Course 5 Final Project

This is finally done!  Man.  Didn’t think it would take this long but it is done.  This project was definitely challenging but I am so happy that it worked out.

One of the biggest challenge that I didn’t anticipate is uploading the video!  I created a powerpoint presentation on the MS Powerpoint and exported it as a movie file (.mov) and boy oh boy did I have trouble uploading this to a public video sharing site.  Because I had included video clips in the presentation, converting the video into different formats did not work.  Either the videos didn’t play, the audio and the powerpoint were weirdly meshed together, or the presentation didn’t play.  Urgh!  The only solution I came up with was to separate the video interviews and the powerpoint presentation.  The important thing is that it is done!  I hope you enjoy!

In addition to the video, I want to add the rubric I created for our lessons.  Each category of the rubric was a lesson objective for this unit.  Also, here’s the blog of my student.  I hope you can notice the progression in his writing.


In my final video, I will briefly mention the tools I used but I wanted to do a post on this topic as the video won’t be able to cover all the details of how the tools were used.  So, here’s a brief account of how these were used in my lessons.

Google Drive:  I used google drive to create my unit plan, lesson plan overview, and individual lesson plan.  I shared the overview and the individual lesson plan with my student so he can refer back to the objectives and the activities that we did in each lesson.  I also had my student complete his homework on google doc and left him comments using the ‘insert comment’ function.  We had a shared folder where we put all of these files for easy access.  Kevin (my student) had never used google drive before but he learned very quickly and even commented that it was a useful tool for tutoring. Google Drive was definitely a vital tool that we used for this unit.

Blog:  We set up a blog right at the start of our tutoring sessions.  It took a couple of lessons for Kevin to personalize the blog but he learned to use it on his own towards the end.  We posted all of our writing samples on the blog.  Kevin also posted lesson reviews and discussed what he learned in some of the lessons.

Email:  We used email mainly for homework reminders.  Kevin already had an email account but did not check it regularly.  He started checking it more regularly once we started tutoring.

Google Presentation:  Even though our lessons were one-on-one, I didn’t want to rely on just lecturing or books to teach my lessons so to spice things up and make things more interesting, I used google presentation to teach one of the lessons.  I didn’t use the presentation to teach the whole lesson but used it to teach one aspect of the lesson (which is what I did with most of the ‘teaching’ tools I used.)

Prezi:  I used this to teach how to write an effective title.  Instead of just lecturing I thought it’d be fun to create a prezi to go through the lesson.  So here‘s a very simple lesson on writing a title.  (Note:  This lesson is from the online resource I used.  I have the link under ‘Online Resources.’)

Piktochart:  This is an online app for creating infographics with ease.  I used this to help Kevin organize the structure of a basic paragraph.  I created a sample and had him create one on his own.

Youtube:  This is another way I tried to ‘spice up’ my lessons.  I used the Pixar video as a writing prompt.  I used the strong verbs video after I taught the lesson to Kevin.  The video on strong verbs is really fantastic, so if you’re teaching that lesson, you should definitely check this video out.

Mindmapping: Text2Map is what I used for online mindmapping.  I’ve ussed and other tools but this one was the simplest one.  I used this for synonym brainstorming.

Online Resources:  Even though I had resources myself for the topics I covered in my unit, I still used online resources so that I could easily create a link for Kevin to refer back to when he’s writing on his own.  The visual dictionary was a fantastic resource for finding synonyms as it is visual entertaining but also functions well as a thesaurus.  Kevin really enjoyed using it as a thesaurus.

Online Games for Illustration:  The below games are not directly relevant to writing but I used them to illustrate a point.  The ‘strong verbs’ video I mentioned above uses a car to illustrate different parts of writing.  I wanted to continue to use that illustration so I got Kevin to personalize his own virtual car.  I used virtual dominoes to illustrate the importance of transitional words/phrases (this illustration is used in the resource book I used, which is mentioned below) – a transitional word/phrase would be like a domino that ‘links’  all the dominoes.  If one is missing, the flow of the dominoes will be broken, just like in writing.

Book:  Razzle Dazzle Writing – I used this book as a resource for my lessons.  It’s a book I use in the classroom and it has worked very well for me and it was a great guideline for my lessons with Kevin.

