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.



Our New Search Function

At Genius Plaza, we value the relationships we have with teachers, parents, administrators, and students.  We strive to constantly improve our offerings based on feedback we receive.  Our CEO likes to quote Epictetus, reminding us, “We have two ears and one mouth, so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”  We are very proud of our new search function, which reflects much of that feedback.

New Search Function

As our users know, at Genius Plaza we offer thousands of videos, eBooks, games, comprehension exercises, worksheets, and more in English and Spanish.  Users now can explore these by filtering subject – math, language arts, and science, and for grades Pre-K to 12th.  Users are also able to filter by creator – teacher, student, and parent – and by grade level. Click here to watch this video to learn more.

Genius Plaza search

Teacher Wish List

We reached out to teachers to see what content they needed.

  • We heard from one teacher who wanted content for her kindergarten focused on the letter B.  See what we shared with her here: Video, eBook, and exercise.
  • We heard from another teacher looking for Hispanic Heritage content.  Here are some of our STEAM Learning Champion resources, which can be used as non-fiction content, and for teaching character traits.  
  • We also heard from several teachers looking for place value content.  Here you can find some of the resources we shared.


Leaderboard Content

Each week, we are highlighting some of the resources requested on our leaderboard, sharing content created by teachers, students, and about our Champions.  Visit us each week to find new content. https://www.geniusplaza.com/en/leaderboard




Join us as a Beta Tester

As I mentioned earlier, we want to learn from you!  If you are interested in becoming a beta tester, email me at monica@geniusplaza.com.


Education-related News Updates and Resources September 1, 2017

Today’s news updates will focus on Hurricane Harvey as well as general education and EdTech news.

Hurricane Harvey

Yesterday in our blog we shared this Newsweek story about the impact of Hurricane Harvey. In fact, according to Education Week, more than one million students are impacted. The New York Times shared a great resource for teaching about Hurricane Harvey, which can be found here.

Hurricane Harvey

We also have been inspired by schools and others coming together to support Harvey victims. This story from Missouri and this Facebook group we previously mentioned talk about helping to  adopt classrooms and helping impacted teachers.

As we shared yesterday as well, some of our colleagues are supporting Save The Children. Learn more here.

EdTech News

Today we also want to share additional updates. Here is a link to a story focused on the top five EdTech trends.

EdTech News

Another topic we continue to hear about is student privacy. Read more here.

Thank you for reading our blog! This month our most-read blog post was the letter to kindergarten parents, followed by the post on reteaching. We invite you to read both if you have not.


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 EffectiveTeaching.com, 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.







BookExpo America 2017

I recently spent a day with some of my Genius Plaza teammates at BookExpo America (BEA) –the largest annual book trade fair in the United States. The 2017 edition took place over three days at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City.

As someone with one foot in the door of the children’s book publishing industry, this was a great opportunity for me to see publishing friends, meet new ones, attend book signings, and gather as many free books and posters as possible.

But of course, our main focus was to represent Genius Plaza and share our message to “ignite the genius in every child” with the Expo’s 100,000+ attendees.

The Genius Plaza platform contains many options for learning, such as videos, games, animations, and worksheets. Since we were at a book expo, our focus was to highlight our eBooks, which are written by the professional educators on our content team with visual aids provided by our illustrators and graphic designers. Our team at BEA17 did a great job discussing our eBook collection, and explaining the eBook co-creation options that allow our users to write and add visuals to their own digital stories.

A few fortunate BEA attendees won full-year subscriptions to our entire eBook catalog by spinning our Genius Plaza prize wheel. The result of the spin could earn the spinner an instant prize (very cool Genius Plaza pens or Genius Plaza phone/device holders) or a raffle ticket for a chance at one of our bigger prizes – the full-year eBook subscriptions, virtual reality goggles, or a Kindle Fire preloaded with the Genius Plaza platform.

We all feel that our time spent at BEA17 was a real success. Attendees’ reactions to our platform were extremely positive, and we interacted with hundreds of interested and potential customers. We’re already planning for and looking forward to sharing our message again at BookExpo America 2018.

eBook Sets: A Game-changing Resource for Improving Comprehension Skills

As a teacher, you know that twenty-first century students have diverse literacy needs, and we are now faced with differentiating learning content according to each student’s learning style, interests, and readiness. We have also heard from many of you that one of the main challenges you face with students is related to comprehension skills.

Howard Gardner, a PhD Professor of Education at Harvard University, developed the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, with which many of us are familiar.  There are three general categories in which people learn: visual learners, auditory learners, and kinesthetic learners. Gardner’s work on psychology, human cognition, and human potential led to the development of the initial six intelligences.

Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences

  1. Verbal-linguistic intelligence
  2. Logical-mathematical intelligence
  3. Spatial-visual intelligence
  4. Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence
  5. Musical intelligence
  6. Interpersonal intelligence
  7. Intrapersonal intelligence
  8. Naturalist intelligence
  9. Existential intelligence

When using multimodal content, you create an environment where students feel motivated to participate in activities that fit their learning needs and styles. But the big problem many encounter is finding sufficient time to differentiate by modality, or finding content that fits each student’s learning style. Thematic sets are hard to come by.  Seeking out resources that share the same theme can be time-consuming.

At Genius Plaza, we understand the importance of multimodal content, which is why we provide access to hundreds of thematic eBook sets. These include, but are not limited to, eBooks, videos, vocabulary sets, printables, exercises, and games. Genius Plaza strives to provide teachers with culturally relevant thematic sets, which come nicely packaged to help teachers take back their time, allowing them to focus more on students’ learning needs and developing other skills. With Genius Plaza, you can teach the same concept by assigning one student a video and another an eBook or game, so students have the opportunity to learn verbally, visually, musically, etc.

Explore the benefits of incorporating eBook sets in the classroom.


For more information on Multiple Intelligences and how to apply this theory in the classroom, make sure to keep following my blog. Below, you will find an article with additional information:

Multiple Intelligences: Gardner’s Theory. ERIC Digest.


Celebrating Mother Language Day

Today the world observes Mother Language Day 

This year’s celebration is devoted to education. At Genius Plaza we celebrate diversity in languages, background and experiences and join today’s celebration for Mother Language Day. We will continue to focus on our mission of igniting the genius in every child with culturally relevant, personalized learning. Watch our video to commemorate the day:

Favorite #MotherLanguageDay Teacher Tweets:


Favorite #MotherLanguageDay Global Tweets:

Favorite #MotherLanguageDay Education Tweets:

TCEA17: The Rising Wave of EdTech

This year we sponsored the Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) Conference in Austin Texas, and we could not be prouder. This five-day conference included professional development, presentations, workshops, and an Expo, where we at Genius Plaza demonstrated our culturally relevant, personalized learning teaching platform. We received a very warm welcome and met 300+ educators who were diligently seeking better ways to implement digital based learning in their classrooms. Most importantly, they inspired us! The enthusiasm for technology-based education was well represented with a range of educator specialties in attendance. Attendees learned how school technology leaders are innovating their classrooms from the more than 900 presentations. We spoke with:  
  • Technology Coordinators
  • District Administrators
  • Librarians
  • Media Specialist
  • Instructional and Curriculum Leaders
At our booth, no educator left without a tech tool or free resource trial! We believe that to democratize education, we must lead the way and provide the tools and resources for every classroom to succeed. Watch the clip below with highlights from this year’s conference: Technology has the power to innovate, and disrupt, every industry. We at Genius Plaza are firm believers that the next generation will take tech tools into a brand-new workforce. Schools are evolving  to reflect the 21st Century jobs our students will join and TCEA was a great event in which we met many who share our vision. Technology in the classroom is shifting from prior notions these tools are "distractions" or "extras." Genius Plaza is devoted to building educational resources that work for our community of educators, while elevating the teaching and learning experience. We invite you to join our community on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram,LinkedIn or fill out the form below to receive our free newsletter. #mc_embed_signup{background:#fff; clear:left; font:14px Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; }
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Culturally Relevant, Personalized Learning Matters

Culturally Relevant, Personalized Learning Matters:                         

  If you have been following us, you know that we are a group of social entrepreneurs who believe that education is the only sustainable equalizer. Three years ago we began a journey to ignite the genius of every learner by creating an education platform dedicated to democratizing education.  

Genius Plaza, formerly called PreK12 Plaza, provides teachers, parents, and students with engaging, practical, and research-based curricula. Our results-driven team is committed to providing access to quality education for all students as a gateway to opportunity, especially for the most underserved. Our platform brings parents back in the picture by empowering families to help their children learn.

Genius Plaza’s didactic method puts the student as the central figure of their learning:

  • Learn: students learn in class or at home using the Genius Plaza personalized learning approach and resources.
  • Reflect: every learning experience has an opportunity for reflection and review.
  • Re-teach: students become the protagonists of their learning journey when they are able to re-teach what they have learned using our co-creation tools.
  • Peer review: each student takes ownership
  • of the lesson by reviewing, improving, and enhancing each other’s work.

I am extremely proud that Genius Plaza is the first multicultural education platform created to serve all communities and built by a diverse group of educators, programmers, designers, and leaders with a shared mission.


We invite you to join us and give the gift of learning. Please share your feedback and create content as we continue to build a learning, global community by igniting the genius in every child.

Ana Roca Castro