Kim Trefz
  • Female
  • Memphis, TN
  • United States
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New Website

 I am currently building a new website called grammarcloud that is a combination of all that I have implemented in the classroom over the years.  My school has provided me with amazing professional development that ranges from project based learning, implementation of digital tools for enhancing grammar and writing, as well as the application of thinking routines after studying at Harvard's Project Zero. I recently received my master's in Instructional Design and Technology where I am applying design techniques blended with my expertise with grammar and writing to create instructional tutorials for a deeper cognitive learning experience.  I would like to offer support for those who are working towards creating a digital classroom blended with making thinking visible.  My website is a work in progress, but I hope to develop it over time and help those who are interested.

"Wilding the Tame" with Technology and 21st Century Teaching and Learning

I used to think that I was solely responsible for teaching my students. I ran a traditional classroom where the objectives were more skill-driven. I provided lecture-based teaching where I stood in front of the classroom, worksheets were distributed, text books were referenced, students worked independently at their desk, and more standardized testing was given.

But now I Know that I am responsible for guiding my students as they take ownership for their own thinking and learning, participate in collaborative group work, take part in project based learning where they problem solve real world situations, and receive ongoing feedback making shifts in their thinking and learning as needed. The integration of technology enhances learning and provides immediate access to information, differentiated and personalized instruction through adaptive learning programs and Screenflows, and enables global collaboration as new perspectives are gained.

I had the opportunity to participate in Project Zero which is an educational research group at the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University. Its mission is to understand and enhance learning, thinking, and creativity in the arts. I had the privilege of hearing David Perkins who works along side of Howard Gardner give a wonderful presentation that followed the theme “The Tame and the Wild.” He talked about this being in all aspects of our lives. He used a manicured backyard as an example of what Tame is where you have your lawn chairs for comfort and you sit and enjoy a cookout with friends. And then he made reference to a ravine, deemed as wild, that is thick with vegetation and filled with water that is at the edge of the manicured yard. Even though it is considered wild, there is still order to it and contains wild life that thrives within it; there is a system in place. He then proceeded with the same concept for the classroom. It is doing what is comfortable and what is known but carrying it too far before anything is done with it. Some examples were thrown out such as underlining topic sentences, using the quadratic formula, diagramming sentences, and knowing the four causes of the industrial revolution. Then he talked about how to “Wild the Tame” by risk-taking, going from teacher to student-directed lessons, using more collaboration, thinking a certain way instead of about it…which he termed as having “about-itis.”

Creating and developing skills by doing is the product of understanding. So all of this supports and leads me to share about “Wilding the Tame” with project-Based Learning. I first became familiar with PBL when reading Tony Wagner’s Global Achievement Gap, the chapter about schools that work. He defined rigor as not how much content is covered but how deep the analysis of the content goes. Rigor is about the pursuit of inquiry, which results from hands-on learning and showing what you know.

Wagner’s 21st century skills: 
Critical thinking and problem solving
Collaboration across networks
Agility and adaptability (quickly move and adapt to situations)
Initiative and entrepreneurship
Effective oral and written communication
Assessing and analyzing information
Curiosity and imagination

Every bit of these 21st century skills can be accomplished through interdisciplinary projects such as Project Based Learning (PBL) that guide students in inquiry answering a central question (driving question), solving a problem, or meeting a challenge. PBL allows a shift from traditional teaching to an environment where the students become active participants in their learning.

First of all, with PBL it is important to know my role as a teacher:

Constructivist philosophy
  • I serve as the facilitator or guide on the side -
  • Create a positive learning culture- encourage the students to be risk takers and that it is ok to make mistakes 
  • Incorporate standards 
  • Develop, model, and nurture inquiry (manager of the inquiry process) 
  • To be flexible prepare for things to go in an unexpected direction 
  • Model the willingness to be a learner- there will be many times that I don’t know the answer but will model for them how to go about finding the answers. 
  • Assessor of learning- it is important to use formative assessment throughout 
The role of a student: 
  • Collaborators 
  • Self-managers 
  • Conductors of Research 
  • Decision-makers 
  • Problem-solvers 
  • Peer/self evaluators 
  • Innovators 

Assessments: It is important to begin with the end in mind thinking about the standards that I need to cover as well as thinking dispositions that need to be developed among the students; with that in mind I can come up with the understanding performance or essential questions. 

