Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Teach Like A Champion Chapter 8 Analysis:

(This is the ninth of a series of posts on Teach Like A Champion by Doug Lemov, which I am reading and reflecting on for a class for my masters at Cornerstone University)

In chapter 8, Lemov provides advice on improving the pacing of the class. He begins by clarifying the definition: pacing is not the speed at which you teach, but refers to the illusion of speed created as and whenever necessary to engage to your students. The following techniques can help improve your pacing:
Timing activities will improve the pacing of your activities.
  1. Change The Pace. Use a variety of activities to accomplish your objective, specifically changing the format of the work. Every ten minutes or so should be a different activity. Try especially to alternate between active and passive activities.
  2. Brighten Lines: As much as possible, make your activities have clear beginning and ending points. A time limit, such as “Take three minutes to…” helps.
  3. All Hands: involve as many students as possible and shift rapidly between participants. Cold Call and Pepper help allow this.
  4. Every Minute Matters: Reward students for their hard work with high-energy review of all they’ve learned or with a challenge problem. Pepper, or other quiz games can help utilize the last two or three minutes of class that are normally wasted.
  5. Look Forward: Put an agenda up, and/or foreshadow upcoming activities in class. Try calling one activity on the agenda “Mystery Activity”. 
  6. Work The Clock: using a stopwatch for timed activities, and a countdown when giving directions to follow establishes the culture that every second matters, as well as brightening the lines of your activities and directives.

Teach Like A Champion Chapter 7 Analysis:

(This is the eighth of a series of posts on Teach Like A Champion by Doug Lemov, which I am reading and reflecting on for a class for my masters at Cornerstone University)

In chapter 7, Lemov describes techniques that help build character, trust, and culture within your classroom. He describes the following techniques:

#43. Positive Framing
Positive framing means describing what appropriate behavior is in an optimistic, upbeat, and confident manner. It is not simply praise while irresponsibly ignoring misbehavior, but corrects and guides behavior, with the following features:

  •  Live in the present – focus on what can be fixed now
  •  Assume the best of your students. Don’t immediately assume willful intention
  •  Anonymous corrections are better than immediately calling out names
  •  Build momentum and narrate the positive
  •  Challenge the students, often using friendly competition
  •  Describe the expectations and aspirations you have of the group

#44. Positive Praise
Reinforcing good behavior with praise is one of the most powerful, but also most abused tools teachers have. Keep the following in mind when praising:

  • Differentiate between acknowledgement and praise. Simply noticing when students do what’s expected is better than praise – reserve praise for exceptional or exemplary behavior
  • Praise (and acknowledge) Loudly, and fix or correct softly
  • Praise things within a students control, such as effort, instead of attributes such as intelligence
  • Praise must be genuine.

#45. Warm/Strict
These two qualities are not opposites – in fact, they are unrelated qualities that all teachers should strive to have. Being warm AND strict sends the message that having high expectations is part of what caring for and respecting someone means.

  • Explain to students why you’re doing what you’re doing
  • Distinguish between a person, and a person’s behavior
  • Demonstrate that consequences are temporary
  • Use warm non-verbal behavior, as well as positive framing

#46. The J-Factor
Joy is what helps us get through the day, and fine teachers will offer up generous servings of energy, passion, enthusiasm, fun, and humor, along with the following types of Joy increasing tools:

  • Fun and games
  • “Us” – a classroom culture or family feel. Lemov suggests nicknames, unique language, rituals, traditions, songs, etc. to promote culture.
  • Drama, song, and dance
  • Humor
  • Suspense or surprise

Poor example of Emotional Constancy
#47. Emotional Constancy
You must control your emotions as a teacher, most especially because the students you teach are learning about their own. Whenever possible, leave your own emotions out of the picture, by saying for example “I expect better of you” instead of “I’m really disappointed that…”

#48. Explain Everything
Help your students by making the reason behind expectations clearly explained. Students should know why it matters, and how one action or behavior affects another. Be sure to do these explanations well in advance, or else reminding students AFTER any corrections have resulted in expectations being met. Otherwise the explanation sounds like pleading.

