Thursday, December 22, 2016

Cooking with the Klumper's: "The Perfect Pancake"

It seems that on any social media I may find myself on, there are these recipe videos everywhere! I love watching them. It makes whatever food item being shown look so easy to do. I watch one and find myself thinking, "Yeah! I could do that!" So what draws people to these videos? What makes them so popular? Why is a recipe delivered in this format better than a simple list of ingredients with text description? It's all about the visuals. People can SEE what is happening or what should happen or how it should look. SEEING is powerful. The whole process is laid out for you in a few minutes in a visual way. That is what makes these videos so popular and helpful!  

I decided to make my own video and get in on the craze. The next step would be: How can we use this video concept in education? What does it look like or how could it look in the social studies world? Science? Math? So many possibilities. I'm sure you will think of something.  

Enjoy the Perfect Pancake! 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Powerful Video. Powerful Message.

This can't be viewed or shared or thought about enough. As much as technology helps us and as much as I love it, this video offers perspective that is much needed in our world today, myself included. Don't be surprised if you watch this video and find tears welling in your eyes.  Don't be surprised if you watch this video and decide to make a change in your technology habits. Don't be surprised if this video makes you stop scrolling through feeds and pages and posts and images. Don't be surprised if you watch this video twice. Don't be surprised if you find yourself thinking about the message, long after the video ends. Don't be surprised if you suddenly feel this urge to live more with your eyes open, head up and phone resting on the counter or table or inside your top dresser drawer. Don't be surprised if you suddenly feel anxiety thinking about all the time spent looking down, rather than up and realize that time is not guaranteed or plentiful.   

Gary Turk sums it up beautifully: "Give people your love, not your like." 

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Commercial that Bothers Me

Perhaps you have seen this commercial. It's for the Toyota Tundra. Watch the video above to see what happens. The basic gist is this: a high school football team loses the game at the end because the receiver was out of bounds when he caught the would-be game-winning touchdown. Everyone is devastated at losing the "big game." Then, on their way home, a family of the losing team sees the referee who called the catch out of bounds standing next to his broken down vehicle. The driver rolls down the window and after a moment of hesitation and thought, gives the referee a ride.

Here is what bothers me about this commercial: Toyota is making a big deal out of the fact that even though the referee made the call to end the game, the family of the losing team gave the referee a ride home in the rain. That's what SHOULD happen. It's just a high school football game. The commercial makes it look like this tremendous act of compassion because they were just devastated at losing the big game, yet they dug down deep into their soul and found the courage and compassion to help out the referee who was standing in the rain with a broken down vehicle. A high school football game and referee's call (correct call, btw) was almost the reason why they didn't pick up the referee? Ridiculous. It wasn't an act of compassion. It was the obvious thing to do.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Merge Multiple Google Forms into One

There actually is no merge tool out there that can take multiple Google Forms and merge them into one. So if you have multiple Google Forms and you want them to be all in ONE Google Form, you have to copy and paste everything. HOWEVER. There is a trick or work-around to solve this problem. 
Application to Education: Let's say you have given five short 'exit ticket' formative assessments throughout the month, semester, etc. At the end, you want the students to answer those same questions to see how much they have improved, or just as a study guide/review tool. Rather than posting all five links and having the results go to five different places, you can set it up to make one Google Form and have all the results go to the same spreadsheet. 

Open the Google Forms that you want to use and make copies of them all so you get fresh data. 

Choose what Google Form will be the first one. 
For the second google Form you want to use, get the "share link" and paste it in the first google form in presentation when you are able to determine what it says for the student after they hit submit. In other words, after the student hits submit for the first Google Form, they will be given the link to the second google form. 
Repeat this process until you have all five google forms linked together. 

*Results all in one place: Create a spreadsheet for results for the first Google Form that you used. For the other Google Forms, rather than creating a new spreadsheet, set it so the results go to a tab in an existing spreadsheet, which should be set to the first Google Form spreadsheet. 

Check out the tutorial to see it in action! 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Social Injustice Project. Fight It. End It.

In my opinion, there are few things in life that can have an impact like reading a book. Recently, my students and I read social injustice novels. Being aware of our world and the injustices that are happening is important because we need that awareness before we can take action. But what is that action? It's a daunting question. It's an overwhelming problem. How do we stop human trafficking? How do we stop genocide? It's almost a feeling of impossibility. Like, no matter what we do, we can't stop it or even help! So what do we do? I don't' know. I guess we can start by getting educated. By becoming aware and spreading that awareness. I think reading about social injustice and learning about it and spreading the awareness of it helps us become more compassionate. It helps us take less for granted and be more appreciative of what we have. If we talk about it enough and read about it enough, perhaps a student will go out into the teeth of the injustice and do something to stop it.  Maybe we all will. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Copy Entire Folders in Google Drive

Have you ever wanted to copy an entire Google Drive folder but found that when you right click on the Folder, it does not give you a "copy" option? There is a solution to that problem. It is a spreadsheet add-on and it allows you to copy entire folders. It's simply called "Copy Folder" and you get it through Google Sheets - add ons.  For example, let's say you have a bunch of resources in a Google Drive folder and you want to share that folder with a colleague or you are leaving a position and want to give that folder to the new person, but you want to hang on to your folder for the future. Use the add-on so you each have your own individual folder (of the same contents). The video does a good job showing how to use this add-on. 
*Note: You can not copy a folder that is shared. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Popcorn App and other Amazing Apps

Did you know that there is an amazing app out there? It's great. Especially for those who live a lifestyle of "always on the go." It is an app that pops popcorn for you! It's simple: You open the app on your smartphone,  wait a bit for the "burners" to heat up your screen, then simply place the popcorn kernels on the screen and soon, "POP!" you will hear and see the unmistakable sign of popcorn popping. Hungry after a long day at work and don't have time for a healthy snack? Well with this app, pop some popcorn while you drive home and crush those hunger pains. Watching a movie and don't want to stop to go pop popcorn in the microwave? Just pull those kernels from your pocket and pop them right there on the couch!  This truly transformative app might cause you to rethink your entire life. 
*Other uses: over-easy eggs, pancakes, and waffles. (In waffle mode, the screen actually raises to create the 'waffle press' look to your waffles. 

The app 'iInflate' is another great app from the apple app store. With this app, no more hyperventilating and passing out. Simply open the app, put the open end of the balloon on the charging port and hit "start." Soon, you will have an inflated balloon and no headache! 

P.S. Oh, and by the way. These apps don't exist. (But wouldn't it be cool if it did??) Watch out for fake news! 

