Friday, February 19, 2016

"That Lesson"

One of the best parts of my job are the opportunities to share and collaborate with teachers.  Another favorite part is the opportunity to go into a classroom to work with and support a teacher as he/she teaches the lesson we collaborated on.
Photo credit: +Michael Herzberg 

It is with great excitement and pride that I write and share this post referencing +Katie Pfanstiel the 4th-grade teacher I recently worked with. Last week Katie and I were chatting about her upcoming Math lesson on money and sales tax.  She wanted to change things up and find a more engaging and interactive way to teach and reinforce this skill.  She brought up the idea of QR codes.  I loved the idea and knew that we could come up with something.  During our discussion, we decided that it would be fun to create some note cards with practice problems for her students to complete.  The answers would be created using QR codes and on separate note cards for them to check after completing the problem.  During the activity,  students would get the problem cards from Mrs. Pfanstiel and they would solve the problem and then locate the answer card (QR code) in the room to check their answers. With a simple 1-10 numbering system, she was able to keep the cards and answers organized for easy checking and referencing.  

Yesterday, I was able to be part of her class and provide support as she introduced the topic and her students worked through the engaging and interactive practice problems.  After leaving her room yesterday, I was beaming with excitement.  I found myself texting, emailing, and chatting with others about how awesome the entire lesson was.  So... let me share some of the highlights and things that resonate with me about this amazing lesson:

1. Katie: When Katie and I collaborated on this activity, her last words to me were, "Yes, I have time during conferences to work on things to better my classroom. I will create the note cards and share them with you.” I thought, "Go, Katie, Go!" Of course, later that evening I received a  text showcasing her completed project.  I could not wait for the lesson.

2.  Student Names: We all know that "sample" problems in the book use random names and they are generally not too exciting.  Katie's practice problems consisted of some "book examples" and some of her own, BUT each practice problem used a student's name.  This was a simple engaging addition to her activity that just meant the world to these kids.  It was very evident because as they worked through a problem and went back for another, they were referencing the cards by student name rather than card number.  #nailedit

3. Introduction: Introducing a lesson (especially in math)  in a way that students can relate to is so valuable.  Katie's introduction was a simple copy of two receipts she had.  Each student had a copy and worked together to find subtotal, tax, and total on both.  This was a great introduction into cost and sales tax and students were able to relate to her example.

4. Homework: The word homework itself is a "hot topic" in general, so I find it important to reference here. You may have picked up on the fact that these note cards were truly practice problems or "homework."  However, her students did not pick up on that.  After all her students finished each of the practice problems, (which we had not planned for them to finish) they asked what the their homework was.  When Katie informed them that that was their homework, they replied, "Awesome, that was fun."  

5. Conversations: This may have been my favorite part.  I loved listening to the conversations in the room.  Some conversations centered around comparing names on the practice problems, others were collaborating to find the QR code answer, and all of them helped each other work through errors or simple calculation mistakes.  The classroom environment was full of excitement, engagement and learning.   

In closing, I would just like to note that none of the five highlights from this lesson actually mention the technology used.  The technology was engaging and effective, but just a part of what the purpose was. I love that this lesson was planned and executed around the skill and topic and that the technology was used to enhance what she was teaching and asking her students to practice.  

Thank you +Katie Pfanstiel for allowing me to be part of something awesome yesterday!  


  1. Love to see reflections about the impact educators can make on student engagement and learning when we encourage and support each other! Great work Heather and Katie!