Thursday, March 25, 2021

44 Things I've Learned at 44


Hey friends!  How are ya'll doing?  Are ya'll hanging in there?  I know it's been a while but just as I'm sure has been the case for all of you, life has been crazy!  I pray that you are all staying safe and taking time to take care of you, your loved ones and your mental health!

For the month of March, I've been participating in a "list maker challenge" that I stumbled across on Instagram.  The challenge, created by @bookstaandbujo is a means of getting out of a creative rut and simply making some sort of a creative list in a journal every day for the month of March.  The creator of this challenge found that when the pandemic first began, her life, schedule and structure were turned upside down.  She went from creatively planning in her planner every day to all of a sudden, not having anything to plan and no set schedule, not to mention, no "to do" list.  In an attempt to dig her way out of that funk, she created the "list maker challenge" and this March marks the second go 'round of it!  Search the #listmakerchallege on IG for inspiration.  

One of the lists that I was excited to create and that challenged me was a list of 44 things that I've learned at the age of 44.  I thought I'd share it with you here.  

1. God is always first.

2. Don't put your faith in people. You will always leave yourself open with room to be disappointed.

3. Everything and everyone that glitters ain't gold.

4. You don't need a lot of friends.

5. You don't need a lot of things.

6. Faith over fear.

7. Don't beat yourself up for your past. Pray about it. Ask for forgiveness. Move forward.

8. Learn from your mistakes and don't make the same mistakes over and over again.

9. Always pay yourself first.

10. Make time for what makes you happy.

11. Live for something bigger than yourself.

12. What is for you is for you.

13. Never question, "why you." Why not you?

14. Always pull up a seat to the table.

15. You have a story to tell and it deserves to be told.

16. Look up at the clouds sometimes. You'll learn to appreciate the small things.

17. Money comes and goes.

18. Enjoy the journey. It's not always about the destination.

19. Travel often.

20. Life's too short to not eat off of the good plates, use the good silverware, wear the red shoes, etc. What are you saving those things for?

21. Practice some form of gratitude every single day.

22. Pour into others as much as you can.

23. Don't wish ill will upon your enemies. The universe will take care of what it needs to.

24. Surround yourself with things and people that make you happy.

25. Let go of people and things that drain you of your peace.

26. Make time to get lost in a good book.

27. Always learn and grow.

28. Pay for the people's food/drinks in the car behind you in a drive through. Anonymously pay for someone's food in a restaurant....just because.

29. Send handwritten cards or letters to people, just because.

30. Once you've achieved something, you have a responsibility to pull others up behind you.

31. Pay it forward.

32. Don't be afraid to seek professional help.

33. Advocate for yourself and for those that you love.

34. Take care of your physical, spiritual and mental health.

35. Other people's opinions of you are not your business.

36. Just be kind.

37. Everyone is fighting a battle, some kind of battle that you know absolutely nothing about.

38. You can't change people. But you can change the way that you deal with people.

39. When you know better, do better.

40. Always always always listen to your spirit of discernment about people and situations. That little God whisper, 10 times out of 10, it's always right.

41. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. That's where the growth happens.

42. Somewhere between the ages of 40-45 you realize you are on "the other side of life" and things begin to matter either more or less. People begin to matter more or less. What you're willing to spend your time doing, things you're willing to tolerate, etc change, because you understand the value of time and peace of mind.

43. There is something so powerfully freeing when you find the courage and power to tell people, "no."

44. Always know and remember your "why."

Do any of my 44 resonate with you? What would you add to this list? What have you learned in your years here on earth so far that have stuck with you the most?

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Using OneNote to Differentiate and Personalize Student Learning


Remember when you were in middle school and wanted to carry around a Trapper Keeper so you could be like the rest of the cool kids?  It made you cool because you could snap or zip up your binder that was filled with loose leaf paper and dividers with pockets?  Extra points if you had Pee-Chee folders! Or maybe that was just a California thing??? That was sooooo 1980s!

I've seen several different versions of digital notebooks all across the internet, but in my opinion there is one that reigns supreme over all of the others. There really is no comparison! And if you've played around with all of them, or even some of them like I have, then you know what I'm about to say! Microsoft welcomes you to the 21st century with their version of the digital notebook called OneNote!  Cue the singing angels!

OneNote is FREE to all educators and students when using their school Office 365 accounts.  Students and teachers are able to easily create, personalize and differentiate their learning with digital notebooks that are easily accessible across all platforms.   

Without further ado, here are my top tips to personalize and differentiate learning through using OneNote!

