Thus – Strive to be one

In 2013, should it be them and us? Let’s strive to become thus – the intersection between them and us.  How often do we point out our differences when we should be pointing out our connections?

  • Math vs. and Science,
  • Faculty vs. and Admin,
  • Academic vs. and Co-Curricular,
  • Teacher vs. and Student, etc.

I believe we have more commonalities than differences.

Imagine what it might be like to be thus,
to dwell in the intersection…

It has me wondering what actions we might take to move closer to being thus.

If we want integrated studies with more learning-centered classrooms, what is the next step? If it is about learning rather than teaching, how do we learn? What actions do we take? How do we be…


Practice seeking questions – #AskDon’tTell

Do you create carefully crafted worksheets to guide student learning?  I did for years.  I wanted my learners to be successful, and I thought it was my job to step them through the problem-solving process.  It would foster confidence and success, right?  Year after year, the next teacher of my learners would ask me if I taught X, Y, and Z topics.  Even when the learners in my care did everything I asked of them, they were not always successful at retaining what needed to be learned.

Do these carefully crafted worksheets really promote learn in the long run? Are we teaching perseverance, critical thinking, and problem solving when the path is so carefully crafted? Does having a step-by-step roadmap create opportunities to learn or handicap a creative process?

What if we offered our learners more opportunities to chart their own path from where they are to the target? Is the path they take as important as the learning they acquire?  How can we create investigations that prompt students to make observations and ask their own questions?

In writing LEARNing: Linear Functions Investigation – #AskDon’tTell and LEARNing: Quadratic Functions Investigation Zeros and Roots – #AskDon’tTell, I’ve been trying to work out an idea for prompting student investigation and questioning using dynamic investigations without much scaffolding.  I continue to reflect and ponder Steve Arnold’s great comment on the  LEARNing: Linear Functions Investigation – #AskDon’tTell post.  Here’s a snippet if you missed Steve’s comment:

My own experience is that “free orientation” (to use van Hiele’s terminology) tends to occupy kids for between 20 seconds and 2 minutes tops. It helps them a lot to be given some goal or curious thing or something to get them started… but I could well imagine that, in the right hands (i.e. yours) a class could be trained to be curious and capable of exploring.

Hmm…Could I help young learners learn to be curious and capable of exploring?  Are there protocols that I could employ while I am practicing the art of questioning?  I think I already engage in the art of questioning regularly with learners, but I am asked often about how to teach other teachers to “do what I do.”  I want to continue to hone this craft, to learn more, to become masterful.

So, what do I do to continue to learn?

  1. Read, read, read…Currently high on my list:
    1. Grant Lichtman‘s The Falconer: What We Wish We Had Learned in School,
    2. John Barell’s Developing More Curious Minds, and
    3. Dan Rothstein’s Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions.
  2. Practice, practice, practice…Remove the scaffolding:
    1. Watch Dan Meyer: Math class needs a makeover and try it.
    2. Stop creating slideuments.  If your TI-Nspire document, your PowerPoint presentation, or your worksheet has multiple pages, slides, or steps, eliminate lots! Create space for questions, investigation, and thinking.
    3. Use Gamestorming games to develop techniques for learning to ask questions. I like Brainwriting, 3-12-3, and others.
  3. Risk, reflect, revise:
    1. Try it – more than once. One trial does not make an experiment.  Celebrate even small successes.
    2. Have strong wait time, and have questions in your “back pocket” if prompting is needed.
    3. Seek feedback from a trusted colleague. Engage in peer observations to help you see from another perspective.


Comma rules part 1: S & C #AskDon’tTell (1/3)

How confident are you with comma rules?  Did you memorize the rules, or do you punctuate based on your gut?  I struggle to feel confident about some or most of the technical aspects of writing.  I second guess myself, and I hesitate to press publish because of this lack of confidence.

As a young learner, I fell in the category of a memorizer.  I learned the rules as expected for “the test” and them promptly lost them.  This lack of learning continues to impact my confidence and my performance.  I will admit that I usually put commas in my sentences when I pause when reading aloud.  I’m pretty sure that is not the best criteria.

It is possible to lead learners to an understanding of commas by asking them questions? Could we offer young learners the opportunity to develop an understanding of the rules for themselves through the use of examples and visual metaphors? Could learners decode how to correctly place commas to separate the elements in a series and in compound sentences without being told the rule first?

My friend and colleague, Marilyn Bauer, has set off on this quest.  I have been a student in her 6th grade writing course to learn more about 6 comma rules.  The younger learners have partnered with me to construct the rules based on examples and visuals.

Can you use the examples and the image to help write the rule for comma placement in a compound sentence?  Can you describe how the image connects to the rule?

Can you use the examples and the image to help write the rule for comma placement in a series?  Can you describe how the image connects to the rule?

As a learner, I loved this experience.  I had something to decode.  There was a puzzle to solve.  I have only highlighted one part of the lesson.  Marilyn’s plan involved so many experiences for learners.  Once we attempted to verbalize the rule, she came to coach.  She listened as we talked through the rule and asked questions to clarify and support our learning.  Formative assessment was offered in multiple ways.

How will we exercise our creativity to design lessons that ask our students to question, experiment, and learn?  Will we engage in practicing the art of questioning?

Ask; don’t tell.

