Engage Students Through Creating Podcasts

“Pedagogy is the driver, technology is the accelerator.” Michael Fullan

Podcasts are a series of audio recordings that you can listen to at anytime. Podcasts are great in the classroom because students can show what they know in a different format and other students can listen to them and learn too. Here are five ways you can use podcasting in the classroom:

  1. Book Talk: When students finish a great book they want to share, they can create a podcast highlighting the book for the book talk series. Other students can listen to the podcasts to see what book they might want to read next.
  2. How To:  This podcast series can be subject based on open to all areas. Students post “how to’s” to show what they know and help other students. For example: How to annotate text or how to apply properties of operations as strategies to add, subtract, factor, and expand linear expressions with rational coefficients.
  3. Student Spotlight: Spotlight a student each week. Students share about themselves to help build classroom culture and climate.
  4. Untold Stories: Students choose a different perspective of a historical event, book etc.
  5. Current Events: Students chose a current event, summarize the event and why it is important.


It is important to plan, produce and the publish! Before the students record their script, they must have it written out and get it approved by me. Then the students produce the podcast using the voice memos app that is on the iPad. Below are the directions that are posted, which I have previously modeled for them. I also have a podcast helper if a student gets stuck. 

  1. Press the record (red button) and start your podcast.
  2. When you are finished click on the record button again to stop the recording.
  3. Then click done and it will ask you to save your voice memo, click save.
  4. Label it with your last name and episode number. Example: Thompson E1.
  5. Click on your recording again and it will open up and give you three options share, edit or delete. Click on the share button and email it to me (the teacher).

Once they send it to me, I edit the files using iMovie to add the theme music and take out any pauses etc. You can also use Garageband to edit as well. Depending on the age level students can do this process too.  Finally you publish; I chose to use my website as the host for the podcasts. This way the students always know where to find them.

Here are a few other tools that have helped with podcasting in my classroom:

Podcasting tips: Use this resource before writing your script to get ideas.

Script Timer: Use this web tool to help determine the length based on your script.

Benefits of Podcasting:

  • Students are practicing reading, writing and listening based on multiple content standards.
  • Students are using high order thinking skills to create and critically think.
  • Students are being assessed in a different way.
  • Podcasts don’t have to be individual but students can collaborate too!


Please share ideas you have done in your classroom using podcasting!

Neuroscience and Learning

“All humans behavior and learning, including feeling, thinking, creating, remembering and deciding, originate in the brain. ” By Mary Helen Immordino-Yang


Neuroscience is the sciences which deals with the structure or function of the nervous system and brain. Understanding the brain is very important to understanding how one learns. I believe all educators should have to go through a neuroscience class to be made aware of how the brain works; below is a brief snapshot of three reasons why.

Neuroplasticity describes how the brain is malleable and changes over time and our lives. This change matters what we think about learners because intelligence can be developed as learning can literally change the brain. Students need to practice skills multiple ways as that helps build stronger connections in the brain. Intelligence is not fixed at birth but it is always changing and building neuropathways between neurons.  It is important for children to know the brain is always changing and is malleable. Teacher’s views of intelligence affects students outcomes. If they view intelligence as fixed they will have negative consequences for students learning and the classroom has a different atmosphere because there is more judgement. In a growth mindset classroom there is more focus on nurturing and learning as a journey.  Jeff Raikes, Former CEO of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation says that “Growth Mindset is a key to closing the achievement gap.” Read some of my previous posts on growth mindset here!

Metacognition is important because it links everything together as a result of thinking about the learning. The self-regulation approach aims to help learners think about their own learning more explicitly so as to take increased responsibility for achievement, resulting in the joy of the learning process. Integrated learning helps learners understand concepts on a deeper level because it is connected which promotes long-term memories verse factual single skills.