Take advantage of using the Notebooks, Sections, Pages and Subpages within OneNote.  Let me say this first! You have to figure out how to organize your OneNote in a manner that works for you! A lot of students and teachers will use ONE OneNote notebook for all of their notetaking, which is fine if that works for you.  You could also personalize your OneNote and create a new notebook for each content area (ie. math, science, social studies, language arts).  Within each notebook I recommend that you organize your sections into: notes, classwork, homework, additional resources, etc.  Within the notes section (for example) a student could create a new page for every unit they are studying or one new page for each date they take notes, etc.  Each student’s notebook could look different to differentiate their learning experience from their classmates. Again, do what works for you and encourage your students to do the same!

Color code the Sections within your notebooks.  If you’re a visual learner like I am, this makes all the sense in the world!  Color coding your Sections keeps everything separate, neat and organized!  You can even color code the entire page (Select View, then Page Color)!  We all learn different so having a small personalization like the color of a page could make all the difference to some of your students. This is also a great tip for some of your students with visual impairments that need that text to pop off of the page to make it easier to read.

Use the checkbox Tag option to create to-do lists.  Who doesn’t love a good to-do list?  The feeling of creating a list with everything that you need to get done feels almost as good as checking off each item once you complete the task!  Extra points if you add something to your to-do list that you accomplished that wasn't originally listed on it, JUST so you could cross it off! Am I the only one? OneNote provides us with the ability to do so!

Use the other “Tags” features to categorize and personalize your notes.  The options within this drop down menu makes it really easy to click and select what you need without having to disrupt your note taking.

Rename and move the sections around in your notebook until they make sense for what you need.  Sometimes we get really excited and set up our notebooks the way we “think” they will work for us.  Once you get started taking notes and organizing, it may change.  OneNote gives you the autonomy to be able to move and rename as needed.

Password protect sections if you need added security.  If you have a section that requires a little more security, you can password protect them!  Password protecting sections is also a GREAT way to use OneNote to incorporate digital breakouts in your classrooms!  

Use bullets and tables to personalize your notes within your Notebooks. There are a few different bullet options to choose from which allow you to personalize your notes even more within OneNote.  Inserting a table and selecting how many rows and columns you want is easy as well! Side note: if you've gotten sucked into Tik Tok over quarantine like I have, you may have noticed college students, law students, etc talking about how much they use OneNote to organize their class notes using OneNote. One young lady I saw (I wish I could remember her name) has an ENTIRE series on using tables to organize her notes and review for exams! It was truly genius!

Embed links to other Microsoft tools into your OneNote.
  There may be times when you have a Sway, PowerPoint, Flipgrid Topic, etc that is best presented within that particular tool.  That’s great!  Embed that link into your OneNote and add notes around it to go back and reference!  This is a great way to keep your notes interesting and interactive! Annnnnd to break up all of the text that a lot of our notes come to be! Add color and interest so you actually want to go back and reference what you've created!

So there you go!  My top 8 tips to personalize and differentiate your OneNote notebooks! 

Did you know that the Microsoft Educator Center offers a ton of free professional learning resources on any and everything related to Microsoft you could ever want to learn, including OneNote!  To learn more about Microsoft OneNote, visit the Microsoft Educator Center (, create your free educator account and search for and complete the following courses: 

Educationally Yours, 

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Bitmoji Classrooms for Student Engagement!

Bitmoji ImageI keep seeing the awesome Bitmoji classrooms that teachers are creating and sharing all over social media to serve as a "Meet the Teacher" opportunity! Teachers are including all kinds of important information that parents and students could possibly need to know as the school year begins.

Although I haven't created mine yet, it got me thinking about how we could put a spin on then and use them to further engage our students during remote learning lessons to defend their thinking and amplify their voices rather than simply providing information or hyperlinks to resources.

Here's a quick activity that you can easily recreate to engage your students during virtual instruction with your students.

Step 1:  Go to and create your free account.

Step 2:  Click on the "Presentations" option.

Step 3:  Using the "Photos" and "Elements" options on the left, create a classroom.  I added my Bitmoji to this example below.  I also added 2 shapes (1 red and 1 green).  These will be used to create hyperlinks to some different options for your students.  I added them here so they become a part of the background.  I also left them blank so you could use them for different activities, for example: Would you rather.....Select A (green shape) or B (red shape).  You could also pose a question and have your students click on the green shape to agree or the red shape to disagree.

Step 4: Once you have your classroom set up the way that you want it, download it as a PNG or a JPG file.  

Step 5:  Open up a Google Slides presentation.  Upload your saved image as a BACKGROUND.  This way, it won't be able to be manipulated!  Add your question prompt and the text that you'd like inside of the green and red boxes.  

You could also leave the boxes blank and make the association with green=go=yes=agree and red=stop=no=disagree for your students.  Up to you!

