Blended Learning is a Good Start, but…

A model of personalized learning? I recently visited a school district that  had recently implemented blended learning.  Specifically, teachers were using the station rotation model of blended learning.  It was a clear and welcome departure from the teacher at front, student in rows model that had been an instructional staple. As the superintendent welcomed us, he said, that blended learning allows us to assess and intervene in real time, which…

Read More…

3 Steps to Eliminate Fs…NO Extra Credit Required

Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash “Um, Ms. Smith, is there some extra credit I can do to bring my grade up?” Such an annoying question, right?  And yet, many teachers succumb.  They find or create something the student can do to earn a few extra points. Especially when those points are the difference between and F and a D. No teacher wants her students to fail.  But how did we get here…

Read More…

5 Ways to Help ALL Students Love School

All kids should love school.   Yes, they should.  But we all know that they don’t.  In fact, many hate it. By high school, many students have become disenagaged.  And we’re losing some really bright minds along the way. Jake’s* story: My friend Kelly and I have talked many times over the years about her son, Jake.  For years now, Kelly has been frustrated—wondering how to support this boy she…

Read More…

5 Questions to Get Students Engaged

Engagement.  The magic word.  I’ve conducted countless Instructional Rounds, learning walks and other observations focused on engagement. Are kids engaged? It’s a great question.  It’s really THE question. And, unfortunately, all too often the answer is no. Why? Part of it is the sense that stuff is happening TO them—and much of it is a surprise. Many of us advocate for greater student agency—voice and choice over their learning.  But…

Read More…

How to personalize learning? Start with empathy.

I recently caught up with a  friend of mine, let’s call her Sheila.  We hadn’t talked in some time and I was glad to catch up on her life and, especially, to hear how her daughter, Carolyn, was doing. A History of Illness Carolyn, now  in high school, has lived with a severe chronic illness her whole life that has increasingly caused frequent and sometimes prolonged hospitalizations, which, of course, keep her out of school.  During her freshman year, Carolyn missed four months of school and was just transitioning back when her mom and I spoke.  Knowing that working with the school system to accommodate Carolyn has been akin to a part-time job for Sheila, I asked how it was going.  An Empathetic School Sheila told me the school had…

Read More…

Give students ownership with the Jigsaw

Differentiating learning for all students is hard enough—now we are asked to think about giving students a choice and voice in their own learning. Seems like more work for the teacher. And, on the front end, it is. But here are some ways to make it easier. 1) Give students choice in a JIGSAW. Usually, jigsaws are used by teachers looking to differentiate learning for their students. The teacher chooses 3 or more materials related to the topic of discussion. The materials may differ according to reading level or interest or, sometimes, are simply a number of related resources that are valuable, but there are just too many to have each student read each one, so using a jigsaw allows students to get summaries from their peers. You can also…

Read More…

How to Incorporate Retake Tickets in Your Classroom

In theory, most educators likely agree with the philosophy behind Mastery Learning—that there are specific standards that matter most in each course and that our goal is to make sure that each student truly masters, or reaches proficiency, on those standards. Yet, once we move the the details of how it works, sticking points arise. In my experience, one of the biggest was coming to agreement on the idea of “sufficient opportunity to demonstrate proficiency”. Teachers, understandably, worried about the following: 1. If students know that they can keep trying, they won’t put effort in the first time around. i.e, they won’t study hard for test on Tuesday, knowing they can just make it up on Friday. 2. Teachers will be inundated with creating multiple versions of tests in order…

Read More…

One simple tip for giving students feedback

“May I give you some feedback?” I heard this question recently during a middle school visit.  This classroom had a markedly different feel than others I’d visited that day–and it was during the last period of the day. (During the last period of a busy middle school day, when you might expect 13 and 14 year olds to be antsy for the day’s end…) This teacher was using lots of great instructional strategies–greeting kids at the door with a handshake, bringing everyone’s attention to the posted agenda, clear objectives and outcomes, (written as “How I Know I’ve Learned It” and the expectation of a self assessment exit ticket). What really struck me, however, was the tone of the room–respectful and warm throughout the class and exemplified by that one question.…

Read More…

“EVOLUTIONIZING” the Teaching Profession

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of listening and learning as four teams of teachers, including one from my own charter network, shared their stories of collaborative design thinking at the Business Innovation Factory. This “storytelling” event was the culmination of a six week project called TD4ED, in which teachers were given the space and time to consider a problem of practice and design their own solution.

The Key to Lessening Pressure AND Increasing Rigor

David Aderhold, a superintendent in New Jersey recently put an end to HS mid-term and final exams in a well-intentioned attempt to ease pressure on increasingly anxious kids–pressure also discussed in this recent NY Times opinion piece and the film Race to Nowhere. Aderhold’s decision led to a vigorous debate in his community–with one side firmly standing with the superintendent, led by concern about their children’s mental health. Those on the other side worried that the superintendent was dumbing down education.