It’s Not All About the Money

NPR gives great insight on why teachers quit. It isn’t all about the money.


16 Attributes of a Modern Educator–It’s More than Just Technology

This is a couple of years old, but it is still interesting; however, it is still right on.




I need to reread the report and think about the recommendations some more, but I can definitely see my practice changing to include more implicit instruction in some of these areas.

From the Report:

The Recommendations

Eleven Elements of Effective Adolescent Writing Instruction
This report identifies 11 elements of current writing instruction found to be effective for helping
adolescent students learn to write well and to use writing as a tool for learning. It is important to note
that all of the elements are supported by rigorous research, but that even when used together, they do
not constitute a full writing curriculum.

1. Writing Strategies, which involves teaching students strategies for planning, revising, and
editing their compositions
2. Summarization, which involves explicitly and systematically teaching students how to
summarize texts
3. Collaborative Writing, which uses instructional arrangements in which adolescents work
together to plan, draft, revise, and edit their compositions
4. Specific Product Goals, which assigns students specific, reachable goals for the writing they
are to complete
5. Word Processing, which uses computers and word processors as instructional supports for
writing assignments
6. Sentence Combining, which involves teaching students to construct more complex,
sophisticated sentences
7. Prewriting, which engages students in activities designed to help them generate or organize
ideas for their composition
8. Inquiry Activities, which engages students in analyzing immediate, concrete data to help
them develop ideas and content for a particular writing task
9. Process Writing Approach, which interweaves a number of writing instructional activities in
a workshop environment that stresses extended writing opportunities, writing for authentic
audiences, personalized instruction, and cycles of writingWriting Next: Effective strategies to improve writing of adolescents in middle and high schools
10. Study of Models, which provides students with opportunities to read, analyze, and emulate
models of good writing
11. Writing for Content Learning, which uses writing as a tool for learning content material

Professional Learning: 5 Special Strategies for Teaching Tweens by Rick Wormeli

5 Special Strategies for Teaching Tweens

This short and easy to read article provides some simple things to remember about and to try with our tween students.  I am really working on the idea of formative assessment this year.  The transition to semester grades is a little daunting because the kids are going to have so many grades by the end of 18 weeks if I put a GRADE in the grade book for every assignment that they do.  Today, I met with each child as he/she finished a short assignment to talk quickly about the errors on his/her paper.  Even though many of the kids were making the same mistake, I wanted to see if the kids got more out of the one on one explanation of errors.  We’ll see…

“Of all the states of matter in the known universe, tweens most closely resemble liquid.”    This is a quotation from the article, and I love the metaphor.

Professional Learning: Questioning

Over the few years, I have struggled more and more with students who seemingly are unable/unable to make decisions for themselves.  If the answer or next step is not overtly obvious, then they don’t make the next move.  I have become more deliberate in providing very clear directions and asking them questions to get them thinking for themselves.  One of the most powerful questions I have started asking is, “Is that a reasonable step/response/thought?”

Here are some things I found online about questions.



#1. What do you think?

This question interrupts us from telling too much. There is a place for direct instruction where we give students information yet we need to always strive to balance this with plenty of opportunities for students to make sense of and apply that new information using their schemata and understanding.

#2. Why do you think that?

After students share what they think, this follow-up question pushes them to provide reasoning for their thinking.

#3. How do you know this?

When this question is asked, students can make connections to their ideas and thoughts with things they’ve experienced, read, and have seen.

#4. Can you tell me more?

This question can inspire students to extend their thinking and share further evidence for their ideas.

#5. What questions do you still have?

This allows students to offer up questions they have about the information, ideas or the evidence.


Professional Learning: 6 Ways to Inspire the Teen Brain

This article, “6 Ways to Inspire the Teen Brain,” is pretty short, but it gives lots of information.  I knew that the teenage brain went through many changed, but I didn’t know that it undergoes more changes during the teen years than any other time other than the first couple of months of life.  No wonder teens can be all over the place.  It also describes the effects of changes to the frontal lobe which is responsible for reasoning, planning, judgement, higher-level thinking skills, etc.  No wonder teens often make questionable decisions.


Here are the 6 ideas provided in the article.

  • “Teach your teen to conceive many unique interpretations of movies, books, political discussions, unsettling school or peer issues, or works of art.”
  • “Encourage your youth to be a problem finder and solution setter for issues that arise daily and discuss how academic content supports this expertise.”
  • “Ask your teenager to give you a “message” from a book or movie or hurtful experience rather than a long-winded retell without reflection.”
  • “Have your adolescent interpret the lyrics of their favorite song from positive and negative perspectives and do the same for your song with them.”
  • “Watch their favorite TV show with them and share different take-home messages for the different characters.”
  • “Push for a multitude of answers to a question or problem versus seeking the “right” answer.”


Just something to keep in mind…


Critical Thinking Skills




critical thinking skillsDon’t most teachers agree that one of the most important skills we can help our students develop is critical thinking?  Is believing this enough or do we have deliberate in our lesson design to do this successfully?

Resources and Downloads for Teaching Critical Thinking

The Importance of Asking Questions to Promote Higher Order Competencies

Professional Learning: The Use of a Lens to Focus Instruction

For several years, I have thought about how I use lenses to focus my instruction.  I started off thinking about different lenses that I could use to attack an individual lesson using a text or writing assignment with my students.  For instance, I might tell my students that we are going to look at the short story “Charles” through the lens of relationships.  I did this to focus attention to a narrow idea so that we didn’t get distracted with all of the other things that come to mind when 11 and 12 year olds read.  Yes, there are times when these distractions are valuable and even beautiful, but there are times when they really are just distractions.

Then, my journey with lenses moved to developing units around broad-based themes that act as lenses.  This process changed my teaching.  I found it freeing and challenging.  I believe my teaching deepened and became more creative.  My students were pushed to deepen their own thinking and to be more creative themselves. For instance, I can take the lens of courage and can apply it to a myriad of texts, paintings, songs, etc.  However, these same texts, paintings, songs, etc. can also be examined through a different lens.  We might read Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and analyze it through the lens of courage.  Later in the year or even in a different grade, we might analyze it through the lens of change.  How we attack the exact same words and what we come away with will be totally different.  The students’ understanding of “I Have a Dream” will be all the richer because they were able to really dive into the words multiple times while using more than one lens.  We could use Norman Rockwell’s painting “The Problem We All Live With” as part of the same two discussions.  Or The Byrds’ song “Turn, Turn, Turn.” Or articles about Malala Yousafzai.

The possibilities are endless. Now, I get to spend some time putting this into practice as I design lessons for next week…

Here are a couple of things I have come across about lenses.

The Power of a Conceptual Lens by Lynn Erickson

The Thinking Classroom

Reading Through Different Lenses: Making Text Connections Across the Curriculum – A Lesson Plan for Gr. 6-8