Modifying Teaching to Clarify Instructional Outcomes

4. Content Knowledge – The teacher uses content area knowledge, learning standards, appropriate pedagogy and resources to design and deliver curricula and instruction to impact student learning.

4.2 Setting Instructional Outcomes
All the instructional outcomes are clear, written in the form of student learning. Most suggest viable methods of assessment.

When teaching students about art and design, it is important to not only utilize academic learning standards, but to also communicate to students how to use mediums and materials correctly. In order for instructional outcomes to be clear, they need to be written clearly but also demonstrated in a manner that students can understand; in other words, how will students achieve the production of a final piece of art? Also, students need to be guided to express themselves creatively. This can be a particular challenge with creative projects. While guidelines need to be provided to students, their work should also display their individuality and self-expression.

Prior to setting instructional outcomes and teaching a given lesson, an art teacher must also carefully plan how students will use materials to create their work of art. This is similar to teaching any core subject material. It is important to begin with the learning standards then determine what resources are available to guide students to learn how to meet those educational goals. For the following lesson, the learning standard is GLE:1.1.4 Applies, analyzes, and creates the element texture when producing a work of art (Dorn et. al., 2014, p. 129). In this particular lesson, students are experimenting with block printing materials in order to create reduction prints, showing implied texture rather than actual texture on their final pieces. While the goal of the lesson is to have students better understand how using a given medium will create implied texture in diverse ways, students also need to understand how the materials are appropriately used to do so. Figures 1 and 2 are images of the materials students will use to create their block prints. Prior to allowing students to use these materials, they must be shown the process of block printing in a series of demonstrations. One block printing assignment needs to be taught in a series of lessons, showing students each step of the process. Students will address the learning target and objective of the project, but may not fully address and reflect on this until the final critique, when the series of lessons are completed. This is because students must experience the process prior to fully reflecting on their learning experience.

On day one of the lesson series, students can be introduced to the learning target, “I will compare visual, implied textures using a reduction printing process.” Students will examine samples of various block prints and will be presented with a rubric addressing the goals/outcomes that are expected of the assignment. Then students will be briefly introduced to the reduction printing process. They will need to understand that they will make three-layered minimum prints with 3 minimum colors. Each layer will need to have a reduction or a layer carved away from their printing blocks. They will examine and share how different prints show different types of implied texture. The teacher will then have students sketch concepts on paper that they will later be transferred to their printing blocks. While students could immediately start sketching ideas, it is important that they understand the basics of the process and the goals of the lesson, prior to planning out sketches for their final piece of art.

The next day, students will prepare to finalize their sketches into final drawings and will then transfer the drawings to the soft cut printing blocks. The teacher will gather students for another demonstration in order to prepare them to perform this process correctly. Students will also be informed of the carving process, and the challenges of using carving tools and how their drawings may need to be adjusted in order to be practical and easier to carve out. Students will be reminded of the learning target and the objectives of the project, will then transfer their sketches to the blocks, and will outline their sketches with sharpie.

On day three, students will be introduced to the full carving and printing process. This should be done in unison so that students can plan their carving and printing steps, further understanding the design, reduction, and layering process. They will be shown materials that they are most likely unfamiliar with. The teacher will outline expectations and care for these materials as well as processes to get varying results and textures. Students will also be made aware of the responsibilities of allowing plenty of time for cleanup. The printing process is expected to move at different paces for students. On the first day of printing, students are expected only to experiment and sample paint colors on different backgrounds, further planning out their final designs. Students should be made aware that they should spend the full class period doing this, potentially even longer. Most students are usually excited to use these materials and need to be shown how much paint to use, how to roll the paint effectively on the carved block, how to lay and line the prints up, how to press the print using a transfer roller, and how to create the next two layers of color using a reduction process.


Figure 1: Print rollers and block printing ink


Figure 2: Standard block printing materials from

On day four, students will review the printing process with their teacher and will be asked to share any surprises or frustrations they had when experimenting with the medium. Students should be questioned to see if they have any relevant feedback in regard to how they found new ways of creating implied texture through their processes. The teacher will then demonstrate how students should print their finals, using a large manila envelop as their canvas. Students will be asked to use what they learned from their experiments to create a pattern on the envelope using implied texture. The remainder of the period and the next class will be utilized to allow students to finish their projects. While many students may still be carving, this preview allows others to continue their projects and remain engaged in their project. Pacing and flow of a project can be a particular classroom management challenge in an art room with multiple projects. Appropriately transitioning into each activity by diversifying instruction for a variety of learners helps eliminate many classroom behavior problems (Marzano, 2007).

As final projects begin to develop, students will prepare for a classroom critique. Because students will work at a different pace throughout the project, the critique is to be scheduled in advance to motivate slower workers to complete their projects in a timely fashion. Student work will be posted on the wall and evaluated by peers and the teacher based on a set of guidelines such as those shown in figure four.


Figure 3: Sample of final block print


Figure 4: Critique guidelines

After co-teaching and seeing students create these prints, I made several modifications to the initial lesson as it was planned to include various discussion points and a critique at the end of the lesson sequence. Having learned that some students were not as motivated as others to thoroughly plan out their designs, the discussions and addressing the learning targets during each new period were effective ways to deliver curricula and instruction to facilitate that students understood that there were clear expectations. Also, a critique at the end of the project is an appropriate method for students to express their understandings of the learning target while also providing feedback to their peers. In college relevant design courses, this form of discussion is another element to persuade student engagement in the activity and to allow them to reflect and demonstrate student voice.

After experiencing this project, I’m going to plan methods to overlap project phases to make adjustments for students work pace, in order to help effectively manage my classroom. I also intend to have additional motivational activities for students that finish early and may have early finishers help with other tasks such as cleaning the kiln and maintaining the classroom space. Lastly, I intend to have students critique each other’s work, in order to maintain appropriate evaluation and reflection of the project’s objectives. Students will also be given an opportunity after critiques to evaluate their individual work and to grade themselves using the rubric, prior to me grading their project. While the lesson itself was effective, these subtle changes will help students develop a deeper understanding of the project and the goals of the objective.


