Just Say NO to Public Behavior Management Systems!


I love this blog post from Pernille Ripp called “I’ve Had Enough– No More Public Behavior Management Systems.”

She says in reference to kids who have a difficult time with behavior, “When we use public behavior management systems, we tell those children that school will never be a place where they will succeed. We put them under an unattainable microscope and then wonder why they rebel.”

Just Let it Go!

I used to use a clip chart and I’m sorry for it.

Sometimes I think back and wonder why, as a teacher, do we do certain things? Like public behavior systems, homework, spelling tests, etc. These are not things that are learned in our credential programs. There isn’t any research that supports the use. So where did we learn it then? We learned it from each other. Because someone, however long ago, decided this worked. Public behavior systems kept a class in line. It kept a class quiet. It kept kids in their “place.” And long ago that was how school was. A quiet, teacher centered place. But this isn’t what school is today.

However we are human, and yes, we make mistakes. Mistakes can bring about good if we can learn from them. I wish I could go back and change my practices of the past and apologize to kids who may have been adversely affected. But since I haven’t been able to get our Tardis to work just yet, what I can do is move forward. Make changes and move forward.



Image Credit: LINK

We all can. We all want our classrooms to be safe places for children. All of the teachers who I have worked with love children. So let’s truly build a place that is safe, respectful, and helps our most needy kids. Make the behavior systems private and personalized. Because let’s face it, 95% of the class does not need a system. Plan for the small percent. It may be a lot more work, but it is work that is well worth it. Because our most needy students, our students who need the most love, ask for help in the most difficult ways.


Flip Out or Start Flipping: Why I Started Flipping Math Lessons


As the new school year approached, changing from second grade to fourth grade started to set a little bit of anxiety into my normally easy going attitude about the back-to-school season. It wasn’t the kids I was worried about. I had had most of them in second grade already. It wasn’t joining a new team of teachers, either. I already deeply respected this group of teachers. It was fourth grade math that had me biting my nails. I started studying the math curriculum during the summer, piecing out the big ideas and creating student “I can” statements. As I delved further and further into the curriculum, I noticed a common theme. The standards are challenging! Especially coming from the perspective of a career primary teacher. I knew immediately that math would prove to be an area of focus for this upcoming school year.

As my fourth grade students and I ventured through the first three chapters of the math curriculum I had two groups of students form in my classroom. The ones who got it the first time and the ones who needed more TIME. But, as you all know, TIME is a teacher’s biggest enemy! We have the inevitable forces pressuring us to rush through lessons and move onto the next chapter before all of our students have mastered the skill. This approach “leaves students behind,” but it sure does ensure every single standard was “taught” before that state test comes around. I am sure most of you reading this do not feel comfortable with this type of approach. Neither do I.

It was after Back to School Night, where several parents came to me to discuss math homework. Even after reassuring parents, “I have your child in my intervention small group” I walked away from the evening knowing in my heart something in my math program had to change. It had been sitting in the back of my head for the past year. I had known the answer all along. Just the thing that would help all of my students access the math content in the pace that was right for them. I had read about it. Followed chats on Twitter about it. I had even talked to the gurus themselves, Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergman at ISTE12. The answer was to either to continue “flip out” and continue this pedagogy paradox, or flip my math lessons!

The weekend following Back to School Night, I recorded Chapter 4‘s math lessons on my iPad using Explain Everything, posted them on YouTube, and made links to the videos on my class website. I sent the email out to parents explaining the new change and held my breath. I was nervous about what parents would think. Most of them had never heard about flipped learning and I didn’t discuss this at back to school night.

The kids came to school Monday morning and I had a serious conversation with them. I asked them what they thought about the math homework so far. I got a variety of answers. “Its great,” exclaimed my highest math students. “It’s hard,” from some of my brave students. But many students said, “It takes me so long.” Many of them were going home and practicing their problems incorrectly and it would take me several days to undo that behavior. In addition, they were spending way too long to complete it! I asked them if it would be okay if I came home with them to help them with their homework. They loved this idea! They said I could have dinner with their family and everything. Then one intuitive student said, “How are you going to be at all of our houses in one night?” Ha! That was the question I was hoping for and that is when I explained to them how we are going to be learning math from now on.

Flipping in education can mean a variety of things. But the simplest definition is the idea that students watch instructional videos (made by their teacher) at night for homework so that students arrive to school ready to apply the skills they learned. In my flipped classroom environment, the emphasis is not only the videos, but more importantly, how I now utilize my time in the classroom with my students. And remember when I said, TIME is a teacher’s biggest enemy? The twenty to thirty minutes I would have traditionally spent teaching a whole group lesson now becomes time for me to work with students. We spend less time using worksheets to practice skills and more time working in small groups to apply the math skills to real world applications. My students are learning math by playing with math. They are writing about math. They are creating their own equations for friends to solve. They are applying all of those 21st Century skills we keep talking about in education: creating, collaborating, communicating, and using critical thinking skills.

But the question you should all be asking me at this point is, well, does it work? Here is my response to that question… Let’s look at the data. My formative assessment with chapter 3 (which was addition and subtraction) showed that 50% of my students had demonstrated mastery. Chapter 3 was a review chapter from third grade math, yet my students were not effectively mastering the skills. They were doing homework each night, I was teaching a whole group lesson, and allowing time for independent practice as I pulled small groups. However, when I started flipping my math lessons with chapter 4 I got different results. 90% of my students passed the formative assessment! I should also add the skills in chapter 4 are far more challenging as this is the first time students learn to use variables, parentheses, and this chapter has a heavy emphasis on problem solving skills. Additionaly, since beginning my flipped math class, I have had an almost 100% success rate with math homework!

I have had parents come to me thanking me for making the videos. Even parents of other fourth grade students (not in my class), who had heard through the grapevine about my videos, approached me explaining how the videos are really helping with homework. The students claim they love having the ability to “pause” me. Wouldn’t we all want to pause our teachers every now and then? But seriously, what they mean is that while they try to catch up in their note taking they can actually pause me and then press play when they get caught up! They love the power of being able to rewind me if they missed something, too. The flipped lessons allow them to work a pace that is appropriate for them and my students are becoming far more responsible with asking me questions about their learning.

I plan to continue this journey of flipped learning and the word is spreading! My fourth grade team wants to join in on the effort and help me create videos. So if you have been thinking, researching, or pondering the idea of flipped learning, I hope my blog post helps push you to the point where you realize you can either continue to flip out or start flipping!

Here is an example of one of my videos. I used the iPad app called Explain Everything to create this. There isn’t anything fancy about it; it is just teaching in the simplest form:

In the News: 

Here is my class on the Fox 5 News.

Here is an article in the North County Times.

To learn more about Flipped Learning

Read: Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student In Every Class Every Day by Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergman

Follow #flipclass on Twitter!

By Jo-Ann Fox


Back to School: Best iPod/iPad Apps to Start the Year!


New boxes of crayons. Yellow number two pencils sharpened to a point. Binders with college ruled papers all organized perfectly. Shoes without scuffs and a matching new outfit.
All of the above bring anticipated thoughts of the start of a new school year. But, for me, updating iPod software, re-syncing, and creating a start-up list of apps are what the new year means for my back-to-school routine.

When introducing your iPods/iPads to your new class, you do not want to overwhelm them with 100 different apps. What you want your students to understand right from the get-go is that iPods/iPads are not toys. Many of your students will come from homes where they already have iPods and iPads. They primarily know these devices as gaming tools; as a way of playing Angry Birds and Cut the Rope. You want to help them relearn that iPods/iPads are learning tools that are critical to their success in school; that when they pick up their iPod at school, that does not equal time to “zone out” playing games and listening to music.

While I believe learning games have a time and a place in school, they should not be the only focus of iPod/iPad use in your classroom. You want students to understand that their device is their connection to answers via the web and a research tool. You want students to be able to effectively use iPods/iPads to communicate and collaborate with others and share their learning. You want your students to be able to create and use critical thinking skills. With these 21st Century skills (communicate, collaborate, create, and critical thinking) your students will be able to enhance their learning. And your choice of apps will directly effect the success of your students’ use of the essential 21st Century skills. You really want to differentiate the difference between “skill review apps” and “creative apps” (see blog post Creative Apps vs. Skill Review Apps). So when selecting your start-up apps ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will this app promote creativity?
  • Will this app require critical thinking?
  • Will this app enhance communication skills?
  • Will this app enhance collaboration?
  • Can I use this app in all content areas?

