BRAIN BLAST: Year Enders

​Here are 13 activities to try on the last class of the semester or year. POP-UP TOASTSDave Stuart Jr. directs students to stand up and identify what they are most “thankful for from this year’s class” or “one funny memory.”MINDMAPHave students create mind maps of what they learned during the past semester.VIDEO TO FUTURE CLASSHave learners […]

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Brain Blast: Active Learning Strategies

Active Learning Strategies”Active learning requires students to do meaningful learning activities and think about what they are doing.” – Michael Prince. Check out these active learning strategies:FEEL IT – Find a way to feel intensely curious about the material so that it sticks in long term memory.REFLECT IN WRITING – Use “quick writes” and “writing […]

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Brain Blast: 6 Different Seating Configurations

The following Brain Blast is based on a book that I wrote with Blake Wiggs: Rethinking Classroom Design: Create Student-Centered Design for 6-12th graders (Rowan & Littlefield). One of the delights of teaching is changing up some of your routines, just for the sake of novelty. Watch what happens when students enter your class and see […]

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Brain Blast: Reduce Classroom Commotion

Causes of Classroom Management ProblemsReduce Classroom CommotionWork is too Hard or EasyIf work is too hard, kids resist. If it’s too easy, they become lethargic and crabby.Moving into GroupsWhen transitioning from independent work to group-work. Students should know which direction they should move, how fast, whether they are trading seats or moving their own chairs, […]

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7 Reader Response Journal Prompts

Here are 7 reader response journal activities that work for either narratives or expository texts. “Reader response is a school of literary criticism that ignores both the author and the text’s contents, confining analysis to the reader’s experience when reading a particular work,” according to Chegg.com. Wolfgan Iser’s explanation is deeper: “This is how it […]

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Brain Blast: Nervous Presenter Hacks

I used to be a nervous public speaker. That’s what happens when your aims exceed your abilities. After many years, I discovered some ways to feel more relaxed and effective. These tactics are identified in today’s Brain Blast.  The link below is an “affiliate link.” If you click on the link and buy the product, I will […]

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Brain Blast – How to Curb Non-Academic Smartphone Use in the Classroom

One of the wonders and frustrations of the 21st century classroom is the ubiquity of cell phones. Students are addicted to them, which makes focusing on (non-smartphone related) academic work difficult. Today’s Brain Blast lists a few strategies you can implement to help students follow your classroom smartphone rules.  The link below is an “affiliate […]

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Brain Blast: How to Model the Tough Stuff

Modeling concepts, skills, beliefs, performances, or dispositions is a major component of 21st century teaching.  This brain blast notes some of the fundamentals of explicit modeling when you expect students will find a lesson challenging.  The link below is an “affiliate link.” If you click on the link and buy the product, I will receive […]

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Index Card Journal Options: Structured Reflection or Sketchnote

I like to give my college education majors options for how they reflect. Such is the case of the Index Card Journal assignment–which can be turned in as structured reflection or sketchnote.The post also provides models and rubrics.​ Also, feel free to copy and modify the handout for your own purposes.Insta-ResponseHere’s how I am setting up my responses […]

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Brain Blast: 5 Practical Index Card Activities

As enthusiasm for classroom technology increases, we can forget how tactile, useful, and shareable index cards are. The brain blast below describes 5 activities that can be done with notecards. When a stack of 100 3×5 notecards (affiliate Amazon link) are dirt cheap, what are you waiting for? The link below is an “affiliate link.” If you […]

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The Greatest Gift: Teach Students To Fight Fake News

William (“Bill”) Perry, an educational psychologist and researcher at Harvard, developed a cognitive model in the 1960s. Among other takeaways, the model suggests that 12th graders reasoning abilities fall in the category of dualism (There is a right answer. Knowledge is black and white.) or multiplicity (Once the “right” answer is found, there is no need […]

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Our Atticus Finch Moment

“There’s a lot of ugly things in this world, son. I wish I could keep ’em all away from you. That’s never possible.” – Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mocking BirdSince the election, hate and violence have slithered out of their holes. Before the election, those snakes–snakes meaning rage, not people–followed the unspoken rule for the most part: express all […]

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BRAIN BLAST: Plan Faster

Planning lessons is one of those hidden duties that can cost instructors a lot of time. Here are four suggestions for speeding up the process: Brainstorm with Paper FirstSpend 8 minutes jotting, drawing, and coming up with ideas. Think PLAYFULLY. Aim for ideas that will delight and clarify. Resist the temptation to design PowerPoint or […]

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BRAIN BLAST: How To Scaffold Complex Texts

Advertisement: Our cool product of the week is recommended by Kevin Kelly of Cool Tools and is made out of 100% recycled plastic: The Bissell Natural Sweep Dual Brush Sweeper. On hard classroom floors or short carpets, pick up Fig Newton crumbs and even spilled beads. $28 on Amazon.

