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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.”

                                                               



       

       

                                                                download click and clunk

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  • R.A.D. Neurological Lesson Pla R.A.D. Neurological Lesson Plan Elementary Level or Beginning Foreign Language

    • From: Judy_Willis
    • Description:

      R.A.D. Neurological Lesson Plan

      Elementary Level or Beginning Foreign Language

       

       

      By Paula Berlinck and Luciana Castro

      2nd grade Portuguese Teachers

      Graded School

      Sao Paulo, Brazil

      March 2014

       

       

      Unit Title:  Where does the bread come from?

      Subject(s):  Portuguese  Grade Level(s): 2nd grade

      Lesson Concept/Topic:   Reading and Writing Non-fiction

      Lesson Goals/Objectives:  Reading and Writing Non-fiction

       

      Lesson Elements:

      (and how they will be Neuro-logical)

       

       

       

      Plan:

       

       

      Getting Attention:

      How will you begin this lesson to engage learners’ attention?

       

      The attention filter (RAS) gives priority to sensory input that is different than the expected pattern. Novelty, such as changes in voice, unusual objects, songs playing when they enter the classroom, will peak students curiosity and increase likelihood of the related lesson material being selected by the RAS attention filter.

       

       

      1-As soon as each student arrives in the classroom they will find one wheat stalk on top of your own desk.

      2-The students are going to watch and listen to the music “O cio da terra” de Milton Nascimento e Fernando Brandt

       

       

       

       

       

      Sustaining Attention:

      What will you do to sustain students’ attentive focus throughout the lesson?

       

      The brain seeks the pleasure response to making correct predictions. When students have the opportunity to make and change predictions throughout a lesson, attention is sustained as the brain seeks clues to make accurate predictions. Individual response tools, such as white boards, can be used to make predictions and reduce mistake anxiety.

       

      1-Make the link with the Field trip to the Bread Factory and list the Previous Knowledge about “Where does the bread come from?”

      2- The teacher will start to read the book “Kika: De onde vem o pão?”

      3- Treshing the wheat and grind to find out the flour

      Motivation and Perseverance:

      Which dopamine boosters will be included in your lesson?

       

      The brain seeks the pleasure response to increased dopamine. Incorporating dopamine boosters (e.g., humor, movement, listening to music, working with peers) increases attention, motivation, and perseverance

       

      4- Finishing the reading aloud of the book

      5- Watching the video “Kika: De onde vem o pão?”

      6- Using a Graphic Organize to compare and contrast the information in the book and the video  

       

       

       

       

       

       

      Buy-in:

      How will you help students see value and relevance in what they are learning – so they want to know what you have to teach?

       

      Positive climate and prevention of high stressors promote information passage through the amygdala to the PFC. Motivation and effort increase when the brain expects pleasure. Buy-in examples include personal relevance, prediction, and performance tasks connecting to students’ interests and strengths.

       

      7- Bake the Bread in the classroom

      Every student will take part on the process, in group of 4 students at a time.

      Achievable challenge:

       How will you tailor the lesson to address students’ differences in readiness, learning profile, and interests?

       

      Differentiation allows students to work at their achievable challenge level.  The students who understand the new topic, if required to keep reviewing with the group, may become bored and therefore stressed.  If it is too challenging they will become frustrated. By providing learning opportunities within their range of achievable challenge, students engage through expectation of positive experiences.

       

      8- Students will be able to choose one of the videos from the series “Kika: De onde vem?”, (Kika: Where it comes from?) where they can find different subjects that explain things like: the waves, where the eggs comes from,  how TV works, etc)

      Students will work in pairs, considering their complementary abilities

      They are going to watch, to learn about the topic, take notes and then write it down to explain to another person. They could use different formats of graphic organizers, with more or less parts to drawn and break it down the information. They will be assisted by the teacher depending by their level.

      Frequent Formative Assessment and Feedback:

      How will you monitor students’ progress towards acquisition, meaning making, and transfer, during lesson events?

      How will students get the feedback they need and opportunities to make use of it?

       

      Effort is withheld when previous experiences have failed to achieve success. Breaking down learning tasks into achievable challenge segments, in which students experience and are aware of success on route to learning goals (e.g. analytic rubrics, effort-to-progress graphs) and reflect on what they learned and how they learned, builds their confidence that their effort can bring them closer to their goals.

       

      Students will be active in some paces of the process. The summative assessment is the nonfiction text that they will write using movie information, translating it in a graphic organizer and/or nonfiction text like “how to” or “all about”.

