My Most Popular Posts

I've been a regular blogger for Edutopia (George Lucas Educational Foundation) since around 2009 and also serve Edutopia as an assistant editor. Here are my most popular posts. . . Don't over-Todd and read them all at once.  

30 Techniques to Quiet a Noisy Class

One day, in front 36 riotous sophomores, I clutched my chest and dropped to my knees like Sergeant Elias at the end of Platoon. Instantly, dead silence and open mouths replaced classroom Armageddon. Read More

Alternatives to "Round Robin" Reading

Rather than intimidating young readers with ancient pedagogy, encourage and empower them with livelier strategies such as partner reading or the manic Crazy Professor Game. Read More.

Dipsticks: Efficient Ways to Check for Understanding

What strategy can double student learning gains? According to 250 empirical studies, the answer is formative assessment, defined by Bill Younglove as "the frequent, interactive checking of student progress and understanding in order to identify learning needs and adjust teaching appropriately." Read More.  (This piece also includes a free download of 53 Ways to Check for Understanding). 

4 Things Transformational Teachers Do

The key to transformational teaching is not reacting, but rather a grinding obsession with analysis and preparation. Lee Shulman, as reported by Marge Scherer, suggests that expert teachers -- despite enormous challenges --demonstrate: Read More

9 Ways to Plan Transformational Lessons: Planning the Best Curriculum Unit Ever

When instructors engage learners, develop ability and understanding, and amplify students' identities, we call them "transformational teachers" -- professionals who provide learners with disciplinary View-Masters so that kids can see the world in stereoscope.

But how do they prepare? Do they just show up for class and spontaneously uncork the awesome?

Obviously not. Read More

Tips for Creating Wow-Worthy Learning Spaces

Does your classroom mirror the rectilinear seating arrangement popular in Sumerian classrooms, circa 2000 BCE? Or is your classroom seating flexible and tricked out with the IDEO designed Node Chair by Steelcase? What classroom design changes can you do on a budget that supports learning? Those questions and more are answered below. Read More.

Bell Ringer Exercises

Because of pressure to teach bell-to-bell -- the pedagogical equivalent of force-feeding geese to make foie gras -- many classrooms now start with bell work, short exercises that students complete while the instructor attends to attendance and other administrative chores. Read More.

New Classroom Questioning Techniques for the Best Year Ever

Teachers ask 400 questions a day -- 70,000 a year, according to The Guardian. While preparing so many questions is a lot of work, you can save time by using some of the questioning techniques (QTs) described below. Read More.

"What Did You Call Me?" – How to Remember Students’ Names

It’s a common predicament for educators. They familiarize themselves with students quickly, but can’t easily retrieve names on demand. The crush of first week stress compounds the problem by redirecting blood for a fight or flight response, dulling teachers’ focus. And biology does us no favors by storing visual information and names in separate parts of the brain. Read More.

Your Face Scares Me: Understanding the Hyperrational Adolescent Brain

Take off your snarky hat. Adolescents get a bad rap, says Dr. Daniel Siegel, and he should know. He's a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center, Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, Executive Director of the American Psychiatric Association, and author of many books, videos, and articles on the mind. Despite his endless awards and titles, Siegel displays in lectures the warm avuncularity of James Taylor in an off-the-rack suit as he urges parents and educators to stop viewing adolescence as a grim and crazed space that kids need to cross through quickly. Read More

How to Integrate Tech When It Keeps Changing

Asking if technology enhances learning is like asking if dogs are playful. Whether we're discussing tech or those furry mouth-breathers, the answer is the same: it depends on the situation. Here's a better line of inquiry: how do you coordinate knowledge, instructional practices, and technologies in order to positively influence academic achievement? Read More

8 Strategies for Teaching Academic Language

Academic language is a meta-language that helps learners acquire the 50,000 words that they are expected to have internalized by the end of high school and includes everything from illustration and chart literacy to speaking, grammar and genres within fields.

Think of academic language as the verbal clothing that we don in classrooms and other formal contexts to demonstrate cognition within cultures and to signal college readiness. Read More.

Rethinking Whole Class Discussion

Whole class discussions are, after lecture, the second most frequently used teaching strategy, one mandated by the Common Core State Standards because of its many rewards: increased perspective-taking, understanding, empathy, and higher-order thinking, among others. These benefits, however, do not manifest without a skillful and knowledgeable facilitator. Read More.

In Their Own Words: Teachers Bullied by Colleagues

"When I came back one day after lunch, the warehouse people had axed the reading loft [on the principal's orders] . . . This was only the beginning . . . He stripped away everything that made my room unique . . . I want out." - Teacher.  Read More.

​In Part II, I discuss Solutions for Teachers Bullied by Colleagues.

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