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Super Schools

How do we better engender a healthy, happy, and productive school environment where both teachers and students can flourish? Here are a five schools that are pointing us in the right direction:​ School #5 Provides A Mindful SpaceBaltimore’s Robert W. Coleman Elementary School partners with the Holistic Life Foundation to teach students mindful practices. Breathing is incorporated into […]

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Transmitter #53

Transmitter, from Todd’s Brain, is a weekly wrap up of research in education, brain hacks, teaching strategies, interesting statistics, Technology, social science, psychology, human interest moments, and news that impacts Teaching and learning. Because contemporary teaching encompasses many fields, so does Transmitter. Brain Hacks Avoid Gender-Related Communication Conflicts: Deborah Tannen’s Intimacy-Power Axis of Communication”Language is the […]

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Transmitter #52

Transmitter, from Todd’s Brain, is a weekly wrap up of research in education, brain hacks, teaching strategies, interesting statistics, Technology, social science, psychology, human interest moments, and news that impacts Teaching and learning. Because contemporary teaching encompasses many fields, so does Transmitter. Brain Hacks Deadlines Trigger DopamineDopamine reserves can become depleted if you don’t challenge […]

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Transmitter 50

Brain Hacks STUDY: An Eye Trick that Improves Creativity After instructing participants to broaden their focus of conceptual attentional scope (lift up your eyebrows and widen your eyes), subjects were administered various measures of creative problem solving and originality. The result showed that raising eyebrows and widening your eyes broadens the scope of your ideas and […]

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Transmitter #49

Brain Hacks Invoke the Family – A Persuasion Tactic ​Effective teaching is due in part to effective persuasion. Here’s one powerful technique: activate a person’s sense of family unity. When Robert Cialdini informed parents that their kids would receive 1 extra credit point on a quiz for filling out a questionnaire, guardian participation went from less […]

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Transmitter #48

Brain Hacks Would You Talk To Your Best Friend The Way You Beat Yourself Up? How to Cultivate Emotional IntelligenceThe co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Dr. Travis Bradberry, shares his favorite techniques for increasing anyone’s EQ. I’ve summarized some of the most tactical here: 1. When you notice someone having strong feelings, ask questions and listen. Indicate that […]

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Transmitter #47

Quick Navigation Brain Hacks How to Avoid Cognitive Tunneling Public Commitments Boost Compliance About Those Brain Traing Products. . .Teaching StrategiesNew Jersey Teacher Writes Pre-Test Inspiration on Students’ DesksPraise Do’s and Don’ts Bob Ross’s Secret to Spontaneous Painting: Meticulous PreparationNumbersTech WatchSecure Your CollaborationTwitter Abbreviations for TeachersApp to Help You Put Down Your Phone Easy Poster MakerMonday-Sunday: […]

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Brainy Teacher’s Weekly Transmitter #46 – Oct 3rd

Quick Navigation Brain HacksMnemonics How to Hack Your FocusTeaching StrategiesBrain-Based Ways to Enhance Recall Scaffolding Reading InstructionNumbersTech WatchWhat’s in that Photo?Productivity Converter:  Listen to Youtube on the GoResearchSTUDY: How Harmful is Yelling at Your Kids?Power Pose Research CritiquedSTUDY: Who Succeeds in College?Brain FeedInspiration to Work HarderMeditation PrimerLightning Round! Weekly Matsuo BashoFUNNIES Brain Hacks MnemonicsA while […]

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Brainy Teacher’s Weekly Transmitter #45 – Sept 26th 2016

Quick Navigation Brain Hacks What is Your Sleep Chronotype? Take the 45-Second QuizIs Social Proof Undermining Your Classroom Management?Teaching StrategiesSarah Tantillo’s 2-Step Paraphrasing StrategyIdeas for Combined-Level ClassroomsThinking MovesNumbersTech WatchName RandomizerRemediation Tech Tools: Educreations, ShowMe, PayPosit & EdPuzzleResearchSTUDY: Do Freshman Really Gain 15 Pounds? STUDY: Bonus of Being Tight-A**ed Introvert STUDY: Neuroscience Study Weighs in on Phonics-Based Reading InstructionWeekly […]

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BRAIN BLAST: Post-Reading Journal Alternatives

Every Wednesday on Todd’s Brain, I release a strategy poster or “Brain Blast.” These posters are a departure from the longer blog posts and the Transmitter Newsletter that is published on Mondays. Think of them as instructional snacks that are designed to be consumed by time-pressed teachers in 9 seconds or less. Please share them and […]

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Teacher Effectiveness Challenge Chart

In one page, here are a number of habits that will increase your teaching productivity and resilience. Link to Challenge Chart (PDF) 1. MEDITATE – For 11 minutes (11 minutes gives you 90% of the benefits of longer sessions) meditate, focusing on your breathe. Scientifically verified benefits of meditation include: increased happiness, decreased anxiety and stress, […]

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BRAIN BLAST: Halt Stress with Micro-Rest

Every Wednesday, I release a strategy poster or “Brain Blast” – a departure from the longer Monday blog posts. These are instructional snacks, designed to be consumed by time-pressed teachers in 9 seconds or less. Weekly Teaching Strategies Based on Neuroscience I’m In lorem ipsum dolor Here’s an example of a Todd’s Brain Newsletter.

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BRAIN BLAST: Set Strong Classroom Norms

Every Wednesday, I release a strategy poster or “Brain Blast” – a departure from the longer Monday blog posts. These are instructional snacks, designed to be consumed by time-pressed teachers in 9 seconds or less. Weekly Teaching Strategies Based on Neuroscience I’m In lorem ipsum dolor

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BRAIN BLAST: SUMMARIZERS

Every Wednesday, I release a strategy poster or “Brain Blast” – a departure from the longer Monday blog posts. These are instructional snacks, designed to be consumed by time-pressed teachers in 9 seconds or less. Weekly Teaching Strategies Based on Neuroscience. (Almost) Better than Tacos! I’m In lorem ipsum dolor

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Save the World: Teach Students to UnTrump

You’d think that after 3% of the global population died during World War II, fascist leadership would fall out of fashion. Nope. Fascism is present in Russia, Turkey, Austria, Hungary, Poland, France, Germany, Greece and now the USA because of the Republican candidate for President, Donald Trump (he’s not the only one, but his political […]

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BRAIN BLAST: New Vocabulary Learning Strategies

Every Wednesday, I release a strategy poster or “Brain Blast” – a departure from my longer Monday blog posts. These are instructional snacks, designed to be consumed by time-pressed teachers in 9 seconds or less. Get The Todd’s Brain Insider Newsletter Each Week. It includes Teaching Tips Not Published on this Blog. Keep up to date […]

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Money and Common Sense Are Keys to Teacher Recruitment

Recruitment StrategiesIt is no mystery how to recruit effective teachers as ample research on the topic is available. Here are four surefire approaches:1. Offer service scholarships.According to Stanford Professor Linda Darling-Hammond, “Nearly all of the vacancies currently filled with emergency teachers could be filled with talented, well-prepared teachers if 40,000 service scholarships of up to […]

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How to Add Active Learning Activities to Any Class

Every Wednesday, I release a strategy poster or “Brain Blast” — a departure from my longer Monday blog posts. These are instructional snacks, designed to be consumed by time-pressed teachers in 9 seconds or less.…starting now! Try my weekly newsletter, filled with teaching tips, new tech tools, neuroscience hacks, and more. If you don’t like […]

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Brain Blast: Study Tips

Every Wednesday, I release a strategy poster or “Brain Blast” — a departure from my longer Monday blog posts. These are instructional snacks, designed to be consumed by time-pressed teachers in 9 seconds or less.…starting now! Subscribe to my Weekly Strategies Newsletter for Neuroscience-Based Teaching Strategies–Free!In the last 10 months since I began my Newsletter, […]

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Writing to Change the Culture: A Woman’s Letter to the Freshman who Assaulted Her

Warning: This post discusses a sexual assault. Here’s a story about a heinous sexual assault against a 22 year old woman. We’ll call her Sarah–a pseudonym. It’s also about her superpower: writing. On Friday at midnight,  I read a letter Sarah composed and read at the sentencing of her attacker, a Stanford freshman who was unanimously convicted of 3 felony sexual assault charges. Although […]

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Family Reading Meeting

A while back, a mail carrier with “Thomas Jackson” on his uniform dropped off a package at my office. I see him regularly because I often one-click order presents for myself on Amazon (what I call a celebration of Todd, my wife calls a problem). On this occasion, Mr. Jackson noticed “English Education” on my door and asked if I had a moment […]

