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  • Cut Down Grading Time with Thi Cut Down Grading Time with This 3-Step Homework Hack

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      homework hackStudents never appreciate working hard on a homework assignment, only to have it go ungraded for days, sometimes even weeks. It’s easy to get behind, but with this 3-step homework hack, you’ll be able to cut down on your grading time and get back to what you do best—teach.

      Step 1                                             
      A student collects the homework and, on a separate class roster page, marks a check next to the student’s name for an assignment handed in.

      Step 2
      The papers then go to another student who checks to see that the entire assignment was done. If so, he or she places a second checkmark on the roster. At this point, only papers with two checkmarks are on the roster. All others are incomplete assignments.

      Step 3
      The third check may be added in a number of ways: If the answers are either right or wrong, a key given to another student might allow that student to correct the papers. Or, papers may be redistributed to the class at large, with no one having his or her own paper, and corrected as part of the lesson.

      Now that it’s time to record the grades, you have an easy way to assess each effort. If you substitute the checkmark for numbers 0-3 in your marking book, it will make averaging out a homework grade relatively easy.

      This homework hack comes from the April issue of Think Teachers.



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  • The Power of Personalized Prai The Power of Personalized Praise and Encouragement

    • From: Mindy_Keller-Kyriakides
    • Description:

       

      Is there a word for being both very pleased and angry at the same time?


      Because that's what I am.


      I'm so pleased that one of my initiatives has proven valuable to my peers. The use of a midcourse update in which we let course participants know how they're doing and, if relevant, what they need to work on or complete, has received very positive feedback. These (roughly) personalized updates are designed to enhance motivation and touch base on a personal level. Most of our course emails are coursewide, but this one goes out to each person separately.


       

      The responses have been overwhelmingly positive. However, I find myself in this strange happy/angry state. For example, one participant wrote:

              Thank you for your encouragement!  It is not often I get to hear things like that! Made my day! 

      This response brought a tear to my eye. First, I was really glad I made this person's day! But, then I thought, I didn't do anything big or huge, here.

      And then I thought, "Why HASN'T this teacher been offered this sort of encouragement more often?  Really, this effort took only a moment. Why is this such a surprise?"

      School administrators have a daunting task, granted. Further, they're limited on time, and much of their "attaboys/attagirls" come via generic school-wide emails or on evaluations.

      However,the generic email is just that...positive, but lukewarm. A recipient may or may not connect with it. Further, the school-wide or coursewide email goes out to those who may not really deserve to hear the praise, so it's incumbent upon the recipient to self-evaluate with those memos. This approach works for special occasions (We did a great job with Open House!), but not for the kind of morale-boosts that teachers really need.

      And hearing praise on an evaluation is also somewhat...meh. It's sort of required, so it doesn't offer the same motivational jolt that a personalized message would.

      People need to hear what they're doing RIGHT. That way, we can subtly (or not-so-subtly) reinforce that behavior. Do we bother to do that?

      Teachers need to hear more of what they're doing well and effectively. They also need to hear WHY what they're doing works well or reflects best practices.  

      Students need to hear more of what they're doing well and effectively. They also need to hear WHY and HOW what they're doing works well.

      For that matter, school administrators need to hear more of what they're doing well and effectively. They also need to hear WHY what they're doing works well with staff and faculty or reflects best leadership practices. 

      Our children need to hear what they're doing well and effectively. They also need to hear WHY what they're doing works well, helps others, or contributes to the family. 

      Our spouses, significant others...The list goes on...

      And don't give me that "There's not enough time in the day."

      There is time enough in the day to prioritize those things that will make everyone and everything run more smoothly.

      There is time enough in the day to send out an "attaboy/attagirl" email, which could, if sincerely offered, offset the later need for a full one-on-one conference to discuss an issue.

      There's time enough in the day to write a quick positive on a sticky note and put it in a briefcase, purse, backpack, or lunchbox.

      And not just "I like your artwork" or "You are the best!" This positive criticism needs to express both WHAT works well and WHY or HOW. Otherwise, the recipient may perceive you as inauthentic, which is counter-intuitive.

      Pre-emptive positives such as these quick emails may take a bit more time, initially, but they ultimately save time and serve to create a powerful foundation of communication and rapport.

      How long has it been since you've heard or provided a personal attaboy or attagirl? Tell us about your experiences in the comments, below! 

       

      Mirror site: www.joyfulcollapse.blogspot.com

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  • Change agents and the hiring d Change agents and the hiring dilemma

    • From: Scott_McLeod
    • Description:

      For hireHere’s a working hypothesis:

      The organizations that most need change agents probably are the least likely to hire them because change agents typically make people with non-change orientations scared or nervous. If the people within were already oriented toward change and innovation, their organizations wouldn’t be the ones in the most need of change agents.

      So a change- and innovation-oriented job candidate has a steep uphill battle to get considered and hired. The challenge is how to get people on hiring committees in non-change-oriented institutions to recognize the value of hiring for innovation, not replication… Got any thoughts on this?

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  • 5 Ways to Help Struggling Read 5 Ways to Help Struggling Readers

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      struggling readers


      Use the Web to find texts they want to read

      In the past, finding books that piqued our struggling readers’ interest was challenging, but with the help of websites like Bookwink, Whichbook, Shelfari, Your Next Read and BookLamp.org, finding good books has never been easier. Use these sites, and show your students how to use them, too.
       

      Pair struggling readers with younger readers

      Even when we give our students their choice of reading materials, many struggling readers continue to choose books that are too difficult for them. When you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. Most sixth grade students don’t want to be caught with the Magic Tree House books when their friends are reading the Divergent series.

      Pairing these students with younger readers is a simple solution to this. The “indignities” associated with “babyish” books are no longer an issue when we pair our struggling readers with younger readers and have them read aloud to them.

      Find creative ways to create independent reading time

      If you timed it out, we bet you’d be surprised by how much of the day is squandered on interruptions—you know, special deliveries, messages, forgotten lunches, notes, or quick questions from other teachers. Train your students to always have a book out on their desk. When an interruption occurs—and they will occur—students should immediately begin reading.

      Here’s another idea: When students finish their work early, skip the extra dittos and busy work; instead, allow them to read silently until their peers are all finished.

      Take Phonics instruction beyond “sounding it out”
      Encountering big words can be daunting for the struggling reader. Relying solely on teaching readers to “sound out” letters can prevent growth and lead to frustration, especially when encountering words with many syllables or words that don’t follow the standard rules. Teach readers to break words down into chunks – called “chunking” or “reading by analogy.”

      Handle struggling readers with care

      We have best intentions when we say, “Stop and reread this sentence,” or “Can you read a little bit faster?” but we should really avoid this type of coaching. To learn how to handle your struggling readers with care, check out a video by Amy Mascott called, “What Not to Say to Emerging Readers.”

                                                               



       

       

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  • 4 Tips to Prepare Students for 4 Tips to Prepare Students for On-Demand Writing

    • From: Suzanne_Klein1
    • Description:

      Have you ever worked hard at teaching your class something only to discover that they don’t apply that learning on the test? I’ve noticed many students seem to struggle with on-demand writing during test taking.

       

      On-demand writing: a situation in which students are presented with a prompt (question or scenario) and are given a specific time limit to complete it.


      From the prototypes we are looking at, we are finding that on-demand writing is especially prevalent in Smarter Balanced and PARCC. On-demand writing is also an important skill for students to have in situations such as the rise of social media and for college and career readiness.

       

      Time management is the ultimate solution for student success with on-demand writing.  I’ve found that by teaching my students how to allot and judge time during their writing, they’ve become more confident when it comes time for on-demand writing. I did this by having my students practice writing with different timed allocations, beginning with 40 minutes. I then gradually lowered their timed writing to 10 minutes. As your students become more comfortable with timed writing, you will notice their skills improving, especially in their shorter on-demand writing pieces.

       

      Here are four tips we’ve learned that help prepare students for on-demand writing:

       

      1. Assigning writing prompts will help with on-demand writing.


      Within a WriteSteps unit you’re given the opportunity to assign a prompt or a “free choice” write. Have your students write in response to the prompt in a specific time frame. When assigning a prompt, choose one that relates to your other subject area s. By having students write about what they’ve read in ELA, science, social studies, or math, you’re helping prepare them for the on-demand writing they will do on tests, in other classes, and in the work place.

       

      2. Planning helps students focus their thoughts and organize their on-demand writing piece.



      I always have students plan before they write. This is taught in a step-by-step, strategic way. The goal is that through repetition, students will start to plan automatically whenever a writing assignment is given, whether it is a long writing piece or a shorter on-demand piece.

       

      Students in kindergarten begin practicing stating the topic. 1st graders write a paragraph for which they have planned the topic and include three facts or reasons. Students in grades 2-5 become skilled at planning multiple paragraph essays.

       

      3. Conferencing with students boosts their self esteem and confidence, which is needed for on-demand writing.


      Help each student identify their personalized goals by using a rubric, editing checklist, or revising checklist, and by asking your student to reflect on their writing. I’ve found this helps students find their errors when they’re writing an on-demand piece for which they will have no time for peer editing and revising.

