Meet Lance Burbank: Sokikom’s Newest Teacher Happiness Associate

With the new school year about to begin, we would like to give a warm welcome to our newest Teacher Happiness Associate, Lance Burbank. Lance was born and raised in Amelia Island, Florida, a sleepy Southern beach town.  He graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in political science. After graduating, Lance became interested in education and joined Teach for America-a nationwide organization that seeks to close the opportunity gap in education between privileged and underprivileged children. This led him to Oakland, California where he taught 4th and 5th grade the past 8 years.

Learn more about our new Teacher Happiness Associate in the interview below.

Q: How would you describe yourself?

Outgoing, Theatrical, Friendly, Curious, Passionate

Q: Why do you want to become a teacher?

I wanted to become a teacher because I always loved school, love working with kids, and wanted to help create more opportunities for kids from all backgrounds.  I see education as the number one answer to many of our world’s largest problems. Ultimately, it is the only thing that can drive people in large numbers to eradicate violence, discrimination, and poverty.

Q: What is your teaching philosophy?

I believe that we should be doing everything we can to provide a holistic, multi-modality, diverse, and inclusive education to all people. I  also believe that meaningful learning experiences combined with choice allows students to fuel their learning and in turn makes it fun to learn because the learning is relevant and stimulating.

Q: Why did you want to join Sokikom?

I’m thrilled to be a part of an organization that is helping kids get excited about learning and that helps all kids achieve by building their math skills. I saw first-hand as a teacher how difficult it can sometimes be. I am also excited to help give teachers more tools to succeed in an increasingly complex world. Working as teacher and teacher-leader for 8 years, I have learned the ins and outs of what teachers and students need to be successful with new programs.  I am going to use that knowledge of the arc of the school year to help support teachers and help them have just as much fun as the kids!

Preparing students for SBAC

It’s that time of year again; it’s SBAC season. For a lot of educators, it’s an overwhelming and disruptive time of year. Your students often pick up on those feelings, which doesn’t help when it comes to taking the SBAC. To help you out during this stressful time of year, we’ve come up with a few tips to help your students prepare for testing season.

A few weeks before SBAC

Familiarize students with technology

You want to make sure your students have plenty of time on the computers so that they can become familiar with them before they take the test. While this sounds like a moot point, computer errors account for a fair number of mistakes on the SBAC. So, being familiar with the technology used during the test could make a difference in your students’ scores. For younger students, practicing dragging and dropping is a big help. 

Differentiate Instruction

Work with students one-on-one or in small groups to fill in gaps. If you don’t have time to work one-on-one with all students, partner students up. Peer tutoring helps because one student is able to show their understanding of the concept by verbally expressing their thought process and the other student is able to have the concept reinforced by their peer.

Work with Parents

Let parents know what’s going on in school so that they can be informed and can help their student at home. Parents want to know what’s happening at school and will appreciate a heads up that testing season is approaching. Give parents tips for how they can support their students at home during SBAC season.

Right Before SBAC

Remind students to slow down

Remind students to slow down and take their time. Not only will this help ease their nerves but it will also encourage students to read questions thoroughly. Questions on the SBAC are tricky and students often answer incorrectly because they did not read the question thoroughly.

Remind students to do their best

Remind students that the test they are going to take is tricky and that they should do their best. It’s also best to remind students that this test will not be graded and is just used to show you what they have learned this year. Reminding students that the test is meant to trick them will help some of them stay alert, and telling them the test won’t be graded will help put others at ease.

Remind students to relax

At the end of the day, your students have learned all they need to know for this test during the course of the school year. A few last minute test prep strategies may help, here and there, but overall your students are prepared for this test and there is no reason to stress.

For more information on how Sokikom can help your students prepare for SBAC, request a demo.

Improving Students’ Intrinsic Motivation

What if there was a way to not only improve fact fluency but to also change the way students feel about math?

At Sokikom, we’re pushing the boundaries of student learning to make math fun. Last month we held the first annual Soki Bowl to reward hard working students with the opportunity to play Sokikom’s multiplayer game against other California classrooms.

The 2017 Soki Bowl

The Soki Bowl, inspired by the Super Bowl, was held between January 17, 2017 and February 6, 2017. To be eligible to participate in the Soki Bowl, students had to master at least 15 new Sokikom lessons by January 1, 2017. We wanted students to master at least 15 new Sokikom lessons so that they would be over halfway to the goal of mastering 25 new lessons by the end of the year. Mastering 25 new Sokikom lessons has a strong correlation with SBAC and CAASPP improvement as is evidenced in the 2016 study performed by Dr. Gary Bitter from Arizona State University and JBS International.


