Creative Ways to Encourage Students to Write

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One of the most difficult challenges educators face is encouraging students to write. Whether it’s writing in class or at home, most students just do not enjoy the prospect of writing, especially if it’s for an assignment. However, writing is a vital skill for the real world and being able to communicate through writing is an incredibly valuable trait. Even if you can’t motivate students to write in class, but they do decide to write on topics unrelated to classwork, you’re helping their education because studies show that any form of writing can improve overall writing skill.

Use relevant writing prompts

Kids feel more motivated to write if they can relate to the prompt. If they are interested in the topic they’re writing about, they’ll enjoy the writing more. Make the topics about hobbies, local events, or their families and friends. When the topics are something they feel a connection to, your students will put more effort and detail into their writing and actually be interested in what they’re writing about. Depending how old the students are, you can have them debate issues they feel strongly about, such as a school dress code or local community issue.

Encourage them to share

For most students, they enjoy being able to share their work with one another, their teacher, or even their families. Encourage sharing because it’ll motivate them to write better and actually listen to the input they receive from others on their writing. However, if a student is really shy and reluctant to share, do not force them to read their writing out loud or show it to another student. Ask if you can see it and give them your feedback or even encourage them to write for themselves without sharing their work with others.

Teach them anyone can write

The problem most students face is that they do not believe they can actually be talented writers. They’ve either never been told their writing is good, believe it’s not something they can learn, or have never been given instruction on how to write. Give your students examples of great writers who met failure time and time again or teach them simple tricks to improve their writing.

Do not demand perfection

Writing can be daunting for students because they believe what they write should be flawless for it to be considered “good.” Teach your students it’s okay to make mistakes and they can always ask for advice or input on their writing. If their grammar or plot development isn’t perfect, gently offer them advice on how to improve, but also look for aspects to compliment so they don’t feel discouraged.

Celebrate their writing

Any student likes compliments and receiving positive attention. Find something in each student’s work to celebrate and show them that they’re making progress. It’s important to offer constructive feedback, but it’s also vital that you avoid giving a student the impression their writing is bad and cannot be improved.
Check out even more ways to inspire students in their writing!

Rural Schools Consider Switching to a 4-Day School Week

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Recently, rural schools across the country have begun switching to a 4-day school week. It’s unclear whether or not reducing the days students spend in school is beneficial in the long run; there hasn’t been enough time for schools using this type of school week to show a clear outcome. Right now, the schools making the switch are all rural schools located in the Midwest; 88 districts in Colorado, 43 in Idaho, 30 in Oregon, and nearly half of the districts in Montana. The administrators of these schools believe that this change will benefit the districts in various ways, but that hypothesis remains to be determined.

How does it work?

The plan for the 4-day school week looks like this: students spend slightly more time at school each day, which can be anywhere between 30 and 90 minutes, then they use Friday for more extracurricular or family activities. School districts originally thought that cutting a day from the school week would lead to lower costs, but that idea has been mostly disproven. A main reason districts are attempting the change is because they lack funding and attention from the federal and state governments. Rural areas are scrambling for ways to cut costs and a 4-day school week seems like the best solution. Many districts made the switch on a trial basis, but the community and students view it as a permanent change; it’ll be challenging to move back to a 5-day school week after everyone has adjusted to only four days.

What are the benefits?

Some studies have also shown positive results, particularly regarding children’s academic performance and cutting costs for some districts. Some school districts have seen significant changes regarding students’ scores. The main concern is saving money and many report that moving to a 4-day week allowed them to reach this goal. Another benefit of a 4-day school week comes from families having more time to spend with their children and also more time to run errands and take children to doctor’s appointments or on vacations, without pulling them out of school.

What are the drawbacks?
Though many positive studies exist, for some districts, there was not a noticeable difference in academic performance or financial savings for other schools. The change hasn’t necessarily been detrimental to these two factors, but it hurts the community in other ways. While most students and school employees like the idea of a 4-day school week, many parents are against it. Families with two working parents must find someone to watch their children on their new day off, which costs more money. Children may not have food or heat at home and they have one less day they can rely on a meal and warm environment, where they’re being nurtured. The switch works for a subset of families and can be extremely beneficial to them, but it’s also important that other families who don’t have the means to provide childcare of enrichment for their children on the new day off aren’t overlooked.