Dorn, R. I., Kanikeberg, K., & Burke, A. (August 2014). Washington state K-12 the arts: Options for implementing the arts standards through visual arts by grade level. Olympia: OSPI.

Marzano, R. J. (2007). The art and science of teaching. Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.




Reflecting on Instructional Outcomes: Using Assessment and Evaluating Lesson Results

4. Content Knowledge – The teacher uses content area knowledge, learning standards, appropriate pedagogy and resources to design and deliver curricula and instruction to impact student learning.

4.2 Setting Instructional Outcomes
All the instructional outcomes are clear, written in the form of student learning. Most suggest viable methods of assessment.

Instructional outcomes should be developed with relevant learning standards in mind. Using a backwards design approach to planning, an instructor should reference learning standards in order to determine the central focus and learning targets of a given lesson. This practice would then drive the following instruction, activities, and assessments of a given lesson. When assessing students for understanding, they should be assessed to see whether they are meeting the goals of the learning target, or instructional outcomes. Assessments and instructional outcomes should be built into the structure of a lesson plan and learning targets should be posted for students to see and interpret throughout the course of a lesson.

An instructor can verify if students are meeting the goals of a learning target by using formative and summative assessment strategies. But in order to do this, those assessments and instructional outcomes need to be planned in advance, utilizing learning standards in order to plan effectively. Figure 1 shows the introduction of a lesson plan, outlining the lesson title, learning standards, central focus, academic language, learning target, lesson introduction, instruction, and formative assessment. Prior to student exploration of new content knowledge, students are provided with instruction and are assessed providing them with enough background knowledge to be successful.

Observation 1_Math

Figure 1: Math lesson introduction with formative assessment

In the sample above, students are assessed to see if they understand new content. If the majority of the class is showing evidence of understanding, the teacher can move on with the next activity. Formative assessment is structured throughout the lesson, and during formative assessments, there are planned alternatives if students are showing evidence of struggle with meeting the instructional outcomes measured by the learning target. Figure 2 illustrates an outline of the remainder of the lesson, adding formative assessments as checkpoints to evaluate student understanding of the learning target, and a closure evaluation of student voice, to assess student understanding of the learning target.

Observation 1_Math

Figure 2: Remainder of lesson with formative assessment and assessment of student voice

This lesson provides an example of how a teaching can be preplanned and structured in order to provide clear instructional outcomes. When designing this lesson, I began with the learning standards in order to provide activities that were engaging but also assessments that measured student growth relevant to the central focus/learning target. Assessments were preplanned to evaluate student understanding of what I was teaching but also to make adjustments to the plan if this was not successful. After teaching this lesson, I learned that I needed to make the following adjustments to my lesson plan…

  • Document in the plan how the learning target will be introduced and relate it to past knowledge and academic language.
  • Plan elaborate interrogations when questioning students to have students provide evidence of a deeper understanding of the content (Marzano, 2007).
  • When issuing an exit ticket, there could have been a period of reflection and demonstration of understanding of the learning target, providing one more opportunity to assess students.
  • During formative assessments, a plan should be documented for the students who aren’t grasping an understanding of the content. For example, if 20% of students don’t understand the new material, the teacher could use ability grouping to provide more instruction to that 20%.

These noted adjustments are based on the notes of an observation of the lesson that was taught. While the majority of students demonstrated understanding of this material, these changes could provide a more effective lesson. Furthermore, providing more discussion and discourse relevant to the learning target would deepen student understandings of that content. This would have been very helpful to a few students that were struggling with the lesson. Making adjustments to teaching based on the feedback from others, evaluating student data, and reflection of learning activities are all methods of appropriate pedagogy (Marzano, 2007). During my first year of teaching, I plan to consistently adjust in these ways in order to plan more effective instructional outcomes.


Marzano, R. J. (2007). The art and science of teaching. Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Reflecting on Teaching: Reconstructing Lessons to Be More Effective

2. Instruction – The teacher uses research-based instructional practices to meet the needs of all students.

2.3 Reflecting on Teaching
Teacher makes an accurate assessment of a lesson’s effectiveness and the extent to which it achieved its instructional outcomes and can cite general references to support the judgment.

Math lessons, whether they are provided by a curriculum or of the teacher’s original design, may not cover all of the essential understanding required by a unit assessment. In other words, each lesson’s effectiveness will vary based on the population of students and their current background knowledge. While I’ve been teaching elementary mathematics, I’ve noticed opportunities where I can expand on students’ knowledge. For example, when recently grading math assignments, it was clear that several students were exhibiting difficulty with writing about mathematics. While most students showed that they were developing computational fluency they typically responded to a story problem with a picture or an equation rather than writing explanations. Also, most students were not using academic vocabulary in their writing. In other words, assignments would specifically call for explanation and students would write very simplistic responses.

When evaluating the math curriculum, there weren’t many strategies in place to teach these skills, at least at this point in the school year. I decided to utilize this evidence to design a lesson on problem solving. This fell in line with the curriculum and provided an opportunity for students to engage in some deeper level thinking about problem solving. After I introduced this lesson, the learning target, I can utilize models to represent equations with mixed numbers, was discussed as a class, providing a deeper understanding of why models are helpful to use in mathematics while also reviewing academic vocabulary. In a previous lesson, students were introduced to the vocabulary Proper Fraction, Improper Fraction, and Mixed Number. During the introduction to this lesson, students were reintroduced to these terms but with visual models associated with them (Figures 1 and 2).

Material 3_2

Figure 1: Poster presented in a previous lesson.


Figure 2: Poster utilizing models, presented for this lesson.

After some direct instruction presenting a background on problem solving (see Figure 3) and assessment of student understanding of the learning target, I then passed out fraction strips; students had used fraction strips on previous assignments.


Figure 3: Slide presented for discussion prior to problem-solving activity.

