Urban Legends, Headline Hooks, and Ideation: 3 Edtech Writing Activities for Inquiry

Adobe Spark (9)Writing is often short-changed in most classrooms but it is through writing that students demonstrate their understanding of texts, concepts, and topics. Writing about their learning provides insight into what a student understands and where the gaps occurred. For example, I assign a chapter in The Giver for my students to read and the next day in class I kick off the discussion by having students take five minutes to write down everything they know about a Utopian Society, how it has impacted the characters and the setting of the novel. This 5 minute activity provides me with data to inform my instruction. It provides a small glimpse into my students’ understanding of the novel and theme.

Writing as a type of assessment is typically what most teachers think of and utilize in their classrooms but there is a second reason to have students write (and write, and write, and write a lot more). Writing allows us to wrestle with ideas, make a mess with our thinking, and sift the top ideas and thoughts we may have not known were in our heads. It is through writing that exploration and inquiry can be launched in the classroom.

3 Edtech Writing Strategies for Inquiry:

Urban LegendsWomen wearing leggings are denied boarding for their flights, the current slime craze has serious health implications for youth, Disney VHS movies with the Black Diamond cases are worth thousands of dollars. Using myths, Urban Legends, and other misinformation is an engaging way to launch kids into exploration. Not only does this type of activity lead to more reading, writing, and investigation; but it also promotes healthy skepticism in the information age.  During this exploration, students work to uncover the truth and also ask themselves how this phenomenon takes place and what catapults these Urban Legends into popularity. Great places to start:



Why Might This Be? – This strategy is great for brainstorming and ideation. Collect provocative statements from newspapers, magazines, blogs, etc. Share each line one at a time while students list possible reasons for each (one minute per headline works well). Students are answering the question “Why Might This Be?” as the list as many possibilities. These lists serve as instigators to launch students into an inquiry or exploration unit where student choice is provided.


“Denmark Just Drove Uber Out of The Country”  – Why Might This Be?


  • New laws were passed.
  • Accidents caused while using Uber.
  • No money being made by government.
  • Hard to police and hold drivers accountable.
  • Acts of violence caused by riders – or drivers.


Headline Hooks – This activity has students reading and writing their way through current NF sources. To start with, students spend 20 mins. or more reading articles that spark their interest. Here is a collection of digital sources to have kids explore! During their reading, students take note of what they want to explore more. This list becomes a plethora of ideas to support inquiry throughout the year. Use a graphic organizer once the student has chosen a Headline that Hooked them listing the topic on the top, what they know about it, what they think they will find out, and then what they did find out.

Resources – Kelly Gallagher, Write Like This

21 Inspiring EdTech Women You Should Know!

-music expresseswhat i simply cannot-Writing this third and final post in the EdTech Women Trailblazers series was bittersweet. Educators are often the most humble group of professionals one could meet and I was encouraged, inspired, and filled with joy as I read the thoughts and advice from all of the women I featured throughout March. (You can read Blog Post 1 & Post 2 to learn about other women in this series.) This series was my personal way to give back to the hundreds of educators I have connected with throughout my career. There are many inspiring educators doing what’s best for kids around the globe, this was just a small sampling of those I hold dear in my PLN. The resources, collaboration, and passion from these women often goes unnoticed; now is the time to celebrate! These trailblazers are helping to lead the way in creating a change in the field of education and I am truly honored to know all of them!


starrStarr Sackstein, Hybrid teach/teacher coach

  • “I’ve been a long-time advocate for every child/teacher to be an active participant in his/her learning experience, including their voices in everything from curriculum development to assessment.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Twitter, Voxer, GSuite
  • Advice: Develop relationships with your students and really listen when they tell you what they need. The more present you are for them, the more they will be for themselves.
  • Connect with Starr: Twitter @mssackstein or EdWeek Blog “Work in Progress”


franFran McVeigh, Literacy Consultant for Great Prairie AEA

  • “Being literate is the key to having the power to learn from text (books, stories, print, art, video, and nonverbal cues of people) and is within the realm of possibilities for EACH and EVERY student in school and for the rest of their lives.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Hyperdocs, Twitter, Voxer
  • Advice: Relationships, relationships, relationships! Treat everyone with the respect and dignity that you want to be treated with.
  • Connect with Fran: Twitter @franmcveigh    Blog, franmcveigh.wordpress.com


