Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Giving Students Choices

Developing positive relationships with students is an important key to motivate them to learn.  In spite of standardized testing which offers little choice, other aspects of school lends itself for students to make decisions about 'what', 'how', and 'why.'  The other references Larry Ferlazzo who has written a great deal about students and teachers in the changing environment in US schools.  He advocates "personalized learning," but not necessarily with technology, but personalize the learning experience by letting students make personal choices.  Excellent! Certainly something we can implement in our Title I classes.

Choice Equals Power:  How to Motivate Students to Learn.  Katrina Schwartz.  11.18.13.  Mind/Shift

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Problem Based Learning in Math

This amazing middle school teacher took Problem Based Learning (PBL) to a new level.  She decided to teach pretty tough functions in math combining technology and PBL.  Her lesson in square roots was brought down to an understandable, real-world level that made the students really think. She and so many other teachers today find that students are stumped if answers to questions are not Google-able.  She realizes that students need some hand-holding and practice as they take "found" information and "think it" into meaning. 

Two steps for incorpating PBL learning in math class. mratzel.  12.1.12. Reflections of a Techie

Simple Things To Help Your Students Everyday

All of us - students, teachers, and families - feel stressed most days with never-ending things to do or think about.  Often we feel nobody even cares.  Our students have such feelings in school.  Here are 5 such simple things to do that will make a difference in your classes.  Wonderful article and excellent reminders for all of us.

5 simple ways to be a better teacher tomorrow.  Annette Breaux.  11.28.12.  SmartBlog on Education

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Power of Effort to Meet Learning Goals

Kevin Washburn, author of this article, wears a wristband when he runs - "Give the Effort".  He suggests that it is as good mantra for schools and explains several ideas in detail that teachers can use to encourage effort in their students.  A brief headline follows...
  • Make stories about struggle and eventual success centerpieces of class discussions.
  • Direct attention to effort-result relationships.
  • Separate strategy from individual worth.
Excellent article and, if used by teachers, will dramatically affect learning outcomes. Be sure to read the comments after the article....very inspiring.

Inscribed upon my wrist:  Emphasizing effort to empower learning.  Kevin D. Washburn.  11.21.12.  SmartBlog on Education

Encouraging Curiosity in Your Students

John Barell, author of this article, tells an amusing story about his mother and how she encourged curiosity, the result being that he became a scientist. He gives teachers advice about the kinds of questions they should ask, as well as modeling their own curiosity about the world around them.  Very good.  Worth your time reading.

Fostering curisity here, there and everywhere.  John Barell. 11.20.12.  Smart Blog on Education

Math is Full of Stereotypes That Hold Us Back

I liked this article because it challenges not only students but teachers who need reteaching in shifting to the demands of Common Core.  Be sure to read the comments after the article.  Most comments disagree with the article and indicate it is difficult for students to learn multiple things.  How difficult it is for teachers to construct lessons is also brought out.  My take on this is that teachers have their own set of stereotypes which seem to be passed on to students along with parent attitudes.
What do you think?

The Stereotypes About Math That Hold Americans Back.  Jo Boaler. 11.12.13.  The Atlantic

Helping Students With "Can Do"

WIDA, the consortium of 33 US states and territories for English learners has long adopted the "Can Do Philosophy" (http://www.wida.us/).  The same philosophy extends to all kinds of learners, in particular Title I students who have often experienced failure and have "given up" many times. The author, Terry Heick, helps teachers develop a culture of "can" in their classroom.  He explains 3 Ways to create "Can."
  1. Use the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model
  2. Intentionally Use the Individual Student as a Culture-Maker
  3. Diverse -- and Authentic --Terms for Success
What have you done to encourage your reluctant students to keep on going and not give up?  Share your thoughts in Comments.

