Posts Tagged 'ashley mcfadin'

Response to Intervention

widgetBy Ashley McFadin — I’m going to take a break from my normal technology post and talk about a little something that’s becoming more and more close to my heart – Response to Intervention (or RTI).

I attended the “Simplifying RTI Institute” with Mike Mattos (who, by the way, is amazing!) this past week and it was eye opening.  You see, RTI is a system of supports set up school-wide to help all students be successful.  One of my colleagues said, it’s like an IEP for everyone because it’s so individualized.  But, I think that’s oversimplifying it too much.  While there is no way I can summarize two days worth of material into a blog post, I’ll do my best.

Before we begin, as an educator, you must believe two things in order to have effective RTI:

  1. You believe that all students (those we expect to be independent adults) be able to learn to high-school+.  This means that the student will not only finish high school but will also attain an education beyond graduation.
  2. You will take responsibility for what you can control in terms of teaching them academic skills.

There are three tiers of intervention, starting with Tier 1.  Every student receives “Tier 1” instruction.  This is considered effective classroom teaching.  But, as most teachers can attest to, not every student learns it the first (or few) times the teacher presents the material.  In fact, only about 80% of students will understand the essential standard the first (few) times the teacher presents the material.  If the student is part of the other 20%, we move onto Tier 2.

Tier 2 is the stage where you have an out-of-class small group instruction or 1-on-1 help with the students who still do not understand the material.  While the “magic number” is a 30-minute lesson, there is no limit as to how long a student can be in Tier 2.  What matters here is the intensity of instruction.  Because a student is identified by the classroom teacher as “tier 2”, the teacher must provide more differentiated instruction that fits the students’ needs.

Here is the tricky part – if the student is lacking foundational skills (i.e.: below grade-level reading, lacking number sense, poor writing skills) or has behavioral, motivation, and/or attendance issues, the student can be recommended into Tier 3.  This is the most intensive level and may require some remedial classes be added to the student’s schedule to build foundational skills.  Here’s the catch – these are in addition to the grade-level courses…

If the student is always taught below grade-level, they will always stay below grade-level.  In order for all students to achieve high-school+ learning, we must teach them at grade-level in addition to giving them remediation.

But wait!  Where is special education?  They must be in Tier 3!  Well, no.  They’re in that whole mix of kids.  Just because a student has an academic goal doesn’t mean that they won’t fall into the Tier 1 category for an essential standard that you teach.  The same goes for a regular education student who might fall into months of tier 2 instruction for the same essential standard.

That’s the gist of RTI.  Why is it important?  It’s important because it focuses on maximizing student learning.  By identifying essential standards that students must know and ensuring that the students are proficient+ in those essential standards before they leave in June, we are giving them more of a chance to be successful in the long-term.  And, isn’t that our job as educators?

If you would like more information on the RTI process, the best (and most cost-effective) resource that I’ve found is “Simplifying Response to Intervention” by Austin Buffum, Mike Mattos, and Chris Weber.  You can also go to to see if Mike Mattos is coming to your area to speak.  It’s well worth the price tag.

Have you started to implement an RTI system in your school?  If so, how is it going?

Apps I Love

imagesBy Ashley McFadin — I have confession to make.  I’m not the most tech-savvy person out there.

Yes, I have a blog, other social media accounts, and multiple Apple products, but I’m more, um, tech-comfortable.  In addition, I’m sure you all are sick of hearing about technology in the classroom and are just dying to know what I love to use outside of school (of course).

With that, I recently started using two apps that are the BEST.

(1) Endomondo – I’m probably really late to the Endomondo party.  As someone who is pining over a Garmin Forerunner 10, this is the perfect placeholder until I save up that $130!  Using your phones GPS system, it tracks your mileage, pace, and time.  My favorite feature is that at every mile marker, it quiets your music and tells you the mile #, total time, and lap time.  AND, at the end of the run, it keeps a record of your lap times so you can see which was slowest and which was fastest.  *SWOON*  I’m a huge data nerd.  Endomondo also tracks many other forms of exercise such as yoga, walking, cycling and more.  In addition, if you upgrade to Endomondo Premium, it will also track your heart rate.


Something that I’m not super confident about is the calories burned portion.  It calculates that based off of information you input – including gender, weight, and height.  Since I haven’t (and probably won’t unless free!) upgraded to premium, I’ll just have to use the calories burned as a general guide.  Endomondo is available on multiple platforms (including iOS, Android, HTC, and Blackberry) and also connects to My Fitness Pal.

(2) What Should I Wear Running– I recently heard about this from Allie on Twitter.  But, I still waited a week or so to try it out for myself.  I really like it!  It gives you a general sense of what to wear on a run depending on the weather and whether or not you like to be warm, cool or in-between.


For someone that’s been “seriously running” for almost 18 months, I’m still really clueless about what to wear depending on weather and distance.  ”What Should I Wear Running?” is available for iOS and Android.

What kind of apps do you use in your non-school life?

The Day the Internet Died

The-Internet-Is-Dead1By Ashley McFadin — At 7:20am on Tuesday, the worst news came over the PA system, “Attention staff, the internet is down and will be all day.”

The collective groan was heard throughout the building.

With only 35 minutes until the starting bell, teachers of all grade levels scrambled to edit lesson plans, create hand-written note sheets and un-digitize their lessons.

And it was the one of the best teaching days we’ve had in a long time.

Without the Internet, students were more focused and not distracted by Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.  They were more engaged in the lesson (on paper) and asked great questions.  Without the Internet, I was more focused on the lesson and could be more engaged with my students, because even adults get distracted sometimes.

