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Valya Leaton

  • Valya Leaton posted a new activity comment 9 months, 2 weeks ago

    I really enjoyed reading your blog post since it struck a chord with me on several levels. I too stumbled with coming up with a design for my own blog and relied on the templates that Word Press offered me. Where you seem to be more creative and able to stray from the beaten path with yours with hours of perusing, I feel content and…[Read more]

  • Yes, another ending.

    The ending of the AISR COETAIL class is just the beginning for another new adventure. BUT is this adventure over yet? Of course not. I finally retired last night to let my iMovie upload […]

  • It’s done, stick a fork in it! The science fair is over! Sort of. Actually, the science fair at my school is over. All 135ish students, 64 projects, submitted their final papers (yep, grading over Spring Break), c […]

    When looking at the requirements for our Community Engagement post I thought about several things.
    I was disappointed with myself for not taking advantage of many of the opportunities I had to get to […]

    My final project for COETAIL concerns improvements, overhauls, and adding new ideas to my science fair unit for my 8th grade students. I consider this project worthy of attention because […]

  • Do you remember participating in science fairs as a child and you loved it until you saw the project your friend brings in? Her project has beautifully matched colors, great scientific verbiage, charts and […]

    Interesting! I really enjoy reading articles or new ideas that make me pause and think. The article by Larry Rosen, The Amazing Power of Tech Breaks, dated 2011, did just that. Rosen suggested the […]

    Interesting question!for oh so many reasons. I am at that time in life when I am thinking about the next country to teach in or the next place to teach and retire in. That next location […]

  • Valya Leaton posted a new activity comment 1 year, 3 months ago

    Lindsay –
    PBL (Project based Learning) and the Essential Question, Guiding Question, Learning Theme, whatever…YES, I am with you, sort of. Where you struggle with the project I struggle with the question. I really like how you have constant questions listed on all of your boards to promote thinking. I agree with you that developing inquiring…[Read more]

  • Valya Leaton posted a new activity comment 1 year, 3 months ago

    Bettina – I loved your article when I read it the first time. I am making that comment since my post didn’t go through so I am writing it again.
    Khan Academy was my go to as a math teacher for the drill and kill that some students needed. Along with Frank, I feel that students need that reinforcement to further their understanding or to remind…[Read more]

  • Valya Leaton posted a new activity comment 1 year, 3 months ago

    Pamela – I am so interested in your work with this! Especially sinceyou have my ‘old students’ and I have your next year 9th graders. I see this as an opportunity for possible vertical alignment – depending on schedules and such.

    Yes, PBL is what I am looking at myself and your concerns are my concerns too. As Lyndsay Lyons mentioned in her…[Read more]

    • Valya, thanks so much for commenting 🙂 And let’s plan to do some planning together soon. The grade 9 team would love to get some input from you especially since you know our students so well!

  • Valya Leaton posted a new activity comment 1 year, 3 months ago

    Yes, Andrew, Ron Ritchart made some powerful statements during his visit to our school. His ideas for Making Thinking Visible in the classroom go hand-in-hand with using technology in the classroom, for the future AND now. We need those visible techniques Ron mentioned utilized in the classroom with or with tech.

    I agree with you that teachers…[Read more]

  • When I hear students complaining about school, I always ask questions to see what the real issue is. If students are being serious I ask them to look at the issue from the teacher’s point of view after a […]

    • Valya,

      Thank you for your post. I can see where you are coming from as I have come completely full circle on this. At my previous school in Central America, I too was hesitant about “giving up” that control as you stated. Then over time, I tried “the flip” and it worked….and ridiculously well, I might add. I had to add an accountability aspect or it was not useful both for me or the students.

      Although it was a pain to do, I made my own Kahn Academy-Style lessons (math). The students were expected to solve a problem at the end of the lesson at home. Then, they would have to show competency the next day with a 3 question formative quiz. The largest chore was to make the lessons via an app on my iPad. Then I would have to enter the grades for the formatives daily. But, when year two came, the videos were done! I made some minor changes and sometimes re-recorded those videos, but basically it was a repeat of my lessons. Solving systems of equations is still the same as it was 30 years ago!

      The benefits were awesome. Suddenly my classes were almost too long because I only burned 20 minutes at the start of every class, which left me with an hour and ten minutes to go. I was able to get to all of those higher level difficult math problems with some of my students, meanwhile differentiating to the students who were having difficulties was also reasonably possible. We had the entire class to practice problems using different fun approaches. It was the most ideal classroom experience…like it was out of a fairy tale because there can be challenges, which I learned very quickly upon a new school.

