Pop-Up PD Approach

PD isn’t always a teacher’s favorite way to spend their time. Which truly brings a tear to my eye; okay maybe a little dramatic, but considering the fact that trainings are one of the best ways to learn new, fun, and innovative tools to use in our classrooms, there has got to be a better way to do PD, right?!

Since providing on-site PD for our teachers is one of my responsibilities, I began to ponder PD on our campus. I wanted PD to be:

  • quick
  • meaningful
  • collaborative
  • not a “sit and get”
  • a time to truly explore the topic at hand

Considering my goals and the culture at our school, I decided that the Pop-Up PD approach would be worth a shot. Every 2-3 weeks I offer two optional Pop-Up PD dates and times. I offer an a.m. option and a p.m. option on the same topic allowing for teachers to pick which time fits best in their schedule. During this meeting I promise a 10 minute timeline to discuss the topic, explore, and share thoughts. I set a timer and stay true to this 10 minute promise to ensure trust and respect of their time. After the 10 minute timer, teachers are welcome to stay and continue chatting, or are welcome to get back to the grind.

When considering topics for the sessions, my goal was to keep it on trend with our expectations of our teachers on our campus. At Oakridge, we have a document titled “The Oakridge Classroom Environment” in which clear expectations of an Oakridge classroom are defined.

The Oakridge Classroom Environment…

  • embraces hands-on learning and authentic experiences.
  • encourages students to find their voices as they develop and share their passions.
  • engages in a meaningful and timely feedback loop.
  • facilitates the exchange of ideas and experiences within a global community.
  • fosters digital organization, literacy and citizenship.
  • inspires inquiry, creative thinking and problem-solving skills.
  • nurtures a warm, positive culture based on respect, responsibility and empathy.
  • promotes character development and leadership skills.
  • provides a variety of learning tools and resources, both inside and outside the classroom.
  • supports a blend of established and progressive teaching methods

Click here to read about my first Pop-Up PD session.

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Providing Student Voice Through Mentimeter

Looking for a way to gauge student understanding, gain input from all students not just your vocal students, or a way to create an active learning experience for all students? Mentimeter might be just what you are looking for!

What is Mentimeter?

Audience interaction system

Why use Mentimeter?

  • Poll students to gauge understanding and engagement level
  • Understand student’s view on subject
  • Get input from all students, especially your quiet, more reserved student
  • Warm-up activities
  • Creates and active learning experience for all students

How can you interact with audience?

  • Multiple choice
  • Image choice
  • Word cloud
  • Quiz
  • Scales
  • Open ended questions
  • Questions from audience
  • 100 points
  • 2 by 2 matrix
  • Who will win?
  • Quick form
  • Quick slides
  • Reactions

Ideas on how to use Mentimeter:

  • One Word Splash: students submit a one-word summary of today’s lesson (note: when setting up question, choose to have results displayed as a word cloud)
  • Word cloud: teacher projects one word on screen (perhaps a vocab word or word related to a novel) and asks students to type first word that comes to mind when you see that word
    • Mentimeter generates a word cloud and the words that were mentioned the most are largest on screen
  • Icebreaker: open class with question to spark discussion relevant to what you will be discussing in class
  • Exit ticket: ask open-ended question to see what students learned that day
  • Check for understanding: ask open-ended or multiple choice questions that align with material you covered in class to see if they understood topic
  • Student choice: allow students to choose next novel or vote on next project
  • 2 Question Trivia (2Q Trivia): students do students watch a quick video for homework (EdPuzzle, screencast, flip grid…) and during your homework video lesson teacher mentions a random fact – where they ate for dinner
    • Next day, use Mentimeter
      • Q1 – random question about where you ate dinner to see if they watched entire video
      • Q2- question about the information they gained from watching video


  • Free version – limited number of questions
    • 2 questions per presentation
    • Unlimited audience size, presentations, quick slides
    • 5 quizzes per presentation
  • Basic version – $7.99/month
    • Unlimited questions per presentation, export and total ownership of data
  • Pro version – $19.99/month
    • Everything unlimited
    • Customize presentations with your brand and logotype

Hit, Stay, or Bust- What does it really mean to take risks in the classroom?

Should I hit or stay? These are questions that come to mind when playing Blackjack, a game that revolves around risk-taking. With that question comes the hopes of a big win, but at the cost of a potential big loss.