       

      Students will not need to identify all errors in a timed writing piece, just those that might impede understanding. It is the philosophy of many standardized tests, including PARCC and Smarter Balanced, that spelling and grammar do not harm a student’s score unless they make it difficult for the reader to understand what the writer is saying.

       

      4. Self-assessment and reflection help a student to know themselves as a writer, which is beneficial for on-demand writing.


      One of my favorites tools that I like my students to use is the six traits rubrics. Students score their own writing and use the document to set goals for their writing improvement. Not only do students fill out the rubric, but they answer a short questionnaire that asks them to identify their strengths, weaknesses, goals, and areas for which they would like teacher assistance. This type of self reflection helps students prepare and improve from one writing piece to the next, regardless of length and time frame given.

       

      The on-demand type of writing is becoming more prevalent in social media, CCSS testing, and in preparing students for college and career readiness. One of the four ways teachers can increase students’ aptitude for writing on-demand is by including both longer duration writing with all steps of the writing process, as well as shorter on-demand writing.   

       

      Have you noticed a difference in your students’ longer duration writing versus their on-demand writing? What stories can you share with us?

      

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  • 9 Ways Students Can Develop a 9 Ways Students Can Develop a Growth Mindset

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      Last week, Larry Ferlazzo reblogged a photograph of a growth-mindset chart he came across on Twitter. I liked so much that I decided to reformat it into a printable version.

      Growth Mindset






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  • Curating Content with Students Curating Content with Students: 4 Steps

    • From: Mindy_Keller-Kyriakides
    • Description:

      Content Curation is a relatively new term for educators to consider as they flex their Web muscles. After all, many of us are used to content being synonymous with "what's in the textbook." Or from a student perspective, we've hopefully moved past the bibliography cards (shudder) as a way of gathering content. We may not have started out with the idea that information or strategies or tools are available with a search, but now we need to know that the act of gathering them is also a skill. It's time to figure out the best way to get students on board with this crucial 21st century skill.

       

      Mullan (2011) defines content curation as "the act of discovering, gathering, and presenting digital content that surrounds specific subject matter." Thus, our role as a facilitator of learning is to figure out the general why and how, so we can help students better understand their specific why and how.


      1. Start with the end in mind.

       

      Our planning of the use of content curation will be somewhat backwards from our presentation to students because we first need to figure out why we want them to curate content before we jump into having them do it.

       

                          If you don't have a good reason for kids to curate, then...don't.

      Without a clear alignment of this task and the learning, you'll soon find them off-task and/or whining and complaining, no matter the tool. So, we need to first consider:

       

           What is the end goal of the assignment or project? 

           What do we want students to be able to "do" with it?

       

      These questions come before the "curation" question:

       

           Why is curating content the BEST thing to help students reach those goals or demonstrate their   

           learning?

       

      For example, let's say I have a project idea that I want students to complete a research project on one aspect of education for sustainable development. The topic is certainly significant, and I want them to decide on one problem they want to tackle under the umbrella of this topic, and research solutions and ideas for overcoming it. Finally, I want them to present their findings in a comprehensive way for others to learn from. They are expected to choose their intended audience for this compilation of information. My reason for curation is then germane to the learning. They need to find the sources, so having a spot to put them all is a logical, practical exercise.


      2. Scaffold the skills.

       

      Then, I'll want to brainstorm some thoughts on what the kids will need to know about content curation before they tackle this project.

       

      What immediately stands out for content curation as a skill is the credibility and/or reliability of what is discovered or gathered, etc. Evaluating sources can be tricky, so students may need some help understanding what is/is not a viable source. Providing them with examples in discussion prior to sending them out on their own would allow them more solid footing. They should be asking questions such as:

       

           Who is the author of this source, and why is he/she credible?
           Does the source provide references or at least links to information that supports the discussion?
           How will this source help me reach my goal?

       

      3. Distinguish the tools.

       

      Another thing kids will need to know is what kind of tool will work best. There are so many options! Paperli, Pinterest, Symbaloo. Since the use of the tools is probably not going to be too much of an issue (they are very user-friendly and easy to figure out), then, we'll need to do a bit of background on a few. What is it that curation tools can actually DO?

       

      contentcuration.jpeg

       

       

      From Webby Thoughts http://www.webbythoughts.com/content-curation-tools-resource/

       

      For example, some curation tools, such as scoopit and paperli lend themselves to actually being the final project whereas Symbaloo, Diigo, and Pinterest are more like warehouses that store information for something else.  Thus before you open up Pandora's box of tools, make sure you know what you want it to do.

      A quick comparison of a few--you can find some listed in Moss (2014) "Content Curation Tools"--can aid you in guiding students to the choice that will work best for them. This is actually good spot in the unit/lesson to offer students some choice because you want them to hone the skill. The tool is up to them!

       

      4. Set clear expectations.

       

      Of course, you'll want to make sure your expectations for the final product are clear! Using rubrics and checklists that help students understand how you'll be assessing their skills of curation for the purpose of the final project will offer them a solid foundation for moving forward in the magic of content curation.

       

      Working with the backwards design approach really offers us a powerful way to approach this valuable skill! Students who can curate have a definitive advantage over those who don't know what it is or how to use it.

       

      And they need all the advantages that we can give them.

       

       

      

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  • The Best of the Week: Volume 3 The Best of the Week: Volume 3

  • Alternatives to Standardized T Alternatives to Standardized Tests: Building a Comprehensive Assessment Plan

    • From: Elliott_Seif
    • Description:

      As a high school teacher, I used an array of diverse assessments to measure and evaluate student achievement and success. Many varied components would go into each student’s grades and narratives – test and quiz results, the quality of projects, writings and self-reflections, observations of students, and judgments regarding effort, growth, and class participation. Given the multiple student cognitive abilities, attitudes, character traits, and strengths and problems, it would have been foolish of me to use only one type of measure to determine a students’ success in my class.

       

      Given that multiple types of assessments such as the ones I used above are used by most teachers, one would expect that appropriate, multiple assessment approaches would be also used to assess school and district success. Thus, it is surprising that “one size fits all” standardized tests, with their major emphasis on multiple choice-short answer questions, are touted as the major, and often the only way to judge school success, student achievement, and even teacher effectiveness.

       

      Unfortunately, the sole use of these traditional tests pose many problems for assessing actual student knowledge, skills, abilities, talents and interests. First, many educators and lay people suggest that standardized tests often do not do a good job of measuring the purported skills associated with them. For example, as recently pointed out by a New York State teacher in a NY Times op-ed piece, the New York English Language Arts test questions do “a poor job of testing reading comprehension”. A student’s answers to the questions on this test have “little bearing on [his or her] reading ability and yet [have] huge stakes for students, teachers, principals and schools”[i]. Some students also might be good readers but do poorly on the reading test because of their poor test-taking skills.

       

      Second, standardized tests have limited use in evaluating whether students have learned many of the most important skills required for college work or for living in a 21st century world, such as interest in learning, motivation to learn, research and study skills, coherent writing abilities, effective oral communication skills, project and problem-based development skills, problem finding and question asking, the ability to apply learning to authentic situations, scientific investigation skills, “deep” thinking, student “grit”, and the development of each individual student’s talents and abilities.

       

      In addition, the tests usually provide schools and teachers with limited, if any, feedback to help them figure out how to improve teaching and learning. And, unfortunately, they also have a number of negative side effects, such as increasing sterile test-prep activities, narrowing the curriculum, increasing student anxiety and frustrations, and reducing student interest in learning. Many of our best teachers write about how the emphasis on testing plays havoc with their curriculum, the interest and motivation of their students, and their joy of teaching. Some have even left the teaching profession altogether because of their school or district emphasis on preparing for standardized tests.

       

      As opposition to the use of these tests increases, and a greater understanding of their limitations and negative consequences develops, it is imperative that opponents to standardized testing suggest alternatives. In fact, there should be many varied assessments used to determine school and district success, just as there are many and varied types of educational goals, results, and students. This is a very different paradigm from the “one size fits all” standardized testing results model of measuring success. So, described briefly below are some examples of types of measures that might be combined into an assessment plan useful for judging district and school success, student achievement, and the school or district conditions that limit or reinforce success. The first number of measures are designed to measure output – achievement and successes of students, their involvement and participation in multiple types of activities, perceptions of stakeholders in how the school is meeting their needs, and so on. The second set of measures focus on input: characteristics of student population, conditions under which students learn, amount of resources available, the quality of curriculum and teaching, and others.

       

      Assessing Output:

      Achievement, Successes, Activity Involvement, and Perceptions

       

      Student graduation data

      What do students do when they graduate, where do they go and how successful are they both during their time with us and after they leave us?

