Teacher Talk

Sticky Faith

posted Feb 3, 2019, 2:14 AM by HSD Principal

I have been trying this year to encourage us all to reference big ideas - SLRs, school theme, ELL goals, etc. - more frequently and in a variety of ways. We know that the more ways in which students can relate current learning to already existing knowledge, the more likely it is to "stick" for a longer period of time.

SEW is over, but that doesn't mean Pastor Mike's message is done its work. As you have opportunity, remind students of his messages, connect them to your current learning in class, and bring his challenges back to students' minds. I trust that God's word is active in our students' hearts, some of them may just require a bit more processing time.

In fact, do that with any chapel message or homeroom lesson as you find opportunity. The more ways in which a message becomes meaningful to students, the better.

Media Literacy

posted Jan 25, 2019, 9:53 PM by HSD Principal

We have not been able to offer our own Media Literacy course in a couple of years, but those skills are invaluable for students dealing with the media glut technology offers. If your course deals with evaluating and using sources, critiquing positions or arguments, or other uses of media, you may want to integrate some of those skills into your curriculum. If you don't know where to start, here are some things to get you going:

Crash Course now has a Media Literacy course that provides YouTube videos covering its content, packaged in a course-like structure.

Ithaca College's Project Look Sharp is a "media literacy initiative of Ithaca College that develops and provides lesson plans, media materials, training, and support for the effective integration of media literacy with critical thinking into classroom curricula."

The Center for Media Literacy also has both developed and gathered numerous resources to help inform parents and teachers and to teach skills to students.

High-Level Engagement Without Burning Out

posted Jan 19, 2019, 10:06 PM by HSD Principal

In this Chronicle of Higher Education article, Jane Halonen (University of West Florida) and Dana Dunn (Moravian College) say that high-involvement classroom strategies are beneficial for students, but they’re also labor-intensive and potentially exhausting for instructors. Some examples:
  • Giving students multiple opportunities to revise their work (which means reviewing all those drafts);
  • Giving students detailed feedback on their writing (which may be ignored by students interested only in their grade);
  • Group projects (should “loafers” get the same grade as those who really did the work?);
  • Internships where students lose interest and don’t put in the requisite effort (creating extra work for faculty advisers);
  • Seminars for newbie students who need lots of acculturation (“Remembering what it is like to be a novice and what specific advice may be useful to new students adds a dimension of effort well beyond course content,” say the authors.) 
But Halonen and Dunn believe such classroom strategies don’t have to result in burnout. Here’s how:
  • Start small. It’s wise to try out feedback-intensive strategies in one course. “A simple cost-benefit analysis may be useful in trying to determine whether the high-impact practice path is worth undertaking in a given course,” say the authors.
  • Advocate for additional grading support. Because giving feedback on student writing is so important – and so time-consuming – extra person-power should be provided.
  • Be judicious giving detailed feedback. Students can get a lot from a course without getting copious comments on everything they do.
  • Triage. Ascertain which students will really put detailed comments to work and spend time on their work; for those who signal that they just want a grade, minimize comments.
  • Use rubrics. Creating clear grading criteria up front saves lots of time down the road, and giving the rubric to students clarifies expectations and improves the caliber of work (and, of course, higher-quality work is easier to grade). 
  • Use digital shortcuts. This might include pasting in stock comments on papers that contain similar shortcomings.
  • Consider using audio feedback. This is efficient since most of us can speak faster than we can write.
  • Stagger deadlines. “Nothing can gut your enthusiasm for teaching like facing a large stack of papers that must be read and evaluated at the end of the semester,” say Halonen and Dunn. “Encourage students to sign up for different submission times.”
  • Poll groups on individual contributions. To discourage freeloaders, ask students to indicate anonymously how much each member contributed, and factor that into grades.
  • Get students’ feedback on the course. “If the high-impact practices produce the transformative effects claimed by the experts,” say Halonen and Dunn, “then the positive reports you hear from students might make the long hours you’ve put in seem worthwhile.”
  • Make sure you get credit. First-rate teaching practices, as compared to delivering the same lectures year after year, should be recognized in teacher evaluations and commendations.
This week's write-up comes via The Marshall Memo. 