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Inspirational Video Blasts

Need a virtual pick-me-up for students? Or for yourself? This week’s post features 16 of the most motivational videos available on YouTube. Use them as blasts of motivation for you and your students. Meanwhile, keep on keepin’ on!Your Words and Thoughts have Physical Power – Will Smith Olympic Highlights 2012 – Music: by Gym Class Heroes feat. Ryan Tedder. Humans […]

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Save Time Responding to Essays: Letter to the Class

Like anything in teaching, improving student writing is complicated, technical, subjective, and –at times–backbreaking. Over the years, I’ve picked up some writing instruction tenets that I’ve learned, and that are also supported by research: ​regularly assign a variety of writing genres, in and out of class.afford students opportunities to receive feedback (the sooner, the better).guide students through […]

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Encouraging the Impulse to Annotate

Annotating has remained unidirectional—someone comments on a text —ever since novelists and scholars wrote prose to accompany Paradise Lost and didactic Greek verse.However, annotation does not adequately signify the complexity, creativity, and multiplicity of communication that have resulted from the Web 2.0 renaissance of (mostly) free social media tools–tools that make it easy and exhilarating to mashup, […]

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14 of the Best Election Podcasts

When were were mowing lawns as a kids, my brother and I tuned our radios to the only station that featured talk. Dirty and sweaty, we’d blissfully listen to adults talk about issues and pretend we were part of the adult world. In 2005, I listened to the few podcasts that were produced–mostly technology conference lectures. In 2016, […]

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Classroom Design Quiz: Are You Up on the Research?

Last week, Rethinking Classroom Design: Create Student-Centered Learning Spaces for 6-12th Graders, was published. To highlight some of the research on classroom environments that Blake Wiggs and I reviewed while developing the book, we’ve created a quiz! Does florescent lighting hurt learning? What temperatures start to impair academic achievement? What kind of student doesn’t like to sit in […]

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Your Principal Scores Your Teaching as “Developing”: How to Get Up Off the Mat

It’s a nightmare. After observing your third period, the school principal marked two elements of your instruction as developing. You try to apply growth mindset to the situation: “I’ll dig in and improve through sheer effort.” You try to re-center your emotions with braggadocio: “King Kong ain’t got nothin’ on me!” You go hyperbolic about relying more on student […]

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QuizFizz: 20 Ways to Make Low-Stakes Assessments Delightful (And Useful)

In 1998 and again in 2006, I tried to give students low-stakes quizzes every time class met, but was unsuccessful. The level of stress these assessments brought about in students negatively impacted the remaining class time; fear and stress impair executive brain functioning. Also, scoring these quizzes was monotonous and swallowed my home-time like a black […]

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Preventing New Teacher Burnout

A local doctor recently asked, “You know what two professions I prescribe the most anti-anxiety medication for? Cops and teachers.” This is not surprising, as rookie instructors possess energy and fear–two qualities that can lead to anxiety and burnout when struggling with what is arguably “the single most stressful job there is.”So how can school administrators unburden new […]

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Is There Good Mind Control in Education?

Authors’s Note: While this personal meditation on coercive techniques uses the National Writing Project Summer Institute as an example, it should be noted that almost every elite institution has similar characteristics. The extraordinary work of NWP, its participants and leaders, has made an incalculably positive contribution to education.I Was a Cult Buster For a Brief Time in […]

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Everything Your Brain Should Know About Speeding Up Student Email Communication

Frictionless Teacher-Student CommunicationDo you have an email policy that you share with students on the first day of class?  I do, and it saves me buckets of time. The idea was “borrowed” years ago from Trey Martindale, a professor and Fellow of the University of Memphis Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. He gets more email than Obama. […]

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The Best Education Software Isn’t Education Software

How long have well-meaning adults undercut things that kids enjoy? Exchanging chocolate chip cookies with wheat germ bars (c’mon!), for example, or replacing neighborhood play with kid-friendly yoga. So it doesn’t surprise me when classroom software tries to combine arcade style gaming with skill building, or adds big buttons and garish colors reminiscent of Fisher […]

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Kids’ Global Conversations are Being Livestreamed!

We all want to help students engage in global conversations that will allow them to leverage communities and knowledge, and maybe save the world. But we’re too distracted by the centuries-old debate over how learners should be educated. One side of the debate was enacted by the Roman Catholic Church between 500 A.D. and 1500 A.D. Throughout Europe, priests transmitted knowledge (scripture) via recitation and […]

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Everything Your Brain Should Know about Teaching Grammar

The debate over grammar is not over whether it should be taught, but how.  This post introduces a number of tactics. But let’s start with the fundamentals. There are 4 major ways grammar is taught: Decontextualized Exercises – Includes worksheets, handbook exercises, daily oral language, and bellringers.Contextualized Exercises – Problems chosen from students’ essays. These can also […]

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Tentpole Teaching

In 2005, I remember telling a student that I was working on a ten-year plan. That is, I hoped to be a significantly different and better teacher in ten years. And I think I am, mostly because of tentpole teaching–where I try out a major new way of teaching each semester. If a big idea […]

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9 High School Learning Games

Games unite many of the most powerful initiatives in education: problem based learning, brain-based strategies, technology, collaboration, inquiry, and student engagement. If you aren’t paying attention to gaming, you’re missing a major transformational force for student learning.With the help of Christine Leary, I’ve assembled 9 of the best technology-based learning games–a few of them are even […]

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Talking Engagement with Edspiration

This week, I was interviewed on John Linney’s Edspiration podcast about a post that he read on this blog Everything Your Brain Needs to Know about How to Engage Students. Here are the highlights from that 30-minute interview. 1. What is a favorite quote that inspires you? Why?I customized one of those tacky silicone wristbands with […]

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10 Things Your Brain Should Know about Standards Based Grading

Why STANDARDS BASED GRADING?The purpose of STANDARDS BASED GRADING is to provide a more accurate indicator of students level of achievement or performance (Stiggins, 2008) and to accurately link curriculum standards to grading.When did STANDARDS BASED GRADING start?The national standards-based reform movement that emerged in the 1990s called for “high standards for all students” to […]

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16 Flicks about Teachers

Top Teaching DocumentariesNumber 7 It’s important for our students to see us there, and approachable, and in their community.” 180 Days: Harsville (2015) Number 6 We want technology to help us create an environment where students are active and engaged.” Future Learning (2012) Number 5 It’s the teacher’s job to point young minds towards the […]

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Got Social Media? That’s Classroom Engagement

There is a tendency for each generation to privilege the popular literacies that they grew up with and dismiss literacies embraced by subsequent generations. For example, those milk toast Nancy Drew mysteries in the 1950s were lambasted by adults for causing kids to distrust authority. Today social media is similarly targeted by teachers as a […]

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Everything Your Brain Needs to Know about Engagement

40 Strategies to Enhance Student EngagementWHAT IS ENGAGEMENT? Ask yourself, what affinity did you engage in when you were 12 that you had an absolute passion for? That is the definition of engagement. What does engagement feel like? Lean forward in your chair, than lean back. Feel the difference? Schoenbach and Cynthia Greenleaf define engagement: […]

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How to Help Young Writers

This evening, I was interviewed about how to teach writing by an East Carolina University student, Mikel Peterson. I’ve written the questions from Mikel below, along with my answers. How do you get student to explore relationships with literacy? Half the job is modeling, the other half is giving students rich literacy experiences. The real way […]

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Tough Class? Use the 1st Rule of Hypnotism

On my first day as a teacher in Minneapolis, I knew that any type of professional hesitation on my part could lead to classroom management disaster, particularly since three English teachers had already quit before I was hired late in September. And despite my best effort, I was completely overrun. Here’s what the first few […]

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Obama Reads Like a Writer

Obama’s summer reading list doesn’t surprise me. Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri All That Is by James Salter  (Source: Entertainment Weekly) It doesn’t surprise me because […]

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How Teachers and Guardians can Work Together

This morning, the entire faculty and administration of South Greenville Elementary School in sweaty North Carolina walked through the projects where most of their students live. People stepped out onto religiously trimmed lawns to wave and smile. “What are y’all doing here?” shouted one parent. “Visiting,” a teacher hollered back. In fact, the school personnel […]

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10 Classroom Door Quotes

A classroom door is a portal from the hallway to a consciousness of your choosing. Here are 10  quotations to make it count.10. “Life is a song – sing it. Life is a game – play it. Life is a challenge – meet it. Life is a dream – realize it. Life is a sacrifice […]

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20 Teacher Humblebrags

1. Too bad the kids act up in all the other classes. They never cause me trouble. ​ 2. They thought I was out of touch—right up until I mentioned listening to Tame Impala on Beats 1. 3. They applauded so loud after the PowerPoint that the teacher next door complained about the noise. 4. […]

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My Favorite MLK Photo

Photo credit: Bob Fitch, a staff photographer for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) , Montgomery, Alabama airport, 1966 In 1995, I found this photo in a display in the Chicago airport after an interview for an English Education Professor job at the University of Georgia. The whole interview went south after one of the […]

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