5 Ways to Flip Your Classroom

Hip Hughes on episode 155 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

History teacher Keith “Hip” Hughes has a massive following on his YouTube channel.Today, he shares his technique for flipping the classroom in engaging, powerful ways.

Today’s Sponsor: Edpuzzle is my new favorite flipped classroom tool. You can take your videos or those from YouTube and:

  • Clip the video
  • Record your own voice over
  • Pause the video and add your voice just in certain spots
  • Add comments, multiple choice or open-ended questions.

And if you click www.coolcatteacher.com/edpuzzle, Edpuzzle will give your school access to the 50,000 best lessons from Edpuzzle, organized in folders and ready to be used by teachers. Once click and you have everything you need for the year!

Listen Now


Below is an enhanced transcript, modified for your reading pleasure. All comments in the shaded green box are my own. For guests and hyperlinks to resources, scroll down.


Enhanced Transcript

Five Ways to Flip Your Classroom

Shownotes: www.coolcatteacher.com/e155
Friday, September 22, 2017

Vicki: So today we’re talking with Keith “Hip” Hughes @hiphughes of www.hiphughes.com and also creator of the “HipHughes History” YouTube channel.

And Keith, today we’re going to talk about “Five Ways to Flip Your Class.”

You should know all about this because you make these awesome videos. So how do we start?

#1 Define the kind of teacher you want to be

Keith: Sure! And first, thanks for having me on the program. It’s so good to talk about a subject that I love so much – the craft of teaching!

So basically, flipping your classroom – and I guess this is the first kind of tip is explaining it.

I always explain to people that I’d rather be called a FOLE than a teacher. A FOLE is a Facilitator Of Learning Experiences, and I think we can all kind of understand that analogy. We want to be “conductors” of our classroom. But I wanted more time for my kids to “compose.”

I have a saying. It’s maybe not the most graceful analogy. “Content consumption without content creation may lead to learning constipation.”

Vicki: Oh wow! (laughs)

Keith: I know, it’s not graceful. But I think it gets the point across. It’s basically shifting that content to the homework piece so you can have kids do more real things in your classroom.

#2 Understand what flipping the classroom is (and isn’t)

Vicki: Absolutely. You talk a little bit about flipping the classroom, but not everybody may understand real clearly what it is. Do you want to give us a simple definition?

Keith: The basic idea is to try to reduce the amount of time you’re talking to kids from the front of the room. I think sometimes we have this illusion that the kids are learning in the space between our mouths and their ears, and I’m not sure how much that might be happening.

So “flipping” is saying, “Let’s have the kids get the content somewhere other than the classroom.” Many times, that could be a reader, but many times it could be a really great video that explains a concept that you would normally be explaining in front of the room. You’re probably still going to have to review it. But the idea is to free up time in your class so kids that are working through skill-based activities that might in the past have been done as homework. Now (those) can be doing that in class with your facilitation.

The next step is designing projects and really having kids doing authentic inquiry-based awesome stuff in your classroom, using the content.

So that’s the basic idea of flipping your class.

Vicki: Yes! And you know, I do this. I have to do the in-flip, which means I do the videos sometimes in class, and use tools like “EdPuzzle” to kind of insert that formative assessment and that sort of thing. But we do want to shift to these authentic projects.

#3: Move to product-based learning

What’s our third way to flip our classroom?

Keith: I think it’s really to think about what you want to do with that time. If you’re going to have – let’s say 50% more time where kids are actively engaged and doing things in your class – I think we can shift to think about not just Project Based Learning but Product Based Learning.

I think it’s so important that our kids have time to use content to create new meaning – not only to achieve curricular goals, but also to start using that to form a sense of their own identity about who they are – not only in the real world, but in the online world.

Vicki: So how would you define Product Based Learning?

Keith: Product, to me, is something that exists after the activity, that can live on and have meaning outside of the classroom.

So many times, I’m a techie guy, so I talk technology but it doesn’t necessarily have to be technology. But I’m thinking about students designing websites, creating their own podcasts, making videos, doing community action projects, collaborating with classes around the world tackling problems. Doing real things that real adults do. But the idea is that we can insert our learning. So all the layers of literacy that go into these projects…

Vicki: I love it. So global audience. And we know that global audience does improve our performance, both as teachers and as students.

#4 Understand how students are interacting with your videos

OK, what’s our fourth, Keith?

Keith: So you mentioned it before, and I’m so glad you did. Using these types of things like EdPuzzle or PlayPosit, where you’re using video. And the partial flip or the in class flip. I’ve done that before. You kow, we haven’t closed that digital divide quite yet. So we have to consider that, as to whether we can do a full flip or not.

But if we are showing videos in the classroom, or you’re assigning them – you want to make sure that you’re the one that’s holding the flashlight on that video.

We can talk about what makes a great video, making sure they’re engaging, hitting your objectives. But using EdPuzzle or PlayPosit, I can pause that video, insert that exam question or reflective thought idea, or send them to a website, or give differentiation by offering a different resource.

  • Edpuzzle is a sponsor of this episode. Our sponsors have no impact on the content of the show. However, if you want to sign up for Edpuzzle, use this link as it will give your school access to the 50,000 curated video library on Edpuzzle. (Something you can get by using this link they gave for my listeners and readers.)

But I also can track that data. I can use that information to gauge how I’m using videos in the classroom. And believe it or not, some kids will do it because they know you’re watching.

Vicki: Yeah. And I love it because I can insert my voice. It will pause the video. I can insert my voice! So I don’t have to remake everything. And that’s been such a relief for me, letting them hear my voice but I don’t have to remake it all.

#5 Create content that is exciting

OK, what’s our fifth?

Keith: So I want to talk about content creation, because sometimes – and I think it depends on our personality and our time that we have in the classroom – you know, we want to “be the face” for those kids. Human relationships are so important in our classroom. If we can carry that over, and if we have the time and the enthusiasm to do it – WHY. NOT.

So, you know, I would say, “Jump in!”

That’s my tip. Don’t worry about detail. Don’t worry about how to do it. Just film yourself. Talk to that camera like you have your kids’ attention and no one’s going to interrupt you.

Flipped classroom mistakes

Vicki: OK. What do you think the biggest mistake is, Keith, that people make when they start trying to flip their classroom?

Keith: I think it’s their choice of video, to be quite honest. I think if we’re choosing videos – I don’t want to call them textbook videos, but I’m going to call them textbook videos. (These are) videos that are just primarily concerned with the content. They might have a dry voiceover wit very direct literal imagery. I think those videos need to walk in those students’ world a little bit. Not only with the language that we use – it doesn’t mean you have to be a goofball – you can be an academic. But in the visuals we choose, the music we choose, the pace of it? I think voice is really important because it emotes emotion. And I think if you’re comfortable on camera, a face can make a difference as well.

How to make exciting videos that students will want to watch

Vicki: It can! You know, it’s funny! My students like it when I make them laugh. So I try to put unexpected things in there. It makes them watch it, you know?

Keith: Include those mistakes! If you make a little mistake, do a jump cut. The kids will laugh, and I think that laughter is, in a sense, a little magnet of attention. You can draw them back in.

Vicki: Totally. So you’ve been doing this for a while, Keith, and you know a lot about making exciting videos. Of course, we could do a whole other 10-Minute Teacher on videos.

But as we finish up, could you give us a pep talk about how to make exciting video that kids want to watch?

Keith: Sure, and let’s not talk about the technology. You can go watch a different tutorial. I think Number One is – you need to relax. You need to be yourself. Kids can smell authenticity. So don’t try to pretend.

And if you can do it, try to read off of a script. I know that’s difficult for some people. But you’re allowed to make mistakes. And it’s so important to look at that camera, or use your voice to connect with those kids.

And don’t always be so literal. Sometimes some imagery that draws kids in and makes them laugh a little bit is important.

And use different modes of literacy. You know, there’s nothing wrong with a little “Sanford and Son” with a title in the middle of the video– not only to divide concepts, but again, to make them laugh, draw them in.

Vicki: So teachers…

Flipping that classroom – or in-flipping the classroom, where you show the videos in your classroom — is such an important part of my own classroom.

Remember, we have the bricks (which is the face-to-face classroom) and we have the clicks (which is the online classroom). And the best classrooms these days are blended.

So making those videos and flipping that classroom? That’s kind of what so many of us need to be doing today to be remarkable.

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford

Bio as submitted

Keith Hughes is an educator,

YouTuber and innovator in the field of technology and education. A 16 year veteran of the Buffalo Public Schools and adjunct professor at the University of Buffalo, he has spent his career engaging students as well as fellow educators.

As the producer of HipHughes History, he was recognized in 2012 by YouTube and Khan Academy with a YouTube Edu Guru Award. Keith has also appeared on the History Channel’s United Stuff of America and AHC’s America’s Most Badass.

Currently, Keith is employed as an Instruction Technology Coach by the Buffalo Public Schools and engages with other educators and schools across the world through professional development presentations.


Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.)

The post 5 Ways to Flip Your Classroom appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!


Not “Just” a Teacher: Finding Your Voice as a Teacher

Brianna Hodges on episode 154 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Do you ever feel like you’re “just” a teacher? Do you feel like that person up on the stage never could be you? But you have a passion. You have a fire and a message – but what do you do with it? Brianna Hodges shares her journey from small-town teacher to the stage, state legislature, and nation’s capital. As she transparently shares her story, I believe that thousands of educators will also find the encouragement to speak up and speak out.

For, dear teachers, there is no such thing as “just” a teacher. You have a voice. Your words are important. And we need hundreds of thousands of passionate educators to help make this world a better place for our students.

So, don’t just sit there – get up and get started. Find your voice!

Today’s Sponsor: Edpuzzle is my new favorite flipped classroom tool. You can take your videos or those from YouTube and:

  • Clip the video
  • Record your own voice over
  • Pause the video and add your voice just in certain spots
  • Add comments, multiple choice or open ended questions.

And if you click www.coolcatteacher.com/edpuzzle, Edpuzzle will give your school access to the 50,000 best lessons from Edpuzzle, organized in folders and ready to be used by teachers. Once click and you have everything you need for the year!

Listen Now


Below is an enhanced transcript, modified for your reading pleasure. All comments in the shaded green box are my own. For guests and hyperlinks to resources, scroll down.


Enhanced Transcript

Not “Just” a Teacher: Finding Your Voice as a Teacher

Shownotes: www.coolcatteacher.com/e154
Thursday, September 21, 2017

Brianna’s story begins: from winning an award to the state legislature

Vicki: Today we’re thinking about finding our voice, but helping our students find their voice, and also finding our voice as educators. We have somebody uniquely qualified. We have Brianna Hodges @edutechtastic. She’s the 2017 Texas Instructional Technologist of the Year.

One day, Bri, you woke up and you were getting ready to testify in front of, I believe, the Texas State Legislature, right?

Brianna: Hah!!! Yes.

Vicki: And you had a friend who pushed you to help find your voice, and you’ve ended up in D.C., right?

Brianna: I have! I am very honored to serve as one of the two national advisors for Future Ready Schools, representing the Instructional Coach strand. And so, yes, I’ve kind of started very quickly after accepting the award for Instructional Technologist of the Year, then TCEA – as many of our state affiliates has a strong advocacy arm for educational opportunities here in Texas. And so, they reached out to myself and Carl Hooker, another one of our proud Texans, and asked if the two of us would go and testify in front of the Senate, in front of the legislature, on educational technology and Open Education Resources and instructional materials.

And so it’s really interesting. I actually have a background in politics and have worked with a lot of those people in a far different life, but to kind of come back into that area and then kind of have to speak on behalf of your profession, knowing that everything is recorded and that it can be highly contentious. It’s very intimidating, and to be looked at as that authority it was really interesting. I owe Carl a great big thank you for instilling that confidence that you’re asked for a specific reason… and that if you speak the truth in you, you speak it with your passion and your voice, then people want to listen to you and they believe in the ideas if you can paint that picture for them.

“I don’t see myself as ‘that’ person.”

Vicki: Now before you went up, though, he asked you a question. What was it?

Brianna: So Carl is also the godfather of iPad Palooza. Some of you might know about this. He had talked me into serving as one of the mini-keynotes for this learning festival. So iPad Palooza does – in place of having a single headline keynote event at the beginning of the festival – have a series of mini-keynotes. It’s pretty intimidating, honestly, for someone like me to see who all has graced that stage. But he has a way of believing in you and helping you see that could do it too.

So I agreed to it. So he asked me at that point, “OK what are you going to talk about?”

And I told him, “I don’t know. I don’t even know why you want me to do this!’ And I just started laughing because I am from a pretty small town, and I just don’t see myself as that person who gets asked to go and do all of these big (things). I just don’t see myself as that person who has that big name.

You know, he gave me some time. This was in April, and the learning festival, iPad Palooza is not until June, and so he was like, “Well, you’ve got some time. Don’t worry about it.” And we just kind of laughed that off.

