We are the Magic Makers

Last week I met a man who works as a fundraiser for UCLA.  He detailed how he hosts large galas as fundraising events, wines and dines contributors, and basically plans parties for a living.  At the time I thought (with an inward eye roll), “Yup, sounds just as glamorous as teaching.” But then I thought a bit more about it and realized…Hey! I design daily educational (party) experiences for my students.  Teachers are no longer deliverers of content but instead are much more like party planners.  Educational architects, if you will.  Sure, we plan on a budget. But every single day we have to be ready to create an experience that our patrons buy into.  We need them to become willing contributors.  The most successful teachers are those who not only sell the subject matter, but the very act of learning. They are the ones who can create magic.
Vanessa Perez is a magic maker, as we all know from our experience as French students during professional development this semester.  She has a certain energy and a warm personality that draws students (and teachers!) in.  Students sit mesmerized, listening to the melodies of her effortless French.  They mimic her voice, stare up at the Eiffel Tower, listen to French music playing lightly in the background. What they don’t see, however, are the preparations that went into setting the scene for this educational party.  Vanessa and I have spoken many times about the need for teachers to always be inventing and then reinventing their teaching.  A party planner’s work is never done…the next party always awaits!
Vanessa reached out when I asked teachers what new tech they had been using.  Once she detailed her approach with HyperDocs, I knew it deserved a blog post all its own.
Vanessa created this HyperDoc for her French 1 class. HyperDocs are interactive and engaging alternatives to worksheets. What makes Vanessa’s approach unique is that she uses a HyperDoc to craft a learning experience that allows students to explore and work at their own pace, to self-assess, and to have choice in their assessment. Check out the details in her email below:
I am experimenting this week in French 1 with self-pacing & differentiation. So they started today with Box 1 in the HyperDoc. Some kids finished Box 2. Tonight they’re supposed to choose a studying option and do it for 15-20 minutes. Tomorrow morning I’ll start with a Pear Deck Review to make sure they are on target and then they will get back to work on the HyperDoc. I’ll do the same thing Wed & Thurs morning as well to see how they are comprehending the material. I don’t know if it will work well or not, but it’s a fun experiment! You have to keep trying to do a better job, right?
Once we get to Box 4 the students take the Vocab Quiz (this does not count as an actual quiz, just as classwork. However, they take it as if it were a real quiz). If they receive an A or a B on the Vocab Quiz, they skip to Box 7 to create a Dreamhouse (this is the vocab enrichment activity). If they receive a C or below they move on to Boxes 5 & 6 where they do workbook activities to practice the vocab more and then take a different version of the Vocab Quiz. I did the same thing for grammar. Everyone takes the Grammar Quiz. If they pass with an A or B then they create their own Apartment building where they use the grammar to label the floors and then write two sentences per floor talking about the people who live there. If they receive a C or below, they do more practice activities and take a different version of the Grammar Quiz. 
On Friday they will choose their assessment: either a traditional exam or a performance task, both of which will be on the same material from this week. Over the weekend, they will be recording themselves doing a speaking activity using the vocab they’ve learned this week. Then Monday, I start with a new carte. We’ll see how they do! I’m hoping they’ll find it more motivating to have more options and variety in tasks.
Wow! This is the type of lesson design that empowers students to take control of their own learning and motivates them to succeed.  Look at all Vanessa has done as the ultimate educational party planner.  First, she is willing to try a new approach that is out of her normal comfort teaching zone.  She realizes that with high risk comes high reward and decides to just go for it!  Through providing a “map” of learning, Vanessa sets students on a self-directed learning quest.  Within the “map” she provides enrichment activities, extra practice, and choice of assessment—everything needed for successful differentiation.  She is the party planner of this treasure hunt and her students are reaping the rewards!  Creating a HyperDoc, Vanessa is able to make each and every activity available to all of her students in one convenient place.  She has even allowed for a low-stakes formative assessment quiz.  The teacher is not only using the formative assessment data to inform her teaching practice, but the students are also using the data to self-assess and determine which path they need to take next.  Pure magic.
I have often thought that teaching solely from the textbook (doing all activities provided and giving the textbook quizzes) is not quite enough.  Honestly, that is a quick way to bore both student and teacher.  Teaching as a craft is not about following a textbook or someone else’s lessons.  You know your students, their needs, and their interests.  You can design learning experiences that not only deliver content, but also inspire, intrigue, and captivate.  How can you work on innovative ways to reach all of your students when your textbook isn’t cutting it?  Like Vanessa, where can you experiment and take risks with your teaching?   Innovative teaching is powerful.  What will innovation look like in your classroom?


I checked in with Vanessa to discuss how her “Carte” Hyperdoc approach was working.  Here is what she said:
I do really like it and the results were much better this last week after some tweaking. Here’s what I changed:
a. I made the menu of activities smaller to lessen the likelihood of anyone feeling overwhelmed.
b. I introduce each lesson with a TPR activity.
c. I give each class a daily goal that they either complete in class or finish for homework.

Here’s the Carte I used last week. 

I was very happy with the student results and heard a lot of positive feedback from the students.

Talk about teaching with intention.  Magic making requires continued reflection, revision, and reimagination.  Teaching is never perfect.  Sometimes it is messy and falls short, even with a well-planned lesson and the best of intentions.  I love that Vanessa is chipping away and refining her lesson as she goes.  She looks at data and listens to feedback, and then improves her craft.  Her goal?  Student success.  Magic.
Looking for ways to reinvent and re-invigorate?  One of the best ways is to observe others teaching.  You will learn from them.  So visit a colleague’s class. Check out #ObserveMe on Twitter to see what educators are doing in their classrooms.  Attend a conference.  But first, start by watching Christopher Emdin’s TED Talk, “Teach teachers to Create Magic.”
How will you spark the curiosity of your students, ignite their intrigue, and flame their interests? Plan the ultimate educational party in your classroom each and every day. Make magic.

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