Monday, April 10, 2017

Cooperative Groups: INTERDEPENDENCE - 4/10/17

Cooperative Groups: INTERDEPENDENCE

How successful are your cooperative groups? Do you struggle with some students doing all of the work while others sit back? Well, Dr. Spencer Kagan has devoted years of research and development to Cooperative Learning structures. Throughout his studies, he identified four basic principles symbolized by the acronym PIES. (Positive Interdependence, Individual Accountability, Equal Participation, Simultaneous Interaction). Each principle has critical questions that help you determine if that structure is in place, in order to MAXIMIZE ACTIVE ENGAGEMENT within your classroom.

For a group to function, positive interdependence must be in place. Think about these two questions:

  1. Does the success of one benefit others? (positive)
  2. Is everyone’s contribution necessary? (interdependence)

Students must feel a sense of TEAM as they encourage and help each other within the group. This is important to continually build within your classroom culture. However, interdependence goes a step further and makes the contribution of one necessary for the success of another, so students need each other to do well. When planning, it is important that we place students in situations in which they cannot reach their goal without the contributions of others; the contribution of one is necessary for the success of the other.

Creating a team culture in your classroom, as well as selecting good cooperative structures, can make a huge difference in classroom management and the success of your scholars. When goal setting for next year, you might consider learning more about collaborative structures as a goal.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Blindspots 4/3/17


There are blindspots that we do not recognize about ourselves as people and as teachers. One blind spot might be that we focus more on our teaching than on the learning that happens in our classes. It is imperative that we use quick formative assessments to determine if we are meeting the needs of our scholars. Let the students' needs guide your instruction.

It is also important to examine our classroom through more than one lens. As a teacher, you come to school ready to tackle the content that must be covered so you do not fall behind. One day recently, Heather Hagar told me how her students came to school one morning very talkative. As she listened while the students began their breakfast and put up their backpacks, she realized that they were worried about going to middle school. (The night before all incoming 6th graders & their parents visited GMS.) Taking care of her students' social and emotional needs prior to the curriculum made for a much more productive day for her scholars. Sometimes we are in our routine but maybe not really reflecting on how students are seeing what's happening in our classes through their eyes. We should ask ourselves, "Would I want to be a student in my own classroom?"

Consider using this topic during circle up time to determine how learning is going in your classroom and really listen to help maximize growth.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Motivating Students 3/27/17

One issue we all deal with as teachers is working with the unmotivated student. Not only is it frustrating for you as the teacher, it has to be miserable for the student as well. Jennifer Gonzalez wrote an excellent blog post about this topic and did research to try to find what the most current studies say about what motivates students. This is what she found:

  1. Students are more motivated academically when they have a positive relationship with their teacher.
  2. Choice is a powerful motivator in most educational contexts.
  3. For complex tasks that require creativity and persistence, extrinsic rewards and consequences actually hamper motivation.
  4. To stay motivated to persist at any task, students must believe they can improve in that task.
  5. Students are motivated to learn things that have relevance to their lives.

Please take a moment to read her honest personal reflections on each of these points along with several suggestions on how we can do better. Making a small adjustment can make all the difference for one of your scholars.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

What legacy will you leave? Teacher-Student Relationships 3/20/17

As we come back from Spring Break rested and revived, take a few moments to reconnect with your students. Remember according to John Hattie, teacher-student relationships have a .72 effect size. It's all about relationships. One of my all time favorite TedTalks is "Every Kid Needs a Champion" by Rita Pierson. I am thankful for those teachers that took time to see something in me that I did not even see in myself!

Take a quick look at this Viemo video to hear from students. "Kids have an inside perspective" that we need to tap into so we can help them reach their full potential. You make a difference everyday!!! What legacy will you leave?

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Tired Teachers/Positive Educators 3/6/17

Recently I saw a Tweet that caught my interest because of the title: Letter to a Tired Teacher. The months March and April are definitely that time of year when teachers can relate to this!

  • You are kind to students when you see them... because you realize that may be the only kindness they experience all day.
  • You teach... and then you reteach... and sometimes tutor individually... because you realize not everyone gets it the first time (or even the second time).
  • You strive to be the kind of teacher that you would want your own kids to have.
  • You learn new ideas from your colleagues... and sometimes from the internet... because you are committed to being a better teacher tomorrow than you were today.
  • You try to connect with students who don't seem reachable... because you realize you may be their only lifeline.
  • You provide encouragement and support to your colleagues when they're down.
  • You have patience with the students who may be disruptive and annoying... because you know that those students still need you.
  • You work to create a positive classroom environment... because you know that is the best kind of environment in which to learn.

In Danny Steele's letter he wrote, he closes it with these words- You're tired ... but you push on. And that makes you heroic. This resonates with my heart because you are an AMAZING staff who work tirelessly and creatively to provide something NEW and DIFFERENT for our scholars. I am proud of you and so excited for YOU to SHOWCASE your innovative work this next week for our parents! You can never be appreciated enough and I totally agree that YOU ARE HEROIC!!!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Units of Study & STEM 2/27/17

Units of Study & STEM

During our Personalized Learning Conference in GCISD Mini Conference this past August, I did a presentation on a book called "A Quick Guide to Reaching Struggling Writers K-5" by Colleen Cruz, who is a Senior Lead Staff Developer at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP) in New York. Not only do I follow @TCRWP on Twitter, I also follow @colleen_cruz and look what I found this week! The Twitter chat schedule for TCRWP! Look at May is a Twitter chat about STEM & the WORKSHOP!!! How exciting is that?? Mark your calendars now!! 

I have already emailed Colleen asking questions trying to find who they have already been working with so cross your fingers that we connect with a school or some teachers that we can collaborate with!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Google Expedition 2/20/17

On Friday I had the opportunity to play around with Google Expeditions. It was amazing but I found out quickly that this activity is meant to be done sitting down! #turning50makesyoudizzy

For those of you that like to be adventurous and learn new things on your own, the expeditions are available for you to view on the Google Expeditions app. You will only be able to view it in the "leader format" but this will give you an idea of the amount of scenes in each expedition along with the leader notes. Once you download the app- you will see the word EXPLORER on the top menu bar. If you click on that, you can then click LEAD down on the screen. At this point you can view the expeditions. All of this is explained in the quick video shared below. Enjoy!!

Below you will find the directions on how to download the free app on your phone. 

For Android devices:
  1. Go to the Expeditions app in the Google Play Store. Alternatively, you can search for Expeditions at
  2. Tap Install to add the app to the device.
  3. Tap Open, or tap to find Expeditions in your list of apps.

For iOS devices:

  1. Go to the Expeditions app in the iTunes Apps Store. Alternatively, you can search for Expeditions at
  2. Tap Get > Install to add the app to the device.
  3. Tap Open, or tap to find Expeditions in your list of apps.