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View Online January 8, 2020 Credit: UrbanZone / Alamy Stock Photo Identifying and Supporting Students With Dyspraxia Dyspraxia affects fine and gross motor development and can make it difficult for kids to learn, but there are ways teachers can help.
Credit: George Lucas Educational Foundation Why Inclusion Matters on the Playground When general education students and students with special needs play together, it breaks down unconscious biases about disability and fosters relationships.
Credit: SDI Productions / iStock 4 Tips for Principals From a Parent Who Knows the Job Transitioning from elementary school principal to room parent opened up a new perspective on what it means to lead a school.
Credit: Edutopia Understanding Trauma-Informed Education The principal of an internationally recognized trauma-informed school explains what this form of education is—and what it isn’t.
Credit: Astrakan Images / Alamy Stock Photo 8 Research-Backed Ways to Aid Struggling Emergent Readers Many kindergartners will pick up the foundational skills of reading relatively easily, but some will struggle. Here’s what the research says about how to support them.
Don’t Miss 8 Proactive Classroom Management Tips The Powerful Effects of Drawing on Learning Decoding the Teenage Brain (in 3 Charts) The Power of Relationships How to Teach Handwriting—and Why It Matters There’s a Cell Phone in Your Student’s Head What’s Lost When We Rush Kids Through Childhood A Student-Centered Model of Blended Learning Teaching Your Heart Out: Emotional Labor and the Need for Systemic Change 60-Second Strategy: 3-Read Protocol

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TEACHING STRATEGIES

Optimizing Station Rotations in Blended Learning

Using three stations effectively—teacher-led, online, and offline—should provide your students with plenty of ways to collaborate.By Laura LeeSeptember 20, 2019

Photo of students working at stations

©Edutopia

Interested in blending learning models?

A three-station rotation model is a valuable tool for teachers who want to integrate technology, writes former Teacher of the Year and author Caitlin Tucker on her blog. The tactic moves students through different areas of the classroom: teacher-led stations, online stations, and offline stations. While this blended learning model “creates a nice balance between online and offline work,” says Tucker, “it is easy for teachers to slip into a rut when it comes to designing their stations.” 

Tucker identifies common pitfalls and possible solutions: 

The teacher-led station: Just because a station is teacher-led doesn’t mean the teacher should do all the talking; it’s not all about direct instruction. Encourage students to engage and collaborate. Model a practice and then have students try the same practice in pairs. Or use the teacher-led station for immediate feedback on a recently completed piece of writing, completed homework, or a lab assignment, either through formal assessments or informal Q&A sessions. The teacher-led station is also a great opportunity for differentiated instruction: even if the activity is the same, give different students different instructions tailored to their particular needs. Scaffolding in small groups or moving around the group to observe students individually as they try to complete a modeled task allows teachers to cater to individual needs. 

The online station: One common pitfall in the online station is using it “exclusively for personalized practice using adaptive software or an online program.” Asking kids to work on computers or tablets in isolation can be limiting and de-motivating. Find ways to make technological integration collaborative, Tucker says, and focus on activities like designing, creating, and publishing digitally. Using technology to support project-based learning, for example, ensures that students interact with each other and not just with screens. Interactive games and quizzes where students play with each other, like Kahoot, can build knowledge while encouraging student interaction. Social media platforms can be a useful tool for engaging with experts as well. 

The offline station: The offline station is often dominated by independent work on paper. “Instead of designing collaborative tasks that allow students social learning opportunities, they are required to practice without support or peer interaction.” Like the online station, the offline station works best when students have an opportunity to engage with others and receive guidance. Art projects, STEM experiments, or in-depth discussion allow students to work together and engage in deeper learning. 

FILED UNDER


TEACHING STRATEGIES

3 Ways to Boost Students’ Conceptual Thinking

Coaching students to think in terms of concepts helps them understand how to apply their learning in the future.By Carla MarschallSeptember 10, 2019

Illustration concept showing student engagement and thought process

We want our students’ learning to be enduring, enabling them to make sense of complexity now and in the future. For this to occur, we need to nudge students beyond the learning of facts and skills to uncover concepts—transferable ideas that transcend time, place, and situation.

Learning knowledge and skills is like standing in the middle of a forest, surrounded by trees: It’s easy to spot details but hard to see patterns. For students to think conceptually, they need opportunities to head up to the mountaintop, pause, and take in the entire forest. They need the chance to search for big ideas—to generalize, summarize, and draw conclusions by looking at their learning in a holistic way.Read Full Story


TEACHING STRATEGIES

A Project to Prompt Student Reflection

Researching their dream job and prepping for an interview prompts students to reflect deeply on what they learned in a year.By Stephanie RothsteinJuly 29, 2019

High school student giving presentation to his class.

Teachers think often about how best to provide students with feedback that helps them continue to learn. This past year, as I considered how to foster the skills my students would need for the following year, I created a new final project and built up new ways to provide feedback.

At Los Gatos High School, we have a four-year interdisciplinary pathway called LEAD@LG (Lead, Explore, Act, and Design at Los Gatos). I teach the ninth-grade English classes, and the students’ final project was to explore their dream job. I wanted students to have a personal job goal because supporting them in that future pursuit created authentic buy-in and allowed them to dream big. The students cared about researching the companies and analyzing the skills needed to achieve their goals.Read Full Story


LITERACY

6 Elementary Reading Strategies That Really Work

Strategies like choral reading and ear reading improve students’ reading fluency, expand their vocabulary, and increase their confidence. By Emelina MineroSeptember 11, 2019

We know that learning how to read is essential for success in school. Students need to be able to close read, annotate, and comprehend assignments and texts across all subjects.

So we looked through our archives and consulted the research to arrive at a list of strategies that could develop strong reading skills and confidence for all students—including struggling readers.Read Full Story


LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS

10 Common Flexible Seating Myths

An elementary teacher who has been using flexible seating for over a decade responds to the concerns he hears most frequently from other teachers.By John S. ThomasSeptember 3, 2019A student at work in the author’s classroom

During my 14-year flexible seating journey, I’ve taught a mix of first through third grade classes, including multigrade classrooms with up to 28 students. I’ve encountered plenty of challenges, but through research and some trial and error, I’ve been able to create a sustainable flexible seating environment that is differentiated for my students’ needs.

