Thursday, July 6, 2017

#SummerPatioPD Book #1: Renegade Leadership

This is a PD book I've been wanting to read ever since it arrived at my door a while back. I'm so glad I finally cracked it open on my patio this summer.

I've known Brad Gustafson for a few years. He's an amazing principal leader here in Minnesota, and I'm proud to be part of his PLN. Check out his blog here to learn about how he is the epitome of a connected leader. I've participated in many of Brad's social media challenges, including the Squiggle (using #StuConnect) and ConnectED Bingo. I started a monthly Twitter chat called #stu2stuchat a few years ago to connect students, discussing a range of topics. Read about it's beginning in this post from early 2015. Brad also tapped into #StuConnect to do the same, and his chat exploded due to the wide reach of his social media platforms. I've watched and voted in his #30SecondTake Touchcast videos, and I even have an Augmented Reality MN Voxer shirt, where Brad used the app Aurasma to play videos of MN Voxer members when the image was scanned. Recently, I made the Final Four for my contribution to his #30SecondBookTalk challenge that he runs with Library Girl (@jenniferlegarde).

I'm no stranger to the wonders of being a connected educator. I started my Twitter journey four years ago, and have never looked back. Here's my post about lunch breaks for connected educators. Here's another one, touting the benefits of having a connected PLN. And another post about putting yourself out there and saying yes. I'm a proud member of the Teach Like a Pirate and Ditch That Textbook communities, and as you can see, my blog is titled "Going Against the Grain."

I'm no stranger to pushing the envelope and trying new and innovative ideas. However, after reading this book, I'm again reminded of the magic of connecting and living the Renegade Code. Brad calls the Renegade Code a "relevant and connected pedagogy that clearly establishes how relationships fuel four tenets in innovative schools." These tenets are Collaboration, Ownership, Digital connectivity and Experiential learning.

I am an English teacher, but on a 3 year special assignment as an Instructional Coach, so I read Brad's book from a coaching lens. Always on the lookout for ways to encourage colleagues and inspire movement towards innovative practices, here are a few of my takeaways.

  • Brad reminds readers that Renegade Leaders are intentional about celebrating people. I started a school hashtag #OrioleShoutOut to tweet the engaging learning experiences I witnessed when I visited classrooms. Brad offers many different ideas, but emphasizes the need to be authentic. My mind is spinning with other ways to celebrate and share the great work in my school and district. Maybe a back channel during staff meetings, or sharing blog posts with colleagues that relate to their professional learning goals.
  • I hope to encourage more collaboration in and out of my school. Both via teachers connecting and developing experiences with other teachers, and students connecting with other students in different parts of the country. There are so many opportunities that exist already, like the Global Read Aloud (GRA), student Twitter chats like #StuConnect and #stu2stuchat, Global Cardboard Challenge, Global School Play Day and World Read Aloud Day. Plus, there's a student pen pal group that organizes via Facebook, and many students who connect via Kidblogs or other platforms.
  • Adding more choice to my mentoring meetings with new staff will help to personalize PD. Teaming with coaches from other buildings to differentiate our offerings, trying a few breakout sessions, and possibly adding an edcamp component will better meet the needs of more staff members. Also, encouraging peers to share with each other will likely create a more collaborative environment. As Brad writes, "Isolation is one of the biggest impediments to innovation." I plan to be more intentional about offering ideas for connected PD whenever possible.
  • Like Brad mentions in the last section on activating your renegade leadership, I want to make my own learning more visible. Last year, I shared some opportunities and relevant blog posts with staff. However, I can do more to make my learning transparent by modeling, sharing, and leading with curiosity. My choice of professional development is usually not what's provided by the district, but I gravitate towards movers and shakers in the education world who have so much to offer. I need to be engaged in the "heavy lifting of new learning" as I pave the way for others.

Throughout the book, Brad includes both Real-Life Renegade Profiles (famous renegades throughout history) and Renegade Profiles of connected members of his PLN. I was honored to contribute my profile on pages 106-7. These profiles are such an important addition, and offer concrete models of people and educators exemplifying one or more components of the Renegade Code.

As I wrap up this book review, I can't leave out some of the best advice related to leadership. Brad recalled the time he was a chili cook-off judge. He said that he made the mistake of sampling every type of chili (and some more than once), because he lacked focus. When we become so enamored by by all the tools, initiatives or educational buzzwords, we run the risk of never doing anything well.

Brad's call to action asks us to explore what's even better for kids, instead of justifying why current practice is best for kids. A subtle shift in thinking, but a very impactful one.

