Tag Archives: Teaching

Minecraft – Do You Know What It Is?

20 May

20130520-205648.jpgIn order to discover what and how our students think, it is beneficial to look into their interests. Many of our students may spend an inordinate amount of time building various creations on Minecraft. I have just recently begun scratching the surface of this game, and I’ve realized the extent to which this game could be leveraged for educational purposes.

Follow this link to read Ashley MacQuarrie’s brilliant list of ideas in how Minecraft could be, and is in some cases, used in education.


Think You’re a 21st Century Educator?

14 May

Think You're a 21st Century Educator?

This post is from The Committed Sardine Blog via the 21st Century Fluency Project

“Mia MacMeekin has created a wonderful infographic featured below in this Edudemic article by Jeff Dunn. Here are 27 different ways a teacher can develop 21st-century educator skills. Simple but effective is what defines these approaches. Which of these do you use in your classrooms right now, and which ones would you like to try?”

via Edudemic

You can’t swing an iPad in the hallway without hitting someone talking about becoming a 21st century teacher, 21st century student, or something involving the 21st century. While I personally am quite over that term, it fits and makes sense. I guess. (Personally, I think a better term is ‘modern’ teacher or ‘connected’ teacher rather than just stating that someone exists within this century. Kinda vague, no?)

So what does it take to become a 21st century teacher? Quite simply, it’s a little more than integrating the computer lab into the classroom. In fact, classrooms should look nothing like a computer lab that we’ve come to know and instead should resemble a set of grouped students collaborating, learning with each other, and having a ‘guide on the side’ teacher who helps steer the proverbial ship.

Think you got the chops to become a 21st century teacher, a modern teacher, or at least an educator who has a classroom of engaged students? Use this handy chart to find more than two dozen ways to become the teacher you’ve always known you could be. Most of the ways are briefly explained but that’s kinda the beauty of the whole chart. You can take the sentence or two and turn it into a new teaching process that others may not already use. For example, the term ‘collaborate’ (see below) could mean just about anything to a modern teacher. Collaborate via Skype? Collaborate to try out Project-Based Learning? Collaborate to grow your PLN? The sky is the limit! In fact, these days we talk about space so much that the sky is not the limit.

Have I gotten you excited enough to start taking your own great leap into the world of modern education? I hope so. Shoot for the moon, you might hit a star. If not, use this infographic-y visual as a guide to becoming a modern teacher. If you are already one, pass this along to your friends and colleagues to make sure they’re becoming one too.

What ways would you add to this visual? Want a print-friendly PDF? Click here. Also, check out the great blog by Mia MacMeekin who made this chart!

What CCSS means for Teachers

4 Mar


Read this excellent post below. It is a brief overview of one educator’s thoughts and advice to teachers to tackle the Common Core. There is a lot of meat in this relatively short article.


What CCSS means for Teachers – By Caitlin Dooley
January 26, 2013
This is the third in a series of blogs about the Common Core Standards. This post contains advice for teachers.

What CCSS Means for Teachers

I’m sure teachers are already sick of hearing about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). By now, you’ve been told that you will switch over to these new Standards if you work in any of the 45 states that have already adopted them (see a map here of the states that have/have not adopted http://www.corestandards.org/in-the-states ). So what’s a teacher to do?

1. Give Yourself Time

These Standards took more than a decade to be developed. Putting them fully into practice will take a while too. Give yourself time to learn. Find out more about the Standards, their pros and their cons (I’ve written about this in my previous blog entries.) Take time to reflect as you adjust your teaching.

2. Learn with/from Others

Seek a group of like-minded, dedicated, inquisitive teachers to learn with. Take small bits of the Standards and consider them together. Which elements do you think will be most challenging? Work together through these hard parts, share resources, identify helpful technologies, and create new units and lessons. Carve out regular time to talk—whether in the workroom at school or a nearby restaurant, really anywhere you think you’ll do it regularly.

3. Think Through the Hard Parts

I have no crystal ball, but in looking at the standards, I foresee that there will be some parts that will be a struggle for some teachers:

Teaching “complex” texts.

Text complexity is all the rage in CCSS. It’s how the developers came up with that crazy-long list of “exemplar texts” that sits at the end of the K-12 English Language Arts (ELA) Standards. Text complexity is not simply a quantitative readability score (like the Lexile scores that the CCSS use). Text complexity involves qualitative information like text genre, format and structure, vocabulary, levels of meaning (literal, figurative, etc.), and knowledge demands. While the CCSS lists text exemplars in order of increasing text complexity, your job will be to thoughtfully look beyond their list to match texts and children. While you want to push students to challenge themselves to read more complex texts, your job will be to scaffold their learning as they approach each new text. If you find that one child struggles with new vocabulary or another child struggles with a new text format, then you will know which texts to offer next as you teach about these text features.

Increasing the focus on informational texts.

