3 Teacher Tips Thursday: April 22nd Edition

This week’s 23rd edition of 3 Teacher Tips Thursday comes from TCDSB Catholic teacher Nicholas McCowan (monthly contributor).

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.


The sedentary lifestyle we are all facing as a result of the pandemic has been difficult to navigate.  Does anyone else feel like they’re looking over their shoulder when they go for walks?  Am I doing something illegal?  I swear that squirrel just judged me for being 20 feet away from it… I’ll just put on my mask so it doesn’t go nuts…

For the athlete’s and those that engrain sport and activity into their daily routines, Lockdown “283” is extra torturous.  No matter your routine or interests, it’s been challenging; finding the positives remains key in protecting our health and sanity.  

Our staff wanted to keep our clubs and athletes involved as a collective. As most schools do, we host yearly Athletic Banquets or Club Banquets to celebrate with the students and teachers who committed their time and energy to applaud the leadership learned, the successes memorialized and the failures honoured. 

We sought an outside-the-box solution and it was overwhelmingly successful.  All the teacher-leads for clubs and all the coaches searched through the old photographs and found pictures of themselves playing sports or being in clubs when they were small children.  We converted them to digital formats (some were even black and white polaroids!).  We uploaded them to Kahoot! and had a giant round of “New Teacher Who Dis?” Students had to guess who each child athlete or who each chess club champion was!  With over 200  students participating, it was really uplifting. 

Yes.  This is me.  The “Drew Doughty” of Scarborough’s Cedar Hill Rebels.  

The much needed morale boost that it provided brought students out of their shells.  Hooting and hollering laughter, and a live chat delivered Student Voice.  Teachers (un)willingly shared glory stories of the good ol’ days and the students were made to bear witness to the reality that is; the story of childhood doesn’t change much as time marches on.  

Special shout out to our late colleague, friend, and St. Joan of Arc Academy legend Mr. Cord Clemens. We lost a real one, but his memory will always live on in our community.  ⛳️🏌🏻‍♂️

Even if you and your staff are unable to host a Virtual Banquet, you can use Quizizz or Kahoot!, or even Google Forms, to generate a “Fun Friday Homework Assignment” to email or post on your platforms for your students or entire school community.  Our Social Committee did this last year for the end of the year Virtual Staff meeting and it was a riot.  The takeaway is simple: we all could use something fun to raise spirits. 


I am constantly impressed by the creative ways the educational community continues to generate thought provoking and unique learning opportunities for our students.  The sheer volume of new resources is so incredible that it’s hard to sort through everything effectively.  I have considered Sir Ken Robinson’s words greatly over the past few weeks as I’ve found many students living anaesthetized lives.  All of the sensory perceptions, Gardner’s multiple intelligences, these are all being streamlined into one learning model by the current governing body of Ontario.  As teachers, we continue to fight for the value that such constructs remove from the learning.   It is apparent that many still strive to brilliantly offer this to their students.  To those that have been weighed down by it all, many new resources make it simple and effective.  And it’s worth doing this to motivate your students.

Tell me you can’t smell a picture.  I dare you!

Apple created a series of tools for their products.  I reviewed the Everyone Can Create app in a previous 3 Teacher Tips article and have been advancing my own learning in using it to generate more aesthetic learning experiences for my students.  Click on the link to see a .pdf of the Everyone Can Create workbook they designed for the workshop.

If you sign up as an Apple Teacher, multiple formats of the workbook can be downloaded for students to work with.  It offers 50 pages of content to generate a students story.  What that story is, can be redesigned to fit the specific unit you’re delivering, or it can be left to the student to decide.  I’ve always found that giving 3-5 topics and then yielding the option one-to-one conference if students wishes to explore another topic, works very well.  Really though, the option to use this in a “My Journey” setting and let student creativity fly would automatically increases engagement.  After all, a student’s favourite topic is usually themselves.  This resource is another student engagement tool that is easy for them to use and navigate.

Coinciding with this, is a series of 30 Creative Activities.  Each of these activities takes very little time to perform so building them into your virtual lessons, not only motivates students with experiential learning sessions but it breaks up the monotony of reading, writing, and teaching from a slideshow.  From personifying an object, to slow mo videos of pillow towers falling, these activities cleverly build in STEAM-based learning opportunities that awaken student senses.  Try a few or give the entire workbook a whirl.  

Watch your student’s motivation to learn, reach new heights.

Using Digital Resources

Even though most educators have focused on sheer survival, with the tumultuous changes that we’ve all juggled recently, many of us have seen the lethargic responses from our students as the aesthetic learning experience gets removed from day-to-day learning.  And it’s not for the lack of trying either, because, as I outline in the Online Tools section, the creative genius of educators is astounding.  The ever-growing list of new resources is overwhelmingly impressive.  You’re all amazing!  

I was tempted to simply offer “That’s it. That’s the PD” but Sir Ken Robinson merits more deliberation and discussion.  Now whether this is the first time seeing these concepts come to life or whether you’re rewatching it for the 2nd, 3rd or 4th time, it always offers an eye-opening realization about the very nature of learning.  Our use of the senses creates lifelong learning.  Watch here.

But, the impact that “wonder” has on learning has been inhibited by the power of search engines and their ability to give students the answer.  Immediately. In a video. In text format.  Outlined in an infographic.  Witnessed through Dr. Khan’s YouTube lessons (I just reread that in his voice and saw those crosshairs spelling it out). The answer can be songified and then Spotify’d!!    

Using their tools like “What are you wondering?” or “Explore Wonders” can offer teachers a virtual outlet to share with their students in a multitude of ways.  These make fantastic writing prompts, hook activities for science lessons, STEAM-based engagements that yield the so satisfying “Whoooooaaaaa Coooooolllllll!” from our students.  There are thousands of options.  There are also a number of answers to all of those questions our primary students tend to ask us like: “Mr. McCowan what’s a Bath Bomb?  Is it dangerous?  My mom said she’s gonna bath bomb my bathtub!” Not surprisingly, I still get such questions in secondary as well. 


Wonderopolis also offers Virtual Camps for your own kids to engage in during weekends or summer holidays.  There are many different ones to choose from.  They are interactive, STEAM-based and literacy-focused; all boosted by Maker Experiments.  

A more costly option but one that has its students/campers doing incredible tasks like building their own Super Mario .gifs and learning the basics of coding; these can be found at The Cube School: https://thecubeschool.ca/mission
These are only a few of the examples of outlets that provoke student creativity.  Obviously, they still have their drawbacks when compared to true aesthetic and experiential learning opportunities but, they do foster that sense of wonder.  After all, it was in these moments for us in our own early education, that helped pave the way for our vocational journeys as educators.  

Teacher: Nicholas McCowan at St. Joan of Arc Academy

Subjects: Science, Leadership and Student Success

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 23rd 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: April 22nd Edition

Add yours

  1. Great work, thank you for sharing!

    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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