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  • Begin the School Year With a B Begin the School Year With a Bang! 10 Ways to Welcome Teachers

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      teacher appreciationLike all holidays, Teacher Appreciation Day/Week officially comes once a year. But thanks to Diane Hodges’ book, Season It with Fun! A Year of Recognition, Fun, and Celebrations to Enliven Your School, we have 10 simple ways you can engage your teachers and show them appreciation right away!

      Start a Graffiti Wall
      Spray-painting pictures and messages is a blast, but there are very few spaces set aside for people to do this without breaking the law or ruining property!

      As a solution, more and more schools have started setting aside a designated wall (or walls) on which it is OK to express positive emotions with chalk and spray paint. This is the perfect place for principals to give shout-outs to their staff and teachers.

      Send Summer Emails
      It’s easy to lose track of each other over the summer. If you haven’t done this yet, send your teachers and staff emails just to say “hi,” or to share news and pictures of projects that have been taking place at the school since they’ve been gone. This is also a great way to pass along information about new staff members.

      Travel Postcards
      Do you have any travel plans? Are you attending any conferences before school begins? If so, purchase postcards from the host city. Send them to colleagues to let them know what you’re up to and wish them a happy summer full of renewal and rejuvenation.

      Caption It!
      Collect cartoons or pictures that relate to the summer or start of school. Next, remove any captions that go with the pictures and send one in each back-to-school letter to staff members. Their task is to create a humorous caption for their image and share it at your first staff meeting of the year.

      Wake-Up Calls
      On the first day of school, have wake-up calls made to each of your staff members by using a website called Wakerupper. Say something positive and uplifting, such as “Happy first day of school! We are all looking forward to seeing you today and know that we are going to have a fabulous new year!”

      A Star Event
      The night before staff members arrive for the first day of school, leave a note in each staff member’s room with a personalized compliment on paper titled “Wishing You a Stellar Year.”

      Above and Beyond
      Send a welcome-back letter to staff members and include a balloon and strip of paper in it. Ask each staff member to write a personal goal on the paper and insert it into the balloon. Then, on the first day back, collect and fill the balloons with helium. Use them to decorate the meeting room. As a part of the day’s agenda, discuss the theme and plan events for the year. At the end of the day, have each staff member randomly select a balloon, pop it, and read the goal written inside. Post all of the goals in a common meeting place as a reminder of the group’s plans to go above and beyond this year.

      Thought for the Week
      Type inspiring quotes on small strips of colored paper and place them in a ribbon-decorated jar. At the beginning of the year, give each staff member a jar for his or her desk.

      Recognizing New Staff
      Before the school year begins, send an email to all returning staff members. In it, include a picture and bio of each new staff member. This will allow team members to identify things they have in common with the new staff and will help them engage in conversation when they meet.

      Provide Dinner Between School and Back-to-School Night
      You know from personal experience how exhausting it can be to teach all day and then host Back-to-School night. Give your teachers a break this year by having an early dinner catered for them.

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

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  • What I Learned Lately (WILL 14 What I Learned Lately (WILL 14/15 #1)

    • From: Joshua_Garcia
    • Description:

      What I Learned Lately (WILL 14/15 #1)




      “Way Too Much Time to Think About Data, Part 1.”


      For the past few years, I have been hearing the hype of the SBAC and PARCC assessments.  I have been drowned by the controversy of the Common Core.  Unfortunately, the conversation has turned from what is good for kids to what are your politics.  First and foremost, I believe in teaching clear and rigorous standards.  I believe in assessments that match the depth of knowledge of these standards.  I also believe in alignment that will create patterns for all students.  I believe that it is our jobs to facilitate these pieces relentlessly on behalf of our students.  However, more than ever I believe that we must take back our profession and create the systems that will measure student learning.  I know this will be extremely difficult and challenge us at a new level.  The new math problem for us is: (A) x (E) x (Q) = (SS), Access x Equity x Quality = Student Success.  We must relentless provide access to the standards, we must provide equitable supports to students in order to meet these standards and we must ensure there is quality instruction and assessments every day for every child.


      Imagine a time when people speak matter-of-factly about our schools success and how dropout rates and the achievement gaps are at all-time low.  This day is fast approaching.  Our teachers are taking their students to new heights locally, national graduation rates are at an all-time high (http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/06/high-school-graduation-rate-hits-40-year-peak-in-the-us/276604/).  In Tacoma, we will see another year of graduation increases.  However, in order to continue our recent successes and maintain continuous improvement, schools in Tacoma and across the nation, must create assessments that support data systems that can be disaggregated and used to systematically measure student growth from year to year.  A systemic approach to conducting data analysis for this purpose requires collaboration and purposeful conversations among teachers.  A data system is a system that all teachers actively participate in and identifying data elements that measure students’ yearly progress in a building.

      Often the most difficult part of grasping how to use a data system to drive instruction is the lack of understanding of the very terms used to define it.  We often assume that we share definitions to many of terms that are used daily basis.  For example, do we have common definitions for formative and summative?    When we measure growth, are we measuring the same standards or different standards?  It is lack of clarity about a common language that can lead to confusion, false positive results, and besieged attempts to find simple solutions for student learning.  Although data systems at the building level can seem overwhelming, they are crucial to provide data that reports student achievement precisely and accurately. To accomplish this goal, our schools will need to foster a culture of professional collaboration, one that provides opportunities for teachers and school leaders to make meaning of key data points and to clear up misconceptions or misinterpretations.  When our entire staffs are committed to examine data and use it to drive instruction, our schools will eliminate waste in the system by setting priorities and dedicating sufficient time and resources that “add value” to instruction and learning.  I believe our efforts to create sustainable change in student achievement can be facilitated through a series of guiding principles:

      • How can an assessment system support sustainable changes in instruction and learning?
      • How do we create a data system that is comprehensive?
      • How do we create a data system that is efficient?

      How do we create data that is constant?


      Creating sustainable systemic change requires us to have a clear vision of how the data from our instruction and assessments are not only connected, but more importantly, can’t be separated.  Schools in our district and across the nation at minimum, and hopefully districts, must begin to design systems that are comprehensive (assess all students in a tiered model), efficient (minimizes the loss of instructional time) and constant (developing an assessment cycle that promotes professional conversations).  The vision of the data system must be clear for all employees and students and address local, state and federal mandates. For example, does that data produced in alignment with School Board Policies and benchmarks?  Does it align to state requirements for reporting?  Does that data that is produced align with the reporting requirements of entering college?  In addition, vision statements must address building the capacity (expertise to deliver and analyze the data) of those in the school system (see figure 1).  For example, our schools will need to create capacity by providing time and professional development to staff that allows them to make meaning of the types of assessment that are currently being used and the data that these assessments produce. Without this clarity, the assessment system will cause confusion, frustration, and ultimately a sense of failure.


      Figure 1




      At the school level, aligning data with assessments is necessary to ensure that every student’s academic growth is measured in an effective and efficient manner.  Today, we face the daunting challenge of gathering data that proves mastery of mandated academic standards. However, is there such a thing as too much data?  At what point do you examine the number and the quality of assessments that we administer each year at each grade level?  For the past few years I have been talking to educators across the world regarding the use of data.  In an effort to gather data and monitor progress, some educators are administering mini-summative assessments and calling them formative assessments. For example, a classroom teacher may give a common unit exam at the end of the month.  This data maybe recorded and put into a grade, however it is not formative data unless the teacher uses it adjust their upcoming instruction or reteach specific concepts based on the student data that was collected.  Additionally, many will not use this data to drive interventions.  Instead interventions are still based on a subject area, “math” versus specific math standards.  For a classroom teacher it is critical to know the purpose of each assessment and to determine if it appropriate for an assessment to be considered summative.  Questioning how this data is used to drive instruction can help us decide which assessments can be eliminated and which need to be added. 


      Collecting data throughout the year to measure progress is essential to developing a comprehensive data system.  Similar to a Response to Intervention model (http://www.rti4success.org/), assessing students using a tiered approach allows educators to determine which students are meeting the standards, for which students more diagnostic information is needed, and how to monitor student learning progress.  An assessment given 3-4 times a year for the purpose of progress monitoring is considered a Tier I assessment.  The Nation Center for Response to Intervention (http://www.rti4success.org/screeningTools) provides numerous examples of Tiered I assessments and gives details on the strengths of each detail.  For those students who are not making sufficient progress as indicated in the Tier I assessment, they should be administered a diagnostic assessment, or a Tier II assessment.  A diagnostic assessment will provide more specific information on specific skill development (http://www.ststesting.com/dra.html).  Finally, based on results from the Tier II assessments, brief assessments that measure specific standards, sub-skills, or learning targets should be administered. Assessments at this level would be considered Tier III assessments. 

      How do we create a data system that is efficient?  Often in our desire to create data and monitor progress, we lose sight of the functionality of the system.  As leaders, examining the balance between effective and efficient is a valuable endeavor that should occur regularly.  Our must continue to examine the added value of any data and eliminate any waste.  What is waste?  Waste in today’s school systems is all those things that don’t provide information critical to improving student achievement.  For every dollar spent on waste is a dollar that is not adding value.  An “Assessment Matrix” needs to be defined at each of our schools and communicated to our staff, students and families.  We must begin by eliminating any assessment that is redundant and that cannot be used to inform instruction.  Start with a simple matrix to begin your analysis.


      Assessment Name:

      Content or subject area

      Grade Level/s administered:

      Standards Being Assessed:

      Formative or Summative:


      Purpose: Diagnose or monitor Progress:

      Will the assessment be used for grading:



      Grades 3

      Common Core Standards - several


      3 times a year




























      If assessments are not useful to inform instruction, then they are a waste of instructional time and serve as a potential loss of added value.

      How do we create a data system that is constant?  The need to examine data from year to year is critical to determining student growth.  For years, researchers have examined longitudinal data with mixed results.  In fact, longitudinal data often has weak correlations due to the variations in what is being assessed from year to year.  Within a school there is an opportunity to create consistent data that is gathered constantly.  Many of the Common Core Reading Standards are based on a learning progression, or skill levels and expectations that increase in sophistication from grade to grade.

      The key for classroom teachers and building leaders is to not make assessment decisions in isolation.  Create a data system with input from everyone on the staff, so that for comparison sake, students are using the same assessment. When determining student growth, use fewer tools that are as consistent as possible.  For example, if there is a reading assessment that measures skills from K - 3rd grade (Dibbles), and another one that measures from K - 8th grade, such as a Diagnostic Assessment of Reading (DAR), select the tool that is not only the best quality but also provides accurate and precise data from student achievement from grade level to grade level.  These assessments are especially helpful when students move from level to level (i.e. from elementary to middle and middle to high school).  This type of constant data can give teachers an accurate picture of student skills in the beginning of each school year as well as identify abnormalities in a student’s data history.  This can be done in our regional meetings as well as level meetings.

      Fill in the Blank exercise:


      In order to create a learning and instruction data system at ______ School, Principal ______ focused on making sure teachers were having effective conversations about ways to measure student academic growth and effectiveness of instructional strategies.  ________ was often heard saying “teachers and administrators need to start by telling a story of “student growth”.    ________ School implemented the following framework for collecting data and having conversations about student growth.


      Prior to school starting each fall, ______would determine each staff members’ percentages of students who have met each respective standard for the upcoming school year, based on the previous year’s end scores.  For example, using state testing data, _____ had ____% of her students met the previous year’s end of the year Main Idea Standard.  At the end of the year, ______ had____% of her students meet the end of the year Main Idea Standard, for a growth of ____%.  This data was needed to determine the baseline and helped measure student growth throughout the year.  Like many schools, ______ School had previously started each year by giving the current year end of the course examination as a pre-assessment.  With this data, decisions about which students were behind were made.  However, these students had not had access to this curriculum, and therefore, in theory should not have been successful on these exams.  The staff at _______ started having honest conversations about the number of students that arrive in their classrooms behind academically, which ones are on target for the grade level standards, and which students had already reached beyond their current grade level standards.  As part of the transformation process, the______ Staff identified the following factors:


      • Are the standards from grade level to grade level aligned?  Are the standards part of a learning progression or are new skills being introduced?
      • How many students are coming into the year having met the previous year’s standards?
      • How many students have no data at all?
      • ___________


      Grade level teams then determined specific and measureable instructional goals for the first 6 weeks of school for each classroom.  _____ and ________ met with each staff member to review data, set classroom goals, and determine student interventions and enrichment activities.  In week 7 of school, the administrative team members met with each staff to evaluate progress and to determine effectiveness (Effectiveness was measured by meeting 80% or more of the standards). During this time, teams revisited student interventions and established new goals based on the current data.  In week 8, ________ met with district leaders to discuss trends in student growth, support needed, and areas of concern.  The following questions and factors were considered:


      1)      Identify classroom, grade level, and school learning target themes.

      2)      Describe the trends for each of the respective classrooms, grade level teams, and the entire school.

      3)      Compare and Contrast these trends to last year’s trends.

      4)      Analyze what themes they saw

      5)      What instructional strategies can we expect teachers, grade level teams or the school to apply in an effort to address the learning target/s

      6)      Speculate what our data will look like at the end of the year

      7)      Predict our summative scores?

      8)      _____________________________

      The cycle above was repeated every nine weeksSchool ________met with each classroom teacher to identify what support was needed and to examine the agreed upon data.  Together the team collected, guided, and monitored data in a systematic fashion. 

      Next, teachers at ________ began sorting and examining each class through a four-group flexible and fluid lens.  The groups were based on those students who are working above standard, those students who have met standard, those students who “nearly missed” the standard, and those students who had “far misses”.  For each group, teachers evaluated data on specific learning targets; identified supports and enrichment opportunities within the classroom and school; and developed (instructional) strategies to employ for each of the different groups. Then teachers would employ ongoing (daily) formative assessments (addressed more deeply in future modules) to address each group’s instructional/learning needs.  In addition, teachers administered and examined mini-summative data to determine student growth (students meeting standard with 80% or more of the standards measured) and adjusted groupings.  Finally teachers met with support teams (principal, ______, interventionist, counselor and ________) to discuss results and refine plans at a minimum of every 7 weeks. The following next steps were considered by the team:

      1)      Identify individual class strand themes.

      2)      Describe the trends for different leveled groups.

      3)      Compare and Contrast these trends to last year’s trends.

      4)      Analyze what themes you see.

      5)      What instructional strategies will you use for each group to address the strand data?

      6)      Speculate what your data will look like at the end of the year.  Predict your summative scores.

      7)      ___________________________________

      Finally, ______ clearly articulated, which resources would be dedicated for staff.  Instructional Coaches, Curriculum Leads, Counselors, Specialists and Principals, all understood their role in providing support to staff.  Some examples of the supports that were considered include:

      1)      Collecting and organizing summative data (end of the course/year exams), and unit exams (teacher created and explicitly based on standards)

      2)      Help in the design and evaluation of daily formative assessments – stems and questions that are directly linked to a standard and match the cognitive demand

      3)      Extended learning opportunities for students – building based

      4)      Targeted and differentiated professional development workshops

      5)      Professional development learning communities

      6)      Coordination and alignment of district service

      7)      ______________________

      The foundation for an effective assessment system is one that is comprehensive, efficient and constant.  By establishing this framework, educators are able to develop a high-functioning data system in which all stakeholders have faith.  When done well, this framework serves as a lever for continuous student growth.   I know we have a long ways to go and many of you have been screaming for this for a while.  I also know that there will be others that just want to wait for the new assessments to address the challenge.  It is not the tools we use which make us good or bad, but rather how will we use the tools.  For me the summer has been filled with numbers and data, more to come…

      Finally From Robert William, “The Call of the Wild”,

      Have you gazed on naked grandeur where there's nothing else to gaze on,

       Set pieces and drop-curtain scenes galore,

      Big mountains heaved to heaven, which the blinding sunsets blazon,

       Black canyons where the rapids rip and roar?

      Have you swept the visioned valley with the green stream streaking through it,

       Searched the Vastness for a something you have lost?

      Have you strung your soul to silence? Then for God's sake go and do it;

       Hear the challenge, learn the lesson, pay the cost.








      Scholastic Testing Services.  7/23/13. http://www.ststesting.com/dra.html

      The Atlantic.  First published on 6/6/2013.  http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/06/high-school-graduation-rate-hits-40-year-peak-in-the-us/276604/

      The National Center for Response to Intervention (7/23/13).  http://www.rti4success.org/screeningTools

      The Northwest Evaluation Association.  http://www.nwea.org/blog/2012/formative-assessment-vs-summative-assessment-results-timing-matters/


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  • Leaders Taking Flight: A Refl Leaders Taking Flight: A Reflection on ASCD L2L

    • From: Kevin_Parr
    • Description:


      Taking off—Be Bold


      We are second in line for take off at Reagan National Airport.  Soon the pilot will push the throttle forward and the plane will accelerate—unwavering—until it reaches take off speed.  I realize that as an educator, I too need to move forward with my ideas with similar focus until they garner the momentum needed to lift off.  Therefore, I have to refine my goals and message.  I need to continually search for new and more effective ways to present my ideas.  I need to reinvent, recreate and innovate.  I have to be brave and I have to be bold.  I have to dream big and match it with the focus, drive and dedication necessary for them to lift off.



      In Flight—Invest in Others


      The plane has now reached cruising altitude and we are speeding through the sky. The plane maintains momentum and altitude because of various forces acting on it.  Similarly, in order for my work as an educator to maintain and sustain its momentum I too need the help of outside forces.  Just as ASCD had invested in me as an L2L attendee, I became more aware of the need to invest in others.  This came to light from numerous conversations I had that touched on a similar theme:  As somewhat of a lone voice for positive change in a school or district, it can get lonely. I am not alone, however, as others feel the same way and have similar frustrations.     We need to look outside our immediate environments and broadening our range of support.  When we feel lost, alone and defeated, we need to remember there are people out there to remind us that we are all in it together.  They are there to pick us up, give us a nudge, celebrate our success or give thoughtful advice.  Similarly, when we return to our respective places of work, we need to reach out and invest in others so they know that they are supported when they need it.  We are stronger together.  We need to remember that and help others realize it too.   



      Descending Through Cloud Layers—"We" Instead of "Us versus Them"  


      As the plane descends it passes through different layers of clouds—each separate but together making the sky as we see it from below.  L2L was a unique conference in that people with various levels of involvement in education were sitting together working within a common vision on a common task.  Too often the system is viewed as “Us versus Them.”  At L2L, however, it was just “We.”  Teachers worked along side principals, superintendents, professors, consultants and beyond.  The conversations were rich and informative in a way that would not have been possible if only one layer of representation were involved.  We all shared our unique perspective and we all listened and it made all the difference.  I am reminded that in my work I need to start focusing on “We” and help others see it too.


      Touching Ground—Back to Work


      The plane touches down.  We have arrived at our destination and as people hurry to gather their belongings and continue with their lives just as they were before they boarded the plane.  I think about the people at L2L.  We are all going home now; back to our lives and back to our work.  I am going home different, though.  I feel inspired from hearing people’s stories and seeing their work.  I feel even more dedicated knowing we are all in this together.  I feel comforted knowing I am not the only one who (among other things) struggles to find a balance between family and work.  I am touched to have spent time with such a compassionate, dedicated, hard-working and visionary group of people.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  In the words of Garrison Keilor, “Be well, do good work and keep in touch.”         



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  • 14 ways to think about good te 14 ways to think about good teaching: A useful PD exercise

    • From: Elliott_Seif
    • Description:

      Much of my educational career has been spent in teaching or observing teachers. I also had the incredible opportunity of attending many wonderful professional development sessions with outstanding presenters, and working with some amazing educators over many years.


      As a result, I have compiled a synthesis of some of the most important things that I have learned about effective teaching along the way. Here are fourteen ways of thinking about teaching that, when part of true self-reflection, can change much of what is being done in the classroom for the better.


      These fourteen ways of thinking can be explored with individuals or groups of teachers to raise issues about teaching and learning, focus professional development around some important issues and challenges, and help provide a framework for professional growth over time. They may also be useful as a framework for thinking about teacher evaluation.


      Read the descriptions below of my fourteen “ways of thinking” about teaching and learning. Get familiar with them. When you are done, consider doing the exercises at the end of this commentary, or sharing them in PD sessions, in order to better apply them to teaching and learning.


      1.     Get to know your students, especially how they learn and think.

      Teaching is about relationships. Getting to know students helps with planning, motivation, interest, discipline, and effective communication. It is about knowing how students learn, how they think, what blocks their learning, what’s on their minds.


      As much as possible, get to know students as individuals, with all their variety of thoughts, passions, ideas, backgrounds, humor, unique qualities. This is especially hard for middle and high school teachers, who have so many students to teach. But it is important that all teachers, whatever their level of teaching, whatever their situation,  take some time during the school year to do activities that build relationships and help to learn about students. There are many ways to both formally and informally do this, such as get-to know-me activities, written self-reflections, observing how students go about solving problems, observing groupwork discussions, making sure students know to ask for help when they are having problems, meeting with students informally after school, or talking with other teachers about specific students (not always problem students).


      2.     Plan goals for both the long term and the short term.

      Long term planning should be the force behind short term planning. In other words, plan for what you want your students to accomplish in the long run, and then plan each day so that your students can get closer to your goal. For example, a long-term goal might be to help students become better writers, while the short-term goal is to improve their grammar and vocabulary. A long- term goal might be a unit goal, and each daily lesson plan contributes to the goals of the unit. A long-term goal might be a yearly understanding-based goal, and a unit goal might contribute to the year-long goal.


      As most teachers know, this is not easy. There are many obstacles, changes, and detours along the way, depending on what happens each day. The variables are tremendous. But it is always important to consider what you want your students to accomplish over a long period of time (the big goals), and figure out how each day helps them get there.


      3.     Include social-emotional learning goals as well as academic goals.

      With the emphasis today on standardized test score success, learning academic content and skills become the most important focus for achievement and success. But much recent research suggests that “social-emotional” learning qualities are critical for long term success. Students who don’t see a connection between their effort and learning, are unable to be persistent, lack curiosity and resilience in the face of challenges, cannot work well with others, lack self-responsibility, are unorganized or unable to plan their time well, or lack the ability and willingness to ask for help and support when needed will have a great deal of trouble both in learning and in life. So it is important for teachers to assess these “soft” skills as well as academic and cognitive learning to help students achieve long-term success.


      4.     Translate learning goals into meaningful, interesting questions and challenges.

      According to several sources, Richard Feynman, a world-renowned physicist, was “heavily influenced by his father, who encouraged him to ask questions to challenge orthodox thinking”… “[His father] never taught facts so much as questions. He encouraged young Richard to identify not what he knew, but rather what he did not know… What's most important for knowledge is the well asked question”.


      Today, in my view, too many teachers have lost the art of helping students focus their learning around meaningful questions. My observations indicate that teachers still most often focus learning around imparting specific subject matter or stating goals in terms of “behavioral” objectives. But what if we thought about our teaching in terms of exploring open-ended questions that are interesting and meaningful to our students? What if we put “essential” questions on the board at the beginning of units and lessons, discussed with our students why they are important and meaningful, and then referred to them throughout the unit? Designed core questions that extended throughout the year? Created meaningful open-ended challenges as starting points for learning? Asked our students to develop essential questions?


      One of my favorite questions, used by Kathy Davis, a first grade teacher, is the following:

      What writing is worth reading? Imagine studying different kinds of writing over a long period of time with that question in mind? Another set of questions, worth studying in an American History course, is the following: “What is the American Dream? Where did it come from? Does it still exist?


      So here’s something to think about: How can you translate your learning goals and objectives into important, interesting, meaningful questions? How can you use these questions as starting points for learning? For skill development? For making content relevant? How can these questions repeat and recur over time? Become the focus for many learning activities over time?


      Much, if not most, important learning and growth starts with curiosity around questions, or perplexities around challenges. Teachers need to reinforce that type of learning, and begin student learning with questions and challenges that stimulate curiosity and interest, and motivate students to learn.


      5.     Teach reading (and other forms of literacy) as inquiry, exploration, and research.

      Textbook activities often are treated solely as reading assignments (e.g. Read chapter seven and answer the questions at the end of the chapter). But what if teachers thought of textbooks and other reading materials, especially non-fiction reading, as sources of information designed to help answer questions, build understanding, explore interesting topics, and help find answers to challenges. What if the reading of literature was built around some interesting, significant questions, conflicts and issues? What if students had a chance to choose some of the literature they are asked to read based on their own curiosity? Treating textbooks, literature and other reading resources as a form of inquiry, exploration, curiosity, or research to answer questions helps put reading in an important context, not as a chore.


      One simple textbook-non-fiction reading strategy that helps support this approach is the simple SQ3R strategy and its variations. First, students survey the material to be read, looking at headings, key words, difficult passages, pictures and other ancillary materials, and the like.  Next, students turn headings into questions or bring into play previously developed questions to begin to find answers in the materials. Finally, they read and highlight key points, recite learning from the text that answers key questions, and then review and summarize the information that relates to the answers to each question.


      6.     Frequently use writing as a key instructional tool.

      Asking students of all ages to continually write in many formats helps them formulate their ideas, organize their thoughts, think clearly and cogently, draw conclusions, self-reflect, and learn how to write position papers, among other things.


      Most teachers don’t provide students with enough opportunities to write and reflect on their learning. Opportunities include writing at the beginning of a unit to determine what students know and how they think, daily short written reflections summarizing what they have learned at the end of a class, position papers around an issue discussed in class, research and project reports, analyses and interpretations from reading, frequent self-reflections, and end of unit essays in place of or complementary to traditional tests. Not all writing has to be graded, but carefully choosing writing to provide feedback provides students with significant opportunities for improvement.


      7.     Develop “deeper learning”.

      I have always felt that many teachers try to teach much too much content and therefore do not have enough time for getting deeper into subject matter and skill development. Teachers need to think about priorities so that content is most likely to be limited and remembered. For example, the period of history in which the Constitution was developed is a very good time to concentrate on a few key points about the Constitution: the Bill of Rights, the Organization of Government, and the Constitutional “compromise” on slavery. While there are many other issues and facts that might be learned, these are key.


      “Deeper learning” also results from analysis, interpretation, or doing something with (applying) the information learned. What if students ended this American history unit by developing their own Constitution for their classroom or school? Or created a new and better Constitution for America? Or simulated the Constitutional Convention and developed a Constitution based on the interests of each of the thirteen states?


      8.     Involve and engage ALL students in learning.

      It is surprising how often teachers, especially in middle and secondary teachers, spend little time thinking about how to engage and involve every student on a daily basis. All too frequently, I have observed teachers who ask questions and involve very few students in giving answers; allow students to put their heads down on their desks during a lesson; stand in front of the class instead of walking around to engage students. Many students learn that it is OK to “tune out” of the lesson, and that they will be rewarded just for coming to school that day. Beginning teachers are especially likely to make the mistake of letting students “tune out” of their lessons. Here are some ways to avoid student passivity:


      Don’t just stand in front of a group of students. Walk around the room. Catch the eye of students. Watch what they are doing. Gently shake a student who has his or her head on the desk. Call on students who you think are not paying attention.


      Begin each class or new learning experience with an engaging “To Do” Activity that students must respond to as they enter your classroom. For example, a “To Do” Activity might begin with writing a short summary of what they were asked to read the night before or finding the answer to a math problem based on the work they did the previous day.


      Use “think-pair-share” strategies to involve everyone in exploring significant questions. Here’s how it works. Ask an open-ended question. Then ask each student to write down an answer. Then students pair up with another student to discuss their answer. Finally, teachers call on individual students to share their answer and hopefully begin a discussion.


      9.     Bring the outside world into the school and classroom, and the school and classroom into the outside world, and help students apply learning.

      Here’s how I think about schools and the surrounding world: The school world is for learning - the outside world is for living. People don’t live in a school. They go to school to learn. They live in their homes, in their offices, in the environment around them, in the world outside of school. Too often, school becomes an isolated entity unto itself, with little or no connection to the way people live in the outside world. As teachers, we need to remember this and, as often as we can, bring the outside world into the school and the school into the outside world.


      How do we do this?


      I remember watching Ms Tolliver, an excellent elementary math teacher who made some wonderful professional development tapes, take her fifth grade urban students on a walk through the school neighborhood looking for mathematics concepts and creating mathematics problems (Math Trail). They developed problems and found mathematics around park benches, playgrounds, subway trains, parking meters, building blocks and shapes, maps of the neighborhood, and seven step staircases in Central Park. The math that they were learning in school became real and relevant. Another example: in a local comprehensive urban high school I recently visited, a counselor organized talks in the school by local community members to help students see the variety of careers and lives led by those with similar ethnic backgrounds. Finally, new technologies provide new tools for bring the outside community into the school and the school to the outside community. There are currently many examples on the Internet and on websites of how teachers use Skype and other Internet options to bring in the outside community and world into the school and classroom.


      10.  Know when to maintain a strong structure for students and when to “let go”.

      Good teachers know when to provide students with significant learning structure and when to give students greater freedom and self-direction. For example, when students are first learning how to do research, they need more structure – a step-by-step process, good explanations of how to conduct research and use research skills, models of good research products, and guided practice opportunities. Once they have learned and practiced the basic components of research, then they can be given more freedom to work on their own independently. In other words, sometimes students need strong structures, especially when they are first learning how to do something. But, eventually, we need to “let go” and give them freedom to work on their own and make their own mistakes in order to keep getting better at what they are doing. One of the most difficult decisions about teaching is knowing when students need significant structure and when to let go and give them more self-direction.


