Category Archives: K-12

The Bus Driver

In this recent story that I heard on NPR, the host stated that a survey conducted by the group behind Sesame Street found that most parents would choose having children who are kind over having children who get good grades.  Of course, teaching children to be kind does not work if it isn’t modeled for them.  Behaving kindly ourselves can go a long way toward cultivating this in our children.  It also helps when they hear and see real-life stories of kindness.

Larry Ferlazzo recently published a post about a StoryCorps/Upworthy collaboration that is producing videos for a campaign called, #WhoWeAre.  There are a couple of videos that really reflect amazing kindness, and I wanted to share one of them today.  I’m going to call it, “The Bus Driver,” since there doesn’t appear to be an actual title for the video other than its description.

image from "The Bus Driver"
image from “The Bus Driver”

We have a tendency to laud the men and women who make headlines with their fame and/or fortune.  But it is people like the bus driver in this short story who are the true heroes of the world.

For more inspirational videos for students, click here.

Open Middle

Open Middle is a blog that offers unique math tasks for K-12 students.  Dan Meyer, an educator who speaks about how “Math Class Needs a Makeover” in this TED Talk, describes “Open Middle” problems this way:

  • “they have a “closed beginning” meaning that they all start with the same initial problem.
  • they have a “closed end” meaning that they all end with the same answer.
  • they have an “open middle” meaning that there are multiple ways to approach and ultimately solve the problem.”

Several educators contributed problems to the Open Middle site. You can search for challenges by grade level and by mathematical area (such as geometry).  Below is an example, submitted by Ian Kerr, from the 5th grade group of fraction problems.

5th grade fraction problem from Open Middle, submitted by Ian Kerr
5th grade fraction problem from Open Middle, submitted by Ian Kerr

I would encourage you to take a look at the “Open Middle Worksheet” that you can download for students, as it gives students space for multiple attempts, and also asks students to verbalize what they learned from each attempt.  This is an excellent way to reinforce that you can learn from mistakes, and the growth mindset attitude that you may not know how to do it yet.

The Boy Who Learned to Fly

Ever since watching “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore,” I have been a huge fan of Moonbot Studios.  In this video for Gatorade about Usain Bolt, Moonbot once again captures the imagination with vivid imagery and animation.  In seven minutes, the story of Bolt’s journey from a young boy in Jamaica to a world champion unfurls.  It’s inspirational and a fitting tribute to a man who literally lives up to his name.

For more inspirational videos, click here.

Screen Shot from The Boy Who Learned to Fly
Screen Shot from The Boy Who Learned to Fly

How to Encourage Students to Question

In my latest article for Fusion Yearbooks, I offer some practical ideas for encouraging questioning in the classroom.  If we want future generations of students to be critical thinkers and problem solvers, they must learn the importance of questioning – which is sadly a skill often discouraged by educators.

image from Flickr
image from Flickr

Here are links to some of my other Fusion blog posts:

Cubelets Lesson Plans

My students have always been completely mesmerized by the power of Cubelets, modular robots that adhere magnetically and can be put together in a seemingly endless number of combinations. Obtaining enough Cubelets to feed the curiosity of a large group can get expensive, but we were fortunate enough to get some grant applications approved that allowed us to purchase a decent number. The combined set has definitely been one of the best investments I’ve made for my classroom.

Modular Robotics, the company behind Cubelets, has offered resources to teachers for the past few years.  But they now have an updated portion of their site devoted to lesson plans.  The plans are divided into grade level strands, starting with Pre-K and ending with 12th grade.  Browsing through the plans I found some “meaty” material, including this “Cause and Effect” plan for 4th-6th graders. Be advised that you will need to look carefully at the required Cubelets for the plans you use as some are not included in the less expensive kits.

Cubelets are great for centers and maker spaces.  With these free lesson plans, educators may feel more comfortable with integrating these versatile robots into their curriculum as well.

image from
image from

Stick Pick (Reblog)

I originally posted this 5 years ago.  I was recently discussing it with my colleagues because we are trying to work on better questioning, and thought it couldn’t hurt to reblog about this app.

Stick Pick is an app with great potential as a teacher tool. The teacher can add one or more classes within the app. To each class, the teacher adds individual student names, determining the type and level of questioning to use for each student from the following categories: Bloom’s Taxonomy, Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy, or ESL. Once all students are entered, their sticks appear in a cup from which the teacher can randomly or purposefully choose names. As each student is chosen, a list of question stems from their particular assigned level appears on the screen. This is a wonderful way for teachers to differentiate impromptu questions for students.

Welcome, Mr. Reed!

I want to welcome a new teacher to the profession.  I don’t know him.  I don’t even know where he teaches.  But I know he teaches 4th grade, and I’m pretty sure his students are going to have an awesome year.

Mr. Reed Welcomes His New 4th Graders
Mr. Reed Welcomes His New 4th Graders

Mr. Reed made a special music video to welcome his students to 4th grade, and watching it made me wish I could be in his class.  I love that he found a way to combine two of his obvious passions – music and teaching.  I also think it’s great that you can download the music track for free here.

You’re incredible, Mr. Reed.  To you, and all of the other new teachers beginning their careers this year, I welcome your energy, enthusiasm, and elation. I wish I could make you feel as special as your students must feel.  Thank you for committing to this profession and, more importantly, to the students.  I don’t have a music video to communicate how great it is to have you join our ranks, but here is a link to my Pinterest Board of Inspirational Video for Teachers to help you out on those days when you start wondering if you made the right decision.  (Trust me, you did, Mr. Reed!)