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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies


My husband is a master teacher and people often ask him what it is that he does that gets such great results. I think it is his storytelling ability that garners him such success, both with student achievement and also found within the relationships he builds with his middle school students.

Parents often remark to him that their children come home and the nightly dinner table conversation is in regards to what stories were told that day in math class. They go on to say that their children can recall every minute detail and that they, the entire family, feel as if they have known us their entire lives.

When you have taught as long as he has there is a story to tell for virtually any topic that would ever come up in class. And really, if he does not have one, then he just makes one up. The students are served a daily regimen of storytelling in his class and they love it!

Storytelling is an excellent way to build language. New words and colloquialisms can be heard by the students. When you tell stories in your classes you are modeling how to recall sensory details. Another reason to use storytelling in your classroom is that it models presentation skills for students to use in the future. Eye contact, movement, dramatic pauses, voice intonation and gesturing are some of the tactics that can be seen when a teacher tells stories.  Finally, students who listen to storytelling get oral models for writing.

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

computer learning centers

I have finished year one of a Learning Center style environment in my 6th grade Ancient World History class at a magnet school of the arts. There were 85 students assigned to 5 classes with class size ranging from 11 to 21. My students have access to a class set of 11" MacBook Airs every class period and have the option to use their personal devices during class. Once the kinks were ironed out at the beginning of the year my students enjoyed internet access more than 95% of the time; even during periods of state mandated computer-based testing.

My initial ideas for my Learning Environment was written in a blog post in August 2015 and can be found here ---> A Centers Approach to Learning .

Using learning centers enabled me to have flexibility in the manner in which I deliver content and it removes me from the center of the learning process and places the student in control of their learning. I would give them an activity or guiding questions and it was up to them to decide how they were going to find the information or complete the activity.

Content Delivery

Having a Learning Management System (LMS) is an important part of the process. Yes, you could have instructions written out for each station, but having an LMS enables you to be able to supply links to content available on the internet. I like to provide the links to basic information, like the kind that is available on Wikipedia and then encourage students to find other information that takes their learning deeper. It also gives me the chance to link to applications our interactive maps that makes learning engaging. I use Schoology, but systems like Edmodo or Google Classroom will complete the same tasks. You should talk to other teachers at your school to see what they are using as uniformity is important for the kids. You do not want your kids having to log into numerous systems to complete the same basic tasks.

Class Size Matters

I have a five center rotation, which means I have five groups of kids that rotate through the centers and when the kids complete all five then they complete the cycle. Initially, i was going to have the kids rotate every 20 minutes, but once the centers started happening I noticed that each center usually lasted for one class period so I fell into a center cycle lasting for one five day week ... sometimes longer. With having five groups working it is important that each group has enough people to work as a group. The classes with around 20 kids had higher quality group activities. The small class struggled during centers that required collaboration or group discussions. When I planned to have group type activities I altered the grouping of the student so there would be more students per group rather than having five groups and this helped. This year I am hoping to work with administration so I can have four balanced classes and maybe pick up an extra elective.

Creation Station

The Creation Station was a really cool station as it was a spot in which students created something that went along with the learning. I could say this station replaced the "project board/diorama" assignment, but with a little kick. Students were given the opportunity to create videos, music, or art to represent their learning. This was also the station in which we used Minecraft to re-create ancient civilizations. Many of the kids enjoyed the opportunity to learn as they played. Building pyramids, temples, homes, and farms as they built their civilization made specific memories tied to their learning. Something that I would like to add to this station is an enhanced reflective piece where think about how it ties into history and what they liked about their creation and how they could make it better.

Something is Missing

I like how all the activities stem from the standards being covered and that is the common link, but I think I want to add some sort of capstone project to the learning center cycle. Each center making a contribution to the final "project". I am thinking this because as I watched the students complete the center activities there were some who finished quick, some who waited to work because they knew how long it would take the to complete, and some who just took a little longer to complete the assignment. If I had the capstone project than students would have something to move onto while waiting for other students to complete other tasks. It also add another dimension to the learning. Maybe it could be a long term project that students could be working on through out the school year. This is still a work in progress, but it something I hope to add the learning process.

These are some of my initial reflection thought on using Learning Centers this year and I reserve the right to write another post with more thoughts.

Please let me know what you think.

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

A good story often contains some kind of dramatic tension.

We see freedom and oppression play out in Cinderella. We see the idea of known and unknown worlds play out in Jack and The Beanstalk. We see safety and danger play out in Hantzel and Gretel. Dramatic tension is not only the stuff of children’s stories, myths, or fairytales however. Read an engaging news article and there will be some tension within it that you feel. For example, I just read a vivid account of what can happen when an underwater oil pipe ruptures; I was captivated by the sense of potential explosiveness that can occur. The hidden is revealed. The silent suddenly screams.

Imaginative teachers shape their lessons and units in ways that evoke a source of dramatic tension or, what we call in Imaginative Education, an Abstract Binary Opposition (ABO). (Check out the YouTube video about this teaching tool at the end of this post!)

Some examples for primary/elementary teachers:

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

Here's the golden rule of Imaginative Education:  Identify the emotional significance of the topics you are teaching.

This rule applies to all educators.  No matter what you teach, where you teach, or the age of your students, engaging teaching starts with you identifying what it is about the topic that evokes your sense of wonder.  On one level, this is obvious. Students know when their teachers are interested or engaged in a topic. A teacher’s passion and enthusiasm in general can inspire students to learn. In imaginative teaching, the teacher's engagement with the curriculum lies at the very heart of effective practice.  It is not an option.  It is not a frill.  A teacher’s emotional engagement with a curriculum topic is an essential part of all good teaching. Finding an emotional connection to a topic is how you find the story; it is the first and most important step towards teaching as storytelling. (Read more about teaching as storytelling here: How To Make Your Teaching Meaningful And Memorable.)

Story vs. Storytelling:  Defining Terms

Let me clarify terms.  Using "story" in your teaching does not mean you are going to create a fictional story.  Nor does it mean that you must endlessly tell your students personal stories.  Lastly, it does not mean you need to find a "story" to read along with all of your lessons.  These activities are uses of story and may, on one level, support learning and formation of relationships with your students, but they do not tap into the potency of the story tool for imaginative learning.

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

If you are an educator, the topic of note taking has come up in your PLN more than once. Perhaps you are encouraged to use a certain method in your school. My school is an AVID school and I taught at other AVID schools, so the Cornell Note-Taking Method is something I've been exposed to a lot, have much experience with, and use with my students.

I believe that note-taking, regardless of how the notes are taken: on paper or digitally, is a tool that can allow students to become better, self-sufficient, and self-directed learners. Thus, my mission as a teacher is to not only teach chemistry, but to equip my students with learning tools and strategies that help them focus and achieve greater success in the k-12 classroom, college, and beyond. One such tool and strategy is the Cornell Notes On Steroids Template I created and use with my students. Check it out!


Not all of my students choose to use the template. A great majority of the ones that do find the template useful. They especially like the section for objectives and its organization. Summarizing is one of those high ROI activities I have to constantly stress, but guess what? IT'S WORTH IT. You can download the Cornell Notes On Steroids template and the Table of Contents for free.

I hope you find the Brain Hacking infographic above useful. You can access other Brain-Based Learning infographics I created by scrolling down my ED!Blog. Please share it with other educators, parents, and learners. I will feature the 9th Brain-Based Learning Infographic: "Brain Hacking 304" in my next NEWSLETTER, so please SIGN UP if you would like to receive some tips on how to help your students become better learners.

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