      “Letting go” may also mean giving students greater choice and more options. Giving students the right to select their own books to read should be an important part of a good comprehensive reading program. Allowing students to select their own research question, sometimes within the parameters of a subject area, also gives students greater interest in and responsibility for their research.


      11.  Help students to improve, make progress, and get better.

      What does it mean for students to get better at doing something? Understand in a deeper way? What are the most critical changes you would like to see in your students over time? What does it look like when they improve? How will you know when your students have a better understanding of core content? How can you build a student culture of “craftsmanship and understanding” that supports and encourages gradual improvement over time?


      Unfortunately, traditional tests and quizzes don’t easily lend themselves to demonstrating improvement and progress in understanding and skill development. Seeking gradual progress and improvement is more likely to occur when students frequently do tasks related to what needs improvement, such as writing, making presentations, conducting research, performing experiments, and organizing learning for understanding. Specific feedback that provides students with specific guidance on what they need to do better is important. Showing models of good work to strive for is very helpful. An approach to teaching and learning that savors and supports gradual progress and improvement can lead to the development of a culture and way of thinking that promotes craftsmanship, deeper understanding, and improvement over time.


      12.  Check for understanding - often.

      When I taught many years ago, I was unaware that I needed to frequently check for understanding. This was not good for student learning. This way of thinking has been getting much more play lately, and rightly so. Teachers need to check in frequently with students to see if they are “getting it” – really understanding what they are learning. Many strategies are available for this purpose, such as application oriented math problems, end of lesson summary strategies, such as 3-2-1 (three things I learned from this lesson, two things that were the most interesting, one question I still have); and 10-2 lectures (10 minutes of lecture, 2 minutes of reflection and questions).


      13.  Create strong culminating experiences and assessments.

      Unfortunately, end of unit culminating experiences are often multiple choice-short answer tests. What could be less interesting for a student? What could be less relevant? Should the traditional test be the culminating experience of student work and learning?


      Consider developing alternatives to traditional tests, even for just some units. How about a field trip to an art museum at the end of a unit so that students can analyze and write about a specific artistic period in greater depth? Perhaps students should write a position paper about a controversial topic in American History or design an experiment as the culmination of a science unit? How about giving students two or three (or more) essay questions several days in advance of a test time to give students time to prepare outlines of answers, from which one or two are selected to be written during a two hour class period? How about giving students interesting open-book (or even open-research) essay questions? Or what about completing an authentic performance task that demonstrates the ability of students to apply their learning to a new situation? These are much more interesting, relevant, and meaningful culminating assessments.


      14.  Appropriately use technology as a learning tool.

      There is a tendency to talk about using technology today as if it were something to be automatically incorporated into the learning process. The reality is that technology is often hard to use or apply easily to teaching situations. Technology usage often requires a good deal of staff development, and is costly to implement and maintain.


      However, technology, when used appropriately, can be an extremely valuable tool that enables teachers and students to learn more efficiently and effectively. For example, simple technologies, such as Microsoft word and powerpoint are useful for encouraging and editing writing and making presentations. The Internet is a wonderful tool to support research, but students have to learn how to use it carefully, skillfully, and wisely for this purpose. Some of the more complex technologies are useful to promote “gaming” and simulations. “Flipping” uses technology to help students learn basic information outside of school so that teachers can focus on “deeper learning” when students are in class. Some technologies that promote individualized learning through highly structured, engaging learning situations are very helpful to students.


      Any of these technology tools, and others, should be used when appropriate to the teacher’s goals and to the learning situation. Technology tools should be used for specific goals when they make learning more efficient, but not when they might deter students from using their minds, thinking through a problem, or reading texts carefully.


      Teaching is very complex, much more complex than it is made out to be in the press, in government initiatives, and even in State Departments of Educational directives.  Good teaching is a moving target – goals, children, cultures, teachers,  and conditions vary from state to state, school to school, and even classroom to classroom.


      These fourteen ways of thinking about teaching suggest both the complexity of good teaching and the potential common core components that measure good teaching and help teachers improve on what they do. Learning about students, creating a positive learning environment, focusing on both academic and social-emotional goals, building curiosity by focusing on questions, focusing on less content and deeper learning, figuring out ways to engage and involve students, planning both long and short term goals – all of these and more are important elements of an effective teaching-learning process. I hope that an exploration of these components will help teachers and school leaders understand what they must do to improve schools and suggest a way to build a framework for evaluating teaching and improving teaching and learning in the classroom.


      An Exercise to Share and Learn from These Fourteen Ways of Thinking


      Now that you have read and learned about the fourteen ways of thinking, here is an exercise you can do to help you examine these in greater detail and apply them to your own teaching situation.


      Here are the fourteen ways of thinking listed without commentary:


      1.     Get to know your students, especially how they learn and think.


      2.     Plan goals for both the long-term and the short term.


      3.     Include social-emotional learning goals as well as academic goals.


      4.     Translate learning goals into meaningful, interesting questions and challenges.


      5.     Teach reading (and other forms of literacy) as inquiry, exploration, and research.


      6.     Frequently use writing as a key instructional tool.


      7.     Develop “deeper learning”.


      8.     Involve and engage ALL students in learning.


      9.     Bring the outside world into the school and classroom, and the school and classroom into the outside world, and help students apply learning.


      10.  Know when to maintain a strong structure for students and when to “let go”.


      11.  Help students to improve, make progress and get better.


      12.  Check for understanding - often.


      13.  Create strong culminating experiences and assessments.


      14.  Appropriately use technology as a learning tool.


      Some questions to consider: 

      • Do these all make sense to you? What would you add or subtract and why? How would you change the wording to increase clarity and meaning? 
      • Which to you are most important for effective teaching? Least important? 
      • Consider how you apply these to your own teaching situation? Which areas are your strengths? Which are challenges?  
      • If you could pick one or two areas that you currently do really well, what would they be? Which one or two do you need to work on the most? 
      • Can you share what you do well? What do you specifically do that makes one or more of these “ways of thinking” work well for you? 
      • Can you take some time to think about which areas do you most need to work on? Find out what other teachers do who are strong in those areas? Do some research on effectiveness in these areas? Consider one or two changes to your routines that might improve them?



    • Blog post
    • 3 weeks ago
    • Views: 6407
  • ONEness...Here Lies the Power! ONEness...Here Lies the Power!

    • From: Mandy_Vasek
    • Description:

      ONEness…Here Lies the Power!

      Most the time we consider ONE an isolated number.  Isolation Island is not a fun, nor an effective place to be.  Not in education, that is! One cannot make great things happen alone…it is unfair to the student(s) and the educator.  However, ONE is a dynamic number when we’re talking about a team…or even a school.  Uno, isa, dua, taha, ngicce-q, een, um, ëk, wa’, or d’aya…. they all mean ONE no matter what tongue speaks the word.  Great leaders know the impact teams have when operating from the “power of ONE.”  Now, don’t get me wrong!  I do not mean they operate like a cookie factory where everyone does the same thing simultaneously.  I simply mean that teams have unified goals, objectives, visions, and the ability to come together to make things happen.  Students deserve teachers and administrators who are willing to work together and make decisions collectively for the betterment of all those they serve.  In fact, all systems should be operating from the  “power of ONE.”  If a school wants to ensure their campus goals are met, they also need to make sure they have a one-way vision that is so visible and audible to all stakeholders, including parents and the community.  All those who influence student achievement in any way should be walking the same path in a unified direction.  This means they need to have leaders providing direction, encouragement, and the drive needed to keep the path moving forward.  Schools need to have a respectful fear of the “power of ONE.”  Without taking this power stance, a school can rapidly lose momentum and fail. 


      Last night I was reading an article on from Education Leadership (EL) magazine published by ASCD.  By the way, if you do not subscribe to this magazine, you are missing out on a lot of awesome PD through intriguing monthly articles. Great stuff!!!  The article I read, How Japan Supports Novice Teachers, discussed a Japanese system that lines up with my thoughts on the “power of ONE.”  In 2006, “only 1.35 percent of first-year teachers in Japan left the profession” (Ahn, 2014, para 3).  Not to my surprise or probably even yours, the “power of ONE” does not work for our novice colleagues in America.  Ummmm…the United States loses about one-third of our new teachers sometime during their first three years in the profession. By year five, the percentage increases to nearly one-half (Ahn, 2014).  The article describes a room called shokuin shitsu (do not try to say that ten times fast because it will not sound good…believe me…I tried).  This shared space is an area where teachers and administrators hang out anytime they are not in the classroom.  The goal of the shokuin shitsu is support.  Inside this “educator only” space, teachers collaborate and work side-by-side before school, after school, during off periods, and at lunch.  Novice teachers get help with planning, calling parents, or simply gaining support or encouragement. So, is this type of “power of ONE” the answer for teacher retention in the U.S.?  Maybe!  Maybe Not!  It definitely couldn’t hurt!  It fares better than the systems I’ve witnessed in my years as an educator.  Even if we did half as much (myself included), we would most likely see a sharp decline in teachers leaving the classrooms.


      The shokuin shitsu may be a bit too much for us to implement as our systems and mindsets are not ready to support it.  I share this story not to start this Japanese practice at my school but to show the powerful force found in unified organizations. 


      If you, your team, or your school is not operating from a ONE stance, then you need to reevaluate yourself or the systems in place at your school. Before going back to school this fall, reflect on ONEness  (my word of the day).  Remember, the “power of ONE” can certainly begin with you! venn.png

    • Blog post
    • 3 weeks ago
    • Views: 880
  • Caring Connects Kids Caring Connects Kids

    • From: Carol_Hunter
    • Description:

      Caring connects kids to their school, their teachers, their learning, their families, their communities, to one another and to themselves. Therefore, creating and maintaining a culture of caring in our schools and communities is paramount to effecting real change.  

