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Take a second and think about the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. If Ferris would have arrived home late, his whole ploy (to outsmart his parents by skipping school) would have been ruined. This is an example of a case when lateness has detrimental effects. On the other hand, think about filing your taxes. Filing late with the appropriate extension paperwork is no deal breaker-you will not have to sell your soul or give away your first born son. This latter example is a case when lateness is less critical for an individual.
So, in addressing lateness (late work) in the classroom, I think it is important to look at the consequences which impact student success. I was interested in how other educators faced the late work dilemma and this is what I found:
“Can I still turn this in?” How do you respond when you hear this from your students-is it frustrating or motivational in the classroom policy sense? What solutions have you tried in addressing student late work and how feasible were they? Sometimes, I find it useful to change my policy based on the students I am working with that particular year. How have you changed your late work policy over time?
Here’s a working hypothesis:
The organizations that most need change agents probably are the least likely to hire them because change agents typically make people with non-change orientations scared or nervous. If the people within were already oriented toward change and innovation, their organizations wouldn’t be the ones in the most need of change agents.
So a change- and innovation-oriented job candidate has a steep uphill battle to get considered and hired. The challenge is how to get people on hiring committees in non-change-oriented institutions to recognize the value of hiring for innovation, not replication… Got any thoughts on this?
Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog about one of our son’s teachers, along with the frustration that he and we, as his parents, have been experiencing. In case you missed it, I liken her to a teacher that I had in 1978––suffice to say, it was not a positive comparison. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I wrote, about this teacher, and about the feedback that I’ve gotten from that blog. While the feedback has been nothing but positive and supportive, I feel that I should do something to help this teacher, instead of just criticizing her. Therefore, I am offering to her my 5-point professional development plan:
(1) Find ways to vary your instruction. Each day in your class should not look like every other one. Find ways to change what you do. Get your students more involved. Some days, have them lead the instruction, perhaps by doing examples for the rest of the students. Find ways to incorporate group work. Model for them how collaboration can be highly beneficial in the teaching and learning process.
(2) Get up out of your seat (please!). An active, more energetic classroom is by far a more interesting classroom. I sense that your students get bored because there’s very little interactivity from the beginning of class to the end of class, as well as from day to day. Similar to #1 above, mix things up a little bit––it’s hard for your students to be energetic and interested in learning when you don’t appear to be. Surprise your students from time to time with activities they don’t expect––I guarantee that it will keep them more interested in what you’re doing, as well as in learning what you want them to learn. When they know exactly what’s going to happen every minute of your class time with them, they will be bored––that’s simply human nature.
(3) Provide your students with scoring rubrics––or other specific forms of feedback––for their assignments and tests. No one expects all of your students to ace every assessment you administer. However, if you truly want them to learn from the assessments, you must provide them with concrete and formative feedback on how they can improve their performance. Simply marking the number of points that they’ve missed and not providing them with explanations of why they missed those points may make your job easier, but it’s completely counterproductive to their learning. Providing them with rubrics for constructed-response items––such as problem-solving on a math test––will not only provide them with sound feedback on their mistakes or misconceptions, but distributed in advance of your tests can inform them of exactly what your expectations are from them on the assessment. This is simply good assessment practice.
(4) Be supportive of and try to work with students who struggle in your classes. With the number of students that you see every day, this can be a challenge. Trust me, I know––I’m a former high school teacher who used to see more than 150 kids every day. However, when students struggle in your classes, your first line of defense should not be to brush them aside and simply tell them to get a tutor. After all, YOU are their teacher; YOUR job is to help them learn, even when they struggle. After you’ve worked with them, and you’ve determined that they clearly need some sort of additional support, then recommend that they see a tutor. But, please remember that it is your primary responsibility to help them learn the content that you are charged with teaching them.
(5) Listen to your students. Look, I understand that this is your classroom, but you may not always know what’s best for your students’ learning. When you have a high number of students who have been extremely successful during their previous 9 or 10 years of schooling and they are failing your class, something isn’t working right. Sometimes, students will come out and tell you that they are struggling; other times, you must discern this in other ways. Regardless, listen to what your students are verbally or nonverbally communicating to you about the struggles that they are having . . . and then do something to address those issues, as the professional educator that you are.
By the way, every one of these 5 professional development strategies above can be effectively implemented and assessed by integrating an action research approach into how you do your work as a professional educator. Come up with strategies to implement one or more of the points above; collect data from your students and assess the effectiveness of your efforts; appropriately revise how you approach these issues in the future. You will become a better educator––and your students will become better learners.
This weekend, my family and I visited the Oregon Coast. As I stared at the ocean, I thought: Ocean waves are one of the most powerful phenomena on Earth - they shape the Earth's coastlines. Similarly, educational systems are powerful forces that prepare students to grow up and shape the future of our economy and society.
This got me pondering how ocean waves are made and how they crash against the shore 24/7. From a scientific perspective, waves are imparted from a combination of wind blowing over the surface of water and currents running under the water. I'm always amazed that when I simply look at the ocean, I don't see the system of wind and currents - I see their byproduct as the ocean waves crest and fall.
Just as nature puts a lot of energy into shaping waves all day every day, a multitude leaders at every level strategically create & cultivate systems that shape high quality educational outcomes on a daily basis. The educational systems that yield the highest outcomes and maintain sustainability result from a collective approach to shared responsibility and leadership that's cultivated by lead learners.
I invite you to join me in personalizing this idea by contemplating: What are the strategic approaches that lay the foundation for your educational system to generate high quality educational outcomes? How do you articulate these educational outcomes to different stakeholders? What is your role within this system?
If anyone of you has not read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, then you are really missing out on some effective communication strategies to use with your students and staff. Chapman describes 5 different ways to communicate effectively to the ones we hold dear to us. Now, you may be freaking out a little because that kind of language sounds too intimate for the workplace, right? Wrong!! Actually, he did write this book for more intimate relationships, such as spouses or close family and friends. However, after reading this book for about the fifth time, I had a revelation! Why didn’t I see it before? I think it was because, like you are thinking, the words “love language” sounded too mushy for a working environment. Nevertheless, Gary Chapman has inspired me to be a leader who loves. When I use the word leader, I do not mean just an administrator but any person who leads others. A leader could be a classroom teacher, an interventionist, coach, nurse, secretary, content specialist, bus driver, etc.
Chapman discusses five languages desired by human hearts. His languages are recipes for healthy, happy relationships. According to the author, most of us have a preferred way to be treated by others in order to feel worthy. Reciprocally, we also have a favored style we use to show others we care about them. For many of us, we will demonstrate to others we care in the same way that we choose to be loved.
Below are the five languages discussed in the book along with examples, which I’ve added:
• Words of Affirmation- saying nice or kind words to the person
• Quality Time- Having a meaningful, quality conversation; listening
• Receiving Gifts- a coffee, favorite snack, an inexpensive token of appreciation
• Acts of Service- teaching a class for someone or doing their duty
• Physical Touch- a hug, a pat on the back, or a touch on the shoulder that says you care
As a leader, you also yearn to be esteemed by one of these languages; you may even have two. In fact, you may desire all of these to some degree, but you probably have at least one or two dominant languages that feed your soul. More often than not, you show others you care by reciprocating with your dominant language(s).
For instance, I am “words of affirmation” and “quality time”. In order to have my emotional tank filled, I need to hear kind, positive words about something I am doing or who I am. I also love spending time with others. As a wife, mom, and assistant principal, I tend to show others I care by participating in the same actions; that’s just human nature. I do have to be aware that others may not share my same dominant language. Their heart could thrive on one of the other three. So, even though my tank is getting the fuel it needs, the person I am with may not. I have to pay careful attention to signs that will help me identify their dominant language. It may take experimenting and time, especially with students.
As a school leader, it is important to realize our students and staff have emotional needs. These language identifiers really help! Just think about how you could get children to do what they are supposed to do by simply speaking their language! On the flip side, you must be careful and sensitive whenever critiquing or disciplining them. If you use a lot of words that may be considered “put-downs” to a person who attains some of their self-worth from words of affirmation, you can actually degrade the individual. It does not mean the student or staff member cannot take constructive criticism; we just need to be mindful as to how we deliver our words. Many times, our well-behaved students and staff might feel neglected, especially if their language is quality time. Really, think about this…. Who gains most of our attention? Yes, those who require more of our time and attention for learning or behaving.
Building relationships is key to sustaining a great educational environment for our students and staff. You really have everything to gain in just trying. It can’t hurt to affirm or care for someone a little too much as long as it is genuine. In my opinion, it is a win-win situation.
Next month I will travel to Los Angeles to join many of my students, almost all of whom I have only know through our Adobe Connect online classroom, for commencement from the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education. As a full-time faculty member at USC, I have the privilege to work with students from across the country and world in our face-to-face, synchronous online Masters of Arts in Teaching program. I prepare teachers for certification or to advance their practice.
One of my students was able to “score” tickets for us to go see a taping of the new Disney series “Girl Meets World” on May 14. To say I am excited, well, that would be an understatement! Maybe “totally stoked” would be more apt a description. When I was a middle school social studies teacher and later a middle and high school principal, the original series “Boy Meets World” was at the peak of its popularity. One of the greatest memories (and greatest honors) I have of my middle school students was when they would liken me to Feeny. Since I am overdue for a blog post, I decided to consider some of the many lessons that Feeny could teach all of us as educators. Here are my top ten (each scene is quoted first and then it is followed by what I have deemed “the Feeny Lesson” from that quote):
Season 1, Episode 1 (1993):
Cory Matthews: Mr. Feeny, who cares about a guy who killed himself for some dumb girl?
Mr. George Feeny: The tragedy here, Mr. Matthews, is not about a dumb girl, or the boy who kills himself because of her. It's about the all-consuming power of love. And the inevitability of its influence on each of our lives.
Cory Matthews: [pauses] Are you aware that I'm only eleven years old?
Lesson: Don’t talk down to your students, believe that they can understand and learn by being spoken to like adults—even if they don’t realize it!
Season 4, Episode 17 (1997):
Mr. George Feeny: Even though this isn't a classroom at the moment, would you mind if I taught you a lesson anyway?
Topanga Lawrence: Please.
Mr. George Feeny: Believe it or not, there was a time in my life when I cared for someone as deeply as you two care for each other now.
Cory Matthews: You believe we love each other?
Mr. George Feeny: And for no reason I understood, my wife was taken from me, and I haven't been so deeply in love since.
Cory Matthews: [to Topanga] Feeny believes we love each other!
Mr. George Feeny: I believe that when you find love, you hold on to it, and cherish it! Because there is nothing finer, and may never come again. And that, my dears, is the most important thing I could teach you.
Lesson: Our work as educators is not and should not be bound by the walls of the classroom—there are important life lessons that we can teach our students that extend far beyond the formal curriculum.
Season 2, Episode 9 (1994):
Katherine 'Kat' Tompkins: This Jonathan Turner guy, what's the deal with him?
George Feeny: It's really not my place to comment, from one teacher to another.
Katherine 'Kat' Tompkins: Oh, come on. He asked me out! I just wanna know if he's an axe murderer.
George Feeny: It wasn't on his resumé.
Lesson: How to handle gossip in the teacher’s lounge—enough said!
Season 7, Episode 23 (2000):
Mr. George Feeny: Believe in yourselves. Dream. Try. Do good
Topanga: Don't you mean "do well"?
Mr. George Feeny: No, I mean "do good".
Lesson: Doing “well” and doing “good” are not the same thing—and as teachers, it is not that we must work to merely do our jobs well, but we must strive to “do good” for our communities, our schools, and, most importantly, our students.
Season 1, Episode 8 (1993):
Cory Matthews: Shawn, what was your mother's maiden name?
Shawn Hunter: Cordini.
Cory Matthews: Cordini, so that would make you a WOP, right?
Shawn Hunter: What did you call me?
Cory Matthews: You heard what I called you.
Shawn Hunter: [to Feeny] Did you hear what he called me?
George Feeny: I heard what he called you.
Shawn Hunter: What're you going to do about it?
George Feeny: He's the teacher, what're YOU going to do about it?
Shawn Hunter: I'm gonna knock his head off!
Cory Matthews: What if you couldn't? What if you couldn't do anything about it?
Shawn Hunter: What?
Cory Matthews: What if you lived in a country where I could KILL you just because of your mom's last name.
Shawn Hunter: Cory, what're you talking about?
Cory Matthews: A 15 year old girl is DEAD! Doesn't anybody care? She was really smart and totally cool. Her name was Anne Frank, she wrote this book. They say she died of typhus but they killed her, BECAUSE her name was Anne Frank.
Lesson: Sometimes our students can be the best teachers of each other—and our job should include giving them opportunities to do so.
Season 4, Episode 11 (1996):
George Feeny: Eric, in the play of your life all your great scenes lie ahead of you.
Eric Matthews: So you're saying in thirty or forty years I could write a play that you would wanna come and see?
George Feeny: No, tonight pretty much killed any interest I had in the theater.
Eric Matthews: Mr. Feeny you know everything. Where does my life go from here?
George Feeny: Well, now, you have passion. You have drive. You certainly have guts. I frankly can't wait to see what happens to you.
Eric Matthews: So you're not gonna tell me to give up my life as an actor and go get a college education?
George Feeny: Eric I told you to get a college education ten-thousand times. I don't have to tell you anymore.
Eric Matthews: What about my life as an actor?
George Feeny: Get a college education.
Lesson: Encourage students and support them in even their wildest dreams—but tether them to reality as well, and guide them toward choices that will open doors rather than close them.
Season 6, Episode 1 (1998):
Mr. George Feeny: You can't tell Cory and Topanga what to do. I've been trying to do that since the first grade. I remember when I tried to separate their desks. She kicked me. He bit me. And some little punk kept saying "Leave 'em alone. They should get married."
Shawn Hunter: I was cute then, huh?
Mr. George Feeny: Precious.
Lesson: Looping works—when we stay with students year after year, we develop a better understanding of who they are as people and what their unique needs are. Even if we don’t loop, it is important for us and to them that we maintain continued relationships with our students even after they move on to another teacher.
Season 4, Episode 15 (1997):
Mr. George Feeny: [passing by] Good morning, Miss Lawrence, Mr. Matthews, Mr. Hunter.
[stops, then turns to Shawn, who is dressed as a girl]
Mr. George Feeny: If there's anything you need to talk about, my door is always open.
Shawn Hunter: It’s for an article we’re writing, Mr. Feeny!
Mr. George Feeny: I'm not here to judge.
Lesson: Notice when our students may need someone to talk to—then remind them that we are there to listen and that we will listen without judgment, that we will support them no matter what.
Season 4, Episode 19 (1997):
Cory Matthews: Mr. Feeny, look, the show's proving that we're absorbing the right kind of knowledge, I mean that's why we're the champions.
[the class applauds]
George Feeny: Hold it, hold it, wait a minute. Champions of what, Mr. Matthews? Of a generation whose verbal and mathematical skills have sunk SO low, when you have the highest technology at your fingertips? Gutenburg's generation thirsted for a new book every six months. Your generation gets a new web page every six seconds. And how do you use this technology? To beat King Koopa, and save the princess. Shame on you. You deserve what you get.
Lesson: Technology is only as effective as the users—and just because we use technology for something does not make the thing we are using technology for somehow inherently valuable or worthwhile.
Season 7, Episode 23 (2000):
[Eric hugs Mr. Feeny and follows Topanga and Shawn out the door]
George Feeny: So Mr. Matthews
Cory Matthews: You think we've known each other long enough for you to call me Cory?
George Feeny: I think I've known you long enough to call you Cornielius
Cory Matthews: Ssh! Mr. Feeny! Not even Topanga knows that.
George Feeny: Your secret is safe with me.
Cory Matthews: Well. I got Topanga to go to New York.
George Feeny: Good for you.
Cory Matthews: She's not even scared anymore.
George Feeny: Nor should she be.
Cory Matthews: I am.
George Feeny: Well, you have a right to be.
[Cory finally breaks down and hugs Mr. Feeny]
Cory Matthews: You coming with us Mr. Feeny? You gonna sneak up on us in Central Park or something?
George Feeny: No, I shall remain here.
Cory Matthews: No. You'll always be with us. As long as we live okay?
[Cory walks out the door. Mr. Feeny looks around the room]
George Feeny [the last line of the series “Boy Meets World”]: I love you all... Class dismissed
Lesson: Know your students well, even better than they want their friends to know them—and love them, even if you wait until they all leave the room to tell them, because you will always be with them (whether you’ve done them right or done them wrong).
The inimitable William Daniels, who played Feeny in “Boy Meets World,” had two other roles in his career that hold special places in my heart: As John Adams in the 1969(?) musical AND 1972 film “1776,” he was with me every year that I taught middle school social studies and taught that very play and as the voice of K.I.T.T. in the TV series “Knight Rider,” he was a significant part of my own childhood television watching! I would feel remiss if I did not include two bonus lessons from Feeny, but in each of those other two significant roles:
Act I, Scene 3 – (1972—“1776”)
John Adams: Now you'll write it, Mr. J.
Thomas Jefferson: Who will make me, Mr. A?
John Adams: I.
Thomas Jefferson: You?
John Adams: Yes!
[Jefferson—6 feet 4—steps up, towering over Adams—5 feet 8—and looks down at him]
Thomas Jefferson: How?
[tapping his chest with the quill pen]
John Adams: By physical force, if necessary.
Lesson: There are times when we must make a stand—even when the odds are stacked against us—so that the job will get done. Teachers are often the little guys and we must stand up to the big guys, for what we know is right, even when (like Jefferson with Adams) they are actually on our side (although, history tells us of the extraordinary love-hate relationship those two Founding Fathers really had).
Season 2, Episode 5 (1983—“Knight Rider”)
K.I.T.T.: Michael, I've been thinking about David Dudley's sportscar. I'm afraid it may have met with a dreadful end.
Michael Knight: I don't follow.
K.I.T.T.: It's occurred to me that in so far as the car is essentially evidence in a shooting, those hoodlums may have disposed of it in that crusher at the wrecking yard.
Michael Knight: Oh, well that would make a compact out of it, wouldn't it?
K.I.T.T.: I fail to see the humor in that. It's a most humiliating way to go, transformed into a tin can..
Michael Knight: Well, I'll remember that the next time I have sardines.
K.I.T.T.: Really, Michael. Sometimes you're so insensitive.
Lesson: Have empathy and realize that the lived experiences of our students may not be the same as our own—the things that may seem inconsequential or fodder for a joke to us may actually be genuinely and deeply personal for them.
It is worth the side note for me to explain why “Girl Meets World” is really the full circle for me. Like Feeny, I was a classroom teacher turned principal. And like Cory Matthews (who grew up to become a teacher like his own mentor/second father “Mr. Feeny”), I grew up to become a teacher in (I can only hope) the likeness of my own mentors/second fathers, Mr. D and Mr. E and, of course, my own father who was also a teacher and then school administrator.
As I understand it, William Daniels has reprised (or will reprise) the role of Feeny in some capacity for the new series and I can only hope that he will appear on the episode taping on May 14—but in any event, I can’t wait! And so concludes this blog post and my tribute to “Feeny” a.k.a. William Daniels a.k.a. K.I.T.T. a.k.a. John Adams. Class dismissed!
Use the Web to find texts they want to read
In the past, finding books that piqued our struggling readers’ interest was challenging, but with the help of websites like Bookwink, Whichbook, Shelfari, Your Next Read and BookLamp.org, finding good books has never been easier. Use these sites, and show your students how to use them, too.
Pair struggling readers with younger readers
Even when we give our students their choice of reading materials, many struggling readers continue to choose books that are too difficult for them. When you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. Most sixth grade students don’t want to be caught with the Magic Tree House books when their friends are reading the Divergent series.
Pairing these students with younger readers is a simple solution to this. The “indignities” associated with “babyish” books are no longer an issue when we pair our struggling readers with younger readers and have them read aloud to them.
Find creative ways to create independent reading time
If you timed it out, we bet you’d be surprised by how much of the day is squandered on interruptions—you know, special deliveries, messages, forgotten lunches, notes, or quick questions from other teachers. Train your students to always have a book out on their desk. When an interruption occurs—and they will occur—students should immediately begin reading.
Here’s another idea: When students finish their work early, skip the extra dittos and busy work; instead, allow them to read silently until their peers are all finished.
Take Phonics instruction beyond “sounding it out”
Encountering big words can be daunting for the struggling reader. Relying solely on teaching readers to “sound out” letters can prevent growth and lead to frustration, especially when encountering words with many syllables or words that don’t follow the standard rules. Teach readers to break words down into chunks – called “chunking” or “reading by analogy.”
Handle struggling readers with care
We have best intentions when we say, “Stop and reread this sentence,” or “Can you read a little bit faster?” but we should really avoid this type of coaching. To learn how to handle your struggling readers with care, check out a video by Amy Mascott called, “What Not to Say to Emerging Readers.”
R.A.D. Neurological Lesson Plan
Elementary Level or Beginning Foreign Language
By Paula Berlinck and Luciana Castro
2nd grade Portuguese Teachers
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Unit Title: Where does the bread come from?
Subject(s): Portuguese Grade Level(s): 2nd grade
Lesson Concept/Topic: Reading and Writing Non-fiction
Lesson Goals/Objectives: Reading and Writing Non-fiction
(and how they will be Neuro-logical)
How will you begin this lesson to engage learners’ attention?
The attention filter (RAS) gives priority to sensory input that is different than the expected pattern. Novelty, such as changes in voice, unusual objects, songs playing when they enter the classroom, will peak students curiosity and increase likelihood of the related lesson material being selected by the RAS attention filter.
1-As soon as each student arrives in the classroom they will find one wheat stalk on top of your own desk.
2-The students are going to watch and listen to the music “O cio da terra” de Milton Nascimento e Fernando Brandt
What will you do to sustain students’ attentive focus throughout the lesson?
The brain seeks the pleasure response to making correct predictions. When students have the opportunity to make and change predictions throughout a lesson, attention is sustained as the brain seeks clues to make accurate predictions. Individual response tools, such as white boards, can be used to make predictions and reduce mistake anxiety.
1-Make the link with the Field trip to the Bread Factory and list the Previous Knowledge about “Where does the bread come from?”
2- The teacher will start to read the book “Kika: De onde vem o pão?”
3- Treshing the wheat and grind to find out the flour
Motivation and Perseverance:
Which dopamine boosters will be included in your lesson?
The brain seeks the pleasure response to increased dopamine. Incorporating dopamine boosters (e.g., humor, movement, listening to music, working with peers) increases attention, motivation, and perseverance
4- Finishing the reading aloud of the book
5- Watching the video “Kika: De onde vem o pão?”
6- Using a Graphic Organize to compare and contrast the information in the book and the video
How will you help students see value and relevance in what they are learning – so they want to know what you have to teach?
Positive climate and prevention of high stressors promote information passage through the amygdala to the PFC. Motivation and effort increase when the brain expects pleasure. Buy-in examples include personal relevance, prediction, and performance tasks connecting to students’ interests and strengths.
7- Bake the Bread in the classroom
Every student will take part on the process, in group of 4 students at a time.
How will you tailor the lesson to address students’ differences in readiness, learning profile, and interests?
Differentiation allows students to work at their achievable challenge level. The students who understand the new topic, if required to keep reviewing with the group, may become bored and therefore stressed. If it is too challenging they will become frustrated. By providing learning opportunities within their range of achievable challenge, students engage through expectation of positive experiences.
8- Students will be able to choose one of the videos from the series “Kika: De onde vem?”, (Kika: Where it comes from?) where they can find different subjects that explain things like: the waves, where the eggs comes from, how TV works, etc)
Students will work in pairs, considering their complementary abilities
They are going to watch, to learn about the topic, take notes and then write it down to explain to another person. They could use different formats of graphic organizers, with more or less parts to drawn and break it down the information. They will be assisted by the teacher depending by their level.
Frequent Formative Assessment and Feedback:
How will you monitor students’ progress towards acquisition, meaning making, and transfer, during lesson events?
How will students get the feedback they need and opportunities to make use of it?
Effort is withheld when previous experiences have failed to achieve success. Breaking down learning tasks into achievable challenge segments, in which students experience and are aware of success on route to learning goals (e.g. analytic rubrics, effort-to-progress graphs) and reflect on what they learned and how they learned, builds their confidence that their effort can bring them closer to their goals.
Students will be active in some paces of the process. The summative assessment is the nonfiction text that they will write using movie information, translating it in a graphic organizer and/or nonfiction text like “how to” or “all about”.
Short-term Memory Encoding:
How will you activate prior knowledge to promote the brain’s acquiring new input?
Helping students to realize what they already know about a topic activates an existing memory pattern to which new input can link in the hippocampus. Graphic organizers, cross-curricular units, and bulletin boards that preview upcoming units are examples of prior knowledge activation tools.
Create a chart with the students remembering the prior knowledge that they have about the unit ALL ABOUT and HOW TO, that they had studied in their English class.
Mental manipulation for Long-term Memory:
How will students make meaning of learning so neuroplasticity constructs the neural connections of long-term memory?
When students acquire the information in a variety of ways e.g. visualization, movement, reading, hearing and “translate” learning into other representations (create a narrative, symbolize through a video, synthesize into the concise summary of a tweet) the activation of the short-term memory increases its connections (dendrites, synapses, myelin) to construct long-term memory.
As the students were exposed to a lot of different inputs, considering visualization, movement, reading, writing etc, we expect it will be built as a long-term memory.
Which executive function skills will be embedded in the lesson, homework, and projects? (e.g., analyze, organize, prioritize, plan goals, adapt, judge validity, think flexibly, assess risk, communicate clearly.)
It is important to provide ongoing meaningful ways for students to interact with information so that they apply, activate, and strengthen their developing networks of executive function. Assignments and assessments planned to promote the use of executive functions (e.g. making judgments, supporting opinions, analyzing source validity) activate these highest cognitive networks developing in students’ brains most profoundly during the school years.
All executive functions are in place
Have you ever worked hard at teaching your class something only to discover that they don’t apply that learning on the test? I’ve noticed many students seem to struggle with on-demand writing during test taking.
On-demand writing: a situation in which students are presented with a prompt (question or scenario) and are given a specific time limit to complete it.
From the prototypes we are looking at, we are finding that on-demand writing is especially prevalent in Smarter Balanced and PARCC. On-demand writing is also an important skill for students to have in situations such as the rise of social media and for college and career readiness.
Time management is the ultimate solution for student success with on-demand writing. I’ve found that by teaching my students how to allot and judge time during their writing, they’ve become more confident when it comes time for on-demand writing. I did this by having my students practice writing with different timed allocations, beginning with 40 minutes. I then gradually lowered their timed writing to 10 minutes. As your students become more comfortable with timed writing, you will notice their skills improving, especially in their shorter on-demand writing pieces.
Here are four tips we’ve learned that help prepare students for on-demand writing:
1. Assigning writing prompts will help with on-demand writing.
Within a WriteSteps unit you’re given the opportunity to assign a prompt or a “free choice” write. Have your students write in response to the prompt in a specific time frame. When assigning a prompt, choose one that relates to your other subject area s. By having students write about what they’ve read in ELA, science, social studies, or math, you’re helping prepare them for the on-demand writing they will do on tests, in other classes, and in the work place.
2. Planning helps students focus their thoughts and organize their on-demand writing piece.
I always have students plan before they write. This is taught in a step-by-step, strategic way. The goal is that through repetition, students will start to plan automatically whenever a writing assignment is given, whether it is a long writing piece or a shorter on-demand piece.
Students in kindergarten begin practicing stating the topic. 1st graders write a paragraph for which they have planned the topic and include three facts or reasons. Students in grades 2-5 become skilled at planning multiple paragraph essays.
3. Conferencing with students boosts their self esteem and confidence, which is needed for on-demand writing.
Help each student identify their personalized goals by using a rubric, editing checklist, or revising checklist, and by asking your student to reflect on their writing. I’ve found this helps students find their errors when they’re writing an on-demand piece for which they will have no time for peer editing and revising.
Students will not need to identify all errors in a timed writing piece, just those that might impede understanding. It is the philosophy of many standardized tests, including PARCC and Smarter Balanced, that spelling and grammar do not harm a student’s score unless they make it difficult for the reader to understand what the writer is saying.
4. Self-assessment and reflection help a student to know themselves as a writer, which is beneficial for on-demand writing.
One of my favorites tools that I like my students to use is the six traits rubrics. Students score their own writing and use the document to set goals for their writing improvement. Not only do students fill out the rubric, but they answer a short questionnaire that asks them to identify their strengths, weaknesses, goals, and areas for which they would like teacher assistance. This type of self reflection helps students prepare and improve from one writing piece to the next, regardless of length and time frame given.
The on-demand type of writing is becoming more prevalent in social media, CCSS testing, and in preparing students for college and career readiness. One of the four ways teachers can increase students’ aptitude for writing on-demand is by including both longer duration writing with all steps of the writing process, as well as shorter on-demand writing.
Have you noticed a difference in your students’ longer duration writing versus their on-demand writing? What stories can you share with us?
On March 15, 2014, a friend and fellow ASCD Emerging Leader, Allison Rodman, and I had an opportunity to present at the ASCD Annual Conference in Los Angeles, California. The topic was "Teacher-Leadership" and the goal was to organize our ideas in the Ignite format.
While we were both used to speaking at conferences and in front of large groups of people, neither of us had experience with this format. Ignite limits the presenter to 20 slides, each on a 30-second timer. This organizes the presentation to a manageable five minutes, but forces the presenter to remain focused in order to efficiently convey the true message of the presentation. The task at-hand was exciting, challenging, and daunting. Could we actually do this and be successful?
Allie and I live about an hour away from one another, but our crazy schedules did not allow us to meet in person to organize our ideas or to practice. We worked through google docs and phone calls to compile the PowerPoint, divided up ownership of the slides, then finally were able to practice together just 30 minutes prior to the actual session.
Other Emerging Leader-friends were also part of this session, presenting their own insights into Teacher-Leadership. We jested that we'd be the only ones to show up to the session but that at least we'd be there to support one another. Our jokes became obsolete when the room filled to capacity of 150 people and others had to continually be turned away due to lack of seating and safety regulations. Needless to say, our nerves were getting the better of us!
I am incredibly proud of the work that Allie and I did leading up to that presentation, as well as the actual presentation itself. We shared our professional experiences with one another, divulged our fears with one another, laughed with one other, learned from one other, and ultimately, achieved success together. We challenged ourselves, stretched beyond our comfort zone, and drew on the wisdom of others for guidance (shout out to Alina Davis!). Now we have a story to give back to those who come after us.
We are teacher-leaders.
P.S. Allie organized our slides and spoken words into a beautiful blog post on her site, The Learning Loop. Please visit and enjoy!