Students were also given a packet containing four story problems, presenting each problem on a graphic organizer along with steps for students to explain their thinking. Using the document camera, the first problem was reviewed and solved with students, evaluating their understanding of the assignment and presenting them with one strategy to solve the first problem. After circulating, I realized that students were also struggling with the second problem. I reviewed this problem with them as well, noting that it required some higher-level thinking (students couldn’t solve this as easily because they had to convert mixed numbers to improper fractions, something that was a newer concept to them at the time). Students continued to work in pairs to solve the remaining two problems. As I circulated, I noticed that several students were really enjoying the lesson. I also noticed that some were struggling with drawing out the fraction strips. I continued to provide help to individual students when necessary.

After the lesson and while reviewing student work samples, I noticed that most students were able to solve problems utilizing computational procedures, yet some still struggled with the deeper thinking processes of using fraction strips and drawing models. Also, many students struggled with explaining in written form how they would use fraction strips to solve a problem as represented in Figures 4 and 5.


Figure 4: Student work sample; written work requires little explanation.


Figure 5: Student work sample; written work requires little explanation and model does not represent fraction strips.

Being the first time they had been introduced to an assignment like this, I decided I will reintroduce a similar assignment again. As described by Marzano (2007), repeated exposure and revisions to content will help them retain and build on prior knowledge. Rather than provide this exact format, I plan to make changes to the assignment. First, students will be presented with one or possibly two problems. Four problems presented too much work and less of the deeper level thinking I was hoping for. Students should also be able to use a visual model that works for them, communicating that there is more than one way to solve a problem. This will also provide opportunities for students to present different ideas to their classmates. I may introduce one problem prior to the start of a math lesson, to get students in that frame of mind. Lastly, I will utilize even more opportunities to gather evidence of student voice, reflecting on the problem solving activity with them, after it is complete and how they accomplished the goals of the learning target.

In conclusion, due to the evidence provided by student work samples, it is clear that this class needs more instruction on how to explain their thinking. Similar to their writing assignments, students will be asked to describe their thinking using academic vocabulary words. During assignments containing story problems, I will edit the instructions with sentence frames and prompts to assist students in acknowledging the expectations provided by the verb “explain”. The more they practice explaining mathematic strategies, the more likely they’ll be to write this thinking on paper. I will also introduce a representation of this activity again, providing more practice after students gain more understanding and instruction in regard to their writing about mathematics.


Marzano, R. J. (2007). The art and science of teaching. Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.


Communication and Preparation to Facilitate Academic Success

5. Learning Environment – The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional and intellectual well-being.

5.3 Managing Classroom Procedures through Performance of Noninstructional Duties
Efficient systems for performing noninstructional duties are in place, resulting in minimal loss of instructional time.

7. Families and Community – The teacher communicates and collaborates with students, families and all educational stakeholders in an ethical and professional manner to promote student learning.

7.1 Communicating with Families
Teacher communicates with families about students’ progress on a regular basis, respecting cultural norms, and is available as needed to respond to family concerns.

There are many circumstances that promote teacher communication with families, but none more than the academic progress of students in the classroom. There are many methods of communicating with families about student progress, i.e. email, conferences, report cards, classroom events, utilizing parent volunteers, frequently updating the classroom website, and issuing letters home, to name a few. While many teachers may prefer one or two methods of communication due to time restraints, it is helpful to develop a plan to facilitate that all parents are aware of the child’s progress in the classroom. Tracking student progress and utilizing methods for students to regularly check-in with parents on that progress should be inclusive in a well-tailored classroom management plan. Students can also be taught to take the initiative to implement communication with their parents while also regulating their progress. One method I’ve recently seen is an excellent model of how to help motivate students to catch up on missing assignments while also providing communication to parents about this missing work.

Many times, students’ grades may be low due to missing work. This work may be missing for a variety of reasons, missing names on papers, an absence/illness, the student lost the assignment, the student forgot to complete the work, the student is periodically learning in another classroom when a lesson/assignment takes place, and so on. While there may be students that turn in every assignment on time, there are still going to be those that struggle with this task. It is important that students are motivated to complete work while also building an understanding of responsibility. Also, in order to prepare elementary students for higher, academic grade levels, they should learn self-management skills by taking responsibility for their assigned tasks. As mentioned byWong & Wong (2009), “self-discipline is what discipline is all about” (p.156).

One strategy that I’ve recently seen in my internship placement and plan to implement in my own classroom is the 100% Club. With this strategy, the teacher periodically compiles a list of missing work for each student, perhaps every month. If students are missing more than five assignments on this list, the list is sent home to parents to sign. Once students receive their lists, they are then introduced to the 100% Club reward for that month (usually a party, extra recess, or another fun academic activity). Students are given a deadline to complete their missing work in their own time and turn it in for partial credit. If students with missing work complete all missing assignments, then those students are entered in that month’s 100% Club. Students that had already turned in missing assignments will be automatically entered into the club. While this strategy rewards students, they are not receiving treats and stickers for their self-discipline. Rather, they are working toward a privilege or realistic goal. While treats can be effective in some cases, self-discipline cannot be taught with constant treats and rewards (Wong & Wong, 2009).

In order for this method to be realistically effective, it is also important to reduce additional work for the classroom teacher. At the beginning of the school year, students are taught to be self-sufficient by finding their own missing assignments. The lists that are presented to the students have numbers provided on each missing assignment. Missing worksheets and homework have corresponding numbers to the list and are located in the extras bin, shown in figures 1 and 2. For example, if a student is missing an assignment titled Writing, 3. Opinion Paragraph, the student would look in the Writing folder for assignment number 3. If a student previously turned in the assignment and believes it is mistakenly on the list, they may also check the No Name folder prior to asking their teacher for help. This is a proactive intervention strategy; intervention strategies should be preplanned to prepare for behavioral problems in advance, utilizing a proactive approach to these scenarios rather than a reactive one (Fay & Funk, 1995). Proactive teachers plan for behavioral situations and seek methods to motivate students to be successful. Reactive teachers are more likely to be inconsistent with discipline, also lacking effective communication with students and families (Wong & Wong, 2009).


