53-Entice Kids to Confront Their Phone Obsession and Actually Look Up…AT YOU…Starring Nahom Buckles


Nahom Buckles

It’s so discouraging! You’re preaching the gospel of education, enlightenment, self-improvement, promoting humanities’ greatest ideas…but then you notice that many kids are staring intently down at their laps. Unfortunately, you know why. They need to put that sweet pair of shoes on their Amazon Wishlist before you notice them obsessing over their screens and redirect them.

As a contemporary instructor, I’ve felt this profound burn. I’ll bet you have too. Some teachers are totally hard-nosed. They don’t give the kids an inch on phone use during instruction. If that’s you…RESPECT! However I, like I suspect many teachers, am not so stern when it comes to students and their phones. Plus, kids are darned adept at subtle screen time. And let’s not forget, students can use their devices in class in the pursuit of knowledge. While I’m uncomfortable with prohibition, I’d certainly love to see kids to stare at their phones less during strategic moments of instruction.

In this episode, I promote enlightenment over prohibition. I do this with the InTheMoment App. As I explain in the show, I’m more comfortable giving students tools and information, have them apply it to their existence, and then hope it makes an impact. The InTheMoment App tracks daily screen time. Of course, I applied it to myself first. I’ve read various stats pertaining to average daily phone use. Most data pegs usage at around 4 hours! That seemed exorbitant till I started measuring my usage. I was horrified! Check out March 31st:

At least April 3rd wasn’t bad. Unfortunately, I’d only been awake for 30 minutes!

I knew darned well that I HAD to expose my kids to this app. We were working through a unit on Buddhism. I was particularly interested in kids applying the concepts of non-attachment and impermanence to their lives. Our first blog prompt was on burning a mandala they drew on a square sheet of paper. Our second prompt promoted the InTheMoment App.

Appearing on this episode is a wonderful young man named Nahom Buckles. Nahom will talk about how this student-led learning activity was enlightening and potentially transformative. Please don’t think this lesson must be limited to social studies. I’ll bet with a little thought you could easily work a phone obsession prompt into your curriculum!

Episode Template

The Problem:

Your kids are obsessed with their phones.

The Solution:

Enlighten them about the extent of this obsession with the InTheMoment App.

What You Can Do Tomorrow:

  1. Download the app and track your screen time.
  2. Create a prompt based on your curriculum.
  3. Challenge students to track their phone use for 1 week.

Perhaps, a great way to manage phone addiction is simple awareness. While it might not convert all your students, I’ll wager that many of your students, like Nahom, will become determined to make changes!

Listen to “53-Entice Kids to Confront Their Phone Obsession and Actually Look Up…AT YOU…Starring Nahom Buckles” on Spreaker.

52-Priming the Pump for Tomorrow’s Lesson…Starring Campbell Allen and Emma Neeper

You stroll into class and you’re stoked! You have an awesome lesson and you can’t wait to lay it on your young disciples. Alas! Your students are more interested in who’s zoomin’ who. You have to compete with contemporary school and youth culture…which is a tall order. You get discouraged because you know that if they gave this lesson their full attention, it would enrich their lives.

So…that’s the problem and this episode will help you grab them by the virtual lapels and pull them into an amazing learning experience! I brought back some original sources we all love so much…the students! For this episode, I’m joined by Campbell Allen and Emma Neeper …two wonderful young adults. They took time out of their busy existence to talk about how to prime the pump for tomorrow’s lesson.

Here’s the approach we’ll all advocate:

  • Begin the lesson by issuing an interesting hook question. This question should be a real-life application, or at least something relevant to modern youth life. Campbell suggests pop-culture connections. Give kids a minute or two to contemplate your creative subtle prompt:


  • Direct the kids to collaborate about their ideas. This should also take about two minutes.


  • Finally, conduct a class discussion, or debriefing. This can last longer, but regardless…the pump will have been primed and your students SHOULD be far more receptive to the day’s lesson!



Episode Template

The Problem:

Your kids aren’t pumped about today’s amazing lesson.

The Solution:

You need to prime their pumps with an engaging introductory activity!

