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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.

Heidi A. OlingerJanuary 15, 2014

A Hunger for Recognition

Greg was among my toughest students in a tough year of teaching high school. Physically he attended class, but academically he was missing. He was a freshman invested in his image with older students he deemed cool, and academic achievement was not a group value. He was disruptive and disengaged. But Greg began to care about school the day that study hall rules changed and he could not leave the classroom -- not even to buy snacks. He quickly became hungry and morose, and, already the enemy, I was doubly so for enforcing the rule. Before me was a hungry boy, so I emptied my briefcase of every snack I had: a soft apple, a Power Bar, Dum Dums. I put these in a pile on his desk and said that was what I had.

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Maurice EliasJanuary 15, 2014

In September, 2013, the Education Advisory Council of the Character Education Partnership published a white paper titled, Integrating Common Core and Character Education: Why It Is Essential and How It Can Be Done. Kristie Fink and Karen Geller, acclaimed educators both, co-chaired the process and I asked them to comment on some of the key points:

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Alicia IannucciJanuary 14, 2014

In my sixth grade integrated math and ELA class at Quest to Learn, students play a board game called Caterpillar to learn about probability and statistics. As a founding teacher at the NYC public school with a unique game-like learning model (currently in its fifth year), I have worked through many iterations of this game and how it affects students' mathematical experience over the years.

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David CutlerJanuary 14, 2014

It's high time for more English and history teachers to set aside their literary purism, and to embrace superhero comics as effective and legitimate teaching and learning tools.

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Matt DavisJanuary 13, 2014

When tragic events happen, it can be difficult for educators, administrators, and parents to know how to help children understand and cope. How adults manage their own reactions, as well as how they help students deal with their questions and feelings, are important factors in providing children with the support and guidance they will need. Below are some useful, informative, and thoughtful resources for adults to help children through traumatic situations.

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Mark PhillipsJanuary 13, 2014

I think that one of the greatest challenges for teachers, including many of the best, is being frequently frustrated and self-critical because of personal expectations that they can never fully meet.

In his book Compassion and Self-Hate, the psychologist Theodore Rubin presents what he describes as indirect forms of self-hate. These are illusions we have about who we are supposed to be and unrealistic expectations of what we can accomplish. He includes, as one example, the illusion that if you have enough money, you'll be happy. Another is the illusion that physical beauty insures relational happiness. Each illusion he describes results in unrealistic expectations that make us self-critical and unhappy.

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Dr. Richard CurwinJanuary 13, 2014

A sense of wonder and the need to predict -- these are two of the qualities that enrich all of us. We wonder about big things (is there life on other planets?), smaller things (if I write to a friend that I've had a falling out with, will I get an answer?), and smaller yet (what will happen if I marinate my chicken in beer?). Not only is it fun to predict, but prediction is also a strong part of being safe (if the pot recently boiled, I should probably grab it by the insulated handle). The lure of prediction can be easily seen in fantasy football, which has almost replaced the actual games in energy and excitement for many fans.

These two qualities, wonder and prediction, can form the basis of making lessons motivating and full of learning.

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Judy Willis MDJanuary 10, 2014

The shift toward applying more executive function (EF) within learning and assessment will cause some discomfort in teachers and students. The transition will not eliminate the need for memorization, as automatic use of foundational knowledge is the toolkit for the executive functions. Memorization, however, will not be adequate as meaningful learning becomes more about applying, communicating and supporting what one knows.

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Donna DeGennaroJanuary 10, 2014

Discovering Self-Direction

"We don't get it. One day she says we should do one thing, and then the next day she says something different." This statement is felt by all but spoken by Carmen, a student from one of the two communities involved in the project. The Maya youth in the Guatemalan pueblos of Chirijox and San Juan La Laguna speak Spanish and their indigenous language. My language limitations leave me temporarily in the dark. I do not completely comprehend her words, but the anxiety is evident. My coworker Marisol explains the tension.

I have encountered this "problem" many times while working with youth. Students expect teachers to direct them what to do, when and how. This educational custom is present in Guatemala, especially for indigenous youth. Learning is scripted and disconnected from culture and community. There is little room for creativity or critical thinking. As a result, students are not used to having a say in their own learning, let alone directing it. However, during their participation in Unlocking Silent Histories, they are in charge, not me.

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Monica BurnsJanuary 10, 2014

The Google Play Store for Android devices is full of wonderful apps that can be used to support learning in your classroom and extend this practice at home. For teachers and parents looking to utilize their Android tablet effectively, there are plenty of fantastic apps to reinforce key concepts being taught in the classroom. Math and English language arts (ELA) apps will support students looking to master new skills, and video streaming apps can help them build prior knowledge as they explore new topics.

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