Figure 1: Extras bin in 4th grade classroom


Figure 2: Subject folders and extra assignments located in classroom extras bin

Students are not only learning to take responsibility for themselves, but are also facilitating a deeper communication with parents on their progress by having these lists signed. While witnessing this system in progress, I noticed that for most students, this really helped motivate kids to finish incomplete work in their free time. There are situations that required some adjusting to help motivate students with special needs. For example, students on IEPs may be missing many assignments. Their parents would still be notified but they may have a modification to only be expected to turn in a percentage of the missing work (this is all determined on an individual basis and the needs of the individual student). Other students may have poor attendance outside of their control. The teacher may set up a discussion with the parents/administrator and work out an agreement to have a percentage of missing assignments to be turned in. Finding ways to target social competency skills and incorporate student interest and passion can help students build their skills, while increasing motivation, engagement, and positive peer interactions (Lanou et al. 2011 and Stitchter et al, 2011). Making accommodations for struggling learners can help them become more motivated to be academically successful.

In my own classroom, I plan to have many layers of communication with parents that will be outlined in my classroom management plan. The 100% Club seems to be one method that easily provides motivation to students and communication to parents about their academic progress. Without regular communication home to parents about student progress, it may be difficult to understand why students are succeeding and struggling. Utilizing a variety of communication methods helps the instructor to reach parents before final grades are issued. Furthermore, this communication provides opportunities for students to take the initiative to try to improve their academic progress. Lastly, implementation of communication needs to be realistic in order for it to be possible. Providing systems for students to learn to take on responsibility for their actions helps provide more opportunities for this communication.


Fay, J. & Funk, D. (1995). Teaching with love and logic; Taking control of the classroom. Golden, CO: The Love and Logic Press.

Lanou, A. Hough, L., & Powell, E. (2011). Case studies on using strengths and interests to address the needs of students with autism spectrum disorders. Intervention in School and Clinic, 47. 175-182. doi: 10.1177/1053451211423819.

Stichter, J.P., O’Connor, K.V., Herzog, M.J., Lierheimer, K., & McGhee, S.D. (2011). Social competence intervention for elementary students with Aspergers syndrome and high functioning autism. Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders, 42. 354-366. doi:10.1007/s10803-011-1249-2.

Wong, H. K. & Wong R. T. (2009). The first days of school: How to be an effective teacher. Malaysia: Harry K. Wong Publications, Inc.

Utilization of the ASSURE Model: Integrating Technology into an Existing Lesson

2. Instruction – The teacher uses research-based instructional practices to meet the needs of all students.

2.3 Reflecting on Teaching
Teacher makes an accurate assessment of a lesson’s effectiveness and the extent to which it achieved its instructional outcomes and can cite general references to support the judgment.


When designing lessons and units to not only meet state standards and objectives but also to meet the needs of all learners, it is important to evaluate and revise lessons in order to improve them. During the 2016 summer quarter of my graduate program at Seattle Pacific University, I participated in a course on learning how to utilize technology in the classroom. As a course requirement, I was to find ways to integrate technology into an existing second grade math lesson using the ASSURE model. This is an instructional design model developed by Heinich, Molenda, Russell, and Smaldino (1999), utilized to help integrate technology into a lesson or unit plan. The acronym, ASSURE stands for Analyze learners, State standards and objectives, Select strategies and resources, Utilize resources, Require learner participation, and Evaluate and revise. The original lesson and the final lesson and the associated final lesson artifacts are attached in the PDFs below…

Original Lesson

Final Lesson


First of all, an outline of the ASSURE model process and how it was utilized for this lesson can be viewed on the PDF below…

ASSURE Model and Phases

As you can see in this document, an analyzing process, basically outlining a consensus of the student population and an understanding of the needs of this population was included in Phase II. As this lesson was previously designed with the intent to meet the needs of a diverse student population, not many modifications needed to be made here. Secondly, after analyzing the target audience of the lesson, the learning standards and objectives are addressed. The ASSURE model basically utilizes a backwards design approach to lesson planning, only this model begins with the learners rather than the state standards and objectives.

The remainder of this process such as selecting strategies and resources, utilizing those resources, and requiring learner participation helps guide the lesson designer in revising learning to utilize the available resources in the school/classroom.


After utilizing the ASSURE model to manipulate and tweak an existing lesson, I was better able to take a step back to see what could be better integrated into this learning environment. I found that the original lesson did not utilize a lot of technology or classroom resources but rather only utilized one cooperative learning activity. By using this model, I discovered that I could further diversify student learning by integrating technology into direct instruction, adding rotating stations where students could practice using new knowledge in a variety of ways, and allowing time for group and independent practice. The original lesson while effective was far less flexible for a diverse group of learners.


If I were to make modifications to this lesson, I might break it into two lessons with the same learning target. This lesson as it stands is ambitious for some classrooms and there may not be enough time available to complete all of this in one day. This of course depends on the classroom and how math time is managed. In my ideal classroom, lesson time should not be rushed and therefore math should not be offered every day in order to provide the same length of time for other subject areas. Furthermore, not every classroom will have access to the same resources therefore workstations may need to be flexible. For example, not all teachers have access to iPads. Lastly, there is a lot of prep needed for a lesson of this caliber therefore students need to understand rules and expectations for rotations and use of electronic equipment. This lesson would therefore be most successful in a classroom that is prepped for these activities and this type of lesson would consistently repeat throughout the year. For example, students would learn how to rotate to different work stations, use iPads, use computers, use the interactive whiteboard, etc. at the beginning of the year and would follow suit as the year progresses. Student voice forms would also be consistently used throughout the year and so on.


The ASSURE model was useful in this exercise and I may utilize again down the road. The process of reflection and adjustments to meet the needs of the classroom is important and very useful.

