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Normally, I am not one to write on controversial issues, but there is freedom in the provocative, and the time is now (or yesterday) for action in education. Although this speaks to one state's journey through the massive budget cuts and the looming additional injustices, I think that most educators in the nation have experienced a degree of this. I humbly share my thoughts with legislators considering budgets for next school year and the community of ASCD advocates:
How will your child suffer? We must stop this ridiculous abomination of a proposed budget now. The incessant and continuous hit that education has taken in the last 5 years has been beyond reason. However, this year's proposals fall just shy of criminal. As a voter, a parent of children in the school system and a school principal, I have many perspectives to offer. First, as a voter: We elect officials into office who we believe will stand for the things that we hold close to heart. Public schools are the birthplace of some of the best minds in America. What does it mean to be American? Please ask yourself this, as our elected representative. Americans value critical opinions and diversity but stand united when someone attacks our home or our community. To my esteemed elected officials, I say: We are under attack. Make no mistake... this is a war of interests. We must not let the future of our children and ultimately our country falter to other priorities. We know that you are under pressure to invest in the political interests that got you into office, but we beg you not to sacrifice our children, your children or the future of our great nation in doing so. As a parent: We cannot provide quality schools without adequate funding to do so. Should we settle for mediocrity? Would you settle for mediocrity for your own child? Absolutely not. I want my children to get access to teachers with skills that will challenge their minds and inspire their hearts. Teachers deserve pay worthy of the countless hours they spend planning. Let Principals hold them accountable to that. I want my children to have adequate support in their classes as they are acclimated to the rigor of public schools. Teacher Assistants provide this support. They are educators, advocates and probably teach your child in a center or reading group. I want my child to have access to the equipment, books and materials needed for 21st century learning. As a school principal: Is the public aware that kids in most counties are still using outdated books, so teachers have to develop their own curriculum materials to match the new standards? And what justice do we pay teachers when they do this with a smile on their face and protect our children from the perils of society? We cut their support (TAs), cut their pay (furlough), cut their money for supplies (instructional money), increase their class size (class size waiver elimination), increase their insurance premiums and cut their access to resources and support (district funding going to charter/private schools). Teacher Assistants are not just secretaries for the teacher, and I wonder if the public realizes that. They are instructional assistants... they help your children and grandchildren learn. Also, as a school administrator, one of the ways in which we can provide a duty-free lunch for teachers (which is a state requirement) is through the use of teacher assistants. Similarly, I wonder if the public understands the correlation between effective instruction and the number of students in a class. There is an inverse relationship between time for critical learning and the number of students in a class. This state and this nation is in a dire place of certain demise, if we cannot commit to providing safe, quality schools for our children today, so they can solve nationwide and worldwide problems tomorrow. With the proposed legislation about class size, harsh cuts to public schools (again), elimination of Assistants, sequestration at the federal level, and funneling the leftover pocket change to charter/private schools rather than public schools... I must ask the question... how will your child suffer?
Not every student needs to prepare for a Google-like workplace. And, as popular as STEM is presently, most students don’t want to become software engineers or scientists. But every student, in any job, will collaborate as a member of a team. I once talked with a student who told me he wanted to be a Fed Ex driver. “Just drive around and deliver things,” he said, “No teamwork there.” I urged him to look at the handheld device carried by every driver—the one that communicates with a worldwide network and plugs the driver into a global team.
Every student needs to be prepared for that environment, partly for employment opportunity, but mainly because the deeply embedded mental model of learning and creating as an individual process is obsolete. No one, any longer, can isolate themselves from someone else’s knowledge base, and collaboration has shifted from its earlier incarnation as a social networking skill into the chief way in which we talk to one another in order to get things done. Powerful collaboration is driven by incisive communication—and out of that process come the very best expressions of innovation, creativity, and critical inquiry. In other words, collaboration is now the foundational 21st century skill.
Thinking that students are ‘naturals’ at this is a fallacy. High performance collaboration requires training and the development of key personal skills. For teachers, two initial steps will help launch this process. First, reframe the conversation by using the terminology of ‘teams,’ not group work. Think of your favorite sports team and now call them a ‘group.’ Feel the difference? Teams focus on accountability and commitment; they form for a purpose and operate through norms and shared expectations.
Second, import and adapt the high performance principles common in the work world to teams in the classroom. This requires time, good coaching skills, a relentless focus on the quality of interaction between students, and a set of team tools, including contracts, rubrics, and exercise. But the payoff is noticeable. Once students form teams over an extended period and begin to collaborate well, they learn more, get better at teaching others, produce more powerful products, and enjoy the process. Here are ten principles that can help you design high performance teams:
Thom Markham is a psychologist, school redesign consultant, and the author of the Project Based Learning Design and Coaching Guide: Expert tools for inquiry and innovation for K-12 educators. To download the tools mentioned in the blog, go to the PBL tools page on the website, www.thommarkham.com. If you can’t find what you need, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A New York Times article that appeared April 12, 2013 reported that a high school teacher in Albany, New York recently gave an assignment to students asking them, presumably as a lesson on the Holocaust, to write a persuasive essay arguing from the Nazi point of view that Jews were the source of their problems. The assignment included the following instructions: “You do not have a choice in your position: you must argue that Jews are evil, and use solid rationale from government propaganda to convince me of your loyalty to the Third Reich!”
First of all, this is definitely a gutsy assignment. We have been taught that the Nazis were the essence of evil. And yet, to teach history effectively, it certainly seems reasonable that all points of view be represented. I actually did a demonstration lesson back in the early 1990′s (in a high school in New York state as it turns out), whose instructional objective was to help students understand the factors that led to the rise of fascism between the two world wars. My methodology was Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. I used sound effects (the guns of World War I), role play (I had students carting imaginary wheelbarrows of German marks to illustrate the inflation in Germany in the 1920′s), and then at the climactic moment I slapped on a Hitler moustache and role played the dictator saying that ”I’d lead the German people to better times” with Wagner playing in the background.
So I can understand using unconventional methods to make an impression on students who might otherwise simply get only lah-dee-dah book knowledge about the Nazis. I think if we want to make sure that we don’t make the same mistakes ever again, we need to deeply understand what it was that drove the German people to make the decisions that they did in the 1930′s and early 1940′s. And to some extent, that means getting inside their heads and trying to experience life as they experienced it.