I hope this all makes sense.  If you have any questions about any of the tools I used, please comment and ask!  🙂

Lesson Plans

Since I was doing a one-to-one tutoring, I wrote out each lesson in detail.  I had a general overview plan where I wrote down what resources I would use for each lesson and I had a separate google doc for each lesson, which I used during the lesson for reference.  The separate lesson plan also had links to specific sites or tools I wanted to use from the internet so I could have easy access to those sites during the lesson.  I also had my student complete his practice writing samples on the lesson google doc so that when he looks back at his writing, he could remember what he was practising.

I am including in this post the unit overview and one of the individual lesson plan for you to see how I used these two documents.

UBD Unit Plan for Course 5

I’m attempting to chronicle my journey to completing the Coetail Course 5 project in the last two weeks of the course.  Yikes!  This has been an interesting journey overall.  I had to adapt my course 5 project to my unforseen situation of having no class while trying to adjust to a few other transitions in life.  But as it goes, life doesn’t really wait for anyone and time trudges on without any grace.  So, in the next few posts, I’ll post on how I survived this semester trying to complete the course 5 project.

Below is the UBD Unit Plan I did for course 5.  Since, I chose to tutor one student, I wanted to focus on writing skills rather than a unit, as I thought it would be more beneficial to the student.  So I advertised for a student who needed a tutor for writing.  I had a few general writing skills that I wanted to work with the student, but I solidified the unit plan after the first assessment and having a discussion with the student about skills he felt needed some extra work (we did this by going through his writing sample he wrote for the initial assessment).  The student also consulted with his English teacher at school to ask if she felt he needed to work on certain skills.  So, the learning objectives were formed as a result of a collaborative work between the student and myself.

I wanted to use the UBD unit plan model instead of the structure I’d used at my previous school.  I wanted to use this structure because it allows me to go beyond just thinking about what’s going to happen in the classroom but rather, prompts me to think about the different aspects of the unit and helps me to think outside the box of a traditional unit plan.

With the unit plan, I devised specific lesson plans for each lesson, which I will share in my next post.

In the last few months

So much has happened in the last few months.

1.  I quit my job

2.  I moved back to the U.S.


Leaving my dear home, Hong Kong

3.  I got married.


Photo shoot with my handsome hubs

4.  Went on our honeymoon to New Orleans.

Checking out some music in New Orleans

Checking out some music in New Orleans

5.  Started my process of applying for a Missouri teaching credential.

6.  Started three online classes this semester (including Coetail).

7.  And am getting used to having a husband and being a wife.

The handsome hubs and I...

The handsome hubs and I…

Although these are fairly ordinary things that happen everyday to many, many people, it definitely has been a hectic few months and even now, I feel quite overwhelmed with all that is going on.  One of the major concerns I had coming into this semester and course 5 of coetail is the fact that I am not in a classroom anymore which presents a problem for the course 5 project and one of my other classes.  There were a few options I had to really think through….e.g. teaching Sunday school, teaching Bible to youth group kids, tutoring etc.  Since I don’t have a work permit in the U.S. subbing or getting a teaching position is not an option until that comes through.

So after my deliberation, talking to my husband (who’s a pastor at our church) about teaching at church I decided to find a tutoring job for my course 5 project.  I printed out the flyers about a month ago and put it up around our apartment complex.  I also used my husband’s seminary network (grad school) to look for some tutoring opportunities.  After a few weeks of twirling my thumbs, I found a student willing to participate.  So, I’ll be starting my project next week.

To be honest, this has been a bit tough.  With all the transitional stress and being newly married in a new city, the pressures of completing courses that require for me to have a class when I don’t has been tough.  But, I’m very happy and excited that I have a taker for this project.  Now all I need is a class (or a fake class) for one of my other courses….


Tutoring flyer

Tutoring flyer


Solving Problems to Learn

Here’s a great description of what Problem-Based Learning is and what it entails (from

Problem-based learning (PBL) is an exciting alternative to traditional classroom learning.