Neuromyth are misinterpretations of brain science data ie myths such as “We only use of 10% of our brains!”- This is NOT true! Another neuromyth is that we can multitask. You can not multitask as the brain can only focus on one piece of information at a time. When you are trying to learn something you need to focus. Trying to multitask impacts learning because it can lead to decreased memory, executive functions and increased brain cell death. It also comes with a cognitive cost of not becoming part of the long-term memory. This happens due to buildup of cortisol (stress hormone). Doing too much task shifting can have a negative impact on learning, attention and memory. It also changes the way one learns and lowers the ability to stay focused on one task. When multitasking it takes twice as long to complete a task and more mistakes are likely going to be made.

Want to learn more about neuroscience and learning, check out some of these resources:

Neuroscience and the classroom: Making Connections Site

Brain Science for Principals: What School Leaders Need to Know 

Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina 

Emotions, Learning, and the Brain: Exploring the Educational Implications of Affective Neuroscience by Mary Helen Immordino-Yang 

Lyman, L. (2016) Brain Science for Principals: What School Leaders Need to Know. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. 

The Importance of our Words as Educators

Today I have for you an amazing guest blogger….the fantastic Danielle Springs, an outstanding educator and a life long learner! 

In this blog post I am going to share with you the importance of the awareness of our words when interacting with our students, and the significance of strong teacher and student relationships.

Let’s start with strong relationships. When I reflect on my years as a student in the public education system, I notice one common trend: my life was positively impacted by the teachers who took the time to build genuine relationships with me and my peers. These teachers were the same ones who used their words in a positive manner and encouraged me and made me want to come to school. Initially, this is the exact reason why I became a teacher; I’m in it for the children. They matter. Their voices matter, their choices matter, and their feelings matter. If you are familiar with Personalized Learning, then you know that my advocacy of strong relationships directly aligns.

As an educator, I make it my priority to intentionally build strong relationships. I am fortunate to teach at a school and in a school district that places relationships and students above all. I make a point to build relationships and not force them.  Eventually,  it  becomes to natural and second nature that I build them without even knowing.  I am going to talk with you today about some of the ways, big and small, that I strengthen the relationships I have with my students.

First and foremost, I stand outside of my classroom door each and every morning greeting my students. You will not find me sitting at my desk preparing for the day ahead or grading papers. I greet each student with a hug, a warm smile, and cheerful “good morning!”. I also take this time to greet their siblings if they are walking past my room to their classes, greet students in other grade levels, and participate in secret handshakes that the student create with and for me. I ask them if they had a good morning preparing for school… and sometimes, the answers surprise me. For example, most of the time, their mornings are routine and the same. Other times, they wake up late, forget to eat breakfast, or feel frazzled, sometimes they are simply “still tired!”. Knowing this is very important to me. I can take it into consideration if I notice any changes in their usual behaviors throughout the day. This is one small step in building relationships that any teacher can easily implement.

When the bell rings every morning at 8:15, we begin our morning meeting. I cannot stress the importance of this opportunity to build your classroom culture, which directly relates to your relationships with students.  I allow students to choose topics that we discuss, share their personal lives, and express their interests or concerns. I encourage collaboration and stake my claim for the importance of taking academic risks. We participate in team building activities and set goals as a class and as individuals.. We do all of this together, and learn how to encourage one another along the way. I encourage you to listen to Podcast number 17 for more information on building classroom culture through morning meetings.

Another simple way to build your relationships is to spend time with your students at recess.  I rotate throughout the week the areas in which I spend my recess time. Not only am I observing and actively watching the students play, I am also a participant. I engage in games of kickball either as a player or the referee, I play four square and make my way around the court from joker to king, I take nature walks to our big Oak Tree, I play gaga ball, and other times I simply walk around and students crowd around me asking me to either talk or play a game. I have students who walk up to me at the beginning of the school day and say “will you please play with me at recess this afternoon??” I see this carry over into the classroom and my bond with each student as an individual grow and strengthen.

Another subtle way to build relationships is to encourage and seek out my students so that their voices are heard. I do not create a pathway without student input. I make it a point to incorporate choices, videos, activities, and assignments that the students ask for. I intentionally place topics on pathways or embed them into my lessons that I know students are interested in and can relate to. I want my students to know our classroom is a community and is truly their room- not mine.  I also stay true to my word. If I tell a student I will have something ready for them tomorrow, then I do it, even if I remember just as a place my head down in bed at night to go to sleep. It is important to not make empty statements, even if they are trivial in our minds. This builds trust and stability.

