Grades: Grades 6-8

Encouraging students to explore new cultures in ways that foster their critical thinking, independence, and collaboration.

On January 23rd and 30th, I’ll share how I help my 6th-12th grade students become better critical thinkers and more independent and collaborative learners. I’ll present the details of an investigative, project-based learning unit that brings them in contact with a new culture and with individuals from other countries. I’ll explain how this three-month long exploration encourages my students to recognize the value of being contributing members of their community, challenges them to responsible citizens of the world, and gives them the opportunity to work together to explore and solve complex social problems that they identify themselves.

The key to this approach is encouraging students to cross boundaries with which they’re familiar—geographic boundaries, cultural boundaries, even language boundaries—and to come together to solve a problem or champion a cause that’s central to the lives of other students who they don’t already know.

To do so, I look within my curriculum for themes that can be connected to global issues. After narrowing it down to a driving question I make connections with teachers, community leaders, and with students with whom my students can collaborate and then introduce the project to my class. The teachers involved and I work together with students, helping them investigate the issue from a perspective they choose and helping them to make the connections with individuals they can learn from.  At the end, they are able to present a product or a proposal for action to each other, and to other members of our learning community.

In our first session, I’ll describe the process by which I plan and develop this project and the way in which I focus specifically on the end goal. I’ll also share how I’ve been able to integrate interdisciplinary learning and peer collaboration using digital software like the Google Suite.

With this background, you’ll have the chance to align this project with your own content standards, and when we gather for our second meeting you will have the chance to think through how to create an outline for your own similar project and the assessment tools that best align with your project goals. At this time, I will also share the detailed timeline I use to help the students and teachers move toward our common end goal in a timely manner.

Using tableaux to strengthen students’ literary analysis skills

On October 25 and November 1, Meg O’Brien and I will together share a theater strategy that can help students deeply analyze and understand complex texts and ideas: tableaux. Meg, who is Interim Co-Director of Education and the Access Coordinator at the Huntington Theatre Company teaches with me in our ninth grade Humanities class, encouraging students to use tableaux to literally embody ideas and pieces of literature. This seemingly simple structure helps them explore nuances of meaning, literary techniques, multiple perspectives, symbolism, and more. Working together on tableaux can also help students build social and emotional competencies. The best part? It’s not just for theater classes. Even students (and teachers!) with no background in acting or theater can be successful using this strategy.

On October 25th, we’ll introduce this strategy in a free, one-hour workshop. You’ll have opportunities to participate in some basic theater exercises, see and discuss student work, analyze how bringing tableaux into your class could address Common Core State Standards for ELA, and reflect on how you might incorporate these ideas into your own practice. By the time you leave, you’ll have concrete resources to help you get started with this technique in your own classroom.

On November 1st, we’ll reconvene to share ideas, debrief how it went, and help fine-tune everyone’s approach to this new strategy.

Register for this TeachingPartners Live Workshop now, and TeachingPartners will immediately send you an appointment you can drop right in your online calendar. You’ll also get a reminder closer to October 25th to make sure you’re ready.

Introducing “punctuation formulas” to develop and reinforce students’ grammar skills

On September 25th I shared something that really makes a difference in the way my students think about and apply the rules of grammar. Instead of asking students to understand abstract grammatical concepts, I teach them to use “punctuation formulas” that help them apply math-based concepts to grammar. This strategy immediately enables my students to better elevate their writing. Instead of trying to understand abstract grammatical concepts, they can easily apply solid foundational formulas to their efforts–just like they do in math.

I introduced a series of punctuation formulas, presenting each formula one at a time as part of a larger lesson. I don’t teach all the formulas in a block, but spread them out in relation to other things that we are learning. Each time, my students and I practice a new formula together and my students then apply what they’ve learned to a variety of activities. I introduce formal and informal assessments throughout the process, and students’ work with each formula culminates in a writing assessment where I expect to see compound and complex sentence structures punctuated correctly.

Immediately after they incorporate these formulas my students’ writing improves. Years after students have taken my class, they come back to tell me that they remember the formulas and still use them to elevate the level of their writing.

I introduced this approach in a free, one-hour workshop that gives you the information you need to begin to think about introducing punctuation formulas to your students. You can find a video archive of this session under the “Session 1” tab above.

You have the chance to reflect about what I’ve presented and to begin to personalize the resources and practices that I know first-hand work well for students for your own classroom. Our group will meet again on October 2nd to share ideas and to help fine-tune everyone’s approach to this new strategy.

