20% Time: Final Reflections

If you haven’t read my first few posts on setting up 20% time in class or adjusting/managing weekly reflections, take a minute to catch yourself up!

The day has come for my students to hand in their first round of 20% projects. We have been working on them since September, and I was looking forward to being impressed.  The last two days of 20% time were spent working on both their Final Reflection and Bloom’s Rubric, which I will explain throughout this blog post.  

Final components of the student projects:**All of these components were linked to this template which was shared via Google Classroom.

  1. Project URLs or hard copy of projects
  2. Works Cited
  3. Bloom’s Reflection (explained below)
  4. Final Reflection (explained below)
  5. Updated Rubric (built as Step 2)
  6. Elevator Pitch Presentation (explained below)
  7. Peer Evaluation

Final Reflection Process:

I would not settle for students handing in a project with their rubric and calling it a day.  I want students to reflect on their progress, process for building their projects, and with working with their peers.

Bloom’s Reflection:

It is true, not all students are equally motivated. Some will design projects that will blow your mind (that they can accomplish in three months), and others will design projects that you could accomplish yourself in three minutes.  How do you justify the same grade for each?  Two words: Bloom’s Reflection.

We have all heard of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Click here to see the Bloom’s Verb List that I provide to my students.

Student’s Task:

Students must self-reflect on both the process of researching and designing their product, and also the product itself.  In this reflection, they need to align their process and product with the verbs from the different levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  For example, did they argue anything in their product? Did they design or build anything?  This section needed to be detailed and honest.  For example, if they don’t support the verb with enough detailed evidence, they won’t get credit.  In addition, all verbs, like all projects, are not equal in value. Lower level verbs, such as ones in the “Know” and “Comprehend” categories, are worth 1 point each, while “Evaluate” verbs are worth 4.

Here are some samples from student’s reflections. You can also see a sample of how I filled out my grading rubric for the Bloom’s Reflection.

Final Reflection:

In the final reflection, students are to answer the following questions.

  1. Individually (this is not written by the group)
  2. In complete sentences and with detail and honesty.

Here is what is found on their file:

This section must be detailed, written in complete sentences, and honest. This will be graded for grammar. All of your answers must be transferred to your blog post.

    • Rate yourself on setting appropriate goals (1-5).Explain your rating:
    • Rate yourself on your progress of this project. Were you happy with your pace? Were you happy with your product?
    • What is one thing that you are the most proud of regarding this project Why?
    • What is one skill that you recognize as a weakness, and something that you need to work on.Why?
  • If this project was used to justify your job to your employer, do you think it serves as adequate evidence to keep your job? In other words, would your work ethic and project help you keep your job, or will you have to start submitting resumes? Justify your answer.
  • If you were to continue this project, what would be your next step?
  • If you have group members ONLY: Reflect on working on a long-term project with a group vs working independently. Do you find it effective? Non-effective? Why?

Number five is my favorite question. Do you think you worked hard enough to keep your job?  They may find themselves in a future job where they need to provide evidence of their work and progress. Even in education, teachers must provide evidence, based on 20 components of the Danielson’s framework, to administrators at the end of each year as part of our APPR ratings.  Detail and honesty are key in this section.

For example, if you did a sub-par job and answered number five as if you were the best around, and deserve a raise, well- you will lose points. However, if you did a sub-par job and owned it in the reflection, then you won’t lose points.

I also find it important for students to identify a strength and a weakness of themselves.

Below are my favorite reflections from this year’s students:

  • “I need to learn to be productive from the beginning rather than just when the deadline is coming up.”  
  • “It´s easy to procrastinate but getting work done early will result in a less stress.”
  • “To be honest I am not really proud of the project. I like it but it isn’t something I take pride in. When me and my partner wanted to work together, the only project we could think of was writing a manual. The manual wasn’t that hard to write and it was just like a little reasearch paper. So I am not proud of doing something easy.”
  • “My weakness is organization and I recognize it mostly because it is my partner’s strength! She was really good at structuring the layout of the magazine and fixing things that I did that didn’t look great. I needed to make it more clear and concise rather than crowded.”
  • “I am proud of all of the time I spent researching sources for this project.  Not only did I learn a lot of cool and new information, it was great practice and training for the future.  After teaching myself about a topic I knew nothing about, I have the confidence to go to college next year and know that I will be able to do well on research papers and new curriculum.”
  • “One of my weaknesses is working in a group with my friends.”
  • “I recognize that I am not as “tech savvy” as I should be for my generation. I would have liked to been able to make the posts more advanced in a technological sense. The blog was very basic which can be good, but if I could have incorporated an interactive piece to the blog, that would have made it better. I need to work on this skill because the future is going to be all about technology. My physics teacher last year told me that there are 7 jobs available for every computer science major right out of school. If I want to get employed during this very competitive time and era, then I must learn how to be more fluent in technology and computers.”
  • “I think that I need to work on having more confidence in my contributions. I found myself doubting that my work was at the level it needed to be. I should work on being proud of what I produce and to realize my value in a partnership.”

