Edutopia’s Best Education Posts of 2013

Looking back on 2013, Edutopia has had a fantastic year. With more than 650 blog posts, 6700 comments and thousands of daily interactions with educators on our social media channels, we’re thrilled to be connecting with so many talented and hard-working teachers, administrators, parents and students.

To close out the year, we asked one of our newer bloggers, Vicki Davis, for her roundup of our ten most trafficked posts — some of which were written in previous years — and why they’re still resonating with educators.

Looking at the ten blog posts that really grabbed our attention 2013, I’m struck by how many of these are timeless topics for teachers. It’s obvious that teachers, rather than being told what to do, prefer clear examples of how it’s being done successfully today. Every one of these posts revolves around big-picture concepts with specific how-to’s. (It is also clear that teachers love lists!)

1. 6 Scaffolding Strategies to Use with Your Students by Rebecca Alber

This article starts with a straightforward explanation of scaffolding versus differentiating (they aren’t the same thing), and then goes into six scaffolding strategies:

  1. Show and tell
  2. Tap into prior knowledge
  3. Give time to talk
  4. Pre-teach vocabulary
  5. Use visual aids
  6. Pause, ask questions, pause, review

Each scaffolding strategy includes examples, which is probably why this one post has more than a thousand tweets and Pinterest pins.

2. Teach with Your iPhone: Apps to Use in the Classroom by Monica Burns

It is astounding that this post, written in June, came in at #2. BYOD, iPhones, iPads and tablets of all kinds are being implemented in schools everywhere. With Apple’s “education store” not being vetted by educators, many are struggling to find good apps for classroom use. Starting with a Common Core tracking app, and moving through a variety of apps that help you with classroom management or finding books, we learn that there are apps for everything in the classroom. Perhaps the most helpful thing about this post is that it relates the apps to the principles and research, something educators are hungering for.

3. Doing it Differently: Tips for Teaching Vocabulary by Rebecca Alber

This older post tackles a timeless subject: building your students’ vocabulary while still finding time for everything else. Rebecca uses Isabel Beck’s way of categorizing word types to help you focus on which words are most important (because not all words are equally important). Then she uses Robert Marzano’s six steps for vocabulary instruction and helps teachers see what this looks like. The comments section is rich with examples and ideas from other teachers, including language teachers.

4. Say What? 5 Ways to Get Students to Listen by Rebecca Alber

In a time when we’re being told that, as teachers, we should no longer be the sage on the stage, there are still “NAM” times when we “need a minute” from students to convey information, discuss the plan for the day, or promote discussion. If students are talking or inattentive, it’s a problem for everyone. These tips work, and I find tip #1 and the practice of praising listening by using motivating words to be very important in my classroom. Share this post with all teachers, especially those who are struggling. It has thousands of tweets, pins and shares, and also some interesting discussions.

5. Kids Speak Out on Student Engagement by Heather Wolpert-Gawron

Heather poses questions to her middle schoolers about what really engages them, and separates their answers into ten categories. Authentic learning enhanced by technology, a passionate teacher, and project-based learning are all themes from her students. I particularly love this quote:

I, myself, find a deeper connection when I’m able to see what I’m learning about eye-to-eye. It’s more memorable and interesting to see all the contours and details of it all. To be able to understand and connect with the moment is what will make students three times more enthusiastic about learning beyond the black and white of the Times New Roman text.

6. 20 Ideas for Engaging Projects by Suzie Boss

Project-based learning expert Suzie Boss shares old and new projects and how they’ve been reinvented. (Did you know that Flat Stanley has an app?) These ideas would make a great discussion-starter in any school, which is perhaps why this post is becoming a perennial favorite for Edutopia readers.

7. 8 Tips and Tricks to Redesign Your Classroom by David Bill

In this video-enhanced series posted in August 2013, David works with a teacher as they document the classroom transformation. Tips for classroom redesign include involving students, getting ideas from Pinterest, and having students identify “pain points” or unpleasant parts of the current design — all fantastic strategies. Additionally, David goes into the research of classroom design and flow. This, along with the videos, makes it a great series for teachers who are unlikely to have a new building any time soon, and thus need to make the best of the room they have.

8. Top 5 iPad Apps for Teaching Across All Content Areas by Andrew Marcinek

As many schools move to 1:1 iPad environments, they’re looking for all-purpose apps that can be used in any class. Some of these recommendations may be a bit controversial (Notability over Evernote, for instance), and others give us even more reasons to use the apps (Haiku Deck now has a web version that rocks.) App sharing and vetting will continue to be an area that I predict will be of interest to educators as these helpful (but sometimes distracting) tools are integrated into how we teach.

9. 5 Quick Classroom Management Tips for Novice Teachers by Rebecca Alber

Many new teachers find it hard acclimating to the realities of the classroom. As a teacher of more than 12 years myself, I’ll share this post with novice teachers — not to be preachy, but to be helpful and save the tears and struggles that come in the first year(s) of teaching. While some lessons are best learned yourself, reading such wisdom in a blog post can shorten your struggles.

10. Bell Ringer Exercises by Todd Finley

In this newer post, Todd shares great ways to start class, including journaling, lateral thinking, and even more pithy recommendations. I’ve found that having an activity students are expecting to do the moment they walk through the door helps the classroom flow into learning, and these are great tips.

Read the entire article by Vicki Davis on Edutopia at

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