Fast forward to a few weeks, and Carl also serves on Future Ready Schools as one of the advisors for the IT strand. So we both found ourselves in D.C. again. He asked again what I was going to speak on, and I said, “I really don’t know.”

He “pushed” me at that point, and he said, “Yes, you do. I asked you for a reason. And yes, you do.”

And I said, “OK, I really don’t know.”

And he said, “What would you tell your kids? What would you tell your teachers? Talk about what it is that you are passionate about.”

And he got me kind of riled up. I’ve known Carl for a number of years. So basically, I said, “OK! Fine. Yes. I would love to talk about how teachers are change agents, and what it means to actually change, and how do we create change. We create that change through using our voice and finding the thing that speaks loudest to us, and then taking that voice and sharing that with others.”

From that, he was really happy to know – and he said, “See, I told you. You knew that you had it in you.”

So fast forward to the actual keynote. Here I was. It’s a very intimidating process. You walk into this auditorium and there are all these video cameras on you. You see who all is going to be up there, and I drew the lucky straw of being the second person.

Anyway, my presentation… I kind of built it around, “What We’re Meant to Be.” We’re meant to be so much more than what we limit ourselves to, based upon our fear.

And so I talked about how, in my current role I spend my days in an instructional coaching role working with teachers. And they are faced with an immense amount of change as we go through this integration of technology, and individualization of learning, and all these different pedagogical changes that are coming rapid fire, it seems like in education.

That’s really unnerving, especially for teachers who have been really competent at what they have always done. Now all of a sudden to have that change come in. And then you take into consideration the amount of social media and just this world wide web, where everything is so connected and your ideas are shared instantly. That’s both a blessing and a curse.

So I really wanted to talk about how these same tactics that we use with our students – to help them understand that they matter – that we have to do the same things with our colleagues, as teachers.

A lot of the time, there’s a lot of influence and attention that’s put on the “school leaders” of principals and superintendents and administration. Sometimes teachers get lost in that, and we forget to value that they’re the ones who are actually changing the lives of so many children day in and day out. They’re the very people that often those kids can come to school for.

So I basically created a mantra that I talked about, how when we are in these situatons when we are asked to become these change agents, often our very first response is, “Well, I’m just a teacher.”

Don’t limit yourself through your fear

Vicki: (agrees)

Brianna: I was just super guilty of that with Carl, you know, and that was the very first thing I told him. “I’m just not good at this.” I found myself saying everything that my students would tell me.

Vicki: (laughs)

Brianna: And I was saying everything that my teachers would tell me. “I’m just not ready. I’m just not sure about it. I’m just a teacher. I’m just a mom. I’m just from a small town.” All of these different things. So after a lot of careful thought, when I was coming up with all of the things that I wanted to say, I decided on this mantra of just what all would we tell people.

My basic idea was that I needed my children – I have two kiddos, a five-year-old and an eight-year old – to be more than “just” a kid. I don’t want their fear to limit them.

I didn’t want my students to limit themselves through their fear.

I don’t want my teachers to limit themselves through their fear.

And so what I do tell them every day is that they are champions for learning. They are a stabilizing force for their students. They are fierce promoters of creativity and curiosity for their content. They are the game changers and the rally makers and the courageous crusaders. They are the spark and the voice and the change that our educational system needs. They are the very model of what our change agent looks like, sounds like, and acts like.

And I basically wrapped it all up by talking about that’s what we are meant to be. If we believe in ourselves and then we share that vision with each other, then that’s how we actually become the true change agents that we are challenged with.

Vicki: Wow. I love that. And there’s so much here. Really what you said stands on its own. But what I love, Bri, is your transparency of realizing that you and your students and your teachers are running along parallel tracks.

I can’t tell you how many incredible teachers I’ve seen at conferences, and I’ve gone up to them after sitting in on their session. I’ve said, “You should be speaking in more places. You should be sharing this story. Please blog. Please tweet. Please share what you’re doing.”

And their (response is), “Well, I’m just a teacher. I’m just not a big deal. I’m not THAT person.”

And they don’t understand that sometimes, we don’t choose the platform. The platform chooses us.

Brianna: (laughs)

Vicki: This is fantastic. I hope you’ll just keep using your voice to help us all find our voices.

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford

Bio as Submitted

Brianna Hodges, Director of Digital Learning, Stephenville Independent School District, Texas
Brianna Hodges is a passionate change agent, mother of two, a true CrAZy One and iCHAMPION Evangelist. She believes that technology enhances learning experiences in every facet of life by allowing for true personalization.