Out of the 100 teachers that had all students in the class meeting or exceeding the 15 new lesson mastered threshold, 22 from varying school districts including: Franklin McKinley School District (FMSD), Rio School District (RSD), Evergreen Elementary School District (EESD), Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), and Moreno Valley Unified School District (MVUSD) signed up to participate in the Soki Bowl. We had students in grades 1-6 playing against one another vying for a spot in the Soki Bowl Championship Game.

The Results

On February 6th we held the Soki Bowl Championship Game between Ms. Olsen-Bryan’s 3rd graders from Rio Del Mar in the Rio School District and Ms. Smith’s 6th graders from Santee Elementary in the Franklin-McKinley School District. In the end, Ms. Olsen-Bryan’s 3rd graders were dubbed the champions and received Soki Bowl rings and a class-wide ice cream party sponsored by Sokikom.

Shifting Academic Standards

Throughout the tournament, numerous teachers from across the state of California shared photos and videos of their students getting excited about math. By building students’ intrinsic motivation by using strategies like Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports  (PBIS) we’re getting students excited about learning. These nonacademic factors are becoming increasingly important as the educational climate continues to shift away from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and move towards the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

As states begin shifting to align with ESSA, schools and school districts are beginning to not only look for research-based products but also products and tools that increase student engagement and improve student success.

Next Steps

Are you looking for a way to change the way students feel about math? Request a demo to see if Sokikom is a good fit for your district.

Developing Grateful Students

At Sokikom, we love Thanksgiving! It’s a wonderful time of year full of family, friends, food, and gratitude. Days leading up to the Thanksgiving Break we take the time to make handprint turkeys, teach our students the history of the Mayflower and encourage them to be thankful. But what happens when Thanksgiving ends? Can we, as teachers, place less emphasis on teaching gratitude? What would happen if we place as much emphasis on gratitude throughout the year as we do the week leading up to Thanksgiving? Would we notice a difference in our class, our school, our community?


Gratitude is not only a nice thing to do, but it impacts each of us physically and mentally. In fact, according to science grateful people have stronger immune systems, act with more compassion, and experience less loneliness. Because of the profound impact gratitude has on each of us, we’ve put together a few suggestions on how to encourage thankful students.

Morning Meeting Gratitude Challenge

If we started off each day practicing gratitude how would our day change? With the Morning Meeting Gratitude Challenge, you are encouraged to start off each day by having your students share what they are grateful for. Try it out every day for a week and see if you notice a change in your students or even yourself. Are you noticing your students acting kinder to each other? Do you notice that you have more patience? Is there a greater sense of collaboration in your classroom?

Gratitude Journals

If you don’t have time for the Morning Meeting Gratitude Challenge and want to incorporate gratitude into your writing lesson, have your students practice journaling. If your students spend 5-10 minutes each day journaling what they’re thankful for do you think you would notice a difference? Would your students have stronger writing skills? Would you hear please and thank you more often in the classroom? Try it out and let us know what differences you see in your students!

Play a Gratitude Game

If you’re looking for a fun way to challenge your students, have them play a Gratitude Game. Not only will your students be able to practice teamwork but they will also be able to express themselves creatively. The students who present to the class will have the added benefit of improving their public speaking skills.

Looking for more gratitude inspiration? Check out Dr. Kerry Howells Gratitude in Education talk.

Learning Without Roadblocks

By: Matthew Cardona

Technology integration is the new school. Although the idea is far from new it is just now becoming a reality in our public schools. Being a second-year teacher, I often look back at my own education and think about how far schools have come with technology use in the classroom. In the short amount of time I have been removed from a classroom environment as a student, the amount of access students now have to the internet is seemingly endless. Which gives students answers to all the world’s questions and challenges they may face or simply ponder.  But despite how far schooling has come in our country, we still face many obstacles and inequities throughout the public school system. One of those obstacles is access to this technology, whether that be access to devices and/or connectivity to the internet at home.


As a 6th grade teacher, I saw this first-hand working in East Side San Jose with little access to technology at school and many students not having access at home. So, when our school decided to begin on a road of technology integration, it seemed like it would take years before we would get any meaningful student use. But when I heard of our school adding Sokikom to the list of educational websites we would try to engage our students in, I was excited. I had played with Sokikom a little and used it during my 4th grade student teaching experience in early 2014. I had seen the amount of engagement the program could bring to a classroom, especially for students whose least favorite subject was Math. So, I couldn’t wait to integrate it into my own classroom. But there still remained one problem, student access. Having a Chromebook cart that rotated 5 classrooms in 5 days did not seem to give students enough time to work on their Sokikom assignments or give them a chance to experience that “play” aspect of Sokikom.