The path has not always been straight, but when I see the impact flexible seating has on my students’ focus and learning, I’m certain the journey has been worthwhile.Read Full Story


MENTAL HEALTH

The Evolution of a Trauma-Informed School

Two years after Edutopia filmed trauma-informed practices at a Nashville school, we check in with the principal to see what has changed.By Alex Shevrin VenetSeptember 13, 2019Mathew Portell, principal at Fall-Hamilton Elementary School in Nashville, at work with a student

There is no arrival at a perfect implementation of trauma-informed practices, and no one knows this better than Mathew Portell, principal of Fall-Hamilton Elementary in Nashville. Portell has been leading Fall-Hamilton’s journey with trauma-informed practices for the past several years, and Edutopia profiled one point in this journey in May 2017.

I recently heard Portell share this thought with a group of educators: “Trauma-informed education is a journey, not a checklist.” I wanted to know more about what that journey has looked like at Fall-Hamilton, so I contacted Portell to learn what’s happening at his school now.Read Full Story


SCHOOL CLIMATE

Every Student Matters: Cultivating Belonging in the Classroom

These five strategies can help ensure that students feel they belong in your classroom.By Michael DunleaSeptember 4, 2019

About a year ago, I received a text in the middle of the teaching day from the mother of a student I had taught eight years earlier as a second grader. She thanked me for always being there for her son, who had come out as gay to their family the night before. She shared that her son—now a senior in high school—mentioned me in their conversation and said I had taught him that all people have equal value in the world, a lesson that helped him face the truth of who he was.

Early elementary teachers rarely see the seeds we try to plant in our young students come to fruition, but we always hope they will grow into the people we imagine they can be. For the last 16 years, I’ve taught in an inclusion classroom where many students have learning differences that can pose a challenge to connecting with others. I’ve learned that if students feel anxious socially, they will not be open to taking academic risks, so building a culture of belonging has become my greatest priority. It is important to clarify that when I say “belonging,” I am not talking about “fitting in”—students’ individuality and uniqueness should always be valued. Belonging in the classroom means ensuring that all students feel welcomed, comfortable, and part of the school family. Read Full Story


NEW TEACHERS

How New Teachers Can Create a Welcoming Classroom

A few tips for new teachers who want to foster strong relationships with students and between students.By Beth PandolphoOctober 1, 2019

New teachers intuitively understand the need to create a welcoming community in their classrooms. A warm and responsive classroom culture is essential because, like all of us, students need to feel safe and valued in order to thrive. As the professor of education Linda Darling-Hammond has said, “When that sense of belonging is there, children throw themselves into the learning environment.”

One path to creating this kind of classroom culture is to focus on setting expectations and routines that are designed to foster relationships and a sense of safety and belonging.Read Full Story


BRAIN-BASED LEARNING

Maintaining Students’ Motivation for Learning as the Year Goes On

Neuroscience can suggest ways to keep students working toward their learning goals after their initial excitement wears off.By Judy WillisSeptember 30, 2019

It’s likely that your hard work orchestrating the first weeks of school enhanced your students’ connection to the school community and their enthusiasm for the learning to come. However, as the semester goes on and you seek to sustain that motivated momentum, you may not be able to find the same amount of prep time that you dedicated to the start of the year.

Yet even when your students’ bubbles of excitement fade, you can reboot their connections, engagement, and motivation with the help of insights from neuroscience research.Read Full Story


SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL LEARNING

Social and Emotional Learning in a World Language Class

Monthly visits to a nursing home taught middle school students empathy and built their confidence as they practiced their Spanish.By Laura LaverySeptember 27, 2019

As I began teaching my middle school Spanish students last year, I knew that in addition to guiding them through verb conjugations, I wanted to find a way to develop their social and emotional skills and offer them an opportunity to create positive change in our community. I got the inspiration for this when a couple of colleagues and I went to see Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the documentary about Fred Rogers.

After a lot of reflection, I decided to introduce my students to neighbors in a nearby nursing home. In addition to giving students a context for practicing empathy, it would give them an audience for their fledging Spanish. Knowing that they would need to sing a song in Spanish for the nursing home residents, for example, could be a prod to practice more.Read Full Story


SERVICE LEARNING

Using Community Challenges for Learning

Find tips on how to collect real-world problems for your students and a framework to start and monitor their projects.By Cathleen BeachboardSeptember 27, 2019

“Why should I learn this?” “When am I ever going to use it?” “How is this information important for my life?” Students have asked these questions year after year in my classroom. They have longed to see how our content connects to the world. 

One day I received an email from the assistant superintendent saying that the proposed school budget was in danger of being rejected and he needed someone to advocate for student funding and security improvements. My eyes fell on the empty desks in front of me. What if I gave this local problem to my students? Using persuasive language to encourage others to adopt a budget falls squarely within my academic curriculum. By tackling this challenge, students might use content to impact the world around them. The students created a public service announcement and spoke at the county budget hearing. Months later, the budget passed, and for the first time in years, it was almost fully funded.  Read Full Story

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TEACHING STRATEGIES

Optimizing Station Rotations in Blended Learning

Using three stations effectively—teacher-led, online, and offline—should provide your students with plenty of ways to collaborate.By Laura LeeSeptember 20, 2019

Photo of students working at stations

©Edutopia

Interested in blending learning models?

A three-station rotation model is a valuable tool for teachers who want to integrate technology, writes former Teacher of the Year and author Caitlin Tucker on her blog. The tactic moves students through different areas of the classroom: teacher-led stations, online stations, and offline stations. While this blended learning model “creates a nice balance between online and offline work,” says Tucker, “it is easy for teachers to slip into a rut when it comes to designing their stations.” 