I look forward to this upcoming school year. A year where I'll encourage more collaboration, share ideas for student ownership, provide opportunities for increased digital connectivity, and inspire experiential learning,

What are you waiting for? Start by reading this book. To connect with other renegades, follow them and share your Renegade Leadership journey, using the hashtag #RenLead. Here are a few to get you started.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Rebel Coach: Teach Like a Pirate Edition

Well, it's been almost seven months since I started this new job as a secondary instructional coach (or TOSA-Teacher on Special Assignment). Back in January, I made a commitment through my #Oneword post to maintain RELEVANCE, despite no longer having a classroom to call my own. Then, a few weeks ago I checked my progress after the first few months of the year and identified how I was living out that commitment in my most recent post.

Now it's a month later, and we've just started the final trimester of the school year. Seems like the perfect time to begin something I've wanted to do for many months. 

How about a blog post series where each installment focuses on one book from the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc. suite of game-changing educational resources? My goal is to show ways that coaches can encourage and support teachers to use the ideas in order to pirate up their instruction. 

It only makes sense for this first installment to focus on the book that started it all for me, and for so many others: Teach Like a Pirate.

Each installment will have the same general structure: 

  • a short synopsis of the book
  • a few words about the author
  • an idea or two that I've tried in my classroom (or ways that I've incorporated the ideas)
  • first steps that coaches can take to introduce the book/ideas to their teachers
  • strategies for bringing the ideas to a larger audience
  • Jumping in with both feet once you have buy-in
Book Synopsis: Teach Like a Pirate (#tlap)
This book offers "inspiration, practical techniques, and innovative ideas" to help teachers design a more engaging classroom for them and their students. Dave leads with the idea of drawing on your passion (P), moves into the importance of immersion (I): fully being present with your students, and then highlights ways to build rapport (R). He shares why creativity takes some hard work through asking and analyzing (A), what it takes to transform (T) your teaching and become a purple cow, and he wraps up the PIRATE message with the importance of lighting your fires of enthusiasm (E) every day. But the real treasure follows a short section on crafting engaging lessons, where Dave offers what he calls a "crash course in presentational hooks." There are 170 questions in 32 categories within 7 larger topics. They are designed to be used as teachers plan ahead for their work with students, or whenever they are looking for ways to better engage their students. 

A few words about Teach Like a Pirate author Dave Burgess:
(taken from the "About Dave" section of his website, found on this link.)
Dave Burgess is the New York Times Best Selling author of Teach Like a Pirate and co-author of P is for Pirate. He is a highly sought after keynote speaker well known for his outrageously energetic performance style and inspirational, yet practical, message.
Dave is also the president of Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc., a disruptive publishing company specializing in innovative, creative books and professional development programs designed to transform education and uplift educators to reach their full potential.

How I have used the ideas with my students:
  • When my Advisory students had Reader's Theater, they were able to rehearse and perform in different locations around our middle school wing...even the stairwell. (Safari Hook)
  • Upon entering our classroom after PE to the calming sounds of classical music, my 5th graders took off their shoes and turned on their flashlights before laying on the floor to paint on the paper taped under their desks like Michelangelo. (Mozart Hook and Picasso Hook)

  • To culminate our Circulation/Respiration Science unit, my students practiced and performed (with props) the Pump Your Blood song. (Dance and Drama Hook)
  • Since we no longer had Halloween parties, I told the students to wear pjs, bring blankets and stuffed animals and a flashlight the next day. (Teaser Hook). When they arrived, they saw that our room had been covered floor to ceiling with black plastic tablecloths, there was a roaring fire on the screen, and a simulated campfire in the middle of the room with all the desks pushed to the sides. We had Campfire reading day, complete with reading spooky stories by flashlight and writing our own scary stories. (Interior Design Hook) 
  • Another day, when students arrived, they were welcomed into the Islands of Reading, where they would add palm leaves to our trees as they finished each book they were reading. (Interior Design Hook)

First steps coaches can take to introduce this book/ideas to their teachers:
One idea is to start wearing a pirate eyepatch (ha ha) and hanging the letters of the acronym in your office or meeting area. When you're meeting with teachers, ask if they've heard of Teach Like a Pirate. If not, bring it up during your meetings with teachers. I usually have the book on hand or displayed in my office, along with my pirate flag of course.
As conversations turn toward engagement and motivating students (or a teacher complains about a lack of motivation), share a few hook ideas. I try to think of a few hooks they could incorporate in their lessons/content and work them into the conversation. Start with easier ones like Board Message Hooks, Prop Hooks or Mozart Hooks. Offer to support in their planning or even come in to help carry out their ideas. Once a week or month, email a couple of hook ideas that are specific to your teachers' content. In addition, share Dave's blog posts with your staff as he posts them (including earlier posts). I suggest sharing the PIRATE acronym at an early-in-the-year staff meeting, and then ask to talk about one or two categories of hooks at subsequent meetings throughout the year. Make yourself seen as a resource and a partner. Celebrate any and every foray into embracing their inner pirates.

