Sunday, January 7, 2018

HOT TOPIC: Emotional and Social Development

My kids recently taught me how to download and use Bitmoji. 
Bitmoji is designed for you to create a virtual version of yourself that you can use to share a reaction (emotion) and to empathize with others during virtual communications, like text messages or email. I’ve been experimenting with it and like that it bridges the use of text (word only) formats and enhances communication. For example, in situations where I would usually add a smiley or sad face emoji, there is now an opportunity for more sophisticated interaction using words, facial expression, and body language together. This allows for a higher-order level of emotional literacy and a novel pathway to grow in and express our social competence. Emotional and social development matters, according to researchers (Jones, Greenberg, & Crowley, 2015), beginning as early as kindergarten! It’s also quite a bit of fun!

Why focus on Emotional and Social Development?

Emotional Literacy Impact
Children who can identify and express their emotions are better able to manage strong emotions. Therefore, they often have better relationships with children in their classroom and have better social skills. These are important competencies in school.
Emotion Regulation Impact
When children regulate emotions, they can work in collaborative groups, play with other students, and engage in behaviors such as asking questions, offering ideas to a group, and investigating an idea that supports academic success and positive relationships. Learning to regulate one’s emotions involves learning skills over time that are essential for doing well in school and in relationships.

Did you know? 
Emotional and social development in kindergarten has a lasting impact for our students. According to a 20-year study (Jones, Greenberg, & Crowley, 2015) conducted in Durham, Nashville, Seattle and central Pennsylvania, teacher-rated social competence was a significant indicator of both positive and negative future outcomes for children.

A few highlights from the study by Jones and colleagues, 2015:
For every one-point increase on the 5-point scale in a child’s social competence score in kindergarten, he/she was:
Twice as likely to attain a college degree in early adulthood;
54% more likely to earn a high school diploma; and
46% more likely to have a full-time job at the age of 25.

For every one-point decrease in a child’s social competence score in kindergarten, he/she had:
67% higher chance of having been arrested by early adulthood;
82% higher rate of recent marijuana usage; and
82% higher chance of being in or on a waiting list for public housing.

Three things to try in your classroom now!

 A Safe Place
Create a safe place in your classroom.
Notice that the teacher has activities and rules posted in this safe place.
Children will need opportunities to practice learning how to use a safe place. Teachers model and demonstrate how to use a safe place as an effective strategy for regulating emotions and supporting the development of social competence.

Calm Down Tools
A great example of a calm down tool is a calm down bottle. It can be homemade by adding glitter glue, warm water, and regular glitter to a bottle with a leak-proof lid. Then, students can use the calm down bottle as a hands-on strategy for regulating emotions by shaking up the bottle and watching the glitter settle to the bottom.
Children will require practice to learn to use a tool like this, and teachers can model and demonstrate in-the-moment and over time to promote successful use. To see a YouTube demonstration about how to make a calm down bottle, see the YouTube link provided.

Breathing or Counting Strategies
A simple way to help students regulate emotions is to teach them to count slowly to five and/or
take deep breaths. They will need practice to use this strategy when they are faced with a need to regulate their emotions. Teachers can model in-the-moment and scaffold the use of these strategies in an ongoing way. It is helpful to provide prompts as you demonstrate, “Let’s count like we’re in slow motion together” or “Let’s take a big breath together.”

Additional resources from the NCDPI Office of Early Learning:
Emotional Literacy Quick Guide
Emotion Regulation Quick Guide

Jones, D. E., Greenberg, M., & Crowley, M. (2015). Early social-emotional functioning and public health: The relationship between kindergarten social competence and future wellness. American Journal of Public Health, 105(11), p 283-290. Retrieved November 17, 2017:

Join the #NCAEEchat on Thursday, January 11th from 8:00-9:00 on Twitter as we discuss Emotional and Social Development. 

