Engaging Lessons, Effective Planning (Permission for photos given)

What does my classroom look like? 

Well, it depends on the day. I use a variety of authentic instructional methods based solely on DATA and Strategic Planning.

The benefit=My classroom is a place where students are set up for success daily. There is no one-size fits all model, it is truly personalized learning.

The downfall=Time. I am often overwhelmed with my workload. I find myself sacrificing my own life, in order to perform at the level of expectations that I have set for myself.

Things I keep at the core when planning:

Standard-based mastery over grades. (How does a A,B,C,D,F provide effective feedback for my students?)

Ask the question, how can I make sure ALL my students will master this concept?

You can not answer this question without using DATA. All 4 types of data. Develop a strategic mindset by questioning prior to planning.

What kind of students do you have? How do they learn best? (Based on their data) Are there any obstacles to learning that you as the teacher have control over? Can you remove those barriers? Would groups, partners, individual learning, or whole-class be best? Why? If groups, did you strategically plan the groups? Can you involve choice in this unit? Would involving that choice idea increase the learning? What is their prior knowledge on the concept? What is the level of difficulty when learning this concept? Based on reflections, observations, and peer feedback… is data showing that one process (instructional approach) is more efficient on this topic? Why? Is that the same for all students? How can you manage the time of teaching this concept most efficiently? Are there going to be transitions in class? Will they affect the learning? How can my resources make teaching this topic more efficient? How can technology advance the learning?  How do you know that? Have you consulted specialists or colleagues? What do the students say, are you gathering their perception data? How can you create an experience to enhance their learning? What do you want your students to remember 40 years from now?

Reflection: Is my thinking correctly based on ACCURATE data? If yes, I am ready to plan. If not, back to analyzing the data and making SMART choices. (Yes, that is a play on SMART goals)

After implementing lesson: Reflect again. Ask for feedback from others. Ask students. Review data. (All 4 types of data)

Did my planning match the outcome? Always plan with your end goal in mind. Was student learning achieved? If so, at what rate? Did all my students master the concept? If not, why? Gather and analyze data again. Now what? Do I offer remediation? How do I do so to make most effective use of my time? What will I do differently next lesson based on data to ensure they will master the concept this time? What am I doing with those who mastered the concept?

Personalized Learning is by far what is needed for students, but how can we as teachers do so with 140 students? I have been finding it unreal to perform to my high standards recently, so I have been reflecting a lot.

My answer right now is Gamification. It can be designed to not just differentiate for students, but to personalize their learning. The Chronicles of History, is designed so that students direct their own learning and assist in the process by analyzing their own data.

Here are a few shots of my classroom. And a sneak pic of my digital format of Chronicles of History, that will launch in room 703 when iPads are deployed. Enjoy and happy planning!


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Dynamic Learning Environments

Well, it is a new school year! I have been so behind on blogging and that is a shame. I don’t even edit my blog and I really need to do that! I need an accountability partner, any takers? I wanted to share my classroom design for this year and thoughts behind the set-up.

Why does the learning environment matter? Why is it important for new teachers (teachers in general) to consider the design of the classroom, where resources are located, how they arrange their desks, etc?

The physical design of the classroom can impact the most important thing about your classroom, how it operates. Having a well-planned, student-friendly room can make the difference in the learning environment of your classroom. If you want to have a dynamic learning environment then you must be strategic in all decisions. It is important to consider the morale of the classroom and students’ learning. So I could continue with the “why” to get you to buy into why classroom design is important, provided with research and great facts. (And don’t get me wrong it is super important and it is very cool information)

However, I would rather just tell you my story. It makes this blog personal and it allows me to reflect. My way is not the right way or wrong way, but sharing my story through this blog is what makes me feel connected to my readers.

I changed schools this year and so I had to move classrooms. While this can be overwhelming, it was also exciting. The chance to start over and redesign my room offered me an opportunity to be a new teacher this year. I loved my classroom last year, my students were AMAZING, and I had an amazing year. Nothing was wrong with my design and I loved the teacher I was last year, but what I love in this profession is that you are never at your best. You can always improve and your students need you to have a growth mindset. When you think you master something, it is about that time that: 1-something changes 2-new resources become available 3-you get a new audience 4-infrasture improves 5-a new challenge arises 6-we all know this list could keep going. Most importantly, you always have the opportunity to reflect, tweak, improve, or completely change something to be more effective and transformative.

