The Power of Read-Alouds


I am four years old. I am sitting on my mother’s bed, a large bellowing thing engulfed in a sea of pillows, sheets, covers. It’s night time, way past my bedtime, and I’m begging my mother to read me another story.

“But we’ve already read three books tonight Lindsey,” she says smiling.

“How about just this one?” I say, grasping a book with a yellow cover and silly looking pictures I’ve found tucked next to my bed, a story I’ve read countless times but can’t get enough of.

She smiles, “This one is one of your favorites, isn’t it?”onefishtwofish

I nod.

“Ok, Lindsey, we can read it, but after this, it’s time for bed.”

The book I am clutching in my tiny fingers is Dr Suess’ One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.  A book I adore for how my mother reads in a sing-songy voice, the pictures dancing on the page; her voice a musical rhythm in the background.

Emilie Buchwald once wrote,  “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” For me that was so true. With each book read to me as a young child, I became intrigued with the way authors could magically weave stories together; a tapestry woven by endless imagination.

As an educator I am often struck by how much parents or guardians reading to their children means for development in the classroom.  I can say that, without a doubt, my students whose guardians read to them consistently at home came to me with enhanced vocabulary, fluency, and literacy skills; but above all else, a more naturally ingrained curiosity and love of storytelling.

According to Read Aloud 15 Mins, a national non-profit working to help make 15 minutes of reading aloud daily to children a reality, “Reading aloud is the single most important thing a parent or caregiver can do to improve a child’s readiness to read and learn.”

In fact, research has shown us that when parents read-aloud to their children, even if just for 15 minutes a day, it can  help spark invaluable comprehension skills, vocabulary development, fluency, and help instill a life-long love of reading. Reading aloud to young children has even been thought to help spark brain development.

As a special education teacher for grades K-8, and then for high school, one thing each of my students had in common was a love of read-alouds. Since so many of my students struggled to interpret and decode text on their own, they loved when I would engage with them in books, articles, short stories and more; my voice helping capture their interest and satiate a desire for text that may otherwise have been inaccessible.

Indeed, reading aloud to both children and students of all ages is a powerful form of literacy instruction. For some great tips for parents, guardians, and educators for creating engaging read-alouds, read this article “Reading Aloud to Build Comprehension” by Reading Rockets, a wonderful national multimedia literacy initiative offering information and resources to help both parents and teachers with literacy skills for struggling readers.

This past Monday, March 2nd, we celebrated Dr. Seuss’ birthday, which was also Read Across America Day. As someone who has a huge love of Dr. Seuss and all things reading, I was honored to be able to read aloud to several classrooms at Doug Robertson’s elementary school in Oregon. (You can read all about the awesome event here on Doug’s  blog or follow him on twitter @theWeirdTeacher.)

Thank you to the students at Mr. Robertson’s elementary school; It was so wonderful being able to share my love of Dr. Seuss and reading aloud with you! I hope we can help spread the message of how powerful reading to students can be across the country!

#DontLimitMe- Amazing Message by a Student with Down Syndrome

By Lindsey Lipsky, MEd


I am a huge fan of Twitter for the personal and professional growth it provides educators and communities across the globe (as outlined in my previous posts here and here), so it’s no wonder that this blog post is inspired by a Twitter conversation.

Recently the amazing Beth Foraker @InclusionChick, posted a hand-written note by Emily, a 15 year old student with Down Syndrome. Emily wrote this note in response to a question about her hopes and dreams for life after high school.  Here is the first tweet below:

In case you can’t read the picture, let me transcribe Emily’s letter below. She starts with a list of amazing goals for her future:

1. Go to college

2. Keep learning

3. Graduate like normal kids

(Yes, #3 on that list really touched me.)

Further down on the page Emily says something else that, as a teacher, really struck me:

“I want the teachers to treat me kind. Don’t act like you are frustrated with me. I have Down Syndrome and need help. I want the teachers to see how smart I am.”


Just like everyone else, Emily is asking us, begging us, to not get frustrated with her. To be kind. To help her. To see how smart she is. To never give up. A message that all teachers; former, current and future need to hear. #DontLimitMe

Just when I thought the message couldn’t get anymore inspiring, @InclusionChick posted something else: a message Emily had written on the very back of her note. (See tweet below.)

In case you can’t read it.  Here is what Emily wrote below:

“Time to see what I can do to test the limits and break through. Don’t limit me.”

Excuse me while I go wipe the tears off my face…

This letter is an amazing example of why we, as teachers, parents and community members, do what we do each day. Why we work so tirelessly to ensure our students with special needs get what they need and deserve. After all, isn’t it really all about how we can help our students become successful citizens and human beings, no matter the ability or circumstance?

Please join us in sharing this message on Twitter by using the hashtag #DontLimitMe – our new battle cry thanks to @InclusionChick.  Here is the tweet that inspired it all:

I hope this letter and subsequent messages on Twitter will help ignite a revolution, a revolution to help change how we treat and work with our students who have learning differences. Remember: When we change the way we think about learning for our students with special needs, we help change learning for ALL. #DontLimitMe

UPDATE: Please also check out this amazing post by Beth Foraker, @InclusionChick here on the power of Emily’s letter. 

Want more on the powerful message of #DontLimitMe?

Be sure to check out this amazing video by Megan Bomgaars, an inspirational young woman with Down Syndrome. It’s an inspiring four minute watch that you won’t be sorry you missed!

Big thanks to Beth Foraker, @InclusionChick for this amazing share; you are an inspiration to all of us!  #DontLimitMe

The T in Twitter Stands for Teacher: Tips for Us!

 You may or may not know it, but Twitter is an educator’s paradise; filled to the gills with educational dialogue, resources, ideas, tips, and best practices. No longer just a tween Bieber playground (Sorry Justin!), Twitter has become sooo much more.

To help you ease into this new (and perhaps scary) world of virtual collaboration,  Let’s discuss why the T in Twitter Stands for Teacher.  Soon you’ll be an #EduTweeter Rockstar in no time!

1. Professional Learning Networks (PLN)
Twitter is, without a doubt, an amazing social tool for connecting people.  Unlike Facebook, Twitter is a universe that allows for open communication across multiple platforms (and even continents). As Mrs. Kathleen Morris states in her great post about Twitter on Edublogs“I find Twitter to be like a virtual staffroom…where I can find advice, give advice, find great links, share my work and engage in general musings about education.”

To begin building your PLN, start following educators and members that appeal to you and align with your ideals/goals as an educator. Some of my current, favorite EduTweeters  (in random order) are:

@ShiftParadigm@justintarte@singoffpitch,@JewishSpecialEd, @LisaBerghoff@TheWeirdTeacher@gcouros@ShellTerrell,   @INISchoolsSpEd@BethHouf@JayBilly2,  @tritonkory@TyrnaD@davidtedu, @RusulAlrubail  @VeganMathBeagle, @FarleyJeffrey @JessLifTeach

(and so many others!)

Be sure to also check out this Google doc of top Educator Twitter Handles by Subject and follow some of the educators who work in your areas of interest for inspiration, connection, and more!

2. Educational Chats
Sue Waters, Working With Web 2.0 Tools EduBlogger writes, “Twitter chats are one of the best ways for educators to connect with other educators, exchange and debate ideas, ask for help and provide assistance, find new resources and take action.” 

Indeed, educational chats are a wonderful way to get involved with a sub-group of teachers and stakeholders who share similar interests as you.  Need help finding the best Ed Twitter Chat for you? Check out this fantastic schedule of Global List of all Educational Chats by @cybraryman1 and an ever-evolving google doc with chat times here: Edu Top Twitter chats.

Some of my favorite chats that I’ve been involved in so far include: #BFC530 (5:30am Breakfast Club), #SlowChatEd #spedchat, #LDchat, #edchat, #tlap (Teach like a Pirate), #satchat, and #sunchat.

Be sure to also check out the Twitter Teacher Book Club, or #TBookC led by myself and the amazing @LisaBerghoff and @JewishSpecialEd on Thursday nights at 8pmCST.

3. Gathering Insights and Inspiration in a Tweet-minute!
Got five minutes to spare in between your lunch and prep period? Hop on to Twitter to find some messages of inspiration, passion, joy, resources, and teaching tips.  Being able to learn and collaborate with your Twitter educators is like a high-tech, low-cost Professional Development session available at your fingertips.

If you’ve chosen the correct people to follow for your PLN, you’ll have a wide variety of amazing content and insight coming straight through on your Twitter feed.  Get ready to be AMAZED!

So, TEACHERS, what are you waiting for? Are YOU on Twitter yet?

For some great help getting started with Twitter, read The Teachers Guide to Twitter (Edudemic) and Getting Started with Twitter in the Classroom by Carrie Kam and the Teaching Channel.

The Three Types of Reading

By Lindsey Lipsky, M.Ed.

“To read is to fly: it is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view over wide terrains of history, human variety, ideas, shared experience and the fruits of many inquiries.”  – A C Grayling, Financial Times (in a review of A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel)

As educators, one of our biggest jobs is to help our students develop a love of reading. After all, without reading, as A.C. Grayling describes above, one cannot engage fully in the world.  But what if our learners have trouble accessing or reading print in the normal way?

You see, 1 in 5 students in America has Dyslexia, a Learning Disability which is largely characterized by deficits in language and phonological processing that hinders a person’s ability to decode, process and read fluently on level despite normal IQ.  What can we do for them?

Over ninety percent of what we teach as educators is through traditional “eye” reading; decoding and analyzing text and word patterns on a page with your eyes, which are then interpreted back into comprehension. However, there are two other types of reading that we, as educators, need to be aware of for incorporation into best teaching practices for all.

Three Types of Reading: Because there is more than just reading with your “eyes!”

1. Eye Reading
This is what 90% of us think of as true “reading.”  It is what we are most tested on, trained for, and taught in schools.  Eye reading includes taking in words, sentences, and phrases through our eyes to develop meaning, which is the basis for almost all reading and ultimately comprehension for a majority of people.  Without a doubt, eye reading must be taught and focused on throughout school, especially in terms of developing phonemic awareness, fluency, and decoding skills at the elementary level.  But what happens when a child still cannot “break the code” well beyond the elementary years and hasn’t gotten proper interventions yet?

2. Ear Reading
This is where ear reading can come into play.  When you have a student who can’t “decode” the text but is reading/comprehending on or above grade level, they can still “read” with their ears. Although sometimes stigmatized as “not true reading,”  for some of our students who are lacking decoding and phonological skills to interpret grade level text fluently, “ear reading” is an extremely necessary accommodation to help foster continuous growth.

As Jennifer A., a Reading Specialist outside of Chicago, states to students, “You might learn better through your ears than you do taking in information through your eyes, and that’s totally fine because your brain is still doing the work with it.”

Watch this video by Dr. Sally Shaywitz at the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity here on the power of audiobooks and ear reading.

3. Finger Reading
Finger reading, better known as“Braille Reading,” is how students with blindness and visual impairments engage with the written word.  We would never say to a student with blindness or vision impairment that, when reading braille, they are not actually reading, would we?  Then why do we say to students with Dyslexia and/or Learning Disability that “ear reading” is not really reading? Just like ear and eye reading, finger reading helps unlock doors for students, adults and learners who cannot access print in the normal way.

For students with a learning disability like Dyslexia, research has shown us that allowing students to “ear read” may make the difference between helping advance a student’s comprehension growth or hinder it.  For support, check out some of the resources from accessible instructional material providers like Learning Ally (human-voice) and Book Share (digitized voice) which have hundreds of thousands of PK-12 and college accessible textbooks, popular fiction, and more for students with a qualifying print-disability.

Download this poster for your classroom by Learning Ally on the Three Types of Reading.
types of reading poster

We all read differently…and that’s OK!

 To Fully Support All Learners:

Remember, to fully support all students with reading disabilities and challenges like Dyslexia, along with acknowledging the different types of reading, you must also incorporate an evidence-based Multi-Sensory Structured Language (MSL) Program into your classroom. For more information on these programs, read a list of some recommended MSL programs from the International Dyslexia Association, as well as information about the Orton-Gillingham Multisensory Method (article by the Schenck School); an extensive approach to language, reading, spelling, and writing instruction incorporated by most reading and language specialists.

The combination of MSL program instruction and audiobooks are a powerful combination for all learners to keep up with their same age peers.

What do you think about this list? Do you incorporate the three types of reading and MSL instruction in your classroom? Let’s discuss on twitter @LindseyLipsky or leave a comment below.

5 Reasons We Should Call it Dyslexia

By Lindsey Lipsky, M.Ed.

Teachers: Have you ever heard these statements at your school?

  • Dyslexia is just another name for Learning Disability or LD.
  • Dyslexia is a name used by the private sector, we do not use that here.
  • We’ve never called it Dyslexia, so we’re not going to start now.


As a Special Education Teacher for over five years, I often experienced reluctance by my school to use the term “Dyslexia.” The dreaded “D” word (as we teachers would lovingly call it), was for all intents and purposes, taboo.  After talking to countless teachers around the country, I’ve found that my experience is, sadly, less than rare. But why?

Research shows us that nearly 1 in 5 students in America have Dyslexia. It is one of the most studied and examined disabilities in the nation, yet the most under-diagnosed in schools. If nearly 20 percent of America’s youth have some form of Dyslexia, isn’t it time we start calling Dyslexia by its name?

Let’s take a look at the 5 top reasons why we should call it Dyslexia:

  1. Using the term “Dyslexia” is more specific: 

When we say that a child has a Learning Disability, LD, or Specific Learning Disorder, this may mean several things and can signify a multitude of different learning challenges. A Specific Learning Disorder can be in reading, writing, or math. Within a Specific LD in Reading, the diagnosis can further be varied into a disability of reading decoding, fluency, or comprehension.  In a nutshell, saying “Learning Disability” or “Specific Learning Disorder” is just not specific enough! When we use the term Dyslexia it makes it easier for teachers, parents, and even students themselves, to learn about, identify, and accommodate their needs in the classroom.

  1. The word Dyslexia has been around for a long time:

The term “Dyslexia” was first coined in 1887, by a German opthalmologist, Rudolf Berlin.  He used it to replace the commonly used term of the day, “Word-Blindness.” However, the term Dyslexia did not come into full use until the 1900s.  Today, it has become much less popular to say Dyslexia in public education, despite a large field of research to support its existence, and a plethora of evidence-based studies that identify successful interventions.  The multitude of studies and research over the last century will mean nothing if we do not begin calling Dyslexia by its proper name.

  1. Students often feel empowered when told they have Dyslexia:

Dyslexia can be a challenge for the 20 percent of school-aged children who suffer in silence.  However, time and time again, I’ve found that when a child is finally diagnosedwith Dyslexia they feel a sudden sense of relief, and sometimes even pride. “I’m not slow, or impaired, or lazy; I’m Dyslexic!” is a comment oft heard from students first diagnosed. Using the term “Dyslexia” allows a student not only to learn more about how his or her brain works best and how to self-advocate, but also provides entrance into a huge community of learners with Dyslexia; something extremely powerful for boosting self- confidence and development.

  1. Many, many famous people have Dyslexia:

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability or disorder that includes poor word reading, word decoding, oral reading fluency and spelling.  However, along with these impediments comes amazing gifts!  Many Dyslexics excel in areas of spatial recognition, creativity, athleticism, entrepreneurialism, and much more.  It is no surprise then that so many famous and successful people have Dyslexia.  Don’t believe me? Check out this list of some famous people with Dyslexia:

  1. In some states, Dyslexia is the law:

While not the case everywhere, many states have new or ongoing legislation about Dyslexia. Some states like Texas, Illinois, Ohio, and New Jersey, have enacted various laws supporting, assessing, identifying and naming Dyslexia in the classroom. To see where your state stands, contact your local Decoding Dyslexia state group.

There are several identified, targeted interventions, accommodations, and supports for students with Dyslexia. However, the biggest and most successful intervention for learners with Dyslexia includes adaptation of multi-sensory structured language programs into the classroom, which, when implemented with fidelity, can significantly reduce reading problems and help bring children up to grade-level reading. Questions on that? Visit the International Dyslexia Association or the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity to learn more.

What do you think about this list?  Do you agree that we need to start calling Dyslexia by its name?

Let’s talk on twitter via @LindseyLipsky or leave a comment below. To help support awareness and the need to use the term “Dyslexia” in schools, please share this post and use the hashtag #CallitDyslexia.

Original post on Weebly: 

Teacher Appreciation Week

May 4th to May 8th is National Teacher Appreciation Week across the United States, and it got me thinking.  How can we really show our appreciation for teachers in just one week?

Teachers, by and large, are an amazing group of people.  We give our time, money, and efforts to help others who are not related to us by blood or friendship.  We work tirelessly to ensure students in our classroom are supported, loved, and cared for in a way that leads to engagement, learning, and achievement.  On our off time, you’ll find educators learning about best practices to support students, how to make their classrooms more engaging, or learning about new best practices in our field.  We are true non-stop learners and procurers of learning.

It is true that teaching is probably one of the hardest, most demanding professions.  We work tirelessly day and night, worrying about our students’ progress, whether he or she had a meal in the morning, or what that sudden change in behavior might indicate. We spend our own time (and often money) creating engaging learning experiences, decorating classrooms to create welcoming environments, and differentiating instruction for diverse groups of kids.

A post I saw recently really summed up what teaching means:

love a teacher


Image transcription: “Every School in America has teachers working for free on a daily basis. Go by any school parking lot early in the morning, late in the afternoon, or even at night or on the weekends, and you will see them. No overtime, no bonuses or promotions on the line–just doing it for their students! Teachers are using their free time, often investing their own money, for children’s literacy, prosperity and future. Re-post if you are a teacher, love a teacher, or appreciate a teacher.”

So for this week (and always), teachers, we salute you. Please know that your energy, enthusiasm and tireless pursuit of achievement for your students do not go unnoticed.

This week (and always) please be sure to recognize a teacher in your area and use the hashtag #ThankATeacher.

#TBookC – Teacher Twitter Book Club

By Lindsey Lipsky, MEd

Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 2.45.11 PM

#TBookC, Twitter Teacher Book Club Chat Thursdays 8pm CST

#TBookC, or Twitter Teacher Book Club, is an online social experiment designed to bring educators and education stakeholders across the globe together for reading, celebration, learning, and fun. After all, teaching is a tough job, we could all use some down-time and collaboration from time to time, no?

Created in January of 2015, with the help of my amazing Professional Learning Network (PLN) members and friends Lisa Berghoff @LisaBerghoff and Lisa Friedman @JewishSpecialEd, #TBookC has so far been an astounding success with some impressive reads in its first three months.

In the true spirit of online collaboration, all #TBookC books are suggested by group members like you, and then voted on for our monthly read and chat. So far, all #TBookC picks have been highly engaging and divergent in their topics, but with one theme: when people from varying backgrounds, locations, and experiences come together in one place on transformational reads, amazing things can happen.

Here is a look back at some of our #TBookC picks and reads so far for 2015.


Teach Like a Pirate, Dave Burgess

January: Teach Like a Pirate, by Dave Burgess #TLAP

The January  #TBookC Pick, Teach Like a Pirate,was voted upon by over fifty educators on Twitter for our first #TBookC chat, and helped ignite a #TLAP revolution. Teach Like a Pirate is an inspiring read chalk full of unique tips on engaging educators and students alike in the classroom. Based on a powerful acronym for teaching success (P-passion, I-immersion, R-rapport, A-ask/analyze, T-transformation, E- enthusiasm), the spirit that author Dave Burgess brings is truly contagious!

To read more about the fabulous takeaways from Teach Like a Pirate and our #TBookC January chat, read the #TBookC January Summary here by Lisa Berghoff.