Introducing Elementary Students to Online Expectations

5. Learning Environment – The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional and intellectual well-being.

5.4 Managing Student Behavior by Establishing Expectations
Standards of conduct are clear to all students.

When focusing on methods to incorporate a safe and inclusive elementary classroom, the teacher should provide opportunities for students to understand online safety. Classroom teachers are so bombarded with their every day academic curriculum requirements that this instruction can be easily overlooked. Many times, it is assumed that students understand how to behave and treat each other in an online forum. Ribble & Miller (2013) point out the fact that “…many students are using technology without awareness of technology use etiquette and/or Digital Citizenship requirements” (p. 142). It is important to instill this expectation at the beginning of the year, prior to allowing students to use the Internet. Furthermore, students shouldn’t be told the rules and expectations when participating in online activities, but rather, should be taught them through a process of understanding and reflection. Some would argue that there isn’t time for this but in a well-managed classroom, these expectations could be established at the beginning of the year and reinforced as online assignments come up.

Students need to be taught about online safety at their learning level. Fortunately, there are many resources for teachers to utilize in order to teach responsible online etiquette at all grade levels. First, the transfer of handling strangers in “real life” to those in virtual environments is not automatic. It needs to be taught (Hertz, 2012, paragraph 3). For example, younger students may not grasp what adults mean by “cyber bullying” and thus will need to be introduced to this concept by learning about online safety and etiquette. BrainPOP and other educational sites have excellent resources such as videos, follow-up classroom activities (such as word walls and journal activities), and classroom discussion templates. Figure 1 shows an example of a BrainPOP video with an intended elementary audience.


Figure 1: BrainPOP Internet safety video (Internet Safety, n.d.)

There are also curriculum materials that can further assist students in understanding how to treat each other online. For example, students can participate in Socratic Seminars and classroom meetings. During these meetings they can be introduced to material based on their age levels. Englander (2010) outlines a curriculum that scaffolds lessons for each grade level. Figure 2 illustrates a sample of a word wall activity that can help introduce the concept of cyberbullying for a Kindergarten classroom.

Untitled Extract Pages

Figure 2: Kindergarten curriculum sample (Englander, 2010, p. 12).

Lastly, there are many resources online. is a great example of a web resource that has a variety of lesson plans for teachers. Figure 3 shows an example of a web page outlining learning materials for a lesson on cyberbullying. Teachers can download documents directly from this site.


Figure 3: Cyberbullying K-2 lesson (Screen out the mean, 2016).

Students should not be set forth to do work online without knowing online rules and expectations. Rather than allow a lesson on online safety be overwhelming, it could be helpful to include this education in a classroom management plan. Students are spending more time now than ever online so naturally, it would be important to prepare them to be successful. It should also never be assumed that students, especially at the elementary level, understand the rules and expectations for online behavior. In addition, there are a lot of online resources available to teachers if their school does not already have a plan in place.


Englander, E. K. (2010). K-5 curriculum: Bullying and cyberbullying prevention. Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center (MARC) at Bridgewater State University. Retrieved from

Hertz, M. B. (2012). How to teach Internet safety to younger elementary students. Edutopia. Retrieved from

Internet safety (n.d.) [Video file]. Retrieved from

Ribble, M. & Miller, T. M. (January 2013). Educational leadership in an online world: Connecting students to technology responsibly, safely, and ethically. Educational Leadership in an Online World, 17:1, 137-145. Retrieved from

Screen Out the Mean (K-2): What can you do when someone is mean to you online? (2016). [Image of website]. Common Sense Media Inc. Retrieved from

Project Based Learning: Engaging Learners with Diverse Resources

4. Content Knowledge– The teacher uses content area knowledge, learning standards, appropriate pedagogy and resources to design and deliver curricula and instruction to impact student learning.

4.3 Designing Coherent Instruction in the area of Learning Activities
All of the learning activities are suitable to students or to the instructional outcomes, and most represent significant cognitive challenge, with some differentiation for different groups of students.

There are many ways to interpret this program standard. By offering diverse activities that extend beyond the realm of the worksheet, a teacher is already striving to meet this standard. For example, when designing educational activities for upper elementary students, it is helpful to look into those students’ interests. Many students at this age level are highly involved in digital technology, utilizing resources such as smartphones, the web, social networking, and gaming. So when evaluating ways to engage those students, one may consider how elementary students utilize digital technology to engage in critical thinking. I’m going to briefly elaborate on a method to use a problem solving process to develop and expand students’ new knowledge. Having a museum design background, I have learned a great deal on a variety of topics; after a research phase I would then design exhibits in order to tell a story about that given subject matter. I found that I retained a great deal of information, many times on subjects I originally knew little about, by going through this process. Students could also benefit from communicating their learning through story telling; this can help students construct and apply new knowledge to a real world scenario. This social constructivist approach to instruction not only helps students explore new knowledge but also diversifies their learning and helps to engage them in their own interests.

Yang & Chang (2013) present a case study where students design a digital game utilizing a collaborative learning experience. As a result, their conclusions found that there were clear academic benefits to this type of activity. Students utilizing the DGA gaming software were showing increases in concentration and critical thinking skills compared to another group utilizing Flash software. Regardless of what software program students use, the concept of having students take their learning and create an experience allows them to meet Standard 4 as outlined by the 2007 ISTE National Educational Technology Standards (NETS•T) and Performance Indicators for Teachers (2008):


  1. Critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making

Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources.
a. Identify and define authentic problems and significant questions for investigation
b. Plan and manage activities to develop a solution or complete a project
c. Collect and analyze data to identify solutions and/or make informed decisions
d. Use multiple processes and diverse perspectives to explore alternative solutions
(ISTE standards for students, 2007, p.1)

In other words, rather than have students regurgitate information that is fed to them through rigorous testing and worksheet activities, students can instead solve real-world problems by engaging with new information.

