How To: Create Your Own (Digital) Foldables

Want to create digital versions of your own Foldables for use in your classroom or during professional development sessions? The process is so easy! Read on for an illustrated step-by-step tutorial. With a little bit of practice, you can whip up a professional, custom Foldable in less than 5 minutes!

If you want to learn about Foldables, definitely start with the master, Dinah Zike herself! Check out her website and her amazing resourcesguaranteed to spark your creative juices about how you can use 3D graphic organizers to help students organize their learning!

My professional journey with Foldables began several years ago when I had the incredible opportunity to attend a Dinah Zike Academy in Comfort, Texas. I cannot recommend this professional development experience enough. In just a few short days I went from knowing next-to-nothing about Foldables and journaling to feeling like an Interactive Notebook pro—fully prepared to take my Foldable learning and apply it in my high school math and science classes that fall. I owe so much of my Foldable work to Dinah and her wonderful team!

The first step to creating a digital Foldable is to sketch it out on paper. Might seem counterintuitive, but this sketch will give you a “feel” for how the Foldable will look, info on how many columns/rows you will need later, and will also help with correctly “double-siding” your Foldable if you choose to tackle that (see my upcoming post on creating double-sided Foldables). Your sketch doesn’t have to be fancy or to-scalejust include your tabs, your labels for those tabs, and at least one anchor tab (for gluing your Foldable down into its final homea journal, composition book, bound book, etc.).

Here’s a quick sketch of a Foldable we’ll create throughout this posta Solving Quadratic Equations Foldable for use in Algebra I:

This is a 4-tab Shutterfold Foldable that opens like a pair of shutters on a window.

Not sure where to start with your Foldable design? Check out the samples here to get started!

With your paper sketch complete, you’re ready to create your digital version. I create my Foldables in Microsoft Word. I like the robust suite of editing options provided in Word, as well as the precise design tools that aren’t yet available in GoogleDocs.

Here we go with some step-by-steps…

Open Microsoft Word and create a new, blank document. Click on the Insert ribbon, then select Table. Highlight the size of your desired table. Based on my sketch, I’m going to need a 2 row by 4 column table, so I’ll select that.

Here’s the inserted table, which will act as the “frame” for our Foldable.

This “frame” needs a bit of work to make it into our finished Foldable. We’ll start by selecting the whole table in order to make changes to it. Hover over the upper left corner of your table, making the four-way icon appear.

Left-click on this four-way icon to select the entire table.

Next, hover over and then right-click on the four-way icon to display a context menu. Select Table Properties from near the bottom of this menu.

This will open up the Table Properties menu. On the Table tab, click on Borders and Shading at the bottom.

From here, you can change the border width. A thicker border makes your Foldable much easier to cut out! Click the drop-down menu under Width to change the width from ½ pt to 6 pt. Now your Foldable will have thick borders for easier folding and cutting.

Next, you can resize the widths and heights of your rows and columns to match your needs. Hover over the column/row dividing line, then click and drag to resize the columns and/or rows. Here’s a short GIF overviewing this process:

Creating Foldable 1.gif

Worried that your rows aren’t exactly the same size? Highlight both rows, then right click to bring up the context menu. Use the Distribute Rows Evenly option to make your rows the exact same width.

Creating Foldable 2.gif

Confession here: I hardly ever resize my columns/rows “by hand” like this… Instead, I enter exact row and column values in the Row and Column tabs in the Table Properties menu. More on this in a follow-up post…!

To create cohesive anchor tabs, we need to merge the two cells in the first column and then merge the two cells in the last column. Start by highlighting the two cells you want to merge. Then, right click on one of the highlighted cells to display the context menu. Click on Merge Cells.

Now, our Foldable looks like thisit has the right shape, thick borders, and two anchor tabs for gluing!

Now we’re ready to enter our content.

The standard for solving quadratic equations in Algebra I (in Texas) states:

A.8A: The student is expected to solve quadratic equations having real solutions by factoring, taking square roots, completing the square, and applying the quadratic formula.

So, we’ll title the four tabs using the wording from this standard.

I think Foldables are much more powerful when they have a relevant image, graphic, or mathematical notation on the corresponding tabs. Here I’ll include a sample quadratic equation that we can use to illustrate each solution method. I used Word’s built-in Equation Editor to enter these equations. Here’s a quick GIF showing how to insert an equation:

Creating Foldable 3.gif

And the Foldable now has a relevant equation on each tab:

You could also include images, tables, graphs, geometric figures, etc. on your tabssomething that helps illustrate the big idea for that tab/topic.