I also want to encourage each and every educator who is listening to not be afraid to share with students about your personal life and your feelings. If I forget to do something or make a mistake, I tell them right away. I am open and I am honest. I share stories about my personal life all the time. My students feel as if they know my family on a first name basis, because I make it a point to be an open book.  This trust and vulnerability will allow for a two way street of communication and thus building your relationships.

I mentioned previously that we can build relationships in subtle ways at school, but I also want to mention about one way that I have strengthened my relationships with my students outside of school. I intentionally send out surveys to my parents and students at the beginning and end of each school year. I use surveys provided by the author of one of my favorite books, “Passionate Learners” by Pernille Ripp. I highly recommend every teacher to read it, especially if you are implementing Personalized Learning. The beginning of year school survey is beneficial for many reasons, one which includes the parents and students speaking on behalf of student interests and out of school activities. As a teacher I have attended soccer games, basketball games, baseball games, swim meets, and gymnastics competitions. One of my favorite moments this school year was at a baseball game I attended for one of my boys. He stepped up to bat and on the first pitch, he hit the ball to the fence. This led to a home run! Instead of heading straight to the dugout as he waited for the next batter, he sprinted through the dugout and headed straight for me. He gave me the biggest hug and told me that it meant the world to him that I was at the game and was able to witness this moment. Our relationship has been exceptional ever since. He knows I care about him and love him, and this is so much more impactful than solely focusing on academics.

The last point I want to make is that as educators we need to be intentional of the way in which we speak to our students. In the book, “Choice Words”,  by Peter H. Johnston writes this: “To me, the most humbling parts of observing accomplished teachers is seeing the ways in which they build emotionally and relationally healthy learning communities- intellectual environments that produce not mere technical competence, but caring, secure, actively literate human beings.”

Our words matter. I encourage all educators to pick up a copy of “Choice Words” by Peter H. Johnston. It reminds us that our language affects children’s learning. If a student is struggling with a concept, we need to be careful of the way in which we approach our corrections. If we address the area of their needs in a positive light, there is a greater chance that the student will not be discouraged, thus continuing to build on our relationships and their progress academically. For example, I am thinking of a student I previously taught that was reading several grade levels below proficiency. During a research reading conference, I asked her to read her book out loud for me to hear. She read a sentence and replaced a key word with an incorrect word. When she was finished, she looked up at me. She expressed that it did not sound right, but that she could not figure out what the sentence said. There are several ways that I could have approached this. I could have told her the answer. I could have made her try again. I could have asked her to keep going. But, instead, I asked her this- “Why do you think that the sentence doesn’t make sense?” and “What can you do to help you figure out the meaning of this word?” Once we went through strategies together,  I told her that I was proud of the way SHE figured that out. If you notice- I did not take credit for giving her the answer. I let her work through it, only providing her tools. I celebrated her ability to figure out the unknown word. I celebrated her ability to read. I chose my words wisely and I allowed this teaching moment to build on our relationship while encouraging her to be a reader. Peter H. Johnston writes about a similar scenario that occurred and I encourage you to read “Choice Words” for more.  In reading conferences and in other situations throughout the school day, we find ourselves with opportunities to correct students and choosing our words is vital in all situations.

Let’s think about a time when a student may have become quickly frustrated in the classroom and acted upon his or her frustrations, I might say “What can I do to help?” or “What are your next steps?” rather than immediately correcting the behaviors and actions. This shows that I am going to support him or her in making a decision, rather than being a dictator. It is important for students to know that they are able to have feelings- and this includes frustrated feelings as well. We must celebrate their ability to express their frustrations and help them find solutions and ways to move forward.

The last thing I want to leave you with is this: there will never be a student of mine who goes home at the end of the day without knowing he or she is loved by me. I tell each and every student daily that I love them and care for them- and then I prove my words through my actions. I encourage all educators to do the same. Build your relationships. Love your students endlessly. Watch them grow both emotionally and as a result, academically.


