January 3

TodaysMeet for your 2015 class

TodaysMeet is…?

TodaysMeet is a backchannel chat platform that was designed for teachers and provides an online space for anyone to share resources, ask questions and discuss text. TodaysMeet allows teachers to create a room that helps guarantee student success.  Regardless of the subject, backchannel rooms can lead to full engagement encouraging learning that is  not limited by the constraints of a desk or a room during the regular school day.

TodaysMeet supports classroom discussions in a variety of ways. It allows for

  • quiet students to have a safe space to express their opinions and ideas
  • an online space where class notes are housed
  • participants to submit links for videos, documents, etc. that support the current lesson
  • students who need additional ‘wait time’ the time to process ideas and have the light bulb moment

Creating a room

TodaysMeet rooms are fast and easy to create. All you need to do is pick a name for your room, decide how long you want to use it and sign up so that you can track your rooms. The room WeAreAwesome becomes  http://todaysmeet.com/WeAreAwesome and your students, colleagues, parents, or attendees enter the room by going to the room’s webpage address.Free and Easy to use

You can create your room to host an online class discussion, provide a meeting room for group work, allow for a quiet conversation about a text, house your classroom in the clouds for regular days, sick/snow days, review sessions, etc. With TodaysMeet, you can create as many rooms as you need.

Entering a room

To join your TodaysMeet room, students can either scan the QR code or type in the room’s url and enter their name to join.

Joining room is easytype in your name and starting typing

How TodaysMeet can be used in the classroom

Opening up a room allows you to provide a space for students to post questions, respond to one another, share ideas, and share resources during class discussions. You could use for a review before an assessment where students post facts they have learned about a topic. Students could explain solution strategies during math. Could use for a debate around a topic where groups respond to one another. This is a great way for teachers to get immediate feedback on their instruction. You can also save the conversation for later use.

  • hold an online discussion during virtual learning activities.
  • invite feedback about a learning experience.
  • backchannel during direct instruction.
  • explain steps and procedures of assigned problems.
  • backchannel during films and listening activities.
  • class suggestion box.
  • entrance/exit tickets
  • create a digital record of a class discussion as a resource for later learning.
  • digital “inbox” for resources and ideas.
  • way to brainstorm and collect ideas at the beginning of a class, activity or unit.

Cost of TodaysMeet

TodaysMeet is a freemium product. Their free version is what I have used for months in my classroom but they do offer a Teacher’s account for $5.00 a month. The Teacher’s account allows you to have more control of your room. The transcripts can always be accessed, access of room can be limited to students only, students can be muted and prompts/topics/questions can be prominently displayed within a room.

Teacher accounts

Common Core Literacy Anchor Standards addressed

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.4 Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.5 Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.

 My experiences with TodaysMeet

I have used backchannels several times in my English class. They have had to submit #hashtag summaries for an assigned text, answers during an online Q and A session, and thesis statements for assigned topics. My Scholars seemed to instantly and enthusiastically embrace the opportunity to have sidebar conversations. Many students were participating, responding with each other, and making insightful observations as well as answering each other’s questions. Yes, there were some students who needed to be re-directed but the opportunity to shake-up our regular class discussion giving the mic to all of my students and not just the five who normally drive our discussions was a valuable experience.



my scholars are silly

July 11

Working on Visuals for Literacy Strategies

I have been presenting sessions on Close Reading and Tech Integration.

July 10

Text+Tech=Engagement #RSCON2014

2014 Reform Symposium E-Conference (RSCON) I am presenting at the Reform Symposium Online Conference.  Here is a link to the presentation schedule in Central time.

With my state’s shift to Common Core State Standards, we are all charged with the responsibility of being literacy teachers and my session is designed to share resources about ways to fuse literacy strategies and tech resources to aid our students in their ability to read and connect to text.

Session Title: Text + Tech = Engagement  Here is a copy of the chatroom notes from my session. Martha shared some great books. Notes from Chat Room Text and Tech

Your Name: Valerie R. Burton, M.Ed.

Work Title: ELA Teacher

School or Organization Name: West Jefferson High School

Area of the World from Which You Will Present: New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Language in Which You Will Present: English

Target Audience(s): Teachers, Librarians, Technology Integration Coaches

Short Session Description (one line): Combine Literacy Strategies and Technology Resources to help students read closely, discuss and write about text.

