Tag: Classroom

rainbow in a cloud

What If You Were Guaranteed To Succeed?

Posted on December 7, 2018 by

What might happen if you knew that every day you were guaranteed to succeed?


What do you think would be different in your life? Would you be more adventurous? Would you check your vulnerability at the door, step out of your comfort zone and SEIZE THE DAY? 

Yep – cliches intended.

We talk a good talk about being successful. We say the right things, read the right books and make sure we have a positive mindset.

Or at least that’s what we say we do…

But we know when that shadow creeps in, that little voice that tells us it’s never going to happen. There’s a part of all of us that believes that our success isn’t limitless. That the boundaries between what that person does and what we can do are tall and unbreakable and topped with barbed wire. We might feel that it’s too late. That we don’t have the energy, time, resources…..fill in the rest of that sentence. 

We don’t believe in our own ability to reach our dreams.


I feel it too, that curse of the monkey mind. I battle the ‘fatigue demon’ all the time, feeling raw and frustrated and dubious and wonder if my limitations are going to get in my way.

And then I tell myself to shut up.

Or sometimes, I let it ride. I just sink under the covers with a lusciously written novel and shut off the world.

And then the next day, I tell myself to show up.

Have you ever heard Maya Angelou talk about being a ‘rainbow in someone’s cloud’?

I listen to her words all. the. time and treasure the moments I was in her presence, in an audience completely engulfed with her wisdom. The recordings of her words sustain me.

Teaching is one of those professions where it’s impossible to hide. We’re on display, performers expected to push down our outside lives and ‘turn on’ in the presence of our students. And some days, that’s really, really hard. It feels darn near impossible to believe that the world is truly designed for us to succeed. I often think about how so many of our children come to school feeling the very same way…and spend day after day wondering if they will ever succeed in life.

I had one of those days recently…when the kids started wiggling my classroom doorknob before I was ready to perform, one of those days when I had to take a deep breath, push open the door and smile.

No one comes in my classroom without a handshake, high five or hug.

rainbow in a cloud

I want to be the first contact my kids have before they enter our learning space. I started this routine the first day of school…and I don’t think I’ve missed a day of smiling at every kid as they pass the threshold; high fives are most popular, followed by handshakes…and then hugs.

There are some kids who come in for a hug every single day. Sometimes for more than one. Some do the side hug, or barely get their arms around me. And sometimes, they don’t say a word, just open their arms, tip their head slightly, and wrap themselves up. I love that they love to see me.

There was that day last week, a morning when I was feeling defeated and depleted and like I couldn’t make it til 3:30 without taking my pain out on someone else. It was a morning if I heard something nice I might just burst into tears… and they hugged me. Not every kid, but enough, and I transformed. 

“Prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud,” Maya Angelou taught us. I wonder if we all prepared ourselves every day if we might be able to guarantee success, even for just one someone’s cloud.

You might just be the rainbow that someone needs today. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful way to spend your day?

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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7 Money Saving, Creative Uses For Binders In The Classroom

7 Money Saving, Creative Uses For Binders In The Classroom

Posted on August 4, 2017 by

As a teacher, I’m always looking for ways to make the most out of the time my students spend with me. As a parent, I look for ways to keep track of my kids’ progress inside and outside the classroom. Both of these roles require a little creativity, as well as some tight budgeting, especially when it comes to school supplies. I’m excited to share 7 money saving, creative uses for binders in the classroom with you!

7 Money Saving, Creative Uses For Binders In The Classroom

Do you want 7 Money Saving, Creative Uses For Binders In The Classroom?

That’s why I love the ideas in this article and handy infographic. No matter what ages your kids are, picking up a few extra binders so you can utilize them in these ways could be a real time, money, or space saver. Or perhaps they will inspire you to repurpose some of last year’s binders?

If you try out these projects or come up other clever uses for these inexpensive back-to-school supplies, please share. Get creative with your binder projects and let me know how it goes!

7 Money Saving, Creative Uses For Binders In The Classroom

1. Student Portfolios

Do your students take the time to evaluate, organize, or reflect on the work they do in your classroom? If not, they could be missing out on a powerful and authentic learning opportunity, not to mention a handy way to hang on to their best work and share it with parents, future teachers, and scholarship or college admissions committees. Research suggests student portfolios are beneficial because they involve students in research, writing, problem-solving, and assessment.

Here’s how to help students make meaningful student portfolios.

  • Determine the primary goal for the project. It could be to:
    • Display a student’s best work
    • Display a student’s learning progress
    • Display evidence that learning standards were met
    • Help students reflect on their work
    • Provide students with keepsakes from the year
  • Decide on the primary audience for the project. It could be:
    • The student
    • The teacher (either the current teacher or the student’s next teacher)
    • Parents
    • An administrator
    • A scholarship or college admissions committee
  • Let students help plan and make their portfolio.
  • Supply students with two binders, one for the portfolio and one as a working binder, where students keep materials to be evaluated for inclusion in the portfolio.
  • Collect, date, and store work samples for a specified period, either a term, semester, or year.
  • Choose regular intervals to evaluate work for inclusion in the portfolio.
  • Encourage students to routinely evaluate and improve their portfolios by asking questions such as:
    • Have I shown a variety of work?
    • Does the work I’ve chosen show how I’ve improved?
    • Does the work I’ve chosen reflect my interests?
    • Does the work show where I’ve come from and where I’m going?

