89-If your Kids have Grown Tired of Kahoot, Please try Quizlet Live…Starring Jennifer Ladd

I was exposed to Kahoot a few years back. I loved it immediately. It’s been a huge hit at our school. Unfortunately, there can be too much of a good thing. Many of our kids are tired of Kahoot. Kahoot also has foundational flaws. Invariably, there are students who emerge as virtually unbeatable in Kahoot. Guessing quickly in Kahoot also can pay huge dividends, so many kids mindlessly respond without investing much thought. I still like Kahoot…but I was thrilled to find an alternative.

And here, dear reader, is where Quizlet Live makes a dramatic entrance. I became exposed to this wonderful platform a few months ago. I knew instantly that it was a massive upgrade from Kahoot. Quizlet Live creates a beautiful competition between randomly selected teams of students. On your SmartBoard, students monitor a fascinating horse race unfold. Your students will be enthralled!

I have a wonderful guest to help tell the story of Quizlet Live. Jennifer Ladd is an elementary teacher at Scotch Elementary in suburban Detroit. Jennifer and I got to know one another through interacting during a Twitter chat. From the moment we started interacting, I knew she had the potential to be a marvelous guest. I was not disappointed!


Episode Template

The Problem:

Students need a fresh class competition platform.

The Solution:

Quizlet Live is an outstanding option.

What you can do Tomorrow:

  • Create 12 Flashcards in Quizlet
  • Select the Live Option

  • Select Create Game

  • Project the following to students tomorrow and then Go To Town!

Quizlet Live is an awesome way for kids to collaborate in an ultra-engaging fashion.

Listen to “89-If your Kids have Grown Tired of Kahoot, Please try Quizlet Live…Starring Jennifer Ladd” on Spreaker.

88-Make your Math Class Enchanting…Starring Denis Sheeran

I love the shape of numbers!

I remember trudging to Math class in high school…AND I MEAN TRUDGING. I had zero confidence, zero interest, and I could not fathom any relevance in what I was being asked to do. If you’re a Math teacher, these adolescent frustrations may sound familiar. Guess what…I get the Why do we have to learn this stuff? question in history class too. Think about it. It’s a fair question. Maybe, educators need to get better at answering it.

Today’s episode will help you. Denis Sheeran is the Director of Student Achievement at Weehawken Township School District, which is in New Jersey.


He’s written two books on this issue. Instant Relevance came out in 2016 and Hacking Mathematics, which will soon be published. I prompted Denis to describe a typical day in his Math class. Here’s how he responded:

In Instant Relevance, I use an example called Unanswerable Questions which hacks a random chooser google sheets file and uses it to display things like images of partial google searches (where google finishes it for you) or other interesting images/questions. I replace the opening question in class (do now or bellringer) with one of these to engage students in the thought process necessary for entering into a mathematical experience. I turned that into a workshop session I call Moving from Do Now to Think Now. In the new Hacking Math book, I bring that shift into play with a different version of the opener called I See Math. It’s got the same philosophy (get kids to see the mathematical question, investigate it, think strategically and discuss briefly, but uses their images and questions as well. I think that this could be a good topic for the podcast. It connects both books and is a central theme of both engagement and the creative use of technology in the math classroom.

Episode Template

The Problem:

Students are bored and frustrated in Math.

The Solution:

Create an enchanting Math class where the real world takes shape and is explained.

What you can do Tomorrow:

  • Install a tremendous hook in the form of an unanswerable question.
  • Install real-world applications in your lesson.
  • Mimic Denis’ migration from Do Now to Think Now.

Hunger for a student to ask you…Why do we have to learn this?

Listen to “James Sturtevant Hacking Engagement” on Spreaker.

87-The New Year’s Resolution Ice-Breaker Game

Yes…I know it’s January 8th, but it’s not too late to lay the New Year’s Resolution Ice-Breaker Game on your students. This goal-setting opportunity affords teachers a wonderful chance to:

  • deputize students in their resolution quest
  • enlighten kids about their lives outside the classroom
  • make themselves more approachable
  • gives teachers a needed boost in obtaining their goals
  • helps kids get to know one another
  • encourages students to set goals
  • challenges kids to make their goals public, which gives goals more umph

This is an exceedingly easy activity to set-up. All you need is a class roster copy for each student and a Padlet Labeled New Year’s Resolutions. Pass out a roster to each student and provide each with the Padlet link. I gave my students the following directions:

For the next minute, create some resolutions for this year. Please keep the resolutions to yourself and any resolution you publish in this activity must be school-appropriate.

Next, choose one resolution you’re willing to share. Post it on the Padlet, but DO NOT attach your name!

Read each post on the Padlet. Try to match some of the resolutions with your classmates on the roster I provided.

Episode Template

The Problem:

Students often don’t know their classmates well…AND kids need help formulating and then realizing their goals.


Play the New Year’s Resolution Ice-Breaker Game this week!

What you can do Tomorrow:

  • Create some resolutions you’re willing to share with students
  • Produce a roster copy for each student.
  • Create a Padlet for New Year’s Resolutions.
  • Decide how to reward successful guessers.

The New Year’s Resolution Ice-Breaker Game is a marvelous way to start this semester!

Listen to “87-The New Year’s Resolution Ice-Breaker Game” on Spreaker.

86-A New Year’s Resolution that will Transform your Interactions with Kids

Are you game for a challenge? If you’ve migrated to my show notes, I’m guessing the answer is yes. This challenge will encourage you to confront obstacles you unintentionally may place between your student and you. 2018 is brand new year. Let’s climb aboard the resolution train and evolve. Our kids will be the massive beneficiaries.

Before we can board the self-improvement train, I want to assure you that adult frustration with young people is certainly nothing new. Adults have generally held the younger generation in low regard. Harry Truman is one of my favorite presidents. He is often quoted, but check out this gem “The only thing new in the World is the history that you don’t know.” Priceless! President Truman seemed to be echoing this famous passage from the Hebrew Scriptures:

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 1: 9

For those who are annoyed with today’s lazy teens:

The older generation thought nothing of getting up at five in the morning, and the younger generation doesn’t think much of it either.  

John J. Welsh, 19th Century Contractor who Built Broadway

For those who are sick of competing with cell phones:

What business has science and Capitalism got bringing all these new inventions into the works, before society has produced a generation educated up to using them?

Henrik Ibsen, Late 19th Century Norwegian Playwright

For those who forget the 1960s and 1970s:

My generation, faced as it grew with a choice between religious belief and existential despair, chose marijuana!  Now we are in our Cabernet stage.

Peggy Noonan, Ronald Reagan Speech Writer

For those who cannot stand the arrogance of today’s youth, but don’t recognize the smugness of their contemporaries:

Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.

George Orwell, 20th Century British Novelist

For those who feel like earlier generations were more noble:

It’s one of nature’s ways that we often feel closer to distant generations than to the generation immediately preceding us.  

Igor Stravinsky, 20th Century Russian Composer

For those who think that generation gaps are a result of our modern industrial world:

I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words.  When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of restraint.

Hesiod, Poet of ancient Greece writing in 700 BC two hundred years prior to Athens’ Golden Age.

My cheesy cartoon

And finally this timeless treasure from an unknown author:

There is nothing wrong with today’s teenager that twenty years won’t cure.

Heard enough?  Unfortunately, many adults think that this crop of teenagers are the harbingers of the apocalypse.  They are not.  The world will go on.  Hopefully the previous quotes demonstrate that adults from different times and climbs have felt similar anxiety about their youth.  Harry Truman was right; there is truly nothing new in the World.

Me in 1966

Episode Template

The Problem:

Teachers can get fed-up with contemporary youth.

The Solution:

Learn to accept that many student-teacher annoyances are out of your control.

What you can do Tomorrow:

  • Make a list of all the things about contemporary youth that you find distasteful.

  • Eliminate everything on the list that is out of your control.

  • Your New Year’s resolution is to focus your energy to help students improve in areas where you have influence and to accept aspects of their nature’s that you can’t control.

To learn more about connecting with kids, check out my first book You’ve Gotta Connect. 

Learning to focus in this way will help your students and take a huge burden off your shoulders. HAVE A MARVELOUS 2018 AND THANKS FOR LISTENING!

Listen to “86-A NewYear’s Resolution that will Transform your Interactions with Kids” on Spreaker.

85-Stella got her Groove Back by Becoming Google Certified…Starring Stella Pollard


A 30-year teaching gig is no walk in the park. It’s hard to imagine anyone doing the same thing for 30 years, but that’s exactly what many teachers do. Please don’t interpret this statement as negative towards this noble profession. It certainly was not intended that way…it’s just human nature to get restless regardless of how much you love a job. I love teaching. I love my students. However, I’ve gone through seasons in my career when I felt stymied. Such feelings were my primary motivation to write my books and create this podcast.

For some teachers, migrating to administration fulfills their goal-oriented natures, but admin is certainly not for everyone. The rest of us mere teachers must generate our own tactics for battling complacency. This episode offers an idea…become Google certified.

To talk about this fascinating option is the effervescent Stell Pollard. Stella is a 4th grade Science teacher from Frankfurt, Kentucky. After her rookie year in the classroom, Stella felt like she needed to up her instructional game. She pursued Google certification as a result of this professional restlessness. In the process, she’s transformed her classroom and opened professional doors for herself. Stella is going places! She is not only on a mission to create the best possible learning environment for her kids, but she’s also on a hero’s quest to help colleagues do the same. She’s helping me! Here’s a link she shared on infusing Doctopus and Goobric. I had heard of neither and once I publish this episode, my plan is to dive in!

Episode Template

The Problem:

Teachers lack professional goals outside of becoming administrators.

The Solution:

Become Google certified.

What you can do Tomorrow:

The best goals are self-generated. Google certification could be your golden ticket to a more engaging classroom and a future filled with professional options.

Listen to “85-Stella got her Groove Back by Becoming Google Certified…Starring Stella Pollard” on Spreaker.


84-Send your Kids on a Hero’s Journey with Storybird…Starring Samantha Hart and Merrick Kasper

Samantha Hart and Merrick Kasper strike a Charlie’s Angels hero’s pose

Episode 83 was a real treat for me. I yakked with Elontra Hall about something near and dear…storytelling. I’m so committed to enhancing this skill in the classroom, that I just couldn’t quit with one episode. What makes this episode so special, is I bring back the original sources. Samantha Hart and Merrick Kasper are here to explore storytelling from their perspective. What’s interesting, however, is that these two brilliant young folks don’t address teachers using stories, but instead kids using stories to peer teach.

My students used the hero’s journey template to enlighten their peers. Of course my buddies the Hyperdocs Girls have an outstanding hero’s journey template ready and waiting for you to copy and transform.

In addition to a peer teaching storytelling activity, these young ladies will also introduce you to a neat tool called Storybird. Storybird empowers kids to take a story and transform it into a beautiful and enchanting picture book. It’s remarkably easy to use and a highly recommend it.

My kids were meandering through a unit on India. We needed to grasp the impact of two remarkable individuals…Siddhartha Gautama and Ashoka. Here’s how we did it:

  • Students paired up…one took Gautama and one took Ashoka.
  • Each student then applied their subject to the hero’s journey template. Here’s my rendition which I created for this assignment.
  • Students made each page of their Storybird a phase in the hero’s journey.
  • Kids then enlightened their partner by presenting their Storybird.

Episode Template

The Problem:

Storytelling is underutilized.

The Solution:

Empower students to use storytelling to peer teach.

What you can do Tomorrow:

  • Designate two heroes in your current unit.
  • Pair kids up, with each partner taking a figure
  • Transform the hero’s journey template to suit your needs
  • Have students dedicate a page in a Storybird presentation to each phase of the journey

As I mentioned in Episode 83, storytelling is powerful…but you don’t have to be the only bard in the classroom.

Listen to “84-Send your Kids on a Hero’s Journey with Storybird…Starring Samantha Hart and Merrick Kasper” on Spreaker.

83-A Bard from Detroit Mesmerizes his British Students…Starring Elontra Hall

Elontra Hall @cloudscholar

April Domine, my former superintendent, once made a power suggestion. She encouraged me to read a book by Daniel H. Pink called A Whole New Mind. It was an amazing recommendation. The crux of the book is that the right side of the brain is going to be the star of the future. The subtext of the title says it all: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. As I read this excellent book, I felt Daniel was verbalizing everything I’ve always felt about the learning process. And to top it off, he is a fellow Buckeye!

Daniel devotes an entire chapter to the power of story. In the opening part of the chapter, he refers to earlier parts of the book. One reference is fact-based. He challenges the reader to recall some important specific data point from one of the opening chapters. No doubt, most of the readers struggled to recall a specific statistic…I certainly did. He then asks readers to recall a fascinating comparison between the legendary John Henry, The Steel Driving Man, and Gary Kasperov, the chess champion defeated by the IBM computer in 1997. Both John Henry and Gary Kasperov demonstrated the limitations of even the most skilled and determined human in the face of advancing technology. When Daniel referred to these rich narratives, the feelings I had when I first read them, the moral, and many of the details, immediately surfaced on my hard-drive.

Here is what Daniel Pink has to say:

Our difficulty retrieving that isolated factoid, and our relative ease summoning the sad saga of Gary Kasperov, aren’t signs of flaccid intelligence or impending Alzheimer’s. They merely demonstrate how our minds work. Stories are easier to remember because, in many ways, stories are how we remember.

And here is where my guest Elontra Hall makes a grand entrance. Elontra is from Detroit, but he lives and teaches in the UK. The story about his migration is fascinating and will be explained in this episode. He and I became friends on Twitter and I instantly loved his vibe. I prompted him to be a guest. He agreed as long as he could talk about storytelling. I was totally down with that condition! 

Episode Template

The Problem: 

Students feel alienated from class content.

The Solution:

Engage kids profoundly through stories.

What You Can Do Tomorrow:

  • Consider how you can insert a story into tomorrow’s lesson.
  • Challenge students to ignite their storytelling abilities in the quest to peer-teach.

Stories are an awesome way to engage students as they learn. 

Listen to “83-A Bard from Detroit Mesmerizes his British Students…Starring Elontra Hall” on Spreaker.

82-Class Clown Management

Many teachers cringe when they hear “humor in the classroom” because it brings to mind the class clown–the scourge of serious learning. First of all, I want to note that not all class clowns are problematic. Some kids are just delightfully funny and have skills to use their humor without harm or disruption. However, there are class clowns that seem to be “the scourge” because teachers just do not know how to deal with them. In the past, many class clowns faced frightening consequences. (Back in the day, they probably took the brunt of the corporal punishment meted out at the principal’s office.) But regardless of the consequences, every school still had class clowns. It is not acceptable to violate the Geneva Convention; so let’s explore a better way to live with class clowns.

Teaching is a tough existence if you are at odds with your students. You can learn to welcome them, appreciate their humor, and keep them from disrupting or dismantling classroom plans or relationships. I’ll share some tips that I have learned from working at this challenge.

The most effective way to manage class clowns is to connect with them. Education would be a dull enterprise without their humor. Embrace that they exist, and try to get them on your side. 

So, how do you do it? As with other discipline challenges, you set expectations, anticipate problems, strive for consistency, follow through with consequences when needed, and constantly work at a relationship with the clown. The better you connect, the more of a joy and asset her or his humor will be to the class.

Distractions from class clowns generally fall into three categories:

  1. general disruptions
  2. sarcasm
  3. derisive statements directed at other students, or you

The first step is to identify and anticipate the behavior. Most of us handle issues better if we have time to think about proper responses. Sometimes you have to think on your feet, but even then, it’s helpful to know what could be coming.

Avoid pulling the disruptive students out in the hall for a private “Come to Jesus” or “I am going to set you straight” talk. Even more, avoid giving the talk in front of peers. Most pranksters have been through this drill many times. Usually, those “talks,” appeals, or threats have not worked. Any “getting into trouble” that is public just elevates their status as the premier class clown.  

Instead, your next step will be to build rapport with the class clown and hold him or her to pre-arranged expectations in class, during instruction. Your role as teacher, your skill at connecting, and your homage to the class expectations will be enhanced–in front of all students.

Finally, you will make contact with the class clown outside of class to work on a relationship of trust and care. This affirming follow-up communication deepens your connection.

In this episode, I’ll share ideas about how not only to manage a class clown…but to get them on your side! 

Episode Template

The Problem:

Class clowns disrupt learning.

The Solution:

Build a relationship with the class clowns

What you can do Tomorrow:

  • Make a list of your class clowns
  • Game plan on how you would respond disruptive, sarcastic, or derisive statements or actions by class clowns
  • Engineer how you can have a social interaction with a class clown tomorrow

Student/teacher relationships are essential to engagement. Win over your class clowns and your room will become a joyful and engaging place.

Listen to “82-Class Clown Mangagement” on Spreaker.





81-Make a Kid Feel Great…Give them a Verbal Praise Coupon…Starring Catherine Cook and Audrey Justice

Just the other day…I was cruising down the hallway at my school and I landed on the business end of 3 outstanding compliments in the span of about 5 minutes. These compliments were totally unsolicited and really hit the spot! I felt an adrenaline rush for the remainder of the day as a result. I’ll bet you’ve experienced an unexpected compliment, or two. Didn’t you feel like it was Christmas morning?

Unfortunately, many are reluctant to praise their fellow man. What a pity. Don’t just think, Wow…my buddy is looking really fit. Tell them! They probably need to hear it and it will inspire them to keep working out.

When it comes to students, teachers frequently compliment kids on their academic efforts, but how about expanding our repertoire? That’s what this episode is about. Two of my original sources…Freshmen Catherine Cook and Audrey Justice will explain the power of teachers paying kids compliments.

Catherine Cook and Audrey Justice

I’m going to promote a systematic, premeditated, and public way to do just that. The verbal praise coupon is a way to bond with your kids, make them feel great, and perhaps elevate them in the eyes of their peers. If you’re tired of awarding the same old extra credit, this episode is for you.

Episode Template

The Problem:

People are too stingy with compliments.

The Solution:

Distribute verbal praise coupons instead of extra credit.

What you can do Tomorrow:

  • Create some verbal praise coupons.
  • Designate some target students that you know will be receptive.

The verbal praise coupon is a great way to bond with your kids while making them feel great in the process.

Listen to “81-Make a Kid Feel Great…Give them a Verbal Praise Coupon…Starring Catherine Cook and Audrey Justice” on Spreaker.

80-The Powerful Sarcasm Lesson Plan

One fine day in my little education world…I witnessed the negative power of sarcasm. I was hanging with a colleague who became frustrated with a student’s lack of effort. The young man did not have his assignment. Instead of asking the kid…

  • What happened?
  • Were you unclear on instructions?
  • Tell me what’s up.
  • Let me help.

my teacher comrade responded to the news of the student’s lack of preparation with sarcasm, “Wow…that’s really going to prepare you to compete in the global economy!” This volley was well received by the rest of the class. There was much laughter and a few of the young guy’s classmates tossed in some verbal darts aimed at the youngster to support their teacher. The young man laughed too, although he blushed. I wondered if he was really okay with the barb.

This entire episode might seem innocent. I’ll argue however, that it was a poor relational move on the instructor’s part. The teacher absolutely elevated himself at the expense of his student. I don’t know if the kid was injured by the comment, but it’s conceivable that the sarcasm could have reinforced many of the insecurities the boy already had about himself. While his exterior was saying, “Good one Mr. X. You got me there!” Internally, he may have thought, Wow. I guess it’s true. Maybe, I am irresponsible. Maybe, I do have a bleak future. 

I certainly don’t know if these thoughts were deviling this kid, but why risk it? I’ll argue that you should purge sarcasm from your classroom. This may be a tall order because sarcasm can be a vice. At the time of consumption it feels real good, but the aftershocks can be unsavory. Let’s get rid of this tendency and your students can help in this process.

Episode Template:

Sarcasm can poison relationships and undermine student confidence.

The Solution:

Purge this vice from your classroom.

What you can do Tomorrow:

  • Discuss the origins of the word sarcasm.
  • Confess to your kids a time when you used sarcasm and it didn’t end well.
  • Have student role-play when they have been the victims of sarcasm.
  • Challenge kids to utilize sarcasm in an appropriate way, like the creation of an editorial cartoon.
  • Deputize your kids to police your use of sarcasm.

Sarcasm may seem harmless, but its impact can be devastating. Purge this tendency and engage your kids in the process.

Listen to “80-The Powerful Sarcasm Lesson Plan” on Spreaker.