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599 Search Results for "summer"

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  • 5 of the Best Interactive Map 5 of the Best Interactive Map Generators for Teachers

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:


      If you’re artistically challenged like I am, you’re probably getting tired of looking at hand-drawn maps that barely resemble their topographical subject. Perhaps it’s time to re-energize and refocus your students—and yourself—with these five interactive map generators.

      map generatorMy Histro gives users the ability to customize their interactive maps and timelines by adding text, pictures and video to them. Once you’re satisfied with your work, you can either embed it, convert it into a PDF file, or export it into Google Earth format for offline storage.

      map generatorTripline is a nice little web application designed to help users document their travel adventures or plan a trip itinerary. There are a few ways you can plot out your trip: One, you can use your smart phone to “check-in” at various locations; two, you can simply add markers by plotting them directly on the map; three, you can use Foursquare or Twitter to geo-target your location.

      map generatorU Mapper allows you to choose a map provider—Bing, Google, Yahoo, etc.—or upload your own customized image. Once you’ve selected your map, you can add images, audio, and choose from a variety of objects to tack onto your map.

      map generatorStatPlanet is an award-winning application that allows users to create interactive maps, graphs, charts and infographics. StatPlanet is intuitive to use and allows you to easily post your work on the web. To see some stunning, user-generated maps, click here.

      map generatorIf you’re a creative type, you should know that Mapfaire doesn’t give you a lot of options—but it is an ideal application for younger or less tech-savvy students. No registration is required to use the app, but you will need to have a Google account.

      A Teacher's Guide to Summer Travel


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    • 4 weeks ago
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  • 5 Ways to Help Students Motiva 5 Ways to Help Students Motivate Themselves

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      Student Motivation“I just wish my students cared more.” Most teachers—first-year and veterans alike—have said or at least felt like this at some point. We work hard to motivate our students, but how do we help them motivate themselves? We’ve been reading Larry Ferlazzo’s book, Helping Students Motivate Themselves: Practical Answers to Classroom Challenges, and thought we’d share five tips to help your students develop their intrinsic motivation.

      Encourage students to take risks
      Most of us don’t particularly enjoy making mistakes—especially in a public setting. As a result, we often avoid taking on new challenges. So how do we encourage students to stretch themselves and take risks?

      According to Ferlazzo, we can start by skipping general praise. Statements like “Jane, you’re so smart” seem innocuous, even helpful, but in reality, they focus our students’ attention on maintaining their image, not on pushing new boundaries. In lieu of general praise, praise specific actions. Saying things like, “You worked really hard today” or “Your topic sentence communicates the main idea of your paragraph very nicely” can, as Ferlazzo suggests, “make students feel that they are more in control of their success, and that their doing well is less dependent on their ‘natural intelligence.’"

      Build Relationships
      Research continues to find a link between positive teacher-student relationships and academic success. There are many ways we can nurture more meaningful relationships with students, but perhaps the best place to start is with ourselves. Ferlazzo suggests that we take a step back and consider how we think about and speak to our students.

      Using negative language to describe challenging behavior often distorts the way we see it. If we label students who seem unmotivated or disengaged as “stubborn” or “lazy,” then our reaction to these students will be, more often than not, negative. However, if we view that same student as “determined” or “persistent,” we will be more likely to convey respect.

      Use Cooperative Learning
      Lectures are, by their very nature, passive activities. Sure, students may jot down notes or pose occasional questions, but lectures do very little to develop our students’ intrinsic motivation. While Ferlazzo is not suggesting that we ditch lectures altogether, he would encourage us to keep them to a minimum. Instead of delivering lectures, find ways to incorporate cooperative learning into lessons. These can be as basic as "think-pair-share" or as ambitious as problem and project-based learning.

      Set Specific Expectations
      Here's a tip from Robyn Jackson. Very often what looks like student resistance is actually confusion about our vague requests. Consider the difference between the following:

      • “Will you try harder to pay attention in class?”
      • “During class, I want you to keep your head off the desk, keep your eyes open and on me, and have all of your materials out on the desk.”

      You’ll notice how the former not only lacks specific instructions, but does not give the student a clear picture of what you expect from him or her. Always give your students concrete steps for making the investment.

      Creating Opportunities for Students to Help Make Decisions
      Most of us are motivated when we feel we have control over our environment. Inviting students to have a voice in classroom decisions—where they sit, what day a test takes place, in what order units are studied, or even where a plant should be placed in the classroom—can help them develop that greater sense of control.

                                                  A Teacher's Guide to Summer Travel

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    • 4 weeks ago
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  • What if we took Google's "Geni What if we took Google's "Genius Hour" into our classrooms?

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      I’ve been aware of the phrase “genius hour” for a while now, but it wasn’t until this weekend that I finally took some initiative and Googled it.

      Funny enough, “genius hour” is actually an experiment that began with Google, which allows engineers to spend 20 percent of their time working on any sort of pet project that they want to. The theory behind “genius hour” was this: Allow people to pursue their passions and they will be more productive at work.

      The results of this little experiment speak for themselves: Google found that employees were not only more productive during the 80 percent of the time that they were not working on pet projects, 50% of Google’s innovations—things like Gmail and Google News—were created during this period of free time!  

      What if we took Google’s idea into our classrooms? What if we set aside one hour every week where students could work on anything they wanted?

      It turns out that teachers all over the country are doing this. In my Internet perusal, I came across a number of ways teachers are starting to use “genius hour” in their own classrooms:

      • Joy, a seventh grade teacher, for example, dedicates an entire 80 minute block of time every Monday to “genius hour.” Some students read. Some research. Then, at a designated time, each student presents his or her findings to the rest of the class. Some give oral presentations, others give book talks or post blogs online for their peers to read. Every week, each student creates a goal and then either fills out a self-evaluation or discusses his or her performance during a one-on-one conference with the teacher.
      • Another teacher, Gallit, started by giving his students one hour a week to pursue a project of their choice. After roughly three hours of individualized learning, students are expected to present what they learned to the class. This year, Gallit has tweaked his approach:

      Now, students work on their “genius hour” projects every Friday afternoon and present when they are ready. For some students that will be after one session and for some it will be after six—it all depends on what they are learning and how they want to present. To ensure that students stay on task, Gallit regularly meets with students and has them blog about their progress as well.

      If you’re interested in implementing a “genius hour” in your own classroom, check out this video by teacher and “genius-hour” advocate, Chris Kesler.



                                              A Teacher's Guide to Summer Travel 

    • Blog post
    • 4 weeks ago
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  • Who's Talking? Who's Talking?

    • From: Mark_Patton
    • Description:

      As I begin my first day of summer vacation, memories of this past school year are fresh in mind, and I cannot help but evaluate the larger picture of my pedagogy:  What did I do effectively this year?  Where did I go wrong?  What should I do differently next year?

      The school year ended, summer has started, and projections about day 1 of next year are already formulating in my mind.  I can’t think of a better way to indulge in such reflection than by referring to such a reputable source like Peter Smagorinsky (2008).  In reference to in-class discussions, he states:

       “I have found that students appreciate approaching literature through a variety of astructures, tasks, and activities, which alleviates the tedium that they haveunfortunately come to expect in school.  More important, however, by engaging in these activity-oriented, student-centered means of discussion, students become more active agents of their learning and rise to a higher level of expectation for their engagement with literature,” (Smagorinsky, pg. 44).


      Most educators would probably say that they strive for an  “activity-oriented, student-centered” classroom, but perfecting what this actually means and looks like is a task that most teachers—at some point in their career—fall short of.  One aspect of my teaching I am proud of from this past year was my effort to promote authentic discussions: engaging dialogues in which students respond to each other and use evidence to support substantial claims about meaningful topics.


      Undoubtedly, students prefer hearing their own voices rather than listening to their teachers talk for the entire period, butas Johannessen & Kahn (2007) note,“Unfortunately, studies of classrooms reveal that students are seldom engaged in authentic discussion.  Christoph and Nystrand (2001) and Nystrand (1997) report that, in the classrooms they observed, authentic discussion occurred on average for only fifty seconds per class in eighth grade and fifteen seconds per class in ninth grade classes,” (Johannessen & Kahn, pg. 101).  A classroom that lacks in authentic dialogue will fall short in other critical aspects of learning such as engagement and formative assessment.  Students must be able to voice their understandings to test understandings and receive feedback on misunderstandings.


      One of the difficult aspects of an authentic discussion is to motivate students to respond to others.  Many teachers will fall into a IRE (teacher initiates-student responds-teacher evaluates) pattern of questioning.  This form of questioning--two teacher contributions for every one student contribution--minimizes the amount of time students get a chance to talk and heightens the amount of teacher talk in class.  But how should a teacher go about getting students to respond to others?  Ask them to!  Step out of the conversation and establish some key policies and procedures:


      • Focus the discussion on open-ended questions or questions that will elicit many different responses.  Ideally, these questions relate to a specific inquiry question and/or questions related to that inquiry.
      •   Give students time to prepare contributions and require that they use evidence to support their responses.
      •  Set up the classroom so that students are facing each other, and the teacher is on the outside.  Yes, the teacher should not be the center of attention.  Take notes publicly so students can track how the dialogue is constructing knowledge.
      •  After a student is done talking, he or she should call on the next volunteer to talk.  What if there are no volunteers?  The first time a teacher does this, there might be very awkward silence, but like the Depeche Mode song, enjoy the silence!  Inevitably a student will break the unbearable pause.  Once the policy is established, the awkward pauses will diminish.  Don’t doubt students have to learn how to engage in substantial and meaningful conversations.
      • Students should demonstrate uptake—the ability to incorporate a previous speaker’s point or language in one’s own contribution to show the connection between responses.  “I agree with you about X, but I don’t agree about Y.”
      •  Try to hear from all students and in a balanced manner (not a few students dominating conversation).  “Okay, if you have talked twice or more, give others an opportunity to talk for the next 5 minutes” or “Let’s shift gears.  Can someone that hasn’t talked yet start us off on a new topic?” and even motivating students to ask the question, “Does anyone want to talk that hasn’t?”
      • When students are not talking, they should be taking notes, annotating, or having an online discussion.
      •  Check in with students 2-3 times during or after the discussion and ask, “What are we doing effectively?  How can we improve?   You can refer back to your notes to highlight strong contributions, clarify misunderstandings, and provide feedback.