       

       

       

       

       

      Short-term Memory Encoding:

      How will you activate prior knowledge to promote the brain’s acquiring new input?

       

      Helping students to realize what they already know about a topic activates an existing memory pattern to which new input can link in the hippocampus.  Graphic organizers, cross-curricular units, and bulletin boards that preview upcoming units are examples of prior knowledge activation tools.

       

       

      Create a chart with the students remembering the prior knowledge that they have about the unit ALL ABOUT and HOW TO, that they had studied in their English class.

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

      Mental manipulation for Long-term Memory:

      How will students make meaning of learning so neuroplasticity constructs the neural connections of long-term memory?

       

      When students acquire the information in a variety of ways e.g. visualization, movement, reading, hearing and “translate” learning into other representations (create a narrative, symbolize through a video, synthesize into the concise summary of a tweet) the activation of the short-term memory increases its connections (dendrites, synapses, myelin) to construct long-term memory.

       

       

      As the students were exposed to a lot of different inputs, considering visualization, movement, reading, writing etc, we expect it will be built as a long-term memory.

       

       

       

       

       

       

      Executive Functions:

      Which executive function skills will be embedded in the lesson, homework, and projects? (e.g., analyze, organize, prioritize, plan goals, adapt, judge validity, think flexibly, assess risk, communicate clearly.)

       

      It is important to provide ongoing meaningful ways for students to interact with information so that they apply, activate, and strengthen their developing networks of executive function. Assignments and assessments planned to promote the use of executive functions (e.g. making judgments, supporting opinions, analyzing source validity) activate these highest cognitive networks developing in students’ brains most profoundly during the school years. 

       

      All executive functions are in place

       

      What strategies help students to…

      Set and reach goals:

       

      Individual feedback from the teacher

       

       

      Evaluate sources:

       

      videos

       

       

      Make decisions (analyze and deduce):

       

      Graphic organizers

       

       

      Support opinions:

       

      Share peers

       

       

       

       

      

      

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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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  • Leadership Through the Looking Leadership Through the Looking Glass: A Tale of Two Teacher-Leaders

    • From: Krista_Rundell
    • Description:

      On March 15, 2014, a friend and fellow ASCD Emerging LeaderAllison Rodman, and I had an opportunity to present at the ASCD Annual Conference in Los Angeles, California.  The topic was "Teacher-Leadership" and the goal was to organize our ideas in the Ignite format.

      While we were both used to speaking at conferences and in front of large groups of people, neither of us had experience with this format.  Ignite limits the presenter to 20 slides, each on a 30-second timer.  This organizes the presentation to a manageable five minutes, but forces the presenter to remain focused in order to efficiently convey the true message of the presentation.  The task at-hand was exciting, challenging, and daunting.  Could we actually do this and be successful?

      Allie and I live about an hour away from one another, but our crazy schedules did not allow us to meet in person to organize our ideas or to practice.  We worked through google docs and phone calls to compile the PowerPoint, divided up ownership of the slides, then finally were able to practice together just 30 minutes prior to the actual session.

      Other Emerging Leader-friends were also part of this session, presenting their own insights into Teacher-Leadership.  We jested that we'd be the only ones to show up to the session but that at least we'd be there to support one another.  Our jokes became obsolete when the room filled to capacity of 150 people and others had to continually be turned away due to lack of seating and safety regulations.  Needless to say, our nerves were getting the better of us!

      I am incredibly proud of the work that Allie and I did leading up to that presentation, as well as the actual presentation itself.  We shared our professional experiences with one another, divulged our fears with one another, laughed with one other, learned from one other, and ultimately, achieved success together.  We challenged ourselves, stretched beyond our comfort zone, and drew on the wisdom of others for guidance (shout out to Alina Davis!).  Now we have a story to give back to those who come after us.

      We are teacher-leaders.

      P.S. Allie organized our slides and spoken words into a beautiful blog post on her site, The Learning Loop.  Please visit and enjoy!

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  • I hate testing not standards I hate testing not standards

    • From: Erik_Palmer
    • Description:

      Where the hell have you been?

       

      Pardon my language, but I do want to ask this to those of you who are vehement about how bad lots of testing is and how horrible high stakes tests are. I have hated all the testing and the Big Test for twenty years now.  Where were all of you?  Why didn’t you ever join me?  This testing mania has been around for decades and now suddenly you figure out that it’s bad for kids? And why do you blame it on Common Core?

