News for Education Professionals


Checking for Understanding
Finding out what students have learned and what to reteach requires more than asking students to nod or recite facts. 

Five Questions That Will Improve Your Teaching

Teacher and author Larry Ferlazzo suggests five questions that teachers should ask themselves in order to improve teaching and learning. He recommends that teachers ask whether what they plan to do or say will bring them closer to students and connect with students' self-interest. Ferlazzo also suggests that educators ask who is doing the work, whether their teaching is connected to higher-order thinking and whether all students are engaged in learning. 

Four Simple Tips to Start the Year Strong
High-school English teacher Nicholas Provenzano in this blog post offers four suggestions for a strong start to the school year. Among these, Provenzano recommends greeting each student as they arrive and initiating friendly conversations about summer activities to help create a comfortable environment and establish a tone that can be carried on throughout the school year.

Helping Students Deal with Uncertainty in the Classroom
Educators should integrate an element of uncertainty into their daily lessons, suggests technology-integration consultant Ben Johnson. Uncertainty prompts students to think about what they know and what they do not, and requires them to make decisions about what to do next -- important components for studying many subjects, such as statistics, math and science, Johnson writes.

How Focusing on Academic Vocabulary May Improve Reading
A program known as Word Generation focuses on the teaching of academic vocabulary words to improve students' reading ability. The middle-school program was shown to be particularly effective in improving reading ability among English-language learners at eight Boston schools. Students are taught five abstract vocabulary words each week, and the lessons are based on real-world events and core academic subjects. For example, students learning about argumentation, would learn words such as evidence, conclusion and warrant.

Mathematics Education: A Way Forward

Canadian educator David Wees writes that math teachers should work to engage students by making lessons relevant and focused on problem-solving and pattern-finding -- rather than simply covering the curriculum. He suggests no longer making mathematical computations the center of the curriculum, but rather putting real-world problems at the core and then considering which mathematical formulas would best be used to solve them.

Teaching Students to Ask Their Own Questions
A six-step process for teaching students to formulate their own questions can encourage them to take ownership of their learning, and deepen their understanding of a subject, write Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana, authors of the book, "Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions." The Question Formulation Technique can be used to introduce new material to students, gauge their understanding during a lesson or to help students set a new learning agenda at the end of a unit, the authors write.


Can Everyone Be Smart at Everything?
Studies have shown that praising students for intelligence and good grades, rather than effort, can lead them to focus on the grade rather than the learning process. Designating students as different types of learners also can lead students to believe that working hard means they are not smart, according to research by Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton, associate professor of psychology at UC Berkeley. "People have aptitudes that are undeniable," he said. "We can't all be geniuses, but we can all access learning."

Creating a Strong Parent Community
Former New York City teacher Marisa Kaplan, who is certified in special education, recommends enlisting parents in their children's education to boost learning and improve the classroom experience. In this blog, Kaplan suggests ways to involve parents, from inviting them to attend student publishing parties to asking them to share a talent as a guest teacher in the classroom.

How to Creatively Integrate Science and Math
"Science is the application of math," and so one should not be taught without the other, says education consultant Ben Johnson. Math lessons also will be more effective if students have a real-world application to tie them to, such as a science experiment. Johnson suggests science and math teachers work to more effectively integrate the two subjects.

Students get public speaking lessons
Some students in Florida's Flagler County Schools are getting lessons in public speaking and parliamentary procedure from members of a local Toastmasters club. Some of the students are part of a service-learning class that uses such skills as part of an effort to solve problems throughout their community. "I've become more confident speaking in front of people, and more fluent," student Makayla Leech said.

The 3-Step Method to Boosting Student Vocabulary
Improving students' vocabulary can help close the achievement gap for students whose first language is not English, says education consultant Ben Johnson. While working as an administrator, his school district improved achievement among Hispanic students, in part, by teaching them to understand the context of the words verbally, visually and aurally, he writes.

Your Classroom is Not an Airplane!
High-school English teacher Nicholas Provenzano offers some suggestions for educators who are considering technology in the classroom. Teachers should start small with one digital tool and spend time practicing how that tool can be best integrated into lessons, Provenzano offers. Teachers also should seek suggestions from students and other teachers about the latest technology, he writes.


Advice on rubrics that can help every teacher
Education consultant and online teacher Andrew Miller offers six tips for educators on creating and using rubrics. To keep the rubrics clear for students, teachers should use student-friendly language that is parallel in syntax and structure from column to column, Miller says. Other suggestions include using rubrics with students, rather than having them use the rubrics on their own.

How one teacher is using Twitter in the middle-school classroom
Seventh-grade science teacher Ella Bowling uses Twitter with her students at Mason County Middle School in Kentucky. Bowling first used the tool to distribute sample questions for students to prepare them for an upcoming test, and now is using the tool to teach students new vocabulary words and distribute useful educational videos to students over the holiday break.

How to create a classroom culture free of racism
There are several steps educators can take to ensure they are creating an anti-racist environment in the classroom, says Dr. Danielle Moss Lee, president and CEO of the Harlem Educational Activities Fund. Educators first should find ways to acknowledge race in the classroom, and seek out groups that are supporting minority students in the community, she writes. Other ideas include recognizing differences that exist within racial groups, reading about how to teach students of other races and maintaining self-awareness about potential biases. 