Recognized as the 2017 Texas Instructional Technologist of the Year, Brianna serves as the Director of Digital Learning for Stephenville ISD and is a national advisor for Future Ready Schools and Certified Google Trainer and Flipgrid Ambassador.

Noted for her work in branding and social media, Brianna’s research has been published in several academic journals including the Journal of School Public Relations and the Journal for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications.

She is believes in the power of coaching and inspires teachers and students to find their passions, embrace the challenges that life brings, and utilize their creativity to find ways to go bigger and grow brighter every day.

Catch up with Brianna on social media https://twitter.com/edutechtastic and online http://edutechtastic.com to see how you can help #BEEtheChaNGe!

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.)

The post Not “Just” a Teacher: Finding Your Voice as a Teacher appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

The Storm of Poverty Hits Us All

Why We Must Dare to Care

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

As we follow the changing maps of tropical storms Harvey, Irma, Jose, and now Maria, many of us have been looking at what meteorologists are calling the “cone of possibility.” Before you think that is a good thing – it isn’t. The cone of possibility means it is the area where a hurricane may possibly pass. You don’t want to be there. So, understandably, we get anxious when we see our hometown or our family inside that cone of possibility. We know that’s where lives change, homes are destroyed, and hunger grows.

Cathy Rubin in her Global Search for Education is tackling poverty this month.This article is part of that series.

We get upset and nervous as the storm draws closer. We run to the store. We talk to friends. We might even talk to our neighbors (for a change).


Until we find out that the hurricane is going somewhere else. While we may worry for those being hit by the storm, deep down, the truth be told, we breathe a sigh of relief.

Deep down, we’re glad that it isn’t our family. We’re relieved that it isn’t our neighborhood, because…

Our children won’t go hungry. Our house won’t lose electricity. We’ll be OK. It isn’t us.

Then, we tune into the news, and it looks like just another reality TV show. From the comfort of our homes, we watch the storms blow, while children and families we’ve never met are playing out the worst days of their lives for the world to see. We might offer a prayer, but deep down, we’re glad — glad that it isn’t us.

Feel the Fear

This time, I ask you to try something different. Take the fear that you felt about losing power, losing access to food, losing the ability to get to your job or even drive your car. Try living with the fear that death might touch your family, that you won’t have a safe place to shelter from terrible things happening outside your door.

I know that feeling. I struggled with it as I crouched in my closet while Hurricane Irma blew and I prayed that the leaning pine tree in my front yard wouldn’t take that moment to fall over and crush my house. My sixteen-year-old was sleeping in his closet. We wanted him safe, but even so, we weren’t sure that he would be. There are no guarantees when the storm hits. This time, it could be us.

So yes, take that fear and really feel it. Because, friends, we’re not overreacting when we get all worked up about a storm. Horrific weather events like this kill, cause hunger, and deprive people of basic necessities. We have telethons and raise money. And we should. These storms are horrible.

It Is Our House!

Daniel Simmons, an African-American pastor in the nearby town of Albany, Georgia, leads a congregation in one of the poorest cities in America. He told a similar story this past week, pointed a finger at us, and said:

“We won’t be able to make this place a better place until we realize that our neighbor’s house is our house. It is our house!”

And this, my friends, is poverty. We get upset by a storm because storms don’t play favorites. Old, young, rich, poor — all can be harmed by a storm. All become similar in their want and poverty. When the storm comes, we all suffer.

But this is the problem we have today in America and around the world: We refuse to claim our neighbor’s house as our own.

Sure, a crying two-year-old is found wandering down the street at night in Albany, Georgia. But it isn’t our child. (This happened just this week.) Sure, kids are hungry, but it isn’t our child. Kids don’t come to school because they lay awake last night scared of the gunshots on their street. But it isn’t our street.

Caring, Owning, and Acting

People who don’t care don’t dare.

People who don’t care don’t dare work to raise money for more library books. They don’t dare hold fundraisers to earn money to send kids on a special field trip. They don’t dare fight to feed the hungry in their neighborhood. Somebody needs to do those things, but so many people won’t because they refuse to own the problem. Sure, they’re sorry that someone else has a problem. Sure, they’re sad when they hear about suffering. But the only time that we’ll act is when we care enough to dare do something.

What makes you furious? What makes you angry? What gets you upset?

