Focus 2 Achieve

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I blog on Brain-Based Learning, Metacognition, and Social-Emotional Learning. I am the author of "Crush School: Every Student's Guide To Killing It In The Classroom" which is a book that helps students understand how their brain processes information and learns. In the book, I explain why students can learn anything and give strategies on how to learn effectively.

Use This To Help Students Be Independent Learners


A few weeks back, I wrote about the strategy and created a 3 Before Me Poster that helps you teach students be more independent when seeking answers and problem solving. I did not however, provide a printable you can use in your classroom.

Until now...

Click on the image below to go to the download page. I hope it will be helpful in your classroom or school.

You have the power to change lives. Use it often.

Mistakes Are... A Free Poster For You

Happy Monday!

Or Tuesday, depending on when you read this.

I took a screenshot of something I found on Pinterest a while ago and decided to make it into a poster you, I, and the rest of the Universe can print and use in their classroom, office, or spaceship.

The poster is about promoting mistakes as a necessary part of learning. My hope is that all of us can use it to help Build a Culture in which Mistakes Are Expected, Respected, Inspected, and Corrected.

Check it out and click on the link below for a free high quality PDF download.

mistakes are poster 1

I was feeling creative and created the Old School Version below.

mistakes are poster old school

Hope you like and use them.

Download The Mistakes Are... Poster(s).

You have the power to change the world. Use it often.

The User's Manual To Design Thinking Your Teaching (Infographic)

I have a confession to make. I've become obsessed with Design Thinking. It's gotten to the point where I "Design Thinking" everything. How do I Design Thinking my lunch? How do I Design Thinking my classroom phone policy? How do I Design Thinking teaching?

Teaching? Yep. Let's do that.

What I love about Design Thinking is that it's flexible. There are teaching approaches out there that tell us what to do, but it makes more sense for every teacher to teach differently every year, because we each get different students.

Think about it. We don't treat all our friends and family the same. Our interactions with them are largely based on our experience of who they are and what makes them tick. Teaching is the same way. One size fits all approaches do not work.

The challenge is that, in the grand scheme of things, we only know our students for a short time. However, personalization of education is not a fad; it's a thing. So. let's use the Design Thinking Cycle (Empathy, Definition, Ideation, Prototyping, Testing) to improve Teaching, shall we?

Design Thinking Your Teaching

It's important to note that when designing and implementing the new lesson etc., you can go back and forth and jump around any and all of the 5 design thinking spaces as needed. And, the product is never truly finished. It can always be improved. Kind of like teaching.

You have the power to change the world. Use it often.

How To Empower Your Students' Learning TODAY (Infographic)

Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.
— William Butler Yeats

I had a conversation with Jim the other day. He was frustrated that his students weren't understanding how to do a chemistry lab. He actually said: We make them too dependent. I think he's right, but perhaps the question we should be asking is:

How do we help our students become independent learners?


What can we, the teachers do to empower them to learn independently TODAY?

3 Before Me

I recently chatted with a couple of teacher tweeps @MitchIsFair and @WilsonAtOCDSB who use a version of the 3 Before Me strategy in their classrooms. After many threats and much arm twisting, they gave me the thumbs up to steal and put my own twist on what they do. And though the strategy has been around, I am forever grateful for all the learning and growth I experience as a result of my PLN. You guys rock!

The basic idea of 3 Before Me is to empower students to seek answers to questions and solutions to problems in three independent ways before asking the teacher. As it is impossible for students to put us in their backpacks or even contact us 24/7, it is our duty to help them become independent learners capable of learning on their own.

So, from now on whenever my students are learning, I'll promote inquiry and independence by asking them to seek their own answers and solutions. I'll ask them to collaborate with their own Crew first. If unsuccessful, they can spread their wings and seek help from the Crowd, or someone outside their group. Additionally, they'll access the World Wide Web, or the Cyberspace for help before seeking mine.

Check out the infographic below for a visual classroom aid in promoting 3 Before Me and how you can hold students accountable.

3 before me

I know many are tempted to answer email questions late into the night, but for sanity's sake we must say no. Plus, it's gonna be super weird when you hold Jon's or Sean's hand and walk him to his first college class 2-6 years from now. Just sayin'...

You have the power to change the world. Use it often.

BTW: My book Crush School, which contains many learning strategies that empower student independence is currently 25% off if you use the code UD8G3PYX - Get it for $11.95 instead of $15.95 for a limited time here.


Navigating Knowledge With Neurochemicals

Co-written with Teresa Gross | @teresagross625

I like nonsense; it wakes up the brain cells.
— Dr. Seuss

The brain is the power that activates our thinking. When teachers become aware of how the brain processes information, they level up their teaching game. With this understanding, teachers are more likely to change their beliefs about learning and try new, often more effective approaches. But there’s more…

There’s Norepinephrine, Acetylcholine, and Dopamine (NAD). If those sound like some pretty trippy recreational drugs to you, it’s because they are. Well, kind of…

First, NAD is street legal and USADA approved, so you can and should use it with kids to enhance their performance. Second, you don’t need Walter White or Heisenberg to produce NAD in his top secret chemical laundry facility basement lab, because the human brain manufactures Norepinephrine, Acetylcholine, and Dopamine on its own. All you have to do is use your teaching to stimulate this (neuro)chemical production. You do this by being novel, active, and dynamic.

Be Novel

Whatever the topic or the concept is, find something new or cool about it. Wow the kids if possible with novel information, which stimulates norepinephrine release in the brain, in turn increasing student interest, alertness, attention, and memory formation. Their minds are nourished, nimble, and nifty!

Be Active

Show them you care! Walk around and interact with your students as they are learning. Ask them questions and comment on their product. Being actively involved will stimulate acetylcholine release in the brain, which is a neuromodulator responsible for better focus and motivation. Students are more attentive, their minds more able, and as a result they assimilate knowledge more effectively.

Be Dynamic

Make it fun! Change your tone of voice, be animated while discussing concepts, smile, joke, and have fun teaching. If that’s not your style, fake it till you make it. Dynamic teaching stimulates dopamine release, which helps with motivation, persistence, and memory formation. Dazzle your students, so they can be more disciplined and driven to succeed.

Have Fun aka Summary

Teaching and learning can be fun. And why shouldn’t they be? The neat thing about NAD is that when you talk about novel things, are actively involved, and teach dynamically, Norepinephrine, Acetylcholine, and Dopamine are released in your brain as well. You literally feel excited, focused, and happy!

Check out this amazing NAD Sketchnote by Teresa Gross that summarizes the post visually.

NAD Sketchnote.jpeg

So don’t get mad. Use NAD and your students will be glad. Is that so bad?

You have the power to change the world. Use it often.