The Simplest and Most Awesome App Ever: Post-it Plus

Most of us, staff included, have led a workshop or class where participants walk around and add Post-its with thoughts to a large piece of paper. Each piece of paper usually has a different topic or question written at the top. Afterwards, ideas written on the post-its are shared by the instructor or via gallery walk by the participants. The extent of use usually ends there, because, at the end of the workshop, you must decide what to do with those large pieces of paper. You don’t want to throw them out because you may want to reference them later. But, they are large and awkward to store and the Post-its usually lose their stickiness and get all mixed up shortly after.

With Post-It Plus, not only do these problems disappear, but, there are also so many more cool things you can do with these same posters later on. Let me explain. Post-It Plus takes a picture of your large papers and scans each Post-It note separately. Therefore, your external poster has now becomes a digital platform to interact with the post-its as if they were still paper. You can reorganize them, categorize them and even combine Post-its across topics.  Therefore, an entire room of people can be using the same sheet of post-its on their iPads or iPhones and be reorganizing and grouping based on their own perspectives.

See It In Action

Here are some screenshots from the Post-it Website that shows some of the cool things you can do with it.



Not only can you name your boards and subcategories, you can then reorganize the Post-its based on these changes.  You can add new notes with many colors to choose from and you can draw or type. You can also pull notes from other boards and add them to new boards. Finally, you can save it as a .pdf or as an image to save for later or turn in!

Here is a screencast of me playing with the app. I don’t have a poster of Post-its to take a picture of so I did the demo version where it pretended to upload a picture.

Ideas for Use

I have a ton of ideas for taking the old lessons we have all done and taking them a step further with the app:

  • Make words or sentences using mixed up Post-its. Mix them up on the board. The students scan the board and go back and sort at their desks.
  • Write equations and number sentences. Students could make a number sentence, mix it up and then trade iPads and solve each other’s problems.
  • Annotate a book with post-its. On each post it, put the page number and the quote, thought or question.  Students can leave them inside the book and at the end they can curate their thoughts by scanning the post-its and categorizing them. Keep the notes for future writing assignments and to study for tests!
  • Trace the routes of a famous explorer, traveler/ human migration patterns. Students can use Post its to mark their path and then scan the post-its to see the shape.
  • Create a timeline using a Post-it for each event. Students organize in order.
  • Re-sort Post-its based on new categories they come up with or you give them.
  • Students can add two more Post-its/Take away ones that don’t ‘fit’.
  • Organize them (example: from least to greatest importance.)
  • Respond to one post-it in a reflection, speech, or persuasive essay.
  • Save as .pdf and submit to teacher/presenter to serve as a formative assessment.
  •  Tie it to one of Harvard Project Zero’s thinking routines! See below for ideas for a few of the routines. Click on the link to be directed to the Project Zero website and see the routine explained in full.
    1. What Makes You Say That? -students could choose one or two post-its on the sheet to question. Students find the author of the two Post-its and asks “What Makes You Say That?” This will further the conversation and get students to think deeper about their ideas and opinions.
    2. Circle of Viewpoints -after writing down various viewpoints of a topic on different post-its, students can scan them, sort the viewpoints into categories and create questions they have for the various perspectives. This would be amazing for a pre-persuasive essay activity or speech/debate prep.
    3. I Used To Think….,But Now I Think -This could be done as a culminating activity. Pull out the KWL  post-it chart from the beginning of the unit; students can scan it (or scan it at the beginning of the unit and save for later) and analyze how their thinking has changed.  Likewise, it could be about hot-button current event discussion. They could start with their preconceived opinions and after research and a structured class discussion like socratic seminar, students can revisit their early opinions and reflect.
    4. Compass Points -This would be great as an introduction to a self-driven project, Genius Hour, or even as an introduction to the class service-learning project.  Students could make their own virtual poster filled with Post-its containing ideas for projects. They can organize their ideas into categories. Then, do the Compass Points thinking routine to narrow down ideas.

The Nuts and Bolts

  • Travis has added this to Self Service for the 7th, 8th and faculty iPads. He has sent the app to Library, the Hayden cart, and 3rd and 4th grade class iPads. So they should be there when you need them! #thankstravis
  • It is recommended that you use a dark colored marker or felt-tipped pen when writing on the Post-its so they are most likely to show up when scanned.
  • This app works best with regularly-sized square Post-its.
  • Make sure the Post-its are not overlapping and are about 1/8inch apart from each other. This will make scanning much more seamless.
  • You can take numerous pictures of the same board if the board is too big. After you have captured one “board” you can hit the plus sign to add another photo to the same board.
  • Unfortunately it doesn’t let you collaborate with others within the app. But, you can export it to another device. What I mean is, you can send it via email and open it on someone else’s Post-it app for further organizing. When you export it, just save it this way. (see below)  So, this way numerous people can edit the same file as long as it is one-at-a-time.

