Hot Links 4-18-19

How can we teach kids to question?– The Right Question Institute talks about helping our students learn to formulate questions to enhance their thinking.

3 Phrases I Have Been Rethinking– George Couros shares some interesting thoughts.

Why Doesn’t Every Teacher Know the Research on Reading Instruction?– To share one reason- Time. I am learning that the more I learn, the more I have to learn. If I could just sit and read and research, I would like that. 🙂 This post is long, but a good one.

Building a Thinking Classroom in MathPeter Liljedahl offers some thoughts on changing our classroom to facilitate better mathematical thinking.

How To Avoid Losing Your Students’ Attention– Michael Linsin deals with a problem many of us have in the classroom.


Hot Links 4-14-19

Where is the balance to be had that our students are invested in their personal growth and learning versus just interested in their scores. I do not think they are mutually exclusive always. However, it is easy for us to be so interested in the kids getting a certain score before we allow them to move on to the “fun” things their peers are doing instead of more reteaching.

I have seen some of my students get excited about the scores because I have made it a big deal; I have seen them interested in scores because it means they get out of being retaught…again. How do you all balance that? I want my students to be more interested in their growth in learning, and a number doesn’t always reflect that. I want my students to not simply be focused on getting out of more work (or taking the test again…and again). Do any of you have this one figured out? Do you see any of this in your students? Just me?


Why Teachers Love Teaching (As Shared by Teachers)– Why do you?

How to Adapt a Project to Fit Your Students & Make It Gold Standard PBL– What I am enjoying about many teachers out there is the sharing and adapting of content and activities. Make it your own!

3 Important Questions to Help Measure the School Experience of Students– Do they feel safe and valued? Does school prepare them for today and tomorrow?

10 ideas for digital exit tickets (and some analog ones, too)– Matt Miller shares some ideas.

Why Allowing Your Students To Talk Can Be An Effective Classroom Management Strategy– Michael Linsin explains why. Kagan cooperative structures help with some focused talking as well.

Jo Boaler- Mathematical Mindset Thoughts

On Testing

Another way in which a damaging performance culture is cultivated is through frequent testing. Many teachers who have embraced the need for a growth mindset culture are frustrated by testing as they tell students that mistakes and struggle are important for brain growth, and then are forced to grade them down every time they make a mistake.

On John Hattie

It seems noteworthy that two aspects of Assessment for Learning, students reporting their own progress and teachers using formative methods (such as diagnostic comments) are among the top five factors and students reporting their own progress has the highest impact of all. Conversely the impact of “teaching test taking” comes in at a lowly 98th place with an impact of 0.27 – well below the 0.4 effect size that makes an educational practice worthwhile.


High Testing Days- Silly Observations & Encouragement

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. No, not Christmas. Not Easter- Well, almost. Not Halloween. Or Birthdays. Or Summer Break. Or Root canals. Or exploratory surgery. Or getting eaten by a bear. Or any number of things that would be better than what happens every year around this time.

You guessed it. It is that time of the year that good teachers get to question the usefulness of their life and career. When they doubt they have taught their kids anything. The time where we question our career choices. The time of the year that we try, somehow, to not infect our kids with the doubt, stress, and pressure of the STATE TEST.

Image result for test stress teacher

The time when we inadvertently (or advertantly- is that a word?) heaps mounds of test prep, worksheets and drill and kill activities while trying to not obliterate the love and joy and wonder and curiosity and creativity of learning we have strived to instill in our kiddos all year long.

We have to somehow help the students whose lives are in turmoil because of broken families, poverty, drugs, deaths, or violence see that this 2-3 week test is important. But to many, those stories don’t matter. We want their scores, well, we want their good scores. Because to the the State, it doesn’t matter WHY. It doesn’t matter that there is a story– a real life human behind those numbers. And God forbid those schools/districts that the Testing is tied to whether you have a job, a raise or not. That doesn’t seem right.

This year, I jokingly noticed that our grade level starts testing on the day taxes are due and the Anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Haha

Image result for test stress teacher

Yeah Yeah… I know that this is a necessary evil. Most folks don’t care for the test, but there it is. (I was gonna say All, but I fear there may be some who like torturing kids for fun- Haha). It helps with accountability and shows what students learn…except when it doesn’t. My 11 year old made this comment the other day. “This test doesn’t really show what we learned. After working on the test for hours, even I want to stop trying.” 

Gah! Image result for pulling my hair out I promise I didn’t coach her, but I may recruit her for writing a guest blog post.

She gets it. The test does little to show what the kids actually learned. It just shows how they did on one day (or weeks). How they performed.

How many intelligent teachers had trouble passing the RICA or CSET? Did their performance mean they didn’t learn? Did their performance reflect on ALL the teachers they ever had? NOPE. And neither does should this one test reflect on a teacher’s (or all previous teachers) effectiveness.

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Words of Encouragement

YOU are enough. You have prepared these students the best that you can for this year.

YOU are enough. You have loved and cared for these kiddos.

YOU make a difference. You prepare these kiddos to be ready for life. How to be a good citizen.

YOU make a difference. When they remember you, they will remember the way you cared for them, the way you greeted them, the way you made them feel valued, for making them feel like more than a number.

YOU make a difference. You are inspiring creativity, care and collaboration in these young people.

YOU matter. You are training the kids, not just for the future. But for RIGHT NOW.

YOU matter. Just by being a caring adult who shows up every day, starting over each day.

We have a great privilege and honor to be in this great profession.

Be encouraged during this testing season. Take a breath. Refuse to take on more stress than necessary. Take a breath again. We are in the final stretch. Hang in there. 

Twitter & Testing & Surveys, Oh My

So, I was waiting for my car to get an oil change and washed and I was checking out Twitter. Here was one the things that popped up in a CUE Chat.

“Funny thing, we spent a month giving practice tests to get ready for 3 weeks of tests. So what was 6 months of curriculum for? Still hear Ts saying gotta give those IAB’s!!!!— seen on cue chat.”

How true is this? We spend so much time teaching our kids during the year. Do we really need extra testing to get them ready for the test? Is there a better way? Even my 11 year old suggests the test doesn’t really tell what kids have learned. She is a good student and stops wanting to try near the end of the test.

Nevermind those teachers that have to (want to?) give the IABs throughout the year. So, instead of a testing period of time, we turn the whole year into test prep? Is this good for students’ learning? It is arguably good for raising test scores, but is it good for their learning? Is it good for them?

Do we ever think to ask them?

This leads me to another thing I saw. This time on Matt Vaudrey’s feed.

“It’s a great time to be vulnerable, take a risk, and ask for feedback.

Teachers, give your students a Teacher Report Card:

Coach, TOSA, or Admin? Give your Ts a COACH Report Card: 

or an ADMIN Report Card: 

What is risky is that he is suggesting we ask the people under our “care” how we are doing. What is scary about this is that it is easy to think we are doing great things, when some of the things we do may not be so great to those we are trying to help.
The flip side is sometimes we can get a glimpse into how we are making a difference.
So, I challenge you (and myself) to give it a shot.
Plus, maybe don’t feel pressure to do ALL the IABs. Instead, give your gives a genuine pep talk, have some fun together while learning and wish them luck on the “test”. They (and we) are not defined by this ONE test out of a year of learning and assessments.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Hot Links 4-2-19

WHAT PROJECT-BASED LEARNING LOOKS LIKE IN AN ELEMENTARY CLASSROOM– AJ Juliani offers a look inside some PBL in an elementary classroom. Great ideas that could be adapted.

There’s a Better Way to Teach Students with Learning Disabilities– Jo Boaler discusses how recent studies in brain science should change the way we view student learning.

10 Beneficial Things to Know About Brain-Based Learning Instruction– More on brain studies.

The Past Preparing Our Students for the Future– George Couros. We have to prepare students for the future, but we don’t have to get rid of traditional teaching just because it is older. We must to see if it is good teaching.

21 Things You Should Never Do To Students– Michael lists many things that are not good for our students. I will not admit that I have done many of these, at any given time…OK. I have. The goal is to be careful doing these things.

Have a great week.

Use it or Don’t 🙂


Hot Links 3-22-19


Gasping for Air– Does Accelerated Reader leave kids so immersed in books that they are gasping for air? Not usually.

“Confidence is crucial to effective leadership but so is humility.”– George Couros talks about leadership.

A Project Runs Through It– Some clever ideas linking river rafting with PBL. From PBL Works (formerly Buck Institute)

Everyone Can Learn Mathematics to High Levels: The Evidence from Neuroscience that Should Change our Teaching– Jo Boaler suggests that new research should cause us to reevaluate our teaching (and ideas about learning)

8 Common Core Math Standards, Explained [+ Examples]– The Prodigy Blog has a helpful post on the Mathematical Practices standards.

Hot Links- 3-5-19

Aligning Assessment to Brain Science– Ever since hearing Jo Boaler speak 3 years ago at CUE, I have been hooked into what she is trying to do in the field of educational maths. She has transformed my outlook for how to teach maths. I have a long way to go and I’m still learning, but it is good stuff. This article is no exception.

HOW MY VIEW ON GRIT CHANGED WITH ONE SIMPLE STUDY– A good look at why a picture may be a thousand words, but it doesn’t mean it is accurate. How often do we assume something before we know the facts or the context.

It’s Time Teachers Reclaimed ‘Personalized Learning’ in the Name of Equity – While technology can certainly help, there is more to personalized learning than just a computer program, no matter how good or “research based” it may be.

5 ways you can Ditch That Burnout– Teacher burnout can easily happen especially as we start to wind down the school year and all that brings.


The Other 21st Century Skills

This post by User Generated Education needs its own post. This post takes the idea that students need to have the 4C’s (Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration and Creativity) and extends it to some offshoots, and expands them to include other traits.

My first response was, man, that list is long, but Jackie Gerstein does a good job of explaining them. Plus, many of them are rolled into the skills we are already teaching our kids. Sometimes being aware of these things can help us stay focused.

Check out the post, and enjoy these infographics:




Hot Links 2-24-19

From Performance to Learning: Assessing to Encourage Growth Mindsets– Jo Boaler does a fantastic job explaining why using a growth mindset, particularly in math, is so important to our students’ learning. She discusses how many times we unknowingly sabotage a growth mindset by focusing on testing and scores and not on the mistakes and learning from them to grow in mathematical understanding. A whole post could be devoted to this!- But she explains it a LOT better. If you only read one link, this is the one.

“Assessment plays a key role in the messages given to students about their potential, and many classrooms need to realign their assessment approach in order to encourage growth instead of fixed mindsets among students.” Jo Boaler

Below is a chart outlining the difference between traditional grading and Assessment for Learning.

Screenshot 2019-02-24 16.27.59.pngMoving Beyond a “Growth Mindset”– George Couros suggests that having a growth mindset is good, but encourages us to move beyond, to an innovator’s mindset.

MEMORIZATION VS. AUTOMATICITY: BACK TO BASICS OR BEYOND THE BASICS?– This post explains why it is important to develop our students’ math minds and not just get them to memorize. Kyle Pierce explains the difference.