Tucker identifies common pitfalls and possible solutions: 

The teacher-led station: Just because a station is teacher-led doesn’t mean the teacher should do all the talking; it’s not all about direct instruction. Encourage students to engage and collaborate. Model a practice and then have students try the same practice in pairs. Or use the teacher-led station for immediate feedback on a recently completed piece of writing, completed homework, or a lab assignment, either through formal assessments or informal Q&A sessions. The teacher-led station is also a great opportunity for differentiated instruction: even if the activity is the same, give different students different instructions tailored to their particular needs. Scaffolding in small groups or moving around the group to observe students individually as they try to complete a modeled task allows teachers to cater to individual needs. 

The online station: One common pitfall in the online station is using it “exclusively for personalized practice using adaptive software or an online program.” Asking kids to work on computers or tablets in isolation can be limiting and de-motivating. Find ways to make technological integration collaborative, Tucker says, and focus on activities like designing, creating, and publishing digitally. Using technology to support project-based learning, for example, ensures that students interact with each other and not just with screens. Interactive games and quizzes where students play with each other, like Kahoot, can build knowledge while encouraging student interaction. Social media platforms can be a useful tool for engaging with experts as well. 

The offline station: The offline station is often dominated by independent work on paper. “Instead of designing collaborative tasks that allow students social learning opportunities, they are required to practice without support or peer interaction.” Like the online station, the offline station works best when students have an opportunity to engage with others and receive guidance. Art projects, STEM experiments, or in-depth discussion allow students to work together and engage in deeper learning. 

SHARE THIS STORY

FILED UNDER


TEACHING STRATEGIES

3 Ways to Boost Students’ Conceptual Thinking

Coaching students to think in terms of concepts helps them understand how to apply their learning in the future.By Carla MarschallSeptember 10, 2019

Illustration concept showing student engagement and thought process

We want our students’ learning to be enduring, enabling them to make sense of complexity now and in the future. For this to occur, we need to nudge students beyond the learning of facts and skills to uncover concepts—transferable ideas that transcend time, place, and situation.

Learning knowledge and skills is like standing in the middle of a forest, surrounded by trees: It’s easy to spot details but hard to see patterns. For students to think conceptually, they need opportunities to head up to the mountaintop, pause, and take in the entire forest. They need the chance to search for big ideas—to generalize, summarize, and draw conclusions by looking at their learning in a holistic way.Read Full Story


TEACHING STRATEGIES

A Project to Prompt Student Reflection

Researching their dream job and prepping for an interview prompts students to reflect deeply on what they learned in a year.By Stephanie RothsteinJuly 29, 2019

High school student giving presentation to his class.

Teachers think often about how best to provide students with feedback that helps them continue to learn. This past year, as I considered how to foster the skills my students would need for the following year, I created a new final project and built up new ways to provide feedback.

At Los Gatos High School, we have a four-year interdisciplinary pathway called LEAD@LG (Lead, Explore, Act, and Design at Los Gatos). I teach the ninth-grade English classes, and the students’ final project was to explore their dream job. I wanted students to have a personal job goal because supporting them in that future pursuit created authentic buy-in and allowed them to dream big. The students cared about researching the companies and analyzing the skills needed to achieve their goals.Read Full Story


LITERACY

6 Elementary Reading Strategies That Really Work

Strategies like choral reading and ear reading improve students’ reading fluency, expand their vocabulary, and increase their confidence. By Emelina MineroSeptember 11, 2019

We know that learning how to read is essential for success in school. Students need to be able to close read, annotate, and comprehend assignments and texts across all subjects.

So we looked through our archives and consulted the research to arrive at a list of strategies that could develop strong reading skills and confidence for all students—including struggling readers.Read Full Story


LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS

10 Common Flexible Seating Myths

An elementary teacher who has been using flexible seating for over a decade responds to the concerns he hears most frequently from other teachers.By John S. ThomasSeptember 3, 2019A student at work in the author’s classroom

During my 14-year flexible seating journey, I’ve taught a mix of first through third grade classes, including multigrade classrooms with up to 28 students. I’ve encountered plenty of challenges, but through research and some trial and error, I’ve been able to create a sustainable flexible seating environment that is differentiated for my students’ needs.

The path has not always been straight, but when I see the impact flexible seating has on my students’ focus and learning, I’m certain the journey has been worthwhile.Read Full Story


MENTAL HEALTH

The Evolution of a Trauma-Informed School

Two years after Edutopia filmed trauma-informed practices at a Nashville school, we check in with the principal to see what has changed.By Alex Shevrin VenetSeptember 13, 2019Mathew Portell, principal at Fall-Hamilton Elementary School in Nashville, at work with a student

There is no arrival at a perfect implementation of trauma-informed practices, and no one knows this better than Mathew Portell, principal of Fall-Hamilton Elementary in Nashville. Portell has been leading Fall-Hamilton’s journey with trauma-informed practices for the past several years, and Edutopia profiled one point in this journey in May 2017.

I recently heard Portell share this thought with a group of educators: “Trauma-informed education is a journey, not a checklist.” I wanted to know more about what that journey has looked like at Fall-Hamilton, so I contacted Portell to learn what’s happening at his school now.Read Full Story


SCHOOL CLIMATE

Every Student Matters: Cultivating Belonging in the Classroom

These five strategies can help ensure that students feel they belong in your classroom.By Michael DunleaSeptember 4, 2019

About a year ago, I received a text in the middle of the teaching day from the mother of a student I had taught eight years earlier as a second grader. She thanked me for always being there for her son, who had come out as gay to their family the night before. She shared that her son—now a senior in high school—mentioned me in their conversation and said I had taught him that all people have equal value in the world, a lesson that helped him face the truth of who he was.

Early elementary teachers rarely see the seeds we try to plant in our young students come to fruition, but we always hope they will grow into the people we imagine they can be. For the last 16 years, I’ve taught in an inclusion classroom where many students have learning differences that can pose a challenge to connecting with others. I’ve learned that if students feel anxious socially, they will not be open to taking academic risks, so building a culture of belonging has become my greatest priority. It is important to clarify that when I say “belonging,” I am not talking about “fitting in”—students’ individuality and uniqueness should always be valued. Belonging in the classroom means ensuring that all students feel welcomed, comfortable, and part of the school family. Read Full Story


NEW TEACHERS

How New Teachers Can Create a Welcoming Classroom

A few tips for new teachers who want to foster strong relationships with students and between students.By Beth PandolphoOctober 1, 2019

New teachers intuitively understand the need to create a welcoming community in their classrooms. A warm and responsive classroom culture is essential because, like all of us, students need to feel safe and valued in order to thrive. As the professor of education Linda Darling-Hammond has said, “When that sense of belonging is there, children throw themselves into the learning environment.”

