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

My Community Engagement

Personal Learning Networks

As our COETAIL journey is winding down and coming to an end, I’ve realized how much my Personalized Learning Network has grown since the start of this course well over a year ago and before experiencing a global pandemic that forever changed what teaching and learning can look like worldwide.

From full digital models to different hybrid models, to “Modified Full On-Campus Learning” with each passing week we continued to evolve our craft to meet the needs of our diverse learning group. From those stuck out of the country due to VISA restrictions to those at home quarantining, to those who remained in other time zones well on the opposite side of the world, it has never been more clear how much teachers care and are willing and able to put in the time to engage, teach, and inspire their learners no matter their location or given learning mode.

Throughout this year I have relied on a number of different groups to learn from and share different lesson plans and activity ideas with.  You can see from my original post from back in February 2020 all of my learning communities in yellow, where then I have added my newer ones in green since on this COETAIL journey.

CEESA- Learning Support

To start, having our school being a part of CEESA (Central & Eastern European Schools Association) has had numerous opportunities for growth and development. Even after Covid hit, a number of the Learning Support teachers would continue to pose questions to the group and seek solutions and ideas for ways to best serve students in the Special Education Program. After a few months of countless e-mail replies, we took our lengthy e-mail chats to a more formalized meeting.  A poll went out, we selected re-occurring days (monthly) to meet. It wasn’t too tricky with the time zones being that it was all CEESA schools, but generally, the meetings lasted about an hour and were recorded for people who couldn’t attend. An agenda was set up such as this:

1. CEESA learning support website
2. Screening, identifying, and referring students
3. Measuring progress in hybrid or virtual learning scenario
4. Takeaways from the CEESA conference
It was a great way to connect to others who share the same passions with SEN and in similar international schools facing similar challenges.

Google for Education

Next, the Google Educator Groups have been extremely helpful as I applied to the program and am working towards my Google Educator Trainer exam. Using things like to help you study and prepare, it was also great having access to people who have already done their level 1 and 2 exam to ask questions and practice more tips and tricks for short cuts, activties,and simply new fun ways to utalize all things Google!

Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash

Global Online Academy

With plenty of workshops to choose from, Global Online Academy offers a wide range of courses depending on your current skill level. I found their lessons and discussion boards beneficial during the start of our lockdown, when moving to a full digital teaching and learning model. But I quickly learned that the resources provided by my school and the level of tech. skills I had already acquired, led me more to answering questions through this community than getting my own questions answered. It was a great experience that really allowed me to see where we stood in terms of supporting our students during a crazy time in education and also allowed me to grow in confidence about all the great things we were already doing and using with our students to increase engagement and ensure learning was taking place.

Even in the “end of quarter student reflections”, I was thrilled to see one comment that read,

“Even during a pandemic we can learn”

Sometimes I think as educators who are constantly thinking 10 steps ahead while simultaneously reflecting on the past 2 weeks and assessments and attendance all while not forgetting SELF CARE ….. we forget how resilient kids can truly be and that when modeling positivity and optimism for what the future has in store, only great things can happen. Which also led me to seeing that despite me thinking that this year would be hard to show two plus years growth… from the students point of view they are on track for meeting their goals or in some cases have already met them and would like to set new ones!


This leads me to my own academic goal- which was to sign up for Twitter and actually attempt Tweeting. I have never been a huge fan of this platform, being from the original Facebook Generation, but I found out I was able be extra selective on who to follow and was also able to get a few helpful hashtags from friends along the way which proved to be a great resource.

Not only was I able to Tweet out my COETAIL blog posts, but I was able to stay better connected with my cohort, for the times when we planned a meeting to touch base and see how everything was going and everyone was doing on their final projects.

More specifically I really enjoyed using Twitter during some fun grade level projects like March Book Madness… with Harry Potter as this year’s champion and getting to tag the authors of some amazing work in young adult and children’s literature.

Or getting to share out fun class lessons on the sustainability of our oceans. Teaching students about Exclusive Economic Zones and what’s going on in today’s world on top of the environment and pollution of those oceans with plastics- while being sure to use biodegradable materials and doing a fun lesson on bottled water vs. the tap! What are you really paying for??

Without expanding my personal learning networks many of these lessons and activities would have stayed with their creators as opposed to having great lessons reach as many students as possible.