Friday, December 2, 2016


iCivics "is a free web-based resource that brings interactive and engaging Civics content to classrooms in the form of games, lesson plans and other digital content." There is a tab for students to play different games such as "Win the White House," "Do I have a right?" and "Immigration Nation." There is also a tab for teachers with links to curriculum units, lesson plans, more games and even WebQuests. This website would be a supplementary tool to use in the classroom. We are always talking about getting students away from how we learned when we were in school when we would read out of a textbook and be expected to automatically absorb all of that knowledge. This website would give students an interactive opportunity to explore the world of civics and to help them better understand what civics even is! Just like when we were talking about adaptive learning programs in math methods, you want the tools to help the students feel like they aren't being forced to learn because instead they are playing interactive games that are exciting and engaging. I think this tech tool allows students to see civics in a way they wouldn't normally be able to. When I hear the word civics I am a little scared to be honest. But this website and the games it has puts concepts involved in civics into a visual form that students can learn from and understand, rather than just reading out of their textbook about what civics is and looks like. If you told me I had to teach a lesson on civics, I would have no idea where to start, but this website would definitely be something I would use to help me build a lesson or unit. -Samantha

Thursday, December 1, 2016


GoNoodle is a website that has hundreds of video that allow your students to get out of their chairs and be active in the classroom. Often times students get antsy and have a hard time paying attention when they have been stagnant for too long.Unfortunately many classrooms are in a way where students are expected to sit still and silent, yet focused and engaged for long periods of time. A great strategy to get student engaged, energized, and ready to learn is to make time in your day for what people call, "brain breaks". Personally, I like to call them "brain bursts" because we don't want students turning off their brain, rather we want students gaining energy so they can be engage in the classroom. By designating a few minutes through the day to implement brain bursts, students are able to get the ants our of their pants, wake up, and focus on the next task. -Megan H. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Noisli is different from the tech tools we typically talk about in class. It is basically a white noise generator for your classroom. It allows you to mix different sounds and volumes. This is more of a teacher tool to manage the environment. This tool allows classrooms to personalize their Noisli until it helps everyone focus. This would be beneficial to a classroom with students who need auditory input to focus. The adjustment tool can help make the noise pleasant for everyone in the classroom. You could offer it to specific students and have them use headphones. -Sophie

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Creaza is a digital learning tool that enables students and teachers to work with different subjects and topics by creating mind maps, presentations, cartoons comic strips, movies, and audio productions. Creaza contains hundreds of ready-made activities related to different subjects, topics, and curricula. Teachers can easily assign these activities to their students. They can edit and adjust the activity's title and description, set a due date, and add media files that the students can use. Creaza is completely web based, no installation or downloading is required, and users can work on their products wherever they have a computer with an internet access. This tech tool is a fun way to get students engaged in a way that they might not be able to if they were simply reading out of a textbook. -Richele L.

Monday, November 28, 2016


WriteAbout allows students to browse through writing ideas and visuals; it also provides them with the space to write online and get feedback from their peers. Teachers can leave private feedback for students in the form of voice recordings, written comments or annotations. -Kelly T.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

"Guest Post Week" on SpeartipEDU

Throughout the week, I will be sharing various tech tools for education through "guest posts." My SDSU students scoured the internet to find hidden gems and valuable technology tools for the classroom. I will feature a guest post each day this week. Check out these tech tools and perhaps use them in your class to increase engagement, learning, and fun!

Is there something you would like to contribute? Perhaps share an idea or your expertise in something? Contact me if there is a guest blog post you would like to write. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The $2 Bill

$2 bills are rare. Let's not let kindness be rare. 
This Thanksgiving, I am thanking for The $2 Bill.

My family and I have been going to this small country church for the past five months. When I say small, I'm talking about 20-25 people each Sunday. It's the type of church that when it's time to "greet each other," everybody gets out of their pews and walks around and shakes hands with each person, including the pastor. It's the type of church that when someone is gone, it's obvious and where everyone sits in the same spot, essentially having a "seating chart." So that's the context of this story. 
I had a birthday on November 15th. The next Sunday after my birthday, my name was in the bulletin under "November Birthdays."  I thought that was nice, but didn't think much of it. Tuesday night, just a few days later, there was a Thanksgiving service. During the time to greet each other, a lady came up to me. Her name is Virginia and is shy and quiet. She wears a blue hooded sweatshirt. She's probably in her mid-fifties. I have only ever said "hello" to her so we are by no means friends. In fact, I would say we are just one small step above "strangers" to each other. But at this Thanksgiving service, Virginia came up to me and handed me a envelope with a card inside. It was a birthday card with a nice message and a $2 bill. I sat there in my pew staring at the $2 bill and just thought, "wow, what a thoughtful thing to do." It meanta lot to me. Here I am, a stranger to Virginia, yet, she saw my birthday in the bulletin and took the time to buy a card, write a message, and put a $2 bill in it. 

I am thankful for Virginia and people like Virginia who go out of their way to make people feel good, even if they are strangers. Virginia didn't say anything to me when she handed me the card, yet I could tell it made her happy and feel good to do so. Virginia reminded me that a "gift" doesn't even have to be something with a high monetary value. It could be a card, a nice message, a handshake, a pat on the back or just a genuine smile. 

I am thankful for the good that is somewhere in everybody. I am thankful for thoughtfulness. 

That $2 bill was worth way more to me than two dollars. In school, the $2 bill could be a smile to your students. A quick note telling them how much you appreciate their effort latley. Or taking the time to listen to a story, no matter how long or "boring" you think it is. Playing basketball with them at recess. It could be making copies for a co-worker or bringing them a coffee if you notice they have been having a particularly stressful few days. It could be bringing a student aside and asking them how things are going. It could be sitting with a "not so popular" student at lunch. It could be emailing a parent, letting them know how much you enjoy having their kid in class or how hard their child has been working lately. It could be a tweet to a co-worker.  

The $2 bill is showing someone you care about them and that you are thinking about them. There's no price tag for that. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Hero Machine gives your students the ability to create their own superhero. With its user-friendly setup and process, students can design their own superhero and share it. Great way to work on creative writing and creative thinking: You could have your students create a superhero with this site and then provide the back story of how the super hero became a superhero, or how that superhero "saved the day" or the epic battles with the villain, etc. You could take it a step further and have your students design a "superhero" like Franklin Roosevelt, Walt Disney or Anne Frank and then have the students provide details about the life of this "superhero" complete with bio, special talents, environment, accessories, enemies, theme song, etc. This site gives all students the chance to create something they are proud of, whether they are good at drawing or not. Check it out! 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Garbage on the Road

When I go running, I take the same route every time. For the last three weeks, while running my usual route, I've seen this piece of garbage on the road. It's just harmlessly laying there by the curb. It appears to be some sort of cable wire for a building project going on nearby. I notice it every time and every time, I just run over it as it's not that big. Each time I see it, I think, "Eh, someone will pick it up." And sure enough, the next day, that piece of garbage is still there. So one day, as I approached "the spot," I noticed it was yet again, still there. So I decided that when I got done with my run, I would drive in my car to that spot and throw that piece of garbage away. So that's what I did. 

