Sunday Sources Collected

Teachers, get a lot of new tips and strategies sent our way. It’s hard to carve out the time to gain insights or sort our professional learning. I’m attempting to solve that problem by curating three sources, tips, or strategies every single week.

February 28th, 2021

A Call for Your Help!

Instead of providing all of you great people with some resources, I have a selfish request. I need some help! I’ve recently learned that I will be co-teaching next year, and I want to bring my best to the experience. If you have any insights, thoughts, or suggestions, please let me know!

February 21st, 2021

Mote: Voice Notes and Feedback

Here’s a great way to provide high-quality feedback more efficiently! Mote allows you to use your voice to comment faster and more genuine thoughts than a traditional text comment. I can convey emotion and energy to my students when I need to praise or redirect them. 

I’ve found it to save tons of time while grading essays and other student work. If you pair it with a rubric, you can effortlessly weave it into your grading. Mote is an incredible resource to you Google Classroom teachers out there.

Teaching to the Top: How to Stop Wasting Your Planning Period

“Teaching to the Top” is a pair of elementary educators that do great work independently on YouTube but come together for this Podcast each week.

The episode focuses on developing systems to prevent you from wasting the time you have for your planning period. The ultimate goal is to be able to choose to work only your contract hours. Many of us work outside of our contract hours, but it should come down to our choice and interests for us to do that, not because we have to.

I enjoy these two when they get together because they put out a new podcast episode. They provide content for any teacher of any subject. I once thought that there was a significant difference in primary, middle level, and secondary educators. “Teaching to The Top” has shattered that belief for me. As a middle school teacher, I play the role of bridging the gap between high school and elementary. I need to do a better job nurturing my relationships with teachers in grades below and above mine. 

A Starter Kit for Differentiating Instruction

The pandemic has changed everything about the way we do our job. The world took education and flipped it on its head, forcing teachers everywhere to recalibrate, pivot, and shift the way they did their job. 

Many of us have adapted and overcome some of the changes, but to say things are the same would be far from the truth. I’m back in person now, and I needed to check my instruction quality. I’m stripping my work down to the basics and starting with differentiation in the classroom. Any teacher worth the salt in their body is differentiating their instruction, but to what extent.

I tapped into Jennifer Gonzalez’s resource to see whether I’m checking all of the boxes here! Now that I’m getting back into the groove, I felt the need to start to check my craft.

February 15th, 2021

Copying is How we Learn

Every time I include a source that isn’t directly from an educator, I feel hesitant for about 35 seconds. Then, I remember that if I continue to only build as an educator through insight from other educators, I’ll never become the teacher I want to be. Students are our customers, and they all have different interests, so I should accrue knowledge from all of those areas.

Austin Kleon is always an absolute stellar source of reliable information. In his recent post, “Copying is how we learn,” he details the value of copying others’ work. It’s a method of absorbing the methodology and understanding the tactics behind different creators’ simple decisions.

We execute this all the time as teachers. We steal insights and strategies from each other making small tweaks to fit our needs better. The concept is so ingrained in our profession that TeachersPayTeachers became a multi-thousand person and million-dollar company. I imagine Kleon would say that we teachers ‘Steal Like Artists,’ too.

We should be transparent about this concept without our students. I rarely explain this when I model assignments or objective outcomes for them, which is a wasted opportunity. Kleon’s post here has shown me that breaking down and redistributing work is a valuable experience that we can all gain from.

Among Us Meets Peer Review and Editing

I’m excited to put this source to work at the end of this week! In a Clubhouse conversation, I met Laura Steinbrek (check spelling). She is a fellow English teacher who invested time in getting her students to peer review and successfully edit their papers.

She decided to capitalize on the theme of the wildly popular game called Among Us to generate enthusiasm for her students. I’ve struggled to get my students to engage in editing and peer review actively. Often, once students finish a paper, they’re ready to never look at it again. At the same time, I’ve witnessed each of my students discuss their perilous rounds of Among Us. It only makes sense to combine them both for a bit of gamification. This idea made so much sense to me. I’m upset that I didn’t come to this conclusion on my own! 

