32-Samantha Bickley and Grace Hofer are Two 16-year-olds that Will Set you Straight about Group Work

Teachers often group kids based on learning styles, ability, and skill sets. Such attributes are pretty easily identifiable, but teachers simply must take compatibility into account as well. I teach 9th graders. Freshmen are spastic and dramatic. If you place the wrong 15-year-olds together, the impact can be pandemic! Also, nothing frosts a motivated 15-years-old’s gourd faster than having to do all the group’s work to cover for slacker colleagues.

So…perhaps it’s time to listen to two brilliant young people riff about their experiences working in groups. Samantha Bickley and Grace Hofer were in my class last year. Now they’re sophomores and I miss them every day. You’re going to love their humor, their spirit, and their wisdom about group dynamics!


Grace Hofer and Samantha Bickley

Episode Template

The Problem:

Many student groups are unproductive and snarky.

The Solution:

Create supportive groups where members hold themselves accountable.

Here’s a wonderful resource:

10 Recommendations for Improving Group Work by Maryellen Weimer in Faculty Focus:

What You Can Do Tomorrow?

  • Take compatibility into account when forming groups.
  • Assign roles to group members. 
  • Require individual members to keep track of their contributions.

Collaborating in high functioning groups can be most engaging for students. Select group membership carefully and if needed, add structure and accountability.

Listen to “32-Samantha Bickley and Grace Hofer are Two 16-year-olds that Will Set you Straight about Group Work” on Spreaker.


31-Science Teacher Ryan Mocarski Takes Self-Directed Learning to a Whole New Level


Maybe…this is okay!

Ryan Mocarski has taught 8th-grade science for 8 years. His 2013 book the “Mocarski Model” demonstrates how to create a PBL-centered classroom that’s paperless. He believes that if you create a positive classroom environment, all students are able to become academically and socially successful.

That sounds like a pretty standard prescription…but his tactics are ground-breaking! Listen to this fascinating young teacher who fearlessly allows kids to DO NOTHING at times in his room! He also wears a suit and tie everyday!



Episode Template

The Problem:

Students are sick of sitting and listening.

The Solution:

Challenge your students to demonstrate learning in their own way.

What You Can Do Tomorrow?

  • Challenge students to come up with their own method of demonstrating mastery.
  • Repeat to yourself the following before class tomorrow, “it’s okay if my students are off task. The goal is to empower them and they may need some think time to accomplish this!”

Empowering students will open the door to epic engagement!   

Listen to “31-Science Teacher Ryan Mocarski Takes Self-Directed Learning to a Whole New Level” on Spreaker.

30-Do Your Students Know how You Voted?



Contentious national and state elections are tricky. Students want to know how their teachers vote. But one sure fire way to alienate portions of your class is to be too blustery about your opinions. Instead, embrace elections as a fantastic opportunity to engage students. When students ask you how you’re voting for, ask them…“What’s your guess?”

Episode Template

The Problem:

Opinionated teachers repel many learners.

The Solution:

Challenge your students to figure it out.

What You Can Do Tomorrow?

  • Select a controversial issue.
  • Introduce the challenge.
  • Provide an example.
  • Plan how you can avoid giving away your position.
  • Challenge students to find examples of bias.

Contentious elections offer a wonderful engagement opportunity. Challenge students to solve the teacher voting preference mystery.    

Listen to “30-Do Your Students Know how YOU Voted?” on Spreaker.


29-Turn your Students into 5-Year-Olds

When you were 5-years-old and your mamma wanted a little break from the awesome responsibility of raising you, she’d give you some paper and crayons, and for the next 30 minutes, you were blissfully and silently…in the engagement zone. Across the top of the paper, you drew a blue band which represented the sky. A green band at the bottom was grass. In between in a vast white void, was perhaps your house, your dog, a tree, the sun, and a smiling stick figure you. In all honesty, from an artistic standpoint, your drawing sucked, but you didn’t care. You were totally immersed in what you were doing. When you presented it to her, your mom probably marveled at your masterpiece, but you would have been just fine without all her false praise. The truth is, you loved the creative process.


Alas, the next year you went to kindergarten and your artistic innocence was shattered. Your peers and you started to compare artwork. Unlike your mom, your teacher was not as effusive with her praise. You became more interested in the way your art looked in comparison to others and far less content to just create in quiet bliss.

Now that you’re a teacher, try promoting drawing a picture in class. Students often groan, “I can’t even draw a straight line.” In fairness, no one can draw a straight line…that’s the function of a ruler. But don’t let those crabby statements dissuade you. Kids still love to draw.

The Awakened One by David Sturtevant

The Awakened One by David Sturtevant

Episode Template:

The Problem:

It’s hard to unleash the creativity.

The Solution:

Have kids draw your next lesson!

What You Can Do Tomorrow?

  • Create a drawing prompt based on your current lesson.
  • Gather material. you need and create a perfect atmosphere. 
  • Set the mood. 
  • Work the room. 
  • Celebrate their creations.

Challenge your students to draw tomorrow’s lesson. After some predictable pushback, you’ll be amazed at how engaged they’ll be in this creative process.

Listen to “29-Turn your Students into 5-Year-Olds” on Spreaker.