      Take a look at a transcript from a final discussion on A Tale of Two Cities that occurred last weekThe question students were discussing was, “How does Charles Dickens use minor and major characters to comment on human nature?”  At first I didn’t like this question.  I thought it was too broad and that it should be focused more directly on our inquiry.  Nonetheless, many of my colleagues were using the same question, so I thought, “My colleagues are pretty smart, so why not see what students come up with?”  Given that there were three other focus questions for discussion, I decided to give it a shot.  Students had 20 minutes to work with a partner to formulate responses and supporting examples.  This is a selection from a small portion of the dialogue that ensued the next day:


      STUDENT 1:  I think Dickens wants us to understand the evilness of human nature.  Ordinary people can be evil and contribute to the world in a negative way.  Like when it says, “I call it my Little Guillotine.  La, la, la; La, La la!  And off his head comes!” (Dickens, pg. 275).  He [the wood-sawyer] thinks it’s funny.  He doesn’t have much value for life.  He’s [Dickens is] using this minor character to demonstrate there is an evilness to human nature.


      STUDENT 2:  Yet to go off your claim—I agree that all people are innately evil.   Gaspard was so upset that the Marquis killed his son, and on page 130 it says, “Driven home into the heart of the stone figure attached to it, was a knife…. ‘Drive him fast to his tomb.  This, from Jacques,’” (Dickens, pg. 130).  This just shows that people are driven by revenge.  Gaspard goes to kill Marquis because of revenge.


      STUDENT 3:  I can see your point that human nature is innately evil but I cannot say that it is for certain.  Human nature is easy to follow with Sydney Carton, “I see the lives for which I lay down my life,” (Dickens, pg. 372).  He had no will to live but found a purpose to live, to die for his friends.   He doesn’t seem that evil to me.


      STUDENT 4:  Human nature is innately evil, but that doesn’t mean that they are always evil.  They can demonstrate good, but they are motivated mostly by wants and needs.  The marquis was driven by his selfishness, “It is extraordinary to me… that you cannot take care of yourselves and your children,” (Dickens, pg. 111). He doesn’t care about killing a boy and just kills someone because he’s selfish.


      This discussion is not perfect.  Each student could be more articulate; there are a few points that need to be clarified; the connection between each idea could be more explicitly stated.  Next year, I will make intentional efforts to close those gaps depicted in the transcript with future students.


      However, there are a few things I like about that exchange: students are responding to each other, using evidence to support their ideas, and are offering different viewpoints on the ethical nature of individuals—pretty substantial material for 9th graders.  Jeffrey Conant Markham (2007) notes that “education is essentially an ethical endeavor…. my own career has become increasingly focused on ethics—almost everything we read and discuss has an ethical dimension, and allowing our students to avoid this dimension, for me, represents real failure,” (Markham, pg. 19).  Thus, to put students in a position where they can explore the ethical dimensions of a complex text is a worthwhile undertaking.


      Furthermore, in the dialogue the teacher’s voice was minimized, and the students’ voices were heightened.  The more opportunities a student has to engage in critical issues, the more they will understand those issues.  Don’t fool yourself in thinking that it’s the other way around—that the more a teacher talks, the more students will understand.  To be clear, I am not saying to let students leave with misinformation or let students completely run class.  The idea is that a teacher should do everything he or she can to motivate students to construct knowledge on their own and engage with each other about critical issues.


      The dynamics of teacher talk vs. student talk begs more fundamental pedagogical issues such as, “How should teachers engage students in learning?  Who holds the knowledge in the classroom?  What is the correlation between discussions and literacy comprehension?”  These questions are difficult to answer, but have serious implications on our students’ lives; therefore, these issues must be examined.


      How we talk not only matters in school but also outside of the classroom.  We live in a rapidly changing society in which communication is being transformed by technology.   I often hear people say, “Young kids just don’t know how to talk to each other anymore.”  Given the transcript above, I’m not sure that is true, but one only needs to look around to see that people often communicate more with their phones rather than the person next to them.   Students must be taught and put in the position to communicate in meaningful ways.  When it comes to the classroom, I will err on hearing more from the students rather than hearing more of my own voice.   Students will enjoy their educational experience more, and they will get more out of it.  I will end here with a quote from John Dewey on the power of communication:


      Not only is social life identical with communication, but all communication (and hence all genuine social life) is educative. To be a recipient of a communication is to have an enlarged and changed experience. One shares in what another has thought and felt and in so far, meagerly or amply, has his own attitude modified. Nor is the one who communicates left unaffected. Try the experiment of communicating, with fullness and accuracy, some experience to another, especially if it be somewhat complicated, and you will find your own attitude toward your experience changing; otherwise you resort to expletives and ejaculations. The experience has to be formulated in order to be communicated. (Democracy and Education, pgs. 5-6).



      Works Cited


      Dewey, John. Democracy and Education. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2004. Print.


       Dickens, Charles, and Gillen D'Arcy. Wood. A Tale of Two Cities. New York: Barnes & Noble            Classics, 2004. Print.


      Johannessen, L. and E. Kahn "Engaging Students in Authentic Discussions of Literature." Talking in Class: Using Discussion to Enhance Teaching and Learning. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 2006. N. pag. Print.


      Markham, Jeffrey C. "Inquiry Versus Naïve Relativism: James, Dewey, and Teaching the Ethics  of Pragmatism." Talking in Class: Using Discussion to Enhance Teaching and Learning.   Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 2006. N. pag. Print.


      Smagorinsky, Peter. Teaching English by Design: How to Create and Carry out Instructional Units.Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2008. Print.



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  • Some Websites Worth Perusing… Some Websites Worth Perusing…

    • From: Elliott_Seif
    • Description:

      In addition to continually looking at the ASCD Edge Blogs, if you have some time this summer (or during the year), you might want to examine the materials found on the following websites:



      Most educators are familiar with Edutopia, but if you are not, there are a wealth of articles, materials, and insights about teaching and learning to be gleaned from its numerous articles and blogs.



      Smart blogs on education provide numerous, interesting articles and commentaries on educational programs and practice. You can sign up to have a Smartbrief (daily articles and commentaries about educational programs and practices) delivered right to your computer every day!

      Another more practical daily smartbrief blog is Accomplished Teacher:




      My own website provides a wealth of ideas and practical information on the kind of education we need for children in a 21st century world and how to implement it.



      Thom Markham is an independent consultant who does work on project- based learning. On his website, you can download several items that support

      project based learning, and also read his blogs about project based learning.



      Bob Pearlman is a long time educator and consultant who uses his website to share information about 21st century educational programs, practices, schools, and opportunities. He provides a wealth of information worth exploring.



      Yong Zhao is a brilliant scholar and educator, on the school of education faculty at the University of Oregon. His focus is on creative thinking and 21st century educational practice. He is a critic of standardized tests and the use of PISA data, and does a lot of work on global education.  His latest book was published in 2012 – World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students. This website is not for those interested in specific teaching techniques, but rather how to pursue new directions in education designed to help students do well in a 21st century world.



      These blogs, written by Tom Vander Ark and posted on the Education Week website, focus on how to promote deeper learning in schools.


      Finally, for fun, you might want to look at the ASCD Blog: “25 Signs You Might Be A 21st Century Teacher:




      Elliott Seif is a long time educator, teacher, college professor, curriculum director, author and Understanding by Design trainer. If you are interested in examining his other blogs, go to http://bit.ly/13sMlUZAdditional and related teaching and learning resources and ideas designed to help prepare students to live in a 21st century world can be found on his website:  www.era3learning.org

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  • Summer Break: 5 Ways to Test Summer Break: 5 Ways to Test if Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

    • From: Jennifer_Davis_Bowman
    • Description:


      We always hear that absence makes the heart grow fonder.  Does that apply to kids and their attitude towards returning to school after summer break?  Is it possible that the very opposite occurs-the time away makes children more reluctant to return to school?  Once a question pops into my mind, I kick it around a while in order to develop an answer.  So here we go.  This is what I have found so far:



      A report about the impact of culture and absenteeism suggests that our attitude towards absence depends on society norms and what people around you perceive as normal.  In trying to determine if the summer facilitates a longing to return to school (or anxiety to return), may depend a great deal on how society views the time away from instruction.  Does society view it as a well-deserved break or a prison break?  So, how do you view summer break-as an educator, parent, and learner?  No pressure, but keep in mind that your view impacts those around you...



      In other research, the views of students that regularly attend school as well as those classified as “non-attenders” reveal that school roles influence attendance beliefs.  Children believe that they share an implicit contract with teachers that outlines responsibilities and consequences (Davies & Lee, 2006). Further, when students feel that the terms of the contract are upheld during the school year, student involvement increases. On the other hand, if the student perceives that there is a break down in the contract, self-withdrawal results. The big take-away here is that the student’s perception of school depends on non-spoken rules.  The attitude towards going to school changes based on how well the student and staff meet their responsibilities in respect to each other, not the amount of time that has lapsed between instructional periods.



      In looking at how time away impacts children, we can also borrow from past research (follow the link to read how research explains popular proverbs and folk wisdom) on children’s response to time away from different things.  First, can you guess how a young child responds when a toy is taken away-out of their sight?  Yep, they cry and behave as if the toy has vanished.  Further, based on attachment research, we understand that when young children are away from their main caregiver-problems arise.  So it seems that for young children, time away can lead to the “out of mind, out of sight” thought process.  When looking further though, there is research that shows that factors such as the child’s age and the amount of time away from someone or something contributes to the child’s response.  In terms of students and time away from school, maybe we should consider the same factors.



      I found an interesting article in USA Today that may also prove useful.  The piece examines the concept of “psychological closeness”.  According to this social phenomenon, it is possible to have a connection with someone or something without physically being close to that person or thing.  I’m thinking that if student interaction relies on seeing teachers and classmates, then socially, summer will be a struggle and they will desire to return to school.  If students have mastered the “psychological closeness”, time away during the summer break would not negatively impact their attitude of returning to school.  As the article explains “technology has made it seem more doable”, thus time and distance are no longer disadvantages in school attendance motivation.



      In stark contrast to developing “psychological closeness”, a marketing article describes the existence of emotional fatigue when there is too much exposure to someone or something.  The article reveals that almost 50% of Americans report that after excessive access, they are no longer affectionate about or do not deem these product brands as authentic.  In terms of students, I am thinking that for those that are over-involved in school, summer time may provide a bit of a breather, and the absence helps decrease the emotional fatigue.



      So, what do you think?  What do you feel most influences a student's attitude towards returning to school after a break?  What can we do to help facilitate a more positive post summer positive outlook in our future students? Do you find any specific classroom practices useful in instilling a craving for learning in your students-one that last from the last day of school to the start of the new school year?

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  • 4 of My Favorite Read-Aloud Ac 4 of My Favorite Read-Aloud Activities for the Last Day of School

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      Our students love when we read aloud to them and while we do this often, we always like to save a few of our favorite books for the last day of school. Before you part with your students for the summer, send them off with one of these read-aloud activities.

      read aloud activitiesMiss Rumphius is the story of Alice Rumphius, who vowed as a young child to do three things in her life: travel to faraway lands, live by the sea, and make the world a more beautiful place. To fulfill her third vow, Alice scatters lupine seeds wherever she goes so that everyone can enjoy the beauty of these flowers long after she is gone.

      Miss Rumphius is one of our favorite end-of-the-year read alouds. The illustrations are beautiful and the message challenges students to consider what they can do to make the world a better place. To remind students of this challenge, we like sending them off with a packet of lupine seeds.

      read_aloud_activitiesCity Dog, Country Frog is the story of an unlikely friendship between City Dog and Country Frog. In the spring, City Dog roams the countryside for the first time in his life and discovers Country Frog, a strange creature perched on a rock. It’s an unlikely match, but from here we follow the progression of a rich, but unlikely friendship that spans each season.

      After reading this book, we like to play memory games with our students to reflect on the friends we’ve made, the special times we had, and key moments we shared during the school year.



      read aloud activitiesDuring the school year, we read dozens of books to our students. On the last day of school, we like to take all of these books, spread them out on the tray of our whiteboard, and play the “connection game.”

      The teacher begins the game by grabbing any two books and making some sort of connection between them. Next, a student picks a book and makes another connection to one of these two books. Repeat these steps until you’ve successfully connected all of the books together in some way. This is a fun way to revisit favorite books, but it’s also a useful way to reinforce text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world connections.

      Photo credit: sweetjessie / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

      read aloud activitiesThe Important Book is, as one critic has suggested, is a “deceptively simple exercise” in taking familiar objects (a spoon, a daisy, or rain) and forcing us to look at them in unfamiliar ways. It may be true that daisies are yellow in the middle and that they have long white petals—but why does the author suggest that the “most important” thing about daisies is that they are white? Students often disagree with the author’s conclusions, but that is precisely what makes The Important Book such a great read!

      As an accompanying activity, have each student take out a piece of paper and write “The Important Thing About (student’s name goes here).

      Now, have students go around the room and write down something important about each person. You can set any ground rules you like, but we ask students to be as specific as possible and avoid saying things about other students’ appearances.

                             End of the Year Advice Book


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  • 5 Activities for the Last Day 5 Activities for the Last Day of Class

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      last day of schoolThe end of the school year is always a strange and exciting time. Like my students, I look forward to a break, but I always have mixed emotions about parting ways after spending the better part of a year with them. On the last day of school, I like to keep things light, but I also think it is important to have them reflect on their classroom experience. Below you’ll find a few of the activities I plan on using this year. 

      Conduct interviews
      This is an idea I’m borrowing from Dr. Richard Curwin. Here’s how it works:

      Divide the class into small groups and ask each group to think of four questions they want to ask you about the past year. There’s no need to place any restrictions on the questions; if you feel a question is inappropriate, simply pass. Students may ask you questions like, “Why did you give us so much homework?” or “Why couldn’t we keep our smartphones in class?”

      Once you’ve answered each group’s questions, it’s your turn to ask them questions. You may, for example, ask them about their favorite classroom activity, their least favorite activity, and so on.

      Crack open those time capsules
      This activity requires some planning. At the beginning of the year, I have students fill out a questionnaire in which they answer a variety of questions about their hobbies, their current favorite song, their favorite school experience, what they hope to learn this year, and so on. Once they complete the form, I have students roll it up and slide it into a paper towel tube that they’ve decorated and written their names on.

      On the last day of school, I hand out the time capsules. It’s both funny and insightful to see how much students have changed over the course of a year.

      Have students evaluate themselves
      Every classroom is different, but a decent portion of my students’ grades has to do with the level of engagement and preparedness they’ve shown during our seminar discussions. I have my own system for tracking each student’s progress, but I also like to have students reflect on their own performance.

      Below is the handout I give to students:

      As you know, a significant portion of your grade not only has to do with the quality of the work you have submitted over the course of the semester, but the level of preparedness you demonstrated in our weekly seminars. As we close out the semester, I would like for you to reflect on your own performance and level of commitment in our course by proposing the letter grade you believe you earned in this area. Please keep in mind that you are not proposing your final grade—I simply wish to know the grade you believe you earned for class preparation and participation. Although I will not accept your proposition without some consideration, I will carefully consider and weigh it before calculating your grade. Before you begin though, I want to remind you of what class preparation and participation refer to:

      1. Reading all assigned texts attentively and being prepared to discuss them in class
      2. Actively contributing/vocalizing your thoughts during class discussions and group activities
      3. Coming to all class meetings—and coming on time
      4. Turning in all of your assignments in (and on time)
      5. Not using your cell phone in class
      6. Bringing your essays to all of our in-class peer reviews
      7. Fully and willingly participating (that means not just sitting back and allowing your peers to do all of the work) in group activities

      Proposed grade and explanation:

      Role Play
      This is another activity recommended by Dr. Curwin. Here’s how it works:

      Using small groups, ask the students to role-play you teaching a class. Be prepared for the role-play to be funny, yet highly accurate. Then you get to turn the tables and role-play any of the students' behavior in class. Try for humor, not sarcasm.

      Sample situations from students:

      • Teacher giving a lecture.
      • Teacher trying to quiet the class.

      Sample situations from teacher:

      • Students asking silly questions.
      • Student explaining a complicated concept.

      Set summer goals
      I’ve shared this activity before, but I think it’s worthwhile to add it to the list.

      Start by having students read an excerpt from Michael Jordan’s book, I Can’t Accept Not Trying. After students finish reading, ask them to pair up with another student and write a one-sentence summary of the information.

      Next, students get together with another pair of students to compare their summaries and work together to develop the best one-sentence thesis/summary they possibly can. Once groups finish, I like to have each group write their sentence on the white board. Then, as a class, we review the strengths and weaknesses of each summary and work together as a class to create the most accurate and concise one-sentence summary that we can.

      Following this, each student completes a goal-setting worksheet, or writes out a one-page reflection in which they set summer goals and reflect on how they will achieve them. After completing the worksheet, give students the opportunity to share their goals with the class.

      Photo credit: Richard Elzey / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

                                Download our FREE Principal Coaching Gui

    • Blog post
    • 1 month ago
    • Views: 5717
  • What's Testing Season? What's Testing Season?

    • From: Tom_Whitby
    • Description:

      Recently, the editors of Edutopia were considering a theme for their bloggers to blog about concerning testing. In order to keep things timely, they needed to find out when most schools were being affected by standardized tests. It was a reasonable consideration, worthy of a responsible examination of the subject. It was the question posed to the bloggers however, that set me off about our evolved approach to these standardized tests. When is your Testing Season?

      Every standardized test has a date or two or three that it is to be administered, but the question was not what are the dates of the standardized tests in your school. The idea that any school would have a “testing season” is enough to drive an advocate for authentic learning to skip taking his scheduled life-saving medications in order to stay on task completing a post about this culture of testing that we have allowed to develop. Every state has its own schedule for tests and a list of grades to take them. New York was at one time considering testing from Pre-K to 2nd grade as well all as the other grades. How does anyone get behind testing toddlers? Testing as it stands now begins in New York at 3rd grade. Here is a site that outlines what each state requires for their Standardized testing. Standardized Testing State By State, Standardized Tests Are Here to Stay

      The thing that has really gotten me bothered is this culture change in education. It is no longer about the learning, but rather it is all about the testing. We no longer view the test as an assessment tool of learning to adjust lessons to meet the needs of each student. It has become a means to manipulate data to affect factors beyond that of just student learning. Standardized tests are certainly not the best form of student learning assessment. That seems not to matter however since for whatever the reason, we have had to expand and elevate testing day, or days to The Testing Season.

      I remember a conference that I attended a few years ago where a New York City teacher was complaining that his elementary school dedicated an entire month to nothing being taught except for test preparation. The principal of that school monitored the classes to make sure that this strategy was adhered to by one and all. The most recent change in the testing culture is the need to accommodate the tests with all available technology. Some standardized tests are to now being administered via computers. Many schools provide Internet access to their students and teachers solely through computer labs. The tests however, take precedence over learning during “Testing Season” requiring limiting or even shutting down access to these labs in order to prepare for, and administer these computer delivered standardized tests.

      I guess each season brings us feelings associated with it. From the season of summer we may feel invigorated with warmth and recreation associated with it. The season of winter brings on good feelings of sharing holidays, and hot-chocolate comfort. From the season of Testing we get stress and anxiety for kids and adults. I guess the season of Testing is not the season about which many poems are written.

      Of course teachers will tell you that they are comfortable in setting their students at ease about the tests during “Testing Season”. I often told my students that I had every confidence that they would do very well on any standardized test that they took because their education prepared them for it. That of course was to reduce their stress and build their confidence, but I am glad I did not have a wooden nose. It would have been a dead giveaway.

      Today’s teachers are very stress bound when it comes to these tests. The tests have become less of an assessment of student learning and more of a club or Thor’s hammer for teacher evaluation. Of course teachers are stressed and that is generated to the students for the duration of the “Testing Season”, whether or not the teacher intends for that to happen.

      If teachers could select students for their classes, crafty teachers would always opt for classes with the slower students. Those are the classes that can show the most advancement in “testing season”, making the teacher a shining star. A great teacher with an outstanding class is cursed and possibly deemed inadequate because kids performing at the very top of the scale will show little improvement. Of course, according to the assessments, it must be the teacher’s fault that kids in the 95th percentile did not move at least five points higher. How can there not be stress and anxiety in the “testing season”?

      We may need to research any drop in attendance at schools with stress related illnesses during “testing season”. We do flu shots in the winter season, so maybe we need stress reliever shots in the “testing season”.

      Of course pushing testing into a season has had a great affect on the testing industry and all of its requirements. We need to prepare for “testing season”. We need to test in “testing season”, and we need to develop tools and curriculum for “testing season”. The result of all of this is a billion dollar a year industry and we have yet to develop the “testing season” greeting cards.

      Maybe we should take a step back and assess our assessments. We do not need this testing season. Tests have grown beyond what they were intended for. They were intended for the teacher to gauge student learning in order to adjust lessons to better meet the needs of students. Tests were never designed to become the goal of education at the expense of actual learning.

      This is the part of the post where I should be proposing a thoughtful alternative as a positive spin for this unpopular aspect which has been pushed into American education. Unfortunately, I have no recommendations. I have no ideas that can replace a billion dollar a year idea. Portfolios, individual conferences, and authentic learning projects would all be improvements over standardized testing for student assessment, but they do not provide easily calculated data.

      We as a society have allowed business and politicians to corrupt an assessment tool in order to use it as a money-making device for a select few companies. Education needs to be more transparent, but certainly the best people to administer education should be the educators and not business people or politicians. We need to realign education’s goals on learning and not testing. We do not need a season of testing, but a life of learning.

    • Blog post
    • 2 months ago
    • Views: 523
  • Goodbye Summer Slide: 5 Summer Goodbye Summer Slide: 5 Summer Activities for Students

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      summer slideAs anti-boredom fighters and educational advocates, we’d like to offer 5 summer activities for students. Not only will they keep students entertained, they’ll also keep them from taking a ride down the summer slide.

      Bookhooks provides students with a forum to craft both editorial (review) and generative (story, poem, drawing, photograph) responses to books they read at home or in school. Once they publish their review, students are able to email them to their friends, family and teacher.

      If Bookhooks doesn’t do it for you, Goodreads is another site where students can create their own accounts, build a digital bookshelf, interact with likeminded readers, and review books.

      Actual Size Books is one of our favorite book recommendations.summer slide
      Inside, students will find complete, detailed, and accurate blueprints to create massive sidewalk drawings with chalk. Using these blueprints, students will be able to create full-scale drawings of anything from the Santa Maria’s deck and a prairie schooner to a Tyrannosaurus Rex or the Statue of Liberty’s Torch.

      Each lesson includes a complete lesson plan, vocabulary, and a detailed blueprint.

      Wreck This Journal is one of our all-time favorite books. White it is technically a journal, it’s definitely unlike any journal you’ve encountered.  In essence, it’s an illustrated book that features a subversive collection of prompts, asking readers to muster up their best mistake and mess-making abilities and to fill the pages of the book (or destroy them). Students, especially reluctant writers, will love this book!

      Take Virtual Field Trips
      If your students aren’t planning on doing any traveling this summer, AirPano will allow them to travel all over the world without ever leaving their homes. This site provides users with high-resolution, spherical panoramas shot from a bird’s eye view. In addition to the 200 panoramas, you’ll also find 360 degree videos, a photo gallery and news stories.

      So that they can document their travel experiences, you might show students how to create their own travel journals. You’ll find a detailed tutorial for this project here. 

      Adopt a soldier
      This is a great way for students to not only practice their writing skills, but make a difference in the lives of those who serve and protect.  Both Adopt a US Soldier and Soldier’s Angels are sites where you can adopt a soldier.  Just remember that when you sign up, you’re making a commitment to regularly send cards and care packages. If you’re unsure what you should say, check out these sample letters for ideas. Keep in mind that packages don’t have to be expensive.

      Photo credit: B.K. Dewey / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

                                                           New Call-to-Action

    • Blog post
    • 2 months ago
    • Views: 2674
  • Leader to Leader (L2L) News: M Leader to Leader (L2L) News: May 2014

  • 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:



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



    • Blog post
    • 3 months ago
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  • How Do We Keep on Keeping On W How Do We Keep on Keeping On When Our Time is Limited?

    • From: Mandy_Vasek
    • Description:




      How do we as educators do everything we need to do in a given day?  Better yet, how do we do it all as well as we need?  It is a difficult task, and I do not believe there is a magic answer.  There’s no way to get it all done in a single day.  I’ve found that a great challenge in schools today is finding enough time to collaborate effectively.  I should not just say today, as this has been a problem for quite sometime.  When I was in the classroom, I often felt like we lacked planning time.  I frequently thought I was flying solo on jet soaring at a million miles an hour.   At that time in my career, my current school did not function as professional learning community; nor did we collaborate in meaningful ways that supported learning and growing of teachers.  Our meetings were built around an agenda that served the purpose of announcing dates and information on upcoming events.  After the meetings, we went back to our classrooms to prepare for the next week and then graded a mound of papers.  My first year as a reading coach, my new principal began the transition of our campus to a professional learning community, or PLC.  It has been an arduous process but not without great gains and benefits for our students and staff.  For three years now, our school has been focused on living as a community of learners.  Using the DuFour-Eaker model of PLCs, we have slowly morphed into a different institution keeping ALL students at the forefront of our focus.  We have sent more than 60% of our staff to Solution Tree’s PLC summer institution, which has been beneficial for our campus.  As a real-life, living, walking, and breathing PLC campus, we have totally changed our perception on learning while revamping the ways we practice and meet together.  During our weekly collaboration meetings, teams dive into an intensive analysis of student data.  The data is the key that drives our instruction and decisions about students.  These meetings are vital for the continuing success of our organization.  However, even with built in weekly time and using a great model for collaboration, we always need more time to gain more insight. 


      Like I stated earlier, there is not a magic answer to how to gain more time.  So, what if we challenged ourselves to think a little differently than we have in the past?  Is there a way to collaborate differently?   Sure there is!!! It is right at your fingertips- computers, smart phones, iPads etc.  What if the whole educational world was your PLC, which the virtual world calls a professional learning network (PLN)?  Thousands of people are on the professional development front 24/7 using digital sites.  My favorites are Twitter and Google, but there are others that function quite similarly.  Team meetings are a critical part of the collaborative process.  Now, as an assistant principal, I still highly value the face-to-face meetings with colleagues; however, I can tell that we must realize and take advantage of the digitized mediums we have available to us.  When educators get outside the four walls of a school and participate in digital chats and feed, they will gain a network with access to more knowledge and wisdom than one could ever acquire from just a weekly meeting inside a classroom.   Can you envision how regular participation in digitized learning could take a regular PLC meeting to an augmented state of learning if all its members are participating in PD like PLN Twitter chats simultaneously?  Can you imagine how it might enhance the face-to-face conversations?  For so many of us Generation X citizens, that is not an easy task but one that is becoming necessary.  As our Generation Y colleagues enter the workforce, they will rely heavily on their tech savvy skills to engage themselves and their students in learning.  I cannot blame them since this is their world and it is how they thrive. 


      Okay, so maybe this does not solve our time issue so much.  We cannot find more time to add to our day when we’re only given twenty-four hours.  But… what if we helped each other in such a collaborative way that we are working smarter with the 24 hours we are given?  We all have something to offer one another.   Connected learning using social and digitized media is an underestimated and underused resource for educators.   Teaching and learning is never-ending, and it most certainly cannot happen just once a week to bring home optimal results.  As educators, we do not have to fly solo anymore.  We have so much to learn from the vast amount of resources in our networking system.  Your time may be limited but your networking resources are not!