Lesson Plan – Living Lands & Waters found here 


Joining the group- “Teaching During Covid-19” allowed me to see numerous examples of what others around the world were doing in place of the in-person learning activities. I loved all the Bitmoji classrooms people were using, but never found quite the right lesson to use with it. When we introduced our literary terms for a past unit, I saw others who created “escape rooms” with their Bitmoji classrooms. So I decided I wanted to take it one step further by incorporating a Google Form into it and the special features like “Section based questions” or “Conditional” and “text contains” allowed us to really have some fun with our new terms and challenged them to check their work and see if they were correct- allowing them to “escape”.

Webex Teams

At first, Webex Teams was just another platform for communication. Yet- another thing to put on the list to have to check daily from e-mails to what's app groups, to Facebook messenger, to your Twitter feed... I found it regualrly exhausting attempting to keep up with everything. But in the end, it was useful to connect with different people who you don't see throughout your typical school day, and allow for opportunities like Moderating WIDA writing samples across grade levels. It allowed for easy sharing of writing samples and rubrics and quick and easy communication for shared scoring and reasonings. I know this tool will also be exteremly handy towards the end of the year as we begin to have our final ILP and SSP meetings along with all the transition meetings taking place from ES to MS and MS to HS. 


Last- our Monthly Happy Hour Zoom meetings with former colleagues, allowed that time for Self-Care that everyone so greatly needed during these past 15 months. Getting to talk about how other schools are handling the Covid situation, but more importantly, connecting with old friends who share your passion for education was vital to surviving this school year.

From synchronous to asynchronous learning styles, with a lot to a little notice, I’ve come to realize how wonderful and supportive colleagues around the world are: sharing ideas, resources, and availability to offer feedback and simply be available for a group brainstorming session. I am thankful for my Personalized Learning Network and can only hope it continues to grow as I move towards a new chapter of life, leaving my school in Moscow for the unknown!  I am excited about all the new connections I will make and know the relationships established during my 10 years of international teaching will continue to be there, for a lifetime.

C2 W4: THINK before you POST

Ever since I’ve started to think more about the posts that cause a strong divide amongst veiwers, I’ve gotten much better at asking the questions suchs as:

  • Is the photo clickbait?
  • Could the photo have been photoshopped or staged?
  • Is the source credible?

I believe I promote curiosity and truth by resharing things I feel are credible and questioning those who post inaccuracies, or at the very least when I share it- I post the question of collecting thoughts in order to hear both sides.

Unfortunately, I have fallen victim to the misinformation online in the past, believing things upon a quick scroll, only to have to go back later just to ensure the cite indeed was not “The Onion” (wonderfully crafted satirical writing out of my home state of Wisconsin).

I find myself often having to remind my students to question what they read and hear online, as they naively believe in everything. As an educator, I feel I owe it to my students to continually question them: where they heard, saw, or read something? Do they know the original source? Do they believe it is credible? And continually ask them prompting questions that help guide their knowledge and understanding of the world around them. To my surprise, my students are great at identifying clickbait and can accurately question the source of the post. When talking with my students I follow the same guidelines as posted on the Butler University page. Not just for their digital life and what they post, but simply on their words and actions throughout their school day.

Image taken from: Let’s Think Before You Post

Media that is present day to day in my life include:

  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Netflix

With a slim collection of social media in my fingertips, it’s most important to make sure that the things popping up in my feed within the hourly scrolls are things I can trust, but if not, at least I know to question it.

I’d like to consider myself one of the 32% of internet users that do both creating and curating but hope to continue to grow more in the creating side. Along with encouraging my students to take precautions as they add to their digital footprint, I remind them to keep their online presence safe.

Last, I found this quote from Media Education for the 21st Century incredibly appropriate as students take on new challenges such as with digital learning. And their ever-increasing academic tasks get more and more challenging as they begin to have an even larger amount of responsibility and independence thrust upon them. Learning how to close tabs, and power down their phone may become an even bigger challenge as they continue their journey of self-regulation and managing distractions.

Multi-tasking often is confused with distraction, but as understood here, multi-tasking involves a method of monitoring and
responding to the sea of information around us. Students need
help distinguishing between being off task and handling multiple tasks simultaneously.

Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century by Henry Jenkins, Director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with Katie Clinton, Ravi Purushotma, Alice J. Robison, Margaret Weigel