Hack Instructional Design

Hack Instructional Design

When I first began my career as a teacher I’d landed a job in Kannapolis, North Carolina. It was the absolute best place to start a career because this was a middle school that truly represented a staff that lived like family and educated students as if they were their own children.

Apart of that staff was a lively couple, Michael and Elizabeth Fisher. They were a two person teaching team that impressed me greatly. I marveled at the innovative ideas and teaching methods they used and shared with staff.

Since then we have all moved on in our careers and where we call home, but Mike and Liz, as I know them, have continued their journey as innovative educators. Read on as they share their latest adventure as teacher authors.

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We are so excited to be able to share our newest book, Hacking Instructional Design: 33 Extraordinary Ways to Create a Contemporary Curriculum.

This book has been a labor of love as we have taken more than two decades of experiences working with children and teachers, along with an array of experience from experts in the field of curriculum and instructional design and created a one-stop shop of ideas to create a contemporary curriculum!

What we’ve written is meant to help teachers with the students that they currently have in the classrooms as well as all the future students coming through their doors.

As part of the Hack Learning Series of books, this installment follows the same formulaic structure. We identify a problem, a solution, and then step-by-step instructions for improving. Each problem and solution scenario is called a “Hack” and over the course of writing the book, specific themes emerged. We grouped those hacks together into categories we call “Hacktions.”

Each Hacktion represents a facet of a teacher’s instructional design decisions. Foundational hacktions represent what teachers will do BEFORE a student comes into the room. This is where they familiarize themselves with standards, instructional ideas to meet the standards, and goal / target setting for students.

Instructional Hacktions, along with Engagement and Contemporary Hacktions, address design ideas that will impact students when they’re in the room. This includes a multitude of ideas around inquiry design, lesson experiences, creativity and motivation, and new opportunities for engaging contemporary students with what matters to them.

Finally, we address Blueprint Hacktions. The blueprints are where the rubber meets the road; where the teacher and the teacher’s colleagues make agreed-upon decisions for how the curriculum will be documented.

Ultimately, we want teachers to create a thriving curriculum ecosystem where all the interconnected parts are harmonious. This includes giving students voices and choices about the ways in which they learn best.

As a thank you to Carly and the readers of Teach.Mom.Repeat., we’d love to share a BONUS BOOK that includes an additional chapter, a study guide, and templates / organizing tools for your own instructional design endeavors!


Cheers to an awesome 2019!

Michael and Elizabeth Fisher

Michael Fisher is an author, instructional coach, and educational consultant specializing in the intersection between instructional technology and curriculum design. He works with districts in the United States and Canada to help teachers and schools maximize available technology, software, and web-based resources while attending to curriculum design, instructional practices, and assessments. This is his second book in the Hack Learning Series, following 2016’s Hacking the Common Core. You can contact him via Twitter @fisher1000 or by visiting his website at www.digigogy.com.

Elizabeth Fisher is an instructional coach and educational consultant specializing in literacy, English Language Arts, and curriculum design. She works with teachers and administrators across Western New York to help them improve their professional practices. You can contact her via Twitter @elizabethfisher.

Together, Michael and Elizabeth have been educating students and teachers for more than two decades. This is their first full-length book together, following co-created journal articles and professional development around parent involvement, brain-based learning, and differentiated instruction. They have two children, Lily and Charlotte, members of both Generations Z and Alpha, respectively, who keep them on their toes.

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How to Blog with Students

How to Blog with Students

Blogging in the classroom is a total writing program for any teacher. Even if you aren’t the writing teacher, you can still use blogging in the classroom with your students. Most teachers have a website attached to their district’s website. It’s mostly a place for students and parents to find important information about grades, assignments and future events. However, a class blog can provide all that and more. Want to create your own beautiful class blog? Sign up here to receive a FREE 5-day email course.

As an ELA teacher, I had tried the many different routes for writing about reading. Reading logs and journals are some of the more popular options, but these are incredibly time-consuming to grade. Reading logs quickly became the bane of my existence as a language arts teacher. We think that asking parents to sign reading logs students will have integrity with this assignment. That also assumes parents will uphold the integrity of the assignment, but really it becomes a thorn in everyone’s side.

Blogging with students makes for a total package writing curriculum. Students who blog are learning how to write with an authentic voice. This guide will walk you through the process and give you ideas to start blogging with students tomorrow. Lesson plans for the full year are available.

Journals force students to be more accountable for their reading and require them to consistently write. However, that’s a whole lot of reading and grading for teachers. Not to mention the lugging home of a crate filled with journals. I even tried grading in a rotation so that everyone only received a weekly grade. This did not take into account the number of absences that would happen regularly. Needless to say, it was overwhelming each week and I needed to find a new solution.

Teacher Bag Sayings

Writing Skills

Consider the opportunity for students to actively use the writing process weekly. A process that every standardized test is asking them to do. In a short time frame, students are asked to read the prompt, plan a multiple paragraph response, type that response, revise, edit and submit. Blogging will do the same. Each week I post 3-4 different prompts on the same topic in our Google Classroom page. These prompts are reflective of the lessons planned for the week. We might be writing about the characters from novels to prep for a lesson on how the setting affects characters. When it’s a holiday or school-wide theme week I might ask students to write in reference to those events.

Blog posts are informational and opinion writing. When teaching students how to write essays in these genres, having the background and practice with blogging helps. Subheadings are encouraged with blog writing which helps students who have trouble with multiple paragraphs. When sharing your opinion in a blog post you can’t get away with giving that opinion and no evidence for why. Those are two writing skills the majority of students struggle to do well.

Writing is an important skill for every student to master. Blogging is a great way to incorporate writing into the classroom on a weekly schedule. Learn how to blog with students all year with this total package writing curriculum for any subject.

Technology Integration

Obviously, you can’t blog without typing and word processing skills. Both are essential now for state testing. I have seen a number of my students not finish the essay portion of their state test because they couldn’t type fast enough. Blogging in the classroom weekly gives them practice typing. I don’t mean pecking at a keyboard, I mean they must use two hands and practice the correct way.

Now let’s add in the technical know-how for creating images to feature in their blog posts, linking within a text, and how to write a thoughtful comment on classmates’ posts. Each of these provides computer skills that can be transferred to other subjects. Creating digital images can help students learn the basics of visual appeal that can be added to any type of digital project. Linking within a text is a skill EVERYONE should know how to do. I find it super funny that kids think they have to cut and paste the entire website into the document as their link. I try to teach them that any text can have a link, which makes the document look a whole lot prettier.

The writing of comments can become a type of writing for your class. Think about all the applications to anti-cyberbullying you could include with these lessons. Talking with students about their digital footprint and what they are posting to social media accounts. It helps when they are hearing it from multiple adults. Writing comments can also help students learn the art of elaboration. It’s not enough for them to comment, “Great post.” They need to learn how to compliment and show they read the post or ask a pointed question because they are genuinely interested.

Plus, when using Edublogs, students will learn the basics for navigating the WordPress platform. Considering WordPress runs 80% of the entire Internet, and that number is growing, this gives students future career knowledge. In my opinion, this makes blogging in the classroom the total package writing curriculum.

Parent Communication

Let’s talk about keeping in touch and informing parents. With Edublogs you will set up a class blog that you can use for classroom communication with parents. It will look like a real blog with pages and widgets that you customize for your needs. Keep parents (and administrators) informed on units, assignments, needs, and all your foundational teacher information in one place. Simply send a link in an email and parents have all the information they need. Available to them at all hours of the day every day of the year. Fewer emails from parents asking questions you’ve already answered? Maybe.

Plus, parents will be able to follow their child’s writing progress and make comments to support their child. Now students aren’t just writing for a teacher-only audience. They now have a global audience. There is a hashtag specifically created for teachers to solicit comments, #comments4kids. If you have a student who needs some encouragement throw out the link to their blog post with the #comments4kids and they will get replies.

How do I make this happen in my classroom?

If all of this sounds like the total package writing program to you then you’re going to want to take my Blogging with Students course. Here you will find lesson plans and videos that you can use in the classroom to write quality blogs with your students.

If you would like to see what my classroom site looks like visit our Colorful Classroom. Not sure you want to blog with students, but the idea of a class blog is appealing? Try my FREE 5-day email course. Learn how to create a beautiful class blog that can help you connect with parents and keep student resources in one place.

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Tell me what questions you have about blogging with your students.

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