One path to creating this kind of classroom culture is to focus on setting expectations and routines that are designed to foster relationships and a sense of safety and belonging.Read Full Story


BRAIN-BASED LEARNING

Maintaining Students’ Motivation for Learning as the Year Goes On

Neuroscience can suggest ways to keep students working toward their learning goals after their initial excitement wears off.By Judy WillisSeptember 30, 2019

It’s likely that your hard work orchestrating the first weeks of school enhanced your students’ connection to the school community and their enthusiasm for the learning to come. However, as the semester goes on and you seek to sustain that motivated momentum, you may not be able to find the same amount of prep time that you dedicated to the start of the year.

Yet even when your students’ bubbles of excitement fade, you can reboot their connections, engagement, and motivation with the help of insights from neuroscience research.Read Full Story


SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL LEARNING

Social and Emotional Learning in a World Language Class

Monthly visits to a nursing home taught middle school students empathy and built their confidence as they practiced their Spanish.By Laura LaverySeptember 27, 2019

As I began teaching my middle school Spanish students last year, I knew that in addition to guiding them through verb conjugations, I wanted to find a way to develop their social and emotional skills and offer them an opportunity to create positive change in our community. I got the inspiration for this when a couple of colleagues and I went to see Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the documentary about Fred Rogers.

After a lot of reflection, I decided to introduce my students to neighbors in a nearby nursing home. In addition to giving students a context for practicing empathy, it would give them an audience for their fledging Spanish. Knowing that they would need to sing a song in Spanish for the nursing home residents, for example, could be a prod to practice more.Read Full Story


SERVICE LEARNING

Using Community Challenges for Learning

Find tips on how to collect real-world problems for your students and a framework to start and monitor their projects.By Cathleen BeachboardSeptember 27, 2019

“Why should I learn this?” “When am I ever going to use it?” “How is this information important for my life?” Students have asked these questions year after year in my classroom. They have longed to see how our content connects to the world. 

One day I received an email from the assistant superintendent saying that the proposed school budget was in danger of being rejected and he needed someone to advocate for student funding and security improvements. My eyes fell on the empty desks in front of me. What if I gave this local problem to my students? Using persuasive language to encourage others to adopt a budget falls squarely within my academic curriculum. By tackling this challenge, students might use content to impact the world around them. The students created a public service announcement and spoke at the county budget hearing. Months later, the budget passed, and for the first time in years, it was almost fully funded.  Read Full Story

POPULAR TOPICS
GRADE LEVELS
ABOUT US

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GEORGE LUCAS EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION©2019 George Lucas Educational Foundation. All Rights Reserved.Edutopia® and Lucas Education Research™ are trademarks or registered trademarks of the George Lucas Educational Foundation in the U.S. and other countries.

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TEACHING STRATEGIES

Optimizing Station Rotations in Blended Learning

Using three stations effectively—teacher-led, online, and offline—should provide your students with plenty of ways to collaborate.By Laura LeeSeptember 20, 2019

Photo of students working at stations

©Edutopia

Interested in blending learning models?

A three-station rotation model is a valuable tool for teachers who want to integrate technology, writes former Teacher of the Year and author Caitlin Tucker on her blog. The tactic moves students through different areas of the classroom: teacher-led stations, online stations, and offline stations. While this blended learning model “creates a nice balance between online and offline work,” says Tucker, “it is easy for teachers to slip into a rut when it comes to designing their stations.” 

Tucker identifies common pitfalls and possible solutions: 

The teacher-led station: Just because a station is teacher-led doesn’t mean the teacher should do all the talking; it’s not all about direct instruction. Encourage students to engage and collaborate. Model a practice and then have students try the same practice in pairs. Or use the teacher-led station for immediate feedback on a recently completed piece of writing, completed homework, or a lab assignment, either through formal assessments or informal Q&A sessions. The teacher-led station is also a great opportunity for differentiated instruction: even if the activity is the same, give different students different instructions tailored to their particular needs. Scaffolding in small groups or moving around the group to observe students individually as they try to complete a modeled task allows teachers to cater to individual needs. 

The online station: One common pitfall in the online station is using it “exclusively for personalized practice using adaptive software or an online program.” Asking kids to work on computers or tablets in isolation can be limiting and de-motivating. Find ways to make technological integration collaborative, Tucker says, and focus on activities like designing, creating, and publishing digitally. Using technology to support project-based learning, for example, ensures that students interact with each other and not just with screens. Interactive games and quizzes where students play with each other, like Kahoot, can build knowledge while encouraging student interaction. Social media platforms can be a useful tool for engaging with experts as well. 

The offline station: The offline station is often dominated by independent work on paper. “Instead of designing collaborative tasks that allow students social learning opportunities, they are required to practice without support or peer interaction.” Like the online station, the offline station works best when students have an opportunity to engage with others and receive guidance. Art projects, STEM experiments, or in-depth discussion allow students to work together and engage in deeper learning. 

SHARE THIS STORY

FILED UNDER


TEACHING STRATEGIES

3 Ways to Boost Students’ Conceptual Thinking

Coaching students to think in terms of concepts helps them understand how to apply their learning in the future.By Carla MarschallSeptember 10, 2019

Illustration concept showing student engagement and thought process

We want our students’ learning to be enduring, enabling them to make sense of complexity now and in the future. For this to occur, we need to nudge students beyond the learning of facts and skills to uncover concepts—transferable ideas that transcend time, place, and situation.

