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The Right Stuff: Teaching Kids about Copyright

copyright teaching kids


How to help kids learn about copyright by finding and using other people's creative works legally and ethically

We (rightfully) spend significant time and energy teaching kids to be aware of their digital footprints. Stories abound about momentary lapses of judgment leading to loss of employment or scholarships. Students tend to embrace these lessons because they care about reputation. Obviously, we must continue these important lessons; however, we must realize that digital citizenship encompasses other online behavior, too.

I’m talking about teaching kids about copyright.

It can be hard to get moral compasses to twitch when discussing the intricacies of copyright law, public domain, fair use, and Creative Commons. Those concepts seem abstract and removed from the concerns of adolescents. It can be even harder to break them of the habit of doing a Google image search and grabbing the first relevant and powerful image they see.

But remember that John F. Kennedy famously talked about the importance of doing the “hard stuff” in his “moon speech” at Rice Stadium in 1962. He spoke of the importance of getting to the moon, but I think that we can take the spirit of his words and apply them to teaching this particular tough corner of digital citizenship. I’m here to argue that we should choose to teach copyright not because it is easy, but because it is hard, because the goal of understanding copyright will serve to measure the best of student energies, skills, and citizenship.

Because the Common Core calls for us to teach students how to “use technology, including the internet, to produce and publish writing,” educators can teach kids about copyright as they teach the Common Core writing standards. Teachers simply need to teach some key concepts, share some tools, and model digital citizenship in terms of copyright explicitly in the classroom.

Frankly, it isn’t as hard as getting to the moon. With the right resources, our students will be out-of-this-world digital citizens in no time at all.

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A Phone Call Home Makes All the Difference

A young female teacher wearing glasses is at her desk smiling and on the phone.


You don’t have to reserve phone calls to parents or guardians for bad news. Try these tips to deepen communication with families.

With all the pressure that comes with being a first-year teacher, reaching out to parents early in the year can feel like your lowest priority. But building relationships with parents can set you and your students on a path to success, and it can save time in the longer run.

My biggest mistake was that I waited to make those calls. I was young and nervous. Once I did start calling, I quickly learned what a valuable resource parent and guardian support can be. And I was asked several times, “Why didn’t you call sooner?”

Calling does take time, though. If you call six homes and talk for 10 to 15 minutes, the time can add up. But making a phone call or two at the end of the day—or during lunch, or on the weekend—is well worth it. Harvard education researchers Matthew Kraft and Shaun Dougherty discovered numerous benefits of teachers phoning students’ homes: “Frequent teacher-family communication immediately increased student engagement.... On average, teacher-family communication increased the odds that students completed their homework by 40 percent, decreased instances in which teachers had to redirect students’ attention to the task at hand by 25 percent, and increased class participation rates by 15 percent.”

 Read about:

Calling Parents With Concerns and Issues

Calling With Good News

Sending Texts and Emails

Invite Family Members Into Your Classroom

Learn More

How to Remember Students’ Names

A chalkboard covered with student names in bright colors.


Instead of resorting to “Hey, you,” try these techniques for retrieving names.

It’s a common predicament for educators: Despite working closely with all kinds of students, they can’t always easily retrieve names on demand—especially during the first weeks of school, when faced with both new students and new responsibilities. And biology does us no favors by storing visual information and names in separate parts of the brain.

Some teachers turn to awkward work-arounds. But “Hey, Boss!” or “Good to see you!” or “How is my favorite person in the whole world?” are obvious giveaways, and “Can you spell your name for me?” might be answered with “J-i-l-l.”

Here’s the secret: Take the same enthusiasm you have for fresh avocados, BuzzFeed, or Instagram and apply it to learning students’ names.

Everybody has a good memory for things that interest them, according to Richard Harris, a Kansas State University psychology professor. So take a fanatical interest in connecting with your students and using their names.

Remember why you’re studying learners’ names: because remembering them is important. Here are a few effective tactics for internalizing students’ names.

Suggestions for Remembering Names

  1. Assign several short written assignments in the first week, and then practice names (”Well done, Sasha”) as you personally return papers.
  2. Take photos of students wearing name tags. Review the photos before class. Attach student photos to interest inventories so that you can relate faces with experiences and affinities.
  3. Identify a unique physical feature and then think of a funny sentence involving that feature and the student’s name: Tim has a tiny tooth.
  4. Create rhymes to aid your auditory and visual memory: Fred eats monkey bread.
  5. Prioritize talking to a different group of five students every day for the first few weeks of school. Use their names frequently during your conversation.
  6. Greet students by name as they enter the classroom. Ask for help from learners whose names you cannot recall.
  7. When a student tells you their name, say it back to them and confirm that your pronunciation is correct.

The 5 Priorities of Classroom Management

photo of teacher and student at whiteboard


For beginning teachers, or for teachers like myself returning to teaching, the most difficult thing to master is classroom management. I had to relearn what ten years of hard instruction had taught me: Good classroom management is more than just being strict or authoritarian, and it is more than simply being organized. If I want to have my classroom run smoothly as a well-oiled learning machine, I have to set up a structured learning environment in which certain behaviors are promoted and others are discouraged.

I have discovered that there are five components of effective classroom management that establish structures strong enough to entice and motivate student learning:

  1. Developing effective working relationships with students
  2. Training students on how learning takes place in your classroom
  3. Protecting and leveraging time
  4. Anticipating student behaviors in well-written lesson plans
  5. Establishing standards of behavior that promote student learning

Learn More

The Better You Know Yourself, the More Resilient You’ll Be


When we think about “resilience,” we typically imagine bouncing back from major hardship. Management theorists have increasingly put forward a more nuanced definition, however: resilience as the ability to adapt to complex change. But in today’s world, that means the demand for resilience is almost constant. With the ongoing onslaught of problems leaders face, and change being the only constant in organizational life, leaders must cultivate resilience as an ongoing skill, not just for the “big moments” of painful setbacks or major change.

After more than 30 years working alongside senior leaders amidst profound change, I have found that there are four strategies you can use to build resilience. These recommendations stem from a significant study of 167 leaders, which revealed that the most resilient leaders know themselves well — their strengths, their triggers, and their convictions. Here’s how to build your resilience through deeper self-knowledge:

Take honest stock of your skills

Curb misplaced irritability

Push back on unrealistic expectations instead of passing them on

Recognize when you’ve fallen into ambivalence and go back to first principles


Learn more about these four points



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