                 

      A little history.  We have had high stakes testing for about twenty years now.  I was teaching when Colorado adopted the Big Test, the Colorado Student Assessment Program.  The governor at the time was sure education would improve if we had a Big Test For All To Take.  I was outspoken at the time that the test was unnecessary and bad for students. The governor and a congressman who was a big supporter of the test were persuaded to take the 11th grade test.  The governor refused to have his test scored; the congressman said he hoped his test would be shredded.  I was livid and I wrote a guest column for the paper: how valid is the test if very successful people can fail it?  It must measure something that doesn’t matter in life.  And what a waste of time and money!  This was 15 YEARS BEFORE COMMON CORE.

                 

      My district purchased test prep packets and we were supposed to go through them for the month leading to the Big Test.  Students and teachers got seriously stressed at CSAP time. I felt the packets were not the best use of instructional time and, in defiance, never used them.  (My students test scores were as high or higher than my peers who used the packet in fear of the big test.) This started 15 YEARS BEFORE COMMON CORE.


      I had my son opt out of the Big Test.  I felt it wasted a week of his life, had no instructional value, and told teachers nothing about him that they didn’t already know. This was 10 YEARS BEFORE COMMON CORE.

       

      My district added MAP testing two times a year, DRA testing two times a year, and a district-created writing assessment four times a year.  I gave the first writing assessment and realized that it had no instructional value so I never gave it again.  I was prepared to use the “asking forgiveness is easier than asking permission” defense, but no one ever noticed.  I was livid again.  Why all this testing?  No one can keep up with it!  This started 8 YEARS BEFORE COMMON CORE.

                 

      I was teaching 8th grade when the district added the EXPLORE test.  The EXPLORE test predicts how well kids will do on the PLAN test which predicts how well kids will do on the ACT test which has almost no predictive value about how well kids will do in college.  I was an outspoken critic.  More money wasted, more instructional time gone, no information that I didn’t already have.  This started 4 YEARS BEFORE COMMON CORE.

                 

      Where was the outrage all of this time?  Why was I the only voice against non-stop testing, test prep, and the Big Test?  If you think this is a Common Core issue, you are way wrong. If you hate the Common Core because of testing, you are way off base.

                 

      Are people making money from new tests? Probably, but I never hear a peep from you about the insane SAT or ACT preparation industries. Are there glitches in the new online tests? Of course, but at least testing is finally getting into the 21st century instead of looking exactly like the Iowa Test of Basic Skills I took half a century ago (46 YEARS BEFORE COMMON CORE!). But still, I agree: this testing mania is insane!

                 

      And here is the mind-blowing part: I don’t hate the Common Core State Standards.

       

      For some time now, I have been asking haters to tell me exactly which standard they don’t like. You don’t like “Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea?” You don’t like “Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation?” You don’t like “Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate?” Well then, tell me exactly which ones need to be tossed out? NOT ONE PERSON HAS EVER ANSWERED THIS QUESTION. Only a fool sees things in black and white; all good or all bad; everything or nothing. Aren’t there some good ideas here?

                 

      More history. When I started teaching, I was told to teach language arts. I had some ideas of things to do, but I never had a clear idea of what the end result was supposed to be. I was told to assign book reports and teach topic sentences and other things, but everyone was weak on where we were all supposed to be headed. I would not have minded at all someone saying, “At the end of this year, see if you can get kids to recognize and correct vague pronouns (i.e., ones with unclear or ambiguous antecedents).” Ah, that’s what appropriate for this age! That’s my goal. We’ll shoot for that.

                 

      And that is all a standard is.

      No drama.

      No all or nothing.

      No “I hate Bill Gates.”

      And definitely no “But testing is horrible!!!!”

       

                 

      I am happy that after twenty years, people are joining me on the Too Much Testing Bandwagon. I am seriously disappointed, however, that people can’t see a distinction between a standard and a test. And I am shocked at the number of folks who haven’t figured out that you can have standards and not have ridiculous amounts of tests. They do not logically have to go together. You can (and should?) hate testing but not standards.

      

      

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  • Teaching with an Adventurous S Teaching with an Adventurous Spirit

    • From: Tiffany_Della_Vedova
    • Description:

      

      As much I flooded my blog Teach on the Edge with shameless bragging over my preparations for and "reasons" to, it was hard to miss that I was in a triathlon race this weekend. When it was over, my 28 days of race blogging also came to an end, and I was left thinking about the connections between two central pieces of my identity: fitness and education. I feel strongly that one informs the other constantly, so I set out to explore these connections in an April blogging series: Teach Fit. 

      Teach Fit Tip: Teach with an Adventurous Spirit

      One synapse through which energy flows between all the facets of my personal and professional life is adventure. When I think of adventure, my heart returns to my childhood favorite The Goonies, in which an eclectic crew of well-intentioned, ill-prepared teens sets off to find the hidden pirate treasure that will "save the Goondocks" from foreclosure. With no forethought, the group hops on their bicycles with nothing more than an old map and key, an asthma inhaler, and a ton of brash courage. Along the way, they find friendship, purpose, compassion, inner talent, and (of course) the treasure.

      While it would be hardly responsible to send students off to impending doom by booby trap, it seems today that too many teachers are fearful of teaching with an adventurous spirit. As I stood in front of the waves on Sunday's race day, it was not without a fair amount of trepidation, but I also felt sure that I could at least survive and succeed given my level of preparation. In an age of so many creative and collaborative possibilities, educators would benefit from confidence in their abilities in order to dive into an adventurous sea. When facing something new or unexpected, we need to remember that we have arrived on this shoreline of possibility with no trivial amount of preparation. Unlike our beloved Goonies, we have far more in our packs to help us avoid danger and find the learning treasures with our students. Here are five adventurous seas most teachers face and should feel confident diving into...

      1) Tech Integration: Beyond checking age-appropriate guidelines for platform use, which are clearly outlined in the user terms, the integration of technology, especially that which has been specifically designed for the classroom, is a safe sea. While there will be waves to contend with, nobody is going to drown. Allowing students to play around in the surf and share with each other how they used different techniques to arrive at the same task completion is a great practice.

      2) Project-Based Learning: The best projects are often the most open-ended ones. It's uncomfortable for teachers to set forth projects with vague rubrics, but students can benefit from ones that set high standards for creativity, collaboration, and quality, with very little else detailed. 

      3) Choice-Based Exploration: As long as the prerequisite standards have been set so that students know how they must show they have learned, allowing students to choose what they learn and design their own demonstrations of learning is an excellent way to foster agency and creativity.

      4) Unfamiliar Topic: In today's data age, information is as easy to come by asking Siri. What is far more difficult to find is guidance, rapport, and connection. Allowing for student choice sometimes means allowing for topics outside our expertise. That's okay though because teachers are adept at the latter skills so as to guide students to the best resources and connections. We are boosters of brain power and creative, critical thinking...not databases for facts. Think Socrates--he never answered any questions!

      5) Being Ourselves: This is a personal and sometimes polarizing topic. Teachers cannot and should not try to be separate people in class and outside of school. While it would be unprofessional to over share information about one's personal life, our families and our interests make us human and relatable. These are two qualities a computer can never be. Yet, teachers are understandably fearful of sharing about their family if they feel the environment is intolerant. A moving example is Chris Friend's Edutopia blog "Silence is not Golden" in which Chris explores his missed opportunity in helping students embrace their own identities and differences. "Because I never brought up my sexuality on campus, I continued the discrimination. By hiding, I silently expressed my fear and added to the problem I feebly wanted to protect students from. I was trying to make sure that students felt safe in my classroom. Instead, I showed them that even I was not." 

      There is no shortage of fear in teaching. Sometimes we fear for ourselves, but mostly we fear the impact our mistakes will have on our students. We feel the weight of each interaction because we know that there are no neutral moments or do-overs. Still, with safe boundaries for exploration, we can trust in our skills as educators when faced with some trepidation. Our adventurous spirits can inspire our students to learn at new heights if we provision our packs with trust, creativity, and strong rapport. 

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  • Leader to Leader News: April 2 Leader to Leader News: April 2014

  • Five Ways for Teacher-Leaders Five Ways for Teacher-Leaders to Bolster the Effectiveness of Peers

    • From: Krista_Rundell
    • Description:

      This post is a part of the ASCD Forum conversation “How to cultivate and support teacher leaders?” To learn more about the ASCD Forum, go to http://edge.ascd.org/page/ascd-forum.html


      How many educators have “fallen” into a teacher-leadership role without intention?  As a high school social studies instructor, I continually strived to refine my skills both the art and science of teaching.  In my ninth year, I was encouraged to apply for a grant-funded position that would take me not only out of my classroom, but also out of my comfort zone.  However, I also knew that I would regret passing up this opportunity for personal and professional growth. 

      During my five years as a Curriculum and Instructional Technology Coach, my growth was exponential.  My most pivotal insights involved learning how to best move the district towards achieving its mission and vision through ongoing, job-embedded, collaborative, and supported professional development. 

