The Chalk Blog

5 Easy Tips for a Co-Designed Classroom Makeover

Creating a Well-Designed Learning Space

Every year, when summer was in full swing and my teacher batteries were nearly full, it never failed-- I would move into classroom planning mode. I don’t mean the curriculum stuff, but fun planning like classroom desk arrangements, wall decorations, and bulletin boards. I would head to Pinterest or Teachers Pay Teachers to find the perfect posters to match our carefully selected classroom theme for the year. So much time and energy and money went into these efforts, with the hopes that it would have a positive impact. But a recent study found the opposite to be true-- children are more likely to be distracted in a highly decorated classroom.

As we embrace more teaching and learning practices that offer our students a voice and choice in designing how they learn, it follows that we should allow for that same sense of empowerment in designing the place where the learning happens. Flexible, inviting spaces with student needs at the center have the potential to create feelings of safety and relevancy, which then lead to a willingness to engage. Spaces where students have a say in where materials are kept, how tables are arranged and what goes on the walls, can do just that. 

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Topics: Teaching Wellness & Inspiration

Trade School vs. 4-Year Degree

Adapting to How Students Learn BestBlake was a junior in high school in my first year of teaching. He was in my 6th period of the day. His hair flopped over his twinkling and mischievous eyes, and we had a great relationship. We’d joke around and tease each other. He drew a lot- hysterically funny comics, especially. He was a gifted swimmer who consistently performed well in the pool. He also liked to create things and tinker around with different materials. 

Unfortunately, he just didn’t want to be in my English class. Blake missed assignments, failed tests, refused to retake or submit things late. I coaxed, cajoled, tried to meet him halfway, find alternative assignments. Results were few and far between; he straddled the line between a D and a F for most of the trimester. Blake’s mom, his science teacher, and swim coach were involved with the effort too. We even went down to the 11th hour- having him submit some work so he made it above a D so he could swim to compete in the state swimming meet. He barely scraped by. 

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Topics: Instructional Strategies, Student Engagement

Travel YES’s and Travel (oh)-NO’s!

Pack Your Bags for Your Summer Adventure!

Most teachers agree, summer is the time to refresh, recharge, and reconnect after the school year (finally) comes to a close. For many teachers, summer is also a time for travel! If you are traveling this summer, (lucky you!) below is a list of tips you may want to try and a list of things you will definitely want to avoid when traveling this summer.

Bon voyage!

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Topics: Personalized Continuing Ed, Summer Vacation

When Empathy Hurts

Trauma in the Classroom
With the increase of schools and educators using the best practices of trauma-informed teaching, it is important to note that trauma-informed schools should include measures of care for all involved. Working with students who have experienced trauma takes a toll on teachers, support staff, specialists, and administrators in the form of secondary trauma or vicarious trauma.

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Topics: Instructional Strategies, Trauma Sensitive Learning

The ISTE Hot List

5 Ideas for BOLD Change in the Tech-Infused Classroom

The yearly celebration of all things edtech, known as the International Society of Technology Educators (ISTE) conference was a success!  With nearly 20,000 attendees and 10,000 exhibitors taking part in the annual pilgrimage, there was more than enough to keep this girl busy for 4 full, exhausting days. Although, not too busy for a famous Philly cheesesteak (or two)!  While I wasn’t able to bring cheesesteaks back for everyone, I did bring some piping hot takeaways and fresh resources straight from the ISTE griddle just for you!  

Take a look at our ISTE 2019 Hot List, which provides a taste of what the ed tech experts had to say about the future of technology integration.

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Topics: Teaching with Technology, Technology, 21st Century Learning

4 Ways to Nurture Creativity in Your Students

Let Your Students' Creativity Shine!Did you know that children are born with a higher capacity for creativity and imagination than adults? According to a study conducted by NASA, out of the 1,600 school children (4-5-year-olds) tested on their ability to develop new and innovative solutions to problems, a full 98% of them fell into the genius category! 

It’s a fact that kids are creative geniuses when they arrive at our school doors, however, this creativity greatly diminishes over time. Perhaps this downward trend occurs because we encourage the safe, secure route in our educational system. Maybe it’s because we teach children to follow directions and to excel on standardized tests that only measure limited knowledge and skills.

So how can teachers help students find their inner creative genius? How can we create a learning environment that honors divergent rather than just convergent thinking? Below we outline 4 great action steps for tapping into your students’ innate ability to create, innovate and solve problems.

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Topics: Instructional Strategies, Student Brain Development, Student Engagement

What Teachers Can Learn from Reality TV!

Using real-life experiences to increase student engagement

The Bachelor, Survivor, American Idol, Real World, Deadliest Catch, Shark Tank, Duck Dynasty…the list goes on and on. While these shows often seem like just a teacher’s guilty pleasure, thego beyond encouraging procrastination and providing a reason to eat an entire bag of popcorn in one sitting. These shows are based on reality, and they typically suck us right in!  

What does reality have to do with these shows? Very little when you actually pay attention to the “stars” and the plots clearly sketched out by writers and producers. That being said, reality does have an impact when we are working to engage learners in the classroom. We could take a cue from how these engaging shows are structured. Real-world learning increases engagement, creates opportunities for students to make connections and develops student skills that will be used in adulthood. This authentic learning provides a reason to the student who is always asking, “Why do I even need to know this?” Real world learning activities often allow students to make an impact on a larger scale. And, if this type of learning is done well, it will suck your students in too! 

Here are six methods for bringing the real world into your teaching: 

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Topics: Instructional Strategies, Student Engagement

Perfectionism: Burnout's Evil Sidekick

A Guest Blog from Taylor and Francis

About the Author: Dr. Jenny Grant Rankin has taught the Post Doc Masterclass at University of Cambridge but lives most of the year in the U.S. writing books for educators and researchers. She is a Mensan who serves as Coordinator of Mensa's Gifted Youth Program in her county. She has a Ph.D. in Education, has been honored by the U.S. White House, presents extensively (e.g., her TED Talk at TEDxTUM), and has many media appearances such as National Public Radio (NPR). Learn more at www.JennyRankin.com.


It takes a very special person to embark on a teaching career, let alone sustain one. We teachers want so much for our students that we set the bar very high on what we do to help them. Yet this can lead to a problem that looks good on the surface, yet steadily erodes our ability to enjoy our jobs: perfectionism.

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Topics: Teaching Wellness & Inspiration, educator wellness, Teacher Burnout

Top 10 Course & Cocktail Pairings

Courses & Cocktails... The Perfect Pair!

Learners Edge CEO, Eric Cohen, has paired our top 10 courses with his top 10 favorite beverages. If you're taking any of these classes this summer, be sure to try out his suggested pairing to go with it... we promise you won't be disappointed!

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Topics: Teaching Excellence, Courses, Summer Vacation

3 Cool Tech Teaching Tools

Tech Tools to Step Up Your Teaching Game!

As one of the more “mature” members of the Learners Edge family, I feel victorious when I learn a new tech tool! Below are three tools we hope you will find fun, fanciful, and useful in your work educating tomorrow’s leaders!

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Topics: Teaching with Technology, Technology, educator wellness

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