#49. Normalize Error
Making mistakes or answer questions wrong, and then fixing them and getting it right is normal. Respond in a way that makes it clear that getting questions wrong is not only ok, but also an expected part of trying. Do not make a big deal about wrong answers, and at the same time, do not overly praise correct answers. Reserve praise for behaviors that are exceptional, and not simply answering a question correctly.

Great Thoughts on Grading Physics

Read a lot of great things in various blogs today.

It all started with reading John Burks' description of using Capstones to help his physics students move from a B to an A in physics.  The basic idea is that if students demonstrate the required objectives, then the students will receive a 90%.  The students then need to synthesize the objectives to earn grades above a 90% by doing a number of rich projects.

This lead to a great article of how Kelly O'Shea implements Conjunctive Standards Based Grading. She describes having two types of objectives (Level A and Level B) and how students must show mastery of all the level A objectives to pass, all the level B objectives to receive a 90, and must show synthesis on the exam to receive scores above that.  She went into detail on how she grades a test, and provided a great example of the form she uses to score tests with.  I think using a form like this will be tremendously valuable for me grading tests and quizzes.

Kelly described how on her exam she offered several open-ended "goal-less" problems which were rich with possibility for students to demonstrate physics concepts.  Her final exam offered a handful of these, which the students had practiced throughout the year, and could now use to synthesize their understanding together, and demonstrate all they could on a topic.  I intend to make use of these "goal-less" problems this year -- though I haven't decided on exactly when or how.  

Both Kelly and John described how they allow their students to reassess on standards they missed, which lead to me reading about an application for reassessment process, by Sam Shah.  He provides an email skeleton for students to use to ask to reapply where students must first explain why they misunderstood an objective and how they understand it better, and describe specifically what they did to master the objective since the last time they took a quiz or test.  

Monday, August 8, 2011

Grading Concerns -- What does 81% really mean?

I just read a great article that described a lot of my concerns regarding grading, and described the changes one school took to correct these.  It was called "Grading Practices - The Third Rail"  Clicking on the link should bring up the article, as well as my highlighted passages that resonated strongly with me.

"The Third Rail" by the way, is an expression meaning something that is taboo to change and discuss because it's so popular. The saying is derived from the third rail on some train tracks, which provides the electricity to the trains, and which carries enough voltage to electrocute any who touch it.  Grading policies fit because teachers are so opinionated about their grading procedures that suggesting reform in grading would be lethal to bring up in the teachers's lounge or at a PTA meeting.

In the article, Erickson describes the problem with giving a single percentage score as a grade, because an 81% can mean completely different things.  Perhaps a student is a genius, but willfully skipped one major assignment which he received a zero on because it wasn't worth his time.  Or maybe a genius who got sick and had to miss the last two weeks.  Or perhaps its a student who really knows very little about the course objectives at all, but completed every assignment, did test corrections on every test, and even passed a few tests, albeit with illegal help from a friend that you never noticed.  Obviously, these are two completely different extremes, but they help illustrate the vague nature of a single percentage score grade.  Erickson's suggested alternative, which I hope to implement more, is to grade according to the standards and benchmarks.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Educational Videos

One of my assignments was to check out the videos that are available at  There are many different resources available.  I chose to explore the resources available for teachers, which are sorted by subject and grade area.  In the high school math videos were several lessons that teachers recorded on algebra. I watched two lessons on Algebra 1, which described two activities that I could use or use variations of in my classroom.
The first lesson was an introductory lesson where students explore the relationship between the area of a pool, and the number of tiles required to surround the pool.  The students started with finding numerical answers to "How many tiles are needed for (specific pool dimensions)" and progressed toward making their first formulas using variables.
The second lesson in the video helped students progress from solving single step equations to multiple step equations, and featured the use of simple cups and tokens as manipulatives.  The two lessons each showed me examples of good and bad questioning, and also gave me different ideas of ways I can make the abstract concept of variables more tangible.  The first lesson also illustrated a great example of the Hook, a technique described by Lemov's Teach Like a Champion.

Teach Like A Champion Chapter 9 Analysis:

(This is the seventh of a series of posts on Teach Like A Champion by Doug Lemov, which I am reading and reflecting on for a class for my masters at Cornerstone University)

In this chapter, Lemov describes five reasons why teachers ask questions of their students:
  • To guide students toward understanding new material
  • To push students to do more of the thinking
  • To find and fix errors in student understanding
  • To stretch students
  • To check for understanding
He goes on to describe several techniques to help improve our questioning skills

  1. Ask One At A Time: asking more than one question will confuse students, or give them the chance to pick which they want to answer which will usually be the easier or more interesting question
  2. Simple to Complex: ask a sequence of questions that moves from more fact-based to more complex.  Even though the questions at the end of the sequence are probably better, more thought provoking, and more interesting, they won’t be as productive if you haven’t laid down the framework or opened up the students’ neurons and seeded them with facts and observations
  3. Verbatim: when repeating a question after someone has volunteered to answer, be sure you have repeated it the exact same way you asked it originally, or they will feel tricked, or not answer as well. Write the questions down if they are important to you.
  4. Keep questions clear and concise
  5. Have Stock sequences of questions ready for situations
  6. Try to achieve a hit rate of more than 70%, but certainly less than 100%, or you’re not asking rigorous enough questions.
Personally, I always thought I was a good question asker, but I know I can do a lot better.  I do not plan my questions in advance, and am afraid I don't ask them verbatim -- I tend to change the question several times as I ask it, in hopes of making the question more clear. I would do myself and my students a favor by writing them out ahead of time, using clear and concise language, and structuring them so that I started simply and moved towards more complex questions that flushed out new information.

Teach Like A Champion Chapter 6 Analysis:

(This is the sixth of a series of posts on Teach Like A Champion by Doug Lemov, which I am reading and reflecting on for a class for my masters at Cornerstone University)

In chapter six, Lemov describes strategies that help set and maintain high behavioral expectations in the classroom.

#36. 100 Percent
Demand 100% compliance when giving directions in your classroom.  If you don’t achieve this, you make your authority subject to interpretation, situation, and motivation. Specifically, there are three principles that are required to ensure consistent compliance
  • Use the Least invasive form of intervention possible, for example
    • Nonverbal interventions
    • Positive group correction
    • Anonymous individual correction
    • Private individual correction
    • Lightning quick public corrections
    • Consequence
  • Rely on Firm and Calm Finesse
  • Emphasize compliance you can see by inventing ways to maximize the visibility of actions, as well as make it clear you are watching

#37. What To Do
Specify what students are to do, rather than what they are not to do.  Be sure your directions are specific, concrete, sequential, and observable. A large proportion of noncompliance is caused by incompetence rather than defiance – because students misunderstand a direction. You must response to incompetence with teaching, and defiance with consequence.

#38. Strong Voice
Several keys are useful for commanding control:
  • Use fewer words, rather than more
  • Do not talk over students.
  • Do not engage in student responses such as, “but I wasn’t …”
  • Square up and stand still
  • Speak slower and quieter rather than raising your voice.

#39. Do It Again
When students fail to successfully complete a basic task that you have shown them how to do, ask them to do it right, better, faster, perfectly, etc. It is often the best consequence to misbehavior or noncompliance.

#40. Sweat the Details
Make a big deal about the little things, because the minor details signal the expectations for conduct and behavior. Erasing graffiti and fixing broken windows helps keep a city orderly and safe. Likewise, desks in neat rows, organized binders, and silent line-ups help set the tone of excellence in the classroom.

#41. Threshold
Greet your students with a positive handshake and air of professionality and formality.

#42. No Warnings
Giving a warning is not taking action – it is threatening that you might take an action, and is counterproductive. Have an ascending list of “consequences” that you can use to correct behavior: repeat an action, apologize, removal of privilege, etc. 
I agree with Lemov when argued that the majority of what teachers identify as misbehavior is due to students not knowing what to do, either from unclear or misheard directions. Specifying What To Do, in a clear manner, seems like such an obvious thing, but is difficult to pull off without planning.

