backpacker on mountain peak looking at view

Blog Break!

I have a few large projects due this summer, so I will be taking a “Blog Break” through the end of June, 2022. I will still be sending out the weekly newsletter, which will include news and other items of note. If you haven’t signed up for it, yet, you can fill out your info below. In the meantime, here are the most visited posts on the site during the last week (week of June 13th) in case you are wondering:

Don’t forget you can also search on the sidebar, look at my monthly archives, and visit my Wakelet collections for more resources.

I hope that those of you who are getting time off during the next few weeks get to thoroughly enjoy them, and those of you who are continuing to work can find enough strength and inspiration to keep you energized.

person lying on black and red hammock beside mountain under white cloudy sky during daytime
Photo by Leonie Fahjen on
3-12, Bloom's Taxonomy, Books, Language Arts, Teaching Tools

A Journey Through Lumio with Bloom’s Taxonomy

This post is sponsored by Lumio. All opinions are my own.

The best educational technology tools out there are: easy-to-use, engaging, empowering, and elastic. By “elastic” I mean that they have flexibility, which applies not only to the devices on which they can be used but the settings in which teachers would like to use them. Many programs out there, for example, can be great for checking student memory retention with multiple choice questions, but they won’t work for activities that address the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy such as, “Evaluate,” or “Create.” On the other extreme, you may have an educational technology tool that has an endless number of applications, but it’s incredibly time-consuming to learn how to use it – so it becomes another wasted resource. Lumio, however, separates itself from these polar opposites because it fulfills all four of the essential criteria.

You may recall my initial post, “5 Smart Ways to Engage Your Students with Lumio,” in which I described the versatility of this free digital learning tool suitable for any classroom with student devices. In that article, I wanted to give you an overview of some of Lumio’s features. Today, I’d like to do a deeper dive into Lumio by giving you some concrete examples of how it is: easy-to-use, engaging, empowering, and elastic. To do this, I’d like to demonstrate how simple it is to address any level of Bloom’s Taxonomy with Lumio.

Let’s imagine, for a moment, that you are a teacher who has just finished reading the novel, Tuck Everlasting, with your students.

Once you’ve finished reading the book, you want to get an up-to-date snapshot of how the students are doing when it comes to remembering the important story details, so you quickly whip up a Monster Quiz because you know it will give you good information and your students thrive on friendly competition.

Using Monster Quiz to “Remember” Tuck Everlasting details.

Following completion of the online quiz, you decide to gather even more information with another quick formative assessment so you can hit the “Understand” level of Bloom’s. You move to the next slide in your presentation, and students are greeted by a Sorting Activity with one container for Angus Tuck and one for The Man in the Yellow Suit. Students show both their understanding of the novel and these two main characters by dragging quotes you’ve selected to the correct options.

“Understand” Tuck Everlasting with the Sorting Activity from Lumio

After students reflect on how they did on these activities, you are ready to make a plan to continue reviewing with students who may need it, while others can advance through some of the higher levels of Blooms. They can work at their own pace either independently or in groups as they perform Lumio’s Matching Activity to apply what they know and have inferred about the characters. You assign them to match characters from the novel to how they would react in completely different 21st century situations. Which character would most likely spread fake news on social media? Who would be the first volunteer to start a colony on Mars? 

“Apply” what you learned from Tuck Everlasting with Lumio’s Sorting Activity

So far, these have all been activities where you might expect certain answers, and Lumio’s tools will check them for you and provide results. With the interest of introducing more rigor, you want to design some higher order thinking activities that are more open-ended. You decide to have students discuss and analyze in collaborative groups by providing them the Venn Diagram from Lumio’s set of graphic organizers to compare/contrast two of the characters. Though could be done on paper, having it in Lumio makes it easy to display responses to the whole class so they can debate the responses while using supporting evidence from the novel. You also have a digital record you can refer to later to look for misunderstandings or learning growth.

“Analyze” the characters of Tuck Everlasting with the Venn Diagram Template in Lumio’s library.

When you feel like students are prepared to advance to the Bloom’s Level, “Evaluate,” the Lumio Ranking Tool is perfect. One feature of this “elastic” tool is that you can select, “Don’t Check,” when setting up the activity, and you definitely expect and hope for different responses as you ask your students to rank the characters in Tuck Everlasting from the least to most courageous. This will generate enthusiastic discussions in your class as the students defend their choices with examples from the story. 

