An interactive Padlet is included below.

A Textual Lineage and Timeline Pedagogy: Widening Perspectives on Asian American Pacific Islander Histories

By Kass Minor

May 17, 2023

Summary: As you develop book lists for the students you teach, or the children you care for, consider honing and probing your own knowledges based on your relationship and understanding of the group you are honoring.


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I love that so many educators are inspired and committed to reading representative texts that underscore the diversity of our humanity. Thematic months such as Black History Month, Indigenous People’s Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Jewish Heritage Month, and Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage month are all powerful in centering people who have not been represented equitably in our schools or society. May is AAPI Heritage Month.

As I think about the learning students experience by interacting with these texts, I wonder how educators are learning the histories, events and experiences that contextualize each book. For example, I recently spoke with a teacher who witnessed a Social Studies exhibition where her own children presented projects based on the lived experience of Indigenous peoples. We reflected together about how different, and far more truthful, kids’ learning about Native American lifeways are now versus what we learned going to school in the 1980’s. How can we work towards accuracy and thoughtfulness when we plan our shared literacy experiences? First, we can start from a place of honesty, and that often requires us to admit what we don’t know.

As you develop book lists for the students you teach, or the children you care for, consider honing and probing your own knowledges based on your relationship and understanding of the group you are honoring. One way to do this is through text-based experiences, both in life and in books. In the example above, I used Alfred Tatum’s concept of textual lineage to evoke my own journey in working towards a deeper understanding of AAPI histories. This type of reflection can lead to text-based classroom experiences that are shrouded in care, lending themselves to more thoughtful conversations within your community-whether they are children or adults.

Consider engaging in a textual lineage experience during in-school meeting spaces, like a grade team meeting or whole-staff professional development. You may even consider doing this work before launching a unit, or planning text sets (We Need Diverse Books and I’m Your Neighbor Books are great starting places to find themed text sets) before a themed unit begins. Alfred Tatum offers excellent resources to do textual lineage work via Learning for Justice.   

This work is also an iteration of Timeline Pedagogy, the idea that to move forward, you must look back. I write about it extensively in my new book, Teaching Fiercely: Spreading Joy and Justice in Our Schools. 

Celebrating Cornelius in Community

May 8, 2023 (Today is Cornelius’ Birthday!)

Cornelius breathes so much life into this world, and he does it with so much care. Let’s celebrate him as much as he celebrates all of us. Please leave a message, an image, a memory, or even a simple “Happy Birthday” with your name on the padlet below so he can experience bundles of joy from the incredible community that surrounds us. The link will close at midnight tonight!

Leave a message for Cornelius using the linked padlet below!

Something Feasible: A Bite-Sized Approach for Professional Learning and Student Engagement

Miniature food demonstrating a "bite-sized" professional learning approach.

April 5, 2023

By Kass Minor

Summary: Within the first five minutes of class, the communal space generated between teachers and students can change the trajectory of students’ next forty minutes of learning. 

In the enormous sea of possibility that ebbs and flows throughout schools spaces, I find myself and my edu-family feeling overwhelmed as we search for ways to motivate and engage students. There are thousands of ways to move forward to create an environment that cultivates engagement, but which are the most impactful, developmentally sound, student-centered, and culturally relevant?  

We think deeply about powerfully revised curriculum, thoughtfully about implementing restorative practices, and attentively about how to deliver targeted instruction. And we question how to leverage those teaching and learning shifts so students learning and engagement is sustained at school. But we often find ourselves skipping over an important aspect of that work: what is feasible

Not everybody (including myself!) has the headspace to soak in all the possibilities of what could be given daily school life and all the wondrous yet harrowing variables that come with it. Teachers do not have programs that allow for hefty changes in their curriculum to take place immediately, and school leaders find themselves continually understaffed. Students find themselves both at peace and odds with the daily routine of school. 

So, lately, I’ve been embracing bite-sized learning for all people, even for us adults. I’m not suggesting that we do away with investing in longterm changes for the way we teach and how school goes, but I am suggesting shifting how we implement new and/or revised practices towards student engagement in ways that are more manageable.  Launching an entirely new curriculum or behavioral initiative can be a multi-month and many PD hours-long process, but in the mean time, what if we first just focused on… the first five minutes of class? 

When special emphasis is put on the first five minutes of class, the communal space generated between teachers and students can change the trajectory of the next forty minutes of learning: student attentiveness is more likely to initiate and engagement is more likely to be sustained. 

The idea of first contact underscores the first moments at the start of class when teachers and students interact with one another, when students first sit alongside their peers, and when everyone in the community first experiences the classroom environment together that day.  To enable more powerful engagement in ways that feel manageable for students, teachers, and school leaders, I created these bite-sized steps below to amplify the importance of the first five minutes of class.  

Three Things to Pay Attention to for the First Five Minutes of Class

  1. Help kids revise their energy as soon as they enter your classroom
  • Stand near the classroom entrance and model a strong, yet warm presence. This looks differently pending one’s personhood, but the most important factor of first contact is the genuine regard students feel from their teacher. 
  • The sensory experience of classroom spaces matters. Consider lowering the lights, playing soft music, or even showing the “Lofi Chillhop” youtube channel playing on the Promethean background.  
  • If students bring in negative “hallway energy” into the first moments of class, consider your behavior first to deescalate their energy. Fritz Redl’s strategies (below) are simple yet powerful ways to reposition potential disruption. 
Deescalation strategies adapted from Fritz Redl: 

Offer limited choices

• Use an “I” statement

• Name the feeling

• Use humor

• Drop the expectation for now

• Ask, “what can I do to help you?”

2. Initiate Positive Conversations and/or Nonverbal Affirmations 

  • Acknowledge students as they enter the room with a “good morning/afternoon”, a smile, or a fist bump. Welcoming and greeting each student by name shows effortful care.  
  • Appreciate your students and/or colleagues-notice their presence and/or contributions such as “I’m so glad to see you today,” or “thank you” when students raise their hand, or even when they redirect their behavior. Low-stakes appreciations are especially important for students who don’t appear to feel a great amount of success in your class or who have an adverse relationship to school.

 3. Introduce an accessible task. One way to develop your affirmation skills is to make hashmarks for yourself each time you affirm your students, or you can have a colleague visit your classroom with that same lens to help you track your affirmations. Ideally, throughout the class period, every student will have experienced an affirmation at least once. For example, if there are 25 students in your class, you would aim to deliver an affirmation once every two minutes.

  • Ensure there is a warm-up that is clear and doable for every student. The function of a “warm-up” or “do now” is to prime students for learning in a communal space, and create an entry point for the lesson objective, not to stump your students. Highly visual information that connects with kids’ schemas is often a great combination for engaging and accessible warm-ups. 
  • Anticipate the accommodations needed for students to access the task. When students enter the room, the task should be accessible for all of your students. For example, if you have one child with a print-based disability, create heavy visuals to support the students’ comprehension, ensure the task is read aloud, or develop a clear routine to support them in knowing what to do. If there are only words in print to describe the task, you risk almost  immediate disengagement.
  • If your warm-up includes a homework check, anticipate that some students may not have their homework. Plan for an alternate warm up, or if there is more than one teacher in the classroom, review or pre-teach concepts that are relevant to the day’s learning with those students. 

To learn more about developing school-wide inquiry on joyful learning, check out Kass’s book Teaching Fiercely: Spreading Joy and Justice in Our Schools, releasing May 2, 2023.

“Joy” Can Be Another Edu-buzzword, Or It Can Be Real

March 25, 2023

By Kass Minor

There are days where my “why” in the work of teaching and learning is re-affirmed, and yesterday was one of them. 

Thanks to PS 94, Principal Christina Gonzalez, Assistant Principals Rose, Doris, Jean Marie, Sharon, Instructional Coach Ashley, and all the educators and kids and families who’ve fostered a community where something like joyful learning can manifest, with intention–with a research base and personal commitments, wide-scale. 

Recently, we continued our inquiry into joyful learning. This inquiry was, and continues to be communal, underscored with questions and possibilities generated by the community, and overall, very buzzy! 

First, we created local and shared understanding on what Joy meant for the community, collectively. [No one person, especially from the outside, can pose their ideas of joy onto a people. It’s gotta be co-constructed.]

Joyful learning "look for's" chart

Educator micro-communities work together to co-construct their understandings of joy as it can manifest in classroom space.

Then, we tackled our conceptual understanding of it really means to learn in a space like school. “Learning in school” might seem like a no-brainer, but many times what we see is compliance and performance as opposed to deep, authentic learning. 

Kass parsing out big questions generated by the community on possibilities for balancing joy and rigor within classroom spaces.

We grappled with balancing standards, student-centeredness and joy. We interrogated the term “rigor”. [Spoiler: rigor does not mean super hard and challenging-rather, it means that you are teaching within a child’s ZPD and are using their schema and personhood to develop new understandings]

Joyful learning chart

Teachers used various representations and visual art to document their co-constructed understandings on joy.

We self-identified how, when, and why people in school [including teachers] experience adrenaline-based learning vs. joyful learning. 

Finally, we co-constructed community understanding of attributes of joyful learning as they already manifest, or could manifest, in PS 94 classrooms.

During this time, the whole community worked in micro-communities, used lots of different materials, including play dough, pipe cleaners, charts, markers. Some groups even performed construction of joy using drama and tableau. 

Educators work in micro communities to co-construct their understandings of joy it manifests in classrooms within their larger community.

Long story short: Inquiry-based learning is beautiful. Joy can be a buzzword, or it can be real. To do the work of scaling up something as powerful and human-centered as joyful learning, the whole community has to be a part of the initiation and investment of the inquiry-based journey. Local and collective understanding is key. 


To learn more about developing school-wide inquiry on joyful learning, check out Kass’s book Teaching Fiercely: Spreading Joy and Justice in Our Schools, releasing May 2, 2023.

“It was a magical day at 94. In looking at the work the staff engaged in together and as we use this work to deepen our understanding of what it means to provide meaningful experiences we are understanding that joy is well deserving and only takes place when is co-created with our teams and our students. I am so excited for the work ahead of us!”- Cristina Gonzalez