      It is my hope that what I have learned can serve not only as a guide for other teacher-leaders, but for all educational stakeholders interested in building a climate and culture dedicated to staff development and student achievement.

      1.     Be a life-long learner: Model continuous learning alongside peers.

            Learning can be engaging, enthusiastically contagious, and invigorating.  Experiencing that “AHA!” moment-of-realization continues to be remarkable, even in adulthood.  Teacher-leaders share the joy of this adventure with peers, engage curiosity, and spark momentum for knowledge-seeking.  Similarly, they also recognize that everyone has valuable contributions that add to the collective learning of a group, and thus, encourage the facilitation of learning over the “sage on the stage” mentality.

      2.     Be a contributor: Build a Personalized Learning Network.

            Connecting with other dedicated educators opens doors for the permeation of new concepts, astute advice, and best practices.  Teacher-leaders exchange ideas with their network, then share these perspectives with peers in the district to help direct next course of action.  Better yet, teacher-leaders invite interested peers to join their online network (see #5 below).  These additional viewpoints can help direct the movement of initiatives forward or provide guidance when the path needs to be altered. 

      3.     Be a canvasser: Seek input and multiple perspectives when introducing, modifying, or deepening initiatives.

            Valuing the opinions of others, even those who disagree, builds character, collegiality, and a positive climate in which learning and growth can flourish.  Teacher-leaders suspend judgment, actively listening to and incorporating the ideas, concerns, and solutions of others.

      4.     Be an advocate: Create a communication bridge between administrators and teachers.

             Uniting stakeholders helps reinforce our common goal to provide a valuable, meaningful educational experience for our students.  Oftentimes, our own vision is limited by the constraints of our daily schedule, the pressures of external forces, and the determined focus on accomplishing our own tasks.  Teacher-leaders weave connections between administrators and teachers to address the “whats, hows, and whys” to create a deeper understanding between both groups.

      5.     Be a capacity-builder: Stand next to colleagues as they integrate their new learning into practice - and reflect with them afterward.

            Offering to co-teach with teachers integrating a new practice can alleviate feelings of uncertainty, promote confidence, and lead to fun, engaging collaboration.  Teacher-leaders spend time with colleagues reflecting on the effectiveness of lessons in relation to student learning, focusing what went well, and addressing what could be improved.  In addition to building capacity among staff, this interaction shows students that teachers work collectively to provide the most effective instruction in order to meet their varied needs.

      “Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.”  ― W.B. Yeats

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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






                                                              New Call to action

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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

  • Ghost Busting Ghost Busting

    • From: John_Hines
    • Description:

      While schools seem like historical institutions that anchor a community with continuity, they are always changing. While one school can provide a connection through generations in a neighborhood, the school that existed for the baby boomers is not what exists for the millennials. I went to a high school that just celebrated its centennial and while the name over the door remained the same, almost everything else has changed.


      Every year the students, staff, and community change. New educational policies and reforms are instituted and old ones are forgotten. New events become traditions and new initiatives become protocols. One of the reasons that schools are so hard to change is that they come with history that was created through the efforts of the many people that were part of moving a school from a building to a monument to community accomplishment.

      While some traditions provide connections within a neighborhood, others hang on long

      past their usefulness.


      As we have moved forward to change things in my school, there has been continuous discussion around how we got to where we are today. My school is less than fifteen years old, but there have been many changes since its inception. Many of the policies where put in place in order to solve problems that we are still facing, but others have lost their relevance. As we push forward to make the necessary changes to address our current student, staff and community needs, we are often stopped by these irrelevant policies, procedures and traditions. Last year, I began to call these policies ghosts because they continue to haunt us long after they are no longer relevant.


      These ghosts haunt us for many reasons: we have failed to reassess their ability to meet the needs that we currently have, we lack an understanding of why they were put in place, and or we simply are still doing them because we have always done it that way. Most of the time, they do not cause problems. We have adjusted them to meet our needs each year, but in adjusting past practice, we find it difficult to develop new practices that better meet our needs. They continue to hang around and distract us from the work ahead, clouding the next steps in the process, and make us a less flexible school. Instead of developing something new, we are consumed with making something we have always done survive for another year.


      Over the past year, a few teachers have engaged in a ghost busting process. We started getting together to discuss where we want the school to go and what ghosts haunt us from getting there. Throughout these meetings, I have seen that three steps are needed to bust ghosts.

