The Teachers of Instagram

This week we want to highlight the passion and projects teachers have recently shared on Instagram.


This teacher is such an inspiration. Look how excited these students are about science class! Science must be taught in a fun, creative way to get students interested – and keep them interested! We need more scientists in the world.


This teacher planned a craft for little ones to celebrate Veterans Day.



This teacher inspired her students to write stories about bats. This will help students reinforce facts they have learned about bats.



This teacher used dominoes to help students find sums. Have you tried using dominoes to teach math?



This extra-large chart is a great way to help students to learn multiplication.


Third grade created an XL multiplication chart for the hall! This makes my ❤️ happy!

A post shared by Stephanie McConnell (@principalprinciples) on Nov 8, 2017 at 1:20am PST


I hope you feel inspired by these ideas. Please share your projects with us! We would love to see your creativity.


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.




Celebrating Halloween with Ideas from Our Teachers


This week, we want to share some great ideas for celebrating Halloween from teachers following us on Instagram.

@firstgradedualadventures shared a great idea to engage students with six Halloween stations, creating awesome and fun art projects. 

@kristinbertie shared a great way to motivate students about writing.

Who doesn’t love pumpkin carving? You can see how engaged these students are in this art project. @mrs.giannotti

Do you want to surprise your students this Halloween? Look at this cute idea from @primaryplayground

Your students are going to love this idea! Monster traps. @prideandjoyinprimary

Take a look at this creative idea from @pnetherly for decorating pumpkins. 

This how we celebrate Halloween at Genius Plaza:

A song about safety tips for trick-or-treating.


Play song

An eBook about the origins of the Halloween.

Read eBook

Follow us



My Child Didn’t Like to Read

A few years ago, I was talking to my then 6-year-old son.  He was in the midst of first grade and learning how to read.  I was beyond excited for this stage in his life.  I had dreamt of having him sit on my lap to read one of our favorite books to me in that sweet innocent voice.  But in fact, this was not our reality at all.  My child did not enjoy reading.  He only practiced when forced, and complained about reading every single time.  It wasn’t only a struggle at home, but at school as well.  Even though he was learning and making progress, the love and curiosity of reading was sadly missing.


My entire job as an adult was teaching children.  Not only did I love teaching, but I felt it was my duty as a teacher to instill the love of learning and reading.  I was so passionate about teaching kids to read.  I loved showing them strategies to be successful and confident readers.  To enable them to independently escape into a book while learning new vocabulary and reading skills.  And in my very own home, I was struggling to help my own child.


Needless to say, I pulled out all the stops, and after some trials and failures, I was able to figure out how to have more successes than failures. Below are some of the reading strategies that helped my son slowly gain that love of reading.


Shared reading

Many kids look at a page of text and crumble.  They get overwhelmed with the amount of words and often give up or feel frustrated before they start.  I have found that taking the pressure off my child from reading all the words can be very encouraging.  We take turns reading, which not only motivates the kids to read longer, but the other reader is able to model fluency, syntax, and pronunciation of vocabulary.


Image heavy texts

From my own experience, my son starting getting excited about choosing his own texts when he started reading graphic novels.  These types of books, as well as books with a lot of great illustrations, lure the kids into the story.  The illustrations are also a great tool to help students who may struggle with reading, and gives them imagery for story context.


Choose texts based on their interests

This seems like an obvious one…but it makes a difference.  Kids will want to read about what they like.  If they love animals, try reading animal books.  If they love soccer, find some books about famous soccer players or a storyline that revolves around the sport.  The more they are intrigued about the subject matter, the better chance they will try to find out by reading it.


Use various forms of text

Sometimes, all kids need is a different format to read from.  I love eBooks to change things up.  I take advantage – when my son really wants to use the iPad, I have him read an eBook before he plays a game.  I love the eBooks and content on Genius Plaza, because there are so many different types of books that intrigue him.


We must remember that reading is a lifelong process.  All it takes is one book, one topic, one person to change the course of our child’s love for reading.  Being supportive and continuously providing engaging material are the most important things we can do to make our child’s reading career a successful one.


Rethinking Science Teaching and Learning

I am inclined to believe that science is not learned using textbooks, study guides, worksheets, or tests.  Rather, I think science is learned by thinking, processing information, constructing models, doing laboratory activities, and testing theories.  When I think of my science learning in elementary school, I remember reading about science in textbooks and completing numerous worksheets, or only having science class when my teacher had the time to teach it – it was often placed on the back burner, and I quickly became bored with it all.  I wanted to do science, not just read about it.


Do something different

During middle school, my science learning was similar, however, I was introduced to laboratory activities and I soon became hooked on the discovery portion of science learning!  I wanted to learn and discover more…  In high school, I fell in love with the sciences; however, I was disappointed with how I was learning it – copying notes from a chalkboard while the teacher was reciting what she wrote, memorizing standardized test content, or being told what I needed to think.  Hmm, I thought, where was the application of what I was learning?

I decided soon after to pursue a career in science teaching and learning, and made a promise to myself, my future children, and future students: I would teach it using an inquiry approach rather than a traditional one.  I wanted my children and students to learn how to do science, not merely read about it.  To teach science to them, rather than at them.  In recent years, data collected nationally and from state assessments has indicated a need to improve student performance in science, especially in the physical sciences and in performance-based learning tasks.

Involve your students

Throughout my teaching career as a high school science teacher, I supported and implemented an inquiry-based approach to my teaching, since it was the application component of science my kids appeared to struggle with.  When my students were active rather than passive in their science learning, they experienced many “Eureka!” moments: they learned to apply what was learned by participating in laboratory activities, made the connection to what they learned in lectures and class readings, as well as to the real world.  

STELLA (Science Teachers Learning from Lesson Analysis) is proving to be quite a reform method in science education, much like the Full Operation Science Systems (FOSS), a K-8 student-centered program that emphasizes student inquiry, thinking, and application.

Programs such as STELLA and FOSS are based upon the premise that if instructors are provided with well-developed teaching materials which promote student inquiry, and professional development that helps them learn how to effectively use the materials, they are more likely to implement hands-on science programs, so student achievement improves.  Both programs provide instructors with extensive professional development, and appealing, well-developed materials to help them use inquiry and laboratory approaches to teach science to improve student achievement.

Create a habit

Inquiry science learning is based on the following cognitive processes: observation, communication, comparison, organization, cause and effect relationships, inference, and application.  Inquiry during science learning is enriched by conceptual knowledge and supports a “habit of mind” philosophy.  Students need to be given the opportunity to demonstrate habits of mind skills which include curiosity, open-mindedness, and respect for evidence, persistence, and a sense of stewardship and care when they are engaged in science learning.

Students should be given time to explore, experiment, make observations, test ideas, construct physical and mathematical models, and be given the opportunity to think in different ways – all of which are components of the inquiry approach, where they are encouraged to be actively involved in their own learning.  Both the inquiry approach and the use of hands-on learning in science give instructors and students this opportunity.  Here’s hoping that these methodologies persevere well in the twenty-first century and beyond, so all kids learn to love the discipline as I did many moons ago as a kinesthetic, naturalistic, and logical-mathematical learner sitting in a boring, traditionally-centered science classroom.

Our Search Toolbar

Search Toolbar

Last week we unveiled our new search toolbar, and we have received great feedback. The search toolbar is now also available on our homepage, and as you can see, you can apply filters to search thousands of resources by resource type (eBook, video, vocabulary set, etc.), language, grade, creator, and subject.

Here is a video to help show how the toolbar works:

Search Toolbar

Once you click “Search,” you will see your search results, as well as a “Share Search Results” button. When you click that button, you will see the URL has been copied, allowing you to share that URL with others.

Finding the Content You Need

Now teachers will be able to find supplemental content to help them achieve their goals. You can find math, language arts, and science content for grades PreK to 12th, in English and Spanish.


The search toolbar is very user-friendly.  For example, when I searched for ninth grade math content in English, here is what I would find:


Tell Us What You Think!

We will continue to find ways to optimize the platform, and invite you to share feedback via chat, or email me at

Happy World Teachers’ Day – Teaching in Freedom, Empowering Teacher

World Teachers’ Day


At Genius Plaza, we celebrate teachers every day, but today is even more special because we are celebrating World Teachers’ Day.

The History of World Teachers’ Day

According to UNESCO, World Teachers’ Day has been held annually on October 5th since 1994 to commemorate the anniversary of the signing of the 1966 UNESCO/ILO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers.

This year, the theme followed the “adoption of the new Sustainable Development Goals in September 2015, when teacher empowerment was reaffirmed as a top priority in all education and development strategies.”


Celebrating Teachers

For us, it is another opportunity for us to say thank you to teachers – and this year we are doing it with eBooks.

This eBook by a future scientist includes quotes about education from “very famous people.”  This eBook by a future doctor speaks about the importance of teachers.  This one is in Spanish and is titled “The Teacher and his/her students.”  This one is one of my favorites, and is titled “The Teacher Who Taught Me To Read Books.”

Join us in thanking teachers by sharing memories or creating your own eBook at Genius Plaza, or by downloading our app on iOS, Google Play or Amazon. #WorldTeachersDay


Teachers coming together in a time of need – guest post by Brianne Walterhouse

We have been following and sharing updates about the great effort by Hurricane Harvey Teachers in Need (who have now also created Hurricane Irma Teachers in Need) and the leadership of these inspiring teachers wanting to help others impacted by the recent storms. We decided to reach out to Brianne Walterhouse, who has been at the forefront of this effort with other teachers to share how this came about. We are grateful that in the middle of organizing this initiative, she took the time to write this piece.