One last finishing touch: I like to include the title of my Foldable written along the anchor tabs. Type the title into the anchor tab cell and then select the Text Direction options under the Layout tab in the Table ribbon.

Creating Foldable 4.gif

Repeat on the other anchor tab and voila…!

A customized, professional, digital Foldable for use with your learnersdesigned exactly the way you like it!

What kinds of Foldables will you create using these tips?
What other tips do you have for creating digital Foldables?

What the Flipped Class Allows Us To Do

Earlier this week I learned from Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergmann in their “Flipped Classroom” webinar hosted by Classroom 2.0 LIVE. I shared some of my earlier reflections from this webinar in previous posts (re: Algebra II and Anatomy).

At one point in the webinar, Aaron began discussing the Flipped-Inquiry model, as shown in the figure above. I have been using the 5E lesson model for the last two years as part of the curriculum my district has adopted (while I was an early skeptic, I am a huge believer now!). It was exciting to see that other teachers are using flipped instruction and the 5E model! There is certainly no “one way” to flip your classroom — the flipped inquiry model shown above is just one of many. However, it’s a great starting point for me, because I am comfortable with (and confident in) the 5E model — flipping from this framework allows me to start where I’m at and explore new instructional strategies from a familiar home base.

Another idea that struck me in the webinar came from Aaron’s discussion of Bloom’s Taxonomy, as applied to the flipped classroom. The lower levels of this taxonomy (namely remembering and understanding) can often be taught/learned through instructional videos. I would certainly agree with this as it applies to both of my flipped classes — Algebra II and Anatomy/Physiology. The value of the videos, then, is not acquisition of basic skills (remembering and understanding); rather, the value of the videos is the transition of this low-level thinking out of our precious, limited class time, so that we can use this time for much more valuable higher-order thinking skills (analyzing, evaluating, and creating). I have seen this in action in my classes and this is the heart (and value!) of the flipped classroom — the opportunity to go further and deeper through more meaningful and important activities…in class!

Aaron and Jonathan shared the slide above, showing how the flipped classroom actually allows for the inversion of the typical Bloom’s Taxonomy pyramid. Using the flipped model, we spend more time creating, evaluating, and analyzing — definitely a teacher’s dream! In the past, I had always wanted to incorporate more of these activities, but we spent so much class time learning initial content (lower levels) that there “wasn’t time” for the synthesis and evaluation activities I wanted to do. The flipped model has definitely helped me find the time!

Next steps for me include further developing my in-class activities to create even more solid, rich learning tasks at these higher levels. This is definitely a good problem to have — I now have all of this class time with initial content understanding, so what valuable learning activities can we tackle?


What do you think? What are some ways that you create time for creation, evaluation, and analysis in your lesson cycle?

What is the Best Use of Our Class Time — Algebra II Version

As discussed in a previous post, Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams have me thinking — which is a great thing! This post is a continuation of the discussion “What is the best use of your class time?” or “What part of the learning cycle do my students most need face-to-face time with me?“, as these questions apply to my flipped Algebra II class. Here are some thoughts:

Algebra II

I think the best use of our class time in Algebra II varies based on our position in a lesson cycle. We are following a 5E lesson model in our math classes, with great effectiveness.

Early in the lesson cycle (say during “Engage” and “Explore” activities), I believe our class time is best spent working through these activities (usually self-directed group work) and then discussing our findings/results/epiphanies. Some of the initial parts of these activities can be introduced with short instructional videos, opening up more class time to really analyze and synthesize the results of the exploration.

So far, the “Explain” piece has been effectively broken into “lecture” portions (delivered outside of class via short instructional videos — some examples here), followed by class time spent practicing these new skills. To specifically answer the question posed in the webinar, I think my class time during the “Explain” phase is best spent helping students fine-tune their skills via practice rather than direct content delivery.

During the “Elaborate” cycle, I think our class time is best spent on application of the material to new and engaging problems. This usually involves group work, projects, more challenging examples, modeling real-world applications, etc.. Thankfully, I have a wealth of these opportunities at my fingertips, thanks to great modeling applications in our textbook resources, Vernier’s Video Physics app, and Dan Meyer’s brilliance.

As per the “Evaluate” portion, this is currently broken into two different opportunities — “performance indicator” tasks where students apply, describe, and communicate their learning in an extended way (a great use of class time, in my opinion — see an example below), and the more traditional assessments (quizzes/tests). Currently, all tests and quizzes occur during class time under my careful watch — BUT, is this the best use of our class time? Do students most need face-to-face time with me for this part of the lesson cycle? I’m not sure… I would like to transfer this part out of my precious class time (since I don’t think they really need me for this)—but, how to do this in a way that still maintains the integrity of the assessment? This is something I am still thinking about… Please share your thoughts!