With upper elementary students, this concept could be simplified by presenting a scenario where they can design a board game (rather than a video game) as the gaming software may be too advanced for this age group. Students can interact with technology by designing their board games utilizing graphics software such as ArtRage by Ambient Design Ltd. This software program or any similar simple graphics program can be utilized in the classroom by having students draft and design concepts prior to printing and producing a final product.


Figure 1: Purchase options for ArtRage software

The steps of this educational process could be outlined as a mini unit. For example, students could design a game for a social studies assignment. Perhaps fourth grade students are learning about geography to meet the EALR 3 standard as depicted in Figure 2. As course material is taught, students are starting to understand “…the physical characteristics, cultural characteristics, and location of places, regions and spatial patterns on the Earth’s surface” (p. 42). During a series of lessons, students will then learn to construct maps of the Oregon Trail; they can be assigned to a group to create a board game further elaborating on their research. Students can design the game by meeting a set of guidelines devised by this standard, such as designing a game with the “…starting location, the destination, the route, tribes along the route, geographic features that affected the route, and a title, captions, [and] symbols that describe the movement of the settlers” (p. 42). Some of these steps could add obstacles for the game players. Perhaps illness, starvation, mountain ranges, financial problems, etc. could create obstacles along the route for game players.

Social Studies Standards Version 1.2, January 2013

Figure 2: EALR standard 3.1.1 (OSPI, 2013).

In addition, students could be assigned to design roles in each group. All students in each group would participate in a research phase. This research could then be gathered to come up with design concepts. Each group could go through a design meeting where they all draw “napkin sketches – commonly utilized in architectural and design practice” and vote on their favorite. Kids could actually draw on napkins to make this even more entertaining As the design teams narrow down their ideas, they can then draft them utilizing a software application. These computer drawings can then be printed and used to create their games. Groups could further engage by using markers, notecards, dice, game pieces, and so on to finalize their games. Each group could then present their design process to the rest of the class telling how they came to their final product. Lastly, all students should play the games!

This is just one example of a learning activity that can engage all students. By incorporating a project-based learning experience, students can be assigned to roles within a group, focusing on the strengths of individual group members. During the process, students may work together but also individually within their groups, depending on how the unit is designed. While mini lessons throughout the unit provide foundational knowledge, students will drive their own learning as they take this knowledge and create their board games. Utilizing digital technology, students can take this a step further utilizing a resource they commonly may use outside of school (and if they don’t, they’ll gain more experience). Furthermore, when presenting their design process, they may even have opportunities to utilize presentation software to do so.

Prior to all learning activities, the teacher should never assume that students know how to use these resources. All software, printers, and other resources available should be presented to students prior to allowing them to practice. With scaffolded lesson design, this could be an opportunity to see extensive creativity and problem solving in the classroom.


ISTE standards for students (2007). International Society for Technology Education. Retrieved from

Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). (January 2013). Washington state K-12 social studies learning standards (version 1.2). Olympia, Washington. Retrieved from

Yang, Y. C., & Chang, C. (2013). Empowering students through digital game authorship: Enhancing concentration, critical thinking, and academic achievement. Computers & Education, 68, 334-344. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2013.05.023

Teaching Students to Utilize the Internet Appropriately for Research and Writing Projects

1. Expectations– The teacher communicates high expectations for student learning.

1.2 Communicating with Students
Teacher’s explanation of content is appropriate and connects with students’ knowledge and experience.

When elementary students are beginning research and writing projects, it is important to understand that most students will need an overview of expectations prior to beginning their research. While the library is an essential resource for student learning, I myself have witnessed students being directed to the library and/or the Internet without any prior instruction in regard to research expectations. Sharkey (2013) states students’ research rarely goes “…beyond the ‘grazing’ stage” (p. 34). When evaluating the appropriateness of a research activity, it is important to teach students how to research and what this process would entail. Hertz (2012) usually begins this process “…in the third grade just at the time where [her] students’ reading skills are such that they can feel successful and just at the time when they have mounds and mounds of natural curiosity” (2nd paragraph). While I can see variations of the process I will describe in earlier grade levels, it can be more encompassing when students have more experience with reading and internet/computer use.

The process I have found to be useful in providing students with opportunities to thoroughly research (and understand why they are researching) for a writing project falls in line with Standard 3 as outlined by the 2007 ISTE National Educational Technology Standards (NETS•T) and Performance Indicators for Teachers (2008):

  1. Research and information fluency
    Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information.
    a. Plan strategies to guide inquiry
    b. Locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media
    c. Evaluate and select information sources and digital tools based on the appropriateness to specific tasks
    d. Process data and report results
    (ISTE standards for students, 2007, p.1)

When interpreting this standard, it is important to plan lessons that capture student interest, review students’ prior knowledge of how to research information, how to organize and ethically use this information, how to use the information as well as cite it, and how to create final compositions including this utilized research. Sharkey (2013) further states that students who have access to various forms of technology such as “…cell phones, video games, and Internet surfing do not always have the necessary technological skill set or knowledge of higher-level applications to be successful in their academic endeavors” (p. 34). Therefore teachers must never assume that students are going to understand how to research beyond the “grazing” level. Reviewing research methods in a course of mini-lessons prior to a larger project submittal may help students achieve a more thorough research process. Hertz (2012) presents a diagram, referenced in Figure 1, outlining a process that can be utilized when teaching student at any level how to begin their research.


Figure 1: Research process taught in mini lessons diagram (Hertz, 2012).