So, I decided to take big risks this year and make this THE BEST YEAR YET! (until next year of course) A very inspiring leader, Latoya Dixon, told me that I need to live 2 seconds from the wall and so I am doing what I think a good teacher should….. listen to the advice of an obvious super star. Why play it safe, what will my students gain from that? Average. Oh no, my students deserve more than that. Nothing is right or wrong when your reason is for the betterment of children!

What does 2 seconds from the wall mean in my classroom design?

I wanted a variety of

1- Literacy Area (Because every child should read, write, and speak daily! Make a fun area in your classroom)

2-Makerspace Area (I want to empower my students to create, build, tinker, and innovate)

3-PBL Area (An area established for inquiry and problem-solving)

4-Classroom Resources (Provide what your students need in order to be successful!)

5-Collaborative & Inquiry-Based Environment (Develop the environment established for collaboration and self-directed learning)

6-Resource and Tech friendly (I purchased powers strips and I established a digital literacy bulletin board. I even have QR codes that showcase history professions)

7-Student Input & Personalized Learning (Suggestion board, Multiple areas in the classrooms so you can truly differentiate)

8-Positive Team Atmosphere (This is established in the design as well as the climate you create)

9- Community Connections (For the first time I included parents on my classroom expectation bulletin board. My students created the expectations themselves to “own” our classroom and I included PARENTS at open house) I hope to establish an environment that brings not just parents, but the community into the classroom)

10- Gamification (Whoop Whoop.. I am gamified! Chronicles of History!)

Here is my classroom! Check us out at https://twitter.com/MrsCarter_SS







Most Baby Birds Leave The Nest Before They Can Even Fly!

Like a baby bird that leaves the nest, teachers use a combination of instinct and practice to help avoid “predators and find food.”

Of course the “predators and food” in education is much different than that of a baby bird. For all educators, leaving the nest (or comfort zone) is hazardous and scary, and educators have to learn fast to survive. My first year of teaching has been one that has come with feelings of fear, doubt, confusion, and isolation. Adapting to the change and learning the new environment has helped me survive. Trusting my natural instincts and practicing good methods are teaching me to fly. I have found “food” in more experienced educators, conferences, webinars, twitter, professional development, and reflection. One thing is for sure I love my students and I love what I do!


Problem Based Learning (PBL or PrBL) has become a passion of mine. I find that students who are engaged in authentic-learning are learning best. I may be a baby bird, but I have left the nest.  There is no excuse for me not to put into practice my passion. You will see here that I have dressed up like a zombie for my Zombie Apocalypse PBL. Now, I do know that PBL is suppose to give students a real world problem to solve so I will go ahead and answer the question you may have now. No I do not think zombies are real and this will really happen one day. However, natural disasters can cause the same outcome in locations causing students to be faced with the same scenario I was trying to accomplish here. So I thought, what is more fun for students, doing a Hurricane PBL or a Zombie Apocalypse? So, I altered the PBL to fit the needs of my students and to provide more connectivity. That is what a baby bird learning fast will do. You do not have to follow every model to its exact design. Being innovative means you take good practices and you modify them for what best suits you and your classroom. Not only did the students love this, but I was able to get them excited as they entered class!

zombie apocalypse

Here is the shock value or “hook” I planned to get students to visualize the disaster of the problem and to get them super pumped for the lesson. Can you imagine their thoughts as they enter school and their teacher is a zombie and their classroom looks like this!?It is important when designing a PBL that you plan effectively! A lot went into this lesson in terms of planning the entire unit including the PBL.

Why PBL?

* Students develop problem-solving, critical thinking, and reasoning skills.

*Students are at the center of their learning.

*It fosters communication and collaboration among classmates.

*Connects content to real-world scenarios.

*Students are engaged, challenged, and enjoy it!

How to do PBL

*Create a classroom climate that is open to failure, trial and error, collaboration, communication, and creativity!

*Design an ill-structured problem and support students as they develop the skills and information necessary to solve the problem.

*Facilitate the learning during the process, but let students become self-directed learners.

*Plan, Plan, Plan and Plan effectively (Plan the lessons that build up to the PBL, plan the PBL, and plan the post lessons that will connect the PBL to their continued learning of content.

Most Baby Birds Leave The Nest Before They Can Even Fly! Not only does this relate to us as educators, but also to our students. Let them leave the nest! Let the students learn fast “how to avoid predators and find food” by allowing them to use their natural instincts and practice. They may have fears, confusion, and even doubt, but you can provide the support they need to have confidence that they can fly!

