Choice Time: Pre-flection


Is “pre-flecting” a word? Like something you do before you do something that would necessitate reflection? Teachers do this all the time, right? Am I losing it, or should this be a thing?choice

As part of our district’s Digital Conversion and Blended Learning Initiative, I have been privy to many a workshop and Skype (excuse me, Zoom) session with the wonderful Marcia Kish. In addition, my connections with the #PersonalizedPD and Teach Like a Pirate (#tlap) movements on Twitter had me doing some hard thinking about why students should do any learning they aren’t interested in. I’m fortunate enough that I teach a course that is about 75% interesting on it’s own, but I often wondered how to convert that last 25% into something really engage my students into making InfoTech class personal.

I’ve been intrigued by idea of Genius Hour for a few years now, but I know what happens when you make things “too” open ended for middle schoolers. Chaos. I’m totally comfortable with chaos (See: picture), but I wasn’t totally sold on how it could work in a class.

I am the chaos coordinator

In one of our Skype sessions with Marcia Kish she mentioned choice boards as an option for early finishers to keep them engaged. That, combined with this beauty I found on The SuperHERO Teacher’s TPT store and Instagram, gave me a monster of an idea.

Instead of opening up the Wild Wild West of “Computer Lab Free Time” in the lab, I dreamed up 12 different activities that students could really become engaged in as they finished their other class work. My dream is that everyone would complete at least one “project” that would inspire them in some way. Each of these “projects” give a touch of guidance but are still open- ended enough that they could be applied to any variety of interests.

I’m temporarily calling this “Choice Time.” (The name needs a little work still!) I have begun introducing this to my classes, and I’m encouraged by what they are starting to think of!

These are the “Rules” which were presented:

The Rules:

1.Pick something you are passionate about

2.Do something you’re proud of

3.You can accomplish the task any way you want

4.If it’s not working for you- start something new!

5.There’s no prize for doing the most or the least- so work for the prize of your pride!

I posted all of the activities in our Schoology Course as well as on the wall in my classroom.

I built assignments in Schoology where students could submit “artifacts” of their choosing, and it’s my hope that I will build a blog/website to highlight some of these as they start to come in!

I’m excited about the buzz I’m hearing from the kids and others- and I hope to bring you a positive update in a few weeks! Like any new idea, it’s going to take a lot of tweaking and putting procedures in place before I’d consider myself any sort of expert!

If you’re looking for the file I did post it in my TPT store, and my plan is to grow the file as it grows in my classroom! The kids have already given me a few good ideas of things to add! (And I am really hoping my PLN can help me collaborate on a few too!)

Has anyone done any sort of Genius Hour/Choice time in their classes? Does anyone have any advice for me?



Embedding a Timer in PowerPoint

My district has had a long and tumultuous relationship with SMART Notebook, and this year it was announced it was going to be discontinued for our teachers, so as you can imagine, everything hit the fan when people realized they’d have to convert their work into another medium.

I was totally in favor of it; it was currently not doing what we needed as our kids were going 1:1 with touch screen laptops. Aside from the primary grades, those beautiful (expensive) SMART Boards were just being used as fancy anchor charts. They also were used as a way to keep the teacher chained to the front of the room as they wrote notes on the board (wait, I thought we all decided that was boring?).

There are two things I think SMART Notebook did better than PowerPoint ttimerhat I was sad about: the infinite cloner and the cute little timers and dice you could use on the screen. Having a large time the kids would see is an excellent little tool! But alas…

Then I did a BreakoutEdu (awesomesauce) and one of the video links was to a 45 minute timer to display on the board from YouTube. I’ve used a timer tool in Google before, but this was cool. It played music as it counted down, and the music got faster as the time ran out!

Wait a minute. Is it possible that if there’s this one 45-minute countdown video on YouTube, that there are others for other time denominations out there?

Yes, yes there are.

You can certainly do a quick search on your own, but I made a playlist of a few frequently used timer videos of all lengths of time:

So the next logical thought becomes- so if my timers are on YouTube videos, and I can easily embed a YouTube video right onto a PowerPoint slide (minus -1 point for SMART Notebook), couldn’t I embed my timers into the slides I already have created for seamless use in the classroom?


The above video is a geeky little explanation I made, but the short version is: under the “Insert” Tab, you choose “Video” and “Online Video.” That brings up a search bar where you can search anything you want. Nifty, huh? You can format or resize a video just as you could in a picture so you can combine a timer with any other information you could want on the board.

Here’s an example:


(On the screen the video is interactive, I just took a screenshot of it)

Awesome right?

Do you have any other resources on helping kids manage their time in a classroom? I’d love to hear!

Thanks for coming to the party!