect with each other after the sessions. We are anticipating great rewards through the power of co-teaching.”-Andrea Edstrom, LOS

“After being completely engaged by Anne Beninghof for two days of awesome learning, I was equipped with a new toolbox of strategies to use with students; along with a partner teacher to engage in co-teaching.  The best part - students win in all scenarios!!”
~Andrea Weikum, LMS Sunrise

“This is the second time that I have been able to attend a PD led by Anne Beninghof. Quite simply, she is amazing. Not only does she give you the competencies to lead a strong and effective co-teaching environment, but she also gives you the skills and the toolkit to lead exciting and innovative lessons for all modalities of learners. She helps you scaffold, plan, and differentiate with highly effective, research-based practices that are engaging and fun for kids. A wonderful experience!”-Michael Jacobson, LMS at Grimsrud, Roosevelt, and Highland Acres

“Kate Vig and I are co-planning right now, using many of the strategies we learned about in Anne Beninghof’s Co-Teaching workshop. We are excited about the opportunity to team teach a couple upcoming projects this year. We appreciate the time we had to collaborate and learn!”
-Kat Berg, LMS

Twitter Tuesday Questions:

What does co-teaching look like?
How will we find the time to plan for co-teaching?
How will we project to the students that we are both classroom leaders?
What roles will each teacher play in the classroom? How do we coordinate our efforts to help the entire class succeed?
What are some of the ways teachers can complement one another during co-teaching?

Thursday, November 09, 2017

MakerSpace! MakerSpace! MakerSpace!

"A Makerspace is a place where students can gather to create, invent, tinker, explore and discover using a variety of tools."  - Diana Rendina

Today was one of those days, when the stars aligned and a lesson plan came full circle.  I love teaching with ozobots.  Students are intrigued by how they work and willing to do any type of learning in order to get to use them.  For today’s lesson, I created a math review for second grade.  Each station had a problem or direction for students to complete and they also practiced drawing lines and codes for the ozobot.  There was one ozobot per four students and absolutely no reminders were necessary about patience and taking turns.  Instead, I witnessed students teaching students and overheard discussions about what worked and what they wanted to change.  Then we wrapped up and had a whole class discussion, through which they planned out next week’s lesson. 

Photo Credit – Megan Crawford

Chris O'Brien stated, "As a rule of thumb, project-project-based learning and school makerspaces work much better to motivate students than any marble jar, point system or promise of pizza ever could” (2017).  When students complete maker-based projects, they are creating real world things.  Throughout this process there is an opportunity for success and also for mistakes.  Students have the opportunity to make changes or improvements, to think deeper.  As a library media specialist, my role includes empowering students to be creative thinkers, problem solvers and producers.  

True or False? Creating a Makerspace is expensive…  This is exactly why I do not care for true and false questions – it can be done with a high or low budget.  I would like to point out ways you can start out with a low budget. 
  1. Recycle – start a school wide campaign to collect paper towel rolls, toilet paper rolls, tissue boxes, cardboard boxes, plastic bottles and paper.
  2. Throw away NOTHING – save bubble wrap, packing peanuts and the box it came in.
  3. Donations – Post a list of items to get you started: pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, duct tape, masking tape, googly eyes, fabric, thread, yarn, wire, plastic spoons, styrofoam cups, straws and paper plates. 
  4. Take advantage of the other popular trend – “simplifying”  When families wonder what to do with toys your kids outgrow suggest they donate them to the school library – Legos, K’nex, Lincoln Logs, Jenga, and Magnatiles are great additions to any Makerspace. 
  5. Garage Sales – I actually had a student pick up and ozobot at a garage sale and donate it to the library. 

You can start a makerspace with a few well-placed baskets of “stuff”, however if you are looking for low cost items to purchase, consider Strawbees, Origami paper, Geoboards, Legos, hand-sewing projects and Stop motion Animation.  When you have more money to spend consider Little Bits, Ozobots, Snap Circuits, Sphero, Makey-Makey, a green screen and a Lego wall. 