melissaDr. Melissa Nixon, Director of Title I

  • “Being an educator is committing to children and their families with a life of service and dedication for a better tomorrow.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Voxer
  • Advice: You make a difference to someone every day.  Be kind. Be generous. Don’t be afraid to care deeply.
  • Connect with Melissa: Twitter @mmnixon73  Email mmnixon73@gmail.com


katieKatie Siemer, Director of Curriculum and Technology Integration at Forward Edge. I serve districts in Ohio as an integration consultant and edtech coach!

  • “I face each new day in education with determination to make a small impact one teacher at a time, all while finding humor every step of the way!”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Google Tour Builder, Eric Curts’ Resources, ISTE EdTech Coaches PLN
  • Advice: Be passionate about something… your content area, using technology, an after school club with the kids… anything! Education is going to be really hard sometimes, so you need something you really care about to pull you through the not-so-glamorous times or you will burn out really quickly. Every kid needs a champion, and you can’t be a champion if you’re just going through the motions. Love what you do, do what you love, and don’t forget to laugh along the way!
  • Connect with Katie: Twitter @Katie_M_Ritter Blog http://talktechwithme.com Email ksiemer@forward-edge.net


KKharimaharima Richards, Education Consultant

  • My goal is to continue connecting with other educators & leaders as well as learn new and innovative ways to provide our students with 21st-century learning experiences.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Twitter, GSuite, Canva
  • Advice: Create a vision that makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning. ~unknown
  • Connect with Kharima: Twitter & Instagram  @Kharima4 Linkedin or Email ksrichards4@gmail.com


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Mandi Tolen, HS Math Teacher

  • “I want to make education better for students by making myself better and helping those around me be better.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Bitmoji, Desmos, GSuite
  • Advice: Learn something every day and be willing to share it with others.
  • Connect with Mandi: Twitter @TTmomTT Blog Infinitely Teaching   Instagram    Snapchat



erinErin Olson, Instructional Leader and Curriculum Director

  • “I do not want my students and my children to be the best in the world, I want my students and my children to be the best FOR the world. ”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Tweetdeck, Flipgrid, AdobeSpark
  • Advice: The learning experiences we design and the environment we create stays with students long after they leave our rooms…our students still learn from those experiences and that environment long after they leave our rooms. Bring love, compassion, and grace to the classroom.
  • Connect with Erin: Twitter@eolsonteacher Email mrseolsonteacher@gmail.com


AmberAmber Bridge, Digital Learning Consultant at Grant Wood AEA

  • “As an educator, I love to explore and create different learning structures and see the outcomes of risk-taking, creativity, and problem-solving in those structures.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Makerspace Movement, Green Screen by DoInk, Google Keep
  • Advice: Every individual in a classroom is a learner and a teacher if you chose to listen.
  • Connect with Amber: Twitter & Instagram  @abridgesmith


claraClara Galan, Community and Content Marketing Lead, Amazon Education K-12

  • “My passion is to help teachers and schools nurture students to become the next generation of independent creative problem solvers.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Remind, Kahoot, GAFE, OER Commons, Padlet. Buck Institute for Education, Common Sense Media and Edutopia
  • Advice: Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone – you never know where it will lead! Also, there isn’t one silver bullet (or tech tool) to solve the issues in education. Each group of learners (and each student) is unique in their needs and approaches.
  • Connect with Clara: Twitter @MsClaraGalan


amandaAmanda Dykes, Instructional Technology

  • “My goal is to help as many people as possible while keeping the focus on students and remembering school isn’t a place for adults to work but for students to learn.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: GSuite, YouTube Creator Studio, Adobe Spark
  • Advice: Don’t forget they are kids. They are not always going to sit still or stay quiet, they are not wired that way. Compliance isn’t what they are created to do. But they are created to make a difference and it takes understanding and love.
  • Connect with Amanda: Twitter h@amandacdykes


stacyStacy Behmer, Coordinator of Digital Learning, GWAEA

  • “You can’t steal second with your foot on first, take risks and keep on learning to make a difference for students.“
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Google Expeditions/VR, Voxer, Google Keep
  • Advice: Relationships are essential, get to know your students, parents and other educators and what passions they have and what type of learners they are because it enables you to better support and also builds your PLN!
  • Connect with Stacy: Twitter  @sbehmer


meghanMeghan Zigmond, 1st Grade Teacher & ITS

  • “Create an environment where all learners are encouraged to share their passions and curiosities, then build and grow them as a community.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Koma Koma Koma, Student Skechnotes / Doodles for visible thinking, & SeeSaw
  • Advice: Find your own passions and interests outside the classroom, then share them with your learners. Your passion and excitement for lifelong learning breeds more excitement! I think it makes learning more authentic for you and them, no matter if they are 6 or 36.
  • Connect with Meghan: Twitter / Instagram / Snapchat at @MeghanZigmond Blog zigzagstech.com   


bethBeth Still, Innovative Teaching and Learning Specialist

  • “My passion is to help educators discover the amazing things that can happen when they allow their students to have a voice.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Google Tour Builder, Google Sites (new), and Google Keep
  • Advice: Be brave enough to follow your dreams.
  • Connect with Beth: Twitter@BethStill


andreaAndrea Townsley, Curriculum / PD Leader and Instructional Coach at Benton CSD

  • “Everyone has something valuable to share and bring to the table, so making connections with colleagues within and outside of the district, community members, and families is a passion to help me to continue to learn, grow, and recharge.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Seesaw – as a parent and as a coach, Podcasts – Cult of Pedagogy & HACK Learning, & Train Ugly
  • Advice: Dance with your fears; don’t be content with your comfort zone.  Be a Jungle Tiger
  • Connect with Andrea: Twitter@townsleyaj  Blog townsleyaj.blogspot.com  Instagram @ajtownsley  


wandaWanda Terral, District Technology Coordinator

  • “By empowering others, I empower myself.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: G Suite, Adobe Creative Cloud, Twitter
  • Advice: Embrace your imperfections. Many of us are perfectionists and, while that quality often makes us great at what we do, it also fuels our stress and frustration. Continue to strive to do your best and push the envelope while also embracing your imperfections. Remember, your imperfections are the stepping stones on your growth journey. Without them, personal growth stagnates.
  • Connect with Wanda: Twitter @wterral Google+ (+WandaTerral) Blog ignitionEDU.com), and a variety of other spots which are detailed on about.me/edtech


ValerieValerie Brinkman, 1:1 Coordinator/Tech Specialist

  • “My passion as an educator is to spark a lifelong interest in a topic or issue for students.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Bloxels, Digital Breakouts, Socrative
  • Advice: Remember that each student in an individual and comes to you with their own story. Take time to learn their story and connect with them on a personal level to allow for great learning and better educational experience.
  • Connect with Valerie: Twitter @BrinkmanValerie


kristinKristin Ziemke, Teacher & Author


jenniferJennifer Williams, Professor, GlobalEd Program Developer, ILA Board of Directors

  • “To take action for social good and transformational teaching and learning through the sharing of stories, perspective, and experience in our global classrooms.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Nearpod, Participate, Global Oneness Project
  • Advice: Endeavor to be a teacher where all the children of the world are your students and all lands of the earth are your classrooms.
  • Connect with Jennifer: Twitter @JenWilliamsEdu Website: www.calliopeglobal.com  


JuliJuli-Anne Benjamin, Instructional Coach

  • “Dedicated servant to the successful trajectory of children Everywhere.“
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Kahoot. Global Goals/Teach SDG’s and all things Culturally Responsive Pedagogy.
  • Advice: Work to build and curate relationships with children. KNOW them when they are in your space and ground your pedagogical practice in student choice and student voice.
  • Connect with Juli-Anne: Twitter @JuliB224  Email edcampbrooklyn@gmail.com  


LauraLaura Gilchrist, HS Instructional Coach in Kansas City

  • “I am passionate about creating a citywide ecosystem to support learner innovation, agency, and opportunity access both in schools and in cities so that our kids can walk into their futures self-identifying as connected learners and leaders.“
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Google Keep, NYT VR app, Podcast app (subscribe & listen to podcasts)
  • Advice: Believe in yourself, think big, and connect with educators and ideas beyond your school. Your unique voice and energy make a difference in many lives–a bigger difference than you will ever know! Keep leading and lighting the way for our kids and for each other!
  • Connect with Laura: Twitter @LauraGilchrist4  Linkedin www.linkedin.com/in/lauragilchrist4 Blog www.lauragilchrist4.com


mariaMaria (Galanis) Arfanakis, iCoach



annAnn Feldmann, District Instructional Technology Specialist, Bellevue Public Schools; Adjunct Professor, Peru State College and Doane University

  • “Once upon a time I was a young girl and had a dream of being a teacher.  I wanted to create a classroom that students would want to run to every day. I am happy to say, I am living my dream! I’m in a position to influence and foster a culture of teaching and learning that provides engaging, personalized, differentiated, and choice-driven learning for all students.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Seesaw Classkick Schoology Voxer and iPads
  • Advice: Being an educator is an awesome responsibility and a great privilege and honor. Never forget that our job as educators is to serve our students and staff. Embrace the opportunities that are presented each day. Use your strengths and talents to encourage one another. Be present and positive while you listen, learn, and lead. Inspire all the people in your path. It’s in the spirit of working together and celebrating successes that new ideas are generated and people have the courage to implement something new.  Anyone who works with me knows, that my philosophy is that we are better together and build a community strength on strength.  “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” -Helen  Keller
  • Connect with Ann: Twitter @annfeldmann1


When I started writing this series to celebrate Edtech Women Making an Impact I realized how fortunate I am to be connected (both virtually and in-person) to Trailblazers in the field of education. From Authors to Makers, Coaches to Advocates the passion exudes from these women who put kids first, share generously, and leaving their mark on the world!

15 EdTech Women Making an Impact!

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March is known as Women’s History Month and this year the theme honors Trailblazers whose passion has influenced their respective field of work. This month I plan to highlight groups of Edtech Women each Friday that are leading the way in our field, celebrating their passion, innovations, and work. These women are helping to lead the way in creating a change in the field of education that is best for kids around the world. You can read last Friday’s post here.




Marisa Dahl, Instructional Tech Consultant


kayeKaye Henrickson, Instructional Services Director at CESA #4 in Western Wisconsin

  • “If I can help move the needle, even a little bit, to support others in existing as safe, positive, and self-directed learners, I can land on that as a success.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Google Keep, Edpuzzle, Fitbit
  • Advice: Even small steps forward in your learning are steps forward. Honor that and keep moving.
  • Connect with Kaye: Twitter @kayehenrickson LinkedIn, FB, Pinterest, Instagram: Kaye Henrickson


ShanaShana White, Local School Technology Coordinator

  • “I purposefully disrupt the status quo and work daily to provide and support innovative and engaging opportunities for my students and teachers.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Twitter, GSuite, DiscoveryEd
  • Advice: Mediocrity is easy and comfortable. Great is uncomfortable, hard, but beautiful. Dare and challenge yourself to be great for kids.
  • Connect with Shana: Twitter @ShanaVWhite Blog www.shanavwhite.com Email shanavidalwhite@gmail.com


christineChristine Boyer, 5th Grade Teacher & Makerspace Curator

  • “Connectedness: bringing teachers, students and community together because learning can not just happen within the walls of the classroom.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Make Writing by Angela Stockman (e-book), Evernote for record keeping, Explain Everything for documenting
  • Advice: Teach from the heart – get to know your students well and teach to their hearts.
  • Connect with Christine: Twitter @5Boyer  Email cboyer@scarsdaleschools.org

kaylaKayla Delzer, 3rd Grade Teacher and International Keynote Speaker

  • If it’s right for kids, it’s right.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Seesaw, Epic! Books for Kids App, Augmented and Virtual Reality
  • Advice: One thing I’ve really embraced over the last few years is to dive into unfamiliar or new things head on. Don’t wait for the perfect time or a new school year to get started. My comfort level is less important than doing what’s best for kids. Best practice starts now.
  • Connect with Kayla: Twitter @TopDogTeaching @topdogteaching on SM, topdogteaching.com


JodieJodie Deinhammer, Teacher

  • “Challenging kids to think differently.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Numbers, iMovie, Flipgrid
  • Advice: Set the bar high because kids are capable of more than is typically expected of them.
  • Connect with Jodie: Twitter @jdeinhammer and  jdeinhammer@coppellisd.com



cariCari Teske, Tech Integrationist

  • “To share my passion of learning with others so that it ripples for eternity.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Google Expeditions, Breakout EDU, Seesaw
  • Advice: Students always remember how you made them feel.
  • Connect with Cari: Twitter @cariteske, Email cteske@aea267.k12.ia.us


MindyMindy Cairney, Digital Learning Consultant at Grant Wood AEA

  • “My driving force is to help education evolve into an empowering experience for students and teachers.“
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Seesaw, CoSpaces, and all things Virtual Reality
  • Advice: Find something that brings fire into your soul. Walk away from things that don’t.
  • Connect with Mindy: Twitter @TeamCairney Email mcairney@gwaea.org


hadleyHadley Ferguson, Executive Director, Edcamp Foundation

  • “It’s always about creating the learning spaces for that spark of understanding, the light in the eyes moments, whether for students or adults.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Slack, Google Calendar, Wunderlist
  • Advice: Never stop learning; keep personal growth as one of your goals! It will make you a better educator!
  • Connect with Hadley: Twitter @hadleyjf Email hadley@edcamp.org


mickieMickie Mueller, Educational Technology Facilitator

  • “Always keep learning, always keep stretching, always keep growing.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Google Classroom, Canva, Seesaw
  • Advice: You’ve got to get out of your comfort zone to truly grow. As educators, we must always be willing to learn and try new things. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Build a PLN of trusted friends and confidants, those people who will support you and more importantly challenge you.
  • Connect with Mickie: Twitter @Mickie_Mueller


MichelleMichelle Baldwin, Lead Teacher, Anastasis Academy

  • “My passion is inspiring kids to follow their curiosity, and that mostly requires me to simply get out of their way.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Google Keep, One Tab, Seesaw
  • Advice: Getting to truly know your students – their interests, how they think they learn, what they’re curious about, etc. – should always be your top priority. Everything else is secondary to that. WHO we teach is far more important that WHAT we teach.
  • Connect with Michelle: Twitter @michellek107  


AmberAmber Teamann, proud principal of Whitt Elementary in Wylie, Tx

  • “My passion as an educator is to inspire a love of learning in all I come in contact with, empowering each and every person to be the very best version of themself they can be.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Adobe Spark, Voxer, Facebook Groups for learning
  • Advice: Share, share, share. Connections are one of the easiest, free ways to grow and learn. Your PLN can become some of your best friends and truly make you a better educator. Everyone needs a spark every now and then…YOU could be just what someone needs as a catalyst for change!
  • Connect with Amber: Twitter@8Amber8  Website www.amberteamann.com


KaseyBell1WebSQKasey Bell, Digital Learning Consultant

  • “I am passionate about doing what’s best for kids and leveraging digital tools (and everything else at our disposal) to improve student learning.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: NYT VR, Google Keep, Story Wars
  • Advice: Question everything that is done in schools! Education is slow to change, and it’s in need a big change. We have to question the reasons we do everything so we can rethink education. Don’t assume it is someone else’s job to speak up for what’s best for kids.
  • Connect with Kasey: Twitter @ShakeUpLearning Website/Blog www.ShakeUpLearning.com


MeenooMeenoo Rami, Manager Minecraft Education at Microsoft

  • “The throughline to all that I’ve done is to help connect to educators to one and another so they can leverage students’ inquiries and interest to power learning.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Minecraft Education Edition
  • Advice: You don’t  have to go at it alone, there are many, including me, who would love to support you on your journey as an educator.
  • Connect with Meenoo: Twitter @meenoorami or at meenoorami.org


rusulRusul Alrubail, Executive Director of the Writing Project

  • “I’ve made it my life’s mission to help students see that their voice matters.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: The Writing Project, Teaching Tolerance, Educolor
  • Advice: Be yourself! It is your true and authentic self that allows people to see you as a person and connect with you as an individual.
  • Connect with Rusul: Twitter @RusulAlrubail

Fake News Should Die… Or Should It?


This blog post is part of the CM Rubin World Global Search for Education which poses a question each month to leading educators for reflection and sharing. This month’s question is “how do we fight the fake news epidemic?”


Recently, Fake News has been getting a bad reputation, I’m hoping this post changes that!

Over half of Americans get their news from just one social media site – Facebook and 45% of US adults say government politicians and elected officials bear a great deal of responsibility for preventing made-up stories from gaining attention (Pew Research Center,  December 15, 2016). These statistics alarm me. Not the first one highlighting where people find information, but the second claim in which many feel the responsibility of identifying and stopping the spread of fake information resides with the government.

It is essential for educators to develop healthy skepticism within each child; critical discerners of information that are able to evaluate, analyze, and apply information that they encounter throughout their lifetime, no matter the mode.

Information is doubling every 12 days, containing fake news, half-truths, alternate facts, and reliable information; and while there are many resources (my list here) and blog posts written that offer apps, website, fact-checkers, and lessons plans for educators to utilize, we must not overlook the charge of education in our pursuit of combating fake news –  to develop independent, critical thinkers.


A conversation I had with my 7th grade son and his friends this morning:

Me: What do you know about fake news?

Son: What do you mean?

Son’s friend: Didn’t you see President Trump on the news yesterday talking about news sources…

After a brief discussion on politics

Me: So what should we do with people or news sources that report and spread fake news?

Son: Fine them, make them pay…

Son’s friend: They should get jail time.

All the boys: Yes, jail time and not be allowed to report fake news. The government needs to shut those people down…

Me: So the government should police the internet, news sources, social media, conversations and get rid of all of the fake news?

Deep Thought

Son’s friend: Well that means I could be thrown in jail… or we could end up like North Korea…



Fake news is not a bad thing. In fact, it provides teachable moments for educators across the globe. It begs us to consider who or what determines information as fake? And How can we support kids in their pursuit of understanding? The discernment of information and the application to construct one’s own understanding should be practiced and refined in every classroom across the country. With that being said, the importance of what should be done with fake information and the people or corporations that report this news as truth is a piece of the conversation that is missed.


  • What exactly is fake news?
  • Would killing off fake news truly help people?
  • Does allowing others to determine what information you have access to leave you with only factual and correct information?
  • Who should police the internet?
  • What role should the government play in determining access to information?
  • Does killing off fake news equal censorship?
  • Is censorship needed?
  • Can censorship be both good and bad?
  • Can censorship and freedom of speech coexist?

Resources, websites, fact-checkers are nice. They support an individual’s pursuit of knowledge. We use them as adults and we should definitely model and share them with students.


DO NOT forget the second part of the conversation, one in which students understand the value of fake news in the age of information. The conversation that includes the tough discussions on freedom of speech, critical thinking, approaching information with healthy skepticism, and censorship.

Special thanks to Shawn McCusker and Steven Anderson for sharing information freely!

6 Practices that “Work” to Accelerate Student Learning


In education, we are often inundated with programs, curriculums, and frameworks that are “guaranteed to increase student learning”. Promises of a silver bullet that will fix all learning difficulties find their way to teachers and administrators alike. But as John Hattie points out in Visible Learning, it’s hard not to show growth or “evidence” for a program when the bar is set at zero.

As I began my study of Visible Learning for Literacy, much of the initial learning was not concentrated on what works in literacy, but what accelerates students’ learning in any classroom. Hattie identifies what works in education based on his research and a hinge point of .40 or greater. (The hinge point is any influence with an effect size of .40 or greater as having a positive impact on learning where acceleration extends beyond what a student can achieve in one year of simply attending school.)

Identifying high-impact influences and practices enhance an educator’s role as they reflect and evaluate their teaching by placing research and evidence in their hands. “What Works” in the classroom shifts from a buzzword to intentional practice that will accelerate learning. While Hattie identifies many influences above .40, I’ve narrowed the list down to 6 that apply to all educators.

