Category Archives: Motivation

You Have Failed Me for the Last Time!

Two librarians in our district had me laughing so hard this week that grumpy cat would have spontaneously combusted if he was within hearing distance.

The librarians assigned their students to create memes for the library.  The results were so clever that I asked to share them for this week’s Phun Phriday post.

Student Created Library Meme courtesy of Sara Romine
Student Created Library Meme courtesy of Sara Romine

Sara Romine, otherwise known as @laffinglibrary, did a fabulous job explaining the whole process and giving examples in her most recent blog post.  My favorite library meme from her school is the last one; I’m pretty sure I look like that whenever I enjoy a good book!

Wendy Howk, @whowk, had her students add their memes to a Google Slides presentation.  Here is a link to the “highlights.” This is one of my favorites:

Student Created Library Meme via Wendy Howk

For more ideas on using memes, check out this post.

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

Zen Pencils Teacher’s Guide

It’s Phun Phriday.  Technically I do a post on something that is not very related to education on these days.  But I was so excited to see this new resource from Zen Pencils that I had to share it with you right away!

The artist behind Zen Pencils, Gavin Than, creates amazing, inspirational posters based on quotes from men and women who have made an impact on our world.  He is one of my favorite artists and I was thrilled when a book of his work was published.

Teachers can now use this free Teacher’s Guide along with Gavin’s posters.  It includes discussion questions, activities, and cartooning advice.

Not every poster’s subject will be appropriate for your class, so choose the ones that work for your age group and academic area. Watch how these posters capture the imagination for your students!


Set the Tone with Scoreboard

I published this earlier this summer and have made reference to it in a few other posts.  However, I want to share it again as I think it would be a great way to start the year off with your students.  

I love this great “Songified” version of an inspirational speech made by Apollos Hester, a high school football player.  It was shared by Joy Kirr on Twitter, and recommended to use in Genius Hour.  I think it would be great for that, and it definitely would be an awesome video to show when talking about Growth Mindset as well.

Click here to view the video. For more Inspirational Videos, check out my Pinterest Board. I also have one for Growth Mindset.
Click here to view the video. For more Inspirational Videos, check out my Pinterest Board. I also have one for Growth Mindset.

Mindset Book Study Update to the Update

As some of you know, our school has been doing a Parent/Teacher book study on the book Mindset, by Carol Dweck.  I am reading the book for the third time, and I am still finding parts that strike me differently depending on “who I am” when I read it.  As a teacher, a parent, a wife, and a sometimes leader, I recognize different pieces of myself, my husband, my daughter, and other people I interact with on a regular basis.

There is so much to gain from reading this book.  However, I know not all of you have the time to do this.  You can get a sense of its message by looking at our Smore Book Study posters.  These include links, quotes, videos, and more.  You can also access more resources on my Pinterest Board.

These are the main things I have learned from the book that have impacted the way I teach and how I raise my child:

  • Telling children they are “smart” is ultimately detrimental as they attribute all of their successes to an innate ability instead of hard work.  This results in children who are unwilling to try new things or take on challenges.  Praising them isn’t wrong; we just need to word our praises carefully.  Here are some suggestions.
  • We need to model how to react to setbacks (sometimes known as “failures”!) by taking responsibility, not giving up, and showing children how we learn from our mistakes.  Most importantly, we need to not blame others when something doesn’t go our way.  When we don’t reach a goal, think of it as not reaching it yet – not as having failed.  Check out Dweck’s TED talk on the Power of Yet.
  • Instead of making a big deal about grades, we need to emphasize learning.  A’s are nothing to be proud of if they require little effort to achieve.  I’ve already told my daughter that I would rather she make a B in a class where she learned a lot, then an A in a class that she coasts through.  This may result in less college options – but it will make her a lifelong learner who is a problem-solver.
  • I know I said this before, but model, model, MODEL!  I tell my students stories of setbacks and ways I dealt with them (some of them not so well).  I reflect out loud.  I try to let them see me or hear about me stepping outside my comfort zone.  When my computer doesn’t work in class, I try not to say, “I hate technology!” Instead, I show the students how I troubleshoot. The same goes for my daughter.  She sees and hears about my struggles and knows I’m not perfect. (Since she’s at the age where kids figure that out anyway, I’m pretty sure trying to hid my imperfections would just teach her to deal with her own similarly.) If you want to show your children another great role model, try this video.

I’ve seen true differences in my students and my daughter since I began to apply the principles I learned from Mindset a few years ago. I encourage you to read the book and put it into practice, too.

My students referred to this bulletin board on a regular basis last year - knowing that I admire people who embrace a challenge.
My students referred to this bulletin board on a regular basis last year – knowing that I admire people who embrace a challenge and a Growth Mindset.


Make Your Ice-Breakers into Earth Shakers

This will be my 25th year of teaching.  Add this to the years I attended school as a student and you will get 42 “first days.”

42 days of team-building activities and ice-breakers.

During those 42 years, I estimate that I’ve played “Getting-to-Know-You” Bingo about 25 times.  24 of those times were not initiated by me.

If you whip out Getting to Know You Bingo (or the equally enjoyable Getting to Know You Scavenger Hunt) as an activity at a staff development, I will groan.


Almost as loudly as I would at this joke:


If it bores me, chances are my students won’t be too excited about it, either. So I look to my colleagues each year for new ideas.

Maybe you are hunting for new ideas, too.   Here are some that I’ve gathered in the last couple of weeks that might help you to avoid yawns on the first day of school (other than the genuine ones that result from a summer of staying up late and getting up at the reasonable hour of 11 AM).

  • Being Student Centered Day One – Click on the link in Alice Keeler’s post to find a collaborative spreadsheet of 1st day ideas from teachers around the world.  While you’re there, add yours to the list – as long as it isn’t Bingo ;)
  • Get ready for Dot Day – This year’s Dot Day is September 15-ish. Use some of the ideas linked in Shannon Miller’s post to prepare for this great event and to allow your students to display their own unique qualities.
  • Epic Back to School Selfie Template – Shell Terrell provides this great idea that will definitely motivate students to express themselves.  You will need a free SlideShare account to download the presentation – or you can “remix” it and build one of your own!  You can also try one of the suggestions on Shell’s Kid Icebreakers page (lots of suggestions for primary grades),  or from her post on Teaching the Emoji Generation.
  • Social Media Profile –  Speaking of the Emoji Generation, , you might want to try this free download from Michelle Griffo on TPT if you teach 4th or 5th grade. You can see the cute bulletin board of her class’s responses here.

I hope this list gives you some Bingo alternatives that get your students’ year off to an exciting start!




The 5 Word GPS Challenge

When people say, “Begin with the end in mind,” I tend to take that suggestion to the extreme.  I picture a chaotic world where I have just given my life in a failed attempted to save our planet, and people mourning over a tombstone hastily erected in my honor that says, “She cared.”

Dave Burgess (author of Teach Like a Pirate) has a slightly less morbid take on, “Begin with the end in mind.”  Building on an idea by Michael Matera, Burgess suggests that teachers imagine your students using 5 words to describe your class at the end of the school year.  If a word cloud was made from all of those adjectives, what would be the ones that would stand out the most?  


What would be the ones that you would want to stand out the most? That should guide you through your year as you make choices about how to present the curriculum to your students.

Here is a word cloud my 2nd grade GT students made about our class at the end of last school year.  (We made a class word cloud, and then they inserted it into a Pic Collage with photos of their favorite memories of the year.)

WordCloudI loved that “challenging,” “create,” and “imagine” were included.  I thought it was amusing “sudoku” was a favorite activity, and slightly surprised that “grit” made it in there (one of those things I emphasized so much that I thought they were just tuning me out).

For a motivational video from Dave Burgess himself regarding this great way to “begin with the end in mind,” head on over to this link.  “Passion” should definitely be one of the words in his cloud!