With PBL, your teacher presents you with a problem, not lectures or assignments or exercises. Since you are not handed “content”, your learning becomes active in the sense that you discover and work with content that you determine to be necessary to solve the problem.

In PBL, your teacher acts as facilitator and mentor, rather than a source of “solutions.”

And from the same website, here are the benefits of problem-based learning:

Problem based learning will provide you with opportunities to

  • examine and try out what you know
  • discover what you need to learn
  • develop your people skills for achieving higher performance in teams
  • improve your communications skills
  • state and defend positions with evidence and sound argument
  • become more flexible in processing information and meeting obligations
  • practice skills that you will need after your education

Problem-based learning is definitely a non-traditional way of learning in the classroom.  Instead of prepared content being delivered in the classroom, students are asked to decipher which content they need to learn by deciding what they need to know to solve a problem.  

It’s difficult to comment on it since I have not tried this method in my classroom.  But it certainly is an interesting way to approach content teaching.  It sounds like it would be something that the students would be more motivated to learn as they would be the ones deciding what they need to learn.  But, I can also see a need for greater teacher-involvement as the students will need guidance in which content would be useful to solve their problem and also to know what is available for them.

I also foresee a lot of prerequisite skills that the students will need:  Critical thinking skills and research skills are a few of the skills that would be needed to have a successful problem-based learning experience.  Especially with younger students, there would need to be a lot of guidance and direct instructions on critical thinking skills as the students would not only need to analyse different solutions but understand and articulate why one would work better than another.

Working collaboratively would be another vital skill the students would need to develop in the process of problem solving as well.  The above mentioned article discusses how students in groups can utilise each other’s strengths and even in that, the students would have to have the skills to recognise what strengths are needed and then know how they would know someone has those strengths.

How I would implement technology when practising problem-based learning:

1.  The most obvious way technology will be implemented is the research part.  Even with understanding what a problem is, if there’s a concept that is foreign to the students, they will need to find out and understand what it is before trying to find the solution to the problem.

2.  Technology can also be used to aid the process of finding the solution.  I would use tools such as google drive for:  note-taking, presenting, collaborating via internet or even video chatting etc.

3.  Being able to have access to someone famous is another huge advantage to internet.  Students will be able to contact an expert on their problem or an aspect of their problem via the social media (e.g. twitter)

4.  Presentation of the solution – web tool can be used for a more effective presentation.

This method of teaching is something I would absolutely love to try and see the effects of it in student learning.  Since I think from an elementary teacher’s perspective, I do see that at least initially, problem-based learning would be a huge learning curve for my students and also for myself as the teacher.  But, I can also see that it provides huge opportunity for necessary growth in the students as learners.




Course 5 is going to be tough for me.  Let me start with that.  It’s going to be tough because I’m no longer in a classroom.  As a result of series of events (like getting engaged to someone who lives across the globe) I had to quit my job and move.  And because I can’t work until I get my work permit, I’m kind of stuck.  This may be a greater challenge for me and a chance for me to be even more creative.  So.  Here are some possibilities that I might try.

‘Lack of class’ problem –

This is quite a tough one to tackle.  The few solutions I came up with are these:  1.  Offer to teach a student a unit one-on-one as if I’m tutoring him/her but rather than just regular tutoring, I will teach the student a unit (relevant to her grade level of course).  2.  Contact a local school and ask if I can ‘student teach’ a unit.  3.  Start a girls’ Bible study at church.

Option 1:

Topic – Personal Narrative Unit for 4th Grade

I have taught this unit many times.  At the end of a writing unit, I always feel like I could do better.  Always!  So, just because of that, I would like to revamp personal narrative unit for fourth or fifth grade.  I really can’t work with an old unit because I always do it differently every year.  I might be using a new writing book I bought.  I might be using a new strategy that I’d seen a colleague do.  My reasons for wanting to do a new unit is the same.  I’ve learned many new methods and ideas and would love to apply these to a unit that I teach every year.  

I don’t have any specific concerns for this unit except the fact that I don’t have a class.  So, I would have to tailor the unit to the kind of students I may have.  That would apply to the new pedagogy I will apply as well.  It would shift how I will apply the new pedagogy.

