Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Roots of Student Teacher Relationships

"There are at least two bequests we can give our children: One is roots, the other is wings." 
~Hodding Carter
It is not simply the asking of questions to get to know our students,  but it is what we do with their answers that will bear the greatest impact on meeting their needs through out the school year.  The video below (made using Screen Cast O-Matic) highlights 13 important questions to ask your students as well as how to make their answers matter.

Once the roots of trust are established between you and your students, the next step is to give them wings to navigate through learning.

Best wishes establishing student teacher relationships this 2013-2014 School Year!

To access the document referenced in the video click on the following link Gathering Student Information (this can also be accessed on the Connected Teaching tab of my blog highlighted "Connect to Students").

For the follow up lesson to question twelve click HERE!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Differentiated Instruction: Your GPS for Student Learning

GPS is an abbreviation for Global Positioning System (Check out this page at  In short it is system of satellites orbiting the earth to help determine "positioning, navigation and timing."  Most of us namely use it for traveling in order to get from point A to point B.

Have you ever attempted a road trip to a new destination without GPS, a map, compass or directions? This is the equivalent of teaching without differentiating instruction. Both end in very few people actually arriving at their destination and leaving the rest frustrated to the point of giving up and going home.

Differentiating instruction is your GPS for student learning.  When you take the time to determine:

  1. positioning of your students (levels of readiness), 
  2. navigation of learning (which route or routes are best) and
  3. timing of arrival (how long it will take to get there) 

you now have a very clear picture of where your students are at so that you can choose the best route for their next step. Rarely do all students have the same starting and stopping points.

Imagine if you will your curriculum, but as a geographical map with multiple roads/routes.  Once determining each student's position you can now drop pin each student on your map.  Now stand back and take a look.  Do all student drop pins gather in one spot? Or are the student drop pins scattered across your curriculum map? Even if the majority of drop pins gather in one spot, odds are students will move at various speeds and often need different routes to reach their destination, thus causing the pins to scatter.

Like satellites orbiting the earth, teachers must orbit their students gathering data in order to chart various routes for student learning. While some routes are shorter than others and regardless of drop pin starting points, all students will gain distance on the curricular path when differentiation of instruction occurs.

For more ways to differentiate instruction and navigate student learning, visit my Top 10 Must Dos to Foster Fans of Learning.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Top 10 Must Dos to Foster Forever Fans of Learning

This week I attended the National Conference for Differentiated Instruction in Las Vegas, NV (hosted by Staff Development for Educators) and I had the honor of listening to one of the great DI gurus, Rick Wormeli.  I read many of his works while working on my Master's in Differentiated Instruction.  Clearly pursuing a MA in DI meant my door was already open to DI strategies, but reading works by Rick Wormeli and Carol Ann Tomlinson blew the door off the hinges for me!

Needless to say, I was beyond excited to see Rick Wormeli present.  When I tweeted a post before his presentation and he tweeted back for me to come on up and meet him I did my best to not look like a rock star groupie excited to meet an idol for the first time.  When I went to shake his hand and he said "oh no, I hug!"....well, I didn't exactly swoon, but it did inspire me to write this post.  His presentation of meaningful content combined with his ability to connect with educators from a simple shout out on Twitter to hugging in lieu of shaking a hand has made me a forever fan.

This conference inspired me to reflect as to how educators can foster the same kind of forever fans of learning inside the classroom.  Here are my...

Top 10 Must Dos to Foster Forever Fans of Learning

10. Facilitate learning instead of disseminating content
 9. Use student grouping frequently so students seek knowledge collaboratively
  8. Redos and Retakes are the norm not the exception
7. Descriptive feedback outweighs the number game of percents
6. Embrace mistakes instead of shaming mistakes
5. Reality checks (aka formative assessments) guide instruction
4. Teach each student from his/her own level of readiness
3. Class discuss the phrase "fair is not always equal"
   2. Establish & share levels of understanding for each learning objective

  1. Every student must believe you care and you do!

I invite you to inspire and foster fans of learning by embedding these top tens in your instructional practices!  Merriam-Webster (2013) defines inspiration as "the action or power of moving the intellect." Inspiration is the intangible return one receives when an author, speaker, teacher or a administrator arms the intended audience with tools or ideas to put into action.  Thank you goes to Rick Wormeli for fanning my flame and to my principal for sending me to the conference.

inspiration. 2013. In
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