Five Must Have Literacy Books to Add to Your Shelf

“A child who can read will be an adult who thinks.” By Sasha Salmina

The goal of literacy instruction is to build students confidence, ability and skills in reading and writing. There are numerous engaging, effective strategies to get students to think about, write about, read about, and talk about content. Below are five of my favorite books (in no particular order) to help improve literacy instruction.


  1. Mindsets and Moves: Strategies That Help Readers Take Charge, Grades 1-8 by Gravity Goldberg
  2. Who’s Doing the Work?: How to Say Less So Readers Can Do More by Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris 
  3. Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration by Pernille Ripp
  4. The Reading Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Readers by Jennifer Serravallo – She also recently came out with

    The Writing Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Writers and I have heard great reviews but have not personally read it yet.

  5. From Pencils to Podcasts: Digital Tools for Tansforming K-6 Literacy Practices- A Teachers Guide for Embedding Technology Into Curriculum by Katie Stover Kelly and Lindsey Yearta

If there is a literacy book you think that should be added to this list, please add it in the comments section, as I am always wanting to build my toolkit and book list.

Promoting Random Acts of Kindness in the Classroom

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” By Aesop

Random Acts of Kindness Week, February 12-18, is a week-long celebration dedicated to encouraging people to do one thing: be kind. You can follow the thread at #RAKweek2017.

kindnessThe Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Foundation is a great site to help you integrate RAK in your classroom. RAK goal is to “ultimately striving to make kindness the standard in every aspect of life. Whether it’s helping a stranger in need on your way to work, instilling the importance of kindness in students in a classroom, or a mutual demonstration of appreciation of those closest to us, our end-goal is to make kindness not an act at all, but a reflex. And to make the need for kindness obsolete by the overwhelming and undeniable presence of it everywhere.”

RAK is apart of the hidden curriculum in schools but there are lots of ways to integrate it seamlessly so that it is apart of your classroom culture. Below are five ways you can integrate RAK:

  1. Talk about RAK during morning meetings and/or advisory time.
  2. Start a bucket filling program in your classroom or school
  3. Make it apart of your Interactive Read Aloud. Here are some book titles to get you started:
    1. Have You Filled A Bucket Today? A Guide To Daily Happiness For Kids by Carol McCloud

    2. Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson, Fumi Kosaka

    3. We All Sing With The Same Voice by J. Philip Miller and Sheppard M. Greene

    4. Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

    5. A Sick Day For Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead

    6. Last Stop On Market Street by Matt de la Pena

    7. Horton Hears A Who by Dr. Seuss

    8. Enemy Pie by Derek Munson

    9. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

    10. The Three Questions by Jon J Muth

  4. Show video’s demonstrating RAK. You can use the RAK Video Library as a resource!
  5. Ripil App is a free “kindness tracker” where you can post daily RAK goals.

You can start integrating RAK by also becoming a RAKtivists = Random Acts of Kindness activist! You can apply to be a RAKtivist here.

More Articles and Information about RAK:

Random Acts of Kindness Week: Encouraging Empathy and Appreciation of Diversity in Your Classroom

RAK Blog

102 Random Acts of Kindness – Ideas to Inspire Kindness

9 Ways to Introduce Students to Random Acts of Kindness

Discover Educations: Discover Kindness in the Classroom

Develop Growth Mindset Within Students Through Questions

“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” By Theodore Roosevelt


Over the last few years, the idea of growth mindset has been a popular topic in education and continues to be. Knowing that our brains can change, even as adults is a wonderful thing! According to neuroscientists, the brain is like plastic, it can be reshaped over time, forming new neural pathways and this is called neuroplasticity. The things we do or say more often become wired into our brains as habits. Researchers say it takes around an average of 66 days to form a new habit.

To cultivate a growth mindset within students you can use these questions in you classroom to build new habits.

