How to Cultivate a Curious Classroom

How do we harness kids drive to know, to understand, and to engage in the world and its ideas?  That is a question posed by Wendy Ostroff in her new book Cultivating Curiosity in K-12 Classrooms. She states, “Curiosity is about being aware and open, checking things out, experimenting, and interacting within one’s surroundings. In a classroom grounded in curiosity, teachers have the unique opportunity of being able to mine students’ deepest held wonder, making their attention natural and effortless, and allowing them to fully engage.”

I have often heard teachers Continue reading

OCM-Responsive Classroom: Public Discipline Systems Need To Go!

In a Responsive Classroom, we believe that “discipline” should be associated with the positive (acts of learning) rather than the negative (punishing). We believe we need to set children in our classroom up for success by providing direct instruction and guided practice in pro-social and academic skills. We use many proactive strategies such as interactive modeling, role-play, morning meeting, positive teacher language, democratic rule creation, interactive learning structures, guided discoveries, academic choice, energizers, closing circles, and others.   These teaching practices develop positive learning communities that are developmentally responsive and effectively managed so that engaging academics can flourish.  Responsive Classroom teachers spend a majority of their time and energy in the proactive side of discipline. (Being proactive is one of the habits of highly effective people, according to author Steven Covey). When we respond to misbehavior and are reactive Continue reading

Teaming with Paraprofessionals in Your Classroom ~Or~ “What Do I Do With All These People?”

A new school year has begun and you are getting to know your new students. Many teachers are also getting to know their Supplementary School Personnel (Teaching Assistants, Teacher Aides and 1:1 Aides). While some teachers may not have the support of a paraprofessional, others may be struggling with the sheer number of adults in their classrooms.

As educators we received little or no training in working with or managing the other adults in our classrooms. Additionally, the role(s) of paraprofessionals, especially Teaching Continue reading

Teaching Social Studies = Opportunity and Challenge

It always seems that just when I think I have it all figured out, I don’t! The social studies scene in New York State has shifted a bit since June and we are still figuring out what that might mean to schools and districts. If you are not aware, the New York State Board of Regents voted in June to revise the timeline for the new design and of the Global History and Geography Regents and the U.S. History Regents. The memo from SED on the changes can be found here. There will be a more extended period of transition from the current Regents design to the new format, with the new format being fully implemented in June of 2021. So what does this mean? Continue reading

It Takes a Village…….

The beginning of the school year is the perfect time to bring attention to the prevalence of childhood obesity as you evaluate and implement new routines for your kids…and, September just happens to be National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Despite a significant decline in obesity among preschool-aged children (2-5) from 2003-2004 to 2011-2012 (13.9% to 8.4%), the fact still remains that children and adolescents as a whole are too heavy. Approximately 17% (1 in 5 = 12.7 million) of U.S. children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese; more than one-third (33 %) of U.S. children are overweight or obese. As age increases, so does the obesity rate: 17.7% of 6- to 11-year-olds and 20.5% of 12- to 19-year-olds. Continue reading

Demographics or data do not equal destiny!

This month’s book review is Turning High Poverty Schools into High Performing Schools by William H. Parrett and Kathleen M. Budge. I selected this title to highlight based on the summer Teacher Center poverty simulation in August and work I recently completed within districts this summer. The state of our national, state and local economy and the impact on children is of heightened concern. First the good news: schools with high rates of poverty can and do demonstrate high levels of student achievement. However- this is not accomplished without a whole system (district, school) approach. It is the system approach that sets this resource apart from other resources. Continue reading

Design…Check: Now We Need Some Habitude!

As I embark on another year of coaching teachers around Project Based Learning, I realize that understanding the “what and why” of PBL is only half the battle; It is time now to focus on the “how”. How do we move beyond surface-level implementation of projects toward deeply embedded inquiry-based practice? Teaching this way is not a way of “doing”, rather it is a way of “being”. To help frame my thinking, I revisited a blog post by John Larmer and John Mergendoller where they highlight PBL teaching practices. In it, they outline 7 practices necessary when moving from design to implementation.

This led me to ask the following when coaching teachers to shift from planning to practice:

  • Is the work of the project aligned to the standards?
  • Are students self-directed risk-takers motivated to guide their own learning?
  • Is work time balanced and productive?
  • Is inquiry scaffolded to meet the needs of all learners?
  • Does the learning environment embrace and act on a balanced assessment system?
  • Are students and teachers engaged in a partnership around shared goals?

Continue reading