TQE Discussion Tracker: Inspired by Marisa Thompson and Jen Roberts!

Monday, June 3, 2019 3 comments
Hi teacher friends! Today, I want to share a strategy I use for tracking student participation in TQE discussions. This idea is basically a "pedagogy smash" with Marisa Thompson's TQE Discussion Method and Jen Roberts's Independent Reading Tracker. I want to thank both of those wonderful teachers for inspiring me with their fresh ideas and hard work!

What is the TQE Discussion Method? 

TQE is a student-driven discussion protocol in which students generate their own complex thoughts, questions, and epiphanies based on a text and then discuss them through both small and large group sessions. You can read more about TQE in the following resources:

How do I track student participation? 

First, I make a google form with one question in the multiple choice grid form. Shout out to Jen Roberts for this genius idea from Gold Coast CUE TechTober 2018! In the left column, I copy and paste my student list from my online grade book (Google lets you copy and paste from a chart and the form will make individual entries for each student. I used generic names here instead of my actual students) In the right-hand column, I add my standards marks.  I started using Some Participation, Significant Participation, or No Participation, but after a great convo with Marisa and Verity at Spring CUE, I switched to: Met/Exceeded Standard, Nearly Met Standard, Did Not Meet Standard,  Did not participate, Absent/Excused. This is why we are #BetterTogether. 

This form is just for me to fill out every day that we are doing TQE. I usually keep my computer on my desk and fill it out as the discussion progresses, but sometimes I keep paper records and then fill out the form at the end of class. (Note, I make the question required so that I don't accidentally skip any students!) 

When I am first setting up the form, I also go ahead and create the spreadsheet. Note: this only has to be done once; the same form and spreadsheet can be used for an entire unit or an entire year. 

I also use conditional formatting to make sure that I can read the data easily within the unit. When I use the rules on the right below, every time I fill out the form, students who are meeting the standard will have green boxes, students who are nearing standard will have yellow boxes, students who are not meeting standards will have red boxes, and absent students will have purple boxes. 

How do I use the data to improve student outcomes? '

I fill out the form every day that we have a TQE and after a few days, I can start to see trends to guide my student support and intervention. Below is a fictional sample with just a few ideas for interventions I would make based on this data. 

  • I notice that students 14 and 15 were not meeting the standard in early TQEs and then they started meeting the standard on later dates.  I would conference with them and ask for some strategies they used to improve and then share those strategies with 1 and 19 privately. 
  • I notice that student 18 is not meeting the standard, but that there were absences in early TQEs so I would check in to make sure the protocol and expectations are clear. 
  • I notice that students 4, 5, 12, and 20 are meeting the standard consistently and I would send home a positive parent communication letting their parents know that classroom discussion and critical thinking about a text is a strong suit. 


Once you make the form, bookmark it for easy access each day. Also, be sure to make a copy for each class. 

To keep the spreadsheet clean, leave the question blank. 

Turn student names to see trends without as much scrolling. 

Thanks for stopping by! And a special thanks to all the teacher bosses out these innovating to improve classrooms, especially Marisa E Thompson and Jen Roberts! Let me know if you have any questions, comments or suggestions!
<3 Emily 

Student Made Tutorials with Google Jamboard and Screencastify!

Sunday, May 26, 2019 No comments
Hi! It is the end of the year and I wanted to help my AVID students streamline the process of becoming references for each other to review important content in preparation for finals. Enter a fantastic jamboard tutorial idea that I got from Joe Marquez at Spring CUE 2019!

Why have students create Jamboard Tutorials: 

  • This is a student-centered review activity that values student voice and choice. 
  • Students become important references for each other, which helps them value each other as members of the learning community. 
  • When students can teach a concept, they know it on a deeper level. This is especially true when they are teaching to an authentic audience- their classmates who really need to know the content for upcoming finals! 

How to have students create Jamboard Tutorials: 

Step 1: Have students pick a topic and plan their tutorial. We did a jigsaw of the final exam study guides given by college professors and their math teacher. 

Step 2: Students Access Jamboard through google drive.  My students used their touch screen laptops with a stylus.  You can also use a mouse or the actual google jamboard hardware. See their samples below for an idea of what can be done on this platform!

Step 3: Students record tutorials using the free Screencastify Chrome Extension

Step 4: Students post tutorials on a common google site, padlet, or flipgrid.  We used a padlet that I posted on our google classroom.

Step 5: Students use each other's tutorials to prepare for upcoming tests and review important content! 

For a better visual, check out this great video from Joe Marquez on his YouTube Channel Sons of Technology. This is a MUST SUBSCRIBE for my techy teacher peeps, especially if you are into google sites! 

Here are some student sample tutorials from my class: 

I hope this gives you an idea about the power of student-created tutorials. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions! Wishing you all a fabulous end to the school year. <3 Emily 

Student Led Edcamp!

Tuesday, April 30, 2019 No comments
Recently, my students participated in a student-led edcamp and it was a really great experience that ended with my students begging to repeat it, so today I want to share our process and what I learned for next time!

Note: I did the edcamp with 37 9th grade students during a 90-minute block AVID elective period. 

What is an edcamp? 

An edcamp is an un-conference model that started in Philidelphia but has spread throughout the country. Basically, people come together with two simple questions: what do we want to learn? and what am I able to share that others want to learn? Usually, edcamps are made up of teachers coming together to talk about teachery stuff (like locally at edcamp 612 or edcamp Hueneme). Within an hour of meeting, teachers use two different color post-it notes and a taped off-grid to create a board of sessions that were not prepared in advance (see image).  Then, we meet in small groups to share and learn together in an informal way! Here are a couple of pics from local teacher edcamps to give you a sense of what they are all about:

How did we start planning the student-led edcamp? 

We started very simply by asking the same questions of students that we ask of teachers:

1. What do you want to learn?
2. What can you share that others want to learn?

I gave them 2 different color post-it notes (one for each question). They added them to the board and we had conversations to figure it all out! We took about 25 minutes on this convo and then moved on with other content that we needed to cover, which made the planning a multi-step process. Note, there were some sessions that immediately stood out as high interest. Then, there was a list of sessions that were "looking for facilitators" and "looking for learners." I wanted students to be open to those sessions for our next planning period. You can see on the image below what topics my students brainstormed initially.

How did we figure out which sessions would run and which students would attend which sessions? 

I made a padlet with all potential sessions and had students commit to which sessions they wanted to attend by commenting on the thread with their name. Then, we added sessions, narrowed the field, and selected locations based the number of participants. I was also able to have a quick conversation with student leaders who had sessions picked by others. This conversation was just an encouragement to prepare in advance for meaningful facilitation without being a "sage on the stage."

What did it look like: 

Student leaders prepared in lots of different ways for their sessions! Some students made slide decks, most facilitators had hands-on activities, a few had videos and there were lots of other things! Here are some pictures of some of their sessions: 

The Session Board: 

You can see we ran 3 sessions that were 20 minutes each in 3 locations. Sessions that had small projected attendance were combined in different areas of the same room. 

A Student-Led Calligraphy Session: 

The student is using a document camera in to show others how to write in calligraphy style. The participants all have paper and markers to try it out and compare notes! 

Student-Led American Sign Language Session: 

These students even took it upon themselves to write "student learning outcomes" for their session on the board! One wonderful thing about this session is that students who took ASL at the community college this year are actually teaching students who will be taking ASL at the community college next year, so these are very relevant skills students are teaching each other! 

Students in an esports session exchanging Nintendo Switch Tips: 

Student-Led Yoga and Breathing Session:

Students enjoying some outdoor relaxation. A few days after this edcamp, two different students told me that they have been using these relaxation techniques before homework in the evenings! I love that they are using what they learned in their real life! 


 Student-Led Cultural Dance Session:

This was such a cool session that saw students outside, active in the fresh air, sharing culture, and having fun! 

Student-Led Intro to Spanish:

This student facilitator prepared a slide deck and games to introduce Spanish to classmates who will start college Spanish 101 in the fall.  

Student-Led Intro to Acting: 

Students in this session participated in improv activities in our outdoor amphitheater!

Student-Led Drawing Session:

Participants in this session got a lot of hands-on help from facilitators. 

How did we reflect/assess: 

1. When the edcamp was over, students filled out a branching google form that asked them which session they went through, how the session went, and what they learned. I used this data to inform my own instruction and assess student participation. 

2. Then, next time that we met, we had a class discussion to debrief. We talked about celebrations, areas of improvements and extensions. Below is a summary of our major take-aways. 


  • Students loved that they could share their passions with their classmates! They almost unanimously voted to do another edcamp soon! 
  • Students enjoyed having choices for where they wanted to spend their time. 
  • Students and I loved how many of the student leaders created hands-on activities with their own unique style! 
  • Part of our goal in AVID is to develop student leaders, and this activity gave students an authentic audience to lead! 
  • The planning, implementing, and debriefing was an authentic way to practice vital soft skills like collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity!
  • Students said they had fun...at school. 

Areas for Improvement:

  • 2 out of 11 of the sessions were not considered successful, as measured by my observation and student feedback. They were scattered. Facilitators were not well prepared. Participants didn't leave the session inspired or with a new skill. Part of me is okay with that. It is important to fail sometimes.  It is important to take risks.  It is important for students to see me being okay with taking risks and failing... Not every session works in an adult edcamp either. That being said, I think next time, I will emphasize that participants need to leave a session with a clear activity, skill, or creation. 
  • I planned for this edcamp on fun topics to lead to another one on more content specific topics. However, in the debrief conversation, my students were very reluctant to move in that direction, and actually said it would "ruin everything" so I will have to continue to think about how we will work that out...