Full Session Description: During our session, I will discuss ways to incorporate literacy strategies and technology resources that can be used across the curriculum to help students read closely. These strategies and resources are aimed at helping students become purposeful, active readers who are able to proficiently discuss and write about text.

What does it look like when you promote the use of literacy strategies and integrate technology into your classroom in order to increase your students’ engagement and connection to text?

You and your students read closely using a variety of literacy strategies

  1. Annotating
  2. GISTing
  3. Anticipation guides
  4. Notetaking templates
  5. Vocabulary strategies
  6. Self-generated questions

Your students demonstrate the ability to connect to text by using

  1. Google Forms to assess knowledge
  2. Padlet to post impressions of nonfiction or fiction
  3. Images to provide a deeper meaning
  4. Wikis to create ebooks or book studies
  5. Blogs to analyze and reflect upon text
  6. ePortfolios to publish work

Here are slides from my presentation. 

Here is a link to a Livebinder of resources http://bit.ly/CLOSEread


This Livebinder contains technology integration resources.


June 29

My Summer PD

When is it time to stop learning? NEVER!!

I have recently decided to follow the BlogAMonth topics and the topic for June deals with Summer Professional Development. I have over-committed myself and I have already failed 1/6 online courses that I signed up for. oops

June PD

Teacher Leader Summit held at the Morial Convention Center (face to face)

  • takeaway: tons of tips about best practices and discussions about our new CCSS Guidebook

LACUE Leadership Summit held in Baton Rouge (face to face)

  • I presented a session about close reading and using tech tools to support literacy strategies.
  • takeaway: resources and tech tools to try in my class and to share with others.

Project Based Learning: How to Guide Inquiry, Managing Teamwork and How to Make a Project Authentic (online via Edmodo)

  • takeaway: resources and ideas about how to successfully create project based learning experiences

Making Learning Connected (#clmooc)

A collaborative, knowledge-building and sharing experience open to anyone interested in making, playing, and learning together about the educational framework known as Connected Learning. It extends through July.

July work

SREB and HSTW in Nashville (face to face)

Reform Symposium

  • an online global event highlighting “wow” moments in teaching and learning.

APSI in Boston (face to face)

Making Learning Connected (#clmooc)

  • a collaborative, knowledge-building and sharing experience open to anyone interested in making, playing, and learning together about the educational framework known as Connected Learning

Those are just a few of the learning opportunities that I have signed up for. Just a few… Knowing me, I will sign up for others.

Do you have plans? If not try

  1. Reform Symposium
  2. Edmodocon 2014
  3. ASCD Webinar
  4. Simple K12 Summer Webinars



June 29

My Morrah is Always #LikeAGirl

One thing about being connected and online is the question of how much do you share and how much do you keep to yourself. As I watch this video for the 2nd time and cry for the 2nd time, I am reminded of a time when I almost asked my 11 year old why she couldn’t be more ‘like a girl.’ If you haven’t seen it yet, please take three minutes to watch it.

Yes, I am embarrassed, horrified and ashamed to have let such a thought enter into my mind.  How dare I let society’s definition of how we should act and how we should look influence me. I have always thought out of the box so why did I allow myself to try to put her in a box? 

I was frustrated because I had just spent $75 and 3 hours getting her hair straightened and then curled into gorgeous ringlets. As soon as we got home, she combed out the curls, put her hair into a ponytail, and put on a baseball cap.  When I saw what she had done to her hair, I wanted to yell at her and ask why she couldn’t be more ‘like a girl.’

Luckily, for once, I thought before I spoke and as I looked at her in tennis shoes, gym shorts, t-shirt, ponytail and baseball cap, all I could think of was how different she was from me when I was her age. I was a ‘girley’ girl. I ran, threw, climbed trees and played football with the boys too but I did it with curls, painted nails and cute flowery pink clothes. I know that we are all not made from the same cloth and I am grateful for all of our differences.

I have a wonderfully polite, independent, brilliant, sarcastic, motivated, artistic, and opinionated daughter. She is what I call a quiet storm, she doesn’t talk back or cause commotions, she lets people skip her in line, she speaks in a very soft voice and if you don’t hear her the first two times, she stops talking so you better catch it the first time around. She is not me. I do talk back and cause commotions, I don’t let people skip me or anyone around me and I speak in a loud voice to make sure that everyone hears what I have to say.

