Want To Be My Book Buddy?

One benefit of the combined Hamilton Southeastern Intermediate & Junior High campus is the opportunity for students to partner across grade levels. Many thanks to HIJ English teacher Ashli Cooper for sharing an experience in which older students are encouraged to read through leadership incentive, and younger students have the chance to read and learn along with the ‘older kids’!

Nook BUddies 2017 Matthew RandolfStudents are our future leaders, and what better way to show them that by offering them chances to BE leaders now. This year my eighth graders were challenged to write an “About Me” paragraph — something that, by eighth grade, they have done several times. The difference? This paragraph could not include their name. In these “About Me” paragraphs, the eighth graders’ aim was showcase their best qualities in an effort to appeal to a 5th/6th grade audience. Without knowing names, the younger students read and selected buddies based solely on the power of the 8th graders’ writing.  

Book Buddies 2017 Joseph HoangAfter connecting with their buddies in the library, students were asked to discuss what they like to read and select a book that would inspire all members of the partnership. Students set reading goals, exchanged e-mail communication, and discussed characterization and plot development as they worked their way through the novel. Eighth graders walked in  to every meeting with a plan, and they were met with thoughtful and engaging questions from their buddies.

In the end, students made text-to-self and text-to-work connections that were much deeper and broader than an assignment. Students posed challenges to one another, tempting each other with spoilers of the next plot twist or sharing a connection that inspired the other student to read just a little bit more. It is true that my junior high students led the charge in reading a book, but in the process we learned that the most important part of the “Book Buddies” process was most definitely the BUDDIES.

Panthers lead because we read! #HIJHpanthers #bookbuddies

Soft Skills & Messy Learning

IMG_7853 2At first glance, nothing looked “messy” in Señora Eisinger’s junior high Spanish class. I had arrived to help students connect their Canvas (Learning Management System) accounts with Office365, in particular, to a OneNote Class Notebook through which Señora and her students would connect digitally and collaborate over the coming year. When I entered, students were seated and still, reviewing the day’s objectives. All was peaceful. All was traditional and comfortable. All was quiet.

Screen Shot 2017-09-26 at 9.33.57 AMDigital connection and collaboration, though, don’t lend themselves to quiet, traditional practice – and they are rarely peaceful to set up! There’s the matter of accounts – Are you logged into Canvas? Good. Now log into OneDrive on your iPad. Oops – No, that must be your personal account – you need to find your school account. What? You don’t see your Canvas course for Spanish class? Okay. Click here. Your page won’t load? Forget the wifi and sign in again.

Everyone had a different issue. Señora Eisinger and I ran from desk to desk, trying to troubleshoot each individual problem.

Then something beautiful happened. The first student to complete the process jumped out of her desk and began to help a neighbor. Pretty soon, students were huddled in small groups, helping one another with the connection process. The room was noisy; the desks were askew. And yet, 21st century learning was happening. In their troubleshooting to connect accounts, students were working together to solve a real classroom issue. These young teens were practicing the soft skills that today’s employers desire: the ability to work as a team, communicate clearly, and come up with creative solutions.



By the end of class, 99% of students had opened their Spanish digital notebooks on their iPads, and were exploring content – thanks to the louder and messier process of teamwork and creative problem-solving. And now that the digital connections are made, these savvy students can move on to collaborating about more weighty issues. Now, about that earthquake in Mexico City last week…




Final Exam…In the OR?

HeckleyFinalcollageCramming for finals. Memorizing hundreds of useless (now Google-able) facts that were promptly forgotten. Most all of us can recount at least one nightmarish exam saga in our high school or college past!

Assessment of learning is changing, though. It’s becoming more authentic, more reflective of the real world, and much, much more meaningful. Consider the final exam that Hamilton Southeastern High School science teacher Ashley Heckly designed for the seniors in her Biomedical Innovations class this week. In Mrs. Heckly’s own words…

fullsizeoutput_7b6Biomedical Innovations is designed for students to work through open-ended problems focused on health challenges of the 21st century. After having students work in groups throughout the year, an independent paper and pencil type of final did not feel right. Instead, I decided to transform the presentation lab into six operating rooms where students would work through the final as a group. The final was composed of six “surgeries” based on problems we studied throughout the year. The students recorded their answers to each problem on the paper body. To complete the experience, students dressed in their lab coats and received hospital ID badges, scrub hats, masks, booties, and gloves.

To get the full exam experience, don’t miss this one minute video recap!