Strategies for bringing the ideas to a larger audience:
Once you have a few pirates on board, find a way to share their hook ideas and experiences. Maybe it's asking to take a picture of the resulting student engagement, and posting it in the lounge. It might be joining team or department meetings to lead some brainstorming of hook ideas. Or emailing/tweeting out these hooks via a school hashtag. Ours is #OrioleShoutOut. Eventually, you may get teachers observing each other and possibly joining one of the many Twitter chats around #tlap (#tlap on Mondays at 8:00 CST, #scitlap on Wednesdays at 8:00 CST, or #sstlap on Thursdays at 8:00 CST).

How to jump in with both feet (once you've tested the waters):
One suggestion is to provide/lead a book club. Whether you have building funds or you ask teachers to purchase books on their own, set a schedule and break down the book into manageable sections (Part 1: one letter of the acronym each week, then invite participants to try an idea from each of the presentational hook categories-Part 2- in between each meeting and report back, followed by a wrap up/next steps in Part 3) Dave will often Skype or GHO with book clubs, and he will definitely show your teachers how to preheat the grill so their steaks (lessons) really sizzle. Also, look for opportunities to see Dave Burgess in action at local and other conferences. Maybe you'll even consider bringing Dave and the #tlap message to your school or district. It's definitely a life-changing experience.

Like Dave talks about in this book, teachers need to be willing to have fun with the process and not take things too seriously. This also goes for you as a coach. Start slow...don't come on too strong. Celebrate any baby steps your teachers take in their ask & analyze process towards more creativity and student engagement. Watch their reactions and try to read when they are ready for more. Just as important is asking permission to share ideas and to join their team/planning meetings. Let them know you have more resources if they need them, and always promote pirate hooks as an opportunity and not an expectation. I can almost guarantee that once they start teaching like pirates, they won't ever want to stop.

I hope you've learned a little about Teach Like a Pirate and how to coach your teachers towards using hooks to engage their students. 

Stay tuned for the next installment of The Rebel Coach, when the focus will be on gamification and Michael Matera's book, Explore Like a Pirate.

Until then...ARRRRR!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Update on my #OneWord for 2017: Relevance

At the beginning of 2017, I chose RELEVANCE as my #OneWord. Having taken a new (3 year) position as an instructional coach, and with a few months under my belt, I wanted to be sure I stayed connected. I wanted to continue to offer ideas and to learn from my PLN. I wanted to keep growing professionally, as well as share what I learned.

Now that two months have gone by, I feel the need to reflect on my progress.
Here’s what I’ve been up to (in no particular order)…