How Full is Your Bucket? Tom Rath

February: How Full is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath #HFIYB

For February, our amazing group of educators across the globe came together and chose How Full is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath. How Full is Your Bucket? or #HFIYB is an inspirational read that is a fabulous resource for those looking to infuse positivity, collaboration, and effective communication into their classrooms and every day lives.

Not just for educators, this book brings us the power of positivity with the magic 5to1 ratio (we need at most 5 positive interactions for every 1 negative interaction) and the idea of the dipper and the bucket; for every positive interaction with another, we are adding to another person’s bucket, and our bucket in turn.  Stay tuned for our #TBookC February Summary post coming soon!


Wonder, R.J. Palacio

March: Wonder by RJ Palacio

#TBookC participants voted for our first fictional read, Wonder by RJ Palacio for March.  An eye-opening, tear inducing, heart-warming read, the main character, August Pullman, is a magical ten-year old with wisdom on life, love and friendship well beyond his years. Centering on the message and power of kindness in the face of adversity, in Wonder author R.J. Palacio writes, “Courage. Kindness. Friendship. Character. These are the qualities that define us as human beings, and propel us, on occasion, to greatness.”

The #TBookC chat on this inspirational read (for both kids and adults alike!) is sure to make waves, and hopefully change some lives. Join us for the Wonder #TBookC chat starting on March 5th at 8pm CST.

To review some of the amazing #TBookC book chats, check out our #TBookC Storify Summaries– live summaries of our #TBookC Twitter chats.

Want to help #TBookC choose our future reads? Please fill out this google document with title suggestions.  Each month, taking choices from this list, we compile the top 3 suggestions and then vote on them the last week of each month for next month’s read.

Want to join the #TBookC chat and community? Add your name to the #TBookC Google Doc here, or pop in on Thursday nights at 8pmCST/9pmEST. Also, sign up for a #TBookC chat reminder via text or email by visiting and get chat notices right in your inbox.

We can’t wait for you to join us!

Teach Like a Pirate #TBookC January Wrap Up

Wrapping Up and Ramping Up

By Lisa Berghoff, MEd

Well, January is over and many of us have let our New Year’s resolutions fall by the wayside.  The good news is that if reading, connecting with other educators, or joining a new Twitter chat were on your to-do list for 2015, it’s not too late!  With January behind us and our new #TBookC chat around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to reflect, touch base, and give a wrap-up of all of the discussions that occurred in January and hopefully entice you to join us in February. Our first month was so fantastic and I feel like we’re just getting started.

#TBookC is the teacher (Twitter) book club for teachers.  It is the brainchild of Lindsey Lipsky (@LindseyLipsky) and is co-moderated by Lisa Friedman (@JewishSpecialEd) and myself (@LisaBerghoff). The plan is to read a new book each month and have twitter chats to discuss what we’ve read, make connections, and drink wine.  Ok, it’s not quite that kind of “book club”, but you’re welcome to open a bottle during our chats if that’s how you roll.

Our January Pick

If you’re an educator and you’ve spent 10 seconds on Twitter, then you have no doubt seen all of the permutations of Teach Like a Pirate, or #tlap out there.  For our January #TBookC first pick, we decided to jump in the pirate waters, don our eye patches, and see what all the fuss was about. We read Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess and I’m happy to say this book did not disappoint.  We divvied up the book into 4 sections for our Thursday January #TBookC chats and crossed our fingers that other educators out there would want to join in the conversation.  Reading in smaller sections definitely enabled us to delve more deeply into the text and be thoughtful about how Dave Burgess’ ideas relate to what we see in our work with students and teachers.

Planning a Twitter chat was actually more involved than I had anticipated.  The process of planning our first #TBookC chat was truly collaborative and I was thrilled to be a part of it.  With Lindsey Lipsky at the helm, Lisa Friedman and I joined in on shared Google docs, GoogleHangouts, twitter messages, and emails in an effort to generate questions that would spark real conversation and thoughtful connection.  I realized that the creation of our first chat was actually an amazing model of a fantastic #tlap lesson for me.  I was jumping into uncharted territory, establishing rapport with my teammates, tapping into creativity and pushing my thinking.  We needed to plan to ensure our participants would feel welcome and want to engage.

The participants for the January chats were wonderful and we were so honored to have Dave Burgess and his wife, Shelley Burgess, joining in on our discussions.  Their comments and contributions greatly enhanced our chat experience.  It was the first time I had ever discussed a book while the author was chiming in!  We also had teachers, administrators, and even some university students who all found common ground with this amazing read.  Many thanks to the participants who shared their creative ideas, epic fails, and thoughts and ideas regarding “piratehood” in education.  The connections that I have made just in our first month alone have been so fantastic and I continue to learn and share resources with many of them.

