Friday, August 12, 2016

#GeniusHour Master Course Opportunity with AJ Juliani

If you've read this article from the spring of 2015, you know my students are super passionate about their Genius Hour time and they have absolutely blown me away with what they have become experts on. I also reference the importance of student led learning and Genius Hour in my TEDx Talk, and in this post I wrote for ISTE 2016. I believe Genius Hour has a place in every classroom, and I'm excited to share a unique opportunity with you...

My friend AJ Juliani, who is widely known for his work involving all things design thinking and Genius Hour, is offering a fantastic master course for you!

You can register up until August 17.
save 20% on your purchase by using the code 20KAYLA

Here's what the full course includes:
  • 70 Videos walking you step-by-step through the Genius Hour process
  • Year-long Private discussion group for course members with AJ (Facebook/Voxer)
  • 4- Week Unit and 7 lesson plans mapped to standards, 21st Century Skills, Bloom’s Taxonomy and Webb’s DOK
    • K-2 Unit and 3-5 Unit
    • 6-8 Unit and 9-12 Unit
  • 8- Week Unit and 10 lesson plans mapped to standards, 21st Century Skills, Bloom’s Taxonomy and Webb’s DOK
    • K-2 Unit and 3-5 Unit
    • 6-8 Unit and 9-12 Unit
  • 12- Week Unit and 14 lesson plans mapped to standards, 21st Century Skills, Bloom’s Taxonomy and Webb’s DOK
    • K-2 Unit and 3-5 Unit
    • 6-8 Unit and 9-12 Unit
  • Mini-Genius (Two Lessons) Activity mapped to standards
  • Student Genius Hour Notebook (print and digital)
  • PowerPoint for each unit
  • Starter Question pack for teacher and students
  • Parent letters
  • Assessment rubrics for process and product
  • Handouts for everyday and every stage

Bonuses only available during launch week:
  • Guide to student blogging (step-by-step how to)
  • Guide to social media in the classroom (What to use and how to use it)
  • Genius Hour Journal (the popular GH resource PPT)
  • Wordpress 101 (how to create your own blog and get it up and running)

Of note...
  1. This course is evolving. Each month new lessons will be added based on community discussion and feedback.
  2. This course includes everything you need to run Genius Hour at any level. Lessons are differentiated for K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. This is not for one specific grade level, it is for K-12.
  3. All videos and materials are downloadable to your own device/computer so you can take them on the go and use without wifi etc.
  4. All files are editable documents. Nothing is in PDF, it is all Word Doc and PPT files that you can adjust to for your classroom needs.
  5. If you don’t have devices in your classroom, don’t worry. All the materials are print/handout ready, and you can run GH without computers for your students.

More info about Genius Hour from AJ's blog...
How Genius Hour Benefits the Entire School Community
10 Reasons to Try Genius Hour This Year

Remember, the course registration closes August 17!
Save 20% on your purchase by using the code 20KAYLA.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Win 10K for You and Your School!

When you think about your future, what do you see? Starting or growing your family? Traveling your state, the U.S., the world? Getting an education, or giving one to your kids or grandkids? Your dreams and goals are unique to you, and your future could bring anything.

Education can be expensive. Registration fees, sports equipment, music lessons and more are all things we need to provide our kids to prepare for their future. But, it costs money.

Not every parent can grant every wish their child has, but you can help shape them by providing the right opportunities at school and in life. That’s why I’m thrilled to encourage you to enter the Own Your Future Challenge! Record a short video (60 seconds or less) answering COUNTRY Financial’s two questions:

1)  If you won $5,000, how would you use it to own your family's future?
2) If you won $5,000 for a local school, how would you want them to spend it?

Then upload your video at for a chance to win $10,000 ($5,000 for you, and $5,000 for your school).

Submit your video by 7/24 to start owning your future and follow along with the contest hashtags #FutureFocused and #OwnYourFuture. Contest open to applicants in the Minneapolis area.

This is a sponsored post.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Inspiring Creativity in the Elementary Classroom: 3 Quick Tips to Get Started #ISTE2016

I often hear keynote speakers deliver outstanding presentations that all reverberate "Our schools need more creativity." But, they don't actually give a call-to-action, or ideas to help teachers get started. We all know our classrooms need to be spaces where kids are allowed to get messy, inspired, and be creative. But, how do we do exactly that?

Here are just a few ideas that work specifically in our second grade classroom.

1. Hand over the power to your students and let them learn about what they are passionate about. In my classroom, students spent one hour a week studying what makes them tick, think, and question. This hour each week, Genius Hour, was probably our most productive, motivating, and engaging hour week after week. To read more about our Genius Hour projects, check out this fun interview with Emerging Prairie, Tech-Savvy Teaching: How a Fargo 2nd Grade Teacher Teaches a Techie Generation. Consider taking Genius Hour to another level, and incorporating the same concept over the course of 5 school days to implement Innovation Week.

2. Redesign your classroom from a sterile learning environment to one where kids actually enjoy the space they are learning in, and consider it a "destination". It's hard to inspire creativity when kids are sitting in rows of desks that isolate them, and in classrooms that look the same as they did 100 years ago. Release the power, ditch the seating chart, and incorporate flexible seating. Here are some resources I have written to get you thinking and redesigning over the summer: Flexible Seating and Student-Centered Classroom Redesign (a guest post for Edutopia), and Why the 21st Century Classroom May Remind You of Starbucks (my column on EdSurge). You can also view tons of pictures of my classroom by clicking the Classroom Design Inspiration tab above.

3. Incorporate tools and apps that are going to transform your classroom and truly inspire creativity. If something is boring on paper (i.e. math worksheets), it's going to be boring on an iPad. iPads don't guarantee student engagement, motivation, and creativity. There are millions of tools at our fingertips today, but they certainly are not all best for our kids. Some apps are skill-based and and repetitive (turning your devices into expensive flashcards), while others are project based. Let's set kids loose to go create something and not just play games.

Here is a list of just some of our favorite tools, websites, and apps for creativity:
Google Slides
Pic Collage
Explain Everything
Crayola Color Alive!
Book Creator
Doodle Buddy
Adobe Spark
Word Clouds
Class Kick

Why do some classrooms look the same now as they did 70 years ago? In this passionate talk, second grade teacher Kayla Delzer speaks about her mission to revitalize learning and the classroom environment. Kayla explains how to release the power in the classroom by giving students ownership of their learning and making it relevant to them. 
Breaking down the four walls of the classroom allows her students to become globally connected - and you won’t believe the endeavors her students conquer by embracing purposeful technology.

Connect with Kayla on Twitter and Instagram, or meet her at #ISTE2016.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Three Reasons Students Should Own Your Classroom's Twitter and Instagram Accounts

This work is my column that was originally posted on

It is quickly becoming a non-negotiable for all classrooms to leverage social media in order to communicate with families and other classrooms—thus engaging others in the daily lives of students. While simply posting “fun” photos is a start, this novelty wears off quickly, and as a result, we must think more critically about how we communicate via social media.

We must think more critically about how we communicate via social media.

As a second grade teacher who facilitates a student-centered classroom, I now believe our use of social media is an opportunity for students to partake in the type of learning in which they can thrive and shout their story to the world.

1. Genuine Digital Citizenship Opportunities

In fall 2012, I liked the idea of Twitter, but the thought of social media infiltrating my classroom was still a bit scary. So I developed an analog Twitter bulletin board and had each student write out their tweets on sentence strips daily.

A month later, I realized the value of students sharing work with more than just those in our classroom. So, I jumped right in and set up a Twitter account under my name, with the intention of letting the students run it. However, rather than immediately giving them complete control, and possibly negatively affecting all of our digital footprints, we prepared ourselves through digital citizenship bootcamp. Throughout these lessons, we used gradual release of responsibility (the same technique used in my classroom in other subject areas) to systematically turn the “social media reins” over to the students.

Check out Kayla Delzer's student-controlled social media channels:
Twitter: @topdogkids
Instagram: @topdogkids

At first, while this whole process was uncomfortable for me (to say the least), I understood I was doing my students a disservice by not actually helping them to develop their digital footprints in a genuine environment. In the end, my comfort level was less important than their experiences on social media.

What we do in my classroom: This fall, students in our classroom completed digital citizenship bootcamp. My students had to pass seven different digital citizenship rules before I was going to give them access to our accounts as “Tweeter of the Day” and “Instagrammer of the Day”. To take this a step further, I also had parents come in one night to complete the boot camp, as well. That’s right—a parent social media bootcamp, where my students were the teachers, helped their parents get set up with accounts, and taught them about everything from retweets to our district hashtags.

2. Publishing for the World (and the Classroom Across the Hall) is Powerful

When we allow students to write and share their work with the world, suddenly their work becomes more valuable. Students will always do their worst writing when they know the only person who will ultimately view it is their teacher. How many assignments in classrooms are completed solely for teacher as a requirement of the curriculum?

Additionally, while sharing our stories with the world is invaluable, there’s something to be said with simply using social media to share your story across the hallway. Canadian educator George Couros challenged me to use our account in a way that could connect our classroom with not only the world, but the other classrooms right in our school. This is where our school hashtag #LegacyK5 was born.

What we do in my classroom: Students in my classroom now post to that hashtag knowing our principal, previous teachers, future teachers, and other staff members are going to see their work. When my students tweet, blog, or post on our Instagram page, they are sharing their work with thousands of followers. There is a positive and almost competitive pressure in knowing that their work will be viewed by their parents, other classrooms around the world, friends, our principal, and experts—and best of all, they step up their game because they have an authentic audience to share their work with.

3. Establishing Your Classroom Brand

According to educators Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinanis, branding can be defined as “the marking practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products.” Within the past few years, this idea of branding our schools/classrooms has become extremely valuable, as it promotes transparency by painting an accurate, live picture of what is taking place. Yet, in reality, the majority of the time the educators are the ones telling these stories. While this certainly has its place, ultimately what matters most is how students feel about their experiences. Social media has allowed my students to share our classroom happenings through their eyes. It has allowed my students the opportunity to both establish and share the culture of our classroom and our school, and ultimately create our “brand”.

What we do in my classroom: By literally handing over classroom devices that are logged into our accounts, I am giving my students control to cultivate our brand. We have a rule in our classroom to only share pictures and the work of students that are engaged or making smart choices. Additionally, my students start each day with an introductory post (and usually a selfie or picture with me), and sign every post so our followers know who is writing that day. Day by day and month by month, they are sharing work that they deem important from inside our four walls.

The Sky’s the Limit

The opportunities my students have had because of Twitter far outweigh the risks associated with setting up a student lead account. In November, my students had the life-changing opportunity to do a Google Hangout with Brad Waid while he was doing professional development in Hong Kong, China. Following him on Twitter two years ago lead to this beautiful relationship that allows us to follow his journey all over the globe. He has brought new culture, knowledge, and expertise to our classroom. Brad has been an amazing expert who has connected with my classroom over and over again.

In January, my students were invited to do a Google Hangout to chat about digital citizenship with the #DigCitSummitUK. My students became global speakers overnight because of their outstanding work on our social media accounts. To say this is an honor would be an understatement—such a proud teacher moment!

Social media is happening—with or without you. The lessons my students learn by taking ownership of social media ends up enhancing all of their work, both in and out of school. And let’s be honest… wouldn’t you prefer to have your students write the story of your classroom, rather than someone else?

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Why the 21st Century Classroom May Remind You of Starbucks

This column is my work that was originally published on
It’s been my dream to make my 2nd grade classroom look more like a “Starbucks for kids”, and less like, well, a classroom.

Think about when you go to Starbucks to complete some work. Why do you choose to work there? Where do you choose to sit? I usually gravitate towards the comfy seating choices like the couches and big chairs, and yet, I see people choose the tables and chairs over and over again. Regardless, when you walk into Starbucks, you have choice. You get to choose where you sit. No one checks you in and directs you to a spot, telling you that you must sit there for the remainder of the day to do your work. If you need to get up, walk around, or choose a different seat, you are free to do so.

As I sat in our local Starbucks this past summer, I looked around and thought—why can’t my classroom look like this?

After several weeks of planning and a little bit of faith, what resulted was this:

But how did I get to this point? Let me take you through some common questions I get asked about classroom redesign—so that hopefully, you can do the same.

What did your process look like?
Before I even purchased a single thing, I thought about why I was doing a classroom redesign. If we truly want to prepare our students for the real world, we need to put them in responsive, dynamic environments that reflect life outside of a traditional classroom. And what’s that life outside like? Full of choices, where adults are responsible for their own learning. As a college student visiting my classroom once said, “It’s like you’re treating them like little adults.” And as my teaching has changed, my classroom design needed to change right along with it.

After consulting Erin Klein, a classroom design guru who has been “ditching her desks” to avoid “the cemetery effect” for a few years now and sharing her experiments on her blog, I thought about my classroom and the traditional chairs and tables I was given—and I came up with a plan.

Looking around my classroom, I quickly realized that I had far too much furniture, so I got rid of four tables, my huge teacher desk, 20 traditional chairs and a file cabinet. Next, I started looking for resources to redesign and repurpose what I already had. I looked around my house and in my storage closet to pull some pieces that I wasn’t using, and scavenged Hobby Lobby for some new purchases.

