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You'll find practical classroom strategies and tips from real educators, as well as lesson ideas, personal stories, and innovative approaches to improving your teaching practice. If you have any thoughts or comments about these blogs, please don't hesitate to let us know.

Nicholas ProvenzanoApril 22, 2014

Spring is here and teachers, like their students, are feeling the itch of summer. As educators prepare for the final stretch of the school year, it's often too easy to just keep their heads down and race for the finish line. Not so fast -- it's important to say thank you to those around you who've made the school year possible. This is not just a post for administrators to show the love to their staff, but for the staff to show the love to the administrators, secretaries, custodians, counselors -- and of course the students. Here are some simple things you can do to say "Thank you!" for all of the hard work everyone has put in this year.

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Ben JohnsonApril 22, 2014

"Why did I want to be a teacher?" We all face burnout, sometimes on a daily basis, and in my case, especially after fourth period. Most of the time, we can pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off, and go back to the drawing board to try another strategy to find success with student learning. I have to admit that it is getting more and more difficult to make that transition back to a willingness to try again. I can't help to think students are more difficult than they used to be a few years ago, and pressures from accountability are becoming more oppressive. And of course, the pay for teachers is inadequate. With all of this we may ask, is it worth it?

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Ainissa RamirezApril 21, 2014

What do rubber, penicillin, Teflon and Velcro have in common? They were all found by accident. This happens in science all the time -- accidents play a significant role in scientific discoveries. Some believe that nearly a third to half of all inventions were found by serendipity.

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Dominic O'BrienApril 21, 2014

As a student, I had great difficulty concentrating during lesson time and consequently didn't retain much knowledge. I was diagnosed with dyslexia and had the symptoms of attention deficit disorder. Academic information just didn't get through to me. Here are samples of reports that my teachers sent home when I was ten:

  • "He tends to dream in the middle of a calculation which leads him to lose track of the thought."
  • "Has not paid much attention. Appears to know more of the Universe than the Earth." (This was a veiled reference to daydreaming from my Geography teacher.)
  • "Terribly slow. Often cannot repeat the question. Must concentrate."
  • "Unless Dominic really shakes himself up and gets down to work, he is not going to achieve any success . . . he is painfully slow."
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Monica BurnsApril 18, 2014

When children are told to "go home and study," many aren't quite sure what this means. "Do I stare at the pages of a textbook? Should I redo old homework problems? Will I remember this new list of vocabulary words if I read them over and over?" Giving students the tools to develop study skills is one step in the right direction.

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Stacey GoodmanApril 18, 2014

"The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious." -- John Scully

"Looking up gives light, although at first it makes you dizzy." -- Rumi

Can you teach students to be visionary? Can visionary thinking even be taught? Most of us might believe that being able to imagine possibility in the way that moves and inspires people is a mystical or unknowable human quality. Yet, by helping our students see themselves as agents of imagination and members of communities larger than themselves, teachers can create a foundation for a visionary curriculum.

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Judy Willis MDApril 18, 2014

Recently I evaluated three nonprofit sites that provide evaluations of online game-based skill or fact practice.

All three are on the right track, but only one offered the specific educator-directed professional evaluation needed to guide teachers in choosing the best of these resources. The other two had limitations, such as inadequate documentation from specialists with expertise in child development or education, no clear rubrics used for evaluation of websites, and/or murky details of applications and suitability for individual students and topics.

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Brian SztabnikApril 17, 2014

Clarity. It is what we long for when we travel through a student's essay. Yet our struggling writers make us wander through a cluttered maze of thoughts, leading to dead ends.

We want an awareness of purpose. We want ideas to progress in logical order. We want sentences to be fluid and confident, not stuffed with words desperate to impress. We want so much because good writing is multidimensional. So how to encourage this? Rubrics are uninspiring and often contain too much information for students to digest. The question remains: how do we give students guidelines without glutting their minds with a 50-item checklist?

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Every year, the stress of school reaches a fever pitch during standardized-testing season. Whether it's the SAT, APs or end-of-grade testing, teachers race to re-impart all the knowledge covered, parents dump boulder-sized practice books onto the dining room table, and students who were happily coasting along become acutely aware that the academic equivalent of Judgment Day is nigh.

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Vincent A. MastroApril 17, 2014

Critical thinking is the means by which we objectively analyze the pros and cons of a situation in order to make informed decisions. It is a fundamental skill that is of such importance that many colleges and universities require their freshman students to complete an introductory course. The Common Core Standards also recognize the value of critical thinking, declaring it as one of the explicit skills children are to learn. This leaves teachers with the difficult task of teaching this complex skill to elementary school children.

How will children learn critical thinking? The answer is: "It depends."

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