  • I coordinated a school-wide World Read Aloud Day on February 16th, with 24 author Skypes in 5 locations, connecting over 700 middle school students. I started planning and organizing early last October, and wrote a grant (thanks, District 279 Foundation) to purchase multiple copies of all the authors’ books for the students to read ahead of time.
  • I served as a MN Book Awards preliminary judge.  It felt like a dream come true to have been selected to read 16 novels in the Young Adult Literature category from October through January. On January 28th, we (my fellow judges and I) chose our top four in that category.  See all of the finalists here.  I’m looking forward to celebrating the winners with my good friend Laura at the ceremony on April 8th.
  • I shared my love of books by participating in the #30secondbooktalk competition and advancing from the sweet 16 to the final four. It was my honor to celebrate Jeff Zentner’s upcoming Goodbye Days and MN author Abby Cooper’s Sticks & Stones. Although I didn’t take home the win (and $500 for my school’s library), I enjoyed creating these videos (which included my own kids, as well as a few of my friends’ kids). Happy memories.
  • I presented two sessions at our district staff development day on January 30th One  was a choice session about teaching argument and evidence, using resources from my good friend, author Erik Palmer’s latest book, Good Thinking. The other was a session for 6th and 7th grade Social Studies teachers on the ideas (questions and signposts) from Kylene Beers and Bob Probst’s book Reading Nonfiction: Notice & Note Stances, Signposts & Strategies . During this session, I also shared sketch noting (channeling my good friend and author Matt Miller) and #booksnaps (a genius way to use the app Snapchat, from the mind of Tara Martin).
  • I planned and facilitated the opening activities for our district Middle School Experience Committee. January’s activity was Anchors of Appreciation from Lead Like a Pirate (courtesy of leaders/authors Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf). In February, we all engaged in a “What If?” activity from The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros.
  • Speaking of The Innovator’s Mindset, I joined the 2nd round of George’s #IMMOOC  (Massive Open Online Course), which begins today. If you haven’t already signed up…go ahead and join. You’ll be glad you did.
  • I’m also in a smaller book study w/two fellow coaches as part of our professional growth plans. We’ll share our love for the ideas in this book with all of the other coaches next month. And hopefully, we can eventually share with the staff at our four other secondary buildings.
  • I presented #tlap (Teach Like a Pirate by teacher/author Dave Burgess) engagement strategies (specifically Ask & Analyze) to probationary teachers at three secondary buildings. There was even interest in starting a #tlap book study this spring. A fellow coach and I are in the planning stages. Excited!
  • Thanks to the friendship and collaboration with teacher/author Vicki Meigs-Kahlenberg , we submitted a proposal for #NCTE2017. Our hope is to share rebel resources for ELA teachers to help bring back the joy for teachers and students. Fingers crossed that our proposal will be accepted come May, and we can rock the room this November in St. Louis. It would be my 3rd consecutive NCTE presentation.
  • I’ve been fortunate to be involved in our district’s secondary Blended Learning Collaborative, led by one of our technology leaders. Last week, we learned more about Flipgrid, a site/app I’ve been using for a few years to amplify student voice. I was very impressed with the increased capabilities, and already helped get one teacher’s account up and running.
  • And just last week, I hosted #Ditchbook (a weekly Twitter chat) that encouraged participants to use results of this Bartle Test to determine students’ gamer personalities and better differentiate for increased engagement. I incorporated gamification (from author Michael Matera’s book, Explore Like a Pirate) last spring in my ELA classes, and was amazed at how it transformed my teaching.

     In addition to the above, and my instructional coach responsibilities, I have continued (and will continue) to share varied book titles with students at the schools I work at. I always find time to read books and enjoy tweeting book cover pictures and titles.
      Overall, I am pleased with my ability to remain relevant to the different PLNs and communities I’ve connected with in recent years. Revisiting this #OneWord will keep me motivated throughout the upcoming months of 2017.

I hope you click on the many hyperlinks in this post, since it’s always my pleasure to share the work and brilliance of others.

Until next time…

Sunday, January 8, 2017

My #OneWord for 2017: RELEVANCE

As I considered my #oneword for 2017, I couldn't help but reflect on the decision I made in August. 

  • The decision to apply for a secondary Instructional Coach position and take a 3-year leave from the classroom...where I taught English, which is my passion! 
  • The decision to use the experience and resources I've gained from over 20 years in the classroom, and to draw upon my incredible PLN (professional learning network) to support and inspire fellow educators. 
  • The decision to no longer have students of my own, and to no longer have that direct impact on their excitement for reading, writing and speaking. 
  • The decision to pack up my entire classroom in 2 days, and move as much as I could to my new office in a different middle school. 
  • The decision to build relationships with educators who cover all subject areas, getting to know their strengths and finding ways I could add value. 
  • The decision to move from sharing the engaging things my students and I are doing, to sharing the amazing things the teachers in my buildings are doing. 
  • The decision to move from teacher to coach.

It's been a wonderful four months so far, and I've enjoyed getting to know the amazing staff at both of my buildings (a middle school and a small high school). The opportunity to visit classrooms and witness the variety of teaching styles, strategies and student learning experiences has been valuable. I have grown and learned in many ways through the coaching and leadership training provided by my district, and have developed a camaraderie with my talented fellow coaches.

However, the further I'm removed from my time in the classroom, I wonder if I'll have enough value to give back to my PLN. 

Will I continue to be relevant?

And that's why my #oneword for 2017 is RELEVANCE.

My hope is to maintain relevance as an English teacher, as a Nerdy Book Club member, as a #tlap (Teach Like a Pirate) teacher, and as a #ditchbook (Ditch That Textbook) teacher. 

As much as I am inspired by the incredible experiences that members of my PLN create for their students, I want to always be resourceful in return. 
I want to continue blogging about my educational philosophy.
About the teaching ideas I'm fortunate to witness in my building.
About the amazing ideas shared in Twitter chats and Facebook groups, on educational blogs, during edcamps and teacher conferences, and by word of mouth. 

