Teach By Design
Dec 13, 2022

Our Favorite Things 2022

We have 21 new things you’re just going to LOVE! From pencil dispensers, to pep talks from kindergartners, here are the little things that will bring big joy to your day. It’s our Favorite Things for 2022!

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Howie Hua

Math TikTok is a corner of social media I never expected to follow, and yet, here we are. Howie Hua is a math instructor at Fresno State University where he teaches future elementary school teachers how to teach math. In his spare time, he teaches the rest of the world all sorts of math tricks, tips, and core concepts on TikTok. His Mental Math Monday videos would be a solid way to start any math week and if you haven’t checked out his explanation of how percentages are reversible…well, all I’m saying is it is a revelation.


Chris Woods is a science and math teacher at Southwest Middle High Academia Bilingüe in Grand Rapids, MI. He also curates a website called DailySTEM with the simple goal of providing educators and families with simple STEM resources that connect the real world to learning. Search his archive of previous resources or sign up to receive his free newsletter and get new ideas sent straight to your inbox every week.

Book Trailers 

Do your students present a book talk every year? Why not have them put together a book trailer? It’s just like a book talk — a one to five minute long overview of a book you read as a way to encourage (or not) someone else to read it, too — only it’s more like a movie trailer than an oral presentation. Examples are all over YouTube. Even celebrities have starred in book trailers! If Zendaya is doing these, they must be cool. Check out how Sarah FitzHenry hosted a book-trailer-a-thon for the 5th graders at her school to discover new historical fiction books they might like to read.


Do you Wordle? We do!

Wordle is an online game created by Josh Wardle — a University of Oregon alum. The goal of the game is to guess the day’s 5-letter word. That’s it. You have six tries to guess the word and each guess reveals which of the letters are in the word but in the wrong place, which ones are inthe right place, and which ones aren’t in the word at all. Wordle is free to play through The New York Times. We’ve seen teachers play the game with their whole class working together to solve the puzzle. We play it in the office every day and we think you should, too!

Spotify Classroom Playlists

One way to set a mood for your classroom is through music.You can ask students to add their favorites (the radio-edit version is always a requirement) to your playlist, or you can search Spotify for existing playlists teachers already use in their rooms right now. Just type “classroom playlists”into the search bar and BAM! You’ll find instrumental playlists for when students need to focus, playlists by mood, or musical era, you name it, there’s something for everyone.


Three years ago, we named the Post-it Note Check-in as one of our favorite things for 2019. Fast forward to this year and the post-it check-in has gone digital. Closegap is an online app where your students can tell you how they’re feeling that day.Their selection gets tallied up into a real-time view on your dashboard where you can take a quick pulse of the overall vibe in your room. While you’re doing that, students also have the opportunity to engage in a social emotional learning activity that matches the feeling they selected. Want to know the bestpart? Closegap is free and it always will be. So, why not give it a try?

Feelings Thermometer

Dr. Kathleen Strickland-Cohen joined us for our October episode of Expert Instruction to talk about school-wide strategies to prevent behavior from escalating. One strategy she loves is called the Feelings Thermometer — a graphic showing emotions ranging from low-level feelings like bored or disappointed to big ones like anger or fear. Next to each feeling are the strategies you’ve taught for how to cope. Print the thermometer as a poster to hang in the room or as a smaller reference to tape to each desk reminding students what to do when those feelings come.

What's Going on in This Picture

What’s Going on in This Picture is a weekly online feature from The New York Times. Every Sunday, they select an image from The New York Times, strip the image of its caption, and invite students to reflect on what they see. Then, on Monday, students can participate in a facilitated discussion where they answer three questions:

  1. What is going on in this picture?
  2. What do you see that makes you say that?
  3. What more can you find?

On Thursday, come back to the site where you’ll get the big reveal of the original caption and the backstory behind the image. It’s a small, weekly activity we think your students are gonna love!

Feedback and Input Survey Suite

In August this year we added the Feedback and Input Survey(FIS) to PBIS Assessment. The FIS is a suite of four surveys to learn how students, families, and staff experience your school’s behavior support systems and practices. It’s the first survey where your school-wide community can tell you in their own words what’s working for them and what isn’t. All four surveys are available in both English and Spanish for your school to take right now!

Pencil Dispenser

I’m a sucker for a good hack. When I saw this one, I knew it needed to go on this year’s list. Sure, you could store your pencils in a cup on a desk, but what if you stored them in a pencil dispenser? It’s just a straw dispenser like the ones you’d find at a concession stand, only it’s filled with pencils. If students forget their pencil in their locker, they can get one from the dispenser. If you have special pencils students can buy with their zap tickets, let them use the dispenser to get theirs. Why not make getting a pencil a little bit fun.

In the spirit of Oprah, we're doing our very first Favorite Things Giveaway! We want to send you your very own pencil dispenser, fully loaded with pencils, and a stack of stickers to decorate the outside. All you need to do is give PBISApps a follow on our Facebook or Twitter, and like the favorite things post on the platform. Be sure to do it before December 31. We'll pick a winner at random in January and send you a dispenser for your classroom!

Ouisi (pronounced wee-see)

I’m going to be honest: This game showed up as an Instagram ad. Consider me properly influenced. Ouisi (a combination of the French and Spanish words for yes) is a game of making connections. Each of the 210 beautiful photo cards carries some feature to connect to another —similar patterns, shapes, objects, colors. Teachers use Ouisi in tons of ways in their classroom—check out their blog to spark ideas in yours!