Creating a Culture of "Can".  Terry Heick.  11.19.12.  Edutopia

Monday, November 11, 2013

Early Readers Need Variable Consonant Sounds

Most of us believe that when beginning to teach consonant sounds we should select word examples that have consistent sounds. WRONG, discovered researchers who were quite surprised that students could read words they had never seen before After several days with revised phonics skills, the students applied their newly learned skills to tasks they hadn't before...successfully! A principal of one of the participating schools in the study suggested that this varied method could be used in other teaching, such as learning vocabulary.
Have you done this before?  If not will you try it with your Title I students?  Share results with your colleagues.

Variation on Traditional Phonics Helps Early Readers, Study Says.  Julie Rasicot. 11.2.12. Education Week - The Early Years.

A Neat Way to Help Students Find the 'Right Word'

The sample exercises in this article may be too difficult for many or our Title I studnets, but the princple is the same.  Using a thesearus may be cumbersome and take an extra step, but it is really worth it to find exact meanings for what the student or (author) intends.  In the sample exercise, the teacher swaps out key words with similar words, but 'not quite' the original intent.  The best way to teach kids to find the right word is to read before and after examples.  There is also a list of 5 questions that teachers can use for students.  Also, an online thesaurus is compared to the print Roget's thesaurus.

Thank you, Thesaurus:  Experimenting With the Right Word vs. the Almost-Right Word.  Amanda Christy Brown and Katherine Schulten.  11.15.12.  The New York Times - The Learning Network

'Soft Skills' for College Readiness

Whether this article applies to Title I students making it to college remains a question in my mind.  I'd like you, the reader, to reflect on the content.  Dan Jones, the President of the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors indicates that new freshman haven't had the opportunity to struggle.  The ability to solve problems and being resourceful seems to be lacking.  The reason stated is that high school students haven't developed resilency because parents and teachers have jumped through hoops for them.  However, I beg to differ, although teachers have certainly helped students grow, but many parents of Title I students don't have that capacity to do so, that is, being helicopter parents.

Your thoughts are appreciated.  What do you see as the problem?

'Soft Skills' Pushed as Part of College Readiness.  Caralee J. Adams.  11.14.12.  Education Week - Premium Article

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Math Manipulatives for School & Home

This article focuses on a Fort Wayne initiative that uses manipulatives in class for math.  Parents are urged to use common household items also to reinforce math concepts.  Suggestions are also given to help parents with practicing math facts with their children.  Common experiences such as going to the grocery store is an opportunity to engage children in a variety of math tasks.

Help Adds up - Tools, parents give students boost in learning math skills. Kimberly Dupps Truesdell. 11.13.12 Journalgasette.net.

How are Recent Graduates Doing in the Real World?

Pew Research recently reported that recent graduates (2005-2011) are super in digital literacy but in the workplace they have difficulty solving 'informational problems,' such as researching competitors, planning a conference, or looking up tax regulations.  Solving these problems - essentially synthesizing and analyzing - is becoming more and more important.  New hires seem to depend on "Google-ing it."  The solution to this prevailing problem seems to lie with new hires paired with veterans, a practice seen in teaching where we have mentors and coaches to help new teachers.

What other solutions can you offer help young people during their school years?  Share you ideas in Comments.

Can the Digital Generation Do Anything Right?  Jason Tomassini. 11.12.12.  Education Week - Market Place.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Mind-Sets for High Quality Teachers

This is a wonderful article and gets to the heart of what a high-quality teacher is all about.  The authors of this article identify and discuss five dispositions of mind, that if acquired, will foster growth not only for the teachers but for the students. The authors continue with a series of questions teachers should ask themselves as they employ these mind-sets.
This article is excellent and you, the thoughtful reader, will gain insight about yourself as a teacher of children. 

What Mind-Sets Drive Teacher Effectiveness?  Arthur L. Costa, Robert J. Garmston, & Diane P. Zimmerman.  11.2012.  ASCD Express Volume 8 Issue 3

Friday, November 8, 2013

Is Kindergarten Too Hard With CC Standards?

Kindergarten teachers in New York City are protesting that Common Core is way too challenging for kindergarent students.  After reading this article, I wonder if the teachers or the students are finding the curriculum too difficult.  No doubt, teachers have to rethink, retrain, and reteach.  Language used in Common Core need not be the language used when teaching students.  Using complex language of CC would definitely be difficult, but I do wonder why, with proper teaching, the children can't be learning these important skills that will be built upon in the years to come. What do you teachers of Title I students in Kindergarten think?

Playtime's over, kindergartners. Susan Edelman.  1.27.13 New York Post

Essential Skills For HS Graduation

Read this article written by an educator for 37 years including the superintendent of Fayette County Schools in Kentucky.  What he has to say about preparing students for the real world is quite amazing.  Academic skills take a back seat to 21st Century Skills.  He observes this shift going on in schools after they have listened to employers tell them "Spend your energy bringing us more workers that have these skills.  We can teach them the knowledge needed to do the job."  Danville Independent Schools has 11 essential skills that need mastery before high school graduation.  Not one skills is strictly academic.  They are 21st Century with acadmic knowledge embedded within.

Are We Really Getting Them Ready?  Stu Silberman. 11.7.13.  Education Week - Public Engagement & Ed Reform

Lay Down the "Rules" for Academic Conversations

Dr. Allen Mendler, author of the following article, observed a 3rd grade classroom with posted conversation "rules."  He was surprised at first but after visiting middle school classrooms he recommends that those rules be posted for this age group also.  Why?  Could be many reasons....but he states that learning to listen and talk have fell by the wayside in lieu of other other behaviors and what students see and do on a daily basis.
Read the article to find 8 tips for speaking and listening.  Excellent!  We will have wonderful academic conversations if these tips are followed.

Teaching Your Students How to Have a Conversation.  Dr. Allen Mendler. 11.5.13. Edutopia

Does Testing Show If Students Grow Academically?

Standardized tests are built to cover all spectrums in the bell curve.  They do well to show large groups of students in judging performance, but what about individual students?  How do teachers feel about student growth?  But more importantly, how do students themselves interpret results on standardized tests?  In elementary school if a student doesn't learn "on time" they can easily think something is wrong with them.  The author states that these are emotional wounds that can carry throughout their lives.  Yet, with students with a mindset for growth, this does not happen.  Read this article and learn how you the teacher can change a negative mindset into growth mindset.

Promoting a growth mindset for all students.  Jim Dillon. 11.7.13  SmartBlog on Education

What 'Old School' Strategies Still Work?

We've all heard the expression, "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater."  The same principle applies to teaching.  As many new strategies and tools have entered the classroom, we need to figure out what to get rid of in order to make time and space for something new.  This article points out practices we had when we went to school that still work today.  Well worth reading.

Why Kids Should Learn Cursive ( and Math Facts and Word Roots).  Annie Murphy Paul 11.8.12. Time Ideas

Toxic Stress Affects Learning

Researchers from Harvard, University of Southern California, University of Maryland and others have identified though brain research that some stress is toxic makes students vulnerable to learning while other kinds of stress do not.  Be sure to watch the videos showing brain architecture in young developing brains as well as overall health development.  Some adverse experiences are never 'gotten over' even after 50 years.

Research Traces Impacts of Childhood Adversity.  Sarah D. Sparks. 5.16.13.  Education Week - Premium Article.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Creativy in Math - The Perfect Place!

These difficult but thought-provoking examples in this article are definitely creative.  This 4th grade teacher uses word problems to encourage creative thinking as you probably do yourselves.  However, she goes beyond word problems into creative answers to mathematical procedures.  Read to find out more.
Do you have some examples to share with your colleagues?

Boosting Creative Thinking in Math Class.  Lana Gundy.  7.9.13.  Education Week Teacher - Premium Article.

Parent Engagement - A Democratic Learning Community

Interesting, this post follows one that says that parents are not essential for students to learn.  Kim Farris-Berg, guest blogger, for Education Week, suggests that when educators make all the decisions for students. Yet many parents baulk at that practice and want a say in the major program and policy decisions.  MPS school, ALBA is an example of shared decision-making.  Read more to discover how this school and others have achieved a democracy in school governance.

Trusting Teachers Is a Means to Authentic Parent Engagement.  Kim Farris-Berg, guest blogger for Sam Chaltain.  Education Week - In Search of the Civic Mission of K-12 Schools

Do Students Need Parents to Learn Successfullly?

We all have heard or "blamed" parents as the reason so many students don't perform successfully in school. Teachers say, "It's not our fault that kids don't learn - it's the parents' fault."  Ben Johnson tells us that we need to change perspectives by saying, "We are the professionals and we do not need parents to help students learn in our classrooms."  This indeed is a powerful statement and he further quotes Mike Mattos from a Professional Learning Community Institute he attended with more forceful language.
After reading the following article, please share your thinking with your colleagues.

Parents Aren't Necessary for Students to Learn.  Ben Johnson. 7.23.13.  Edutopia

E-Readers & Students With Learning Disabilities

Researchers tested 103 students with learning disabilities.  Reading speed and comprehension were tested using traditional paper and on an iPod touch.  The study was later duplicated using an iPad.  Students continually remembered better using the iPod better than paper.  Dyslexics differ in their disability.  Researchers attribute increased speed and comprehension to type and shorter lines.
Read for more details.

E-readers may help peoople with dyslexia.  Jen Christensen - CNN medical producer. 9.18.13 Children's Health - Living Well

Does Technology Improve Learning?

Matthew Lynch's blog poses interesting thoughts about technology and learning.  He compares what was available to classrooms in 2009 to what is available now. He references Troy Williams of Macmillan at a 2012 conference that his company and others need another 3-5 years to analyze results of student achievement with and without technology.  So here we stand, hoping that technology will grab students' interest and provide stimulus to learn and achieve.
What do you think? Be sure to read the comments already posted after the article....interesting...

Classroom Technology: Does It Really Make a Difference?  Matthew Lynch. 9.20.13.  Education Week - Education Futures:  Emerging Trendes and Technologies in K-12

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

No Tech - Collaboration & Critical Thinking

Collaboration and critical thinking are college and career-ready skills, but they are not about technology.  This teacher explains collaboration and how he provides students with protocols for brainstorming, decision making and accountability - all habits of collaboration.  Next, the author advises teachers to improve their questioning to go beyond surface level questions to encourage critical thinking.  Read to find out how.

Teaching Collaboration and Critical Thinking, Tech-Free.  Ben Curran. 7.31.13.  Education Week Teacher - Premium Article

Why Education is a Tool, Not an End

How many of us teachers view education as a goal to achieve?  This author, Cord Ivanyi, raises the pertinent question,  What really is the goal of education?  To find out answers to this question, please read this premium article from Education Week.  Excellent and not to be missed!

The Deeper Purpose of Learning:  Satisfaction.  Cord Ivanyi.  7.26.13.  Education Week - Premium Article


Writing Skills Are Not What They Should Be

Students are increasingly lacking adequate formal writing skills and are not workplace or college ready.  Why?  One reason:  Texting and tweeting have dumbed down English grammer to abbreviations that are not acceptable to real-world writing standards.  The question is, "How can teachers help in schools, and this includes Title I teachers who attempt to improve language arts skills aligned to common core standards." 
Have you seen the decline due to technology use?  Many of our students lack these skills anyway, but are they due to technology or from inadequate instruction and practice?

Texting, Tweeting, and Terrible Grammar in K-12 Schools.  Matthew Lynch. 8.6.13.  Education Week - Education Futures, Emerging Trends and Technologies in K-12.

Using Money to Decompose Fractions

Here's a complete lesson in fractions for you math teachers.  Fraction concepts are difficult for children without concrete examples to achieve greater understanding.   This article uses money to frame a detailed lesson plan. A Common Core alignment chart is also shown.
      PLEASE check out the embedded link to  Teacher Tools for Interactive Whiteboards - Mathematical Thinking. All of these tools are FREE.  Math tools are shown for various concepts K-7th grade.  Amazing resource!

Teacher Tool of the Month Decomposing Fractions Using Time or Money.  2.15.13.  Dreambox Learning

Tips to Build Resiliency in Children

Although suggestions in this article are aimed at parents, those same tips are equally helpful for teachers in school.  The embedded PBS video interview with Peter DeWitt points out that children today are exposed to to so many negative things that were not part of our experience at that age.  And because this is the case today, many parents shelter their children from all adversity.  Both extremes require adults to teach kids how to deal with adversity, failure, fears, and sadmess. 

Building Resilient Children.  Peter DeWitt. 2.20.13.  Education Week - Common Ground.

How to Recognize and Assess Creativity

What is creativity?  How do we recognize it in our students?  When we see creativity, how do we assess it and give feedback to students?  These questions are important and often are misinterpreted by teachers.  This article answers these questions and gives excellent advice to teachers that will stimulate creativity.  An interesting rubric for assessing creativity is the highlight of the article to me.  What do you think?  Please share your thoughts.

Assessing Creativity.  Susan M. Brookhart.  February 2013; Volume 70.  Educational Leadership

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Teaching Strategies for ELL Students

This article is a 'must-read' for teachers of ELL students.  It's not just a 'read-only' but videos are embedded that show each strategy in action in 5 areas.  Key to all strategies is integrating language with content.  There are also 3 links to other resources for ELL teachers.
  1. Scaffolding Understanding
  2. Purposeful Grouping
  3. Background Knowledge
  4. Extended Discussion
  5. Valuing Linguistic Differences. 
Reflect on your own experiences with ELLs.  What has worked well for you?  Share your thoughts in Comments.

5 Key Strategies for Ell Instruction.  Rebecca Greene.  10.25.13.  Tch Teaching Channel

When a Student Gets Suspended

All of us at one time or another have probably had students who were suspended from school. Carrie Kamm has written a very positive article about how to relate to these students during their suspension and after they return to school. This article is not to be missed!
I love the introductory quote from Maya Angelou...
"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
Please share you thoughts below.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Realities of Adapting CC for Students With Disabilities

Here is another article explaining the difficulty that teachers of students with disabilities with Common Core standards.  Diane M. Browder, a professor of special education at the University of North Carolina and author of books on IEPs and common-core alignment,  offers PD to these teachers.  Margaret J. McLaughlin, a professor in the department of special education in the University of Maryland says that the time and the training to meet the standards in a way that students with special needs can handle.  Other experts offer their opinions. Well worth reading, especially for teachers of students with special needs.  We have some of those students in our Title I classes who have not been tested for a variety of reasons.

Common Core's Promise Collides With IEP Realities - Special education teachers struggle to make sure individualized education programs align with standards.  Christina A. Samuels.  10.30.13.  Education Week

CC and the Elephant in the Room

What happens to special needs students when implementing common core in the classroom?  Educators are working to design lessons for students with disabilities, English learners, and gifted students.  The latter we don't have, of course, in Title I, but the premise is the same.  Stakes are high because all kinds of students must prove themselves scholastically with the new Common Core tests. Standards-based IEPs are tough to write as well as academic language uniques to each discipline.  These are daunting expectations for students with disabilities and students learning the language.   Challenges are immense; there is no easy answer.

A Common-Core Challenge:  Learners With Special Needs - Adapting the standards for students with disabilities, English-learners, and gifted students is no easy task.  Catherine Gewertz.  10.30.13. Education Week

PBS Math Videos to Connect to Students' Lives

Here's novel idea that should enliven your math classes.  PBS launched an experimental video series for middle school students.  The videos include a short interactive quiz with immediate feedback.  Videos are availabe on You Tube and pbslearningmedia.org. 

PBS Launches New Video Series to Make Math 'Cool'.  Hana Maruyama. 10.31.13. Education Week Teacher

Questions for Deeper Learning

Asking questions is part and parcel of being a teacher.  But what kind of questions are the best?  To encourage critical thinking and deeper learning, Rebecca Alber suggests 5 question categories to get your students thinking and learning.  There are more intricate questions that offer the same result but these 5 should get you started.  And don't forget the 'wait/think' time that is needed for students to respond.

5 Powerful Questions Teachers Can Ask Students. Rebecca Alber. 10.31.13. Edutopia