      Please follow me on Twitter @MandyVasek (TeacherCoach)

      source for graphic www.gettingsmart.com/learnboost.com/socialmediaprclass.blogspot.com

    • Blog post
    • 3 months ago
    • Views: 952
  • Using Twitter as a Professiona Using Twitter as a Professional Development Tool

    • From: Victoria_Day
    • Description:

      (Getting ready for our Gouverneur Teach Like a Pirate Book Study)
      (reposted from Vicki's blog Rethinking Education)
      This quick post is for anyone who wants to get up and running  using Twitter to expand your PLN (Personal/Professional Learing Network) and connect with great people, worldwide.  Make it a global learning experience!
      Twitter has become a very popular tool in the education world as a professional development tool.  Gone is the day when you follow Ashton Kutchner, Nicky Minaj, George Clooney, or any other celebrity to follow what they are doing day-in and day-out.  Twitter has launched a revolution, not only in the education world, but literally world wide as we have seen with the Arab Spring.
      I have listed some easy steps and "to do's" to get you up and going in the land of Twitter.  Be ready to be inspired, invigorated, and rejuvenated.
      1.  How do I create a Twitter profile?  Go to Twitter and open an account.  https://twitter.com Twitter will ask you for a username or "handle."  It is something that tells us who you are and unique to you.  I use @VictoriaL_Day, it's my name! It's easy for me to remember when I log in.  
      2.  How do I upload a picture?  I think using a picture of yourself is very important, especially when you start going to conferences and tweet-up with people in your PLN. You can do this under "settings" up at the right-hand upper corner.  Pull down and go to settings then to profile.  You can also add a header.  I am using the view from Corfu when I made my trip last summer to Albania.  It's unique to me.  I also do use a current photo of myself.  I was using my violin "vanity" shot but then switch when I had to go to a national conference and meet folks.  (I don't look like the violin "vanity" photo now, but I do keep it active on this blog.. Sigh)
      3. What should I write about myself?  In your profile, there is an area for your bio.  I put in what I do, that I am a violinist, breast cancer survivor, wife and a fun auntie. I listed @EastElementary because this is the school I lead. I also linked my blog that you are reading now so folks can click right to the page.  Make it unique to what you want it to be.
      4. Who do I follow?  Well, me of course.  You can start by doing a search up top and typing in a name or twitter handle using the @ sign.   A good place to search who to follow is to see who others are following.  For instance, under my page you will see "Tweet", "Following", and "Followers".  You can click to see who I am following and who is following me and what I am tweeting out to folks.  That is the easiest way to start following folks as well as seeing who I am tweeting to.
      5.  So, how do you tweet someone?  Very simple - you place their handle in the message: @VictoriaL_Day and then write.  Just like texting.  You always have to have the @ sign and handle within the message so this gets to the person.  That person will be "dotted" with a blue dot in their "connect" pull-down option on the left side of the twitter page.
      6.  But, I want to start following and chat.  So how do you do that?  When a chat is happening, you need what is called a "hashtag".  The symbol used is # with the designated chat identity.  For instance, every Saturday morning at 7:30a.m.EST, the #satchat crew starts chatting for an hour.  You type in the hashtag #satchat in the search and then you can start following.  Just a reminder that you always have to refresh the twitter feed.  My advice is to lurk first, see how this works.

      7. How do I start chatting? The rule to follow and always remember is that if you are in a chat and want others to see it, you need to have the hashtag of the chat within your text.  This was hard to remember when I first started.  Once you start, you'll have a hard time stopping.
      8.  What chats do you recommend?  I participate in #nyedchat #satchat #educoach #iaedchat   #tlap #mindset13 #naesp13 #edchat, #ptchat, the list goes on and on.  @cyrbraryman1 has a great page for Twitter chats.  Responsive Classroom will be hosting chats in the future.  @responsiveclass will start tweeting a chat as well so follow these hashtag - #askRC #ResponsiveClassroom #RCchat #MorningMeeting

      9.  But this is Social Media.  I'm afraid to post.  Yes it is Social Media (SM) but a rule of thumb is this, anything you post whether it's on Twitter, Facebook or a blog or a comment on a blog is a footprint.  Just think of it this way, do I want my parents of students, staff and my family reading this, then you will be safe.  Also, be kind - it is okay to agree to disagree in chats, but we are here to learn.  Be nice.  Diane Ravitch has a great post about posting comments on her blog.  Rules to follow! Edutopia has a great page about creating Social Media guidelines here: http://www.edutopia.org/how-to-create-social-media-guidelines-school

      Here are some MAVENS to follow: - HAVE FUN!!
    • Blog post
    • 5 months ago
    • Views: 367
  • Leader to Leader News: Februar Leader to Leader News: February 2014

    • From: Meg_Cohen
    • Description:

      ASCD Leader to Leader (L2L) News is a monthly e-newsletter for ASCD constituent group leaders that builds capacity to better serve members, provides opportunities to promote and advocate for ASCD’s Whole Child Initiative, and engages groups through sharing and learning about best practices. To submit a news item for the L2L newsletter, send an e-mail toconstituentservices@ascd.org.


      Action Items for ASCD Leaders

      • Join the ASCD Forum conversationFrom now through April 11, ASCD invites educators worldwide to join a conversation on the topic, “How do wecultivate and support teacher leaders?” Learn more at www.ascd.org/ascdforum.
      • ASCD Emerging Leader Program applications are openNominate a colleague; we are accepting applications until April 1.
      • Presenting at ASCD Annual Conference?Send your session number to constituentservices@ascd.org by March 3 for inclusion in a special ASCD Annual Conference L2L newsletter. We’ll highlight your session so that your fellow ASCD leaders know to come out and support you!



      ASCD Nominations Committee Selects Candidates for ASCD Board of Directors

      In January 2014, the 2014 ASCD Nominations Committee selected five candidates to run for two open positions on the Board of Directors in the next General Membership Election. Those five individuals are Tony Frontier (Wisc.), Josh Garcia (Wash.), Patrick Miller (N.C.), Lorraine Ringrose (Alberta, Canada), and Anne Roloff (Ill.). The election process will open on April 1 and will run through May 15.


      ASCD Releases 2014 Legislative Agenda

      The key priority for ASCD in 2014 is to promote multimetric accountability so that standardized test scores are not the sole measure of student achievement, educator effectiveness, or school quality. Multimetric accountability systems must

      • Promote continuous support and improvement.
      • Be public and transparent.
      • Include a range of subjects beyond English language arts and mathematics.
      • Incorporate important nonacademic factors such as measures of school climate, safety, and parental engagement.

      The 2014 Legislative Agenda (PDF) contains four policy recommendations:

      • A Well-Rounded Education: All students deserve comprehensive and engaging opportunities that prepare them for college and careers and to be active, productive citizens.
      • Conditions for Learning: Students need a strong foundation of support—including in-school social and emotional learning and meaningful parental and community engagement—to attain their full potential.
      • Multimetric Accountability: Standardized tests should never be the primary measure of student or educator proficiency; instead, accountability systems must include a range of subjects and promote continuous support for growth.
      • Developing Educator Effectiveness: Continuous educator preparation and professional development must provide personalized support that recognizes educators’ strengths and enhances their growth.


      ASCD Educators Connect the Classroom to the Capitol

      Educators throughout the United States recently convened in Washington, D.C., to attend ASCD’s legislative conference, the Leadership Institute for Legislative Advocacy (LILA). Attendees had the opportunity to meaningfully network with colleagues, build knowledge to expand their personal influence, and hear from top education thought leaders including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan who urged attendees to “seize the day.” Duncan also commended ASCD and its members for “walking the walk when it comes to professional development,” helping classroom teachers and schools leaders commit to a “rich, well-rounded, rigorous education.”

      If you were unable to attend this year, see LILA’s storify collection—which brings together your colleagues’ pictures, tweets, and reflections. ASCD Emerging Leader alum Hannah Gbenro also shared her reflections in an ASCD EDge® post Educational Advocacy: Why and How.

      Other conference highlights:

      • Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute delivered a provocative keynote address during which he encouraged advocacy and offered attendees advice to improve their meetings with policymakers, from beginning meetings with a positive attitude and presuming the reasonableness of elected leaders to offering workable solutions and compromises instead of only raising issues and complaints.
      • With bipartisan panels of congressional staffers and policy experts, attendees learned about the pessimistic outlook for Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization.
      • In interactive skill-building sessions, attendees walked through the steps to developing a personalized advocacy message using ASCD’s 2014 Legislative Agenda (PDF) along with their own examples and data. Attendees then took their messages to Capitol Hill, where they met with their federal policymakers to share policy recommendations for improving education.

      Access follow-up resources from the conference, including more detailed policy recommendations and an overview of the legislative agenda.


      ASCD Emerging Leader is Facilitator of New Professional Interest Community

      Congratulations to ASCD Emerging Leader Jill Thompson, facilitator of ASCD’s newest Professional Interest Community on the topic of personalized learning. Please join the Personalized Learning group on the ASCD EDge platform to stay connected on this important topic.




      Join the ASCD Forum Conversation on Teacher Leadership

      The ASCD Forum is the chance for educators to make their voices heard on a topic of worldwide importance. From January 15 to April 11, ASCD invites all educators to explore the question through online and face-to-face discourse, “How do we cultivate and support teacher leaders?”

      To learn more about the ASCD Forum:

      To join the conversation:

      Join the ASCD EDge® group and respond to the comments from other educators.

      Read and comment on these blog posts:

      Follow the conversation on Twitter at #ASCDForum.


      Write your own blog post on the topic of teacher leadership. Here’s how.


      Join us at ASCD Annual Conference in Los Angeles at session #2124 hosted by ASCD President Becky Berg on Sunday, March 16, 8:00–9:30 a.m. pacific time.


      As the most active leaders in the association, you are integral to the success of this conversation. Your leadership helps set an example for others to make their voices heard. Please join the discussion on teacher leadership!


      ASCD Leader Voices


      Association News

      ASCD Releases 2014 PD Online® Course Catalog for K–12 Educators—ASCD announced the release of the 2014 PD Online course catalog. The new catalog offers more than 100 user-friendly courses developed by ASCD authors and experts available anytime, anywhere to educators, including 21 new PD Online courses. PD Online courses are developed to help educators increase their knowledge and discover best practice methods. Read the full press release.

      ASCD Announces Expanded On-Site and Blended Professional Learning Services Offerings—ASCD announced the new ASCD Professional Learning Services, enabling more school districts nationwide to receive greater customized professional development from the association. The ASCD Professional Learning Services offerings are customizable based on the needs of a district or school and are available in on-site or blended solutions. Read the full press release. Read the full press release.

      2014 ASCD Annual Conference and Exhibit Show Set to Host Sessions Focused on Technology, Leadership, Common Core Implementation, and More—ASCD announced the full schedule of events for the upcoming 69th ASCD Annual Conference and Exhibit Show. The upcoming conference will be held March 15–17 at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, Calif. Attendees will learn ideas and best-practice strategies that drive student achievement while unlocking ways to boost teacher and leadership effectiveness. Read the full press release.

      ASCD Releases Four New Professional Development Publications to Transform Learning—ASCD announced the release of four new professional development titles for educators. As educators face new standards and classroom challenges, they will find solutions for prioritizing school improvement efforts, working with difficult students, bringing joy into teaching and learning, and teaching vocabulary effectively in these new professional development publications. Read the full press release.

      ASCD Brings Spring and Summer Common Core Professional Development Institutes to New Cities in 2014—ASCD announced the lineup of one- and two-day Professional Development Institutes for the spring and summer. Expanding to eight new cities, ASCD’s institutes are designed to provide greater support to educators nationwide as they continue to implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), while meeting educators where they are. Read the full press release.

      ASCD Releases 2014 Legislative Agenda, Calls for Increased Multimetric Accountability—ASCD released its 2014 Legislative Agenda on Monday, January 27th, at the association’s Leadership Institute for Legislative Advocacy in Washington, D.C. Developed by the association’s Legislative Committee—a diverse cross section of ASCD members representing the entire spectrum of K–12 education—the 2014 ASCD Legislative Agenda outlines the association’s federal policy priorities for the year. Read the full press release.




    • Blog post
    • 5 months ago
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  • Administrator's license in Ind Administrator's license in Indiana who do you recommend on the merits of cost and time?

    • From: Murray_Harbour
    • Description:

      I want to pursue my license this coming summer or fall. Have you or are you in this study now? Who do you recomend? What is the cost at your school, and how long does it take at your school?

    • 6 months ago
    • Views: 352
    • Forum: Research...
  • Find JOY Find JOY

    • From: Michael_Fisher
    • Description:

      A lot has happened this year across the country in education. Our profession is being decimated, teachers are being trampled, and no one is focusing on the real issues: equity, poverty, and access. And children. Politics and bureaucracies and figure-heads and anyone else who knows very little about how to teach are setting rules and impossible challenges for those of us who do.

      When I started writing my end of year message this year, my initial drafts were about how awful things have gotten and the subversive things we could do to put the heat on the decision makers. I wrote about what next steps we should take and provocated for global actions with a posse of guerilla educators who were ready to kick butt and take names.

      But I realized that I still wasn’t hitting the mark of the profundity and simplicity of what I was intending to impart. So here I am at my latest draft and I think I’ve narrowed it down to a better end of year message--the one step you need to take for a great 2014:

      Find JOY.

      All of the things I wrote about in my first few drafts were rooted in the negative and they were not a place I wanted to begin the New Year. In spite of the negativity in education this past year, there were a lot of bright and shining lights. These bright spots are more worthy of my time than the continued analysis and dwelling on all that went wrong.

      The things that I found joy in were what kept me going; they were my emotional fuel--my inspiration for continuing to do what I do. Those moments included kids that I live-skyped with from Niagara Falls. They included a tweet-up in Chicago where I got to see a lot of my network live and in person! (I’m talking to you Paula White and Becky Fisher and Crista Anderson and Tom Whitby and Steven Anderson and everyone else that came to the party!)

      They included teachers who met challenges head on with positive attitudes and a can-do spirit. They included my grandfather, A. L. McDaniel, who gave my brother and me some tools over the summer that belonged to my great-grandfather. It was just the metaphor I needed as I wrote about tools and tasks for my newest book. I was planning on giving the book to my grandfather for Christmas and surprising him with how he influenced my ideas and shaped the eventual book. He passed away unexpectedly a couple of weeks ago, a week before the book was published. This was a turning point for me, though, in terms of joy, both finding it and holding on to it.

      Unknowingly, my grandfather had inspired me again. It was all the sadness of the past couple of weeks that revealed a pattern of wallowing in the negative, ultimately getting stuck there. I realized that the negativity and the sadness are things to identify but are hard to set a course of action around. I don’t want to plan around the barriers. I want to plan around the bright spots, around the joys that working in education brings. We’re supposed to be lighting fires, right?

      There’s a lot of joy to be found in the wonderful things that have happened in schools this year, despite the obstacles. There’s a lot of joy in students discovering incredible things outside of prescribed curricula. There’s a lot of joy in knowing that educators are the primary influencers of the future of this world. There’s a lot of joy in knowing how we shape and influence and inspire and teach, teach, teach.

      There’s a lot of joy in remembering the 42 wonderful years of inspiration from my grandfather and the impact that he’s had on my life, my career, and my family.

      So my challenge to you is to go and find it. Find JOY. Find it wherever it might live. Find the bright spots in what you do this coming year. Let those joyous moments sustain you and feed you and motivate you. Seek out JOY. Create JOY. Identify it and celebrate it.

      Cheers to you all for a wonderfully joyous 2014--here’s to our best year yet!

      Find JOY!

    • Blog post
    • 7 months ago
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  • You're Fired! You're Fired!

    • From: Barry_Saide
    • Description:

      My mother used to tell me I was "very persistent" growing up. "You didn't take no for an answer," she often said. One of her favorite examples of this was when I was fired from a summer camp job and managed to get rehired for the following summer. (I was 22).

      I  made a lot of mistakes that first summer working as a head counselor, most of them because of pride and immaturity: being afraid to ask questions when unsure, not actively listening to the children and assistant counselors in my group (I was real good at telling them what to do), and not utilizing problem solving strategies prior to making decisions.

      When I wasn't rehired I was surprised: didn't most of the kids like me? So, I had a few parental complaints. Don't we all? Yes, the Camp Director had to speak to me privately once or twice. Isn't that an initiation rite? (It wasn't).

      The camp let me know by letter that I would not be rehired for the following summer. The administration cited my "inconsistency in relating to staff, campers and their families. on a regular basis." I really liked working at the camp, liked the kids, and enjoyed the staff. The atmosphere was warm and inviting. However, the place I liked didn't think I'd be a good fit in the culture and climate they created.

      I needed to be honest with myself if I was going to grow and put forth a better me: introspect, digest what the camp administration stated to me during our "one-to-one conversations" over the summer and in the letter, then share with the Camp Director and Camp Owner that I'd learned from my failures. 

      So, I wrote my own letter. To them. I stated that I understood I had made some poor decisions when interacting with some of my younger counselors and campers. My role was to model how to behave in a recreational atmosphere, build on the positive environment they'd created, and send the children home wanting to come back the next day. Campers needed to have fun playing sports while feel safe and appreciated. Their parents needed to feel that the environment was nurturing. I hadn't fulfilled my end of the bargain, and if the administration hadn't fired me, they wouldn't have done their job.

      However, my job description was now to show them I listened to them, that I took the time to have an honest conversation with myself, and I wanted an opportunity to show them I used my failures as learning opportunities. I asked the Camp Owner and Camp Director for two things in my letter to them: to meet with me so I could apologize personally, and if they were open to it, to hire me back on a contingent basis. Week to week, day to day, unpaid, didn't matter to me. I wanted to be there. I wanted to make a difference.

      The Camp Owner and Camp Director met with me. They were honest with me, sharing what got them to the point where firing me was the best option. I reciprocated their honesty, explaining my thought process during different incidents, what I learned from each experience, and all I asked for was an opportunity to continue to learn in an environment I truly enjoyed. We could figure out the money situation later.

      I was hired back. I'd like to say I was a a new man, but I wasn't. I still made errors in decision making as I continued to learn. But, I grew. Rapidly. I made less mistakes. I shared my stories with new counselors and counselors in training who I saw making similar decisions early in their career. I made fun of myself, and said, "Don't pull a Barry." For some of them it stuck, and we remain friends to this day. For some, they weren't ready to hear the message, weren't rehired, and made a choice to seek future employment and guidance elsewhere.

      I stayed at the camp for seven more years, until an opportunity to direct a summer camp came my way. My mom references this camp story as an example of me "being persistent, of not hearing no. I still can't believe you got that job back." I view it in a different lens now: I was taught that having grit, perseverance, and a willingness to take risks were worthwhile. I didn't like being fired, so I asked myself what I could do to change the situation. When I made mistakes during my following years at camp, my administration took the time to ask me questions instead of making snap decisions: explain what happened? What was your thought process? Why did you chose to solve the problem that way? Upon reflection, what can you do differently next time? How do we know this experience will make you better?

      I keep these questions and this story in mind when I work with students and teachers. No one comes in fully-formed. (Exhibit A: me). We all have room to grow, and it's incumbent upon me to teach others how to think (not what to think), identify mistakes and learn from them, as my camp administrators did for me.

      I wouldn't honor them if I did not pay it forward, and remember their lessons when I need to tap into my own perseverance and grit. Because, each opportunity in my work with teachers and students is another chance to reinforce to the Camp Director and Owner who rehired me that their investment in me taught me something, and made a difference in my life.  And if I'm lucky, a student I've taught, a child I've worked with in the Before and Aftercare program, or a teacher I've mentored will internalize and model what I've shared so they "Don't pull a Barry" too.

    • Blog post
    • 7 months ago
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  • Fifteen Suggestions for Raisin Fifteen Suggestions for Raising the Quality of the High School Experience in a 21st Century World

    • From: Elliott_Seif
    • Description:

      Elliott Seif is a long time educator, teacher, college professor, curriculum director, author and Understanding by Design trainer. If you are interested in examining his other blogs, go to http://bit.ly/13sMlUZ. Additional and related teaching and learning resources and ideas designed to help prepare students to live in a 21st century world can be found on his website:  www.era3learning.org


       Today’s comprehensive high schools are generally organized the way they have been for decades. While some high schools have radically transformed teaching and learning in the face of major societal changes, most maintain a traditional look, feel, organization, and curriculum. High schools schedules are often the same as they were in the Industrial age, with days broken down into seven or eight time periods.  The schools are often large and generally impersonal. Teachers often have between 100-140 students on their rosters. The required curriculum remains pretty much the same as in the past, and tends to be divided into diverse subjects, levels, and courses, without any central focus. High schools generally divide the year into two semesters and few if any student summer programs or professional development requirements exist. Graduation is still based on course credits and, in some states, high stakes standardized tests. Students are expected to stay in school all day and are expected to graduate within four years. Advanced Placement courses are often used as a major barometer of the academic rigor of a school’s program.


      How can high schools improve on their programs and bring them into the 21st century? How can they develop more relevant assessments and a more relevant accountability system? While some advocate radical transformations, there are many adaptations and smaller changes that can bring traditional high schools into the 21st century by preparing students for rapid changes through the development of lifelong learning skills; citizenship; and individual talents, strengths and interests. I suggest fifteen possibilities below:


      1. Clarify and share a 21st century mission, set of goals and outcomes that drive the school program, courses, and instruction.


      Most of today’s high schools seem to lumber along without a clear mission or set of coherent student outcomes. Many high schools often have a confusing, diverse mixture of programs, activities, courses, and compartmentalized teaching approaches. They often suffer from passive learning environments, low expectations, superficial, uninteresting teaching and learning, uneven instruction, and fragmented courses. Many students leave high school unprepared for future learning or work, with a lack of planning or direction for their future.

      One important way for high schools to better adapt to the 21st century is to develop and clarify a mission and outcomes with a meaningful and coherent school-wide set of goals. The mission and outcomes are then shared with both the school and school community and used as the basis for making changes in the school’s program and organization. In other commentary, I suggest three goals for K-12 education that are especially appropriate for high schools: prepare students for lifelong self-directed learning; prepare students for citizenship; and help students develop their own talents, strengths, interests and goals. If these three goals are accepted as the core mission of a high school education, what would they imply for the curriculum? For teaching and learning? For assessments and accountability? For a more integrated program? For the school organization? For scheduling? For core courses? For electives? What would change? Clarifying and becoming committed to implementing a clear mission and set of outcomes and goals for all students helps to create a core program focus and more coherent organizational structure for the high school experience.


      2.    Rethink the organizational and administrative structure

      The traditional seven or eight period day, the Industrial model of scheduling, needs rethinking. In an age of computers, it ought to be possible to have more complex scheduling approaches that allow for longer blocks of time, mini-course structures, schedules that promote interdisciplinary teaching and learning, and common preparation time. Year round schooling is another option that needs to be seriously considered. New technologies suggest organizational structures that are only beginning to be appreciated and understood!


      In today’s world, more students also need the opportunity for flexible, individualized schedules. Some students work part-time. Some need to help with their families. Others need time to do community projects and service learning. Some students need to leave school for periods of time, and be able to return at a later date in order to complete their work. Some may graduate early, others may take up to six years or more to graduate. All these options need to be built into the school’s programs.


      Currently the most comprehensive high schools have principals, assistant principals, and “Department” heads as key administrators. High schools need to examine the question: how can this traditional administrative structure be reconfigured to better serve the needs of students in a 21st century world? What if one administrator were put in charge of “innovation”, looking across the curriculum to determine how the high school could develop innovative programs to better serve the needs of all students. What if one person was in charge of curriculum and instructional resources and curriculum and instructional development across all subjects? What if one was in charge of community “outreach”? Technology? A reconfigured set of administrative responsibilities, designed to promote innovation, interdisciplinary learning, outreach experiences, curriculum and staff development, technology applications might be a better way to organize for the future.


      Finally, schools with organizations that tend to support impersonal and detached relationships between students and teachers should consider alternatives. One advantage of block scheduling is that teachers have many fewer students on their roster, and more time each semester with their students. They have a greater ability to get to know their students, to help and support them. The use of advisories and student-teacher advising systems over the four years of high school also enables teachers to develop stronger relationships with students. Teams of teachers working together with groups of students help build better relationships. Organizational changes that enable teachers to get to know students better (and visa versa) and work more closely together will probably help to increase student achievement and build better support systems for students.


      3.    Build a coherent curriculum

      The current curriculum at most high schools is a fragmented mix of individual courses and programs, most of which have little connection to each other. Here are some recommendations for how to revise the curriculum to support student learning:


              a. Identify and streamline core courses around the school’s mission, outcomes and goals.

      The core curriculum are those “musts” that are required for every student. Should special core writing and reading courses be instituted? What types of thinking should every student be exposed to? How should reading and writing experiences be integrated into every course and subject? What math should be part of the core? Algebra and Trigonometry for everyone? Understanding statistics? Staff members should identify and collaborate to develop the core subject matter and core skills that should be taught and learned across the curriculum[i]. Each course might be organized around a series of “essential” questions, understandings and explicit skills that are core for every student to explore, learn and master.


                 b. Reduce the number of or eliminate Advanced Placement courses[ii] and instead develop a large number of high                quality electives.

      Advanced Placement (AP) courses tend to be implemented with an abiding faith that they are good for students. However, while they have some virtues, AP courses often repeat content that students have already studied, superficially cover a lot of content quickly, and crowd out worthy and interesting high school electives. Many of the students who take AP courses to increase their grade point average and feather their transcript don’t even take the AP exam and yet still get AP credit!


      Instead of AP courses, develop a set of high quality electives that provide many options for all students to develop their talents, interests, and skills, such as deep learning-discussion seminars, research and project based courses, Internet course options, mini-courses, internships and practicums, and independent study courses. In themed schools, electives should provide a variety of options around the theme. New Internet-based college courses, known as MOOCS (Massive open online courses) provide many new opportunities for students to try out different topics and learn from some of the best college instructors in the country.


                c. Increase the number of interdisciplinary, integrated learning experiences.

      Should some core subjects be taught in an interdisciplinary fashion, like mathematics and science? Should integrated STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) courses be an essential part of the high school curriculum? Should more efforts be made to integrate and teach in parallel fashion English and social studies courses? Should mathematics courses be integrated and taught the way most of the world teaches mathematics?


      Interdisciplinary learning opportunities might occur as part of the on-going curriculum and within a ninth grade team. High schools also need to create a greater number of synthesizing courses, offered in the junior or senior years, such as “problems of democracy”, applied mathematics, or science and society. Synthesizing courses enable students to integrate learning from previous years and learn how to apply knowledge and skills to new and novel situations and events.


                     d.    Pay attention to innovative ideas that might motivate students, make learning more relevant, increase          deep  learning, and provide students with new types of programs and new ways of teaching and learning.

      Innovative ideas are constantly being introduced into the education world. Entrepreneurship programs provide students with opportunities for learning how to start and maintain a business and they learn math and planning skills. Project based learning strategies suggest new ways of teaching and learning. Technological updates suggest new resources for learning. MOOC’s (Massive open online courses) offer free entrees for students into the college world. Integrated mathematics programs reorganize learning mathematics. The Understanding by Design curriculum model promotes a very different way of planning units, courses and programs. International Baccalaureate (IB) programs offer alternative ways or organizing high school programs, courses and assessments. Innovative organizational structures, such as Big Picture schools, offer alternative high school models that may be appropriate for many students. Competitions in chess, robotics, science, future problem solving, debate teams, and others provide students with exciting learning opportunities.


      These and many more interesting and innovative ideas need to be searched out and considered, and some type of decision-making process needs to be introduced into the high school experience to help determine which innovative ideas are worth pursuing and implemented, and which should be rejected.


      4. Create freshman teams.

      Many students who drop out of school do so because they have not been able to make the transition from middle to high school. Students need to have a gradual and supportive transition from middle school to the first year of high school, with opportunities for personal attention and a focus on core skills and critical knowledge. Teams of teachers and students, working together for the year, help students to adapt to high school requirements. Teachers have the opportunity to get to know students, advise them, coordinate their schedules, differentiate their learning experiences, and create integrated learning across the team that supports key skill development.


       5.    Create a digital portfolio assessment system

      While high school students do research papers, projects, and other forms of writing, the most commonly used summative assessment tool in high schools is still the “traditional test”, consisting primarily of multiple choice, short answer and short essay questions. Unfortunately, an emphasis on traditional tests guarantees that our primary educational focus will be on remembering and recognizing key facts and information, on developing low-level inference skills, and on producing relatively simple written products. A major problem with the use of these tests is that many of the key, critical “learning to learn” skills and personal development characteristics necessary for living in a 21st century world often get short shrift.


      In order to demonstrate progress and success in achieving critical lifelong learning and personal development skills, high schools should create digital student portfolios that include multiple types of assessments –many types of written work, performance task processes and results, project results, oral presentations, observations of student participation in discussions, and, yes, the results of traditional tests. Many opportunities for student self-reflection also help to determine what each student is learning and whether each student is developing his or her passions, interests, talents, and goals. Part of the self-reflection process should be a goal setting and planning process throughout the high school years, but especially in junior and senior years.


      Students also need opportunities to share senior projects and portfolios with adults from outside the high school, who listen to their explanations and analyses, ask clarifying questions, and help them to better understand their progress, goals and future directions.


      6. Encourage student engagement through greater use of inquiry, research and project based instruction

      Too much of the high school learning experience is in the form of traditional teaching and learning – recitations, lectures, coverage of textbooks – that makes for passive student learning and disinterested students. Students need more opportunities to be engaged in “inquiry”  – to focus on essential questions as the starting point for learning, actively seek out reliable information to share with other students, think deeply and share their thoughts about content, draw conclusions and apply learning, and communicate through writing, presentations, and discussions. Projects based on student interest, chosen all or in part by the student, should be an integral, on-going part of a student’s learning experiences. Senior projects should be used to assess whether students have developed the attitudes and skills they need to be successful beyond graduation – self-direction, curiosity, persistence, patience, research, inquiry, study, thinking, creativity, writing and the like. High school course descriptions might be focused around key questions that will be explored during the course.


      Consider alternatives to traditional assessment and accountability models. Multiple types of assessments, such as those described above, collected by students in digital portfolios, brought to class, shared over the Internet, is an alternative model that works well for many high schools in the digital age.


      7.   Develop community service-personal enrichment requirements.

      Both personal learning that develops talents and interests, and service learning, are important elements of a 21st century education. In a Philadelphia public high school that I work closely with, students are required to do 120 hours of a combination of service learning and personal enrichment activities over four years. This requirement has meant that students learn more about their own interests and talents as well as learn ways to help others. Intentionally building these two dynamic components of a strong education into the high school experience has made a strong difference in the education of these students.


       8.    Make advisories a central part of the high school experience.

      Advisories over the entire high school experience can help to personalize and customize education in a more impersonal world. Brian Cohen, a math teacher in the Philadelphia School District, beautifully describes the concept of high school advisories in a recent blog:


      A brief look at schedules across the [Philadelphia School] District leads one to believe that the advisory class plays little to no role in the life of a student. From my experience (and small survey sample), advisory in high schools is between 10-25 minutes long on average and takes place either at the very beginning of the day (before the first academic class) or between 2nd and 3rd periods. There are a variety of reasons for this - announcements, time to allow late students not to miss class, or to allow teachers to mark students as "present" in case they are very late to school. But, these reasons falter when compared to the potential of what advisory could be: a lifeline to the student body to influence school culture and educate the whole person.


      Unfortunately, "advisory" is a misnomer. There is little time (or energy) to truly "advise" students as the time is used more for babysitting than anything else. Imagine if there were a rich curriculum devoted to increase student's organization and study skills, with growing themes over the course of four years of high school. Students would know who to go to for advice and truly see a connection with the outside world because they would have time to discuss their place in it. 


      In my ideal world, advisory would function as a place for discussion and curiosity, with articles read about educational research on how to be the best student; with discussion on what's happening in the lives of students now; with time devoted to what students really need. There are a small number of high schools that provide time for this (Science Leadership Academy being one) but we need more flexibility. 


      Maybe with that time students would be able to get themselves together and teachers would not have to spend as much time calling home over forgotten homework and missed assignments. And, instead, students would start applying these tools to other aspects of their lives.”[iii]


      9.    Make Media Centers the hub of the high school learning experience

      If advisories are the central place for personal attention and advice, library-media centers are the hub for academic learning. They are the place in which students learn research skills. They are centers for conducting research. They often are the central computer centers for students, especially for those who might not have access to computers at home.  


       10. Create multiple outreach and “inreach” experiences

      Outreach experiences enable high schools to better provide a more “authentic” education experience. For example, powerful outreach experiences occur when students are provided with internships in local businesses, health clinics and hospitals, schools and colleges, social work agencies, and the like. Other outreach experiences occur when students are able to interview a wide range of experts through technological arrangements, visit local colleges, or go on field trips. “Inreach” experiences - outside visitors brought to the school to talk with students about careers and experiences – is also a powerful way to connect students to the outside world. Significant outreach and inreach provides powerful connections to the “real” world outside of high school.


       11.Create continuous, high quality, meaningful, relevant professional and curriculum development experiences

      Today’s changing educational world demands continual learning and updates about teaching and learning. What would we think of a doctor’s world without continual updates on the best forms of treatment, new drugs, research, and other changes. Yet it’s strange how little emphasis is placed on professional and curriculum development over time. The establishment of professional learning communities (PLC’s), with a school culture that supports continuous learning around collaborative and individual learning goals, should be a key goal. Summers are ideal times for professional development, yet there are generally no requirements that teachers devote some portion of their summers (e.g. two or three weeks) to collaboratively exploring new ways of teaching, new forms of curriculum design, the teaching of writing and thinking, how to implement the Common Core, project and problem based learning approaches, and so on.


       12. Switch to Standards-Based Report Cards

      Traditional report cards Provide little helpful information to both students and parents. A more effective report card is one that provides information as to how well a student is doing, but also how a student might improve. Standards based report cards incorporate key learning goals and skills either in an interdisciplinary configuration or within each subject area. The ability to solve problems, conduct research, make presentations, write effectively – all these can be incorporated into standards based report cards[iv]


      An even stronger standards based report card format includes individual comments by each teacher. Some high schools have built an individual comments model into their assessment process[v]. This entails a lot of work, but it customizes comments, builds on specific student talents, strengths and skills, provides greater specificity as to how students might improve, and in general makes report cards much more meaningful and helpful to students and parents.


      13. Use technology as a tool for reaching key goals and priorities

      Technology is often used in a haphazard fashion within high schools. The judicious use of technology, designed to help students reach key goals, is a much more rewarding and promising way to use technology. For example, the use of digital portfolios provides ways to collect and analyze student work. Common uses of technology to write papers, spellcheck, organize thoughts and ideas, and so on might be encouraged. Search engines used to find resources, to contact people around the world when appropriate, can be helpful. Teacher use of technology to share articles and readings, course outlines, information about a course, handouts and assignments with students on a regular basis is a good use of technology. The appropriate use of on-line simulations can enhance learning.


      However, beware of newer forms of technology without being clear on how they promote the goals of the school. Tablets and smartphones may be useful, but they should be introduced with great care, and with knowledge and understanding of how they will contribute to advancing learning goals.


      14.Create small learning communities

      Although small learning communities are a radical departure from traditional high school organization, they are worth considering. They consist of groups and teachers and students working together around themes (e.g. communication, technology, health sciences and the like). Where possible, small learning communities within a building are physically separated from each other.


      The creation of small learning communities requires significant professional development so that each team is well organized around a theme and is given a chance to work together in advance of implementation. Failure to provide time for teachers to receive professional development and for learning how to work together is often why they fail.


      15.Design innovative ways to rate and judge the success of high schools.

      High schools are being judged today by arbitrary processes often determined by government bureaucrats. The outside accountability systems often get in the way of making modest and relevant changes that would significantly improve programs. It is time for high school leaders to develop their own models that demonstrate their success!


      Instead of a reliance on test scores, high school accountability models, shared with the public and with Boards of Education, might include the number of students who have developed their talents and interests in different directions; sample digital portfolios that demonstrate student learning; data on students that go on to some form of post high school educational experience; results from special programs, such as International Baccalaureate and small learning communities; data on what happens to students as they move through a post high school experience; collective data from report cards; survey data from high school graduates who rate their high school experience; results from student surveys of current courses, and so on. A comprehensive accountability process developed by high schools themselves would be much more meaningful and significant than the current systems being implemented.


      Final Thoughts


      Comprehensive high schools need to adapt to a 21st century world. Clearer mission statements that guide teaching and learning, revised and flexible scheduling, strong core and elective programs, administrative restructuring, advisories, greater student engagement through inquiry, research and project based teaching and learning, library-media center hubs, standards based report cards, small learning communities, more meaningful and personalized accountability systems, a careful look at innovative ideas – these and the other suggestions described above would go a long way towards better preparation of students for living in a 21st century world. Not all of these ideas may currently make sense to high school teachers and leaders, but some might be helpful when high schools reconsider their programs, assessment models, organizational structures, and accountability systems in order to adapt to this new age.


      [i] In other work, I have identified five core skill sets that should be taught throughout the curriculum – curiosity, information and data literacy, thoughtfulness, application, and communication. For greater insights into what these five skill sets mean in practice, go to www.era3learning.org. I have also developed a process – the Integrated Skill Development Program (ISDP) – that can be used to identify core skills to be taught and learned across the curriculum. A description of this process can be found at: http://bit.ly/RnSwRT

      [ii]Advanced Placement courses have many problems. They are often survey courses that focus on learning content without depth or thought. Many students take Advanced Placement courses, get credit for them, but don’t take the Advanced Placement exams. Other students take the AP course, don’t pass the AP exam, but still get AP credit. Scarsdale High School has eliminated Advanced Placement courses in favor of “advanced topics” courses. Some advanced topics courses are designed so that, at the end of the course, if students wish to do so, they can take the Advanced Placement exam.

      [iii] Brian Cohen blog, 1-14-2013  http://makethegrade.weebly.com/index.html

      [iv] For an excellent article on Standards Based Report Cards, see How We Got Grading Wrong, and What to Do About it, in Educational Update, October 2013, Volune 55, No. 10, ASCD.

      [v] For example, Science Leadership Academy, a public high school in Philadelphia PA, incorporates teacher comments into its report card system.



    • Blog post
    • 9 months ago
    • Views: 5392
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