#Tlap Takeaways

The first half of the book is Dave Burgess’ “manifesto” on teaching.  His passion and enthusiasm definitely seem to leap from the pages and I found myself reaching for highlighters and sticky notes as I read.  There were many aha! moments reading and it’s hard to read this book and not feel pride in what we do everyday as educators. Dave uses the acronym PIRATE to explain each facet of being an amazing teacher and he gives many personal examples of what that looks like in the classroom.  Throughout our chats, we shared many of our own personal anecdotes that show how this plays out in our various educational spaces.  The second half of the book is full of “hooks” and strategies that can be implemented right away into any classroom.  I was actually surprised to learn that Dave is a high school teacher and happy to be reminded that even high school students should be experiencing curiosity and a love for learning.  The chat participants also shared some of the new things we are going to try and the back and forth exchanges definitely helped me flesh out how this was going to work in my classes.

After reviewing the archives, here are the big takeaways from #TBookC’s Teach Like A Pirate “discussion” …

  1. Teaching is all about relationships.  We need to work to establish positive relationships with our students as well as with our colleagues if we’re going to be amazing teachers.  Part of establishing relationships has to do with giving all of ourselves to our students.  They know when we’re faking or not giving them our full attention.
  2. Staying in our comfort zone is NOT where it’s at.  As educators, we expect our students to try new things, experience failure, and learn from their mistakes every day.  It’s important that we do the same and do it out in the open so we can model the important learning that goes on when we push ourselves.
  3. Creativity is not a magic pill!  Everyone can be creative but it shouldn’t be expected to just happen overnight.  We need to be thoughtful and set up a method of nurturing creative ideas.
  4. A combination of high expectations  and fun can, and should, be happening at the same time in our classrooms.  Just because you are incorporating art into your math lesson, does not mean you are lowering standards.  In fact, often utilizing creative activities actually raises the bar for students and forces them to think and explain themselves in different ways.

Be passionate about teaching and learning and surround yourself with others who are also passionate.  Don’t let yourself get hung up in the politics and educomplaints of the day.  Be daring, be caring, and find others who are too.  They will make you better at your craft, which will make kids better learners, which is what it’s all about!

If you are new to #TBookC or considering joining us in February, please take a look at the previous chats on Storify or go here for February Read information.

Lisa Bergoff

As a high school special education teacher for 19 years, Lisa Berghoff has worked with many students and their families to create unique learning experiences and ensure that they are an authentic part of the school community. She  is passionate about collaborating and connecting educators as a means for success for students.  She is also an ed-tech leader, Google education trainer,  and presenter in the Chicago area.  Connect with Lisa on Twitter

Teacher Book Club, #TBookC: Feb Pick

Lindsey Lipsky, M.Ed.


#TBookC is an online Twitter Teacher Book Club dedicated to engaging with educators and education stakeholders around the globe. The goal of #TBookC is to read 1 book every 1-2 months to help us with our lives, profession, and passions. After all, Teaching is a HARD job; We could all use a little relaxation and connection from time to time, no?

#TBookC started the year off right with an amazing read on Teach Like a Pirate or #Tlap by Dave Burgess (@burgessdave) for January. We had so much fun engaging with new educators on this book! Dave Burgess really brings it with enough enthusiasm and passion to engage even the most disenfranchised classroom teacher. You can read about the #TBookC January chat here.

For Feburary, my wonderful team of #TBookC moderators @LisaBerghoff and @JewishSpecialEd (and votes by you), helped us pick our #TBookC February read…

 Announcing: How Full is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath

How Full is Your Bucket? is a wonderful, short read for readers of all ages.  Based on a simple metaphor of a dipper and a bucket, this book can help change our (and our students’) views and interactions with eachother, as well as help build a more positive and fulfilling world!  Read more information about this wonderful book here and/or follow Tom Rath on Twitter @TomCRath.


“How did you feel after your last interaction with another person?

 Did that person — your spouse, best friend, coworker, or even a stranger — “fill your bucket” by making you feel more positive? Or did that person “dip from your bucket,” leaving you more negative than before?

 The #1 New York Times and #1 BusinessWeek bestseller, How Full Is Your Bucket? reveals how even the briefest interactions affect your relationships, productivity, health, and longevity. Organized around a simple metaphor of a dipper and a bucket, and grounded in 50 years of research, this book will show you how to greatly increase the positive moments in your work and your life — while reducing the negative.

 Filled with discoveries, powerful strategies, and engaging stories, How Full Is Your Bucket? is sure to inspire lasting changes and has all the makings of a timeless classic.” -Amazon Summary, How Full is Your Bucket?

We hope you will join #TBookC for this powerful read!

The chat starts Thursday, Feb. 5th 2015 at 8pm CST. Please add your name on the #TBookC Google Doc here to join us, or pop in to say hello at your leisure on Thursday nights!

Please note, for this chat we will be reading the “How Full is Your Bucket” for adults, but there is also a lovely “How Full is Your Bucket for Kids” that we’d recommend getting as well if you want help implementing this wonderful practice in your K-8 classroom.

Happy Reading! We can’t wait to see you all starting February 5th, 2015!

Your #TBookC Moderators,

Lindsey Lipsky (@LindseyLipsky)
Lisa Berghoff (@LisaBerghoff)

Lisa Friedman (@JewishSpecialEd)

BYOD in the Classroom

Lindsey Lipsky M.Ed.


