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Teaching Tips - When You're Hooked on Learning

a WAY Game Card Brian Fishing
Hooked on Learning


I woke up this morning intending to write something else, but I thought the following ideas would be more practical at this time. After all, it's all about sharing the "tricks of the trade." or what SEO likes to call it - Teaching Tips.


A Safe Environment

I had my student's attention through routine and respect. This Time Takes Time! I'm thinking back to Sidney Poitier in the movie 'To Sir With Love' in the closing scene as two rowdy students from next year's class appear at his door - and it begins all over again. That's teaching.

Creating a safe and caring environment in school takes time and needs to be worked on. It begins by learning student names and investing time in listening to your students' stories. Get students used to being involved in class. My class had no hiding; desks were rotated forward each week. There is no one big thing a teacher does that makes a difference but an endless series of little things.


Our class worked as a Team. My job as a learning facilitator and coach was to transform classmates into Teammates. Everyone gets over the wall at their own speed.

[Our 5M 'Team' never played online; the technology was too young.] A silver lining of COVID was to solve my biggest roadblock - teaching students and teachers to communicate online.

Be Fair - Use WAY Cards

One of the first things I did was to have the students fill in their WAY Cards. I used WAY Cards to assign coat hooks and about 12 other applications - the luck of the draw was introduced and always in play.

Sit, get your water bottle out, and place it in student-invented bottle holders. [another small but practical project.] Next, get your CAP Notes out - two students are selected with WAY Cards to be front and center and review yesterday's lesson with the aid of their CAP Notes.

Year-long Icebreaker

Putting students front and centre builds confidence. Playing the WAY Game, Student of the Day, Pathfinder, and Peer Mentoring are all a part of building relationships in class - they run all year, building confidence along the way.

The Day Starts with a CAP Review

Reviewing the day requires students to have in the back of their minds that they should create good CAP Notes for the following reasons - they could be picked to Start the Day Review; CAP Notes act as a daily Report Card and self-reflection tool for students. Students are more likely to listen if they are held accountable with expectations for every lesson. CAP Notes help students draft Questions and Activities for their Game Cards for the WAY Game - my student's favourite activity.

Why WAY?

So why do I think the WAY Game was my students' favourite activity? Let me list 10 ways:

  • There was Mystery and Imagination in each school day.

  • Students became producers and collectors of Game Cards.

  • Students were in charge of the Game.

  • Their efforts counted for grades and prizes.

  • They got to move.

  • Students longed to be the Mystery Kid, a Judge or a Team Captain.

  • Parents came in on Friday afternoons to watch the Game.

  • Social and academic outcomes improved.

  • Students played with and against friends

  • Games are fun!


When I started using SMART WAY ideas and SMART Notebook Software to plan my lessons, I solved several problems, such as improving home and school communication with annual Pathfinder Reports, Weekly Game Cards, Daily CAP Notes and Board Notes.

When I taught, I used an e-board as our class website where daily lessons and other information were posted. All a parent needed to know about our class was posted.

E Board Class Website

Lesson Plans are shared with students and parents online, often featuring student work samples. Over my last five years of teaching, I used e-board; I had about ten thousand visits a year. Students and parents were accessing these online resources often.

I wasn't reinventing the wheel each year; I could build on last year's lesson. Collecting and organizing digital learning resources was easy.

Pages from Mr. McCarthy"s e - Board - Communication is key

Posting Lessons

SMART Notebook Software offers interactivity with students. Once upon a time, my online lessons were posted in PDF; now, teachers can post Notebook lessons and be live and interactive from anywhere - sick, appointments, tournaments, holidays - there are always students away for some reason.

SMART Content Folder

Lesson Templates were created using Templates stored in my Content Folder in Notebook. Creating Daily Lesson Plans improved because I wouldn't be reinventing the wheel.

I collected and used free online Digital learning resources to anchor lessons.

Curriculum Objectives

I organized my curriculum objectives in OneNote. Cut and past objectives from OneNote into Notebook. Your Focus Questions are based on ASK - Attitudes, what you feel, Skills, what you can Do, and Knowledge, what you know.

SMART Technology

I use SMART Notebook Software because it was designed for teachers. Still, more importantly, the software was supported with hardware - our SMART Board, which gives students a big sound so they can hear, a big screen so they can see, and interactivity so they can play.


After recess, we would have a three-minute Meditation. Increasing the oxygen supply to the body and relaxing are best learning Practices. For the most part, students played along. Everyone needs an 'off switch' from time to time.

Project Integration

Our project work was integrated into subjects such as LA for script writing, Math for accounting and set design, PE - puppet practice, computer, creating audiovisuals and so on.

CAP Notes

To start the year, I modelled CAP Notes for each lesson for students; gradually, I wanted students to be able to do CAP Note summaries independently. This requires whole-brain thinking using the logical left hemisphere and creative right hemisphere of the brain. Students were given five minutes at the end of each lesson to summarize the lesson on CAP Notes, sometimes alone or with a partner - depends.

Just Dance - DPA Daily Physical Activity

Halfway through the afternoon, a randomly selected student would pick a YouTube Just Dance video, and the class would dance to it to get the energy back in the room. [I know some of you are thinking - "get the energy back - are you kidding?]

End the Day

When the students left, I would save my lesson as a PDF File and post it on e - Board. Then, I would drag and drop each subject into a Notebook File for Unit Plans. It's convenient to see the progression of lessons; I would always find improvements. That's one of the names of the Game - find improvement in the things you do in life.


School is where new information is presented - home is where it's processed. Make Game Cards, Play WAY. Homework transforms into Game Prep Time.

Students could find what they need regarding tests, project due dates, study guides, etc., on the class website.

Be Nice

Inform and entertain with energy, reward good work, and try to be on good terms with all students. Meet students at the door in the morning. Welcome to our room of respect and trust is the message teachers put out there.


AI and a SMART WAY to Learn will evolve into a REVOLUTION in education!


Books on a shelf
Create a Prompt Library

For your Prompt Library

Hey Siri, tell AI to create a worksheet with ten examples showcasing the proper use of effect and affect for a grade five student. Give an example by writing a four-paragraph story about how ___ is a good basketball player. Make it funny. [I Used Pathfinder to personalize micro-lessons to student interest. Brian likes basketball.] Make one question for each of the seven games of WAY.

Then, ask AI to create a SMART Notebook Activity to reinforce proper usage of effect and affect. File it away. Am I a better teacher for using AI, you bet?

Tip - When You Read to Students

I used a document camera trained on the pages of the book I read to students - Hear it, see it. Highlight text and use the Immersive Reader under Tools Tab in OneNote to listen to what is written. Project text on the SMART Board so students can see it

Chat GPT

I tried to improve the blog, but AI misses deep thought nuances. When things are important or new, you have to write it yourself. I always use Grammarly as one of my assistive technologies.

My Prompts turned my ideas into fluff - well-organized and full of sales speech - who talks like that?

However, most of the time, I'm happy with AI output in many areas.


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