      Fast forward to teaching High School Mathematics my first 2 years at AIS-R and suddenly I was back to my “old tricks” of teaching at the white board again. Not because I had abandoned my success of flipped classroom in Central America, but because the students were not responding well to it here. I gave up very quickly because I was lacking an understanding of what worked from the student standpoint. I really didn’t know my audience both from a cultural standpoint and from a mathematics ability standpoint. I had misunderstood what students needed. Ultimately I realized that I forgot how long it took me to TRULY UNDERSTAND my students where a flipped classroom environment worked well.

      The trick…
      I think the most difficult part is being patient. Things will work when they shouldn’t, and won’t work when they should. Mix it up with your tools, videos, and approaches. My students seemed to really get drawn in when I incorporated their ridiculous games they played. I dove into their world by learning what they liked doing in their free time. Basically, getting closer to them to understand their culture within the school. Like making a suit, I was able to slowly tailer each idea into a masterpiece that fit perfectly. I would still periodically have to adjust, but I felt that it was a success by winning them over with continual changes in the daily class activities after their quizzes. With having more daily time with the students, I was allowed to have more fun activities that really engaged the students in the fun learning styles.

      I wish I had a great response to give you for what works here, but I have not discovered what is needed for success just yet. I am still working on it. I must say that the flipped approach is becoming more successful in MS Tech every semester. Students who do their lessons prior to class are much more successful, but I still have not found a guaranteed method. Students are really enjoying it and the learning struggles they encounter seem to decrease more and more.

      Good luck with your flipping Valya. I am not a master by any means, but I may have some tech tricks I can share with you from my experience with what worked and what did not.

    • Hey Valya,
      I still have reservations about the flipped classroom. I still believe that if we redesign the learning within the classroom, there should be enough time in class. I do appreciate your comment about the flipped classroom opening up more time for labs. That is true. What if, the redesign of learning in your classroom was based around labs? What if you chose labs as a focus and designed everything else from there?

  • Looking at the essential question this week coincided with thoughts and energies I initially had for Project Based Learning. Even though I consider myself an educator who welcomes new and innovative ideas, I also […]

    • Valya,

      When I think of you, the phrase “stick in the mud” rarely comes to mind. What I most appreciate about you is how you are always trying to stretch yourself and your practice as a teacher by constantly learning. I actually think you are away at another conference this weekend, aren’t you?

      Carefully applying new learning to make sure it is done correctly is prudent practice. I think too often as educators we come across a great idea, develop a limited or incomplete understanding of how it should be applied and then run with it. If we don’t reflect on the results and the efficacy of what we are doing then we are not doing justice to our students. It is clear that you are working through this process to provide the best learning opportunity that you can give to your student within the current parameters of your classroom. I am excited to see how your PBL journey continues and would love to see some of it in action!


  • Valya Leaton posted a new activity comment 1 year, 4 months ago


    Right On!
    Successful technology integration in the classroom, how does it look? I agree with you when you mention the support that is needed to make it successful.

    I deem myself as being successful with using tech on a daily basis in the classroom. My classroom is filled with 8th grade science students that routinely use their own…[Read more]

  • Do I use it? Yes, I use it. How often? Everyday. Why? Generally to assist my students with doing work or assist me in the collection of work the students do. Effective? In these terms, yes. Room for improvement? […]

    • Hi Valya…

      Your comments sound strangely similar to my thoughts on our tech use at school.
      My feeling is that while we want for nothing as far as new hardware or software is concerned, the time that we spend on actually employing tech in a meaningful way is not great. If I consider myself on the SAMR scale… it’s not that often that I go past the “A” of augmentation.
      Are we good at “making things digital” yes, but do we actively harness the capabilities of our tech tools to extend collaborative learning? Not consistently… speaking for myself of course. In fact, I find myself somewhat overwhelmed by staring at a monitor far too much during the day for purely reading, web researching, watching videos or typing (like this comment).
      To be honest, I’m curious about trying a “no-tech day” where students (and teachers) have the challenge of living for 24 hours without digital technology. You and I might say that this is easy because we lived through that world already! But for our digital native students, this could be a real challenge.
      Perhaps this is something that our NJHS and StuCo clubs could team up on?
      What do you say, are you up for Tech Free Tuesday?

  • Many of the options for the final assignment were ones that I wanted to do and HOPE to do on my own later. I ultimately decided on modifying a presentation that I have used in my classroom.

    When starting my […]

  • If I am going to use digital storytelling in my classroom then I need to take a page from my own learning. I have been very faithful with finding Creative Commons photos and such since I learned about it during my […]

  • (Isn’t the hardest part of writing formulating the idea? It is for me, including this post. I knew the question that I needed to address and where I thought I would go with my response. I had made an outline of n […]

  • Valya Leaton posted a new activity comment 1 year, 10 months ago

    I would be interested to learn the impact of infographics on the first graders you teach. With my eighth graders I find that they enjoy the simplicity/complexity that an infographic can use to depict information. It provides students with the pictures/text that varies from the paragraphs that middle schoolers are reading. With the example…[Read more]

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