6 Practices that “Work” to Accelerate Student Learning

  1. Teacher credibility (.90 effect size) Trust, competence, energy, enthusiasm, and consistency are among the top characteristics students consider when determining if their teacher is credible and if they are going to choose to learn from them.
  2. Teacher-Student Relationships (.72 effect size) Positive teacher-student relationships involve trust, fairness, open communication and maintenance to sustain and impact student learning.  
  3. Classroom Management (.52 effect size) Students understand expectations and are consistently held to those expectations. Promotes healthy relationships with teachers and peers.  
  4. Self-Reported Grades/Student Expectations (1.44 effect size) Students set their own goals, monitor their own achievement, and reflect upon their process of learning.
  5. Teacher Clarity (.75 effect size) Learning targets are clear and articulated with success criteria. Students should be able to answer: What am I learning today? Why am I learning this? How will I know that I learned it?
  6. Feedback (.75 effect size) Just-in-time feedback identifies where the student is at, what the expectation is, and actions they can take to close the gap.

Simply put, be genuine and clear, relationships matter, create a safe environment that nurtures independence, and feedback moves students not grades!

3 Strategies to Support Student Interaction with Complex Text


Upon graduation, we hope students leave school equipped with skills, strategies, and tools to support a lifetime of literacy encounters. Whether on the job, in college, or informing oneself on Presidential Candidates; students will be continuously encountering text that must be digested and understood independently.

As educators, we must not only place complex text in the hands of our students but also support their learning through modeling and scaffolding of strategies Good Readers use to make sense and solve problems when reading difficult text. Although student understanding content is important, it is a transfer of these skills and strategies we want students to utilize any time they encounter complex text on their own.

3 Strategies to Support Student Interaction with Complex Text

Good Readers…

 1.  Act on the text to support their understanding. Annotation, the practice of making notes for oneself, is one-way good readers interact with complex text to help them make sense of what they read.

Common Annotation Marks – Demonstrate, use, and teach students how Good Readers interact with and mark on text to aid in their understanding.


Digital Annotation Tools to Explore and Share with Students

2.  Identify difficult words in complex text and use strategies to help them understand meaning. Good Readers work within the word. They identify morphemes to provide part of the definition. Good Readers also work outside the word. They ask themselves what resources can I use to support understanding. For words that are discipline specific, Good Readers use resources, such as “Discipline Dictionaries” to gain meaning of unknown terms which aid in comprehension of complex text.

3.  Finally, educators can model specific strategies during an Interactive Shared Reading. The text is delivered by the teacher while students read along silently. It is typically short and lively and promotes rereading as a way students can make sense of complex text. After the Interactive Shared Reading, the teacher may prompt discussion and support peer interaction about the text. Create a screencast for students to reference for additional support with specific strategies. It is important for students to see the text being read and hear the teacher’s thoughts as they model the specific strategy. Check out these screencasting options.

Resources – Rigorous Reading, Fisher and Frey


Educators Sharing #WhyIWrite to Celebrate The National Day on Writing


In 2009, the Senate passed a resolution recognizing October 20 as the National Day on Writing.

Every year, thousands of educators, students, and writers celebrate by tweeting reasons why they write using the hashtag #WhyIWrite. Celebrations and activities are planned in classrooms across the nation uniting writers, recognizing the benefits of writing, and voicing the importance of writing!

Getting Students Involved

In the classroom, my former students shared their voices on Twitter. Beautiful and profound statements were succinctly tweeted followed by a curation of their favorite tweets throughout the day. As a class, my students gathered their favorite tweets from the #WhyIWrite feed and created multimodal projects sharing the many voices. For example, some  used Storify to collect and share their favorite tweets. Other tools my students used to collect, create and share were:  iMovie, YouTube, Pinterest, blogs, and Word Cloud generators.

This year I challenged educators to share #WhyIWrite.

whyiwrite-1  tony

manuel  img_1554

img_1555   img_1556img_3912         img_3915

img_1564  img_1565

johnspencer   file_000-3

file_000-4     file_000-2


img_3950    img_3943


More Information

Thank You and Be Sure to Follow

If you have a #WhyIWrite message to share, please send it to me and I will add it!