Elevator Pitch

The last thing I asked students to do was to present their projects to the class. They had to talk about the process involved, and showcase a preview of their product. Students had three minutes to present, and they were able to use the media of their choice for their elevator pitch. They WERE NOT allowed to come to the front of the room empty handed and talk.

Here is the sign up sheet to see how I organized their pitches.

Finally, the list of my favorite projects (or parts of projects) from this year:


  • One group wrote a paper about Marine Engineering. Their global component is a Google Form assessing the overall public knowledge of Marine Engineering. Here is the map they created of their data.
  • A student developed an experiment which tested the intelligence of two crabs and their ability to learn how to travel to food faster. Here is the video summary of her experiment. She also wrote a report and created a summary Google Presentation of her findings.
  • Two students developed this blog on shark migration. NOTE: They are using the same platform as  I am for my blog (EDUBlog), and yet they were able to navigate and figure out the blog faster than I was!
  • One student wrote four Buzzfeeds. Two of the Buzzfeeds were polls, and the other two were the outcomes of the polls. This project was out of the box and truly inspired the other students (and me) when she presented to the class. In fact, I am currently working with my students on a Buzzfeed!  Link 1    Link 2     Link 3   Link 4
  • Two students wrote a Sustainable Seafood Cookbook, taking recipies and replacing the fish with one that is similar in flavor, but sustainable.
  • One student wrote a children’s book, and also made this trailer to promote her book debut. Note: She used pixton.com for all of her images- I am obsessed!
  • I have one student who is extremely artistic, too the point that your jaw drops with every new drawing or project. She always blows me (and the class) away. She really wanted to learn about working with paper mache, and designed a project to build a shark that outlines the internal anatomy. She wants to go into the nursing field, and thought it would be beneficial to concentrate on anatomy. This video is a preview of her project, and shows how she created the small fish (that she used as a prop) to place into the shark’s mouth. This project also included a detailed Slides Presentation that outlines the functions of the anatomy of the shark. Her work was recognized by the Wall Street Journal for doing all of her video work off of her phone.
  • Traveling Tank. Two students worked together to design a curriculum for a fish tank that will actually travel between the elementary schools in our district. They students created  a Teacher’s Guide to help set up the tank, as well as a multi-disciplinary curriculum.
  • Book of Poetry. One student published a hard copy book, Ripples in the Wave, which contains 30 pages of poetry influenced by the ocean.
  • Trashfish. Three students designed a robot fish prototype through TinkerCad that would filter plastic out of the water. Here is their explanation video. The students then printed it out on our 3D printer.
  • Ocean Law for Dummies. One student, who wants to go into law, researched the Ocean’s laws that were implemented in both the Bush and Obama Administration.

My Final Reflection on the Process

20% time in my class is constantly evolving. This year forced me to be creative in order to maximize my time with checking student progress this year, given that I have 75 students doing projects.

My suggestions/changes for the next round:

  1. Elevator pitch as part of the proposal.  Students will present their ideas to the class, so that the class can give feedback and potential troubleshooting.
  2. A visual proposal on one slide of a Google Presentation. I want them to generate one slide on a Google Presentation, and the only words can be the title of the proposed project. I want students to add images/visuals for each component of their project. This will ensure that when they present to the class, they will have a very clear idea of what they want to do, vs just reading off of a slide.
  3. No more weekly reflections. Instead, students/groups will be given a specific row on a Google Spreadsheet, where they will write their goals for the next three weeks. I will print the sheet to utilize in my “micro meetings,” so that they are able to show me progress during 20% days. This single adjustment actually saved me, and the students, hours of wasted work time. #bigtimesaver
  4. New Bloom’s File. This chart will be provided to students on the first day of the project to help them design their projects.
  5. STEAM Rubric, or a “Ice cream sundae” Students have the option to add English, History, etc. À la carte.  A Works Cited Component, a Global Component, a Technology Component, a Quality Component, and a Science Component, would all be requirements.      

