Teaching GREEN: Using the True Colors Personality Test in the Classroom

This post is part of a series of posts on teaching to different personality types as found in the True Colors Personality Test. To see more, head here.

I’m sure a lot of you are familiar with the phrase “curiosity killed the cat”, but how many are you familiar with the entire phrase? “Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.” This expressions aptly describes the inquisitive souls that have a green personality. They have an insatiable curiosity and they are willing to die any (metaphorical) deaths in their quest for enlightenment. To your green students, work is play. They love a good challenge and using their intellect to solve problems. They are logical and analytical while still managing to be creative and abstract. Kids with a green personality are independent thinkers and come across as being far older than their years. They are calm, cool, and collected–until emotions get involved. Much like a plant, those who lean green thirst for knowledge and absolutely thrive in the right environment.

But what is the right environment?

For starters, these students are your introverts. Not only do they struggle with social interactions, they can feel stifled by group work because it doesn’t give them a chance to explore concepts in depth. Whenever possible, meet with them one-on-one or in small groups and you’ll get a much better idea about where they are at with the material. Give them time to internalize new information and to recharge after social interactions. They are usually overflowing with knowledge but they don’t always know how to open up. On the contrary, they might open up easily but they don’t always have the awareness to know when to stop.

The other students might see them as cold, critical, and callous but it’s really just that they prefer to do their own thing in their own way. They are inclined to get directly to the point and they don’t feel the need to stop along the way for social calls. Greens probably won’t completely come out of their shell while in class, but there are ways you can get them to poke their heads out and look around.

Your secret weapon? Those bubbly, blue students in your classroom.

Your blue students are the perfect pairing for your green students. Blues are social, but not overwhelmingly so (like an orange), and they can think in abstract terms just as well as a green can. Blues care about genuine connections and they know how to befriend someone in a way that the other person needs. They might overwhelm a green by the ease in which they talk about their emotions, but it also helps greens be aware of their own emotions. Consider the unlikely friendship of Sherlock and Watson. Sherlock is absolutely brilliant, often comes across as arrogant, and he only focuses on the case in front of him. Watson is also brilliant, but a lot more approachable and has a healthier work-life balance. And yet as different as they are, the friendship works. Next time you switch up your seating chart, try sitting your green students near your blue students. It will probably be a little uncomfy for the green at first, but there never was any comfort in the growth zone or growth in the comfort zone.

Your green students need to respect you as a teacher before they will be willing to learn from you. Allow your class to ask questions or contribute ideas anonymously, or use email as a way to communicate with them. This helps build trust with them and shows that you are willing to foster a relationship that is unique to their learning style. They want others to notice their competence and intellect so complimenting them on specific knowledge that they share is a great way to get them to open up even further.

For those of you teaching high school, continue to cultivate the natural curiosity that your green students have. Allow them to share their insights whenever possible. Help them identify what they are passionate about and point them in the direction of potential careers within those interests. For those teaching greens of any age, try not to get frustrated when they point out any flaws in your teaching or when they bombard you with increasingly in-depth questions. Spend time discussing their personal goals and touch base with them often. Taking even a little interest in them as an individual makes all the difference to anyone with a green personality.

Students with a green personality bring so much to your class! Do you have any tips on using their curiosity to drive their learning?

Friend or Foe? Fidget Toys in the Classroom

Fidget Toys: the very thought can make teachers (and parents) groan and roll their eyes. From stress balls to fidget spinners, there always seems to be some new gadget taking over your classroom. Should they be banned? Should they be embraced? The debate has been ongoing ever since stress balls first gained popularity in the 1980s. The practice of using sensory tools, however, has been around for much longer. Baoding balls originated during the Ming dynasty and were used to reduce stress, improve brain function, and aid in dexterity development. Before weighted blankets, there were Turkish yorgans which date back to the 16th century. The average winter yorgan weighed anywhere from nine to thirteen pounds. Komboloi, or “worry beads”, were used in Ancient Greece to promote relaxation.

While these sensory tools might have been around for centuries, the science behind them has only recently been looked into. Dr. Anna Jean Ayres first identified Sensory Integration in the 1960’s when she noticed there were children who struggled with functional tasks who didn’t fit into the specific categories of disability that were used at the time. She developed the term “Sensory Integrative Dysfunction” to describe the problems faced by children whose brains struggle to receive, process, or respond to sensory input. Sensory input instructs us on how to respond to our environment and there are consequences from being over or under-stimulated, especially for children who are still learning how to process these cues. When confronted with bright lights, messy or cluttered spaces, and loud noises, children can become agitated and retreat to quieter spaces; whether that is physically finding relief in a less stimulating area or by shutting off their sensory receptors and essentially shutting down. When stimulation is restricted, as is common in a traditional classroom, children will find their own ways to meet their sensory needs. Teachers know exactly what this looks like: tapping, bouncing up and down, kicking, touching everything and everyone, chewing on pencils, making noises, or getting out of their seat to go on some made-up “but I really needed to throw this away” mission.

This is exactly where fidget toys come in handy. (Ha! I didn’t even realize that was a pun until revising this post). And I’m not talking about fidget spinners in all their noisy, distracting glory.

It might be counter-intuitive to think that doing two things at once can enhance a student’s ability to focus on their lessons but evidence is slowly backing it up. One study demonstrated how increased movement boosted the cognitive performance of children with ADHD. Another found that students who used stress balls had improved focus, attitude, social interactions, and even writing abilities. The trick with fidget toys is finding those that don’t require so much brain power that they pull focus from the main task. How many of you have your own fidget methods that you revert to without realizing? Do you chew on pencils or repeatedly click your pen? Perhaps you doodle or bounce your leg. We all have different ideas of what an optimal “focus zone” looks like and it’s important to help students discover their own learning styles and preferences. It’s important for adults too–I decided to invest in my own fidget toys a few months ago and I always keep one at my desk. 

Looking out over your sea of pupils, it can be a little overwhelming to try and figure out their individual needs but as I always say, “When in doubt, ask it out!” As you go into a new school year, reach out to the parents and ask what has helped their child calm down in the past. Do they have a history of thumb-sucking? They would probably respond well to chewelry or rubber pencil toppers. Having a quiet space in your classroom or noise-canceling headphones would be good options for children who need time alone in their room to defuse. Some students need physical contact in order to stay grounded so pressure vests or weighted lap pads would benefit them the most. 

Another great way to learn your students’ individual learning styles is to involve them! Have them complete a task while adjusting the volume of background noise and have a discussion about which one was easiest for them to work with. Give them fidget toys to use while reading to them or showing them a video and then ask them if they were able to focus better or if it was a distraction. This also helps your students develop self-regulation skills. Giving your students access to different sensory tools allows them to stop seeing them as toys and start to recognize when they really need them.

If this sounds like wishful thinking, there are lots of people who would agree with you. Fortunately there are also lots of tips and tricks out there to help you integrate fidget toys into your classroom. Here are some of the most common ones that I encountered in my research:

  1. BOUNDARIES. Work with your students to come up with rules for the fidget toys that they are willing to follow. Post the rules somewhere in your classroom as a visual reminder.
  2. Have a variety of tools available to the class. This can prevent jealousy among students and allows you to use discretion in deciding what toys are actually beneficial. 
  3. Find toys that don’t produce noise or require sight to use. The kids should be able to use their hands or feet to fidget while using their eyes and ears to learn.
  4. Be patient! Once your students get used to the sensory tools in the classroom, the novelty will wear off and they’ll be less of a distraction.
  5. Remind your students that “fair” isn’t the same thing as “equal”. Different people have different needs and it’s important to support those needs.

Ultimately the choice to integrate sensory tools into your classroom is up to you! The fad fidget toys will come and go, but there are plenty of tried and true options that can really work wonders when properly used.

Are fidget toys a menace to society or a misunderstood ally? What challenges or successes have you seen come from them?

An Overview of The Child Whisperer Types and How to Use it in Education

the child whisperer in education

If you’ve read my blog series on teaching with Myers Briggs in the classroom and learning more about Enneagram in Education, then you’ll understand just how excited I was to read the book The Child Whisperer by Carol Tuttle and learn even more about personalities and how to utilize this information in a classroom setting. 

The Child Whisperer book isn’t as much about personality typing as it is about learning the different energies humans have and how we can apply that in a classroom (or parenting) setting. This one is easy because there are only four types to remember- 

Type One

Type Two 

Type Three

Type Four

That’s it! However, each type has a wealth of knowledge behind it. Carol Tuttle talks about how each one of us has all four energy types within us, however, one type shines through the most, another secondary type is also fairly prevalent, and the other two types are more hushed and not an energy type we reference often. And picking out these two primary types in yourself and in your kids can help you understand them on a deeper level, giving you more opportunities to connect and teach. 

Over the next several weeks I will write a post specific to each type and the basic information you can pull from these types to help you teach to your best ability. What type are you most excited to read about?! 

Sometimes, I’m Not A Good Teacher

I walked into my classroom one day just feeling… off. That’s the best way I can describe it. I was tired and already annoyed before my students had even walked into the classroom. I didn’t greet them at the door like I typically did, and found myself bothered by the fact that they all walked into the classroom talking with one another. 

The morning was dragging on, it felt hard to get through our morning meeting, 15 minute phonics lesson, and reading groups. FINALLY, it was time for recess! But then I remembered something awful….. I had recess duty! It was the perfect way to make my day even worse. By the time 28 sweaty kids, plus myself, walked back into our classroom, a classroom with NO air conditioning, mind you, I was just done. My kids asked if they could do some free drawing during our read aloud time and I snapped at them. During our math lesson I was not tolerating any funny business, whatsoever. 

I was not a good teacher that day, and worse off, I was down on myself for not being a good teacher. Finally, the day ended and all 29 of us went our separate ways. On my drive home I recounted my day and regretted being so short and unhappy with my class. Did they deserve to be the ones taking the brunt end of my bad day? No! They talked a little extra and were a little extra loud in the hallway, so what? They are first graders. They deserve some grace! 

I ended my drive trying to figure out how to make it up to them the next day in class. Plenty of ideas flew through my mind. Ice cream party? No. Extra long recess? Not good enough. Then, finally it came to my mind. 

The next morning I greeted each one of my students at the door with a smile and directed them to the rug to start our morning meeting a little earlier than normal. I had them all seated in front of me and told them I had something important to tell them, and with eager eyes they looked up at me waiting to hear what I had to say. 

Then, I sat in front of all of my kids and apologized. I opened up my heart and was vulnerable in front of these 6 and 7 year olds. I admitted my mistake and let them know that it wasn’t their fault that I had an off day. I told them they are really great kids and that I was extremely lucky to be their teacher, and I meant it! And I told them we would have a better day. 

And we did! 

Here’s what I learned from that day. First, it sucks to have bad days! It’s hard to walk away from a day feeling defeated and regret your decisions. But it’s also okay to have those days. A bad day of teaching does not make you a bad teacher. 

But here is the part that is the most important to remember: 

It’s okay to have those bad days if you take the time to reflect on them and troubleshoot the day (or situation), so that next time you’re in that situation you can handle it a little better. It absolutely will not be perfect, but it’ll be a stair step process as you troubleshoot the next bad day and try to improve each time after. This is what leads you to the tools you need to cope with the bad teaching days. Troubleshooting and trying again. It’s what we teach our students to do anyway, isn’t it?! 

You’re not a bad teacher- it’s just a bad day. You’ve got this. 

Setting Kids Up For Success

I’ve written a few blog posts giving tips and advice and often say “set your kids up for success.” I give a quick little excerpt of what that means, but I really want to dive deep into this topic and define what it means to set your kids up for success. 

In a parent or teacher role, we set expectations for our kids. 

“Ask before using the restroom.”

“Keep the paint on the paper and reasonably clean.” 

“Do well this spelling test.” 

We can give our kids these expectations, but it’s a two-part system: We have to set them up for success to carry out these expectations before we can expect them. 

What does that look like? If we expect them to ask before using the restroom, we must make ourselves approachable and give them the resources needed to ask to go. Such as a hand signal or allowing them to raise their hands. 

If we want them to do well on a spelling test, we have the responsibility as the adult to provide them with the spelling words to practice before they head into the test. We don’t give them a spelling test of worlds they’ve never seen and expect them to do well! It’s unfair. 

If we expect them to keep the paint clean during their craft time, we have to be responsible for giving them the proper space, table covers, and rags to clean up any accidents. 

If we are going to expect things from them, we need to set them up for success before we can realistically keep these expectations. So during activities when I say, “set your kids up for success with a rice bin” I mean, lay down that blanket so the rice doesn’t go rolling under the fridge. We want them to keep the rice in the bin, but we all know that won’t 100% happen. When they are playing with oobleck or slime, set a wet rag next to them to wash dirty hands so they don’t track the material all over the house when they become overwhelmed with the mess. They won’t be able to navigate the road without giving them the map first.

When a spelling test is coming up, handing out the spelling words before the test is the minimum. Practicing the words is the next step. Giving them ideas on how they can practice at home is great too! 

What does this accomplish for us by taking the extra time and effort to do these things for them? Less frustration for us! Less time spent

It is so important for us to set our kids up for success! Give them the means to accomplish what they need in order to find success. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for letting our kids struggle a little to learn, but we still have a job as the adult to set them up with the tools they need. If you want to read more on that, check out my post on lighthouse parenting. 

What other things do you do to set your kids up for success?  

Final Thoughts On Feature Friday

teaching geography

For a good part of this year, I did a segment called Feature Friday where I interviewed different educators from all different backgrounds. I interviewed teachers from elementary school, middle school, high school, and even college professors. There was a vast array of subjects these teachers cover and a diversity of students, communities, and backgrounds. 

I had one teacher focus on COVID shutdowns in her interview. 

I interviewed a mother and daughter duo that both teach second grade in different parts of Idaho. 

One of my favorite professors from my undergrad.

And even our very own Mary Wade, the one and only that built this blog from the ground up! 

You can see all of my interviews here.

Feature Friday naturally came to a close when school began and teachers were overwhelmed with navigating teaching online and in-person and hybrid and all of the above. Adding in an additional email to their ever-growing list of to-dos wasn’t helping anyone. It felt like a good time to retire Feature Friday and keep it in my back pocket for a rainy day. 

I learned a lot from all of these teachers. What I found interesting is that oftentimes I asked the same question to multiple teachers and received a different response from each one. Different book recommendations, ways to use technology in the classroom, how they’ve seen the education system change, etc. We all have different ideas and views on teaching and it was fun to compile these into interviews. 

There were also teachers that believed in fun, exciting classrooms, and teachers that believed in no posters on the walls and just connecting on a personal level with students. Teachers that value technology and those that don’t particularly find it necessary in the classroom. 

But when it came down to it, all of them had one thing in common- They were there for the students. Not the pay, not the summers off, not anything other than their love of teaching students. 

Feature Friday: Isiah Wright

Welcome to Feature Friday! Where we showcase a new teacher each week in an interview. For past Feature Friday interviews, go here. 

Today’s Feature Friday is highlighting Isiah Wright, a teacher in California specializing in arts and creativity. 

Tell me more about the arts and creativity initiative? What does it entail?

“Every year the department of education gives out grants for arts in education. These grants are meant to supply teachers with the knowledge and supplies necessary to integrate art into classrooms. I don’t mean like a single subject teacher that teaches art either. I mean multiple subjects K-8 and getting creativity to stay with our children and even fostering it. In the grant program that I’m a part of they have taught us many things but one of the first things is about increasing engagement and asking the right questions. We go through training employing VTS or visual thinking strategy, which turned my classroom from 5 or 6 of the same kids answering everything to building the confidence of every single child in the room so that they might try to answer also. Seriously since I started using this strategy, I can get in the ’90s for student participation and engagement. That’s %, it truly is a thing to behold. They teach us great skills in hands-on art as well. Something that I had never used was oil pastels, they taught me the proper way to use and teach their use. We went through training on collaboration in school. Believe it or not, most students don’t know how to work together. Teaching them to look past their short-sighted need to get what they want every time is difficult but essential to making well-rounded adults and it is one of my favorite things to teach them. My class in general is centered around this overarching statement: Contradictory elements can and should co-exist.”