      In analyzing school success, data should be regularly collected on the % of students who graduate and what they do after graduation (types and names of colleges and universities attended, financial aid obtained, military enlistees, technical school attendees, etc.); what % of those who attend college graduate and why do they drop out; college majors. Student data also should include surveys and interviews with graduates to find out their levels of satisfaction with their K-12 school programs;

       

      Mission-related achievement data

      How well do our students meet the mission of our school or district?

      Student data should be collected and analyzed that demonstrate achievement and success based on mission-related goals. For example, a school specializing in the visual arts might collect data on the type of artwork students complete and a sampling of student portfolios; a school with an emphasis on music may focus assessments around the types of student performances given by students and the skill level of its music students. Vo-Tech schools might collect data on the types of training received by each student, their post high school plans and career goals, their job placements and acceptance levels into advanced programs.

       

      Report card results

      How successful are our students, based on the results of their daily and yearly work?

      We know that the best predictors of student achievement and success lie with how well students do in their classes and in the recommendations of teachers and others in the school. We therefore need to make sure that each school or district develop specific, “standards-based” report cards, built around measures of 21st century goals, that reflect how well students succeed and grow in their classes and courses. Report cards should be broken down into specific cognitive and social expectations, with ratings that use levels of achievement as well as grades. Narrative comments convey specific information to parents-guardians about the strengths of individual children and areas that need improvement.

       

      Report card data can be summarized to provide a picture of how well the school or district is doing to meet the needs of its students. Randomly selected report cards, along with narrative comments, can also be collected and shared.

       

      Cornerstone-graduation project(s) results

      How well do our students complete “cornerstone” projects that both develop and assess core 21st century skills?

      Cornerstone projects consist of research projects and “authentic” performance tasks that culminate in presentations and exhibitions and demonstrate in-depth understanding of ideas, the ability to use 21st century skills, and the ability to transfer and apply learning. Students who are able to develop questions around their interests or suggested topics, conduct research, read and comprehend, write essays and research papers, and make presentations to others demonstrate an understanding of content and competence in using significant skills.

       

      Cornerstone project results at different school levels demonstrate progress towards the development of these skills as well as final mastery of them.

       

      Student plans for the future

      What are student plans for the future?

      Every student should be required to develop a plan for his or her future, indicating their next steps after graduating from high school and their more visionary goals for the future. Part of the development of a plan should include research about future educational goals, career options and choices. A summary of these plans is an important indicator of school and district success.

       

      Student portfolios

      What is the comprehensive nature of individual student work?

      Portfolios - collections of student work - help us to assess actual student work and incorporate “real learning” into the assessment process, not the artificial, “out of context” kind of learning assessed through standardized tests. Portfolios are also individualized and customized to demonstrate an individual’s nuanced and varied skill levels, talents, abilities, and interests. Today, with Internet capability, an individual student’s best writing and/or artwork, project results, tests, self-reflections, plans for the future, and other student work can be scanned and placed electronically into portfolios.

       

      Students should be asked to develop portfolios of their work throughout their K-12 experience. Sample portfolios, or parts of portfolios, can be used to illustrate the types of work students are doing within the school or district, and how well a school or district is helping students master key 21st century knowledge and skills.

       

      Survey-focus group data

      What do parents, students and teachers think about us?

      In this day and age of the Internet, it is relatively easy to develop, post, and summarize survey data. Every school and district should collect data from parents, students and teachers at least once a year, and then use the data to review its programs, applaud its strengths, and figure out ways to improve what it does[ii].

       

      What do graduates and dropouts think about us?

      Once students leave school and move on to colleges and other post high-school experiences, they have greater perspective on their experiences and can often provide valuable insights into the strengths of a school program and “needs improvement” areas. Data from graduates should be sought after, even if it is often difficult to collect.

       

      Attempts should be made to collect and analyze data from dropouts, even if this data might be difficult to collect, in order to indicate why they dropped out of school and therefore suggest ways to help other students stay in school.

       

      Student reflections

      How do students view our school? What do they see as our positive and negative features?

      Students who will be leaving one school to go to another school within the district (e.g. from elementary to middle school) or leaving a school to transfer to a school outside the district, or graduating from high school should be the focus of special attention when it comes to surveys and data collection. These students should be asked to reflect on their school experiences and focus on what they perceive as the strengths of the school they are leaving, the major learnings resulting from their school experiences, and suggestions for improving their learning experience. This data should be collected, analyzed and shared.

       

      Community service and field-based activities

      What are our students’ opportunities to connect with and apply their learning to the outside world?

      How do students provide service to the community? How do students connect with the outside world via field trips, career days, and so on? How do outside individuals and groups provide services to and work with students within a school? These and other similar questions should be part of data collection that is shared and used to provide feedback on connections to real world, outside resources.

       

      Extra-curricular, support, or enrichment activities

      What opportunities are there for students to participate in extra-curricular, support and enrichment activities? How much do our students take advantage of extra-curricula, support and enrichment activities?

      “Extra curricular” activities provide opportunities for students to explore and learn about a variety of options that are beyond academics. What extra-curricular activities are available? Data should be available that indicates which students are partake of which extra-curricular activities, and how often they do so.

       

      In a similar vein, are their support and enrichment activities available for students? Data should indicate which students participate in these and why.

       

      Assessing Input:

      Conditions, Culture, Teaching, Curriculum, Resources,

       

      School and district student population, resource availability and conditions

      What are the characteristics of our student population? What resources do we have available to support our teachers and students? What school or district conditions help or hinder us in meeting achievement goals?

      This data helps us to understand the characteristics of the school, district and student population, and resource adequacy, needs problems and challenges. The data include information about student populations, such as ELL, special education, identified gifted populations; the number of students on free or reduced lunch. Other data includes the % of students who drop out of a school or district before graduation and the reasons why they leave; % who are “lifers” within the same school or district, % of students who are absent 10 or more days a year, % of students given suspensions and other discipline data, and mobility rates.

       

      District and school information include, among other things, resources available for technology, supplies, materials and other needs; class sizes; adequacy of library-media centers, art-music, and extra curricular programs; and support personnel available (NTA’s, nurses, counselors, community laiasons).

       

      Curricular programs and instructional activities

      What are the common types of curricular programs and instructional activities used in classrooms?

      One part of a school or district assessment plan might include examples of the kinds of curriculum, teaching and learning experiences that are incorporated into classrooms and other activities. Suppose, for example, that the school or district promotes inquiry learning. Do teachers in the district use an inquiry learning model in their classrooms? If yes, what does learning look like? What are the essential features of the mathematical curriculum? The reading-language arts curriculum? Are there any special programs in place (e.g. leveled books, writing process, deep learning, competitions) that provide the opportunity for a different type of learning experience for students?

       

      School and program reviews

      How can we increase the amount of “objective” assessment data in order to determine our successes and improve our programs?

      When I was on the staff of the Bucks County Intermediate Unit, an educational service agency in Bucks County, PA, we conducted a number of program reviews for our constituent districts each year. We would enlist a number of teachers, administrators, and experts from across the county and the area to spend three days in a district examining and analyzing all or part of the district’s program. Our final report would list the strengths and needs of the program, and also make suggested recommendations for improving the program.

       

      These types of reviews are extremely valuable for a school or district, especially since an outside agency is conducting the review. It provide a wealth of objective information and data, along with suggestions for improvement, that help to assess a program and provide the impetus for making changes.

       

      Building a Comprehensive Assessment Plan (CAP)

       

      Just as we should expect teachers to build a comprehensive assessment plan to measure student success and achievement in their classes, so should we expect schools and districts to build a Comprehensive Assessment Plan (CAP) that measures both output and input: a broad array of types of achievement, successes, involvement, perceptions, conditions, culture, and resources. The plan should both assess student achievement, growth, and development, and also be useful in improving school conditions and success in the future.

       

      The selection of a set of a core set of assessments, built into a Comprehensive Assessment Plan, may be best determined by each school or district, depending on its resources, options, and viewpoints. My own view is that a combination of student population and school and district conditions-resource data, strong report card and student portfolio data, cornerstone project results, and surveys of and reflections from current students and graduates will provide significant and important data on how well a school or district is doing as well as the conditions under which schools, districts and teachers operate.

       

      In today’s world of e-mails, Internet surveys, smartphones, computers, tablets, much of this data would be relatively easy to collect. Many of these measures, taken together, can become part of a holistic school-district annual report card, presented by a principal or superintendent to school boards and available to the general public. They can be used to identify problems that need to be addressed. They present a much more nuanced picture of how well a school is doing, the qualities of student graduates, what issues a school or district are facing, and what steps need to be taken to improve the results.

       

      Unfortunately, a broad, varied array of assessment data just doesn’t get collected and developed by itself. A school or district needs to assign someone who is responsible for the development, collection, and analysis of this complex data. The person responsible might even be part of a collaborative, regional effort. The development of this more comprehensive approach will also take time to develop, and a long-term goal should be to enable every school and district to develop a significant assessment process for judging success with students and the conditions and resources necessary for success.

       

      How Federal and State Officials Can Help This Assessment Process

       

      Here are some ways that state and federal officials can provide support for a the use of a much more comprehensive assessment process:

       

      • Encourage schools and districts to collect and synthesize a wide variety of data, provide funding, resources and examples to help them;

       

      • Provide examples and models of report cards, surveys, cornerstone assessments, portfolios, and the like. Provide the technical means for collecting and analyzing data from these examples and models.

       

      • Provide support for school, district, or regionally-based individuals to be hired to build assessment systems, organize data collection, and prepare summary reports around data.

       

      • Encourage schools and districts to develop their own mix of data alone or collaboratively with others, develop new measures, and share their methodology with others;

       

      • Forbid the use of a single number to describe a school or district’s success;

       

      • Encourage the development of data summaries that are easy to understand and posted for the community to see;

       

      • Encourage schools and districts to develop a wide variety of ways to use data as feedback and to experiment and find solutions to problems that arise from the data, including curriculum adaptations, community liaisons, ways to motivate students to stay in school, and so on.

       

      • Encourage high performing schools and districts to share what they do that makes them high performing, especially when they have a significant number of students that need special help and attention.

       

      • Provide support for professional development that enables staff to review and draw conclusions from data; encourage professional development to develop potential solutions to problems discovered through data collection.

       

      • Encourage school and district experimentation with potential solutions, even if they lead to failure (that’s how we learn).  

       

       

      Ultimately, a trust in a decentralized assessment process, a belief in the value of multiple, diverse assessments to measure school and district success, along with a combination of strong leadership at all levels, will provide the necessary impetus to move us away from the primary reliance on standardized tests to assess student, school and teacher success. We should be moving towards the use of varied sets of data that provide nuanced, helpful pictures of success and student achievement and help to improve the conditions of learning. Let us hope that we move in the right direction soon, because the current direction is leading us away from the kinds of education that our students need to prepare for living in a 21st century world.

       

      -------------------------

       

      Elliott Seif, Ph.D. is a long time educator, author, consultant, educational advocate, and trainer. If you are interested in further examining ways to improve teaching and learning and help to prepare students to live in a 21st century world, read more his blogs on ASCD Edge and go to:  www.era3learning.org

       

       

       



      [i] Elizabeth Phillips, We Need to Talk About the Test: The Problem With the Common Core, The New York Times op-ed page, April 9, 2014.

      [ii] A High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE) is available free of charge from the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy at Indiana University. Go to:

      http://ceep.indiana.edu/hssse/index.html

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  • Effective Leadership: The Impo Effective Leadership: The Importance of Protocol

    • From: Jonathan_Jefferson
    • Description:

       

      Effective Leadership:

      The Importance of Protocol

      By

      Jonathan T. Jefferson

                      Ineffective leadership is reactionary.  There are other forms that ineffectual leadership takes, but this essay will focus on reactionary people in leadership positions who do not understand the importance of protocol.  Protocol can be defined as “the official procedure or system of rules governing affairs of state or diplomatic occasions.”

                      The following scenarios are based on true accounts, but the perpetrators will remain nameless.  A school district superintendent recommends cuts to the school district’s budget for the following school year.  He explains to his board of education that the cuts come from every department to be fair.  Student participation, and per pupil cost, are taken into consideration.  A parent of a child on the middle school bowling team is disappointed that the bowling team has been cut.  This parent speaks to a board of education member who happens to be her neighbor.  Said board member calls the superintendent to inquire about the bowling team.  Instead of explaining the legitimate reasons why the bowling team was eliminated, the superintendent feigns ignorance, and directs his business administrator, and athletic director, to reinstate the program.  Clearly, this is not leadership, but reacting in fear to one voice from the community.

                      What would proper protocol have been in the above scenario?  Firstly, board members have no authority acting independently.  Board members must act as a unit (board of education) to monitor, and set, school district policies that do not violate their state’s department of education mandates and laws.  The board member could have told the parent that he would revisit the issue the next time the board met.  The superintendent could have reminded the board member that his budget was approved by the board, and that the matter could be readdressed during their next budget meeting.  The manner in which the superintendent reacted led to the reinstatement of another team later that school year when one parent inquired about that team at a PTA function.  Leadership requires making decisions that will not please everyone, and having the conviction to defend those decisions.

                      In this scenario, a teacher learns that she is being transferred to another school, and decides to fight the transfer by speaking with a board member who happens to be a retired principal of her school.  This board member speaks to the superintendent, and the superintendent immediately calls his assistant superintendents, and department director, to tell them to reconsider the transfer.  The department director, who does have the courage to defend his decisions, explained to the superintendent that the decision was made in the best interest of instruction after meetings with the principals of both schools.

      Once again, a weak reactionary person in a leadership position can cause chaos by ignoring protocol.  If this teacher were to be successful at thwarting a transfer, what authority would her principal or directors have in future dealings with her?   Especially disturbing is the fact that a former principal (now board member) would act in a manner that would undermine the current principal.  This board member should have told the teacher that the decision was within the unilateral purview of the school administrators.  An effective superintendent would have politely reminded the board member of the proper protocol in place (if any) to appeal such decision in this instance.

      As a school district administrator, the most effective superintendent I have had the pleasure of working with was a former Marine.  She believed fully in the benefits of protocol, and held everyone to it.  If a member of the community raised an issue at a board meeting, she would redirect them to the appropriate administrator and through the appropriate channels for such matter to be addressed.  She was a stickler for following through with her decisions, and never backed down or shied away from the procedural soundness of her decisions when questioned.  Through courage, conviction and commitment to community (rather than personal) objectives, this former marine more effectively managed a nine member board than the inept superintendent worked with his five.

    • Blog post
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  • 6 Ways to Reduce Your Students 6 Ways to Reduce Your Students’ Test Anxiety

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

       

      test anxietyTest anxiety needs no formal introduction. Most of us have experienced it—and if you haven’t, you’ve probably seen the impact it can have on your students’ performance and self-esteem. Below we’ve pulled a few stress-management tips from Neal A. Glasgow and Cathy D. Hicks’ book, What Successful Teachers Do: 91 Research-Based Classroom Strategies for New and Veteran Teachers.

      6 Ways to Reduce Your Students’ Test Anxiety

      Model low levels of anxiety in front of your students
      It should be no surprise that research shows a connection between the way we negotiate stress and the way our students handle it. If we’re stressed, chances are that it’s going to rub off on our students. We can apply every stress-management strategy in the book, but if we fail to create a positive classroom culture, even the best stress-management activity will fall flat. 


      As Tim Haston, a 7th grade math and science teacher at Earlimart Middle School, suggests, teachers would do well to approach test days like athletes do game day. “It is the performance; it is the thing we grow all year to be excited for. I don't want them to work around any anxiety, I want to teach them how to channel it as athletes do for a game, musicians do for a concert, and actors do for their play/movie/show.”

      Deep Breathing
      In addition to modeling low levels of anxiety in front of our students, we can also teach them how to be in tune with their bodies and minds. Here’s a simple deep breathing exercise we like to use before tests:

      With erect posture, breathe in deeply through the nose and hold your breath for a count of 8-10 seconds. Then, slowly exhale through the mouth, counting 8-10. Repeat this procedure several times until relaxation occurs.

      Olympic Success
      This mindfulness exercise fits in nicely with what Tim Haston said in our first point.


      Tell students to try what Olympic athletes do to develop confidence in their performance. Picture yourself in a tense situation, such as taking a test, and visualize yourself looking over the test, seeing the questions, and feeling secure about the answers. Imagine yourself answering the questions without too much difficulty. Complete the picture by imagining yourself turning in the paper and leaving the room assured that you did your best.

      Relaxing Place
      Where do your students feel most at peace? One spot could be at the ocean. Have students identify a place and use all their senses to imagine themselves there and how they feel when they are there. Guide them in an activity: Watch the waves with the whitecaps rolling up the shoreline onto the beach. Listen to the waves and the seagulls. Smell the salty air and feel your fingers and toes in the warm, soft, and grainy sand.

      Keep in mind that this activity should be done with some reserve. It may not work for all of your students, so gauge the class and encourage students not to give up on relaxation exercises just because this one doesn’t work well for them.

      Write Letters of Encouragement
      This activity will require more effort on the part of the teacher, but it’s one that will certainly stick with students. Before a major exam or standardized test, write a letter of encouragement to each student the day before. If you have the time to custom-tailor each note, your effort will go a long way, but a generic note will also have a positive impact on your students.

      We’d like to thank Angela Oliver, a 7th and 8th grade teacher from Leggett, Texas, for sharing this idea with us!


      Watch This Test Does Not Define You
      This Test Does Not Define You is one video we always show students in the weeks preceding big exams. Not only does it do a nice job of dispelling a few myths about testing, it also sends them an important message: They are not defined by test results! The video also highlights some simple research-based activities that reduce test-anxiety.

       

                                                                     Download 25 Classroom Management Tips for Teachers

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  • 5 Writing Instruction Fundamen 5 Writing Instruction Fundamentals for Success on Next-Generation Assessments

    • From: Scott_Miller1
    • Description:

      Get ready to say goodbye to standardized bubble tests completed with a #2 pencil. Computer-based next-generation assessments, which measure students’ mastery of the Common Core, are upping the ante.

      Why Writing Skills Matter Now More Than Ever

      With the new PARCC and SBAC assessments on the horizon, educators are concerned about whether their students will be adequately prepared—especially when it comes to writing. Knowing the right answer will no longer be sufficient. Students must be able to explain why that answer is correct—and their ability to do so is captured through their writing skills.

      Because writing is viewed as a skill that tests higher-order thinking and comprehension, both the PARCC and SBAC assessments incorporate writing to measure students’ ability to

      • respond to stimuli texts (and videos) and to synthesize answers using multiple sources.
      • explain their reasoning on math questions.
      • demonstrate comprehension on the reading portion of ELA assessment.

      How to Prepare Your Students for Success

      If you’re concerned about whether your students’ writing skills are sufficient for success on next-generation assessments, prepare them by incorporating these fundamental elements into your writing instruction:

      1. Familiarize students with the Common Core text types: (Yes, we’re starting with the obvious here.) Ensure that they’re well-versed with the Narrative, Informative/Explanatory, and Argument/Opinion text types. Help them understand the relationship between informative and explanatory writing. Make sure they understand how persuasion differs from argumentation and how expository structures function within multiple text types.
      2. Model effective writing: Provide model texts for a variety of purposes and audiences to illustrate a breadth of competent writing aligned to the Common Core.
      3. Incorporate writing rubrics: Help students understand exactly what is required from their writing and offer opportunities for self- and peer-evaluation based on writing rubrics.
      4. Provide practice tests: Increasing students’ familiarity with practice tests modeled on the new PARCC and SBAC assessments will help them gain confidence in their ability to effectively demonstrate their writing skills.
      5. Integrate writing across the curriculum: Although ELA teachers take the lead in writing instruction—ideally using the six traits to negotiate the writing process within a writing workshop framework—writing skills should be practiced in every content area. Science, math, and social studies teachers may wish to focus primarily upon the trait that supports content-area knowledge (ideas), the trait that demonstrates relationships between facts and concepts (organization), and the trait that emphasizes domain-specific language (word choice).

      Bonus Tip: To further strengthen your writing instruction, take advantage of the excellent (and free) resources—such as graphic organizers and reference materials—at http://sfw.z-b.com

      

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  • Write on the Classroom Windows Write on the Classroom Windows: A Simple Student Engagement Strategy

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      student engagementI bookmarked Eric Berngen’s blog back in February, but like a lot of sites I add to my visual bookmarking tool, I forgot to repost it!

      As Eric aptly points out in his post, capturing the hearts and attention of our students often requires us to take an unconventional route. Here’s how Berngen put a new spin on one of his tried and true activities:

      During one lesson in particular, I asked the students a question and they responded in their journals. When it was time to share, instead of me writing their responses on the board, I walked over to the window instead. I pulled out an expo (whiteboard marker) and began writing frivolously, to the students shock and awe. Mouths began to drop and shortly thereafter, all eyes were on me as I was discussing their responses. One student muttered questioningly, “You can do that?”  I responded, “Why not?”

      Shortly thereafter I gave the students another question—except this time they were to work in groups and write their responses on the window. All students were thoroughly engaged and loved the opportunity.  Afterwards, we did a gallery walk and all students got to share out their responses from the group.

      It’s a simple idea, but I never would have thought of it on my own. If you decide to give this activity a try, let me know how it goes with your students!








       

                                                           New Call-to-Action

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  • Taking the "Byte" out of PD fo Taking the "Byte" out of PD for Teachers

    • From: Mandy_Vasek
    • Description:

       

      2013-12-02-tweet-thumb

      Constructivists, like myself, in education today would agree that technology is redefining the way we think, practice, communicate, and carry out the routines of day-to-day living. In my personal and professional life, I have become increasingly dependent on my personal devices, such as my iPhone, iPad, and my Mac.   I may leave home without matching shoes, but you can bet I will have all my tech gadgets.  My iCali is synced to at least 4 systems and so are my reminders.  My life has changed for the better due to the synchronization of my tech tools.  Evernote, Drop Box, Google Drive, Live Binders, iCalendar are just a few ways I can manage my career and family.  One of the best things is that my devices have afforded me the luxury of having access to personalized professional development at any time of the day or night.  Because of the technology, my leadership skills, pedagogical practices, content knowledge, etc. have soared during the past two years.  I have allowed social media, blogging, and other web 2.0 tools to become a consistent standard in my life.

      Professional development has always been a part of the educational system.  Rebore (2012) described that the main purpose for a staff development program is to “increase the knowledge and skills of employees and thereby, increase the potential of the school district to attain its goals and objectives” (p. 112).  Cooper and Johnson (2013) believe learning needs are always present, therefore, educators find staff development necessary to stay abreast of current trends and practices. Many districts will perform a needs assessment to gain useful information regarding the types of professional development that should be offered to employees. Using the data from the assessments, the district pays attention to employee deficits. These shortfalls will show up as gaps in staff knowledge and/or skills in certain areas of the profession. To orient staff with new knowledge and skills, a district or campus may provide professional development to help close the learning gaps between those educators who display strengths in a certain area and those who do not (2012).

      Traditionally, many staff development models try engaging their audience with a single presenter, who shares new knowledge centered around an idea.  These models are mostly called workshops or seminars.  Research has shown that these particular models are frequently presented in isolation without the motivation needed to change practices (Cooper & Johnson, 2013). This delivery style is very common in the educational world.  Who needs this old-fashioned, "sit-'n-git"* approach to learning??  As a campus leader, I have the ability to move us away from tradition learning models and into the current era where there are means to personalizing PD for every single member on my staff.  (* Thanks @ambercldrn for the "sit-n-git"…love it).

      Research indicates that professional development is most effective when:  “it involves the participants in concrete tasks; is participant driven while rooted in inquiry and reflection; is collaborative, connected to and derived from teachers work; and includes ongoing support” (Cooper & Johnson, 2013). With purposes quite the same as face-to-face counterparts, online teacher professional development (oTPD) operates using Web 2.0 tools, which  have the potential to maximize principles due to flexibility and personalization for the educator. Web 2.0 oTPD engages and provides motivation for learners through reflection, review, connection, and immediate action, which are key to the constructivist experience (2013).

      Our district administrators recently had the pleasure of hearing Maria Henderson, an Education Development Executive at Apple, Inc., speak to us about new and innovative ways of developing students and teachers on Web 2.0 tools. Henderson (2014) defended using 2.0 tools as an innovative way to personalize professional development for staff. I agree 100% with Ms. Henderson!  Online professional development (oTPD) is not new but becoming more alive in the world of education.  On my campus, I have tried using new apps and online resources to ease the time constraints that accompany traditional staff developments in an effort to deliver information. I have implemented the use of tools like Screen-Cast-O-Matic, Google Drive, Padlet, iMovie, YouTube, Teacher Channel, Blogging, Twitter, ScoopIt, Haiku Deck etc.  Unlike traditional professional development, oTPD can be tailored to the professional or grade level, which increases engagement and the likelihood that the educator will apply what was learned or discussed.

      With less time and more to learn than ever before, I often wonder why teachers do not embrace online learning more.  Henderson (2014) stated it best when she said, “There has never been a more exciting time to be an educator or a student.” She is right!  As an educator, I cannot wait to see where we go next.  I am not afraid but rather anxiously await the next new, innovative tool to take us through our life's journey.  #EXCITING!

      We have always lived with and adapted to change; however, today’s changes are fast and furious. In education, building networks globally can help us stay abreast of current research and tools. Using Twitter, users are able to collaborate professionally with other educators about interests personalized to them (Cooper & Johnson, 2013).  Books and magazines have much to offer but, once written, they stay the same and are not able to update immediately.  Online venues, such a Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook provide educators with current feed with around the clock access in real-time. Almost nightly, I am able to read a plethora of new information and decide what best relates to my needs.  I am able to share and learn skills and content on my own time with others who I have accepted in my professional learning network.  By participating in #chats, I am able to discuss even more specifically the topics, which are more relevant to me.  This method sure does beat sitting in a cold, sterile meeting where I might (or might not) walk away with something worthwhile.  When I am on Twitter, I walk away with new learning each time I log off.  (Which…by the way…logging off  Twitter is hard…VERY HARD!).

      Blogging is another user-friendly Web 2.0 feature that puts professional learning at your fingertips.  Blogs are intended to prompt dialogue between people who have a vested interest in the material presented.  Well…like this one!!  I hope the material I am presenting makes you think.  Sometimes blogs can embed other attractive and engaging features, such as YouTube videos, graphs, media clips, trailers, etc.  Cooper and Johnson (2013) found that most research on blogging and teacher development has taken place with preservice teachers. New teacher bloggers have shown ability to critically reflect and interact with others in their online communities. My own Learning and Leading blog has taken me to new levels of learning. For me, it has given me a voice and a platform to speak.  I also know that it has helped other educators reflect and think about their own practices in education.

      Online professional development using 2.0 tools and other online resources can connect and give authentic experiences to the constructivist through reflection, review, and collaboration with network members.  Not only that, but it can making learning simpler and easier.  Another added bonus, as Cooper and Johnson (2013) stated in their article, “Exploration of professional development with such technologies presents possibilities for their use in the educational settings, while also engaging teachers in 21st century learning.”

       

       

      References

      Cooper, T., & Johnson, C. (2013). Web 2.0 tools for constructivist online professional development. EdItLib2013(1), 1923-1926.   Retrieved from http://www.editlib.org/p/112231

      Henderson, M. (2014, 0320).Apple learning. Lecture. Waco, Texas.

      Rebore, R. (2012). The essentials of human resources administration in education.(1st ed.).Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

      Source for graphic:  AppEducation.org

    • Blog post
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  • Shut The Front Door Shut The Front Door

    • From: Steven_Weber
    • Description:

      As an educator, I am often surprised by the things I hear other educators say. You hear these comments at conferences, read opinions shared on Twitter, overhear opinions shared at other schools, and possibly even hear one of these statements at your own school. These statements make me cringe. When we are working with students, it is difficult to understand the statements that some educators make.

       

      Ten Statements That Make Me Say, "Shut The Front Door!"

       

      "Those students can't go to college. We should just prepare them for a career, starting in middle school."

      In 1903, Saunders, a professor at the University of Mississippi, described the perspective of many Americans at the turn of the century.  He wrote, "College education is desirable and theoretically necessary for preeminence, but it is not for the masses, and it would be but a utopian theory to plan for the day when a bachelor's degree shall be a qualification for suffrage or a necessity for success and happiness" (p. 73).

       

      In 2014, several Americans still share this perspective. The recent move towards College and Career Readiness is a positive move in education. This movement does not guarantee that every student will enter a four year college. It is the idea that every student should be provided with the opportunity to learn (OTL) key skills and concepts. Furthermore, adults should not determine a child's plans after high school when the child is in the seventh grade.

       

      "Our seventh graders made a PowerPoint, so I would say that I am proficient with technology integration."

      I am not offended by teachers saying that they require students to make a PowerPoint. However, it should be a red flag to administrators if any teacher hangs their hat on one project that incorporates technology. Technology integration should become seamless. In other words student projects will require technology integration, but the focus is on student understanding, not the device or program. After all, did you ever hear a teacher say, “My students used a pencil and paper today?” 

       

      "The Common Core State Standards are not new ideas. I have always taught this way."

      Regardless of your stance (for or against) the Common Core State Standards, there are obvious changes in the way teachers should approach curriculum development, instruction, and common formative assessments. "These Standards are not intended to be new names for old ways of doing business. They are a call to take the next step” (Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, Introduction, p. 5). Be aware of teacher teams and administrators who claim, “This is how we have always done it.”

       

      The new standards will not fit into your state’s old standards like a jigsaw puzzle. The Common Core State Standards provide an opportunity to change how teacher teams communicate, collaborate, and reflect on standards. In the absence of ongoing communication, it will be easy to revert back to teaching in isolation and struggling to understand each standard. “Failure to understand the Standards and adjust practices accordingly will likely result in ‘same old, same old’ teaching with only superficial connections to the grade level Standards. In that case, their promise to enhance student performance will not be realized” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2012).

       

      "I require the gifted students to do double the work. They can handle it, because 'they are gifted.'"

      You do not hear this myth as often as you did at the turn of the century. However, there are still misconceptions about rigor and about homework for gifted students. Giving gifted students more work does not support student understanding. If you hear a teacher bragging about giving the gifted students double the work, you should refer them to resources such as (Edmonds, SERVE) and Rigor on Trial (Wagner, 2006).

       

      "How do you expect me to read a journal article or blog. There's no time for that."

      The field of education is changing and professional growth is not optional. Online journal articles, blogs written by teachers and administrators, Twitter chats, webinars, and teaching videos provide educators with a multitude of resources. As a professional, I grow frustrated when someone claims that there is no time for continuous improvement. As educators, we should continue to grow and seek to understand best practices. It is professional malpractice to claim that there is no time for learning.

       

      "Those aren't my students."

      Teachers in a Professional Learning Community (PLC) change from saying ‘those kids’ to ‘our kids’ (DuFour, DuFour, & Eaker, 2008). If the goal is to prepare all students to graduate College and Career Ready, then the teachers and staff members in the school district must collaborate to support students. Principals within the same school district should share ideas and discuss instructional strategies. Competition is good when it comes to athletics, marching band, academic clubs, and science fairs. It is also appropriate to see which school has the highest graduation rate, lowest dropout rate, and highest number of students enrolled in advanced courses. The idea that “Those aren’t my students” should be a thing of the past. As adults, we should share ideas within our school district, across state lines, and even around the globe. When more students graduate prepared for college and careers, the world wins! These are “OUR” students!

       

      "Do we get credit for attending this meeting?"

      Have you ever heard a colleague whisper, “I hope they are giving us credit for this.” Most school districts require a number of credits over the course of one year or a five year span. If a teacher is more focused on receiving credit than learning, it is a red flag. Have you ever attended a meeting until lunch and then your co-worker goes to the mall, because the credit was given in the registration packet? It is a shame that some educators view the credit as the purpose for attending. Don’t get me wrong. I believe that educators should receive credit in order to renew their license. I also believe that more school districts should begin recognizing blogging, Twitter chats, and webinars as ways to earn credit. Asking for credit is similar to the following scenario:

       

      A high school basketball coach asks the starting five to run a play in practice, one day before the game. The starting point guard pauses before running the play and asks, “Will we all five get to start in the game if we run this play right?”

       

      Running the play several times is part of continuous improvement. Continuous improvement is the reason for professional development, not credit or a certificate.

       

      "We are no longer teaching during the last nine weeks. We have started benchmarking and test prep."

      Test prep is one of the worst things that teachers can do during the last nine weeks. Did you ever try to cram for a test in college? It usually does not result in transfer or understanding. There are multiple approaches that educators can take which will virtually guarantee instant gains or increases in student achievement. Curricular reductionism is a test prep strategy that eliminates arts education, social studies, character education, and soft skills. If it’s not tested, then it’s not taught during the last nine weeks (or even semester in some schools).

       

      Taking shortcuts to improve the data at an individual school is akin to a professional athlete taking steroids. When our students graduate from high school, we do not want them to reflect on their K-12 experience and see that the shortcuts adults took created long-term detrimental effects.

       

      When educators choose to give students multiple assessments that look like the high-stakes test, eliminate subjects, and create a test prep boot camp atmosphere, then students lose. High-stakes tests have changed the way some teachers and administrators approach teaching and learning.

       

      "I would assign more project-based learning, but it interferes with the pacing guide."

      Pacing guides provide students with a ‘guaranteed and viable curriculum’ (Marzano), if the curriculum is implemented in each classroom. Pacing guides can support teaching and learning. Alignment in a school district is important and pacing guides can provide an outline of what should be taught to each student. Pacing guides should allow for flexibility in pacing and the readiness level of each student.

       

      The statement above is often overheard at high schools that teach on a block schedule. While there may be 90 minute periods, some teachers cannot overcome the fact that a one year course is taught in one semester. If student understanding is improved through project-based learning (PBL), then teachers should identify days of the week and units of study that provide students with time for PBL.

       

      I say, “Shut the Front Door” to this comment, because it is an example of putting the needs of adults in front of the needs of students. We are paid to prepare each student for the next level of learning. Some educators say, “Research be damned, I am going to get through the pacing guide and make sure that I cover the content.”

       

      "I believe that soft skills are critically important, but they aren't tested by the state."

      Soft skills include, but are not limited to, teamwork, decision-making, and communication (America’s Promise Alliance, 2007). “The goal of college and career readiness for all high school graduates is no longer a radical reform idea promulgated by a handful of states: It has emerged as the new norm throughout the nation” (Achieve, 2010, p. 23).

       

      Employers seek applicants who are problem solvers, communicators, team players, and have perseverance. These skills, sometimes referred to as soft skills, are needed by all high school graduates to ensure that they are college and career ready, regardless of whether they plan to complete an apprenticeship after high school or attend a two-year or four-year college.  While employers are seeking students with strong academic skills, they are having trouble finding applicants who can collaborate, create, think outside the box, and communicate. When educators focus on tested subjects at the expense of soft skills, students pay the price. If test scores are the reason for teaching and learning, then someone forgot to tell the employers who are seeking qualified applicants (Wagner, Seven Survival Skills as described by business leaders in their own words).

       

      Closing Thoughts

      I believe in instructional leadership, teacher leaders, the Common Core State Standards, curriculum alignment, professional learning communities, and College and Career Readiness. When teachers and administrators make statements that you disagree with, you should challenge the statement. As a professional, you owe it to students and to the profession to challenge broad statements or beliefs that are not in the best interests of students or the profession.

       

      Share your thoughts below:

      What makes you say, “Shut the Front Door?”

        

      Steven Weber is an elementary school principal in North Carolina. During his career, he has served as the Director of Secondary Instruction for Orange County Schools, High School Social Studies Consultant with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, K-12 Social Studies Specialist with the Arkansas Department of Public Instruction, and as a classroom teacher and assistant principal in the West Memphis School District. Weber blogs on ASCD EDge. You can connect with Weber on Twitter at @curriculumblog.

    • Blog post
    • 3 weeks ago
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  • 3 Ways Students Can Help Save 3 Ways Students Can Help Save the Earth

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      Earth DayIn case you forgot, Earth Day is just around the corner! To help you celebrate, we’re sharing three activities from a book we’ve been reading called The New 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth.

      Pack a no-garbage lunch
      You may not know it, but lunch trash is the second-largest source of waste in American schools! Every year, Americans discard 380 billion plastic bags and nearly 2.7 billion juice boxes—and just think about all of the other items that we turn into trash every day!

      To cut down on waste, try packing a no-garbage lunch. Here are a few tips to get you started:

      • Use a brown paper bag. When you’re done with it, save and reuse for tomorrow’s lunch
      • Even better, pack your lunch in a lunchbox; you can reuse a lunchbox for years!
      • Carry a sandwich or other food in a reusable container
      • Save your zip-lock bags; these can be rinsed and reused
      • Buy snacks in large packages instead of individual ones. Not only do you get more food, you also get less packaging
      • Bring more natural snacks. When you eat apples and bananas, your “packaging” is always biodegradable
      • Bring your milk or juice in a reusable thermos
      • Instead of using paper napkins, bring a cloth napkin

      Be a Water-Leak Detective
      Even a tiny leak can waste a lot of water. For example, a leak that fills up a coffee cup in 10 minutes will waste 3,000 gallons of water in a year! Cutting down on water waste is not only good for the environment, but it can also be a useful learning activity at school. 

      For example, students at the Homestead-Wakefield Elementary School in Bel Air, Maryland investigated their school to find leaks; then they analyzed how much water was being wasted by leaky faucets in their school. After crunching some numbers, the students all wrote letters explaining the problem and sent them to the faculty to find solutions.

      Here’s a simple way to check toilets for leaks:

      • Take the top off the toilet tank. Now put about 12 drops of red or blue food coloring in the tank
      • Wait about 15 minutes. Guard the toilet so no one uses it while you’re waiting
      • Now look in the toilet. If colored water shows up in the bowl, you’ve found a leak!

      Raise awareness about endangered species
      When students hear about “endangered species,” many of them think about animals that are thousands of miles and many continents away. Unfortunately, there are many endangered species in our home states. In Michigan, where we live, the northern long-eared bat, the Kirtland’s warbler,  the Hine’s emerald dragonfly and the piping plover are all on the endangered species list—and these are only a few of the species listed! So what can students do about this?


                                                               New Call-to-Action

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    • 3 weeks ago
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  • Bounce Back...AIM Toward Your Bounce Back...AIM Toward Your Vision

    • From: Marcia_Collins
    • Description:

       

       It's Hump Day Wednesday! 

      I love Wednesdays, because it helps us see take inventory of our midweek and keep riding the horse through the end~

      Bounce Back...AIM toward your vision with (3) SIMPLE STEPS

      Four weeks ago, I went to a VISION PARTY hosted by @empowerchics! The VISION PARTY was electrifying and inspiring, as @empowerchics SHARED the WHY behind the vision we were going to create! Women of all ages, and of different walks shared their stories and their VISION for the future. As we strategically picked images that depicted our VISION toward our goals, we began to imagine the vision as if it was the REALITY. You see that's the POWER of a VISION PARTY! Not only do you create your vision with images and words, the images and words start become YOUR REALITY!

      Furthermore, I believe we all have a unique, divine purpose that only we can fulfill. Our divine purpose comes wrapped with unique gifts, which we use for His glory, and our gifts benefit others. However, as we tap into those gifts, and began the vision we've imagine for our ideal lives; we may experience temporary setbacks. These temporary setbacks are characterized as problems we all will experience from time to time. You've heard of the phrase " A TEMPORARY SETBACK for a MAJOR COMEBACK! In the article, Spark People  Lisa Noelcke shared (3) specific steps you can take to help you bounce back...and AIM toward your vision!

       

      First step: Be objective
      Let's face sometimes we can't see our faults, but we can see faults in others. Being objective enables us to reflect and asses the situation. When was the last time you looked at something objectively?

      Second Step: Take Responsibility
      Remember when you were a child, your mom used to say "take responsibility for your actions." Well, the same holds true as adults. However, sometimes, we blame things or others for decisions made. Another name for this is external locus of control, all of us are guilty if this at some time, or another. Instead of blaming others or things, use internal locus of control, and ask the question "what could I have done differently to prepare for a better outcome?" REFLECTION is POWERFUL! Also, taking responsibility for our actions are counterintuitive to "being objective and assessing our situation, dusting ourselves off and pushing forward toward our vision!

      Third Step: Ask for help
      Are you too proud to ask for help from a professional coach, mentor or trusted friend? Sometimes we have to come to terms with areas in our lives that need improvement such as our finances, weight loss, building a thriving business or viable career. Seek help from those who have traveled the journey ahead of you. As a Resiliency Coach, and working professional I seek the advice of others, and use that advice to grow toward my divine purpose. Also, their advice and wisdom helped me make better choices and take a different path. Overcome your temporary setbacks by asking for help...from a professional coach, mentor or trusted friend. Nothing is new under the sun, we all have experienced similar challenges...however some of us respond differently to challenges faced. Resilient professionals "immediately look at the problem and say what's the solution to that? What is it trying to teach me?"

      Journaling Assignment and Action Step:

      Which of (3) simple steps resonated with you the most? Share a personal or professional experience with the simple step you resonated with. Write one action step you will take TODAY to bounce back...and AIM toward your VISION or GOAL.

      Are you ready to Bounce back and AIM toward your vision today. Discover What's N U! Schedule a FREE 45 minute coaching consultation @ Contact Marcia

      Let's connect today...leave your comments below and please...please share the love of information with your FRIENDS and FAMILY! I look forward to connecting with you soon;)

      Until next time...

       Marcia

    • Blog post
    • 3 weeks ago
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  • 15 of Our Favorite Brain Break 15 of Our Favorite Brain Breaks for Students

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      brain breaksIf you’re not familiar with them, brain breaks are short activities that offer students a reprieve from routine learning activities. Not only are brain breaks fun, they’re a simple way to refocus students’ energy and get them back on track.

      We shared a collection of brain breaks back in December, but thanks to Liz over at The Happy Teacher our list has grown considerably.

      1. Crab Walk around the Room: Put on a song and have students walk in the crab position around the room. At some point, have students go in reverse.

      2. Doodle Time: Give students some blank paper and markers and let them doodle and talk for five minutes.

      3. Dance Party: Turn on the radio and let students dance until the song ends.

      4. Tic-Tac-Toe: Give students some blank paper to play tic-tac-toe with a friend. It’s a simple game that won’t cause a mess or a distraction for your neighbors!
       

      5. 50 Jumping Jacks: Get students’ heart rates up with this quick physical exercise.

      6. Heads Up, 7-Up: Another classic that is easy and exciting for students!

      7. Stretching: Choose a student to come up and lead a minute of stretching.  Most students know various stretches from gym class and will enjoy leading their peers!

      8. Pantomime: Choose a student to act out an activity without talking.  The class must mimic the leader and then guess what the activity is (swimming, flying, sleeping, laughing, jogging, singing, etc.).

      9. Mirror-Mirror: Have students pair up and mirror the actions of their partner. Students will get a kick out of this activity!


      10. Thumb Wrestling: Have students choose a partner and participate in some old-fashioned thumb wrestling. Be sure to establish your expectations before this little brain break. 


      11. Rock, Paper, Scissors: Have students partner up for five rounds of Rock, Paper, Scissors. The winners get a high five from their partner.


      12. Sky Writing: Have students “sky write” their ABCs, sight words, spelling words, or a secret message to their friend. 


      13. Air Band:  Choose an "air" instrument and "rock out!"  Drums, guitar, and saxophone are my personal favorites.


      14.  Silent Yoga:  Strike a yoga pose and see how long your students can hold it. Google "Kid Yoga" for some easy examples.
       

      15. Desk Switch: Give your students 10 seconds to grab their materials and find another desk to sit in. They will remain in this desk until the end of the lesson. There are two reasons we do this: First, it gets them moving; second, being in a different location often helps them see the environment in a new way.

      Brag Tags

      

    • Blog post
    • 3 weeks ago
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  • I Hate(d) Failure. I Hate(d) Failure.

    • From: Krista_Rundell
    • Description:

      For most of my 36 years, my personal mantra has been “Failure is not an option.”

