Conferences for Modern Learners

Our first-ever student-led conferences for big kids were a huge hit! You can read more about our process (and about how we used digital tools like Career Cruising and Seesaw here!)

IMG_8149 As a teacher, I loved that I was able to listen more than talk.  Students were in charge of sharing, showing, and answering their parents’ questions.

We had planned carefully and had resources, inventories, and examples of student work ready to go.  Students also had opportunities to practice ahead of time (and to review a sample ‘script’ for their conversation with their parents.)

Personally, I  really appreciated that the conversations were not about grades:  our thinking was that (considering that parents have access to up-to-date grade information in real time AND that they see lots of glimpses into teachers’ classrooms through Seesaw) this conference was more about student plans, goals, and self-evaluation.

BB Self Eval.jpg

The best part?  Our attendance was phenomenal!  We had attached NO punishment, strings, or consequences…we were just excited to strive for a goal of 95% student attendance.

We had workarounds in place for students who were able to come without their parents; in fact, I played the role of parent for one 8th grade student who came without an adult and was happy to do so.  Other adults did the same as needed.

On a whim, our principal and guidance counselor announced to students that they would shave their heads if 95% of students attended the conferences.  (Hey, it was our first time to try this format, and I don’t think anybody really thought we’d hit that mark. For reference, our spring conferences a year ago had 25% parent attendance….)

But lo and behold, our students CRUSHED the goal, with SEVEN seminar classes (including mine!) having perfect attendance and only about 12 total students from grades 7-12 not attending at all.

Head Shaved.jpg

Truly, it was one of the best school events in recent memory (right up there with my personal faves like Hunger Games Day, filming our all-school lip dub video, etc.)  The morale was excellent and it was amazing to see our gym full of excited teachers, students, and parents all working together to make these conferences a success.

Have you tried student-led conferences with big kids? Find me on Twitter and let me know how it worked for you!

Conferences for Modern Learners

Student-Led Conferences for Big Kids

We are experimenting with a student-led (rather than traditional parent-teacher) conference format this spring, so I made this handy infographic to explain how it will work.  We are excited to use digital tools like Career Cruising and Seesaw to help us with this process.  Take a look, and find me on Twitter to let me know if you have tried other conference formats for MS/HS kids!

SLCs info

Student-Led Conferences for Big Kids

Snap Everything!

My attitude with most new/cool things is…ok, how can we hack this/”appjack” this and make it useful in the classroom?  I was actually an early adopter of Snapchat but could never see a real use for it in my classes or even professionally.


Cut to Summer 2016, and I’m not sure what it was exactly (the integration with Bitmoji, maybe? hearing Bill Selak at ISTE?) but it finally clicked that there WERE ways for me to use it both with my big kids in the classroom AND to learn and connect with other educators.

This might actually be one of the first times I talked about it or tweeted about it:


And check it out–that’s Tara Martin, the booksnaps lady, tweeting about it with me back in August!

So the rest is history! I’ve learned and grown from lots of experts, and my students and I have come up with lots of different ELA activities that incorporate snaps!

Disclaimer:  I teach mostly seniors; they don’t follow me on Snapchat and I don’t follow them. What they create for me in Snapchat (#BookSnaps, #vocabsnaps, #coversnaps, etc.) they save to Memories and then to Camera Roll to save & share through Seesaw, Google Classroom, etc.


And since I do teach big kids and always want to try to keep my content relevant for them, I love that we have incorporated ‘snaps’ and even ‘streaks‘ into our classroom vernacular.

Twitter is still my go-to for connecting with other educators, but feel free to find me on Snapchat now, too! My name is the same in both places: EHSMrsJ.  Happy snapping!




Snap Everything!

Encourage Parents to “Re-Connect” With Seesaw

Do you have parents connected to Seesaw that you haven’t seen or heard from in awhile?  Maybe it’s just because I teach big kids, but even though I have a high percentage of connected parents, there are many who don’t seem to be looking at all lately, let alone liking or commenting.

Here’s a simple strategy you can try to help them “re-connect” and to remind them that students are still posting awesome creations every day!

When you have something being mailed out to parents (report cards, progress reports, other correspondence), slip in a little note to remind them and to tell them how you and the students value their feedback!

Go here and make your own copy of this note, updating it with your name and e-mail address (or other information that’s specific to you and your class.)


