Paolo Tolomeo | 4th Grade

Paolo Tolomeo teaches a self-contained fourth grade classroom in his home town of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. But even with 17 years of teaching experience to his credit, Paolo found it challenging to put in all the time necessary to dream up the sort of memorable, student-centered lesson plans that had become something of a trademark of his classroom while still managing to have enough energy to thrive his roles outside of the classroom as a husband and a father. Here’s how EMC² Learning helped him strike that balance.

Breaking That Vicious Cycle

I had been teaching 4th grade for 7 years before I EMC2 Learning came along and leveled up my delivery. I began gamifying my classroom 5 years ago and wanted to incorporate more storytelling into my lessons. My students were more engaged and begged for more Side Quests and challenges! But I struggled to incorporate this same epic, larger-than-life storytelling style into my day to day lessons. And in the end, I found myself spending hours each night trying to design engaging activities that were different so that students would remain engaged. 

I biggest problem I was experiencing was spending so much extra time creating activities from scratch. I know my content and had big ideas, but I struggled to balance creating new engaging activities with all my other responsibilities as a teacher, husband, and father. 
For me, frustration felt like countless late nights working well into the early hours of the morning. I knew what I wanted my students to learn and I knew how to get them there. Where I became frustrated was trying to create engaging activities to deliver the content. 

Hundreds of Resources. Endless Customization.

What separated EMC² Learning from so many of the other resources out there was that the skeleton was created for us – we just needed to fill in our content. This was not a print-and-deliver website where my unique teaching style and my students’ learning styles would be shoehorned into some pre-formatted pipeline or altogether ignored. Rather, EMC² Learning created the delivery tool and I got to add our content to fit our needs. 

EMC² Learning provided me a one-stop shop for activity ideas that I could modify and adjust to meet my story and class needs. One of my first examples came from our nonfiction unit. I had done a nonfiction vocabulary lesson for a few years already and it was a good lesson, but not a particularly memorable one. Then, I tried it with Play-Doh Showcase. I introduced the lesson with the EMC² resource, complete with splash screen and a story to fit our gamified class. Suddenly, this activity became a class favorite. The final products had more creativity, thought, and care to them as well. The students became invested in the lesson and the learning.

"Rather than finishing a Word Bank because it was an assignment, students created artifacts for a museum because the learners were the focus of the lesson."

Now, younger siblings entering my classroom this year asked right away if we were doing the Play-Doh activity their older sibling did last year. When we use Novel Novella, students shout “I love this game” when writing main idea; when we use Uncharted Territories, students eagerly show their parents their work and how it connects to Pennsylvania History. The lessons turned into experiences and I did not have to struggle with creating the delivery mechanism. I did not have to design the lesson before building it. I got to input my content into an engaging activity and watch my students grow as learners. This has afforded me more time to be more present for my family and to create more unique learning opportunities for my students. 

A Co-Teacher for Your Creative Classroom

Now, instead of stressing to create activities from scratch, I can try ideas from EMC² Learning. Each year, I can tweak the activity to better my current class needs, and then explore new resources and continue to add to my inventory of lessons. Rather than spending all my time on creating an idea and then filling in my content, I get to explore engaging lesson ideas and present my class with more learning experiences more often.

This week alone I used three different EMC² Learning activities while battling a sinus infection and the quality of my lessons did not diminish at all. I was able to deliver learning experiences that my class was excited to share with parents at Open House this week. You have afforded us the opportunity to focus on growing as educators and meeting our students’ needs rather than having to reinvent the wheel each and every day. Thank you for everything!  

EMC² Learning is home to more than 600 fully editable resources for any course or content area. Engagement Engineers and members of the Creative Corps enjoy a full year of access to each of these resources on demand. We hope you’ll consider joining us to unlock a full year of site access. For complete details including our exclusive limited time offer for annual site membership, click here.

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