About the Author:
Dr. Cindy Dewey serves on the Board of Directors for NCAEE as the NCDPI At-Large Director. At NCDPI, Cindy serves as an education consultant in the Office of Early Learning on the K-3 Formative Assessment Team. Cindy’s teaching experiences span several states and include elementary, middle, high school, and university levels. This is Cindy’s fifth year serving NCAEE.

This is the second blog post on this topic by Dr. Dewey, click here for the first blog:

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Anchors Away…Anchor Charts 101

You’ve seen them on Pinterest, on teacher blogs, hanging in classrooms, but how do you create the most effective ones?  Anchor Charts are one of the hottest teacher topics today. However, the what, why, when, where, and how of creating and using anchor charts in your classroom to enhance your instruction and student learning experiences is sometimes elusive.

I have always been a visual learner and so the idea of creating and displaying posters/anchor charts to reflect student learning has always appealed to me. Thus, I spent many hours outside the classroom creating these anchor charts to help my student learn and retain information. After many hours laboring on just the right wording and colors, I would take my charts in and post them in my classroom. Certainly, my students would recognize and appreciate my hard work.  I would proudly display them prominently in the front of the room and periodically made reference to them during my instruction. I thought my students would be just as excited about them as I was- boy, was I wrong…  So where did I go wrong?

Through professional reading about anchor charts (not to mention years of experience), I finally learned what I was doing wrong:  I was essentially replacing purchased posters with handmade ones and there was no difference in their effect- why?  It hit me like a ton of bricks- they were just serving as classroom wallpaper.  The students looked at them, once, maybe twice (if I was lucky) and that was basically it.  There was no reason for them to want to reference these masterpieces/ anchor charts, there was no ownership or engagement on behalf of my students.  Once the proverbial lightbulb went off in my head, did I realize that I had to find a way to change my thinking about the what, why, when, where, and how of creating and using anchor charts in my classroom.

Once I changed my own mindset and took a different approach, I soon discovered what I was searching for all along- tools that would engage my students in the learning process along with documenting their thinking and learning in a visual format.  I now spend my passion for anchor charts by conducting professional development workshops with teachers on some of the lessons I have learned.

Some teachers in McDowell County Schools have begun creating and using these anchor charts with their students in their classrooms. Let’s take a peek at a few of the many anchor charts that have been created by teachers at Eastfield Global Magnet School:

Many thanks to Stella Brewer, Academic Facilitator- Eastfield Global Magnet School, Marion, NC for the photos.

Can you see differences in these anchor charts than more traditional anchor charts that you may have created and/or seen?  In the professional development workshops I conduct, I teach and encourage teachers to consider including the following components on anchor charts:
1. Standard/Objective
2. Teaching Section- where teacher provides skill/content instruction to students (from standard)
3. Student Section- students contribute ideas/learning to the anchor chart either through the use of sticky notes, writing on the poster, etc.  Students also keep notes in a learning journal/notebook.

Anchor charts in the twenty-first century classroom should serve as concrete representations of what has been taught, evidence of student learning and serve as visual reminders of what has taught over the course of time.  Anchor charts can be considered the artifacts of collective learning within a classroom and just as an anchor stabilizes and secures something such as a boat in place, these classroom tools provide secure and stabile student learning environments.

If you are interested in learning more about the research behind these types of anchor charts, I encourage you to pick up the following professional books or contact me for additional information.

About the Author
Dr. Lora Drum, currently serves as the Region 7 Director for the North Carolina Association of Elementary Educators.  She retired from North Carolina Public Schools in June of this year.  Her educational career included teaching middle school, ESL in elementary, middle, and high school,  and serving as a district level curriculum specialist.  Dr. Drum conducts professional development workshops for teachers in school districts, local community colleges, and at regional educational alliances.  She is fulfilling her dream of beginning her second career as the assistant director of the Lenoir-Rhyne Teaching Scholars Program and an adjunct instructor.  If you have questions about this article or would like additional information, please contact her at

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Empowering & Engaging Educators: Our 14th Elementary Conference in Review

Our 14th Elementary Conference theme was Engaging & Empowering Educators and we believe we did just that! Hundreds of elementary educators traveled to Concord, North Carolina to participate in three days of high quality professional development and collaboration.
This was one of our best conferences yet!