I’m slipping in this half-sheet of paper in the progress reports that will be mailed home in another two weeks; when I used this strategy last year at this time, it was successful in encouraging those once-connected to get involved again.

What other strategies have you tried for reviving your dormant Seesaw parents?  Let me know on Twitter!



Encourage Parents to “Re-Connect” With Seesaw

My #OneWord2017

I usually select my #OneWord for a school year rather than a calendar year.  You can learn more about how my students and I do that here.

But even though I already have a school-related #OneWord for 2016-2017 (it’s productivity, by the way), I really felt compelled to select a more personal focus word for myself to start off the new year.

Based on my experience giving up binge-watching in favor of binge-reading over the holiday break, I decided to officially select READ as my #OneWord2017.


I’m an avid reader anyway (I’m an English teacher in real life!), but the choice of the word READ for me is really specific to reading more than watching as a leisure-time activity.

I had gotten into a bad Netflix and Amazon Prime Video habit (and don’t get me started on DVR guilt), where binge-watching became my go-to activity on a free evening or weekend.

This year, I want to be purposeful and committed in choosing to read more often than watch.  In addition, I’m going to read more YA because it gives me better connections to (and recommendations for) my students as we grow our community of readers together.

I’m tweeting, blogging, and snapping about it to help hold myself accountable! What’s your #OneWord2017?

My #OneWord2017

Holiday Break Binge-Reading

I committed to binge-reading, and not binge-watching, over the winter break.  You might have seen some of my tweets or snaps documenting my progress.


I ended up reading eight books between Dec. 20 and Jan. 1, and all of them from the Kindle app on my phone.  (I love ‘real books’ too, but for me, reading on my phone was the way to go for ease of packing, reading during holiday travel and other relaxation time, etc.  I was too disorganized to check out that many library books before the break started, also!)

I committed to not paying for more Kindle books, however…that’s a bad habit/guilty pleasure.  So I read books I could find for free, that I had previously purchased but not read, or could pay ONLY 1.99 for a Kindle download but no more.  I stuck by that the whole time!

There wasn’t really a rhyme or reason to my book choices, either.  A student had recommended one of them, a para at our school another, Wonder had been on my “I probably should have read this by now” list for a long while, one piqued my interest because of a movie trailer I saw (A Monster Calls), one was recommended by my sister after I told her about one of the OTHER books I finished, and the rest were just random (mostly YA) selections that looked good at the time.


I made a lot of #booksnaps to share what I was reading, and I posted those to my Seesaw Book Club class as well.  Read more about that here.

I love a good holiday binge-watch, but I really appreciated the challenge of reading and not watching over the break.  I definitely feel like I’m back in a good reading routine and have started my 2017 reading year off on the right foot!








Holiday Break Binge-Reading

Seesaw in Public Speaking Class

If you read any of my tweets or blog posts, you know I am an unabashed Seesaw enthusiast!    

Though I have taught a variety of HS ELA courses over the years (and help teachers with tech  K-12), Seesaw digital portfolios have made the biggest difference for my high school Public Speaking (a.k.a. Speech) students.

Speeches are no longer ephemeral.

For years, I had students presenting amazing speeches that…POOF…disappeared into the recesses of their listeners’ memories because they weren’t saved anywhere.  

The technology existed to record the speeches, of course, but I really didn’t have the equipment located in my classroom, nor did I ever bother to borrow it, set it up, record, and then save the recordings anywhere accessible.

Now, phones & tablets allow us to conveniently record anything we’re doing in the classroom at any time.  But rather than just using the Camera/Camera Roll, Seesaw gives my students a more logical place to store their recorded speeches and to organize them in a way that’s easy for them to find later for self-reflection and to monitor their own progress.

My students can listen to any of their past speeches at any time, and I will always have access to them to show future students, to save as exemplars, etc.

Students can present a speech even when I’m gone…

I’m not often out of my classroom, but sometimes I have a substitute because I’m attending  various meetings, trainings, or other PD.  And sometimes on those days, I still have a student (or two! or three!) who needs to give a speech.  

I don’t ever plan it that way, but sometimes speech presentation days run long…or I extend a deadline for an absent student…or some other such modification has to be made.

In those instances, students can present their speech as they normally would:  in a classroom full of their peers with their face or shoulder partner recording them…I just happen to not be there.  I watch the video later and give them the same feedback and evaluation sheet that I normally would, and their experience isn’t hindered at all by my absence.  

…or when THEY are gone.