      • Figure Out the Ghost Story - Do Research - Find someone that was there when it was created. As the years go by, schools change. People responsible for policies are no longer with us and we are left with an incomplete understanding of why we do things the way that we do. Ideas that were created for one set of circumstances, may no longer exist. The policies then still hang around, bent for a new purpose, when a brand new policy is needed. By finding someone who was there when it was created, we can better understand the development of the policy, procedure or tradition, why it was created, and why it was changed or maintained throughout the years.
      • Determine if it is Ghost - Re-examine the Circumstances - once we know where the ghost came from, we have to decide if it is a friendly ghost, or one that we need to bust. We need to see if the original circumstances still exist and if the policy, procedure or tradition is still relevant or valuable. If it is still valuable, it is not a ghost. Many great ideas are lost through the years and would be great to bring back. They are ghosts due to neglect and not due to their irrelevance. These policies should not haunt us but rather guide us forward. In conversations with colleagues, we came up with many of these that we felt should be brought back to life. The critical step is then the reflection on the relevance. If it is no longer relevant, then it is a ghost and we must bust it.
      • How to Bust a Ghost - Eliminating the Irrelevant - Busting ghosts all comes back to open dialogue and honest discussion. We need to discuss the old policy, why it was there, and why it needs to be brought back or eliminated. This has to be done out in the open, with all parties involved. Staff, students and families need to be part of the discussion. As with any policy, procedure or tradition, there will be detractors and defenders. By allowing all parties to come in and advocate for their position, a ghost can be busted and a new, more relevant policy can be put in place. If people are not privy to the discussion, they will continue to be haunted by the ghost. Only by bringing the ghost to light through discussion will they be changed and stay busted.

       This process is long and we have had real challenges at my school with making it happen. One person’s ghost is another person’s sacred cow and worth defending. We have taken steps forward and steps backwards, but we are working together. Schools are buildings with long institutional memory full of ghosts, but also the great work of generations committed to making it a great place. By ghost busting we hope to only to continue building that monument to community accomplishment.




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  • 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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  • 9 Ideas You Can Steal from Tea 9 Ideas You Can Steal from Teachers

    • From: Suzy_Brooks
    • Description:

      This blog post is listed in its entirety at :http://blogs.falmouth.k12.ma.us/simplysuzy/2014/04/13/9-ideas-you-can-steal-from-teachers/

       

      After stumbling across Portent’s Content Idea Generator, I had a bit of fun… I threw in some favorite topics and generated some pretty giggly blog post ideas:

       

      10 Freaky Reasons Creativity Could Get You Fired.

      How Learning Can Help You Predict the Future

      12 Ways Technology Could Help the Red Sox Win the World Series.

      20 Things Spock Would Say About Schools.  <~someone should totally write this!!

       

      But those are all topics for another day….

      9 ideas you can steal from teachers

      So I started thinking about one of the topics that Portent generated….  What are ideas we teachers have, that others would find worth stealing?

      Here goes!!

       

      1: Attention Pleaseattention

      Whether teachers are clapping, chanting, counting, calling out, or throwing up Peace Signs – they are getting the attention of students coast to coast.  So, next time you need to get attention at the dinner table, or at the deli, or on the subway – try some tried-and-true teacher tricks.  Clap a rhythm, shut the lights off, or count backwards from 10.  Soon you’ll have the rapt attention of all those around you.

      2.   Everything is more fun with Music

      Music is a powerful medium. I can still remember all of the words from all the Schoolhouse Rocks videos of my youth. I can still sing my multiplication tables from 3rd grade (thank you, Mrs. Lynch!).  Classical piano and guitar help drown out all of the distractions of Real Life so I can focus on one thing at a time.  Sharing music in the classroom helps keep things calm and lively; serene and silly.  Students respond to rhythm, to rhyme, to rap, to relaxing tones.  So, try rapping that pesky list of chores to be done around the house, or singing the steps to cleaning a bedroom.  A little classical music during dinner never hurt anyone.

      3.   Read-alouds are good for everyone.  

      Read-Aloud time is one of our most favorite in Room 204. Whether we are sharing the next chapter in Charlotte’s Web, or rhyming along with Dr. Seuss, during read-aloud every student is engaged and involved.  Perhaps the next time you’d like to get an important point across to a family member, you could do it in the form of a read-aloud.  Gather them on the rug in front of you, muster up your best fluency skills, and have at it.  Whether you read the DVR user’s manual, summer camp brochures, or the latest junk mail, I guarantee you’ll have a committed audience.  Sell it.

      The remaining 6 ideas can be found here:

      http://blogs.falmouth.k12.ma.us/simplysuzy/2014/04/13/9-ideas-you-can-steal-from-teachers/

       

      As a teacher, what ideas do you have worth stealing??  Share them!!

      

      

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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.

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    • 6 days ago
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  • The Obsessive Educator The Obsessive Educator

    • From: Barry_Saide
    • Description:

      A hot buzzword in education is the term ‘connected educator.’ For the past year, I’ve gone to unconferences, EdCamps, and had countless Twitter interactions. We always talk about what a ‘connected educator’ is.


      Well, what about an ‘obsessive educator’?


      It’s important to recognize this type of educator, too, as they are a strand of the ‘connected educator’. An obsessive educator is eternally hungry for teaching and learning knowledge. So hungry, that they’re never full. They’ll attend Saturday free conferences the weekend before Thanksgiving because they want to learn something, be inspired, meet others like them, and go home with their passion ablaze. Snow on a Saturday in Philadelphia? No problem for the obsessive educator. The pros way outweigh the cons. The obsessive educator burns the candle at both ends, only because there isn’t a third end.


      The default setting for an obsessive educator is to communicate. Once an obsessive educator learns something new, they need to try it out immediately. And, then share out: not to brag or show off, but to deconstruct what just happened -- so more learning can occur. They want to break down why something worked, why something didn’t, or what they can do better.


      They also want to help others get better. Making an investment in someone else by sharing new knowledge makes the obsessive educator happy. They know at some unknown future point, their investment will pay a dividend because a student will learn. And, that’s in their job description..


      The obsessive educator is a teacher first, next, and always. And with teaching, there will be times when their peers don’t comprehend the material. They won’t see its relevance. Why do that? Who has time? Everything is already good the way it is, the obsessive educator hears. However, the obsessive educator sees a different picture than others hear. They don’t see the forest or the trees. Their vision is longer term, and it’s beautiful: a place where we are all connected and an obsession with learning becomes the norm.


      But, they understand that their obsession is not the norm now. They understand that not everyone gets stoked when Tom Whitby and Todd Whitaker follow them on the same day. They understand that by taking pictures of the educational badges from the conferences they’ve attended that people they love, respect, and even marry may call them “Nerd Camp.” Because, the obsessive educator believes they get it -- the rest of the world will just catch up soon.

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    • 6 days ago
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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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    • 6 days ago
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  • A 6-Point Plan for Writing Suc A 6-Point Plan for Writing Success: Giving Our Students “The Write Stuff”

    • From: Scott_Miller1
    • Description:

      Most of us have counted down the days until spring. But this year, March, April, and May bring a bit of trepidation to many in the education community. With the heightened demands of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and forthcoming next-generation assessments—which require a renewed emphasis on writing—many districts are concerned that students won’t be prepared.

      No longer will students find tests comprised of dozens and dozens of “bubble-filled” multiple-choice questions. Instead, writing—assessed at every tested grade level—will be a key factor in the next-generation assessments developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).

      The importance of writing skills on these new tests far exceeds traditional expectations.  Students will now be required to explain and defend their answer to math questions in writing. On some math questions, the point-value of the written explanation may be even greater than the point-value of the correct numerical answer.  The bottom line is that students with good writing skills will have a distinct advantage on these assessments.

      During the first half of the school year, I traveled across the country delivering presentations on CCSS writing and upcoming assessments. And, from my discussions with educators, I’ve noticed a recurring theme—a common anxiety that students will not be prepared for the heightened expectations in writing.

      In order to ensure that students are ready for new standards and assessments, schools must change the way writing is taught. Early, focused attention to writing is critical to ensure that students are prepared for increasing academic demands in middle school, high school, and beyond. Here are six specific steps that teachers and educational leaders can take now to prepare students for writing success:

      1. Provide focused, explicit writing instruction at all grade levels. Explicit writing begins at the very earliest grades. Districts relying on a basal reading program for writing instruction may need a supplemental writing program in order to prepare students for CCSS writing.
      2. Model effective writing for students. Students need to read and analyze models for each of the text types in the CCSS. Using clear, age-appropriate rubrics for each text type can help students analyze the models and shape their own writing.
      3. Devote significant time to writing. Students should have many opportunities to write for different tasks, purposes, and audiences for varying lengths of time. As appropriate, they should also be given time to do research and to make improvements to their writing over multiple drafts during the revising step of the writing process.
      4. Emphasize the text types critical for success in college and career. Informative/Explanatory and Opinion or Argument text types are the most critical for academic and career success. Students should spend 60 percent of their time on these text types in elementary grades and 80 percent in the upper grades.
      5. Give students opportunities to practice writing under assessment conditions. Students should frequently do authentic and meaningful writing in a format that approximates the demands of the PARCC and SBAC assessments. They should also have an opportunity to use technology for writing practice, as most students will take the new assessments online.
      6. Make professional development a priority. Teachers at all grade levels and in all subject areas should be fully proficient in the CCSS text types and understand how they can be used in their respective disciplines and at each grade level.

