My Final COETAIL Project- Course 5: Self-Advocacy Presentations

Unit Introduction

  • As we entered the final quarter of the year,  I started our Advocacy presentation unit off with a brainstorming session around their transition to grade 8 and what kinds of things they would want to share with their teachers. It was a group discussion allowing them to start looking for the words to help describe themselves as learners & individuals. Further lessons would then give them more vocabulary around how to speak about themselves in that same way with confidence and expand their self-awareness and demonstrate how to articulate what they need to get the most out of their learning and more importantly, enjoy the process!
  • Check out our Unit Planner linked here with some slight alterations made that will be shared in the video at the bottom of this post.

The Learning Process

  • After our brainstorming sessions, we had numerous SMART skills lessons allowing us to grow in educational vocabulary and reflect on ourselves as learners. I transformed an old pen and paper Executive Functioning survey to being a google doc, and found success with the reflection piece and debriefing the students with their own personal data.
From this... 

to this...

allowing for a greater level of independence and mini lessons on the vocabulary within the survey to add to their personalized Vocabulary journals.

  • From offering choice selections lessons through “bingo boards” (as seen in the final video) to direct instruction reading lessons my EAP (English for Academic Purposes) and LRC (Learning Resource Class) has a fine balance between independent activities and lessons that require active engagement. Allowing them to choose all activities in 1 language domain or complete one activity from each of the 4 domains (Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking).
  • Many of which we started the year off completing together as a class and as the year went on similar activities then became some that they could complete independently- such as the Nearpod listening lessons.
  • As we got closer to the final assessment for our project, we dove back into their goals and charts of their progress and continued the reflection process. Partnering up to work on skills in similar areas as well as different partners whose strengths and weaknesses were opposite to them was beneficial. In these partnerships, they were able to discuss strategies and ways they focus on their strengths to help with things that are more challenging for them.
  • Here are a few altered (for confidentiality) screenshots of the final projects showcasing slides of the student’s work and some of their excitement to celebrate not only their growth and success around meeting their goals but to celebrate their differences and truly value the unique individualness of each and every one. Be sure to check out the final video reflection at the end of this post, to see parts of the presentations in action!

ISTE Standards for Students

Empowered Learner

Creative Communicator

Both Images taken by Shalene Huth
  • As an empowered learner my students (1a),  “Articulate and set personal learning goals, develop strategies leveraging technology to achieve them and reflect on the learning process itself to improve learning outcomes.” and  (1c) “Use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.”
  • As creative communicators my students (6a), “Choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication” and (6d) “Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.”
  • Allowing students the option of which platform they wanted to use to complete their project authentically embedded the ISTE Standards for students into my content area. It has gotten better as it has become easier to identify which units are using which ISTE standards, and how to go about planning meaningful lessons to help with significantly re-designing the task or to create an entirely new one.

    ISTE Standards for Educators

Image taken by Shalene Huth.      I have deepened my practice of the  educator ISTE standards, by using them in my unit and becoming more reflective in the designing stage, opposed to only at the completion of the unit. Looking at not only the standards I wanted the kids to model, but those designed for educators has allowed me to grow in the planning and implementation of this unit, ensuring that almost each standard is somehow incorporated into this final project.

I also realized that for the future I’d also like to focus on and continue to grow in Standard 3-Digital Citizenship:where "Educators inspire students to positively contribute to and responsibilty partcipate in the digital world."

ISTE Standards I was proud to meet through the implementation of my final project:

    • “Educators continually improve their practice by learning from and with others and exploring proven and promising practices that leverage technology to improve student learning.”
          • Specifically: “Set professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness.”
    • “Educators seek out opportunities for leadership to support student empowerment and success and to improve teaching and learning.”
          • Specifically: “Educators: Shape, advance and accelerate a shared vision for empowered learning with technology by engaging with education stakeholders.” and “Advocate for equitable access to educational technology, digital content and learning opportunities to meet the diverse needs of all students.”
    • “Educators dedicate time to collaborate with both colleagues and students to improve practice, discover and share resources and ideas, and solve problems.”
        • Specifically, “Educators: Collaborate and co-learn with students to discover and use new digital resources and diagnose and troubleshoot technology issues.” and “Demonstrate cultural competency when communicating with students, parents and colleagues and interact with them as co-collaborators in student learning.”
    • “Educators design authentic, learner-driven activities and environments that recognize and accommodate learner variability.”
      • Specifically, “Educators: Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.”
    • “Educators facilitate learning with technology to support student achievement of the ISTE Standards for Students.
        • Specifically, “Educators: Foster a culture where students take ownership of their learning goals and outcomes in both independent and group settings.”
    • “Educators understand and use data to drive their instruction and support students in achieving their learning goals.”
        • Specifically, “Educators: Provide alternative ways for students to demonstrate competency and reflect on their learning using technology.” and “Use assessment data to guide progress and communicate with students, parents, and education stakeholders to build student self-direction.”

