Lessons Learned: First Day Streaming Hearthstone

I suffer from craaaazy summertime depression after school gets out. This past summer, I committed to “Operation Just Get Dressed,” which helped ensure I at least put real clothing on instead of hanging out in pajamas all day. Part of the reason I was motivated to actually get dressed was because I was streaming Crypt of the Necrodancer for about an hour almost every day. (I definitely try to keep my stream age-appropriate, but a few salty comments made it through, if you watch any of my past broadcast videos.)

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Streaming Necrodancer.

(for more information on what streaming is, start here)

Streaming Necrodancer was great. I met rad people, got a manageable amount of tips from watchers, and learned a lot about the world of streaming. Also, despite my deep concern regarding treatment of women online, I encountered genuinely friendly folks who were looking to talk about a shared interest.

So now school’s back in session. I’ve felt the pull of my depression pretty strongly in the past week or so, so I decided to head back onto Twitch. But I’d recently started playing Hearthstone, a collectable card game (think Pokeman or Magic: The Gathering) set in the World of Warcraft universe.

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I spoke earlier this year at the Nerdy Book Club blog about how learning video games has given me a lot to think about as a teacher, and starting to stream Hearthstone has expanded my thinking even more. Here are a few initial meditations:

Stick to one teaching point. THIS was my biggest takeaway from last night’s stream. I’m new to Hearthstone, and although I’m not totally opposed to backseat gaming (receiving suggestions on gameplay from folks in your Twitch chat), it quickly became VERY overwhelming when even a half dozen folks began offering tips. Even more confusing (and this was CRITICAL for me to realize as a teacher), some of their suggestions made absolutely no sense. I didn’t have enough knowledge of the basic game itself to be able to apply their nuanced ideas.

Some knowledge transfers. I quickly understood the mechanics of Hearthstone because of my experience casually playing Magic on and off for the past decade or so.

But some of it doesn’t. Strategies I’d often use in Magic (such as getting low-cost creatures out on the board early in the game) would totally blow up in my face in Hearthstone.

And that can be okay! I rarely play blue decks in Magic because there are often a lot of spells and counterspells (instead of creatures). But in Hearthstone, I’m comfortable playing either creature-heavy decks or spell-focused decks.

Background knowledge is essential, not just a smart instructional add-on… The information I transferred over from my experience playing Magic only took me so far. It was time for me to start running searches for how to build basic decks. (I had been using the default decks up to this point)

…But limit your resources. This is why webquests can be so powerful in classrooms. If you run a search for “basic Mage Hearthstone deck,” you get 1.5 million results.

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That’s insane. But I then asked my chatroom how reliable the website Icy Veins was. Upon learning that it wouldn’t lead me too far astray, I began looking through their resources. Am I going to build the best deck EVER? No way, but it’s a lot easier for me to manage that information using one website instead of getting totally overwhelmed on a forum.

Bragging isn’t helpful. Yup, just like we tell our kids when they start comparing test scores. It was thoroughly unproductive when a lad in chat pointed out he could kill my opponent in two turns. It didn’t help me at all. It didn’t inspire me to do better. It didn’t make me want to improve my knowledge of the game so I’d be more equipped to win in the future. It was in NO WAY motivating. But it DID make me stressed out. Even though I knew it was unreasonable stress and this was something I was doing by choice and who the heck did this guy think he is anyway? That cortisol started coursing through my veins. (my icy veins?)

Let it goooooooo. Luckily, I was able to let go of that stress pretty quickly, but I imagine that was because I had mentally prepared myself to receive some snarky/sexist/unhelpful comments. Hearthstone is a much more popular game than Necrodancer is, so it stands to reason that I’d encounter more trolls and unsavory folks overall. We’ll see how things go in subsequent streams, because if people wind up being persistently jerks, I’ll just stick to indie streaming.

Lots more on my mind, but if I kept going, this would never get posted. Thanks for reading, and see you on Twitch!


I’ve been following the news in Ferguson as closely as I can manage, and I just wanted to be upfront and honest in sharing I anticipate conversation around it will come up in class.

I know this is an emotional situation and that events are still unfolding, and although I know half of you have not had students in our class before, I hope you will discover our class prides itself on being a community of respect and trust. Potentially intense conversations happen in an age-appropriate, respectful manner.

I’ve facilitated our students’ difficult conversations about tragedies such as the Sandy Hook shooting, the September 11 terror attacks, Trayvon Martin’s shooting, and the SPU shooting. I’m always available and eager to engage in conversations with our families too (Ms. Stock and I have started planning our home visits so we can find out your preferred style of communication). You can also drop by our daily class meetings, which are usually from 9:00-9:20 AM.

I know that every family reacts differently based on their personal history, so let me give you a bit of my background. I’m a former newspaper reporter. My father is a retired police lieutenant who defied every possible cop stereotype (I do mean EVERY one — he liked bagels). I grew up in Metro Detroit and didn’t feel equipped to learn more about or understand the racial tensions around me.

I want my students to feel empowered to grapple with the important issues of their time in an age-appropriate way, regardless of the individual position they arrive at. Our yearlong guiding theme is Systems, Cycles, and Relationships. The protests in Ferguson highlight that our theme is timely indeed.

Our work with Junior Great Books gives students the chance to learn Socratic tools to discuss folklore and legends that have multiple perspectives. The protests in Ferguson are a real-life application of this work.

I’m always growing and learning, and if I realize I’ve misspoken, I always explore how my views have changed. Please help keep me honest through productive feedback.

Thank you for your continued support, and I look forward to seeing you at our barbecue this Sunday!

Math Goals for 2014

I just discovered this post in my drafts, but I think August is a good time to look back at these initial ideas about 2014, as the new school year swiftly approaches.


As I’m frantically reading books to meet my yearly #bookaday goal of 365, I’ve been looking ahead to 2014. I realized I have set reading goals for myself since 2003 or so, but I’ve never had a math goal. Then my longtime friend (and fellow UCMST grad) Katie got me thinking on Facebook:

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Screen Shot 2013-12-27 at 4.08.20 PMWhat would a math goal look like? Well, I can certainly share with you what’s been rolling around in my mind, although I haven’t arrived on anything definite yet. And I’ll also offer some more general math-related goals.

My goals this year are pretty audacious, and I’m okay with that. There are all sorts of teacher-y math goals that I have, but I’ve shared ones that are light on educational jargon.

Math Goals I’m Considering in 2014

  • Read the History of Math textbook I borrowed from (also a fellow MST grad) John Novak.
  • See if these History of Math books are relevant to my interests, and if so, read them.
  • Track down contacts for kids’ publications to submit nonfiction, sciencey articles:
    • Synesthesia
    • Buckminster Fuller’s Geoscope
    • Alexander Graham Bell’s tetrahedronal kites
  • Apply to speak at the National NCTM conference
  • Visit Stanford, contact Jo Boaler, and apply to the Math Education PhD program
  • Grade math projects within a week to provide students with timely feedback.

So what might you do if you’re not a teacher or you’re still grappling with a damaging math past? What about these:

Mathy Goals You Might Consider

  • Make 1 in 5 (or another relevant percentage) of the books you read nonfiction.
  • Participate in the Hour of Code.
  • Keep going and take 28 more hours of code.
  • Sponsor a kid’s tuition to attend summer camp at DigiPen.
  • Take an introductory online math class through MIT or Stanford.
  • Talk with your kid’s teacher about the nature and length of your child’s math homework.
  • Play games once a month (analog or digital, your social group’s preference)
  • Create your own recipe for baked goods.
  • Pick up (or re-pick up) an instrument.
  • Take a dance class.

What are some math goals you might be willing to undertake? Share in the comments or use the hashtag #mathyresolutions in your favorite social media platform.

It’s Monday! What are you reading?


Trying to get back on track with writing. I’ve been making excuses and getting sucked into my depression, but here we go.

Currently Reading:

I’m reading this with some of my students. I think I’ve finally figured out how to make small group instruction work during my literacy block. It involves using a rubric where I take notes during group meetings, so I can then input all my anecdotal notes into my gradebook. That’s been my biggest challenge — getting my classroom evidence to be reflected in my students’ grades. My students also have a shared Google Doc where they can ask each others questions and seek clarification.

Chomp, Carl Hiassen

I was originally planning on having this as our last read aloud of the year because it’s on next year’s Battle of the Books list, but after reading the first hundred pages, I decided to make a different pick. Actually, my students made the pick and they chose:

The Twenty-One Balloons, William Pene du Bois

I love this book, and we attempted to read it aloud last year, but we ran out of time before the year ended. Hopefully we’ll be successful this year.

I’m 45% of the way through the Bible. I had always thought of Luke as just being the gospel with the Christmas story, but I’m really enjoying JC’s parables in this translation.

Here we go!

Notable Books of 2013

This was the year of the series. When I was younger, I had a span of time where THE ONLY thing I read were books from The Boxcar Children, The Baby-Sitters Club, and Sweet Valley High. This year, I discovered some new series that set me off on reading marathons. I’ll be including usually only the first books in series that I read.

I was kind of underwhelmed with picture book this year.

If you want to see everything I read, my GoodReads list is here.




























(I also read this in December with my students.)

**SERIES** In 2013, I read every single Shannon Hale book ever written for children.


**SERIES** I also read every single book written by Jessica Day George this year.



Actually, I don’t love this series, but I am COMPLETELY addicted to it.





**SERIES** Again, didn’t love this series, but I was addicted.




You might laugh, but this book is EXACTLY what brief, simple, high-interest biographies should be.









Diego Rivera Read Aloud/Homework

Monday’s homework was to play around with the interactive Diego Rivera exhibit that is explained in the biography read aloud we’re currently enjoying. We discussed that some portions of the mural do include some depictions of topless women.