Teach Like A Champion Chapter 5 Analysis:

(This is the fifth of a series of posts on Teach Like A Champion by Doug Lemov, which I am reading and reflecting on for a class for my masters at Cornerstone University)

In chapter five, Lemov describes five principles of classroom culture, which are all necessary and work to build on each other.
  • Discipline: Lemov describes discipline not as punishment, but as teaching students to do what’s right and successful for learning.
  • Management: the system and process of reinforcing behavior by consequences and reward
  • Control: the capacity to cause someone to choose to do what you ask, regardless of consequences.
  • Influence: the ability to get a student to want to internalize the things you suggest
  • Engagement: students should be positively engaged not just so that they are too busy to misbehave, but also because after a while, those positive engaging habits become internalized.
Then, specifically Lemov describes several techniques that help create a strong classroom culture by hitting on the principles above:

#28. Entry Routine
Make a habit out of starting class in an efficient, productive, and scholarly manner. Lemov suggests having students pick up a packet of materials from a small table inside the room, that contains everything they might need, and a Do Now.

#29. Do Now
A “Do Now” is a quick three to five minute activity that students can do on their own, usually at the beginning of class.

#30. Tight Transitions
Taking time to practice transitions is an investment that pays off through the year as students switch places and tasks quickly, uniformly, and with minimal prompting. This can when students are moving, or when materials are being distributed or collected.

#31. Binder Control
Teach your students to be organized by requiring them to store all papers and notes in an organized binder. Number each paper that goes in and refer to them in a table of contents, and when reviewing for quizzes and tests.

#32. SLANT
Slant is an acronym for five attention behaviors that all students should be practicing:
• Sit up
• Listen
• Ask questions
• Nod your head
• Track the speaker

#33. On Your Mark
Every student should start class with the appropriate materials. Be sure to list what is required, as well as have a specified time when materials should be out and ready.

#34. Seat Signals
It is worth describing a set of nonverbal signals that students can use for the most interruptive actions, such as
• Bathroom: raise a hand with two fingers crossed
• Pencil Sharpen: hold pencil in air and wait for a replacement preferably from a container of pre-sharpened pencils
• Tissue: Left hand pinching nose

#35. Props
Props, shout-outs, or ups, are public praise routines for exemplary work or answers. These should be quick, fun, non-verbal ways of making your students feel good, like:
• Two claps for David
• Two stomps
• The Hitter: students pretend to toss a ball and swing a bat and watch the homerun
• The Heisman:
• The Lawnmower: pull on the cord twice and make mowing noises,
• The Rollercoaster
• The Hot Pepper: pretend to take a bite out of pepper and make sizzle noise

The one that I would like to work on the most this year is Entry Routine with Do Now.  I think starting off class in a consistent productive manner is a norm that I would like to have. It would not take much additional effort on my part to arrange for something for them to do and prepare for it every day, and I could use those first minutes at the beginning of class for the important attendance and student mini-conferences that I so often need to do, while students are using the time to open up their minds and prepare for the lessons of the day.

I also am excited to develop an atmosphere of praise, and hope to implement a couple fun Props throughout the year, and let the students develop some as well.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Teach Like A Champion Chapter 4 Analysis:

(This is the fourth of a series of posts on Teach Like A Champion by Doug Lemov, which I am reading and reflecting on for a class for my masters at Cornerstone University)

In his fourth chapter, Lemov describes methods to help structure and deliver your lessons, according to the basic structure of I/We/You. Most lessons will be structured in a distinctive pattern progressing from direct instruction via demonstration (I) to guided practice together (We) to independent practice.

#22. Cold Call
Cold call is a tool that promotes an atmosphere of preparedness by setting the expectation that the teacher can and will ask any student to answer a question, not just the students that have their hands raised. It forces students to always be prepared. Many important things should be kept in mind when making Cold Call a part of your lesson plans:

  • Cold call is predictable. It loses is power to keep everyone answering questions if it is only seldom used.
  • Cold call is systematic. It is how things are done. It is not a tool used to “get” students
  • Cold Call is positive. The atmosphere should be one where students are ready “to shine”
  • Cold Call is scaffolded. Give students the best opportunity to get a question right and shine.

