The Cool Cat Teacher Blog: Top Blog Posts of February 2016

What has teachers talking?

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

When looking at the top posts of the over 3,500 blog posts here, a theme jumps forward for February 2016. Hope, stress, encouragement, growth, and trying to improve education. I see struggle and persistence all over the pieces that you are sharing this month. Yes, teaching is hard. But teaching is worth it, my dear friends.

Top Teacher Blog Posts February 2016

Some of us are looking at where we’re going to teach next year. Others are just trying to make it through this year. Testing is approaching. But we can’t lose sight of having a relationship with our students and loving ourselves.

If I haven’t told you lately, dear teacher, I admire you. Those of you who work hard to encourage your students. Those of you who put in extra hours. Your work does matter.

I had a friend who was talking to an accreditation leader in the state of Georgia this  past week. He asked his friend (the accreditation leader), “what’s the biggest challenge in education right now” and here was the answer:

“The stakes are so high right now that the number one problem is that the best teachers are being given more work and those who can’t do the job are being given less. This understandable but misguided practice is driving the best teachers out of education.”

I couldn’t agree more. I wish I could say hang on, help is on it’s way. But I can say that I’ll keep yelling from the mountaintops the need for you to persist and the need for good leadership and every education reporter to recognize and get you the help you need. We have to keep speaking out. We are the media now. You have influence. What will you share in your network? What needs to be said?

Keep up your chins, as my Mom would lovingly say. Teaching is a noble calling. We “march” on.

Top Posts: February 2016

  1. 10 Ways to Flip a Kid and Turn Their Day Around
  2. 100+ Great Google Classroom Resources New in February 2016!
  3. 15 Best google Drive Add-Ons for Education
  4. Note Taking Skills for 21st Century Students
  5. Edusketching: A Tool to Help Students Understand Complex Concepts (with Wendy Pillars) New in February 2016!
  6. 10 Stress-busting Secrets of Great Teachers (The graphics on this post are being pinned, printed and downloaded. Use them as you need them!)
  7. How to Use Padlet: A fantastic Tool for Teaching
  8. 10 Things Google Classroom Makes Easier with Alice Keeler
  9. 6 Reading Comprehension Problems and What to Do About Them
  10. What to Do When Someone Hates You
  11. 8 Types of Blending Learning According to Research with Thomas Arnett from the Christensen Institute New in February 2016!
  12. 6 Ways to Motivate Teachers: Be the Hope
  13. Teaching Growth Mindset with 10 Growth Mindset Statements
  14. Innovator’s Mindset: Teaching Students to Be Problem Finders with George Couros New in February 2016!
  15. Teacher PD is Still Broken These 3 Steps Can Fix It with Dan Brown New in February 2016!
  16. If I’m Such a Great Teaching, Why Do I Want to Quit?
  17. You Matter: Before You Help Students, You Must Help Yourself with Angela Maiers New in February 2016!

The post The Cool Cat Teacher Blog: Top Blog Posts of February 2016 appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

from Cool Cat Teacher BlogCool Cat Teacher Blog


A Peek in My Week: Games, Mattering, Questions, Laughter & Learning WHEW!

Level Up a Little Bit Every Day

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Sometimes as you teach others, you end up changing yourself. It is happening so much lately to me. Here’s a peek.

a Peek in my week

Game based keyboarding. My keyboarding classroom is completely game based using ClassCraft (thanks, Shawn Young) and the kids run to class. They love it. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I’m thrilled (they are too.) I just heard so many experts like Michael Matera, Lee Sheldon, Kae Novak, and Lucas Gillispie talk about what they are doing that I had to test it out.

Gamification is not just points and badges “chocolate on broccoli” as Kae Novak calls it. Gamification is a full-on change in approach to how you “do class.” I’m sending tremendous results in my eighth graders in their accuracy, speed, excitement to come to class and more.

You never know what will happen when you delve into turning your whole classroom into a game (and a class like keyboarding is an easy place to start.) Today, the whole class is looking forward to the jousting semifinals between Sir Salad and Sir Bacon. (Maybe I need to blog about how I did this.)

Student questions. I’m starting to ask kids to create questions, inspired by George Couros’ talking about questions and Angela Maiers talking about the same thing from a different angle recently on last week’s Mattering Monday. After kids had watched Angela’s keynote, they each turned in to me an important question on an index card. Wow – here are a few.

