Reimagine Your Learning Space: Starbucks Your Classroom!


It’s been awhile since we’ve seen each other. I know we don’t talk that often these days, so I thought I’d drop you a line and see what’s been happening with you.

How are you? How’s your summer? Hot? Are you chillin’ like a villain? Doing some grillin’? I wish I was… But I’m not. I’m kinda’ blah right now. I’m bored. And I’m boring, too. I’ve looked the same for centuries, and that’s a long time. Trust me.

Look, I’m not saying it’s your fault. And, I’m not saying you don’t care. I’m just saying that I’m in need of an update in the worst way… I’m Outdated. Constricting. Confining. Compromising. I’m Obsolete! You know what I’m saying? I want a change. I need a change. I must change!

No more rows, columns, grey, and gloom. No more control — it’s an illusion.

Collaboration is where it’s at. Communication, creativity, and critical thinking are what I want to emulate, stimulate, cultivate, and propagate.

What you say mate?

How about some couches, armchairs, coffee tables, high tables with stools, restaurant style tables, standing tables, a rug, and maybe even a yoga mat? How about you make me look like Starbucks, but cooler? Can you do this for me?

I promise you won’t be disappointed and the kids will love it.

Stay cool.

Yours truly,

Your Classroom

Boring Classroom

What Does Your Classroom Communicate?

As teachers, we spend a great deal of time in our classrooms. Sometimes it may even feel like we’ve moved in. I imagine our students feel the same. If we’re going to spend most of our time in our rooms, the space should feel good. It should feel comfortable. A classroom should inspire creativity and productivity, but that’s not always our reality. When something is off in your classroom — when your design lags behind your teaching style — you can feel it. It’s almost as if your classroom is trying to tell you something needs to change.

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Getting Better Together: Coding In The Classroom

Getting Better Together

I tried something new this year: integrating coding with algebra. This was quite the challenge. With all the pressure for students to meet state standards, how would I introduce coding without sacrificing valuable algebra content?

I dedicated myself to search for that balance between algebra and coding, ensuring that one wasn’t prioritized over the other. I wanted coding and technology to be tools for enrichment that would help kids to understand algebra. This year was all about trial and error, succeeding and failing, experimenting and hypothesizing. It certainly took courage to try out something new, but taking that extra step toward the unknown was absolutely rewarding.

My students loved coding. I started the year with a “sandbox.” They were free to be creative and build whatever they wished. The creativity got them hooked. Once they built something, they were itching to build more. However, it only took a few days for them to realize that there were limitations. They didn’t understand enough coding to build more complex things, which of course stirred their curiosity. That’s where it all started, with the big essential question, “How can I bring my imagination to life?”

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NGSS Have Been Adopted. Now what?


Scientists seek out other respected scientists for their opinions and collaborate with other fields regularly. Biologists work with chemists to research ocean acidification and the impact on coral reef habitats. Statisticians must work with ecologists to calculate populations and distributions of animals within the ecosystem. The work we do is integrated and no longer isolated by discipline. Researchers walk across the hall to share ideas, brainstorm, and call upon others to generate panels of experts. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) speak volumes to this kind of collaboration. It may seem like a buzzword, but it’s a reality in the world of science. Our students must also develop the skills of working across the disciplinary core ideas and apply their understanding of the crosscutting concepts with the science and engineering practices.

If you’re a science teacher in one of the NGSS adoption states, once you’ve had some time to absorb that you’re indeed going to transition your science lessons to the new and improved NGSS aligned lessons, you might hit somewhat of a roadblock. Think of it as writer’s block. The overwhelming feeling that you already teach really good science lessons, you just need to see what fits with the new standards and what needs to go. And now, we must think of lesson planning in three dimensions to properly support the intention of teaching collaborative skills.
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Rich Talk = Rich Learning

Effective Academic Conversation with Kenji Hakuta

It may feel a little unusual to think that the more your students talk in class, the more they might learn. But that is just what we, researchers and professors at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, have found to be true. Constructive conversation and meaningful interaction throughout a lesson not only develop students’ crucial communication skills, but also give them a richer understanding of the content.

Although new education standards in college and career readiness highlight collaboration and communication as critical skills, this type of peer-to-peer interaction is actually quite rare in the classroom. While common activities such as whole class discussions, jigsaws, and think-pair-shares can produce the appearance of constructive interactions, they often don’t provide enough substantial opportunities for students to engage in back-and-forth dialog, especially for ESL students.

So what can we do to make sure our students are getting the opportunities to learn deeply about a specific topic AND hone their communication skills?

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#TchLIVE: Hacking Education

How can we HACK education?

My family raised leaders. Both my sister and I are outspoken, driven, and in general, change agents. I can remember my sister starting a petition and spearheading a change to a policy that allowed girls to play football with boys at recess (they were afraid we’d get hurt). Secondly, though, we were also raised as innovators. We competed in the self-choreography division at dance competitions when we were little, using routines we created on our own. And I can remember developing my own recipes as an eight-year-old child — potato chip peanut butter cookies were one of my most loved originals. Put leadership, innovation, and creativity together, and the environment was ripe for the birth of a hacker. Read more

Learn How to Teach To NGSS Through Interactive Video


We’ve created a number of interactive videos to help us all examine how content known in the NGSS as Disciplinary Core Ideas can be taught using the Science and Engineering Practices, as well as the Cross Cutting Concepts.

Watch — and contribute your own thoughts and ideas — as a group of fourth graders plan and conduct an investigation to determine how to build and then improve a magnet that can be turned on and off. In this video, a fifth-grade class works with a model of the sun and the Earth. Their teacher asks questions as they collectively develop an understanding of their model.

And check out Scientific Modeling With Young Students at Tch Video Lounge, a collection of many of our interactive videos.

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Design Thinking, Empathy, and Equity – Part 2

Author’s note: This is a continuation of my post Design Thinking, Empathy, and Equity, that was published earlier this year. It feels particularly timely to share after the racially divisive and violent events that marked this past month.

I have no doubt that our students will return to our classrooms in August with questions we’re afraid or unsure how to answer, and possibly with fear and frustration. I want to offer up the following as one possibility for how we can move our collective equity work forward. Building empathy in our students is a beginning step toward the creation of a more loving society, and perhaps design thinking can get us there.

When engaged with fidelity, the design thinking process is a rigorous one that truly engages students in deeper learning. If we’re grounding this work in equity, the process shouldn’t be rushed. In fact, the seemingly fluid process of design thinking should include pauses. Such pauses should take place after students have started building their empathy muscles, and are approaching the stages of prototyping and testing.

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Boeing’s 100 Days of Learning: Engineering Modules Help Bring NGSS Into The Classroom


The Boeing Company has teamed up with Teaching Channel to create 10 Science and Innovation curriculum modules as part of the company’s 100th anniversary, which is being celebrated for the next 100 days. The modules, which were originally designed by teachers paired with Boeing engineers, have undergone multiple stages of revision designed to adapt them to better meet the goals of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

An iterative process is necessary as teachers, school leaders, and coaches work to realize the vision for science teaching and learning that the authors of the Framework for K-12 Science Education and the NGSS imagined.

The first, and perhaps most important, step in this process is for educators to better understand the shifts in teaching and learning called for in the NGSS. Read more

Products of Personalized Learning

Getting Better Together

Is it possible for learning to be so compelling that school wouldn’t have to be compulsory? Is it possible for our classes to offer learning experiences that students would actually opt into?

This is the challenge that was stuck in my head going into this past school year.

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