“Every day brings new choices.” By Martha Beck

I was working on a professional development this week and I decided I wanted to try out a new web tool. I have seen My Simple Show about a year ago being used when it was in beta and so I decided to test it out. I think it is an awesome tool students and educators can use.


Once you make an account, click on create new video. Then you complete four steps:

  1. Draft: This section prompts you to decide on your audience, the purpose of the video and story line which takes seconds to do. Make sure you enjoy the cute mascot and what he says in-between each step.ūüôā
  2. Write: Write out your script. If you already know what you want to say, this doesn’t take long. (Learn from my mistake, it is really important to make sure your script is finalized before going to the next step. If you decide to go backwards or want to edit, a lot of items don’t save.)
  3. Visualize: Here you get to pick your images to match the words of your script. The cool thing is it automatically does it for you however I changed a lot of mine up too so I wasn’t always seeing the same images. You can also upload your own images too. If you edit the text at this stage, you do get a message that says “Editing your text will reset your canvas for this scene. It’s best to fine tune your text before deciding on illustrations.” I edited a lot of text because I didn’t like how it broke it up. (That could just be me though)
  4. Finalize: Here is where you can choose which voice you would like to read your script or you can record your own. You can also add subtext and video speed.

Each step has a video guide that makes it very simple to use, however when I did skip the help guide I got stuck a few times so I learned, watch the guide!

You can use this multiple ways as an educator. For me, I used it as a way to introduce a topic to educators through a virtual professional development. As a teacher you can have the students create how to videos, show what they know through explaining or have them compare and contrast two topics.

Other blog posts about My SimpleShow that you might find helpful:

Wow ‚Äď ‚ÄúMy Simple Show‚ÄĚ Is An Extraordinary Tool For Creating Free Video ‚ÄúExplainers‚ÄĚ

My SimpleShow Offers a Good Way to Create Explanatory Videos



“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed no hope at all.” By Dale Carnegie

The beginning of the year is a great time to introduce the idea of having a growth mindset to your classroom. I complied a list of 20 great growth mindset themed books that you can put in your classroom libraries and have for read alouds.

Ada Twist, Scientist, Rosie Revere, Engineer and Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty

Not a Box and Not a Stick by Antoinette Portis

Salt in His Shoes by Deloris Jordan and Roslyn M. Jordan 

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

Violet the Pilot by Steve Breen

Your Fantastic Elastic Brain Stretch It, Shape It by  JoAnn Deak Ph.D. 

Making A Splash: A Growth Mindset Children’s Book¬†by¬†Carol E Reiley

What Do You Do With a Problem?  and What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg

The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett

Thank You Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco

The Dot, Ish, Going Places by Peter Reynolds

Other growth mindset blog posts I have written:

Musing on Mindset

Tools to Help Students Build a Growth Mindset

I am always looking for more great growth mindset themed books to add to my library so please share in the comments.



‚ÄúTechnology can and should be used as a tool to open the classroom to the world, to ensure that teachers present standards in a way that fosters active engagement and participation in meaningful ways.‚ÄĚ ‚Äď from Pencils to Podcasts¬†

Guest blog post by Katie Stover

Who knew what started as a partnership between my education students at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina and Lindsay Yearta’s fifth graders in Rock Hill, South Carolina would become a catalyst for a larger endeavor. In 2013, both groups of students read Linda Sue Park’s novel, A Long Walk to Water  and used Kid Blog as a platform for ongoing conversation about the book. This digital book club enhanced the fifth graders’ motivation and engagement in reading while providing the preservice teachers with a hands-on experience working with elementary-aged learners. The online reader response provided the preservice teachers with authentic assessment and instructional opportunities without having to physically be present in the classroom. They used students’ written responses as a springboard for online conversation about the shared text. The preservice teachers modeled proficient reader strategies like connecting, predicting, and inferring. They then probed and engaged the fifth graders through questioning to elicit deeper comprehension and discussion of the text.

When sharing about this mutually beneficial blogging partnership at the International Literacy Conference in 2014, we were asked by Solution Tree Publishers to consider writing a book about ways to integrate technology into teaching and learning. Fast forward two years later and we are thrilled to announce our new book titled, From Pencils to Podcasts: Digital Tools to Transform K-6 Literacy Practices will be released at the end of August. In this book, we share more about the online book club as well as over a dozen other suggestions for embedding technology into the curriculum to prepare students to meet the demands of the 21st century. We offer practical suggestions for integrating digital tools into familiar literacy practices to facilitate comprehension, evaluation, publication, and assessment. Each chapter provides a vignette, easy-to-use digital tools, step by step instructions for getting started as well as authentic classroom examples and suggestions for adapting across content areas.