Having said that, however, I feel it was unbelievably cruel of that high school teacher to ask students to write an essay with the student as a putative Nazi arguing that Jews are evil. I’m reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer right now. I began it fifty years ago this year, as an eighth grader. I never got too far. Actually, most of my reading was in the final chapter, ”The New Order”, about the Holocaust itself, and I believe I was traumatized by the experience, so much so that only now am I able to come back to the book at age 62 and read it from beginning to end. I’m right at the point where Hitler is about to invade Poland, and I have to say that what I have read up to this point sickens me. In a Germany that had seen the the Enlightenment and thinkers like Kant (remember the moral imperative?) and Goethe, this group of gangsters and thugs, and the moral monster Hitler somehow got control of the nation (democratically – which is really embarassing!), and promoted an ugly, rancid, vulgar, dull, virulent brand of evil that poisoned the well of humanity, I think, for all time.
To ask that high school students get inside of this garbage pit and commune with these putrid minds of hatred is unutterable cruel and can only drag the minds of these impressionable adolescents down into the gutter. We need to inspire these minds to aspire to higher values and not dirty themselves by having them identify with vermin. A much better approach, that would still serve the purpose of having them look at both sides of this history, would be to have them think about people that they feel hate toward, or think of as ”less than” or that in some way they believe to be inferior to themselves. This would be taking their own current experience (which should, after all, be the starting point of any lesson in school on any subject), and helping them see that, “yes, I too can hate others, feel that others are inferior, put others in a box; I too am capable of becoming THAT.”
In fact, there were some educational experiments done in the 1960′s and 1970′s, including Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment, and Ron Jones’ The Third Wave, at a Palo Alto, California high school, that attempted to do this kind of thing as large group simulations (both projects had to be terminated early because they took on a life of their own, thus demonstrating their frightening point).
Finally, the assignment that Albany, New York teacher gave to the students reveals a certain kind of stupidity. It reveals the mind of someone who appears to regard knowledge as morally neutral; as something you can just package in educational modules and deliver in an intellectually hygenic way to students. There are no distinctions in this sort of mind-set: the assignment could be ”finding the main idea” ”using active rather than passive voice in writing” or in this case ”arguing that Jews are evil.” In fact, right next to this injunction was the instructions: “Your essay must be five paragraphs long, with an introduction, three body paragraphs containing your strongest arguments, and a conclusion.” It could as well have been about widgets in Franconia.
This insensitivity to the power of knowledge, to knowledge as a living organism, is something that is endemic in our public and private schools today. It shows itself most recently in the establishment of a Common Core set of standards that most states will adopt in the coming year. These standards turn out to be bland pellets of alleged efficacy that will absorb the precious energies and time of teachers for the foreseeable future. Instead of helping students grapple with the great questions of humanity, they will now be pressured to fit these rich complexities into the Procrustean bed of utilitarian commandments like this one: ”ELA.W.11.12.3b – Use narrative techniques such as dialogue, pacing, description, reflection, and multiple plot lines to develop experiences, events, and/or characters.”
It doesn’t really matter what the experiences, events, or characters referred to in the standard actually are. They could be white bread characters from a bad novel or Pierre Bezukhov and Natasha Rostova in War & Peace. No distinction is made along the Richter scale of human experience. Our high school teacher’s Nazi lesson is just another example of a kind of ”values-stupidity” which plays itself out daily in classrooms across the nation.
Recently a colleague asked me a question that made me pause and reflect. “How successful is PBL, really?” He’s an advocate for PBL, like I am, so the question wasn’t designed to nitpick or argue against PBL. He was reflecting on his own experience, and asking if mine had been similar.
I began to look back on the nearly 175 workshops I’ve presented and the large number of schools I’ve coached that have taken on PBL in hopes of changing the culture of teaching and learning. All of them wanted to move toward more depth and inquiry, and away from direct instruction, pacing guides, coverage, and the general lethargy that pervades schools as they labor under outmoded rules of engagement. Most of all, they hoped to sustain PBL year over year to power their school into 21st century learning.
How successful have they been? There are two answers to the question. For schools designed from the ground up to support integrated instruction, an inquiry-based culture, and a relentless focus on 21st century skills, the answer is clear: Extraordinarily successful. When the organizational philosophy supports student-driven inquiry, the natural outcome is great projects. These schools are the lights across the land—the Envision Schools, High Tech High, or the New Technology High Schools—that have become well known , as well a growing number of similar schools in every state. The students at these schools perform at world class levels, in some cases leading the world.
I’ve worked with many teachers, principals and superintendents who have toured leading-edge schools. They return to their own campus, wanting the same results. So they plunge into PBL. How successful are they? The answer, unfortunately: Not very.
Mostly, the schools start well. A core number of teachers implement projects that begin to show results. Students get excited; teachers feel satisfied; principals report a turning point. But that’s the first year. By the second year, typically after a strong start in the fall, PBL fades. The effort is not sustained. Why? It’s the well known rubber band effect. The industrial system can stretch to accommodate new viewpoints, but over time the constraints—mainly in-the-box thinking about tests scores and the lack of a collaborative culture committed to change—take their toll. Everyone settles back down into the routine.
This same dynamic, by the way, now drives the debate over the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Will they transform schools or become a new and improved laundry list? Here, the lessons of PBL are instructive. More than anything, it tells me that grafting an inquiry-based culture onto an industrial framework is an impossible dream, unless the effort is accompanied by a innovative focus on organizational change and high performance. This is a holistic endeavor, requiring a crucial brew of synergistic elements that work together to create a seamless system for sustainable change.
What are the key ingredients? For those schools that did transition successfully to PBL, I can think of six essentials that enabled them to power through tough barriers and emerge at the other end of the tunnel. I suspect the list for the CCSS will be the same:
Thom Markham is a psychologist and author of the Project Based Learning Design and Coaching Guide: Expert tools for Inquiry and Innovation for K-12 educators and the forthcoming book, Redefining Smart: Make your mind bigger than your brain. Download tools for project based learning on his website, www.thommarkham.com, or contact him by e-mail at email@example.com.
In his blog post on The Qualities of an Effective Teacher: No. 4—An Effective Teacher is Tireless, Jake Hollingsworth argues that “good” teachers understand that they will work long hours and have no care for the fact that students neither realize or appreciate the number of those hours.
I respectfully disagree.
Mirror Site: Joyful Collapse.
The ASCD Student Chapter program is designed to accelerate preservice educators and student teachers’ professional development and their self-identification as education professionals and leaders. ASCD student membership establishes the link between the classroom and chapter member’s first jobs as they transition into a career in education. Learn more about the benefits of Student Chapter membership from this video. Highlights from a few of our Student Chapters are featured below.
