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Just Ask Us: Kids Speak Out on Student Engagement

In 2012, I conducted an informal survey of my 210 students about what engaged them as learners.  Their results boiled down to 10 researched-based strategies.  Cut to 2015, and I began asking myself what would happen if I expanded that survey nationwide? This new book shares the results of that nationwide poll of 6th-12th graders. It turns out, that the students who responded backed up the results from that earlier poll.  The students across the country represent clients of every school model, from traditional public schools to charter schools, from private schools to some from a homeschooled model, from rural schools to urban ones; and they all agree on the same strategies.  These requests became the focus of the chapters of the book.  Just Ask Us is full of quotes from the students themselves, research from those in academic circles, videos into classrooms to see each strategy in action, and lessons from across the subject areas for you to try yourself.  The companion website will also include a downloadable survey for your own students so that you start on a journey to be the engaging teacher that you can be.  Pre-order now!

Just Ask Us: Kids Speak Out on Student Engagement


It takes awhile to get good enough at the science of teaching to then decide what you really love about it. For me, it’s curriculum design. I love telling a story through the lessons I design. I love developing units that really connect with kids, that incorporate the world around them, even leveraging pop culture, and often including advocacy.  I love developing units that really help them learn to communicate and that really help them communicate any content area.  From superheroes to Rube Goldberg Machines, I love developing units that speak to all student interests. 

Many Saturdays, one can find me at The Chado Tearoom in Pasadena, CA, laptop opened, clicking away, devising some new unit of study to meet the needs of a particular group of students. For me, imagining curriculum is like writing a tale of learning, and I can get lost in it.

Sometimes I write something that makes me laugh out loud, or sometimes I come a across a resource that makes me cry, one that I can see in the hands of students, causing them to feel something, sensing in themselves their own growth, and hopefully instilling in them a desire to share and communicate that resource with others much like I want to share it with them.

DSC_0174When I was a new teacher, I found that many resources that were adopted in the classroom bored me to a different set of tears. I grew frustrated. I’d think: how can I transfer a love of learning of what I’m teaching if I don’t emotionally connect with the material?  
And as a teacher, it slowly made me mad.

Life is storytelling, and I always wondered why our lessons and units couldn’t tell stories as well. Why couldn’t a unit be a vehicle for lessons that have a sense of purpose? Why couldn’t an assessment be more about the journey of learning than the snapshot-one-day-test to see what was learned? 

So soon after I became a teacher, I found myself in my first teashop, surrounded by the required textbooks, and designing units that told stories. Stories about life, stories about achievement, stories about problem and solution.

I had stumbled on a passion for developing units submerged in role-playing, submerged in technology, and submerged in Project Based Learning.

Excerpt from DIY for Project Based Learning

Contact Me

Interested in learning more about 21st Century curriculum design?

Interested in learning more about technology integration, Project-Based Learning, and leveraging student interests in your content area?

Interested in learning more about your tween, their brain, and technology’s role in our students’ lives?

Interested for your staff to learn more about curating, in a useful way, all of the resources that are out there?

Interested in your department or district to learn more about designing and implementing face-to-face and/or blended curriculum?

Contact me for information on custom designed curriculum tailored to meet your student demographic and your needs. I develop face-to-face workshops for districts and school staffs as well as for parents groups. I also develop individually designed webinars for asynchronous and synchronous trainings that can be on-going throughout a school year.

Contact me for options for parent groups, private schools, public schools, or any model in between.