We would love to hear from you as you try out and adapt any ideas from the book in your own schools!  Our Twitter handles are: Katie Stover @kstover24 and Lindsay Yearta @lyearta 

From Pencils to Podcasts

Join #21stedchat on October 2nd, 2017 @ 8:00 EST PM with @edu_thompson and @dprindle with guest host @kstover24 as we discuss the book From Pencils to Podcasts: Digital Tools to Transform K-6 Literacy Practices 

To read more about the blogging partnership and other publications by Katie Stover, visit https://furman.academia.edu/KatieStover.

Also check out another great book coauthored by Katie Stover, Smuggling Writing: Strategies That Get Students to Write Every Day, in Every Content Area, Grades 3-12



“Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” By Mattie Stepanek


A few weeks ago I was inspired when talking to some educators from across the country about Personalized Learning (PL). When we were talking it became apparent that we needed a place to collaborate our ideas around the topic of Personalized Learning. With a place to collaborate we could better learn from each other while also sharing what we know about PL to help other educators implement PL.

PL looks different in every school and in every classroom but the foundation is about letting students own and drive their learning. PL is not another thing but a philosophy. I decided to create a Personalized Learning Collaboration Facebook Group to give educators, from all over the world, a place to share their resources, questions and ideas as they improve their teaching craft around PL. This group is open to anyone and we would love for you to join and share with anyone that you think will benefit from this group. We already have 245 educators from all over the world that are a blend of teachers, administrators, central office staff to Professors at the University level.

 PL Community Group Guidelines: If we see violation of these community guidelines we’ll remove the content and possibly the person posting.

  • All members are encouraged to share content that connects to Personalized Learning. The group is intended as a PLN for educators.
  • We ask that you respect others in the community. Please refrain from any personal attacks, bad language, and to be cautious of sharing too much personal details (ex: no student names if you are sharing student work etc). Anything we deem disrespectful will be removed and any internet trolls will be permanently removed from the group.
  • No spam or scams are allowed and please refrain from posting content unrelated to the group. If you share a link, we ask that it be helpful to the group. Anything we deem spam or a scam will be removed.

I look forward to collaborating with you all as we start another school year.



“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new. ” By Albert Einstein

OpenEd has recently released a new FREE Google Doc Add On called Lesson Plan Tool For Docs.  It is an add on tool built into Google documents that pops up on the right hand side (similar to how the research feature works on Google documents) that allows you to add resources to your lesson plans. You can search for K-12 resources from opened.com which makes it simple to integrate into your document. OpenED has videos, games, assessments and more all aligned to common core standards. 

You can find resources that are aligned to standards, two different ways. One way is by using the search box. Input a standard that you need resources for such as 5.NF.1 and the aligned resources will appear below. The second way is to select a standard drop down and navigate to the standard you are looking for. Teachers can obviously use this tool to build lesson plans, units of study or curriculum maps but I would use it differently!

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 8.49.34 AM

I would use this tool to build playlist or¬†pathways for students by standard; very similar to how I have used¬†Blendspace¬†in the past.¬†To create a¬†Pathway¬†(example below), where¬†students have choice of what tasks they want to complete based on a particular standard; using the ‘Lesson Plan Add on Tool’ teachers can simply drag and drop resources to create some of the tasks for the pathways by standards. You can also use the assessments that are in OpenEd as checkpoints. This saves teachers time and allows them to stay within one platform (Google) plus it is easy to assign to Google Classroom as well.

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 9.18.15 AM

Below are some articles and more information on Lesson Plan Tools for Google Docs:

Lesson Plan Tool Docs by OpenEd

A New Lesson Plan Tool for Google Docs by Richard Byrne

OpenEd Facebook and Twitter pages

How to video on Adding on Lesson Plan Tools for Google Docs

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” By Michael Jordan

With more ‘old school’ game shows coming back to mainstream television again. It is only fitting we add them into the classroom* as well. Below is how I adapted the games Password and Knockout = Password Knockout as Passout just didn’t seem to work.ūüėČ

Original Password Game:¬†Participants are paired with a ‘star’ celebrity trying to correctly guess a secret word their teammate knew. They could only give one word hints and if the pair got it wrong, gameplay passed to the other team. It would keep passing back and forth until one team guessed the ‚Äúpassword‚ÄĚ.¬†

Original Knockout Game: Players are shown a list of four words and the first player to buzz-in would have to guess which one didn’t belong and how the other three were connected.¬†A right answer earned a player a letter in the word “KNOCKOUT” which was displayed on their podium in front of them.¬†In possibly gain more letters, the player with the right answer had a chance dare one of the other players to answer. The first player to light up “KNOCKOUT” won the game.