Makerspaces take on many styles.  In our district alone, each school that has one looks different.  One elementary has a very successful club that meets after school.  Others have a space in their library that teachers can bring their students to, and then there are those like mine that have a few items teachers check out and use in the classrooms.  My advice is to start with what you are comfortable with.  For me it is ozobots, which opened doors to collaboration with teachers and engaged learners.  Although I am still very new at the Maker Movement, I invite you to join me on my journey. 

Twitter Questions:
  1. What experiences are you trying to create with Makerspaces?
  2. What learning goals and outcomes do you want to achieve in this space?
  3. How would a Makerspace benefit visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners?
  4. What standards and learning goals can be met through Makerspaces?

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Outdoor Recreation is where the fun begins!

Fishing at North Dakota Game and Fish
“Huff Hills was one of the most fun days through my entire high school years!”                                   
~Missy Domagala- now a freshman at NDSU (pictured on right)

Outdoor Recreation is where the fun begins with being active! 

Is there a better way to spend your Physical Education class than being outside and participating in fun and exciting activities in the community?
First fish he has ever caught!

Outdoor Recreation is an elective class that meets two hours at a time, once a week for the whole year.  We partake in different community activities that give students the experience outside of school to promote lifelong fitness and wellness.  Outdoor Recreation allows for the students to enjoy the outdoor environment and learn to find exercise beyond the gym. There is something that can be said about enjoying activities in the outdoors and taking in the fresh air.  This class can spark an interest in an outdoor activity that you never knew of or tried.  As the OPENspace Research Centre puts it: “Physical activity in the natural environment not only aids an increased life-span, fewer symptoms of depression, and lower rates of smoking and substance misuse, but also an increased ability to function better at work and at home.”
Forty feet off the ground conquering fears
at the high ropes course!

“Outdoor Recreation was a great experience for me, it allowed me to try new things in an outdoor environment which I loved! Being able to try those new activities, that I probably never would have tried on my own, was really an eye opener to new things I could enjoy as a hobby on my own time.” 
~Brenna Hanson- now a freshman at UND (pictured on right)

I personally believe that by having an outdoor program and exposing students to different activities that they might not have the chance to do on their own will positively impact their lives.  The students may find some hidden strengths and hobbies that they may want to pursue further beyond the classroom experience.
“We got to do things that I’d never do on my own.”                                             ~Heidi Hilz- now a freshman at NDSU (pictured on left)

Having this class as an elective for students provides an alternative for those that do not care for competitive, physical education gym activities.  However, we are still in the school environment.  The social aspect is present, and students can still have some independence and grow confident in themselves.  “Your child spends most of their academic life in the classroom, but well-rounded secondary schools recognize the invaluable benefits that fresh air and nature can offer to each student’s personal well being” as stated by an outdoor teacher from the Independent Lakefield College School.
“I really liked outdoor rec. It was fun and really active. It's a class where you get to go outside and be active instead of being in a classroom all day. My favorite activity we did was when we went to the high and low ropes course. I highly recommend this class.”                                       ~Brady Oberlander- senior LHS (pictured on right)
Legacy High School is creating memories within our Outdoor Recreational class that will last a lifetime. Whether we are kayaking, playing sand volleyball, hiking, golfing, curling, ice skating, sledding, skiing, fishing, throwing horseshoes, shooting archery or conquering our fears on a high ropes course, my students are engaged in lifelong active learning.  These activities allow students to be free and individuals.  Hearing the students laugh when we go sledding is priceless, an activity that most of them say, “I have not done this in years; I forgot how fun it is.”  Seeing the smiles and excitement when we go to Huff Hills proves that ALL students are having fun and trying to learn the activity.  A true sense of belonging is created when students support and help beginners to learn and take on the challenge of the ski hill. 

Huff Hills Ski Trip
I am hoping to inspire a love of nature and outdoor opportunities that my students can do to be active in the community.  They learn that lifelong fitness opportunities do not require going to the gym.  Learning can be fun!
“It was amazing! Very fun experience!”     ~Haley Starck- senior LHS (pictured on right in pink coat)

Come check out the fun in Outdoor Recreation 
by watching the video.
Thank you students Kailey Weigel for making the video and 
Alexi Ness for the video clips!