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Happy Post-it-ing!

How Will You ‘Make’ This Year?

We are ready to start our second year with our amazing D-Lab! Many of us already have ideas about how to integrate making, creating and design-thinking into their curriculum this year. Just in case you need some inspiration, here is a collection of of some cool ideas I found on Pinterest and other sites. If any of these piques your interest let me know and I will get you more information and start planning with you. Many of these projects can be altered to fit any curriculum!






Some Light Summer Reading

Below is a curation of interesting articles for us to ponder or dive deeper in over the summer! I will continue to add to this, so please send me any you would like to add to this list!

Edutopia: Flexible Seating Assignments in Middle School

While free seating seems to have a lot of potential to grow voice and choice and help our more fidgety students stay focused, at times assigned seating is necessary to improve social interactions and formal instruction. This teacher found a way to have both!

Mindshift: How Turning Math Into a Maker Workshop Can Bring Calculations to Life

Makey Makey is for all ages!  Use this fun tool to practice programming and math skills.  (See Adrienne to use them) They also talk about using sewing to teach pixels and curves along a grid. A lot of good concrete ideas here.

Education Week Opinion: Why Don’t Educators Want to Be Coached?

Peter DeWitt, Ed.D., has done his research on education leadership and summarizes some of the reasons teachers might not be as open to coaching as other professions. Where do you fit in?

Goals From a New School Year: #observeme

For those of you who read the last article and are thinking, “I would love some coaching,” here is a blog post from a teacher who is joining the #observeme movement. Hope Teague-Bowing, the author of this post explains, “Math teacher, Robert Kaplinsky, is challenging educators to rethink the way we pursue feedback by making it easy and immediately obtainable.” #observeme is something you probably will see next year at MJS, so it is worth a closer look!

After Seeing These +15 Maps You’ll Never Look At The World The Same


The True Size

As a history teacher, I find that one amazing way to get kids excited about almost any topic is through maps. And, there are maps about EVERYTHING! From the most popular baby names in each state to world hunger statistics around the world, there is a map for your class. This two websites shows how the Mercator Projection used for navigating has warped our understanding of how big countries and continents are in relation to others. A greater potential for empathy can start with understanding our place in the world!

Students Email Their Parents About Missing Work

So this is a genius way of holding kids accountable. The article explains how students are required to send formal emails to their parents explaining why they didn’t do their work. This would work so great with 7th and 8th graders with the iPads. They must CC you!

Mindshift: What Neuroscience Can Tell Us About Making Fractions Stick

This article delves into specific strategies for teaching fractions and what the brain needs to actually learn them. From visualizing strategies to conceptual understanding, researchers have discovered that fractions can only be learned through multiple approaches utilizing multiple senses.

Mindshift: Taking Notes: Is The Pen Still Mightier Than the Keyboard?

Typing skills are important. People can type at a much faster rate than they can write; therefore, it would appear that typing is the better option for taking notes. Researchers argue differently.

Print Custom Sticky Notes with Google Slides

So three different people shared this link with me. Something tells me people know I like school supplies. Katie was the first to show me how to do this so see her for tips! But, this is an awesome way to make short rubrics to stick on rough drafts and to make cute personalized notes for kids.

What Do We Mean By Cheating?

This is a blog post that poses an interesting thought: “If our students are successfully cheating in how they go about finding correct answers, perhaps the real problem is that we are asking them the wrong questions.”

9 Great Young Adult Novels For Politically Engaged Readers

This is a curation of novels specifically focused on creating empathy on social justice issues that are current and relevant to people in our country.  They focus on lack of equity among adolescents of different upbringings,  gender, culture and sexual-orientation.

Teachers Going Gradeless

This is a blog post that focuses on current research debunking the myth that grades motivate students. An interesting and relevant read!

Teaching in Beta: What We Can Learn From Software Developers

This blog, “Cult of Pedagogy,” is by far the best education blog out there, from my perspective. I highly recommend following it on Facebook, Twitter or directly through email. Jennifer Gonzalez was a middle school English teacher who is now a full-time blogger. In this article, she talks about how teachers feel this need to be perfect the first time at all attempts to try something new. She argues, if we look at every attempt to try something new as the “beta test” we will be more apt to try new things and be ok when it doesn’t work out perfectly the first time.