She is MORRAH and I am blessed to have her in my life. Thank God before I could actually say it, I came to myself and was appreciative that she is and will always be ‘like a girl’ because she IS A GIRL!!!.

  • She is a girl who loves wearing short shorts, not the sexy Daisy Duke kind, but the nylon gym shorts from 30 years ago.
  • She is a girl who read Divergent and Insurgent but refused to see the movie.
  • She is a girl who painted her headboard and bedframe because she believed when she was told that she was an artist who had talent.
  • She is a girl who loves playing the piano but hates practicing.
  • She is a girl who loves wear crazy mix-matched socks in her hightop Converse shoes.
  • She is a girl and I love her.


I am so ashamed that I almost allowed public opinion to reduce my daughter into a rigid formula of being coquettish, conceited, submissive, uncertain and WEAK.



I have shared this post because I was moved to speak out against the need we (yes, myself included) have to label people. Labeling is something that I teach my students to do as we classify information, it is not something that should be applied to people.

We must remember to #RESPECT and #APPRECIATE one another. 

June 28

Year is over and I am reflecting

As I recap what I did this year, I can honestly say that I did some good things, some mediocre things and some negative things. I can honestly say that. No ifs and buts about it. I did not give 100% 100% of the time. No excuses.

will do better

My goal is to increase the good and decrease the bad. I know this and I have been working on revamping and changing my unit/lesson plans. I have attended 2 face-to-face conferences so far and I am scheduled to attend 2 face-to-face more. In between my conferences, I am participating in several MOOCs, online classes and online conferences. I am trying to get the knowledge and resources to revamp my classes and include more structure and rigor in my classes.

We have too much NEW to deal with so I must be sure that I am better prepared. CCSS is here and we have a new curriculum guide, new texts to share and a new assessment system. We have a new teacher evaluation system that I must comply with.  I am trying to create unit/lesson plans so that when school starts, I am starting off on the right foot armed with weapons.

Some of the NEW things that I want to do next year

daily center rotations:

  • bi-weekly, my classes will rotate through a variety of center stations (ie: vocabulary preparation, test preparation, journal prompts and theme/voice/tone exercises)

student blogs:

  • regular blog posts about the work that we do in class

classroom jobs:

  • jobs for 2-3 weeks on a rotating schedule

class scribes:

  • posting notes, pictures and videos to the class blog


  • there are many apps that can be used to foster collaboration and assess student work

more student training:

  • in order to establish a routine, I must be sure that I teach them not only what I want them to learn but also the way I want them to learn it

participation sheets:

they can keep track of our assignments and the standards that we have covered in class

student evaluations:

check-in with them every 3 weeks to see what needs to be improved


Some of the OLD things that I want to do next year


keeping in contact with students and parents via text messages

Class Blog

will post daily assignments

Use of visual text

images get the students to analyze and infer

Close reading literacy strategies

they will annotate, summarize, connect images to text, RAFT writes, etc.

These are just some of the things that I have decided to take on. There will be many more things before the year starts.

Will check in again

April 6

Recap of #RSCON5 Mini-Conference

I spent this morning with educators from all over the world and I loved it!!! We talked about sites and resources that we can use to help make our lives easier, make our students more engaged and provide a platform for our students to share their work. We met online and we talked, laughed, inspired and engaged one another. Fingers typed out comments in the chatroom, shared examples of student/teacher work and clicked links to register for new online tools.  It was a good morning.

It started out with a freestyle rap from the musical guest Jason Levine @FluencyMC.  He reminded us that it is okay to be silly. It is okay to laugh. It is okay to do something that might get you laughed at. My 11 year old daughter laughed at the man on the screen rapping to her about … foolishness as he tried to rhyme words that were thrown out to him. But she also recognized the power that having this sense of the absurd can have in a classroom with a teacher who is willing to connect with students and promote learning.