Step 6:  Hyperlink the red and green boxes to go where you need them to go!  In this example, I've hyperlinked the agree and disagree selections to separate Flipgrid topics where students would have to voice why they agreed or disagreed that climate change is the greatest thread facing humanity today.  

In the Flipgrid, I added an article about climate change as well as a link to a YouTube video for students to reference should they need more information.  

Once students have recorded their response, you could instruct them to go to the option that they didn't select and reply to 2 of their classmates.  This allows for a way to have your students defend their thinking, collaborate with their peers, and do further research on the topic/prompt that you've provided them with.

There are TONS of ways that you could spin this activity to meet the needs of your students. Your options could go to:
  • Flipgrid prompts
  • Padlet boards
  • Google Jamboards
  • Microsoft Sways
  • Collaborative PowerPoint or Slides presentations
  • Collaborative Google or Microsoft Docs
  • YouTube Videos
  • Adobe Spark Pages, Posts, or Videos
  • Buncees
  • Etc.
I hope this quick activity sparked some ideas of how you could incorporate something like this into your remote learning lessons.  If you give it a try, let me know!  I'd love to add some of your creations to this post!  Email them to me at or Tweet me @apsitnatasha.

Happy creating!

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Time to Create Your "Return to Learn" plan!


Your Superintendent and your School Board have made the decision to start the school year either virtually or in a hybrid model.  You FINALLY know what the beginning of your school year will look like.  Now what?

Think back to Friday, March 13, 2020 when we all left our schools and offices THINKING we'd be back in 2 to 3 weeks once COVID-19 had run its way through your city and state. we are 17 weeks later and there is still no end in sight.  Back in March, as we continued instruction, we were bobbing to keep our heads above water.  We were putting a band-aid on the remainder of the semester and doing the best with what we had.  I hate to break it to you friends, but that time is over!

It's time to create your "Return to Learn" plan!!!


Now that we know what the beginning of our school year will look like, it's time to make some changes and some definite plans to deliver the best possible version of instruction to your students, NO EXCUSES!

The first thing I'd suggest is getting your "Return to Learn" together.  Ask yourself the following questions:
  • What level of technology will your incoming students have access to (Chromebooks, iPads, Windows devices, etc)?
  • Will your students have wifi access to accompany their devices?
  • What standards are you adhering to?  
  • Do you have a content management system available in which to help lead instruction?  
  • Do you have a learning management system in which to host a virtual classroom (Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, Moodle, Canva, Blackboard, Seesaw, etc)?  
  • What tech tools are you familiar with?  
  • Which tools do you need to spend some more time with?
  • How will you design your lessons to be authentic and not simply "check box" lessons?


***This should go without saying BUT the technological device and the edtech tools are NEVER the answer to delivering good instruction.  It is simply the vehicle to deliver the instruction.  YOU, the teacher, are the answer to delivering good instruction!!!***

Because we are starting off virtually, it's going to be more important than ever to start with a VERY strong routine for both the sanity of you and your students!  Even before Day 1, there are some things that you can do and put into place.

How about creating a Flipgrid for your incoming students?  This will give you a chance to introduce yourself to your students and their families as well as have your students introduce themselves to you and their classmates.  Included in your student's responses could be:
  • Their name WITH the proper pronunciation!
  • Is there a nickname that they prefer to be called?
  • Did they read a favorite book this summer?
  • What is something interesting they did during the summer?
  • What are they looking forward to this year?
  • Maybe even include a moderated topic that provides them the opportunity to voice any concerns they may have coming into a virtual school year.  Also ask they how they best learn.  This information will allow you to cater to their learning style during the virtual beginning of the year and beyond.
Communication with your students and especially their parents/caregivers is going to be key!  Find different ways to make this happen.  Maybe you have several modes of communication to make sure that everyone is on the same page.

    Bitmoji Image
  • Have your parents sign up for Remind.
  • Email them newsletters using different programs such as Microsoft Sway or SMORE.
  • Create videos using Google Meet, Zoom or Screencastify with introductions, expectations, and procedures,
  • Send snail mail for those that may not have internet access at home
  • A good old fashioned phone call can also go a long way!
  • Create a Google Voice phone number so you can communicate with students and parents without providing your personal phone number. Voice messages can be transcribed.  Teachers can also set "office hours" to receive calls from students/parents.  Unfortunately this feature is not available with your school Google account so you would have to use your personal Google account.  