Important questions from Students This Week

  • What kind of apps can we use to change the world?
  • How can we get kids want to change the world?
  • What can we create to change the world?
  • How can we help change the world with more than just an app?
  • Why do we have heartbreaks?
  • Why do people stop caring after high school?
  • Exactly how can we use our talents to make a difference in our world?
  • How we make an app known around the world?
  • What can I do to help someone?
  • Are we going to get to work with kids around the world or just the ones in our school?
  • How can we get less wealthy countries to join in this project?
  • How can coding help end world hunger?
  • How are people going to do this together with a barrier like time?
  • What happens to the people who want to change the world that never get a chance to?
  • How can you get people who don’t think they matter to let that person know they do matter?

Mattering Monday. But, I’ve realized through my recent work with Angela that just saying “You Matter” and incorporating lesson plans every so often is not enough. Each Monday, I intentionally include a small mini-lesson or activity designed to help students know and realize that their work matters and that they matter.

I loved Angela’s recent keynote for the kids on MAD about Mattering (embedded below). Later in, she says

“I’m not telling you that you matter just to make you feel good about yourself, but because the world needs you to do work that matters…”

Meanwhile, in my classroom, we are having conversations that matter. More than any project I’ve ever done, MAD about Mattering is pushing me to think. Right now, student recruitment for heartbreak teams has begun. Students need ten people per team for a team to move forward.

Yesterday, I saw two teams competing for a very talented, creative student. The “recruit” was sitting in a chair in study hall. One team pitched her the heartbreak of how people with special needs are treated like they don’t matter. The other team pitched the heartbreak of how many kids are dropping out, sick or struggling because of stress at school. (You can’t make this up.) Both teams had done their homework and were having conversations about what matters to them.

And the kids are talking to me everywhere I see them. Asking me to come after school. Asking me to come early. Inundating me during lunch. I told myself yesterday, “It’s happening again.” This type of engagement and excitement always happens when we collaborate globally. However, I’d level this up several notches because these heartbreaks MATTER to kids and they want to improve the world.

We’re working to find suitable mentors for the groups. (Feel free to contact me, if you’d like to volunteer to help with this project. We’re working on a scalable model to level up in the fall.)

Do you apply what you learn?

So, in some ways, while I’m creating work for teachers — all of these conversations have changes my teaching. (MAD about Mattering wouldn’t have happened if Susan Bearden and a precious girl named Kennedy hadn’t shown me Crescerance at ISTE 2014 for the podcast.) The more I learn, the more I realize I have to learn. And in the end, if something works DO IT.

There are recurring themes in what is working in education today:

  • cultivating an innovator’s mindset (thanks, George),
  • choosing to matter (thanks, Angela),
  • game based learning (thanks So many game based experts including Lee Sheldon and Michael Matera, who are showing us the way), and
  • making human connections with kids (thanks, Pam Allyn for pointing out that technology isn’t always the solution for struggling readers.)

The way I see it, when you learn something new, you can either be transformed by it or you can ignore it. And to be transformed, you have to try new things and get out of your comfort zone. You have to mix up your habits and make room for new ones.

Teaching isn’t easy. But those filing-cabinet fixated teachers who are just pulling out the same stuff they’ve been using for the last twenty years are missing out on some great opportunities to learn, grow, and connect with students. I’d rather be student focused, not filing cabinet focused. It is what do the students need to learn next, not what is the next handout in my filing cabinet. I’m not saying filing cabinet teachers are not good teachers; I’m saying that they may just be missing the opportunity to be great by ignoring the voice and thoughts of students.

I also think that those teachers who wholly depend on technology and never get outside, never have kids do person to person activities, and don’t relate to their kids miss out.

You’ve got to relate before you create because you can’t build learning on hate. (Pardon the grammar, but it rhymes and is true.)

Blended Learning Works

As the recent blended learning research shows — it ‘s not entirely online learning that is best, but a blend of online and face to face. There is always room in this world for the master teacher. We should feel more empowered and excited than ever. The tide seems to be turning on standardized testing conversations, and we may just swing back in a more reasonable direction of teacher empowerment. To keep things in that direction, we as teacher-craftsmen, teacherpreneurs as I like to call us, we need to level up and show our craft. We can’t use it as an excuse to be lazy or not do the work. We should use any freedom we may earn as an opportunity to do great things.

I challenge you to take something you’ve learned and apply it in your classroom this week!

Videos This Week

Here are two screencasts and a parody video made by my students.

Adding Humor to Help Retention and Learning

Here are just two of the videos and topics we’ve been covering in my classroom lately. (See my YouTube channel for more.) Perhaps these tutorials will help you. I’m also pointing them out because I have found that unexpected humor engages my students far more. They want to laugh, they want me to be their teacher, but they also want to be surprised. I find if I just make fun of myself, it works, and I don’t mind. It’s me – whatever it takes to teach them without injuring myself or going against my beliefs; I’m there.

How to Use Discussion Forums

You’ll see that I’m beginning to use humor at the beginning and ending of videos with my students. It keeps them listening and laughing and I find they learn far more when I do.

What is a Wiki?

To keep it simple, I filmed this in front of my Jtouch Multitouch Board (didn’t have time for greenscreen) and made the video in ScreenFlow (thanks Tony Vincent for getting me on this tool. I also used Screenflow on the keynote above using video from my Zoom Room.)

Westwood Handshake Video Parody

Meanwhile, I had some students wow me with this parody they made. They had just 2 days to create a “handshake” video for MAD about Mattering. I have a group of students who are quite the comedians who got permission to make a parody video. I let them. I’m quite impressed with their editing, acting, and camera angles. These students have come a long way in the last year. It is humorous and MEANT to be funny. 

Whew! This is a lot of learning and work to cram in lately. And in the midst of this MY HARD DRIVE DIED on my computer. Fortunately, I had everything in Dropbox (almost), but it still added complexity.

There is always stress. I’m always too busy. But the day I become too busy to innovate, create, and do different things with kids is the day I should retire. I love these kids, and we have a blast, and we LEARN so much. There are incredible teachers on the MAD about Mattering project, and my kids are excited about meeting the others. We laugh and learn and talk about what matters.

Teaching is hard but teaching is worth it. We learn so much, and I love them.

Somedays I wonder how I’m going to make it but then the first period comes flooding in and I wake up and realize that it is seventh period, and I’m done for the day. Here we go again; got to hit post so I can enjoy another Friday. We play in the state quarter finals in basketball tonight, and it will be exciting. It will be another long day, but it will be a day full of meaning and doing work that matters.

Now, get out there. Do work that matters. Tell your story. Level up, learn. And remember educators who care, share. You can do this.

The post A Peek in My Week: Games, Mattering, Questions, Laughter & Learning WHEW! appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

from Cool Cat Teacher BlogCool Cat Teacher Blog

An Educator’s Guide to Acceptable Risk Taking

Nurturing an Innovator’s Mindset with George Couros

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

George Couros Innovator's Mindset Risk Taking (1)

Risk taking is not a bad word. If we want to help students read, write, and learn anything – we have to learn to take risks. But how can we understand what risks are worth taking? How can principals, teachers, and students learn how to take acceptable risks? From routine busting to reflection, George Couros, author of the Innovator’s Mindset helps us understand the risks and rewards of great teaching.

George Couros is joining me for a series of shows on Every Classroom Matters where we talk about the eight characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset (George’s new book.) This is part 3 of the series. See the full series here

Listen to the Innovator’s Mindset Series

Show Notes: Innovative Teachers Take These Risks, Not Those

  • What risks are acceptable in schools?
  • What does George think about teachers who are getting rid of their desks?
  • How can we change our routine without throwing out our beloved best practices?
  • What time of day should teachers be reflecting?

Educator Resources from this Episode

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above.button-itunes

The post An Educator’s Guide to Acceptable Risk Taking appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

from Cool Cat Teacher BlogCool Cat Teacher Blog

2 Ways to Turn Struggling Students into Life-Long Readers

Simple Steps to Ignite a Love of Reading and Writing

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Pam Allyn how to help struggling readers love reading

Teaching kids to love reading is a challenge. Pam Allyn, the author of 23 books, is a literacy expert who helps schools, parents, and teachers help kids love reading. On today’s show, she shares two important ways to help struggling students become lifelong readers. This is an excellent listen for teachers, curriculum directors, and parents. Share this one!

Thank you Flocabulary, today’s sponsor. Listeners, Get a Free 75-Day Trial for Your School!

A teacher in my school came running into the teacher’s lounge thanking me for getting her started with Flocabulary. She’s using hip hop to teach parts of speech and complex sentences. I’ve used it to teach goal setting.

Flocabulary is a fantastic tool for teaching literacy, science, math, history, and just about any topic. With test prep season coming up, you want to try Flocabulary now! Flocabulary is offering a free 75 day trial for listeners of the show(This is a special deal for Every Classroom Matters listeners. Click here to get started.

We’ve shared quite a few shows on using music and hip hop to teach kids, but here’s a tool we all can use. They don’t just have videos, but include lesson plans, quizzes, and reinforcement materials on each topic. Sign up now.

