(Spiral Border thanks to Susan See and Construction Signs thanks to Clipartbest.com)

We learn new things constantly (at least I hope that’s true!) and it usually piggy-backs on something we already know. I don’t know about you all, but I get really excited when something clicks; I know I’ll never (hopefully) forget it again. As teachers, that’s the sort of excitement we want for our learners — we want them to be eager to face challenges and “construct” their world knowledge.

Teachers Pay Teachers is a tremendous resource for learning and collaboration. It’s a place where educators can take their lessons to a new level. It’s full of new ideas and approaches. TpT makes it easy (OK, OK, easier, teaching is never easy) to teach deeply, the way you want to, the way you aspire to, the way your students will soak it up like a sponge and sparkle with learning magic.

We recently asked how Teacher-Authors are sharing their knowledge with one another and helping kids become great learners.

TpT Teacher-Authors: Helping Kids Think for Themselves

Roots and Wings: Helping Kids Think for Themselves

  • Roots and Wings says, “I believe in teaching kids how to think rather than what to think. There is no way we can teach children everything they must know to become productive citizens, but we can teach them how to be problem solvers and critical thinkers. I am always amazed at what kids can do when given the opportunity to think critically through an inquiry approach of teaching writing.” Consider checking out her Writer’s Workshop resources for elementary.

The Teacher Studio: Helping Kids Think for Themselves

  • Meg from The Teacher Studio raves, “A ‘Constructivist’ approach to teaching is a passion of mine. Part of the art of teaching is knowing how to ask the right questions and put students in situations to discover learning on their own. Whether by creating their own algorithms in math to deepen understanding or debating about a tricky math concept, I believe teachers need to be deliberate in their planning so we aren’t the deliverers of content, but the ones who carefully design learning so that students can put the pieces together for themselves. I have blogged extensively about how I use concept sorts in my classroom to build understanding and did an entire month’s worth of blog posts on teaching fractions in a constructivist way. Not only do students develop REAL understanding that goes deeper than just filling in answers on a worksheet, but they can APPLY their learning in new ways.” Working on fractions? Here’s the link to The Teacher Studio’s Concept Sorts.
  • SamizdatMath: Helping Kids Think for ThemselvesSamizdatMath blogs about a teacher he used to coach and how she “taught an old dog a new trick” with hundreds charts when, instead of giving her students a rule to follow, she had the children create a visual pattern on their own, and then describe their “rule” to another child. He suggests, “There is considerable evidence that facility with numbers comes from the ability to develop narrative facility, particularly when it comes to switching perspective between different characters in a story. If we extrapolate this idea, then developing mathematical thinking comes from continually switching perspective between not only characters in a story, but problems that have been posed to you. That is, we refine our mathematical thinking both by posing problems to others, and by attempting to interpret the problems that have been posed to us.” Try his Can You Build This? activity for a similar spin.

TpT Teacher-Authors: Creating Safe Places to Explore

  • Evil Math Wizard Room: Helping Kids Think for ThemselvesEvil Math Wizard isn’t so evil after all. About her kids and classroom she says, “I know that each of my students learn in different ways. So I divided up my classroom into four ‘zones for learning’ — silent zone, play station, imagination station, and the collaboration station. Throughout the week they move through the stations and I have different learning activities in each. For example, if we are learning about area, in the imagination station they would figure out how many sleeping bags would fit in our classroom for a slumber party. It’s working really well as students can move from station to station however they want, I have minimal classroom management issues and it helps them prepare for their futures by giving them choices to prioritize when and how to get things done.” See how many kids could fit in a classroom sleep-over in your room and read more about Evil Math Wizard’s classroom stations in her blog.
  • Kelly Serrano: Helping Kids Think for ThemselvesKelly Serrano tells her kids, “I am a facilitator of learning rather than a giver of information.” She’s a dual language teacher and suggests, “The truth is, teaching children to be independent thinkers, and to really have a thirst for knowledge is not an easy task. Some children come to the classroom with intrinsic motivation, others (many of them), you have to find what ignites — what makes them want to learn. Since I teach in a dual language classroom, finding resources can be really tricky, but I really believe in collaborative work where each child is held accountable for his/her work, yet is supported through the entire process.” Read more about Kelly’s unique challenges in her blog and find Spanish immersion resources in her TpT store.
  • Room 213: Helping Kids Think for ThemselvesRoom 213 created a virtual safe space using Google Drive “I love to use an inquiry approach as much as I can, and want students to know that asking good questions is just as important as finding an answer. My students did a presentation and got lots of formative feedback on how they looked at the text. Next, I had them start a new project on Google Drive. Each group is collaborating to write one paragraph that will eventually become part of a ‘physical essay’ we will construct together. The physical essay is an exercise I use to activate all of their learning styles in the hopes that they will better remember all of the elements of a good essay.”
  • Jan Ogino helps train the staff at her school in creating safe learning environments, “I lead students to focus every day on critical thinking and problem solving. Additionally, I train the staff at my school on how to elicit thinking in their students, every day in every subject, by creating an environment where critical thinking can occur because mistakes and failure are accepted and necessary to learn for the long term. Although in many cases, the right answer is important, but it is more important how they came to the right conclusion. Wrong conclusions are important in understanding how we think and how to correct our thinking.” Try her Kids Invent unit and see what your students come up with!

More Resources That Inspire Students to Think Deeply

  • Erin Holleran: Helping Kids Think for ThemselvesSometimes the most “constructive” resources aren’t directly for the kids, but instead for the teacher. Erin Holleran says, “I want my children to learn because they WANT to, so I do everything in my power to make learning engaging and hands on. I try to find topics that interest them, and meet standards using activities that are related to those topics. It means more work for me, because I rarely get to use the same materials two years in a row, but my students are curious and they want to participate in class, and that makes it worth it to me! I use the project approach to make sure that my students are able to engage in in-depth studies of the things that interest them the most. I supplement their investigation with planned lessons to make sure that their education is comprehensive and developmentally appropriate. I know that they are learning when they are able to use new vocabulary to discuss the work that they have been doing, and when they are able to describe new concepts to each other or to their parents. I keep track of these conversations and use photographs of their participation in investigations to document the learning that is occurring. One of my favorite tools to help me keep track of all of this information is my Project Work Planner.”
  • TheRoomMom: Helping Kids Think for ThemselvesResearch papers can be daunting, particularly teaching the art of researching. TheRoomMom’s thoughts: “Each year, I approach my 4th grade non-fiction unit with equal parts excitement and dread. I’m excited because along with my students, I always learn something new about an American business founder. I dread the unit because it involves a research paper, and it takes all of my teacher super powers not to jam a child into his locker when he looks up at me and says, ‘I’ve read EVERYTHING and there is no information about Henry Ford.'” She’s found a solution however, which is: “Students create open-ended questions related to their research topic and search for answers to the questions when reading informational texts. Essentially, the open-ended questions are sub-topics. This system focuses a student’s reading, so they know what they should try to find when reading.” Find the link to her Informational Text American Business Unit Research Essay here and her blog post about research folders here.
  • Leah MG Abatiell: Helping Kids Think for ThemselvesSometimes it’s a state of mind — Leah MG Abatiell says, “I work so hard on NOT giving the answers to kiddos! One of the harder, yet most rewarding units I do (which occurs later in the year) is researching our state (Vermont). I needed to create a product that guide kiddos without feeding them the information. The result is thoughtful research and creation of a state bulletin board displaying state symbols and research… this product works for any state.” Here’s the link to her This Land is Your Land research project.
  • Or check out love2learn2day’s Design a Cube City resource. She says it, “allows students to construct and apply knowledge of volume while designing their own cube cities. When we began the project, they immediately made connections between a favorite video game and the volume drawings required in this creative activity. After assigning the project, students asked for the link to print off more dot paper at home so they could continue to design buildings. Their interest level remains off-the-charts!”


The best part of my job is getting to read all of the amazing blog posts and informed/thoughtful opinions of our talented TpT Teacher-Authors. I hope you found something of value here — please be sure to check out more fantastic resources being “constructed” every day!

Special thanks to Meg from The Teacher Studio for the idea behind this post. Do you have a fantastic theme for a TpT blog post? Submit it to blog@TeachersPayTeachers.com.