Choosing Your Own Learning Adventure: Enrichment Menu For Writer’s Workshop

A school librarian designed a ‘March Madness’ menu of choice for students during writer’s workshop or when they finish early. There are some great ideas in here to keep students on task while giving them voice and choice!

Teaching Students To Write About Contraptions

Yes, we know, skills are becoming increasingly more important than content knowledge for our future students. They need to be creative problem solvers who can converse and work with others. BUT, they also need to write. Computer coders and innovators who can’t write are less marketable than ones that can! Nobody will ever be able to duplicate what they have created if they can’t write an instruction manual that is readable for a broad audience.  This article talks about how to blend these skills of problem solving with the ability to write.

Muslim Kids as Heroes

As Islamophobia is on a rise, it is important that we give students an opportunity to see Muslims as humans and as heroes that many are. Here is a compilation of children’s stories that attempt to do just that!

How Kids Benefit From Learning To Explain Their Math Thinking

Is the ultimate end the right answer?  Or, is it an ability to explain why it is the right answer? Watch this video from MindShift that argues the latter.

View story at

OnCampus? What’s That?


Hopefully everyone is aware that we will leave Schoology behind next year and begin using a new Learning Management System (LMS), OnCampus. For those of you who would like to experiment with OnCampus and make your transition more seamless, here is a short screencast video I made for getting acquainted with the program. I am a beginner as well, so this is purely an introduction. Sara Torres, Bridget, and Adrienne will teach us through upcoming meetings and workshops to deepen our understanding. It will be part of our summer homework to become comfortable with the new system.

This video will

  • help you find OnCampus.
  • show you the most important aspects of the website.
  • examine some differences between OnCampus and Schoology.

*********It is important to  note: we will no longer be able to access our resources and materials on Schoology after June. Therefore, transferring your material onto OnCampus or into another program is necessary! More information for how to best do this will come!

If Our Walls Could Talk, What Would They Say About What We Value?

We do so many great things at our school. Nobody will ever work a day at Mayfield and say they are bored. Our inspiration from the kids, autonomy from our administrators and our annual traditions keep us regularly on our toes and continuing to grow our teaching practices.  I don’t know about you, but I left my MEC meeting feeling reminded of how joyful I feel to be a part of this special community of educators. Having said this, I would like to spend a minute talking about something that our school could work on: what and how we display on the walls.

Last week I attended the Deeper Learning Conference at High Tech High in San Diego. I wish I could truly put into words what it feels like to walk in the doors of the High Tech High schools. You can tell immediately that they value deeper learning, process, reflection, and community. You know just from looking at the walls and ceilings that they give their students opportunities to do and create amazing things.

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At Deeper Learning, I had the opportunity to attend a Deep Dive eight-hour session called Curating Student Work.  The presenter was the superintendent of a rural public school in Kentucky who is doing some incredible work in this area. I have some key take aways from this experience and hopefully with this post you will see some examples of ways we can express our values more clearly and more professionally.

Before you create an exhibit, make sure it connects to one of our goals

Here’s the thing. There are some student work worth curating and some that are just not. When we take a minute to think and reflect about work we choose to display, we also have the opportunity to reflect on the work we assign.

All displays should follow these three rules:

symmetry          repetition        surprising

Here is an example of this and a cool project idea from HTH: Each document is framed and students made laser cut sunglasses for final reflections! My favorite part is it is writing about empathy in math class!

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Take away the barriers of bulletin boards

The fadeless paper that inevitably fades mixed with the cheesy bulletin board borders limit us to space and size. It also sends the clear message to the kids that they are not making real or authentic work, but “kid work.”  And, no, this space should not be to hang cheesy posters.

There are simple ways to make this happen. Using curtain rods, clips and wire, clip boards, driftwood backgrounds, shelving you can make all student work, even work in progress, look professional and improve the standard of what you expect from the kids. These structures will also make hanging work simple and reusable and allow for more displays on the wall!

Here are some examples from HTH:

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Use the laser cutter or other creative materials to make titles

It looks so much more like a professional exhibit when you take the time (with the help of Adrienne! 🙂  And guess what! You can reuse them! Here are some examples from HTH:

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Make a placard to explain the project and process

A simple framed piece of paper that explains the project, grade level and a bit of the process it took to create allows the community to have a better understanding of the work that went into the creations. Here are some examples from HTH:

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Get help!

