Communicate Your Content

COETAIL has stretched me so much in terms of thinking on how to apply my learning into my current role of assistant principal, it has also made me miss being in the classroom something fierce. For this week’s assignment I found tons of interesting infographics full of data about the teaching profession, but I wanted to be more pointed in what I use with my teachers.

Application #1// Standards Based Grading

One of my main jobs this year is priming the pumps of our community (teachers, parents, and students) to move to standards based grading and reporting next year. This process has been purposefully slow and erring on the side of providing too much information. It is a huge shift for our school and because of Brazilian educational laws we are being creative on how to make it work within the confines of the mandated system. So after reading this week’s assignment I immediately thought an infographic either describing standards based grading or visualizing the data supporting it would be powerful and clear.  

Infographic credit: @CVULearns


The first infographic from @CVULearns can be used to explain the why of standards based grading to parents and students. I like how it created a story of a bunny moving from curious to skeptical to concerned, and finally to satisfied. I think this is a start for my school, I would remix it pulling different aspects from it, but using our school common language, for example exceeds, meets, approaches, and beginning as opposed to advanced, proficient, below proficient, and basic.

Infographic credited by sstephens


The second infographic could be used to explain why standards based grading is best for kids. It was created by another COETAILer using Piktochart. Again, I would have to tweak this to fit the needs of my school, but it is a great starting off point.

Application #2// Reading and Writing Workshop

Another idea I had was to use infographics in the creation of our rubrics for Reading Workshop. Since we are in this weird limbo period of not being standards based yet, but going there next year teachers are creating rubrics that build a bridge between where we are and where we want to be.  I created a dull conversion chart for standard based grading language and percentages to be put in PowerSchool. I took that information and added some more reasoning (from a great pamphlet) and made an infographic that would better explain it to parents.  

Created on Piktochart
Created on Piktochart


At the same time I want to play around with creating a template for student progression as an infographic and then teachers can fill in their grade level criteria. Hunting and gathering for progress indicators I didn’t come up with much, but I did find pieces of things that I think I could weave together to create something for my school.  I like the student language in this self-assessment and then thought of using a gas tank or other data visual to match the language.

Application #3// Syllabus

Lastly, and not applying to me in my current role, I love the idea of doing the class syllabus as an infographic. What a quick and easy way for students (and parents) to know the expectations, design, and goals of the class at the beginning of the year. I will definitely keep this in mind if I go back into the classroom.  Here are some more examples: Madame Farabaugh (French teacher), Laura (Spanish teacher), and an English class.


infographic syllabus
Syllabus created by Cynthia Early

Over the course of this year I have made several different pieces of literature to communicate new programs and initiatives to parents. We have a very high EAL parent population and I think these pieces have helped communicate to them what we are working with their children on.  I wouldn’t consider these infographics, but they have visuals and different spacing that I think is easier to read and less threatening.

EAC Library Final

Literacy at EAC (2)

From Caves to Snapchat

1F Fred Flinstone & Carney Rubble by Fred Seibert
1F Fred Flinstone & Carney Rubble by Fred Seibert

Storytelling has been around as long with Fred Flinstone and will live on past the Jetsons, but as Joe Scabia said in his amazing TED Talk,


“The art of storytelling has remained unchanged. For the most part the stories are recycled, but the way humans tell the stories has always evolved with pure consistent novelties.”  


With so many tools and stories to be told, I would argue we are hindering and neglecting our students if we don’t offer digital storytelling in our schools. The need is clear, the question is how to do it.

I have so many ideas of how to introduce digital storytelling to my school, but I want people to see its power. I keep getting stuck on how to show teachers it is useful and worth the time away from their already packed curriculum. We are in the beginning stages of implementing Teachers College Reading and Writing Workshop and I want to respect how hard my teachers are working to follow Lucy’s units of study. How do I help teachers see this as an authentic integrated option rather than an add on?

I can model it, I already plan to create a video to introduce standards based grading and reporting to parents and after this week thought it would be cool to do a remix of “Being 12” but do “Being New” and interview all our 25 new students(!) in our elementary school.  I can collaborate or coach teachers, especially since grades 5 and 2 current units of study are on persuasive writing. What a brilliant tie in? But both modeling and coaching seem forced from the “top down”. I can break it down so it doesn’t seem so daunting. I love Tanya’s idea of using Snapchat to tell a story. The kids already use it, so why not start with something familiar. On that track we could start using Vine or Instagram as well. It’s a start and I can hope that the feedback from the grades I work with the parents who watch the video is enough to get teachers excited.

Logistically, our school is a PC school, so we could use Photostory or Movie Maker for free. Programs like Audacity and VoiceThread are options as well. There is no shortage of Apps, programs, and resources to help teachers and students, in fact I think I would probably make a “cheat sheet” for teachers similar to Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano’s amazing Digital Storytelling Guide. Also, I think starting small with familiar apps is the best plan, like Instagraming or Tweeting a day in the life of __________ ( a student, teacher, principal, etc).

In my searching and reading this week I found some pretty cool resources:

  • Scenes: People and object cut outs to help you create a storyboard. You can download a start pack for free.
  • This Scoop Page: Lots of articles, resources, and information on digital storytelling
  • Introduction Lesson: A brief slideshare about multimedia journalism
  • Witness Organization: A powerful website with many videos on current injustices
  • Storycenter: Another resource with examples of powerful stories


So what are my actions going to be?