We were thrilled to have Dr. Maria Pitre-Martin,  Chief Academic and Digital Learning Officer for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction join us! Dr. Pitre-Martin kicked off a full day of learning on Monday morning with educational updates from our state, and words of gratitude for our educators that motivated everyone to continue working hard to do what is best for our students!

Our luncheon featured  Dr. John Hodge as our keynote speaker. He challenged everyone to “Be the One” who makes the difference in the life of a child and use the S.A.M.E. Pathway to override the effects of poverty in that child’s life. The Social, Academic,and Moral Environment of a child impacts a child’s behavior, learning, and beliefs. He further suggested that we as teachers must be what we want our students to become. We should teach our students that they need to SLANT (Sit up front, Lean forward, Ask questions, Nod their heads, and Talk to the teacher) to be successful in school and life. Distributive Leadership states that all of the kids belong to all of us and we should respond to all students, not just the ones in our class, with this thought in mind.

Breakout sessions were facilitated by educational leaders from our state and beyond. It was exciting to hear participants share their takeaways with one another in between sessions and swap ideas. There was great energy throughout the conference; it is always powerful when you are able to  bring passionate, enthusiastic educators together in the same place!

Our featured speakers were a mix of NCAEE returning favorites, such as Kathy Bumgardner, The Bag Ladies, and Justin Ashley, and NCAEE newcomers, Rick Jetter, North Carolina Teacher of the Year Lisa Godwin, and Kyle Greene. Each of these speakers brought great energy, passion, and delivered powerful sessions that left our participants begging for more!

Justin Ashley closed out our conference by sharing his personal story through The Balanced Teacher Path: How to Teach, Live, and Be Happy. With equal parts humor and wisdom, Justin analyzed four key aspects of every teacher's life—career, social, physical/emotional, and financial—and offered practical advice to bring these areas into sync, reigniting a passion for teaching in the process! It was the perfect way to end an amazing three days of learning, connecting, and fun.

Thank you to all of our attendees, exhibitors, sponsors, and featured speakers who made this conference so wonderful! Our Board is still going through the feedback forms and reflecting on the overall conference experience. Though this year's conference was excellent, we will strive to make our 15th Elementary Conference even better! Planning will begin soon. In the meantime, please save the dates of October 28th-30th, 2018 and stay tuned for more information!

Experience Our Conference Through Tweets!

Couldn't make it to our conference OR just want to relive all of the conference goodness?! Check out the Storify below to experience it through tweets!

What Are Your Thoughts?

 What were your favorite sessions? What were the best parts of the 14th Elementary Conference for you? How will you engage and empower your students as a result of participating in this unique professional development opportunity? Share your thoughts below and let the learning and collaboration continue!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

How to Be a Happier Teacher This School Year

By Justin Ashley

We are now a few weeks into the school year.

The back to school excitement has fizzled out and the realization of high expectations has kicked in, once again-the meetings, the lessons, the grading. As the paperwork piles up, here’s 17 little things you can do this week to fight against depression, anxiety, and burnout this school year.

1. Plan a family field trip for the fall.

During a quick break or while eating lunch, plan out an out-of-town adventure for an upcoming weekend this fall, maybe you could go pumpkin picking, to Tweetsie Railroad, Scarowinds, or visit a family farm. Once you pick one out, immediately put it on your calendar.

A research study showed that just planning and thinking about your next family vacay can raise your endorphin levels by 27 percent.

2. Buy your custodian or cafeteria lady a soda from the teacher’s lounge.
Research has proven that buying stuff doesn't make a lasting difference on our mood, with one exception-buying stuff for other people. This makes us happier than buying stuff for ourselves. Tis’ better to give than to receive.

3. Tell your class a funny story.
Your kids don’t want to just hear about the curriculum. They want to learn about you! Think of a story from your past that’s gotten laughs before. Tell them a silly story about yourself to get them giggling and lighten the mood in the room.