This is a huge undertaking. These schools have had help from the art teacher who is partly hired to design these exhibits. Some have even hired part time curators. We are definitely not there….yet. 🙂 But know that there are people to help you. This is a perfect assignment for that artistic parent volunteer. There are also incredibly creative artists who are here to give you ideas. Penny and Peggy have been inspirational for me and have great ideas to share. Sara C., our resident weaver, is beyond creative and is so amazing at thinking outside of the box. Adrienne can help with the laser cutter and has quite the design aesthetic as an experienced graphic designer. While I cannot say that I am artistically inclined, I am beyond willing to get my hands dirty to help you along the way.

The Write Approach

You may disagree with me, but I do think this is worth saying: You are wasting your time in the classroom and your personal time grading at home by assigning writing without explicitly teaching the writing process. And by process I do not simply mean a graphic organizer.

This, officially called by education researchers, “Writing Process Approach,” is defined as teaching each step of planning, organizing, drafting, revising, and reflecting. It not only has statistically proven to improve writing but it has also proven to relieve the inevitable anxiety. A study in 2014 concluded that since most of the anxiety stems from being graded, students were less fearful of the grade because the focus was spent on the process and not the final product. And, the students’ final product have less mistakes, so students grades tend to be higher. (Bayat, p.1139) 

For me, I find that the process approach yields stronger writing. My high expectations each year are consistently met because of the incremental steps I take with my students.

Here is a compilation of research-based strategies mixed with strategies I have picked up over the years from various colleagues and conferences for teaching formal writing. They might not all work for you, but if you are interested in adopting a process-approach, there are hopefully a couple nuggets for you.


This would be the step following or coinciding with the preliminary research where students gather information and textual evidence to use when they write. A study done in 2002 had kids memorize and use pneumonic devices,  like PLAN, so that they could do this on their own.   According to this research, students who were taught how to use and to memorize these pneumonic devices wrote “essays that were longer, contained more mature vocabulary and were qualitatively better.” (De La Paz and Graham 2002, p. 687) I find this alone to be a bit elementary. I talk about how to expand this a little later.

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 7.35.53 PMOrganizing

Here is the next pneumonic device in the conclusive study that the process approach works:

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Writing a thesis statement can be intimidating for students.  I use the DBQ Project’s chicken foot method for the standard five paragraph essay, but the most important part of the puzzle is that first part: topic + opinion (without saying, “I think,” or “I believe.”)

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How valuable would it be for kids to realize that thesis statements should really be in all forms of writing (well, except for creative writing). History, response to literature, science, and even math writing can utilize the common vocabulary. For more complex thesis statements, for 8th graders, Jill requires them to add a phrase in the beginning acknowledging that the statement about to be said can be refuted. Phrases start with “although” or “while.”

When organizing complex essays that expand to numerous topics and body paragraphs, students can break down their main ideas from the PLAN and WRITE phase to body paragraph topics. Each body paragraph topic could be listed on a separate page. And students can organize and number their supporting ideas based on the paragraph topic. This really helps in the preliminary research as well.

During this phase, a graphic organizer can be useful. Read Write Think has a good one! Essay Map


While many believe students should have the freedom to choose where in the introduction to place their thesis statements, the best way to teach it is as the last sentence of the introduction. This is because  it is the most logical for students to understand when first learning to write in this way, students need to understand the rules before they can break them and this is what is expected of them in high school. (Did you see how I modeled a complex thesis statement there? ) 🙂

So, obviously this is what I teach to my students. Below is a diagram that I learned from Jill many years ago that helps give students the general outline of writing a research paper or a persuasive essay. She coined him Essay Man: the ultimate writing teacher’s boyfriend…..and for you male teachers out there, Essay Woman works great too. 😉

Essay Man

TIDE is a pneumonic device that breaks down the body paragraphs or paragraphs that stand alone. Students color code as they write.  It is important to specify how many pieces of important evidence they need. For every piece of evidence, they need a detail.  Ann has a ton of resources for TIDE, so see her for help!

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There are many ways to skin the cat on this one: self-assessment, peer evaluation, conferencing one-on-one with students, etc. But, it should always include you, the teacher, giving them feedback at some point in the process. We have all given students copious notes for improvement after giving a grade. But, they never read them. All they care about is the grade. And, we can’t fault them for that because the grade is all that matters. (see grading blog post)

The absolute best time for feedback is during this phase of writing. I make it a rule to never sit down when they are writing. There should be regular coaching. My biggest struggle is helping the kids that don’t advocate for themselves and ask for help. So, I brought in the big guns. Kimmy and Ann are amazing assets and I encourage you to reach out to them and invite them into your classroom to help kids revise their writing. Having another teacher in the room who is an expert in helping struggling kids, especially with reading and writing, is pretty much life-changing.  The amount of time your name is called goes down exponentially!

