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Own It!

We’ve all been there: the time when a district needs to adopt a new curriculum. We look at all the curriculums, we narrow them down, and finally choose one. The boxes start to roll in and we become overwhelmed by the amount of materials that come with the new adoption. We sort through the boxes, organize the material, and then begin the arduous task of wrapping our heads around how we are going to fit it all in.

Then, the trainings begin. That feeling of eagerness and optimism hit us like a Mack truck. We delve into our new curriculum with much enthusiasm. First we follow the curriculum as best as we can. At some point, we remember all the fun things that we used to do, all the creative activities that we used to incorporate into our lessons. Then we think, “Oh yeah! I liked doing that and it really worked for that standard. How can I incorporate that into the new curriculum?”

We slowly begin to make the new curriculum ours. This is that magic spot, that spot where we start getting creative and owning it, putting our own spin on it. For some, the magic occurs within weeks of unpacking the new curriculum and for others, it takes months or even years. No matter when the time comes, when you embrace the ownership of your new curriculum you do so with gusto.

That ownership process can begin slowly. Start with something small, yet meaningful. Do you have a favorite activity that fits with a current standard? Go for it and incorporate it. Were you inspired by something that you saw, read, or heard about? Try it. Finding your voice within a box curriculum can be empowering.

A great example is my district’s math curriculum. It’s fairly straightforward, few bells and whistles. Personally, I think this is perfect. Less background noise means that I can get my creativity on! I looked at the needs of my students and the structures of the curriculum and got to work. The curriculum suggests taking a few minutes each day to memorize the basic math facts. Makes sense, but not terribly exciting. After listening to Jon Corippo at a CUE National Conference, I was inspired to change up that basic math facts warm-up. Jon’s 8 p*ARTS of Speech is ELA based, but was easily modified to fit my math needs. For the beginning of the school year, my students were exposed to a Place Value Basic paper (seen in detail below) each day. It was slow going in the beginning, but the students quickly caught on. The first time we did it, together it took 45 minutes. By the end of the week we were finding our rhythm and got it down to 20 minutes. After three months, the students could do it independently in roughly eight minutes. While I still follow the curriculum to a certain extent, I have, more importantly, put my own spin on it and made it my own. By looking for small tweaks, you can easily make the curriculum more exciting, applicable, and appropriate for your students. Check out this student sample from the second week of school.

More recently, we read Love That Dog by Sharon Creech. In it the students were introduced to various poetry styles and language. One activity had the students explaining what makes a poem a poem. I was looking for poetry structures. I liked the activity, but wanted to make it more collaborative and interactive. I kept the original objective, but put my own spin on it by having the students record their responses on a Padlet. I also invited them to comment on one another’s responses. The outcome? The students were more engaged and had a collaborative reference document. By simply changing the tool, I was better able to meet the needs of my students and personalize the lesson. However, it is important to remember that pedagogy must come before a cool tool. Keeping this in mind, I can’t go wrong.

So how does one find their mojo with a new curriculum? Some find it in Twitter Chats (list of educational twitter chats), others find it at conferences like CUE National in Palm Springs, and yet others find inspiration through online course like CUE’s Innovative Educator’s Certificate (#cueiec). And still others find it in the classroom next door. Or some combination of all these, plus more. In our journey to ‘own it’ we each take our own path. And no matter that path, it’s always with our students in mind.

Lisa is a Google Certified Innovator, Google Education Trainer, PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator, Leading Edge Certified (Online & Blended Learning, Digital Educator), 2016 Apple Teacher, ClassDojo Mentor, and presenter. Lisa is also CUE’s Innovative Educator Certificate Social Media Director. She has helped others through her blog: NowaTechie.com. In 2010 Lisa was awarded the Crystal Apple Award sponsored by the local NBC affiliate. In 2015, she was Teacher of the Year at King City Arts Magnet. She has been an Ed Tech innovator in her district for over 15 years. Lisa currently teaches 5th grade. As a district technology leader, she pioneered 1:1 Chromebooks in her district. Most recently, she has launched a podcast with Nancy Minicozzi (@coffeenancy) called – T.L.C. – Tech. Learn. Coffee that can be heard the first and third Monday of every month.

What’s Your Resolution? Plus the CUE Shortlist

Celebrating New Years as a teacher is a strange proposition because we don’t operate on the calendar the way most people do. This isn’t the new year. The new year started five or six months ago, or is coming in six months. This is, quite literally, the middle of the year. Sure, things change in January. Any teacher can tell you that some of the kids who left our rooms before Winter Break will be different when they walk back in afterwards. A lot of growing happens in those ten-to-fourteen days. Switches flip, hormones fire, growth occurs. Be that as it may, the point stands that the calendar New Year is not our new year.

Still, it’s a good time to make a few resolutions. Halfway through the school year means we know our kids well. The chemistry experiment that is a classroom has pretty much been solved and the puzzle pieces are in place. If we’ve done our jobs well, the kids know the expectations back-to-front, we know each other, and things are moving along nicely.

Which means it’s a perfect time to switch things up.

What’s been itching at the back of your mind? What have you seen here or on Twitter or Google+ or in another classroom that’s made you think, “I want to try that!” Or (even better) “That makes me think of this whole other idea to try!” Why haven’t you launched it yet? Time. Energy. All the other things that pull at us.

Now is your chance. Bust out that project. Take that leap. Experiment with a new program, a different bot, alternative seating, anything that changes things up. It’s the new year. You’re a good teacher and you’ve been reflecting on your practice all year. You’ve probably been putting those reflections back into your practice as you go, but now’s the chance for something new. Maybe it’s starting a blog or a podcast or building your own website or a class YouTube channel. 2017 sounds like the future to me so it’s time to get Future Ready.

Change keeps everyone on their toes, it keeps us from getting complacent. We want our students comfortable, but not settled. Find ways to make them dance (including having them actually dance- movement is good). I know, now is the time when some of us start gearing up to think about *glances around* *whispers* The Big Tests At The End. But if this consumes us then what are we doing?

Grab a few resolutions, steal a couple of ideas, and take a leap or three. What will you change, add, or replace in your classroom in 2017? Share in the comments.

Happy New Year!

CUE is also happy to announce The CUE Shortlist- 5 to Love & 5 to Lose. Making its premier in the Winter edition of OnCUE, The CUE Shortlist looks at five education trends that we love and are on the rise, and five trends that need to be on their way out.

5 to Love


The Maker Movement

> Student Voice

> The TOSA

Laptops and Tablets

> Open Education

5 to Lose


Teacher Lecture

> Interactive Whiteboards

> Reading Anthologies

Paper in the classroom

> Homework

Doug Robertson is the CUE blog editor and an eleventh-year teacher currently talking at fifth graders in Northern Oregon. He’s taught in California, Hawaii, and Oregon in 3rd, 4th, and 6th grades. He’s the author of two books about education, He’s the Weird Teacher and THE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome), one novel, The Unforgiving Road, and is an active blogger. Doug speaks at teaching conferences including CUE Rock Star Teacher Camps, presenting on everything from technology to teaching philosophy (or teaching The Weird Way, to use his words).  Doug is also the creator and moderator of #WeirdEd on Twitter, which happens every Wednesday at 7pm PST.

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