Classroom Transformation?

Last year, I actually heard the term “Classroom Transformation” for the first time.  I was at a Get Your Teach On Conference with other elementary school teachers. In my defense, I’ve always taught higher grade levels than I was teaching then.  Hope and Wade King spoke about livening up the curriculum by transforming the classroom using a theme.  Well I wasn’t confident this was something I could do, but I decided to take some baby steps and try it out.

Since I was teaching 4th grade, and we needed to cover the importance of text structure, I decided we should perform Text Structure Surgery. I didn’t want to go all out like Hope and Wade, but decided to throw in some props and some sound effects.  I read everything I could find about text structure and located a free download on Teachers Pay Teachers ( that I could adapt for my students’ needs.

I was able to get medical gloves and masks from our school health clinic.  I played a heart monitor visual/audio on my touchscreen.  My students were grouped. Each group was given a couple of mixed up texts. They had to read the texts, paying special attention to all the text features. They were mixed up and out of order, so my little surgeons skillfully had to determine which parts were unnecessary and which ones needed to be rearranged.  With scalpels (scissors) and sutures (glue), they arranged the texts and their features correctly.  Most of all, they had a great time, stayed engaged, and will remember all about text features!

This year, I moved back up to the high school level. I’m teaching English II, so over the summer I wondered what I could do to get my students interested in me and learning right from the start.  Using some of the classroom transformation ideas, I decided that my sophomores might like to “investigate” me and the curriculum. I again checked out Teachers Pay Teachers and found a product ( that I could purchase and adapt for my needs.

I again wanted a few props. I played the theme song from Law and Order on my interactive board this time. As students entered the room, they saw a “chalk outline” on the floor and an area that was taped off as a “crime scene.”  Each student received an investigative file on the case.  I purposely planted clues around the room, such as a photograph of my family, charts on bulletin boards, and more.  Each student had to observe and record four pieces of evidence before grouping for discussions. They had to use their evidence to make inferences about their suspect (me) and the crime (English II).  While they were working, I could observe the students working collaboratively to determine their skill levels. It was interesting to read their thoughts about me and their reflections on the assignment!

If you like mixing things up a bit….even if you teach older students… check out Hope and Wade ( They are dynamic speakers, authors, and educators at The Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, Georgia.

Puppy Love

For the last couple of years, as our cocker spaniel aged, my husband and I decided to embark on a new “pet project.” We knew we didn’t have much time left with our beloved Sasha, so we discussed and researched different breeds of dogs. We considered my son’s and husband’s disabilities. We determined that the popular cross between golden retriever and poodle, known as a goldendoodle or groodle, would be a perfect fit.

At first, my husband liked this designer breed on paper, but he thought he wanted a more manly dog, and these just seemed to fluffy and girly for him.  We attended a family event at my daughter’s university and saw a young man playing fetch with a gorgeous, agile dog. My husband said, “See, that’s what I want.”  He decided to talk to the Frisbee-thrower himself and was informed that this was a goldendoodle with a short haircut. That’s all it took for my husband to realize these beautiful mutts could be cute and fluffy, while still being manly and sporty.

A couple of years later, we now own two standard sized goldendoodles, a miniature goldendoodle, and a standard poodle.  Since he is home during the day, it is primarily my husband’s job to take care of our pooches, grooming and training them.

We recently bred our two first doodles to produce a litter of puppies.  We’ve researched genetic testing, gestation in dogs, and marketing. What a learning experience this has all been!  While he has been in charge of the physical care of our dogs, I’ve been in charge of the social media and marketing aspect. Of course, I’ve had my personal social media accounts for years, but really trying to develop a presence for my pups has been quite an undertaking!  I’ve learned more about Instagram than I ever thought I needed to know and learned to build a Wix website.  They’ve even become Influencers (a term meaning that sponsors send us free/reduced pet-related items in exchange for us posting pictures and reviews)!