Students at any grade level could be introduced to this process to complete a variety of tasks. For example, I’ve seen a similar process taught in a seventh grade science class. After completing several assignments outlining Newton’s Laws, the teacher assigned the class to groups of four to design and build mousetrap cars (energy generated by a mousetrap powers the cars). The teacher handed out workbooks outlining the process for this assignment. As mini-lessons were completed, students documented their learning in their workbooks. First they evaluated different research processes to find out how best to design and construct a mousetrap car, using an engineering process. The teacher modeled some ways to do online research on the interactive whiteboard and then students worked individually within their groups on Chromebooks to practice. Next, within their groups, students shared different websites that contained information on designing and building mousetrap cars. The teacher then asked that students document their sources in their workbooks for a write-up that they would generate at the end of the assignment. Over the next couple of weeks, student groups generated three research ideas, creating a list of supplies, a budget, and source information for each; groups then voted on their favorite of the three ideas. Finally, students were provided with artificial currency to shop out of the classroom supplies to in order to build their designs. Once each group completed their cars, students competed to see which car ran the furthest. These findings were documented in student workbooks. At the end of the assignment the teacher modeled how to cite sources from their Internet research. Each student wrote a reflection on the design and fabrication process and cited their sources.

This seventh grade example follows a similar process as outlined by Hertz but how would this model work in an elementary setting? I have embellished on the details of Hertz’s illustration as shown in Figure 2, noting that this diagram may be useful for later elementary grades.


Figure 2: Expanding on Hertz’s diagram (Hertz, 2012).

For example, Step 1, What is Research, could be a mini-lesson that opens with a classroom discussion, utilizing a KWL Chart or similar graphic organizer. Examples can be presented during this discussion, such as the illustration in Figure 3 as outlined by the Kentucky Virtual Library (2004). Throughout the process, each step could be outlined on it’s own or could be grouped with another step as a mini-lesson. Copyright and Plagiarism as noted in Step 5 could be a challenging concept for elementary students to understand. Videos such as “What is Copyright” as shown in the screen shot in Figure 4 could also be utilized to help explain this.

The KYVL for Kids Research Portal - How to do research Home Base

Figure 3: How to Do Research Illustration (Kentucky Virtual Library 2004).

1. What's Copyright? Music Video | Media Education Lab

Figure 4: Educational videos can be found online to utilize in mini-lessons (Media Education Lab, 2004).

In other words, all of the steps in the diagram can be taught as mini-lessons allowing students to understand how to practice online research. During the course of these mini-lessons, the class can continue to update the KWL Chart and/or beginning graphic organizer to reflect on new knowledge. Once they have had an opportunity to practice this process, they could work on a larger project to fulfill a research assignment that could also serve as a final assessment of new knowledge. This model could be utilized for a mini-unit in a variety of subject areas and steps could be simplified based on the age level of students.

While elementary students are just exploring online research methods, teachers can devise ways to teach them to more thoroughly research information presented to them. Rather than just assess student knowledge and direct them toward the library and/or Internet, thorough online research methods can be taught at early ages. By utilizing mini-lessons to present students with opportunities to learn and practice to research online, students can utilize this practice on a more complex assignment. Utilizing the model presented by Hertz, lessons can be planned to meet all of the criteria in Standard 3 as outlined by the 2007 ISTE National Educational Technology Standards (NETS•T) and Performance Indicators for Teachers (2008). Moreover, students will have a clearer understanding of expectations on research projects.


Hertz, M. B. (2012). Doing internet research at the elementary level. Edutopia. Retrieved from

ISTE standards for students (2007). International Society for Technology Education. Retrieved from

Kentucky Virtual Library. (2004). [Children’s illustration showing a research process 2004]. How to do research. Retrieved from

Media Education Lab: University of Rhode Island (2012). [Music video for children on copyright, intellectual property, and fair use]. What is copyright? Retrieved from

Sharkey, J. (2013). Establishing twenty-first-century information fluency. Reference & User Services Quarterly Illinois State University, 53 (1), 33-39. doi:10.5860/rusq.53n1.33

Peer Communication: Utilizing Digital Avatars for Student Collaboration

3. Differentiation – The teacher acquires and uses specific knowledge about students’ cultural, individual intellectual and social development and uses that knowledge to adjust their practice by employing strategies that advance student learning.

3.3 Demonstrating Flexibility and Responsiveness in Persisting to Support Students
Teacher persists in seeking approaches for students who have difficulty learning, drawing on a broad repertoire of strategies.

Many students struggle in the realm of presenting and communicating with their peers. There are many ways to help these struggling learners so that they are not always confronted with standing in front of the classroom or collaborating in constructive group activities. The utilization of digital technology may help more introverted learners. When evaluating ways elementary students can use classroom digital resources for better peer communication and collaboration, I immediately considered resources such as blog sites, social networking sites, Google Docs, and computer games. While these can all be excellent tools, there may be other creative ways to engage students in social learning. One resource that I have never seen utilized in the elementary classroom is digital avatars.

Standard 2 as outlined by the 2007 ISTE National Educational Technology Standards (NETS•T) and Performance Indicators for Teachers (2008) is as follows:

  1. Communication and collaboration
    Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.

    a. Interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media
    b. Communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats
    c. Develop cultural understanding and global awareness by engaging with learners of other cultures
    d. Contribute to project teams to produce original works or solve problems (ISTE standards for students, 2007, p.1)

Digital avatars enable students to create virtual characters that represent themselves, allowing students to express reflections of their own learning in creative ways. This is also an excellent resource to provide to students that are more introverted. Cicconi (2014) states, “Findings suggest that use of virtual worlds in communicating and collaborating increased student confidence and willingness to share one’s thoughts and work” (p. 60). Cicconi further conveys that children that are typically not interested in working with others or that have cognitive limitations may be more inclined to do so if they are provided with online resources. While digital avatars won’t always solve these problems, they are another free resource that can be utilized to help diversify student learning. Moreover, digital avatars can be utilized in online forums to allow students to communicate with others outside the classroom, including collaboration with other students outside of the school or community.

Voki is a web-based program that allows students to create digital avatars and utilize these characters for presentations. As shown in Figure 1, students can create a custom avatar by selecting a profile, modifying clothing, hair, skin color, and other features. The avatars can also be given audio voices that can be prerecorded.


Figure 1: Web-based program to create an online avatar (Voki avatar, 2016).

Students can also use avatars for presentations as shown in Figure 2. The presentation format is similar to a PowerPoint presentation and Voki avatars can be utilized to describe the content displayed.