No Extra Credit If You Nuke!

WIth our K-4 1:1 roll out on deck for August 2016, HSE21 Shorts has devoted much of this school year to sharing HSE21 snapshots from elementary classrooms. Today, though, we’d like to highlight HSE21 in action at HSE High School. Read on!


Mr. Follis, AP Social Studies teacher at HSE High School, exemplified HSE21 before there ever was an HSE21. Mr. Follis is a natural communicator whose classes are student-centered, engaging, and relevant. He has found ways to create learning opportunities for his students that combine depth of content (AP exams are this month!) and meaningful experiences connecting the past to issues in our world today. His recent Cold War simulation is a perfect example.

IMG_3707Mr. Follis ran HSE’s Cold War as an in-school field trip for his AP European History classes.  Students represented the East (the Warsaw Pact), the West (NATO) or the United Nations.  All day, teams were confronted with real problems which they could choose to solve diplomatically or… Throughout the game, wars broke out, territories changed hands, and treaties were signed.  Newscasts, propaganda campaigns and the Olympic Games heightened excitement throughout the day. Nineteen-fifties technology meant no computers – files and books were the only sources of information available! Communication? Only through ambassadors, the red phone and one’s defcon status. (I had to Google ‘defcon‘.)

IMG_3711Of course, no Cold War simulation would be complete without spies and the threat of nuclear war. KGB and CIA leaders recruited spies, who could steal launch codes, locations of bases, troop numbers, and game stats.  Spies could be caught and tried…or flipped to become double agents. Each side had the potential to ‘nuke’ the other (Translation: force the other side to take the unit test); but nuclear war has consequences for all – a retaliatory strike could lead to mutually assured destruction! A ‘box’ (with electronics, sound effects, a red button, and two launch keys) made by HSE engineering students  sat ready throughout the day, an ominous reminder of what could be.

In ten years, these AP European History alums might not remember how to spell Romania. What they will still remember (really, what they will still deeply understand), though, is far more important. Why is it difficult for nations with conflicting values and visions to work together? What potential solutions exist, and what are their costs? What does that mean for us today?

         IMG_3705  IMG_3704 IMG_3712
“The simulation was a smash.  The paranoia at times got the kids so worked up they were literally yelling – they were actually fatigued at the end of the day by the whole experience.  The whole game came down to a dice roll and it was possibly the most exciting moment of my teaching career.  No one asked for “the case”; the students realized the benefits of working together.”      – Jamie Follis

Student Voice and…Money!?!

This post comes to us from Kelly Hogan, second grade teacher at Durbin Elementary. It’s a great example of 21st century learning in action – Students were given voice and choice. They pooled their ideas and discussed options. They practiced creative decision planning. This ‘lesson’ was authentic and relevant – it’s never too early to learn to budget! #meaningfullearning

From Mrs. Hogan (3/25/16):

Our school’s student council planned a spirit day.  Students were allowed to wear their favorite college wear and bring a $1 donation.  Donations this month came right back to the classroom for supplies.  We raised $24 as a class.

I decided that the students should have a voice in what items were purchased.  Students started by creating a list of items that they were interested in purchasing with the money.  We then narrowed this list down by voting on which items we were most interested in.  Our list was down to 5 items at this time.  We then looked up a game we were interested in and learned that it would eat nearly all of our budget; they swiftly eliminated that from their list!  Groups of students took the remaining four items.  They “shopped” for the items online.  After some time they realized that shipping was going to eat a lot of their budget.  I shared that I was an Amazon Prime member and they determined that, even though their items may be a $1 or $2 more on Amazon,  the shipping costs elsewhere were more than that.  Each student group found an item to present to the class for purchasing.  Each student calculated the total cost of the 4 items.  They then determined the amount we needed to cut from our current wish list.  We were able to get our purchase to $0.21 under our budget!  They are INCREDIBLY excited for their purchases to arrive!

From Mrs. Hogan (3/28/16):


Our purchases have arrived!


Mechanical pencils for all!

HSE Teacher Takes Integrated STEM Lessons Abroad!

Thank you to Sand Creek Elementary 4th grade teacher Holly Miller for graciously agreeing to share her recent experiences as one of ten International STEM Fellows. The instruction that Holly shared in The People’s Republic of China is HSE21 all over! Enjoy!