Come see my presentation at the NYC Metro Summit on March 19th, 2016!

AppsEvents Summit Speaker Badge Bliss

20% Projects: Managing Weekly Reflections

Managing Weekly Reflections in 20% projects

I have spent the past month writing letters of recommendation and filling out the Common App. My least favorite question is “What are the first words you think of to describe…… “  

As generic as this question is, I can’t help to think about how my students would fill it out for me. “Micro-manager, crazy, energetic”  Even though I am proud to be crazy and energetic… I don’t want to be a micromanager.  However, in the battle to make kids accountable for their work, I feel like I have to trace their progress.  This time consuming process HAD TO STOP this year, as I have 75 Marine Biology students working on 20% projects. I couldn’t designate almost 3 hrs a week to simply grading weekly reflections and checking revision histories, Doc progress, etc.  As I explained it to my students, I am the CEO of this company called Marine Biology and I am trying to micro-manage the troops. In real life, the CEO would hire people to do that for them.

Time to get creative.  First, let me take you through my initial time saving process and then I will describe that even though I value this process, I made drastic changes last week that changed my workflow for the better.

Review of my 20time outline:

  1. Proposal
  2. Student Generated Rubric (link to past blog post that outlines the process)
  3. Weekly Checkpoints (focus on this post)
  4. Final Reflection and Bloom’s Rubric (blog post to come in a few weeks)

Original Way of Checking Weekly Reflections

  1. Each group would make a copy of this sheet (it would be shared as an assignment on Google Classroom.
  2. One person in the group would become the Captain (whoever made the copy of the Doc would turn it in on Google Classroom.
  3. Each week, the group sits and fills out the goal section of the Doc

GROUPS Step 3  Weekly Reflections   Google Docs

At the end of each week, each group member fills out the bottom of the table, where they reflect on whether or not they met their individual goals, what they are proud of and what they need to work on. Valuable, but very time consuming for me to read each of them and check their Docs for actual evidence of whether or not they met their goals..

20  Week 2 Checkpoint  Stephanie Fellas   Google Docs

DURING CLASS: I would walk around to each group, take notes on a spreadsheet (see below), have “micro-meetings” with each group about their goals and check progress. In theory, I would only have to read the Weekly Reflection Files of students who were absent OR groups that are put on an “improvement plan.”

This process seemed awesome. But here is what I learned:

  1. Micro-meetings are not long enough because I’m too busy writing down their goals in MY spreadsheet.
  2. Too many groups need to be on an improvement plan. #senioritis
  3. I still felt that if they filled out the Weekly Reflections, it was my obligation to read them all. #justwasted3hrs

So…. I need to be creative again………… ROUND TWO

New way of doing weekly checkpoints

  1. Once proposals are in, create a spreadsheet with the following columns:
    1. 1st column: List all of the students names, grouped by their partners.
    2. 2nd column:  Write the name of their project.
    3. 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc columns: Dates for each 20% day in class.
    4. Have students write their group goals in the cell for the appropriate date. (This is then shared on Google Classroom as an assignment where “everyone can edit the file”)

Copy of 2015.2016. 20  projects for Student Goals   Google Sheets

Marine Bio Period 1 2015 2016

[here is where you start playing Hallelujah]

  1. Students spent more time WORKING on their goals, versus trying to fill out the Weekly Reflection File.
  2. My Micro-meetings became more meaningful and I was able to check progress and actually sit down with many groups.

 drop the mic


20%time “Thanks, I can’t wait to start this project….” First two weeks…how to

Four years ago I heard Google Engineers present their 20% projects to a room full of educators. I left inspired by their projects, their passion and the idea of giving time to problem solve in an area of individual passion.  

 The next year, I implemented my first round of 20% projects in my Marine Biology class. This class was chosen because my audience were seniors, and there was no AP or State exam at the end of the year. Time was actually on my side. #saysnoteacherever

 Fast forward 4 years, and 20% time has become a staple in my courses. This year is the first year I am doing 20% time in my Regents Biology Class. (That will be a separate blog post…..)

 How does one even start implementing 20% time in their class? What will that look like?

 In my class, every Wednesday is a 20% day. #20time


 I have students that range from “I have no clue what to do….” to students who will email over the weekend with “Thanks, I can’t wait to start this project….”

 I get a blended mix of both excitement and writer’s block.  For the most part, students are excited because it is the first time they are given freedom to do anything they want….really anything. (If they are bored with their project, it is their OWN FAULT.)

 However some students lack creativity (I blame CCSS). They can’t think outside the box (I blame CCSS).  I’ll even have students that literally have NO IDEA what to research. Instead of giving them this amazing idea I came up with, here is where I start:

 Teacher: “What do you want to learn?

Student” “What do you want me to do?”

Teacher: “I want you to learn something that connect your future career with the ocean.”

Student: “What do you want me to do?”

 This is where I usually tell them that their future employer is NOT going to tell them what to do and I am giving them a chance to research ANYTHING THEY want (with the constraints of the ocean…after all it IS Marine Bio class). And I tell them I’ll return in 5 mins and during that time, they need to write down a list of three things that interest them.

 Some students know exactly from the start what direction they want to go, and some students just need a sounding board to bounce ideas off of. I usually am the sounding board.


Ugh…the dreaded word for most teachers. However, I limit groups to no more than 3. Let’s be honest, no great job is done alone. They must bring in everyone’s individuals strengths into the project. All groups are subject to a peer evaluation.  


Once they know what they want to focus on, they must propose it to me.

 What do they want to learn? We are not masters of anything. What is something they are passionate about that they would like to extend their knowledge for?

 Who is the intended audience? I explain, it should not just be for me. I really deter them from writing papers, which usually has a limited audience. I want them to research and design something that can be shared with a broader audience.

 How does this connect with their future career?  I am making them connect the ocean with their future career, which may seem abstract for some. However, with a little guidance, they usually develop a challenging project that will give them a small taste of their future focus.


  1. Fill out proposal form
  2. Hand in on Google Classroom (every group member does this because of the connection with future career question)


 Students must design guidelines for their projects. How do they want their 20% evaluated?

 I start by giving them this template.

  1. They must have outside sources in APA.
  2. Must have a Technology component. Whether it is part of their design or their final project, what tools are they going to use to construct their product?
  3. Global Connection.
    1. Who is their audience? Who is this project specifically going to be shared with?
    2. Is there some sort of Global Survey that they will post publically to gather live data for their project?
  4. Quantitative/Qualitative Piece.
    1. Will your project have measurements or analysis?
    2. How will we assess quality?
  5. Lexile. All books and blogs must align at a certain lexile for the target grade level.
  6. Other components specific to their project.  This is the hardest part for them.
    1. What other components will your product have?
    2. Is there any part of the process that should be evaluated?


  1. Fill out Rubric using this  template
  2. Hand in on Google Classroom (1 per group)

When you give students the chance to think without providing teacher direction, this is what they came up with.

I could not be more excited for this proposal list:

    1. Traveling Tank – a tank with curriculum aligned lessons that will travel from elementary school to elementary school
    2. Student teachers – students that will design lessons to teach other classes
    3. National Ocean Policy for Dummies” – a breakdown of ocean laws in terms for everyone to understand.
    4. Desalination engineering prototype
    5. Dress the Issue” – fashion line
    6. Alternative Sustainable Cookbook – cooking that uses only sustainable fish and gives alternatives for the common ingredients that are being overexploited.
    7. Biodegradable fishnet prototype
    8. Experiment testing the Effects of Salt Baths on Muscle Recovery.
    9. Ripples in the Wave – book of poems
    10. Tanked: writing a play
    11. Invisible Frequency Net prototype
    12. Marine Prosthetics
    13. FishBook App for our class
    14. Marine themed Buzzfeeds
    15. Ocean themed blogs
    16. Ocean themed children’s books



“What if…..”

As we start the school year, I always get approached by apprehensive teachers that don’t want to try anything new or take risks in their classroom. And I get it…. putting away my sunscreen and beach towel for red pens and routine is hard enough.