The Montclair State University ASCD Student Chapter held four recruitment sessions to introduce new members to the organization, provide background information, and survey students on their needs and interests. Their chapter membership has grown to 67 students! In the future, the chapter anticipates that general meetings will be used to provide information about upcoming professional development opportunities and review ASCD Smart Briefs to keep abreast of new advances in educational research and practice. Coming up on March 23, the Montclair State University ASCD chapter will co-host their first professional development workshop with New Jersey ASCD title, “Acing your interview: How to plan and execute a demo lesson.” To get in touch with the Montclair State University Student Chapter Faculty Advisor, please contact Nicole DiDonato.
The Ohio Northern University ASCD Student Chapter helped put together an event to revamp the university’s Child Development Center (CDC) this past fall. Many education students, professors, and other volunteers devoted a Saturday to helping repaint the facilities. Student Chapter President Jessica Liska describes that the CDC is to the Education Department like a science lab is to a chemist. All Early Education majors spend significant amounts of time in the CDC and wanted to help create a space they could be proud of. Throughout the spring semester, the chapter will focus on increasing membership and collaborating more effectively with other education groups on campus to host events. For more information about Ohio Northern University’s Student Chapter, please contact the Faculty Advisor, John Gillham.
The Southern New Hampshire University ASCD Student Chapter started out the fall by hosting a welcome back BBQ for education students and professors. During the fall, student members worked to increase communication with other education majors on campus. As a result of an increased presence on campus, student membership has increased by fifty percent! The chapter also participated in Hunger and Homeless Awareness week on campus. In order to raise awareness of the amount of homeless families in the Manchester community, students slept outside the Dining Hall from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Although it was only one night, the experience was an eye opener for club members. This spring the chapter is hoping to create a resource drive to benefit homeless children in the Manchester, New Hampshire area. For more information about the Southern New Hampshire University Student Chapter, please contact their Faculty Advisor, Audrey Rogers.
Two professional development events were hosted by Western Kentucky University’s Student Chapter: “Common Mistakes Made by First Year Teachers” and “Diversity in the Classroom.” At the first event local teachers and principals provided information to future educators about the mistakes that first year teachers tend to make. They offered advice for these future teachers and answered questions. The second event, “Diversity in the Classroom”, featured elementary, middle, and high school teachers sharing strategies to accommodate diversity in the classroom and reach individual student needs. Four Western Kentucky University students presented at the Future Educators Association (FEA) regional and state conferences this past fall. Two students led a presentation introducing the education program and the benefits of becoming a teacher. The presenters also explained the essentials of lesson planning. For more information about Western Kentucky University’s Student Chapter, please contact the Faculty Advisor, Rebecca Stobaugh.
ASCD Student Chapters may form on the campuses of community college, colleges, and universities with accredited education programs. To learn more about starting a chapter, complete this request form to receive a Student Chapter Start-Up kit.
With as many education conferences that I have attended, and continue to attend, I am getting to be quite the expert at least in the ability to compare and contrast the various major education conferences. I hope I am not one of the five blind men describing an elephant, but I did seek out opinions from other experienced conference attendees and presenters finding them in agreement.
Unfortunately for educators, most of these conferences are the same old, same old with little focus for the future with the exception of vendor-driven bells and whistles presentations. These however are not the essential things that will transform, and move education forward.
In no way am I implying that Conference planners are not dedicated, hard-working, well-meaning individuals. Putting on an Education conference is hard work and all consuming for many. The result should not be having someone trash it on a blog post. As educators, however, we must recognize formative assessment in the form of feedback and adjust our lesson (conference) accordingly.
As an English teacher, I am quite aware that the order in which essays fall in a pile can affect the subjective assessments of a paper. If an exceptional piece is read first, followed by a mediocre essay, the second piece might appear even less acceptable than if it came after a paper that was poorly written, in which case it would appear of higher quality. I offer this analogy because I came to Florida Educational Technology Conference 2013 almost directly from EDUCON2.5. EDUCON: Shift Happens
It is in the spirit of constructive criticism that I now proceed, but this criticism is not FETC13 specific. FETC was the catalyst that generated this reflection. It applies to many if not too many of our national and statewide Education Conferences.
Conferences are expensive propositions. The venue and accommodations for the conferences require huge amounts of money. To offset the expense to schools and attendees most organizations recruit vendors to hawk their wares, charging great amounts of money for space and access. For this sum of money, business needs and requires some say in what goes on at the conference. They need their reps and executives to have a say in the content of the conference. They need to do presentations and they want their people doing keynotes. They need to push the bells and whistles of their products regardless of pedagogy or methodology. Most are well intentioned and certainly experts in the application of their product as they see its application in the classroom. These workshops make up a good number of presentations. These are needed presentations, but they should not be the Conference focus. Educators presenting to educators is always my preferred presentation.
The really hard questions are: How can any Education conference today expect to succeed on presentations of tools and technology without real conversations on the Why’s and wherefores? What should the ratio of iPad-driven presentations vs. the need for collaboration in education conversations. Where do we deal with the big ideas? Where was the workshop on how we deal with the Teaching learning in an environment of standardized testing? Why can’t I find substantive conversations directed by educators about the difference between Assessment and Testing?
The Connected Educator was a focus in the month of August by the Department of Education. There were few conversations about connectedness, although my friend Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach did do one presentation. Why was there no place to connect educators available throughout the conference? “How to connect and here is the place to do it” should have a place at every education conference.
Relevance is a topic I often write about. I have also stated that to be really relevant, educators need to be connected. I think I can now say that about Education Conferences. To be relevant conferences need to be connected. The folks at FETC were thrilled to be trending on Twitter. I was of the opinion that was something that needed to be explained to too many in attendance including the planners. It seemed that the Twitter trending was based on the retweeting of a few heavily connected tweeters in the conference. Original tweets generated from the conference were few. It is that very connectedness of educators, which makes them relevant, that causes that grating sound in my head with every presentation that is a year behind the conversations of connected educators.
If Education conferences are going to be relevant, planners need to plan for it. They need to be in on connected conversations if they want to direct relevant conversations at their conferences. They need to revamp, or abandon methods of assessing RFP’s to get better educator-directed, relevant presentations and workshops. They need to incorporate more conversations as in the Edcamp model of professional development. They need to focus the conversations on the big ideas of education with less focus on the tools and toys, as much fun as they can be.
Of course this piece is based solely on my opinion. I would love comments from others who are conference attendees. What are the things that you would have addressed? How can education conferences maintain relevance? I hope to continue to be invited to these conferences, even after this post.
Thirty years ago, there was a 31 percentage point difference between the share of prosperous and poor Americans earning bachelor’s degrees. Today, that gap is 45 points.
-Martha Bailey and Susan Dynarski, University of Michigan (taken from article by Jason DeParle)
This past weekend I had the opportunity to read a heartbreaking and gut-wrenching piece written by Jason DeParle in the New York Times. This article depicts the rise, and subsequent fall, of three promising students from Galveston, Texas. These three young women, all excellent students, seemed to have overcome the challenges brought on by their financially poor background. They were in excellent standing within their school, had earned high marks both academically and socially from their teachers and school staff, and, by all accounts, were “college and career ready.” Yet, as DeParle goes on to describe, this designation did not, in fact, prepare them for college and their future careers.
If you were to go by the Common Core State Standards Initiative’s designation of what “college and career ready” truly means (at least for ELA) you would likely find that these three young women were quite qualified to earn this title. In their school lives, they exhibited all of the tenets necessary. Yet, as their stories exhibit, it was what was happening outside of their school (and what occurred once they entered post-secondary education) that truly put them at a disadvantage.
This article, along with an in-depth discussion with my Superintendent (my thanks to Dr. Langlois for helping to turn my reactions to the article into a blog post) helped me come to the realization that college and career readiness is all but meaningless if it is seen as an endpoint, and not a benchmark along a much longer road. The story of these three promising young ladies shows that currently, a “college and career ready” designation is as much edubabble and jargon as it is truly beneficial to students. To truly help students ready themselves for college and be prepared for the challenges once they enter the workforce, much is left to be done. Here are three steps that I believe must be taken to put us on the right path:
If we truly believe that students must be “college and career ready” to succeed in life, our education system must prove it. We can’t assume that it is only the responsibility of K-12 institutions to do this, nor can we truly state that college and career readiness is only built in the classroom. Let’s stop adding to educational jargon, and put meaning behind the terms we use. I encourage you to read DeParle’s piece and see how it makes you feel, and then think about how you would view education as a whole if you were these students or if they were your children.
DeParle, Jason. (2012, December 22). For Poor, Leap to College Often Ends in a Hard Fall. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/23/education/poor-students-struggle-as-class-plays-a-greater-role-in-success.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
National Governors Association. (2012). ELA-Students Who are College and Career Ready. Retrieved from: http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/introduction/students-who-are-college-and-career-ready-in-reading-writing-speaking-listening-language
I hate the fact that this country has been thrown into this discussion the way that it has. The events leading to this discussion were costly and horrific. As I have stated before we need to discuss the facts and not propaganda or demagogy. We should also examine the facts without emotion which, in light of events and the victims, seems an impossible task. Educators have now been thrust into the discussion as a result of so many schools being victimized. There is also a consideration by some to arm teachers.
In a recent discussion on BAM radio three education groups, a national teacher group, a national principal group, and a national superintendent group were asked about their position on arming teachers. The lens that we use must influence our opinions. The teachers’ group, whose members are closest to kids, was against it. The principals’ group, whose members are closest to the teachers, was against it. The superintendents’ group whose members are closest to outside forces of education supported it. These are groups and not individuals. I am sure that most educators of any title are willing to look at all of the facts and considerations before supporting anything that will profoundly affect our children. This is merely my observation.
Our military and police, in order to be armed and effective at defense, undergo extensive weapons and tactical training. It is not a single PD day at the beginning of the school year. They are continually trained and updated and not left to self-train. An ongoing battle in too many schools across this nation is to get Professional Development for teachers. Teachers want, but often cannot get the most relevant training in methods, tools and pedagogy in order to be a relevant educator. PD too often falls victim to declining budgets. It is not prioritized as it should be. Now we have a suggestion to arm teachers knowing that we need to initially and continually train teachers in weapons and tactics. How much time will it take them from their classes, and at what cost? Will we need to eliminate more teaching positions to support arming teachers?
What about police response teams answering the call to a mass shooting at a school? Most police first responders today train in sweeping schools for the purpose of eliminating armed threats. With armed teachers in the schools, response teams will need to hesitate with every encounter. This will take more time to clear a school. Time is an enemy in these situations. The other unanswered question is where are the hundreds of students when response bullets from armed teachers begin flying? Do armed teachers leave their students?
What about the mental perspective of these armed teachers? Most teachers that I know have the idea of helping and teaching in their DNA. That is what motivated them to be teachers and not soldiers or policemen. What does the responsibility of having to carry a gun to protect the learning community do to a teacher? Will these armed teachers need to undergo some sort of psychological testing to see if they can withstand the stress of this new responsibility, or do we rely on some imagined vigilante strength to carry them through?
I continue to come up with questions about arming people? Will the “Stand Your Ground “Law pop up in teacher defenses in cases where armed teachers felt that the community was threatened by an intruder wearing a hoody? The police and military have a great incidence of suicides because of the demands of their work and incidents these dedicated people are forced to deal with. Should that be a concern for schools? Will we need ongoing counseling to help cope with stress?
There are three things that all of these mass shootings have in common, Guns, a person who is not responsible for his actions, and victims. In order for the idea of defense to succeed here, it would be the goal to reduce or eliminate any of these components. The answer is not to add guns, or add shooters, or add victims. I think arming teachers may not fall in line with that vision.
An emotional response from any teacher would be “I would do anything to protect my students.” Most teachers think of their students in terms of family. This however is an emotional response and possibly not couched in reality for most educators. The idea of shooting someone in theory may be an easier task than doing it in reality. The intent may be there, but the ability might be lacking for many reasons.
I am not opposed to the Second Amendment. Gun ownership is not the problem. A gun, in the hands of a person not responsible for his/her actions, is a problem. That is complicated by the number of guns in America. We represent 5% of the world’s population, but we own 50% of all of the guns in the world. That is only one part of the problem. Maybe instead of the expense of arming and training teachers in every school in the country, we might want to use that money for a gun buy-back program. Australia spent $500 Billion dollars in buy backs with great success. Maybe each community could decrease the possibility of an illegal gun falling into the hands of a local person in need of help. Of course this is not the answer to the problem, but it is not adding to the problem either. Now we need to extend the discussion without regard to special interest groups that are focusing on their concerns and not the needs of the American people.