Interactive Site.

Here’s the official DIA site for the murals.

And here’s the Chrysler commercial I showed to give students a sense of Detroit’s industrial path. It does contain the phrase “A city that’s been to H-E-Double Hockey Sticks and back.”

Thanks for your support!


On calling my students “my babies.”

I wrote this the week before school started this fall.

If you’ve spent any time reading my tweets or hearing me talk about my students in person, you may have picked up on the fact that I often refer to them as “my babies.”

Upon reflection, I’ve realized that to an outside observer, this may seem like I’m being condescending or reductive in my views on students’ abilities. And although I know #haterswillhate and such, I figured it behooved me to articulate why I say this, and why it’s a conscious choice.

I don’t like to collectively call my students “friends” or “boys and girls.” And despite the rigorous academics and future preparation students find in my classroom, “scholars” sounds a little too stuffy even for my overly formal patterns of speech. When I’m speaking to my class, I usually call them “ladies and gentlemen.”

My kids are brilliant. They absolutely blow my mind. The director of the HCP program said my room has the feel of a college course, and that’s a huge compliment to my students’ dedication and understanding. However, in casual conversations, I began noticing I call my kids my kids “my babies.”

So there’s the obvious connection that I have no children of my own, ergo I really do view these kids as my progeny. But I think there’s something more to it as well.

Many people think gifted kids can just take care of themselves, that they can self-direct their learning even when the class is painfully boring, that they’re independent, that they are little adults in tiny bodies. Reminding myself that these tiny humans are CHILDREN, despite their stunning knowledge of Norse mythology and their ability to design elaborate electrical systems, is imperative.

My sensitivity to the needs of gifted kids to be treated in a developmentally respectful way alongside nurturing their accelerated talents was brought to light when I read Alice Miller’s The Drama of the Gifted Child.

These children are often academically brilliant, and they’re frequently insanely savvy about the emotions of those around them. But just because they can mimic our speech and mannerisms doesn’t mean we can let them fend for themselves. They deserve a developmentally appropriate, rigorous education.

I love my babies, and I can’t wait to begin learning with them on Wednesday.


Here’s a copy of an e-mail I just sent my students’ families.

Hi there, and happy Thanksgiving week!

A few updates for you! (Just kidding, there are kind of a lot of updates. This is super long. I’m sorry.)

First, your students DID NOT bring home their superbright folder today, which they normally do on most Mondays. That’s because this is a short week, so they’ll bring them home on Wednesday. The folders should be blue or purple.

Speaking of Wednesday, we have early dismissal on Wednesday at 1:20 PM. Students have lunch at 11:00 AM, so they will eat breakfast and lunch at school.

Secondly, some of my 3rd grade families know I spent last year working on my National Board portfolio. After submitting my portfolio in May of this year, I FINALLY heard back this weekend, and I’m glad to report that I am now a National Board Certified Teacher in middle childhood! You can learn more about the process and about my SWEET new credentials here: http://www.nbpts.org. Other NBCTs at Wildwood are Mrs. Stock, Ms. Willard, Mrs. Gray, and Mrs. Choi.

Thirdly, I imagine your students have mentioned CSI Wildwood to you. We have finished our first unit in social studies, so we are starting our first unit in science. This unit is Changes, and it usually focuses on the states of matter water can have. Borrrrrrring.

In addition to states of matter, we’re going to talk about the chemical and physical changes that happen when detectives and scientists investigate a crime, and we’ve enlisted the help of MANY teachers and staff members! This week and next week, students are detectives investigating an arson in the library. They interview teachers as the suspects and witnesses, take notes, examine evidence, and determine whodunnit.

We’re integrating this project into social studies (timelines), math (attend to precision) and English Language Arts (writing, communicating clearly and accurately). You can follow our updates on Twitter by using the hashtag #CSIwildwood, and all our tweets are posted on our class website at www.mshoughtonsclass.com. You can read more about the CSI curriculum here: http://www.prufrock.com/Crime-Scene-Detective-Arson-Using-Science-and-Critical-Thinking-to-Solve-Crimes-P278.aspx

Also, I spoke at Ignite Seattle last Wednesday, and I had a chance to talk with many people about the impact of their elementary school math instruction on their math identity as adults. Many people shared painful, embarrassing math experiences with me, and for a lot of these folks, the turning point was 3rd or 4th grade. I know this is a critical time for your students, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work with them to support them. My talk will be posted online in the next month or so, and I’ll share the link when it’s available.

Phew. I know that was long. Thank you so much for reading (or skimming) all the way through this. Thank you as always for giving me the privilege of learning with your students every day. They are remarkable young people, and I’m honored to help them grow.


Sent from the desk of Shannon Houghton
2nd & 3rd Grade HCP
Currently Reading: The Wig in the Window, Kristen Kittscher
Just Finished: The Dead Boys, Royce Buckingham
I believe all students have the right to a rigorous and relevant
education that prepares them to follow their passions.