But, hey, I’ll steal the idea like an artist and make it mine! I’ll provide updates on how it goes.

22 must-have templates for teachers and students

Ditch That Textbook has been on my radar quite a bit over the past month or so. I was not surprised to find a high-quality post of theirs over this past week.

In education, we get involved in many tasks. They suck the time out of our days like a vacuum to cobwebs. So, any time I find a way to systematize some of my responsibilities, I leap at the opportunity. These templates range from positive reinforcements to visually appealing assignments!

Please give it a look, and put them to work for you! Personally, I’m most intrigued by 2, 5, and 20!


February 7th, 2021

The Staff Room Podcast Episode 71: How Easy is it to Form a Good Team?

I love this tandem of Chey and Pav that get together for a weekly podcast. Their personalities contribute greatly to engaging the listener.

This particular episode focuses on the discussion surrounding an article from google about forming teams.

I love it so much because it ties in with a company that is outside of education. I find it so impactful when I see a concept outside of education that can be applied successfully in education. 

The hosts’ discussions about leadership are indispensable and while worth the listen!

Social Emotional Learning Panel

I’ve recently been binging a lot of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) content. I’ve established it as a weakness of mine. If I was providing any SEL in my classroom, it was without intention and awareness.

What I’ve discovered has been so valuable in terms of meeting my students where they are. I’m at just the beginning of this SEL journey, but it’s already helping me scaffold to their emotions and mindsets, just like I scaffold content. Research Ed put together this fantastic virtual event that provides useful insight into SEL practices at a micro-level and the research at a macro-level.

The Cult of Pedagogy Episode 162: Up-Down-Why: A Feeling-Based Approach to Literature

If you’re in education, you probably know about Jennifer Gonzales and her company Cult of Pedagogy. I’ve been following for years, dating back to before I was even in my own classroom. She never misses when it comes to providing value to educators across the globe.

She brought on Sarah Levine, an assistant professor of education at Stanford University, to discuss a reading comprehension strategy she coined, “Up-Down-Both-Why”

The strategy is beneficial because it builds upon making connections and then making determinations about answers. Once kids find a way of relating to the text and making judgments, they can feel more comfortable and peel back the onion layers of actually understanding and discussing the content.

I loved this idea so much that I implemented it straight away! I was in the middle of a poetry unit when I first listened to this podcast, and students, especially at the middle school level, seldom connect with poetry. The Up-Down-Both-Why method led me to have kids make many more connections surrounding diction, denotation, and connotation.

Honorable Mentions:

If you have not made it to clubhouse yet, DM me on twitter, and I’ll send you an invite. There are so many high quality conversations happening there each day and especially on the weekend. If you reach out, I’ll provide you with a list of people worth following to grow in our profession!


January 31st, 2021

Preparing students for jobs that don’t exist

I came across this first tip from the 3 Caffeinated Coaches Podcast! They have a great wealth of information, and you should give them a listen.

While discussing lesson design, the hosts mentioned the ISTE article “Preparing Students for Jobs that don’t exist.” The article is littered with great statistics like, “65% of children entering grade school today will end up working in jobs that don’t even exist yet…”

An excellent thought exercise would be to think about the jobs around now but didn’t exist when you were your student’s age. There are so many new paths to success that haven’t always been around. Technology drives innovation at an almost hard to grasp speed.

Ultimately, the article cites that educators need to live at the intersections of our subject instead of our individual content silos. I enjoy this concept because It breaks down barriers that hold both teachers and students back. An educator that isn’t limited by their content area can draw connections to all topics and concepts from many angles, meeting the kids on their own paths.

Chase Jarvis: 12 Secrets for Unlocking your Creative Work

This tip comes from Chase Jarvis. He’s got absolutely zero connection to education as an institution. This tip ties back to us teachers getting out of our sometimes isolated content by going even further to step outside of our profession. Jarvis is a photographer with a well-known podcast. On the Chase Jarvis LIVE show, he interviews entrepreneurs and creators about their processes.