Begin by selecting no more than 12 apps to start off your school year. The majority of your apps should be apps that you plan on using in all content areas. Resist the urge to download 100 different apps. If you do this, you will overwhelm your students. I believe you should begin small. Let them get to know a small number of apps well, then build as your year progresses. I also encourage you to select apps based on what you are learning about in class at a particular time. Don’t feel like once you have introduced a new app that it must stay on that iPod for the rest of the year.

Here is the list of apps I begin my year with:

 SimpleMind+: Simple mind is a mind mapping app that I use in all content areas for brainstorming ideas. Students create and collaborate in teams to demonstrate their understanding in Social Studies and Science. They also create webs of ideas for their writing. See blog post called SimpleMind: Digital Mind Maps for the Classroom.

 Evernote: I use Evernote for my students to create writing pieces   for the writing block, response to literature, and math journaling. See blog post Lose the Binder: Use Evernote in the Classroom.

 DoodleBuddy: DoodleBuddy is used as a personal whiteboard to demonstrate learning.

 SonicPics: I use SonicPics so students can effectively communicate their learning and/or comprehension. See my blog posts called 10 Effective Apps for Students with Autism and How Apps Promote Learning for details.

Edmodo: Edmodo is a social networking site created for education. Using Edmodo, students are able to collaborate, create, demonstrate critical thinking, and communicate ideas.

 RL Classic: This is simply a QR code reader.


 ComicTouchLite: This is an app I have students use to create comic books to demonstrate their comprehension or to help create interesting ideas for their writing.
 Dictionary.com: While I currently use the free version of this app (it contains ads) I am hoping to be able to purchase this app for all of my iPods. This app has a great thesaurus built into it and an excellent voice to text option (only available on the paid version).

  Accelerated Reader: My school uses the web version of AR and the app works really well. What I like most about the AR app is that when my students finish taking their quiz, they are able to view their TOPS report. This report allows them to monitor their progress toward their personal AR goal for the trimester. It shows also shows them their average percent correct on their quizzes for a selected period of time (the trimester dates). This has really helped my students to think critically about their comprehension success.

 DragonDictation: This app is a speech to text app that really assists students with spelling and to help with effective communication skills.

In addition, I include two “skill review” apps; one Language Arts app and one Math app. This year I started the year off with:
 Boggle: This year I am implementing the Daily 5 into my reading block. This app is an excellent app for students to use for Word Work.
 MathAcademy: I chose this app because my students need to be able to pass their times tables by October 1 to meet their first learning target. This app allows my students to practice math fluency with addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division. It also allows them to select levels of difficulty so my students can personalize their learning.

Web-clips I include:
Edmodo: I include the Edmodo web-clip so my students can use the Edmodo quiz option that is not currently available on the Edmodo App.
My Class Website
Google Response Form (see blog post called Use Google Forms and Go Paperless!)

Getting your devices ready for the new school  year can be seriously time consuming. Especially since they have mostly likely been sitting in storage all summer long and perhaps missed some software updates. I suggest creating a “master” iPod. On this master iPod, you will set everything up the way you want all of your iPods to look:

1. Update that iPod’s software (if needed).
2. Be sure to set up your school’s wifi password. You may also want to set up your home’s password as well, if you plan on working on iPods at home.
3. Carefully select the start-up apps you want on your iPod.
4. Create any web-clips you want included.
5. Create folders. I usually create a folder for all those apps that you can’t remove but rarely use. (For example, settings, contacts, mail, stocks, game center, maps, Appstore, and Find my iPod).
6. Set up email/contacts (with your teacher email).
7. Set up Find My iPod Touch account.
8. Setup restrictions in general settings.

