Avoiding Procrustes’ Bed

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If you haven’t heard the myth of Procrustes and his bed, it’s the story of a man who invited weary travelers to lay in his guest bed. Once in, if they were too tall he lopped off their feet and if too short, he’d stretch them to fit. Horrifying I know and yet aren’t we as educators often guilty of trying to get our students to “fit” the curriculum? Continue reading “Avoiding Procrustes’ Bed”

Studying in Sustainability Masters Programs

Studying in sustainability Masters programs is often the best way for people to take their career to the next level without changing their career focus or leaving their industry. However, other people can use these degrees to change their life path altogether and enter a new career that will be completely different from the one they left. The sustainability field is one where people are constantly being hired because every business is under pressure to become sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint.

Learning the strategies and tactics that businesses can use to ensure their sustainability is something that anyone can do with a little bit of help from an online degree program. With these programs, people can go to school and still keep their job while they decide how they want to carry on with the next phase of their life. The traditional classroom is not for everyone, and family obligations often make it difficult for people to make it class and complete their studies.

However, an online degree program provides more chances for the student to get what they need out of the program while still maintaining their regular schedule. People do not have to quit their jobs or neglect their families in order to get their education and change their career path.

Also, there are people who would prefer not to go back to a regular classroom because of the experiences they had in regular classrooms in their youth. Rather than trekking to campus everyday, these students can learn at their own pace online. This means that students only need an internet connection and a computer to get their studies in. People can earn degrees completely through the computer and add a Master’s degree to their resume without ever having to set foot on a university campus.

The choice to change career paths and learn more about the field of sustainability is a brave one that many people will take in order to increase their earning potential or go into a different industry where they will be happier. Getting these degrees online is easy, works the same as getting a traditional degree and provide the knowledge necessary for the student to improve their career prospects.

Great Lesson Basics – Mixing Methods

A few years later since my initial EDI training, I have created sort of a hybrid set of “great lesson basics” that work to foster student achievement. I am happy to share them here with you.

IAF_CL1_PX01192If you’re like me, you’ve been to hundreds of trainings, most claiming to be the greatest lesson method. Then, you learned they were good and bad but never universal. Have you ever sat down and tried to piece together the best of the best into something that works for you? Whether you have or not “knowingly” done so, that is the role of the teacher … to synthesize a lot of information, create, and innovate. I used to be a huge proponent of a method called “EDI.” In fact, my EDI posts get the most traffic of any posts here on the blog. I am proud to share EDI because plain and simple: it works! A few years later since my initial EDI training, I have created sort of a hybrid set of “great lesson basics” that work to foster student achievement. I am happy to share them here with you.

1. Learning Objective: I have to introduce what I am teaching and what the students are expected to do in order to be successful after the lesson.

2. Engagement: This is a step I invented. It is what people often call a “sponge activity.” It can be a story, a puppet show, a short video, a game, anything that gets the learner absorbed into the subject matter.

3. Importance: I have found time and time again that when the kids know the value of learning the lesson, they are more engaged and thus learn more and faster.

4. Steps: Everything in education can be broken down to steps. This is often easier said than done. Taking time with the steps is invaluable toward getting kids to meet the demands of the lesson.

5. Guided Practice: Simply put, SHOW THEM HOW YOU DO IT. Use the steps and model over and over. I learned to play guitar by imitating Dave Sharp on the Alarm albums. I would move the needle back again and again until I knew every guitar riff. Kids are the same today with academics. Show them and then show them some more. Gradually release them to do it on their own.

6. Independent Practice: At this step they should be doing what they watched you do over and over. Make sure they can do it before you let them go on their own.

20120815-140604.jpg7. Small group intervention: There are usually going to be a group of kids who need extra guided practice. Take them to a side table which the whole group is working independently. Just repeat the steps of the lessons for as long as you have time or until they get it, whichever is first.

This is the lesson method I have developed through the years. I would really appreciate your comments of what you think of it, ie; how I might improve it. Thanks for being part of the Dynamite Lesson Plan professional learning community.

Parent Conferences Tip – Listen to Parents About Their Child

Here are a few ways to encourage parents to talk about their child. Once they start talking, be sure and take note and/or just listen.


Every year about Thanksgiving time, the parent conference occurs. I’ve been scheduling and hosting them for 14 years. These can be fluid and helpful to both parent and teacher but without this tip, they can be useless. You can offer positive parenting tips You may think you know the student very well because you have seen them every day in class since August.

Face the reality however that the parent knows them much better than you. In most cases, they were there with the child at birth. If you have kids of your own, you know the significance of the parent/child relationship. Even if you don’t have kids you can recall your relationship with your own parents. Should a teacher assume to know as much about one of their 25-35 students? I say no. It can be tempting to want to give educational tips for parents but remember a balance. Continue reading “Parent Conferences Tip – Listen to Parents About Their Child”

Utilizing the Aeries Gradebook

 The Aeries Gradebook is a feature that has promoted recent years. It’s excellent for storing grades. Aeries report cards integrate well also. Getting a parent friendly print isn’t easy but having the information archived in there is a legally sound and readily accessible teacher benefit.

