The month of May brings all sorts of feelings for me. Not only is the month of May my birthday month, but it is also the birthday month of my book, TRANSFORM- Techy Notes to Make Learning Sticky. It seems hard to believe that my book will be two years old on May 20th. (Yes, that is my birthday, so you can send bday wishes to me too.) In addition to all of that excitement, it is also the month where we do a lot of state testing. My everyday schedule changes and I spend the majority of my time helping with that. It is not my favorite thing to do, but I remember that doing my job helps the educators and students at my school to make this experience go smoother.  

Being my birthday month, I always reflect on the year I am leaving behind- what should I renew and the year to come- what do I need to reboot? But birthdays aren't the only time we can do this type of work.  We can always take time to  reassess where we are at.  How can you take time to engage in reflection? What should you renew? What do you need to reboot?

Reviewing what are the ABCs of Transforming Learning are-

Two weeks ago, I shared a blog post called  Q = Question and Analyze How You Communicate with Families.  As we began the last quarter of the school year, this was a great time to consider and reflect on practices that your school or classroom community uses to connect and communicate with families. It can help us see what we should adopt, adapt and abandon when it comes to communicating with our families.

This week, we will focus on R = Renew and Reboot Student Engagement.  This time of the year as we hit the final stretch of the year, it can be challenging not get complacent and just call it in. After all, you have prepared your students for any state testing, taught your curriculum and before you know it, it will be summer break. This week's blog post takes a different approach. What if we looked at this time as an opportunity- a time to try new things to renew and reboot student engagement. Maybe pilot something new.

ABCs of Transforming Learning graphic

R = Renew and Reboot Student Engagement

According to Merriam Webster's dictionary ,to renew means, " to make like new : restore to freshness, vigor, or perfection"  and to reboot means  "to start (something) anew : to refresh (something) by making a new start or creating a new version. As we look at both of these definitions and consider student engagement, a few words pop out:

Make Like New           Refresh Something                     Restore Something

How can we do these things with student engagement, you might wonder.  This week. we will explore just a few ways that you can create, refresh or restore your students' engagement in learning. These ways may not be typical ways that you would think of. They build on the ideas of Universal Design for Learning and incorporate ways to give our students increased accessibility, voice and choice in how they learn and how they share their learning.

Consider Using or Having Students Create Virtual Escape Rooms

Back in March when I attended NCTies, I hosted a poster session on Amplifying Thinking Routines. As we were cleaning up, the person presenting across from me, Crystin Irwin from Herbert Akins Rd ES came over to look at my session and after, I walked over to look at her session. She shared how she was having her students make virtual escape rooms using Google Drawings and Google Forms. This was not the first time I had heard of using Google Forms to digital escape rooms, but I loved how she was having students create rooms for each other, So I started working on how I could use this idea for the students I see in the master schedule in grades 2,4, and 5/6.


I started off this process by giving my students the opportunity to explore and try to solve a variety of escape rooms. Each class approached it initially with some trepidation, saying that they weren't that great at escape rooms. I found most of the escape rooms that I used on Karly Moura's website: . Using these resources. I had my students work in groups, building on each other's strengths. We discussed how we could take a huge task like solving an escape room and break it down into parts (decomposition) and work together to figure out each part. Students need to work collaboratively to solve these puzzles and as they did so, their feelings changed. Before they knew it, they were hooked and eager to figure these escape rooms out.

Planning Creating their Own

I started this process for my Grade 2 and 4 classes first. As I looked at their curriculums for Quarter 4, I noticed that both of them featured learning about history makers. Using one of my favorite online research sources, PebbleGo, I found that PebbleGo had an entire category for History Makers for students in K-3 and PebbleGo Next had a section for Advocates and History Makers for students in Grades 4-6.

Before I could ask my students to create their own escape rooms, I decided to start by making one of my own. I did this for a few reasons. First, I wanted to make sure that my process was well thought out and I had done all the necessary troubleshooting, Second, I wanted them to see the process before starting their own. I decided to use Wixie, one of my favorite kid-friendly programs so that my students could work collaboratively and I could monitor and support their work.,

Getting Started-

I separated the project into seven 30 minute session segments.

Where we are now

Currently, most of my classes just finished either session 2 or 3. They are so excited about learning about these people. I urged them not to focus on someone that they had already studied like George Washington or Thomas Jefferson. One of my students called me over during research and showed that her group was learning about Malala Yousafzai. She was so excited to learn about her since her family was from Pakistan and many of her relatives still live there. She had made a powerful connection to her learning and it warmed my heart. Another 

group called me over to share they were learning about Coretta Scott King and did I know that she was married to Martin Luther King. Stories like this are just the beginning and show how giving our students choice and voice renews student engagement.

Consider Having Students Use Choice Boards

Giving our students voice and choice can be a great way to increase student engagement in the last quarter of the year.  Back on December 4, 2022, I posted a blog post about granting students choices in learning, but I believe that at this point of the school year, it is worth rebooting.  A choice board is comprised of a grid of squares where learners get to choose from a variety of activities. Even my youngest learners use choice boards. When packaging a choice board, being able to use hyperlinks is very helpful. In that blog post last December, I shared how I use choice boards to give students choices over their learning path. Students can pick the activities that best meet their learning needs. In this blog post, I am going to take a different focus and connect choice boards to Universal Design for Learning.

National Creativity Month

Every month, Adobe offers students a creativity challenge based on a theme. So when I noticed that April's theme was National Creativity Month, I created a choice board for my fifth and sixth grade Enrichment class using lots of ways to express Creativity. I made this board in Wixie- but you could use anything and then embedded it into our school's Learning Management System.

This gave my students lots of ways to express their creativity. All of my students went to the escape room first. They have really been enjoying these challenges. Afterwards, they could determine their own next steps. Some students designed Pixel Art- others coded. I was especially thrilled by how some students chose Tinkercad and explored their creativity in an entirely new way.

Show What You Know Boards

You can make a Show What You Know Choice Board in almost any program that offers the ability to hyperlink. 

Here are examples in two of my favorite programs- Wixie (left side) and Canva (right side). As you can see, each one of these offers our students different ways to represent their learning,  

But any program that allows you to hyperlink will work. I especially like programs that provide lots of response options. You could consider using Adobe Creative Cloud Express or Book Creator too.

How will you renew and reboot student engagement?

Think about what I shared and consider how you will renew and reboot student engagement. Maybe you try one of the ideas mentionned here. Or maybe you have another fabulous idea. I would love for you to share them with me. 

Want to take a deeper dive on this topic?  From June 12th to July 7th, I am leading a 4 week course for Constellation Learning  Institute called 

Empowering Student Voice: A Tech Tool Boot Camp.

What opportunities do you provide for your students to share their voices? Are you communicating that their voices matter? How do you create learning experiences that empower learners. Learn with author and educator, Debbie Tannenbaum. In this online course, you will learn easy ways using technology tools such as Book Creator, Flip, Pear Deck and Wixie to give your students opportunities to share their voices in interactive ways.

For more information or to register, go to