What if the students post something bad………”

What if I can’t see something they wrote ….that is bad….”

What if kids delete….”



Embracing every new trick, trend or technology isn’t easy for everyone. You have to go at a pace that is comfortable to you. Start with small goals that are obtainable.


Here is my response to teachers that resist trying new tools in their classroom:

What if your grading bag got lighter because it became digital?”

What if you knew walking into class who did and didn’t do their hw?”

What if you never had to give back an assignment in class and go over the feedback because it was all given live on the assignment?”

What if you never lose an assignment again because it is all stored digitally?”

What if you never have an argument about a student that ‘handed it in’ because it tracked the record of that digitally?”

What if your kids became collaborative and global learners because you provided them an easy opportunity to do so using technology?”

What if your job became just a little more efficient?”


These are just a few questions I ask myself when teachers don’t want to embrace Google Classroom or other technologies with their students.




  • Our job is getting harder with more expectations and motivation to try new things is hard. I get it.
  • However, It is our job to teach 21st century and global skills.
  • Technology can’t replace good teaching, but good teaching must embrace the ever expanding and evolving technology.
  • Last Fact: I had time to write this blog post because I finished my grading in advance because my students handed in their assignments in advance on Google Classroom.

Have a great weekend.

Back to School Data

I purposely chose that title of this post because every word of it scares teachers.

BACK TO SCHOOL. #notready #insertswearword #donottouchmysunscreen

Every teacher dreads the end of their summers, but hopefully they used their time to recharge and get ready for the next school year.  Every teacher makes a list of things they want to do differently next year or something they want to improve on. I found if I don’t act on that list during the summer then I will never reach that goal.

DATA  #calmdown #notonlyforscienceteachers

As a Science teacher, the word data gets me just as excited as finding a first edition of Romeo and Juliet for English teachers. We are entering a time where our whole job will come down to some data point. Our State Exam average is already being plotted next to our colleagues across the state. (Hope you are not the outlier)

During the school year I try to collect as much data from my students as possible. The use of Google Forms is the best way to collect and store that data.

Here is a list of non-academic ways I collect data from my students for some “Back to School Data”

First week of school:

Learning Style Data: I collect this information each year and use their individual data to help them design note and studying skills.  Click here for an older version where I collected other data such as parent’s email, etc.

***Click here for the edit mode if you want to make a copy to use on your own**

Danielson’s Framework Alignment:

  • 1a: Prerequisite material
  • 1b: Instruction that matches their need
  • 1c: diverse learners

Google Form for Pre-Assessments (SLOs): This form is pretty bland, but it serves a big purpose. My students submit their answers to our Pre-Assessment on it. Then, I run the Add-On Flubaroo and they leave class with their scores.

Danielson’s Framework:

  • 1a: Prerequisite material
  •  1b: Instruction that matches their needs
  • 1c: diverse learners
  • 3b: Using questioning and discussion techniques

Throughout the Year:

Lab Minutes TrackerScience classes have to have 1200 minutes of labs. I use this quick form to track how long each lab took. It also serves as a nice way to see how many and which labs I do from year to year.

Common Core Writing Minutes: Science has ELA Writing and Reading Standards to abide by. I like to track how many minutes of in-class writing my students partake in. I had over 10 hrs last year! Would have not known that if I didn’t track it through a Google Form.




Recap of ISTE 2015

ISTE was last week and I was there, with Google, presenting on Expeditions and Google Classroom (I got to share news about Whitelist Domains, API and Google Share Button).
During my “downtime” I ran from booth to booth trying to gather the best information out there.  I just completed my “Note sheet” which recaps what I found/saw/gathered at ISTE.
Science Teacher s: The last section of the “Note sheet” is geared towards you!IMG_2305


About Me

Hello! I currently am a Biology and Marine Biology teacher in Rockland County, NY.  I have been an early adopter of GAFE tools into my classroom and have presented around the area on my use of Google Apps for Education.  I am also Google Certified Educator.  In 2015, I won the LHRIC Pioneer Award for my use of innovative technology in the classroom.

Check this blog for everything Techy , Biology and Marine Biology related!! Throughout the year, my students engaged in 20% time projects. Please visit this page to see their updated work!Trainer Badge 2015