#23. Call and Response
Call in response is a question answering technique where the teacher asks a question and the whole class responds as one. It allows for review and reinforcement, introduces high energy fun, and promotes responsiveness and unity. Call and response is best when:

  • Used to repeat, report, reinforce, review, or solve
  • Used with a specific signal, such as “Class…”, a count-down, a prompt, a nonverbal gesture, a shift in tone and volume, or patterned response to a specific phrase

#24. Pepper
A round of fast-paced questioning where the teacher asks many rapid-fire simple review questions to a group of students. It is a game with many possible variations:

  • Picking specific students, by choice or by pick-sticks
  • Head to head competition, where the correct answer faces a new challenger
  • Sit-down: where all students start up (or down) and sit (or stand) when a question is answered correctly.

#25. Wait Time
On average, teachers wait a second or less before answering questions, which creates a habit of cheap thinking. Try waiting at least five seconds, and be sure to make students aware that they have the time and should have high quality answers.

#26. Everybody Writes
Simply put, great teachers will ask all students to prepare for more ambitious thinking and discussion by first reflecting in writing for a short time.

#27. Vegas
Every lesson needs a little Vegas—a little pizzazz or song and dance that is upbeat, short and sweet. It’s a little piece of flair, emphasizing some key part of the lesson. Try two snaps whenever force is mentioned, or simply a fun voice accent, or lighting or music that you can use to make the lesson more fun, yet remain in control and on task.

Teach Like A Champion Chapter 3 Analysis:

(This is the third of a series of posts on Teach Like A Champion by Doug Lemov, which I am reading and reflecting on for a class for my masters at Cornerstone University)

In his third chapter, Lemov describes methods to help structure and deliver your lessons, according to the basic structure of I/We/You. Most lessons will be structured in a distinctive pattern progressing from direct instruction via demonstration (I) to guided practice together (We) to independent practice.

#12. The Hook
The hook is a quick, energetic, exciting way to introduce the lesson to your students. It may not be necessary for every lesson, but can often captivate your audience. It doesn’t water down material but “prepares students to be brought up to the material”. Ideas for good hooks are many, such as:

  • story
  • riddle
  • media such as picture or video,
  • analogy (chips and salsa on limiting-reactant day)
  • prop
  • status (descriptive praise)
  • student challenge

#13 Name The Steps
Be explicitly clear regarding the steps on how to do problems or meet objectives. Think through the following when naming the steps:

  1. Identify the steps – and try to keep the number of steps under seven
  2. Make them sticky – try named steps, a mnemonic, a song, or a prop as reminders
  3. Build the steps – try to find a way to incorporate the building and coming up with the steps into the lesson
  4. Use two stairways, the General procedure, and the specific problems when demonstrating problems, and helping with guided practice

#14. Board = Paper
Students need to learn how to take notes. Help them by having an expectation that what you write on the board (or overhead) they need to write, and scaffold them appropriately

#15. Circulate
Move strategically throughout the room, during all parts of the room, bearing in mind these ideas:

  • Circulate early. You own the room, at all times. Circulating only when problems arise will become obvious.
  • Full Access Required. You should be able to get anywhere, anytime. Keep pathways free and clear.
  • Engage as you circulate – both correcting but as importantly praising or just making contact
  • Move systematically, but unpredictably.
  • Position for power by aligning yourself to see the majority of the room at all times.

#16. Break It Down
Bridge the gap between student misunderstanding and the objective at hand. When a student shows a gap, offer hints or bridges such as:

  • Providing examples
  • Providing context – where they’ve seen things before
  • Providing a rule
  • Provide a missing step
  • Rollback – simply repeating a student’s answer back often makes mistakes clear, and can be done with emphasis on wrong parts if necessary
  • Eliminate false choices

#17. Ratio
Cause the students to do as much of the cognitive work as possible. The proportion of the thinking the students do can be called your Ratio. Be sure to increase both the participation and thinking ratios. Some techniques to help improve your ratio are:

  • Unbundle – ask a question as many smaller parts
  • Half-statement: “So the next statement is…_____”
  • What’s next: ask questions about the process and the product
  • Feign ignorance
  • Repeated examples – ask for another example with stipulations
  • Rephrase or add-on
  • Why’s and Hows
  • Supporting Evidence
  • Batch Process: allow several students to answer before interpreting. Think volleyball instead of ping-pong.
  • Discussion Objectives: provide clear objectives for discussions and refer to them when off-track

#18. Check for Understanding…
…And do something about it right away. Be sure to have good sampling, from several students, preferably at a cross-section of abilities. Don’t stop once a right answer is given, but ask several more to get a representative of the larger class.