Meeting Our Goals

  • The main goal for this unit was to present a video recording about themselves as a learner demonstrating clear English speaking and knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses while reflecting on their goals from this year.
  • For myself and this unit, I wanted to open it up to doing the project, not from a standard template- I’ve provided in the past, with explicit step-by-step instructions, but to give them the end goal and give them choice on how to reach it and bring, what I cherish and value: creativity, into my lessons.
Showing my students first hand, it can be extra rewarding to just "go rogue" as you can see here with a painting class I experienced... where I took the liberties to ask for black paint created my own pink and followed instructions in a different way. 


Photos taken by Shalene Huth
  • I think this project has challenged me to rethink traditional approaches, in the sense of breaking away from set graphic organizers and templates to allow more room for student choice. Then once students begin follow up with bringing in sentence starters, prompts, or graphic organizers to aid them.
  • It was also a goal of mine, to explore utilizing my own photos and to begin taking more “abstract” ones that could, later on, be used in blog posts- a goal of which I was thrilled to see come full circle in this post and within the images of my final video.

Adding to Our Toolbelt

  •  Movie Maker
  • Screen Casetify
  • Google forms-surveys
  • Google Docs.
  • Padlet & Flipgrid
  • Nearpod
  • Read & Write assistive tech.
  • Most of my students were familiar with a number of these and it’s great to see more and more teachers using them regularly within their classes. So what may be new to you, more often than not, is not new for our students.
  • Choosing the tool to match the task, is also an easy feat once you have a broader knowledge of what’s available to you.  Being able to start with knowing what you want and select a tech tool to best support it allows the focus to stay on the task with technology simply enhancing the redefinition of what we thought was possible in the many learner objectives and endless opportunities to show demonstrate of the expected outcomes. 

Sharing our Transformation

  • Being that I am the only SEN teacher for my grade level I shared this unit with the transition team and next year’s teachers. Teachers received an e-mail with links to each of the students’ videos for whom they will teach for grade 8. I will initiate collaboration through setting up the transition meetings and holding end-of-year progress meetings and support plan meetings with parents and classroom teachers. During this time, teachers will be able to ask the students directly any clarifying questions on their projects. We have been unable to have any of these meetings yet, due to Covid-19.
  • I will continue to share out my learning experiences with my colleagues as we implement new TTT (Teacher’s Training Teachers) sessions at our weekly Faculty and Dept. meetings (not just the monthly PD days) as well as through engaging them in the transition meetings and student support meetings.  Sharing these types of projects and the lessons leading up to our final outcome will also empower teachers better serve diverse groups of learners.
  • All of this will greatly impact the students I service, by taking these skills of self-awareness, self-advocacy, and empowerment and generalizing them into their general education classrooms and with a larger setting and in a subject that may be more challenging to them.

Learning Outcomes

  • Greater self-awareness, confidence, and advocacy skills!
  • Assessment task: creating a presentation (of any kind) with visuals and demonstrating speaking skills that can reflect on themselves as a learner and how they set goals and worked towards achieving them.
  •  They also learned about collaboration and speaking with their classmates and the classroom teacher is of utmost importance to continue to grow as a learner and to take more control over their education.
  • The enduring understandings that students walked away with were the different tools and vocabulary to utilize in ensuring they are getting the most out of every class lesson.
  • In end, the final transition piece will occur after the results of their WIDA language assessment in 2 weeks’ time. I am confident that all the students I worked with this year will reach a level 4 or 5 in the speaking domain as it has been a joy seeing their confidence grow and have some wonderful discussions, debates, and informal dialogue week after week.
Image taken from:

Final Reflection

My COETAIL experience will impact my future practice, with whatever field I go into. As I am unexpectedly leaving my job and home in Moscow and on the search for something new and exciting back in Wisconsin! Everything I have gained through COETAIL, I am confident, has allowed me to take the next steps in whatever is to come.  I don’t know what my role will be in the fall, within education, but the COETAIL experience has given me numerous opportunities to expand my PLN and countless new tips and tricks with innovative tech skills that I am sure I will find success.  I will look for a position that allows me to continue to spread the joys of what it means to be a life long learner, eager to try new things, gather data, and continually reflect and meet the needs of ALL learners, who are eager to take control of their own learning and help make this world a better place

Be sure to check out the video for further reflection on the project itself!

