brother and sister sitting together on podium and reading from digital pad
K-12, Language Arts, Reading

Young Mensan Magazine

Young Mensan Magazine is a digital magazine for students that is free and available online. Though the target audience is children who are part of Mensa, a non-profit organization open to people who score in the 98th %ile or above on certain IQ tests, the magazine is not restricted to members, and should appeal to students with a variety of interests. It has jokes (the latest edition includes a Mad-Lib type of activity), puzzles, and human interest stores that are contributed by children who are members of Mensa around the world. There are also contests, such as the “Create a Cryptid Contest” (deadline September 30), as well as poems and well-written articles.

Though Young Mensan is a quarterly magazine, you can also access the archive online — dozens of previous issues that go all of the way back to 2009 when the magazine was originally titled, Fred. Some of the themes you’ll find are: “Numbers Game,” “Time Tales,” “2E,” and, “Zombies.”

Whether you assign an article or poem to be read, offer this as an option for “first finishers,” or recommend it to parents of children who are always hungry for new things to read, definitely keep the Young Mensan Magazine in mind as a great option for students searching for engaging and relevant reading material.

crop african american student studying craters of moon on tablet at observatory
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Artificial Intelligence, K-12

What Do Students Think About AI?

Since I’m no longer in the classroom, I don’t get the valuable daily perspective of young students about education topics that impact them, such as AI (Artificial Intelligence). When I do get the opportunity to ask students of different ages about how the subject of AI is being handled at their schools, most of them tell me that it’s either being banned or largely ignored. So, I was curious to see a video made by some students at a Code Ninjas location in College Station run by David Hendrawirawan. The students participated in a camp in which the teacher, Julia Weiss, helped them to learn more about Artificial Intelligence.

As these astute young people have concluded, there are some troubling ethical issues surrounding AI, but there are also some very exciting uses that can dramatically improve people’s lives. I would argue that it’s imperative for us to face the reality that AI will be ubiquitous in a short matter of time and that we will be doing our students a huge disservice by ignoring its potential impact.

In a recent presentation that I gave about AI, I included this quote:

We cannot stop AI. What we can do is teach our children what it is and how to use it ethically to solve problems. The good news is that there are lots of resources to help you do this that I’ve been collecting here, including a new page from specifically for teachers. And, there are some tools that can improve your life as educators right now by saving you time, such as Curipod. While we need to be wary of privacy and safety with AI, as with any technology tool, banning its use completely from schools is definitely not the answer.

K-12, Teaching Tools

How Can I Help?

My big binge this summer was the series, “New Amsterdam.” Set in a fictional public hospital in New York City, the medical director, Dr. Max Goodwin, is exactly the kind of person I would like to work for: empathetic, hands-on, innovative, smart, and determined. There were so many parallels to public education that I saw in this show– the awful parts and the great parts. The character of Max Goodwin completely inspired me, but also sadly reinforces the stereotype that you can only be great in your job by sacrificing a healthy personal life.

While I do believe that it’s impossible to keep your work and personal life perfectly balanced, I think that we can keep the scales from tipping completely over in one direction or the other. And the first thing we need to do as a society is to stop expecting someone in any profession, especially service ones like nursing and teaching, to be responsible for everything. Dr. Goodwin, though he certainly didn’t practice what he preached when it came to his own life, felt the same. And that is why he becomes known throughout the series for his simple response to anyone who approached him:

So, I’d like to ask you today the same question. I’ve had this website for 12 years, where I’ve shared resources that I think are great for engaging learners. I have my Gifts for the Gifted, my Wakelet collections, and Genius Hour materials (see under Resources in the top menu), in addition to the Downloads for Teachers. Most of these are free. I also have courses, both face-to-face and online (not free, but definitely not super-expensive).

What can I provide on this site to you that would be helpful? I do donate a lot of time to this website/blog/newsletter, but I would like to be better about making the time I am giving more worthwhile. I know your biggest priority is probably more physical presence “in the trenches” with you. But since I can’t be there with each and every one of you, what can I do from here? Please comment below.

Broadcast room
Careers, K-12

New Podcast Dropped!

When Dana Goodier invited me to be on the Out of the Trenches podcast, I almost said, “No, thanks.” This wasn’t a reflection on the podcast, just of my own anxiety. You see, a few years ago I was diagnosed with laryngeal dystonia and my brief celebration after finally getting a name for the strange things my voice has done all my life quickly became a frustrating quest to get the right treatment. There is no cure for this disease, and the most promising treatment is Botox injections in your vocal cords. These aren’t only expensive, but the right dosage varies incredibly and can result in temporary side effects like breathiness and “Minnie-Mouse” voice. Too little can mean that you just paid a lot of money to have a normal voice for 7 days, and too much can mean that you’re sidelined for 3 weeks from talking on the phone or attending raucous parties because no one can hear you.

So, I’ve been getting treatments, and sometimes my voice is great and sometimes I sound like SpongeBob, and sometimes I sound like I just spent the night before screaming at a rock concert. But I went ahead and said, “Yes,” to Dana anyway because I’m kind of done with making every decision based on the predictability of my voice quality.

Our interview was months ago, but the podcast just got posted. Of course, I had to listen to it first so I could decide if I should pretend it didn’t exist (even though odds are good someone would find it anyway) or share the link with you. Like most of you, I expect, I despise the sound of my recorded voice — even when the treatments are working — but I also felt responsible for listening to the episode because I couldn’t remember anything I’d said and I wanted to make sure I didn’t blurt out something stupid that would get me canceled.

Fortunately, my voice is not nearly as annoying as I feared, though it does break in a few parts. And I managed to not say anything super controversial, thanks to Dana being a great host who prepared me well. You can listen to the episode here if you want to judge for yourself.

Even if my particular episode isn’t your jam, Dana has a perfectly wonderful podcast voice, which you may want to listen to in one of her many other Out of the Trenches episodes. The podcast, and Dana’s book, are all about the resilience of educators. You can learn about obstacles they’ve faced and overcome, and advice they would give to others. One thing that I know I learned as a teacher (which I share during the interview) is to be less pig-headed and actually consider what experienced teachers have to say. If it wasn’t for one of those sage mentors, my teaching career would have ended after 8 years instead of 29. So, give yourself the gift of some positive, but practical, advice to drown out all of the hate that seems to be aimed at this profession right now.

By the way, though being on podcasts stresses me out, I love helping students to create them! I offering a new workshop this year for teachers of grades 6-12 called, From Script to Sound:  Engaging Student Learning through Podcasting. Contact me if you’re interested!     

selective focus photography of gray stainless steel condenser microphone
Photo by Magda Ehlers on
Creative Thinking, K-12, Teaching Tools

May I Help You With Some Resources for This Month?

Well, it happened. May snuck up on me and here we are. It was amusing to wake up to some Twitter drama about Teacher Appreciation Week, which is generally the first week of May, but Google has deemed that it doesn’t start until next week. Supposedly, whoever actually decides these things decided TAW needs to be during the first full week of May, and when the month starts on a Monday instead of a Sunday that doesn’t count. I don’t really know who is in charge of these seemingly arbitrary calendar declarations, but I do think the cherry on top is that it’s actually Principals’ Day. So, Happy Principals’ Day to those of you who are one or are aspiring to be one. And for goodness sake, just appreciate teachers every day and that dilemma will disappear once and for all.

May Wakelet

I do have some Teacher Appreciation links in this month’s Wakelet if you are so inclined. I also have May the 4th (Star Wars Day), Cinco de Mayo, and Mother’s Day resources. And — I know some of you are going to grit your teeth in frustration, but remember some schools actually started their years in late July, early August last year — the link to my End of the School Year Wakelet.

Other Wakelets

If you haven’t checked out my collection of Wakelets, you may find some other desperately needed resources here. From Brainteasers and Puzzles to Fun Stuff, if you are trying to survive testing or just the sheer exhaustion of making it through this many months of the school year, there are plenty of options to help you keep putting some “zing” into your lessons even if you feel like you’ve used them all.

Celebrate with a Pool Party

And, if worse comes to worse you can always download my Summer Pool Party Creative Thinking Packet. It’s free and I’ve used it with all ages to give students the opportunity to practice their S.C.A.M.P.E.R. skills.

from my Summer Pool Party packet
K-12, Teaching Tools

Would You Rather AI Generator from Auto Classmate

The “Would You Rather” AI Generator from Auto Classmate was first brought to my attention in a newsletter from the fabulous Donna Lasher over at Big Ideas For Little Scholars. (You should seriously sign up for her newsletter. I learn new things in every edition!)

What is Auto Classmate?

Auto Classmate is one of the millions of sites that have popped up recently in order to leverage the power of AI. However, it is one of the few that has the sole mission of serving educators. “We strive to provide innovative and ethical resources to transform the future of education and–ultimately–the world.”

To that end, the site currently has three AI tools with more on their way. The tools are: Would Rather Question Generator, Activation and Engagement Activity Generator, and Lesson Plan and Activity Forecast Tool. Feeling a bit of spring-time fever, I decided to go with testing out the Would You Rather Questions for a bit of fun. I may feature the other tools on later blog posts.

Would You Rather Wear a Garbage Bag or Pick Up Trash?

The Would You Rather AI Tool is very easy to use. No sign up or registration is required. Just choose the grade level, type in a topic, and decide the tone you want for your questions. I went with 5th grade, Earth Day, and (of course) Absurd and Hilarious.

It took less than 30 seconds for the generator to give me these suggestions which I could then copy and paste, download as a PDF, or add more details to refine the questions:

Why Do This?

The bottom of the response page in this Auto Classmate Tool offers suggestions for using these for warm-ups, as part of an assessment, or as brain breaks. That’s why I love the options for choosing the level of seriousness and the grade levels. If you’d like an idea of how I’ve used Would You Rather questions in math (kind of a combination of the serious and the absurd), check out this post.

More Resources

I’ve written about a few other AI tools specifically designed for teachers such as Curipod and Conker AI. I’ve also written about how I’ve used Chat GPT for differentiation ideas. To find these articles and a plethora of links to sites that will help you teach your students about Artificial Intelligence, you can visit my Wakelet collection here. I’ll be adding this one to it as well as to my “Fun Stuff” Wakelet for those of you in the midst of standardized testing who just want some brain breaks.