      To make sure your students are prepared for success on next-generation assessments, and ready for college and a career, you must renew your instructional emphasis upon writing at all grade levels. Writing must be explicitly modeled and taught. Making writing instruction a priority will undoubtedly result in higher academic achievement and greater economic success and civic engagement for your students. You cannot afford to wait; the need is urgent and the time is now.

      

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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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    • 1 week ago
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  • Revoked Rights For Educators Revoked Rights For Educators

    • From: Tom_Whitby
    • Description:

      At what point in time did schools obtain the power to suspend a teacher’s constitutional right to free speech? I know that social media is relatively new to our modern history, which is reason to give some institutions a little breathing space to catch up to all of social media’s ramifications on our society, but it doesn’t give any institution the power to suspend the constitutional rights of an individual, or to punish in any way an individual who exercises a constitutionally guaranteed right.

      I read a post today about a teacher in a New Hampshire school district who was forced into retirement for refusing to unfriend students on Facebook. This is not an isolated incident. As a connected educator I have had many discussions with educators from all over the United States who are fearful of retaliation from their districts for involving themselves openly in social media communities. 

      I lived in the community in which I taught for 25 years. This is not unlike many educators in our country. At no time during my tenure in that district did anyone call me into an office and instruct me on how to interact with the children of the community. No one told me I could not be friends with children in the community. I was never told where I could, or could not go in that community. I don’t think any administrator would have even considered such a discussion. Yet, these are the discussions some administrators are having with teachers today about their social media communities.

      I understand the need to protect children from a range of inappropriate adult behavior even to the extreme, contact with pedophiles. This however is not a reason to suspend every teacher’s right to free speech. Just because there are some inappropriate adults on the Internet, we can’t jump to a conclusion that all adults on the Internet are inappropriate, especially, those who have been vetted and entrusted with children face to face every day. Statistics tell us that our children are more in danger from family, close family friends, and even clergy, much more than people on the Internet. If we really want to protect our children on the Internet we need to educate them early and often, not ban them from what has become the world of today. They need to live in that world. I heard a TV celebrity say recently that parents need not prepare the road for their children, but they must prepare their children for the road.

      Social media communities are open to the public where everyone sees all. It is transparency at its finest, and in some cases at its worst, but that is what we have come to expect from social media. We need to learn how to deal with that. There is no fixing stupid. Some people will be inappropriate, but the community will deal with that as it develops and matures. People are still adjusting and evolving in these social media communities. Having educators participating and modeling within these communities is exactly what is needed. The more they participate, the better the communities will all be. We, as well as our children, benefit.

      Administrators are quick to use social media as a public relations tool to shout out the accolades of their schools. They have control over that. They do not have control over what others might say about the schools in a social media community. The blemishes are often exposed. If administrators are fearful that their image, or that of the school will be tarnished by people speaking publicly about the school, then maybe these administrators should look at themselves, or their policies. It may be indicating a need to assess a few things. Instead of trying to shut people down by limiting their right to free speech, they might try asking them to speak up. This is where listening skills become very important. This is why transparency is important. 

      Eventually, someone will take this issue to some court of law. After all, we are a very litigious society. It will be litigated and maybe even travel up to the Supreme Court. I cannot see any court supporting the idea that a person gives up a constitutional right, just because they are employed by some backward thinking school district.

      Schools need to better understand the world our children will be living in, as well as the world that we live in today. Social Media communities are not going away. Technology is not moving backwards. It will always move forward bringing us new problems to deal with. We need to deal with the problems and not tell people they can’t use the technology.

      It amazes me that I am even writing about this. It is very clear-cut to me. I know however that not everyone looks at this the same way. Before the comments start coming from protective parents and teachers, I need to say that I am the father of two girls. They were brought up using technology. They were taught the good and the bad, as well as how to deal with it. I live what I preach when it comes to kids and technology. I understand every parent has the right to bring up their kids as they see fit. I also believe that every person has the right to free speech. We need to find a way to respect everyone’s rights without denying anyone’s. The world is continually changing and we need to adjust and adapt if we are to survive and thrive.

    • Blog post
    • 1 week ago
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