Good questions: The students have to know how to pose real open-ended questions, find resources and determine validity of information on websites, they have to interpret that information, and report their findings while using the inquiry process. 

Ways to assess throughout the PBL process:There are many nontraditional ways to provide formative assessment which is the most important for learning and developing understanding. This can be accomplished through the following: 
  • Rubrics Problem
  • solving guides 
  • Reflection journals 
  • Self-assessments 
  • Reflection essays 
  • Small/Whole Group discussions 
Technology can be used to enhance thinking and learning in several ways:
  • ePortfolios where students compile a collection of their digital writing where they self-reflect and apply metacognition. 
  • Screenflows for recording instruction for flip teaching, providing reinforcement, or small group situations for one-on-one instruction 
  • Digital tools such as Glogster, Prezi, and Google for presenting research findings or self-reflection 
  • VoiceThread for global sharing, collaborating, and providing feedback 
  • Learning Management Systems such as Edmodo, Haiku, or Google for organizing instruction, collaboration, and assessments 
  •  Google Documents, presentations, etc. for creating a paperless classroom and enabling collaboration and feedback to occur outside of the classroom. 

 Edutopia. (2010). Project-based learning: an overview. Retrieved on July 15, 2013 from LXpfCfuDqnY#at=545

Harvard University. (2010). Project zero. Graduate school of education.

Mills, S. (2006). Using the internet for active teaching and learning. Upper saddle river new jersey: Pearson education.

Perkins, D. (2009). Making learning whole. Published by Jossey-Bass. San Francisco, CA.

Wagner, T. (2010). The global achievement gap: why even our best schools don't teach the new survival skills our children need--and what we can do about it. Published by basic books. New York, new york. 

Wagner, T. (2012). Creating innovators: the making of young people who will change the world. A division of simon & schuster, inc. New york, new york.

Kim Trefz's Page

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Presbyterian Day School
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About Me
I am a 5th grade English teacher in an all-boys' school using technology to help teach grammar through writing. Since I teach in a textbook-free school, my main focus is to teach cross-curriculum as well as incorporate as many relevant, authentic assignments to give the students a meaningful purpose for enhancing verbal and written communication.

I have really enjoyed starting an interactive classroom blog where the students can use technology tools as a way for learning about grammar and writing. This blog also permits easy access to learning links for reinforcement of the skills being taught, uploaded teacher resources for review, noteworthy blogs to visit, etc. (all of which are in one central location).

Our class wiki has been a huge success in that it has allowed the students the opportunity to collaborate with peers not only from our school but with schools from different parts of the country. The wiki has also served as a place for the students to showcase their writing, iMovies, and other various projects.

I have begun a reflection blog where I will continue to write about all that I am learning during the implementation of technology in the classroom. I will also be reflecting on the thinking strategies that will be used to help the students gain a greater understanding of the English language and as a result become better communicators.
Technology tools that I have enjoyed using in my English class so far:

Check out my new blog where I reflect upon all of the technology tools that I am implementing in the 5th grade classroom. I will also be discussing how The Thinking Classroom is integrated into the curriculum as the six dimensions of thinking are closely studied. Reflection Blog

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PDS Christmas Pageant 2009 from Presbyterian Day School on Vimeo.

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Posted on January 12, 2009 at 10:00am 2 Comments

Check out our 5th grade interactive English blog and wiki page. We are using technology to learn about grammar through writing.

Comment Wall (41 comments)

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At 3:51pm on October 27, 2011, Dan Klumper said…
Hey Kim.  I understand. Your Global Virtual Classroom sounds interesting. Is there a website or something i could look at to learn more about it?
At 9:47pm on October 23, 2011, Dan Klumper said…

Hi Kim. Do you remember me? well, we were going to plan a collaboration of some kind. (see comment thread below :) )   well, are you still interested?  let me know. my email is   my skype is: dan.klumper my blog is:

keep in touch,

Dan Klumper

At 4:19am on December 2, 2009, ddn59@7sopaporn said…
Hi'Kim Trefz.
I want advice on java programming.
At 11:29am on November 24, 2009, ddn59@7sopaporn said…
My name is Sopaporn.
My My nickname is Ray.
I study at Datdaruni School inThailand.
i'm in Grade 11.

I want to be have a new friend for advice on computer programming.
I need advice from you.

At 7:12am on November 10, 2009, Dan Klumper said…
Hi Kim. Thank you for your comment. I appreciate you taking the time. Wow, laptops everyday, that would be so sweet to have that. you are lucky :) i am familiar with wiki (though don't use one), glogster (which i really think is cool) and voice thread (which is a great tool, i agree) I am not familiar with animoto or but will check them out. my main focus is our blog. my philosophy has been instead of doing a whole bunch of technology things, just to focus on a couple and do them really well. My blog is getting to a point where i can now start to bring some other web 2.0 things in. I have not skyped, but last year we communicated with students from scotland, england and turkey through my blog. it was pretty cool. we actually got to shareing video's and slideshows. yeah, we should definately have our students collaborate on something. I like to get my students thinking and interacting beyond the walls of my school. the world is so big but with technology and the internet we can shrink it and learn all sorts of things about the world that would have been nearly impossibly 10 years ago. Keep me posted on what you are thinking about the collaboration.
Thanks again,
Have a great Day
-Dan Klumper
At 7:19am on November 6, 2009, Dan Klumper said…
Hi Kim. Thank you for the comment. you have a good blog as well. I enjoyed looking over it. how often do you take your kids to the computer lab? it's tough getting my students to the computer lab as often as i wish. It sounds like you have a lot of good technology elements going on. good to see. out of the list of technology tools you have used (from above) what three tools do you like the best besides blogger? just curious. i will check them out.
have a great day, keep in touch.

-Dan Klumper
At 12:50pm on September 13, 2009, Ammar Elhassan Elmerhbi said…
Thanks for that KIm. I will be visiting you blog and wiki later this weekend. I am sorry if am not having a presence her but it is bc I've been doing other things ( ning for our schoolteachers, blog, new website for SAT prep class, workshop for teachers, apart from carrying my responsibilities as an English coordinator). It's good that you are working on your PLN and connecting with other educator; we learn from each other. I will be back to you later this weekend.
At 5:15pm on August 21, 2009, Donnie Smith said…
Hi Kim, thanks for your comments.
At 6:27pm on July 22, 2009, Jay Trevorrow said…
KIm, I sent the Moodle info to the gmail address you have below.

At 7:57am on July 22, 2009, Jay Trevorrow said…
Opps, thanks, Kim, that comment WAS intended for you. Appreciate the response. I am always interested in how we get kids directly involved in this stuff while maintaining safety, inclusion and such.

No I do not have a blog per se, but the class and I do almost everything on our Moodle site. Very little paper involved. I can give you a guest account if you want to look around at last year's course.

I am currently in the process of making improvements (I hope) based on our experience last year and the kid's feedback.

I came to ECFS four years ago from the Brentwood School in LA where I had started using Moodle with teachers, and I had used it with clients during my consulting years with schools. I have really come to appreciate this tool as it has a very flat learning curve for teachers (passes my ten minute Tuesday night teacher test - we have 200 courses K-12 on Moodle now), is an environment the kids take readily take to, is secure and is free (or nearly so even if you outsource the server and support as we do). If you take a look at our MM page, I have a podcast there with some other thoughts about Moodle - .



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