Sometimes, if you want something done, you just have to do it yourself. 

Don't wait around for someone else to do it. Don't rely on others when you are totally capable of doing it yourself. Take action and be the one to initiate something you want to see happen/change. Seek out opportunities to help and lead. 

If you want your classroom to be more engaging and fun, don't wait around for someone to come by and do it for your or give you an idea. Take action and go do it yourself by connecting on Twitter. If you have a student who is not doing their work or being a pain, don't wait around for someone to come "fix" that student, do it yourself with kindness and compassion. If you are getting stressed out, don't wait around for someone to come take that stress away, do something yourself that will help, like reminding yourself why you are a teacher in the first place. If you want to try a new tech tool, don't wait for someone else to show you how to use it, just use it yourself and see what happens. 

There's lots of garbage on the road. And if we just wait for someone else to pick it up, nothing will happen and we will find our streets littered. Take the initiative to do something about it. Pick up that garbage with a positive mindset.  

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Try, Reflect.

They would spin! 
Reflection is powerful in the learning process. But if you never try anything new or different, what's there to reflect on? If you roll out the same worksheets, year after year, there's not a whole lot to reflect on. "Yep! Things went exactly as they did the last 10 years!" Eh, not a lot of opportunity for growth.

Try something, then reflect.

Numerous times I go into a class not exactly sure what's going to happen. Perhaps it should make me more nervous than it does, but it's just the opposite. I think it's exciting! The element of the unknown, I think, is fun because it makes things a lot more interesting. Plus, what a great opportunity to reflect afterward. I think people shy away from trying new things at times because we don't want to fail. What's the worst that could happen? The lesson doesn't work and kids see that you are a human being who is willing to take risks and try new things? Doesn't sound that bad to me. Plus, the stakes aren't very high, but the potential to grow from that experience is high.

We did an activity (pictured above) the other day in which we finished a novel and I wanted each group to select the ten most important events from the story, with justification. I wanted to create some discussion/debate on what really impacted the story. Then, I wanted each group to display their 10 events so we could all step back and see what everyone thought at the same time and start to compare, see themes, trends, etc. So, I hung a piece of string from the ceiling for each group and we paper clipped each of our ten cards on the string. This way, we could see all the cards at the same time. So after we finished attaching the cards to the strings, we took a step back, ready to discuss. However, we noticed that the strings would spin with the subtle airflow in the room so the cards would turn so we couldn't see what was written. Disaster right!! Nope. Yeah, it didn't work very well, but we tried something, it didn't work as well as I'd hoped, so I reflected. But going a step further, it would have been a big turn off had I acted embarrassed in front of my class or tried to cover it up or make some sort of excuse. Instead, I was like, "Oh, well, that didn't work very well. I didn't know they were going to spin!" Then we had a discussion about how else we could have done the activity to produce a better outcome. They really got into it and felt ownership in coming up with ideas on how to solve our problem of the strings spinning. Being my students are education majors, it was a good opportunity to see the power of trying, and reflecting.

If we want our students to take risks and try new things, we should probably do the same.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Power of the Exclamation Mark

Do you do a lot of communication via the Internet? Silly me. Of course you do. It's 2016 and there is so much interaction and communication done online. Whether you talk to people for social reasons or job-related, whether it's facebook, twitter, email, texting, discussion boards, etc... we find ourselves doing a lot of written communication. It is very difficult to sense 'tone' in emails or written communication in general. We could be in a great mood! yet the email might come off crass or blunt. We could be simply saying something matter of factly, but the unintentional tone of the communication might be rude or short or indifferent. So with so much communication in the form of writing, we must think through not only WHAT we say, but HOW we say it. You can craft an email in a way that your tone is clear and that is with two things: Exclamation points and emoji's! The power of the exclamation point is so strong. It is the single best weapon in trying to not only convey your happy tone, but also in building relationships because the more exclamation points you use, the better the recipient feels and then is more likely to have good feelings/thoughts about you and it will snowball from there into a great relationship. 

Scenario #1:  A person does something nice for you and you respond with "thanks." Now, that person might think, "oh wow, what a jerk. that's all I get?" It comes off as a very unmeaningful showing of half-hearted gratitude. BUT, if you respond with "Thanks!!!" then we have a whole different situation on our hands. That person sees those three exclamation points and immediately knows you are saying that with a lot of appreciation and a big ol' smile on your face. That makes the person feel good. And to think, all it took was hitting shift + 1 three times. We go from the person basically hating you for being rude, to loving you for being so nice and appreciative. 

Scenario #2: You are texting back and forth with someone and even though you don't think something is very funny, you send a bunch of crying-laughing face emoji's because you know that will make the recipient feel good and that you are really crackin' up over their jokes. There's no such thing as using "too many emojis." Use as many as you can! The more the better. There are tons of examples of people building great relationships solely based on emoji's.  Huge companies have merged to make a great joint company through wide-grin emoji's and the thumb's up emoji. Think about it in your own life: how good do you feel when you see that chocolate pudding smiley face and start laughing because you know it's not actually chocolate pudding? Exactly. Probably all the time. 

So pick a favorite emoji!!! Use them liberally!!! Start leveling up your written communication!!! 

bye (see? doesn't that seem rude or like the person doesn't care?)
Bye!!! (that's better. This person is clearly excited to leave you.) 