Thank you for stopping by and reading about our inaugural edcamp Griffin! Please let me know if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions! 
<3 Emily 

Snapchat Summaries

Friday, April 26, 2019 1 comment
Good morning! I have 5 blog posts half written in my queue and I have set a goal to get them all written and published by the end of the school year, which is June 7th for us! Keep an eye out for upcoming posts about our student-led edcamp, an update on our #slidesyearbook, and a few more tools and strategies that seemed blog-worthy to me this semester!

In today's post, I wanted to share an easy strategy that students seemed to really enjoy:

Snapchat Summaries

(Note: I got this idea from Elizabeth Harmelin at CATE 2019. Thank you OMCHS and OUHSD for sending me to this conference!)

At the end of every Act of Romeo and Juliet, my students select a mini-project from a choice board.  No matter which option they select, the goals are to:

1. Demonstrate/Review an understanding of the play.
2. Connect the Act with the Aristotelian lens through which we are reading.
3. Think critically to create a learning artifact that communicates goals 1 and 2.

This menu has options to make videos, write poems/songs/essays, create art, or a give a snapchat presentation so that students can continue to demonstrate progress toward their mastery goals.  The snapchat presentation is a new one that I added this year after hearing the idea at an English teacher conference. Here is how it works:

1. Students prioritize and plan. 

2. Students go out and take pictures, adding appropriate emojis, stickers, and drawings to reflect the assignment goals. 

3. Students copy each image to a slide deck and share with classmates! 

I was happy with how much fun students seemed to have and also how much critical thinking and discussion went into picking emoji faces and other props based on evidence from the play. I think this strategy could be used in a wide variety of subjects and grade levels!  Let me know if you have any questions, suggestions, or comments.  

 Here are a couple of student samples: 

Teaching Students to Self-Assess and Peer-Assess

Sunday, January 20, 2019 1 comment
Last year, I participated in a district book study and twitter chat about Disruptive Classroom Technologies that left me with a challenge that I've been sitting with ever since.


As I read that passage, I was struck by my own need to grow in this area. You see, I'm a planner. I spend summers plotting the skills that I will teach along the timeline of a year.  I analyze the big picture and the day-to-day. I know the standards and I know how each project, assignment, and paper will fit into the mastery puzzle. ...But I've always kept those locked in my own head. I thought I was saving students from the planning burden, but after reading that passage, I was suddenly convicted that I was not saving them, I was depriving them.  So here is what I set out to try this school year:

  • Involve students directly in tracking their own mastery of the standards. 
  • Provide more opportunities for meaningful and authentic self-assessment and peer-assessment to give students a better understanding of their own mastery. 

Here are some of the ways I am reaching for those goals: 

1. Mastery Tracking by Unit: 

For each unit, I have been selecting power standards and then having students track their progress on these standards throughout the unit. Students assign a mastery level and reflection to their progress, effort, and feelings. At the end of the unit, they assess their overall mastery and provide links to evidence, which can be in the form of docs, slides, projects, screenshots of tools like NoRedInk or Vocab.com, images of notes or annotations, etc. Here are links to view the mastery trackers: Narrative, Rhetorical Analysis. Note: These are still a work in progress.  I'd love to talk about ways to improve this practice if you have ideas! 

2. More intentional visible thinking strategies: 

We have been making student thinking visible through strategies like thesis throwdown or TQE.  Visible thinking leads to classroom discussions about mastery and real-time, verbal formative assessment so that students can begin to understand the process of assessment in an authentic way. 

3. More peer feedforward: 

I've been adding peer assessment to digital projects like comics, infographics, essays, screencasts, and spark videos BEFORE I give feedback.  For the most part, on the due date of a project, I have all my students share a link to their work. Then, they assess each other and give-feed forward.  After that, I give them a couple of days to make improvements before I give my teacher assessment. I find that not only does peer-assessment help in the form of direct peer advice, seeing how other people created their products helps indirectly push the thinking of the reader. 

For this step we mostly use: 

1. Padlet. I make a column for each student.  They post their product on the top and then others comment below.  (See image)

2. Google Forms.  Students create a google form asking their peers to answer specific questions about their work and then analyze the trends. 

4. More assignments with built-in authentic audiences: 

I think that assignments like blogging and commenting lend themselves to a natural and authentic peer and self-assessment process. 

What strategies do you use to encourage students to understand the standards, track mastery, and plan for improvement? Leave a comment, question, or suggestion below. 