This time with our Tiger, Sugar, Bijoux, and Dixie has been busy, rewarding, and educational.  If you would like to learn more about them, feel free to check out their website ( To keep up with their shenanigans, please follow them on Instagram (  I would love more feedback on both sites… because I’m still learning!


Technology is second nature to my students, and they use social media to make their first impressions. Why not adapt some of the apps they are already using, to help them get engaged with the reading, writing, and publishing process? That’s where #booksnaps come in.  Jennifer Huff designed this fun graphic ( to visually show several benefits for teachers who use #BookSnaps in the ELA classroom.


This is something that I know my students will enjoy.  Using the COVA approach (Harapnuik, Thibodeaux, & Cummings, 2018) to instruction, this is another way our students can demonstrate their learning while still giving a choice, ownership, and voice to our learners.  Using the technology to publish an artifact they will be proud to share will provide them with an authentic learning experience. How should we get started?

Using an iPad with the Photos app
*Take a picture of the book page
*Open in Photos app.
*Click on the 3 horizontal lines or “the hamburger” (upper right hand corner)
*Then click the circle with 3 dots (right side)
*Choose the toolbox “markup” – your tools will show at the bottom.

Using iPhone with the Photos app
*Take a picture of the book page.
*Open in Photos app
*Click on the 3 horizontal lines with circles on them
*Click on the circle with 3 dots
*Choose markup

Still not convinced? Not sure exactly how this will look in your classroom?  Check out this video from Tara Martin ( ). She has included several examples using different platforms on her website.  Check them out, and your get ready for student engagement!



Harapnuik, D., Thibodeaux, T., & Cummings, C. (2018, January). COVA: Choice, Ownership, and Voice through Authentic Learning [PDF]. Creative Commons License.

Who Owns Our Students’ ePortfolios?

Ownership of Learning with Dogs and Blogs


Who owns the students’ ePortfolios?  Students should own it because it is evidence of their thinking and learning, just as our portfolios should be evidence of our own thinking and learning.

My husband is a disabled veteran who stays home to help manage care of our disabled son.  For the last couple of years, we researched ideas for things he could manage at home, keep him engaged and active, yet available for our son.  We decided to breed goldendoodles. There were so many decisions to be made even after that point. Do we start with two females and use an outside stud? Do we start with adult dogs? Will we pay for professional grooming? Is so, how frequently? How will we market puppies? How frequently will we be able to manage a litter? What would be healthiest for the dogs? What training will we provide?  The learning has been non-stop, but we still have more questions to research. We realize we will sometimes decide that we should’ve done something different.

Why do we continue? Raising the dogs and keeping them healthy is important to us. We continue even when things are hard or complicated or not as expected because we had a choice and we’ve taken ownership.  I learned to build a Wix site ( because I had an authentic, real-world problem that I needed solved.  I learned to grow an Instagram ( page unlike anything I had imagined for that same reason.  It is amazing what we can learn when we take ownership of a situation.

In Who Owns the ePortfolio? (Harapnuik, 2015) we are cautioned not to take the ownership from the students. This often happens when students aren’t given choice.  The ePortfolio should allow earners to make meaningful connections.  This is one benefit of using the ePortfolio for reflections.  I plan to allow the students to choose their artifact/writing for the ePortfolio. They will also be allowed some freedom within their reflection, although I will need to have guidelines in place.

I think a problem arises when we have the reluctant student.  The student who wants to coast through without taking ownership of his own learning. By providing those students with some choices, so that they feel their voice can be heard, I am hoping to reach and motivate those students.  Our students have grown up with devices in hand and social media is so important to them.  They long for the world to see their selfies.  I agree with Rikard (n.d.) that our learners will “find ownership in what they choose to create, how they put it online, and how it engages a broader audience.” When we use the COVA model of learning/instruction, our students will become more motivated learners because they will have choice, ownership, voice, and authenticity.


Harapnuik, D. (2015, September 23). Who Owns an ePortfolio. Retrieved September 18, 22018, from

Rikard, A. (n.d.). Do I Own My Domain if You Grade It? (EdSurge News). Retrieved September 18, 2015, from


Why Should I Use an E-portfolio? Why Should You?