Generally, when I teach a writing unit, there’s a lot of guidance on my part.  Although I try to involve my students in the ‘discovery’ process – e.g. I would have students discover with me, what makes a piece of writing better than another – most of teaching happens from me as I teach skills and methods of quality writing.  So that would be the biggest shift I would make.  I would like to employ problem-based learning and flipped classroom and allow students to identify their own weaknesses, and then discover what they need to do to strengthen their weaknesses.

My students will have to have to shift from merely being fed to discovering and learning independently.  I would probably do a lot of skill building with research and critical thinking before the unit or as the first part of the unit.

Option 2:

Topic:  Bible study with high school or middle schools students

I’d like to decide with the students what topic they want to learn and then create a unit that would pertain to that.

I don’t know how feasible it is, but if it’s a possibility, I would love to do this unit for course 5.  For one, the topic is something I’m passionate about.  And, I would love to tackle the challenge of intentionally integrating technology in a Bible study.  For the unit, I’d like to decide with the students what topic they want to learn and then create a unit that would pertain to that.

My concern for this unit would be that there isn’t a set curriculum (unless you’re an official Bible teacher at a Christian school) for me to teach.  Also, I would most likely have to create my own curriculum.  I would like to depend a lot on the students to ‘lead’ what they want to learn which means I can’t plan too far ahead because I don’t know the topic yet.

The shift I would have to experience would be similar to option one.  A very easy way to lead a study is to impart knowledge.  But, I would probably have students explore the topic on their own with me as their guide.  It would be a combination of flipped classroom and problem-based learning.

I would try and discover the students prior knowledge first beforehand.  Generally, I would like the students to have the attitude of ‘wanting to know.’  Also, access to mobile devices like an iphone would be required as well as basic computing skills.

This is what I have come up with so far.  It’s definitely far-fetched and I don’t know how I’m going to get through course 5.  But I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday!

In 15 Years…

Past Future Classroom…???

What would schools in the future really look like?

Will education as we know it change because of technology?

I think it has to.  No one can deny the impact of technology in all aspects of life.  The way we communicate with people has changed.  The term social network meant something completely different before the internet.  The speed of information has changed infinitely, which means acquiring knowledge and learning looks very different now compared to 10 years ago.  And since learning is the ultimate goal of education, technology has to change education.

Technology has already changed education in so many ways, though.  We, in Coetail, are a community of people who are benefiting from that change in education – we’re doing our course online via online social mediums which is made possible by technology.

In that spirit, online education is so much more prevalent nowadays.  To go even further, ‘free’ online education is becoming more available.  I’ve been a long time fan(?) of online education.  I just think it’s a very convenient and a versatile way of learning.  But, I was not aware of the amazing online education courses that were offered for free.  Online sites like coursera and edx are completely new to me and I am quite blown away by them.  (I’ve bookmarked these sites so that I can take courses in the future).

As I am completing my Coetail course online – a ‘paid’ course – it does make me think for a moment the ‘value’ of paid education.  There really are infinite number of resources that are offered to me for free.  I no longer have to pay big bucks to hear a famous educator or a coach give a seminar because of the availability of them online.  For free!

I don’t think the availability of free online courses will devalue the paid courses though.  It’s the same reason why live shows still get sold out.  The virtual experience is still not the same.  But, it does change the ‘how’ of education.  I believe it offers for more competition and creates an edge in education.  You can no longer just deliver content and be done with teaching.  Because, now, most knowledge is available online so the demand for quality learning experience will be higher.  No one wants to pay big bucks for something they could have read online for free.

Where and how will you be teaching in 5, 10, 15 years time?

I can’t guarantee that I will be in education in 5, 10, 15 years time.  But, if I were, the most honest answer is I don’t know.  I started teaching about 13 years ago.  Back then, if a school had a classroom with a few computers, that was considered quite invested in technology.  The school I worked at even had a computer lab and I remember the principal being so proud of that lab.  Now, many schools strive to integrate not just the use of computers but whole other devices as well as the available online tools for learning.