Until we as human beings can take ownership and realize that the poor in our neighbors are our family, our children, our neighbors — until we can feel that these problems are truly ours, I agree with Pastor Simmons that we likely won’t care enough to actually do something about it.

Poverty Is Within Everyone’s Cone of Possibility

If the hurricanes are doing anything, they’re waking people to the realization that poverty is within anyone’s cone of possibility. And while we can be upset about actual hurricanes blowing in from the Caribbean, we should also be upset that some children live in figurative hurricanes every single day. They live wondering if they’ll keep electricity, if they’ll have food, if their home can keep them safe from the storm that rages in their neighborhood.

I will admit that I haven’t felt the pain and anguish that I should feel for children and families living in poverty. That must change. It will change. I cannot stay the same after tasting the fear of poverty as we considered Irma’s hit on our hometown. I’ve been complacent because I haven’t owned it.

As long as we excuse the tragedy of poverty in our world by saying, “It doesn’t impact me,” we set ourselves up for an even bigger shock on the day that it will impact us.

When enough people in society are hopeless and enough other people in a society are heartless, that society is in danger of a storm for which there is no cone of possibility of escape for anyone within its borders.

We must fight poverty with as much force and frantic pursuit as we prepare for the storms that blow into our lives during this most terrible hurricane season. For truly, the storm of poverty is always with us and destroys lives every day. And we as educators must be part of the shelter and solution.

These are our children. These are our families. This is our neighborhood. And this is our time. We will not be heartless. We will help the hopeless. And we’ll stop sitting in our comfy homes and classrooms patting ourselves on the back because “it isn’t me.”

Poverty anywhere impacts people everywhere — for we have one big home called Planet Earth, and winds from which no one can escape are blowing stronger each year.

May we all awaken to a different level of caring about the problems of our communities, our neighbors, and our world, because we are far more interconnected than any of us can imagine or understand.

So, if I have a call to action for all of you reading this, it is to wake up and realize that many of us might not getting involved because it is someone else. We can’t do that any more. We have to realize these are our schools, our countries, our cities.

When the storm of poverty hits anyone in our community, it hits us all. And we, as educators, must be passionate and purposeful about providing shelter from the storm for the children in its path.

The post The Storm of Poverty Hits Us All appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Integrating the Arts into Every Subject

Catherine Davis-Hayes on episode 153 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

The graphic, performing, and theater arts are powerful allies for math, writing, and every subject you teach. As 2007 State Teacher of the Year in Rhode Island, Catherine Davis-Hayes is passionate about helping every teacher use the arts in their classroom. Today she shares techniques for teaching geometry and writing – but also a remarkable school-wide project.

Today’s Sponsor: Edpuzzle is my new favorite flipped classroom tool. You can take your videos or those from YouTube and:

  • Clip the video
  • Record your own voice over
  • Pause the video and add your voice just in certain spots
  • Add comments, multiple choice or open ended questions.

And if you click www.coolcatteacher.com/edpuzzle, Edpuzzle will give your school access to the 50,000 best lessons from Edpuzzle, organized in folders and ready to be used by teachers. Once click and you have everything you need for the year!

Steve Jobs said in his final Apple keynote introducing the iPad 2,

“It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing.”

This past week, I had students modeling processors, hardware, and software using play-dough. Something so simple ignited their excitement and learning. Catherine’s lesson for us today is worth sharing with curriculum directors, superintendents, principals, and teachers who are serious about improving learning.

Former secretary of education, William Bennett, says,

“An elementary school that treats the arts as the province of a few gifted children, or views them only as recreation and entertainment, is a school that needs an infusion of soul. That arts are an essential element of education, just like reading, writing, and arithmetic.”

 We all need arts in every classroom, in every subject, in what we do as educators. Not only is it fun but it


Retention and makes



Work to integrate arts into your lesson this week. (And I especially love the whole school “star trek” episodes they filmed. That project is FANTASTIC! Some of you will love doing it!)

Listen Now


Below is an enhanced transcript, modified for your reading pleasure. All comments in the shaded green box are my own. For guests and hyperlinks to resources, scroll down.


Enhanced Transcript

Arts in Every Subject: How to Make It Happen

Shownotes: www.coolcatteacher.com/e153
Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Introducing Catherine Davis-Hayes and her philosophy of arts in education

Vicki: So we’re here at the NNSTOY conference (nnstoy.org) and we’re talking with Catherine Davis-Hayes @cdhayes13, 2007 Rhode Island Teacher of the Year.