From everything available on Google, Youtube, Twitter, our PLN, and helpful links provided by the COETAIL instructor, the 2 tips I really took with me for the creation of my video were:

“…You have to be able to see the feeling…” & “…just lift your chin up, go forward and don’t worry about nothing…”

Take from:

Final Project Video Reflection

Week 2: Do YOU Seek Knowledge?

I think by engaging students more in the “authentic experiences” allows our students to make those real-world connections. This makes each lesson more meaningful for them, and in turn stay motivated. Like it said it in the Ted Talk video- “Why do kids have to come to school when they already have the information?” I feel that getting students engaged in the learning process and allowing them to fail, showing them that mistakes grow brains, and in order to do so getting fellow educators who are not afraid to move away from all the things done in the past, because of it’s routine or simplicity. But it is our job to question and advocate for our students to ensure that each and every day we are empowering student’s voices and embracing failure as a cause for celebration.(TEDx Talk, Laufenberg)

Visible Learning, by James Anderson

What to do… when you don’t know what to do?

The Learning Pit- Overwhelming sense of achievement and satisfaction.

Seeking out knowledge is something educators strive to get out of our students, instead of relying on it being delivered to you- such as in the form of a lecture or as my students would say, “Just tell me what I need to know for the Assessment.” Yet the true discovery of information can be met with hostility and even frustration, especially to those with any sort of learning difference. I know as an educator, I try my best to model this for my students, many times by answering their questions with more questions and prompting them with a general, “Where do you think we could find that information?” As a SEN teacher, expected to be a specialist in all classroom subjects (right), learning how to research things is vital. Many times I find myself having to teach something to myself before then attempting to teach, pre-teach, or re-teach it to a small group I am instructed to work with. I think- resiliency, grit, or our school core value of perseverance is another crucial value that needs to not only be taught in school but practiced and celebrated. (Along with guts and determination to not be scared to dive right into the entire learning process- such as shown above as the learning pit.)

Activity = Visibility = Connection opportunity

I will actively seek out knowledge, instead of letting it come to me by utilizing my RSS feeder and growing my own PLN-Personal Learning Network. This is something I myself am in the learning pit. Knowing that the many times I have been in the learning pit in the past; allows me to be thankful for my ability to persevere as I understand these tools will help me become a better educator and reach my goals in the end.

So what role does research play in my daily practice as an educator?

As a SEN teacher, I am constantly trying to stay up to date with the latest proven practices to ensure that the limited amount of time I am given with the students on my caseload is being used as efficiently as possible. In order to make more than one single year of growth in a year’s time, the interventions taking place need to be delivered with fidelity. In addition to the lesson plans and staying current with our Individualized Learning Plans, seeking out new professional development opportunities is also not only crucial but rewarding.

Journal of Adolescent Research– Making the Most of Adolescence: Harnessing the Search for Identity to Understand Classroom Belonging.

This article shows how students struggle with the issues of identity and trying to make themselves known. In a world where technology has changed how we interact with each other, it contributes significantly to a student’s sense of belonging. We not only have to focus on how technology changes the way that we interact with information and finding answers to the questions we seek, but to the student’s sense of who they are within it all, at the same time while trying to remain engaged and connected to their own cultural identities (especially in the international school settings.)

Being an active researcher impacts my practice

I would use the word “active” in slightly less capacity here, though I do believe I am constantly in the state of learning. I believe every day, I don’t just teach something to my students, but I walk away every day having learned something from my students as well. Which in turn, makes me a better educator than the day before.

Every day’s a school day. So jump right in!

Assessment and Data Tracking is one other article I find quite useful when it comes to constantly reassess interventions as a way to measure the impact one is having on a child’s success and growth.

Internet Safety Lesson Plans are another essential unit, that can many times be overlooked, or not given enough time dedicated to. Especially for a school that has 1:1 devices, Internet safety should be a priority. I think our school still has some room for growth but listed below are a number of lessons that we talk about within elective courses or within our advisory program that meets 4 days a week for 25 minutes.

  • Digital Friendships
  • Don’t feed the Phish
  • Chatting online safely
  • Big, Big Data
  • My Social Media Life
  • Being aware of what you share
  • Sexting and relationships

“By protecting children from the worst
digital technology has to offer, and
expanding their access to the best,
we can tip the balance for the better”

-Anthony Lake- UNICEF Executive Director

Reading the state of our children, was another eye-opener. I was shocked that the “For Better” section seemed very limiting yet the “worse” and “still worse” sections were shocking lengthier. I especially loved the examples around how technology allows some students to bring the focus centered around their abilities vs. disabilities etc…..but I couldn’t help but think what a small population that includes. Yet on the opposite side of child trafficking/abuse, bullies, suicide, and sexual exploitation; I couldn’t help but think how these things will affect them ALL.

Teach them to be good humans first and everything else will follow.

Do you agree?