Flipping your classroom:
Before we get to some ideas let's talk about the idea and benefits of flipping your classroom.  The term "flipped classroom" has been around for a few years but I think it could be extremely beneficial now, more than ever!  What does it mean to flip your classroom?  Well, in simple terms, you would create instructional videos that your students can watch ahead of your direct instruction time.  Why would you do this?  Here are 4 reasons!  
  1. It allows your students to come into the direct instruction time with a base of knowledge for what will be discussed.  
  2. When it's time for your direct instruction time, you are able to go more in depth about the content,  have more time to help students that may need further assistance, and have more time to help students create projects around the content. 
  3. Students have access to these instructional videos and can stop and start them as needed.  They can view them at their own pace when needed for instruction and for review.
  4. It creates a library of content that they have at their fingertips and can always come back and refer to.

Bitmoji ImageTen ideas to get you started thinking about delivering instruction virtually in an engaging way:
Once you've gotten to Day 1 and you're ready to begin instruction, I'd like you to start to think NOW about how you will deliver instruction and some ideas to keep your students engaged in their learning.  The whole point is make sure that your students are active participants in their virtual learning as opposed to simply passively listening to you lecture.  Here are TEN ideas to get your creative juices flowing!

1.  Flipgrid-
Ya'll know this is my go-to tool!  With all of the updates coming in August, this tool is going to be a no brainer to allow your students the opportunity to have their voices be heard as well as showcase their learning.  If you're new to Flipgrid or need some ideas of how you can use this to engage your students, check out their Disco Library.  It's FULL of ideas to get you started.  The great thing is that the topics and ideas that are there can be altered to meet the needs of your students.

2.  Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Zoom or Screencastify-
Any of these tools would be great to use to flip your classroom and record your lessons ahead of time so your students are able to view them ahead of direct instruction.  These (Google Meet, Microsoft Teams or Zoom) are also great places to host your direct instruction.  Some districts may lean towards one tool more than another so check with your administration but all of them could work.  

3.  Google Classroom or Microsoft Teams-
Both of these tools are GREAT for the management of your virtual classrooms.  Upload assignments.  Provide assessments.  Create discussions.  Include links to other resources.  The sky is the limit!  Again, your district may have a preference for which you will be using so check with administration.

4.  Microsoft OneNote-
This is a great opportunity for your students to create digital notebooks to keep up with their notes and all that they're learning.  This is a great way for your students to get organized for the semester.  For those of you that are a "Google district," no worries.  ALL educators AND students have access to a FREE Office 365 account and can access the ENTIRE Microsoft Suite (including OneNote) with their school email address.  Sign up here:

5.  Microsoft Class Notebook-
Go all in with Class Notebook!  Class Notebook allows for personal workspaces for each of your students.  A content library houses all of your virtual handouts.  There are also collaboration spaces for lessons and other activities that your students will complete.

It still baffles me how many people don't know about Microsoft Sway!  This is an easy to use tool that allows you (the teacher) to create quick and easy newsletters for your parents, or lessons and HyperDocs  for your students.  It allows your students to showcase their learning in a quick and easy way.  They could create book reviews/reports, engage in digital story telling, collaborate and share ideas with each other, create presentations, etc.  

If you haven't checked out Jamboard yet, do so now!  It's a VERY simple whiteboard tool that allows your students to collaborate quickly by adding post it notes, text and images to a "board."  You could ask a question and have students quickly add their responses and discuss as a class.  If your students have touch screen devices, they can use their fingers to "ink" their thoughts.  This is great for math classes!  You could also use Jamboard to deliver direct instruction by sharing your screen via Google Meet, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams.  Record your screen using Screencastify as you are going through a Jamboard for a flipped classroom experience.  Share the link to your Jamboard with either viewing or editing rights depending what you want your students to be able to do with it.

I love the idea of using Peardeck or Nearpod to engage your students during direct instruction.  This is a great way to ensure that your students are on the same page as you during the lesson as you advance the slides and check for understanding during the lesson with the built in engagement activities.

9.  Kahoot or Quizizz-
I have yet to meet a student in kindergarten through 12th grade that doesn't LOVE these games!  With these tools, students are able to learn and compete at the same time!  A little healthy competition doesn't hurt anyone!  The reporting that the teacher receives on the back end is great to understand which students may need further assistance with the content.

YC-Backed Padlet Brings Drag-And-Drop To Collaborative Web Site ...10.  Padlet-
Using Padlet is a great way to see your students respond in "real time" to the questions that you are posing to your class.  Padlet has changed over the years and has a limit on how many free Padlets you can create.  To get around this, I use the same ones over and over again by deleting the content once we've used that one.  Of course, you may want to take screenshots of the responses so you can have them to refer to if needed before you delete anything!

Bitmoji Image
Are you still reading?  If you made it to the end of this post, thank you!  My mind is racing and I just had to get these thoughts out there!  How are you planning to "return to learn" this fall?  What tools will you use to engage your students and provide engaging instruction to your students?  I look forward to hearing your thoughts!