Teach By Design
Dec 8, 2020

Our Favorite Things 2020

We've picked out 26 new things you’re just going to LOVE! From ring lights to Bitmoji classrooms, here are the little things that will bring big joy to your day. It’s our Favorite Things for 2020!

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Wobble seat

We miss our office chairs and our kids miss the freedom of being able to move around the room to interact with their friends. Diertra Lomeli told us all about this cushion she bought online. Some places call it a wobble cushion, some call it a wiggle seat. We call it a revelation! It turns a dining room chair into a comfortable office chair. It gives your students a way to bounce and move without getting up form their seat. And at $20, this thing belongs in everyone’s distance learning space!

Pear Deck

Anything you can do to get your students engaged in your lesson as you give it is a good thing. Pear Deck turns your regular Google Slides presentation into a fun, interactive experience for everyone. It’s so simple to use. Students join your presentation using a special code you provide. As they answer questions, you watch their responses come through in real-time. Pear Deck is a new way to run a game of trivia, conduct short quizzes, check for learning, or collect student questions.

Universal Yums Subscription Box

With travel restrictions this year, why not bring the destination to you? Universal Yums is a monthly subscription box delivering snacks from around the world. Each box comes with a selection of six, 12, or 20 snacks from a selected country. Past boxes included delights such as hazelnut milk chocolate from Italy, date and jam cookies from Egypt, and adobo corn nuts from the Philippines. Delish!


Madison Corlett brought this awesome app to our attention when we talked to her for our October Teach by Design article. FlipGrid is an online space to create video discussions with your students…like a Twitter thread, but visual. Send a link to your entire class and ask them about a theme from the book you’re reading. Send a video to one student who’s had a hard time with math just to check in on how they’re doing. You’re only limited by your imagination. Sign up today…did we mention it’s free?

Abolitionist Teaching Network

I started following Dr. Bettina Love after reading the first chapter of her book. When I learned she was creating an entire network devoted to abolitionist teaching, I had to give that a follow, too. Abolitionist teaching “promotes justice, healing, joy, and liberation for all Black, Brown, and Indigenous folks, inclusive of all intersecting identities.” The Abolitionist Teaching Network is a way to connect with other educators engaged in this work. Check out their website or give them a follow on Twitter.

Teaching Tolerance

We love a website with free resources. Better than that, we love a website with free resources to create more equitable schools. Teaching Tolerance’s mission is “to help teachers and schools educate students to be active participants in a diverse democracy.” There is literally a resource here for everyone from parents looking for ways to introduce complex topics to their children to teachers looking for self-guided professional development or lesson plan ideas. There are free posters to download (and include in your Bitmoji classroom) and a free magazine!

LCD whiteboard

Chalkboards, whiteboards, blank pieces of paper inside a clear plastic cover, they all serve the same purpose: an easily-erasable, reusable surface. Leave it to technology to one-up these old standbys. LCD whiteboards is the same easily-erasable, reusable surface, without the chalk dust or dry erase marker stains. Use the stylus to write on the LCD screen. Press the button at the bottom to erase the whole screen and start again. Is it necessary? Nah. But it’s kinda fun.

A Kids Book About...

Jelani Memory needed a way to talk to his kids about racism. He wanted their conversation to be honest and he wanted to be sure it connected with them. That’s where the idea for this book series started. A Kids Book About…has more than 30 titles to choose from. Each book addresses one specific topic and helps adults open conversations they might not otherwise know how to start. We think you can use these books to start talking about vital subjects like systemic racism, empathy, depression, and more.

Bitmoji classrooms

When students can’t be physically in your classroom, why not bring your classroom to them? Bitmoji classrooms let you create a virtual classroom while giving students access to the resources they’d have in your physical space. Create your own Bitmoji classroom in Google Slides, link the elements to the online resources your students need to access, and upload it to Google Classroom or wherever you post activities for your students to complete.

Art for Kids Hub

Whenever I see Art for Kids show up in my kids’ assignments, I tell them to wait for me so I can do it with them. Rob is a dad with five kiddos in his house. On this YouTube channel, he and one of his kids show u show simple it can be to draw something that looks really complicated. The pacing is great and you definitely don’t have to be an expert-level artist to end up with something to be proud of!

Christopher Emdin’s “Teaching and Being Ratchedemic” TED Talk

In November, we started a new Teach by Design and Expert Instruction series all about culturally responsive practices in your PBIS implementation. We’re using concepts from Christopher Emdin’s book, For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…and the Rest of Y’all, Too and tying them to the core components of culturally responsive practices in PBIS implementation. Take 15 minutes today and check out Dr. Emdin’s TED Talk to hear how there is excellence to be found in every student identity…and watch our Community space in January when we jump back into our series.

Expert Instruction Podcast

What do you do when you’re overwhelmed with work, the world is more chaotic than ever, and you can’t even go to the movies to unwind? You start a podcast, of course! Well, that’s what we did anyway. Expert Instruction is the Teach by Design podcast where we talk to teachers, researchers, and practitioners from around the field and dig deeper into the topic from that month’s Teach by Design article. We’re just four episodes in, so if you haven’t given it a listen, it’s not too late to catch up!

Becoming Me: A Work in Progress

Andrea Pippins is a graphic designer, author, and illustrator. Becoming Me: a Work in Progress is part journal, part coloring book, part art lesson. Every page is vibrantly colored. Aesthetically, it draws you in. Each page would be a wonderful prompt to get your class thinking artistically and creatively. Use her tips for analyzing art in a lesson focused on famous paintings. Use one of the reflection pages and ask students to write the art they notice in their community. Andrea might have made this book for younger folks, but us older folks love it just as much.

Virtual Field Trips

Educational destinations have upped their game in these times. While most places are currently closed to visitors, they have made their space available online…even literal space is accessible online. Virtual field trips are more than YouTube videos right now. They are interactive, exploratory, and educational. No permission slips or chaperones needed!

Hand sanitizer

Hand sanitizer has been a favorite thing before…but this year hits a little different. This year, we’ve tried so many sanitizers on our digits, we know there is a spectrum of products to choose from. Here are 3 of our favorites:

SWIS Equity Report

Have you checked out the newest member of our SWIS reports? It’s the Equity Report and it’s going to improve the way you make decisions asa team. Our favorite part of this favorite thing is the interpretive sentence that comes with each graph. If you ever find yourself looking at the equity graphs trying to remember exactly what part of the story the data tell you, click that interpretive sentence tab and it’ll spell it out for you!

A Mighty Girl's 2020 Reading List

A Mighty Girl offers a phenomenal online resource full of recommendations for books, toys, movies, you name it, with strong, empowered girls front and center as the protagonists. Every year they come out with their top contenders for books of the year. Although this year isn’t quite finished, the 2020 summer reading list is a good sample of the year’s finest books for all ages. We love that the list is separated by age making it so simple to find a book for any reader in your life!

House plants

The true unsung heroes of this time. Philodendrons, monsteras, ficus, pileas, and cacti. You’ve watched their leaves unfurl. You’ve agonized over their browning edges. Our house plants make our rooms brighter and taking care of them gives us one more reason to get up off the couch during the day.

Virtual Classroom Startup Kit

Office spaces and classrooms look more than a little different these days. No matter how unique your space is, there are some elements that bind us together in similarity.

  • Zoom…or another video conference platform: There is joy in seeing faces and a comfort in wearing professional clothes on the top half of your body and sweatpants on the bottom.
  • Breakout rooms: If only sending students to small group instruction was as fast as pushing a button.
  • Blue light glasses: So much screen time, so much eye strain. Blue light glasses block the blue light glow from your monitor and give your eyes a break.
  • Ring light: Social media influences have lots of tricks to look their best on camera – a ring light is one. You don’t have to be a famous YouTuber to look awesome on a webcam.

Portable charger

Picture it: Your synchronous learning time is finished. You’re home wearing your soft pants…the ones with the elastic waist. You grab your laptop and sit in your most comfortable chair to grade the assignments your students turned in. Maybe your dog lays down on your feet. You grab your charging cable. You reach to plug it in and the outlet is juuuuuust out of reach. Your quiet, comfortable moment is not over. Grab yourself a portable charger, plug in that laptop, and get to grading. These things come in a variety of sizes, hours of use, and power levels. There’s even one that will jump your car in a pinch!

Talenti Gelato

Once you’ve had a scoop of this frozen, creamy goodness, you’ll never be able to go back to regular ice cream again. If you’re a traditionalist like our marketing and communications manager, Robin Spoerl, you have to pick up a pint of their pistachio.

The Tutu Teacher

Our management and support team lead, Diertra Lomeli, reached out to her son’s teacher and asked her what she would add to our list of favorite things. When Maestra Merideth Baker shared this Instagram account we knew we had to include it. Vera Ahiya is a kindergarten teacher with a love for books. Her Instagram feed is colorful, real, diverse, and packed with thoughtful posts about each book she recommends. She shares personal connections with each story and offers insights on how to use the book with students. Give her a follow!

Rocketbook Panda Planner

Did you know it was possible to revolutionize note taking? Our training team coordinator, Jessica Daily, filled us in on the details. It’s called the Rocket book Planner. It combines the flexibility of taking notes on paper with the security and accessibility of the cloud. Use a frixion pen to take your notes, scan the notes to the Rocket Planner app, wipe the notes off the page with water, and you’re ready for your next meeting. The latest model even has goal setting sections embedded in the pages! Welcome to the future!

Open Educational Resources Commons

Sometimes all you need to jumpstart your creativity are a couple of ideas from a few dozen strangers across the world. Google. I’m describing Google. Think of Open Educational Resources Commons as the Google for your lesson plans. Enter the topic, select the subject, choose the grade level, hit that enter key, and BAM! Lesson plans from teachers just like you who wanted to teach their students about the very same topic you had in mind. The best part is, everything posted to OER Commons is free for the taking!


We’ve got spreadsheet basics down cold. If you need to sum a column of numbers, I gotchu covered. I can create a header row in my sleep and a pie chart with my eyes closed. However, if you need a set of Bingo cards, or a matching game, or some kind of prize wheel, you don’t need me…you need Flippity. Flippity is a free plugin to turn your Google sheets into any number of interactive games for your classroom. Trivia, word searches, tournament brackets, this thing has a template for everything.


Animoto is an online video maker you can use regardless of your ability level. Feel like creating an explainer video to introduce your unit on ancient Egypt? Animoto has an ‘explainer video’ template to get you started. Just drag and drop your photos, videos, and text into the template and the app will walk you through the rest. Videos are such an easy way to capture and maintain your students’ attention. Give it a try!

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Megan Cave


Megan Cave

Megan Cave is a member of the PBISApps Marketing and Communication team. She is the writer behind the user manuals, scripted video tutorials, and news articles for PBISApps. She also writes a monthly article for Teach by Design and contributes to its accompanying Expert Instruction podcast episode. Megan has completed four half marathons – three of which happened unintentionally – and in all likelihood, will run another in the future.

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