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Friday, December 20, 2013

"Sitting outside of the circle" is an essential tool for cognitive coaching. Here is one way to implement it in classrooms. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

Video modeling helps educators teach social skills to young students
Educators in a school district in Minnesota are using video modeling in their early-childhood classrooms to highlight appropriate behaviors and emotional and social skills. Teachers record and then play videos on tablets or interactive whiteboards of children demonstrating appropriate play, classroom and social behaviors, such as sitting during circle time. "It can help a lot of kids learn how to do routines or how to play with toys more efficiently," teacher Sarah Murray said. KARE-TV (Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.) (12/10)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Resilience is a learned trait and is necessary for students to live in today's world. Here's a great article on how educators can support students in this process. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

How resilience can help both leaders and students
To help children develop resilience, school leaders must first be able to meet and handle adversity, write K-12 leadership experts Jill Berkowicz and Ann Myers in this blog post. In addition, they suggest that educators create an environment where a set of protective factors is in place to create a school climate that fosters resilience. "Our schools and districts need to become focused on helping students to develop the social/emotional skills required to be resilient and healthy," they write. Education Week/Leadership 360 blog (11/17)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Concentration is a learned skilled - and has become a major issue in education over the last 5-10 years. The following article has some suggestions that are easily implemented. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

Do today's connected students need lessons on concentration?
Schools should include lessons on how to concentrate to help students stay on track amid numerous digital distractions, said psychologist Daniel Goleman, who has written books about social and emotional learning. Goleman calls for digital-free work periods during the day and lessons on mindfulness practices. 

"It's about using the devices smartly but having the capacity to concentrate as you need to, when you want to," he said. blog (12/5)Bookmark and Share

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Helping students reflect on their preferences and thinking processes, provides them with the ability to articlulate - and so direct - their processes, metacognition. Following are some great articles on conferring with students in reading and writing. Enjoy. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

Abandoning Books
There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.
                                                       William Shakespeare

As a child, I was trained to finish every book I started. The approach of the old-fashioned teachers in my rural elementary school -- a philosophy shared by the crusty, grumpy, scary school librarian -- was simple:  You start it, you finish it.  
I was a compliant student, so I did as I was told. All through school and into college, I finished every book I started. I felt enormous guilt if I didn't. If I simply couldn't bear it -- a book was too dense, too frivolous, or held no interest for me whatsoever -- I'd play tricks on myself instead of admitting I was abandoning it. I'd "lose" the book on the bus. I'd let it fall behind the couch and "forget" where I'd put it. I'd "accidentally" put it in the stack of textbooks being sold back to the bookstore.

One day on a visit home, my mother asked me what I was reading.  This was typical -- she's always interested in what I'm reading, and I love hearing what books are in her hands at the moment. But this time when she asked the question, I moaned. I admitted the shameful truth: "I'm reading a book I hate." 

She laughed.  "What is it?"

"It's a book the entire universe is reading, Mom," I lamented. "The DaVinci Code. Everyone loves it. They rave about it. It's sold a zillion copies. But I hate it. I don't get it. What am I missing?" I told her each page was painful to slog through, but I was going to finish it, by God. I would keep soldiering on, because that is what one does with books. One obtains them, and one finishes them.
"Why in the world would you do that?" she asked. "Stop reading it.  Just stop. Get a different book."

"I can't," I said. "I have to finish so I know what the big hoopla is all about."

"But there are so many other good books out there," she protested.

 "It's like when you were dating Steve. Remember?"

I knew exactly what she was talking about. I'd dated Steve several years beforehand. He had been a nice enough guy. He was kind, decent, and funny, and we got along very well. I always knew he wasn't going to be a guy I'd marry. I was just dating him until "The One" came along.

But my mother was eager for me to be with someone substantial.  Grandkids! Grandkids! Grandkids! she was privately thinking, as every mother with a daughter of childbearing age seems to think on a near-constant basis. She finally sat me down.

"Listen," she said. "As long as you're with Steve, you're not going to meet anyone else."

It was a pretty simple truth.

I broke up with him.

And then I met a wonderful man who was perfect for me.

So when I told her I wouldn't abandon the book, she made the same point. "If you're reading The DaVinci Code, you're not reading something fabulous for you. Something you love. The book you love is out there, wasted, while you're trying to get through this one."
I gave my copy of the book to some other poor soul and felt liberated and finally, guilt-free. I went off to the bookstore and nosed around until I found one that looked right for me.  That time, it was Melissa Bank's The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing. I devoured it and then reread it so many times that I had entire sentences memorized. I loved that book.
Now I understand why it's so important to give students permission to abandon books that don't work for them. Even if everyone they know raves about a text, it doesn't mean they will read and enjoy it. This is especially true with what I think of as "trend texts" -- books that are widely read just because it's the popular thing to say you've read it. Of course we must encourage students not to abandon books recklessly, but forcing students to finish a text in hopes something will eventually resonate with them is a mistake. Much like dating the wrong boyfriend, reading the wrong text just means you are not reading the right one. 
This week we're featuring tips for better conferring. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Jennifer Schwanke
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Jennifer Schwanke is a principal in Dublin, Ohio. She also blogs about her personal pursuits at

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[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:
Here are two articles from the archives chock-full of tips for conferring.
Franki Sibberson provides focus questions and a template to help choose books with students for independent reading:
The zone of proximal development continues to be an important frame for noting where writers are and what's next. Ruth Shagoury lists questions at different phases of writing to help nudge writers forward in their zones:
The shift from picture to chapter books requires some new conferring strategies. The good folks at the chartchums blog have suggestions for conversing with students new to chapter books:
This Goodreads infographic on what makes readers abandon books will spark ideas for minilessons at almost any grade level:
Have you visited our new subscription site, Lead Literacy? It's packed with articles and videos all focused on guiding teachers in professional development settings:
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Friday, November 1, 2013

Learning academic and content specific vocabulary requires building concepts. Many of our students today are coming in with low language - equivalent to ELL students. Following are some good ideas for supporting students develop their language. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

How to help ELL students succeed under common core
Under the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards, all students, including those with limited English proficiency, will be expected to master academic language practices and analyze complex texts. Rebecca Greene, an educator and consultant, in this blog post shares five strategies -- videos, among them -- to teach English-language learners, including increasing autonomy, providing heterogeneous classrooms and using relevant background knowledge. Teaching Channel/Tchers' Voice blog (10/25) Bookmark and Share

Monday, October 28, 2013

Below you will find a summary of national trends on how students learn. Well worth the read. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief

Top teaching and learning trends focus on how students learn
From brain-based to project-based learning, educators nationwide are experimenting with new teaching and learning strategies that focus on how children learn. This article highlights five key trends, including incorporating music into lessons to improve retention; using games, such as Minecraft and SimCity, to teach academic subjects; and cultivating creativity and curiosity in the classroom through science, technology, engineering and math courses. blog (10/14)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Following is a commentary on "de-personalizing" teaching. I am including it here because I think we need to view teaching through a lens that includes what we know about how humans learn - including Costa's work. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

How schools can prioritize students' socio-emotional learning
Cognitive learning should include human, social and emotional experiences because "they all go together," write Kathleen M. Cashin, a clinical professor at Fordham University's graduate school of education, and Bruce S. Cooper, a professor of education leadership at the school. In this commentary, they suggest going back to when school was interesting and challenging, rather than isolated and quantifiable, as well as ensuring online learning does not replace teacher and student interactions critical to social-emotional development. Education Week (premium article access compliments of (10/2)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Here is a great article on what creates students "in-school" happiness. Take a look it has some great information. Courtesy of ASCD Smart Brief.

How students' happiness affects their achievement
If students feel valued, safe and happy at school they are more likely to attend -- and more likely to learn -- suggests David L. Hough, professor and interim dean at the College of Education at Missouri State University. In this commentary, he writes about research conducted by his team that demonstrates the power of the classroom teacher in determining students' happiness, and offers insight into what determines students' in-school happiness at various ages. Springfield News-Leader (Mo.) (tiered subscription model) (9/13) Bookmark and Share

Friday, September 13, 2013

Here is some great research on the power of a "growth mindset" that supports much of the research on metacognition. Enjoy...courtesy of ASCD SmarBrief.

Instructional model focuses on students' attitudes, beliefs about their abilities
Students who believe they can become more intelligent and learn skills through effort have a "growth mindset" while students with a "fixed mindset" tend to believe they are born with the traits and can become discouraged by failure and reluctant to try, according to psychologists and researchers. Helping students use a "growth mindset" is gaining ground in schools as a strategy to improve student achievement; it focuses on challenges, learning from mistakes and maintaining confidence after failure. This article includes a short exercise by Mindset Works, a California-based company with "Brainology" curriculum in schools across the country, to determine one's own mindset. Education Week (premium article access compliments of (9/11)
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Monday, September 9, 2013

Project-based learning is based on thinking strategies and meta-cognition. Many schools in the U.S. are beginning to pilot the format. Hurray!! This is the intent of the CCSS. A must read...courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

Project-based learning tapped for middle-school students in Va. district
A team of educators in a Virginia school district will study project-based learning, slated for implementation in two middle schools in the fall of 2015. Supporters say project-based learning will better engage students, including high-ability learners, and shift the focus away from test preparation and toward use of academic lessons in real-life situations. Daily Press (Newport News/Hampton, Va.) (free content) (8/13)
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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Meta-cognition is implicit in the Common Core. Here is a article that addresses some of the shifts required. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

Mont. teachers learn to "think differently" under the common core
As the school year gets underway, teachers in a Montana district are attending training sessions to become more familiar with their new English curriculum under the Common Core State Standards. Officials say the change will include more analysis, deep thinking and will incorporate ways to include English lessons in other subjects. "It clearly identifies how we have to think differently -- not change -- but think differently," said Jane Doty-Fischer, an education consultant for Marzano Research Laboratory, who lead the training. Great Falls Tribune (Mont.) (8/21)
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Sunday, August 18, 2013

This method has potential for providing a framework that could be used to develop metacognitive awareness on student performance. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

Competency-based education is gaining momentum nationwide -- tying students' grades to "competencies" in certain core skills, such as writing and math, to creative problem-solving, rather than typical measures of areas including timely homework and extra credit. In New Hampshire, considered a pioneer of the method, English teacher Aaron Wiles said teachers are able to personalize instruction and give more targeted assistance when it is needed, an approach that aims to prepare students for college and careers. The Christian Science Monitor (8/14)
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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Many of the practices we have discussed, are now being embedded in practice. Here is a article on differing perspectives. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

How including different perspectives can make systems stronger
Leaders should be active in seeking input from their adversaries to help them move past blind spots and make stronger decisions, K-12 leadership experts Jill Berkowicz and Ann Myers write in this blog post. By bringing in different perspectives, leaders not only are challenged but also are in a better position to build a broader support base when implementing changes, they write. Education Week/Leadership 360 blog (8/6)
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