“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” By Theodore Roosevelt


Over the last few years, the idea of growth mindset has been a popular topic in education and continues to be. Knowing that our brains can change, even as adults is a wonderful thing! According to neuroscientists, the brain is like plastic, it can be reshaped over time, forming new neural pathways and this is called neuroplasticity. The things we do or say more often become wired into our brains as habits. Researchers say it takes around an average of 66 days to form a new habit.

To cultivate a growth mindset within students you can use these questions in you classroom to build new habits.

  1. What are your goals?
  2. Are you proud of your completed work; why or why not?
  3. What did you do today in ____(fill in subject) that made you think really hard?
  4. What will you do to improve upon this _____ (fill in the blank with story, design etc)
  5. Who can you seek feedback from to make your _____(fill in the blank with story, design etc) better?
  6. What mistakes did you make that taught you something new or to do differently?
  7. What strategy are you going to try?
  8. What will you do to solve this problem?
  9. How will you tackle this problem or challenge?
  10. Did you make good use of your resources?
  11. How can you do _____(fill in the blank: ex this math problem) differently?
  12. What will you do to challenge yourself today?

My other blog posts on Growth Mindset:

Tools to Help Students Build a Growth Mindset

Growth Mindset Books for Students

Musing on Mindsets

A site with songs to help students learn and understand the brain: Neuroscience for Kids Songs

I would love to learn more questions that you ask your students to help develop a growth mindset. Please add them in the comment section.


Hour of Code 2016

“An understanding of computer science is becoming increasingly essential in today’s world. Our national competitiveness depends upon our ability to educate our children—and that includes our girls—in this critical field.” By Sheryl Sandberg

It is that time of year again where I love to remind and promote Hour of Code to all educators. This year the Hour of Code is the week of December 5-11, 2017. The Hour of Code is a global movement hosted by Computer Science Education Week and Code.org reaching millions of students, in over a 100 countries from K-12th grade. The concept is simple, it gives students an one-hour introduction to computer science and computer programming.

In North Carolina alone there are 16,919 open computing jobs (4.7x the state average demand rate) with only 1,224 computer science graduates. You can learn more about how you can support North Carolina Computer Science here or about any other state here.

More great resources:

Apple is offering FREE Hour of Code Workshops

10 projects to kickstart Hour of Code

Hour of Code with Kodable

Here are my previous years blog posts on Hour of Code along with other Computer Science blog posts that have helpful resources:

Resources for CS EdWeek 2015

Hour of Code

The Foos: Kids Coding App

Using Kodable App in the Classroom

Bridging Coding and Common Core with Tynker

I hope all of you give your students the opportunity to see what coding and computer science is all about! You don’t have to know how to code or anything about computer science to provide students the spark to get them excited about learning computer science!

My Top 3 To-Do List Tools

“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.” A. A. Milne

Below are my top FREE to-do list tools! All the tools are simple to use and work on all devices. I like to model how to use these tools and incorporate them into the classroom through different projects. This allows students to decide which one they like best for themselves.

  1. Google Keep: I love Google Keep because it is fast and flexible. You can set reminders and color code your to-do lists. There is also a new Google Keep extension which allows you to save the things that you find to Keep in a single click. This is a great new feature especially for your students when they are researching as they can save their websites in one click. Here is my previous blog post on Google Keep from a few years ago….yes and I still use it!
  2. Trello: I like Trello when working on big projects with a group of people. You can add comments, attachments etc to the Trello cards. You can create timelines and checklists for different parts of the project but it is all housed together on one board.
  3. Wunderlist:  I like using this one as a way of breaking down large projects/tasks into smaller chunks for individual students. I used to do this for students and put it on their desks or in their agenda. Putting the chunks on the app makes it much more desecrate.

These are just a few of the ways you can use any of these tools in the classroom.

User Generated Education

Judy Willis in How to Teach Students About the Brain writes:

If we want to empower students, we must show them how they can control their own cognitive and emotional health and their own learning. Teaching students how the brain operates is a huge step. Even young students can learn strategies for priming their brains to learn more efficiently.

Teaching students the mechanism behind how the brain operates and teaching them approaches they can use to work that mechanism more effectively helps students believe they can create a more intelligent, creative, and powerful brain. It also shows them that striving for emotional awareness and physical health is part of keeping an optimally functioning brain. Thus, instruction in brain function will lead to healthier learners as well as wiser ones.

Here is a run down of the learning activities I did with my gifted elementary students to teach them about their…

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“Instruction does not prevent wasted time or mistakes; and mistakes themselves are often the best teachers of all.” By James Anthony Froude

Instructional strategies are one of the most important elements for an engaging and effective learning environment. When instructional strategies are linked to the needs and interests of students along with being tied to the curriculum, outcomes, and assessment; learning is enhanced. Below are some of my favorite engaging instructional strategies:

All Areas:

  1. Playlist and/or Pathways
  2. Effective Questioning
  3. Sketch Notes
  4. Think Pair Share
  5. Turn and Talk
  6. Jigsaw
  7. Student Led-Conference
  8. Accountable Talk
  9. R.A.F.T (Role, Audience, Format and Topic)
  10. Socratic seminar


  1. Close Reading
  2. QAR (Question Answer Response)
  3. Story Boards


  1. Number Talks
  2. Visual representation (pictures, manipulatives etc)
  3. Teach Me/Show what you know (videos, books etc)

Content Areas (SS, Science etc)

  1. Discovery/Inquire Based Learning
  2. Science Notebooking
  3. Debates/Role Playing

Progress Monitoring:

  1. Alternative/Authentic Assessments
  2. Entrance/Exit Tickets
  3. Goal setting and reflection

Digital Instructional Strategies: Using technology as a tool to increase effectiveness and efficiency for the student, teacher, and parent.