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Power to make someone's day

You have the power to make someone's day, and it doesn't even take that much effort. When is the last time you received some words of encouragement or gratitude? How did you feel? Words are powerful. Use them for good. Fire up your computer, log into your email, facebook, text tool, etc. and send a message to someone telling them how much you appreciate them or some words of encouragement. How powerful of a thing to do, and so easy! Literally, one sentence is all you need to totally change someone's outlook on life on any particular day. Even more so, you have no idea (possibly) what type of day that person is having. Maybe they really need to hear some positive words and you can be the one to do it. Every day is an opportunity! Sometimes people feel like they are not appreciated, like nobody cares about them, or they are a nobody. Let them know they are wrong.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Glow Kids: Screen addiction

"That’s right — your kid’s brain on Minecraft looks like a brain on drugs." -Article in the New York Post

I came across an interesting article the other day about kids and screen addiction. The quote above is chilling. Think about that quote which is based on research and is fact. A child's brain who is addicted to screens looks the same as someone is who is addicted to cocaine or heroin. That should make you stop and think. That should make you stop and think that maybe you should limit the screen time for your kids. I know I need to. I can also relate. I can feel the tug of the screen, even when I have no reason to go on it. I see myself grabbing for my phone, just to check it, knowing there's no new messages or notifications. But there's that pull. That pull in your brain that is making you do it, even when you don't want to or have no reason for it. It's an addiction. I don't feel as if I have a full blow addiction to screens, nor do I think my brain looks like a crack addict, but I can definitely see how it can happen. With unsupervised children "cranking" out the hours, becoming addicted is real. (Pun intended). As the article states, breaking an addiction to drugs and alcohol requires you to get rid of all that stuff. How do you break a technology addiction? How can you go 4-6 weeks without using or looking at any type of screen? I would say it's close to impossible unless a major life change happens (quit job, move to the mountains, crawl under a rock, etc.) Prevent your child (and self) from becoming a Glow kid, who you begin to think their face actually does have a blue glow to you because the only time you see their face, it's with a screen 5 inches away.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Politics and Social Media

It seems this election year, with the two candidates we have to choose form, politics is as polarizing as ever.  So what's the role of social media when it comes to politics, opinions, and debate?  I don't know. But I do know that it is a rare occurrence that you will change someone's mind through a facebook post, picture, or video in terms of trying to get them to "see the light" and agree with you. Especially those who solely get their political information from Facebook and articles people post. Being a polarizing political Facebook user or Twitter user will definitely turn people away, so maybe we shouldn't bring our political views and opinions into social media. But what about standing for what you believe in and standing up to falsehoods and inflammatory remarks?  What about those Facebook users who post their opinions/material every day which is drastically different than what you believe in? Do you comment back and start a Facebook argument that has no chance of ending in anything productive? How do you act if you see them in person? Just ignore the fact that what they post on Facebook is drastically different than what you believe and sometimes offensive? I do think in this election year, with the unique nature of this presidential election, the worst is being brought out in people. It seems more than ever, people are trying to tear the opponent down with negative posts, rather than trying to build their candidate up with positives and valid points. No matter what side of the spectrum, entering the election year with love, kindness, and an open mind, I think, will make for a better process. A healthier process.  A process in which we get solutions, rather than problems. Progress rather than ignorance. Hope rather than fear.  It is your right to free speech and that certainly means social media too. But take a step back. Look at what you post and how you share your beliefs. Are you part of the problem or part of the solution? 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A good chuckle, sometimes, is all you need

You may find yourself down and out or depressed or bloated or scared or nervous or anxious or bored or frustrated or trapped or fearful or cowardly or dejected or morose or brooding or vengeful or spiteful or any number of other negative feelings. So if you do find yourself in that emotional and mental state, perhaps all you need to do is watch a couple of Philippino high divers. Despite their efforts, they still get applause. So, too, can you still get an applause, no matter how bad it gets.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Eagle Vs. The Goat

Sometimes, you might feel like there is this giant burden on your back, like the talon's of life have sunk into your shoulders so far that there is no chance for escape. You might face seemingly never-ending obstacles, insurmountable challenges. The struggle might be real. You may have lost hope that there will ever be a way to shake your plight. But like the goat, if you keep fighting and fighting and running and running and rolling and rolling and battling and battling, eventually you will free yourself and defeat those demons.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Role of the Teacher

August has arrived and that means another school year is getting ready to launch. It's an exciting time of the year. Students are dying to see their schedule, see who they got for a teacher, see if their friends are in their classes, school supply shopping, perhaps get a few new pieces of clothing, etc. Teachers are excited as well: to see their class roster, get their room ready, organize their materials, plan that first week, and try out new ideas they came up with during the summer.  August is the perfect time of year to think about what the role of "Teacher" is, exactly. It sets the foundation for a great year. An impactful year.

First, what the Role of Teacher is NOT: 
*The role of the teacher is NOT to simply raise test scores.
*The role of a teacher is NOT just to bust kids for chewing gum or leaning back on their chair.
*The role of a teacher is NOT simply to show up, hand out worksheets, and collect a check.
*The role of the teacher is NOT to dish out pages upon pages of homework.

The Role of the Teacher
*The role of the teacher is first and foremost to build relationships with their students. I send my own kids to school, expecting their teacher to put forth the effort to get to know them and care for them.

*The role of the teacher is to make kids (or keep kids) curious. I send my own children to school expecting them to be more curious than when they started. Sure, I want them to learn skills and content but the MAIN thing I want is for my kids to be curious. I want them to ask questions and wonder about things.

*The role of the teacher is to encourage their students. I send my own children to school, not to be praised for any little thing they do but to be encouraged and pushed to do their best and built up to reach their potential. False praise and praising them for something they are expected to do can stay home.

*The role of the teacher is to inspire. When I send my kids to school, I want them to be inspired to do something great. I don't want them to be told "no, you can't use Twitter" but rather taught how to use Twitter effectively to increase their learning. Don't tell them No. Teach them "how."

*The role of the teacher is to care for their students. When I send my own kids to school, I want them to feel safe. Safe to learn, safe to ask questions, safe to make mistakes. If my daughter comes home and says she wasn't willing to try something because she was afraid she would fail, I will not be a happy camper.

*The role of the teacher is to build a culture of learning. NOT everything needs to be graded. Grades are not important. Grades are not why we do things. Learning is the goal. I want this to be talked about in class daily, that it's the learning that is important not whether you get an "A" or not. I don't want my daughter coming home with pages and pages of busy work homework night in and night out, crushing their spirit and making them hate school. They are kids who need to play and run around and be free, not homework robot machines who are victimized by grade-happy teachers who love to fill up their grade book.  It's okay for them to do school work at home, as long as it's "home learning" and NOT "homework."

*The role of the teacher is to be a leader. Show students by example how to try, how to risk, how to make a mistake, how to innovate, how to be passionate, how to put forth effort, how treat others, how to work together. When I send my kids to school, I want their teacher to lead them to be better people.

The Role of the Teacher is deep and meaningful and complex. It is an honor. It is one to be taken seriously, yet one to have a lot of fun with.
Own your Role as Teacher!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

So Long Owner's Manual!

I recently had a problem. The drain to my sink broke. Though I installed the sink to begin with, it had been a while so I had forgotten exactly how to do it. So, I found a tutorial on Youtube. Three minutes and thirty-five seconds later, I knew how to install a new drain. I had another problem. My dryer was not drying clothes properly. It would either run through the sensor dry cycle and still have wet clothes, or it would quit a few minutes after I started the cycle, thinking the clothes were dry (they were not). Manual dry worked and dried the clothes, but whenever I used the sensor setting, it didn't dry, so I figured that was the problem. So I called Sears (where I bought the dryer five years ago). Sears said they could send out a guy to look at it. It would cost $80, plus whatever he had to do to fix the problem (parts + labor). Or, as the polite phone operator informed me, I could pay $400 to get all my appliances covered for the next year. So I did some thinking and decided that both options seemed rather pricey and that there had to be a better way. A cheaper way. So, I checked YouTube. I had a pretty good idea the sensor setting was the problem so I "youtubed" Samsung sensor problems. Sure enough, I found a video showing how to replace the sensor bars. Piece of cake. I then looked up online how much sensor bars cost. $1.50 per sensor bars. Perfect. I ordered the sensor bars and eventually fixed the problem. All it cost me was $3 and 4 minutes of time watching YouTube. I was driving down the road and I had another problem. I wanted to customize the control panel on my dashboard. Did I pull out the thick owner's manual, locate the correct 'chapter' and figure it out? Nope. I went straight to Youtube and found what I needed. 

In our world, technology and in these examples YouTube specifically, creates a more efficient way of doing things. It saves time and money. If you have a problem or want to know how to do something, sifting through a big owner's manual or waiting for someone to show you in person is a thing of the past. You have a gazillion tutorials at your fingertips on YouTube, just waiting to be watched. Just waiting to teach you how to do something or help solve a problem. 

We want our students to have this mindset and equip them with the skills and knowledge to know HOW to find the best way to solve a problem. YouTube creates active problem solvers. They have a problem-they seek out the solution via Youtube-and problem solved. New thing learned. They do not just sit back and wait for someone to show them how or just give up because it's "too hard." 

Feel free to leave a comment on this blog post of how YouTube has helped you solve a problem. If you do not know how to leave a comment on blog posts, then look up a tutorial on Youtube! :) 

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Goodbye Letter

Each year, on the last teacher workshop day, I would write a "goodbye" letter to my students, then post it on my website for them to read. I would reflect on the school year and share my thoughts and feelings with my students. It was therapeutic. I thought it was a good way to bring closure to nine months of working together. Plus, I wanted my students to know how much they meant to me and that I would miss them. So I would sit at my desk, at my computer,  in my vacant classroom with my iced caramel latte and write to my students about highlights from the school year, things I learned, things I hoped they learned, wish them luck in the future and let them know that I would always be there to help them, if they needed it.  I would get sad knowing they wouldn't be my students again and that even though they would stop by and keep in touch, it wouldn't be the same. The "goodbye" letter was also a good way to reflect on the school year and think about if my class was the experience I wanted for my students. Did I inspire anyone? Did I challenge anyone? Did my students have fun? Did they think and create and discover on a regular basis? Did they enjoy my class? Did I work hard enough on building relationships? Many questions I asked myself and nowhere in that list did I mention standardized test scores. So, as the year ends, I would encourage you to write a 'goodbye' letter to your students. It would mean a lot to them. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Moving on!

The school year is about to expire. With it, I will end my time as Instructional Coach with Sioux Falls and be moving on to a new challenge in my educational journey. I will be an instructor at Dakota State University, in Madison, SD. I will be teaching social studies methods, geography methods, Native American studies, and The Middle School. I am excited for the challenge and the opportunity to work with college kids. I hope I can bring fun, engagement and excitment to these students and show them that school should be fun and exciting! It should be emotional and something you look forward to. To show them that school isn't just a building or a classroom, it's just learning and growing as a person, whether that's in social studies, math, or just as a person. Whether that's in a building or a coffee shop or a football field or walking down the street. School is a place that we want students to grow and be curious and to think and to wonder. My goal for my daughter's teachers is the same every year: Make sure they like school at the end of the year. If, by the end of the school year, they don't like school, then the teacher failed. Make sure they continue to be curious. Nothing would upset me more than for a teacher to crush my kids2-year-oldy. Kids are born naturally curious. Hazel, my 2 year old daughter, is curious about everything. How something works, how something feels, what happens when you touch something, what happens if you throw something, what something looks like, what her sister's are doing, what's happening on t.v. or the ipad or outside. I didn't teach her that. She was born that way. Not because she's special, but just because that's how it works. Kids are born curious, then at some point, they lose that or it's taken from them or it's crushed. School should be a place that grows curiosity and a place filled with emotional attachment. So how do we foster curiosity in our students? Be curious yourself. About a new topic. About life. About anything. It will spill over and ooze out into your classroom and your students will know what it means to be curious. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Cincinnati Zoo Video

Check out this video of the little boy who fell into the Silver Back Guerilla enclosure recently at the Cincinnati zoo. How frightening for the mother and the child. The child wanted to go "play in the water" in the enclosure so he scurried off and jumped into the enclosure. He is only 3 (or 4) so he perhaps didn't quite understand what he was doing. But the video is fascinating to see how the guerilla treats the boy and the panic that must be going through the mom and boy. Though the boy emerged unharmed, it's a sad story because the guerilla, 17 years old and an endangered species, was shot and killed to protect the boy. Tranquilizers were an option but the zoo staff feared the tranquilizers would cause the guerilla to lash out against the boy and/or possible pass out on top of the boy, thus crushing him.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

What kind of Leader are you?

No matter what your title is, you are in a leadership position. Whether you are a superintendent leading an entire school district, a principal leading a school, a teacher leading their students or students leading a group of peers, we are all leaders in some way. So the question is, are you a good leader? So to answer that question, more questions: 

*How many times do you have to tell those you lead that you are their leader? If you have to remind everyone that you are their leader, then you are probably not a very good leader. The good leaders I have worked for and worked with never have to say it, we just knew by the way they conducted themselves and treated those they led. 

*Do you inspire those you lead? Do you unlock their talent or suppress their potential? Do those you lead feel valued and like they are an important piece to the puzzle or do they feel expendable and replaceable? Is there a sense of community in those you lead or is there a divide amongst the team?  Do you act out of what's best for the higher purpose (student learning in the case of education) or act in certain ways to gain favor amongst a certain few? 

*Do those you lead feel a sense of autonomy and purpose? Do they want to work hard for you or in spite of you? Do you carry around a clipboard making notes, or do you roll up your sleeves and get in there WITH them? 

*Are you cocky and arrogant? Or humble and selfless? Would you rather lift those up around you or be the one to be elevated? 