5 Ways to Get Students Outside

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It’s been an unusual winter, but the sun is finally out and the weather is starting to get warmer. Students sense spring is here and know that means the end of the year is fast approaching. It can be difficult to keep students focused during class, when they’re stuck inside and can see the sun shining right outside the window, all while eagerly anticipating summer vacation. Taking your students outside for a period of time will help them get rid of their anxiousness to be out of the classroom and it’s healthy to get some fresh air. Read about some of the ways you can incorporate time outside into your lesson plans  to satisfy your students and also cultivate learning. You’ll like being outside too!

Give them a head start on homework

If it fits into your class schedule, plan to give them some time to start their homework during class. Students will focus because they know they’re working ahead and will have less to do that night and they’ll also be accomplishing something for the class. You can also head outside to let students start a worksheet they’re supposed to finish in class or to quickly review work from the day before. If students will be sitting and working on something anyway, you might as well let them do it outside.

Offer free reading time

While this activity depends on the type of class you have, students will almost always have something they need to read, whether it’s a novel, play, article, or research. Take your class outside while they read. If you’re reading together as a class, that is another great opportunity to move outside, so students can sit in a circle and read through their assignment together.

Create a writing prompt

Craft a writing prompt students can complete outside. Have them composes a poem about nature or write what they observe as they sit outside and listen. Encourage everyone to spend a few moments silently listening to everything around them; you’re helping them with their observational skills as well. If they’d spend time in class writing, it’ll be easy to let them do this task while outside.

Make it class specific

You can take any one of these ideas and tweak it to best fit your class. You can also do certain activities depending on what subject you’re teaching. If students are learning about ecology, teach them local plants and animals, then head outside and see if you can find any. For a literature class, spend time reading famous literature about nature, then let students try to write their own from inspiration while being outside.

Play a game

If you can schedule free time into your class schedule, try this idea! It’s important to stay focused on class work and accomplish what needs to be done, but sometimes students just need a break. Figure out a fun, easy activity that allows students to spend time outside, interact with one another, and also move around. Once you go back inside, your students will be much more focused on learning after working off excess energy.

The Difference Between a Teacher and an Educator

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Before getting into the more minute differences between a teacher and an educator, I’d like to start with a simple dictionary definition of the two terms. The definition of a teacher is “one that teaches; especially: one whose occupation is to instruct,” while an educator is defined asa person who gives intellectual, moral, and social instructions.” There is a clear difference between these two words, which indicates that there’s a clear difference to the people we apply them to. Many use the two words interchangeably, but that isn’t completely accurate. As I’ve stated in another blog, you can be a teacher and not be an educator, you can be an educator and not be a teacher, or you can be both.

Educating vs. teaching

There’s a difference between teaching a child a list of facts and helping them sincerely understand a lesson. Educators make it their goal to ensure that students fully understand the lesson, while teachers who are not educators merely get through their lesson and hope the students took enough away to pass the class. Educators seek to instill deep understanding in students, the kind of learning that they’ll carry with them the rest of their lives.

Inspiring vs. telling

When a teacher merely focuses on teaching their students and not educating them, it usually results in telling them facts and a way of looking at topics, instead of inspiring the students to take learning onto themselves. Educators often inspire students to pursue their interests and delve deeper into certain subjects. Throughout the discovery process, educators will encourage this development and continue to cultivate any inspiration and interest.

Encouraging growth vs. meeting goals

For many teachers, it’s difficult enough to get through the daily syllabus and make sure students are sufficiently prepared for tests and are also completing their homework. An educator can take all of these goals a step further and encourage their students to grow as individuals in addition to teaching the required subjects and lessons. When working with students, an educator helps them grow in their lives outside of and beyond school, instead of only teaching them the lessons to get them to graduation. True educators teach students valuable life lessons and help them grow and become better people.

