Name: Julie Wenger
School: Adkins Elementary
School District: Denton ISD, Texas
Subjects/Grades Taught: Science and Social Studies/5th grade
How did you find yourself in teaching?
There is a long history of teachers in my family. I have happily joined the pack, albeit a little later in the game. When my daughters were little, I stayed home with them, taught preschool, and then taught music classes. I started back to college about ten years ago, got my degree and have enjoyed teaching elementary school ever since. Both of my children are full grown, responsible adults, making it easy for me to pour myself into my trade.
What is your favorite thing about Discovery Education?
My favorite thing about Discovery Education is how they utilize and encourage teachers, recognizing them as experts and professionals, highly skilled at their work. The group that Discovery Education has built is a web of people, connected professionally and personally. The bond shared between this group of colleagues and friends is facilitated only through Discovery Education and no other company. Discovery Education has pioneered the way in building Professional Learning Communities for ten years and still other companies have not begun this work.
How has using Discovery Education changed the way you teach?
This year, I have used Discovery Education’s Spotlight on Strategies that are built primarily through teachers just like me. Whenever my teaching feels stale or uninspired, I take a quick look into the website for quality, tried and true strategies to make my instruction more engaging. Before I even use a strategy, I know students are going to love it, because I know the people who submitted the work are motivated by helping others and have used the strategies themselves recently.
Watch Mrs. Wenger direct a 5th grade lesson on inherited traits and learned behaviors using a combination of Table Top Texting and Silence is Golden Spotlight on Strategies (SOS).
What is your favorite tool, resource, or strategy for using Discovery Education?
The prize winner for Discovery Education, hands down, is the Board Builder function. This feature offers teachers a means of disseminating information in an aesthetically pleasing way and can also be used by students to display their learning. Various types of media including websites, videos, text and images can be added quickly and easily to the boards. The tool can be used by any age for any purpose. The only limitations to the function is the imagination of the user.
What tips do you have for beginning users?
Simply commit to making one board about one topic and assign it to your class. Trust students to go to the places you’ve added. Trust them to take the learning into their hands. Students are truly capable and will surprise adults every time with their expertise, even if they are only five years old.
Listen to Julie Wenger share how she uses Board Builder for lesson planning and independent learning with her 5th grade students. Students discuss how and why they like to learn and collaborate using Board Builder.
How do you organize your classroom and planning to maximize your students’ learning experiences?
My classroom is a relaxed, free space where students are comfortable and feel safe. It is our shared space, and no one has ownership of desks or storage cubbies. Students have access to technology, lab experiences, peer teaching and interaction, quality literature, and physical activities to engage them. I’d like to say that I mix things for the students, but, mostly, I get bored. And if I’m bored, then I know they are too. Keeping fifth graders guessing is probably my favorite way to maximize their learning.
How do your students respond to the use of Discovery Education? What do they like about it?
Students’ technology use is second nature to them. They have grown up using computers and phones and are accustomed to “driving the bus” in all of their dealings with it. Discovery Education fits right in with their skill set. Students take the boards I’ve made in board builder and take control of their learning. They are honored to be trusted with their own learning.
Discovery Education in Action is a series of webinars, blog posts, and livestreams that share the view from educators using Discovery Education resources. Learn more here: http://www.discoveryeducation.com/what-we-offer/professional-development/discovery-education-in-action.cfm