  1. Collaboration with Google Drive apps such as docs
  2. Read&Write for Google Chrome and Drive
  3. Blogging, Vodcasting or Podcasting

Books and Sites for more engaging strategies:

The Reading Strategies Book and The Writing Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo

Students Taking Charge: Inside the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom by Nancy Sulla

Glossary of Instructional Strategies




“The important thing is not so much that every child should be taught, as that every child should be given the wish to learn.” – John Lubbock

We have all heard of Pedagogy (the method and practice of teaching) and Andragogy (the method and practice of teaching adult learners) but what is Heutagogy? Heutagogy is the method and practice of self-determined learning. In this approach the learner is the center of their own learning by determining what they want to learn and how they want to learn it.

Many educators think that Personalized Learning (student driven learning) and Heutagogy are the same thing. They have many similarities but also many differences that I have illustrated in the chart below. The biggest difference is that with a Heutagogy approach the learner determines what they want to learn; it is not determined by curriculum or standards.


An example of Heutagogy approach that could be done in the classroom would be Genius Hour. The student determines what they want to learn and how they want to learn about it. The curriculum or pacing guid does not determine the outcome.

Here are some more articles on Heutagogy:

Heutagogy Explained for Teachers

Shifting From Pedagogy To Heutagogy In Education

The Difference Between Pedagogy, Andragogy, And Heutagogy

From Andragogy to Heutagogy


Dyslexia Awareness Month

Guest blog post by the fabulous Megan Mehta!

“[Dyslexia] is more common than you can imagine. You are not alone. And while you will have this the rest of your life, you can dart between the raindrops to get where you want to go and it will not hold you back.”  – Steven Spielberg, Director


It’s October, and along with relief from the hot temps of summer and beautiful foliage, there are opportunities to learn and grow about a variety of causes. One that affects us as educators because it can so profoundly affect our students is dyslexia. October is Dyslexia Awareness Month, and it’s important that we are armed with information about this relatively common learning issue, because our good intentions can be for nothing because of misconceptions, misinformation and a general lack of knowledge on the subject.

What Dyslexia is NOT:

  • Reversal of letters and numbers: this is a fairly common characteristic of developing readers and writers. Though some dyslexic students may do this, it is not a definitive indicator of dyslexia.
  • Something that primarily affects boys: Both boys and girls can be affected– it’s not a picky issue!
  • Laziness or lack of intellect: People with dyslexia are quite the opposite! I look at my own daughter who is not reading on grade level because of her dyslexia, yet has an astounding processing speed and such a unique way of looking at problems that she often has to walk me through her way of thinking to help me understand.
  • Something that will be outgrown: Dyslexics are that way for life.

What Dyslexia IS:

Dyslexia is a specific reading disability and it causes the brain to process graphic symbols differently. It is characterized by difficulties in word recognition, spelling, and decoding; as well as reading comprehension. The National Center for Learning Disabilities says that dyslexia is a neurological and often genetic condition, and not the result of poor teaching, instruction, or upbringing; nor is it linked to intelligence.

It is also something that may affect up to 20% of people. However, symptoms can present as mild, moderate, severe, and everywhere in between. Some people may be able to develop enough coping skills to manage to get through school without too much support, yet their self-esteem might take a hit because they start to believe they aren’t as smart as everyone else. Students with dyslexia that is unrecognized will start to believe that they are lazy, not smart, not as good as their peers and this can profoundly affect them for life.

How Can I Help My Student or My Own Child if I Suspect Dyslexia?

Begin by educating yourself, whether you read an article or two at the bottom of this post, or take advantage of a workshop in your area. Talk to the reading specialists in your school, or the special education teacher to help you with strategies you can use. Helping kids develop a growth mindset can also have a big impact. Children who are dyslexic, or struggle with dysgraphia or dyscalculia need to be taught differently than their peers. They need a systematic approach that will teach them to process written language in the way best suited for how their brain is wired. These approaches can be found in the offerings of Orton-Gillingham, or the Barton program, among others.

Unfortunately, the public schools in North Carolina do not specifically test for or diagnose dyslexia. If it severe enough, it may show up under the umbrella of “specific learning disability” but that’s not always a guarantee. North Carolina is one of 11 states that does not yet have a law addressing the specific learning needs of students with dyslexia. Fortunately, there are groups that are working hard to change this. In the meantime, as teachers we need to be a voice for all our students and do what we can to help them reach their full potential: be compassionate, be empathetic, and know the power you have to make a big difference in the life of a child.


Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity


National Center for Learning Disabilities

The Rankin Institute offers professional development for educators and parents in Charlotte, NC

Decoding Dyslexia- NC


  • Medical News Today. MediLexicon International. Web.
  • Lapkin, Emily. “Understanding Dyslexia.” Understood.org. 02 Apr. 2014. Web.
  • Shaywitz, Sally E. Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level. New York: A.A. Knopf, 2003. Print.
  • “Yale Center For Dyslexia & Creativity.” Yale Center For Dyslexia & Creativity. Web.
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