I feel confident in saying that the majority of teachers aspire to also become educators, but it can be incredibly difficult, especially in a school that doesn’t provide teachers with enough resources or training to handle a classroom full of children. Becoming an educator takes lots of studying and practice, but it’s definitely an admirable goal to strive toward.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Becoming an Educator

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Becoming an educator is a major decision because it places a lot of responsibility on you. You aren’t just a teacher; you’re an educator, though the considerations for the two positions are similar. Check out my previous blog to learn more about the differences between being an educator and being a teacher. When you choose to become an educator, you’re committing to helping students work toward their dreams and accomplish goals with your help and support.

Are you willing to commit all of your time?

Ask any educator and they will tell you: working in this industry is a full-time job and will keep you occupied outside of regular work hours. Some people go into teaching and education for the early afternoons and summers off or the incredible benefits. While these are all great perks, you need to realize that being an educator is a huge time commitment. You need to work with dozens, likely hundreds, of students who all have their unique issues. Planning out lesson plans and how to interact and manage different students takes significant time. If you’re seriously committed to becoming an educator, you also need to take time to continue learning and taking classes.

Can you deal with difficult people?

As an educator, you’ll spend a significant amount of time around students and their families. Sometimes, you’ll have difficult students (or parents) who just don’t understand your position or your mission. You might have to work with negative teachers or administrators. It’s important that you know how to work with these difficult and negative people to accomplish common goals.

Do you have a positive and patient attitude?

Being an educator can be stressful, especially when you’re dealing with difficult people. Sometimes you’ll be tired, have a million things to accomplish before the end of the day, or will feel discouraged about what you’re doing. It’s important that you have a positive outlook and a decent amount of patience to keep the big picture in focus and work through whatever obstacles are in your way.

Can you manage your time well?

Since you’ll be busy as an educator and constantly have various tasks to complete, it’s vital that you’re organized and have incredible time management skills. Luckily, you can teach yourself time management skills and conquer this specific block in your path toward success as an educator.

And, most importantly:

Do you want to help children succeed?

At the end of the day, the real goal of being an educator is to help children succeed. Leading children on a path toward success is the purpose of all educational institutions and it should also  be the end goal of the people who work at these places. If you have a passion for education and truly want to help mold the leaders of tomorrow, you’ll be able to overcome any other issue you encounter throughout your career as an educator. Keep your mission in the forefront of your mind and you’ll be able to make it through the more challenging  aspects of being an educator.

Top Podcasts for Educators

Robert Peters Top Podcasts for Educators

Podcasts are a great way to work on your professional development, stay in touch with current news and trends, and come up with creative ideas for your classroom. Nearly every profession and hobby have a few podcasts about the industry and education is no exception. If you have spare time, such as during a commute, while grading papers, or when you’re cooking dinner, listening to a podcast about how to be a better educator can greatly benefit you. While there are quite a few education podcasts out there, here are some of the top ones.

Free Teaching PD

This podcast features speakers who are leaders in the education industry and each week has a different speaker. They discuss the latest ideas and innovations in teaching and help you work on your own creativity. After listening to this podcast, you’ll feel inspired to try your own hand at coming up with some great ideas to enhance education.

Talks With Teachers

Brian Sztabnik, a former English teacher and blogger, hosts this podcast. The podcast features educators who feel passionate about their profession and wish to discuss their own classrooms. A theme for 2016 was focusing on educators who also run their own blogs and what it’s like being a teacher who regularly blogs. The speakers are all from different areas and have varied work experience, so it’s always interesting to hear their insights into education.

Angela Watson’s Truth for Teachers

This podcast focuses specifically on the issue of burnout with teachers and how it can be avoided. Watson’s podcast provides a way for stressed teachers to feel understood and realize that lots of other people feel the same way they do. The podcast also offers possible solutions to issues that teachers may face in the classroom.

The Cult of Pedagogy

In this podcast, Jennifer Gonzalez features not just educators, but also parents, administrators, and students who discuss teaching and the classroom. The podcast covers a wide range of topics, from technology use in the classroom to the best ways to manage your classroom. If something is related to education, this podcast has or will feature it.

Every Classroom Matters

Vicki Davis, an incredibly influential educator, runs this podcast and focuses on incorporating technology into the classrooms and creating stronger relationships with students. Her podcast also covers how to feature STEM in the classroom more, as well as teaching students the basics of coding. She’s been ranked as a top teacher, so this podcast is definitely worth listening to.

How Teachers Can Create a Work-Life Balance

Robert Peters How Teachers Can Create a Work-Life Balance

All too often, teachers experience burnout. Teaching can be an incredibly stressful job, putting in long hours and working with dozens of students each day. Teachers also often struggle with keeping work separate from home, because they need to grade homework and prepare lesson plans, which is difficult to find time for during normal workday hours. The issue is further complicated for teachers who are also coaches or advise extracurricular activities. These teachers frequently stay after regular hours to run practices or meetings and often make themselves available to students at all hours and on the weekends. With so many responsibilities, how can teachers find a stable work-life balance?

Learn to say “no”

First off, you need to learn to prioritize as an educator. If you already have too much to do and are stressed, you don’t need to take on the role as an advisor for another student group. It’s important to connect with your students and support them, but you won’t be any help if you take time off or leave teaching entirely due to burnout. Even if your supervisor asks you to take charge of something, unless it’s a vital responsibility, do not be afraid to turn it down and focus on keeping a healthy balance between your personal life and work.

Keep yourself healthy

One of the biggest issues with burnout is that teachers become exhausted from working too much. Make sure you’re taking the time to de-stress and getting plenty of sleep. Fit some time to exercise into each day and also make sure you’re eating healthy. Cut back on caffeine and pack yourself nutritious lunches. Having a balanced diet, exercise, and enough rest will give you extra energy.

Here’s a website with great blogs about staying healthy and reducing your workload as an educator.

Create a support system

You work with plenty of other teachers who understand exactly what you’re going through. Rely on them as a support system. You can vent to them about difficult students and ask their advice on how to manage a work-life balance and any tips they might have about easing your workload. You also have friends and family outside of work who care about you and can help you de-stress. If you have a roommate or spouse, ask them for their help and support as well, especially with duties around the house. Working as a team will make finding balance much easier.

Don’t bring work home

While this step may be hard, there are ways to do it. Lots of teachers with families and busy lives outside of work have managed to avoid taking their work home. By learning to say no and prioritizing their responsibilities, many teachers do not have work to do outside of the usual workday hours. Improve your organization and time management skills and eventually, you’ll be able to avoid bringing work home, so you can create an even better work-life balance.

Technology Resources to Use With Students

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Technology has become more prevalent in our world than ever before. Now, nearly every person has a smartphone and understands how to use a computer. This flourishing of technology has been seen in schools as well. Most students have personal cell phones and can navigate a school computer with ease. It’s a common experience for teachers to struggle with trying to get students to pay attention in class instead of to their smartphones. Instead of forbidding the use of technology in the classroom, here are some great resources teachers can use that combine technology and learning.


This site offers students a chance to publish their own writing of any kind and then receive feedback from other students. They can also comment on and discuss others’ writing that’s posted on the site, though it’s important to note that not all the content is appropriate for school or all ages, so you might want to check it out yourself before using the site. There are all types of writing on this site, so you may want to encourage young writers in your class to check it out.


Students can create their own interactive posters on any topic and customize them as they see fit on this site. It can be used online as well as with a mobile app. Your students can easily add text, links, audio, video, and images to their Glogster and play around with the many features the site offers. It gives them a chance to be creative, while also creating an educational tool for a presentation or project.

CNN Student News

CNN offers informative news clips that cover current events and are only ten minutes long. You can start the day with watching the daily clip with your students and then have discussions about the events or ask a few questions about what they learned.

Free Rice

This website is a fantastic way for students to review different topics and also help out a good cause. donates 10 grains of rice to the hungry for every answer you get correct when using the site. And yes, it’s legit. You can choose from math, humanities, English, chemistry, geography, sciences, and even various languages. It’s a great way to give students some downtime while also having them work on something relevant to class, but also fun. You might want to offer some kind of prize to the student who has the highest amount of rice at the end of the week or month.


Students can learn more about topics they’re interested in and also discover new passions through this site. It allows them to complete challenges and earn badges and can also be connected to an adult account so a students’ parents and teacher can follow their progress. The environment is completely safe and gives students the chance to learn more about themselves and what they want to do in the future. After students complete a challenge, you can have them create a tutorial or short presentation on what they learned.

Check out this list for even more technology resources for your classroom.

How to Keep Students Motivated During Winter

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Winter is a particularly difficult time to keep students motivated. After the holidays, the colder months of January and February set in and there’s no break in sight until sometime in spring. It’s hard to get students to focus at this time of year, especially when trying to prepare them for state tests and finals in their classes. Instead of stressing out over your students’ lack of desire to learn, try these tips to keep them motivated in the upcoming months!

Remain Positive

Even though you may not feel like coming into work every day, it’s important that you remain upbeat for the students who you’ll be teaching. Show them a positive attitude and act excited about what you’re talking about, but you can also acknowledge that you know it’s a tough time of year to focus on learning. Give them positive reinforcement when they do something well and try to make them feel good about their work.

Give Rewards

By occasionally rewarding your students, you’ll motivate them to continue working and doing a good job in their studies. Maybe offer candy or a small prize for reaching certain goals. You can also give them a movie day or a specific amount of time where they can talk and hang out instead of focusing on an actual lesson. Rewarding students gives them a much-needed break.

Watch Films

Students find it much easier to spend time looking at a screen and visually absorbing information instead of having to listen to their teacher lecture. Most children can recount endless amounts of information and quotes from their favorite movies or television shows, so you know those skills are developed. Incorporate educational documentaries into your lessons and students will learn more and feel more at ease. Tailoring your lesson plans to the season will help you combat the lack of motivation in students.

Let Them Decide

When students have the opportunity to be hands-on with their own learning, they’ll be more invested in the subject. You can give students a list of topics that need to be covered during the next few weeks and let them choose in which order they want to learn about them. Provide opportunities for them to be involved in their own learning – they’ll be thankful for it and more motivated.

Change it up!

Some variety is always a good thing because students’ brains will immediately recognize the change and register it. Switch around the desk arrangement or redecorate the classroom. Give students something different and they’ll feel as though it’s an entirely new experience, not the same class they’ve been in for the last few months. Providing students with variation will prevent them from feeling bored and helps them give their attention to your teaching.

How is Technology Improving Education?

Within the world of education, we talk a lot about integrating technology into the classroom. We discuss how to implement it, what kind of technology we should be using, and how to take an ordinary lesson and spice it up with technology. You will see a lot of this discussion online, in blogs like this, or through the media. Assuming you’ve heard things like this in the past, one thing you may not have considered is, the improvements tech actually makes. It’s great to talk about how to do it or what we need to improve, but let’s take a moment to talk about what the impact has been so far.

Global Learning

Technology connects people all over the world in an instant. It is no different in a classroom setting. Teachers all over the country are using tech to video conference classrooms around the world. We are able to teach culture and experience new places in lightning speed. Additionally, learning new languages becomes a breeze with online tutorials and language videos at the touch of a button.

Collaborative Learning

Collaboration is easier than ever in our tech filled classrooms. Teachers use Google drive to share documents with the class. Then, students can access shared files to work on projects with each other inside and out of the classroom. Additionally, teachers are using tablets to broadcast up close lessons or tech based learning directly onto individual tablets. Students are following along and interacting with the classroom through the use of mobile devices.

Smart Boards

The old archetype of students clapping out chalkboard erasers is a thing of the past. You’ll be hard pressed to find a classroom still using chalkboards as their main classroom visual. Nowadays, it’s more common for you to see smart boards in the classroom. Smart boards are an excellent piece of new tech. Teachers can project images from the web, electronically draw on them, and even save and disperse the notes to the entire class.

Personalized Learning

With more schools providing tablets for each student, teachers are building out more personalized lessons. Students can choose learning paths that work for them through the use of apps, as well as, through student centered project assignments. Teachers are even using tech to target student progress and learning styles.