What came out of that was flexible seating and open floor space: I thought about my students who would prefer to stretch out on the floor, and I purchased yoga mats and bath rugs for them to lay out on and work. Simultaneously, my fellow educators contributed extra clipboards they weren’t using so students would be able to write just as easily.

Now, I have a large, open area for whole group instruction and five remaining tables, each designed with a specific purpose:

  • a small group instruction whiteboard table with stools
  • a stand-and-work table with no chairs
  • a crate seats table
  • a sit-on-the-floor area with core disks or pillows and work table (see to the right)
  • a stability ball chairs table

Do you have a seating plan or arrangement?
No, I don’t have a seating plan for kids. I allow students to responsibly choose where they work every day. When they arrive in the morning, they make a choice for the day but are free to switch places as they see fit throughout the day. I have enough seating options in our classroom that there are never issues about running out of one type of seating.

How do you ensure students are selecting smart choices to work?
At the beginning of the year, students spent an entire day trying out each of the seating choices. After that, I began to let them self-select their seating daily. I think this is an important step in the process. For example, one student who stands and works originally swore up and down that he would work best on the stability balls—but that changed. It only took him falling off the chair once and almost bouncing out the door for us to both realize that it probably wasn’t a smart fit for him.

One big note: Students know I always reserve the right to move them, and they know I always have their best learning in mind.

What about your students with behavior issues?
The behaviors of my students who have exhibited aggressive or distracting behaviors in the past have significantly decreased. There is power for them in the choice to select where they will work. They know the work isn’t optional, but choosing where they work is.

Did you do it all at once, or introduce these changes slowly over time?
I had the option of “work rugs” (glorified bath rugs, as shown to the right) for students last year, but only a few students utilized them. So, things have changed over time.

If you want to just try a few things without breaking the bank, I would start with a few work rugs or yoga mats. Or, just take the legs off of a table, lay it on the ground and get some cheap pillows for students to sit on. It’s also easy to raise a table for students who prefer to stand and work. Don’t feed the fears—just try it and see what works for you.

Where do students keep materials?
We have work bins in the corner of our room where students keep folders, math journals, and other personal items. We use community supplies at each of the five tables, and I have individual baskets of supplies for students that choose to work on yoga mats or work rugs. If you don’t have work bins for students, get three drawer stackers and place them throughout the room, or put materials in baskets. You may have to get creative and repurpose something you already have—or something that another teacher has, but isn’t using.

What do parents think of all this?
This was an amazing question I saw on my Instagram page, and it pushed me to reach out to a parent for an opinion for this article. Here was her response:

“From a parenting perspective, I have really enjoyed the flexible seating option Mrs. Delzer has offered this year. When I was able to observe the seating options in her classroom, it just really made a lot of sense to me... meeting the kids’ needs and also allowing them the responsibility and flexibility to choose where they will learn best for the day. My daughter has come home just thrilled at the opportunity to choose where she sits and it appears to help her focus when she isn’t expected to sit in a chair for long stretches of the day.”—Lorraine Albrecht

If we take a look at classrooms over the past 70 years, we are seeing the same type of learning environments, year after year. The world is changing, yet our classrooms are remaining much the same. Revitalizing space is a straightforward way to let students exercise choice in the learning environment and find academic success on their own terms.

Now several weeks into our school year, I can’t imagine going back to traditional seating. Distracting behaviors have been almost completely eliminated while engagement and student participation are at an all time high. And as I look around our classroom, I feel proud of what we have accomplished—a Starbucks for kids.

Connect with Kayla on Twitter, Instagram, and at EdSurge.

Click here for even more pictures of my flexible seating classroom.

Monday, February 15, 2016

February Video Newsletter Update

Hi friends and families!

I started replacing traditional paper newsletters with these video newsletters last year, and never looked back. I think there is a lot of power in having students report what we are up to, rather than having me type up classroom happenings in a newsletter. 

Before we record, we brainstorm ideas that we should report on and talk about our monthly learning objectives. We watch the video as a class and give feedback to each other, too. This is an important step when it comes to refining our speaking and listening skills (two HUGE common core standards). At the end of the month, we will rewatch the video and check in to see if we accomplished our goals.

Everything was recorded on an iPad using the camera app. Next, we dumped the clips into iMovie to create the movie and add the text and background music. Then simply add it to your YouTube channel and list it as "unlisted" so anyone with the link can view it. From start to finish, it can all be done on the iPad! :)

Here is what's happening in The Doghouse in February! Monthly video newsletters will be posted right here. Remember, you can see what we are up to daily by following our classroom Instagram account @topdogkids and our Twitter account @tweetingtopdogsEnjoy!