What do we do with all the extra class time?

This is the other question from Jon and Aaron’s webinar that really had me thinking. I think I’m on the right track here in Algebra II. Currently, we do a lot more applications, modeling, math projects, and reflective thinking (currently loving the use of PollEverywhere, as do my students!), than we were doing before. Also, I’m able to spend much more time with students who really need the help, which is a huge bonus. I also think that I will be able to easily incorporate great extension activities for students who are working through the content at a faster pace.

I am excited about the progress and possibilities for my flipped Algebra II class!


What do you think? In what part of the learning cycle do you think your students most need face-to-face time with you?

What is the Best Use of Our Class Time? — A&P Version

This afternoon I was able to watch and enjoy a recorded version of Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams’ recent “The Flipped Classroom” webinar hosted by Classroom 2.0 LIVE. One of the things that hit me early in this webinar was this question: What is the best use of your class time? Phrased differently, where in the learning cycle do my students most need me face-to-face? What a powerful (and important!) question!

I have been operating a “flipped” Anatomy & Physiology class since the beginning of the school year. Just two weeks ago, I flipped my Algebra II class, as well. I believe that I would answer this question differently for each class. Here are some thoughts about Anatomy & Physiology. (See here for my answers re: Algebra II.)

Before answering this question, consider some of the choices Jonathan & Aaron mentioned as shown on the slide above.

Anatomy & Physiology

I think our Anatomy & Physiology class time is best spent in rich discussion and application settings. These are probably the situations in which face-to-face time with me is most valuable — mostly because of the scenarios I can create at the school with everyone together (i.e. discussions, hands-on labs with school materials, etc.).

Discussions involve: why anatomical parts are named the way they are; different “tricks” students come up with for why something is named the way it is or operates the way it does; connections made between different units of studies; etc..

Applications involve: explorations and lab activities (i.e. building joints with bone models — seeing how specific bone markings interact); debates and analysis of current events related to A&P (i.e. discussion of factors contributing to obesity epidemic and analysis of a case study where the courts removed an obese child from his parents’ care); creation of products that explain complex processes (i.e. nerve impulse transmission, bone healing, etc.); and, analysis of case studies where students apply their growing knowledge of both anatomy and physiology.

To answer the “opposite” question (Where in the lesson cycle do my students need face-to-face time with me the least?), I would answer with direct content-delivery (lectures) and practice. In A&P, much of the content delivery can be delivered very effectively via short instructional videos (see some of my examples here). The content is not necessarily difficult (naming parts and explaining their functions) — it is just massive. I don’t think that my students need face-to-face time with me for a lot of the initial content delivery. Also, A&P involves a lot of memorization or practice of “facts”/names. I do not think my students need face-to-face time with me for this either. (We do, however, spend face-to-face time discussing and modeling how to practice, which I think is valuable.)

In summary, for A&P I think our precious class time is best spent discussing, exploring and applying the science, with initial content delivery and practice occurring outside of the classroom (through instructional videos and iPads in our case).

Later in the webinar, Jon and Aaron pose this equally-important question: What do we do with all the extra class time?

To my chagrin, I thought about this question in a fairly superficial manner before implementing my flipped classroom. “Why, I’ll use the extra class time for labs and activities and discussions!” Yes, great idea!! BUT…which ones?! How will I structure them? Do I have all of the materials I need? I definitely could have done a better job of planning out these details in advance! I am still very glad that I have flipped the classroom — I feel like the instructional video library I am building is solid and that we have had more time to really discuss and explore the science in class. One thing that I am working to improve, however, is my class time activities. I am building a more complete repertoire of A&P labs (and acquiring materials!) while also investigating ways to better structure (and formalize?) class discussions and case studies. I am excited by the possibilities!

My advice to a first-time flipper would be…build your class time activities in advance — as far in advance as possible! You will be gaining back so much precious class time — dream big about what you would like to do with it and prepare for these awesome activities!


What do you think? What is the best use of your class time?

How We Warm-Up

In July 2008 I attended an AP Summer Institute with Stacey McMullen, an AP Calculus teacher from Dallas ISD. The institute was FABULOUS!! I learned so much from Stacey–and this learning was definitely transferred on to my students. One of the (many) things I learned from her was a new Warm-Up procedure. Here’s how I’ve adapted it to my class.