Teachers for Teachers

by Brianne Walterhouse

Instagram: @hooorayforteaching  and Twitter: @HoooRayforTeach

I have had many people over the past couple of weeks ask me why I would take on the task of helping get teachers adopted in Texas when I have so much going on at home.  It’s the beginning of a new school year and there has been a TON going on in my personal life.  So they always say, “Why would you add this to your plate?”  The answer is simple.  It’s who I am.  It’s second nature.  It’s how I was raised.  In 1991, I lost my home in the Oakland Hills Firestorm.  I remember the days after the fire even now.  Going down to our church hall to pick out a new backpack, supplies, and clothing that had been donated.  I saw for the first time what it meant to really come together in a time of need. Every year since then, our family has adopted a family for Christmas.

Teaching Kindness and Service

As an adult, and a teacher, I teach my students what kindness and service is about.  Whether it’s collecting toys for our local fire department, or doing drives for local fire victims, I want my students to see that they are making a difference.  

Teachers Coming Together

When I heard about the devastation that Hurricane Harvey caused to the Houston area, I knew immediately that I needed to do something.  I reached out on Instagram and with three other AMAZING teachers, got an adoption list going.  Kristi Stanfa from Hooray for Third Grade and Allie McMillen from Third Grade Parade and I worked through Instagram Messenger to come up with a plan.  With the help of Kori Markussen from True Tales of a Teacher , we were able to create a Facebook Group that gave both people in need of support and those wanting to support a central place to gather.  Even now, we have new members joining and we are still getting classrooms adopted.  We have had 289 teachers in need and I know there will be more!

Much Work to Be Done

We aren’t done, either.  Hurricane Irma has taken a beating on Florida and the Caribbean.  I know we will continue to come together and support classrooms, teachers, and their students through this difficult time!  It has been amazing to see what our teacher community has done, and my heart is so full to see us come together to help those in need!



Back to School Traditions

 New Traditions

One of my favorite new traditions for back to school is seeing my Facebook feed full of photos of my nephews and friends’ kids returning to school. Thank you Malu, Magdalena, Rosemary, Laura, and Patty for letting me share your photos.


back to school back to school traditionsback to school traditions

back to school traditionsback to school traditionsback to school traditions


That is why I loved the DIY videos that our teams created in English and Spanish.  

This year, I also found many images from educators and administrators on Twitter celebrating and preparing for the new academic year.  Some of my favorite ones were from Carolina Quesada, Cristina Silerio, Houston ISD Español and Eagle View Elementary School.

Importance of Back to School Celebrations

As I looked at these posts, I began to think about why this is important, and found this piece from, which speaks about why the most important day to celebrate is the first day of school.  We want students to understand the importance of education, and celebrating the first day is a touchstone, positively impacting students in the long-term.

Creating and Starting New Routines

In addition to the celebration, this is a time when many parents begin or restart routines.  We thought this blog from Triad Moms on Main provided some great insight on the importance of back-to-school routines, and my colleague Erika wrote a letter to Kindergarten Parents that reinforces sticking to the basics at home when kids begin school.

I asked family and friends about their own traditions, in addition to the photos.  My sister lets the kids decide what they want for dinner the night before the first day of school.  My good friend Laura takes her son Nico for ice cream after the first day of school so they can talk about his new class, teacher, etc.


 back to school traditions

What traditions do you have? We would love to see your photos and learn about your traditions and routines – please share in the comments below!

Education-related News Updates and Resources August 25, 2017

Following you will find our news updates for the week ending August 25, 2017.  We also want to know what education and parenting articles or blogs you are following and reading.

Did you see this story focused on how Sen. John Kennedy spent his summer as an 8th grade substitute teacher?

We have seen many stories about the “benefits of a bilingual education.”  That is the title of one story we read this week.  For us, there is no question about the value, but reading stories like this  helps validate our commitment to celebrating bilingualism.



This week we also read a blog by Brandon Johnson titled “Why you Should Build a Twitter Professional Learning Network,” which includes some great tips regarding Twitter.  We would love to hear how parents and educators are using Twitter.

We are currently reviewing the report “Why All High School Diplomas are Not Created Equal” from The Alliance for Excellent Education. You can find it here.

This week our colleague Erika Taylor wrote a blog post titled “Dear Kindergarten Parent”, which we wanted to share again as a great resource.  We invite you to follow our blog, with insights for parents and teachers.  We have posts in English and Spanish.  This blog post from Paola Hernandez focuses on how to empower students by reteaching, and this one, in Spanish, focuses on how to prepare for the last year of high school.  We also have one from Jesica Chavez regarding the importance of art at home.  We hope you find these of value.

News Updates week ending August 25, 2017


Join our #GeniusTalks Twitter chat on Tuesday, August 29th at 3 pm to share insights and tips for educators!

Finally, we love to share inspiring stories on our social media platforms.  We invite you to follow our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.  For Spanish, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.