What to Watch 2018: Sarah’s Sizzlin’ Strategies

what to watch this Summer on Teaching Channel

The temperature is on the rise, but nothing’s quite as hot as Tch Laureate Sarah Brown Wessling’s strategies for student success. Whether you’re inside and staying cool, or just chillin’ by the pool, watch these Tch videos to build your strategy toolbox this summer.

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Surviving Group Work: Essential Student Collaboration Strategies for the Diverse Classroom

English Language Learners

Group work.

Two seemingly innocent words that cause both teachers and students alike to tremble with apprehension. The ghosts of bad group work past conjure haunting memories of disagreements, distractions, and indifference. Yet, as educators we know student-to-student interaction is a crucial component in increasing both engagement and academic language development.

So, how do we avoid the pitfalls of bad group work and foster an environment of stimulating discussion and student collaboration?

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If You Aren’t Frustrated, You Aren’t Learning: Flipping the “I Do, We Do, You Do” Strategy

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Since my very first day of teaching, I’ve always preferred to focus on the hope of what students can do as opposed to the fear of what they cannot. Of course, there are limits to what any human realistically can or cannot do, but I’m increasingly frustrated by the all-too-often teacher reply of, “But my students can’t do that” when discussing changes in curriculum or creation of common assessments. However, until about seven years ago, one of my most consistent approaches to teaching was inherently grounded in a version of this very sentiment I loathed — it was just slightly softened to become, “But my students can’t do that… without my help.”

It was with this unconscious mindset that I so often employed the “I Do, We Do, You Do” strategy, providing students with a safe pathway for growth and learning through imitation. I would supportively guide students through my own thinking before letting them work with a partner or in a group to further their understanding, before finally allowing them to try the skill on their own.
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How Many Days Are Left? 10 Tips to End the Year with Positivity and Purpose

Tchers' Voice Great ideas from passionate educators just like you

Inevitably, when educators get to April or May, the question of “How many days are left?” is uttered frequently, and with so many different variations in tone.

There is the Freaked Out — pure panic because “I still have so much material left to cover,” or “My kids are not ready for the AP test.”

Or the Exhausted, when this question is quietly mumbled with a tone of “I cannot do it; I won’t make it that long.

Don’t forget about the Angered, whereby one basically screams the question, with the certainty that the answer will be an unreasonable number.

At times, you might even get the Practical. This one is probably heard the least, but typically involves the initial question asked in a reflective tone and followed by a concrete plan to make it through.

And if you’re lucky, you might just get the To Hell With It. A personal favorite, this educator might not even finish asking the question because he or she has just reached a point where they don’t even care anymore. It’s not that they don’t care about their job or their students, but they just don’t care, for better or worse, how many days are left.

The educational reality is that we’ve reached the time of year when you probably can see yourself in one (or more, depending on the day) of these responses. And if the weather where you are is at all like it is in Chicago this “spring,” there are probably days when you don’t even have the disposition to ask the question, because you’re so annoyed by it all.

While I’m no psychological expert and certainly don’t have all the answers, I’d like to present to you ten things you can do to help make it through the rest of the year, bad weather and all, with positivity and purpose.

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Getting Started with PBL: Do ONE Thing Really Well

Tchers Voice Project-Based Learning

“Success demands singleness of purpose.”

~ Gary Kelly, The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

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I recently read The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Kelly and was struck by its beautiful simplicity. Kelly posits when we try to do too many things at once, we’re highly unlikely to do anything well; and rather we “need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects.”

Now if you’re in the field of education, you may have just read that quote and wondered if Kelly was sitting around your last staff meeting, or maybe even rhetorically asked yourself if he was mocking the last district initiative memo you received.

As teachers fighting to survive the rapidly changing educational landscape, we’ve all experienced feeling like we’re asked to do too many things, and as a result, do few things (maybe some days, even zero things) well. As an educator supporting teachers through project-based learning (PBL) implementation, I see this strife far too often.

How might we use Kelly’s logic to go about doing PBL with fidelity and quality? And not lose our teachers through the process?

Well, let’s just do ONE thing and do it well!

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Rethinking the Role of Teacher: 3 Practices to Elevate Student Engagement

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I’d be very surprised to find a teacher that has fallen asleep at night thinking, “In what ways can I bore my students tomorrow?” However, school is changing — and with it, so are the roles of teachers and students.

Rows of individual student desks with a teacher in the front of the room are becoming a thing of the past. Collaborative and flexible workspaces with multiple teachers and support educators are the new norm.

The way we consume information has also changed, and teachers are no longer the sole sources of information with a duty to impart knowledge to our students. Students are consuming media and information every day — from the time they wake up until the time they fall asleep. They ask Google a question to be met with an instant response.

How might we adapt our roles as educators to facilitate learning and thinking in an impactful, purposeful way in this new learning environment?

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Eliciting Engagement with Earth Day Every Day

Tch Next Gen Science Squad

A couple of years ago, the FIRST LEGO League robotics theme was “Trash Trek.” That was the year that I decided to coach not one, but two teams of middle school students… by myself. After thinking long and hard about the challenge topic, the teams came up with two original solutions.

Team 1 joined efforts with a local trash company to recycle lunchroom milk cartons.

Team 2 had read that mealworm larva could eat styrofoam. They decided to grow mealworms, measure their consumption, and develop a plan for landfills. They grew mealworms in my classroom for six months. Did you know those little buggers grow wings? I didn’t.

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As Earth Day is quickly approaching, I’ve been thinking a lot about that robotics season and the initiative of those amazing students. They were motivated to make a change. They were obsessed with their efforts and even wrote songs about mealworms to quell the fears of the local elementary students — highlighting that while the worms could eat trash, they wouldn’t actually eat their house.
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All-School Read: Building Community & Promoting Understanding

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In the spring of 2017, our middle school experienced an eruption of racist slurs and hate speech, from swastikas drawn on the cheeks of unsuspecting students at lunch, to “KKK” mysteriously appearing on the Google image linked with our school’s website. And we were not the only ones. Newspaper headlines highlighting intolerance at schools were popping up all over the country.

Our school community felt broken, and we knew we needed to do something. One idea kept coming up: an all-school read, where every student, teacher, and staff member reads the same book at the same time. We already knew that stories help readers develop empathy. Having everyone read the same story at the same time seemed the perfect opportunity to build school community and promote understanding.

With only a couple months left in the school year, we set our sights on the fall of 2017.

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Tch Tips: Is Peer Teaching on Your Classroom Menu?

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There’s no doubt that expectations for student achievement have increased exponentially over the past two decades. To help students meet these expectations, schools have shifted to more evidence-based strategies, like peer teaching.

Peer teaching isn’t a single strategy — it is a full menu of learning techniques that can enhance student achievement, content knowledge, and student engagement. However, peer teaching can also be problematic for teachers, because employing this particular method means that students will be teaching each other.

You might be thinking…

  • My students aren’t experts. How can they teach this content to one another?
  • What if they teach and learn the information incorrectly? Even if they do get it right, will the learning be superficial?
  • What if parents bristle at the idea of students learning from students when the stakes are so high for student assessment?
  • What about my professional responsibility? I’m the teacher, after all. Isn’t teaching my job?

All of these are valid concerns and worthy of some debate. But equally valid is the wealth of research that shows peer teaching works.

Are you ready to explore peer teaching in your classroom?

Whether you’re ready for just a taste or a full menu of strategies, we’ve got something for you to try!
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