A Growth Mindset Alphabet

I saw this set of posters on Twitter the other day and really liked it.  “Dear Teacher” (@DearTeacherLT) has created the “Motivational ABC’s – Success Mindset Posters,” and sells them for $1.99 on Teachers Pay Teachers.  If you prefer to keep your money in your pocket, there are some free Growth Mindset resources on TPT as well.  Also, check out my Growth Mindset Pinterest Board for even more resources!

Alphabetical Mindset Posters from "Dear Teacher" available on TPT
Alphabetical Mindset Posters from “Dear Teacher” available on TPT

This American Life Educator Resources

“This American Life” is one of my absolute favorite radio programs. Hosted by Ira Flatow, each show is based on a theme.  The productions are amazing, top quality collections of real-life stories that will make you laugh, gasp, and cry.

I just found out “This American Life” has a page of Educator Resources.  You can look up shows by theme or school level. Educators from all over have contributed ways that they have connected different episodes to their curriculum, and there is a direct link to the episodes to which they refer.

If you’ve never listened to this show, I highly recommend you reward yourself with the “Squirrel Cop” episode on a day when you really need a laugh.  You can see what Greg Carsten, a middle school teacher, has to say about a great way to use “Squirrel Cop” in class.

Squirrel Cop
From: This American Life Educator Resources

As always, please preview any episode before playing it for your class!

What’s Underneath the Icing on the Cake…

I saw two amazing cakes this week in my Flipboard magazines that are perfect for Phun Phriday.

First, take a look at this beautiful wedding cake. Then, look at the back of this beautiful wedding cake…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Fabulous, right?  To learn more about the story behind the cake, click here.

Think that’s cool?  Click here to see the secret beneath the icing of this Optimus Prime Cake.  Even my husband was impressed!

Optimius Prime Cake

Happy Phun Phriday!


A few months ago I gushed about a Kickstarter campaign that promised to bring one of my favorite computer games ever, Zoombinis, to the 21st century.  Due to the success of that campaign, the Zoombinis app is now available on iTunes and Google Play. Windows, Mac, and Kindle Fire versions will be available later this year.

I was excited to download the app a few weeks ago when it finally became available to Kickstarter supporters. Back when we were allowed to download our own software, I had the game in my classroom for my students to play.  I highly respected the logic skills the game promoted, so when my daughter was younger, I bought a version for her to try at home.

My daughter is now 12, and vaguely remembers playing the original game.  I guessed that she would like the app, but I did not predict the high level of engagement that I’ve observed the last few weeks.

The Zoombinis game is all about logic.  Your goal is to get the Zoombinis to their new home, navigating through perilous puzzles along the way.  Each Zoombini has the following attributes that can be mixed and matched: hair, eyes, feet, and noses.  The challenges are based on those attributes.

For example, the Allergy Cliffs have 2 bridges.  If you place a Zoombini on the correct bridge, the little guy will quickly cross.  If it’s the wrong bridge, the cliff sneezes him or her off.  You have to figure out the “rule” for each bridge.  Only blue noses?  Only the ones with glasses?  Carefully test your theories before too many sneezes make you lose some Zoombinis.


There are several different types of puzzles along the journey. If you aren’t good at one, that’s okay; the puzzle remains on that level until you’ve mastered it. Each puzzle is tailored to your skills, so after a few trips to the end you may end up with different puzzles on different levels of difficulty.

mapOne particular favorite is the pizza puzzle.  You must figure out exactly what toppings Arno wants on his pizza.  Children quickly learn that you need to be methodical because random guesses will end up with a Zoombini or two getting booted off the screen.

Playing Zoombinis together is a fun way for my daughter and I to bond.  It’s also a great opportunity to model problem-solving skills. One of the most frustrating qualities of the game is also one of the best qualities – very few instructions are given.  Watching a child struggle is never easy, but the way his or her face lights up when solving a Zoombinis problem makes it all worthwhile.

The Zoombinis app is $4.99.  This may seem like an enormous amount for an app, but I guarantee that it’s worth it.  It teaches so many thinking skills and sustains interest for a very long time.  If you are a teacher or a parent of multiple children, you will be happy to know that different students can save games on the same iPad so their progress won’t be lost.

This game is cute, fun, and educational.  What are you waiting for? Download it today!


The Serious Business of Play

At the intersection of art and science, you will find 3M’s recent Rube Goldberg Machine video.

It is a masterpiece that proves that logic and creativity are not mutually exclusive.



Crowd Mics

Raise your hand if you teach in a portable.

Why aren’t you raising your hand?

Oh, you can’t hear me.  


Oh yes, because of the deafening roar of the air conditioner, which will sooner or later be replaced by the deafening roar of the heater.

No problem.  I can talk louder.


Various versions of the above conversation happen daily in my classroom.  I was spoiled by having a sound system in my last school and I have been looking for a low-cost alternative ever since I moved into my portable classroom 4 years ago.

I think I may have found a solution – at least for those of you who have a couple of mobile devices you would be willing to dedicate to the cause.