Sign Up for a Free Trial of Flocabulary Now.

Teaching Topics: 2 Ways to Turn Struggling Students into Life-Long Readers

  • How much free reading time to students need at home and school?
  • How can we help kids learn to love reading and writing?
  • Where can technology be used in reading and where should it not be used?
  • Two excellent questions to ask struggling readers.

Educator Resources from this Episode

Pam Allyn has written 23 books on literacy, reading and standards alignment including:

Pinnable and Printable Inspiration from Pam Allyn

Pam Allyn reading and writing

When you become a writer you begin looking at reading in a different way.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above.button-itunes

The post 2 Ways to Turn Struggling Students into Life-Long Readers appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

from Cool Cat Teacher BlogCool Cat Teacher Blog

How Any Teacher Can Use Lee Sheldon’s Multiplayer Classroom Model

Powerful Pedagogies for Every Teaching Professional

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Lee Sheldon multiplayer classroom on Every Classroom MattersStar Trek script writer and professional game author Lee Sheldon has designed his entire college course as a game. His book The Multiplayer Classroom: Designing Coursework as a Game is a favorite of many game based learning experts. Quizzes and tests are fighting evil. Students earn experience points for coming to class. Student study groups are called guilds. You’ve got to hear it to believe it! (And you don’t need any technology.)

In fact, Lee welcomes his students to class with this comment:

“Hello everyone, welcome to class. You all have an ‘F.’ But you can level up.”

Thank you JTouch by InFocus, Today’s Sponsor


My Interactive White Board (IWB) is gone, and I’m never going back. In today’s show, I’ll tell you how I’m using the Jtouch Interactive Display Board in my classroom. It is much more than an interactive whiteboard. (In some ways it is like a massive touch screen computer.) But with Airplay and also a cool tool called LightCast, every single device in my BYOD classroom can broadcast to the Jtouch display at the front of my classroom. When I’m not teaching, I even show huge moving scenes from nature on the board. I love it. Listen to this show to learn more about how I’m using the Jtouch from Infocus or click here to see it in action. Thank you Jtouch for sponsoring today’s show.

Learn about JTouch

Essential Questions: Balancing Learning and Fun: How to Create Riveting Lesson Plans

  • How teachers can be Game Masters.
  • Why Lee Sheldon hates the term “gamification” and what term he uses instead.
  • How Lee harnesses student intrinsic motivation to learn instead of badges and points
  • How teachers can start into game-based learning.
  • How to use guilds, solo quests, and group quests to teach.

Educator Resources from this Episode

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above.button-itunes

The post How Any Teacher Can Use Lee Sheldon’s Multiplayer Classroom Model appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

from Cool Cat Teacher BlogCool Cat Teacher Blog

6 Ways Awesome Administrators Help New Teachers Face the First Year with a Smile

Leadership and Support of the New Teaching Professional

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

The first year is the toughest. Pretty much every teacher will tell you that. It is when the students will try you. The first year is often when colleagues are the most unsupportive. You don’t know everybody’s names. You aren’t aware of their agendas, so sometimes you step into a problem without realizing it.

6 Ways administrators-help-first-year-teachers

The biggest problem about the first year? There’s an enormous gap between what you learned about teaching and what teaching is really like. Having a great administrator that first year can be a lifeline.

1. Help New Teachers Find a Good Mentor

My mom and sister were my mentors my first year. They were veteran teachers and knew what they were doing. Their words could save me hours of headache and heartbreak. They helped me organize my classroom and gave me feedback as I struggled.

Some schools have formal mentor programs where the mentor is assigned. However, the research shows informal programs, where a person chooses their own, works best. (Inzer and Crawford 2005)

Encourage teachers to find a mentor. Give them some choices of teachers willing to help.

2. Balance the New Teacher’s Workload

When my sister started teaching middle school, they gave her six classes and one planning period. She also had a homeroom and a tennis team. This happens all too often to new teachers.

New teachers are given hard jobs that no one wants. When you get a new teacher too much or too difficult the task you’re setting them up for failure.

So examine the new teacher’s workload. Make sure it is doable. 

3. Let New Teachers See Your Face

From day one, Betty Shiver, our curriculum director put her head in my doorway and said hello. Lots of times I said hello back, but if I had a problem — that was when I brought it up.

As a new teacher, I didn’t want to set an appointment with the principal.  That why the best conversations with a new teacher happen when the office comes to the classroom. Ken Blanchard’s Book, The One Minute Manager, rings true.  Take one minute and say hello.

Make it a point to put your face in the classroom every day and say hello to your new teacher. Ask other key staff to do the same.