Twitter Tuesday Questions:  
  • How can we expose our students to new experiences that can positively influence their lives?
  • Being outdoors is healthy for everyone! How can you add an outdoor element to your daily life?
  • Competitive vs Non-competitive. Which type of activities to do prefer? How can we recognize that difference in our students? 
  • Offering Outdoor Rec gives students more choices. Share one simple thing you can change right now to give students more choice.
  • Lifelong learning is important for everyone. What’s one thing you want to learn? 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Stranger Pings

Ahh, October! It really is the coziest month, isn’t it? At the mere thought of October you can almost smell the fresh, crisp autumn air, feel the warmth of a soft woolen sweater, taste a hot spiced drink, and hear the crunch of leaves underfoot. These comfy feelings are the perfect contrast to Halloween, when we embrace our fears and delight in spooky stories and images of ghosts, ghouls, witches, and werewolves.

I have a scary tale to tell, one of a danger that hides in plain sight and threatens to catch you unaware and seize your very existence. This predator is more alive than a zombie, and easier to fall victim to than a murderous clown.  So, let us now embody both the hygge and horror of October. Put on some fuzzy socks, grab your pumpkin spice latte, and cuddle up in a blanket while I unnerve you with the evils of a fiend called ...dunh, dunh dunh!!! ...the phisher.

The first reports of a phisher began around 1995. The phisher’s attacks, called phishing, became more frequent in 2003 and have continually increased in number and evolved in danger. Phishers will attack you where you work and live. A phisher could be a member of an organized crime ring attacking you from overseas, or an individual operating alone from a local coffee shop. The phisher’s enormous power has ruined lives and destroyed corporations. In the connected world we live in, we are all targets for phishers. No one is safe.

Fortunately, It’s not all doom and gloom. By understanding why phishers phish and recognizing their tactics we can avoid falling prey to their attacks. In simplest terms, phishers want to trick you into giving them your password, social security number, credit card number, or other important information and use it for their gain.

The top guidelines to avoid phishing scams and keep your identity safe include:

  1. Have a strong password. Passwords should be long and complex, regularly change passwords, don’t reuse passwords, and never share passwords. 
  2. Think before you click. Don’t open attachments or click on links in emails if you weren’t expecting to receive them. Don’t fill out forms with confidential information, like passwords, unless you are on a trusted site. 
  3. Keep informed. New phishing scams and techniques are being developed all the time. 
Do you know how to recognize a trusted website or a spoofed email sender? Do you know how to select a strong password? You may be surprised to find out Greenpigeats14tacos! is a much more secure password than Tj3$*f1@ (and it’s easier to type and remember!). Its vital, not just for your own safety, but for the security of BPS that you understand these concepts and feel confident in your cyber security skills. 

Ongoing security awareness training is highly recommended to keep employees informed and ensure security is top of mind. BPS is rolling out BPS Cyber Security forums in Learnbps that will provide a venue for BPS users to interact with each other and share information on new phishing scams or security risks that they encounter. In addition, we will provide you with the tips and tricks you need to identify phishing emails and learn why Greenpigeats14tacos! is a good password (or it WAS, before I shared it online with the world).

BPS Cyber Security Forums will feature three different forums:

  1. Announcements - New threats and scams circulating on the internet or affecting BPS will be posted here 
  2. Cyber Security Discussion - This is a place to post your questions or notify others of potential dangers by sharing a phishing email or scam that you received 
  3. Cyber Security Awareness and Training - We will post tips, tricks, and offer general knowledge training pieces to help you become a cyber security super hero! 
There are a lot of exciting things coming our way in the next couple of weeks, like Halloween and the return of Stranger Things on Netflix, but don’t forget to watch for your invitation to the BPS Cyber Security forum in Learnbps. Enjoy the rest of your October, which coincidentally is National Cyber Safety Awareness Month!

Join us on Tuesday, October 24th for the #learnbps Twitter discussion!

