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