What You Can Do Tomorrow:

  1. Randomly sort students into small groups…check out Episode 43 for ideas!
  2. Issue a subtle relevant prompt about the day’s lesson.
  3. Allow kids a brief time to contemplate the prompt.
  4. Direct student to collaborate about their ideas.
  5. Conduct a class discussion or debriefing.
  6. NOW…dive into your transformational lesson!

Think of the catchy Anticipation song by the lovely Carly Simon. Prime the pump for your awesome lesson and watch engagement blossom!

Listen to “52-Priming the Pump for Tomorrow’s Lesson…Starring Campbell Allen and Emma Neeper” on Spreaker.



51-Please Apply the You…Y’all…We Template Tomorrow…Starring Norman Eng

Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it will seem like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl, and an hour seems like a minute. That’s relativity. Albert Einstein 

Please don’t touch!

This wonderful quote is the embodiment of engagement. As teachers…we need to be more like the beautiful companion (obviously not in terms of physical attraction) and less like the stove.

And that’s why I’m simply thrilled to bring you my interview with Norman Eng.


Norman’s outstanding new book Teaching College is a must read for educators who want to avoid being Einstein’s hot stove.

Now, don’t panic! Norman’s book is about engaging students at all levels and he has cred. While Norman is currently an adjunct Education professor in the New York City University System, he spent many years instructing at the K12 level. In fact, he believes college profs could learn a lot about engagement from K12 teachers! Isn’t that a delicious switch?

But the heart of this episode is our conversation about…and how to apply, a marvelous lesson template. Magdalene Lampert’s You…Y’all…We template is an ultra engaging way to teach anything! I learned about it from Norman, applied to the next day’s lesson, and struck engagement gold! Listen and get inspired!

Episode Template

The Problem:

Teachers need an engaging template they can apply to various lessons.

The Solution:

Apply the You…Y’all…We template.

What You Can Do Tomorrow:

  1. Issue an engaging hook students work on individually (YOU). Here are some examples:

You’re introducing variables in Algebra…so you prompt:

Describe when you solved a mystery.

  • How did you do it?
  • What were some serious obstacles?

You’re beginning a unit on Catcher in the Rye in English…so you prompt:

Describe what you miss most about being a little kid.

  • How is being older frustrating?
  • Would you like to go back for one day?

You’re delving into plate tectonics in Earth Science…so you prompt:

Describe the heaviest thing you’ve moved.

  • How did you do it?
  • What were some serious obstacles?

You’re introducing flexibility in your Health and PE class…so you prompt:

Describe a law or a school policy that needs to be eliminated, or updated.

  • Why does it need to change?
  • What will happen if it doesn’t?

2. After a few minutes, have students discuss their responses in small groups (Y’ALL).

3. Now that the pump has been primed, dive into the lesson activity. (WE) This is the application phase of the lesson. It could be a lecture, a simulation, role-play scenarios, consumption and analysis of video, class presentations, a Socratic seminar, or a class experiment. Focus on communal learning in this phase.

This constitutes active learning plus profound engagement. Please apply this template to tomorrow’s lesson!

Listen to “51-Please Apply the You…Y’all…We Template Tomorrow…Starring Norman Eng” on Spreaker.


50-Take a Peek at your School in 2037…Starring April Domine

Today, I’m celebrating the release of the 50th episode of the Hacking Engagement Podcast, so I thought I’d do something special. I interviewed an expert on the future of this noble profession. What will schools look like in 2027? How about 2037? Today’s episode will not sound like my other programs. This episode is longer than most…almost 40 minutes. This episode does not have the tight little list at the end explaining what you can do tomorrow. You’re certainly encouraged to implement ideas from this conversation into tomorrow’s lesson, but I was more focussed on what your lessons and your school will be like 10 and 20 years down the road!

My problem with retirement is simple…schools are becoming too fascinating to leave! The way I instruct has changed fundamentally over the past decade. I’m a markedly different teacher than I was just last year. I’m closing in on the end of this school year, but I keep thinking about tools, tactics, and strategies I can’t wait to try next fall. In short, I’m nowhere near ready to call it quits!

Then…I go and interview April Domine and I really get stoked!


April is the superintendent of Gahanna Christian Academy. April also has decades of experience as a public educator. She was a teacher, building administrator, and superintendent in the public realm prior to her recent migration to private education. April also worked as an education researcher. This was a pivotal role because if she’s going to advocate a program or policy, it needs to be backed by thorough objective research. April was my superintendent a decade ago. She evolved our district.