Class starts every period with 5 minutes on the board thanks to the free Online Stopwatch site. Students have 5 minutes to work on their Warm-Ups, while I check HW and take attendance.

Each Monday, students are given a new Warm-Ups questions page (see the examples below) and a blank Warm-Ups template (see the example at left). The template  stays the same every week — students just fill in a different week number at the top. It is setup for 10 different questions — two graphs, two tables, and six short answer questions. One of the big emphases of AP Calculus is understanding math using multiple representations (physical, verbal, analytic, numerical, and graphical). Setting up my Warm-Ups with graphs, tables, and short answer sections makes my students practice these multiple representations on a weekly basis.

Students store these Warm-Up pages in a folder with a self-adhesive fastener across the top of it. These folders are stored in a “folder holder” in a corner of my classroom. At the beginning of each period, students come in, grab their folder, and get to work on their warm-ups. Once the 5 minutes are up, they place their warm-up folders back in the holding area until the next day.

The Warm-Up question documents, shown below, are written to include two graphing questions, two table questions, and six short answer questions. I usually include a mix of problems on these — some problems over recent studies, some over previous studies (review), and some foreshadowing what is  coming soon.

What I Like About This Process

Students know what to expect on a weekly basis. They come in and get right to work, with very little time wasted while I do administrative things.

Students are reviewing a variety of concepts on a daily/weekly basis. When we get closer to state-assessments, I cycle a few state-assessment questions into the Warm-Ups each week.

Students are practicing mathematics using multiple representations, which helps to cement big ideas, while also preparing them for Calculus studies.


What Do You Think?

How do you “warm-up” your students at the beginning of class?


Why Blog?

It is time to jump right in…! I am ready to take my professional development to the next level and I believe blogging will help me get there. Why? What value does blogging as an educator bring to me, my classroom, and my students? Here are my thoughts…

To Reflect

During my teacher training at Queen’s University, I was “turned on” to the power of reflective practice, mostly under the direction of an excellent Physics Education professor, Mr. Tom Russell. Then, I hit the ground running in my first year of teaching and (what do you know?) “time” for reflection went out the window. I still read a lot in the field of education, but I rarely purposefully and deliberately reflect on it — especially in writing. I think this is a vital missing piece. Through this blog I can reflect on my learning from various books, blogs, etc., as well as my hands-on learning in my own classes, which will help me better understand and implement the concepts I am learning and thinking about.

To Prioritize

Teaching five different classes, working to stay on top of current technology, research, and ideas, reevaluating how I do things in my classes and how to do them better — it is easy to get overwhelmed by ideas alone in this profession! Crafting blog posts will help me prioritize my classroom goals and projects — to lend extra time and energy to those tasks that are particularly worth it.

To Collaborate

Sharing ideas, best practices, resources, successes and failures — what’s not to love? Blogging (both writing my own blog and commenting on those of colleagues) will open the door for me to interact with many great educators from across the nation. How perfect! I LOVE attending professional development sessions with top-notch educators — blogging and online PLC’s will afford me this interaction on a daily basis…!

To Celebrate

One of the best parts of teaching are those wonderful “epiphany” moments when learning happens on a deep level — a student makes a connection, masters a difficult concept, comes up with a great way to represent an idea. I would love to share these moments with people beyond my classroom — and learn from other teachers and students who are celebrating their successes, as well.

Also, being a teacher is just plain FUN and can produce moments that are just plain funny! (Like the time I was modeling how a knee joint works and the femur slipped out of my hand, ricocheted onto my face and busted my lip open…Oops!) You just can’t take yourself too seriously — there is power in “celebrating” these funny moments, too!

To Refine

My goal is improvement. Period. I want to always be a better teacher so that I can always provide better and better learning for my students. By “putting myself out there” by sharing my classroom practice, I open myself up to suggestions, ridicule (maybe?), and…growth! Well, that is my goal! Many great educators are willing to share their ideas, suggestions, and comments with other educators — I would love to tap into this to improve my practice and my students’ learning experiences.

To Model

As a teacher of upper grades students, I am constantly pushing my students to metacognition and “thinking about their thinking”. Well, hello, conviction — I know that I should be doing the same! This blog will formalize that metacognition, by providing a physical place to think about my thinking and hear from others, as well.

Which brings us to my goal. My goal is to post two blog posts a week, while also commenting on at least two blogs a week. I have had this goal floating around in my mind for a while, but I felt like I really needed to put some purpose behind it first. So, here is that purpose.

What are your thoughts? Why do you blog as an educator?