Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Final Exams

Although there is still one month left to the school year, students should be thinking about preparing for their final exams.

How can parents support their scholars without interfering? Start by asking what your student's plan is for preparing for finals. This gives your scholar the high-ability cue that tells them you trust their ability to generate an effective study plan.

Ask if the exam is cumulative or not. If a plan has not already been designed, this will help give perspective regarding how much studying will be required.

Ask if the teacher is holding extra help sessions before or after school. Encourage the use of this opportunity!

Ask if the exam schedule has been posted online. Again, while developing a study schedule, it is important to know the date of the exam!

Ask if your scholar has a special request for breakfast on exam day. Wouldn't you like to have your favorite breakfast before your big work presentation?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"Teach Like a Champion" Revisited

I had an interesting conversation recently regarding Doug Lemov's book "Teach Like a Champion." My colleague introduced me to a criticism on the book: it is too formulaic. My knee-jerk response was to be defensive, so I took a moment to think. My reply was fairly non-committal: New teachers need strategies to use in the classroom. This book provides strategies.

Then I started to really think. Was I defending the book because I liked it when I first read it and haven't taken a critical look at it since? Is it in fact, too formulaic? So I reflected and hoped to come up with a really complex provocative response. Instead, I ended up with this: Doug Lemov's book "Teach Like a Champion" provides teachers of all ability levels with tools to use organically as they work to create the classroom culture that empowers all students to succeed.

It's up to us, the teachers, to use these tools as we see fit and to remember to vary our approaches to increase student learning. That's a formula for success!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Setting Goals

Setting goals can be a difficult concept to grasp, but I have learned a lot about setting goals while clearing trees from a property this summer. I learned that I have two styles of goal setting when attempting to complete the minor steps that support a larger goal: Task and Time.


We had several big trees that needed to have large branches removed. We knew it would take quite a bit of time to remove them all safely, but we could not estimate how much time it would take us. There were too many factors: Could we reach them safely? Would the branches drop where we wanted them to? Would the saw blade break? We also knew that the number of branches on the tree we focused on were limited. There were a finite number of branches, and we knew we could accomplish all the branches in one day. So, we set a Task Goal for ourselves: Remove all the undesirable branches from one tree.

Students and teachers can also benefit from setting a Task Goal. In writing an essay, it may help some students to focus on the task of writing just one paragraph at a time. For a long math homework assignment, some students may prefer to complete a predetermined number of problems then stretch their legs for five minutes. A long reading assignment can be broken down into reading chapters or to a natural break in the writing.

A Task Goal is a good way to approach jobs that have a quantifiable nature.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Education Law

How much do teachers really know about education law? If they have only attended the Teachers' Lounge School of Law, then they don't know much...and what they do know is probably not true! I am discovering that the more teachers base their education law knowledge of the knowledge and expertise of other uneducated teachers, the more they put themselves - and their students - at risk.

Any educator that is interested in learning about education law in layman's terms should consider reading the book School Law: What Every Educator Should Know, A User-Friendly Guide by David Schimmel, Louis Fischer, and Leslie R. Stellman. It is easy to understand and contains numerous examples of cases that demonstrate the concepts that are presented. This is the required reading for the course I am currently taking: Teachers and the Law.

Another resource that we frequently use is Principals Teaching the Law: 10 Legal Lessons Your Teachers Must Know by David M. SchimmelSuzanne E. Eckes, and Matthew C. Militello. As the title indicates, this book has ten lessons that lead learners (principals and directors) can use with their team to share education law knowledge.

I encourage teachers to learn the laws and regulations in their districts. Protect your students, your schools, your team, and yourself!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


We live in a world of 140 character tweets, 6.5 second vine clips, and emoticons. Everything we think or feel and want to share with the world must be distilled down to its purest form - its essence - so that our followers, viewers, and friends will know what we are experiencing the instant they view our post.

Within this instantaneous world, I am working with students toward success - their success as well as my own success. I am working on both because they are inextricably intertwined.  I measure my own success in challenging questions a student is finally acting bold enough to ask, connections between concepts that students uncover on their own, and "aha" moments when a student's eyes light up with sudden and deep understanding.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Ready? Set... Back to School!


The end of summer approaches, and the beginning of the new school year is almost here. Back to school clothes and supplies have been purchased, and everyone is starting to get nervous and excited. What could we be forgetting?


Here is a list of five items to address that you may not have done yet:

The Bag

Your student may have a new bag this year, but perhaps the bag from last school year is just fine? Don't worry about replacing it for the start of the school year, worry about cleaning it! Schedule time with your young child (or assign it to your your older student) to clean the bag for the school year. Empty it completely, wash it in the washing machine or with the hose outside (I recommend this method - wear your bathing suit and bring water balloons!), and restock it with the usual supplies. Don't forget a fully charged calculator! (Keep your eye out for backpacks on sale in late September and early October. Grab one or two for backup.)

Summer Work

Make sure your scholar has completed the assignment(s), saved a copy on the home computer and in remote storage if it is a writing assignment, and placed a protected hard copy in a folder in the clean bag. Name, assignment details, and date should appear at the top of the pages or where the directions indicate.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Screenleap and iPads

Today I had the opportunity to turn a technology failure into a success using ScreenLeap in my 1:1 iPad middle school Spanish classroom.

My lesson plan was based on projecting an interactive presentation on an interactive whiteboard (IWB). The students would add to their notes from a previous class. However, the VGA port on my MacBook has become very temperamental, and the laptop did not detect the projector once it was connected.

My students were prepared for class with their iPads, and I directed them to ScreenLeap while I quickly logged into the site frommy MacBook and shared my entire screen (which was displaying the interactive presentation). Once I was sharing, ScreenLeap provided me with a code which I wrote on the board. The students keyed the code into the space provided on ScreenLeap and were amazed to be viewing my computer screen on their iPad!