Figure 2: Web-based program to create a digital presentation utilizing a digital avatar (Voki avatar, 2016).

While there are benefits to this technology and lesson planning ideas on the Voki website, these avatars can also be utilized across learning outside the online platform. For example, avatars could be printed and utilized for other classroom activities. Completed avatars could be laminated, cut out, and posted around the room. Perhaps they could be used for classroom jobs. Classroom assignments are also sometimes posted in the halls of the school. Perhaps a student avatar could be displayed next to completed work representing that individual. The mere creation and display of these characters can help enact student conversations and socialization. They may also detract from insecurities from having actual photographs displayed, something many adults even struggle with.

As referenced in the ISTE 2007 standards, students can use this digital media to work collaboratively and communicate ideas across various platforms. Avatars can be used in online forums to collaborate across large distances but also may be used solely in the classroom environment. There are many ways to provide students with resources to engage in collaborative communication and learning; digital avatars are a resource that may grow in popularity as they may help students that struggle with collaborative work. While presentations, group interactions, and teamwork are all skills that are beneficial to student learning, it is also ideal to provide other collaborative activities to further diversify opportunities for peer collaboration. Utilization of newer technology can help engage students in their learning while also providing newer resources that may enable struggling students to thrive.


Cicconi, M. (2014). Vygotsky meets technology: A reinvention of Collaboration in the early childhood mathematics classroom. Early Childhood Education Journal, 42, 57-65. doi: 10.1007/s10643-013-0582-9

ISTE standards for students (2007). International Society for Technology Education. Retrieved from

Voki avatar. (2016). [Voki avatar web-based educational program]. Oddcast Inc. Retrieved from

Utilizing Digital Resources: Providing Scaffolded Instruction for Creative Exploration

2. Instruction– The teacher uses research-based instructional practices to meet the needs of all students.

2.2 Engaging Students in Learning
Most activities and assignments are appropriate to students, and almost all students are cognitively engaged in exploring content.

When planning lessons that are engaging for students, it is important to provide them with periods of exploration and research, allowing them to discover new knowledge. Utilization of technological resources in the classroom can allow educators to provide students with creative ways to explore their learning. Standard 1 as outlined by the 2007 ISTE National Educational Technology Standards (NETS•T) and Performance Indicators for Teachers (2008) is as follows:

  1. Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity
    Teachers use their knowledge of subject matter, teaching and learning, and technology to facilitate experiences that advance student learning, creativity, and innovation in both face-to-face and virtual environments.

    1. promote, support, and model creative and innovative thinking and inventiveness
    2. engage students in exploring real-world issues and solving authentic problems using digital tools and resources
    3. promote student reflection using collaborative tools to reveal and clarify students’ conceptual understanding and thinking, planning, and creative processes
    4. model collaborative knowledge construction by engaging in learning with students, colleagues, and others in face-to-face and virtual environments (The ISTE National Educational Technology Standards (p.1)

While looking for opportunities to allow students to use technology in the classroom, it is also helpful to think of steps to help guide student creativity, to help them better understand a creative thinking process prior to utilizing technology. For example, Buckshaw & Lyon (2011) show a variety of scenarios where students are allowed to explore utilizing technological resources. In one example, students were evaluating their classroom experiments using a PowerPoint slideshow. The teacher was interacting with the software and the students were very engaged. The kids ended up learning how to interact and use the software drawing tools themselves “…so they could point out the information as they were sharing what they remembered” (p. 1). This is a great example of students using technology as a resource or tool during a constructive learning assignment.

Furthermore, many students may not know how to use the technology available to them or may not have been previously exposed to creative thinking and planning. The teacher therefore should outline lessons to promote creative thinking and teach the creative thinking process to students. Students should understand that the technology available to them is a resource or a tool to get a job done. For example, an architect isn’t going to immediately use Autocad to design a building. Instead, they will go through a creative process, surveying the area and outlining a system of design steps to plan out the project. Throughout the course of the architectural process, a variety of technological tools and resources will be utilized to produce the architectural package that will be approved by their client and bid out to contractors. Students need to understand what resources are available to them, how to use those resources, how to think creatively, and how to follow a process utilizing their resources to solve problems.

I’ve seen students study a pond over the course of several weeks in order to witness the changes in pond populations. Students were introduced to simple concepts over the course of the school year, such as how to create a hypothesis and how this can develop into a theory. They were introduced to different resources on a variety of assignments such as Google Docs, cell phone apps, lab tools and resources, laptops with special login information, the computer lab and library, and so on throughout the course of the school year. By the time the class began the pond study, they knew the resources available to them, they were provided multiple opportunities to use the technology, they understood how to form a hypothesis and test it while also working in cooperative groups; they learned a variety of processes relating to the field of science and were able to follow those processes creatively with flexibility.

As found in our reading this module by Jang (2009) while observing web-based technology integrated into science project, “…the teaching method of integrating technology into the design of the real-life experience activities is conducive to students’ creativity” (p. 253). Similarly to the pond project, the students observed by Jang were able to utilize technology to enhance their learning. Some students in this study also struggled with technology, having difficulty using software and other digital resources. This therefore further implies the importance of teaching students how to use these tools prior to free exploration. The diagram below outlines this process simplistically. By exposing students to these resources and information throughout the school year, they were prepared to explore the pond ecosystem more freely (with additional guidance from their teacher) as they might in the adult world. They interacted with each other, explored and discovered as the ecosystem changed, and documented their data and findings using digital resources.


Buckshaw, L. & Lyon, A. (2011). Integrating technology and science. Education World: Connecting Educators to What Works. Retrieved from

The ISTE National Educational Technology Standards (NETS•T) and Performance Indicators for Teachers (2008). International Society for Technology Education. Retrieved from

Jang, S. J. (2009). Exploration of secondary students’ creativity by integrating web-based technology into an innovative science curriculum. Computers & Education, 52, 247-255. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2008.08.002