The One Annotation Strategy to Rule Them All

Every summer I make a professional goal for myself. As my school’s English department works to implement the Common Core, we made a departmental focus of teaching annotation to all our students. This summer I was determined to create a reading annotation strategy that could be used for any text. Fiction, non-fiction, informational texts, graphs, charts, videos, blogs, tweets, menus, fortune cookie fortunes - no matter which medium, it would be covered in this annotation strategy. I had other … [Read more...]

My Commitment to Grit and the Common Core

In June fellow blogger Mary Moser wrote a post about Fostering Growth mindset and how the way we give feedback and praise can impact a student's grit and growth mindset.  These have been topics that I have been exploring for  a few years now.  It all started when I was listening to a radio show about how a school had helped their students too much to get into college and a surprisingly large number of them came home.  There were all sorts of factors that went into this.  It was a magnet school … [Read more...]

Library Makeover – Pulling Middle Schoolers in the Library Door

Here's the CCSS finish line for middle school readers:  RL 8.10. By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of grades 6–8 text complexity band independently and proficiently. To get there, my students need to practice reading.  They need to connect with books that they love.  They need to see themselves as readers.  They need to recognize the need to read.  They need to walk through the library door and stick around awhile.  … [Read more...]

Balancing – Both in Reading Programs and Other Ways

As I get back into the swing of teaching all day (do you have the same feet-aching, head-spinning, heart-happy exhaustion I have at the end of each day?), I’m finding that I’m at a bittersweet time in my career. I happily accepted a grade change for this year moving from a 4th grade position to a 2nd grade position. On one hand I am sad to be leaving a phenomenal team of teachers which I admire in so many ways. I am sad to be putting some of my favorite curriculum and units on the bottom … [Read more...]

Better Know a Standard: RL 4.7

By Tom White This is a fun one! We get permission to do something I used to think was unthinkably lazy: read a story with my class and then show them a video of the same story. And then discuss the similarities and differences. First, the standard itself: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.4.7: Make connections between the text of a story or drama and a visual or oral presentation of the text, identifying where each version reflects specific descriptions and directions in the text. The first part … [Read more...]

Top 10 Tips for the Beginning of the Year!

I recently read NEA Today’s article about the Top 10 things teachers can do to make this year the Best!! Ever! If you’ve followed my blogging, you know how I feel about Top 10 Lists. I love a good Top 10 List. David Letterman’s Top 10 Lists. Top 10 Ways to Potty Train Your Toddler. Top 10 Reasons to Try Kale. Top 10 Food Trucks in Portland. Top 10 Shade Loving Plants. Top 10 Brass Hardware Options to Spruce Up Your Kitchen.   Here’s my Top 10 List for making this year Your! Best! … [Read more...]

Genius Hour Engages Learners

The topic of student-centered learning has generated much discussion partly as result of the new Teacher and Principal Evaluation System. Separating the distinguished level performance across all three instructional frameworks used in Washington State is the degree to which students take charge of their own learning. Genius Hour is one structure that leads to high levels of student autonomy in the learning process. It was one of most inspiring topics I recently explored at EdcampPDX. Genius … [Read more...]

Creating a Teaching Space

By Tom White This is the time of year when, like most teachers, I become an interior decorator. I move stuff around, decorate walls and try to make my classroom Just Right. And I think I’m about there. All I have left to do is put my students’ names on their desks. And plan for the first day. This is the thirtieth time I’ve been through this, and I follow three basic tenets: 1. Walls and bulletin boards are for student work or really important information. I don’t put up decorations. I … [Read more...]

Sentence Stems Help Kids Ask Better Questions

Some questions are frustrating. I’m recalling a very specific moment this last school year where I was working one-on-one with one of my 6th graders, we’ll call her Josie, trying with all my might to help her understand how to solve for a variable in an algebraic equation. I did everything right; or so I thought. I showed her the steps slowly and methodically. I did my best to verbalize what I was doing as I began to balance a sample equation. I used vocabulary that we hit (and hit hard) in … [Read more...]

If Our District PD Around the CCSS Was a YA Novel

If our district professional development around the CCSS was a young adult novel, last year was a romance.  We had been hearing about the CCSS from our friends, but then he moved to town and we got to know him.  Turns out we had tons in common and we started going out.  Of course there were those early relationship bumps - really, less fiction and more nonfiction?  Plus the haters - he's no good for you, you don't know where he's coming from  - but you rode it out and you're still together. You … [Read more...]