Listen to how she’s going to transform her school next year. Understand, this will just be the first step. The portrait that April paints in this episode is important because we’ll all be teaching like this in the near future! I think I just may have to stick around and watch this amazing process unfold.

Next week I’ll be back with the template and great suggestions about tomorrow. But for this auspicious episode…sit back and dream about the future!

Listen to “50-Take a Peek at your School in 2037…Starring April Domine” on Spreaker.


49-Engage as you Grade…Starring Kaizena

How about grading papers like this?

Okay…here’s the way this went down! I was a college freshman and I had a long way to go in the writing department. I needed to cite more, I needed more supportive evidence, and my sources were meager and of low quality. Sound familiar? When I got my paper back, I noticed the grade…which was a C, shoved the paper in my book bag, and went on with my existence. The next class, our professor urged us to read the comments she’d wrote on our papers. I read a few, but then I got discouraged and quit. It seemed like she was yelling at me! I missed some great directives and advice.

Now, I teach 18-year-olds how to write research papers. I totally get the struggle of students not embracing advice on how to evolve as writers. Karma is a beautiful thing! I was frustrated because I knew my students needed help. And then…I met a lovely little app called Kaizena. It detonated my paradigm on providing students with feedback. It transformed grading papers into a collaborative process!

Kaizena is voice grading. You highlight a portion of kid’s paper, hit record, and start enlightening.

There are a bevy of benefits to utilizing your voice as opposed to your default red pen:

  • Your voice is far more emotive than a simple written comment
  • Your voice can be far more encouraging
  • Your voice can better communicate tone and emphasis
  • It’s easier to listen than it is to read, hence kids are more inclined to listen to your comments
  • Most educators can speak a lot faster than they can type or write
  • This method invites collaboration because students respond to comments

Kaizena has the potential to make grading papers engaging for students and teachers

Episode Template

The Problem:

Students don’t read assessment comments.

The Solution:

Utilize Kaizena and transform assessment into an engaging collaborative process.

What You Can Do Tomorrow:

  1. Sign-up for Kaizena
  2. Generate a student invite code
  3. Commandeer a student guinea pig to help you navigate the process
  4. Designate a future writing prompt for your Kaizena maiden voyage

With Kaizena, students are far more likely to listen and then apply important directives they may have previously ignored. Student writing could become a collaborative process.

Listen to “49-Engage as you Grade…Starring Kaizena” on Spreaker.



48-Google Classroom…Plus Edublogs…Equals Epic Enrichment…Starring Camden Edwards, Emily Kuederle, and Coltrane Matos

I’ll bet you’ve gazed out at your students and thought:

  • I wonder if some kids aren’t being challenged.
  • If I personalize instruction…my your room will be unmanageable.

Last spring, I had a student teacher. He was doing well, but one aspect of his instruction…and mine for that matter, that needed work was personalization. While he was busy teaching, I had some downtime and a chance to observe my kids and think. I came up with a method to personalize by combining 2 powerful tech tools…Google Classroom and Edublogs. We employed these 2 tools to offer enrichment to any student who wanted to go deeper in a particular unit.

A separate section was set-up on Google Classroom for Enrichment. Any student who wanted to go deeper in a particular unit could join, review the prompts…or propose something new, and then dive in…or take a pass and see what’s available next unit.

The students posted their efforts on Edublogs. This platform encourages various methods of expression. Edublogs is visual, expressive, empowering, and public. The public nature of Edublogs facilitates and encouraged student collaboration. Students can review and then comment on one another’s posts.

On today’s episode, I have 3 magnificent guests:

  • Camden Edwards
  • Emily Kuederle
  • Coltrane Matos

Camden Edwards Emily Kuederle Coltrane Matos

They’ll enlighten listeners about how important it is to offer enrichment and how they endorse my method of doing it. Below are links to examples of their work:

Episode Template

The Problem:

Offering enrichment opportunities is needed, but problematic.

The Solution:

Utilize Google Classroom and Edublogs.

