“If you do what you always did, you will get what you always got.” By Anonymous


Student motivation is one of the biggest struggles teachers have. There are a lot of ways to build student motivation. Here are my top five ways:

  1. Create a safe learning environment: This seems simple but it is something teachers need to be very purposeful about in their classroom. It is more than allowing students to ask questions and have positive quotes on the walls but it is also about…
    • Allowing risk taking and failures
    • Giving “Just right” challenges
    • Creating various learning environments
    • Posting student work (without grades on them as that is breaking FERPA law)
    • Model learning (Read when your students are reading, write when they are writing, think aloud when solving a math problem, make a mistake and fix it)
    • Class Team Building Games
    • Change Mindsets
  2.  Get to know your students and let them know you: You will be able to better tailor your instruction to your students’ if you know their backgrounds and personal interest. If they see you as a ‘person’ (you know how kids think we live at school) it helps them better relate. It has been proven that getting to know your students will inspire their loyalty to you and want to do well for themselves as well.
    • Sit with them at lunch and talk to them (you will be surprised how often I hear and see teachers say, I sit with my kids everyday but they don’t actually talk to them but monitor them – there is a BIG difference.)
    • Have Identity Day in your classroom or school
    • Put pictures of your family and things you enjoy doing at your desk or around the room. 
    • Attend events and games when you can
  3. Make learning relevant and active: Students need to see that it matters and the connection it has to the real world. You can do this multiple ways for example:
    • Allow them to set goals and reflect on them 
    • Utilize technology
    • authentic tasks and solve real world problems
    • Think about audience (have a global audience through blogging, building websites etc)
    • Teach through discovery or ccooperative learning activities 
  4. Give authentic feedback: It is a myth offering praise all the time will motivate students. Think about when someone tells you ‘good job’. It feels forced and that they didn’t take the time. What motivates students is specific feedback that also offers opportunities to improve. 
  5. Give student choice: Let students choose topics that interest them or create products to show their understanding. If giving choice makes you nervous, start small by offering a choice of two. For example allowing your students to either create a prezi or a poster to show mastery of a topic.

Other articles and books on student motivation: 

5 Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Unmotivated Students by Jennifer Gonzalez

“Motivating Unmotivated Students” from Doug Reeves

The Motivated Brain by Gayle Gregory & Martha Kaufeldt

Teaching Strategies: Motivating Students




“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.” by Malala Yousafzai

With another school year coming to a close; I have created my book list for my summer reading. Below are the books I will be reading this summer in no particular order:

Currently reading (with one chapter left) and I highly reccommend: Passionate Learners: How to Engage and Empower Your Students by Pernille Ripp


  1. Understanding How Young Children Learn: Bringing the Science of Child Development to the Classroom by Wendy L. Ostroff
  2. Leadership: Key Competencies for Whole-System Change by Lyle Kirtman and Michael Fullan
  3. Learning to Choose, Choosing to Learn: The Key to Student Motivation and Achievement by Mike Anderson

Below are books I have read recently that I recommend for your summer reading list if you have not read them yet!

The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity by George Couros

The Reading Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Readers  by Jennifer Serravallo

Please add titles you are reading in the comment section as I love adding books to my reading list!

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” Walt Disney

We are hearing more and more about ‘Kid-Entrepreneurs’ from different sources such as the news to shark tank. Often teachers ask me, ‘how do you let the students know about these students?’ Below I give you three ways you can add it into your classroom, share my favorite 12 Kid-Entrepreneurs and a few sites that also can help you.

  1. Create a Kid-Entrepreneurs bulletin board in your classroom. On this board have the Kid-Entrepreneurs pictures and some information about what they invented. (Make it interactive and let the students add to it – you will be surprised how any go home and research it!)
  2. Use articles that are about Kid-Entrepreneurs in your classroom. For example have them do a close read.
  3. Add it into your morning meetings/class advisory time; once a week you can highlight a Kid-Entrepreneur.

Kid-Entrepreneurs to utilize in the Classroom:

  1. Adora Svitak, age 18  (started at 12)  Writer, speaker, advocate (if you haven’t watched her Ted Talks you are missing out, my favorite is ‘What adults can learn from kids’)
  2. Jake Andraka, age 17 (started at 15) – Jack Andraka
  3. Mikaila Ulmer, age 11 – Me and the Bees
  4. Alina Morse, age 10 – Zollipops
  5. Isabella Rose Taylor, age 15 – Isabella Rose Taylor Fashion
  6. Kid President, age 14, (started at 10) Kid President
  7. Rachel Zietz, age 15 – Gladiator Lacrosse
  8. Madison Robinson, ag2 18 (started at 12) – Fish Flops
  9. Mercer Henderson, age 13 – Audiots
  10. Thomas Suarez, age 17 (started at 12) CarrotCorp (His Ted Talk as an app developer)
  11. Hart Main, age 18 (started at 13) ManCans 
  12. E2D (a local Kid-Entrepreneurs from Charlotte)

Meet 15 Superkids Who Are Going to Change the World

9 Amazing (Very) Young Entrepreneurs 

Other Kid-Entrepreneurs Resources:

Kidpresneurs Site

Project Based Entrepreneurship (Biz World)

Biz Kids Site

The Start-Up Kids

Google Science Contest

Kids News (Entrepreneurs) 

Lesson Plans for Classroom Activities on Entrepreneurship 

Ted Talk  Related to Kid-Entrepreneurs 


You might even have some Kid-Entrepreneurs in your classroom!

