• Give Me a (Spring) Break! Ways to Recharge for the Home Stretch

    Posted By AshaLee Ortiz | Mar 09, 2015

    March means one thing for educators: spring break. If you are anything like me, you may try to achieve some sort of balance between professional development, catching up on work responsibilities, and being able to take time to relax and recharge. Also, if you are anything like me, you will feel guilt about not being able to achieve any of these objectives with a semblance of success, tainting the time spring break is supposed to afford us to recharge for the final weeks of the school year. For a music educator, February through April can be one of the most hectic times of the year. The beginning of second semester in the music world has a different, more serious tone, but also a frenetic feel to it as individual students and ensembles perform and prepare to perform at a plethora of events. Spring break provides a slight reprieve to the insanity. It neatly cuts expected performances in half, making where and when I am required to be at concerts, festivals, and competitions seemingly manageable. I know many ensembles across the country use their spring break as an opportunity to travel with their students. This allows directors to shoChoir-SpringBreak_3-5-15-1wcase the hard work ensembles have put in over the course of the school year, as well as to afford students performance opportunities that they will remember for a lifetime. I, however, do not subscribe to this practice for various reasons, mostly because, if I am being honest, I need the break.

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  • Not Hard to Convince: Narrative As a Vehicle for Argument Writing

    Posted By Michelle George | Feb 20, 2015

    As a middle school English teacher, one of my greatest challenges is to help lead my students from narrative writing into argument writing. What I am realizing as I peruse the “real writing” and communication so prevalent today is that narrative is a vehicle for strong argument writing. Good writing is good writing, no matter what the mode, and using the familiar mode of narrative is an effective way to bridge young writers’ purpose from entertainment to persuasion. Not long ago I found myself in the same boat as millions of other Americans, parked in front of a huge TV with a bunch of friends, overeating and watching the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl is that anomaly of TV viewing when spectators not only watch all of the commercials, but actually look forward to them. I am no different.

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  • Make It Happy: Teachable Moments on Super Bowl Monday and Beyond

    Posted By AshaLee Ortiz | Feb 13, 2015

    I consider the Super Bowl to be a national holiday. Regardless of your religious background or your cultural upbringing, the Super Bowl is a uniquely American social experience that unites even non-sports fans for one reason: the commercials. This year’s Super Bowl was especially significant for me, and not just because it was hosted in my hometown of Glendale, AZ. I feel there were several companies that chose to use their 30-second time slot addressing the largest audience of the year not just to sell a product, but to share a message. One in particular, the Coca-Cola Commercial, really caught my attention. So, as my students returned on Super Bowl Monday buzzing about the big game, I decided to capitalize on an opportunity to augment my objectives for the week.

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  • Help Math Students Attend to Precision

    Posted By Michele Douglass, Ph.D. | Feb 06, 2015

    Part 8 of 8, Strategies for Integrating the Mathematical Practices into Instruction We have compiled all strategies from this 8-part series into a complimentary white paper that can act as a guide for teachers. Last but definitely not least in this series on Integrating the Mathematical Practices into Instruction is MP#6: Attend to Precision, which often impacts a solution more than any other practice. This practice is generally understood to be about accuracy of solutions and good estimations. While these ideas are certainly part of the practice, it includes so much more. “Mathematically proficient students try to communicate precisely to others. They try to use clear definitions in discussion with others and in their own reasoning. They state the meaning of the symbols they choose, including using the equal sign consistently and appropriately. They are careful about specifying units of measure, and labeling axes to clarify the correspondence with quantities in a problem. They calculate accurately and efficiently, express numerical answers with a degree of precision appropriate for the problem context. In the elementary grades, students give carefully formulated explanations to each other. By the time they reach high school they have learned to examine claims and make explicit use of definitions.” —Common Core State Standards (CCSS), MP#6: Attend to Precision

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  • If You Want Technology in the Classroom, Go Get It!