Learning knowledge and skills is like standing in the middle of a forest, surrounded by trees: It’s easy to spot details but hard to see patterns. For students to think conceptually, they need opportunities to head up to the mountaintop, pause, and take in the entire forest. They need the chance to search for big ideas—to generalize, summarize, and draw conclusions by looking at their learning in a holistic way.Read Full Story


TEACHING STRATEGIES

A Project to Prompt Student Reflection

Researching their dream job and prepping for an interview prompts students to reflect deeply on what they learned in a year.By Stephanie RothsteinJuly 29, 2019

High school student giving presentation to his class.

Teachers think often about how best to provide students with feedback that helps them continue to learn. This past year, as I considered how to foster the skills my students would need for the following year, I created a new final project and built up new ways to provide feedback.

At Los Gatos High School, we have a four-year interdisciplinary pathway called LEAD@LG (Lead, Explore, Act, and Design at Los Gatos). I teach the ninth-grade English classes, and the students’ final project was to explore their dream job. I wanted students to have a personal job goal because supporting them in that future pursuit created authentic buy-in and allowed them to dream big. The students cared about researching the companies and analyzing the skills needed to achieve their goals.Read Full Story


LITERACY

6 Elementary Reading Strategies That Really Work

Strategies like choral reading and ear reading improve students’ reading fluency, expand their vocabulary, and increase their confidence. By Emelina MineroSeptember 11, 2019

We know that learning how to read is essential for success in school. Students need to be able to close read, annotate, and comprehend assignments and texts across all subjects.

So we looked through our archives and consulted the research to arrive at a list of strategies that could develop strong reading skills and confidence for all students—including struggling readers.Read Full Story


LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS

10 Common Flexible Seating Myths

An elementary teacher who has been using flexible seating for over a decade responds to the concerns he hears most frequently from other teachers.By John S. ThomasSeptember 3, 2019A student at work in the author’s classroom

During my 14-year flexible seating journey, I’ve taught a mix of first through third grade classes, including multigrade classrooms with up to 28 students. I’ve encountered plenty of challenges, but through research and some trial and error, I’ve been able to create a sustainable flexible seating environment that is differentiated for my students’ needs.

The path has not always been straight, but when I see the impact flexible seating has on my students’ focus and learning, I’m certain the journey has been worthwhile.Read Full Story


MENTAL HEALTH

The Evolution of a Trauma-Informed School

Two years after Edutopia filmed trauma-informed practices at a Nashville school, we check in with the principal to see what has changed.By Alex Shevrin VenetSeptember 13, 2019Mathew Portell, principal at Fall-Hamilton Elementary School in Nashville, at work with a student

There is no arrival at a perfect implementation of trauma-informed practices, and no one knows this better than Mathew Portell, principal of Fall-Hamilton Elementary in Nashville. Portell has been leading Fall-Hamilton’s journey with trauma-informed practices for the past several years, and Edutopia profiled one point in this journey in May 2017.

I recently heard Portell share this thought with a group of educators: “Trauma-informed education is a journey, not a checklist.” I wanted to know more about what that journey has looked like at Fall-Hamilton, so I contacted Portell to learn what’s happening at his school now.Read Full Story


SCHOOL CLIMATE

Every Student Matters: Cultivating Belonging in the Classroom

These five strategies can help ensure that students feel they belong in your classroom.By Michael DunleaSeptember 4, 2019

About a year ago, I received a text in the middle of the teaching day from the mother of a student I had taught eight years earlier as a second grader. She thanked me for always being there for her son, who had come out as gay to their family the night before. She shared that her son—now a senior in high school—mentioned me in their conversation and said I had taught him that all people have equal value in the world, a lesson that helped him face the truth of who he was.

Early elementary teachers rarely see the seeds we try to plant in our young students come to fruition, but we always hope they will grow into the people we imagine they can be. For the last 16 years, I’ve taught in an inclusion classroom where many students have learning differences that can pose a challenge to connecting with others. I’ve learned that if students feel anxious socially, they will not be open to taking academic risks, so building a culture of belonging has become my greatest priority. It is important to clarify that when I say “belonging,” I am not talking about “fitting in”—students’ individuality and uniqueness should always be valued. Belonging in the classroom means ensuring that all students feel welcomed, comfortable, and part of the school family. Read Full Story


NEW TEACHERS

How New Teachers Can Create a Welcoming Classroom

A few tips for new teachers who want to foster strong relationships with students and between students.By Beth PandolphoOctober 1, 2019

New teachers intuitively understand the need to create a welcoming community in their classrooms. A warm and responsive classroom culture is essential because, like all of us, students need to feel safe and valued in order to thrive. As the professor of education Linda Darling-Hammond has said, “When that sense of belonging is there, children throw themselves into the learning environment.”

One path to creating this kind of classroom culture is to focus on setting expectations and routines that are designed to foster relationships and a sense of safety and belonging.Read Full Story


BRAIN-BASED LEARNING

Maintaining Students’ Motivation for Learning as the Year Goes On

Neuroscience can suggest ways to keep students working toward their learning goals after their initial excitement wears off.By Judy WillisSeptember 30, 2019

It’s likely that your hard work orchestrating the first weeks of school enhanced your students’ connection to the school community and their enthusiasm for the learning to come. However, as the semester goes on and you seek to sustain that motivated momentum, you may not be able to find the same amount of prep time that you dedicated to the start of the year.

Yet even when your students’ bubbles of excitement fade, you can reboot their connections, engagement, and motivation with the help of insights from neuroscience research.Read Full Story


SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL LEARNING

Social and Emotional Learning in a World Language Class

Monthly visits to a nursing home taught middle school students empathy and built their confidence as they practiced their Spanish.By Laura LaverySeptember 27, 2019

As I began teaching my middle school Spanish students last year, I knew that in addition to guiding them through verb conjugations, I wanted to find a way to develop their social and emotional skills and offer them an opportunity to create positive change in our community. I got the inspiration for this when a couple of colleagues and I went to see Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the documentary about Fred Rogers.

After a lot of reflection, I decided to introduce my students to neighbors in a nearby nursing home. In addition to giving students a context for practicing empathy, it would give them an audience for their fledging Spanish. Knowing that they would need to sing a song in Spanish for the nursing home residents, for example, could be a prod to practice more.Read Full Story


SERVICE LEARNING

Using Community Challenges for Learning

Find tips on how to collect real-world problems for your students and a framework to start and monitor their projects.By Cathleen BeachboardSeptember 27, 2019

“Why should I learn this?” “When am I ever going to use it?” “How is this information important for my life?” Students have asked these questions year after year in my classroom. They have longed to see how our content connects to the world. 

One day I received an email from the assistant superintendent saying that the proposed school budget was in danger of being rejected and he needed someone to advocate for student funding and security improvements. My eyes fell on the empty desks in front of me. What if I gave this local problem to my students? Using persuasive language to encourage others to adopt a budget falls squarely within my academic curriculum. By tackling this challenge, students might use content to impact the world around them. The students created a public service announcement and spoke at the county budget hearing. Months later, the budget passed, and for the first time in years, it was almost fully funded.  Read Full Story

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TEACHING STRATEGIES

Optimizing Station Rotations in Blended Learning

Using three stations effectively—teacher-led, online, and offline—should provide your students with plenty of ways to collaborate.By Laura LeeSeptember 20, 2019

Photo of students working at stations

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Interested in blending learning models?

A three-station rotation model is a valuable tool for teachers who want to integrate technology, writes former Teacher of the Year and author Caitlin Tucker on her blog. The tactic moves students through different areas of the classroom: teacher-led stations, online stations, and offline stations. While this blended learning model “creates a nice balance between online and offline work,” says Tucker, “it is easy for teachers to slip into a rut when it comes to designing their stations.” 

Tucker identifies common pitfalls and possible solutions: 

The teacher-led station: Just because a station is teacher-led doesn’t mean the teacher should do all the talking; it’s not all about direct instruction. Encourage students to engage and collaborate. Model a practice and then have students try the same practice in pairs. Or use the teacher-led station for immediate feedback on a recently completed piece of writing, completed homework, or a lab assignment, either through formal assessments or informal Q&A sessions. The teacher-led station is also a great opportunity for differentiated instruction: even if the activity is the same, give different students different instructions tailored to their particular needs. Scaffolding in small groups or moving around the group to observe students individually as they try to complete a modeled task allows teachers to cater to individual needs. 

The online station: One common pitfall in the online station is using it “exclusively for personalized practice using adaptive software or an online program.” Asking kids to work on computers or tablets in isolation can be limiting and de-motivating. Find ways to make technological integration collaborative, Tucker says, and focus on activities like designing, creating, and publishing digitally. Using technology to support project-based learning, for example, ensures that students interact with each other and not just with screens. Interactive games and quizzes where students play with each other, like Kahoot, can build knowledge while encouraging student interaction. Social media platforms can be a useful tool for engaging with experts as well. 

The offline station: The offline station is often dominated by independent work on paper. “Instead of designing collaborative tasks that allow students social learning opportunities, they are required to practice without support or peer interaction.” Like the online station, the offline station works best when students have an opportunity to engage with others and receive guidance. Art projects, STEM experiments, or in-depth discussion allow students to work together and engage in deeper learning. 

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TEACHING STRATEGIES

3 Ways to Boost Students’ Conceptual Thinking

Coaching students to think in terms of concepts helps them understand how to apply their learning in the future.By Carla MarschallSeptember 10, 2019

Illustration concept showing student engagement and thought process

We want our students’ learning to be enduring, enabling them to make sense of complexity now and in the future. For this to occur, we need to nudge students beyond the learning of facts and skills to uncover concepts—transferable ideas that transcend time, place, and situation.

Learning knowledge and skills is like standing in the middle of a forest, surrounded by trees: It’s easy to spot details but hard to see patterns. For students to think conceptually, they need opportunities to head up to the mountaintop, pause, and take in the entire forest. They need the chance to search for big ideas—to generalize, summarize, and draw conclusions by looking at their learning in a holistic way.Read Full Story


TEACHING STRATEGIES

A Project to Prompt Student Reflection

Researching their dream job and prepping for an interview prompts students to reflect deeply on what they learned in a year.By Stephanie RothsteinJuly 29, 2019

High school student giving presentation to his class.

Teachers think often about how best to provide students with feedback that helps them continue to learn. This past year, as I considered how to foster the skills my students would need for the following year, I created a new final project and built up new ways to provide feedback.

At Los Gatos High School, we have a four-year interdisciplinary pathway called LEAD@LG (Lead, Explore, Act, and Design at Los Gatos). I teach the ninth-grade English classes, and the students’ final project was to explore their dream job. I wanted students to have a personal job goal because supporting them in that future pursuit created authentic buy-in and allowed them to dream big. The students cared about researching the companies and analyzing the skills needed to achieve their goals.Read Full Story


LITERACY

6 Elementary Reading Strategies That Really Work

Strategies like choral reading and ear reading improve students’ reading fluency, expand their vocabulary, and increase their confidence. By Emelina MineroSeptember 11, 2019

We know that learning how to read is essential for success in school. Students need to be able to close read, annotate, and comprehend assignments and texts across all subjects.

So we looked through our archives and consulted the research to arrive at a list of strategies that could develop strong reading skills and confidence for all students—including struggling readers.Read Full Story


LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS

10 Common Flexible Seating Myths

An elementary teacher who has been using flexible seating for over a decade responds to the concerns he hears most frequently from other teachers.By John S. ThomasSeptember 3, 2019A student at work in the author’s classroom

During my 14-year flexible seating journey, I’ve taught a mix of first through third grade classes, including multigrade classrooms with up to 28 students. I’ve encountered plenty of challenges, but through research and some trial and error, I’ve been able to create a sustainable flexible seating environment that is differentiated for my students’ needs.

The path has not always been straight, but when I see the impact flexible seating has on my students’ focus and learning, I’m certain the journey has been worthwhile.Read Full Story


MENTAL HEALTH

The Evolution of a Trauma-Informed School

Two years after Edutopia filmed trauma-informed practices at a Nashville school, we check in with the principal to see what has changed.By Alex Shevrin VenetSeptember 13, 2019Mathew Portell, principal at Fall-Hamilton Elementary School in Nashville, at work with a student

There is no arrival at a perfect implementation of trauma-informed practices, and no one knows this better than Mathew Portell, principal of Fall-Hamilton Elementary in Nashville. Portell has been leading Fall-Hamilton’s journey with trauma-informed practices for the past several years, and Edutopia profiled one point in this journey in May 2017.

I recently heard Portell share this thought with a group of educators: “Trauma-informed education is a journey, not a checklist.” I wanted to know more about what that journey has looked like at Fall-Hamilton, so I contacted Portell to learn what’s happening at his school now.Read Full Story


SCHOOL CLIMATE

Every Student Matters: Cultivating Belonging in the Classroom

These five strategies can help ensure that students feel they belong in your classroom.By Michael DunleaSeptember 4, 2019

About a year ago, I received a text in the middle of the teaching day from the mother of a student I had taught eight years earlier as a second grader. She thanked me for always being there for her son, who had come out as gay to their family the night before. She shared that her son—now a senior in high school—mentioned me in their conversation and said I had taught him that all people have equal value in the world, a lesson that helped him face the truth of who he was.

Early elementary teachers rarely see the seeds we try to plant in our young students come to fruition, but we always hope they will grow into the people we imagine they can be. For the last 16 years, I’ve taught in an inclusion classroom where many students have learning differences that can pose a challenge to connecting with others. I’ve learned that if students feel anxious socially, they will not be open to taking academic risks, so building a culture of belonging has become my greatest priority. It is important to clarify that when I say “belonging,” I am not talking about “fitting in”—students’ individuality and uniqueness should always be valued. Belonging in the classroom means ensuring that all students feel welcomed, comfortable, and part of the school family. Read Full Story


NEW TEACHERS

How New Teachers Can Create a Welcoming Classroom

A few tips for new teachers who want to foster strong relationships with students and between students.By Beth PandolphoOctober 1, 2019

New teachers intuitively understand the need to create a welcoming community in their classrooms. A warm and responsive classroom culture is essential because, like all of us, students need to feel safe and valued in order to thrive. As the professor of education Linda Darling-Hammond has said, “When that sense of belonging is there, children throw themselves into the learning environment.”

One path to creating this kind of classroom culture is to focus on setting expectations and routines that are designed to foster relationships and a sense of safety and belonging.Read Full Story


BRAIN-BASED LEARNING

Maintaining Students’ Motivation for Learning as the Year Goes On

Neuroscience can suggest ways to keep students working toward their learning goals after their initial excitement wears off.By Judy WillisSeptember 30, 2019

It’s likely that your hard work orchestrating the first weeks of school enhanced your students’ connection to the school community and their enthusiasm for the learning to come. However, as the semester goes on and you seek to sustain that motivated momentum, you may not be able to find the same amount of prep time that you dedicated to the start of the year.

Yet even when your students’ bubbles of excitement fade, you can reboot their connections, engagement, and motivation with the help of insights from neuroscience research.Read Full Story


SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL LEARNING

Social and Emotional Learning in a World Language Class

Monthly visits to a nursing home taught middle school students empathy and built their confidence as they practiced their Spanish.By Laura LaverySeptember 27, 2019

As I began teaching my middle school Spanish students last year, I knew that in addition to guiding them through verb conjugations, I wanted to find a way to develop their social and emotional skills and offer them an opportunity to create positive change in our community. I got the inspiration for this when a couple of colleagues and I went to see Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the documentary about Fred Rogers.

After a lot of reflection, I decided to introduce my students to neighbors in a nearby nursing home. In addition to giving students a context for practicing empathy, it would give them an audience for their fledging Spanish. Knowing that they would need to sing a song in Spanish for the nursing home residents, for example, could be a prod to practice more.Read Full Story


SERVICE LEARNING

Using Community Challenges for Learning

Find tips on how to collect real-world problems for your students and a framework to start and monitor their projects.By Cathleen BeachboardSeptember 27, 2019

“Why should I learn this?” “When am I ever going to use it?” “How is this information important for my life?” Students have asked these questions year after year in my classroom. They have longed to see how our content connects to the world. 

One day I received an email from the assistant superintendent saying that the proposed school budget was in danger of being rejected and he needed someone to advocate for student funding and security improvements. My eyes fell on the empty desks in front of me. What if I gave this local problem to my students? Using persuasive language to encourage others to adopt a budget falls squarely within my academic curriculum. By tackling this challenge, students might use content to impact the world around them. The students created a public service announcement and spoke at the county budget hearing. Months later, the budget passed, and for the first time in years, it was almost fully funded.  Read Full Story

POPULAR TOPICS
GRADE LEVELS

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Amazing Literacy First!

How a Literacy-First Program Revived a School

A Title I school in the Bronx is dramatically improving student outcomes—one book at a time.By Carly BerwickMarch 28, 2019

Four second-grade boys at Concourse Village Elementary School in the Bronx are lying on a rug, kicking their legs in the air as gentle saxophone music plays over a classroom speaker. But their teacher, Mr. Lozada, doesn’t tell them to sit up straight or stop wiggling: They can wiggle all they want, as long as they focus on the day’s math lesson on skip counting.

In another part of the room, a girl moves to the whiteboard to write up her solution to a math problem and several others work on iPads, while a co-teacher and a student teacher circulate around the room to help.

At first glance, the fluid classroom structure contrasts with some of the conventional wisdom about what it takes to learn at a high-poverty public school ranked higher than nearly 96 percent of elementary schools in New York City—results similar to those for the top-performing “no excuses” charter schools where strict rules and regimens are credited with success.

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Instead, at Concourse Village, a combination of high expectations for students, a flat reporting structure that places a premium on teacher empowerment, and an innovative literacy-first approach in all subjects are helping the 361 students excel. Eighty-eight percent of students passed English and math state tests in 2018, more than 40 points higher than the citywide average, and in 2018, the school was awarded a Blue Ribbon for Excellence from the U.S. Department of Education.  

George Lucas Educational Foundation

Part of the school’s effectiveness stems from a belief that all students can learn when given access to both high-quality teaching practices and a supportive and safe learning environment, says Principal Alexa Sorden, a former teacher whose children also attend the school. Every morning, teachers greet children with hugs and handshakes as they arrive at school, scan for any signs of trouble, and intervene accordingly.