I want to read as many new books as I can, and connect with the plethora of phenomenal authors who continue to write amazing stories. I want to find ways to share that book love with students in my schools, throughout my district, and among the many teachers I've met because I chose to be a connected educator.

No, for the next three years, I won't have a classroom of students that call me their English teacher. However, I'm determined to remain relevant to my teaching profession, to my beliefs about teaching Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, to my rebel/renegade/innovator mindset, and to the community (my PLN) that I'm proud to be part of.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

How Watching Game of Thrones Helped Me Appreciate Rereading

Yes, I finished my month-long binge watching of all 6 seasons (60 episodes...about 60 hours) of Game of Thrones last night. Incredible series with such deep character development and plot twists.

Funny thing is I rewatched episode 1 of the first season this morning, and discovered so much I never caught the first time around. Lots of foreshadowing and little character quirks I didn't notice upon first viewing.

Made me think about books, of course. There's something wonderful about rereading a book once, twice, or multiple times. You get something new out of each read. You notice things you didn't notice that first time.

So, if my students want to read the same book a few times, or pick up a book they have already read, I won't tell them they have to read a new book, or tell them that book doesn't count. I'll revel in their enjoyment and their joyful discovery of all that they didn't notice the first time.

With all of the new books coming out every day/week, it was hard to justify reading a book again. Now, I won't feel guilty reading All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, Winger by Andrew Smith or the Unwind series by Neal Shusterman. I'm sure I'll discover something new. There's lots of value in doing that.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Connectating (credit goes to Chuck Taft) at Summer Spark, 2016

Whew...another fabulous Summer Spark is in the books.

How did that happen?

It seems like I was just driving the 5 1/2 hours to Milwaukee and posting selfies to indicate how many hours until my arrival.

It seems like only yesterday that I saw my good friend Heidi Jones at Applebees and met pirate educators Shelley Burgess @burgess_shelley , Quinn Rollins @jedikermit, Julie Smith @julnilsmith , Don Wettrick @DonWettrick , and Lori London @SciTeach7Davis .

So great to give head #ditchbooker Matt Miller a big hug. We met for the first time last year at Spark.

Just like anything you look forward to, it always seems like it's over in the blink of an eye. So before the memories become a little less vivid and time takes me further from June 13-14, 2016 on the calendar, here's my reflection on this incredible experience.


The first day of Spark started with a delicious buffet breakfast in the USM (University School of Milwaukee) gym. It's always fun to connect with friends: some I had met last year, and others I was meeting for the first time. So fun to see Ku Yau-Jau @yaujauku and Brian Durst @RESP3CTtheGAME , and to chat with Christine Hodges @Christineah88, Lori London and Julie Smith.

Then, it was time for the incredible keynote from Innovator's Mindset author George Couros @gcouros . Such an invigorating message of moving beyond a growth mindset. My morning sessions included Gamification with Tisha Redmond @tishrich . I had only connected with Tisha during our weekly Wednesday #xplap chats. She shared some amazing ways she has gamified her culinary arts class. I can't wait to adapt Chopped and The Amazing Race for my ELA classes.
Next, I had the opportunity to learn about leading like a pirate from the fabulous Shelley Burgess, I also got to hang out with Ku, as we used items in our purse/bag for an extreme hook challenge. After a delicious lunch, I learned from the gamification guru himself, Michael Matera @mrmatera. He shared lots of ways to add items/badges/currency to my existing ELA gamification. His ideas made me so excited for a full year of gamification next year. My final session on day one was a session on Media Literacy by the Queen BS Detector, Julie Smith. She reinforced the importance of teaching our students to look at all media with a critical lens. I know I won't look at media the same way again.

That night, I had the opportunity to have dinner with many participants, including Ben Brazeau @Braz74 who moderates #sstlap on Thursday nights. Then, I headed over to the Chancery for a live tweetup of #tlap. Led by Shelley Burgess, and attended by many fabulous pirate educators and authors like Andrea @andreakornowski and Sean @polonerd , it was quite an invigorating experience. 

Day 2 started with a quick breakfast and meet/greet after coming in to USM through pouring rain. Our keynote was given by none other than Pure Genius author Don Wettrick. He is simply amazing and inspired all in the theater to practice the "Six Traits" of Innovation. That which is: Collaborative, Task-Oriented, Daring, Relevant, Reflective and Ongoing. He shared some work his students have done...simply mind-blowing! It's amazing what the right teacher and freedom to innovate can do. Thanks for all you do, Don!