Now Catherine, you’re really passionate about having the arts in everything in a school. What’s your philosophy of that?

Catherine: Well, I think that any content area is more accessible to students and helps them to really understand that content if it’s used in real-world situations. And so, although I do see the benefit and also obviously the importance of teaching skills and processes and materials in my art room, I feel like the students are going to benefit in a greater way by applying it and actually using it to maybe demonstrate their understanding in other content areas.

So, for example, if there’s a math concept and you can bring in geometry shapes, creating artwork that uses the concepts, fractions, all the time observing proportions, and point out how much math they’re using in art, just by making the art. Not just necessarily make the project about math, but just point out, “Look at all the math you’re using as you’re creating your art.”

Or, exploring areas of social studies with the arts is a very, very easy way. And also, even though I’m a visual art teacher, I have become amazingly aware of the power of the performing arts. So I am not a dancer, and I am not a theater actor at all, but I have seen incredible connections made — through movement art and theater specifically – that have helped kids make connections to other content areas.

How does her school use the arts in everything?

Vicki: So does your school follow this whole philosophy of art in everything?

Catherine: We try. Things come and go over time. Funding comes and goes over time. We have had many of our teachers trained in arts integration. We had an amazing opportunity, going back ten years, to have professional development during the summer for as many of our teachers who were able.

Through a program called SmART Schools (www.smartschoolsnetwork.org), teachers were able to come in and learn how to they could use the arts inside their classrooms. So, it’s not always about the professional arts educator going in to a classroom. We taught really accessible tools that everyday classroom teachers could use in their classroom, and so that would be one level of arts integration and using the arts as a part of their toolkit to teach in the class.

And then, at sort of a deeper, larger scale level you could also team up with an art specialist – a music teacher, art teacher, and in our case we were super lucky to bring in a theater artist in residence – and then really put things on fire.

What is the common mistake people make integrating arts?

Vicki: Do you think there’s a common mistake that many educators have when they think about the arts in schools?

Catherine: I do. I sometimes think that when you mention, “Oh, let’s integrate the arts,” there’s always this vision of the movie or that TV show Fame where…

Vicki: (laughs)

Catherine: … suddenly everyone’s going to, like everything has to be a big huge production, that it means putting on a play or putting on a big production. And I think they get intimidated.

I also think that a lot of teachers don’t understand their own creativity. They assume, “Oh, I can’t draw a straight line, even with a ruler,” you know, that famous saying.

Vicki: (laughs)

Catherine: But they miss how creative they are every day in their classroom, and they miss that even the little things just doodling on a piece of paper, having kids sketch an idea first, getting kids up and moving to demonstrate a math concept.

“Let’s line up by height,” or you know, it doesn’t have to be smaller visual, music, auditory tools that help students connect.

Some easy ways to start with the arts in any classroom

Vicki: So if you could give us an “easy win” or two. You know, you’re talking to teachers of all kinds. “OK, here’s an easy way to integrate arts into your classroom.” What would you give us as an idea?

Catherine: I was reading the book Swimmy by Leo Lionni.

To have the kids really understand the concept of you can be a little piece and change the world… we had the kids get up and move around and act like that collection of little fish that formed the big fish.

Vicki: Oh…

Catherine: So, you know, just getting up out of your seat and mirroring an activity or solving a problem. You can do that in any classroom.

In the visual arts, having students illustrate the pictures of a story before they write it… Sometimes the pictures to tell the story come easier than the words. There are a lot of reluctant writers. If you have younger kids, just say “OK, here are five (places for) pictures. You have to have the beginning, the end, and then three pictures in between that bring you from that beginning to the end.” I don’t know of a kid who couldn’t sketch out a simple story.

And then have them write. And the writing goes deeper, because they’re not writing a story, they’re describing their art. And they can talk about art forever. They can tell you all about their art. Just one picture. But now they have maybe five simple pictures, and their story is going to be rich and descriptive and have all the detail that classroom teachers are hoping that their little writers could have.

Your proudest moments

Vicki: Catherine, describe on of your proudest moments at your school where you’re like, “OK. We’re ‘getting’ this!”

Catherine: (laughs)

So even though I just talked about doing little projects that are accessible, we’ve also done some pretty crazy big things, too.

