3 Teacher Tips Thursday: March 11th Edition

This week’s 18th edition of 3 Teacher Tips Thursday comes from TCDSB secondary teacher and monthly contributor Nick McCowan.

Below are 3 simple yet effective resources broken up into 3 categories:
– Great Ideas
– Online Tools
– Teacher PD

Enjoy 3 Teacher Tips Thursday. Hope you find it resourceful.


One of the biggest conundrums teachers face is how to constructively develop student-voice.  We all have those students who have zero problems sharing ideas and being the thought leaders of the classroom.  Some can’t help but blurt out whatever random thoughts pop into their minds. 

Teacher: Today’s story is about cats… 

15 students at once
I have a cat.  
What kind of cat do you have?  
My cat is orange.  
My cat vomited and my mom was really mad.
My cat’s breath smells like cat food.

While we want to encourage student-voice in the classroom, we must reel in the Ralph Wiggums of the world.  Plus, getting our quiet students excited about vocal contributions to classroom discussion is always a goal.  I’ve found great success in using Podcasts for a variety of topics in many subject areas.  Students hesitate at first but once they hear a few exemplar’s they get really creative with it.  While it remains important to practice oral presentations in large groups, Podcasts are a nice alternative to presenting in front of the class, where one has to physically stand at the front and orate over a powerpoint or prezi; many of our students struggle with this pressure! 

Since so many have their own device, they don’t need fancy audio equipment; only the Voice Memo function on their phones, or a mic on their laptop/tablets or access to the internet.  Anchor by Spotify offers an upload feature for student podcasts so they can show off their hard work to their friends and families. I’ve even had a few students continue with the practice and gain positive notoriety for championing discussions on big topics in their respective communities. 

To keep parents informed, seek permission from the families to post in an open forum by writing a newsletter outlining the assignments reasoning or purpose, or even invite them to be guests on their child’s podcast! Send home a permission form to make sure you are covered; the board’s new version of the media release form is called the Student Identification Consent Form. If you are just collecting the .mp4 or having the file uploaded to your D2L or Google Classroom, these steps are not necessary.

If you teach the wee ones, guided instruction and assistance with the recordings will be needed.  If you are in secondary, the process is easier to encourage and nourish student creativity.  It can foster a heightened sense for ELL learners to find pride in their voice, despite their unfounded insecurities about accents or the need for flawless deliveries of grammar and syntax. Remind those students that if they have an accent, it means they speak more than one language.  “Be proud of your accent, where you come from and who you are!” 

Check out one of my recent students’ Podcast assignment which was a self-assessment and one part of the three components in her ISU for the Grade 11 Leadership course (uploaded with student/family permission).

If you’d like an assignment guideline, reasoning strategy and rubric, access one of my assignment outlines. Feel free to make a copy to add to your teacher toolbox!  



Nearpod is a Game Changer folks!  I like Jam board and all of the other virtual engagement tools that, up until now, have been delivered by educators using separate programs; all requiring multiple tabs and many logins.  Nearpod makes it all available in one place! 

Teachers can use Nearpod to support student learning in a variety of ways. Give students opportunities for interaction and immediate feedback by having them draw on a map or diagram, respond to a poll question, post a note or image to a collaboration board, or take a multiple-choice quiz. Bring the world to your classroom by taking kids on a virtual field trip to a national park or a different country. Help students review key learning concepts by watching videos, reviewing notes, or assist them in taking their own notes. Nearpod lets your students design their own slideshows and teach each other. Incorporate social and emotional learning (SEL) and digital citizenship skills with pre-created lessons on empathy, cyberbullying, or Internet safety. 

Whether students label planets in the solar system, respond to a poll question on climate change, watch a video on how to find the volume of a cylinder, review notes on the different parts of speech, or submit an open-ended response analyzing a primary source, they’re interacting with content in meaningful ways.

Thousands of certified publishers and educator-created lessons are available for use or modification, some for free and others at reasonable prices. Teachers can upload videos, images, audio clips, and PDF files as well as embed multiple-choice quizzes and polls. “Draw Its” (students write directly on a slide), collaboration boards, and open-ended questions provide plenty of variety to liven up presentations. Teachers launch the presentation and monitor progress either from the website or through the app. Using the Nearpod app on their devices, students input a code and their names to access content and submit responses.  

With Nearpod, teachers interact with students and view student responses in real time, enabling students to take ownership of their learning rather than passively viewing a teacher-directed whole-class presentation.

Teachers can control the timing or launch homework sessions in which students move through at their own pace. Either way, it’s easy to see who is and who isn’t viewing the presentation, which helps with classroom management and reinforces appropriate use of technology in the classroom. 

This is my number one online resource recommendation of 2021 thus far. At the behest of my students, who all have said they wished all of their teachers used this, I am delivering my hybrid lessons with Nearpod 3 out of the 5 days a week.  Sign up for free today and check out this phenomenal learning tool!


Over the last few months, my colleague Merle Gonsalvez and I have been developing an education-focused social media outlet called @teachmetoolbox on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.  Give us a follow and share the resources amongst your colleagues and friends!  Our goal is to offer a shared resource platform for educators that enables like-minded individuals to sharpen their skill sets and add valuable methodologies to their professional toolbox.

Recently, our guest contributor, Rachelle Mills, who not only has many magical tricks up her sleeves, but she outlines amazing professional development opportunities for all to join in on and learn from.  In a recent post she offered a glance at The Modern Classrooms Project.

IT’S FREE. Teachers LOVE free. The Modern Classrooms Project is a completely self-paced course that awards a certificate upon completion (educators also love stickers.. AmIright?).  The Modern Classroom Essentials course gives an overview of their learning models and offers members exemplars, templates and other useful resources for multiple disciplines and grade levels.  If you don’t have time to enroll in the full Virtual Membership Program, you can also access the course to check out the resources briefly and then join their Facebook Group to ask questions there. 

The group is open to anyone and is full of experienced educators who share so many incredible ideas.  The self-paced delivery is perfect for current situations.  Seriously… I don’t know about you but the COVID-fatigue is real for me and many of the colleagues I talk with!  I am eagerly awaiting the warmer weather so I can give this course my full attention. Coincidentally, I’ve just made my best purchase and most lucrative investment of 2021: I bought the best raft money could buy. 

I think my “Floatilla” and the warm summer sun on the lake at my cottage will be the perfect place to delve into the Modern Classrooms Project.  Anyone want to join me?  Permission forms will be given out on IG so go follow @teachmetoolbox  😂😎✌🏼





Nicholas McCowan teaches Science, Leadership and Student Success at St. Joan of Arc Academy (TCDSB).

Instagram: @mccowanroad and @teachmetoolbox

Twitter: @NJMcCowan



This edition of 3 Teacher Tips Thursday is brought to you by:
@teachmetoolbox. Educators sharing best practices with fellow educators.

Instagram: @teachmetoolbox


I hope you enjoyed our 18th weekly edition of 3 Teacher Tips Thursday. Got an idea, online tool, or PD opportunity you want to share? Email stefanie.lenzo@tcdsb.org.




One thought on “3 Teacher Tips Thursday: March 11th Edition

Add yours

  1. Thank you.

    Peace, Joy, Hope, Charity, Gratitude, Patience, Gentleness, Respect and Humility,
    Steve De Quintal
    Teacher, St. Mary Catholic Academy, 66 Dufferin Park Ave. Toronto, Ontario M6H-1J6.
    416-393-5528 ext. 84293
    “that they may have life and have it to the full.”
    ***You can always email but a call or a visit will get a quicker response***


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