You answers will clearly show what type of leader you are. We are all leaders, in some way. Maybe we lead thousands, maybe we lead just a few. Either way, we lead and must do so in a positive way. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

New from Google: Google Spaces

Google launched a new product recently called "Google Spaces." It is an attempt from Google to keep working their way into the Social Media game. Google Spaces is essentially a "space" that you and your friends/colleagues/students can use to share links, photos and discussions. It looks similar to Google Classroom's "Stream" but it doesn't have all the features like assignments, questions, etc. What you can do with Google Spaces you can do in Google Classroom, so why use Google Spaces? I think that it could definitely serve a purpose and be used in conjunction with Classroom. Google Spaces could be used to keep your official "Classroom" work separate from the more informal sharing you could do with Google Spaces. Google Spaces is very basic, eliminating confusion about how to use it. With the Chrome extension, if you come across a great website that you want to share, you can easily use the extension to share it to your Space. You could also do this with Classroom but the more websites you find/share, the more bogged down the Classroom stream would get, thus potentially burying important announcements and assignments.  I think Spaces would be a great tool for your and your students to use to find links and discuss their validity, discuss information, talk about how the site/tool could be used, brainstorm ideas, etc. You could post images and have a discussion about meaning and insight. 
Check it out! Picture tutorial below. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Student Learning Vs. Emotion

Student learning, student learning, student learning. It's very important. Yes. The other day, my daughter asked me what I learned in 7th grade. I told her I couldn't remember. It's not because I had bad teachers or that it was too long ago to remember. I couldn't remember because that's just the way it is. It's funny how at times, teachers get so bent out of shape with trying to squeeze in more content, more homework, more stress. How much time is spent on coming up with new strategies for learning, whether it's inquiry-based learning, document-based learning, exit checks, student-led, flipped classroom, gamification, and the list goes on.  The amount of time you spend on content and strategies should not be more than the time you spend on building relationships with the students.  At the very least, they should be equal. Ask them how they are doing. Ask them how their weekend was. Ask them what they want to be when they grow up. Ask them what book they are reading. Ask them about their hobbies. Ask them what they think about.  
Student learning is extremely important. But it doesn't happen unless there is a positive relationship between the teacher and the students and those students are emotionally invested.
So what do you spend your time doing? 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Is Assigned Seating a thing of the past?

Give them choice! Let them be free! Remove the shackles of traditional school and allow them to fly and forge their own path as they enter the room and ponder where to sit!  I mean, right? We should let our students sit where they want, every day, right? When we let the students choose where to sit, it's our way of respecting them, of treating them like an adult, of valuing their wishes. In our 21st century classroom, we can't possibly assign seats any longer right? It's so old fashion! It's micromanaging. It's...actually what we should do. So assigning seats a thing of the past? I would argue most definitely no.

Our goal is for our classroom to be a safe place where our students feel comfortable and feel safe. Sure, when we let the students pick where they want to sit, a large majority of them will think, "yeah! This teacher is cool!" and they will love it. They will get to sit by their friends, they will feel like they aren't being oppressed, and they will get excited. But what about the students who won't feel like that? For some students, the moment they hear "pick your own seats," they are filled with anxiety and dread because they don't know who to sit by, they don't have any friends, and they are nervous that they will once again be singled out as unpopular and laughed at. For me, I didn't want even one kid feeling anxious or nervous in my classroom. When students get to pick their seats, at least one student will feel anxious. No doubt. When they do NOT get to pick their seats, sure, some will complain, but nobody will feel anxious about where to go. They will all know where to sit and for those anxious kids, they will feel better and feel safer because that is their seat. They are supposed to sit there.

Assigned seats give each kid a place in the room. It allows them to enter, know exactly where to go and begin to focus on learning from the start, rather than 30 minutes into class when/if the anxiety and/or embarrassment has worn off because nobody wanted to sit by them. Assigned seats allow you to mix up the interaction between your students so they are introduced to new kids and possibly new friendships. It allows you to give your students the opportunity to learn to get along with people they either don't know or don't like which is totally a life skill.

So, be the "cool" teacher and assign seats---kids will be thankful that you did.  

Friday, May 6, 2016

New Features to Google Slides!

Google Drive launched a couple new features to Google Slides that I think you will like. Now, in Google Slides, you can be interactive with the audience. As you present your Google Slides presentation, the audience can go to a unique URL on their device and ask questions throughout your presentation. Once a question is asked, you can click to show it on the screen and address it/discuss it. This interactive feature can add a great new dynamic to your presentations.
Google Slides also allows you use "presenter view" so you can present your presentation to the screen, but on your computer screen, can see your notes, a timer, audience questions, etc.
A third new feature just added to Google Slides is the ability to turn the mouse into a "laser pointer" while presenting. This isn't as good as using an actual laser pointer because with an actual laser pointer, you are free to walk around and are not tied to the device you are presenting off of. Still, something to check out.  

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Google Add-on "Super Quiz" for grading Google Forms

Flubaroo works well but the knock on it is that students do not get their results instantly. They have to wait for the teacher to share the grades. This could be at the end of the period, end of the day, or maybe even the next day! With Super Quiz, another Google Sheets add-on, students hit "submit" on their google forms quiz and instantly get their results shared with them via Google Drive "Shared with Me" Folder. The spreadsheet works for the teacher, so you can sit back and just let it do its job. No manual sharing of grades for you. Once Super Quiz is set up, it just runs on its own. The only thing for you to do is look at and examine student results, reflect on how they did and make informed decisions moving forward. You are also able to give feedback to students based on how they did through Super Quiz. A nice, but somewhat complicated, feature. Check out the tutorial and maybe Super Quiz is for you.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Improve Writing Skills with "No Red Ink"

No Red Ink is a great tool to help students improve their writing skills. As the teacher, you create a class and monitor how your students are doing as they work through lessons and curriculum based on their interests. It is a great tool for differentiation and engagement. You assign lessons and have students work towards mastery of grammar, sentence structure, etc. The real magic is in the lessons themselves. Students choose what they are interested in and the lessons are created with those interests. For example, if a student selects "Harry Potter" as an interest, they will get sentences about Harry Potter to work on for their mastery lessons. Check it out and perhaps it is a tool that would fit nicely into your world! 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Teach Like a Circus

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the Circus in Sioux Falls, SD. As I sat in my seat, surrounded by cotton candy, squirming children, and light sabres, I thought about the nature of circuses and what exactly I was seeing as the tigers pounced, the camels trotted, and the ring master bellowed.  The circus is not just glitz and glamor. Here is what else you see while watching the circus. Amazing efficiency in transitioning from one act to the next. As one act ended, it was taken down as the next act began. Completed acts were put away by workers who knew exactly what to do and where to go.  Everything from taking down a cage to rolling up a tarp. It was all done with precision. They didn't have a lot of time so they needed to be quick, efficient, precise. You saw the result of an incredible amount of practice. How much practice goes into trying to jump a rope on a high wire? Or for a guy to catch another guy after 3 somersaults while swinging upside down, 40 feet in the air? The practice that goes into the acts is remarkable. But it's also necessary, as one slip up could cause serious injury or death. Looking for innovation? Look no further than the circus. It is oozing with innovation. How so? In the circus, there are no questions like, "Can we do this?" Instead, they are constantly asking themselves, "How?" They look at an act or an idea and ask themselves how they can make it happen.  "How can three motorcycle riders zoom around in an enclosed iron ball, side ways and upside down?" "How can I get this tiger to jump through a ring of fire?"

