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Posted by on in General

Letting go of control in your classroom is difficult.

As teachers, we sometimes have a hard time letting go of control. As we consider management issues, keeping everyone engaged, and the constant pressures of pacing guides and state testing, the easiest solution seems to be for us to take control in any and every way possible. This often leads to the development of many teacher-centered classrooms. These are classrooms that are planned, controlled, and paced around the teacher, not the students.

You Might Be Surprised.

Although it can feel counter-intuitive, one of the best ways to increase accountability, ownership, and success of students is to let them lead. Anytime you can make changes in your classroom to provide opportunities for your students to lead is a step in the right direction. When students feel that ownership, they’ll work harder for you. When you provide them with what they need, when they need it, they’ll be more engaged. And when you stop, listen, and adjust based on what does and does not work for them, they’ll be much more likely to succeed.

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Posted by on in General

We talk a lot about how to increase student achievement and improve learning in our classrooms.

A lot of these conversations are centered around what needs to be added or changed in a classroom, NOT what should be removed. Many of the practices that still exist in classrooms across the country are not only outdated, but they are making progress and growth nearly impossible for schools and districts.

Here are 7 ways that you might be making progress and learning impossible for your students.

1. Lecturing too much.

If you didn't already know I'm not a huge fan of Lecturing. Not only does the research not support it (at all), but it is archaic, disengaging for students, and after only 10 minutes, you've lost over 50% of your students. Any longer and those numbers go up.

I truly don't care how good you think you are at lecturing, this is simply an ineffective practice when used on a daily basis or as the primary means of instruction. If you do this more than a few times a week, please stop. Direct instruction and lecturing have their limited place, and I'm not saying they should never happen in a classroom, but they should come in the form of short, purposeful, and targeted discussions with learners, not the tired and broken "sit and get" model of instruction.

[bctt tweet="If some of this hits a little too close to home, it's ok. It is okay for us to recognize that our classroom, or instruction, or management is not quite perfect. We can always improve.

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Posted by on in General

Mastery learning doesn’t have to be scary.

A lot of times when I talk about Mastery Learning with teachers, I can see them slowly start back away and sometimes even getting noticeably scared. I’ll be honest, it can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Giving up control, managing a self-paced classroom, and transitioning to Mastery Learning can be done if you take it one step at a time.

Let’s look at 3 small steps you can take to help create a Mastery Learning classroom for yourself.

Plan For the Content NOT the Calendar

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Posted by on in General

Personalized learning and differentiated learning are big buzzwords in education right now. 

Did you think they were the same thing?

As more catch phrases, tag lines, and buzzwords get added to the educational world, it's getting more and more difficult to determine what it all means, and more importantly, how it all applies to our classrooms. Two phrases I've been hearing a lot lately and very often interchangeably are differentiated learning and personalized learning. While based on the same basic principals of providing students with what they need, there are some important differences that should be noted. 

What They Focus On

Personalized Learning starts with a single learner and connects with their interests, passions, and aspirations. The learner becomes an active participant in the design of their experience and have choices in how they will experience it. This focuses on the creation and development of independent learners who reflect, monitor and set goals.

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Posted by on in General

Personalized Learning and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) can feel like new initiatives that are just “one more thing.”

When it comes down to it, though, many initiatives fit together nicely, and can help support one another. Through working with schools, districts, and teachers I’ve found that when we look at new ideas as something extra (as opposed to something that can help enrich, or enhance the already great work we are doing) it can hurt our view of whatever that initiative is.

Two very common initiatives I hear a lot about are Personalized Learning and Universal Design for Learning (UDL). (If you need to brush up on either, here are two articles for you: Personalized Learning + UDL). Many times these are discussed as completely separate, but when we look at how they can support each other, they become even more useful to us as teachers.

Here are some things Personalized Learning and UDL have in common and how they lend themselves to supporting one another.

STUDENT CHOICE

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