One might argue, “Why in the world would an educator be able to find value in that?” Well, teacher friends, we are creators. At the most basic levels, we create lesson plans based on content. Beyond that, we create moments. We cultivate learning in our classroom for students that didn’t ask to be there. We create a love for learning. 

John Spencer: How Action Research Sparks Innovation and Boosts Creativity in the Classroom

The final tip comes in from the great and powerful John Spencer. The former teacher and current professor is a prolific force in the space of educational strategies and connections. Most recently, I came across this article on Action Research.

The idea of action research tapped into the well of my brain as a new teacher. At the time of writing this, I’m about halfway through my second year of teaching. My classrooms are treated like a laboratory where I experiment with different deliveries, tools, or even types of content to see what brings the most value. In many situations, I made assumptions about which orange was providing the most juice after each squeeze.

Spencer lays out the steps for removing those assumptions by having concrete data to support the decisions you make in your classroom. He describes the phases as planning, action, analysis, and conclusion.

I was failing to meet the analysis step. Moving forward, I’ll confidently gather data about techniques and strategies I’m using google form feedback surveys.


January 24th, 2021

Rock Paper Scissors: (I forgot where I found this one. If you know who originally posted this, let me know.)

My students, like your students, are struggling with engagement and participation in virtual school.

In an attempt to fix this, I recently implemented Rock, Paper, Scissors. I pair all of my students with the person that is directly next to them on my screen. Everyone had to turn their camera on, and everyone had to participate not because I forced them, but because they wanted to.

We had multiple rounds, I pumped them up in between, students rooted for other students, and the ultimate winner lives on forever on the Wall of Champions.

Catlin Tucker: The Balance Episode 2 with Lisa Highfill

Here is yet another stellar podcast episode from Catlin Tucker about blended learning. This episode was so valuable I found myself taking notes while I was at the gym.

One of my favorite thoughts posed by Lisa was using the question, “What do you know that I did not ask you?” on an assessment. There are plenty of bits of knowledge and concepts that our students gain that we never ask them.

I’ve decided to add this question at the end of each hyperdoc as a catch-all. Not only does it allow students to explain what they know, but it also helps me explore questions that I could ask later on. 

The idea of treating the classroom as a laboratory comes up as well. It’s best to embrace the experiment rather than be right 100% of the time. That last one was crucial to me because as it shifted my mindset/pedagogical process (read as “I’m still figuring out how to be an expert teacher”), I found myself being incredibly anxious to try new things, but this anecdote put that to rest.

Give it a listen, and let me know what you think!

How I get the Kids Away From Screens

Most of us, our entirely virtual or on a hybrid schedule. That leads to a dramatic increase in screen time for the students and teachers. I find myself ending some of my days with a headache, and I imagine the kids do, too.

When the year first started, I discussed what kind of things we could do to make virtual learning better. Without a doubt, every single class had at least one student mention of getting a screen break.

I’m on the fence about giving an actual “step away” break, so I developed a different system instead. Each day, I aim to have some writing activity that occurs on a physical piece of paper. They show me their writing by holding it up to the camera, and later we have open conversations. Most activities can get us up to 15 minutes away from the screen! 


If you’ve made it this far, do me a favor and reach out to me on Twitter to connect and let me know what you think.

#11 Am I Having Fun?
Like the rest of you wonderful people, I'm exhausted. We all have a lot of roles in our jobs. Search results might share that we're teachers or administrators, but we're …
#10: How Can We Fix Middle School?
TL;DR: Maybe. Although, it might not actually need to be fixed. I'm still working to figure this answer out. I never expected myself to be a middle school teacher. In …
#09: These Jobs Came into Existence Since I was a Kid. What Jobs Will Exist for our Students?
There's an ISTE article with a knock you off your feet kind of title. It comes paired with an equivocal punch from the content of the article as well. The …
#08: How I Survived Going Back to Face to Face Instruction
How to Fix Frequent Mistakes in Student Writing TL;DR: 1. Meet your students at their needs before jumping into content. 2. Don't over-extend yourself like I do. I went back …
%d bloggers like this: