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...]

5 Facts about Smarter Balanced Assessments

In Washington, the new Smarter Balanced tests will replace the math, reading and writing portions of the MSP students in grades 3-8. The science portion of the MSP (tested in grades 5 and 8) will remain the same. Students will not take the new Smarter Balanced tests in grades K-2, 9, 10 or 12. 11th graders will take the high school level of the new Smarter Balanced tests, but meeting standard on the tests is not a graduation requirement until the Class of 2019. There are three components in … [Read more...]

Student Objectives Leads to Balanced Focus

If there is one thing teachers worry about, it’s focus. Are administrators, districts and legislatures focused on the right priorities? Are students focused on the task at hand, as opposed to being off-task? Are we, as teachers, devoting the correct percentage of focus towards each standard? Are parents focused on the education of their children as a priority? The list goes on. However, clear expectations of learning can go a long way in increasing the focus on academic achievement. When … [Read more...]

Edcamp: Teacher Driven Professional Learning

The dog days of another Seattle summer will soon be over. The bicycles and sand toys will be tucked safely away in the garage for next year and the Gortex jackets stuffed in the back of the closet will reappear as another school year begins. So, why did I drive 150 miles to voluntarily attend a day of professional development in an elementary school in a Portland suburb on a sunny summer Saturday instead of spending the day at the beach? After all, I had recently suffered death by PowerPoint … [Read more...]

Intro to RTI

I have an opportunity to collaborate with a group of teachers to improve their practice in the area of RTI. As part of this work, I read Simplifying Response to Intervention by Bauffum, Mattos, and Weber. This reaffirmed my understanding about RTI and clarified the concept. Here’s my current thinking: What is RTI? RTI is known as Response to Intervention (sometimes Response to Instruction). According to OSPI, RTI is a school-based, multi-level prevention system to maximize student … [Read more...]

CCSS Meet the CSTP Leadership Framework: Communication

This is the third installment of my reflections on the relationship between the Common Core State Standards and the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession Teacher Leadership Framework. When I was at a National Board Teacher Conference last spring I was introduced to the framework.  I was looking at the framework at the same time I was enveloped in the Common Core State Standards and trying to implement them more fully in my classroom.  Because my head was in this space I automatically … [Read more...]

Better Know a Standard: Part 6; RL 4.6

By Tom I’m back to my series on the Common Core Standards. This time focused on the fourth grade literacy standard 4.6, which reads as follows: Compare and contrast the points of view from which different stories are narrated, including the difference between first and third person narrations. First of all, this is one of those standards that makes me look at common core haters and shake my head in wonder. I mean seriously, why wouldn’t you want kids to know about first and third person … [Read more...]

Engaging Peppermint Patty: How Compassion Connects Students to the Common Core and the World

When I am lesson planning, I think of the Peanuts character Peppermint Patty. I visualize her struggling to focus while her teacher rambles on about some meaningless task that has no connection to her life. I can hear her teacher drone like a cacophonous trombone “wuh wah wah wah,” while Peppermint Patty dozes off in the corner, drool cascading down her mouth. I try to be mindful of the Peppermint Patties in my classes who find school one monotonous chore after another. Alfie Kohn argues, "no … [Read more...]