Should blogs be used to replace the traditional term paper?
More educators in the U.S. are replacing traditional academic research papers with blogs as a vehicle for teaching writing to students. Advocates of the method, including Duke University English Professor Cathy N. Davidson, argue that the medium is more fun and engaging for students. But critics defend the traditional term paper, saying it requires more student reading and is a better tool for teaching students critical-thinking and other important skills needed in the job market.

Strategies and practices for differentiating instruction
Sacramento, Calif., authors Katie Hull-Sypnieski and Larry Ferlazzo, both members of the Teacher Leaders Network, offer five strategies for differentiating instruction to meet students' diverse needs, along with five best practices for employing the strategies in the classroom. Among the strategies, they suggest educators first develop trust and build relationships with students to help prompt ideas for creating individual assignments.

The Mad Scientist of Middle School
A middle-school teacher in Indiana says his goal is to make science exciting for students through hands-on projects and experiments that get them involved in what they are learning. Before students left for winter break, they made "heterogeneous mixtures that settle over time" -- in this case, milkshakes. He also bases lessons on holidays such as St. Patrick's Day. 

Why mistakes help deepen students' learning
Allowing students to make mistakes and become frustrated puts them on a path to deeper learning as their struggle can help lead them to a better grasp of the material, according to instructional coach David Ginsburg. Teachers should anticipate students' mistakes, allow them to make the errors and have a plan to help them troubleshoot, Ginsburg writes.


Building 21st Century Writers
Writing-focused initiatives are supported by one-to-one technology programs in one California school district and one Colorado district. Fourth-grade students in Saugus, Calif., are using Web-based software accessible on their netbooks to help improve their writing skills. In Littleton, Colo., a technology-based writing initiative that began with fifth-grade students has been expanded to students throughout the district.

Building trust between teachers and parents
Carrie Rose, executive director of the Parent/Teacher Home Visit Project, writes in this blog post about the benefits of home visits in helping teachers build trust with parents. Home visits aid in communication and ensure teachers and parents have the same goals for students, according to Rose and other educators. If students know that teachers are communicating regularly with their parents, they also are more likely to be better behaved, educators say.

Grading Practices: The Third Rail

The field of education has an issue that is lethal to try and change.  That issue is grading.  Grading is one of the most private experiences for students and teachers in the learning process.  Usually, a teacher's grading protocols, which can be harmful to students, originate from his or her own experiences as a student.   

How are NYC educators using the common core in the classroom?
Educators involved in a pilot of the Common Core State Standards in some New York City schools gathered Monday to discuss how the standards are being used to shape instruction. Elementary teacher Nekia Wise said the standards' focus on "inquiry-based learning" builds on an approach she has long used in the classroom that favors hands-on experiences over rote learning. Others cautioned that teachers will need time and support to create new standards-aligned lessons.

Principles of Instruction
Research-based strategies that all teachers should know. This article presents 10 research-based principles of instruction, along with suggestions for classroom practice. 

Setting "core" standards for the classroom
As schools prepare to implement new Common Core State Standards, author and gifted-education teacher Anthony S. Colucci writes about the personal standards to which he holds himself in the classroom. Colucci strives to make his lessons engaging and aims to teach and model a culture of hard work. He also works to impart the skills students need to be responsible citizens, encourages them to pursue fulfilling careers and aims to treat them with respect, regardless of their performance or behavior.

Tips for teaching students about fractions
While fraction arithmetic can be confusing for students, instructional coach David Ginsburg writes that teachers can head off some difficulties by teaching fractions conceptually -- before they are approached procedurally. He suggests ideas that allow students to visualize fractions, such as hitting three of every four free throws, or one of every two. "In other words, teachers need to develop students' understanding of fractions using manipulatives -- actual and/or virtual," Ginsburg writes.


Asking Good Questions for Engagement and Effective Learning
Sara Armstrong has contributed an excellent article on using effective questioning techniques to help create curious problem-solvers and critical thinkers in your classrooms.

Two Challenges in Teaching ELLs
This is an excerpt from Ferlazzo and Sypnieski's book The ESL/ELL Teacher's Survival Guide, which will be published in summer 2012 by Jossey-Bass. There are many challenges in teaching English language learners. Here are two that we encounter and how we respond to them.

Instructional Strategies for ELLs in Mainstream Classrooms
Vocabulary frontloading, nonlinguistic support during direct instruction, and oral language practice can help improve whole-group instruction for your ELLs.


Is the classroom lecture on its way out?
A recent survey revealed that 47% of teachers said they are abandoning classroom lectures in favor of teaching methods that integrate more technology and are student-inclusive. The survey also found that a growing number of teachers and students are using technology, such as laptops and smartphones, in the classroom. However, educators said implementing classroom technology has, in some cases, been challenging -- causing some to call for more collaboration between educators and IT professionals.

What middle-school girls want from education

Middle-school girls favor education that give them more autonomy and flexibility in how they learn -- causing them to favor e-learning -- according to a recent study. "They want more attention from their teacher, they want to be able to work at their own pace, and they seem to have an understanding that an online class provides that kind of environment," said Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow, which conducted the study.

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