My middle schoolers like hearing about the day I proposed to my wife. We both threw a penny in a fountain and made a wish. My wish-her hand in marriage. Her wish-A raise at work.

When I taught elementary school, my kids loved to hear about my 1st visit to the zoo as a 5 year old boy, where I got too close to a fence and was attacked by a monkey, after I smiled at him. Never smile at monkeys. Never.

4. Start your lesson off with an inspirational video.
Find a Youtube video that’s motivating. Something that lights your fire and gives you chill bumps. Here’s one of my favorites…
40 speeches in 2 minutes

5. Leave your phone in your purse or workbag. 

It’s no secret that compulsive phone checking is damaging. It moves you away from your present environment and even further from each present moment. Check your phone between blocks, on breaks, or at lunch.

6. Meditate with Headspace.

Before the morning bell rings or during your planning, set aside a few minutes to get your mind right and meditate.

Don’t know where or how to start? Try downloading this free app, Headspace. This chill dude with a British accent will walk you through it. All you have to do is put your headphones in, turn off the lights, and find a chair. It’s that easy.

7. Make a list of 10 things you’re grateful for. 
Write them down and read them aloud. Here’s 3 of mine:
I’m grateful to have a job that’s also a calling, where I get paid to do something I enjoy doing.
I’m grateful to live in a democratic country, where I have guaranteed rights listed in my country’s constitution.
I’m grateful to pay my taxes, because this money makes better roads, better emergency services, better schools, and a better community. (*This last one’s a stretch. I know.)

8. Try a simple breathing technique periodically throughout the day.
A recent study showed that war veterans who suffer from PTSD could significantly reduce their cortisol levels (stress hormones) simply by using deep, slow breathing techniques. The 4-7-8 breathing technique is the easiest, most effective one I’ve found:
Inhale for 4 seconds
Hold your breath for 7 seconds
Exhale for 8 seconds
Try this a few times when you feel stressed and see if it helps.

9. Put motivational quotes cards on your desk. 
Use some index cards and google inspirational quotes or order some off Amazon and put them on your desk. Verses of scripture could also work. Read a few at a time for encouragement.

10. Write thank you cards to students or compliment them with a sticky note.
Pick out a kid or two in class, students who are working really hard, and write them a little note of recognition. We have a tendency to instinctively spot the negative, but make it a point to point out the positives, too.

11. Smile when you greet and talk with students. 
Smiles are infectious (mirror neurons), so smile when you they come into your room. Positive classroom culture starts and ends with you.

12. Set a fun short-term goal. 
Come up with a small goal. Not a SMART goal or some big resolution, just something simple, but exciting. It should take 13 weeks or less, so you can finish it around the New Year. After tomorrow, continue doing one thing each day to reach it. That’s what I did with my kids to make  STRAIGHT INTTA OREGON, a music video about Westward Expansion that went viral. Check it out!

13. Thank your principal.
Drop in their office or stop them in the hallway and tell them thank you for something they did recently. Maybe they helped you out with a resource, or stuck up for you when a parent complained. You might be a little down that summer is over and school is back in session, but they were probably working through the whole summer. Thank them for what they do behind the scenes on the daily.

14. Exercise with kids at recess.
Join in on in the fun outside. You deserve a break, too. Walk the track with your students. Kick or throw a ball with them. Jump rope with them. Connect with kids while you are working out on the playground.

15. Do some fall cleaning. 
Purge some of your school files. Get rid of old resources. Set up a new filing system. Minimalism is a really neat documentary on Netflix that shows how liberating it can be to simplify your environment.

16. Dress super nice. 
Professional attire means more respect. Kids notice that you take the job seriously. It also feels good to get hat-tips from teachers and administrators.

17. Find your 30 minute thing.
You work ridiculously hard serving others each week, so you need to carve out 30 minutes each day to serve yourself.

Take this time to move. It could be jogging around your neighborhood, doing yoga, or playing soccer with your kid. For me, it’s boxing. Every day after school, I box for 30 minutes before I pick up my kids. That’s my ‘me’ time. It’s something I look forward to each day.