2. Student Profile Binder

Effective classroom management relies on forming positive relationships with individual students. But it’s challenging to get to know each student personally in a crowded classroom. A student profile binder can help. Designate a binder for each class, and make a tab for each student. File information there such as:

  • A completed information sheet about a student’s family, pets, and interests
  • An “all-about-me” essay
  • A completed learning styles inventory
  • Individual Education Program (IEP) goals and notes

Review a student’s information whenever needed and before a parent conference or IEP meeting to help you understand the student’s background, needs, and concerns. This practice helps teachers build individual relationships based on trust and respect, which makes managing the classroom easier.

3. Substitute Teacher Binder

Preparing for a sub is no easy task, and it too often needs to be done at the beginning or end of an already long day. Get a head start by making a substitute teacher binder to store up-to-date information your subs may need. As an added bonus, subs will love you. It’s challenging to stand in for a teacher. With a fully loaded binder, substitutes won’t need to search for information about your school, students, or procedures.

Consider including the following:

  • A welcome page introducing yourself and your classroom
  • Phone numbers for the office, nurse, and special education room
  • Names of teachers and students who can answer questions when needed
  • Explanation of your daily procedures
  • Class rosters
  • Seating charts
  • Directions for using technology, such as a projector, smart board, or document reader
  • Explanation of your classroom management practices
  • Forms or hall passes
  • List of students who need to leave the classroom for support classes or who have health issues that may need to be addressed
  • Emergency lesson plans in case you’re unable to prepare customized plans
  • Filler activities in case the class completes assignments early
  • Map of the school with important rooms highlighted
  • The school’s emergency evacuation procedures
  • A feedback form for the sub to leave notes for you

4. Phonics Flip Books

Primary teachers or reading specialists can transform a binder into a fun tool to help beginning readers learn to sound out words.

7 Money Saving, Creative Uses For Binders In The Classroom

5. Puzzle Organizers

Primary school teachers are often inundated with stacks of puzzles in tattered cardboard boxes. Downsize the clutter by transforming binders into handy puzzle organizers.


  • 3-ring binder
  • Gallon–size slide–lock freezer bags
  • Duct tape
  • 3–hole punch
  • Labels
  • Marker


  1. Line the bottom two inches of the bags with duct tape on the front and the back.
  2. Make sure the hole punch is set to the North American 3–hole standard, with the center of the holes 4.25 inches apart. Then use it to punch holes in the tape at the bottom of the bag.
  3. Label the bag with a description of the puzzle or game it contains.
  4. Insert the puzzle pieces into the bag.
  5. File the plastic bag in the binder.
  6. Repeat with the rest of your puzzles
  7. Use the same method to contain and organize games, magnets, and other props

6. Mobile Art Stations

Tired of storing and moving around buckets of crayons, colored pencils, and other art supplies? Transform binders into mobile art stations. Use the same method as above to make pockets out of plastic bags. Place a bag of crayons, colored pencils, and markers in each binder, as well as a bag containing a pair of scissors, a glue stick, two pencils, and an eraser. At the end of the binder, include coloring sheets, word searches, crosswords, and blank paper. Mobile art stations fit neatly on shelves, and students can grab one during choice time or after they’ve completed all of their other tasks.

7. DIY Clipboards

Physical activity shouldn’t be confined to P.E. and recess. Getting kids up and moving around during regular lessons is also important and beneficial. In one study, 13.5 percent more students reached their goal on the state standardized test after physical activity was incorporated into regular lessons. But how do kids work when they’re on their feet? Transform binders into clipboards that can be used as mobile workstations. Students can make and personalize clipboards, and bring them along on nature studies and hands–on learning activities. Bonus: The project can double as a lesson about recycling materials.

So, which of these 7 money saving, creative uses for binders in the classroom inspire you? I’d love to hear what you come up with – just leave a comment and/or a photo below!

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Flipped Learning Using Edmodo: An Innovative Approach to Education

Posted on April 26, 2013 by

One of the most exciting education strategies I’ve used this year is flipped learning. This weekend, I’m presenting at the TechConnect 2.0 Conference in Sacramento, California with my friend and colleague, Amanda Sharpe. I thought I’d share some of the excitement with you!

What is a flipped classroom?

  The flipped classroom, simply put, is having students do at home what they traditionally do at school. Using technology, students would watch videos, listen to podcasts, or participate in online reading and discussions as homework, and use class time in teacher-facilitated discussions and activities directly related to their previous night’s activities. A flipped classroom turns the teacher into a guide, not the starring performer. Flipped classrooms provide for learning through activity, not passivity.

flipped learning

What does a flipped classroom look like?

  • Discussions are led by the students where outside content is brought in and expanded.

  • These discussions typically reach higher orders of critical thinking.

  • Collaborative work is fluid with students shifting between various simultaneous discussions depending on their needs and interests.

