Monday, October 31, 2011

The American DREAM

The American DREAM.

No facet of our country's immigration debate is more heartless or economically foolish than our failure to support undocumented children who have grown up on American soil. These students have gone to school alongside their native-born peers and in many cases have shown themselves to be outstanding scholars, athletes and entrepreneurs and yet when they graduate from high school, they enter a legal limbo with limited resources to pursue higher education and climb the economic ladder. Help from Congress won't be forthcoming given Republican intransigence. Even the so-called "moderate" Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, recently said that opposing financial aid to undocumented students was not heartless, but smart. It's up to us to step off the sidelines and give these young people a shot at the American Dream.


Teachers Combat Summer “Brain Drain” as School Year Begins

Teachers Combat Summer “Brain Drain” as School Year Begins.
Some students, especially low-income students, have lost several months of educational progress over the summer.
Despite their fresh notebooks and a ready supply of sharpened pencils, many students didn’t start this new school year prepared to move ahead. Research shows that many of them, particularly low-income students, are starting school months behind where they were last spring, causing teachers to spend weeks of the new academic year going over content instead of tackling new material.
As Jeff Smink, Vice-president of Policy of the National Summer Learning Association, wrote recently in the New York Times, “The American ideal of lazy summers filled with fun has an unintended consequence: If students are not engaged in learning over the summer, they lose skills in math and reading...

Highdown Ride for Children in Cambodia

Highdown Ride for Children in Cambodia.
Teachers at an Emmer Green secondary school are swapping the classroom for the open road as they pedal their way to raising cash for charity.
Highdown School and Sixth Form Centre headteacher Tim Royle is one of 18 people connected with the school taking part in the 450km cycle ride from Vietnam to Cambodia next month.
He said: “We are raising money for HopeAsia which supports about 50 to 60 children in an orphanage in Cambodia.”
The charity was set up to fund the orphanage and provide food, water, clothing, medical care, education and a safe home for the children.
Mr Royle said: “So far we have raised £31,655 but I think £150,000 is what we should be aiming for.
By Laura Herbert

Teaching Tips Animal Adaptations

Teaching Tips Animal Adaptations.
When teaching children about adaptation of living things in Science, it is important but often difficult to get them to understand about why certain animals have developed certain physical features over the course of evolution. This idea will help you to do this, as well as illustrate how the 'survival of the fittest' theory comes in.
Choose two animals from very different habitats, e.g. polar bear and African elephant. Discuss with your class how each animal is perfectly designed for its environment (e.g. polar bear has fur with layers of fat underneath; elephant has large ears to fan away pests and let out heat from its body). The class could produce detailed diagrams of the animals' bodies and how the different components come in useful.
Secondly, create a 'Polarphant' and an 'Elebear' (polar bear and elephant which have been transported...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Synonym Pairs

Synonym Pairs.
This takes a little time to set up but lasts for a long time - especially if you can laminate the work.
Based on the card game pairs, write a selection of synonyms on separate pieces of card, e.g. big, large; happy, jolly etc.
In pairs or small groups the children place all the cards face down on the table. The first player picks a card and reads it, he or she then picks a second card. If it is the correct synonym the child keeps both cards and has another go. If the word is not a synonym they put both cards back on the table face down and the next child has a go. The child with the most cards at the end wins.
This encourages the child to think about words and use a dictionary to look up the ones he or she doesn't know. Obviously the more able the child the more difficult the words such as catching and contagious, unhappy and melancholy...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Scientists Identify Subtle Autism Characteristics

Autism: Wider eyes and a broader mouth: Scientists identify subtle ‘distinct facial characteristics’ of children with developmental disorder.

The findings could help uncover the underlying causes of the developmental disorder

Children with autism have distinct facial characteristics compared with non-autistic children, according to a team of scientists.

Researchers at the University of Missouri made the claim after mapping the faces of dozens of boys both with and without the developmental disorder.

The face and brain develop in tandem, with each influencing the other, beginning in the embryo and continuing through the teenage years.

Scientists believe that pinpointing when these subtle changes occur could help them discover when autism...


Storytelling Response Tasks

Storytelling response tasks.
Response tasks are designed to give students the chance to express themselves creatively and openly, not for comprehension checking. There are no right or wrong answers so there should be no pressure on students. Students can respond as they wish, whether in English or in their mother tongue.
Get ready to tell your students a short and suitable folk tale which you know well (alternatively learn a simple story - see resources below). Prepare the classroom by making an informal receptive storytelling environment. Consider informal seating, gentle lighting and ensure there are no distracting background noises. Ask students to put away pens and paper and just enjoy listening to a story.
Tell the story.
A moment after telling the story, say:
I’m going to ask you three questions.....
By David Heathfield

Turning Decoders Into Readers

Turning Decoders Into Readers.

“We discovered that the FIRST graders at that school were reading confidently and competently, Merrow writes on his blog, “but the fourth graders weren’t according to the results of the state test. Is this a paradox, or a full-blown contradiction?” Merrow attempted to figure out where things leave the rails between first and fourth grades–an earnest, but ultimately frustrating piece that correctly diagnoses the problem, but fails to uncover or sufficiently examine its root causes.

Merrow starts by correctly pointing out that there is a big difference between “reading” in the first grade and “reading” in fourth grade. Indeed, they’re hardly the same activity. Observing a phonics lesson in a first grade classroom, he points out that “Ms. Hunt’s students seem to be getting it.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Using the Phonemic Chart

Using the phonemic chart.

Teachers often disagree on whether or not to use the phonemic chart in their lessons. Watch Peter and Clare argue for and against, then why not tell us what you think. Do you use the phonemic chart with your students? Why? Why not?

What the video at

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mobile Learning Video

Mobile Learning Video.

What is mobile learning, or m-learning? Watch Chris talk about how he uses mobile devices in class, then leave a comment below if you have similar ideas.

See more at

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Why Great Teachers Quit & How to stop the Teacher Exodus.

Why Great Teachers Quit & How to stop the Teacher Exodus.

How much time have you spent on interview committees? Time when you could have been grading papers, contacting parents, or preparing for your next class? If you have been teaching for more than a few years, you’ve undoubtedly sat in on countless interview committees. That’s because too many of your most talented colleagues have quit teaching — some suddenly — many for preventable reasons. It’s likely that many of them were outstanding teachers, and our schools spend tens of thousands of dollars hiring new ones, only to repeat this cycle in a few short years. It’s a waste of money, time, and resources (all which we know are increasingly scarce).


By Katy Farber

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Teacher Leader Sample Case: How Hard Do I Push?

Teacher Leader Sample Case: How Hard Do I Push?

What a relief! Another strong finish to the school year! Again our kids’ test scores climbed. Yes, lesson study work IS continuing to make a positive difference in student achievement. The administration once again will be pleased. We have cross-grade-level professional discussions happening. People are getting along better than ever.

“Oh my, is that Angie asking Valerie for feedback on a geometry lesson? I never thought that would happen!” Don and Terry are looking over each other’s student work from the recent lesson they worked on together. What a great conversation they are having. Staff members really seem to feel valued and respected by each other and by the principal. Nothing could be better!


By Debra Rose Howell

Friday, October 21, 2011

Occupy the Classroom

Occupy the Classroom.

OCCUPY Wall Street is shining a useful spotlight on one of America’s central challenges, the inequality that leaves the richest 1 percent of Americans with a greater net worth than the entire bottom 90 percent.

Most of the proposed remedies involve changes in taxes and regulations, and they would help. But the single step that would do the most to reduce inequality has nothing to do with finance at all. It’s an expansion of early childhood education.

Huh? That will seem na├»ve and bizarre to many who chafe at inequities and who think the first step is to throw a few bankers into prison. But although part of the problem is billionaires being taxed at lower rates than those with more modest incomes, a bigger source of structural inequity is that many young people never get the skills to compete. They’re just left behind....


Purpose & Potential of Peer Observations

Peer observations and professional learning communities.

Purpose and potential of peer observations. 

(Adapted from “The Practice of Authentic PLCs: A Guide to Effective Teacher Teams,” Corwin Press, 2011)
In the early 1980s, as a third-year teacher, I was asked to teach math in a rigorous summer program at one of the nation’s leading private schools in Connecticut. There, I was struck by many things, not the least of which was the prevalence of visits by colleagues to my classroom. Nary a day went by in which someone wasn’t observing my teaching.

It was not because I was a beginning teacher; every faculty member could have made the same claim. It was because of the school’s culture, established long before my arrival to the beautiful New England campus.


By Daniel R. Venables

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Students Nominate Best Lecturers

Students nominate best lecturers.

A new scheme offers the antidote to nasty online ratings: a chance for students to praise their lecturers.

"I wouldn't say she's the worst professor I've ever had, just not terribly inspiring," writes one student on's UK website. Others describe various individual lecturers as: "patronising and not very bright", "nice person, but worthless teacher", "supremely egotistical", "mad as a box of badgers", and simply "awful, awful man".
Never before have students had such opportunities to let off steam when they feel their university teaching has failed to come up to scratch, and never before have lecturers been so publicly at their mercy. RateMyProfessors, used in the US for the last 12 years, started soliciting comments from UK students five years ago and covers well over 1,000 UK lecturers, rating them for easiness, helpfulness, clarity, interest, and whether or not they are "hot". Then there is the National Student Survey, which for the last seven years has asked final-year students to rate qualities such as teaching, feedback and organisation on their course. This year's annual report from the Office of the Independent Adjudicator, set up in 2004 to handle student complaints, showed that these had risen by a third in the last year, and predicted that they were likely to rise even more sharply following next year's increase in tuition fees.
The government's white paper, "Students at the Heart of the System", also seems to envisage students speaking out if they are unhappy with their learning. In a Guardian online chat last week, the universities minister, David Willetts, urged students to raise concerns about practical aspects such as getting work back and contact time. He predicted: "Our finance changes will strengthen the student voice on these issues."
But this Thursday sees the launch of a project that takes a more positive approach to student involvement.


Blending Teachers and e-Learning

 Blending teachers and e-Learning.

The effectiveness of online learning to develop 21st century skills
According to the NCREL Synthesis of New Research on K-12 Online Learning, online learning is rapidly growing, expands educational options and provides equal opportunities for all learners. But just as important, the study proves that online learning is effective and that online learning can actually improve teaching. (“On average, students seem to perform equally well or better academically in online learning.”)

For example, it cites that “of those who reported teaching face-to-face while teaching online or subsequently, three in four reported a positive impact on their face-to-face teaching.” Similar results were also found in a recent 93 page report by SRI International for the Department of Education.


By Vicki Cerda

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