Rigor is creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels,
each student is supported so he or she can learn at high levels,
and each student demonstrates learning at high levels (Blackburn, 2008).

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Literacy in Math

I ran across this blog entry about word problems in math.  Written by a professor at a university in Australia, the points are very relevant to our teaching.  Literacy is an important skill--especially in math, and she makes the point with a clear example.  It's worth your time!

Students often complain they can’t see the point of math - beyond basic arithmetic. In response, keen teachers look for ways to show them how math is relevant to their daily lives. Trigonometry is set inside problem solving about rugby ball angles and penalty kicks, probability is used to predict the winners of X Factor and Pythagoras’ theorem is applied to save people from a burning building. This shift to meaning and context in learning maths is laudable, but it does fundamentally change the nature of math teaching in ways that teachers are not currently trained for.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Rigor in Your Classroom: A Toolkit for Teachers

I'm very excited today.  My fourteenth book, Rigor in Your Classroom:  A Toolkit for Teachers, comes out next week.  It has over 200 tools to use to increase rigor in your classroom.  Topics include:  curriculum standards (Common Core and more), higher order questioning, strategies to scaffold learning, assessment, and extending your reach to parents, substitute teachers, and more!  Check it out.  

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Top Ten Strategies for Differentiated Instruction

I found this PDF from St. Joseph-Scollard Hall School with details on ten strategies for differentiated instruction.  I've written about several of them, including the tic-tac-toe activity, but found the entire list to be useful.  Following the initial list is a description of each activity.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Searching by Readability Levels

I'm often asked during my workshops where teachers can find materials at different reading levels, particularly since the Common Core requires that you find texts at increasingly difficult levels.  The CCSS provide exemplars of different texts, as well as some recommended readability formulas, such as the Lexile Framework.  However, many teachers want a way to search for materials online at varying levels.  This blog post provides a step-by-step description to searching by readability level with Google.  It's certainly not linked directly to the Common Core Standards, but it is a tool that can be used to supplement your instruction.

Friday, April 18, 2014


A good teacher is also a good student.  What are you learning today?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dealing with a Dominant Student

In my workshops, I'm often asked questions about classroom management.  One recent question:  "I have a student who always wants to answer.  His hand goes up first every time I ask a question, and it's becoming hard to ignore him, especially when the other students want to let him take over.  It's leading to passive learning behaviors from my other students.  What should I do?"

In that case, I would move away from typical whole group, call on one person instruction.  Too often, one student does dominate.  Instead, when you ask questions, immediately have students take a moment to think about an answer, then turn and talk to a partner.  Then, as you move around and monitor students, choose those who you would like to respond to the whole group.  This way, all students have the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding, and it encourages active learning.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Scaffolding Learning

One way to think about scaffolding is with a diamond.  It starts at the top with me (meaning the teacher).  You begin by modeling a lesson.  Next, we go to us.  There are two parts of this.  First is the teacher and the students (us) following guided practice.  The second part of guided practice is us, meaning students working with partners or in small groups.  Finally, the student (you) does the work independently.  As you think about how to support student learning, consider this method of instruction, guided practice, and independent practice.  

Friday, April 11, 2014

Spring Break?

Is spring break coming up for you?  I hope you'll take some time to rest and rejuvenate!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Technology-Based Instruction

My newest e-newsletter is out!  The topic:  Technology-Based Instruction.  To receive it, sign up using the link on the right of the page.  I resend it every day or so to make sure new participants receive it. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Three Ways to Deal with Behavior Problems

A new teacher asked me, "How can I deal with a student who chronically misbehaves?  He interferes with the learning of other students."
There are three suggestions I gave her.  First, redirect the other students' attentions from this student.  I immediately put my students into a pair-share so I could deal with the individual student.  Next, try to find the root of the problem.  The misbehavior is caused by something--is it a need for attention?  Is it a way to cover-up a lack of success in the classroom?  Until we deal with the cause, the misbehavior will continue.  Finally, find a strategy that will stop the behavior.  That may mean moving the student to an isolated spot near your desk, using a positive behavior intervention plan (positive is always better than negative), or asking for help from an administrator.  Ultimately, misbehavior is a symptom.  Do your best to understand what is going on, then take appropriate steps from there.  

Friday, April 4, 2014

One of My Best Teachers

Last night, I was thinking about the difference teachers make, and I thought about one of my teachers, Mrs. Kiser.  I was lucky enough to have her as my English teacher for two years.  She was one of the most caring people I have ever met.  I still have a note she wrote me, encouraging me to step out and let the sun shine on me because I could make a difference.  Which of your teachers do you appreciate today?  How can they inspire you?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Most Important Job of a School Leader

Today, I'm working with a group of principals in an area school district.  One of the most common questions I receive from principals and other school leaders is, "What do you think is the most important job of a school leader?"  That one is easy--it's to remove barriers to student learning.  In other words, think from a perspective of "How would xxx positively impact student learning?"  If you take that perspective, how would it change what you are doing today?