From my standpoint, the use of technological devices is only a small fraction of the change that I anticipate.  I believe the availability of resources will continue to change the face of education and the way I teach in my classroom.  The push to support students to become more independent learners will not be something that is considered new and progressive.  I believe that producing independent learners may become the way for preparatory education.  For example, there may be a greater shift in just delivering content in the classroom (which is a shift already happening) to greater focus on skills to navigate the sea of information that is available.

Another thing I’m mindful of as I look into the future is the ‘unknown’ of the future.  No one imagined the huge impact of technology even 10 years ago.  Who’d have thought that iphone would take over the world?  And change in technology is happening even more rapidly now.  There are so many inventions and new creations that are making appearances left, right, and center.  So, it’s really difficult to imagine what education would look like 5, 10, 15 years down the line except to say that it will probably look very different.


Having pondered on these two questions, it got me thinking about the qualifications of an educator in the twenty-first century.  Obviously, teachers would have to have a university degree and a credential.  But qualities like flexibility and being open to change would be imperative in education.  It actually is now.  For a twenty-first century educator, being able to adapt to a new way of teaching and taking risks to trial new technology may be just as important as skills of delivering content.

It’s an interesting thought to look so far into the future of education.  But, definitely something that is worth pondering about deeply.


Kids & Computer (Fabrice Caduc)

This is NOT the whole picture of a flipped classroom.

I want to start with the awesome videos below that explains what flipped classroom is all about.  These videos do an awesome job of showing what a flipped classroom looks like, the attitude and the mind of the teacher who uses the flipped classroom model, and explains clearly what flipped classroom isn’t.

The first video shows a teacher who has used the flipped classroom model in his classroom.  His initial reason for filming his lessons was for the students who missed class to catch up.  But, he found that the lesson videos could be used to move out the direct instructional time which traditionally happens in the classroom and use that class time for engagement and exploration.  I think this is the very basic idea of a flipped classroom.

The second video clearly states that the flipped classroom is not about online lectures and replacing teachers in the classroom.  It is more about having students engage and lead their own learning.  It is about students going at their own pace with the teacher’s guidance, so the teacher doesn’t become redundant.  Rather, the teacher becomes vital to the learning process.  I also loved that the video points out that flipped classroom is not the silver bullet.  I love this point because there cannot be one educational method that is the silver bullet.  One size never fits all in education.

Both videos discuss how the flipped classroom extends the classroom time which allows more meaningful interaction in the classroom.  Flexibility is another strength that the flipped classroom offers.  Especially with the online videos/resources, the students can create their own learning environment and choose to engage whenever, wherever, and however long they choose to be engaged (meaning, they can watch the entire video or watch it in segments).

In my classroom:

I have heard of the flipped classroom.  The first I heard of it, I was told that it was about the teacher doing the teaching on a video for the students to watch at home and the students doing activities and asking questions in the classroom.  The concept wasn’t that appealing to me though and no one I knew was really incorporating this into their classroom.

But, after doing some reading for this blog post and pondering over what it really is, it fits right into the concept of student-led learning – which has been another buzz word in the educational realm.  And I think it is in line with other trends like project-based learning and inquiry learning where the students are encouraged to not only participate but lead their own learning.

The way I understand flipped classroom is that the teacher provides guidance with the content.  The students acquire the ‘knowledge’ part of the learning by spearheading the learning themselves with the teacher’s guidance.  In class, it is a time for the students to reinforce and practise their learning with the help of the teacher.

Although I’ve never incorporated the ‘flipped classroom’ model, I have incorporated student-led teaching models like inquiry learning.  What I have found when teaching third or fourth graders to lead their own learning, there are some road blocks to it.  For example, their skills of research and acquiring knowledge and their level of critical thinking may be a source of frustration at the initial stage.

Also, I believe that the presence of teacher during that initial stage of inquiring and exploring is many times necessary.  I’m sure many teachers have experienced the phenomenon of a student not understanding a question only to suddenly understand it when the teacher just reads it out to them.  Especially for the younger students, it is a longer process and may even have to be simplified to fit their level of understanding and thinking.  Varying reading levels will also affect the independent exploration, especially for the younger grades.

But in the end, I do believe that with the right amount of equipping the students with skills needed to become an independent learner, it is all worth the effort.  Although, the younger grade students may need much guidance, especially at the initial stage, the confidence the students will gain through exploring on their own and knowing that they are able to be independent learners is a fantastic place to be as a student and a learner.