  1. A day in the life of Mrs. K (via Twitter)
  2. Work with grades 2 and 5 on their writing units of study
  3. Create a video on standards based grading

Final Project: The Quest for Feedback

I’m sure this post is a little premature, but I loved Rob’s idea of getting feedback on his final project and then making adjustments.  I’m following my learning from Course 2 and I am stealing his idea, and of course giving him credit. Right now, I have two versions (monochromatic vs. colorful), so feedback on that and any other things would be much obliged.

eCV Megan Kuemmerlin
Monochromatic Version
e CV with Colors
Colorful Version

After I get feedback I plan to make this into an interactive CV by putting it on Thinglink. I want to have links to videos of me in action, images of my former classes/current projects, letters of recommendation, and access to documents/presentations I’ve created.

I would love some honest (I can take it, I have thick skin) feedback.  Thank you in advance for the help and support.


Revamping an Old Presentation

After rereading the assignment for this week I realized I didn’t read it carefully the first time.  I thought the assignment was to redo a past presentation with the concepts and techniques we learned this week. So I did just that, took a presentation I gave last year on the SAMR model and reworked it into something much stronger (in my opinion).


I loved the YouTube overview of Garr Reynolds’ book Presentation Zen and found many helpful tactics. A quote I nodded my head up and down to was, “The bento is presented in simple, beautiful, and balanced way…A satisfying, inspiring, and fulfilling way to spend 20 minutes.  When was the last time you could say the same about a presentation you saw?” I reflected on all the presentations I’ve given and wondered if my audience could say that about my presentation. 

Some takeaways from Reynolds…

  • Plan Analog: Stepping away from your computer allows us to be more creative. I learned this technique in a Masters course and at first laughed at the idea–how can I be creative without my computer?  Then I tried it and guess what, it actually worked?  
  • Ask So What?: If the content doesn’t further your story cut it out, this is a hard one to do.  But I found that if I plan on paper first it is easier to cross things out.  I’m still learning this, but if it doesn’t make it better it should be on the cutting room floor. 
  • Slides should be incapable of standing by themselves. Enough said. 
  • Craft ideas that stick:  Reynolds uses the acronym SUCCES (Simplicity, Unexpectedness, Concreteness, Credibility, Emotions, and Stories) to help. Some that I wanted to work on were Simplicity, Concreteness, and Stories. I think that I accomplished my goals in those areas.
  • Edit and Restrain: Keep audience in mind, it is better to leave audience hungry and craving more. I love this one. It is so hard to do, but thinking back as an audience member myself my favorite presentations are the ones that I leave with more questions than I had in the beginning. 
  • Amplification through Simplification: Reynolds uses “picture superiority” which is just like we studied last week in that images are remembered more than words. In my revamping I took out a lot of the words and realized I can tell more a story without them and just powerful pictures. 
  • Reduce Noise in Presenation: Use fewer elements, empty space is okay. I would even go further in this saying that empty space is makes a statement. 
  • Present it: As much as we put into the presentation slides, if you are not good at presenting them then the presentation will not be memorable (in a good way). I’ve forgotten this a lot, I spend so much time trying to craft the perfect presentation I don’t spend nearly enough prepping what I am going to SAY.

I also used Kim Cofino’s Making a Lasting Impression presentation to help me revamp my SAMR Google Slides. As well as using sketches to visuals in What is Good Presentation Design. I ended up changing a lot of the images because I didn’t have Creative Common images nor did I give credit, so almost all of them are new and I think I picked more powerful images this time around. I tried to use the rule of thirds and empty space as well. 

Without further ado here is the before and after…

Visual Debates

I support and co-teach Reading and Writing Workshop with a new 5th grade teacher, so I knew I would do this week’s assignment for his class. They are at the beginning of their argumentative essay unit and the day I was there they were doing flash debates.  The topic was should animals be kept in a zoo? To plan I went straight to my favorite Creative Commons search sites, Compfight, and began looking for two images that would represent each side. The images needed to be neutral, but at the same time pull at the emotions to support either side. As Garr Reynold said on his blog, Presentation Zen, “Visuals that surprise people, touch them, delight them, and support your story are best because they affect people in an emotional way.”

Photo Credit Left: Photo Credit Right:
Photo Credit Left: Brian Mckay
Photo Credit Right: Tambako the Jaguar


Using the visuals really transformed the lesson. After seeing the visual before their preparations students asked me if they could also use images as evidence. The classroom teacher and I decided they could, if it accompanied evidence that supported it.  Next they started searching using Google, all the readings from course 2 flooded my mind and I used it as a teaching moment. I showed groups of students how to search using Google “Search Tools” function which led them to the licensure option. I figured this would be the best option for the amount of time we had, they are used to Google. I’m ashamed to say that they didn’t cite the image because we were using them for a debate and honestly I didn’t have time to teach them how to add the photo credit onto the picture. I plan on teaching them when we have more time to work on the search part.

When it came to the flash debates it was so fun to watch. Students tried to tie their arguments into the audience’s emotions.

“Look at the face of this baby panda, sad and alone because he can’t be with his mother. How would you feel if you were taken from your mother when you were a baby?”

“This is the face of a dangerous animal. Grown lions can weigh…(I forgot the rest). They should be kept in a zoo to protect humans”

These are just some of the things the students came up with all because they had a visual to use. Looking back I should have recorded them or at least wrote their quotes down verbatim, but you get the gist. Renee Hobbs said in Teaching Media Literacy , “Media literacy….is literacy for the information age.” I completely agree with her, our students are so visually minded this day and age that whenever they can link their learning to images I think it helps it stick better. Actually I found the images made the task harder, but more powerful.  Students couldn’t just show the image they had to think and figure out how to connect it to one of their reasons and support it with evidence. Another thing I observed was the ELL students and their ability to participate more because of the images.
After this simple assignment of adding visuals into the classroom I will do it way more often. I normally think of adding images to presentations, but having students (or teachers in my case) find them for a learning task is super powerful and gives them more ownership of their learning.