Planning engageNY Math: Tips to Remix, Part 2

In case you missed it, you can read the first half of this blog here

Now that we have an understanding of the standard by doing the math and identifying the standard (see Part I), we are ready to move onto the remaining steps in the lesson planning process:



media-blogtwo2Step 3: Review the End Goal

Before customizing the lesson, I want to calibrate the level of rigor I am seeing on a variety of A.APR.1 assessment items. There are no questions on the Mid or End of Module Assessment directly related to this lesson, so we will look at the Exit Ticket, an item from the Regents Exam, and a non-calculator and calculator item from the Fall 2017 PSAT.

  • Exit Ticket:


In the exit ticket, students are asked if the sum of three polynomials will produce a polynomial. In the Teacher’s Lesson, the answer to this question is “yes”, but does this really demonstrate understanding? Read more

Planning engageNY Math: Tips to Remix, Part 1

The EngageNY Lessons for Mathematics grades 6-11 are an excellent interpretation of the Common Core State Standards and the Standards for Mathematical Practice. But often the lessons are dense, progress in complexity too quickly, or assume [a lot!] of prior knowledge.

So how do you customize the lesson to make it accessible for students without compromising the rigor?

In this two-part blog, I will share a lesson planning process that has helped me to remix lessons to make them a hit for teachers and students alike.

Below is an overview of the process. Part 1 will cover the first two steps, and Part 2 will cover the remaining three steps.

media-20180104 Read more

Your Best Year of Science is Here! 4 Guides to Start MBI Today

If we keep doing the same thing we will continue to get the same results.

The time is NOW to transition to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Our students can’t wait! The Chicago Public Schools transition plan below has us at FULL implementation of NGSS next year:

CPS Transition Plan

Two of the key shifts with NGSS are the following:

  • Phenomena: K-12 students should be using science ideas to explain HOW and WHY science phenomena occur.
  • Science and Engineering Practices: K-12 students should be engaging in the 8 science and engineering practices (e.g., developing and using models, engaging in argument from evidence) in order to learn the content and explore the crosscutting concepts. The days of teaching an isolated unit about the scientific method are over (note: the scientific method does NOT provide an accurate vision of the work of scientists–read more here).

Model-Based Inquiry (MBI) is one way to address these two NGSS shifts:

MBI Overview

The following MBI “How To” Guides were developed by AUSL teachers for AUSL teachers. Over the last two years, the teachers that make up the AUSL Science Teacher Network Team have been studying NGSS and best practices for science teaching. They’ve tried out and refined these strategies in their own classrooms and through Lesson Study, and synthesized their learning in these guides and Tch AUSL videos.

MBI Guides:

  1. MBI Guide #1: How to Come Up With an Engaging Phenomenon to Anchor a Unit (TchAUSL VIDEO)
  2. MBI Guide #2: How to Engage Students in Developing and Using Explanatory Models (TchAUSL VIDEO)
  3. MBI Guide #3: How to Use Summary Charts in the Classroom (TchAUSL VIDEO)
  4. MBI Guide #4: How to Enhance Discourse in the Science Classroom (TchAUSL VIDEO)

Special thanks to the following staff for creating these resources:

  • Darrin Collins (Phillips Academy High School)
  • Deanna Digitale-Grider (Solorio Academy High School)
  • Kristel Hsiao (formerly at Solorio Academy High School)
  • Kat Lucido (Phillips Academy High School)
  • Nicole Lum (Orr Academy High School)
  • Sarah Rogers (formerly at Howe School of Excellence)
  • Alexa Young (Marquette School of Excellence)
  • Chris Bruggeman (AUSL Technology Coordinator)

Post your questions and the examples of MBI from your classroom below.

When In Rome…A Journey of Backwards Design and Integrated Instruction

romeYou’re planning a trip to Rome, with the end goal of ordering in Italian a local wine for your date at a restaurant you biked to without a map.

How would you plan to meet this goal?

Would you rather memorize a phrasebook one week, read blogs on intercultural dating the next, trace Google maps the third, then consult a sommelier? OR, would you rather build and integrate these skills in context while traveling through the Italian countryside?

How do your students learn best? How do we best prepare them to perform at a high level to be college and career ready? Is it more effective to learn and apply skills in isolation, or integrate them in meaningful instruction? In either case, we need to plan with the end in mind. Read more

5 I Love: Essential Math Tools for the Overwhelmed


Your week doesn’t have to be like this.

Soon, we will roll out what was easily my favorite TchAUSL contest last year, the 5 I Love. For our Tch Talk blog this week, I want to share the love a little early with my list of 5 tools for you, the overwhelmed teacher.

Everyday Mathematics Virtual Learning Community

This VLC is maintained by the University of Chicago, the developers of the Everyday Mathematics curriculum. It’s free to sign up and once you’re in, you’ll find just about any resource you’ll need to be an EM Rock Star. The VLC has over 30,000 members who have shared videos of their EM practice, planning tools, manipulatives, student work examples and so much more. It’s all well organized around Common Core Standards and Standards of Mathematical Practice and includes tons of resources for English Language Learners. You can learn more about signing up here. Read more

Special EDition: SPE Cyber Monday “Deals” You Need Right Now

If you’re like me, you skipped Black Friday because you ate too much and it was cold and late and you figured that if you just wait until Monday, you can score that thing you’re so obsessed with from the comfort of your own warm home (or classroom!).  While I’m not going to advertise today’s deals at the Gap or Best Buy, I will share my list of a few incredible online “deals” that educators should access right now to help meet the needs of your diverse learners.

BookshareBookshare – Can’t say enough about this free resource that makes reading accessible for all.  Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), Bookshare is the world’s largest accessible online library for people with print disabilities.  It is free for all qualified U.S. students (visual impairment, physical disability or severe learning disability) and features over 300,000 titles, including newspapers, k-12 textbooks, and popular fiction and non-fiction. Teachers can sign students up for an individual membership or they can serve as the student’s sponsor.

Read more

Revise Your Thinking: 6 Science Myths Debunked

One goal of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is to develop students’ understanding of the nature of scientific knowledge and how it is developed (Nature of Science in NGSS). Words like “theory” and “proof” get thrown around in everyday conversations and mis-used in the media all the time. To ensure our students become critical consumers and informed citizens, it is up to science educators to provide them with a more accurate conception of what counts as science and how scientific knowledge is generated.

In this blog, I debunk 6 Common Myths About Science, provide 9 Core Ideas of the Nature of Science (which would make a great anchor chart for your classroom!), and include links to lesson activities that are sure to deepen student understanding of science. Read more

Special EDition: Common Core in the Special Education Classroom – Yes, We Can!

“They can’t do that…they can hardly read!”  

I had just told a colleague about a string of lessons I was preparing to teach, during which my students would need to merge the concepts of the Jewish Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s through exploration of photographs, video and personal letters from survivors.  My colleague’s words echoed off the walls of my special education classroom and yet she was simply stating what she thought was the truth.  

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Join the Theme Team: Making DBQ Work in Middle School

lucassmithFor me, DBQ has been the best way for me to blend my reading and writing instruction.  In the past, I was never really very good with my writing instruction, but after learning and using DBQ I felt like the students began writing about what they read in a very natural way.  It made the “instruction” part of the lessons very easy and seamless and my students didn’t even realize they were in “writing class.”  In fact, having a separate reading/writing class disappeared all together and it became a fully integrated “Literacy” class.

I appreciate the structure of DBQ: short texts that speak to a larger essential question which are followed by comprehension questions that connect the texts to that essential question. When I couple this structure with Think-Write-Pair-Share, the writing component felt so organic for them and their ability to express their “academic thoughts” became simple.

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Talking the Talk: Tips for Engaging Your Students in Scientific Discourse


The Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs) outlined in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) provide us with a clear picture of what inquiry instruction should look like in the science classroom:

  1. Asking Questions (Science) and Defining Problems (Engineering)
  2. Developing and Using Models
  3. Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
  4. Analyzing and Interpreting Data
  5. Using Mathematical and Computational Thinking
  6. Constructing Explanations (Science) and Designing Solutions (Engineering)
  7. Engaging in Argument from Evidence
  8. Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

Read more