Recent Activities with Tools You Can Use


Porter Middle School

My brief time with Porter Middle School was useful nonetheless. I used the hour to begin a conversation (with about 100 people from all disciplines) about how a common undestanding of rigor can enhance the implementation of their schoolwide use of Cornell Notes so that all students are both challenged and supported. If you are unfamiliar with the Cornell note taking system take a look at this handout from the University of Pennsylvania. It is just one of many that can be found with a simple google search.

California League of Middle Schools – A successful strand:)

Here are the links to the powerpoint and handouts for my presentation  February 28, 2010 “Flipping Through History”   for the California League of Middle Schools Conference. Check back to see how it went. Look for pictures of student samples  under the Blogroll heading.

Powerpoint Flipping Through History 

 Handouts instructions for CLMS activities final

February 2010

Late last month I faced what is always my toughest audience…my own school site. I had been assigned as the focus for the day a  revisit of Marzano’s work on the use of similarities and differences as a highly effective strategy. Additionally I was informed that this directive’s origin was the District Office. Apparently simiilarities and differences is a part of an observational Walk ‘Bout protocol that is being implemented throughout the district. To  make matters more difficult the last time my school delved into Marzano it was under a principal who lacked the people skills a strong instructional leader needs. And if a top down directive that evoked memories of a contentious environment was not enough of a challenge…my original time allotment was cut almost in half. Not necessarily harbingers of a successful training.

And yet it went well. To begin with the opportunity to re- explore the concept of similarities and differences at a deeper level was rewarding….it is so very much more than a Venn Diagram. As Marzano pointed out this thinking pattern is the building block for all others.  It was refreshing for the staff to be given the opportunity to delve deeper into an “old friend” rather than be given a crash course in the “next new thing”

When set against the backdrop of increasing rigor the need for integrating a strategy that has the potential to increase learning by 45% becomes imperative. Our discussion of rigor also provided an opportunity for the beginning of another discussion about the importance of effective scaffolding and open access.  Just making things harder is not rigor. Making that rigor accessible to all is what effective scaffolding can provide.  Take a look at the Marzano Overview January 29 powerpoint and the Expectations and Rigor continuum used in this workshop.

January 2010

The upcoming long weekend will find me in Maui. This my second weekend training on this isle. I am excited to be returning and am eager to work with the teachers of the upcountry.

Atlanta, July and LA, August 2009…A tale of two cities…

Mid July found me in the Big Peach! An unexpected pleasure since I found out that I was going just a few days  before. This time my role was that of an Institute staff developer for the AVID Summer Institute. It was an exceptional opportunity to view staff development from a different perspective…and allowed me to share ideas with state and national level AVID leaders. I also had the privilege to observe several staff developers in action…and steal ideas (the life blood of all educators:)! Afternoons afforded me the opportunity to do what I most enjoy…facilitate others as they discover their own path to excellence. Specifically I worked with three schools as they developed their AVID site team plans for the year. It was immensely rewarding. I cherished every moment of this week in Atlanta.

Strategic Idea: Never underestimate the use of of the physical in our teaching practice.

This idea was reinforced to me as I watched how a group of teachers blossomed under the guidance of Bill Madigan an ELL staff developer and brain theory expert. Make learning physical! It engaged the brain and allows our students  to process information through an additional learning conduit!  How many of us struggle with directions until someone shows us how it is done? With this in mind I have modified my three levels of thinking directions to include a physical representation.

Level 1…answer is found in the text (source of info) Have one hand open in front of you and point to it with your other hand as you say these words.

Level 2…the source and you Same as for level one but after pointing to your hand point to your head. (Point an equal time to both your hand and your head).

Level 3…mostly you Sweep your finger quickly across the hand that represents the book and then point to your head.

Tune in again…August to come.
Sacramento July 2009

Another great week working with a group of 85 teachers. Together  my co-presenter, Michelle Walsh, and I counted over 800 years of experience in our room. One of my most rewarding experiences as a trainer is the time I spend presenting Write Path History training at the AVID Summer Institutes. If you ever have the opportunity to attend one of these workshops, do it! One participant said he learned more in the four days of this Write Path training than he had in all of his content pedagogy classes  in college.

In its Write Path series for the content areas AVID has collected a wide range of highly effective strategies.  into one source. The power of these strategies lies in their flexibility. This flexibility and malleability empowers both teachers and students. For example I took a response to text activity and morphed into a three dimensional investigation of Manifest Destiny’s impact on various groups of people by combining it with Costa’s Habits of Mind . Here are the directions for and a photo of the task.

  • Habits of Mind 1

As always feel free to contact me via e-mail or discussion comment.

Dallas June 2009

I had a wonderful day working with 25 teachers from Dallas, Texas. As we explored how to integrate visuals more effectively into our lessons, we also explored how to integrate writing into the process. One of our more interesting discussions was how to increase access to rigorous content using visuals and Costas levels of questions (see below for an explanation).

Some Comments From Participants

“very informative”…”the instructor was wonderful and so well-versed on the strategies we talked about. Well done!”…”much better than any district training I’ve had.”…”It is rare to go to a training that is both educational and engaging.  I was inspired and enjoyed every moment of it.  Usually mandatory trainings are very dry and tend to drag on, but yours was so engaging that I was shocked when it was time to leave.  I think that everyone there felt the same way, everyone was very into it.  That is very incredible.  It takes a talented person to be able to motivate children, but an especially talented person to be able to light a fire under teachers-we seem to make the worst students. So, I wanted to let you know that you really inspired me.  Thanks for the great training-I hope you come again!”

Costa’s Levels of Questions

A google search on this topic will give you a plethora of info, ideas, and even handouts on this inquiry tool. Personally I have moved away from using all but a single poster on my wall. I found that my students were focusing too much on the stems and not on the thinking processes that define inquiry.  Now I give my students a description of the thinking involved at each level. This makes Costa’s more portable (meaning students can use it wherever they are).

Level 1…answer is found in the text (source of info)

Level 2…the source and you

Level 3…mostly you 

Strategic Classroom Application.

Develops student inquiry and active reading.

Multiple Intelligences: Interpersonal, Verbal Linguistic, Kinesthetic, Mathematical-Logical

Marzano Correlations: Questions, Cues, and Advance Organizers, cooperative learning, homework and practice, reinforcing effort and providing recognition.

Instead of having students answer the questions from their text try the following. Remember when I say “text” I mean whatever the students are getting information from. This could be a web page, a video, a painting…virtually any source of information.

Have students create 3 Level 1 questions. Instruct students to leave at least five empty lines between each Level 1 question.

In groups of 3 or 4 have students switch questions.

Have students change  the Level 1 questions into Level 2 questions. They will record their level 2 question under the Level 1 question.

Switch papers again. Now have the students change the Level 2 questions into Level 3 questions.

Have students choose to answer any of their group’s questions. Level 1 questions are worth 1 point, Level 2 questions are worth 2 points and Level 3 questions are worth 3 points. Choose a total point value that students must answer. For example students could answer 10 or 15 points worth of questions.

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