As grade level increases, the CCSSs focus on informational texts increases. And the fact is, P-12 educators have a history of teaching more about narrative texts, especially in the early grades. So this might be a shift.

You will want to be sure to offer informational texts in your classroom. You will want to teach children how to approach these texts as information gatherers, synthesizers, and inquirers. You can ask your students to take these approaches by asking them to summarize, identify key points, synthesize across texts, and ask new questions. If you’re wondering how to do this, look into books offered by the International Reading Association, the National Council of Teachers of Educators—they’ll have some great ideas.

Teaching vocabulary.

This does not mean “look it up in the dictionary”! This means that we teachers need to teach about new words through explicit instruction. Vocabulary shouldn’t focus on high frequency words that the kids already know. The words that need to be taught are the kinds that represent abstract ideas that go across content areas (words like “justice” or “apprentice”). You’ll get the most bang for your buck when you teach these kinds of words. Also teach words that are specialized and focus on one content area (like science words), but these should only be taught in conjunction with science and social studies class (NOTE: This falls apart when you’re working with English learners because they also need that first level—the frequent words that are common to everyday language).

Getting kids to explain their thinking and nurture analytical thinking.

Discuss, discuss, discuss learning. Start each lesson by asking kids what they know and how they know. End each lesson by asking kids what they’ve learned and how they learned. Ask them routinely to consider their process for thinking and learning. Use questions like, “How do you know that?” “What makes you think that?” “Where did you get information that helped your learning?” “What questions did you have that lead you to learn more?” “What questions do you still have?” “What are you wondering?” Follow these discussions up with opportunities for kids to write about their thinking, draw about it, and create “audit trails” that trace their learning journeys. (I’ll write a blog entry about audit trails soon!)

Supporting research and writing reports.

The CCSS emphasize research and inquiry. In many classrooms, research papers are sent home as projects, but they shouldn’t be. That leaves the hard work up to the student and tilts the advantage to only those students with parents with the time and background to scaffold the process. This is a role for teachers! As you work to incorporate opportunities for inquiry into your units of study, consider finding ways to engage students in inquiry. They can create their own textbook chapters, make videos, and other products that demonstrate their learning. Your job here is to scaffold the inquiry process. Help them to hone their questions, seek information from multiple sources, synthesize that information, and create a product. Think about how you might claim this role to ensure that all students in your class have the opportunity for scaffolded help throughout the inquiry process.

Integrating meaningful technologies.

While the CCSS don’t particularly shout “TECH,” the fact is that we need to use technology to teach the CCSS well. The internet, apps, and multimodal composition tools (video, audio, print, photo, etc.) are all helpful for children as they achieve new levels of thinking and understanding. They’re not going away. And kids will have to be able to master these tools (and some yet to be invented) if they are to truly be “college and career ready.”


Your role as “assessor” has just gotten harder. Teachers can master this role by closely attending to kids talk, writing, and thinking. But they will also need to pay close attention to the kinds of assessments that are being developed for the CCSS. New tests with constructed response items will require students not only to get the right answer, but also to tell why it’s right. It’s likely that more and more tests and test-like tools will become available in the next 2-5 years. Your job will be to analyze that data to best match instruction to each learner’s needs.

4. Know the Limits of the CCSS

With all this hoopla about these new Standards, it’s easy to be misled. The CCSS threaten to over-promise, but underdeliver on academic success. No nation has ever improved learning and erased achievement “gaps” by creating national standards. The CCSS are not a panacea. They’re a framework. Your job will be to thoughtfully adapt these Standards to the needs of your students while supporting them to reach new levels of understanding.
Caitlin Dooley/ Comment 1 Like

Upgrades and Amplification

11 Dec

Click HERE to access an exceptional post on the Langwitches Blog. It is a follow up to the Learning How2Learn Post and slide show I previously re-posted. She explains the terms “Upgrade” and “Amplification” and continues to prescribe a slow and methodical process for everyone to use to train themselves for success.
This post provides a great vision of instruction in the modern era and how to achieve it.

Below is a checklist she created that breaks down the process she outlines in her post:


Hooksett in the News

3 Oct

Our district is in the news. Listen to or read this article to hear Sam Evans Brown’s report on our and Oyster River’s progress on implementing a BYOD policy. Oyster River representatives provide interesting insight into the practice after living through it for three years already.


Change Behavior First, Beliefs Will Follow

27 Sep


NPR Story: Teacher Expectations
A very interesting study was published last week outlining the power of teacher expectations on students and learning outcomes. Alix Spiegel of NPR has reported on the subject masterfully.

The final verdict: Teachers, you have an inordinate amount of power, and children live up to your expectations. . Being mindful of your thoughts, convictions, and assumptions will help you reach out to each student in your class.


Conversational Guide to “Video” Self Assessment

3 May

Complete the following form here, or you can complete it on paper if you prefer.  You can download the paper version by clicking the link below.

Guiding Questions