  1. What is your biggest cyber fear?
  2. What is a cyber security risk you see others take that makes you cringe?
  3. Are you worried about forgetting your password? Why or why not?
  4. What are the steps you take when you are uncertain of a potential risk?
  5. Do you have cyber security questions, or your own advice? BPS employees - share it in the Cyber Security Discussion forum!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Ready for Anything?

It has been a beautiful fall, hasn’t it? One of my favorite ways to enjoy any season is to hop on my bicycle and get as far away from pavement as possible. As any experienced mountainbiker will tell you, whether you’re heading out for a quick 45 minute spin or a multi-day epic, being ready for anything is key to a successful experience. One must be properly equipped for weather, trail conditions, unexpected mechanical issues, eating and hydration, potential injuries, wildlife encounters and, most of all, have an open mindset to whatever the experience will bring. In short, be ready for anything.

 All of this means that critical thinking and anticipatory problem solving are essential skills when gathering together the kit that is both light enough to carry, and flexible enough to be useful in multiple situations - not to mention the experiential knowledge of when and how to use each item in your pack. So how does one acquire all of this? Well, by having experiences, of course! That means lots of walks home after a flat without a pump, a broken chain without a chain tool, or a soggy jersey without a raincoat. Each time, both tools and experience are added to one’s pack to ensure a better experience on the next outing. In short, continue to become more ready for anything.
I happen to know just where this trail leads, but I've no idea what might happen each time I head out.  Every ride, just like every student, requires one to be ready.

 At BPS, we are committed to develop and graduate students who are “career, college and community ready” (ready for anything), it is incumbent upon us to continually work on the collection of tools and resources that will allow us to be ready for the “anything” that we might encounter with each student on his/her journey (personalized learning). One essential set of tools and skills for both students and teachers to develop is the ability to leverage the 24/7 access to support and resources that online blended environments provide. As BPS teachers, we are lucky to have a selection of flexible and useful tools like Learnbps, Google apps for Education, WeVideo, and Voicethread (to name just a few) already available.

Just having a tool in your bag, however, doesn’t ensure that you’ll know what to do with it when the time comes. After all, what good is a patch kit if you don’t have it or don’t know how to use it after running over that unseen cactus? This is where we need to employ critical thinking and anticipatory problem solving, as well as the intrepid spirit that it takes to head out in a direction and just see what happens.
Ready for anything...even zombies!  These HMS students know that stopping a zombie virus--and mastering concepts of geography (SST-06.5) requires creative and collaborative use of 24/7 blended environments.

Don’t feel like you’re ready? Here’s where heading out on a group adventure increases the fun factor! We have lots of adventure partners in the form of colleagues and students (and don’t forget your BPS technology department and library media specialists) who may have experiences and tools that we can borrow and build from. The ride isn’t fun for everyone if one member of the pack is lagging behind with a flat! The really cool thing about this is that sharing an already developed online activity isn’t like sacrificing your own hydration to give your buddy the water that he left behind. When we share what we’ve developed, we don’t lose it, we just increase the number of teachers and students who have access to resources that help them on their personal journeys. We also improve our own tool kits in the process.

Your blended learning adventure pack might be full, or you might still be wondering what to bring along to get you, your colleagues, and your students to the end of the trail with smiles of accomplishment.  Regardless, try to remember these rules of the trail:

  1. Pack what you have and head out--the only way to get there is to get started! 
  2. Ask for help if you need it, and stop to help wherever you can. 
  3. Be ready to encounter something you weren’t ready for. (In which case, go back to rule 1 and start over...) 
So gather what you’ve got, and give your BPS tech department, or LMS a call. We’re always up for an adventure! (But don’t wait too long, because this beautiful fall won’t last forever....)

Join the #learnbps conversation on Twitter Tuesday!

  1. How do you use blended tools to increase both S & T efficiency? 
  2. How do you use blended tools to differentiate and personalize learning? 
  3. How does 24/7 access to blended tools change the way you plan and implement curriculum? 
  4. What are your next steps for your blended teaching practice? or What blended skills would you like help developing? 
  5. Share (links appreciated) a blended activity or resource that might help other Ts & Ss.