Implement Problem-Based Learning in your classroom! Let students drive their own learning and be blown away with their insightful minds!

Survival Guide for a Beginning Teacher







Know Your Superpowers and How to Use Them

So you decided you want to change the world? Me too! That is why I became a teacher. Like every good superhero that saves the world, a teacher needs to know that he/she possesses superpowers with the capability to change the world. Identifying those superpowers, containing the knowledge of how to use those powers, and developing the confidence to save the world are essential to surviving the first year of your career.

 Survival Guide for Success

1. The Power of Love: Building relationships with students in my opinion is the most important survival skill to develop. The relationships must be built gradually, based off mutual respect for each other.  Developing positive relationships with students comes naturally for some and others must focus on making an effort to prioritize this in their daily routine. The great thing is we all possess the superpower to build these lasting relationships… LOVE! Embrace the love you have for yourself, your job, your school, and your students. Use the superpower of love to build amazing relationships so that you can survive your first year in teaching. Relationships will impact EVERYTHING in your classroom. The quality of students’ work, students’ creativity and their capacity to learn, the climate, classroom behavior, and your growth as an educator. 

2.  The Power of Example: We all have the superpower to be influential in so many ways as a teacher. You have the power of being a positive role model for your students, co-workers, and for all you encounter daily. Being a good example by your ACTIONS is essential to surviving your first year of teaching. Your actions speak for who you are as a person and teacher. The example you set will be influential in surviving by developing a professional and positive reputation that will follow you in your career. How amazing that your actions can motivate others in such a positive way! Use your superpower to build intrinsic motivation in others and inspire those around you to be the best they can be. 

3. The Power of Organization: Being organized is an important component to surviving your first year of teaching, which has many demands on your time. The first year of teaching can be overwhelming. Everything is new and there are a lot of unknowns that you experience on a daily basis. In the process of learning your school, staff, students, yourself, and your teaching style, the constant to do list never ends. You have meetings, duties, responsibilities, communication, planning, grading, analyzing data, etc…. the list goes on and on. It is important to embrace the superpower of organizational skills in order to use your time efficiently. Developing this skill, will be a key component to surviving the daily demands of teaching. 

 4. The Power of Flexibility: I am the type of person who likes things organized and routine. Flexibility is something I recently embraced. Using the superpower of being flexible has truly made me understand how I can be a student’s hero.  Not all students are the same, but all students are innately good and desire to learn! They really ALL do, we just have to learn how to reach each student, since all students are different and learn differently. Differentiation and flexibility go hand in hand.  Mastering the art of flexibility in your lessons, classroom management, from class period to class period, and with your co-workers and school will be crucial to survive not only your first year, but every year in your career. Things are always going to come up, change, or need modification… Flexibility is needed in this job for sure! I have to admit, I now enjoy being flexible way more than being rigid. You can still be structured, but also remain open-minded. 

 5. The Power of Collaboration: This is an important superpower that often gets overlooked.  The power to share and work together with other superheroes in the field of education is AMAZING! Imagine how one person impacts the world, now think how all the superheroes together could CHANGE the world! I get excited thinking about collaboration. I love to learn from others and share with others what I am learning.  After all, we all have a common goal, the success of our students. 🙂 This superpower is VERY powerful and must be embraced more within schools, districts, and even globally. To survive your first year of teaching, find a mentor that you can collaborate with. Collaborate with specialists, other teachers, media staff, and develop a PLN that enhances your ability to reach your students. 

 6. The Power of Fun: Having fun is not only good for your students, but also for yourself. In order to survive the first year of teaching, you want to enjoy your class. I have fun with my students everyday! I do this by using the superpower of having fun. I enjoy what I am doing and what the students are doing. How? I CHOOSE to! Having fun is a choice, though some things are naturally more fun than others. You can choose to embrace the fun and train your mind to see the positive in things so that you may infect others with that positivity or you can fail yourself and your students by choosing not to. Even though superheroes have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders (saving the world and all), always take time to enjoy the process! Have fun everyday and realize how fun your students are! They have such bright young minds, embrace their creativity!