One year, we did a project that was complete arts integration for grades 3, 4, 5, and 6. The grade level classrooms took on a concept. The whole idea was to support what classroom teachers were doing in their classroom, and the bigger standards and the bigger content areas. Also, (we wanted to) teach about art and design.

asking the classroom teachers, “What is it that you want us to support you?” They might come up with a language arts content area, or a math concept, or a science concept. In this case, we asked teachers to specifically choose math or science because we wanted to do a STEM-to-STEAM arts integration.

So each grade level, each classroom at each grade level, picked a content area. Our theater artist in residence went in and created a planet – a fictional planet based on their concepts.

So for example, we had a third grade class with a Planet of the Shapes, because they were learning shapes in geometry. Another third grade class was Food Chain in the Ocean, and so they created an entire planet that was an ocean-based planet, and all of the interactions between all of the species were based on, “Eat or Be Eaten!” These are third graders.

We had a fourth grade planet that was based on magnetism. They were studying magnets in science.

And all the way up. And meanwhile the sixth graders had a health unit where they had to learn about body systems, how a disease or an issue could attack the body, and what you could do – either medically or the body would do to defeat that health system.

So they wrote episodes for Star Trek, and those sixth graders had to use the other planets on “away missions” to solve their problems.

At the end of the year, we actually filmed three Star Trek episodes where the sixth graders were the Star Fleet. And every piece of their learning could be seen in these episodes.

Vicki: Wow.

Catherine: They’re very low tech, but…

Vicki: Where did you air them? Did you air them on YouTube, or..?

Catherine: I have a blog on WordPress

Vicki: Ohhhhh… so you’ll give us a link? So we can share them! How exciting!

Catherine: They are there. Yeah!

And so the crowning achievement – You asked, “What was the proud moment?”

The proud moment was when I was driving in my car the summer after this had happened, and I was listening to NPR, and they had a physicist from Harvard talking about – a roboticist, I think.

Anyway, so he was talking about designing these little robots that were about the size of a quarter, and how they were designed.

Because when you go to Mars, you can’t bring all the tools that you might need. And they were talking about designing these little robots that – when they’re moving around they look like little spiders, and they can actually interconnect and become larger tools.

In one of our episodes, the Planet of the Shapes, the third graders’… That was what their shapes could do.

Their shapes were these cute little shapes that liked to dance. And then they would “freeze dance,” so when they froze, they would come together and make tools.

And so the Starship went to the Planet of the Shapes because they needed tools to fix their Starship.

Vicki: Wow.

Catherine: And… I’m driving, three months later, hearing that they made robots like this.

You know, they don’t go to Mars yet, but the idea was, “How are you going to solve the problem of bringing more tools than we have the ability to carry on a space mission?”

And my third graders were thinking in terms of, “What can geometric shapes do? They can be put together to make bigger shapes.”

Vicki: Wow. What happened when they found out? Did you tell them?

Catherine: I did. I showed them the podcast when we got back in the fall.

And they were… they were really excited about that, just to think… “You know, the whole idea is that we don’t know what’s going to exist twenty years from now. But you kids actually thought of an idea that Harvard robotics scientists are thinking about now.”

Vicki: And that is what happens when we pull art into everything.

Catherine: And it was student driven. That was the cool thing, was that the students chose the content. They didn’t need a teacher telling them, “You will make a planet about this concept.” They chose the concepts.

Vicki: Awesome.

So we’ve had a Wonderful Classroom Wednesday with Catherine Davis-Hayes. Check the Shownotes for links to these Star Trek episodes. I’m very fascinated to see what those look like.

And just remember, the power of the arts is really that the arts are everywhere.

  • You can read about this project and watch the episodes on Catherine’s Blog: STEAM Trek
  • I’ve embedded videos below.

Catherine: Thank you, Vicki.

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford

Episode 1


Episode 2


Episode 3


Biography as Submitted

Cathy Davis Hayes is an elementary art teacher at Oakland Beach Elementary School in Warwick. When she was recognized as Rhode Island Teacher of the Year, she had been teaching in her position for 11 years. Cathy originally started as a commercial artist, but was motivated to become a teacher after volunteering at the Rhode Island School for the Deaf.

Cathy believes in the power of the arts to help students make connections between ideas from throughout all their areas of study, and she is passionate about enriching her students’ lives every day.

She was central to Oakland Beach Elementary’s classification as a SmART School, where arts are given a heavy focus in the curriculum. Cathy earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration from Rhode Island School of Design and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. She was Rhode Island’s 2007 State Teacher of the Year.

Twitter: @cdhayes13

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.)

The post Integrating the Arts into Every Subject appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!