Intentionally Welcoming Our Students Back

It has been almost two weeks since our students eagerly raced out of the doors of school and into the wonder and rest that the winter break brings. Whereas staff and students alike were excited for a little time off, I am just as excited to welcome our students back on Monday.

I spent a little time creating some positive affirmation signs and hanging them on the lockers and cubbies of our students. The messages vary, but all are intended to let our students know that we missed them, we care about them, and we are excited for the remainder of the school year.

To get the students excited for returning to school at arrival time, teachers are encouraged to greet them in the hallways and at the door with New Year’s Eve headbands and noisemakers. These were purchased inexpensively at Dollar Tree and after season sales make them affordable at other stores. As simple popcorn bar is being put in the lounge to welcome the teachers back as well. Afterall, I missed seeing them each day too!

You can view the PDF or editable word file of the posters below.


#OneWord2019: Intentionality

Each year I choose a word to provide focus and clarity to my year. I refer to the word often and allow it to guide my work as a mom, wife, and educator. Many years, it requires ongoing thought and brainstorming. There have been years where it has taken me days or weeks to find the right word to sum up my goals and aspirations for the year.

This year was different. For a variety of reasons, the word, “intentionality” screamed at me this year loud and clear and the moment I started brainstorming my word, this was and continues to be the only word that resonates with where my head and heart are at currently.

As a mom, wife, educator and leader, I find myself regularly trying to find balance in my life. I am constantly trying to find opportunities to be more effective and efficient. I schedule each part of my day and week with the best interests of my students, staff and family in mind, but I internally find myself reflecting on the purpose or intent of the actions.

The dictionary defines intentionality as follows:


Flipping Learning from the Principal’s Office

Flipped learning isn’t just a concept to share with staff and encourage teachers to use to engage their students. School leaders and principals can use the concept to connect with students and create a culture of learning and literacy throughout the school. Three simple strategies that administrators can do to “Flip Learning” from their role include:

  1. Social Media Read Alouds
  2. Social Media Challenges
  3. FlipGrid Book Talks

Social Media Read Alouds:

Looking for a way to engage your kindergarten students before school or to reach out to students on a snow day? Social media read alouds can be the perfect avenue. When students aren’t in our buildings, we have to find creative ways to connect with them and continue to build a culture of readers. Social media can be an engaging and accessible avenue to share stories. Consider doing a Facebook LIVE video of a read aloud. Promote the event ahead of time by setting a designated time for parents and students to tune in. You can do this from your living room, office, or other location or even while on vacation. The simplicity of a read aloud makes it easy to implement, and social media stories can be done for any topic, theme, or special event.

Challenge them and Create a Community of Learners: This past week, we had a snow day, while scrolling through facebook, I realized that this was the perfect opportunity to engage with my students and encourage learning on their bonus day off. I quickly used Canva to put together a graphic to post to our social media page. Students and their parents were encouraged to send in photos of their students completing any or all of the four proposed challenges. Those that participated were offered a small prize upon returning to school. On our first attempt of the snow day challenge, nearly 40% of students participated! We look forward to seeing this increase in the future with further promotion and strategic communication.

Flip it with Flip Grid: FlipGrid provides a unique and engaging platform to promote learning in many ways. FlipGrid allows users to record short videos and populates them on a collaborative form to view and share. To promote reading, set up a grid for staff to record their favorite read alouds and share them on social media throughout the summer or over breaks. Enhance this by engaging students in the process and allowing them to record themselves reading their favorite books and share them as well. You can spotlight district office staff or seek submissions from parents or community members.

FlipGrid can also effectively amplify student voice and engage learners through short video creation. You can use FlipGrid to have students engage in many literacy-based activities:

  • Have students join a grid to share their favorite book titles through short book talks.
  • Encourage staff to do a read aloud for students and share them on school social media
  • Provide students the option of using FlipGrid to share their personal writing pieces.
  • Have staff share tidbits about how they engage their students in reading by recording a FlipGrid.
  • Reach out to other schools or classrooms and have students share their reflections about a common title with others as reading buddies.
  • Ask older students to record picture books for younger students.

15 Strategies to Lead with Literacy from the #LeadLAP Chat 7.7.2018

There were so many wonderful ideas and tweets shared today about creating a culture of readers. I curated 15 of them to share with you. These easy to implement ideas can be done at any level, in any setting, and in any position. You can learn more about some of these strategies and more in the book, Lead with Literacy.

1. Display what you are reading, have read, or what is next on your reading list outside your classroom or office space. 

2. Be intentional about reading to students. It’s a great way to break the ice, but also build relationships and rapport. Books can unify classrooms and the school with a common message and set of values. They teach vital skills and lessons. 

3. Allow students to make and share book recommendations with each other. Have them post them around the school, share them virtually, or do book talks!

