It actually happened. We wrote a book. It hit “shelves” recently and we have to say, it’s pretty cool. And practical. And affordable (less than 6 bucks!).
Written with homeschooling families in mind, it still has a lot to offer for educators of all types. If you’re at all interested in helping children connect, [...]
It actually happened. We wrote a book. It hit “shelves” recently and we have to say, it’s pretty cool. And practical. And affordable (less than 6 bucks!).
Written with homeschooling families in mind, it still has a lot to offer for educators of all types. If you’re at all interested in helping children connect, collaborate and create using 21st Century technologies, then this book is for you. It’s a slim (less than 100 pages) guide for getting started, not just in terms of the nuts and bolts and “how to” of educational technology, but in terms of ideas and inspiration as well. And all the ideas are classroom-tested by Neil and me in our work with students over the last 8 years or so.
Hopefully, you’ll give it a read. Definitely let us know what you think. In the meantime….
Here’s a link to a very comprehensive review of the book by Peter Lydon.
Also…Pamela Price at Red White and Grew has a review as well as an excerpt from the book available on her site today. She’s also offering a giveaway contest, so be sure to check that out.
And if you just want to get ahold of your copy before they’re sold out (it could happen), you can get it at Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com in both print and eBook formats. Seriously, let us know what you think!
Okay, so you understand the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English Language Arts. You have wrapped your head around the instructional shifts they call for and maybe you even have a grip on the complexities of the content at your grade level(s). But I think one common (pun intended) refrain among educators who feel [...]
Okay, so you understand the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English Language Arts. You have wrapped your head around the instructional shifts they call for and maybe you even have a grip on the complexities of the content at your grade level(s). But I think one common (pun intended) refrain among educators who feel they “get” the CCSS is “Yes, but what should they look like in action?” The standards themselves can be overwhelming and the task at hand can seem arduous. It’s just not that easy to visualize implementation at this time. And it’s often challenging to find solid resources and lesson plans to help you with this visualization.
Eye on Education is working to change that with their series of Common Core Literacy Lesson Plans edited by Lauren Davis. I spent some time exploring the edition for grades 9 through 12 and was left thinking that this is the kind of things teachers need: High quality, detailed and thorough plans that tie directly to the CCSS. That’s exactly what you get in this volume, and I expect you’d find more of the same in their K-5 and 6-8 editions.
Here’s what’s contained within: 35 lesson plans, each with everything you need to put them into action in the classroom. Detailed objectives, standards alignment, explicit instructions for the introduction, group activities, class discussions, and individual work. There are also sections for lesson extension ideas as well as ideas for differentiation (for both advanced students and students who need support). Assessment options and links to additional resources are included for each lesson, too. Some are designed for 1-day sessions, others for longer.
This book covers all the CCSS ELA bases: Reading, Writing, Speaking & Listening, and Language. And I found the lessons to be both challenging and highly engaging. It is clear that the purpose of this book is to push students’ thinking and also to develop their expression and communication skills. And you certainly don’t have to use all of these. Each stands on its own as a model of a solid lesson. There is a lot to build on and adapt here to suit your specific needs. The only thing I was left wanting more of was a bit more that deals with technology integration, but there are some tech-infused lessons in this book. Some of the standards that teachers need the most help with are those that specifically address digital technologies, but perhaps that is just a personal preference.
Overall, I think this is a great book for energizing your thinking and inspiring you to build awesome CCSS-aligned lessons of your own.
And that’s exactly what we need in the new world order of the CCSS (especially as we await the full development and complete reveal of the national assessments)–inspiration and ideas. This book provides plenty of both.
Disclosure: I reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. Also, Neil and I are under contract with Eye on Education to write a book of our own. Release date TBD.
One of my beliefs about the CCSS is that teachers of ELA are going to have to look to more non-traditional sources for texts. Magazines, videos, and newspapers can play a great role in the teaching of informational text.
Much of what I do as an educator is defined by one simple fact: I am the parent of three school-aged children. I don’t blog about them too much (although this post was pretty good, IMHO) because that’s not what this site [...]
Much of what I do as an educator is defined by one simple fact: I am the parent of three school-aged children. I don’t blog about them too much (although this post was pretty good, IMHO) because that’s not what this site is about. However, I think of them a lot as I think about trying to improve American education. And today I got to thinking about the challenges of parenting in the current educational climate.
You see, I’m a bit ashamed to admit that on several occasions, I’ve bitten my tongue when I’ve been less than satisfied with my own children’s schooling. I’ll spare you the specifics, but if you’re an educator with school-aged kids, you know what it’s like. You think things like “Should I play the ‘teacher card’ or not?” so as not to panic or alienate your kids’ teachers. It can be a slippery slope.
But why don’t other parents, the non-teachers among us, speak up in defense of their kids’ educations? Perhaps it’s because, as products of the 20th Century educational system, we just don’t know any better. We don’t know that we should
expect demand more. But we should.
You see, I believe this also contributes to what I see as a major educational problem–parents keeping quiet, accepting the status quo, because they trust that schools are doing the right things. Or perhaps because they fear making waves. No parent wants their child to be embarrassed or awkward because mom or dad is “that parent.”
However, unless we as parents speak up more often, unless we make our voices heard when schools are short changing our children or when they are subjecting kids to boring, mundane instruction, we are only contributing to the problem.
Imagine if parents spoke up more often, challenged authority when appropriate, pushed back against archaic practices, and so on. Not in the interest of rabble-rousing. But in the interest of our children. Why should we feel ashamed or embarrassed to make our voices heard? Why shouldn’t we speak up? If more of us spoke up, more often, the rate of change would increase to near warp speeds. Angry parents? Demanding excellence? In large numbers? THAT would be a force to be reckoned with. And there would be no way schools would or could ignore it for long.
It has been brought to our attention that our email subscription widget uses a service, Feedblitz, that places ads in the emails it sends to subscribers. We were not aware of this. And we certainly aren’t getting paid or them. In fact we are proud to be ad free, so we were a bit miffed [...]
It has been brought to our attention that our email subscription widget uses a service, Feedblitz, that places ads in the emails it sends to subscribers. We were not aware of this. And we certainly aren’t getting paid or them. In fact we are proud to be ad free, so we were a bit miffed that this was happening.
Long story short…if you are an email subscriber that receives these emails from Feedblitz, you should consider subscribing to our original feed, which uses Feedburner and is ad free.
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I’m in a new position at my school this year—instructional coach. My 12-year classroom teaching career, along with a bevy of professional development (a healthy mixture of self-directed and district-provided), has prepared me well for this job. It fact, it is the kind of job I’ve wanted for quite some time—one that [...]
I’m in a new position at my school this year—instructional coach. My 12-year classroom teaching career, along with a bevy of professional development (a healthy mixture of self-directed and district-provided), has prepared me well for this job. It fact, it is the kind of job I’ve wanted for quite some time—one that provides me with the opportunity to make a greater impact on teaching and learning in a school that I believe in, a place that’s filled with some of the most passionate and dedicated educators I’ve ever had the pleasure of working alongside. However, like any new endeavor, this one has not been without its share of challenges. Chief amongst these has been the fact that I’ve been pushed outside my comfort zone on a regular basis.
Ah yes, the comfort zone. That place we work within, many of us 100 percent of the time, because we are comfortable there. It’s a familiar place where we understand how things work and we know what to expect. But it’s also a place where we rarely take risks or try new things. It can be a place where we become stagnant and, in the worst case scenario, oblivious to the needs of our students.
I’ve been pushed outside my comfort zone on a regular basis as a new coach. Whether it’s modeling lessons for teachers, providing tough feedback following an observation, or leading meetings to discuss student performance, I’m doing things that are new to me. And at times, these new things are uncomfortable, well outside my personal comfort zone. And as a result, I’m learning more about teaching and learning than ever before.
This has certainly gotten me thinking about the value of operating outside of ones comfort zone. Trying new things, even though it can be scary, intimidating, and nerve-wracking, helps us grow. And in the world of education, our growth as educators of children is crucial to our students’ success.
So even though it can be frightening, I challenge you to think about how you can step outside your own comfort zone. Here are three ways that might help you get started…
Another set of eyes
Some teachers enjoy the fact that, much of the time, they get to close their doors and teach within their own little classroom community. No prying eyes. No critical observers. Our classroom’s four walls become our comfort zone. It’s time to open the door and invite others in. What if you worked it out so that a colleague could come watch you teach a lesson? You could give them something to focus on and watch for, such as teacher talk to student talk ratio or quality of questions. Or, you could just have them take notes on what they notice. Then you could debrief afterwards. Teaching is such an “in the zone” kind of profession. While we’re leading a class, it’s very easy to overlook our own mannerisms and behaviors. Without someone observing us, we might never notice that we are only calling on three students or that our questions are all at the bottom of Bloom’s taxonomy. It can be slightly unnerving to have someone watch you teach, especially someone who never has before. But if you choose a close friend or teammate, that will make it easier. And when you return the favor for them, you will both benefit immensely.
