All posts by engagetheirminds

Historic Tale Construction Kit

I was in an admittedly unwarranted foul mood this morning while I wracked my brains for a blog post. I have plenty of ideas, but none of them felt “right” for today. Then I ran across this Twitter thread I had saved, originated by Professor Annie Oakley Rides Again (@ProfAnnieOakley) and couldn’t stop laughing at all of the replies. The professor let her art history students use the “Historic Tale Construction Kit,” and once she shared the link with her Twitter followers to this tool hilarity ensued. Click on the image below to see some of the responses in the thread. (Warning: some images are not suitable for children.)

I know you’ll want to try it, too. To add text, click on the background. (May not work on mobile phones.) A few of the images are a bit gruesome, but I know my high school students would have had a blast with this. Some teachers have their students use memes to make rules for the classroom, and this would be a fun alternative. Retelling a modern tale or current event in this setting could also result in some creative products. As you can see in the example below, Margaret McLarty (@MagsMcLarty) designed a Queen-inspired tapestry.

designed by @MagsMcLarty using Historic Tale Construction Kit

Tag me if you or your students design something clever with this tool!

More Math Sites That Won’t Make You Fall Asleep

One of the most popular posts on this blog is called, “15 Math Sites that Won’t Make You Fall Asleep.” One problem is that I keep updating it, so the number is misleading. Another problem is that I don’t update it enough, so there are many sites that I’ve discovered that weren’t on the post. I spent this morning putting all of the site links into a Wakelet, and it now has 56 items! Some are brand new to me, while others are ones that I’ve written about in the past. Quite frankly, it was difficult for me to stay focused as I re-discovered old friends, like Splat Math and SolveMe Mobiles, and stumbled upon unfamiliar but intriguing ones like Mystery Grid and Cube Conversations. Whether you love math or despise it, I guarantee you will find at least one site on this list that will fascinate you!

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Same but Different Math

Same But Different Math encourages students to think about and discuss how two images might have the same value but different visual representations. It helps students to make connections and develop their own mathematical reasoning skills rather than to rely solely on rules that require memorization. You can find the 6-Step Protocol for discussion here. Though the concept seems simple, it can lead to much deeper thinking, and there are examples in the top menu for students in Kindergarten through high school.

Same But Different Math reminds me of Which One Doesn’t Belong? Though the latter is more open-ended, and might even lead you to conversations outside of math, WODB tasks can also promote valuable discussions among classmates that help to develop lasting memories they can continue to build upon.

For more math sites that depart from learning and practicing algorithms, check out my post, “15 Math Sites that Won’t Make You Fall Asleep.”

Culturally Responsive Lesson Design

I am currently attending the TCEA Virtual Convention, so I plan to share a little about what I’ve learned in each post this week.

Education has a reputation for an overwhelming amount of buzzwords and acronyms. When I saw a TCEA session called, “The Heart of Culturally Responsive Lesson Design,” by Nyree Clark (@MsNyreeClark), I knew that I needed to attend, if only to better understand the meaning of “culturally responsive teaching.”

Those of us committed to social justice and anti-racist work may feel that this qualifies as culturally responsive teaching, but it may not be. According to Nyree Clark, we can be covering these topics, and even include multicultural studies in our classrooms, without meeting the criteria for culturally responsive teaching. The significant condition that we need to meet is that we are “trying to accelerate student learning by accessing their cultures and connecting them to the content we teach.”

Clark says we can do this in four steps: Spark, Support, Synthesize, and Share. As she took us through her interactive presentation, she modeled how we can do each step as we consistently weave in depth and complexity as well as social-emotional learning.

When asked for some ways to begin on a road toward culturally responsive lesson design, some of the steps Clark recommended are: working with your grade level, looking for paired texts that show perspectives of different cultures, using the amazing resources at Learning for Justice (once, and highlighting positive role models from different cultures.

Of course there is much more to culturally responsive lesson design. You can visit Ms. Clark’s website to see some books to help you begin your journey here. She also has a fabulous Wakelet where she has curated many valuable resources.

I will be adding this post to my own Wakelet of Anti-Racism resources.

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A Tip of the Hat to Hattie

I am currently attending the TCEA Virtual Convention, so I plan to share a little about what I’ve learned in each post this week.