  1. What are your goals?
  2. Are you proud of your completed work; why or why not?
  3. What did you do today in ____(fill in subject) that made you think really hard?
  4. What will you do to improve upon this _____ (fill in the blank with story, design etc)
  5. Who can you seek feedback from to make your _____(fill in the blank with story, design etc) better?
  6. What mistakes did you make that taught you something new or to do differently?
  7. What strategy are you going to try?
  8. What will you do to solve this problem?
  9. How will you tackle this problem or challenge?
  10. Did you make good use of your resources?
  11. How can you do _____(fill in the blank: ex this math problem) differently?
  12. What will you do to challenge yourself today?

My other blog posts on Growth Mindset:

Tools to Help Students Build a Growth Mindset

Growth Mindset Books for Students

Musing on Mindsets

A site with songs to help students learn and understand the brain: Neuroscience for Kids Songs

I would love to learn more questions that you ask your students to help develop a growth mindset. Please add them in the comment section.


Teaching Elementary-Level Learners About the Brain

User Generated Education

Judy Willis in How to Teach Students About the Brain writes:

If we want to empower students, we must show them how they can control their own cognitive and emotional health and their own learning. Teaching students how the brain operates is a huge step. Even young students can learn strategies for priming their brains to learn more efficiently.

Teaching students the mechanism behind how the brain operates and teaching them approaches they can use to work that mechanism more effectively helps students believe they can create a more intelligent, creative, and powerful brain. It also shows them that striving for emotional awareness and physical health is part of keeping an optimally functioning brain. Thus, instruction in brain function will lead to healthier learners as well as wiser ones.

Here is a run down of the learning activities I did with my gifted elementary students to teach them about their…

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Engaging Instructional Strategies

“Instruction does not prevent wasted time or mistakes; and mistakes themselves are often the best teachers of all.” By James Anthony Froude

Instructional strategies are one of the most important elements for an engaging and effective learning environment. When instructional strategies are linked to the needs and interests of students along with being tied to the curriculum, outcomes, and assessment; learning is enhanced. Below are some of my favorite engaging instructional strategies:

All Areas:

  1. Playlist and/or Pathways
  2. Effective Questioning
  3. Sketch Notes
  4. Think Pair Share
  5. Turn and Talk
  6. Jigsaw
  7. Student Led-Conference
  8. Accountable Talk
  9. R.A.F.T (Role, Audience, Format and Topic)
  10. Socratic seminar


  1. Close Reading
  2. QAR (Question Answer Response)
  3. Story Boards


  1. Number Talks
  2. Visual representation (pictures, manipulatives etc)
  3. Teach Me/Show what you know (videos, books etc)

Content Areas (SS, Science etc)

  1. Discovery/Inquire Based Learning
  2. Science Notebooking
  3. Debates/Role Playing

Progress Monitoring:

  1. Alternative/Authentic Assessments
  2. Entrance/Exit Tickets
  3. Goal setting and reflection

Digital Instructional Strategies: Using technology as a tool to increase effectiveness and efficiency for the student, teacher, and parent.

  1. Collaboration with Google Drive apps such as docs
  2. Read&Write for Google Chrome and Drive
  3. Blogging, Vodcasting or Podcasting

Books and Sites for more engaging strategies:

The Reading Strategies Book and The Writing Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo

Students Taking Charge: Inside the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom by Nancy Sulla

Glossary of Instructional Strategies




Dyslexia Awareness Month

Guest blog post by the fabulous Megan Mehta!

“[Dyslexia] is more common than you can imagine. You are not alone. And while you will have this the rest of your life, you can dart between the raindrops to get where you want to go and it will not hold you back.”  – Steven Spielberg, Director


It’s October, and along with relief from the hot temps of summer and beautiful foliage, there are opportunities to learn and grow about a variety of causes. One that affects us as educators because it can so profoundly affect our students is dyslexia. October is Dyslexia Awareness Month, and it’s important that we are armed with information about this relatively common learning issue, because our good intentions can be for nothing because of misconceptions, misinformation and a general lack of knowledge on the subject.