4. Be creative in how you display books. It could be a bathtub, lemonade stand or even a photo booth like this one! 

5. Give the literal gift of reading by gifting books whenever possible! Become “the book guy” in your school system where parents and community members know they can drop off books to be donated.

6. Post copies of the books you are reading or have read in your classroom or school space. 

7. Host a Book Bingo event for a literacy night or classroom activity 

8. Resolve to give books to colleagues!

9. Host a book tasting for your students or teachers. You can learn more about hosting  a staff book tasting at one of my previous blog posts here

10. Host a book swap where students and or staff exchange their books for new/used ones! 

11. Encourage professional reading by sharing your professional library collection with others.

12. Flood your work space with books! 

13. Host events in the summer months to connect with kids and build the love of reading. 

14. Eat with kids over lunch and talk about books. 

15. Create comfortable reading spaces and always talk about books with kids, colleagues and parents every chance you get! 

#LeadLIT Strategy: Give the Literal Gift of Reading with Birthday Books

Ever since I became principal in 2012, I have had a birthday bookshelf in my office. Funded by our Parent’s Club and Scholastic Book Fair Dollars, students are announced at our daily morning all school meeting and then come to the office for a book on their birthdays. I am able to spend a moment with them, snap a selfie, and gift them with a book.

The process is simple and I always like to break it down for others to understand how easy it really is.

  1. During morning announcements, share the names of all birthday students.
  2. At the conclusion of announcements, invite those students up for a #BirthdaySelfie
  3. Post the #BirthdaySelfie on social media for parents and families to see
  4. Print the #BirthdaySelfie using the HPSprocket
  5. Invite the student to the office following announcement to choose a book from the shelf.
  6. Sign the Book and spend a few moments celebrating the student.

This year I intend on adding a few other elements; including a birthday crown (We’re the DGS ROYALS) and personalized bookmark to go with the book.


Although I have been doing student birthday books for YEARS, I have reserved gifting my staff books as a whole during back to school time or teacher appreciation week. Many of my efforts have been general in the fact that everyone gets the same book. In many cases, this is powerful and can support important school goals or vision. In other ways, teachers are individuals and have different needs. As the gifting goes this year, I have created the Staff Birthday Book Cart that will be wheeled around to classrooms on staff member birthdays for them to choose a personalized book.

I’ve ordered and will stock the book with some favorite professional reads and non-fiction books for teachers to either add to their professional or classroom libraries. With a personalized card, birthday treat, and book, I’m hoping to recognize staff on their birthdays while promoting a love of reading and literacy. After all, the best gift, is the gift of learning!

LeadLit Strategy: Create a Face-to-Face with Author’s Display

Reading a text and connecting with the message and content can impact teaching and learning. Connecting and learning directly with the author can be transformational. Through the various conferences, workshops, and events I have attended as a teacher and administrator, I have had the chance to have face-to-face meetings with several authors and educational leaders.

When I snap the selfie, it serves not only to commemorate meeting the individual but also to showcase the power of reading and connectedness to staff and students. I post the selfie alongside a picture of the author’s book cover on a wall that reads “Face to Face with Authors: Leaders are Readers!”

Staff and students see this display grow as I meet some of my favorite authors. Many of the connections I have made with these authors have come on the heels of building relationships on Twitter and developing a PLN that includes industry leaders and trailblazers.

This same concept can be replicated even if you haven’t had the chance to meet the authors of the books you are reading. In the school setting, we have ample access to authors. The display could include pictures of the principal or teachers posing for a picture with students who have published their writing in their classroom. Imagine the thrill a student would experience seeing their picture up on the “Face to Face with Authors” display, knowing that their teacher or principal read their work and provided feedback. Showcasing their accomplishments highlights the importance of literacy and deepens the connection and relationship for the student to the school and classroom.

I’ve included some posters below for you to use on your display.

#LeadLIT Strategy: Share What You Are Reading

Creating a culture of readers requires you to share what you are reading to model the importance of lifelong reading. A simple strategy can be “What I am Reading Posters.”

Display a simple sign sharing what you’re reading outside your office. In fact, you can have all your staff do this.

Imagine the power of having every teacher, support staff member, assistant, cook, and school volunteer share their current book. That kind of reading display clearly communicates a simple and powerful message that is reinforced throughout the school:

Reading is important to us, and it should be important to you! It unifies and subtly reinforces the message that we are all learners and part of a culture of reading. When students know the adults around them are reading, they are given a strong model for lifelong reading.

The signs don’t have to be elaborate. Simply print out a letter-size page with the header, “What I am Reading.” Leave space for staff to write in their current book. Ask them to display it in an area outside their classroom or office door. Laminate the signs so they can be updated frequently with dry-erase markers. Alternatively, you could use sticky notes to post new book titles.

