The Chalk Blog

10 Google Slides Hacks for Teachers

Become a Pro in G Suite!

Known as the “swiss army knife of Google tools,” Slides is the most versatile application in the G Suite. In addition to presentations, slide decks can be collaborative spaces for learning, interactive lessons, or even a digital notebooks. The possibilities are endless!  

We’ve put together a list of our favorite hacks to help you get the most out of this “anything is possible platform,” including video tutorials to amp up your teaching with Google Slides. 


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Topics: Teaching with Technology, Instructional Strategies, Technology

Using Music to Teach

An Interview With Our Co-Founder

JOY is the emotion I feel when talking with Learners Edge co-founder, Kyle Pederson.

As a former middle school geography teacher, Kyle explains how he used music to engage his students, to help his students express themselves, and to ensure they remembered important facts. Now as a composer, Kyle shares his favorite musical artists and reminds us that music helps us to think better, remember better, and love better.

As you read Kyle’s perspective on using music to teach, we hope JOY is one of the emotions you feel, too!


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Topics: Teaching Advice, Instructional Strategies

Learning and Teaching About Disability

Funny. Smart. Strong.

This is Lydia Dawley.

Even though Lydia doesn't speak a word, she told her amazing story to a packed audience of students, faculty, and guests at Winona State University’sDisability is Natural Cultural Fair. Organized by students enrolled in an ever-popular course called Disability Communication and Culture, the Fair is designed to provide publicity about the culture of disability. Surrounded by easels showcasing colorful artwork created by those in the community with a spectrum of disabilities, we watched as Lydia navigated the wooden ramp in her hot pink wheelchair and took center stage. 

For those unfamiliar with disability, it can feel awkward and uncomfortable. The anxiety in the room was palpable until Dr. Kelly Herold, the teacher who welcomed us to the event, said something that made us laugh. We watched as Lydia threw her head back chuckling--clearly finding Herold’s comments funny, and just like that, the tension disappeared. The brief history the professor provided about the great distance the disability community has traveled; from institutionalization, to genocide, to the Gang of 19, to the Americans with Disabilities Act, to the mainstreaming of students engaged us, equipped us with context, and got us ready to listen and learn.


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Topics: Teaching Advice, Instructional Strategies

10 New Tech Tips for 2020

Tech Tip Countdown

Get your party favors ready, people! With 2020 fast approaching, it’s time to countdown our favorite tech tips of the year. We've combed the web, visited the best tech conferences, and sifted through edtech Twitter for the newest, most valuable tools to use in your classroom. We’ve gathered all of our findings together in one handy list to inspire your most innovative, tech-infused lessons in the new year.


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Topics: Teaching with Technology, Instructional Strategies, Technology

How to Approach Tough Conversations

Our Brains as Storytellers

Few situations give me the nervous sweats and worry than a difficult conversation. I don’t believe anyone seeks out conflict, but it can be nearly debilitating if there are too many unknowns and questions. Why did she react that way? What was the intent of that comment? Why does he keep acting like that around me? 

The Curriculum and Instruction team from Learners Edge attended a Dare to Lead training, which covered Dr. Brené Brown’s work on vulnerability, courage, and wholeheartedness. Dr. Brown holds a Ph.D. in Social Work, and is a licensed Social Worker. She’s a researcher and professor at the University of Texas-Houston, and the author of 5 New York Times bestsellers, including Daring GreatlyDare to Lead, and Rising Strong. Her TED Talk about vulnerability has been viewed by over 43 million people, and she recently released Daring Classrooms -a (free!) teacher hub that includes the applications for the principles in her books.


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Topics: Teaching Advice, Instructional Strategies

Fostering Curiosity in Your Students

Strategies for sparking curiosity in the classroom

Curiosity primes the brain for learning. It makes learning more rewarding and helps students learn more, and better. It also improves learning retention and deepens understanding of content. Pretty clear, right? Curiosity is a necessity in our classrooms, and since we are in the business of helping teachers, we thought we would provide you with a list of methods for awakening curiosity in your students.  

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Topics: Teaching with Technology, Instructional Strategies

Building a Bridge to Skill Acquisition in Eight Easy Steps

Help Your Students Gain Positive Skills

At its widest point, the Grand Canyon stretches 18 miles (29 kilometers) acrossIt is 6000 feet deepThats more than a mile! Many people consider it to be one of the seven wonders of the natural world. The Grand Canyon is an example of amazing geology where it seems impossible to get from one side (where you are) to the other side (where you want to be). 

A similar canyon exists in classroom management: Challenges with student behavior (where you are)…great student behavior (where you want to be). 

So how do we do it? How do we get from where we are to where we want to be? The answer is simple. We build a bridge. 

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Topics: Instructional Strategies, Student Brain Development

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

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

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

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