#19. At Bats
Simply put, to improve in baseball, what is necessary most is many at bats – many attempts. Show the students how to do something, and provide them with as many chances as possible to ingrain the skill. Be sure to:

  • Teach first, until they can do it on their own
  • Provide multiple variations and formats,
  • Provide opportunities for enrichment and differentiation

#20. Exit Ticket
Provide a quick question or sequence of questions that each student must hand you before leaving. Use these as data to see if the students have mastered or if you need to revisit the next day.

#21. Take A Stand
After a student answers, ask every student to decide if the answer is right or wrong, either by show of hands, noises, thumbs, etc. You should with predictable consistency ask students to defend their stances.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Teach Like A Champion Chapter 2 Analysis:

(This is the second of a series of posts on Teach Like A Champion by Doug Lemov, which I am reading and reflecting on for a class for my masters at Cornerstone University)

In his second chapter, Lemov describes planning strategies that teachers ought to use to help ensure successfully meeting their objectives:

#6. Begin With The End
Plan your lessons with the end in mind. In specific:

  • Progress from unit planning to lesson planning
  • Use an objective as the goal for each lesson
  • Determine how you’ll assess your effectiveness of reaching the goal
  • Decide the activity that will accomplish the goal

#7. 4M’s
Your objectives should meet the Four M’s:

  • Manageable (time-wise, aim for completion in one lesson)
  • Measurable
  • Made first (not retrofitted to an activity)
  • Most Important

#8. Post It
You should form a habit of posting your objectives in consistent location, and referring to them during class. This will benefit your students and yourself as focusing tools, but also direct visitors toward the purpose of the day.

#9. Simplest Path
Choose the simplest and shortest technique that will lead toward mastering the objective. Flashy, cutting edge technology, group-work, or multisensory activities are not inherently good, unless they relate and build toward the goal.

#10. Double Plan
You should plan for two aspects in each lesson – that is, what YOU will do, but as importantly, what STUDENTs will do. Some teachers plan using a T chart with their actions and their students actions on either side.

#11. Draw The Map
Make space planning a part of lesson planning. Be sure the seating arrangement makes sense for meeting the objectives of the day. Don’t default to rows, or groups, or circles simply because they are “what’s supposed to be”. Make sure to actively arrange the room the way that would help serve the goal, and keep you free to accomplish your needs too.

Of the strategies Lemov described, I found Double Plan to be the most eye-opening. I had never considered what I ask my students to do while I go through my lectures each day. I had hoped they would take notes and write down my examples, but I never really planned for it. It is no surprise then that they didn’t, and that getting through my lectures was so difficult. As I read in Pollock’s book Improving Student Learning One Teacher at a Time, I was doomed as soon as I started hoping, instead of planning. She wonders, “How did we get to the point where teachers hope for good results rather than plan for them.” I am going to try Lemov’s double planning T-chart suggestion this year to more explicitly what the students will be doing as well.

I was encouraged by the Simplest Path strategy, because I do that already. I am skeptical about doing things just because they are popular, and Lemov reminded me that we are to choose the activities that students do so that they best meet the objectives at hand. In math classes, a lot of times that will mean rote problem solving and bookwork. Often I have felt a tinge of guilt, brought on by my interactions with coworkers and in my education classes because these sorts of assignments can be called “busy work”. I disagreed with them internally, but often voiced similar statements to appear as though I had fresh and innovative ideas and tasks for my students. The Simplest Path section reminded me that sometime a shovel is required to dig a hole, even when a piece of dynamite could work. I will more confidently assign book work and practice problems, but am keeping in mind that some of my objectives will inevitably be met with alternative activities, such as geogebra activities, virtual interactives, labs, writing prompts, and others.

Teach Like A Champion Chapter 1 Analysis:

(This is the first of a series of posts on Teach Like A Champion by Doug Lemov, which I am reading and reflecting on for a class for my masters at Cornerstone University)

In the first chapter, Lemov described five strategies designed for teachers to help promote atmosphere of high expectations in the classroom. These strategies are described below:

#1. No Opt Out
Come back to any student who answers a question wrong or with “I don’t know” and have them respond to the same question correctly, after you or another student provides the answer or a meaningful cue.