 Self-assessment has also been proven to successfully improve writing.  According to Kristen Nielsen (2012) in her article, “Self Assessment Methods in Writing Instruction: A Conceptual Framework, Successful Practices and Essential Strategies,” “Self-assessment in writing signifies any teaching method that prompts writers to think about, evaluate and/or respond to their own writing.” (p. 1)  Nielson compiled list of  include: “Teach students the criteria for rating their own work,…use writing models to demonstrate specific writing skills and to give students opportunity to practice assessment,…[and] students should participate in the development of the marking criteria.”  (Nielson 2012, p.10-11) 

For my last essay, I gave students a simple check list for them to go through as they read the paper. One part asked them to color code their typed document: blue for the thesis statement, red for transition statements, green for quotes. This helped me grade too, because I could quickly see whether they can identify these vocabulary words and if they know what to do with them!

Peer evaluation can be valuable when done correctly. Often, kids are paired up in mixed-ability groups. Which is so useful for the struggling student. But what about the high kid? Where is he or she getting feedback from? You also have to be very clear about the criteria they are looking for. They are not looking for grammar or punctuation mistakes, or, heaven help us, penmanship critique. They are looking at the specific writing goals (i.e. checklist) and see if there is room for coaching. It is also important that you teach them how to give feedback. Good sentence starters are “I like” for strengths and “I wonder” for improvements.

Here is a video of a silent critique activity I have done with my students that works really well.  I learned this from the Deeper Learning Conference at High Tech High. (Forgive me: I did this for grad school and it is very raw!)


For almost every assignment I use rubrics. Not only does this tell the student why he or she lost points, but it also makes it easy for me to provide comments at the end of the semester. I can clearly see strengths and weaknesses. But, how many kids really look at the rubrics? For my persuasive essay I just did with the 6th graders, I was pretty confident none of them did.  What is the point of grading, if not to teach them how they can improve? I told all of my students that they could improve their score if they met with me during office hours and resubmitted their writing based on my recommendations. Here was the rubric I used:

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 I had all of them do a reflection which forced them to look at the rubric and I made it worth almost the same amount of points as the essay itself. Here are the questions I asked.

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I know what you are thinking: wow, it is a lot of work to teach writing! And, that is a completely fair assessment! 🙂 I plan to follow this up with more ideas learned from other teachers. Please let me know strategies that have worked for you so I can share them!


  1. 2. BAYAT, N. (2014). The Effect of the Process Writing Approach on Writing Success and Anxiety. Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice, 14(3), 1133-1141. doi:10.12738/estp.2014.3.1

  2. De La Paz, S., & Graham, S. (2002). Explicitly Teaching Strategies, Skills, and Knowledge: Writing Instruction in Middle School Classrooms. Journal Of Educational Psychology, 94(4), 687.

  3. DBQ Project
  4. Nielsen, K. (2014). Self-assessment methods in writing instruction: a conceptualframework, successful practices and essential strategies. Journal Of Research InReading, 37(1), 1-16. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9817.2012.01533.x

Curating Student Work

I display work for probably the same reasons that you do. I hope that hanging each student’s work makes them feel a part of my classroom community…. and it makes my walls look nice. 🙂 But, my new goal for displaying student work is to use student work as a motivation for students to create quality work.  I want to move from ‘hanging up’ student work to curating a student gallery. This may mean not having every student represented in each ‘exhibit.’ As long as the student is represented in one exhibit in my room throughout the year, then I think am ok.

The question I can then ask myself is, how can I create more opportunities for students to create beautiful work. This term, beautiful work, was first introduced by Ron Berger, the founder of Expeditionary Learning schools. It is defined as high-quality work that has been through the process of many drafts and critique.  Let’s be clear though. Beautiful work does not have to be art. It can be any work, from persuasive essays to science fair projects, that have been through this process.

If you haven’t seen Austin’s Butterfly in a while, I highly recommend it to see the example of beautiful work.


For people truly interested in crafting assignments that lend itself to beautiful work, I highly recommend watching this section of the Deeper Learning MOOC  (Massive Open Online Course) from a few years ago. It shows a panel of experts who are truly passionate about this topic as they discuss strategies and questions from people watching.