Teaching Reflection

Teaching Reflection.

The concept of “How” do I …?” is often a discussion for educators and students.  “How do I … ?” fill in the blank … “solve this word problem,” “write this conclusion,” or the thousands of examples in which teachers explain, model, and demonstrate for students how to do something.  As we close the school year, perhaps we show students how to “reflect on the year.”  I would agree that the “How?” of learning is possibly one of the most important skills.  Students need to learn how to learn and develop metacognition.  With our help, they can develop perseverance, develop grit, and work through the struggles and failures of learning.  However, I believe we must start with “Why?” and finish with reflections about their “Why?” This is probably the most important aspect to model and discuss with students.  This year, we were proud to see our students in all of our schools set and work towards personal goals.  The teachers and students are certainly reflecting on those goals as we approach the end of our school year (and some are possibly setting new ones for the summer and for next school year).  

Here are some ideas to finish the year strong:

  • Lead reflective discussions (perhaps use Pear Deck since teachers control whether responses are displayed for the class, plus they’re displayed anonymously)
  • Share your own personal life lessons on setting, achieving and/or not reaching goals
  • Discuss favorite or memorable lessons and ask students to explain why they were so memorable (this will help show that you are reflecting as a teacher on how you can make lessons better for students)
  • Have students create bulletin board or whiteboard wall art that explains, “Tips for “incoming” students.”
  • Consider tracking goals using Sheets and Docs – perhaps students can track some type of personal progress over the summer
  • Watch and discuss Angela Duckworth’s TED Talk – “Grit: The power of passion and perseverance”
  • Have individual student-led conferences to help students finish strong
  • Create a “Pride Wall” for goal achievements where students can share their accomplishments


In the end, start with “Why,” and continue to come back to that throughout the year.  

Plan – Do – Check – Act – it’s all a process, especially for learning.

Design Thinking

Design thinking has become a bit of a buzzword in education over the past few years.   In our classes I do not want it to become (and have no intent in it becoming) reduced to a buzzword.  

Design thinking is a process and a mindset.  It cannot be reduced to a simple checklist.  Lessons and projects for students should include empathy, experimentation, prototyping, reflection, and redesign.  

Abandon prescriptive scenarios.  Facilitate activities that let students “problem find,” practice empathy, interpret issues and find meaning leading to the generation of new ideas, experiments, and iterations.

Students can learn these valuable skills centered on empathy, collaboration, prototyping, and iteration if we set out to create opportunities to include these mindsets in our instruction.

The interesting thing about design thinking is that teachers are inherently designers of instruction, beginning with empathy for their students’ needs.  Ultimately, we need to support our teachers with time to create projects that allow the students to practice design thinking.  


Here are some great books to introduce kids to these mindsets:

What Do You Do With an Idea?


What Do You Do With a Problem?


The Most Magnificent Thing


Here’s a good resource to get started:

Design Thinking for Educators



Pear Deck


Our teachers love Pear Deck!  

Along with being a really easy to use (it integrates with G Suite for Education), and a great engagement and formative assessment tool, below are some of the specific features of Pear Deck that our teachers like.  In another blog post, I’ll dive deeper into our systems processes for choosing educational technology.

Check in with students

Self-paced mode

  • Present lesson through Gradual Release of Responsibility
  • Allocate time for students to work independently on a portion of Pear Deck slide deck
  • Utilize multiple Pear Deck slide decks as differentiated “Station” Activities
  • Utilize differentiated Pear Deck slide decks in small group instruction
  • Pear Deck Student-Paced Overview

Take-Aways – turn the slide deck into a Google Doc for each student

  • Students can receive their individual responses on a slide deck
  • Google Doc can be used for studying and to continue the learning
  • Teacher can use comment feature of Google Docs to provide feedback on a student’s response to a question
  • How to Publish a Pear Deck Takeaway

Student Vacation Survey & Google MyMaps

Start the school year off with a fun and interactive ‘vacation survey’ to find out where your new class traveled/vacationed over the summer.

Have the students respond via a Google Form, like the one shown below.  Then, ask students to share new information they learned about the places they traveled.  Turn their responses into an interactive map!

Google Form Vacation Survey
Google Form Vacation Survey


















Then turn the Google Sheet created by the form into an interactive map in Google MyMaps.

Quick steps below in screenshots, or access my slideshow on using all of the Google Maps tools: http://bit.ly/GMapsInstruction

Google MyMaps Sign In













Google MyMaps step2












Google MyMaps Step3












Check out a screenshot of a map that I made:

Vacation Map













If you used Google MyMaps with your students, share how in the comments section below! Thanks!



Google Docs & Forms to Differentiate

I recently presented at the EdTechTeam GAFE Summit held in my school district, Marlboro Township Public Schools.

It was a great event! I learned valuable new instructional strategies and ways to use emerging instructional technologies.  As we approach the start of the school year, I’m sharing and have attached my presentation slideshow on differentiating with Google Docs and Google Forms.

It’s a simple concept in that the teacher can share a Google Doc with a student and set him/her off on an individualized project and learning paths or provide specific links to differentiated content or activities.  Additionally, if you’re using adaptive learning programs like Study Island, ST Math, or others, you can link directly to those websites and sign-in pages.

Below is a skills checklist to get yourself started and a link to my slideshow and resources.

  • Understand basics of Google Docs and Forms
  • Understand Sharing Settings of Docs and Forms
  • Can insert hyperlinks into a Google Doc
    • Understand concept of linking Docs to Docs
    • Insert Link Shortcut Keys (Ctrl + K)
  • Can utilize Google Search to find resources, texts, videos, etc. to curate information
  • Can insert YouTube Videos
  • Understand how to add Sections in Google Forms
  • Understand new Forms Quizzes feature

Google Docs & Forms to Differentiate NJ GAFE Summit16 Slideshow