#2. Right Is Right
Be sure that whatever you say is “correct” is 100% correct.

  • Be sure an answer is complete
  • Answer the question asked
  • Right answer at the right time
  • Use technical vocabulary

#3. Stretch It
Don’t simply end with a right answer. Push the student with more questions that extend knowledge or test for reliability.

  • Ask how or why
  • Ask for another way to answer
  • Ask for a better word
  • Ask for evidence
  • Ask to integrate a related skill
  • Ask to apply the skill in a different setting

#4. Format Matters
It’s not just what students say, but how they say it that matters. Be sure to demand complete sentences and correct mechanics whenever possible.

  • Demand complete sentences.
  • Correct grammatical errors
  • Require an audible format “voice”
  • Require correct units

#5. Without Apology
Do not apologize for “boring” or “difficult” content. Instead, find a way to make content engaging and exciting for all students

My first reaction was that Right is Right and Format Matters seemed to be especially picky. The idea of nitpicking my student responses is not something I think I would enjoy doing, although I definitely hear the mistakes. I know I find myself often giving more credit than is due, because of two reasons: the desire to keep moving, and the desire to be seen as a positive, encouraging teacher. I see these sorts of corrections as things my stepmother or grandmother would do, that I used to hate as a child.

It never occurred to me however, that these sorts of corrections are exactly what is needed to promote an atmosphere of high expectations. If we expect excellence from our students, we need to expect it even in the little things. Lemov described one teacher who trained his students to pass back papers in as little time as possible, making even the most mundane activity an area of excellence. As a coach, I spend time looking for and correcting the most minor of flaws in an athlete’s backhand, and my players still see me as encouraging and helpful. Why would they think any differently in the classroom?

Still, I think I would have to be aware of a balance between too picky and not enough. I think Lemov describes it best when reminding that we keep the objectives close in mind. If correction is required to bring students closer to the objective of the day, then proceed with detail. If not, I should quickly add the correction (no more accepting not right answers!) and move on.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Resources Available at Michigan Government Website

I did some fishing around the state of Michigan's education website and found a handful of resources available.  Below are just a sampling (I'd estimate less than 5%) of what I found, and the documents I thought would be most useful for me.  If you're a teacher, explore around and you'll probably find options available for you too!

Curriculum Documents: 
1. Michigan Merit Curriculum Science Standards by subject (Physics)
2. Michigan Merit Curriculum Math Standards by subject (Algebra)

1. M.O.R.E. (
Michigan Online Resources for Educators website aims to put more TECH into TEaCHing. It is connected to the Michigan eLibrary. The MORE library contains thousands of online materials filtered primarily into four types: assessments, lesson plans, online interactive, and videos. It contain material for subjects. It is searchable by subject, by type of activity, and even by standard.

2. Writing Across the Curriculum: Mathematics (pdf file)
A 30-page document that provides lots of ideas on implementing writing in a math class. Of special value is the description of dozens of specific strategies, such as CALLA, GIST, Quick Write, Argumentation, and more. A similar and larger guide exists for science (pdf file)

3. National Library of Virtual Manipulatives (Link)
Another library of tech tools, this one contains links to math JAVA applets, separated by grade level and subject area. Topics include numbers and operations, algebra, geometry, measurement, data analysis, and probability. Some manipulatives I would consider using are
· Unit Conversion Practice
· Box and Whiskers / Histogram Maker
· Scatterplots and Correlation
· Grapher, a tool for graphing and exploring functions
· Algebra Tiles
· Line Plotter

4. SVSU Science Internet Sites (Maser)
A collection of websites, separated and sorted according to the Michigan Curriculum science benchmarks and content expectations. Each individual content standard, in each subject area has a handful of sites available, with descriptions available. I could easily use these as additional resources for my physics students, or for supplemental or differentiation options.

5. Objective Bookmarks (Chemistry and Physics)
A simple printable bookmark containing a checklist of the main objectives for the class.

6. Math Graduation Law (FAQ)
A description of the law requiring four credits of math in highschool, and a handful of the most common questions about exceptions and alternative options available.

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