My only hesitation about doing a post on this subject is the scary people who are drawn to it. I encourage discussion, but I will not entertain comments claiming our president is enslaving us. I do not believe we need guns to fight our government. I will eliminate any comments from this post that are not advancing the discussion. I have never had to say that with any other post I have ever written. Some of the comments by some people give credence to the argument that not every person is mentally capable of gun ownership. By the way Columbine had an armed guard. The answer is NOT to Arm Teachers.
When online students fall behind in your course, who do you call? My answer is to call the student’s college counselor. Calling in the counselor to help make that important connection has saved many a student enrolled in my online courses. I recommend putting counselors on the team as active participants. Counselors are crucial in putting action into the student’s success plan.
Of course, counselors are teammates who are involved in a student’s success long before the day of enrollment. We long have recognized them as valuable agents of success for students. They have many, many duties. Many of these duties are addressed in the 2011 report that Dr. Mac Adkins of SmarterServices and Julie Bryant of Noel-Levitz authored. The authors make four recommendations to help colleges build an online experience of quality for the students. Writing in “Online Student Readiness as a Predictor of Online Student Satisfaction,” they suggest:
I have highlighted in bold a few key concepts in those recommendations, in order to highlight phrases where counselors may take action. Now let us focus upon how counselors put these concepts into action, illustrating how the suggestions help students. A case in point, not long ago I had a student who for several weeks was making very good progress from the start of the semester in one of my online courses. Just after midterm, however, her name showed up on our student-at-risk dashboard as she had not entered the course for several days and missed a deadline for a major assignment. Here our monitoring system provided data calling us into action. What did I as an instructor do? I wrote the student, and I called her counselor. By the way, I also consider the student to be a teammate.
Prior to the start of the semester, the counselor had worked with the student to create an academic plan, so he was more aware than I of her academic needs. He was also aware of personal issues in her life, which gave him insight I did not have. Plus, he quite often saw the student on campus. As an online instructor, I rarely bump into students on campus unless I specifically go to the college. Even so, I do not have photographs of students and would most likely walk right past those in my online classes unless they recognized me first and then introduced themselves. My photo is included in the course design, but I only have a slim chance of this possibility happening. However, the counselor often knows the students face-to-face, often sees them on campus, and already is connecting with them via phone, text, email, or, most importantly, in person. While the student mentioned in my case study did not respond to my attempts to communicate with me, there was no escaping the counselor. The counselor very quickly made the personal connection for me, and with this nudge addressing my concern the student again became an active member of the class. I credit her successfully finishing the course to the counselor’s timely intervention. The lesson learned is that even though I now teach only online I often do have an on-campus appearance through the efforts of the counselor, my teammate.
As Adkins and Bryant suggest, placing the counselors on the success team starts long before the student finds himself or herself in trouble. With that being said, I request counselors welcome my students immediately after enrollment in my courses. It is common practice that students enroll in courses several weeks ahead of their start. For example, spring semester courses may start in the middle of January but the roster may be completed by the middle of November. This is a shorter wait time than the one for fall courses, which tend to start in late August. Enrollment for fall courses at my college starts in the middle of April. In either case, this is too long to go without a personal contact.
Given that the wait is so long, I want to address this. As early as I can after students enroll, usually within 48 hours, I send an email welcoming them to the class. I immediately send students a syllabus, schedule, and invitation to explore the course. Here is where the counselors show up as teammates for a particular course. I also provide the students the name of their counselors. Many students do not know who is assigned to them as a counselor. Some students, for example, are transfer students and may not immediately have been assigned a counselor. If I see this, I ask one of the transition-to-college counselors to stand in and make a connection until an academic counselor has been assigned. I then ask the counselors to send a brief email to welcome the students to my class and to provide contact information. Instantly, a counselor is activated as a team member for the student’s success within the course. When I spot a potential issue for the student’s success after an exploration of student records, I confer with the counselor who then helps me to devise a strategy to address the concern. Thus, long before the student has officially begun the class, attention is being given to the student to enhance the opportunity for success.
In addition, I find that the more I talk with counselors about my classes the more they help me to succeed as a teacher through student placement. To explain, I find that sometimes counselors recommend a student for my courses, doing so with increasing clarity as to my objectives. That is, counselors become more and more familiar themselves with my assignments as well as my teaching efforts on the behalf of the students. Sometimes the recommended student is a high-achiever and sometimes the student needs developmental help. The point is that the counselor sees something in the student’s profile that appears to be a good match to my approach. I have grown to rely upon counselors to review student profiles that make for better matches in my courses.
Many institutions now post online syllabi and even the complete course. There are orientation units, study plans, notes on financial aid, and more instantly available to students. Early intervention strategies such as these take the mystery out of the course. The personal touch, though, helps the students to be ready for success not only on day one of the course but also while the course is underway. Putting counselors on the team works for students.
Will Common Core equal Common Practice?
As we look to the future implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS), teachers must begin to have a broader knowledge base, a more diverse toolkit for teaching and learning, and greater experience with teaching in a standards-based environment. The growth required over the next three years seems to be large. After working for over seventeen years in public education within five different school systems, few districts seem to have provided the necessary professional development on standards based approaches.
I am fortunate to be working in a district that has provided an ongoing, continual approach to teaching toward these standards by engaging teacher content teams with standards consultants throughout the school year. Over the last three years, we have collaborated to unpack standards, determine power standards, design essential questions and big ideas, and collaboratively design units that emphasize both prioritization and conformity but not removing creativity. After observing and participating in this work for the last year, I believe the following items are crucial for what teachers should be able to both comprehend and implement:
“Unpack” first – This learning process began three years ago by first “unpacking” standards by dissecting the wording to look for skills and knowledge. We also designated our power standards that we all would teach and felt were the most important. This process must be a primary one, as teachers first look for skills and knowledge necessary for students to attain before beginning to design instruction. Although it was unknown to our teachers, we were following recommendations from McTighe and Wiggins (2001) for translating the standards from the state frameworks to teacher based terminology for classroom instruction. Furthermore, McTighe and Wiggins believe that unpacking the standards is the third big idea out of five for implementing the CCSS.
Understanding by Design - McTighe and Wiggins’ model suggests to start backwards by keeping the end in mind rather than designing a series of activities built upon one another. This process asks teachers to start to “identify desired results, determine acceptable evidence, and plan learning experiences” (McTighe and Wiggins, 2001). For us, this first step was a struggle as teachers who were new to the process, the language, theory, and practice. However, three years later, as we talk together, this process has paid off as we all see a common path of learning for students and have a shared understanding to build upon. Furthermore, this process has shifted practice away from independent classroom teacher activities to a more common approach that focuses more on “enduring understandings” than ideas and concepts that are either “worth being familiar with” or “Important to know and do” (McTighe and Wiggins, 2001).