Once you have created your “master” iPod, you can quickly sync each of your other iPods simply by restoring all them to your “master” iPod’s settings. In this blog post, I won’t go into detail about all of these steps, as Escondido Union School District’s iRead website has excellent directions for iPod and iTunes setup. Following these directions for me was critical to make the rest of my school-year syncing smooth and easy. Link to the directions on EUSD’s iRead Website.

Please share with me what other apps you suggest using for your start-up menu!
Welcome to the 2012-2013 school year. May it be great!
Jo-Ann Fox

Reflector App: Mirror Your iPad in the Classroom

Are you looking for a wireless way to display your iPad through your overhead projector? I have been searching for a way to project my iPad for instructional purposes without having to use my dongle. The dongle kept me tied down to my overhead table. I wanted to be able to freely move around the classroom and pass my iPad off to a student to solve a problem, while at the same time projecting onto my overhead screen. The Reflector app has this capability and is a great way to assist you to becoming a paperless teacher while allowing you to move around the classroom as you teach!
The Reflector App does full mirroring; meaning it will also send the audio and there is orientation support (you can lock orientation).I simply purchased and downloaded the Reflector app onto the desktop of my classroom laptop. Now when I hook up my laptop to my overhead projector, I can open the Reflector app on my iPad and project my iPad through the overhead projector. This is a great way to model how to use a specific app, you can turn any of your “old school paper overheads” into PDFs and use Notability and a stylus for instruction, and now have a mobile Docucam!
Here is what you will need:
Mac computer running OS X Lion (OS X 10.7.3 or later to use recording feature) or PC with Windows XP or greater
iPhone 4s
iPad 2 or 3
Digital projector
Reflector license ($12.99)
Purchase/download through their website www.airsquirrels.com/reflector
If you wish, you can download a free limited time trial before you purchase.

Ways I use this app:

When my students finish an iPod project, they email their project to me and we are able to easily see their project. We have watched slideshows my students made using SonicPics and my students loved how they could easily share their work with the class.

The Reflector App allows me to have a mobile Docucam! If I want to display student work, I can simply turn on the camera mode and hover the iPad over a student’s work at their desk. Or if I am trying to highlight something on my bulletin board, I can display it from where ever it is in the room.

My class and I have created class SimpleMind+ mind maps. I can walk around the room and allow students to add an idea to our mind map.

I have turned my old overheads into PDFs and now use Notability for instructional purposes. I can now use my iPad and a stylus and move freely around my room as I teach.

I use Evernote for writing, we can easily collaborate about student writing and easily share student work.

You can use your favorite screen capturing application to record your lessons and flip your classroom!
Here is how:
1. Once you have purchased and downloadedReflector from their website onto your teacher laptop (and it is running), double click the home key on your iPad. Then swipe right to access your music. A square will now display. Click on the square and your computer’s name will display. Tap on your computer’s name and turn mirroring to “on.”
3. Now your iPad will display onto your laptop. I have my laptop projected through the digital projector so the entire class can see this. This is what it will look like.
4. Now open any app you want to use for instruction. Here I opened up SimpleMind+ to create a mind map with my class. While we were creating this mind map, I was keeping a record of the class conversation while sitting right next to two struggling students at their desk. Each student in my class was accessing SimpleMind+ on their iPods and creating their own mind map (borrowing ideas from the class mind map). This was a pre-writing activity for preparation for writing in their journal. I was able to walk around the room and assist students while not even skipping a beat with the classroom discussion.
5. If the background of your desktop is distracting as in this picture, while in Reflector on your desktop go into the menu bar and select >device>Enter full screen and this is how it will display:
6. If you wish, when on the menu bar for Reflector select >device>force landscape or force portrait.
I hope you find this application as effective as I do in the classroom! Please leave a comment with an idea of how else to utilize this app in your classroom.
Jo-Ann Fox

Use Google Forms and Go Paperless!


If you are looking to spend less time waiting in the copy machine line and more time planning engaging and innovative lessons, keep reading! You won’t have to visit the Apple Store in order to use one of the best strategies with your classroom set of iPods and iPads. All you need is a Google account and your teacher creativity. So have I kept you in suspense long enough? No? Well, perhaps I should mention that you will also be helping the environment by going paperless.