Recently I went to a school on the outskirts of the Western Chicago suburbs to lead a Teacher Training in-service. What I saw in one classroom almost stopped me dead in my tracks. It was a sign about proper BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) use in the classroom.  I was amazed.

BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, refers to the policy of allowing students to bring their personal mobile devices, such as smartphones, laptops and PDAs into the classroom for use and connectivity while learning. A new approach to integrating students’ technology into the classroom, BYOD is slowly gaining ground in the K-12 arena.

So why was I stopped dead in my tracks by a sign? Almost three years earlier, as a special education teacher, my school enacted a zero tolerance policy for any and all cell phones. A common scenario in my classroom went something like this:

Me: “OK, John, I see the phone in your pocket. It’s actually blinking, and singing a lovely rap song for us.”
Student: “But, but, Mrs. Lipsky, it’s not FAIR. My mom tells me I need to keep my phone on me for emergencies. Besides, Elysha and Jake both have cell phones in their desks… See, they just texted me.”
Me: (laughing slightly) “Ok, guys, I’m sorry, but you know the rules. Hand over the cell phones, or put them in my top desk drawer for safe keeping. You can pick them up after school.”
Students: Groaning in unison, all get up to put cell phones in my desk.

In my school, it was no secret that students had cell phones at school.  An unspoken rule though was that as long as the phones were out of sight (or sound) during class time, they could be out of mind (and thus without punishment).  This was in stark contrast to the view of our Administrators, who if found phones on students, would provide harsh penalties.

Due to this, throughout my day, my desk drawers became littered with confiscated student cell phones and mobile devices; a proverbial graveyard of untapped technological learning potential.

Interestingly enough, a 2013 study by the Pew Research Center found that 78% of Americans aged 12 to 17 have cell phones, and nearly 1 in 4 (23%) of teenagers have a personal tablet. Another study found that 38% of kids under age 2 have used smartphones or tablets, Despite the fact that technology is becoming an ever-increasingly important aspect of kids’ lives, a June 2014 report by EdNET Insight found only “20% of elementary schools, 28% of middle schools and 40% of high schools” currently implement any type of BYOD policy in school.

Given the huge integration of technology into the lives of our students, why haven’t more schools begun implementing BYOD in the classroom? After all, aren’t more children today prone to using/having personal devices at home? To begin with, here are a few very valid and real barriers or concerns:

  1. Personal device inequities in the classroom (This is a biggie for me – how have others dealt with this? )
  2. Lagging Wi-Fi, or school bandwidth issues which make it difficult to support multiple devices on campus
  3. Need for more IT specialists and support  to help with increased tech demands
  4. A mind shift in general teaching practices, movement away from cell phone use as a distraction, to learning augmentation
  5. Need for broad behavior interventions and school regulations on proper use of technology

Despite the lengthy list of barriers to implementing BYOD, many schools have found that with successful support, tech integration, and training, BYOD can be an amazing tool for students. Some of the positives schools have seen when enacting BYOD on campuses include:

  1. More engaged students and learning environments
  2. A classroom that more closely mirrors outside technological realities and allows for good conversations/modeling of proper use
  3. Better collaboration across classes, students, parents and other teachers
  4. Differentiated learning that can extend beyond classroom
  5. Less cost associated with tech purchases like those for 1:1 models

Still interested in possibly implementing BYOD in your classroom? Get started by reading some of my favorite BYOD articles below:

What are your thoughts on BYOD in the classroom? Has your school begun implementing this concept? Why or why not? Leave a comment below, or let’s discuss on twitter @LindseyLipsky

Today’s Teacher

 Guest Blog Post! The following post was written by my amazing friend and collegue, Natasha Fortis.  She just started using Twitter (after much insistance by me): @nfortis1979 . Follow her! 

By Natasha Fortis, M.Ed.

I am what you might call a “Scrooge” during the holiday season. I abhor Christmas, and cringe in late October when the local business and commerce plays their non-stop rotation of “Jingle Bell Rock” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” There is, however, something I look forward to with child-like enchantment, and that is…the 24 hour A Christmas Story marathon on TNT. Truly, this classic is one of the best Christmas movies of all time, and I delight in watching it every year.  It never gets old to me, as it reminds me of a simpler time in our history with its veritable tableau of childhood innocence and traditional American values. As I sat down to partake in my little tradition this Christmas 2014, I noticed something I had never paid attention to before in this film…the classroom.

Set in pre-World War II Indiana, young Ralphie struggles to convince both his teacher and parents that Santa should bring him a Red Ryder Range BB gun. Amidst the hilarity and fuzzy memories that ensue, we are introduced to the 1939 American classroom, where students sit obediently at their desks with hands folded while they listen to the teacher recite multiplication tables. Although historically inaccurate, there are 2 African Americans in Ralphie’s classroom. Racially integrated classrooms did not occur in Indiana until 1949, but I overlook the inaccuracy, and regard it as one of the many charming anachronisms in this film, including the kid in the classroom wearing a Dukes of Hazzard wrist watch. Nevertheless, the students are all sitting in their seats and listening to the teacher, which is something I never experienced in my tenure as a public school teacher.