Some of our favorite things show up across multiple years.Coffee is one of those things, and for good reason. For some of us, it signals the start of the day. For others, it’s a necessity. Whether you have a4-cup-a-day habit or you prefer a cup of tea, coffee is almost certainly a staple in every teacher’s lounge in every school. And that’s why it continues to be a favorite! Check out the best coffees of 2022 and see if your roast made the list.

1000 Hours Outside

We love anything that gets kids outside. If you’re looking for a fun way to incorporate more fresh air time in your day, check out 1000 Hours Outside. Merideth Baker, a 4th grade teacher at Buena Vista Elementary School in Eugene, OR, told us about this movement to match naturetime with screentime with the goal of spending at least 1000 hours outside every year. Add more intentional time for play and check out their beautiful,giant, tracker sheets you color in for every hour you opt outside.

Rebel Girls

Back in 2016, Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo dreamed of publishing a book of stories about 100 real women role models from history. The idea was a good one. They hoped to raise $40,000 to publish Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. By the time the campaign ended, they raised more than $675,000 and became the site’s most crowdfunded children’s book ever.Elena and Francesca have since published two more volumes and watched their dream explode to become a digital media company complete with a podcast, dozens of books, merch, and an app all with the goal of empowering girls to dream big and pave a way to a more equal world.

Inspiration Cards

Because we took the idea for a favorite things list from Oprah Winfrey, it feels important to include at least one item from her list on ours. This year, we chose these inspiration cards. Sure, they’re a little hokey and maybe you aren’t into them, but honestly, reading inspirational quotes hurts no one and sometimes they really hit home. These cards come in a beautiful linen box and include a little stand where you can display the quote you selected for the day. Maybe you’ll put it on your desk or on your bedside table. Wherever it lands, the inspiration is sure to add some light to your day.

Your Set of Classroom Board Games

Play in the classroom is always a favorite thing! Alan Cook, one of our PBISApps trainers and a certified board game fanatic, gave us his top games to add to your classroom set:

  • Planet – Players build 3D planets using magnetic terrain tiles. The object of the game is to link biomes together to attract certain animals to come live on your planet. The artwork is great, there is little to no reading involved,the nature theme is perfect for the classroom, and who doesn’t love playing with a magnetic 3D planet?
  • Forbidden Island – A cooperative game where players work together to collect four sacred treasures from an island and get to the helicopter before the island sinks! This is a great game to encourage teamwork and cooperation since everyone wins together.
  • Bananagrams – The classic word tile game.  Think fast-paced Scrabble!Players use their tiles to link together words both vertically and horizontally.  The first player to link all their letters together wins.  This is a fantastic classroom game for spelling and vocabulary.
  • Shifting Stones – Players shift or flip stones to match pattern cards in their hand.This is a great game for younger kiddos and still has quite a bit of strategy for older kiddos as well.
  • Gobblet – Gobblet is a take on Connect 4. Players place their pieces to get four in a row.  But be careful! Your opponent may cover up one of your pieces to foil your plans. The play is quick, and is easy enough for the littles while giving more strategy for the older kiddos.
  • Kingdomino – Draw domino-shaped tiles to build a kingdom around a tiny castle.  The more types of terrain you link together, the more points you can rack up at the end.
  • Cobra Paw – Cobra Paw is a fast-paced matching game! Players roll the dice and get a pair of symbols.  Then, they look for the domino tiles matching those symbols and use their Cobra Paw lightning reflexes to put their finger on it first. This one is very fun but can also get a little loud!

Countdown Clock

Have you ever set up a countdown to mark the number of days until a vacation? To retirement? It’s fun to watch the event get closer and it’s a good reminder of the things you need to do before the clock reaches zero. A countdown clock works in the classroom, too. Countdown the days to winter break, pajama day, or even a project due date. The possibilities are endless.

Hacking Deficit Thinking

Dr. Nikole Hollins-Sims joined us for our August Expert Instruction episode about finding and defining purpose in our work. When we asked her what she’d add to the list, she immediately said Hacking Deficit Thinking by Drs. Byron McClure and Kelsie Reed. “This book is a game changer and offers 8 reframes that will change the way you think about strength-based practices and equity in schools. You'll learn how to build on student strengths, humanize your data, recognize the value of differences, tap into schoolwide strengths,and flourish as an educator.”


You know what feels great? Encouragement. You know what feels better than that? Kindergarteners giving you that encouragement. Artists Jessica Martin and Asherah Weiss partnered with West Side Union Elementary School in Healdsburg, CA to create a pep talk hotline with a twist: The people delivering those pep talks are the elementary school’s very own kindergarteners.Need some life advice? They’ve got you. Feeling frustrated? They have just what you’re looking to hear. There’s even an option to listen to the kids laughing —press 4 from the options menu…it’s infectious. If you’re feeling low and need a pick-me-up from some 5- and 6-year-olds, dial 707-873-7862. It’ll turn your whole day around.

Superfun Transitions by Shawn Brown

Transitions between activities can feel like an invitation to escalated behavior. In November, we talked with Dr. Michelle Bauml and Nellie Huggins about how to incorporate more opportunities for play during the day. One way is to incorporate it through transitions. Nellie uses music and song as a signal to kids they are about to move on to a new thing. The songs create a routine and give them one more chance to move their bodies before they sit down to an activity. You can find her favorite playlist —Super fun Transitions by Shawn Brown —on Spotify.

Breathe Boards

In our September Expert Instruction, Alex Newson shared her best strategies for helping students regulate their own behavior before it escalated. One perfect strategy is to breathe. Did you know there are specific types of breathing exercises you can do? Enter breathe boards. Each board gives you a tactile reference for how to inhale and exhale your way to a calmer state. Purchase a set of six boards for your classroom for when students (or you) need a quick way to refocus, destress, and calm down.

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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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