And research shows that just 30 minutes of exercise uplifts your mood for the next 3-4 hours, improves your quality of sleep, and has a similar impact on your brain as the strongest anti-depressants on the market, without the negative side effects.
***Bottom Line-There are small things we can do to live healthier, happier lives today and tomorrow. Some are about the external (changing our actions and environment), others internal (changing our thought patterns). We don’t have to wait until the summertime to be happy. We don’t have to count down the  school days to each Friday.

We can be happier now.

Happiness Advantage
The Happiness Track

Justin Ashley is a teacher, author, and motivational speaker.  He will be facilitating a breakout session and will lead us in a closing celebration at this year's Elementary Conference! You won't want to miss him or his purple cows!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Can Elementary Teachers Explicitly Teach the Concept of “Adversity” to their Students?

By Rick Jetter, Ph.D.

     What if I told you that there is a gap in Character Education programs that have historically been administered to students in schools across the nation?  What if I told you that there is also a gap in the Emotional Intelligence (EI/EQ) research that is currently in the field of psychology and education and how we apply adversity training to student learning today?
     So, why is adversity important and what types of adversity exist in our students’ lives that you can help them tackle or cope with while also preparing them to proactively deal with any adverse situation no matter what age they are?  Think about your own life right now.  What adversities existed in your life since you were 5 years old?  10 years old?  16 years old?  21 years old?  And NOW?
     Take a look at this video and can you honestly say that YOUR students would know how to handle this kind of adversity without FREAKING out like the woman whose car was vandalized did?

Maybe this will help even more:

Adversity training is needed for students to learn how to deal with the following 6 kinds of adversity, including (but not limited to):
1.  Physical Adversity
2.  Mental Adversity
3.  Emotional Adversity
4.  Social Adversity
5.  Spiritual Adversity
6.  Financial Adversity

From those types of adversities, there are event subgroupings that are often neglected and are often experienced by not only our youth, but by adults no matter their age:
1.  Loss of a pet or loved one.
2.  Not achieving what they thought they would.
3.  Financial loss.
4.  Job loss.
5.  Illness/disease.
6.  Dealing with others when they suffer adversity (many do not know how to continue being friends or supportive of others during their time of adversity).
7.  Stress as a result of opposition or conflict.
8.  Addiction.
9.  Dealing with geographical disasters.
10.  Dealing with accidents.

From there, we can certainly “prevail” as human beings under pressure by living gracefully, living with gratitudes, living mindfully, and living with skills that emotionally healthy human beings possess--especially when we see how this weather man deals with adversity due to technical malfunctions within his meteorological newscast in Arizona:

Adversity training = grace under pressure for your students for the rest of their lives.

See you at NCAEE 2017 for Dr. Rick Jetter’s presentation: Teaching Adversity in Our Schools where you can learn more about how to not only prepare students for the next grade level, but how you can prepare students for life!

Rick Jetter, Ph.D., is currently a national educational consultant, author, speaker, trainer, and partner at Pushing Boundaries Consulting: 

Rick previously worked as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent, and superintendent of schools prior to becoming the Director of K-12 Education for the AEP Group which can be found at  You can also find out more information about Rick by visiting  On Twitter, you will find him at @RickJetter. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Diagrams: Bringing Visual Learning to a Classroom Near You

By Amanda Kaestner

Your classroom is a melting pot of learning styles—and you might feel overwhelmed trying to meet so many different needs. 65% of people are categorized as visual learners, yet so much of what goes on in the classroom revolves around written and spoken instruction.

Incorporating visuals into your lesson plans might seem like a lot of effort just to cater to one learning style. But it’s not just your visual learners who benefit. We are all visually wired—we actually retain a whopping 80% of what we see and do, and our brains process visuals 60,000 times faster than text. Visuals help all students better understand and retain information—in fact, visual aids in the classroom can improve learning up to 400%.