Recently, a colleague and I co-presented on risk-taking and decided to hook the audience from the get go with a quick, simple game of Blackjack. Like any good planner, we intentionally stacked the deck with cards that call for someone to hit, split, and stay. After one round, we paused and asked the players why they made the decision they did. Their responses could not have been better! First response, “I hit because of past experiences.” Bingo! That comment led us into asking her, “So you hit because you have played Blackjack before and you knew that the game called for you to hit on that particular hand? You knew that your chances were good?” “Yes!” “Would you say that students in our classrooms choose to take risks, or not to take risks for that matter, based on past experiences?” “Absolutely!” “So would you say they are more likely to take a risk again if the first time goes well?” “Yes.”

Player 2 had a perfect hand that called for them to split their cards, but they did not in fact split so we asked, “Why did you not split?! You had the perfect hand to split!” She responds with, “Well unlike player 1, I don’t have experience in Blackjack so I have no clue what I am doing,” insert a small giggle here. “Aha! So would you say that our students are less willing to take risks in the classroom if risks are not encouraged?” “Yes, I would agree with that!”

Naturally these conversations quickly led us into a debrief of why students are apprehensive to take risks inside of our classrooms and what must exist within a classroom for students to want to take risks.

Why are students afraid to take risks?

  • fear of failure
  • fear of not looking “perfect” on their resume for colleges
  • society (You get a trophy! You get a trophy!

Let’s talk about society. How many of you see this image and your blood boils a touch?


Over the past decade, society has begun to think that creating a life filled with bliss and no obstacles, is just what their child needs in order to succeed. Lawnmower parents, as they have been coined, mow down any obstacle, or struggle that stands in their child’s way thinking that they are providing a better life for their child. They take away any chance to teach grit, growth and learning from failure.

Failure. Let’s talk about that word. When a student fails a math test, fails at turning in an assignment on time, fails in the science lab, what is the outcome? Many times the outcome is that it was the teacher’s fault. “You gave my child an F!” When in fact, the outcome should be the opportunity for the student to rework the problem, to catch his/her mistake, to find the solution to the science lab and truly understand the concept behind it. Failure, I would argue, is truly when learning happens. When our brain absorbs the process and imprints it into our memory.

Safety, comfort, and space – 3 things that must exist in our classrooms in order for our students to not only feel encouraged and supported to take risks, but to then take the actual risk. Our students must know that when they fail we will respond with, “What do you think you could do differently next time?” Or, “Wow! I am so proud of your efforts and I can see your thinking. What can we change next time to have a better outcome?” Instead of, “You’re wrong! That is not how I showed you to solve this.” We, as their support system, must create an environment built around safety, comfort and provide space for them to fail forward.

What examples of risk-taking happen within your classroom?

Inspiring Inquiry with “Fakebook”

We have all heard of (and more than likely used) Facebook. Right? Well, why not adapt Facebook to the classroom in order to inspire students to inquire and think creatively in an authentic manner?

Our 6th grade World History teacher did just that. He was looking for a way to have his students research and share information about a well-known person from history in a truly authentic and higher level manner- something other than your typical history research paper. I shared with him a Fakebook template that was created in Google slides (note: I did not create this template.). Students simply make a copy of the template (pictured below) and input the information that goes along with the person they researched.

*Suggestion: Encourage students to delete one textbox/image at a time. If they delete all of the information at once then they will lose the skeleton of the template and it becomes very confusing. Our workflow looked like this: delete JKF’s image, insert new image. Delete JFK’s name and description, input new information. And so on until you have created your own fakebook.

Inspiring inquiry and creative thinking:

In your typical research project, students research and basically regurgitate the information in paper or presentation form. But, do they really think at a higher level? Do they understand why that person’s life occurred in the manner that it occurred? By having the students research and then create the Fakebook, they were forced to not only research, but to truly absorb and understand the information. How can you write a post about what that person is doing in real-time, or post a picture of that person’s group of friends if they did not absorb and understand that person’s life? The Fakebook project truly took learning to a higher level of learning in which the students truly had to own their learning.

To use the Fakebook template that we used (we did not create this template), click here. To then create your own fakebook, follow the steps below:

  1. Click file
  2. Click make a copy
  3. Rename the new copy with an appropriate name/title

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