New (School) Year Resolutions

I came across this post on a blog I read and thought it would be interesting to have students write New Year Resolutions at the start of the school year.  This will be a great way for students to start their year off on the right foot.

Thanks for the idea.

Teaching Students to TRY

I spent some time tonight reading different blogs that I visit regularly, and I came across a great post on Lessons from the Middle about teaching students to TRY using this video.

This got me to thinking. What other ways could we illustrate TRY for students?

How about paddling upstream?

How about finishing a race when you know you’re not going to win?

How about swimming in the Olympics when you can barely swim?

How about growing up and living despite being sick?

How about a baby duck too small to jump a curb?


Isn’t TRY one of the most important lessons we can teach our students?  Isn’t it much more valuable than the subject we teach?


Professional Learning: John Wooden

As I explored, I came across this great video of John Wooden sharing his thoughts on teaching and the difference between winning and success. What a man!


Here are links to his TED Talk and his pyramid of success.

John Wooden’s TED Talk

The Pyramid of Success


Important Ideas to Keep in Mind as We Head Back to School

I found this list of principles that help good kids become good adults interesting. I am going to print it off think about how I can use it with students.

30 Principles that a Turn Good Kids into Good Adults

Professional Learning: What is School About

I woke up very early as I always do the first day I go back to school and started reading in my phone. I came across this article by a retiring teacher/ administrator. He obviously worked at a school much different than the public schools in the US; however, I wonder if the philosophy of his school shouldn’t be adopted by all schools.

Children, of all ages, come to school carrying the joys, hardships, and emotions with them from the night before or that morning. By addressing the needs of the WHOLE child, would we get better academic results? More bang for our buck?

I have to say that this is one of the reasons I love teaching middle school where I do. My students can learn the content with relative ease. I do find challenge in creating great lessons, but I find even greater challenge in working with the kids on how to be better people, how to persevere through difficult tasks, how to deal with ambiguity, how to handle failure, etc. This is what makes me excited about going back to school in 3 hours.

School Isn’t Just About Teaching

Professional Learning: Motivation and Student Success

As I read about motivation, there are several things that have stayed with me and that will influence how I work with my students this year.

*After basic needs, autonomy, purpose and mastery motivate.

*People want some control over what we do, real world tasks, and the chance to improve.

*Using extrinsic motivators, grades, stickers, candy, can actually inhibit student success.

*Praising intelligence leads to students who are less likely to take risks in their work thus inhibiting their learning and success.

*Instead, teachers should praise hard work and perseverance.

* According to Dweck, students who were praised for their hard work and perseverance wanted to show that they could continue to work hard and persevere. This had a long-term positive effect on their learning and on their lives.

*Teachers should provide positive AND negative feedback on student writing.

*The chart below shows how we can change how we work with student.


You say . . . You could say . . . Why?
Good job! I can really see your effort in revision. Praising effort and process encourages writers to keep trying. (Dweck)
You’re a good writer. Those drafts paid off in sentence variety and imagery. Encouraging growth instead of fixed mindset makes for happier people in charge of their progress. (Dweck)
You don’t know how to use semi-colons. You haven’t mastered semi-colons yet. The power of yetsuggests growth and mastery. (Dweck and Pink)
Please revise. Improved topic sentences and transitions between paragraphs would improve your paper’s structure and readability. Specific reader-focused feedback might seem nitpicky, but helps writers feel purpose of revision.
Write a persuasive essay. Persuade your principal/Congressman/parents to do a specific action. Writers need a real purpose and real audience to write their best work. (Pink)
Read Heart of Darkness. Discuss the importance of the Congo River to this narrative. Choose a work from the list of college-bound reading. How does geography inform the symbolic meaning of the work? People prefer autonomy and choice. (Pink)



Carol Dweck: Growth Mindsets and Motivation short video

Intelligence Praise Can Undermine Motivation and Performance journal article

Nurturing Intrinsic Motivation and Growth Mindset in Writing blog post from Edutopia

The First Day of School

Two weeks and the students will be walking through the doors of the school, down the hall, and into my classroom.  I have some work to get done before I am ready, but I have started working on my welcome letter and syllabi.

Since I believe that relationships are a key part of a successful classroom, I start the year by giving my students a letter about me and ask them to write me a letter about themselves.  This accomplishes a couple of things.  First, students want to know a little bit about their teachers, and my letter provides them with information about me while also allowing me to emphasize a couple of key ideas.  Second, by asking the students to write me a letter, I am able to get an informal baseline writing piece.  I can see their strengths and weaknesses as writers and can use this information to guide instruction.  Finally,  the letter allows us to make some connections.  Maybe they are a fan of Georgia football or Vera Bradley.  By sharing these interests early in the year, we are able to start building a strong relationships which enhance the classroom environment from the beginning. Here is the draft of my Back to School Letter–Draft

Last year, I started batting around the idea of changing how I set up my grade book because I found myself forcing assignments to fit into categories to keep things balanced when I had four categories.   This year, I hope to have three categories for assignments.

Here is what I am thinking.

Level 1–practice assignments–completion grades/homework. 10%

Level 2–formative assessments–quizzes/graded assignments/minor writing assignments. 40%

Level 3–summative assessments–test/projects/major writing assignments. 50%