Crowd Mics is a free app available on iTunes and Google Play.  The concept is simple.  Download the app on two different devices.  One device will be the receiver, and you will need to plug a good speaker into the headphone jack.  The other device will be the microphone.

Open the app connected to your speaker and create an event as a presenter.  You don’t have to log in, although that is an option. Make a 3-digit password that microphone users will enter when they join your event.  Choose if you want people to use the microphone whenever they want (Open Mic) or if you want to give them permission first (Select Mic).

The microphone device needs to be using the same wi-fi network as the receiver.  Open Crowd Mics on the microphone device and choose the event you created and enter  the 3-digit password.

Press down on the indicated area of your screen and speak.

Crowd Mics

If you have the same good fortune that shined on me, the microphone voice will be amplified so everyone in the room can hear it.

The free version of Crowd Mics will work with up to 5 “microphone” devices. If you are a frequent presenter at large conferences, you might want to look at the paid version for larger crowds.

Some caveats: this won’t work through bluetooth (the speaker must be plugged into the headphone jack) and both microphone and receiver must be on the same wi-fi network.  Also, this will only sound as good as your speakers.  I tried it with one of my small, portable speakers and could barely hear a thing at top volume. When I plugged the receiver iPad into my classroom speakers, however, the magic happened.

This solution is only low-cost if you have the equipment already.  My plan is to have an iPad/microphone at each table so it doesn’t have to be passed around, and other apps can still be used during class. Since construction is about to start right outside my window, I hope this plan works!

Sharon Reese’s Legacy of Love

I started my career by teaching 5th grade in a small, Title 1 school. One year, I had a young man, “Nick,” who was in the Gifted and Talented program.  Once a week, he would leap up from his chair at 9:00, interrupt me mid-sentence, and declare, “It’s time for me to go to GT!”  The way he raced out of the classroom like he was escaping a prison cell did not strike me as a great compliment to my teaching prowess.

One week, I ordered some live animals for a lesson from Region 20. They arrived a day late – GT day.  Although I hadn’t planned the lesson to coincide with GT, I will admit I felt a bit of triumph when I saw the conflict in “Nick’s” eyes.  He did not want to miss that animal lesson.

I gently said, “Why don’t you ask Mrs. Reese if you can come back to the classroom at 1:00 if you’re not doing anything important?”

Mrs. Reese, with all of the grace that she always displayed, gave “Nick” permission to come back to my class for the lesson.  A less dignified person (like me) would have sent “Nick” back with the message that said, “How dare you imply what I do isn’t important?” But she didn’t, and “Nick” got to hold a snake, which elevated me to “not completely boring” in his eyes.

Mrs. Reese not only forgave me for my self-centered comment about the importance of her work, but began to encourage me to become a GT teacher.  Vacant GT positions, however, are rare.  I refused to pay the $300 for the training when I couldn’t even guarantee I could get a job in that field. Besides, I was slowly coming to the realization that I was a horrible teacher and it would be better for everyone involved if I found another line of work altogether.

I was planning my exit from education when Sharon Reese called me one evening.

“There’s a GT position opening up for next year.  I think you should apply.”

“But I haven’t even had the training!  There’s no way they are going to hire me!”

“You can train this summer. I’ll put in a good word.  At least ask for an interview.”

I got the job.

Then I panicked.  I knew nothing about this job.  What was I thinking?!!!

Sharon calmly offered to help me plan for the new year.  Over the summer, she and another wonderful teacher, Michelle Wallish, slowly coaxed me off the ledge and convinced me that I might have a chance of making this work.

That was 17 years ago.  I am still a GT teacher.  I love my job.  I love my students.  I have as much excitement about teaching as I did on my first day. And I do my best to make every moment of my students’ time with me important.

Sharon Reese retired a couple of years ago.  My last words to her were to express the deep gratitude I still feel for her support and mentorship.

Sharon Reese died last Friday.  On Saturday, I attended the service for this beautiful woman who touched so many lives with her kindness, love, and humor.  As a wonderful tribute, her husband set up chairs at the cemetery and we sat in a circle to celebrate Sharon’s life.

Sharon’s son, Layne, told the story of a woman he worked with, but didn’t know very well, who needed a ride one night. When Layne realized where the young lady lived, he mentioned that his mom taught at the school in her neighborhood. Once she made the connection, the girl began to gush about what a difference his mother had made in her life.

Sharon’s wonderful husband, Pat, said that Sharon continues to receive letters of gratitude each year from former students – many of whom went on to Ivy League schools and successful careers.

Friends, family, and colleagues, we all had similar stories about the genuine, loving woman who, without fame or fanfare, enriched the lives of so many.   Sharon Reese, a quiet, unassuming woman without a self-serving bone in her body, made an impact that would rival that of any million dollar athlete or Oscar winner.

I don’t know exactly where Sharon Reese is now, but I’m positive that she is continuing to do something important.

I just hope she won’t mind putting in another good word for me when the time comes.





Great Minds Don't Think Alike!


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