What You Can Do Tomorrow:

  1. Create a new section of Google Classroom just for enrichment
  2. Provide students with a list of choices
  3. Direct students to post their work on Edublogs

Personalization needn’t disrupt your class. Utilize Google Classroom and Edublogs for epic enrichment!

Listen to “48-Google Classroom…Plus Edublogs…Equals Epic Enrichment…Starring Camden Edwards, Emily Kuederle, and Coltrane Matos” on Spreaker.

47-6 Incredibly Simple and Powerful Student Incentives

Here’s one massive unintentional lesson the world learned from Communism…incentives are necessary to inspire productivity. Here’s where Capitalism falls short. This tired cliche is also lacking:

Competition brings out the best in people!

Granted competition is motivational, but I’ve witnessed competition bring out the WORST in people! Watch parental behavior at your next youth sporting event. Study the history of the Industrial Revolution. Teach a World History unit on Imperialism. Then, reevaluate that cliche. Perhaps it could be reworded as:

Competition is motivational!

When it comes to the classroom, some students love incentives and competition and some kids hate them. It’s been my experience, that incentives motivate many students, but not all. Hence, it’s important to offer the right kind of incentives. It’s been my mission to include the incentives that are:

  • Fun
  • Low-risk
  • Simple
  • Social in nature
  • Non-academic
  • Engaging
  • Relationship-inducing

In this episode, I’ll promote 6 such incentives. Only 2 of these carrots are academic in nature, but even those are promoted and administered in a joyous non-threatening fashion. My objective in unleashing all this academic Capitalism is 2-fold:

  • I want to inspire reserved kids to join the class-participation party
  • I want to coax even more out of students who are already contributing

The key for teachers is to have fun. When you’re having fun, the kids are often having fun. In that spirit, below is a photo essay of how Mr. Sturtevant awards a PLUS +1. Of course, I could just say it…but I like to do things with more style and originality. Listen to the episode to hear a description of the entire dramatic performance.

Plus +1

FOR YOU…my dear student!

Here’s my joyous list of 6:

  1. Plus +1
  2. Questions Off
  3. Potty Pass
  4. Food Pass
  5. Teacher’s Pet for the Day
  6. Verbal Praise Coupon (You have to hear about this one!)

I have 24 hours to come up with something awesome!

Episode Template

The Problem:

Your students need to up their class participation game.

The Solution:

Incorporate some low-risk incentives.

What You Can Do Tomorrow:

  1. Determine the target audience for your incentives
  2. Decide whether your incentives will be academic, social, or both
  3. Create some non-transferable reward cards or coupons
  4. Consider ways to deliver the goods with style!

Maybe…all your students need to up their participation game is a little Capitalism. Don’t be shocked if you and they have a lot of fun in the process!

Listen to “47-6 Incredibly Simple and Powerful Student Incentives” on Spreaker.

46-Utilize the ENTIRE School Building with this Engaging Scavenger Hunt…Starring Caroline Craig-Bowden and Sandy Smith

As I read through the 20 page assignment on the Industrial Revolution, I kept thinking to myself...Wow, this is boring! If I was feeling that burn, imagine what my students were going to feel. I decided it was time to break out of the box. In this case, literally break out of the box of the four walls of my classroom. I sent my students on a school-wide scavenger hunt utilizing QR-codes, a hint sheet, and provocative prompts from the reading. This episode will detail this EPIC lesson plan from the vantage point of two of my awesome students. I will also offer advice on how you can create a scavenger hunt at your school.

Caroline Craig-Bowden and Sandy Smith

First, secure a QR code reader. I love this simple, but powerful app i-nigma.

Second, produce QR codes. Classroom Tools has a remarkably easy site to utilize in this quest. Merely type in the questions and answers and then Classroom Tools will generate the codes.

And finally, concoct hiding places around the school for your codes. Create a HINT SHEET to help students search. Below, is my list. I’ll bet you could apply many of my hiding places to your building!


  1. Finding this one could take you to another level
  2. On the back of a warning
  3. Where Sturtevant gets his Old Skool messages
  4. These kids looked great in 88
  5. Behind something black and gray
  6. If you find this one…YOU’RE REALLY ON A ROLL!
  7. If you don’t find this code, your prospects of winning will be extinguished
  8. Open this door and find an awesome relationship
  9. If you get to the bottom of where this code is placed…I’ll be shocked
  10. Search this virtual tool we use daily


  1. Elevator
  2. On the back of the “No Firearms” warning on the front door
  3. My mailbox in the main office
  4. The Class of 1988 composite
  5. On the backside of a trashcan in the hallway
  6. On the the large paper rolls in the supply room
  7. On an obscure fire extinguisher
  8. On the backside of my wife’s office door
  9. On the bottom of the defibrillator in the basement
  10. On the “About” section of Google Classroom

Episode Template

The Problem:

Your next lesson looks a bit dry.

The Solution:

Incorporate unit concepts into a scavenger hunt utilizing your entire building.

What You Can Do Tomorrow:

  1. Download the i-nigma QR reader
  2. Create QR codes on Classroom Tools
  3. Determine hiding places for codes around the building
  4. Craft a Hint Sheet

Morph a dull lesson into challenging your students to hustle around the building formulating wonderful responses to the day’s essential questions.

Listen to “46-Utilize the ENTIRE School Building with this Engaging Scavenger Hunt…Starring Caroline Craig-Bowden and Sandy Smith” on Spreaker.

45-How to Bounce Back from a Bad Day in the Classroom

Just because I’ve authored a couple of books and host a podcast on engagement, does not mean that I don’t have challenging days in the classroom. Last Friday was one of those days! The first 3 periods went great. My students were animated and participatory. The last 3 periods were miserable. My kids were lethargic and crabby. They were not the least bit impressed with my lesson. I left home on Friday defeated!

Now…I’ve been teaching a long time. I’ve learned what to do when I have a miserable day like Friday. I’ve had plenty such days in my career. In this episode, I’ll tell you about my miserable Friday and about 5 coping mechanisms I employ whenever I have a bad day. The good news is that I bounced back on Monday and thoroughly engaged ALL my classes.

This episode will help you bounce back too!

Episode Template

The Problem:

It’s easy to get discouraged when you have a bad day in the classroom.

The Solution:

Bounce back with these 5 coping mechanisms.

What You Can Do Tomorrow:

  1. Evaluate your lesson plan
  2. Analyze your delivery
  3. Consider your audience
  4. Don’t take a bad day personally
  5. Embrace that you will bounce back

Everyone has bad days. Use such experiences as teachable moments where you can learn to better engage kids!

Listen to “45-How to Bounce Back After a Bad Day in the Classroom” on Spreaker.




44-Stage 27 Student Presentations in 9 Minutes! Starring Kat Brammer and Peter Pohlod

Kat Brammer and Peter Pohlod

A few years ago, my students matriculated through two days of student presentations. IT WAS PAINFUL! I was bored! They were bored! The novelty wore off after about three presentations. It wasn’t that there weren’t some good ones…there were, but many were low energy, filled with endless bullet points, and were rehashing tired topics. Once a student gave their presentation or grasped a concept, they had little incentive to listen to the next gabfest. I vowed I wasn’t going to do this to my kids again!

Enter...the Gallery Walk. Here’s a very brief video on how a large number of students can present simultaneously:

The video presents a scenario where 9 students present simultaneously. You can expand this idea. In my class, I had 27 students presenting simultaneously. And…don’t be afraid if you don’t have a multiple of 3 like 27. I have 27 students, but without fail, two of my kids were absent on presentation day. That will happen!

On today’s episode, two of my students Kat Brammer and Peter Pohlod will discuss their experiences in the Gallery Walk. Here are links to the project prompts before, during, and after the presentations:

The Prompt

Visitor Impressions


This is the cheesy after school special the presentation was based upon:

“The Wave”

Episode Template

The Problem:

Many student presentations are NOT engaging.

The Solution:

Unleash the Gallery Walk.

What You Can Do Tomorrow:

  1. Watch the Gallery Walk video
  2. Sort students into groups of 3
  3. Designate 3 important concepts from the unit you’re currently studying for presentations
  4. Decide what form the presentations will take

Student presentations do not have to be a tedious marathon. Institute the Gallery Walk and watch engagement soar!

Listen to “44-Stage 27 Student Presentations in 9 Minutes! Starring Kat Brammer and Peter Pohlod” on Spreaker.