One of my very talented and tech savvy colleagues, Chia Grossmann, has become an expert with using Google forms in her classroom.  I have utilized her idea of creating a simple Google “Response Form” that can be used over and over in all curricular areas. Chia’s “Response Form” is a simple form to create, since it only has a place for the student number, name, and a written response area.

Here is what the “Response Form” looks like:

Keep reading if you would like step-by-step directions to create this form:

If you have never created a Google form, the process is rather simple. First and foremost, you must have a Google account. If you don’t have one already… get one. You won’t be sorry.

Then once you have logged into your Google account, click on “Documents” at the top of the page. Then click “Create.”


Once you click on Create you will see a pull down menu. Select “Forms.” An untitled form will pop up, along with the first question ready for you to edit.

Title your form “Response Form.” You can add directions about the form below the title if you like. I typed, “Please remember to write complete sentences.” My advice is leave the directions very vague because you will want to use this form for many different activities.

Now we will begin to edit question 1. This will be for student numbers (if you use nick-numbers). Title it “Student Number.” I am not including any “Help Text.” We are going to change the question type to “Choose from a list.” Now begin typing. Chia recommends typing the first name on the list as Anonymous. Then add student numbers. When you have finished, click the box next to “Make this a required question.” Last, click “done.”


 Now we will make question 2. Select “Add item” at the top of the screen (it is next to the green plus sign). You will get another pull down menu. This time select “text.” Title it “Name.” Click the box next to “Make this a required question” and click on “done.”

Now for the last step for question 3. Select “Add item” again and this time on the pull down menu, select “Paragraph text.” Title it “Response.” Click the box next to “Make this a required question.” Last, click “done.”

Now you have a completed form! If you like to make things fancy then select a new theme at the top of the window. I selected the “blue bird” theme and this is what my live form will look like. When you select apply, it will take you back to your “edit form” page. You won’t see the your cutesy theme, but don’t worry it is still there.

Now that your form is compete you have several options. You can email this form to yourself so you have a link to it. But this is what I do… I copy the link at the very bottom of the page. Then I visit a QR code maker website and create a QR code for my students to get to the form quickly. I have also put a link to the form on my school webpage. Either way, you need some way for your students to link to this form on their iPods.

Once your students have accessed the “live form” on their iPods, have them make a web clip of this link (hold home key and sleep button at the same time). This way you can have your students access this same form over and over for a variety of different activities. I bet your next questions is how do you use this form with students?

This is the part where teacher creativity and innovation takes over. Here are some quick ideas for you to mull over:

  • Have students respond to a question about a book you are reading.
  • Have students write an opinion about a topic or story you are reading.
  • Have students share facts they learned from their social studies or science lesson.
  • Have students share with you their topic sentence for their new piece of writing.
  • Have students write a “7 up” sentence.
  • Have students explain how they solved a problem in math.
  • Use this as your way for students to “TATTLE.”
  • Use this form as an exit ticket.

After your students have completed their “Response Form” from an assignment you have given them, their responses will appear in the form of a spreadsheet. To access this spreadsheet, go back to your original “edit form.” Up at the top right hand corner is a tab that says “See responses.” Select “spreadsheet.” You will then see the responses from your students. In the following picture you can see the answers that I filled in on the form.

When my students are completing a “response form” assignment, I will quite often display the spreadsheet on the docucam so everyone can review others’ responses. However, I do slide the form over so the names and numbers cannot be seen so that the responses are still private. If you do this, keep hitting the refresh button to update the form as students submit their work.

If you want to save this work on the spreadsheet, select “file” from the menu bar and download it to your desktop or make a copy. When the assignment is completed and you have saved your spreadsheet, then delete the information on the spreadsheet so you can reuse this same form for another assignment.

I bet you can think of at least a thousand ways to use this simple Google form in your classroom. Not only will you be able to receive valuable written responses from your students, you will be helping to save thousands of trees by  going paperless! I would love if you would share your ideas with everyone. Don’t be shy to reply!

Jo-Ann Fox

Thank you for inspiring me, Chia Grossmann!