I think school should be a lot like the Circus. It should be a place with meaningful practice to master a skill, not busy work just to keep kids quiet. It should be a place of efficient ways of learning and moving. It should be a place of innovation in which kids are constantly asking themselves how they can do something new or better, rather than if they can do something. Like the circus, school should also be a place of fun and excitement. It should be a magical place for boys and girls of all ages. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The World's Hardest Game

If you are looking to get really frustrated, perhaps you should give this game a try. Self-proclaimed "World's Hardest Game" will be sure to frustrate you and annoy you long into the night. I tried it and after about 20 minutes, I was about ready to give my computer a Chuck Norris roundhouse kick to the face (screen). Anyway, it's just so annoying trying to get the box through the levels!!! For your information, I made it to Level 2. Then quit. Think you can beat me? Go for it. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

TIE Conference '16: A reflection

I attended the TIE conference this past week in Sioux Falls, SD. Educator's from all over the state and region descended upon Sioux Falls to gain knowledge in the world of Technology in Education. People's opinions of conferences are all over the place. Some love them, some don't. For me, I enjoy going to education conferences, especially ones geared toward technology. I like to see what's out there and what (if any) is new in the world of tech in education. The TIE conference is well done, especially the free nacho bar! Yum.  I had a chance to present on Gamification: how to turn your classroom into a Video game! With so many of the presenters taking the approach of "here's a tech tool and here's how you use it," I decided to share an idea/concept, rather than just functionality of tech tools. I had a lot of fun sharing this with the people in attendance. The traditional tech tool sessions did have value though, as I mined a few new tech tools here and there to check out and explore. I'm really excited about one in particular, but I will share that later, along with other nuggets I picked up along the way. Build suspense! 
The best thing about the TIE conference is not all the tech tools being shared or the new cutting technology being introduced or the nachos. It is without a doubt the ability to join together with so many educators to build connections, share ideas and get inspired about teaching. Here's the deal: it's easy to connect with people at conference but how often do you go to conferences? Not often. Maybe once a year. Maybe zero times a year.  Twitter is like one giant non-stop educational conference. The connecting that can be done through Twitter is amazing. It's a treasure chest for any educator. So yeah, conferences are great to make connections with people, but keep that going through Twitter! 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Education Cage Match: Finland vs. United States

Perhaps you have heard that school districts in Finland are awesome. Perhaps you have heard that the way they do things at school in Finland are so much better than the way we do things in the United States. Perhaps you have heard about how broken our educational system is and how much it needs to change and how terrible everything is. Perhaps there's truth to some of that. I recently read an article about school in Finland. Here's a few highlights: In Finland, students do not start formal schooling until the age of 7. Prior, they spend their time playing, exploring, and having fun---what kids should be doing. The school day itself has short hours. Homework is light, which is in direct contrast to many schools in the US that pack their students with homework every night. One of the most striking things I read was that in Finland, students get 15 minutes of recess EVERY HOUR of the school day. Not just once a day, not once a week. EVERY HOUR. Here in the US, many, many students get zero physical activity and spend zero minutes each day exercising.  Finland does not focus on standardized testing. They believe that students "learn through play." Teachers are respected at the same level as doctors. In order to teach in Finland, teachers need a Master's Degree. Finally, what I liked most of all, is that Finland operates under the philosophy that "educators are the ultimate authority on education," meaning decisions about school are not made by politicians, business people, know-it-all parents, bureaucrats, etc. It is the educators that make the decisions on education. Novel idea, huh?  While reading, I just got the sense that the atmosphere in Finland is one of freedom and creativity. It is an atmosphere that encourages expression and risks. It seems that students would run towards their school, not away from it. Maybe this type of schooling wouldn't work in the US. Maybe it's exactly what we need. 
Before everyone starts marching on our public school system and chanting a call for change, think about what OUR school system (or maybe in spite of it) has created: Google. Facebook. Twitter. YouTube, to name a few. Think about how creative and innovative those things are. Think about how much they have changed our world. Think about what Finland students use: Google, YouTube, the Internet in general! Think about how creative our musicians are, our entertainers. One of the most creative venues in all the world is movies and film. Think about how creative the US is in making movies. They are blockbusters world wide! When was the last time a Finnish movie was a world wide blockbuster? Never. The US is stacked with creativity and innovation. So yeah, our school systems could use some help. But we also have some tremendously awesome things happening as well. 

Click HERE for the full article from the LA Times

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Force users to make a copy of your Google Doc

If you have a Google Doc that you would like to share with people so they can make a copy of it for their own Drive, Google has a nice little trick to make this happen. When the users click the link to your Doc, it will force them to "make a copy" of the doc before they can access it. Once they click the button, a copy of the Doc will be automatically created in their Google Drive, which they can move to a folder to stay organized.  To do this, grab the URL from your document when it is open for editing. The last word on the doc URL is "edit." Change that word to "copy." Share that URL with people. 
See screenshots below. (Click image to enlarge)

Step 1:

Step 2:

Step 3:

Thursday, March 31, 2016

A fitting April Fool's Post

Happy April Fools! A day filled with pranks and looking over your shoulder.  In light of this foolish day, I thought I would share two tremendously funny videos. The people in these videos are true fools. But they are hilarious so I hope you enjoy. Watch them both. Make sure you listen to the announcers. Scott Sterling is my hero.

