What Is Making?

Making in SchoolsThis is the first in a six-part series titled Making in Schools.

If you visit Lighthouse Community Charter classrooms this fall, you’ll see kindergartners using power tools, 2nd graders doing logo programming, 3rd graders building circuit blocks, 6th graders programming microcontrollers to respond to sensor inputs, 8th graders using hot-glue guns, and high school students building chairs, building and programming robots, and using a laser to cut out pieces of wood for prototypes.

circuit blocks

As we look across our school, we’re pretty excited by two things. First, we’re pleased to see making (broadly defined as using your hands, heart, and mind to create or improve things) happening as part of our students’ core classroom experiences. And second, we’re thrilled that our students — poor, urban students of color — have access to making, especially because our educational system so often provides them with experiences filled with seat time and back-to-basics instruction. Read more

Building A Worldwide Math Community

Tch Laureate Team

As someone who loves to learn, I’ve always enjoyed and looked forward to going to conferences.

I’ve been fortunate to attend numerous NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) and NCSM (National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics) annual conferences with my colleagues. There’s something about having the opportunity to choose the sessions I want to hear more about, listen to speakers whose books and articles I’ve read, and having the time to speak casually about math and education during more than a thirty minute lunch with my colleagues, that is refreshing.

While I enjoy the bonding experience each year, I started to find that while the conference location would change, my conference routine did not. Each year I found the majority, if not all, of my conversations and interactions were amongst the people I came with from my school, and the sessions I attended were only the big names I knew in education. Even when I was brave enough to venture off into a conference session alone, I always had a meeting spot planned immediately afterwards with my colleagues. I didn’t want to be that person walking alone in the hallway, and was definitely not one to strike up a conversation with a stranger. All of this seemed normal to me, and until last year I would have said I was getting the most I could out of the conference experience.

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Family Conferences

Tch Laureate Team

This is part of Marion Ivey’s Getting Better Together series, Moving From I Can’t To I Can’t Yet. Marion and all the Teaching Channel Laureates are going public with their practice and seeking support in getting better from colleagues and the Tch community.

In the district where I teach, our student-led conferences are celebrated. In kindergarten, we ask families to bring their child with them so that the student can share what they’ve been working on at school.

Getting Better TogetherOne of the first things I do during family conferences is ask the student to identify two things they’d like to get better at. I provide a list of options they can choose from based on skills or tasks I’d like them to get better at. I provide a wide range because my students have a wide range of skills, and I want to be certain that there’s something each of them can choose that’s appropriate.

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Best Teacher Gifts For the Holidays

Halloween is here, which means that the winter holidays are just around the corner!

gift box with ribbonMany of us at Teaching Channel are former teachers, and we recently swapped fun anecdotes of our most memorable gifts from students and colleagues. We agreed that it can be difficult to find gifts that aren’t just “stuff.” There are gifts we want (Amazon gift cards!); gifts we need (new classroom supplies); and thoughtful gestures like homemade treats or handwritten notes. Gifts can either be professional, like a book on teaching strategies, or they can have a more personal touch, like a gift certificate to a local restaurant.

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Classroom Jobs to Spur Inquiry

The Upcycling Diaries

Editor’s Note: This blog is the first post by Jennifer in the Upcycling Series about heading back to the classroom after time as an instructional coach. Join us in following her journey.

An empty classroom with towers of boxes welcomed my creative mind. I couldn’t wait to unleash last year’s learning, as a district math coach, on this year’s class. Utilizing my insights that grew from spending a year looking through the lens of a variety of stakeholders at the district level, I was ready to dive in to applying all that learning to my newly formed classroom. I knew that analyzing information through multiple perspectives had increased my critical thinking skills as an instructional coach, and I wanted to share those ideas and experiences with others. I had just spent an entire year developing my coaching practice using this strategy and I was pretty sure it would work for others.


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One Giant Leap Into 21st Century Science Standards

Tch Laureate Team

A challenge of being a veteran teacher is that some of my favorite units of instruction become inadequate to meet the needs of today’s students.

Often times it can be because the subject matter or theme becomes outdated. Other times it can be because the standards change or become more rigorous. With the introduction of 21st century science standards (be they NGSS or updated state standards), we as educators face a couple of awesome challenges. How do we create or update content that not only adequately addresses the standards, but also inspires our students to consider various career possibilities? And how do we shift our practice to allow our students to better experience this new type of content?

Getting Better TogetherOne avenue that I’ve found useful when I attempt to address both of these concerns is recording myself and then later reflecting upon the events that transpired within my classroom. That’s why I chose to invite Teaching Channel, as well as all of you, into my classroom to see my students exploring science, math, and engineering concepts in To the Moon: Applying the Engineering Design Process.

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Investigate U.S. History With Zoom In

As a U.S. History teacher at the middle-school level, I keep an eye out for resources, tools, and ideas for lessons that allow my students to work with the content of my courses in a lab-type format. Zoom In, a new, free online platform to help teach U.S. History through inquiry using primary- and secondary-source documents, has proven to be a great match for my overall teaching philosophy: Get students involved and working with real historical documents and they will be engaged, interested, and — best of all — remember what they’re learning.

I realize this is a bit different than the traditional role that social studies courses have taken on in the past. (Remember the days of memorizing dates, names, and facts and Jeopardy-style learning?)

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Establishing Our Collaborative Work Norms

Tch Laureate Team

This is part of Kristin Gray’s Getting Better Together series, Establishing a Culture of Collaborative Learning. Kristin and all the Teaching Channel Laureates are going public with their practice and seeking support in getting better from colleagues and the Tch community.

Getting Better TogetherEvery school year, I would ask my students to develop a set of classroom norms. When given the opportunity to decide for themselves what would make the math classroom a safe place to share their emerging ideas, they never disappoint.

This process provided a wonderful opportunity for me to hear what was important and valuable to them in creating a safe classroom. They worked individually, in small groups, and finally came together as a whole class to refine and edit their ideas. As an example, last year we settled on the six classroom math norms pictured below.

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Moving From I Can’t To I Can’t Yet

Tch Laureate Team

This is the first in Marion Ivey’s Getting Better Together series, Moving From I Can’t To I Can’t Yet. Marion and all the Teaching Channel Laureates are going public with their practice and seeking support in getting better from colleagues and the Tch community.

Last year, on the first day of school, I asked my kindergarteners to draw self-portraits. I passed out hand mirrors to each child and said, “Draw yourself the way you look today.”

Getting Better TogetherOne little girl looked at me, batted her long lashes, and said, “I can’t.” Over the first few weeks of school, I would find that this was her response to most challenges. She had already learned that if she said that, some well-meaning adult would do it, whatever it was, for her.

I am not that kind of teacher. My rule for myself is I won’t do for a child what they can do for themselves. I am happy to help, or teach you how, but not do it for you. This little girl and her “I can’t,” launched me on my journey toward teaching a growth mindset – the belief that intelligence can be developed with effort over time, the belief that smart is something you get, rather than something you either are or you aren’t – to my students.

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