  • Content is given context as it relates to real-world scenarios.

  • Students challenge one another during class on content.

  • Student-led tutoring and collaborative learning forms spontaneously.

  • Students take ownership of the material and use their knowledge to lead one another without prompting from the teacher.

  • Students ask exploratory questions and have the freedom to delve beyond core curriculum.

  • Students are actively engaged in problem solving and critical thinking that reaches beyond the traditional scope of the course.

  • Students are transforming from passive listeners to active learners. 

From: “The Flipped Class: What Does a Good One Look Like?” by Brian Bennett, Jason Kern, April Gudenrath, and Philip McIntosh http://www.thedailyriff.com/articles/the-flipped-class-what-does-a-good-one-look-like-692.php

What are the benefits of a flipped classroom?


In my classroom, students enjoy using technology as a different way to access their homework. Somehow, it seems more ‘fun’ and even shy, inhibited kids who normally wouldn’t participate readily in class discussion want to chat online about a video or article we’ve read.

How do you flip a classroom?

In my classroom, I utilize Edmodo. Edmodo is a free social learning network for teachers, students, schools and districts that is set up like Facebook, creating instant ‘buy-in’ for students. Some of the benefits of Edmodo are:

Image representing Edmodo as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

  • Exchange ideas

  • Share content

  • Access homework, grades and school notices.

  • Closed environment

  • No private information required from students

  • Students join classes by the invitation of their teacher only

  • All communications are archived

  • Teacher has full management control

     How can Edmodo help the flip?

    Students can access online or on the go:

    Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...

    Image via CrunchBase

    – web – iPad

    – iPhone – iPod touch (wireless)

    Easily share content (files, videos, pictures, etc.) in posts and monitor student responses.

    Assess student mastery of at-home learning with quizzes and get feedback quickly with polls.



Finding Your Comfort Level

The best way to begin flipping your classroom is just to start at your comfort level. Flipping can happen in what I call four stages: beginner, intermediate, advanced and expert. I’ve found that if teachers wait until they have it all ‘figured out’ they will never try it. Flipping your classroom can make teachers feel a bit nervous about loosening control, and change is scary. Comfort Level depends on various factors, including familiarity with Edmodo, comfort with technology tools, and development of a safe online classroom environment.

Comfort level: Beginners

Edmodo is used at this level mostly for enrichment and extra support. Teachers can:

  • post handouts used in class

  • post Powerpoints used in class

  • post copies of stories used in class

  • post articles to read ‘for fun’

  • post syllabus, permission slips, forms used regularly

Is this flipping your classroom? Yes, sort of. It’s the first step! I started here the first year, got myself grounded, and the next year I went to Intermediate.

Comfort level: Intermediate

Intermediate level users do everything in Beginner plus…

  • post audio versions of stories and poetry read in class

  • post articles to read and start online discussions

  • post videos to watch and start online discussions

  • take polls

  • use badges

  • create folders for library

At this level, you are actually flipping your classroom! I suggest you hang out here for as long as it takes to feel comfortable, and you’ll see such great responses you’ll want to move to the Advanced level!

Comfort level: Advanced

Advanced flippers do everything in Beginner and Intermediate plus…

  • Post content lessons on Edmodo and use in-class time for applied learning

  • Post teacher created podcasts for new and review information

  • Post teacher created video to introduce or supplement concepts

  • Have students use Edmodo app for back channel discussions and Q&A during class instructional time

  • Create a library on content-linked instructional resources for students to reference throughout the year

  • Have students share work on Edmodo and provide feedback to one another

This is where I’m experimenting right now. Some of these depend on your technology expertise, but also on the time you’re willing to invest outside of class prepping for your flip. Like any new skill, sometimes there’s an upfront investment that pays off in the back-end.

Comfort level: Expert

Expert flippers do everything in Beginning, Intermediate, & Advanced, plus…

  • Extend learning beyond the classroom walls using real-time back channel discussions (during current events such as the State of the Union, an astronomical event, elections, other breaking news, etc.)

  • Globalize learning by creating a co-classroom with students around the globe

When I grow up, I want to be an expert flipper. Really. I think this is so cool and offers so much promise in education that I’m pushing myself to do more and more online. I want to teach my kids how to be responsible digital citizens not just by showing them, but by having them practice it.

What does it look like in a classroom?

While my 8th graders were studying the Bill of Rights, we studied children’s rights around the world. One activity we did was to watch a series of four videos through Edmodo-see the clip below on South African children. Students were required to comment at least once on the discussion thread, adding their thoughts about children’s rights and what they watched. Many kids commented on their classmates’ posts, and we saw a read dialogue begin BEFORE WE CAME TO CLASS. I was amazed at the depth of thinking that occurred when kids had time to watch the video, pause when needed, rewind, re watch, synthesize the information, think out their comment and respond appropriately. And the best part of all? They loved it!

So you want to flip your classroom?  

We’ve got resources to help!

Edmodo Help Center

Our 21st Century Education Pinterest Board

Log on to Edmodo http://www.edmodo.com, join our group (code: 2es376), and check out the shared folders (also public!) chock full of resources!


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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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