      As with any impactful change, creating a culture of caring requires a delicate combination of programs, processes and people. It is simply not good enough to create or purchase a program and implement it.  Over the years, packaged programs have proliferated while bullying and mental illness have increased. Schools have developed processes to create safer environments, yet more students are being hurt physically, socially and emotionally. Little attention has been paid to empowering the people in our schools and communities to make a difference.

      As principal of a large, inner city school we implemented a very effective balance of programs, processes and empowerment of people that resulted in a very effective school culture in which our students thrived. Bullying was almost non-existent, kids who needed help got it and test scores went up. All of this occurred in a budget model which allowed us to spend funds where needed. We were empowered.

      In order to move you to action, here is a selection of our most effective strategies that allowed us to create an award-winning school in which everyone was proud to work and to learn.

      1. Student Empowerment

      1.     Early Intervention Program- Intermediate students self-selected to be part of a weekly mental health support group that addressed at-risk behaviors and was run in partnership with a local mental health hospital.

      2.     Yoga – Students self-selected to be part of a weekly lunchtime yoga group. One at-risk girl commented that it saved her life.

      3.     Mental Karate – The entire school was involved in Mental Karate, a program that took them through setting goals and taking action in the areas of Initiative, Discipline, Contribution, Courage and Awareness.

      4.     United Mentors for Peace  - Intermediate students planned activities to create a peaceful school, reaching out to the community and beyond. They created annual peace assemblies, managed charitable fundraising activities, and took responsibility for supporting a safe and caring culture in the school. 

      5.     Peacekeepers – Junior students were trained in conflict resolution strategies and helped resolve disputes in the Primary and Junior yards.

      6.     Fun Bunch – Junior students were trained to teach and supervise schoolyard games for Primary students.

      7.     Social Skills group – Identified students were directly taught social/ emotional skills in partnership with a local community center support program. 

      8.     Leadership development – Students of all ages were engaged as lunch monitors, peer tutors, teacher helpers, reading buddies, coaches and referees. They were also engaged in a multitude of service learning projects.

      9.     Option Program – Intermediate students had one period a week in which they could choose an activity of interest from such things as cooking, chess, hip-hop dance, drama, visual arts, guitar, board games etc.

      2. Teacher Empowerment

      1.SSafe and caring teaching and leading– All classrooms were safe and caring, free of ridicule, harassment and sarcasm. Teachers understood the importance of creating an atmosphere in which the brain is at the optimal level of arousal.

      2.     Bi-weekly professional development staff meetings – Staff were trained to differentiate teaching strategies through honoring multiple intelligences, learning styles and current brain research. 

      3.     Shared leadership – Division leaders were empowered to implement programs and process to support their students academically, socially and emotionally.

      3. Parent Empowerment 

      1.     Parent Council was guided to develop a Mission and Goals that supported the school’s Mission.

      2.     Parental responsibility was embedded in the school’s Mission Statement, “To maximize student learning through students, staff, parents and community working together in an atmosphere of mutual respect and shared responsibility.”

      3.     Parent education workshops were provided.

      In addition to the previous empowerment examples we maximized the adult:child ratio of support; ensured that each student had a significant connection with a teacher; focused on connections and relationships; worked within a shared, vision, values and beliefs; maintained stability on our staff and leadership team; became a recognized leader as a Professional Learning Community and ensured that being at our school was fun and rewarding. 

      I hope this provides you with some useful ideas to move forward in creating a safe and caring culture in your classrooms and in your schools.







    • Blog post
    • 1 month ago
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  • On the Road to Recovery: Writi On the Road to Recovery: Writing Instruction at Chauncey Davis Elementary School

    • From: Suzanne_Klein1
    • Description:

      By Kresta Byington, Principal of Chauncey Davis Elementary School

      It’s a rainy, breezy day as I walk through the quiet halls of Chauncey Davis Elementary, nestled in a sleepy town along the Willapa River in Washington. I hear the sound of the rain pattering on the building, and the mossy trees are glistening outside, leaning heavily from the rain, as I begin my walkthroughs for the day. I step inside one of my fourth grade classrooms and witness an encouraging sight. The students are deep in concentration.  The only sound is the collective hum of their pencils scribbling and scratching as they write their words on the paper.

      Is this something you experience in your walkthroughs? Or, has writing been a struggle in your school? I know it used to be a real challenge in my building, where I’ve been the principal for the past ten years. Prior to being a building leader, I was a teacher in the district for nine years. As principal, I noticed less writing displayed in classrooms, and as a parent of two students in my school, I saw less writing coming home.  Last spring, my concerns were confirmed when only 40% of my fourth grade students met standard on the state writing test. This was unacceptable to me and something needed to change. We just weren’t getting the quality and quantity we knew we could from having an effective writing community.  I had to first discover the problems my teachers were facing when it came to writing instruction.

      Why do teachers struggle with teaching writing?

      When I asked my teachers what their greatest challenges were, they always told me time. Elementary teachers are generalists, not specialists. They are teaching all the subjects in a six hour day. When you take out recess, lunch, and any other specials students have, time was always an issue. I also learned in many instances, when they told me, “I don’t have time,” I believe it actually translated into, “I really don’t know how to teach writing.”

      The second issue was knowledge. I asked 18 of my teachers (two of them are recent college graduates) if they had a college class specifically devoted to the teaching of writing.  Not one out of the 18 reported having any college preparation to teach this core subject. When you don’t know how to do something, you tend to avoid it.

      The last reason my teachers weren’t teaching writing was due to a lack of quality writing materials available.  For several years at Chauncey Davis Elementary, writing instruction was tied in with the basal reading program.  Although it was a quality reading program, writing always came last in the lesson and a terrible pattern had begun; my teachers were running out of time. As a first grade teacher myself, I personally experienced this. I would run out of time in the morning and would set my writing lesson aside in hopes to get back to the writing in the afternoon. Writing lessons would pile up in the corner and a week would go by, and no writing had been taught.

      What I did to improve writing instruction at my school

      There’s a resource called Crunch the Numbers, which shows three different teachers’ lesson plans for the week.  Teachers calculate up how much time each teacher is spending teaching the different subject areas. Teachers then judge the lesson plans according to ASCD’s recommended minutes of instruction in reading, writing, math, science, and social studies.

       It was a great start for my teachers who were apprehensive to look at their own use of instruction time. They were less defensive looking at someone else’s schedule and got an idea of how they could rearrange their own based on ASCD’s recommendations.

       If your teachers aren’t sure how to improve their writing instruction, I suggest using a document called Questions Teachers Have When Teaching Writing.This is a really powerful tool I used during a staff meeting and everyone raved about how helpful it was. Teachers loved learning from each other, and it’s a great professional development tool.

      Using Crunch the Numbers helped with time awareness, and Questions Teachers Have When Teaching Writing helped with knowledge awareness.  But, I knew I still needed to tackle the lack of materials. This led me to start looking into some writing programs that could assist my teachers with their writing instruction while teaching them the craft of writing. We piloted WriteSteps last year, and this year we are in full implementation.  With WriteSteps, teachers finally realize that writing deserves its own block of instructional time, not combined with reading instruction. I'm so proud to visit classrooms and observe effective writing instruction happening. Second, they love how everything they need is at their finger tips. With WriteSteps, they don't have to do any extra planning or resource gathering. As we wrap up our first year with WriteSteps, teachers are amazed at the progress their students have made and love sharing their stories with other staff. It's nice to see student writing on display again.

      Do you want to learn more about how you can support your teachers with their writing instruction? You can attend my session at the Quality Educator Convention on June 19 at 2:50 p.m. called Ready, Test, Score! Essential Tools for Common Core Writing Success from Chauncey Davis Elementary.  We will evaluate examples of how Common Core writing skills are used in cross-curriculum test questions and then discuss 17 critical elements to consider in your school’s writing curriculum. With the implementation of a solid Common Core writing plan, students will not only be prepared to achieve testing goals, they will also gain the skills they need for a lifetime of confident writing. I look forward to seeing you there!

      This article was first published on June 11, 2014 in the Update Bulletin.



    • Blog post
    • 1 month ago
    • Views: 211
  • 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)

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    • Blog post
    • 1 month ago
    • Views: 5777
  • What Needs to Improve? What Needs to Improve?

    • From: Chris_Arthurs
    • Description:

                      Going forward, there are several implementation ideas we have going forward relating to improving our students strength. Each day we have our students perform ten push-ups as part of our warm up. We began to think, what if we started having students being able to do just one push up. Every other day, or every day, or until completed, students would keep adding pushups into their daily routine. Even students who could complete large amounts could be challenged by time assessments. Our plan is to begin implementing this one month prior to our Fitness Testing Unit in late April. Improving muscular strength at Franklin Middle School is a task of importance for my colleagues and I at Franklin Middle School, and we hope that by implementing this small daily practice, we could accomplish this goal.

      This week I sat down with my colleague to discuss ways we could try to improve the area of weakness for our students on fitness testing, which was muscular strength and endurance. We came up with a few goals to set that we felt would demonstrate muscular strength. Our goal was for every student at Franklin Middle School to be able to do ten push-ups. We felt that if every student could complete this task it would improve overall fitness scores for the entire school. Also, we felt that all students being able to complete this would lead to healthy fitness levels related to muscular strength.


    • Blog post
    • 1 month ago
    • Views: 147
  • University Student Dives into University Student Dives into Whole Child

    • From: Richard_Lange
    • Description:

      I teach an on-line graduate course at National Louis University in Chicago to students who are currently teachers and who are seeking to complete their master’s degree. One of the courses the student need to take in a series of three is called, Instructional Decision Making. Although the course has multiple learning goals and objectives, one of the key elements to the course is to engage the student in critical reflective practice to evaluate key understandings, assumptions, rationales, and shifts that underpin one's instructional decision making. The course explores a variety of teaching strategies and appropriate activities for grade school students. Being an on-line course, we do not meet face-to-face but do share the completed assignments with each other in the on-line class forum.


      Select-a-Topic Video Sharing

      For one of the assignments, the students are asked to research and share a presentation, report, video, etc. on a topic related to instructional decision making that was not covered as a part of the course. They are asked to elect a topic that we have not covered and create a lesson/presentation for the class on a selected topic of their choice.  No “list of themes” are given to the student for ideas. They are asked to include a video example of teaching practice or expert opinion on a topic as a part of their presentation. The video could be from a third party source such as the videos they have viewed for the course. It could take the form of a chat session, VideoThread, Prezi, individual video, PowerPoint, etc.

      To my surprise, and delight, one of the students in the class chose to write about the Whole Child Initiative. After grading her Prezi presentation, I sent her a separate email and asked her why she selected this topic. She informed me that she chose the Whole Child Initiative as she felt that in order for her students to be successful in the classroom, teachers need to cater to the whole child, not just one part. She went on to state that when teaching preschool, this is her goal in the classroom. She noted that this mindset changes as the students get older. This was a topic that she had heard of before but did not know much about it. She wanted to learn more in order to implement this concept in her classroom and hopefully encourage other teachers to follow suit.


      What impressed me the most was here very appropriate selection of YouTube clips. Each one was spot on as they gave example for each of the five Whole Child tenants. She was right on the mark. She sums up nicely making note of several ASCD Whole Child Publications and where to find more information at the different websites.


      I asked her if I could show this at our next Illinois ASCD board of directors meeting and she was thrilled and honored to have me do so.I, too, was exited and thought this would be worth sharing as a blog on the EDge.  I look forward to your comments.  Here it is.




    • Blog post
    • 1 month ago
    • Views: 231
  • Knowing and Knowing How Knowing and Knowing How

    • From: Gregory_Caswell
    • Description:

      If you turn on the news in the morning, you might have the joy of seeing a reporter go out on the street to assess America’s social studies knowledge. They’ll quiz passers-by; the most clueless are shown floundering, and the rest are lumped into shocking statistics at the end. 45% of Americans don’t know who the third president was! 60% can’t even find Afghanistan on a map! Crisis in Education!

      The underlying disingenuity of these exercises is that 90% of Americans would “know” these things... if allowed access to a web-enabled device. Given our position in the Information Age, it is simply not valuable to have historical facts memorized. The “Names and Dates” model of social studies education has been under fire for decades, but it somehow lives on both in classrooms and newscaster expectations. As Social Studies teachers, we have to commit fully to killing it once and for all. Students hate to do it, colleges and employers don’t need them to have it, and the only real positive is a boost to rote memorization skills.

      If not reciting the presidents in order, though, what will students learn in the classroom? If it’s all on the internet, why teach at all? The problem is that, while the internet contains vast knowledge, it contains no real roadmap for really comprehending it. It is essential, both to maintain relevance and to properly prepare our students, to finally and completely move from the paradigm of “knowing” to one of “knowing how.” That raises the question, “well, knowing how to do what?” The answer, to me, is best stated as “knowing how to learn.” How to find quality information and discard the noise, how to decode that information, and how to generate lucid understandings of the topic at hand from it. It is helping students build a set of tools they can unleash on whatever information they come across, rather than beating a particular set of information into them.

      If you’ve taken graduate classes or attended professional development workshops on Literacy or Critical Thinking, you may be having déjà vu right about now. That’s no coincidence. The way social studies should be taught is by building particular kinds of literacy: civic literacy and nonfiction literacy, as well as the critical thinking skills that are essential for putting those literacies to work in the real world.

      While one of the obstacles to killing “names and dates” was once state tests that required students to have memorized them, those tests are being phased out in favor of assessments that focus on literacy and critical thinking. It’s true that, in many ways, Social Studies has been left out of the cold. Common Core doesn’t even publish standards for the subject, simply highlighting some literacy goals. My home state of Illinois doesn’t test in the subject. In many schools, the standardized test portion of teacher evaluations for social studies teachers is just the average of the school’s literacy scores.

      As they say: when life gives you lemons, teach students literacy skills. In their English classes, students are taught differently when it comes to reading and interpreting a novel, short story, or poem--are we doubling up if we teach students to read articles, websites, or nonfiction books? Even if social studies as a subject is poorly recognized or assessed at the policy level, the goals of modern social studies and the outcomes we’ll be judged on are still better aligned than in the past. While the literacy tested will be general and not the specific forms we teach, no longer are we tied to 100 factual, multiple-choice answers students must be able to properly regurgitate at the end of the year.

      Of course, testing literacy or critical thinking skills in a standardized way remains a difficult and controversial nut to crack, as the difficulties in implementing PARCC and Smarter Balance illustrate. Still, though, I’ll take a flawed test of worthwhile objectives over a perfect test of worthless ones any day.

      I know what I want to teach, and I can feel reasonably confident that policy is lurching into a position that aligns with it. The only question left, and by far the most difficult, is how to teach it.

    • Blog post
    • 2 months ago
    • Views: 325
  • 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: 541
  • Quiz Tank 3: Are you a Pro at Quiz Tank 3: Are you a Pro at Managing Student Aggression?

    • From: Jennifer_Davis_Bowman
    • Description:

      As educators, much of our time is spent assessing student needs.  Before we can truly help our students, an understanding of our own learning is key.  Thus, near the end of each month, I will offer one short educator quiz to help shed light on where we are and where we wish to go...


      If you have topics or research that you would like to include for a future quiz, please email davisj5@mail.uc.edu.  If your material is selected, I will include your name and appropriate information with the quiz.  If you are interested in taking last month's quiz, you can find it here


      Are you ready to build upon your student aggression management knowledge?  You may take the brief quiz below by answering yes or no to the 6 questions listed.


      1.  Do you feel that aggression and bullying in the classroom are the same?

      2.  Is student relational aggression only linked with social deficits?

      3.  Do you feel that school activities/assignments would not impact student agression?  

      4.  Do you feel that students are verbally aggressive due to their environment?

      5.  Would your confidence level in managing verbal aggression stay the same regardless of intervention use?

      6.  Do you feel that there is a lack of best practice guidelines available for managing student aggression?


      Spoiler Alert!  Exploring Your Results

      This quiz was developed in response to 3 research articles (listed below in the references).  If you answered "no" to most of the questions, your knowledge of student verbal aggression is closely related to the material reported in the articles.  If you answered more questions with "yes", take a look at the answer explanations below.


      Answer Explanations

      1.  There are distinctions between aggression and bullying.  One key factor is that in bullying, the action is repeated over time.  Also bullying may include aggression, but not all aggression meets the criteria for bullying.

      2.  Surprisingly, there is research that links aggression with social intelligence by means of the agressive student reaching thier social goals, accessing manipulation skills, and selecting from a variety of options during conflict. 

      3.  The type of activity is important.  Research shows that the more structured the activity, the less likely that students would behave aggressively. 

      4.  There are multiple factors to consider in why a student may behave aggressively such as personality factors of the aggressor, factors related to the victim in the situation, as well as environmental factors. 

      5.  Confidence reportedly improved (when comparing confidence levels before and after the use of a workbook intervention).  There were reports that distracted the child, diffusing the situation, and ignoring the verbal aggressive were effective in managing the occurrence. 

      6.  Best practice program/intervention guidelines for student aggression include the following components: school wide, population-specific, education and practice with the role of bystanders, inclusion of education on cyber bullying.



      Leff, S.S., & Waasdorp, T.E. (2013).  Effect of aggression and bullying on children and adolescents:  Implications for prevention and intervention.  Current Psychiatry Reports, 15(3), p343-353.


      Mclaughlin, S., Bonner, G., Mboche, C., & Fairlie, T. (2010).  A pilot study to test an intervention for dealing with verbal aggression.  British Journal of Nursing, 19(8), p489-494.

      Risser, S.D. (2013).  Relational aggression and academic performance in elementary school.  Psychology in the Schools, 50(1), p13-26.


    • Blog post
    • 2 months ago
    • Views: 1570
  • Assessment and Processes to De Assessment and Processes to Develop Active Learning: Part I

    • From: Adrian_Bertolini
    • Description:

      Learning.jpgHow do we know that a learner has learnt something?

      Is it from one off tests? Is it from their performance in rich learning tasks? Is it from reflection at the end of term as you do your reports? Is it from keep a track of what your students submit?

      How do YOU measure if learning has occurred?

      In most school systems reporting processes require teachers to assign grades or some number measure to indicate children have reached particular knowledge, understandings, or skill standards.

      But does it REALLY indicate that the learner has understood the concepts, has the skills, or even can use the knowledge they have gained?

      My opinion is that you can’t actually measure whether or not learning has occurred. Not until we have the technology to measure the changes in the pattern of neurons and their linkage to one another in each and every individual can we have any definitive idea of whether learning has occurred – and it still may not represent the learning WE want them to learn!

      In reality, we are guessing whether or not a learner has “learnt” something. Some teachers may better than others at guessing. Some teachers and schools have more rigorous approaches to guessing and some don’t. The best we can do is, as an indicator that learning has occurred, is if the student demonstrates a particular behaviour OVER TIME. We then can say that that behaviour indicates they have reached a particular stage of development in that skill or understanding of the material that was covered. This assigning of an interpretation to particular demonstrable behaviour is the BEST we can do at assessing learning.

      This is consistent with what Jim Knight in a recent ASCD post pointed out:

      “We can experience learning in two ways: as surface learning or deep learning. When we experience surface learning, we make minor adjustments or try something out for a while, but we don’t take significant steps forward. Deep learning, on the other hand, is learning that changes our assumptions about how we do what we do. Deep learning gets to the core of who we are, and because deep learning leads to profound change, it really does make a difference.”

      But let’s get real here … are you as a teacher or your school set up to work out whether a student has demonstrated a particular behaviour over time? I have found in working across 300 schools around Australia that very few schools are even thinking from that place – let alone have organised their systems and processes to be able to measure learner behaviour over time. Fewer still have the unpacked what particular behaviour around the attainment of specific learning goals could look like at progressive stages.

      I am writing this to challenge an underlying assumption I have seen held in many schools and by many teachers about what their assessment is telling them. I am NOT saying that you are doing it all wrong – but it is worth exploring the underlying assumptions we hold as educators and educational organisations about what and why we assess. In many ways this line of thought has been sparked by a recent discussion that Dylan Wiliams and David Didau have been having about Formative Assessment. You can read more here, here and here about what they have been debating. It is worth reading just to start thinking.

      You may notice that I am having a little rant in the process of writing – part of this stems from several discussions I have had with different teachers at different schools recently and in the past (Why do we have Grades).

      In my view, if we are to assess for learning we first need to have a clear articulation of what that skill, knowledge or understanding would look like when the learner demonstrates it. In many cases teachers have a fair idea of what it looks like anecdotally. The more experienced and expert a teacher the more they know - by seeing it. Yet I don’t find that this ‘anecdotal knowing’ is converted into clear statements that are available to other learners (whether they are teachers or students).

      What are I do find mostly are summative rubrics with generalized broad statements being used as “formative rubrics” with the hope that the students (and any on lookers) will understand what is meant. For example this aspect of a rubric a teacher created to assess a magazine produced by Grade 3-4 students:


      Needs Improvement



      Labelled and Formatted images were included in each section

      Appropriate, labelled and formatted images were included in each section.

      Appropriate, well-labelled and well-formatted images were included in each section.

      If I was a student looking at those rubric statements above I would be confused as to what would be “appropriate”, “well-labelled” and “well-formatted” images. What is written does not make anything distinct for me.

       I spent a little time with the teacher who wrote the above statements to actually get clear about what she saw – physically on the page - in the magazines her students created that would have her rate the student at the level of  needs improvement, good and excellent. The revised rubric now looks like:


      Needs Improvement



      Labelled and Formatted images were included in each section


      ·         Chosen images are appropriate to the material in each section


      ·         Labels on image described the image and elaborate on a point in the text of that section

      ·         Image is formatted on the page in a way that makes the page esthetically pleasing.

      Notice that we have unpacked what the higher levels of labelled and formatted means in a more accessible way. Appropriate now refers to the subject of the material in each section. The teacher would still have to distinguish particular words used in the rubric, she would still have to model and have examples of what each stage would look like during her classes but the rubric is developmental and much clearer to someone who is not that particular teacher.

      As a piece of homework for you …questioning is one of the critical thinking skills that is key to the development of 21st century learners (or independent learners). If you are a primary / elementary teacher I invite you to unpack what questioning would look like at different levels from Foundation (Prep) through to Grade 6. If you are a high school or secondary teacher unpack what Questioning looks like from Year 7 to 12.

      In the next newsletter / blog I will get more into how good formative rubrics can be used as one tool in the process of supporting student learning as well as how teachers can unpack what a skill or understanding looks like for the purpose of formative assessment (or assessment for learning) – I will use Questioning as an example for this.

      Further readings:

      ·     5 Tips To Help Students Arrive At Their Own Understandings

      ·     Why Assessment for Learning might be wrong, and what to do about it

      ·     Dylan Wiliam’s defence of formative assessment

      ·     The Assessment for Learning debate: does it matter who’s right?

    • Blog post
    • 2 months ago
    • Views: 160
  • Impressions Leave a Mark Impressions Leave a Mark

    • From: Barry_Saide
    • Description:

      Zig Ziglar once said, “It’s not where you start that counts, it’s where you finish that matters.” As my students and I begin the last stretch of our almost ten month journey together, I don’t want them to lose sight of their own personal growth as people and students. If school ended today, I’d want them to be proud of their development as citizens and lifelong learners. They are on their way to making their mark on society. But, our school year isn’t over today. We have five weeks to continue to grow, develop, reflect, hold ourselves and each other accountable, and be better than we were the day before.

      Which is why, one day recently, as my students gave their worst impression of ball toss during Morning Meeting, it was time to talk about our lasting impressions, and the legacy they leave.

      Our class has Morning Meeting at the beginning of each day. We begin with a whole class greeting, making sure we’ve all said hello to one another. Our current favorite greeting is Ball Toss greeting. In this greeting, a student verbally says good morning to another, tosses a tennis ball to them, and is greeted back by the student who caught the ball. This student then greets another student and tosses them the ball. Over the course of the greeting, each student has been greeted, has greeted another, caught the ball, and tossed it. Everyone is involved. As we’ve become more proficient doing this over time, we’ve added more balls to the greeting. Each ball continues the same pattern as the first ball, being thrown and caught by the same ordered people pattern until the final person has all the tennis balls. As an additional challenge, the last person who caught the ball during forward ball toss reverses the direction. We then do ball toss backwards and non-verbally, so the ball travels back to the person who began the greeting, but no one can speak as we do it.

      However, what happens when everyone is involved in Ball Toss but not engaged? The students were not holding themselves accountable to the guidelines they set for themselves. The start didn’t look any better than the end: students and their peers dropped balls, made errant, no look throws, giggled, and wayward tennis balls lightly hit peers in the face and stomach. I could have chalked up our approach and execution to the Monday morning blues. Or, that standardized testing had finished the prior Thursday. But the combination of our foibles, and our reaction to them, made me feel that this was something different. We needed to talk about it, not excuse it away.

      I asked the students to stop the greeting and sit down. I asked them to reflect on why they thought we stopped. They identified our errors, citing busy weekends, the end of standardized testing, being a Monday, and a plethora of other reasons why our minds weren’t in the greeting. Would they have used these reasons if we were taking a quiz today? A standardized test? If their parents were here? Would these reasons have been acceptable then? When prompted, they all shook their heads no, and explained why it wouldn’t have been acceptable.

      “Why is it okay for you to do it now and why will you accept less than your best?” I asked. “How do you want me to remember you? How you want to remember each other, and our year together?”

      They were staring at me. They were engaged. They wanted to explore these questions. Now, how was I going to drive this moment home? How would I help them see that this wasn’t about ball toss anymore. It was about how we carry ourselves, how we hold ourselves (and each other) accountable. And, how we bring our best effort every day and expect that of others. Because, we’re worthy, they’re worthy, and neither of us should accept anything less. Ever.

      When I want to reflect, I write about it (see this post). It provides me with perspective. I asked the students to do the same: write a letter to themselves explaining what they did and why they did it. On the back of the paper, they were asked to write down their personal goals for their final 28 days as fifth graders. “People are going to remember you for the first impression and last impression you make,” I reminded them. “How do you want to be remembered here in your final year in elementary school? What should your legacy be?”

      After five minutes of writing, I cooperatively grouped students. They were asked to speak to their group members about their writing. I would circulate, but I was a silent observer. This wasn’t about me. This was about students sharing their thoughts, listening to their peers share theirs, and discuss how they would learn and grow from this experience.

      When students returned to their seats, they were invited to share a synopsis of what they wrote. They didn’t have to, but many did: “I want to be remembered as a good student and a good person.” “I want my classmates to know I gave my best effort.” “I am going to enjoy these last 28 days the way I enjoyed every other day by doing my best.”

      I thanked the student sharers for their honesty. I then asked them to keep the paper in their classwork folder. This paper wasn’t for me to collect and use to remind them of the deal they made with themselves. This was about each student holding what they wrote close to them, and referring back to it until they didn’t need to anymore. Until they began to do these things naturally, consistently, leaving a positive impression wherever they go. Because, that’s what people will remember. And people should remember the good that’s in all of us.

      Most importantly, that’s what I want my students to carry with them as they go through life: a positive lasting impression that leaves a never-ending mark, and a willingness to reflect when they haven’t. Both will be more powerful lessons learned than anything else I will ever teach them. I hope that my impressions will leave a mark, and we will consistently learn from each experience begun, whether we finish each one or not.

    • Blog post
    • 2 months ago
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  • The Heart of Teaching and Lear The Heart of Teaching and Learning

    • From: Sandra_Trach
    • Description:


      As the Estabrook School Principal in Lexington, Massachusetts (United States), I am honored and humbled to lead eighty expert faculty and staff, who teach me everyday about their wise and wonderful gifts for students.  I am profoundly inspired by their exemplary content knowledge, and in awe of their sophisticated pedagogical skills.  At the heart of our strong school culture, sustained high achievement and progressive instructional practice, are three core teaching practices that continually inspire extraordinary levels of student learning.


      A rising tide lifts all boats


      Collaboration is the heart of our practice.  Since we share students within and across classrooms, teachers are mutually invested in each other’s success.  We know that supporting a colleague is supporting a student.  Just as we see our students from a strengths-based perspective, we see our teacher colleagues in the same light.


      Teachers flexibly group students in a myriad of ways, and teach students from their professional strengths and expertise.  Our teachers debrief daily on how lessons succeed or need to be changed, in order to respond to student learning.  Mid-course adjustments are made to carefully calibrate student learning for optimal success. 


      Throughout this process, our teachers know that ‘a rising tide lifts all boats.’  They place trust, expertise, inquiry and support in each other’s hands, believing that ‘my students are your students, and your students are my students.’  Our teachers live what it means to be a collaborative learning community, that collectively shares practice and improves student learning.



      Everybody gets what everybody needs, and what everybody needs is different


      Our teachers believe that students learn in different ways and at different rates.  To support this, our teachers collaborate in professional learning communities to analyze, design, implement, measure and reflect on student learning.  They employ flexible models of instruction, and repeat this planning cycle daily, in order to inform next step instruction.


      Every six weeks, our teachers collaborate in multidisciplinary data teams to discuss quantitative and qualitative performance data of all students in the school to inform progress.  For each student, our teachers factor in high standards, rigorous curriculum, formative assessment, resesarch-based strategies, and the strengths and needs of the student to create a truly personalized learning plan.  These individualized learning plans are collectively developed, implemented and monitored by our teachers.  In any given classroom, twenty-four students have twenty-four different instructional plans, customized to their individual strengths, interests and needs.  Our teachers possess great agility in lifting these plans and ensuring their success.


      Our teachers believe that ‘everybody gets what everybody needs, and what everybody needs is different.’  To ensure this mission is tangibly met, our teachers use the personalized student learning plans as a springboard to help students meet and exceed the standards.  I am always impressed with how our teachers creatively design the optimal learning conditions to spark and support each student’s journey.  With 99% of our students achieving the state standards, this model has proven to be successful.  Our teachers believe that all students can learn to high levels, and personalized learning is at the heart of making measurable progress.



      Everything starts and stops with learning


      Every interaction among our teachers is a learning conversation.  Our teachers are always reflecting, sharing and supporting one another to improve learning.  Teachers often consult with one another to gain and lend expertise.  It has been often said, there is an expert on our teaching staff in most any area in education.  All you have to do is ask. Before you know it, you are being supported by many staff who are invested in your success. 


      Collaboration among our teachers is an artform, as much as it is a science.  Every classroom and office door is open.  Teams are dialoguing, data is public and there is a passionate, shared accountability to help every student achieve to a high level. 


      Our teachers will tell you ‘everything starts and stops with learning.’  They are crystal clear on what students should know and be able to do and how students learn best.  They are also clear on what to do if students are struggling and what to do if students have learned it already.  Learning is our shared non-negotiable, and more importantly, it is our shared purpose at the heart of our work with students.



      Shared leadership


      As the Estabrook School Principal, I am passionate about shared leadership.  I believe that every teacher is a leader of learning.  One of my major goals in the principalship is to support teachers in their pursuit of high levels of learning for all students.  Stephen Covey said, “Effective leadership is about putting first things first.  Effective management is discipline - carrying it out.”  The Estabrook School teachers are leaders who put these core practices first in their practice, and manage the learning conditions to carry out their success.  The Estabrook teachers are extraordinary models that exemplify that all students can succeed when the core practices of collaboration, personalization and shared accountability are at the heart of learnng.


      Sandra A. Trach

      Estabrook Elementary School Principal


      #Estabrook School



      Cross-posted to:


      Microsoft Educator Network http://www.pil-network.com/HotTopics/leadershipandinnovation/TheHeartofTeachingandLearning




    • Blog post
    • 2 months ago
    • Views: 1445
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  • Goal setting Goal setting

    • From: Sandra_Trach
    • Description:
      #EstabrookSchool students engage in personalized goal setting. They identify their own learning goals, create a path to reach their goals and suggest how the teacher can support them.
    • 2 months ago
    • Views: 161
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  • Keep Students Motivated with T Keep Students Motivated with This Goal-Setting Activity

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      goal setting activityWhen I was a student, often the last week of school was spent watching videos and goofing around. My peers and I loved every minute of it, but looking back, it’s easy to see that this was not a productive use of our time.

      To keep students motivated and self-reflective, I like to have them complete goal-setting worksheets throughout the year—but you can certainly implement them at any point in the semester, even if you only have a few weeks left of school.

      This activity comes from Larry Ferlazzo, but over the years, I’ve made a few tweaks to the original lesson. Here’s what I do:

      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 this goal-setting worksheet. If this worksheet doesn’t work for you, Worksheet Place has a nice collection of alternatives.

      After completing the worksheet, give students the opportunity to share their goals with their partner. Following this, I collect the worksheets, make copies and return their sheets to them the following day. Until the end of the year, we will review student progress each week.

      Photo credit: Ulf Bodin / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

                                                                        36 Brain Breaks for Students

    • Blog post
    • 2 months ago
    • Views: 1872
  • Ten Resources To Support a Dee Ten Resources To Support a Deeper Understanding of the Common Core State Standards

    • From: Steven_Weber
    • Description:


      In 2014, the Common Core State Standards are being attacked by politicians, parents, business leaders, civic organizations, and religious groups. If you are running for office, take a jab at the Common Core State Standards. It will get a good laugh from the audience and may win a few extra votes. If you are on Facebook, forward one of the hilarious visuals about Common Core Math standards and your post may go viral. Does this mean that the math standards are ridiculous or does it mean that math is being taught differently than it was when you were a child?


      It is easy to make jokes about things we do not understand. How many people who claim they are ready to have a standards-burning party have read the Common Core State Standards?


      Standards do not tell teachers how to teach, but they help teachers figure out the knowledge and skills their students should have. Standards also help students and parents by setting clear and realistic goals for success. Standards are a first step – a key building block – in providing our young people with a high-quality education that will prepare them for success in college and work. Standards are not the only thing that is needed for our children’s success, but they provide an accessible roadmap for our teachers, administrators, parents, and students.


      Early in my career, the Arkansas Department of Education contacted me and asked me to write educational standards for K-12 social studies. When I arrived at the meeting room for one week of standards writing, with teachers from across the state, we were handed standards from Indiana, Texas, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Florida, California, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, and more. By the end of the week, I had reviewed standards from all fifty states. Some states had standards for economics in the sixth grade, while other states had the exact standard in the third grade. I remember thinking, ‘Why would each state write their own standards?’ I have observed in K-12 classrooms and there are different ability levels, but a third grader in Missouri is similar to a third grader in Michigan. When the Common Core State Standards were written and adopted across the United States, I thought it made common sense. Why would every state write similar standards in order to have bragging rights on the most rigorous or well stated standards? As an American, I want all students to graduate from high school prepared for the next level.


      While you may laugh about Common Core jokes, the real joke is 50 states competing against each other to write the best standards. When our students enter the world, are they prepared to compete for jobs or do they cross the state line to discover they were prepared with watered-down standards?


      The Common Core State Standards have transformed teaching and learning. Teachers may not like change, but they support change when it is in the best interests of students. The Common Core State Standards seem to be one thing that is right in education. It is easy to find Anti-Common Core articles. Anti-Common Core articles may be trending the next time you search for the Common Core. Take a moment to read one or more of the articles below to develop a deeper understanding of the Common Core State Standards. The standards may not be as bad as you thought.


      The following articles address standards, college and career readiness, the role of standards in supporting teaching and learning, and the importance of common standards in the United States.


      Ten Resources To Support a Deeper Understanding of the Common Core State Standards


      1. Getting Curriculum Reform Right
          By Thomas Guskey

      2.  What’s the Difference? Standards versus Curriculum
           By Janet Hale

      3. I Hate Testing, Not Standards
          By Erik Palmer

      4. The Problem is Not the Standards
          By Michael Fisher

      5. From Common Core Standards to Curriculum: Five Big Ideas
          By Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins

      6.  Rigor Redefined
           By Tony Wagner

      7.  50 States, 50 Standards
           By Diane Ravitch

      8.  The Case For Common Educational Standards
           By Jeb Bush and Joel Klein

      9.  North Carolina Businesses Have Critical Need For Common Core Success
           By Jim Whitehead, President and CEO of Red Hat, Inc.

      10. Common Core: An Educator’s Perspective
            By Steven Weber

    • Blog post
    • 2 months ago
    • Views: 4104
  • Engaging Students to the End Engaging Students to the End

    • From: Carol_Hunter
    • Description:


      It’s test time!  The majority of our students are currently involved in high-stakes, year-end standardized testing. They are going through rigorous reviews and even test-taking practice as if the year’s learning is effectively over. 

      As a principal of a large, inner city K-8 school, I was proud that our students were engaged and excited about learning until the very last day of school and even into the holidays. Their teachers challenged them to engage in projects that would make a difference. They wanted to work hard. Some students were involved in staging a play to raise money for an organization, Finding Life, that was raising money to build a school in Nepal. The founder of Finding Life visited the school frequently and developed an ongoing partnership with the students. Other students connected with children in a refugee camp in Africa. Now, some are working tirelessly to raise money to plant new trees in their public housing project. Surely, they will be caring for these trees over the summer. Last year they took part in painting their community center.

      How can we engage our students to the end? 

      1)   We must ensure they never believe the test is the end.  They must know that the end or goal is their personal academic, social, emotional and physical development.  

      2)   We must explain to students of all levels what the tests are and what they aren’t. Too often, we treat our students as individuals throughout the year and then confront them with standardized tests that don’t align with their year long personalized education experiences.  They must fully understand what is being measured and for what the data will be used.  The tests have limited personal relevance. 

      3)   Rather than winding down, we should focus on synthesizing the year’s learning into highly engaging, impactful activities. Now is a good time to empower students to make a difference. Now is the time for individual or group projects that will have an impact on their school, their local community or the global community.  Allow them to use the tools we have given them throughout the year to be optimistic, responsible, productive, and resourceful members of society. 

      4)   Use the last few months of school to let your students shine. Let them lead. Our middle and high school students love to think critically. Allow them to find and solve big problems. Help them make a difference.  Once engaged, they may even continue their efforts throughout the summer. Winding down until the last day? No way!

      5)   Lead them to understand that their personal growth does not stop in June.  Guide them to set goals for the summer.  At their age, doing nothing is not an option. They don’t need a two-month break from the “pressure”.  They can focus more on the social, emotional and physical aspects of their growth and that making a contribution and having an impact must never stop. Kids who are making a difference never disengage. 

      6)   Help parents move beyond, “What am I going to do with them all summer?” to being excited to help them in whatever they want to accomplish. For those who can afford to send their children to some of the wide variety of “camps” available, encourage parents to allow their child to choose the ones that best fit their goals. For others, they should ensure that their child has long and short-term goals for the summer.  This will help them when the structure of school starts up again in the Fall. It will also help solidify their learning.

      We cannot let testing shorten the learning time of our students. The testing process itself is time consuming enough without it signifying the end of learning for the year.  The last two months must be as exciting and engaging as the first month. Let’s do it!









    • Blog post
    • 3 months ago
    • Views: 176
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