Tch Tech Follow Up: Google Expeditions Are Going, Going…

Teachers control the VR headsets with a tablet which also allows them to highlight content for students.

Teachers control the VR headsets with a tablet which also allows them to highlight content for students.

Last week, I shared a short clip showing you the Google Expeditions Pioneer Program. This international program brings immersive and engaging experiences to schools via virtual reality technology that you can try at home. Google is sending ambassadors with class sets of VR headsets throughout the Chicagoland area from now through November 11th. Hey! That’s just FOUR WEEKS away!

For that reason I am reaching out to YOU, 2nd through 12th grade science or social studies teacher, to tell you more about Google Expeditions so you’ll bring them to your school. To push you along, here are five reasons why you should take the time to recruit five other teachers for this amazing field trip in your classroom. Read more

Finish the Year Strong By Analyzing Student Writing

Setting aside time to discuss student writing can be hugely informative...and a lot of fun!

Setting aside time to discuss student writing can be hugely informative…and a lot of fun!

Every May, I find myself in need of a kickstart….a little shot of something to help me finish the school year strong and to carry the momentum of the mistakes I’ve made and the successes I’ve had into the fall.  Finally, after over a decade of working in schools, I’ve figured out what that kickstart needs to be or least what it should involve.

It needs to involve collaboration, reflection, and a changes in practice that are both quick wins that will affect students before school lets out in June and long term understandings that will affect students to come.  Analyzing student work with a really smart group of peers is the perfect combination of all those things.

And since none of us wants to reinvent the wheel (especially in May) here’s everything you need to know to replicate my favorite student work analysis protocol.  While I most recently used this protocol with network 9th and 10th grade history teachers to look at common DBQ essays, the beauty of it is that with a few tweaks it can be used across grade levels and disciplines. Read more

The Coach’s View: Immerse Your Students in Experiential Learning

Learning about WWI can be more engaging with a few planning adjustments.

Make learning about WWI more engaging with a few adjustments in planning.

As an AUSL coach, I have a great opportunity to see teaching and learning from both a bird’s and ant’s eye perspective.  Something special usually happens when the teaching and learning are in sync; not only can one see and hear learning happening but also feel it.  The inner history teacher in me is always seeking out that educational “sweet spot” where for 50 minutes the lesson just seems to take flight, and for me, more often than not it happened during an Experiential Exercise lesson. Read more

Supporting Student Writing: 3 Lessons Learned Through Collaboration

Social Studies teachers met for DBQ Day in February.

Social Studies teachers met for DBQ Day in February.

It’s a truly satisfying feeling when you start to see months of hard work and collaboration paying off. It may be the student you tutored for hours after school who raised her grade. It might be the Sunday night spent tuning a lesson plan that leads to an engaging learning experience on Monday. Recently, the first set of DBQ Days with AUSL history teachers revealed notable improvements in our students’ essays as well as three key reasons we can look to for these gains. Read more

Elements of Thinking: How Do Your Students Think?

homerHow do your students think?

Time after time, evidence from international examinations such as PISA suggest American students are falling behind globally in their ability to problem solve, work in groups or think critically.

But when we think about our jobs as teachers, is that what first comes to mind?  You probably find yourself asking, do I have a lesson plan, an exit ticket, extra copies, backup pencils, discipline referral forms, an up-to-date makeup work folder and so on. Asking those questions on a daily basis allows us to survive and live to fight another day. Read more

Starting with Engagement: 3 Ideas to Grab Students’ Attention

Activating learning. Isn’t that what a Do Now does?

112514-ssblogSure, but sometimes we get so caught up in the classroom management aspect of a Do Now that once we’ve ensured that students are settled quietly in their seats as close to the final brrring of the bell as possible (while seamlessly taking attendance), we move on too quickly to the next thing on our instructional to-do list.

Why then spend a few more minutes to firing up students’ brains and maybe even getting them excited about approaching new material?  According to Research for Better Teaching, activating students’ current knowledge and thinking prior to instruction… Read more

College Readiness Power Standards and DBQ: A Planning Toolkit

Students will understand the dynamics between people, ideas, and so on in more challenging passages.

Can you think of a teacher (especially a history teacher) out there who’s not interested in having students who can to derive so much from reading non-fiction?

The above standard is one of the reasons why it’s so easy to be a cheerleader for ACT’s College Readiness Standards.  Yet embracing a College Readiness Standard is just the beginning. The real challenge (and fun!) arrives in planning engaging instruction to guide students in making these strong connections as they read non-fiction. This week, I allow me to share several ideas to help you plan your instruction guided by the College Readiness Power Standards. 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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DIY #7 Top Ten Coach Approved Ways to Get Smarter over the Summer

It’s that time of the year again!  You know the time of year when you’re answer to the question, “When does school get out?” is a very detailed, “25 days, 6 hours, 13 minutes and 46 seconds.”coachapproved-angled

Summer can’t get here fast enough and we know why, too:

  • You want to dust off the stack of professional books on your nightstand and read them without falling asleep
  • You want to visit the Chicago museums and plan a purpose-driven field trip for your class
  • You want to finally read some of the young adult fiction from your classroom library so you can start recommending more than that one Walter Dean Meyers’ book to your students
  • You want to bring one of the multi-step math word problems you taught your students to a party and watch your friends struggle to solve it.

Well, we have the right list of resources for you today: Here is an AUSL Coach approved list of the top ten ways you can get smarter over the summer!

1. Stock Up on Classroom Books

Get a group and a van and head out to the next Scholastic Customer Appreciation Warehouse sales and score books at prices up to 80% off.  Or head over to one of the coolest bookstores in Chicago called Open Books.  It has books but it offers so much more!

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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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