Student self-assessment – Students must grow as learners but also as evaluators of their own learning. Last year, we began designing Learning Progressions which were valuable in thinking about student misconceptions prior to instruction rather than during. However, many teachers viewed this as a rubric for scoring student work, which is not, so developing this for a number of units was and still is, for some, a challenge. As we now implement two new common standards-based units, I feel these progressions are more important for students for them to assess their learning with a tool that both ties into a common language about enduring understandings and links to feedback they get from formative assessments. We have made a commitment to post Learning Goals and Success Criteria this year for students, but I feel our next step may be to learn progressions as well so that students can visually see where they are with their learning and they need to go next.
Release of responsibility – Teachers have started to work differently in their classrooms as a result of this work. They have become better facilitators of learning by modeling quality instruction, including important concepts and strategies. Students then practice these concepts and strategies with support through small groups, triads, or partners. While monitoring progress, students are then asked to individually apply their new learning in order to meet the standards.
Differentiation – Fortunately, language arts lends itself nicely for differentiation by varying the reading level and challenge of books, scaffolding support with models, and adjusting the writing for students to provide the appropriate level of support and challenge. Differentiating the “process, product, or content” should become more the norm, not the exception, as teachers review results from formative assessments to see the paths that students must travel to become proficient for each standard (Tomlinson, 2000).
Flexible grouping – Many structures such as Literature Circles are helpful but now with both the growing needs of students and the expanding capacity of teachers, we have moved to flexible groupings that allow students options and choices to complete standards based activities rather than being confined by a structure. This opportunity motivates students, provides them with choices, and reduces compliance and behavior issues in the classroom.
Formative Assessments – Gathering data and information through formative assessments should be more commonplace as teachers should be tracking where each student is in their progression towards mastery. This does not mean not giving summative assessments, but rather allowing ample time for modeling, practice, and support. These assessments “check for understanding” and are designed to inform teaching and learning, not a summative or final exam grade (Fisher & Frey, 2007). In addition, these formative assessments may be designed and administered collaboratively to creative common formative assessments, which give more information to teachers allowing for reflection, discussion, and innovation. One of our favorite resources is 25 Quick Formative Assessments for a Differentiated Classroom by Judith Dodge which has a number of short, creative assessments that can be used for a number of subject areas. Some examples that we use include using dry erase boards, sheet protectors, 3-2-1 Summarizers, Quick Write/Quick Draw, and My Top Ten List. These templates work well as we ask students to “show me what you know” and that these assessments are not parts of the grade book but rather, parts of a conversation among educators about what each student has learned and still needs to learn.
More resources – With teacher growth, teachers need access to more resources in order to meet the needs of all students. This is a challenge for teachers as many struggle with finding appropriate materials while also managing a classroom with a diverse student group with diverse needs so that they all meet a standard or learning goal within a certain period of time. Time is critical and there is never enough of it so teachers must find quick and appropriate ways to use class time wisely. For example, our eighth teachers are looking for more short story selections at variety of reading levels so that readers of all abilities can access the text and then demonstrate their abilities to identify story elements, or irony or flashbacks, etc. If students are successful at this step, then we move them into novels at their reading level.
Choice and challenge – It is becoming more rare to teach a whole class novel, as both students and teachers need a greater variety of book options. The range of abilities in a middle school classroom continues to grow, so having more books that are interesting to students as well as challenging for the more advanced students has increased in importance. This is also a challenge for school systems to provide funds for purchases, crosscheck book usage between schools, as well as read and review novels to screen for mature or possible challenged content. Another resource that we have turned to is Creative Book Reports: Fun Projects with Rubrics for Fiction and Nonfiction by Jane Feber which we have used to create smaller nonfiction research projects for students to complete before some of our novels units on weather and the Civil War. I’ve also used this resource to create a final assessment on story elements for a Coming of Age novel study. Assessment – In the end, this is the most challenging area as many teachers may resist rubrics and standards-based grading. Many middle and high schools still have conventional letter and/or numeric grades while some have designed hybrids that combine all three: numbers, letters, and standards. Many elementary schools converted to standards-based reporting years prior.
Many of these initiatives could not happen without the planning, dedication, and support of administrators. After observing and participating in the work for the last year, I believe the following items are crucial for what administrators should know and be able to do:
Time, time and more time! – Over the past three years, the time commitment has been consistent and expansive. We’ve used after school department meeting time, held summer institutes, in-service workshops days, and release days from the classroom with substitute teacher coverage. Now we are fortunate to have time during the school day to meet, collaborate, review common formative assessments, and/or share effective practices. Staying the course by providing the time and structure for teacher teams to collaborate and complete the work as been essential.
Benjamin, Amy. (2008). Formative Assessments for English Language Arts – A Guide for Middle and High
School Teachers. New York: Eye on Education.
Dodge, Judith. (2009). 25 Quick Formative Assessments for a Differentiated Classroom. New York: Scholastic.
Feber, Jane. (2004). Creative Book Reports : Fun Projects with Rubrics for Fiction and Nonfiction. Gainesville: Maupin House.
Fisher, Douglas & Nancy Frey. (2007). Checking for Understanding: Formative Assessment Techniques for Your Classroom. Alexandria :ASCD.
Tomlinson, Carol Ann. (2000). Differentiation of Instruction in the Elementary Grades. Champaign: University of Illinois.
Wiggins, Grant and Jay McTighe. "What is Backward Design?," in Understanding by Design. 1st edition, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall, 2001, pp. 7-19.
Garth McKinney serves as the Language Arts Coordinator at the Merrimack Middle School (MMS) in Merrimack, New Hampshire. At MMS, he teaches and supervises the language arts department. Prior to this position, he worked as a Reading Specialist, Elementary Principal, Elementary Assistant Principal, and Classroom Teacher for grades four and six. He has worked in public education for over seventeen years. This fall, he is also teaching graduate courses both online and on campus as well as applying for National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). Garth holds a doctoral degree from Boston College in Educational Administration, a master’s degree from Fordham University in Reading, and a bachelor’s degree inElementary Education from Stonehill College.
Avid readers rarely come out of the womb clutching A Tale of Two Cities. Nope, more often than not, they come from homes where their parents “did very specific things to nurture a love of reading in their children.” This is what reading specialist Mary Leonhardt argues in her book, 99 Ways to Get Kids to Love Reading. We think Leonhard’s reading strategies are worth talking about.