I attended a few unconference (edcamp) sessions about social deduction games and gamification in the elementary classroom, Then, I chatted over lunch with friends following a BreakoutEdu session led by Rebecca Gauthier @GauthierRebecca. So glad I had the chance to experience a Breakout, and I can't wait to add this component to my Gamification. I had fun getting my pirate books signed by these fine authors.

Then I had the opportunity to attend another session on social media, debunking Facebook, with Julie Smith. She really knows her stuff. We learned about some great resources and tools to help our students better analyze what they see on social media. Such an important skill.

Finally, it was time for my session on teaching argument and persuasion. Although it was a small group, those in attendance learned how to build and develop argument and reasoning skills with their students, that can lead to effective persuasion. Two attendees received copies of Erik Palmer's @erik_palmer new book, Good Thinking. Thanks to Erik for donating them.

Now I look toward another amazing year teaching middle school English, standing on the shoulders of these amazing educators, their inspiring books, and the plethora of creative ideas. Thanks to Chuck Taft @Chucktaft , Pam Nosbusch @PamelaNosbusch  and Will Piper @wdpiper for igniting my SPARK once again. Already planning for June 12-13, 2017.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Real-World Writing Connection...Using House Hunters



 On Friday, I shared pictures of my students engaged in a writing activity using a House Hunters episode. Many asked for more information, so I thought I'd write about it in a post.

I like to teach Kelly Gallagher's Six Real-World Writing Purposes, and have used this activity for the past few years when we get to Evaluate and Judge. For this activity, I choose a House Hunters episode (one of my favorites is Jed and Alisa & Coco)  to use as our data (and evidence).

Our first step is to watch the episode and take notes (here is our form) about the couple, their budget, and their wish list (both separate and together). Then, we view more of the episode, continuing to take notes on the pros/cons of all three houses the couple toured.

After the first two houses, students practice speaking skills (PVLEGS) by standing up and verbalizing the differences and similarities between them. This evaluation step is important so students can talk out their ideas before writing. In addition, the other students are able to hear others' perspectives. We have had some interesting discussions about what's a "deal breaker." Does the fact that a house didn't have a fireplace trump a poor location? If all three houses had updated kitchens and were all over budget, could those criteria be considered in the final decision? What were minor fixes and what would require some serious cash and time? These are all questions my students may need to ask when they look for a house or apartment some day. The real world aspect increases student engagement.

Finally, each student chooses which house is the best for the couple in the House Hunters episode, and write 1-2 paragraphs as Part One (using this form in Notability). They need to include specific details as evidence to support their choice, and they are expected to add some comparing/contrasting to the houses they did not choose. As an extension, I encourage the inclusion of a syllogism as they discuss the different criteria and options that led to their choice. We learned about syllogisms earlier in the year. I remind the students to avoid focusing on their own favorite; instead, to refer back to the couple's wish lists to determine the best choice.

The next day, we watch the reveal portion of the House Hunters episode, where the couple will make their decision. Part Two of this activity is where the students judge the couple's decision. Do they understand and agree with their reasoning? How do the students feel about their own choice after hearing what the couple decided. Does the couple's decision change their mind? Why or why not? Do the students think the couple made the best decision for them? They write down their thoughts.

Part Three is where the students get to choose the house they would like best, and write about how it would work for their family. Since no house is perfect right away, students include what they need to do in order to make this house better for their family. They enjoy this part, since all along-they have been focused on which house they would pick anyways.

I have used this activity over the past few years, and each year I add something new and improved. This year, the actual writing was done on Notability and shared back through our Schoology course. I'm also adding a flipgrid speaking component. I love this tool and haven't used it nearly enough recently. Students will prepare (utilizing Erik Palmer's ACOVA) and practice their (2 minutes or less) evaluation in Part One or Part Three. Once a student is happy with their recording, they'll give the OK to share their flipgrid with the class. I'm gamifying my classroom this spring (following Michael Matera's XPLap model), so I'm excited to include a side quest for XP points. Students can research and share details about a house they'd consider purchasing (in our area or an area they would like to live), relating their choice to their own wishes and needs.This is an optional extension, but those students who identified as Achievers on our Bartle Test will likely do it to get a higher ranking on our Leaderboard.

In the words of Dave Burgess, I didn't just create a writing/speaking/listening lesson. I created an experience that my students will remember.

Watching House Hunters in the classroom as a teaching tool? Who knew?

Give it a try.