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How to create an online Advent calendar

I love this time of year, it comes with such wonderful anticipation of things to come. A time to be mindful.   You can build some of that anticipation into your classroom with a digital advent calendar that reveals something each day in preparation for the holiday season. Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, “coming.” In Christian traditions, this refers to God’s coming into our midst. Anastasis is a faith-based school, so the advent calendar I created for our students and families is to be in celebration of this coming.  Your classroom advent calendar doesn’t have to be faith-based. Your advent calendar could be in anticipation of the coming new year, the coming break from school, or just a fun way to surprise your students with something they get to reveal each day.  It would even be fun to reveal some sort of “Mission Impossible” task each day for your students. Be creative! This could be related to something they are learning/working on in your classroom, a kindness challenge, a video of the day, a writing prompt for the day, brain teaser, a book/poem/website for the day, a peek into your classroom for families, inquiry question of the day, song/podcast, 25 days of science experiments, etc.  Even as adults we enjoy moments of anticipation, why not capitalize on that in your classroom? I used Weebly to create our digital advent calendar.  You can follow our calendar here. Weebly is an easy to use, WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) website builder. It makes it simple to quickly put together a site that you can easily edit in preparation for the next day of revealed surprise.  Weebly also lets you include a nice variety of content so that it is flexible enough to meet your needs. I started December first with some text and an image.  My plan is to take a video each day of our students sharing a verse, quote, thought, blessing, song, etc. and embed the video using the YouTube option.  The only thing for me to do each day will be to take the video and upload it to our Anastasis YouTube channel and then copy the url into the Weebly image for the day. SO easy to keep up with each day! How to build your own Weebly Advent Calendar: Sign up for a free Weebly account Choose a template to start with for your calendar. Any of the templates will work, choose the look you like best! Start by dragging some text onto your page. This is a great place for a few sentences about your calendar and what students/families can expect to find each day. Under the “Structure” section, select and drag over the “Columns” onto your page. I chose 5 columns.  Repeat so that you have multiple rows of 5 columns.  I have a total of 5 for 5 rows and 5 columns. Into each row and column, drag over the “Image” option so that you have 25 image place holders. I used Apple’s Pages software to create my daily images with the dates listed on them. I used some digital paper, layered a solid box of color, and two text boxes. I took a screenshot of each date (I just created one image and then changed the text for each screenshot). Back in Weebly, click on the image placeholder to upload the images created (alternately, you can just use the search option to find images to use). Repeat for each image. Create a new page (under the Pages tab a the top of the Weebly screen).  Be sure to check the box so that the page is hidden from navigation.  This is going to be your “come back on the appropriate day” page. Click “Save and Edit.” On your new page, add some text and an image.  Type a greeting message from those who are trying to sneak a peek early. Navigate back to your home page. Click on each image, an edit box for the image will come up.  Select “Link” and choose “Standard Page” and then the page you just created.  Save. Create other pages for your site if you would like to, I created an “About” page for those who are curious about Anastasis.  It might be fun to include a “contact” page where students can submit ideas for the calendar (maybe original writing or other work?) Publish your site. Each day go back and click on the image for the appropriate day. From the edit box, go back to “Link” and change where the image links to.  It can link to another page that you create on the Weebly site, a website or video, a file, or an email address (what if your students got a new email address each day to email an encouraging note to?).  Alternatively, you can delete the image for that day all together and embed a video, html, flash, etc. Don’t forget to re-publish after you’ve added/edited the site! There is something truly wonderful about revealing a surprise each day. Don’t leave the families of your students out, it would be great to give families a glimpse of your classroom so that they can see what there kids are up to each day. This can be photos, original student writing, video, or fun activities to be completed as a family in lieu of homework. Students can also be in charge of creating their own advent calendar. The possibilities for this are endless!   What great ideas do you have for using an advent calendar in your classroom? Share them below!

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Dance Lessons for Zombies: Redesigning the Report Card

Posted by admin | Posted in Classroom Management, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources | Posted on 05-03-2013

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|Kelly Tenkely|

One of the byproducts of starting your own model of education: the old systems constantly fall short.  They start to feel forced, frustrating and tired.  The hard part is that SOMETHING is needed, but what others have in place isn’t it.

So you start dreaming.  You try to leave assumptions of what it “should” be like behind.  You work to imagine something new and different.  Something that fills the need in the right way.

It seems like every corner we turn we have to reinvent.  Anastasis needs a way to organize and keep track of student information…easy!  We will hunt down a student information system, there are a million to choose from!  [This is the part where we hit a brick wall.]  There may be a million student information systems to choose from, but none of them fits our needs.  None is flexible enough to use the way we need to use it.  They make assumptions based on a system that we aren’t a part of.  So, we come up with our own solution.  We mash-up tools that were never designed to do what we do with them.  We make them bend to our will.  Eventually, I’ll just create my own solution (The Learning Genome Project), and it will do just what we need it to because it was designed apart from the assumptions.