That’s not to say that using online simulations and notes aren’t beneficial, because they are.  And while I’m lamenting the fact that my lesson plans for Wednesday and Thursday needed major editing (due to a planned online molecule building simulation), I’m happy that the students and staff were able to “unplug”.

This led me to a reflection about my time outside of school.  How plugged in am I (and how plugged in are students) when not in the school building?  Even reflecting on this made my cheeks redden.  I spend a LOT of time on social media at home when I’m done lesson planning.  And, after spending a day unplugged at school, I’m thinking about being unplugged at home as well.  This would let me spend more time with my husband, friends, at yoga, reading a book.

Would you ever unplug at work or at home?

Using Pinterest in the Classroom

pinitBy Ashley McFadin — I have a confession to make – I am a Pinterest-addict.

While I love it for personal use, I had recently been thinking more on how to utilize it in my classroom. Then, one fateful day, a colleague of mine (she teaches German) came into my room and started talking about the same thing!

We collaborated on what we would put on our school Pinterest boards and the rest is history.

You see, the large majority of my female students use it and my male students know about Pinterest.

In addition, I’ve caught many students on Pinterest during class so why not have something educational on there?  I decided to take the plunge and create a new account (using my school email address) just for my classroom.


I decided to create separate “boards” for each unit. So, for our chemistry semester, there are four units so four boards. Within each board, I have “pinned” helpful sites for students to check out.  I also created a study skill board just in case. 🙂

Here is Beth’s, the German teacher, Pinterest page. You’ll see how she’s divided up her boards by concept rather than unit:


I feel as if this is extremely valuable for secondary teachers for classroom use. Many times, students will not check the class website, but if they follow your board, then helpful pins will pop up every now and then on their feed. In addition, they’re more likely to be on social media rather making an effort to check the class website.

How do you use social media in your classroom?

For the Kids

By Ashley McFadin — After I read Sabrina’s post this week about finding the right profession, I immediately scrapped my tech tools post for this week.


What she wrote about resonated quite loudly with me. You see, the week before spring break is a rough time for teachers and students alike. After having two nights (in a row) of parent teacher conferences, having three more work days seemed impossible.

But, my students have made this difficult week great.

With all of the educational trends that are out there in the world, it’s easy to forget that students are the number one priority. Although the newest way to teach touts itself as being the “best way to teach our students in a 21st century world,” we have to remember that our students are not experiments.

I love what I do and I strongly believe I was born to be a teacher. My students are a huge part of my life and every decision I make stems from wanting to do what’s best for them. If using the computers and technology available is the best option, then we’ll use them. If using construction paper to create a timeline of atomic theory is best for them, then we’ll break out the markers, rulers, and paper.

What do you base your differentiation and teaching decisions on?

Beyond PowerPoint – Prezi and Glogster

JoyThiefBy Ashley McFadin — Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

That is never more true than in education.  I am highly guilty of saying to myself, “I was never like this in 9th grade.”

While that may be true, it’s humbling to remind myself that I was not part of this global generation of which my current students are a part.  The current 9th graders and I do have something in common, however.  And that is the art of eyes glazing over during a PowerPoint presentation.

Students, especially adolescents, have to be engaged visually during a presentation in order to pay the remotest attention.

Glogster – Teachers love posters.  That’s a fact.  Glogster is a web-based program that let’s students design interactive posters.  We have had many teachers to digital gallery walks in computer labs so that students can learn from their peers.

Prezi – This web-based presentation maker is similar to PowerPoint.  You type in your information on slides with a header and bullet points.  But, that is where the similarities end.  Prezi is highly animated, making it difficult for students to predict where on the screen the presenter will is going next.  Not only is this tool visually engaging, but it can also stretch a student’s creativity in trying to engage their peers. For example, students can even design the shape of their presentation.  I once had a student give a presentation about an element on Prezi.  When he zoomed out at the end of his speech, the presentation was the shape of the atom’s nucleus, with each subatomic particle being a talking point of his presentation.  Needless to say, his peers were very impressed.

The best part about both of these programs?  They’re free and intuitive for students to figure out on their own.  So, not only are you having your students create an engaging presentation, they are also thinking critically in navigating new sites and troubleshooting issues.  And that is definitely a win-win for teachers and students alike.

What other types of presentation software do you use in your classroom?

Tech Tool – Remind 101

By Ashley McFadin — As a secondary teacher, one of the most frustrating things I’ve experienced are kids not doing their homework.

This happens most of the time because either students don’t write down their assignments or not knowing that they should look in their agenda to remind themselves if they have assignments.  While those are important skills to teach, I found the greatest tech tool of all time – Remind 101.

Do your students have a cell phone?  Do they have texting?  If you said “yes” to either of these questions, then you can also utilize this amazing service.


Remind 101 is a free, one-sided texting service.  Initially, teachers will sign up and receive a phone number and a code.  The number I was given is not my number.  Students (and/or parents) sign up using the given phone number and the code.  Teachers never see the phone numbers of parents or students.  Using a web-based platform, teachers can send out a text to all of their “subscribers”.


You can even schedule texts to send later in the day.  Usually, I schedule a homework reminder text in the morning before I forget in the rush of the day.

I’ve often had students complain that they were really excited to get a text and then were disappointed that it was for science homework.   Students cannot text the number back.

This tool isn’t just useful to secondary teachers!  Elementary teachers can utilize this to remind parents to hand in forms, that field trips are coming up, or even double check about conferences.

In terms of a success rate, a lot of students have taken advantage of the text system (approximately 90/115 students signed up) and there’s been a noticeable difference in the homework turn-in rate.

What is a Marquette Educator?

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