Why do you feel like arts are so important to the education of our students?

“Teaching art appreciation does more than just look at pretty pictures. Observational skills, thinking critically, attention to detail, and respectful discussion are all elements of appreciating art. Guess what? Those are all also the key elements to Common Core. I am drawing a blank on who said it but at one of my training, someone was quoted saying “If you’re not teaching art you’re not teaching the whole kid ” I think this statement is dead-on, and the age I teach it makes teaching them easier if I integrate art into every lesson I can. I have even taken up sketchnoting science and social studies because of this training. Sketch noting is an amazing way for students to remember what they are being taught. Some studies I have seen put students being able to remember 6x more information when they are just writing traditional notes instead of blending words with pictures”

How do you incorporate art into your core curriculum?

“Art is everywhere and in every subject. If you think of how an NGSS (next generation science standards) lesson starts with an anchoring phenomenon, I teach every lesson I can with that basic format but usually using art in its place. We hold class talks, starting with art but eventually branching out to math, ELA, science, social studies, and everything else. Let me tell you how a lesson I just finished looks.”

“We look at a few pieces of art from a book, this book I’m talking about is called Blockhead, which is the life of Fibonacci. as we look at some of the pages of art we hold an art talk on 5 or so pictures from all over the book. This helps because everyone wants to participate in the art talk. This will also help when I go back and read the book because students will be looking for the pages they spoke on earlier. As I stop to discuss the reading periodically students remain engaged because they bought in at the beginning. We move into a fun patterns lesson using some kids ciphers that I loved as a child. Which could go on for multiple lessons and I love to end patterns with art from nature. That is a wonderful lesson where students create art from anything and everything, depending on what lesson I employ this, kids can make a paintbrush from random things, or collect and place colorful rocks or leaves. Art from nature truly is a universal assignment that I can end many units with. My goal is always increasing student engagement and understanding of core content through arts integration and I feel like I get that every time I integrate art into my lessons”

If you could recommend one children’s book, what would it be and why?

“It really depends on the age. My kids in the upper elementary school range The Blue Witch by Alane Adams never disappoints. She is such an amazing advocate of literacy and does tons for kids in need. Most important though is it is a book that students actually want to read. I read the introduction of Odin riding Slipnir to collect a young witching and they are instantly hooked and relate to the female lead or her brainy male sidekick.  If we are talking about my personal children’s age, say 5 and under The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith. I have read it well over 200 times to thousands of kids. I have it down to a science you could say, refining my abilities over the last 8 years or so.”

How has Twitter helped and influenced you as a teacher?

“Teacher twitter is beyond the most helpful thing ever. Thousands of teachers on standby to help at a moment’s notice. Even if that help is just as simple as liking a “rough day” post. I have taken some of the best ideas in my classroom from a Twitter teacher’s bragging posts. You know what? My classroom is better because of Twitter.”

How do you use student voice in your classroom and what outcomes have you seen come from it?

“I’m an elected official so student’s voices and civics are very often at the forefront of my class. My kids’ collective wisdom is greater than my own and I recognize that. It is my belief that students have tons to teach us. I may be the most educated person in the room but their collective years of individual experience are powerful. I use that to my advantage as often as I possibly can. Every now and then we way in on current political problems and generate multiple answers to questions that adults can’t seem to figure out. Last year we had our writing prompt about solving the homeless issue in our community put in the newspaper. The kids were so excited and loved seeing their words published for all to see.”


Thanks, Isiah for your insight! He had some great thoughts on creativity and using art in the classroom.