       

      Seven months ago, I made a public pledge to blog at least twice a month.  I may as well have also labeled it “My New Year’s Resolution” because I have not written a post after that, despite it being received relatively well.


      Over the past few months, I made fun pacts with fellow ASCD Emerging Leaders (specifically Barry Saide, Eric Bernstein) about how I would follow their blogging lead, writing amazingly interesting blogs that reference cool ‘80s movies and inspire educators to work wonders in their classrooms.  I also made excuses for why I never quite got around to writing (doctoral classes, family commitments, travel, conferences, sleep…).


      Honestly, I didn’t write because I was afraid that my thoughts would be considered un-engaging, un-informative, or worse, poorly written.  (Read: NOT GOOD ENOUGH.) 


      In my effort to avoid feeling like a failure, I failed.


      As an educational consultant who focuses on social emotional learning, I am privileged to work with teachers and students in states across the country.  In this role, I often encourage – no, I intentionally PROMOTE – failure.  I believe whole-heartedly in giving others a 2nd, 3rd, even 4th chance.  I urge teachers to incorporate formative assessment into the classrooms and offer students “second chance learning” on summative evaluations.  I persuade students to forgive themselves, back up, redirect their paths, and move forward again with confidence based on new learning.  Why can’t I seem to give myself those same opportunities?


      Failure helps us grow character, build resilience, and increase knowledge and expertise.  Failure lets us know who is standing by our side.  Failure stretches us in ways we never thought we’d experience.  Failure directs us to success.


      Since everyone defines “success” differently, failure can always lead us to success.  It is all in how we frame it.


      Prior to starting my doctoral program, I set a goal to achieve a 4.0 GPA.  Near the end of my first 9-credit semester, I earned my first “B” on a paper.  For some, this may not seem like much.  For me, the knot of failure sat in my stomach for days.  I tried to ignore it, overcome it, and push it away. 


      Finally, I decided to embrace “it”. 


      I embraced failure. 


      I reframed my thinking.  Realizing that I no longer had to (was able to) achieve my goal, I could actually enjoy my journey of learning – relish all the new insights my professors and classmates offered.  I was now open to truly grow as an educator, as a learner, and as an individual.  I was stretched, and I bounced back.  And truly, I am much better for it.


      As a consultant, you build quick relationships with those with whom you work.  One of my mentors, Thom Stecher, once told me that in order to build my consulting skills, I needed to find MY stories – and allow myself to be vulnerable enough to share them.


      I think this might be a good place to start.  From failure. 


      (And Barry and Eric, lest you think that have failed to tie a movie to this post: The 1993 movie, Cool Runnings, tells the inspiring story of Jamaica’s first bobsled team trying to make it into the Olympics.  At different stages of their lives, the bobsled teammates, and their coach, experienced intense periods of failure.  But, they embraced it, learned from it, and found success.  As one of the main characters states in the movie, “Cool Runnings means ‘Peace Be The Journey.’”


      May we all find peace on our own journey through embracing our failures and remaining confident that we will eventually meet success.

    • Blog post
    • 4 weeks ago
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  • School Unrest-Civil Disobedien School Unrest-Civil Disobedience

    • From: Doug_Wycoff
    • Description:

       

      **This story is an excerpt from the book, Classroom Classics, coauthored by me and my longtime teaching colleague, Bob Mandell. The book is available at: https://www.createspace.com/4273928

       

      School Unrest-Civil Disobedience

      I graduated from high school in 1964 and went on to a large university in the southwest from 1964 to 1968, majoring in History and English. During the last semester of my senior year I was accepted into a special student teaching program cosponsored by the university and the local public school system. It was a pilot program that placed student teachers on team teaching teams from grades 7 through 12. I was assigned to the 12th grade team at Monzano Senior High School, a large school in the suburbs. My two teammates were Jerry and Melissa. We were scheduled to teach three senior classes in the fall of 1968 under the supervision of two experienced English teachers who had taught for many years at Monzano.

      My 12th grade team spent the spring semester preparing for our student teaching the following fall. Long range unit plans, weekly lesson plans and daily lesson plans were hashed out and revised. Since the decade of the 60’s was caught up in the turbulence of the Civil Rights movement, we focused our planning on the concept of non-violent means of protesting against social injustice, We incorporated the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, father of the Indian independence movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, social activist in the American Civil Rights movement, as well as, the somewhat violent nature of the Black Panther Party and the Mississippi Freedom Marches. We also brought in the teachings of Henry David Thoreau, the 19th century American author and philosopher of the Transcendental Movement.

      When school opened in the fall, we eagerly and enthusiastically greeted our students at Monzano. We were convinced that we would make an impact on their lives even though we were not much older than they were. They were excited about being taught by young student teachers and welcomed us into their classrooms, ready to absorb knowledge we imparted to them. The first grading period passed and everything went smoothly. Our mentoring teachers and the administrators of the school were pleased with our work.

      Along about the middle of October, it came time for Monzano High School to celebrate its annual Homecoming. Classrooms were decorated with school colors, plans were made for the Homecoming dance on Friday night and there was much anticipation about the big Homecoming game to be played against a rival school on Saturday afternoon. However, on the Friday before Homecoming week the football coach told the team that they were not to attend the dance because he wanted them to be well rested for the game. Needless to say, the players were down and the entire student body was up in arms about the coach’s decision. When school was dismissed that Friday afternoon, there was a lot of grumbling as students headed home for the weekend.

      During the weeks prior to the week of Homecoming, the seniors in our classes had read and studied Thoreau’s essay “Civil Disobedience”. They also had exposure to Gandhi’s concept of “satyagraha” and Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”. All of this was in keeping with our unit on peaceful and non-violent rebellion. Neither I, nor my two teaching colleagues had any idea what was in store for us when the students returned to school on the Monday of Homecoming week.

      When our students reported to class first period on Monday, we noticed a lot of whispering and low chatter among them, all the while keeping us out of hearing range. This went on in our other two classes as well. Students throughout the entire school seemed to be quietly buzzing about something in the hallways between classes and in the lunchroom at noon. This continued throughout the school day on Tuesday. My colleagues and I thought something was up, but we had no idea what.

      The school day began as usual on Wednesday. Fifteen minutes into third period, around 10:30, our entire class got up and walked out. Not only did our students walk out, but the entire school as well! By 10:25, the whole student body was assembled on the lawn in front of the school. The students had made a huge banner that read” LET THE FOOTBALL TEAM GO TO THE HOMECOMING DANCE!” The banner was hung between two trees on the lawn in front of the school. Another banner held by students read” NOT FAIR FOR FOOTBALL PLAYERS NOT TO ATTEND HOMECOMING DANCE!” The principal, Mr. Duncan, was on the front lawn speaking with the students when he abruptly turned and headed back inside the school. The next thing we heard over the public address system was” Mr. Wycoff and his 12th grade team, report to the principal’s office immediately.” I remember turning to my two colleagues and saying,” We could be getting fired before we even start our careers.”

      As we filed into Mr. Duncan’s office, we were greeted by other administrators and other school officials. Also present was the head football coach and his coaching staff. Mr. Duncan turned to us and said” it is my understanding that the organizers of this school wide walkout are seniors in your classes. It is also my understanding that the idea for this school wide disruption stems from lessons about civil disobedience you have been teaching in your classes. The question now before us is how we are going to solve this situation and get these students back to class.” Addressing me personally, Mr. Duncan said,” Mr. Wycoff, as the leader of your teaching team, what do you have to say?”

      I realized that this would be my first test as a teacher and I responded quickly. “Mr. Duncan, I said, I think you have to admit that the seniors who organized this walkout did so in a great way. They were able to spread the word throughout the entire student body without anybody, teachers or administrators, knowing what was coming. And you have to admit that the timing of the protest was perfect-the entire student body walked out at exactly the same time. I think all of us have to give credit to the students on how they have gone about their protest. They didn’t stage a food fight or riot during lunch or been violent in any way. I think they should be commended for putting into action what they have learned in the classroom. Their only concern is not having the football team be able to attend and have fun at the dance this Friday night. I really think that a compromise would make the students happy”. I turned to the football coach and said,” Coach, the dance is scheduled from 7:00 PM until 11:00PM. Let the football players attend the dance for the first two hours and then leave. That way they can enjoy the homecoming dance and still get a good night’s sleep and  be rested for the game on Saturday.”The coach and his staff agreed, Mr. Duncan and the other administrators agree, and most importantly, the students agreed. The students went back to class and the educational process continued.

      When my teammates and I returned to our classroom, our students greeted us with cheers and thanked us for sticking up for them. The kids had a great time at the dance on Friday night and the following afternoon the football team beat their arch rivals from Sandia High School 42-7. I know that the seniors and other students of Monzano Senior High have never forgotten Homecoming in 1968.

      **This story is an excerpt from our book, Classroom Classics. The book is available at: https://www.createspace.com/4273928

    • Blog post
    • 4 weeks ago
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