What Dyslexia is NOT:

  • Reversal of letters and numbers: this is a fairly common characteristic of developing readers and writers. Though some dyslexic students may do this, it is not a definitive indicator of dyslexia.
  • Something that primarily affects boys: Both boys and girls can be affected– it’s not a picky issue!
  • Laziness or lack of intellect: People with dyslexia are quite the opposite! I look at my own daughter who is not reading on grade level because of her dyslexia, yet has an astounding processing speed and such a unique way of looking at problems that she often has to walk me through her way of thinking to help me understand.
  • Something that will be outgrown: Dyslexics are that way for life.

What Dyslexia IS:

Dyslexia is a specific reading disability and it causes the brain to process graphic symbols differently. It is characterized by difficulties in word recognition, spelling, and decoding; as well as reading comprehension. The National Center for Learning Disabilities says that dyslexia is a neurological and often genetic condition, and not the result of poor teaching, instruction, or upbringing; nor is it linked to intelligence.

It is also something that may affect up to 20% of people. However, symptoms can present as mild, moderate, severe, and everywhere in between. Some people may be able to develop enough coping skills to manage to get through school without too much support, yet their self-esteem might take a hit because they start to believe they aren’t as smart as everyone else. Students with dyslexia that is unrecognized will start to believe that they are lazy, not smart, not as good as their peers and this can profoundly affect them for life.

How Can I Help My Student or My Own Child if I Suspect Dyslexia?

Begin by educating yourself, whether you read an article or two at the bottom of this post, or take advantage of a workshop in your area. Talk to the reading specialists in your school, or the special education teacher to help you with strategies you can use. Helping kids develop a growth mindset can also have a big impact. Children who are dyslexic, or struggle with dysgraphia or dyscalculia need to be taught differently than their peers. They need a systematic approach that will teach them to process written language in the way best suited for how their brain is wired. These approaches can be found in the offerings of Orton-Gillingham, or the Barton program, among others.

Unfortunately, the public schools in North Carolina do not specifically test for or diagnose dyslexia. If it severe enough, it may show up under the umbrella of “specific learning disability” but that’s not always a guarantee. North Carolina is one of 11 states that does not yet have a law addressing the specific learning needs of students with dyslexia. Fortunately, there are groups that are working hard to change this. In the meantime, as teachers we need to be a voice for all our students and do what we can to help them reach their full potential: be compassionate, be empathetic, and know the power you have to make a big difference in the life of a child.


Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity


National Center for Learning Disabilities

The Rankin Institute offers professional development for educators and parents in Charlotte, NC

Decoding Dyslexia- NC


  • Medical News Today. MediLexicon International. Web.
  • Lapkin, Emily. “Understanding Dyslexia.” Understood.org. 02 Apr. 2014. Web.
  • Shaywitz, Sally E. Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level. New York: A.A. Knopf, 2003. Print.
  • “Yale Center For Dyslexia & Creativity.” Yale Center For Dyslexia & Creativity. Web.

Action Based Learning

“Student engagement is the product of motivation and active learning. It is a product rather than a sum because it will not occur if either element is missing.” By Elizabeth F. Barkley

Action Based Learning (ABL) is a pedagogy of brain-based learning theory which focuses on the structure and workings of the brain in regards to learning. Check out all the reasons why kinesthetic classrooms are important in the below graphic created by the amazing Kim Cooke.

kinesthetic Classrooms .png

ABL is not just a “Physical Education” thing but something you can add into all classrooms and in all grade levels. Here are three quick ways you can start adding kinesthetics into your classroom today:

  1. Transitions: During transitions, for example from math to reading, have students do something active for one minute such as jump on one foot. Here are some more brain break ideas here!
  2. Furniture: Add some different seating options such as yoga balls, wobble stools or allowing them to stand and work.
  3. Hands-On: Allowing students to show what they know with hands-on activities such as role playing, plays/skits,  building models or experiments.

Want to learn more about ABL? Action Based Learning & Kinesthetic Classroom Training is coming to Charlotte, NC on Nov 4th and 5th. Click here for more information!

More Information on ABL:

Article: Building Better. Brains through Movement and Moving and Shaking in the Classroom

Pinterest Board: Action Based Learning Lab Ideas

Books: Energizing Brain Breaks and The Kinesthetic Classroom: Teaching and Learning Through Movement

My previous blog posts on Brain Based Learning!

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