Why use an e-portfolio?

I love that the title of my assignment this week is a question. We’ve been focused on reflecting throughout the program, and this question lends itself to reflection.  Why should I create and use one?  Just beginning a question with the word “why” forces me to reflect on the benefits. What purpose could it serve in education, and more importantly, in all aspects of my life.

I thought about the many occasions I thought I would remember something significant, only to be frustrated when I can’t recall the details. When my son was born with a rare chromosome abnormality, people told me I should keep a journal. I started a few times, but I wasn’t consistent. “I’m just too busy,” I reasoned, and I thought I would remember all the random medical tests he endured. Nope. It has been more than 17 years since his diagnosis, and if I don’t have a picture of a procedure, I probably don’t remember he had it, much less the results.

As my son, Ben, grew, he started saying and doing things that made us question our perceptions of his intelligence and skills.  It became clear he understood more than he could ever tell us. His thoughts sometimes seemed jumbled up to us, but he knew what he was talking about.  He fascinated us by making connections and providing insight that never even occurred to us.  When he said and did things that surprised and entertained us, we called them “Ben-isms.”

I wish I had a collection of “Ben-isms” to look back on now.  As we approach his 18th birthday, I think about all those things I thought I would remember. They were certainly significant.

Karen Barnstable (2010, January 8) divides the benefits of keeping an ePortfolio into two categories, benefits of the “process,” and benefits of the “product.” She lists her 41 benefits as they apply to students, educators, and employers. I can certainly see the benefits for my students, for myself as a teacher, and for employers. Throughout the week, though, I still thought of my Ben.

I would love to have the product of a record of his life and our experiences. After reading Barnstable’s benefits of the process, however, I think it would even be more important to have the benefits of the process.  Having a child with a chromosome abnormality that nobody else in the world has been diagnosed with means that being his parent has been a learning process. He has four older sisters, so I know how to parent typical children.  My husband and I often talk about plans for Ben’s future. What will become of him if he outlives us? We know he will never be independent. Wouldn’t it be incredible for any future caretaker to be able to read about the processes we’ve gone through? If he/she knew the things we learned, and how we learned them?  What a gift that would be for Ben.

Barnstable, K. (2010, January 8). 41 Benefits of an ePortfolio. Retrieved from Stable Transitions:

Why an e-portfolio? Why now? How can I begin?

So Many Questions!

author blog create creative
Photo by Pixabay on

Although I have created a couple of simple websites in the past, I never considered creating an e-portfolio before now. That isn’t quite true. I considered it for a very brief time when my youngest child was very little.  He is almost 18 now, so blogging wasn’t much of a concern for me at the time.  I had four other children in my home when he was born with a rare chromosome abnormality.  I was a homeschooling, military mom, and I thought I didn’t have time to write down all the doctors’ visits, medical tests, accomplishments, and setbacks we had.  Oh, how I wish I now had written down those experiences.  I would love to have that record for myself, but also to share with others, who may be starting their own similar journey. How many lessons did I learn along the way that could benefit somebody out there?

Today is the time for me to start. Only because I didn’t start yesterday.  Again, looking back, I can consider what I’ve learned over the past five decades.  That information, those experiences, have helped to mold me into the wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, and teacher that I am today.  I don’t get to share them with most people, though. Sometimes, I don’t even take the time to stop and reflect on them myself.  This e-portfolio gives me an appointed time and place to do both of those things.

I started with something I was familiar with, and I created a website with Wix.  It is a simple platform and easy to navigate. I had already created a website using Wix, so I knew there were templates available, and I knew how to change themes and add elements.  After talking to others and listening to a professor (Harapnuik, 2016), I decided WordPress was the way for me to go.  I like that I have many options, although it took a little bit of playing around to get things where I wanted.  I’m now looking forward to seeing how far my little page can go and want to encourage others to get started on theirs!


Harapnuik, D. (2016, March 3). EDLD 5303 Getting started tips. Retrieved from