LEARNing: Quadratic Functions Investigation Zeros and Roots – #AskDon’tTell

What questions could we ask to help our learners investigate and “discover the rules” for the number of roots or zeros of a quadratic function?

Should we start by questioning their understanding vocabulary?  Can we questions our learners to connect roots, x-intercepts, and zeros?  Can we listen to the learners’ questions to take their path instead of our carefully scaffolded plan?

What questions should be asked to lead our learners to move them identifying no real roots,  1 real root, and 2 real roots graphically to identifying the number of roots using the equation and the discriminant?

Remember, we ask questions; we do not tell rules or definitions.  The art of questioning must be practiced and honed.

Want to explore the investigation? Here’s how:

  • Clicking on the screenshot should enable you to download the TI-Nspire document and open it if you have the TI-Nspire software on your computer.
  • Clicking on the Launch Player button should open a player file where you can interact with the document without having TI-Nspire software. (Be patient; it is a little slow to launch.)

I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback.  Also, what questions would you ask, and what questions do you hope your learners ask?


Engaging every learner – #AskDon’tTell #TrinityLearns

Do you ever worry about student-directed learning? Does it mean that the teacher is not engaged?  How are we supposed to teach if we don’t tell them stuff?  What if we asked our learners to show what they know before we teach and reteach? Are we assuming that they know nothing because they are, well, young?

When our friend Grant Lichtman (@grantlichtman) was here last week, he talked about game changers for education.  Number 1 on his list was idea paint.  What if we offered the opportunity for every child to show what they know instead of having them raise their hands and wait for the chance to respond?

Here’s what that looks like in practice:

  • Is every child engaged in this lesson?
  • Is every child working collaboratively to show what they know and, at the same time, learn from others?
  • Is every adult engaged in this lesson?
  • How many opportunities for personalized learning, formative assessment, and practice are there during this lesson?
  • Who owns the learning?

Here is additional information and context for this collaborative first grade lesson from Marsha Harris’s (@marshamac74) lesson plan:

How might we engage more learners simultaneously, offer visible opportunities to show what they know, and personalize feedback, intervention, and enrichment?

Caine’s Arcade #PBL #DoDifferent #STEAM

Do you still wonder if we should make time and space for project-based, student-directed learning? Can you spare 11 minutes to watch Caine’s Arcade?

Can you find the content that you teach in Caine’s learning? I found design, engineering, math, physics, art, problem-solving, creativity, communication, strategic planning, perseverance, and many other important, fundamental, essential learnings.  I have to say that I just love his built-in security system with the calculators.  Amazing!

If you have 8 more minutes, please watch the next step,  Caine’s Arcade 2: The Global Cardboard Challenge & Imagination Foundation.

Who are the learners in this project? What was learned?

Corrections after a stumble

How do we act and react when our learners take a stumble in their learning?  How are we teaching persistence? How do we help learners learn to stay the course? How do we teach pressing on in spite of difficulty or a stumble?

I stumbled.  I was out on a run early one Sunday morning.  I have been practicing and “doing my homework.”  Theoretically, I am training for a 10K.  Realistically, I’m just working on endurance and overcoming “I can’t” thinking.  At approximately 3 miles out, I stumbled.  In the slow motion moment, I thought “Oh, good; I’m gonna catch myself.” In actual time, wham! Here’s a quick peek at the results of my stumble.

OUCH! But, I was very lucky.  I did not break my nose, teeth, wrists, or anything else.  I did skin and bruise my nose, the left side of my face, my right palm, and my left knee.  I did have to call for help to get home. Three weeks later, there is only a little road-rash under my left eye.  The cleanup and healing took time, work, encouragement, and extra care.

I took action to care for my injuries in the form of lots of salve and ibuprofen. Others took action in many ways to help.

I’ve got a warm washcloth, Bandaids, and Neosporin.  How can I help you?

It really doesn’t look that bad. You hardly notice it.

<teasing> Maybe you should consider different shoes. You know, flat shoes rather than the ridiculous ones that you usually wear.

Just give it time; be patient.  I had a similar incident, and with time and care, you will be fine – back to normal. It will get better.  I suggest vitamin E so that you won’t scar.

<again, teasing> Well, that’s what you get for running.

Notice that no one said “well, you just weren’t prepared.” No one said “maybe you should try harder next time.” No one said “you just weren’t ready.” No one said “it’s okay, this is not in your strength set.”

When a learner fails to meet their own expectations – when they stumble – consider actions and reactions. They speak louder than words.

With time, action, and care, we can fix this.

What can I do to help you?

It is really not that bad. There are bright spots in your work and learning. Let’s work together to brighten the areas of concern.

I did not run for about a week.  I was too sore and bruised.  It makes me wonder about test corrections and 2nd chance tests immediately after an academic stumble.

One of my learners said

This can be a challenge for me because sometimes I feel that I give the effort and it just doesn’t reach the results that I wanted.”

In Mindset, Dr. Carol Dweck writes

“When people believe their basic qualities can be developed, failures may still hurt, but failures don’t define them.   And if abilities can be expanded – if change and growth are possible – then there are still many paths to success.” (p. 39)

My path – on the way to a 10K – took a detour. I have to backtrack a little to reach the result I want. Test corrections are part of the salve and ibuprofen to offer care and comfort while expanding abilities and putting learners on another of the many paths to success.

Cleanup and healing takes time, work, encouragement, and extra care.


Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: the New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House, 2006. 39. Print.