It’s a dramatic example, but it does seem rather unlikely that someone like Mozart would have realized his potential had circumstances been different. Sure, he had a natural, perhaps even genetic, predisposition towards music, but it didn’t hurt that he was privileged enough to have a keyboard in the house; it didn’t hurt that his father was an experienced teacher and semi-accomplished composer either. The point we’re getting at is that readers, like musicians, are made—they’re not born.
Teachers can do a lot to nurture a love of reading in their students, but we certainly can’t do it all. So while this article is for teachers, it’s also for parents. Here are 5 simple reading strategies Mary Leonhard’s suggests that parents (and teachers) use to transform their children into avid readers:
5 Reading Strategies for Parents and Teachers
Make a love of reading the primary educational goal
If children hate reading—or worse yet, can’t read—the caliber of the school and teacher matters very little. Poor readers fall behind; they get lost and discouraged. And when they struggle long enough, they begin to see education as a malevolent, rather than exhilarating experience.
But as Leonhard argues, adroit readers have “a more complex sense of language. They speak better, write better, and deal better with complex ideas”—which means that they’re going to be more likely to succeed wherever they are, regardless of the school, regardless of the class, regardless of the teacher.
Show rather than tell your kids that reading is valuable
Our kids are excellent and intuitive mimickers. If we told our kids to keep their room clean or wash their dirty dishes, but left our own dishes in the sink and our own room in shambles, we’d be awfully naïve to expect clean rooms and “dishless” sinks out of them.
This is one of the most basic reading strategies: Read. Reward them with books. Buy them. Order them for a penny on Amazon.com. Go to the library. Go to the book store. Stop telling them to read and read, read, read yourself!
“Low-brow” books are better than no books
“Educated” (notice the quotation marks?) readers tend to impose their high-brow tastes on certain books and genres. But just because it’s a “classic” doesn’t mean that your kids have to like it right now—or ever for that matter.
True, it’s easy to scoff at the Twilight series, but go easy on your kids: let them read what they want on their own time. When I was a kid, I voraciously devoured Choose Your Own Adventure and cheesy R.L. Stein horror books. They were rather unsophisticated by many standards, but I couldn’t get enough of them. I prized them and no one insulted my taste for it. As a result, I read every Choose Your Own Adventure and R.L. Stein book in the library and had to ask the librarian to order new ones from other local libraries.
Don’t feel that you need to schedule time for your kids to read
Forcing your kids to read won’t make them love it. Kids claim that they “don’t have time” to take out the trash or clean their rooms, but when was the last time they didn’t have time to talk on the phone or play roller hockey with the neighborhood kids? Exactly.
Our kids will find time to read—especially when they see that reading is an indispensable part of your daily routine, not just theirs.
Find books that your kids will like
You know your kids pretty well, right? You do a fine job of picking out Christmas and birthday gifts for them. And when you don’t know what to get them, you’re probably not going to have to twist any arms to get a long list of the things they want. If we want our kids to read, we need to get them the kinds of books they’ll like—not the kinds of books we like. Find out what interests them and surprise them with a variety of reading materials—comic books, fiction, non-fiction—relating to the subject.
I am well into my student teaching now and almost reaching the end of it. The lessons I have learned in the past few months have been numerous...I'm not sure where to begin! But, I'll give it a try...
ASCD Leader to Leader (L2L) News is a monthly e-mail newsletter for ASCD constituent group leaders that builds capacity to better serve members, provides opportunities to promote and advocate for ASCD’s Whole Child Initiative, and engages groups through sharing and learning about best practices. To submit a news item for the L2L newsletter, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leader to Leader (L2L) News: November 2012
Your To-Do List: Action Items for ASCD Leaders
Congratulations to the Newly Elected ASCD Leadership
Following voting in the 2012 General Membership election this fall, ASCD members elected the following individuals to ASCD’s leadership:
President-Elect: Nancy Gibson, Illinois
Board of Directors (two-year term): Judy Zimmerman, Ohio
Board of Directors (three-year terms): Matt McClure, Arkansas and Pam Vogel, Iowa
These individuals will begin their leadership terms at the 2013 ASCD Annual Conference in Chicago, Illinois. Please join us in congratulating them on their new ASCD leadership positions!
Diane Ravitch to Speak at ASCD’s Legislative Conference
Diane Ravitch, the renowned education historian, author, and professor, will be the keynote speaker for ASCD’s Leadership Institute for Legislative Advocacy (LILA) in Washington, D.C., January 27–29, 2013. Register for LILA to hear Ravitch’s provocative and unfiltered opinion about the current state of education reform.
Ravitch, a former assistant secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush and onetime supporter of the No Child Left Behind Act, has undergone a dramatic rethinking of school improvement strategies as she’s witnessed school choice and standardized test–based accountability in action. She’ll share her insights about the policy and communications challenges facing educators today and how those obstacles can be overcome to prepare students to be college-, career-, and citizenship-ready. She will also advise conference attendees on how they can build public support for their profession and achieve their education policy goals.
LILA will provide you with the most up-to-date information on federal education policy; share what November’s election results could mean for educators; and help attendees become effective advocates for their students, peers, and schools. Register for this premier legislative conference today and access the conference agenda, as well as lodging and travel information.
ASCD Leaders in Action: News from the ASCD Leader Community
Congratulations to Bahamas ASCD, Our Newest ASCD Affiliate!
Bahamas ASCD began as a Connected Community in 2008, and was recently approved by ASCD’s Board of Directors to become an affiliate. Please read Dr. Carter’s ASCD Inservice blog post “Join Me in Welcoming Bahamas ASCD.”
2011 Emerging Leader Hannah Gbenro Featured in New ASCD Inservice Blog Series
In an effort to highlight more educator voices on the ASCD blog, we recently initiated a series of Q&A sessions featuring ASCD Emerging Leaders. Check out the first post featuring 2011 Emerging Leader Hannah Gbenro.
Please Welcome Huntingdon College to the ASCD Student Chapter Program
ASCD is pleased to announce that Huntingdon College has been accepted into our ASCD Student Chapter Program. The student leaders are enthusiastically planning recruitment events and other activities for the coming semester. To learn more about ASCD Student Chapters, go to www.ascd.org/chapters.
