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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in teaching for mastery

Posted by on in Teaching with Rigor


“Life is not a matter of chance... it is a matter of choice.” ― Ka

Should we leave our students' learning up to chance? The answer seems simple enough right? But its application isn’t automatic. It is a conscious choice we must make as educators.

I have a confession to make. I have been a high school teacher for 13 years and this is the first year that I started writing down and consciously going over the learning objectives at the beginning of every class with my chemistry students. I mean, I always told my students what they were about to learn each day, and I even remember using the required SWBAT (Students Will Be Able To) format in the lesson plans I submitted to the administration weekly when I taught science in Chicago Public Schools. However, I did not ever consider or realize that simply telling my students what I was about to teach wasn’t enough.

Now I know that “just saying it” is not enough.

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Posted by on in Education Resources

We make sense out of the world around us by forming connections in our brains. The more of these connections (information chunks) we have, the easier it is for our neurons to form new connections and understandings. Some concepts presented to young minds in schools are so new that they struggle with the initial understanding.

It is important for parents and teachers to be able to explain that this lack of understanding is NOT A RESULT OF BEING DUMB, which is a common stigma facing learners of all ages. Rather, the information does not make sense, because the needed neural network, the "chunk," hasn't had the time to fully form yet. 

We also need to tell our students that if they keep practicing, recalling, and using the information they will indeed grow the necessary neural structures. If they don't give up on learning tough concepts too quickly and we don't give up on them they will MAKE SENSE OUT OF NONSENSE.


This was Infographic #4 in the BRAIN-BASED LEARNING SERIES. Please check out Infographic #1 to learn how to Leverage Sleep to Maximize Learning, Infographic #2 to get Strategies on How to Fight Procrastination, and Infographic #3 to maximize Memory Retention.

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Posted by on in Assessment & Grading


Sometimes inspiration comes from unusual places.  This week it came through the mail.  I don’t always take the time to read through my alumni magazine but when I do I’m never disappointed. This edition contains a particularly great quote from David Anderegg, a professor at my alma mater, Bennington College. I think every educator should read it 

He writes… 

“I give assignments to make sure that students are integrating on a deep level.  It’s easy to learn concepts superficially, to get familiar with the terminology and to speak in terminology.  When I assign something to the class, I’m looking to see if students are able to grasp a concept, if they understand its range and limits, what it means and what it doesn’t mean, and if they are able to apply the concept.

I think of class participation and assignments in tandem.  It’s all part of the same thing, and I require both.  Sometimes my students want to know why participation is required and that’s when I talk about Andrea Bocelli.

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Posted by on in What If?


One of the most frustrating moments in a teacher’s school day can strike without warning. In the midst of a carefully planned lesson, it is possible for even the very best teachers in a school to experience the sinking feeling that happens as soon as they realize that no one is getting it. No one understands the lesson. Students are not learning. Everyone is confused.

This is a very different situation from the scenario where only one or two students appear to be lost. In this larger fiasco, there is a great deal that has gone wrong and that needs to be dealt with immediately. Savvy teachers do all that they can possibly foresee to prevent this, but inevitably it happens to even the most prepared teachers.

One thing is for sure. This is not a situation that can be overlooked. Things need to be fixed and fast.

headacheOne of the first mistakes to avoid is to blame students. Blaming will only waste time. Instead, be creative and calm and diagnose the situation as carefully and as accurately as possible. Ask for your students’ help. Taking a teamwork approach to the problem will convince students that they are capable learners and that the situation is manageable. A teamwork approach will also encourage student ownership of the problem and motivate them to solve it with you.

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