4. Be Supportive of Disciplinary Issues

I had more disciplinary issues in my first year of teaching than in the fourteen years since. In some ways, it was a nightmare. In other ways it was a dream — because I fell in love with teaching.

A few students who saw my inexperience as a way to do less work. Class clowns wanted to make me the butt of their jokes. These few pupils in each class almost made my life miserable. My administrators were supportive when I needed them. They also pointed me to resources to help me improve.

The best thing I learned is that I could change student behavior by changing my ownFred Jones’ Tools for Teaching and Harry Wong’s The First Days of School were a safeguard for me.

I know a teacher, however, who felt unsafe her first year. Another friend was told not to send kids to the office and was given no support. So, they did what they could: they suffered through that first year and left.

Give teachers options for discipline. Point them to proven methods to give them ideas for how to solve their own problems.

5. Be Supportive when Parent Problems Happen

The most crushing moment of my first year happened three weeks into school. I thought the students knew spreadsheet skills. They did not, but it was on the curriculum. So, I gave an assignment that they could not do. It would have been simple if they knew anything about spreadsheets. But they didn’t.

So instead of going to me, a parent immediately went to the principal. She said I was too hard on the students. And not only did she go to the principal, but she also went to all the other parents complaining about me.

By the time I was called to the front office, it had become a serious situation. But it didn’t need to be. I was happy to adjust the assignment. The parents didn’t know me yet and felt more comfortable going to the principal than to me. It wounded me deeply.

The best principals I have worked for always ask parents,

“Have you talked to the teacher yet?”

Now, when I’m mentoring new teachers, I help them set up Bloomz or Remind or learn how to email parents. When teachers open communication, it increases the likelihood of parents talking to teachers.

Encourage parents to communicate with teachers. Help new teachers communicate with parents early and often to open up communication.

6. Make New Teachers Part of Your Team

But new teachers also have great things that happen too. These teachers are going to be some of the fastest learners on your campus— they have to be. Celebrate what they learn and not just how much they have to learn.

Encourage educators on your campus break the routine of their day.  Don’t let the new teachers feel alone.

Ask your new teacher about their “wow moment” or “wins of the week.” Otherwise, you (and they) may just focus on how much they have to learn and now how far they’ve come. Make sure your team includes the newcomer in activities and events on campus.

New Teachers Are Your Lifetime Legacy

There are few things more challenging or more worthwhile than teaching a new teacher. Challenging because they might think they know how to teach. Worthwhile because they are your legacy.

New teachers never forget those who help and encourage them. It was easy for me to name the names of my mentors and helpers in this crucial time for me.

Struggle and learning go together. They go together when students are learning and when teachers learn too. Anything worth doing well is worth doing poorly at first. And while not all new teachers start off poorly, some (like me) make lots of mistakes.

There are many things new teachers need: time, attention, support, and good advice are just a few. Help new teachers start well. Our whole profession will benefit.

QUESTION: What did someone do for you that first year that made all the difference?

The post 6 Ways Awesome Administrators Help New Teachers Face the First Year with a Smile appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

from Cool Cat Teacher BlogCool Cat Teacher Blog

Make Every Monday #MatteringMonday and Help Kids Learn

Start the School Week of With What Matters: Kids

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Mondays are hard for (almost) everyone. What if we started the week with reminding students how much they and their work matters? Let’s challenge every teacher we know to begin celebrating Mattering Mondays.


We know that we need students to be more engaged. We also know that when students feel like they matter and they are doing work that matters that they are more engaged. What if the learners and teachers knew that Mondays would be not drudgery but a reminder of how important they are to the world?

Why do we need #matteringmonday in schools?

I’m all in on Mattering. My problem is that it is easy to do something one time and forget. I DON’T WANT TO FORGET MATTERING I want to do it all the time. Don’t you? So, every Monday, I will intentionally level up mattering in my classroom. While kids matter every single day, Monday is my day to intentionally pull mattering into the curriculum. Will you join me?

As our part of this effort, Angela Maiers and I are recording a series of shows. Every other Monday, they post live on my podcast Every Classroom Matters. (Subscribe here.)

How Our Questions Can Show Students That they Matter

As part of #matteringmonday this week, Angela Maiers talks about how the right questions show people that they matter. Beautiful questions are exciting. (See all of the episodes in this series here.)

Ask great questions to show them that they matter

Resources in this Show

The post Make Every Monday #MatteringMonday and Help Kids Learn appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

from Cool Cat Teacher BlogCool Cat Teacher Blog