“Stereotypes lose their power when the world is found to be more complex than the stereotype would suggest. When we learn that individuals do not fit the group stereotype, then it begins to fall apart. ” By Ed Koch

Almost a year ago I wrote a blog post about creating a culturally responsive classroom and since then it has been a topic that I have been interested in. To further my practice and understanding of the Whole Child, I have been attending culturally responsive leadership meetings my district has offered, read books and attended sessions at conferences on this topic. I find it fascinating as I love learning about different cultures and how it plays into the education world. Below are some of my take-aways from my learnings over the last year. These are high level take-aways and I encourage you to think about if you are culturally responsive educator and how are you trying to improve your craft to meet the Whole Child.

  1. I was able to hear Manny Scott, an original Freedom Rider at ASCD conference in Atlanta. He was one of the best keynotes I have heard. He made me laugh, cry while also being able to push my thinking around culture responsiveness. Manny gave us a new lens to look through as educators and how one educator made a difference in his life. Here are some of my take aways/reminder from Manny:
    1. What a powerful reminder that dropping out is a process, not an event.
    2. You will not reach anyone if you vilify the things they find important. Become a student of your students. (think about their culture and background)
    3. Giving up on students is unacceptable. We might be the only chance some have in this world.
    4. Do not let labels of students determine your relationship with them.
  2. I thought The Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People was a captivating book. It really opened my eyes to how I look at things. Now I have a better understanding of myself and others. For example how often times we assume our culture is the right culture and make judgments based on our beliefs such as ‘this parent didn’t show up to a parent teacher conference, they don’t care about the students education like they should.’ Meanwhile the conferences are held during the teachers preferred time, not necessarily taking into consideration some parents work different shifts or multiple jobs so their child can have things they need.
  3. I have read a lot of articles/blogs but I highly recommend reading this great article: The Culturally Responsive Educator. It is about how culturally responsive classrooms is more than food, traditions and flags; “cultural responsiveness is a frame of mind in which we view the tasks of teaching through the lens of cultural diversity.” It offers great examples and ideas of things to think about in your classroom or school.


“Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.” By William Pollard


What are sketchnotes you are probably asking yourself?  Mike Rohde, author of The Sketchnote Handbook describes them as “…rich visual notes created from a mix of handwriting, drawings, hand-drawn typography, shapes, and visual elements like arrows, boxes, and lines.” Sketchnotes are a great way to capture big ideas on a topic by making learning visible. It can also improve retention and learning in the classroom. Below are three ways you can use sketchnotes in the classroom:

  1. Have students use sketchnotes to document their learning. For example: The students can explain why you compare two fractions with the same numerator or the same denominator by reasoning about their size. (3.NF.3D)
  2. As students watch a video they can use sketchnotes to identify key facts or details.
  3. Students can create a sketchnote to summarize a book.

Other Resources:

Educator’s Guide: Sketchnotes for Visual Note Taking

Kathy Schrock Sketchnoting

The Benefits of Using Doodling and Sketchnotes in the Classroom

Sketchnoting for Beginners Presentation by Sylvia Duckworth

If you want to find and share great sketchnotes, follow the #edusketch hashtag on Twitter.

“Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.” By Vera Nazarian

New literacies refers to literacy through digital technology.  In todays classrooms literacy needs to look a little different because our students are learning  with different tools and for a different type of world. New literacies still focuses on reading skills, strategies, and ideas but through multi-media digital tools. For example, we still need to teach close reading but not just with reading an article online but also with tools such as podcasts and blogs etc. Below are some good resources  for you to explore and try integrating into your classroom. 


Infusing Technology into the Balanced Literacy Classroom Jennifer W. Shettel, Ed.D. and Kevin Bower, M.Ed.


Literature Map: Students can put in their favorite author and literature map displays other authors that are similar that they might like.

Newspaper Map: Bring any place in the worlds Newspaper to your students finger tips. Click on a location and then on the image icon to pull up the newspaper from that part of the world. Need it translated into your native language, it will translate it for you.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 4.29.00 PM.png

International Children’s Digital Library:  Find books from all over the world at the on this free site. It doesn’t read the books aloud, but students can read them independently.

Film Canon Project: Films, screen plays and more to add a different type of literacy to your classroom.

Podcasts for Students: Here are curated podcasts that students enjoy and teachers use in the classroom.

News ELA: Find non-fiction articles based on your students levels.

US Digital Literacy: Chalk full of resources and ideas!


The Reading Strategies BookYour Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Readers By Jennifer Serravallo Practical strategies to help improve your reading instruction

Smuggling Writing: Strategies That Get Students to Write Every Day, in Every Content Area, Grades 3-12 by Karen D. (Dutson) Wood, David Bruce Taylor, Katie Stover 

“Action is the foundational key to all success.” By Anthony Robbins

Final Hands

Personalized Learning (PL) looks different in every school and in every classroom but the foundation to me is that it is about letting students own and drive their learning. PL is not another thing but doing whats best for ALL students through best practices. Here are 10 ways you can start to personalize your classroom.

  1. Allow students to goal set and reflect on their work.
  2. Use the data to help guide your instruction, not just collect it.
  3. Allow students to know and understand their data .
  4. Build in time for morning meeting and/or morning advisory time.
  5. Have students be creators of content verse consumers.
  6. Give students choice in their tasks, products etc.
  7. Build in time for genius hour or passion based learning.
  8. All for students to work at their own pace verse following a set pacing guide.
  9. Triangulate data so students show mastery through multiple ways.
  10. Hold student led conferences weekly verse during parent/teacher conference time.

These are a few things that you can do to help move to a more Personalized Learning classroom. Try one at a time as small action steps make the biggest impact. Here are my previous posts on PL you may also want to visit:

Personalized Learning and Classroom Management

The Shift of the Role of the Teacher

Personalized Learning ‘Look Fors’ In the Classroom

Moving through the Continuum of Instructional Models

Dismantling the Myths of Personalized Learning




Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,150 other followers

%d bloggers like this: