70-Don’t Just have Kids Read About a Place…SEND THEM THERE…Starring Quin Thomas

Quin Thomas

Friday afternoon hardly seems the time to talk shop, but Quin Thomas and I did exactly that. I’ve always wanted to interview Quin and I finally talked her into it. She’s a dynamic young teacher who gets kids and gets tech. She’s one of my young mentors.

She migrated to the Room 111 Studios to enlighten us about the power of Google Maps. I’d used them a bit before our convo. I love grabbing the little yellow guy in the lower right hand corner and dropping him on a blue dot, or a blue street for a closer view.

I needed someone to give me a shove and use this fantastic tool more…Quin was just the woman for the job!

Picture this…you’re studying really cool places like Machu Picchu, Tiananmen Square, the Coliseum, the Taj Mahal, or Timbuktu. Instead of just yakking about it, or having students read about it, tell kids to hop on their Chromebooks, fly around the world, and then drop in for a close-up view from ground level.

Here’s a link to my introductory assignment I gave to my 9th-grade Geography class.

Here’s another link to the Chinese Geography Challenge I gave to World Civ kids.

I was so motivated by this idea that I downloaded the Google Street View App. I felt that our school not having a street view was a darned shame. I followed the instructions, captured a 360^ image and then uploaded the image which generated a blue dot on Google Maps for Big Walnut High School in Sunbury, Ohio. Why don’t you see if you can find it and drop down for a closer look!

Episode Template

The Problem:

It’s hard for kids to visualize that fascinating places teachers talk about.


Send kids on a virtual journey with Google maps.

What you can do Tomorrow:

  • Work through one of my docs linked above to familiarize yourself with the tool.
  • Challenge students to map their commute to school.
  • Create a prompt that forces kids to find and then visit some exotic locales from your curriculum.
  • Challenge students to upload an image to Google Maps.

Google Maps is the way to make the fascinating places your kids study come to life!

Listen to “70-Don’t Just have Kids Read About a Place…SEND THEM THERE…Starring Quin Thomas” on Spreaker.

69-Rebel Against the Bell…Starring Melissa Maxson


Kids are just starting to get it, they’re finally opening up in a discussion, they’re finding great resources for a research paper, they’re starting to harmonize in choir, their sculptures are just beginning to take shape, their findings in a science experiment are just about to materialize and then the bell rings.

This frequently happens to Melissa Maxson’s devoted art students. You know you’ve engaged kids when they say, “Dang, I can’t believe the period is over.” Melissa hears this daily.

In this episode, hear Melissa’s solution to her frustrations with the uniform 50-minute modules. Listen to her recipe to detonate space/time limitations. 

Look up!

Episode Template

The Problem: The fifty minute class period undermines engagement.

The Hack: Create an extracurricular club for your class.

What You Can Do Tomorrow?

  • Create an extracurricular club for your class.
  • Investigate a project opportunity.
  • List ways to promote your club, your class club, and your club’s project.

Don’t be limited by the traditional fifty minute class period. Create an after-school club based on your class.

Listen to “69-Rebel Against the Bell…Starring Melissa Maxson” on Spreaker.

68-BattleVant and SturteVingo…Two Zero Tech Ways to Engage Kids

A great way to engage students is to just have some fun with content. Accomplish this by mimicking two iconic American board games…Battleship and Bingo. Certainly, most of your kids have played, or at least are familiar with both. I reworked both games for my classroom. Of course, I renamed them Battlevant and Sturtevingo. I encourage you to create your own labels for your versions of these activities.

Any time there’s material you’d like to review, Sturtevingo and Battlevant are wonderful engaging options that can be employed frequently. Battlevant is a team game. I’ll demonstrate it as a two team contest, but it could be used with multiple teams. In Sturtevingo, every man and woman is on their own.

Two team Battlevant is played in the following way:

  • Divide the class into 2 teams
  • Secretly assign students in Team 1 a number from 1-20. Select 5 numbers as misses and assign the other 15 numbers. If there are less than 15 students in Team 1, you can award extra numbers to various kids. Repeat the same process for Team 2 with numbers 21-40.  
  • Prior to the contest, project the game board.

Battlevant Game Board

Team 1 Team 2
1 2 3 4 5

6 7 8 9 10

11 12 13 14 15

16 17 18 19 20

21 22 23 24 25

26 27 28 29 30

31 32 33 34 35

36 37 38 39 40

  • Ask individual students questions about the material. If they get it right, they can select a number from the other team’s range of numbers. (Team 1 kids will select numbers from 21 to 40)
  • If they successfully uncover a student’s number, you cheerfully announce that Johnny or Janey has been sunk and put an X through their number. If a student guesses a number that is a miss, circle that number. 
  • Johnny or Janey, if sunk, must then slightly turn their desks to demonstrate their damaged status. They may not answer general questions, but I like to issue “Back from the Dead” questions periodically to keep the sunk students engaged.
  • The contest ends when the questions are exhausted, or all the kids on one side are sunk.

Sturtevingo is a game that takes a bit more prep, but is easy to execute. Create at least 25 matching questions. I like to create 30 because it makes obtaining Sturtevingos even more challenging. The first portion of the period, students are working individually, or in small groups, matching concepts with descriptions like below:

  1. ______ Karma
  2. ______ Dharma
  3. ______ Khyber Pass
  4. ______ Aryans
  5. ______ Bhagavad Gita

a. Northwestern passageway for invasion and migration

b. The Hindu concept of duty

c. The law of action and reaction

d. The Hindu scripture that describes and promotes Dharma and Karma

e. Invaders, or migrants, from the west that transformed the culture of the Subcontinent

After kids have answered as many as they can, or the allotted time has expired, handout a blank Sturtevingo board:

Students will then populate the board with number letter matches. Encourage students to place the matches in a random fashion. That way, each student’s Sturtevingo board will be unique. The matches must be accurate to count. If a student put the letter A with number 1 when the answer should be C, they cannot be awarded the square if “1C” is called. Once kids have their game boards arranged, play commences in the following fashion:

  • The teacher asks a question from the list. If a student guesses correctly, “I think letter C goes with question 1” all the students that have the 1C match on their board can place an X on that square. You write 1C on the board.
  • The student that answered correctly then walks up to the teacher and subtly points to the next question they want asked. I frequently limit the number of times any student can answer to share the wealth.
  • Play continues till a student get 5 Xs in a row.

  • Unlike regular bingo however, don’t instruct kids to clear the board after the first Sturtevingo. Just keep asking questions and announcing number letter matches. It’s even okay if some kids get 2 Sturtevingos.
  • I like to up the intensity by rewarding Sturtevingo winners. It could be classroom privileges, a free homework coupon, or any coveted reward you can think of.


The Problem:

Teachers struggle making dull content engaging.

The Solution:

Play Battlevant, or Sturtevingo.

What you can do Tomorrow:

  • Create a number of questions based on the content. If you’re going to play Sturtevingo, make the questions matching.
  • Decide if you want teams…Battlevant, or every man and woman for themselves…Sturtevingo.
  • Craft some additional questions (trivial and or interesting) that can be thrown out to supplement the materialThese could be used to engage students sunk in Battlevant, or could spice up the competition of either game.

These games are a way to take dull content and make it fun and engaging.

Listen to “68-BattleVant and SturteVingo…Two Zero Tech Ways to Engage Kids” on Spreaker.

67-Context is Key to Engagement…let ReadWriteThink Help

    China 1899 – 1949

I teach history. Even as a boy, I was a history nerd. Recently, I was enjoying the company of friends at a party. My buddies all have college degrees and are successful in their chosen professions. A historical topic surfaced. I decided to conduct a little wine-inspired experiment. I just listened to them pontificate about a subject I knew a lot about. This is generally not my disposition when vino veritas is factored in. What took place was fascinating. While my friends had a working understanding of the topic, their background chronology was out of whack which, of course, did a serious number on their understanding.  

If intelligent adults struggle with context on what would seem common historical knowledge, it would be foolhardy to assume that k-12 students, aside from the budding history nerds, would have a clue about the order of events. Contextual ignorance does not just apply to events, but also processes. Students in math, science, and language arts must understand many processes like the quadratic equation, the scientific method, and MLA citation. Chronological awareness with such concepts breeds confidence, which is crucial to engagement. Let’s inspire some of that awareness with a cool virtual timeline builder.

Last semester, my World Civ class was embarking on a unit addressing 20th Century Chinese history. My kids knew virtually nothing about this important topic. I decided the first step in this academic journey would be for my kids to create virtual timelines. Here’s the prompt I gave students, which can easily be altered to match concepts or processes in other subjects:

  • I gave them a starting point (The Boxer Rebellion 1899) and an ending point (The Communist Victory 1949).
  • I challenged them to plot seven important events in between.
  • I required that each event include a title, the year it took place, an explanation as to why the event was important, and a public domain or creative commons image. Imagine some of the cool imagery students could find for quadratic equations and the scientific method!


The Problem:

Contextual ignorance undermines engagement.

The Solution:

Challenge students to build virtual timelines with ReadWriteThink. 

What you can do Tomorrow:

  • Create your own timeline on ReadWriteThink.
  • Select an important topic.
  • Formulate small discussion groups.

When students are able to place events or processes in context, they become confident and engaged academic explorers.

Listen to “67-Context is Key to Engagement…let ReadWriteThink Help” on Spreaker.


66-Hacking Engagement Again…THE SEQUEL

When I wrote Hacking Engagement, I was amazed that fifty hacks flowed out of my fingertips and compressed the keys of my laptop. Fifty seemed like a marathon, however, those hacks systematically materialized. When I typed the last period of the last sentence, I thought, Wow. that was a lot of hacks. I need a break. What happened next was fascinating.

My neighbor recently bought a scarlet Toyota Prius. I’m not a car guy, but when she pulled up beside me as I walked my dog, I could barely hear her engine, which I thought was cool. It looked sleek and futuristic and then I asked her about gas mileage, this non-car-guy instantly became a convert. Later that day, my wife and I went out shopping. Everywhere we drove I saw red Toyota Prii (I was so determined to use this example that I visited Toyota’s website and found out how to refer to Prius plural). The same thing happened when I wrapped up Hacking Engagement last summer. I thought I was done writing about engagement, but potential hacks kept appearing on my radar. Articles I read, colleagues I spoke to, guests I interviewed on my podcast, and most importantly, lesson plans hatched in my creative incubator of a commute every morning to school compelled me to write fifty more. My publisher was thrilled.

Hacking Engagement Again is just like its predecessor Hacking Engagement: Both are short, containing a little over 30,000 words apiece. Both are comprised of fifty hacks that are each about 600 words in length. Neither is linear. Instead, they’re like cookbooks; you scan the table of contents and find what you need to make tomorrow’s lesson delicious.

Listen to “66-Hacking Engagement Again…THE SEQUEL” on Spreaker.