There are other subtle reminders of America’s elementary education past in the classroom scenes of ACS, including the 4 rows of seats, each having 4 desks in them. If you studied your multiplication tables just like Ralphie’s teacher, Miss Shields says to, you will determine that there are 16 students in this classroom. When was the last time a public school teacher in America had only 16 kids in their class? Today’s typical public school classroom has anywhere from 25 to 30 students, according to the National Education Association website. That’s almost double the amount of students!

There have been more changes to note despite the student to teacher ratio. A teacher’s fears in 1939 might be an essay from a child desiring a BB gun, whereas today, a teacher has to fear the conceivable threat of a real gun, along with its deadly consequences. Classroom violence is at an all-time high in the United States. In the past decade, 10% of urban school teachers reported threats of violence against them by their own students. The news is filled with stories of school shootings. Today’s teacher has much more to fear than a child’s tongue being frozen to a flagpole.

Aside from violence, many teachers fear losing their jobs as tenure in many states has been eliminated, and teacher performance and job security is based largely on student assessment scores. Maybe this wouldn’t be such a daunting task if we all had classrooms like Ralphie’s. Miss Shields also knows she has the support of her students’ parents. Their defiance both in and out of school is not overlooked, as Ralphie learns when his mouth is literally cleaned out with soap by his mother after uttering a bad word. Sadly, today’s high cost of living has parents, both single and in the traditional marriage unit, working multiple jobs to make ends meet. They count on their kids’ teachers to keep them fed, warm, and safe during school hours. Hopefully, the kids learn a thing or 2 in the process.

Today’s teacher is not only heroic for all of the aforementioned reasons, but also incredibly underpaid, unappreciated and misunderstood. The role of a teacher has come to include manager, entrepreneur, artist, babysitter, disciplinarian, school nurse, social worker, psychologist, police officer, janitor, and so many more. I fear for this country at times, as we do not value the sacrifice teachers make for the love of their jobs. Looking back at the classroom of yesteryears, I only hope we can become that way again.  I strongly feel our country’s prosperity depends on it. Perhaps it isn’t too naïve to think this could be possible, but, alas, in the words of Neal Young, “I’m a dreaming man, yes, that’s my problem”. However, who knows? If Ralphie’s glasses can come back into fashion, then maybe we can resurrect the old classroom to come back as well.


Natasha Fortis is a former Language Arts teacher and professor. She began her education career as a high school English teacher, but completed her post-secondary licensure in both elementary and secondary Language Arts. Upon completing her Master’s degree in English as a Second Language, Natasha worked as a Title One Reading Specialist in Douglas County Public Schools near Denver, Colorado. She has also taught Writing Fundamentals at Red Rocks Community College. After 10 years actively teaching in various milieus, Natasha now works as a Program Manager for a nonprofit organization that provides audiobooks to students with print-based disabilities. Her hobbies include air drawing and dancing to no music.  

 #EdTechWish: What Tech Do You Wish for in 2015? 

By Lindsey Lipsky, M.Ed.
This article has been featured on Edutopia with a wonderful post by my friend and amazing PLN Colleague, Rusul Alrubail. Check out the post here.

My brother, Ash, is a computer engineer– which basically means I have absolutely no idea what he does on a day-to day-basis. I do know, however, that he works for a “User Experience Design & Engineering Consultancy” based in Chicago which was recently named one of Inc. 500’s Fastest Growing Companies (fancy!)

Not that I like to brag or anything, but my brother is smart. Like really smart. He designs and creates and prototypes all kinds of technology; Tom Cruise in Minority Report kind of technology.

One night over a wonderful Sushi Dinner, my brother and I were discussing what he does.   After much technical jargon talk (on his part, of course) we got around to the subject of Educational Technology.My question for him was simple: Why does it seem like new technology keeps coming out that “accidentally” works well in the classroom? Shouldn’t Tech Developers (such as yourself) be reaching out to Schools/ Teachers/ Districts FIRST to create and design tech rather than the other way around?

His response? Show us the Benjamins.  (OK, he didn’t really say that, but that would’ve been amazing if he had!) His response was really that there is not much funding in EdTech due to the high costs associated with developing new products around classrooms; often expenses that are too high for many schools/districts to bear.

That got me thinking– What would happen if we went a back way into helping propel new EdTech design with teachers in mind. What if we started by asking a large number of people (educators mostly) what type of tech or design needs they saw in the classroom? Rather than having large Tech giants start projects that just so happen to work well for our classrooms, why not start by asking what educators want first? This idea sparked a hashtag and subsequent chat on Twitter: #EdTechWish and #EdTech2015

See first Tweets below:


We got an amazing response from educators all over the country discussing their EdTech ideas, needs and problems they needed help solving when facing implementation of good tech in the classroom.

Read the initial Storify and conversation on #EdTechWish here, as well as the #EdTechWish Chat during a week-long #SlowChatEd January discussion.

Also, feel free to keep the #EdTechWish hashtag going by answering this question on Twitter: What tech do you wish for in your classroom for 2015?