Playing in the Classroom

I have to say, among the many ‘tech in ed’ jargons I have heard in Coetail, ‘gamification’ is one that I have not heard used a lot before reading all those articles.  So here’s how I understand gamification in education.

How I understand gamification:

From what I understand from the readings for this week, gamification generally refers to incorporating learning (education) into games, largely computer games/apps.  Because ‘games’ themselves don’t always have to be on the computer, gamification can also be referring to ‘gamifying’ an activity that may otherwise be just a classroom activity without the elements of a game.  Gamification of education is more prevalent now because of the era we live in.  It’s safe to assume that all students now have access to computers and computer games and that most of them are engaged in some sort of online/computer game-like activity.  Because of this, teachers are catering to the new generation of students by gamifying learning.

Gamifications in my classroom – on computers:

Using computer software with learning games has been around for awhile.  In fact, those are now outdated.  But, that’s probably the first ‘gamification’ I have used in the classroom.  Years ago, when computers were beginning to make their way into the classroom, we had a computer corner in the classroom, and students played learning games on the computers.

Now, there are many online sources that are free to use.  It’s only a matter of choosing the right one for your students.  In regards to online games, I have used them for: individual students (mainly, ESL students or students who need extra support); as a learning center activity; class/group game on the interactive whiteboard.  I believe these are quite commonly seen in classrooms.  I definitely enjoyed using the interactive whiteboard to play online games as it just magnified the whole experience.  But, other than that, I can’t say that I used online games as intensely as other learning tools I have used in the classroom.  I generally posted links on the classroom blog/class wiki and had students just access them from home or in the classroom.

The one computer game that I did appreciate was one that our school bought for students with dyslexia (unfortunately, I cannot remember the name of it!)  The game was specifically designed for students with dyslexia.  The game would send me comprehensive reports on which areas the students were improving on and which areas the students needed more work.  The game would also tailor the activities accordingly so the students did not spend time on skills that they already had.

Offline gamification:

It seemed to me that the term ‘gamification’ generally refers to games played on the computer.  But the literal definition of gamifying learning is not limited to computer games.  Gamification of learning is broader than that and it should be.  In my opinion, offline games are often more fun because more can be incoporated into the ‘gaming’ part, such as movement and manipulatives.  I personally enjoyed this type of gamification more.

Other than the traditional way of gamifying – such as, creating a baseball game out of a review activity, or creating a game for a unit in social studies for the students to better understand the content – elements of gamifying are used all throughout the day in a classroom.  Using a reward system to motivate students to display positive behavior, awarding group points to promote cooperative attitudes, and even public displays of achievements or ‘winners’ are all elements of ‘gamifying’ incorporated into a classroom.

Reflections on gamification and its purpose:

The purpose of gamification is to motivate students.  That’s especially true for the gamifications that happen offline with incentives and public displays of rewards and winners.  With anything I think the big question always should be, ‘Is it beneficial for learning?’  More specifically, will it benefit my students.  That would be my primary concern and objective when employing a new trend into my classroom.

With gamification, I do think that it is beneficial in learning.  I think that all students enjoy ‘playing.’  Therefore, gamifying a lesson creates a positive atmosphere and attitude in the classroom.  However, I will be mindful of the ‘how’ gamifying is incorporated and if it is effective with the particular content and context.  I remember playing a multiplication tag game with my students.  It was such a fun game and the students really loved it.  The only problem with that in that particular classroom was that, not all students have mastered the multiplication table.  From the outset, the game might have been a great way to revise multiplication table, but the nature of this multiplication tag was to be quick in coming up with the answer.  Students who were in the process of becoming familiar with the multiplication table benefited from the game.  But the students who were at the beginning stage were often discouraged because they would always lose out.

Also, the multiple intelligence  comes into play when deciding whether gamifying lessons is a positive addition to the classroom.  Gamifying will not be a positive experience for all students, especially students who do not enjoy competition.  There are students who prefer to progress at their own pace and are more effective learners when they are not in competition.




Gamification Infographic

Created by Knewton and Column Five Media