Classroom Discussions / Conversations

posted Jan 13, 2019, 2:56 PM by HSD Principal

Back to Jennifer Gonzalez this week: In “Get Students Talking with Ongoing Conversations”, she describes teacher Jeff Frieden's process of engaging his students in class discussions. With a few simple changes to how he runs discussions, he reports the following benefits:
  • Much more on-task student talk
  • Students getting to know many more classmates
  • Developing social skills: “There’s tremendous benefit in getting past some of the socially awkward stuff,” says Frieden. “And really just learning how to interact with another human being will actually enrich your academic life too."
  • The opportunity to quickly check for understanding by walking around listening in on conversations – for example, when he asked a sophomore class to talk about Clover as the class read Animal Farm, he heard a lot of students asking “Who’s Clover?” so he called time out and talked about the character and her relevance to the book.
  • Less need for exit tickets and quizzes. “I collect less work,” he says, “but students do more.”

Your Work Matters

posted Dec 2, 2018, 4:58 AM by HSD Principal

Piles of grading. Irate parents. Disrespectful, disinterested students. Constant testing and unreasonable requirements. These, and many more things, conspire against teachers and try to bring us down. To discourage us. To make us wonder if we are wasting our time.

And today I want to offer you a small word of encouragement. You are NOT wasting your time. What you’re doing DOES matter. Your labor is not in vain.

I was going to tell you that there are students in your class who will look back on this year and be thankful for your influence. They may even be the one causing you the most trouble.

I was going to remind you that growth takes time and tell you that the seeds you are planting in young hearts and minds will grow and bring forth fruit, even if you might not see it yet.

I was going to tell you that you are making a difference. That there are students who care. Who are grateful. Who are learning. Who are growing. Even if they never tell you.

I was going to tell you all of this until I realized that all of these things pale in comparison to one very important fact.

God sees your effort, your work, your labor. And He is the only one that truly matters.

God sees the long hours and the shed tears. He knows your biggest frustrations and your deepest hurts.

He doesn’t overlook you. And He doesn’t take you for granted.

We put so much thought & effort into doing our best for our students. Into being the best teacher we can for their sake. And while we should emphasize the kids’ needs above our own, there is someone else that we should be serving above all else: our God.

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. (Col. 3:23-24)

This powerful verse reminds us that we are working for an audience of one: our Lord Jesus Christ.

When no one else seems to notice, He sees.

When no one else seems to care, He cares.

When our words seem to be falling flat, He sees our effort and is pleased with our faithfulness.

If we’re doing it all for Him.

So today, in the midst of the busyness, the frustration, the chaos – take a moment and remember the real reason that you are teaching. It shouldn’t be for the praise. It shouldn’t be for the satisfaction. It shouldn’t even be for the kids.

The real reason we are teaching should be for God.

And if we keep our focus on Him, it doesn’t matter as much what’s happening around us.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. (I Cor. 15:58)

So don’t give up. Don’t quit.

Be encouraged in the Lord. Find the help you need.

And keep making a difference.

~ Linda Kardamis, from Teach4theHeart.

Classroom Management: It's not too Late

posted Nov 25, 2018, 3:15 AM by HSD Principal

Classroom management is usually something that gets attention at the beginning of the school year. But if your practices have started to wander throughout the semester (along with your students' minds?), it's not too late to restore solid procedures in your classroom. 

Jennifer Gonzalez teaches through negative examples in her article about Sabotaging Classroom Management. As a bonus, she presents her info through an infographic, a blog entry, and a podcast episode, so you can digest it in the way that works best for you.

Stay Calm and Teach On is advice specifically on how not to lose your cool while maintaining order. Maybe of particular interest right now, the author says term breaks can provide an easy way to refocus on classroom management - from a positive perspective:
Besides in-the-moment resets, holiday breaks or extended absences offer a natural opening for starting anew. Just make sure to give students a learning rationale for the reset, "which you can invent," says Lemov. When returning from winter break, for example, tell students, "Great, guys, we're halfway through the year and we've got a lot to accomplish so we can be super successful. We need to nail the routines for how we do things in the classroom so we're productive and the class is as engaging as it can possibly be." Or, "We only have 30 days until our big unit test on Lord of the Flies, and this novel is really important, so we need to make sure we crush it."

"It goes back to procedures and routines," says Lemov. "Identify two or three problem areas (like silent independent work), carefully plan out solutions, and have students practice so that they know how to do it right."

As you reteach procedures, instead of saying, "That wasn't good enough," try, "That was good, but we want everything we do in this classroom to be great. Let's see if we can do that perfectly." Positive framing, Lemov continues, "can be a culture shift in the classroom and earn a lot of student buy-in."

Fixing High School By Listening To Students

posted Nov 11, 2018, 3:18 AM by HSD Principal

Below is a full article by Grant Wiggins, Ed.D, Authentic Education

I recently had a pleasant back and forth with Michael Petrilli of the Fordham Institute on what ails the high school. He was reviewing the recent disconcerting NAEP results that once again show high school achievement is resistant to reform. On this he and I agree. But then he proposed some diagnoses, the latter of which I think is totally off base (an E D Hirsch diagnosis). I strongly agree with his conclusion: it’s high time we better understood the problem of the high school. (Hard to believe that after 30 years of reform that started with me working with Ted Sizer in the Coalition of Essential Schools, we still lack clear answers.) After going back and forth collegially, we agreed to do some walk-throughs together next school year.

Meanwhile, I can offer a fairly sobering picture of what ails the high school, drawn from our student survey. Below, I have singled out one school. It could not be more typical of the American high school: in a midwestern suburb, mostly white, average size (900ish), with state test scores in the respectable 80+ percent proficient.

The survey results represent a very large sample – approximately 2/3 of all students, and, as best as I can tell from comparing the demographic data, a very representative sample. Below, I provide the data. In my follow-up post, we look at student constructed responses.

What is the typical GPA? And how hard is school for you?



What is your favorite subject?


Surprised? You shouldn’t be. John Goodlad found the same thing 30 years ago in A Place Called School, and our surveys have had PE at #1 every year. Nor should it be a surprise that Science and the Arts are ranked highly for the same reasons. (We will of course want to understand better why this is so).

Why is the subject the favorite? The selected response answer may seem very counter-intuitive to readers, but it tracks all our survey responses from the start of my effort on this 4 years ago:


What, then are the least favorite subjects?


No surprise there if you consider most kids’ experiences. What is of course noteworthy is that math was the 3rd favorite – and this is a consistent finding in our survey. It’s very bi-modal: you either love math or you hate it, and many more people hate it that love it. (More on the reasons, below).

Why is this subject your least favorite? Consistent with ALL past survey results, the teacher is NOT the determining factor:


Alert readers will no doubt respond: maybe math is just the least liked but not hated at all. Well, we factored that issue into the survey. How negative is your feeling about math?


What about intellectual challenge?


The Science response is interesting in light of the fact that it is one of the more highly like subjects: engagement and rigor are not opposites. The ELA/English response is, of course, worrisome. (More in the follow-up post).


Now, what about boredom in general?


Worrisome – but not surprising, if you have followed my survey results and the National Study of Student Engagement.

What makes the class/work boring?


Finally, what about the teachers’ approaches and attitudes?



 Look closely at the number of responses that get a majority of answers as the total of Disagree and Strongly disagree:

1. Teachers make the work interesting, give me good feedback

2. Teachers play to my talents and interests

3. Teachers differentiate

Most worrisome, only half say teachers know them – a key indicator in Gallup’s study of student success. By the way, this school’s profile is NOT representative of the best schools in our survey. On those, as with all questions, no survey question in this list gets a majority of student disagreement.

More telling are the constructed response answers, as you’ll see next time. Students were asked to explain why they liked and disliked subjects, what was the most interesting work they have done this year, and if they could tell their teachers 1 thing to make school better, what would it be?

In my follow-up post we’ll look at those responses in light of these graphs because they shed important light on the meaning of the numbers. That said, you can probably already answer the question: if this is a ‘typical’ high school – and it is – what is the problem statement?

Fixing High School By Listening To Students; image attribution flickr uservancouverfilmschoolThis article was excerpted from a post that first appeared on Grant’s personal blogGrant can be found on twitter here

Retrieved from http://www.teachthought.com/everything-else/ed-reform/fixing-high-school-listening-to-students/

Some Resources to Help Your PD Initiatives

posted Oct 28, 2018, 5:16 AM by HSD Principal

Some of your departments have developed goals that involve peer observations. In The Expert Next Door, there is a good model for how to make the most of a more formal peer observation process.

Since we are all focusing on supporting our growing ELL population, here are a few articles on that topic:

Aída Walqui and Margaret Heritage give a list of methods for developing ELL students' oral language, as well as some misconceptions teachers often have about working with ELL students in Supporting English Learners’ Oral Language Development

In Educating English Language Learners, Diane August distills wide research on ELL learning into a handful of tested methods:
  • Provide Access to Grade-Level Course Content
  • Build on Effective Practices Used with English-Proficient Students
  • Provide Supports to Help ELLs Master Core Content and Skills
  • Develop ELLs’ Academic Language
  • Encourage Peer-to-Peer Learning Opportunities
  • Capitalize on Students’ Home Language, Knowledge, and Cultural Assets
  • Screen for Language and Literacy Challenges, Monitor Progress, and Support ELLs Who Are Struggling

Students Learn Best When You Do This... and This... and This

posted Oct 21, 2018, 4:07 AM by HSD Principal

by Grant Wiggins, Ed.D, Authentic Education

Want to know what kids need in order to learn better? Ask them: Here are the first 50 answers, unedited, from our typical HS.