Professor John Hattie has become a well-known name in educational research circles, and I have been learning bits and pieces about his work for the past few years. His extremely thorough studies on “what works” in education are changing the landscape of pre-service and in-service training for teachers. You can find out more about his background here. Though his information is not without controversy, much of it makes good common sense. As Hattie himself says, “We focus too much on the data and not on the interpretations.”

I was excited to be able to attend a session at TCEA last night presented by Dr. Hattie. He spoke about the delineation between surface and deep thinking, which he labels, “Knowing That and Knowing How.” One message that he seemed to feel people misunderstand is that we need both kinds of thinking in our schools, and that “Knowing How” is not nearly as effective when “Knowing That” has been skipped. He recommends that we spend time overtly teaching students the difference, and how to recognize when each type of thinking is required. “Are you snorkeling or are you scuba diving?” is a good question to pose to the students.

As a teacher of gifted students for 19 years, I agree with Dr. Hattie that there is still not nearly enough challenge in classrooms. We have got to work more effectively to design for the “Goldilocks Effect” in learning experiences so that students are not being given assignments that are too easy or too hard. This is tricky. In my opinion, until teachers are given better tools, smaller class sizes, and better professional development it is difficult to achieve on a consistent basis.

My hand was flying as I took notes throughout Dr. Hattie’s presentation, and I don’t want to inadvertently misinterpret his comments as I type this, so I will skip to a few comments he made toward the end regarding how the pandemic might impact students. His opinion is that the pandemic might be “The Golden Ticket” for when it comes to the effect of technology in our schools. Though technology has not made a huge impression overall on student learning for a long time, he thinks that it will help with a couple of things: teachers speaking less and students talking more. Teachers, through necessity, have learned to “triage” their teaching to make direct lectures more streamlined. Students are more willing to ask for help or clarification if they can do it privately, such as in discussion boards and with student response tools. Of course, this remains to be seen.

The newest Visible Learning tool for analyzing how specific strategies influence learning is located here. It can help you determine some areas on which you’d like to focus in order to make the biggest impact, or ones that you may be spending too much time on based on how little influence it may ultimately wield.

Photo by Amina Filkins on

Get your Schitt Together

I am currently attending the TCEA Virtual Convention, so I plan to share a little about what I’ve learned in each post this week.

As I was wading through Tweets about TCEA last night looking for guidance on which On-Demand sessions I needed to add to my itinerary, I ran across this hashtag: #IdeaSchittHappens.

I should mention that I’m a Schitt’s Creek convert – someone who tried watching the show, gave up, then tried watching again because people kept nagging me about it, and fell in love. Now I nag others.

So it was only natural for me to try to find out what was going on when I saw that hashtag, and that’s when I found out about a session called, “Rose to the Occasion: Shifting to a Coaching Culture.” (If you don’t recognize the pun, then you obviously have not been converted and may find this post makes little sense to you. Watch all of Season 4, and come back here. I’ll wait.)

The great team of Emily Coklan (@TechCoachEm), Suzanne Weider (@Teachtech95), Casey Veitch (@Cveitcher), Matt Marston, Dana Ladenburger (@dladenburger), and Jenni LaBrie (@jennilabrie) presented a delightful and meaningful session that made excellent analogous connections between Schitt’s Creek and educational coaching. As is often the case when it comes to good coaching, the insights are applicable to teaching and any type of leadership as well.

I enjoyed and took notes throughout their presentation, but I asked Casey Veitch if I could share one of the slides that I thought was pretty powerful. The archetypes in Schitt’s Creek are fairly straightforward, and the team developed coaching questions that might be most helpful with each of the characters based on their personalities. Though “real” people are more multi-faceted, this table of suggestions can help those in guiding roles target some of the immediate needs being displayed. (If you want to find out your own Schitt’s Creek personality, here is a quiz for you.)

from “Wading Through Schitt,” presented at TCEA 2021 by Emily Coklan (@TechCoachEm), Suzanne Weider (@Teachtech95), Casey Veitch (@Cveitcher), Matt Marston, Dana Ladenburger (@dladenburger), and Jenni LaBrie (@jennilabrie)

If you can watch the TCEA session, I think you will definitely find it worth your while. You can also go to The GroundED Learners Guild to listen to some podcasts by three members of the team. And if there is a way to get this group to your school or district to present, even more people can benefit from their wisdom.