• Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Categories
    Categories Displays a list of categories from this blog.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Archives
    Archives Contains a list of blog posts that were created previously.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

I have a confession to make. I've become obsessed with Design Thinking. It's gotten to the point where I "Design Thinking" everything. How do I Design Thinking my lunch? How do I Design Thinking my classroom phone policy? How do I Design Thinking teaching?

Teaching? Yep. Let's do that.

What I love about Design Thinking is that it's flexible. There are teaching approaches out there that tell us what to do, but it makes more sense for every teacher to teach differently every year, because we each get different students.

Think about it. We don't treat all our friends and family the same. Our interactions with them are largely based on our experience of who they are and what makes them tick. Teaching is the same way. One size fits all approaches do not work.

The challenge is that, in the grand scheme of things, we only know our students for a short time. However, personalization of education is not a fad; it's a thing. So. let's use the Design Thinking Cycle (Empathy, Definition, Ideation, Prototyping, Testing) to improve Teaching, shall we?

...
Last modified on
Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

Screen-Shot-2017-05-18-at-7.55.19-AM.png

Cognitive Overload. Unfortunately, we do that a lot. We often overwhelm students with information when we present it to them. What's worse, we teach them to do the same to others when they present. We are killing them. Well... We're killing their learning...

So, it is only fair we call the police on ourselves... Or stop the insanity...

Talk About 1 To 3 Key Points And Expand On Them

One way you may be killing your students is by doing too much. They say: Say Less! They mean it. So never, ever spend the entire class period presenting. Such practice is questionable even in college. And, it's NEVER student centered.

This is what most of my college experience was. Presentations were meant to be interactive, but usually only a small percentage of students asked questions or commented.

...
Last modified on

Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

If you are of a Certain Age, this how you were taught writing--

1) Learn the parts of speech, sentence parts, and the rest of grammar.
2) Learn how to construct a sentence.
3) Learn how to write several sentences to make a paragraph.
4) Learn how to write several paragraphs to make an essay.

That's how we were taught to write. Mind you, it is not how anybody actually learned to write-- okay, I can't say nobody learned that way because the first rule of actual writing is that everybody uses their own methods and one person's Functional Approach To Writing is another person's Unspeakably Awful Idea. But the number of people who actually learned to write by the above traditional method is tiny, like the number of people who learned how to play jazz trombone by watching Led Zeppelin videos.


The persistence of traditional grammar instruction in the English teaching world is an ongoing mystery, like the number of people who think vouchers would improve education. Some teachers do it because well, of course, that's what English teachers do. Some teachers do it because it's easier than taking calls from parents that include the phrase, "Well, back in my day..."

Grammar instruction has its place. It's a lot easier to fix things, and a lot a lot easier to talk about fixing things, if you can call those things something other than "things." It's hard to talk about the nuts and bolts of improving a piece of writing if we don't have the words "nuts" or "bolts."

But we know-- have known for years-- that simple instruction of grammar with grammar exercises and grammar drills and all the traditional things does not improve writing. You can read a good recap of the research here, and while I'm highly dubious about any research that claims it has measured the quality of student writing, the fancy big-time research matches what I've learned in my own class-sized laboratory over the past may decades. Drilling students all day on nouns and verbs and participials and dependent adverb clauses will not make them better writer, and bombarding their writing with the Red Pen of Doom deployed over every grammatical misstep (not to mention all the usage "mistakes" which are not grammatical issues at all no matter how many people insist on conflating the two
) will probably make them worse writers. Not that I'm an advocate for the loose anything-goes technique of just letting any kind of mess hit the page-- but if your basic foundation for writing is a bunch of grammar rules, your students are probably not getting any better at writing.
This truth is sometimes masked by volume. The best way to get better at writing is to write, and if you have your students writing regularly, that will help-- maybe even if you give them lousy feedback. God save us all from the "We only do writing for three weeks in April" approach.

But the basic unit of any piece of writing is not a word or a sentence or a paragraph or a rhetorical technique. The basic unit of writing is an idea.

The vast majority of writing problems are actually thinking problems. If you don't know what you want to say, you will have a hard time saying it. And in the modern test-centered education era, we have compounded the problem by teaching students that their central question should be "What am I supposed to write for this?"

Not "what do I want to say" or even "what idea could I construct a good essay out of" but "what am I supposed to write."

That question shifts the foundation of writing to a new skill set-- psychic powers. Can you discern what the teacher or the test manufacturer wants you to say? Try to say that. In this model of writing, what should be central to the writing process-- the ideas in the student's head-- actually becomes an obstacle-- in your search for the essay you're supposed to write, don't be distracted by your own individual ideas.

Messing up that first question of writing automatically interfered with the second question-- after you know what you want to say, you must next figure out how to say it. But test-centered standardized writing has a required set of "how" before you even get to what. In real writing, however, the "how" flows directly out of the "what." For emerging writers, we may provide a pre-fab "how," (looking at you, five paragraph essay) so that they can focus on their "what" and not freak out about how to express it. But once the "how" is coming before the "what," we're in trouble, because now we're not asking "what do I want to say," but "what could I say to fill in these five paragraphs."

There is another level to this problem with assigned student writing-- finding an answer for the student whose answer to "what do I want to say" is "I want to say that I don't care about this topic and have nothing to say about it." That is where a teacher's heavy lifting comes in, with discussion and conversation and maybe research and sometimes a song and dance. It can be a hard bridge to build, but that doesn't change the writing fundamentals-

The center of every piece of writing should be the what, the idea, the thing that the writer wants to say. Any other foundation results in a building that is shaky and unstable, a house in which nothing useful can live.

Last modified on
Hits: 829 Comments
Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

Screen-Shot-2017-03-02-at-8.30.44-PM.png

I love this quote by David Geurin, a Missouri high school principal. Check out David's blog for more progressive and game changing teaching and leading ideas.

Here's another quote I love and wholeheartedly agree with.

"Our job as teachers is not to "prepare" kids for something; our job is to help kids learn to prepare themselves for anything." - A.J. Juliani

What I take away from David and A.J.'s words is that the future is uncertain. The jobs of today will not exist tomorrow, but individuals who will possess the skills to learn anything, be able to reflect, creatively problem solve, take risks, stay persistent, and bring innovative solutions to the marketplace, will indeed be successful, regardless of what the future brings.

...
Last modified on
Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

Engaging students in vocabulary review is challenging. Here is a strategy for using digital breakouts to make vocabulary review fun and challenging. 

Step One: Build a Quizlet deck.

Quizlet is a great tool for making vocabulary flash cards. The Quizlet Live feature is another fun way to review vocabulary with students. 

Step Two: Click on "Test."

...
Last modified on