7. The Power of Variety: Incorporate as much variety into your instructional methods. Not only will this superpower keep your students interested in learning, but it will also keep you challenged in your professional growth. To survive your first year the students have to want to learn and want to come to class everyday. You are responsible for encouraging that desire to learn and to grow, and you can do so using the superpower of variety. Keep students on their toes and keep them asking, “what are we going to do in class today?” and “is it as fun as yesterday?” Students who are excited with the variety and who are engaged in learning will LEARN! 


Passion can drive you from novice to expert if you let it!

Written by: Tiffany Carter


Photo Source: http://communityboost.org/passion-brings-traffic-to-your-nonprofit-website/

Passion is both powerful and compelling. My passion for teaching children fuels my intrinsic motivation. It is my intrinsic motivation that drives me to engage more deeply with everything! This deep engagement combined with constant self-reflection gives me confidence to be creative and take risks. It is important to remember that you must nourish your passion if you want to go from novice to expert in any field, especially in education.

That is why I decided to start this blog, to nourish my passion and to motivate others to do the same! Someone whom I respect suggested I start a blog to share my instructional experiences, the tech tools I experiment with, and how it all relates to my content. I currently journal for self-reflection, but I have never considered blogging. After all, why would anyone want to read my blog?  So then I thought, why not? I am passionate, excited, and willing to be vulnerable.

While I am only in the beginning stages of becoming the educator I would like to be, I am nourishing my passion which WILL take me from novice to expert.  And it can also drive you if you let it. It is never easy to make yourself uncomfortable, to try something new, or to put yourself in a position to fail. In my experience, that is what education is all about. Isn’t education learning after all anyway? It is important to be passionate about being a life-long learner.  I hope that through blogging, I can inspire someone to take that risk, to try something new, or to just jump back in another day when they feel burnt out.  If sharing my failures, nut job ideas, and fun days in the classroom can help someone stay passionate about being a life-long learner then I’m saying, “Whoop Whoop!” I know reflecting on these experiences and being open to the feedback from everyone is what encourages me as a life-long learner myself.

So let’s get started.

From Novice to Expert: 10 Tips from Tiffany

1. Professional Development

Acquire the skills and knowledge you need for personal and career advancement. Make time so that professional development becomes a routine. Developing a professional learning network is key to staying a life-long learner. 

2. Willingness to change, adapt, and grow

Have the mindset to always grow. When you are not open to changing, adapting, and growing you are only stunting your personal and professional growth. 

3. Being a reflective practitioner

It is incredibly important to constantly reflect on your teaching practices. While there is plenty of instructional strategies, new ideas, and tech tools to implement in the classroom, it is important to reflect on the effectiveness of your teaching strategies and the implementation of those new ideas. The important thing is to evaluate, evaluate, evaluate. 

4. Positive attitude (excitement)

Don’t be a “negaholic” or let “negaholics” kill your excitement and positive attitude toward teaching. Remember why you became a teacher in the first place, the love of kids and the passion to educate! Never forget this, and stay excited about it! How wonderful to have a positive attitude, even in the midst of obstacles. 

5. Take risks

Don’t play it safe. Yes, you know what lessons work and what it takes to have your classroom run efficiently. However, how exciting to let go of that control and try new ideas. Be creative and willing to try that something that may not work out. Think outside of the box and don’t lose your creativity!

6. Use the feedback (data and student voice)

When being reflective, it is important to base those reflections on the data from your students as well as their opinions. Listen to what your students are saying works for them in the classroom. Use your assessments as a way to evaluate the effectiveness of your instructional methods.

7. Support (both in victories and failures)

Simply put, to become an expert you need support from others. Co-workers, students, and administration. We all need each other, that is why school culture is so important.  Remember to support others in their victories and also their failures. Passion can be killed without nourishment and support.

8. Try the trends

There are constantly new trends in education, especially with technology. Try it out! Say yes, instead of no. I have heard so many times teachers say they were just biding time until the next trend came along. Don’t get stuck in that rut. Try the trend, then see for yourself if it works in your classroom or not.

9. Leadership

It is important to have strong leadership in order to become an expert. You need clear direction, someone who will help you reach your professional goals, and someone to provide the feedback you need to become successful.

10. Passion

Of course you need passion! On the days your emotions are getting the best of you, you have to remember emotions are not truth. Emotions change, truth does not. Listen to the truth… your passion. The truth is you love children, challenges, and the joy in seeing others succeed. The truth is you can become an expert and you want to be excellent. The truth is you can do it! The truth is, you ARE doing it! 🙂