<3 Emily

Comics and Digital Story Telling as an Assessment Option

Sunday, December 23, 2018 No comments
It's important for students to collaborate, communicate, think critically, and create, but sometimes it is hard to keep up with new digital artifacts that we can incorporate into our assessment options. I've written posts about students creating infographics, discussion topics, blogs, and memes, so today I want to add comics or digital stories to that list. I'd love to hear about the things your students are creating so I can add them to our repertoire!

Why Should Students Create Comics?

  • Students have to think critically about audience, tone, and purpose to communicate content. 
  • Many students have read and enjoyed graphic novels in the past like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Manga, March, and many other titles. Creating digital stories for them can be engaging and tap into valuable prior knowledge. 
  • Digital stories can be told in almost any discipline for almost any content. 
  • Digital stories can meet many of the narrative standards for ELA and literacy across the curriculum. 

Which Tools Should We Use? 

What do Student Samples Look Like? 

Here are 4 student samples from my 9th grade English class. After finishing the graphic novel March by John Lewis, (about the civil rights march in Selma and lunch counter sit-ins), students created comics that retold other events of their choice in the civil rights histories of African-Americans, Latinx-Americans,  Muslim Americans, The LGTBQ+ community, and more. 

Student Created Infographics

Friday, December 21, 2018 No comments

TL;DR Infographics are a great way for students to combine critical thinking, design elements, and content knowledge to show mastery or share information with peers. Want to see some student examples? Scroll down. 

What Infographics Can Assess?

Infographics can be used in pretty much every discipline to assess content standard mastery. Here are some ideas of major assessments that fit nicely with infographics:
  • Research: I mostly use infographics as an additional way to assess research standards so that we are doing more than the traditional research paper.  My rubric usually assesses use of credible sources, MLA/APA citations, main claims, and supporting evidence. 
  • Conceptual Knowledge: Infographics are also ideal for students to demonstrate an understanding of content. Instead of a traditional test or project, students could do a deep dive into the content to communicate the concepts in another format. 
  • Design: In order for students to create successful infographics, they have to pay attention to audience, purpose, color schemes, white space, and logical/emotional appeals. These decisions help students process and prioritize information, which is a vital part of critical thinking. 
  • More? I'm sure there are more elements that I'm not thinking of.  Feel free to leave comments/questions/suggestions in the comment section below. 

What does the lesson flow look like? 

  • Analyze and Critique Published Infographics: Before students start working, I think it is always a good idea to show some samples and have students google more samples to get the general idea of what infographics entail. Then, go through them and have students find elements that they think are especially weak or strong. This plants the seed of what they are trying to accomplish in the end. 
  • Work through the research or content: I teach AVID, so I'm big into having students take focused notes on the research or content that they will be using for the infographics to organize themselves and process information before the creation begins. For us, this is a lengthy and interactive process, but it could be condensed significantly.  
  • Create: We do a lot of the creation in class because I try to #ditchthathomework, but many students work on it at home also because they don't make enough progress in class or because they get so into it that they want to put in the extra time. 
  • Critique Peers and Revise: Part of my philosophy of education is that the process is more important than the product. Because of that, I usually have students share a fully complete first infographic to a padlet and then peers evaluate each other and give suggestions for improvement. We have a discussion about trends in strengths and areas for improvement. Students use the discussion and peer feedback to go into their work and strengthen it. 
  • Publish: Even though the learning can always continue, we do celebrate the products that are completed when we are ready to move on as a class. 

What tools should students use? 

  • Venngage: This year, we used Venngage and I thought it was pretty user-friendly and the templates made it easy for students to create really beautiful products (easy google single sign-on for students). I posted this page of tutorials in my google classroom. The 5-minute getting started video was all the overview that most of my students needed to get started. One thing to know: with the free version, students cannot share/download their work, but they can publish it and share a link with you. There are some samples that students made with Venngage below. Sorry the purple one got cut in half! 
  • Google Drawing: Heidi Resnik and I worked together on helping multiple teachers in different departments at ACHS create infographics with students using google drawing. Here is the basic slide deck I created to help students get started on creating infographics with google drawing that relies heavily on the chart function. If you want to use that slide deck please click file > make a copy and do not request access! Thanks.   There are some samples below of student infographics made with google drawing below. 
  • Canva: I haven't used Canva with students, but I have used it for my own personal projects and it's pretty awesome. 
  • Piktochart: This used to be my go to infographic maker years ago when I taught at St. Bonnie because it was one of the first ones to market.  Students created really intricate designs, but they found it a little tedious to use, which is why I went with Venngage this time. 

What do student infographics look like? 

Samples from my 9th grade AVID class on a research topic of choice using Venngage, ProCon.org, and other online resources: 

Samples from my 11th grade English class about the Harlem Renaissance, made with google drawing and academic databases.

 Would you use infographics as an assessment?  Holler at me with questions, comments, or suggestions!