IMG_2817Ten teachers were selected as the first cohort of the International STEM Fellows program. We left October 20th and flew to Beijing. While in Beijing, we toured the Forbidden City, the Great Wall of China, the night markets, and a private elementary school.

When then flew to Hangzhou, where we spent the week in one of 3 elementary schools. The school my group worked with was called the Primary School affiliated with the Zhejiang Institute of Education Research. Each day, we observed many classrooms–IMG_2843specifically focusing on math and science instruction. Then we would debrief with the teachers and make observations and recommendations about the lessons we had seen. Dr. Enrique Galindo–a math education professor from IU, and Jane Cooney, a math coach for Washington Township, were the other 2 in my group. The other 7 teachers observed in other elementary schools.

IMG_2742The best day was when I got to teach an integrated STEM lesson to a group of 6th graders. I had them create a 3-D house and calculate the paintable surface area. The kids loved it and the Chinese teachers did too. They said in our debrief that they were inspired and wanted to try some of the cross-curricular STEM projects in their classrooms!

IMG_2852Every night we were hosted by Directors and government officials from the Department of Education. So much food! We were treated like royalty and were considered the “American Expert Teachers.”

We ended our trip in Shanghai and returned home October 31st. It was a life-changing trip. Some much learned about culture and education and kids!

Our next steps are to write a report to the INDOE about ways to improve instruction in Indiana, which we worked on over the weekend. We also worked on a proposal for an International STEM camp for students this summer. Next year the Chinese government would like to bring 4 times as many teachers over for the STEM Fellows program! I strongly encourage teachers to take advantage of the opportunity–it was AMAZING.

Those HSE21 Shoes!

IMG_1721In traditional classrooms, character trait study likely consisted of a teacher lesson (read: lecture) to explain the term ‘character trait’, followed by individual seat work. Students would sit quietly at their desks, read a story alone, and then write a paragraph about the story’s characters and their traits. Students’ written work would be graded and sent home in a folder. The end.

Take a peek into HSE21 classrooms, though, and what you’ll see is completely different! HSE21 means that character study – indeed all academic content – is presented in active, student-centered ways that lead to deeper learning. What does does HSE21 look like in the classroom? Consider this recent HSE21 example of character trait study:

At Thorpe Creek Elementary, third grade teacher Mrs. Muegge introduced character traits to her students through  an HSE21 lens. Following her interactive mini-lesson, Muegge asked student pairs to choose books for their own character studies. Partners considered the characters in their stories and, with Muegge’s guidance and help, decided on traits that best exemplified each. Students then created, shared, and discussed presentations and what they’d learned. Here’s a final product, created and shared by Aariyah and Gabrielle:

While staying true to the academic standards, HSE21 teaching and learning turns the traditional quiet classroom into a vibrant learning lab.

  • Student Choice – Which book would you like to use for this project?
  • Collaboration – Let’s work with partners to analyze the characters; we can learn from each other!
  • Engagement and Creativity – Design a presentation to teach us what you learned!
  • Extension of Learning – We’ll post our presentations and share our learning with each other and those beyond our classroom walls!

In which type of classroom would you rather learn?


A New Beat in Music Class

fcemusicThanks to FCE Music Teacher Marcia Abraham for sharing the innovation taking place in her Music classes at Fall Creek Elementary this fall! Mrs. Abraham is one of 23 elementary teacher ‘pioneers’ this year. As part of the Elementary Design Team, these teachers – from across the district – are discovering how iPads can support inquiry and problem-based learning in their classrooms. Click here to be taken to the FCE Music Blog. You’ll learn more about this new beat in music class, as well as hear some samples of student-created music.

Collaboration Stations Foster Teamwork

IMG_0503Twenty-first century careers require the ability to work with others to innovate and problem-solve. Fall Creek Junior High students in Mrs. Hiatt’s English class gained collaboration experience this week, as they worked in teams to research  types of sonnets and create presentations to share with the larger class.

Teamwork, always an important part of instruction, has a new twist this year, though, with the addition of collaboration stations in the school’s Media Center. Each 50-inch screen monitor is synched with an Apple TV – giving students the ability to project one’s iPad screen in view of the entire group. Add PowerPoint Online to the mix, and students can work together to create a presentation in real time, with the most current version of the presentation on the ‘big screen’.

IMG_0506FCJH media specialist Mrs. Distler says, “We are very excited to have these stations for our students to use in conjunction with our 1:1 initiative.  It creates a great opportunity for students to work collaboratively while using their iPad as a tool to enhance their learning.”