“We are located in the poorest congressional district in the nation. For a long time that was used as the excuse as to why success wasn’t happening,” said Sorden of the students, 15 percent of whom are homeless. “As a leader of a school, I don’t have conversations about whether a student has an IEP or lives in a shelter—I don’t believe those things stop you.”

GETTING ON THE SAME PAGE

The school wasn’t always a success story.

In 2013, Sorden reopened the elementary school after its predecessor was shut down for poor performance and disrepair.

“Previously, there wasn’t any consistency,” says Sorden, who grew up in nearby Washington Heights in a low-income household. “I needed everything to be aligned—from the furniture to the language—so the children could have a sense of predictability and feel safe.”SCHOOL SNAPSHOT

Concourse Village Elementary School

Grades Pre-K to 5 | The Bronx, NY

Enrollment

361 | Public, Urban

Free / Reduced Lunch

96%

DEMOGRAPHICS:

66% Hispanic33% Black1% OtherData is from the 2018-19 academic year

When the same first and second graders returned for Sorden’s first fall on campus, they were greeted by a freshly painted building, new modular furniture, and new teachers. Part of the transformation included a shift in leadership that gave teachers more autonomy. A flat leadership structure—Sorden is the only administrator on campus—encourages Concourse Village staff to learn from each other and trust that they know what’s best for their students.

Using a carefully choreographed procedure called intervisitation, Sorden pairs off teachers with complementary strengths and weaknesses. For six weeks at a time, these pairs, or “growth partners,” visit each other’s classrooms once a week for 15 minutes to observe. Afterward, they meet to offer feedback in the same format that they teach kids: TAG (tell something you like, ask a question, and give a suggestion).

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George Lucas Educational Foundation

When Lizzette Nunez, a fourth-grade English and social studies teacher, came to teach at Concourse Village she noticed that there “was a difference in the climate.”

“It wasn’t ‘Close your door.’ It was ‘We are a team; we are going to help you; we are going to work together. If I have a best practice, I am going to share it with you’,” she said.

A LITERACY-FIRST APPROACH

To establish effective practices in the school, Sorden drew on her own nine years of experience as a classroom teacher and literacy coach, when she developed an approach called Collaborative Reading, a blend of choral reading and close reading.

In the model, students read portions of new, challenging grade-level and above-grade-level texts aloud together every day to improve vocabulary and boost reading proficiency. Then, they answer questions in small groups following the MACAS method (main idea, annotationcomprehensionauthor’s purpose, and summary) to demystify the often-opaque process of analysis in a shared, safe space before trying it on their own.

George Lucas Educational Foundation

The school also emphasizes that literacy skills should be taught in all disciplines. Every class, from art to math, focuses on close reading and reflective writing to build students’ critical thinking about texts.

“I was prepared because the teachers taught me well,” says Kianna Beato, a CVES graduate and current seventh-grade student, who cites techniques such as annotation and rereading in both math and English as boosting her confidence and ability. “I knew there was nothing to be afraid of in a different school.”

In Yasmin Al-Hanfoosh’s class, Mozart is playing as third graders work in groups of six on close reading of scientific text. Al-Hanfoosh directs students to look at words that are in the prompt—“What are magnets used for?”—that are also in the text to find the main idea in the passage. When they finish, they go to a station and practice finding the main idea on their own in a new article.

In math classes, all students follow a set of five standard steps when they solve math word problems: annotate the problem; think of a plan to solve it; use a strategy to solve it; describe how it was solved using labels and math language; and finally, make connections by identifying patterns and rules.

“It’s important because their reading skills are going to improve,” explains Blair Pacheco, a math and science teacher. “They are honing in on specific words, so it’s going to help them get the gist and really understand the content of what they are reading.”

A CULTURE OF HIGH EXPECTATIONS

The focus on literacy has even extended to developing a deeper understanding and appreciation for art.

In Courtney Watson’s second-grade art class, students discussed sophisticated concepts like how color conveys mood in artist Romare Bearden’s The Block and Edward Hopper’s Railroad Embankment, and how mood connects to understanding features of rural, urban, and suburban communities. Afterward, they applied the themes to their own pieces of artwork.

“A text can sometimes be very intimidating, especially for a struggling reader or an English language learner,” said Watson, referencing the student demographics. “Art is a universal language—every child can read a piece of art.”

George Lucas Educational Foundation

This interdisciplinary approach has pushed many Concourse Village students above grade level in reading and math proficiency, including students who started at the school knowing little to no English. Notably, English language learners and students with disabilities, who number roughly a quarter of the student population, score higher than general education students on both math and English language arts state tests.

“We are a community—that’s a true statement,” says second-grade teacher Richard Lozada, who grew up near the school. “I have support; I can go to anyone. It’s making people feel very comfortable to ask what is needed and learn from each other.” 

Schools That Work

Concourse Village Elementary School

Public, UrbanGrades Pre-K to 5The Bronx, NYWhat makes this a SCHOOL THAT WORKS

In 2013, Principal Alexa Sorden, a former teacher and literacy coach, took over Concourse Village Elementary School in New York City after its predecessor was closed due to poor performance and disrepair. When the 361 students—nearly all of whom came from low-income households—returned to school that fall, they were greeted with a renovated building, new teachers, and high-quality instructional practices in every classroom.

Under Sorden’s leadership, the pre-K to 5 school has blossomed. Using a flat leadership structure—Sorden is the only administrator—teachers are empowered to learn from and support each other and share accountability for student outcomes. An innovative, literacy-first approach helps students develop foundational skills in every subject, from English language arts to math and art.

PROOF POINTS:

  • The school was ranked better than 95.8 percent of all elementary schools in New York City in 2017.
  • In 2018, 88 percent of students scored advanced or proficient on the New York State exams in both math and English language arts, more than 40 points higher than the citywide averages.
  • The school received a Blue Ribbon Award for Exemplary Performance in 2018.

Edutopia wishes to thank Accelerate Institute for helping us discover Concourse Village

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