“Evaluate” the courage of the characters in Tuck Everlasting with Lumio’s Ranking Activity

Finally, your students are ready to create. You elect to give them several choices using the Tic-Tac-Toe Board Template in Lumio, including both physical and digital options. Ones that they could do within a self-paced Lumio activity might be: creating Black-Out Poetry with a PDF of a page from the novel you’ve uploaded, creating an advertisment the Man in the Yellow Suit might design for his magical water, or making a scrapbook page for one of the characters using images the students upload with Lumio’s safe-search tool.

“Create” with this Tic-Tac-Toe template from Lumio.

As you can see from these examples, Lumio is a robust collaborative learning tool product that allows both teachers and students to work at different levels. From designing the lesson to implementing it and revising as you go along, teachers can set themselves and their students up for success.

Want to begin using Lumio today? It’s free. Click here to get started!

Crossword Puzzle
3-5, 5-8, Language Arts, Vocabulary


Many of you may also follow my friend, Donna Lasher, at Big Ideas 4 Little Scholars. She also has a Facebook group, and sends out a newsletter. If so, you may have seen her recent blog post in which she announced some new puzzle books she has just released: Crypt-O-Words (Grades 4-7) and Crypt-O-Words Jr (Grades 2-5). You can currently purchase the e-book or paperback versions of each of these here.

These books are designed to teach advanced vocabulary through the use of riddles, puzzles, and games. Click on the link for each individual book to preview some sample pages on the website for Critical Thinking Co. As you work through the books, there are “call-backs” to previous words, so that students continue to review the vocabulary and using it in different contexts even as they are adding new words to their repertoire.

With 30 lessons in the Crypt-O-Words book for Grades 4-7, students will have the opportunity to learn and practice using higher level words that were gleaned from recommended PSAT and SAT word lists. Even better, the students will have fun discovering the words and applying them as they solve a wide variety of puzzles that will challenge their logic and critical thinking skills as well.

The books begin with short explanations and general suggestions for integrating the books into your class. One unique feature of the book, however, is that it continues to give specific teaching tips for each lesson, along with suggestions for extending learning.

While most students doing these activities will not be learning a new language, the process for acquiring unfamiliar vocabulary should include the steps outlined in this article from Babbel: Selection, Association, Review, Storage, and Use. In Donna Lasher’s Crypt-O-Words series, students perform these actions consistently without it seeming repetitive — due to the incredible assortment of different types of puzzles. Each exercise begins with a riddle that hints at the word being introduced so students can make predictions, a puzzle to help students “discover” the word so they can find out if they were correct, and multiple challenges to help them practice the words in context.

Whether you are a parent who has noticed your child has an affinity for language, or a teacher who is searching for an enrichment resource for children who would benefit from some extra challenges in language arts, the Crypt-O-Words books are engaging and worthwhile purchases that make learning vocabulary fun instead of a chore.

By the way, I’ll be adding this to my Brainteasers and Puzzles collection. Check it out if you are hunting for some diverting challenges for your students!

love art dirty texture

7 Ways to Request Feedback from Students about Your Class

I bookmarked an interesting Twitter thread the other day:

When I returned to my bookmark yesterday, I was thrilled by the variety of the responses in the thread. There were many replies, and only one or two that I saw where the teacher reported negative experiences with doing this. I would guess that those outliers might need to fine-tune their methods, as I can honestly say that I’ve made it a practice to get feedback from parents and students for many years through various means and it has nearly always been extremely informative. Even when I asked for feedback from some of my more “challenging” high school classes, I received good information.

Before I share some of the creative student feedback methods you can use, I think it’s important to note how you can set the scene so the feedback is meaningful.

  1. Don’t just ask for feedback at the end of the school year. At least three times a year is good. (I did it every grading period.) Feedback will help you “tweak” and make changes that will benefit the students, and that is most effective if you are doing it during your course and at the end to help you plan for the next year.
  2. Be clear with your students that you are asking for this so you can keep what’s working and make improvements on what isn’t working. This has nothing to do with their grades
  3. Act on the feedback throughout the year, and be explicit about what you are changing and that it’s because of meaningful feedback you received.
  4. In most cases, make it a choice for students to be anonymous or include their names. I say “in most cases” because some of the examples I give below don’t technically allow for that. Some students are afraid of retaliation if they give negative feedback, so the more comfortable you can make them, the more honest they will be.
  5. Be prepared for negative feedback, and that some of it will not be constructive. Analyze it, but don’t take it to heart. Remember that some students will be lashing out for reasons that may have nothing to do with you.
  6. READ the feedback. Refer to the feedback. Bring it up many times in a positive way. Otherwise, students think it was just busywork, and that not only impacts the next time you ask for feedback, but the next time any teacher asks for it.
  7. Do some sort of short review of what’s happened so far in class before you ask for feedback. Lots of things are going on in their lives, and even the most wonderful experiences may have slipped their minds.

Some of the above advice may seem obvious, but I included it because it wasn’t obvious to me at first. The first few times I asked for student feedback did not give me helpful results. Don’t give up if you experience the same. It is very likely that you need to make some adjustments to your process, and extremely worth it when you get it right.

I asked some of the people in Jason’s original thread for permission to share their advice and/or images. Here are some of the suggestions from the thread as well as some others I’ve gathered:

1. Choose words to describe your year.

Gina Ruffcorn takes the words her students submit and makes them into a word cloud to represent the year.

2. Analyze classroom policies.

3. Use Exit Talks.

4. Use Google Forms. Once the results are in (if it’s not your last day), make screenshots of some results or quotes (without student names ) to project to the class and discuss. This blog post gives sample forms you can download. I used Google Forms as well. During the school year, I would sprinkle in some “fun” questions, like, “What is a song you love to listen to right now?” I would play the songs (if appropriate) sometimes during class.

5. Play “Whatzit Tic-Tac-Toe.” I describe it in this post. Since students work in groups, one advantage is that you can hear their discussions, but they also get filtered down to the most important answers. Here are the questions we used: list 3 important features of this class, list 3 not-so-important features of this class, list 2 very different kinds of features our our class, identify a hidden feature of our class, what’s 1 feature without which our class would be very different, what feature of our class is the hardest to understand (and why), which of our class features are the most interesting to you and why, think of something very different from our class and tell us two ways it’s different and one way it’s similar, and think of something very similar to our class and list two ways it’s similar and one way it’s different.

6. Use Post-Its to brainstorm activities done in class, and then place them on a matrix as in this blog post.

7. Or, after brainstorming what has been done in class, or what could be done, sort them into Start, Stop, Continue columns as you can see here.

I’ll be adding this post to my End of Year Wakelet, though as I mentioned earlier, it’s good to get feedback from your students throughout the year. Also, don’t forget to ask parents for feedback. This can be extremely beneficial as well. Once you receive your feedback, you can use the Taxonomy of Reflection to decide on what changes you would like to make.

Math doodles on chalkboard
3-12, Math

Math Fun with Howie Hua

One thing about me that I always made sure my students knew is that I used to hate math. I dreaded it, and my anxiety levels were super high during class and when I did math homework. It wasn’t until I was in high school, where I encountered some amazing math teachers, that I realized I could enjoy math and even look forward to it. To this day, I love discovering exciting math lessons, puzzling websites, and educators who demonstrate a true passion for this subject.

Speaking of the latter, I follow @Howie_Hua on Twitter. Because I’m slowly learning the value of TikTok, I only recently became aware of Howie’s TikTok videos. This is one in particular that I came across a couple of weeks ago that I think my GT students would have delighted in (and not only because he mentions Fibonacci):

@howie_hua One of my favorite math tricks #math #mathematics #mathtok #teacher #teachersoftiktok #maths ♬ original sound – Howie Hua

Howie has puzzles, math jokes, and more tricks on his TikTok channel here. Whether you’re a math teacher looking for some fun to fill in the spaces between standardized testing and the end of the school year, want some warmups to start class, or just like to play around with math, Howie Hua should definitely be one of your resources.

I’ll be adding this to my Math Sites That Won’t Make You Fall Asleep collection. Don’t forget to follow me on Wakelet so you can get updates on new resources that I add to my ever-increasing bookmarks!

Anti-Racism, history, K-12, Social Studies

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month 2022

Among the many observances during the month of May, it is also Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the United States. To learn more about the history of this commemoration, you can read this article from NPR. It describes the evolution from a week of observance to a month, and why it falls in May each year.

I gave a few resources for AAPI Month last year, but I want to add these specific lesson plans from NEA to the collection. You can also find some great links on the National Park Service website and a “Care Package” of poems, meditations, and films from the Smithsonian’s Asian Pacific American Center here. The Smithsonian APA also has a page of resources for teachers here.

The theme for this year’s AAPI Heritage Month is, “Advancing Leaders Through Collaboration.” In these days where there seems to be so much dissension and polarization, I find this theme to be a hopeful one that is a reminder of the benefits of working together.

I’ll be adding this post to my Anti-Racism Wakelet, where you can find other articles I’ve collected for the purpose of educating ourselves and combatting hate.