But “visuals” is a vague term, and it’s hard to know how to add this new element to your lesson plans and classroom setup (especially when time is always scarce). As you’re looking to plunge into the world of visuals, diagramming can be the perfect way to get your feet wet. Diagrams offer many different formats for visually representing any type of information in a way that clarifies concepts and engages students.

  • Use a Venn diagram as a new spin when explaining the greatest common factor. 
  • Have students recreate a famous work of art from the time period you’re studying. 

  • Instead of assigning ten pages of reading on the food chain, have students map the flow of energy in a flowchart. 
  • After finishing your class book, check reading comprehension by asking students to build a timeline of the story rather than just asking verbal questions.

With the right tool, these diagrams can be simple for students to make. Lucidchart is a collaborative diagram software that helps anyone clearly understand and share ideas and information, and its product features make it particularly powerful for classroom use.

Ease of use
With an intuitive interface, getting started in Lucidchart is as simple as dragging and dropping shapes onto the canvas or customizing one of the many available templates.

Lucidchart is accessible from any computer or device, regardless of operating system.

Real-time collaboration
You and your students can share documents with each other and edit them simultaneously. Commenting and chat features make collaboration seamless.

G Suite integration
Lucidchart integrates with Google Drive, Google Docs, and other G Suite programs. Students can insert diagrams into their assignments or submit a link to Google Classroom for you to grade.

Most importantly, Lucidchart is free to educators and students! Here’s how to get started:
1. Sign up for a free account with your educational email address.
2. Log in, click on your username located in the upper right-hand corner, and select “Account Settings” from the dropdown menu.
3. Select “Get a Free Educational Upgrade” in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen.
4. Click the link in the confirmation email you receive, and you’re ready to diagram!

For inspiration in getting started, check out these lesson plans and see how other educators have used Lucidchart to bring visual learning to their classrooms.

Amanda Kaestner works with Lucidchart.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Flexible Seating in K-2

At this point everyone has probably heard of flexible seating, am I right?  There are still some who say “no way that is not for my classroom”, but many others who have bought in 100%.  I saw all the social media posts about flexible seating and loved all the changes teachers were making in their classrooms, but was not ready to jump in yet.  In these classrooms you could see how excited, yet engaged their students were with the new seating available to them.

Fast forward to this spring sitting in a professional development session and I was finally sold on flexible seating!  The presenter was positive (and realistic) as she discussed how she used it in her classroom, showed pictures, and even brought examples of seating with her.  The what-if’s and fears were calmed as we learned from the presenter.  Teachers could see a classroom very similar to what they taught in and saw it was working really well.  I was at Walmart, Five Below, and Goodwill that afternoon!   The types of flexible seating in my classroom are yoga balls, sensory cushions, small metal stools, 30” barstools, yoga mats, raised table, desks, traditional desk chairs, folding chairs, and carpet areas.

The first day of flexible seating all of the new seating was set up as students came in to the room.  Their faces were priceless as they looked around the room.  For the first week of flexible seating students had to pick a different type of seat each day and just try it out to learn what worked for them.  Students were in charge of their new seating and were driven to prove they could handle this new privilege.  From the teacher side of things I really had to sit back and watch them explore this new responsibility of not only picking the type of seat that worked for them, but taking care of these items.

Flexible seating did amazing things for the behavior management of my class.  You could hear and see the changes immediately.   There were some students who picked the same type of seat almost every day and others who would rotate different types of seating available.  The biggest fear I had with the younger students and flexible seating was that they would fight over whom sat where.  I never once had this problem!  One student who thought it was a big hit said “plain old chairs aren’t squishy like yoga balls; you can lie on a yoga mat, or stand if you like to stand up”.  If behavior would have been an issue I could have used a sign-up sheet for the seat options.  I will definitely be using flexible seating again and again.  It looks messy and a little chaotic, but the learning that takes place is magical.  

About Melissa Mooney –
Melissa is a classroom teacher and has taught grades 2-5 (in a classroom and a trailer) for the past ten years.  Her two big focuses at the moment are flexible seating and personalized learning.