Brad Kuntz Writes Last “In the Classroom” Column for Education Update
Please join us in thanking 2011 Outstanding Young Educator Award (OYEA) Winner Brad Kuntz for writing the monthly “In the Classroom” column for Education Update. If you haven’t had a chance to read them yet, check them out:
Emerging Leader Leads First #ASCDL2L Chat
Earlier this week, 2012 Emerging Leader Eric Bernstein (@BernsteinUSC) led the first #ASCDL2L Twitter chat with several other ASCD Emerging Leaders. The topic of the chat was on the effect of the recent U.S. presidential election on education policies in the United States. Emerging Leaders will be leading future #ASCDL2L chats; the next one will take place this Tuesday, November 13, from 5:00 – 6:00 p.m. EDT.
Follow the #ASCDL2L hashtag or join the Leader to Leader group on ASCD EDge to learn about the future Twitter chats; the archive of this week’s Twitter chat is in the documents section of the Leader to Leader group.
ASCD Leaders on ASCD EDge
Check out these great posts from ASCD leaders on the ASCD EDge community site. Please read, comment, and share!
Emerging Leader Featured in ASCD Express
2012 ASCD Emerging Leader Jessica Bohn is a school principal in a state that has fully implemented the Common Core State Standards. Her ASCD Express article, “Setting a Common Course,” shares tips to help others be instructional leaders in common core standards implementation. Please read and share her article!
Putting the Whole Child Approach Into Action
This month, we added 100 new schools and communities to the ASCD Whole Child Example Map. Identified by an ASCD leader or Whole Child Partner organization, these school and community examples reflect a commitment to a whole child approach put into practice. Each example highlights whole child achievements and links to information about the school or community. Use our interactive map tool to find current examples of schools and communities putting the whole child approach into action in your hometown and around the world. A whole child approach to education ensures that each child, in each school, and in each community is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.
We continue to seek examples from across the world of exemplary schools, districts, and communities that are using a whole child approach. Please review the criteria for inclusion in our Whole Child Examples Map on our online form and submit an example for review.
New ASCD Publication Policy Points to Highlight Timely Education Topics
ASCD’s newest policy resource, ASCD Policy Points, will be published every other month and will provide ASCD members, Educator Advocates, and the public with important information, data, and insights on timely education policy topics in an easy to use, easy to understand format (e.g. myths and facts, FAQs, and infographics). The inaugural issue of ASCD Policy Points, published in October, spotlighted the U.S. presidential candidates’ positions on education policy.
Something to Talk About
ASCD Urges All Educators to Stay Informed and Involved—With the election decided, it is crucial for educators to become involved to ensure education remains a top priority for the Obama administration and the 113th Congress. ASCD has a few great ways for educators to stay informed and help shape future education policy. Read the full press release.
ASCD Releases Report on Common Core State Standards Implementation—ASCD has released a new report titled Fulfilling the Promise of the Common Core State Standards: Moving from Adoption to Implementation to Sustainability illuminating activities educators and policymakers at all levels can undertake to successfully implement the Common Core State Standards across the nation. This free report can be found on the EduCore™ site, ASCD’s free repository of evidence-based strategies, videos, and supporting documents that help educators transition to the Common Core standards. Read the full press release.
New, Free ASCD App for iPad Brings Valuable Professional Development Content to Educators Anywhere—ASCD has launched a new , free app for iPad that lets educators who purchase ASCD e-books easily access that content on their iPad. ASCD members can also use the app to access their members-only content such as Educational Leadership, Education Update and Policy Priorities. For ASCD premium online or select online members, the app will automatically sync their ASCD e-books. Read the full press release.
ASCD Appoints Mary Catherine “MC” Desrosiers as New Chief of Program Development—ASCD has appointed Mary Catherine “MC” Desrosiers as the association’s new Chief Program Development Officer. In her new role, Desrosiers will lead and direct the association’s publishing, content acquisition and development, creative services, professional development, and conferences and institutes units. Read the full press release.
GlobalScholar Renews Support for ASCD’s 2013 Annual Conference and Exhibit Show—GlobalScholar, a provider of innovative education solutions, returns this year as a lead partner for ASCD's 2013 Annual Conference and Exhibit Show. From March 16 to 18, in Chicago, Ill., the association’s Annual Conference and Exhibit Show, “Learning: Our Story. Our Time. Our Future.,” will explore what committed educators are doing to support the success of each learner. Read the full press release.
There’s a rather famous Nietzsche quote you may have heard: “Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”
Most likely, the “monster” Nietzsche had in mind wasn’t writer’s block and “the abyss” wasn’t the blank loose-leaf sheet or the wordless computer screen “that gazes into” our students when they sit down to write. But as far as our students are concerned, they might as well be.
Even for the best writers, Joseph Conrad, for example, writing is difficult. In a letter to a friend, he writes, “I sit down religiously every morning, I sit down for eight hours every day - and the sitting down is all.”
Writing isn’t easy. Writing well…even harder—apparently even for geniuses like Conrad. I don’t know what he did when he sat down religiously every morning for eight hours a day, but I always wondered if he might have benefited from these two writing strategies we’ve adapted from Cheryl Glenn and Melissa A. Goldthwaite’s book, The St. Martin's Guide to Teaching Writing.
Writing Strategy 1: Clustering
Most serious and experienced writers incorporate some sort of writing strategy into their habits, so your students should feel no shame in using them. One that your students might find useful is what we call clustering.
First, you must think of a word or phrase. You can do this with any random word or phrase, but it is far more effective to choose something that is related to the assigned topic. Say your students are writing an essay about their experience with the American Dream….well, “American Dream” might be the best phrase to begin with. Here’s what your students should do next:
Writing Strategy 2: Brainstorming
A second form of invention is brainstorming. Like clustering, brainstorming asks the writer to jot down any ideas that come to his or head. The difference is that it takes sentence form and is best done in 15-minute increments.
The writer decides on a subject, sits down in a quiet place with a pen and paper or computer, and writes down everything—literally—that comes to mind about the subject. Here are some of the main “rules” of brainstorming:
The writer, in other words, free-associates, writing down as many ideas as possible. After doing so, the writer either tries to structure the information in some way—by recopying it in a different order or by numbering the items, crossing some out, adding to others—or finds the list suggestive enough as it stands and begins to work.
At Marygrove College, we know that teachers need a support system; they need the guidance of caring and experienced mentors; they also need forward-thinking resources and constructive feedback on their curriculum. Mentors in Marygrove’s Master in the Art of Teaching program understand teachers. They want to see you succeed in your career and your classroom and that’s why they’ve built their online master’s degree program around you. Learn more about our online master’s degree program here.