    Posted By Alexandria Mooney | Jan 29, 2015

    I present at a number of (mostly technology) conferences throughout the year, and someone in my session inevitably says, “My school can’t afford this technology” or “How am I supposed to do this in my classroom when I don’t have any resources?” My heart goes out to them. I’ve been fortunate enough in most of my teaching career to be in schools where technology is highly looked upon and sought out. However, I have been on the flip side of that as well, where technology was on the back burner and other, more pressing issues took priority. What I always tell these commenters at my session is, “This may sound harsh, but those are merely excuses. Don’t let your school’s limited budget stop you from using technology—any kind you want—in your classroom.”

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  • 7 Ways to Motivate Students with Creative Teaching in Any Classroom

    Posted By AshaLee Ortiz | Jan 22, 2015

    I teach music, so being creative is kind of essential to my classroom. However, a little bit of everything should be present in all content areas, because that helps depth of knowledge and retention. So let’s get past the stigma of what something looks like in an “art” classroom or a “science” classroom. What should student motivation look like in any classroom?

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  • Make Sense of Problems and Persevere in Solving Them

    Posted By Michele Douglass, Ph.D. | Jan 14, 2015

    Part 7 of 8, Strategies for Integrating the Mathematical Practices into Instruction This mathematical practice involves the ways students can explain to themselves the meaning of a problem and the ways they find to enter into solving it. It might feel like being a detective who is looking for clues or evidence on how to solve a problem. Students proficient with this practice believe they are mathematicians and try several methods to come to a solution. This blog series will conclude by examining Practice #1 in this post and Practice #6 in the final post. These two practices can be thought of as overarching habits of mind that productive thinkers use as they work with mathematics.

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  • Fighting the Technology Gap in a Time of Tight Budgets

    Posted By AshaLee Ortiz | Jan 05, 2015

    21st Century learners are used to being plugged-in. They crave it. They have been raised in a technology rich environment. When toddlers reach for a phone now, they immediately try to text and swipe, rather than mimicking talking into the device. The times are changing, and your classroom should too. But what if you don’t have the funding? Maybe your district was hit particularly hard during the recession. Maybe resources are being allocated to special programs like STEM or to magnet sites within your district. Maybe you teach an elective course, and resources are reserved for “core class” instruction. How can you tap into your student’s desire for technology on a tight budget and with limited resources?

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  • That Fine Line Between Technology Helping or Hurting Student Literacy

    Posted By Amy Blowers | Dec 09, 2014

    What did we ever do before tablets, smart phones, and computers? How on earth did we ever teach students without PowerPoint®, interactive whiteboard, and Google™? As an online learning teacher, I find it fascinating to think about teaching and student literacy before technology. I believe that, when it is used appropriately, technology can be the key to the kingdom of excellent student literacy. I have taught high school English Language Arts for 15 years. When I started, I had a desktop computer, and the high school I worked for had one computer lab with 10 computers. The most engaging activity incorporated into teaching literacy at that time in my classroom was gaming. I had games for everything: vocabulary (Race to the Chalkboard Challenge), sentence building (Grammar Gladiators), and comprehension (Sherlock Search).

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  • Look for and Express Regularity in Repeated Reasoning

    Posted By Michele Douglass, Ph.D. | Dec 02, 2014

    Look for and Express Regularity in Repeated Reasoning Part 6 of 8, Strategies for Integrating the Mathematical Practices into Instruction By Dr. Michele Douglass Of all the mathematical practices, I find this one hardest to implement. It is probably from my years of being taught how to just manipulate numbers versus how to use patterns to generalize. This practice reverses the thinking of the previous practice (MP#7). For this practice, we want students to use patterns that we might give them to generalize a situation. For example, instead of teaching rules for adding integers, how could students look at patterns to generalize or come up with the rule? Think about a lesson that has students examining graphs and matching equations in order to generalize the slope-intercept equation.

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