This was something that needed to change and after watching my students pull out their devices (phones, tablets, iPods, etc.) after the final bell rang, I began thinking about what I could do to give my students more Sokikom time. I came back to something my Master Teacher had told me about Puffin Academy, an application that allowed students to access educational websites that otherwise would not run on some devices or operating systems. Then it dawned upon me that I could assign my students a homework task of downloading Puffin Academy on their device and installing the Sokikom plugin. This made students excited about homework and once I had every student on some type of device, I started assigning standards and/or a time requirement that students would have to be online. At first parents were calling the school and asking if their student indeed had homework on their phones or tablets, some even came in to speak with me. Once the air was clear, we had a great amount of student use at home. Our class would even hold device parties, where students would bring in their device from home and connect to the school wifi and work on their Sokikom assignments, shop the store, or play some multiplayer with their classmates. The student engagement has been great with Sokikom and this year we have iPad access and plan to continue to log into Sokikom and have fun while learning! There will always be roadblocks in public education, but sometimes we find ways around them and make learning fun for all of our students.


New: SBAC Mirrored Content

You asked for it, we listened! Introducing: New SBAC Mirrored Content. Not only will your students be able to learn math in an interactive game with the traditional Sokikom content but now you will also be able to better prepare your students for the SBAC with our assessment prep content.

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One new feature you will notice is the Scratch Pad on the upper right-hand side. This scratch pad will help your students show their work when solving problems. Your students will be able to write, draw, and drop and drag manipulatives to better help them answer the questions.

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We currently have the following standards available in the new format with more to come January 2017! Log into your Sokikom account and head over to the Curriculum Navigator to check out the new standards and assign them to your students.

Grade 1:





Grade 2:




Grade 3:




Grade 4:






Grade 5:








Grade 6:













Questions regarding the new content? Send them over to

Cultivating a Growth Mindset Classroom

If you’re like most educators, you’ve probably already heard of Stanford Professor Carol Dweck and her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, but do you know how to apply her principles and create a growth mindset classroom?

According to Dweck, most people have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset and these mindsets are usually taught at a young age by parents, teachers, coaches, and peers. Most people are unaware of their mindset and the labels they give themselves. Many students often categorize themselves at either good or bad. Take for example math, a student who races through math assignments and often receives high marks will label himself as good. He often receives praise from his parents, teacher, and even peer as being good at math. On the other hand, a student that struggles with math will label himself as being bad at math. The problem with both of these students is that they are more likely to give up than students with a growth mindset. The student who is good at math, will do whatever it takes to remain good at math, as long as it doesn’t become too difficult. Once the math becomes too difficult for the student to achieve and the student sees failure as imminent they give up. The student who sees himself as bad at math will also give up easily when faced with difficult math problems because he doesn’t see himself as succeeding at math.

So what is a growth mindset?

A growth mindset is when you see your abilities as neither good nor bad. You view your skills as something to constantly develop. Natural intelligence does not dictate if you are smart or not, instead, hard work and dedication do. According to Dweck this mindset fosters a love of learning that is essential to accomplishment. Students who believe that if they work hard and persevere they will become smarter will learn more and at a faster rate. They will see challenges not as failures but as opportunities to improve.

How do you cultivate a growth mindset?

Provide Encouragement

Providing encouragement is important to the success of all students, without it students have a difficult time being motivated. However, the type of encouragement you provide will lead to either a fixed or a growth mindset classroom. Instead of saying, “great job”, “you’re awesome” “you’re talented”. Praise their hard work by saying “I can see you worked really hard” “I appreciate your curiosity” and “I’m happy you’re so dedicated”. The latter encourage perseverance and a growth mindset.

Encourage Revision

It is common in our society to think of a mistake as something to be avoided. Having this mindset discourages us to try new things for fear of failure. By creating a classroom where children are encouraged to challenge themselves, they will often make mistakes. Teach your students that mistakes are okay and that it is important we learn from them.

Lead by Example

Students learn the most from you and your actions. If your students see you cultivating a growth mindset in your actions they are going to be more responsive to implementing the concept in their own lives. Share your successes and struggles with implementing a growth mindset with your students. Remember, a growth mindset is something to continually work at, not something that will happen over night.