Scott Sterling playing Goalie for his Soccer Team

Scott Sterling playing volleyball.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The One Word

In college, you have to come up with this big long philosophy of education, yet you've never been a teacher. When you apply for a job, inevitably you have to discuss your philosophy of education and your "educational motto" if you will. It's a mission statement of sorts. A lengthy paragraph that explains where your head's at when it comes to education. Words, words, paragraphs, paragraphs. Do we need so many words? No. In this time of year, when the winter doldrums have long been established and kids are getting squirrely and weather begins to turn nice, it is only human nature to lose that spark a bit. It's only natural that this time of year causes a slip in our passion. It is because of this, that we need the ONE WORD. Think of a word. A word that epitomizes what type of teacher you want to be and what type of class you want to lead. Not a paragraph, not a sentence, not a phrase. ONE WORD. With that one word, you will refocus each day. With that one word, you will look at it and be reminded of why you are there and the mission in front of you. You don't need a bunch of words. You only need one--that one powerful word that when you look at it, it will remind you of everything that needs to be done.  I encourage you to think deeply. I encourage you to think of a word that clearly states what you want to do. I chose the word "Experience." I posted it above my desk and each morning, when I entered my classroom and walked up the stairs to my computer, I saw it and was reminded of what I need to do. I was reminded that I was here to create as many experiences for my students as possible. Lesson plans, activities, review games, tests, conversations in the hall way---no matter what the task, I wanted it to be an experience for my students. That's when relationships are built and when authentic learning occurs. Some days I probably failed. Some days I probably missed opportunities. But I kept coming back to that word. Kept it in my mind and I believe it did make a difference.  What's your word? "Inspire"? "Creativity"? "Innovate"? "Rapport"? "Passion"? "Enthusiasm"? "Student"? Pick one. Make the sign. 

30 Day Challenge for Teachers

Click the Picture to enlarge it
I saw this on Twitter recently and thought I would share it out in case it is something you would want to participate in. Feel free to use it, modify it or ignore it. However, if you choose not to do the 30 day challenge, hopefully there is something else out there you are doing that reinvigorates and inspires you to be the best teacher possible. Hopefully there is something you are actively doing that allows you to grow as a professional.  If you accept the 30 day challenge, good luck! 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

"Clean Up" Articles for your students

There are so many great articles on the Internet for your students to read. Whether you are looking for current events, non-fiction, fiction, etc, it's easy to find the article. The problem is, though, that most online articles are loaded with other "stuff" like advertisements, promotions, additional links, commercials, etc. The articles can get quite cluttered with all that extra stuff--stuff your students do not need to see. There is a very helpful Chrome extension called "PrintFriendly and PDF" that allows you to solve the problem of cluttered and distracting articles.  When you add this extension to your Chrome browser, you can quickly and easily clean up the articles.

Here's how:
1. When you find an article you want, click the Icon.
2. This will open up the article in a new window which will activate the tools to clean up the clutter. 

3. Click on all the items you do NOT want (ads, links, pics, graphics, etc.)
4. Print it off for your students or save it as a PDF, which then you could upload into Google Drive. 

After you have added the extension from the Chrome Web Store, follow these two screenshots.
Step 1

Step 2

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Observations from a Teach Like a Pirate Project

A book study I facilitated on "Teach Like a Pirate" just ended with each participant sharing their final project. For their final project, they had to create a "pirate" lesson for their students and then tell us about it at our last session. If you do not know what I mean when I say "Pirate Lesson" than please go read the book "Teach Like a Pirate." Here are a few observations I made while listening to all of these "pirate" lessons. 

Rarely did I see kids sitting in their desks. Students were up and moving around. Being active and getting involved. They were exploring and thinking. There was a lot of pretending going on. Students were pretending to be all sorts of things--college kids at a coffee shop reading, detectives at a crime scene, lyric writers, football players, characters from books, victims of social injustice, businessman trying to sell their idea on shark tank and the list goes on. Simulations allow kids to get immersed in the learning and apply what they know. Giving students the opportunity to have fun and pretend connects the learning to emotion and that's when it sticks.  There were many props being used. I am a huge believer in props. It adds so much to the environment and atmosphere of the classroom. It turns a boring room into an experience! Lamps, shark heads, football cards, dragons, army men, ping pong balls, empires, etc. Lots of these lessons incorporated music. There were hooks all over the place! Mystery tugs at the emotions of students and gets them to "buy in" to what's happening. Students get curious and can't help but want to know what is going on! Withholding information is a powerful way to draw students in. Give them a little bit and they will beg to know the rest of the story! One interesting thing I noticed was the amount of money it takes to teach like a pirate, in some cases. Pirate teachers are willing to spend some of their hard earned money to create experiences for students. A credit to them! However, Pirate teachers also know how use what they have and transform it into what they want to do. They can take something that is really easy to get a lot of, let's say Dixie cups, and use that creatively somehow. 
It was a blast getting to hear about all the great things going on throughout these classrooms. A truly inspiring moment!  

Monday, March 14, 2016

Educaplay-Review Tool with potential

If your review game has grown a bit stale, perhaps Educaplay is what you need to inject some new choices into your world. I love the internet for review games because it provides students with a plethora of review games to play, which they can continue to play after the school day ends and late into the night! Though Educaplay is not my favorite review game, it still can certainly serve a purpose in your world, potentially. There are a wide variety of types of games, some stronger than others. I would encourage you to check it out and perhaps you will find a spot for it in your classroom. I would not recommend creating online review games and just letting the students play them for a significant amount of class time-instead, do more interactive review together. Computer review can be very isolated--better for when they are by themselves. But what I would recommend is create online review games and encourage the students to play them when they have free time in study hall or at home. They will. They are drawn to games. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Strengthen your students writing skills

Let's write! Write, write, write. Have your students write. Write non-fiction, write creatively, write instructions, write sequences, write opinions, write feelings, write thoughts. Give your students a pen (or keyboard) and show them how powerful writing can be. Student writing is good, but there's a way to make their writing even better and strengthen those skills. The Hemingwayapp allows your students to enter their writing (sentence, phrase, paragraph) into the tool and find out some important information about their writing. The site will analyze for passive voice, complicated words, poor grammar, wordy sentences, run-ons, etc. It will also tell the student what their writing level is at. 
How to Use after you click on the link:

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Stuck on an Escalator

It won't take long for you to get the message with this video. A few seconds in, you will see what it is getting at. Getting stuck on an escalator is ridiculous. Obviously you can just start walking up the escalator if it stops moving. But how often do people get "stuck on an escalator?" I'm not talking about it in a literal sense, but a figurative one. It seems people face problems and think there's no solution. They are too narrow minded and can't see the big picture. The people in the video are standing there, stuck. They are only focused on what is right in front of them-the unmoving escalator. If they were to look up and see the big picture, they would obviously realize that a solution to their problem is right in front of them! Just start walking! They call out for help. How often do people call out for help right away when faced with a problem or challenge rather than try to fix it themselves? I think it happens a lot. They wait for help to arrive, rather than just getting after the problem and working out a solution. They feel that their problem is insurmountable, but it's the exact opposite--something they have the power to fix. They just need to realize it.  People climb aboard the escalator of life but think they are "stuck" because they feel like they aren't moving towards a goal or their passion or some higher calling. There's no such thing as being stuck on an escalator. Don't be stuck in life. Rather than just standing there, waiting for something to happen, put one foot in front of the other and start walking.