Fundamental Reflection

ThinkingAt the very beginning of Lead Evaluator training we spent quite some time on the three priorities that are the foundation of the New York State Teaching Standards and, by extension, the rubrics on the approved list: Engagement, Constructivism, and 21st Century Readiness. Since the summer is such a time of reflection, now seems like a good time to think about the feedback we provided teachers, within the APPR/evaluation process, on the three priorities. Continue reading

OCM-Responsive Classroom® Blog- In the Quiet Summer Stillness of the Classroom…A Great Time to Reflect on Growth

ScreenShotAt the close of school I received this Tweet from a former Responsive Classroom 1 participant and friend Chris Yost, 2nd grade teacher at Waterman Primary School in Skaneateles, NY.

As the children’s voices of the school year start to fade into summer, his post struck me.  Responsive Classroom teachers across the country started the year by setting the stage for learning during the first six weeks of school.  During this time and throughout the rest of the year, Responsive Classroom teachers: Continue reading

Will Our Students Be Good Employees?

If you have been reading the Special Education blog entries, we have talked about strategies for eliciting responses, checking for understanding, and explicit instruction.  These strategies benefit all students, but are crucial for students with disabilities.

1Today, we’ll take a slight turn.  Continue reading

Historical Thinking = Now You See It, Now You Don’t

firstPersonWe have finally moved from the last frantic days of June into the beginning of July, but the days seem just as hectic.  There seems to be no time of year that is less busy anymore!  I guess there are only times when the activities are different from the routine.  A case in point: I spent the whole last week of June with the participants of this year’s Teaching American History Grant in our TAH Summer Institute, the culminating activity of the year.  It was hard work for everyone involved, but we finished off the year in grand style as the participants completed and presented their projects to their colleagues.  Commendations to all!

You might think that after such a demanding week, I would be ready to move on to entertain less historical oriented thinking, but no!  Just the opposite has happened!  These historical thinking concepts are cropping up everywhere – when I’m thinking about my workshop on the ELA Common Core Standards, when I’m working in the garden, even when I’m shopping at Wegman’s!  So what insidious ideas are these that have wormed their way into my brain?  Let me elaborate…

SheetsOn the first day of the TAH Institute, we spent time thinking and discussing how historians and museum curators make decisions about what to leave in their books or exhibits and what to leave out.  In the midst of all the pressures of the Institute, my partner in the TAH grant, Dr. Kevin Sheets, was finishing up the gargantuan task (at least to me) of writing a primary source American History reader for a major publisher.  Even with his deadline looming at the end of the Institute week, he volunteered to talk with us about historical thinking and the process he uses to filter out the mass of primary and secondary sources available to hone in on the 5 or 6 that he will include in his reader to represent a particular period of time.  chinaWe continued that thinking when we visited the Onondaga Historical Association in the afternoon and heard from Dennis Connors, Lynn Pascale and Greg Tripoli about how museum exhibits develop from a glimmer of an idea in someone’s mind to an actual, full-fledged display.  With the hundreds of thousands of artifacts in the museum archives, what gets included and what gets left out?  We have to ask ourselves when reading a historical book or looking at a museum exhibit, what story is being told and what stories are being ignored?  The story that gets told depends on the questions that the historian or curator asks about history.  Change the questions and you change the story!  It’s a matter of deciding what is significant – to the story you want to tell, to your purpose in writing the book or creating the exhibit.  To be sure, there are practical considerations.  Kevin spoke about making decisions for his book because of copyright issues, limits on how long sources could be or the need for including a variety of different types of sources.  At OHA, as well, sometimes decisions are made because a particular artifact may be unavailable for display or because of the limitations of the physical space.

What does this have to do with my historical thinking obsession?  We make these kinds of decision ALL THE TIME.  Which handouts do I include in my workshop and which are relegated to the file drawer or recycle bin?  It depends on which ones are the clearest at presenting the ideas we’re discussing.  Which plants do I put in the hanging basket on the front porch and which do I leave at the Regional Market?  It depends on which ones will fit in the basket and not require a lot of attention.  Which groceries do I pick up at Wegman’s and which do I leave on the shelves?  It depends if I’m making lasagna or a turkey dinner.  I could go on, but you get the idea.

I hear frequently from teachers that there is no way to “teach it all,” so how do we decide?  How do we decide what to teach and what to leave out?  Sometimes we decide based on practical considerations of time or materials, but we also need to make decisions based on what is significant to teach and what is essential for our students to know and be able to do.  The key is that we (and our students) need to be aware of the historical stories we are teaching and the stories that we are leaving out.  We can’t teach it all, but we need to be thoughtful about what we do teach and the messages that we are giving our students about history.  Think about that the next time you’re at Wegman’s!


Time to Junk the Junk

Many of you are probably aware of the changes to our national school lunch and breakfast programs under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA). And, you may have also heard the rumor about additional impending regulations in schools that would directly impact the nutrition standards for all “competitive foods” as well. (BTW: a “competitive” food is one that is sold during the school day that is not provided under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP).  Translation: fundraisers, school stores, snack bars, `a la carte items, and vending machines….aka snacks.) Though over a year late, a draft of those standards was finally released in February.  After a public comment period, the final version was released at the end of June. Actually, the “interim final” version! Now, another 120-day public comment period is underway, and then the “final, final” Smart Snacks in School Standards will be official.

BlogImageWhy are these standards necessary, you may ask??? The premise is that Continue reading

Changes in Professional Learning

AppleSummer, sweet, sweet summer!  As you take time to relax this summer, I invite you to take time to reflect on the past year.  How was your year different than those in the past?  What were some of the most difficult days and why?  Which days were rewarding and why?

My past year was filled with changes, some not under my control, but some that I did control.  After being tenured and laid off from a high school science position, I spent last summer looking for a new position.  After a long summer with no prospects for the fall, I decided to go back to school to start working on my CAS.  Continue reading

Project-Based Learning: Summertime is a Great Time to Reflect

ThinkerWe have been taught the importance of having children have an opportunity to reflect on learning at the end of a lesson or unit.  This is also true for project-based learning teachers.  After all the planning, management and implementation of the project, the teacher most likely made time to have students reflect and evaluate their teamwork and collaboration, their 21st Century Skills, and the over-all project using various rubrics for self-reflection.  As important as it is for student not to skip this very important aspect of project-based learning, so too is it important for the teacher not to skip Continue reading

Time in the Kayak

booksSummer has always been a time to review my reading lists and make some head way through the ever-growing pile of “to read” books stacked beside my favorite reading chair (or increasingly more so- the list kept on my IPAD to access through a digital reader).  This summer I plan to start with Neurodiversity in the Classroom  by Thomas Armstrong (an  ASCD publiscation that I just didn’t get to this winter).  I am wondering what he may say to assist in thinking about starting from student strengths to scaffold complex tasks that may be presented from CCLS lessons.  (By the way, this book is available on  Continue reading

Try Engineering

As more and more of us begin to talk about the Next Generation Science standards, we are becoming more and more aware of engineering, and how it might fit into these new standards.  The National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences managed the first two steps in the creation of the Next Generation Science Standards by developing the Framework for K-12 Science Education, which was released in July 2011.  The framework provides a sound, evidence-based foundation for standards by drawing on Continue reading