This year I am utilizing the Aeries Gradebook by taking the time to enter crucial assignments and assessments. Aeries is a cross platform, web based database that has more information on every child than a basic gradebook software you might find on the market. In short, I believe it is more productive to take the extra time to store data in Aeries than other data banks. As time passes, the reliance on Aeries for student grades will increase and that’s when the learning of Aeries as well as the comfort level with it will benefit teachers. What are your experiences?

Getting Buy in from Students

Power of Positive with KidsMost the years I’ve taught I’ve been able to produce results in my students’ motivation. This year it has been especially challenging. Maybe it’s because the test and the academics thereof have become the primary focus of school. Perhaps this has understandably burned out student motivation. In doing so it’s given way to days consisting of “A, B, C, or D” answers. I’ve been trying some new things this year that are working to get buy-in and I wanted to share them with you. Check this out:

  1. To go along with your assessment strategies, have them grade each other’s papers. This will add peer pressure and praise to the mix. It can help them realize what they do is observed by others.
  2. Give them “pseudo” assessments that look like the final standardized test in May. This will ease their nerves and help them see that success on the test can be attained.
  3. Send a note home with the score on one of these tests. Let parents know how their kids are doing but if you do so, make sure you have suggestions for parents on how to improve their child’s score.
  4. Have a lot of ongoing student recognition. Tomorrow I am allowing all the students who got 80-100% to have lunch with me in the classroom. These kids need to be rewarded for their student academic achievement and of course, this will probably rub off on some of the kids who scored below 80%.

I firmly believe that kids in elementary learning as well as higher will do better when they have buy-in. Just like a company offers stock options to employees to keep them productive, so teachers should seek buy-in from their students. Remember this from my experience and probably yours too about work in general:

To get results from students or workers, you must have their “buy-in.”

Free Resource: Use the Guinness Book of World Records to Teach Common Core Based Standards

commonHey teachers! I received a great resource recently and I wanted to share it with you. It concerns using the Guinness Book of World Records to teach the Common Core Standards.

Here’s what they have to say about themselves (it’s free!)

Guinness World Records has served as an educational resource for many years. Just in time for lesson planning for the 2015-2016 school year, we’re launching the first-ever guide for teachers. The GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS Teacher’s Guide 2017 is a great resource for your community of educators as it:

  • Fulfills STEM and Common Core requirements
  • Provides fun and interesting content for Grades 2-5 in the subjects of Language Arts, Science, and Math
  • Can be used with the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS 2017 Edition or GuinnnessWorldRecords.com
  • Is available free of charge
  • And offers independent activities or lessons for the entire school year.

The Teacher’s Guide 2017 is now available for download here.

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Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments!

Tips for Staying Awake During Long Hauls

There are many trucking companies hiring good, safe drivers — so make sure you know how to stay safe while driving on the road. Some experienced truckers are keen to share their tips for traveling those thousands of miles.

Cat-nap before getting on the road. A short 30-minute nap right before heading out can do wonders for your energy level.

Eat a healthy meal. Many truckers go with quick and easy food but these meals often lead to energy buzzes that result in energy crashes, which you don’t want. Try to eat healthy while on the road.

Take your vitamins. They will not only help you have more energy; they will also keep you healthy.

Move when you get tired. Take a five-minute stop and stretch your legs, do five to 10 minutes of cardio, and get some fresh air.

Crank up the volume. Turn on the radio and sing your lungs out. The loud music and singing will keep you engaged.  Don’t worry, no one else will be able to hear you!

Keep yourself hydrated and avoid caffeine. Dehydration will lead to exhaustion as your body wants to shut down and conserve energy. Caffeine will only provide a temporary boost. Stick to water and juices.

These are just a few simple ways truckers have found to help them stay safe.

A Flight Simulator, a Briar Patch to get our Kids Ready

brerrabit3The fear and reverence of Common Core is all around. It permeates education. Kids who are gifted and self-starters will likely welcome the opportunity to answer high level thinking questions on a computer screen. They also will not mind the copying, pasting, bulleting, and other technical aspects of the tests. But for the rest, it’s going to come as a shock. Some kids will just give up and type nonsense into the answer boxes. Others will flutter the screens as they learn to select text and not much more. What can we do for these students? I have a suggestion.

Just like flight students work in a simulator to decrease the affect of flying, so we should put kids in a simulated session of the Common Core test. For us here in California it is called the “Smarter Balanced” or SBAC Practice Test. It’s totally free and akin to the released questions the cde used to offer on their site. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s too bad there is no way to download it in case they ever upgrade or otherwise choose to take it down. I still have all my material the cde put out for the “1997 standards,” or so they are now called. It comes in handy sometimes. But this is more valuable than any of that. It gives the child a chance to click around within the framework and interface of the common core test that will shine before all students’ faces in April/May. If you don’t use this, make sure your test prep includes something like the interface they will be in. Remember Brer Rabbit when he got caught? He cried and cried for them not to throw him into a briar patch. When he escaped, he yelled “I was born in a briar patch!” laughing his way out of sight. We need to get our kids exposed to the common core test. Of course, daily instruction in the standards is the most crucial thing but after that, we need a flight simulator, a briar patch to get our kids ready for success.