Take a Deep Data Dive
You’re constantly collecting data. Formative assessments, summative assessments, exit tickets, anecdotal notes…the list goes on and on. But all too often, this data isn’t put to good use. It comes to pass that we end up collecting data for the sake of…collecting data. Numbers in a spreadsheet or notes on a page are nothing more than that if we don’t take the time to do a deep analysis. Why don’t teachers do this more often? Because it requires us to think about what we didn’t do well and where our weaknesses lie. It requires us to answer the questions “Why didn’t they do well on this?” and “What could I have done better?” It is very tough to look within ourselves and conversely it is much easier to make excuses: “My students were tired” or “they aren’t ready for this topic yet” or “last year’s teacher dropped the ball.” When we take a cold, hard look at the data we’re collecting and step outside our comfort zones to ask ourselves “What is this data telling me about how I taught them?” Then we can really grow. It might be uncomfortable to look ourselves in the teaching mirror and analyze our practice, but it’s yet another example of how a little bit of discomfort can pay off big time in terms of student achievement.
Try a Different Approach
The tried and true. When it comes to teaching, the tried and true involves all the practices we are familiar with. Our “go-to” methods, our favorite activities, and our typical daily routines. We thrive on the tried and true. The tried and true is comfortable, we are used to it. It’s like a calm lake on a mid-summer day. It’s blissful. But even if your own personal “tried and true” is consistently stellar, you may want to consider trying a new approach in at least one area of your teaching. Why is this uncomfortable for many teachers? Well, it will probably involve some research and it might involve a teaching approach that you are completely unfamiliar with. But a little bit of discomfort on your part could pay off big time for your students. What should you try? Start by thinking about your most common teaching practices. Do you frequently lecture? Do you use a lot of math worksheets? Do your students only read novels? Then, look into other approaches. Perhaps it’s time to try some project based learning, math centers, or do some poetry reading. Maybe you’ve been ignoring critical 21st century skills for too long and you should attempt to integrate technology to facilitate communication, collaboration, and creativity. I could list ideas for days, but it’s up to you to find the ones that work best. One great place to start looking is Twitter. If you aren’t hooked on Twitter yet, I can remedy that…just go to search.twitter.com and type in “#edchat.” There is no shortage of inspiration being shared there. There are also some amazing blogs out there that provide a wealth of information. I’ve bundled some of my favorites here: http://bit.ly/EEblogbundle.
There are certainly other ways to step outside your teaching comfort zone. Even though it seems unnerving, if you take a leap and try something new or different, great things can happen, for you and for your students. The key is to push your own limits and to never stop trying to improve.
If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to our blog, following us on Twitter or Pinterest or liking us on Facebook. And check out our book from GHF Press, Learning in the 21st Century: How to Connect, Collaborate, and Create, coming February 18 to Amazon and BN.com in both print and eBook formats.
From time to time, I’ve been known to tease some of my more Pinterest-minded colleagues. I make tongue-in-cheek comments about recipes and crafts and the abundance of Teachers Pay Teachers pins. Furthermore, I make it seem like it’s much too trendy of a web tool for [...]
From time to time, I’ve been known to tease some of my more Pinterest-minded colleagues. I make tongue-in-cheek comments about recipes and crafts and the abundance of Teachers Pay Teachers pins. Furthermore, I make it seem like it’s much too trendy of a web tool for someone like me to bother with.
However, it’s confession time…Pinterest is pretty cool. And not only that, but it’s actually growing to be quite useful for educators. Most of my Pinterest use is one-sided…I pin things for followers of Engaging Educators. (Check out our pins HERE!) I don’t, however, use the site very often to search for and find resources that have been pinned by others.
That changed last week when I needed resources to help teachers with Guided Reading instruction. Googling wasn’t getting me what I wanted, so I hopped onto Pinterest to try it out. Much to my surprise, I had a great deal of luck…not only finding what I was looking for, but also finding extra stuff along the way. It really is amazing the impact that a thumbnail image has on your searching and filtering process. Some of the things I clicked on, had I found them through Google, I might have passed over. That little pinned image, more often than not, really helped me decide what was click-worthy. As a result, I discovered new things I might have otherwise never found. (Granted, I will say that the nature of Pinterest makes it better suited for general browsing, rather than targeted, specific searching. You have to separate a lot more wheat from the chaff with Pinterest than with Google, if you know what I mean.)
In my weekly newsletter to our staff, The Coach’s Corner, I highlighted some of the instructional resources I discovered, including a way of practicing sight words using ping pong balls, instructions for making your own Guided Reading stools out of Home Depot buckets, and an app that allows you to inventory, level, and check in and out books from your classroom library. Great stuff, indeed.
The lesson here, I suppose, is not to be so high and mighty that you rule things out just because they’re trendy. Not that that’s what I was doing at all. Really.
If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to our blog, following us on Twitter, and liking us on Facebook. Please also check out the details of our new book, Learning in the 21st Century, available February 18 from GHF Press.
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