As you do walk-throughs in the building, snap pictures of current book titles on display and share them periodically in school newsletters, staff memos, and social media posts to the school community.

Knowing what teachers are reading opens opportunities for meaningful conversations. There are no rules about what people can write on their “What I’m Reading” sign. It can be a children’s book they are reading with their own children, a professional book, or a fictionalbook for personal enjoyment. The power and value of this practice
comes in sharing the importance of reading.


I’ve included some templates for you to use below!


Guest Post by Education.Com: Learning Marathon Learning Activity

Summer is coming and school is almost over, but the learning doesn’t have. Our friends at Education.Com are guest posting today with a fun end of the year or summer math activity that can be done by either teachers or parents! Read more at to

Flashcards are a good way to practice math facts, but sometimes, they can be a little dry. And if your child is a kinesthetic learner, he’ll need to move around to learn. Looking for ways to make learning math facts and sight words more fun and active? Here’s an activity that challenges your child to use sight word, addition or multiplication facts to run and win a race!

What You Need:
Flashcards of choice (addition or multiplication)
At least 3 players, two to race and one to hold the flashcards

What You Do:
Set-Up. With the chalk, draw a line on the ground as the starting line and another line as the finishing line. The finishing line can be as short or as far away as desired; the longer the distance is, the longer the game will be.

Get ready to play! Have each child stand behind the starting line.

Show the children a flashcard from any math deck or set of sight words.

The first child to shout out the answer gets to take one step forward. Each child advances when he says the correct answer.

The objective of the game is to get as many math facts correctly as needed to get to the finishing line. The first child to make it to the finishing line first wins!

Staff Scrabble Challenge

I follow the “Staff Appreciation and Motivation” principal group on Facebook. It has been a fantastic resource for ideas and inspiration for building culture and community in my school. Earlier this spring, I came across the idea of a Staff Scrabble Challenge and wanted to make it happen. Well, who knew that April 13, 2018 is National Scrabble Day. It was perfect timing of coming back from spring break! This simple and fun activity is easy to plan and builds community and positive culture with staff.

I used Canva.Com to create the graphic above with directions. I printed off the scrabble letters below. I made enough so that each staff member had 2-3 letters. I simply placed the letters with the directions in staff mailboxes and sent an email encouraging the games to begin! As staff submitted pictures via text or email, I kept a spreadsheet to tally their points. Staff earn points individually for each group word they submitted. Staff with the highest number of points earn incentives and prizes that range from gift cards to jeans days or classroom books. Scrabble letters

This can be done over the course of a few days or during the allotted time of a staff meeting. Other ideas to tweak the process could include:

  1. Focusing the words on a particular school goal or initiative. For example, only create words related to math instruction or technology integration.
  2. Using FlipGrid, PadLet, or other medium to have staff submit and collect their responses digitally.
  3. Asking staff to come up with words related to book characters or book titles.
  4. Getting credit through tweets to a school hashtag
  5. Including students or community members for bonus points

Benefits of the Challenge include:

  1. Positive Staff Culture Building
  2. Cross-Curricular Collaboration and Communication
  3. Staff connections and team building
  4. Problem-solving
  5. Creativity
  6. Can be accomplished within time constraints and when staff has open time
  7. Can be be aligned to school goals and altered to meet building needs or initiatives

Positive Contact Challenge

I find an enormous amounts of inspiration from my colleagues in my Professional Learning Network on Facebook and twitter. With educators that share a passion for teaching and learning, there’s always a take-a-way that I can use immediately in my building. As I scrolled through Facebook one evening, I stumbled upon the “Share the Love” positive phone call challenge and wanted to put it into action. With dreary winter weather and 3 quarters of school behind us, its the perfect time to promote the positive and share the great things going on with our students.

I copied the template below and placed it in staff mailboxes with a message of encouragement to celebrate the successes of their students. Those that completed the challenge would receive recognition and a mystery incentive (Barnes and Noble Gift Card).

Around the same time as I came across the positive phone call challenge, I was inspired by a presentation at the Illinois Computing Educators (ICE) Conference by Melissa Kartismas and Lindsy Stumpenhorst. They shared how they sent positive postcards home to every student in their school. With a little graphic design on, I created the postcards below and printed them on card stock.

We ran labels for every student in our school and placed pre-labeled postcards at a station in our teacher workroom/lounge. Over the course of the month, any staff member could choose a student to write a note too. Aides, support staff, specials teachers, and classroom teachers were all part of the process and shared sweet moments of pride and success with the students. We collected the post cards in the office and did a bulk mailing of all the special notes to our students.

The feedback from staff was positive. The goal was to promote the positive of our students, but the impact on teachers was positive as well. When you provide opportunities to promote the positive, it spreads kindness and promotes a culture that supports building relationships and rapport with students

1 2 3 14