Next up was the keynote speaker, Steven Anderson and his two girls. His two girls were not actually presenting with him but they were discussed as a reminder to all of us that we must teach to our children in the ways and using the methods that they have become accustomed to using. Even if that means we have to be willing to purchase an iPad Pottyseat. *(Not that anyone is saying that we, parents or teachers, will actually need to buy one but it is important to realize that technology has become so ingrained in our lives that … it will be a purchase made by many.) Steven helped to continue the conversation about the reasonableness of telling them to totally shut offf their devices when at school.  Last week, I laughed at the young Chrisley children, Savannah and Chase, when they melted down when their dad took their phones. They were serious when they said that they wake up in the mornings expecting to see their friend, their cellphone, on their pillow. If a cellphone is their friend, how are they supposed to act when we rip them away!?!?!?

The Inspire Presentations were 5 minute sessions in which we talked about sessions we presented at Reform Symposium 4 or sessions that we intend to present at Reform Symposium 5. We heard from:

André J. Spang, Germany, @Tastenspieler
Title: Be a Maker not a taker!

Sue Beckingham, UK, @SueBecks
Title: Why you need a professional online presence and how to do it!

Eva Buyuksimkesyan, Turkey, @Evab2001
Title: Flip Quiz

Sylvia Guinan, Greece, @ESLBrain
Title: Brainfriendly ways to help students memorise language creatively

Matthew Miller, Egypt, @matthewm1970
Title: Playing to RAMP up learning

Paige Hale, US
Title: Working together: Apps and tools for collaboratively building students’ writing skills

Valerie Burton, US, @MsBisOnline
Title: Publish your ePortfolio using Weebly

Jackie Gerstein, US, @JackieGerstein
Title: STEAM and Maker Education: Inclusive, Engaging, Self-Differentiating

Here is a PDF file of our presentation slides.

We closed out today’s day of learning with a Smackdown session in which we took 2 minutes to show off tools, sites and resources that we think of as ‘must haves.’ Some of the sites that we shared were ThingLink, Smore, Google World Calendar, PrintFriendly, Tagboard, Kidblog and NewsEla. Here are slides from that share session.

All in All, it was a good morning. I spent time with my online friends talking, sharing and being inspired. Can’t wait for the 2nd mini-con on May 4th, 2014 and the next Reform Symposium Conference, RSCON5, that will take place July 11-13th, 2014 and feature 60+presentations, 2 plenaries, 10 keynotes, student presenters, a tech/app/lesson smackdown, and the EdInspire Awards Ceremony.

Thanks so much to Conference Organizers:

Shelly Sanchez Terrell, Peggy George, Chiew Pang, Marcia, Lima, Steve Hargadon and Amy Brinkley



April 5

2014 #RSCON mini-conference

Reform Symposium Mini Conference

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

is the first of 2 events to promote Reform Symposium Free Online Conference #RSCON5, July 11-13th, 2014.


Sunday’s half day minicon will be held from 9:30am to 1pm EDT and will feature musical guest Jason Levine and keynote speaker Steven Anderson.

I am honored to be presenting for the technology smackdown event and one of eight mini-presentations that highlight RSCON4 and give a sneak peek at what to expect at RSCON5,  I will be sharing highlights from my presentation last year about Using Weebly to Publish Work and I will be sharing Smore.com for flyer/poster making and ThingLink.com for creating interactive images.

RSCON5 qr blog badge present Apr 2014


March 22

News is Needed in our Classes

From time to time I re-evaluate what I currently do and what I have done in the past. One of these re-evaluation reflection sessions led me back to the realization that bringing in the news needs to be a necessary part of my classes. I can’t teach children about how literature is reflected in their lives if I don’t allow them to talk about their lives and learn about the lives of others. Years ago, I showed CNN Student News in my class 3 days a week and I had my students to record facts from the broadcast. We were able to track stories and see how the news developed.  And then… the school year ended and I didn’t continue showing the broadcasts. I really don’t know why I stopped. ?? I have since seen the errors of my ways and I have started showing the broadcasts again. I laugh when Carl Azuz does the ‘Shout Outs’ and my kids shout out the answer and I feel bad when he mentions a school/class during the school roll call and they all look at me with disappointment because our class wasn’t mentioned.


CNN’s Student News has great classroom resources: option of downloading podcast version. transcript, Daily Curriculum worksheet, etc. They have made it extremely easy to bring the daily news into the classroom.  Below is an example of the worksheet that can be copied and shared with the class.



Do you share the news with your students? If not, think about it. It is beneficial and enlightening. Try sharing the CNN Student News with your class and see what happens.