Our Game- Password Knockout:¬†Very similar¬†to the original game password but all of our ‚Äúpasswords‚ÄĚ pertain to units of study concepts and/or vocabulary words. ¬†For example: ecosystems – all the passwords would be related to ecosystems such as abiotic or consumers. The words are behind the head of the guesser so the person giving the clue and the audience/class can also view too.¬†Whichever team guesses the password correctly moves on and dares a different team. The other team is knocked out. The final team ‘standing’ wins.¬†

Rules:¬†In pairs, they will have to decide who will be the clue giver (one word hint) and who will be the guesser. When it is their turn, a word will flash up behind the partner’s head. They must give a one word clue in less than 30 seconds or they will be eliminated. If they give more than one clue, they are eliminated.

The End Goal/Result:¬†This game helps students strengthen all 4’cs (communication, collaboration, creativity and critically think) and the content area knowledge. This also works for grades 3rd-12 and adults.¬†

*Note: I have also used this in professional developments. I used the topic personalized learning so all words were on this topic such as choice, pace and ownership.

Helpful Hints/Notes: 

  • To see who goes up against each other first you will want teams to either pick a number (ex: 1-10) and who ever is closes gets to decide if they want to go first or dare someone else OR you can pull team names to decide who goes first.
  • Passwords: Make sure to have a list of words ready before hand. I placed them on Google Slide so that I could just flip through them. You could also have a list and write them on a whiteboard behind the guesser head.
  • To make sure student are engaged when it is not their turn; have them create a two column chart and play along. One column says Password and the other column says clue.
  • A misconception is that you have to play this whole group. You can play this in small groups and use the vocabulary that the small groups need to work on to individualize¬†it more per group.
  • Alternative version: In teams of four one person is the guesser and the team each gets to pick one word to tell their guesser. The teams have to silently work together to pick the best words without duplicating. To do this they can not talk to each other but can write on their whiteboards and or post-it notes¬†to determine which words they want to use. Each player must contribute and say a word.


“A dream is your creative vision for your life in the future. You must break out of your current comfort zone and become comfortable with the unfamiliar and the unknown.‚ÄĚ by¬†Denis Waitley

In the fall I was introduced to Breakout Edu randomly at a conference when talking with a small group during a session on critical thinking. So I bought a kit to see what it was all about. Over the last few month I have been using it during professional developments to help other educators see how and why we should use them in schools and classrooms. Everyone that has participated has loved it! So imagine my surprise when I was combing through my blog posts and was shocked that I hadn’t written a post about Breakout Edu yet, so here it is!

Breakout Edu are timed challenge games where you have to solve puzzles to unlock a box with something hidden inside. It is similar to the escape rooms where you pay to get ‚Äúlocked in‚ÄĚ a room and try to escape by solving puzzles and unlocking codes. Check out this introducing Breakout Edu video so learn more.

The below infographic (created by Sylvia Duckworth @sylviaduckworth) shows 10 reasons to play breakout edu. I have done breakouts with not only students but also adults, like I mentioned above, during Professional Development. When I recently did one for  Principals, many bought the kits to do for their opening staff meeting for the new school year. Kits are $99.00 and the site offers lots of games (k-12, common core aligned and/or skills based) that are already created and/or you can make your own.



I highly suggest reviewing and testing the games before implementation. I have had my husband do them to make sure it will run smoothly and it gives me time to work out any kinks. Recently Breakout Edu has come out with a companion app called Locks that you can use as well. For additional information, follow @BreakoutEDU along with co-founders James Sanders (@jamestsanders) and Mark Hammons (@mhammons) on Twitter. Also check out other Breakout Edu articles and resources below:

Low-tech ‘Breakout EDU’ looks to invigorate education one wooden box at a time

Breakout EDU ‚Äď You Had Me At Breakout!

Adam Bellow Becomes CEO of Breakout EDU to Spread Gamified Learning


Puzzle and Clue Maker Symbaloo

Facebook Breakout Edu Public Group

I also frequently get asked the same few questions when doing this during PD’s that I have answered below in case you have the same questions:

  1. What happens if the students don’t finish in the time limit? I have yet to have this happen but if it did you can do a few different things. You can give them more time (especially if it is their first time trying a breakout) as it is a different way of thinking. You can also have them take a break and try later or if you had them in groups have them now work all together.
  2. What happens if not all the students collaborate? Just like any group project, this could happen and you can facilitate that problem as you see fit.
  3. I have a mixed ability class, what happens if the low students can’t do them or the high students take over etc? I have yet to see this happen as well. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses and this game allows everyone to take part in a different way. When you first introduce the game you can also make sure you set expectations that everyone needs to work together. I also used to use social skill cards to help remind students. (See previous blog post, Teaching Communication and Collaboration)

Give Breakout Edu a try in your classroom and school, I think you will love it as much as I have.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,164 other followers

%d bloggers like this: