Why Students Need to Have Pride

Students do so much work: day after day, assessment after assessment. It’s so important, as a teacher, to do whatever possible to keep this process fresh and meaningful for the students. If a student cares about what he or she is doing, there will be more attention to detail and overall effort.  Little effort and little attention to detail can get in the way of true assessment. To get an accurate representation of what the student knows, his or her efforts must be sincere.


Here are two ways to keep assignments and assessments important in the minds of students.


Make sure their interest is sparked


It would be great if an assignment perked the attention of every student, but the variety of students and personalities in the classroom makes this impossible. There are still ways to reach this goal. Give the student some autonomy. If they can have some say regarding the topic of their assignment, they will be more invested in it. This is most often an option in language arts. A writing piece or a research project can allow students to choose a topic related to their own interests, while the assignment still assesses exactly what is needed.

Give students exciting ways to share their knowledge


Writing on paper is not a process that should be ignored, but it can get stale. Adding variety will not only decrease how stale it feels when there are paper assignments; non-traditional assignments are then opportunities for students to place importance on the given task. What are some types of assignments that stray from the pencil and paper? Students can submit blogs or message board posts. They can make their own eBooks online. Students can film videos. These types of assignments can be viewed as inherently more dynamic. It’s also important to note that with assignments like these, a student’s peers will see what they do. These factors give students reasons to be picky about their work, perfecting it. Handing in a paper to the teacher is much different than publishing an eBook online. The paper goes into the hands of a teacher, but the eBook can be seen by many, and even shared by the author with friends or parents. This gives a student more ownership over their work, and in turn, it encourages them to work on it with more effort and seriousness.


Genius Plaza is a perfect way to allow students to create their own eBooks and videos. Use the link below to explore and see how it can help keep things fresh and exciting in the classroom.

Let the Day Inspire Your Teaching

Did you know that March 13th is National Earmuff Day? Does that matter? Maybe!

A day’s teaching can be perked up by even the smallest things. I encourage you to scour the internet for all the little known national days that blanket the calendar. Let inspiration take over and add a little spark to your teaching with this knowledge.  You can link an educational topic or review some material that relates in some way to this theme of the day. Students will love it!  If you build excitement or anticipation in the classroom, students may find out just how much they care about the fact that June 6th is National Yo-yo Day.

Here’s an educational video I made about estimation and rounding for National Author’s Day, which is November 1st.

 Watch Video

December 4th is National Dice Day. How about a probability exercise for math class?

Watch video

January 23rd is National Handwriting Day. How about a fun writing activity to review spelling words?

Play game

March 12th is National Plant a Flower Day. How about a science class review of the parts of a plant?

Here’s where you can find a multitude of national days. There is always an opportunity to add a little more fun to the classroom and do something that will grab the attention of your students.




Teaching with Puppets

Teachers are performers who are always on stage. They educate the audience of students who show up every day. I’ve found that bringing in a level of entertainment is not only effective if done right, but easier to do than one might think.

Expanding a Lesson

A lesson can be taught in a traditional way, but expanded or reviewed in a way that is fun for the students. The entertainment can come from a well integrated song, game, video, or other tool. I have found that puppets can fascinate young students and bring life to a teaching environment.

Teaching with Puppets

teaching with puppets

Students are able to quickly “buy into” the puppets and their place in the classroom. Perhaps a puppet takes on the role of a teacher to review some material or quiz the students. Perhaps the puppet does not know about the lesson and the students need to teach or inform him/her. However it is set up, the students will enjoy the energy that is brought to the learning experience. It’s something they will remember and look forward to happening again.

A small stuffed animal puppet can work well, especially in a kindergarten classroom. A more elaborate puppet can work, too. From what I have seen, you do not need a stage or ventriloquist skills or anything else to “dress up” the experience. Students are drawn to the character alone. The important part is to plan how the puppet reinforces the content.

Here’s a peek at a quick segment that was filmed for Genius Plaza, where I control a puppet who is reviewing some simple concepts with a student.



Using Popular Music to Teach

As both a musician and a teacher, I’ve seen how powerful music can be as a learning tool.  The tricky part is knowing how to effectively mix the two.  Educational music needs to have educational content, but kids can tune out if it is something they don’t relate to or something they see as too corny.

Engaging Middle and High Schools Students With Music

It’s especially common for middle school or high school students to see many educational songs as childish.  Most kids prefer the hits they hear on the radio, by artists like Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez, or Bruno Mars.  It’s tough to go pound for pound with these superstars, but I say a teacher can!  I have had lots of success in leveraging this interest in popular songs.  How?  Educational parody songs!

The melody of the song remains, but the words are changed to teach an educational concept.   It does take some time and some creative songwriting, but if done well, this can cement a concept in a student’s mind for good.  Also, if you are not confident enough in your songwriting abilities, some careful online searching can uncover some well done educational parodies by teachers and students.  Recently, I wrote a song to the tune of the uber-popular song “Despacito” and posted to my YouTube channel of educational songs and parodies.

despacito parody


I think it works so well because students are instantly hooked.  They already know the song, and are intrigued that it’s being brought into the classroom.  It also helps that they are familiar with the melody, which makes learning the song easier.

If my experience is telling, students will show excitement and give their attention when a parody to a popular song is introduced, and they will retain the information in the song incredibly well.  As a bonus, they will also be having fun!  Don’t believe me?  As proof, here’s a video uploaded by a classroom teacher who found my Lady Gaga parody song about prepositions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k90jwIlOvLU

Working at Genius Plaza

Today, I am out of the classroom and making songs for Genius Plaza.  Teachers across the world use these songs in their classrooms.  I always make sure not to “sing down” to young learners with nursery rhyme-type songs.  Any music I create for them should sound something like the kind of music they would hear on the radio.  Below are two examples.  We have not yet released any pop song parodies, but one is in the works.

music to teach

Do keep in mind, however, that an educational song is not a lesson.

music to teach


They are best suited to complement and reinforce a lesson.  Also, don’t try to do too much with a song.  It should teach something finite, like a formula, process or something that requires memorization.  Lastly, don’t be surprised if you see students humming or bobbing their heads while taking a test!




Virtual Educa

It’s a unique opportunity to be able to see a company change and evolve up close. I’ve been with Genius Plaza for over six years: since the beginning. A small room of people has quickly become a team of over sixty. The strides we have made as a company became very apparent to me at a recent conference in Bogotá, Colombia, which I was able to attend on behalf of Genius Plaza.

I’ve had the chance to represent the company at conferences before, but it was prior to some serious growth within our team. I can remember carrying two cases containing our full display for the show room. The cases bumped and clunked as I maneuvered them up stairs, between seats on the train, and into a small spot in the exposition area of a conference years ago. I, along with one other coworker, excitedly told those who passed by about our new educational platform.

Looking back, it’s hard to believe we were once just a table, a banner and two people. At Virtual Educa in Colombia, we unveiled a new display for our booth.

There were over seven people helping at our booth at any given time, and the crowds around our area are growing as well. Four of us were able to share insight about our website and other things across three panels. It was amazing to see firsthand the international impact that the company is having.

Most importantly, there’s more growing than just our presence at conferences. Originally, I created educational exercises for the platform. Now, I manage the production of music, animations, videos, and more. There are teams working on games, graphic design, web development, and a multitude of educational resources.

It now takes the touch of many, many people to make Genius Plaza what it is. I am proud to be part of a company that strives to make such a big and important impact in the lives of learners. It was great to see where we came from, but it will be even more exciting to see what lies ahead.