I learn best when the teacher –

  1. Is hands on and doesn’t just talk at me. 
  2. They need to be interested what they’re teaching and encourage class discussions. Not only does this encourage us to use what we learned, it also helps us see the information in a different way.
  3. I learn best when the class is interactive and the teacher makes it fun and meaningful for my life
  4. I learn best in class when the teacher teaches one-on-one
  5. Explains it, then shows it, then asks us to demonstrate to make sure we know how to do it and if we don’t then further explains
  6. Assigns groups.
  7. Is engaging and attempts to relate to the students, not talk down at them
  8. gets the class involved and has hands on activities.
  9. I’m a hands on learner
  10. Allows us to ask questions and goes into detail.
  11. Teaches me in a hands on way, in other words I need to do an activity in order to learn it
  12. Shows a personality. Like when a teacher is humorous or shares personal experiences. When a teacher shows they are human, and don’t just do robotic teaching.
  13. Is showing me something visually instead of just talking at the students
  14. Shows the class what to do by demonstration
  15. Shows me step by step on how to do things and clarify any misunderstanding. Also has fun activities that involve interaction between other students in order to gain new insights. Has having field trips to experience real life situations.
  16. Is there to answer questions and gives us a lot of practice that is related to what we are going to be tested on.
  17. Interacts and gives us hands on things to do
  18. Helps me one on one
  19. Has us do things during class for us to learn
  20. Is enthusiastic about what we are learning and makes the learning fun and jokes around with us
  21. Interacts with the class and doesn’t just answer the questions on their own
  22. Slows down and does hands on activities
  23. Hands on with notes and examples
  24. Helps us learn by using visuals
  25. Teaches the class. Not when the students have to teach each other. That was horrible
  26. Actually wants us to learn about the subject and asks us questions about why we should learn this and gives us activities that ties it to the real world and outside of school
  27. hands on activities like anatomy.
  28. Has something (activity, homework, etc) that effectively demonstrates the concept
  29. Gives us a debate or something to discuss with each other
  30. Make learning active and fun
  31. I learn best when the teacher stands up in class teaches the lesson and then gives hand on activities instead of busy work. It also helps when if you don’t understand something the teacher is willing to help instead of just saying they can’t help us.
  32. Involves the whole class and we have in class discussions and everything is really hands on.
  33. Is hands on, gives us group activities and we share ideas.
  34. Hands on activities and expressing my ideas with others
  35. Is excited about what they are teaching and has many class discussions
  36. Anything that’s visual like when a problem is written out or when I have one on one with the teacher
  37. Engages students and makes content interesting.
  38. Is fun and makes me engaged
  39. Is fun and knows how to work well with the class
  40. Goes slow and spends many days going over what we are learning
  41. Gives examples & actually shows you what to do
  42. does more hands on things
  43. Talking in an exciting voice, acts like they want to be there, and help
  44. Doesn’t lecture the whole class and gives us lots of worksheets
  45. Actually teaches the class instead of simply sitting in the back of the room and play on his computer.  Or when the teacher provides no constructive criticism.
  46. Has activities for us to do and is more hands on and actually makes learning fun and want us to come to school not just another dreadful day waiting for the last bell to ring at 2:45
  47. Is more hands on, and cracks a joke here and there to keep my attention. When class is more layer back rather that really strict. Open discussion is a great stress reliever.
  48. Lectures and then let’s students work.
  49. Is interacting and asking us questions. It keeps me alert and I like getting the answers from fellow students as well as the teacher.
  50. Makes the material interesting to learn. Sometimes reading out of a book or listening to a lecture isn’t enough – I need to do hands on activities to see the point of things.

This article was excerpted from a post that first appeared on Grant’s personal blogGrant can be found on twitter here; image attribution flickr userglobalpartnershipforeducation

Retrieved from http://www.teachthought.com/pedagogy/students-learn-best/

Self-Assessment and Metacognition

posted Oct 13, 2018, 12:14 AM by HSD Principal

As you endeavor to help your students be reflective on their learning, here are some ideas from Understanding by Design to help you along (I really like the fourth suggestion):
    • Set aside five minutes in the middle and at the end of an inquiry-based lesson... to consider these questions: So what have we concluded? What remains unsolved or unanswered?
    • Require that a self-assessment be attached to every formal product or performance, with the option of basing a small part of the student's grade on the accuracy of the self-assessment.
    • Include a one-minute essay at the end of the lecture, in which students summarize the two or three main points and the questions that still remain for them (and, thus, next time, for the teacher!).
    • Require students to attach a postscript to any formal paper or product in which they must be honest about what they do and do not really understand about the subject in question - regardless of how authoritative their work may appear. (Of course, students need to know that they will not be penalized for confessing!)
    • Train students to evaluate work in the same way that teachers are trained as advanced placement [sic] readers, so that students become more accurate as peer reviewers and self-assessors, and more inclined to "think like assessors" in their work, too.
Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. p. 216.

Another way to help students evaluate learning is to train them to question their textbooks and other learning materials. As you use course materials, you can help students ask: 
  • What point of view is the author of this textbook promoting? Does he have an agenda?
  • Is the author making assumptions that should be questioned? How can I get more information to make informed conclusions?
  • Can I find a source that comes to a differing conclusion? How can I reconcile the differences?
  • Does this textbook give all the information worth knowing on this subject? How could I find out more?
  • And most importantly: Does what is communicated in this source align with what I understand from the Bible? If not, how do I reconcile the differing perspectives?
The answers to those questions may help students come to deeper understandings of your subject matter, and may help you address essential questions, much more effectively than just following the textbook's outline.

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