The most recent challenge: redesign the report card.  This may seem like a simple task.  It has been anything but simple!  This has been going an ongoing challenge for us.  We redesigned the learning experience from the ground up.  We don’t give grades, at least not in the traditional sense.  So then, how do you help parents come to understand everything that happens in the 8 hours that their children are with us every day?  How do you show them the richness of learning, the uniqueness of their child, without reducing it to a score in a handful of “essential” areas?  How do you change a culture who seeks validation that their child is “smart” based on a piece of paper that comes home four times a year?  How do you help them really understand the difference in philosophy if the reporting looks the same?

This is a challenge because what makes us learners is so wonderfully complex.  It isn’t only about math, reading, writing, science, social studies and art.  At Anastasis, we are in the business of helping students “Stand Again” (the Greek translation of Anastasis), to become fully alive in who they are as unique individuals contributing to the fabric of the world.  Our reporting has to reflect this.  Obviously, your typical report card isn’t going to cut it.  We’ve looked high and low for a ready-made solution.  It doesn’t seem to exist.

On Wednesday mornings, we have a late-start for our students.  This gives the staff great time to come together and tackle these daunting tasks.  We talk often about all of the incredible things that we see in our learners every day.  We wonder over the phenomena of parents just wanting to know what their grade would be…you know, if they had one.  What they are really asking is: “is my child going to be okay?  Are they going to do well in life?”  The grade they are seeking doesn’t really answer those questions. As teachers we know that if a child is in an emotionally hard place, or doesn’t have the attitudes and habits of learning built up, they won’t perform to the fullest in math/reading/writing/science/social studies.  It isn’t about them just knowing their math facts, they also have to have the spirit of risk-taking, the discernment to know which operation to apply to a problem, the perseverance to stick with a problem they don’t immediately know the answer to, etc.  We want SO much more for children than for them to recite math facts by memory.  We want them to be fully ALIVE as learners.  We dreamed, we made list after list of what we want graduating students to look like.  We drew pictures. We laughed (a lot). We got frustrated that it wasn’t simpler.

Over the last week, I’ve taken those notes, scribbles, drawings and lists and drew up a report card.  It looks very little like any report card you’ve probably seen.  It isn’t perfect. I suspect it will go through some evolution.  Our main objective is to help communicate that we are teaching amazing, unique beings.  In the center you will see my crude version of the Vitruvian Man. I love the blend of disciplines that daVinci revealed.  There is a sort of perfection in the overlap…it looks a lot like life.  We stuck with the Greek theme, and used ethos, pathos, mythos and logos to help us describe different parts of a child.  In true Anastasis fashion, we made up our own Greek-inspired word, Pneumos, to show the creative force…the “life-breathed” spiritual aspect of a child.  Below is our re-imagined report card.  I’m still working on the second page that includes definitions of each word listed in our circle.  In addition, we use standards-based-grading and a variety of rubrics.  Our standards-based-grades are a little different (surprise!), our goal is forward progress through learning, standards gives us a framework for this to happen.  We don’t stick within grade levels.  Sometimes second grade students are ready for fifth grade standards.  We say, “have at it!”


We are really working toward changing a culture.  I like to think of it as dance lessons for zombies.  As a culture we seemed to be immersed in systems.  We take them for granted and let them dictate our every move.  Systems can be good, they can bring order and rationality.  But they can also stifle and keep us from really living.  They can make us look a whole lot like zombies.  We are working to make learning look more like life.  We are working toward helping learners “stand again” in who they were created to be. To dance.

Comments (5)

I am really looking forward to taking a peek at that format, but the Issu link seems to be broken :-(

It should show up embedded right in the post (desktop version is working anyway!)

Tried it on my desktop and got to it – thanks :-)

I absolutely love your futuristic report card, even if it will evolve. I have created a standards-based report card for use with my fourth graders, and really appreciate the feedback I am able to provide. However, it hasn’t had the best parent feedback- even with definitions of the scoring system and student-specific comments included, some parents just want a traditional report card with a single letter grade. Helping parents realize the big ideas of your third-to-last paragraph is a powerful step in changing current assessment methods. Thanks for this!

We have found the same with the standards based reports that we currently use. There is SO much more information and it is richer, and more accurate to where a child is in their learning. And yet- it is still just a portion of the story. We are really working to communicate to parents that teaching the whole child is SO much more than just did they turn their homework in. To only report the latter is to do a disservice to the child.

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