Twitter Giants

In designing blended learning courses that integrate history and English this year, I am thankful to be able to stand on the shoulders of giants– Twitter giants.

To the average person, they may not seem like giants, but if you are an educator planning to improve your practice through a personal learning network on Twitter, which I highly recommend (!), there are a few Twitter giants, or professionals that are now famous-to-me that you should follow. Since I started teaching and learning in the innovative environment that is CodeRVA Regional High School, these people have heavily informed my practice.

Although this is not a complete, exhaustive list, the following people will help you survive whether it is your first year teaching humanities courses or a year with substantial change that makes it feels like your first year teaching again.

For blended learning instructional design, check out: 

Amanda Sandoval  


While Mrs. Sandoval teaches history, so many of her FREE resources can be utilized across many content areas. The most useful for me this year has been her incredibly clear, approachable tutorials for creating more interactive, aesthetically pleasing online course content using Google Slides. You can find it, as well as a myriad other instructional resources, at the link above or by clicking on the screen capture below.

Sandoval Google Slides Playground Screen Capture

For blended learning world history instruction, see:

Mrs. Byars    


Building upon many of Mrs. Sandoval’s resources, I am tremendously grateful for Mrs. Byars and her tremendous contributions of open source, free World History content. In a sense, Mrs. Byars provided training wheels for me this year; she shared [and still shares!] interactive Google Slides and hyperdocs on Twitter, which enabled me to produce incredible content in half the time. Because she freely shares whole lessons, I was able to tweak them for my students’ needs. At times, Mrs. Byars resources allowed me to buy time, so to speak, so that I could focus on learning how to make some of the lessons she created. Because her lessons were so well done [still haven’t found the slightest error in any of them!], I could push out content online exactly as she created it.

For English Language Arts (ELA) instruction and challenging traditional notions about grading, check out:

Jeffery E. Frieden


Since this was my first year wholeheartedly and intentionally integrating English with history, I constantly prowled Twitter for ELA resources, as well as sought support from my colleague, Ms. Northrop, and English specialists and instructors from around the Richmond area. I immediately gravitated towards Mr. Frieden’s Twitter posts and gleaned substantial ideas for implementing writing instruction from his book, Make Them Process It: Uncovering New Value in the Writer’s Notebook. Not only did he skillfully explain his reasoning for each step of implementing writing instruction through a writer’s notebook, he did so in a way that generated so much excitement and confidence that I began utilizing his methods nearly the next day!

In addition to his tested approach to writing instruction, Mr. Frieden provided insight to innovative, personalized grading strategies on his blog that– once again– I tried for my students almost immediately with a great deal of success.

What I respect most about Mr. Frieden, Mrs. Byars, and Mrs. Sandoval is that they all teach full time while thoughtfully sharing and reflecting on their practice. What they share is not simply theory– although as skilled practitioners they often reference educational research; they test and reflect upon everything they share. Not only am I impressed by their grace in juggling all of this, I am immensely thankful for it all, too. Seriously, thank you!!

They say “it takes a village.” In teaching integrated English and history this year, it has taken the NCTE Village for me!

NCTE National Council of Teachers of English: improving literacy teaching and learning preK-16+.



Whether by simply scrolling through it on a whim or directly seeking it out, you’re bound to find some useful recommendations on #NCTEVillage. Because of several people’s book recommendations on the forum, I ended up reading and teaching Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood with my Global Studies II students. Not only did we all enjoy it, but I loved that the book perfectly blended the history of colonialism and apartheid in a meaningful, relevant, and at times humorous way with English literary terms like parallelism and metaphor, as well as generally showcasing the art of concise but illustrative writing.

What I also love about the NCTEVillage is that they always embrace and retweet teacher questions, which garner a large collective of responses from teachers at a variety of points in their careers. It is certainly a powerful, supportive community!

For general expert advice on sound teaching practices for all subject areas, check out:

Jennifer Gonzalez


cult of pedagogy site

To me, this is an “oldie but goodie” resource. Whenever I have had an issue with something like classroom management or simply sought a new strategy to try in attempt to refresh my teaching, I turned to Jennifer Gonzalez. Her website, Cult of Pedagogy, offers a myriad of resources on nearly every topic you can imagine in education. Moreover, the design and style of it all aesthetically delights, as each resource and blog post is approachably curated with simple, cute illustrations and writing that drives straight to the point.

While I have referenced Jennifer’s work many times before– sometimes even sharing articles with my students, especially those relating to metacognition– the two most helpful resources I have utilized from her this year are:

  • Teaching Students to Avoid Plagiarism” She summarizes the research on teaching plagiarism perfectly in the linked article. In fact, I explained to my students at the beginning of the year the importance of how and why we will learn about plagiarism based on the information I learned in this article. TLDR: Students need frequent, small lessons and practice sessions in order to best avoid plagiarism, instead of the usual once a year. This article was so well crafted, I bought her “Avoiding Plagiarism: Mini Unit” to share and practice with students, which my students embraced. We also frequently reference her chart of sentence starters for paraphrasing of summarizing, which is included in the mini unit. It was every bit worth $8! *
  • Grammar Gap Fillers 1-12” Like many teachers, I don’t have much extra time to create content, especially in the area of grammar activities that my students may or may not use, since I allow students to pick and choose what they need and, to a degree, when they need it. These gap fillers have come in handy on hyperdocs for blended and personalized learning (pictured below), as well as supporting the “craft” section of my writer’s notebooks.

choose your own adventure breakout

Again, I cannot thank or highly recommend following these education Twitter giants enough! Without a doubt, they have immensely improved my practice.

I can only hope to aspire to be as awesome in my sharing of resources and understanding about teaching and learning!

*For the record, I am not affiliated with any of these educators or earning kickbacks for advertising for them. 

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