unexpected interests

Unexpected Student Interests

Yolanda Wheelington Education, Elementary, Life in the Classroom

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We have completed our first full week of in-class instruction. It has been calm and a rather easy transition since we kept the same structure as our online setup.  This has been especially necessary due to half of the class remaining online.  Like with anything, there are positives and negatives. In the midst of it all, my students have developed some unexpected interests that they cannot get enough of: podcasts and brain teasers.

Both were answers to my prayers for ways to help my students see the bigger picture and get back to thinking. The online environment fostered a “tell me/show me” approach to learning that is consistently avoided in elementary Montessori classes. This approach produces students that expect to have all information presented and every step clearly identified. Although this is important when learning new skills, consistently using it is not beneficial in helping the child develop the skills needed to be a thinker and problem solver. I wanted some tools that would help students experience the end goal, as a way to help them know how they needed to move forward on an individual level.


Honestly, I started the podcasts as a way to help my students online stay engaged while in-class students were doing transitional activities. In addition to this, the auditory nature of podcasts meant students were allowed to use their imagination to create visuals and get off the screen.  Although there are many podcasts for kids, the one that my students enjoy the most is Smash Boom Best!

Smash Boom Best! brings high energy, humor, and personality from the start. I teach grades 1-3 in one big classroom. This podcast is able to hold the interest and attention of all of the students. It puts two ideas up against each other and the contenders try to persuade the audience to side with them. Perfect for opinion and persuasive writing!  After listening to them, my 3rds were able to identify how the arguments connected to our class writing plan. They also heard how authors can use counterarguments effectively. This was a priceless modeling opportunity, especially during the disruptions of COVID. We also discussed ways they can include the strategies they liked in their own writing. Students were able to apply these new perspectives and skills to direct practice. I will be moving up to grades 4-6 next year, and we will definitely use this resource regularly in class to support student writing and maybe even create their own podcasts.

Brain Teasers

Brain teasers for elementary students usually lay in the realm of riddles and visual illusions. I was able to find one that specifically focuses on stretching their mental and visual math skills called Mental Up.  This resource comes with a free 7-day trial, but they have allowed some access via YouTube.  I must admit that these are a challenge for most of my students. It takes them a while to “warm-up” and then they are still not always correct. But, the point is not for them to get them correct as much as it is to provide them with a mental workout. They love this program! It keeps them challenged and helps them see a new and engaging use for math. It also brings in art, visuals, and geometry.

I encourage you to check out these resources and websites and present them to your students. Hopefully, you will find new resources that push instruction in an engaging way. Do you have a resource to share? Have you come upon some unexpected interests in your classroom? If so, please share out in the comments section!




Yolanda Wheelington

Phoenix, Arizona

Yolanda has taught for the past 7 years in the Phoenix Elementary School District. Her passion for developing and supporting the human potential is evident in the cross-curricular work done her classroom. She is a member of the Association Montessori International and is a RODEL Scholar. Yolanda earned a Bachelor’s in Psychology from The Catholic University of America (Washington, D.C.), a Master’s in Social Work and a Master’s in Education (Special Education) from Arizona State University, and a diploma in Lower Elementary Education for ages 6-12 from the Montessori Institute of North Texas.

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Comments 1

  1. Kyle Bragg

    Thank you for the blog and resources, Yolanda!

    My students love brain teasers. When I give them, I have them think while doing exercises. Gets them thinking, but also active. :)

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