If you happen to have a student out of school for an extended absence due to illness, injury, or family emergency, Seesaw allows the student to ‘present’ to an audience of their peers even when they aren’t physically present in the classroom.  

Absent students can +Video from anywhere they have access to the Internet and record their speech for their classmates and me to watch later.

This really did come in handy for one of my students just last month, and it worked perfectly.


Parents (and other stakeholders) get to be part of the audience.

This is the best part! Instead of speeches being presenting “in class only” for an audience of just the teacher and the students’ peers, now parents can watch the speeches, too!  

This has been particularly meaningful for me to observe, and I’ve been surprised at how often parents have commented with an affirmation of something said in a speech or even with an “I didn’t know that!” type of response.

Because Seesaw generates a link for the speeches students post, we can also share the links with other stakeholders who might enjoy the speech or find the topic relevant.  

For example, my students give a commendation speech early in the semester where they speak about an adult who they think deserves their praise.  With the students’ permission, I share those speeches with the adults who were the subjects of the assignment!


Seesaw is a game-changer K-12, but it’s been particularly meaningful for me in Public Speaking.  If you are just getting started with Seesaw, some of my past webinars can be viewed from here; many of the pictures and ideas you see in the Slides are from my Public Speaking classes.  Here are some additional Seesaw activity ideas for K-6 and for 7-12.  


Seesaw in Public Speaking Class

#OneWord Ideas for Students

Are you getting ready to kick off the New Year with a #OneWord project instead of traditional resolutions?

My high school students and I have done this for a few years, although we pick our words in August and use them for the duration of the school year rather than for a calendar year.  Either way, it’s a wonderful activity for students that allows for a lot of introspection and self-assessment.

It’s also a great opportunity for grownups to participate alongside students in choosing their own #OneWord.  (For the 2016-2017 school year, my word has been “Productivity.”  The year before that, it was “Feedback.”)

Here are a few #OneWord activities I’ve used with students.

  • Jot Thoughts to brainstorm and choose a word.  This is a cooperative learning structure my students know how to do and only requires a few sticky notes (paper or otherwise.)  I find that starting with a group activity is extremely helpful for my students and yields much better results.
  • #OneWord Digital Logos.  After selecting a word, I ask my students to create a digital picture or logo that features their word and an image or design.  (Since I do this project to kick of a school year, it’s a great way for my students to familiarize themselves with some of the apps and digital tools that they’ll be using for other projects in my class anyway.)

I give them a few app suggestions (PicCollage, Adobe Spark Post, Canva…) but give *minimal instructions otherwise and give them total freedom of choice.  I usually learn about a new app or two in the process, like Font Candy! That was completely new to me until some of my students introduced me to it during this activity.  The finished creations are saved in Seesaw (where we save everything) and added to a Folder called #OneWord.

*I do tell them to create their own logo from scratch rather than simply image searching for a picture that includes their word.  They are always up for the challenge but I clarify that for big kids.



  • Reflection Writing:  Every few weeks, I do ask my students to reflect and “check in” on their #OneWord.  Is this word still relevant to you?  Would you pick it now, or what you would pick instead?  How has this word focused or motivated you in your classes and extra-curricular activities?  (Or maybe even in your part-time job?)


I love reading their responses, and since all of their writing and digital creations go in their Seesaw portfolio, it’s easy for them to monitor their own growth and progress.

What activities will you use to introduce #OneWord to your students?  Find me on Twitter and let me know!

#OneWord Ideas for Students

YA Books My Students Loved in 2016

Here are some YA books that were devoured by my high school readers during the past year.


Several of these “went viral” in our small community of readers, with four or more students reading it in rapid succession.  Of those, “Girl in Pieces” and “The Serpent King” were extremely popular choices.

“The Knife of Never Letting Go” and “The Scorpio Races” weren’t new in 2016, but they definitely experienced a resurgence in my classroom in recent months.  I have multiple copies of each of those in my room, and I often pile books around on table tops (or place baskets and crates of books all around).  I’m sure some readers just happened to pick up one of these, thought it looked interesting, read it, liked it, and spread the word! (That’s exactly how I want it to work!)

Thanks in particular to the YA authors who were kind enough to read and respond to the tweets of my students and I as well.  I think we would have enjoyed their books regardless, but watching my students’ reactions to their favorite authors’ Twitter replies to them has been priceless!








YA Books My Students Loved in 2016