Using Young-Adult literature to teach about social justice

On October 17th and 24th, I will be joined by two of my amazing colleagues, Kelly Steiner and Rita Ehlert, to share ways we use Young-Adult literature to teach about social justice.  The titles we will be sharing can provide windows and mirrors, role models and inspiration. They can also be a springboard for promoting empowerment, empathy and compassion. In addition to highlighting several of our favorite titles, we will also share practical strategies that address the following: creating a culture of readers; engaging parents; determining selection criteria; and accessing resources to support intellectual freedom and to fight censorship.

On October 17th, we will discuss more than 25 contemporary Young-Adult titles and share how, through book talks, literature circles, read alouds, and class novel studies, we have used those titles to approach issues of social justice. The titles we share will include a variety of representation and a variety of novel formats. You will have a chance to reflect, ask questions, and consider how you can incorporate some of these titles or resources into your own teaching practice.  Then, our group will meet again on October 24th to share ideas, explore additional titles, and fine-tune our thoughts about determining selection criteria and supporting young readers.

As you can with other TeachingPartners Live Workshops, you can earn a six-hour Certificate of Participation from TeachingPartners for your participation in both Workshop sessions. And, if you add your phone number during registration, TeachingPartners will text you reminders as we get closer to the date.

Inspiring students through self-directed humanitarian projects

On October 22nd and 29th, I shared the one strategy that I’ve found to have the biggest impact on my students: Each year I encourage them to develop and deliver their own humanitarian project—one that helps others by providing aid or resources not otherwise available to them.

This project is often life-changing for students, encouraging them to understand more about others’ lives and challenges and to develop their own ability to share what they’ve learned and what they value as a result.

I shape their efforts by first helping them understand what it means to support someone in a humanitarian project. Then, I encourage them to develop the planning, communication, and presentation skills they need to engage their community in their project. And I help them connect their efforts with the social, cultural, and historical context that shapes their own histories. My students leave the classroom with a deeper, more empathetic understanding of the world around them

On October 22, I introduced this strategy in a free, one-hour workshop that gives you the information you need to encourage your students’ own humanitarian projects. You’ll have a chance to reflect about this approach and to begin to personalize the resources and practices I know first-hand work will well for students for your own classroom. Then, our group will met again on October 29 to share ideas and help fine-tune everyone’s approach in ways that will make it easier for you to introduce this strategy to your students.

 

Personalizing and differentiating instruction for English Language Learners

On September 26th and October 3rd, I’ll be sharing my most essential strategy for supporting English Language Learners: providing genuinely differentiated instruction that meets my students exactly where they are.

I know from first-hand experience with my students that taking steps to personalize my teaching goes a long way toward empowering my English Language Learners. In fact, getting to know your students’ stories before you teach fuels each child and arms them to achieve and succeed!

To better serve my students, I assess their academic and linguistic abilities early on by introducing a fun survey that requires them to answer questions about who they are in their home country and who they are in their new country. The survey’s engaging questions ease their anxiety about performing in another language by encouraging them to translate and construct meaningful sentences in their first and second languages.

Next, I drive my instruction by being animated and accessible—I use body language. I make sure to face students while speaking. I’m careful to speak slower and enunciate each word. And I employ lots of visuals, lots of academic language, and lots of social language interactive word walls.

Then, I make sure I personalize each student’s learning in a way that meets and then just exceeds their present competencies and comfort level.

On September 26th, I’ll introduce each of these strategies in a free, one-hour workshop designed to show new and continuing ELL teachers exactly what they can do to personalize and differentiate instruction for their students. You’ll have a chance to reflect about these strategies and to begin personalizing them for your own classroom. Then, our group will meet again on October 3rd to share ideas and help fine-tune participants’ approaches.

Register for this TeachingPartners Live Workshop now, and TeachingPartners will send you a appointment you can drop right in your online calendar. You’ll also get a reminder closer to September 26th to make sure you’re ready.

Using mathematical routines to engage all learners

On October 15th and 22nd, I’ll share how to use mathematical routines in your classroom to build number sense, develop inquiry, and engage students in the Standards for Mathematical Practice. One thing I love about these routines is how easy they are to implement, and how they have the flexibility to be used as a five-minute warm-up or a full lesson for a wide range of learners at varying grade levels.

When you use instructional routines in your classroom, students are more deeply engaged in the mathematical content because of the familiar and predictable structure. In addition, using routines in sequence provides opportunities for students to build on what they know from previous sessions. Because these tasks are low-floor/high-ceiling and of interesting content, they create an inviting space for even your reluctant students to share their thinking. In turn, as students communicate in mathematical ways through these interactive routines, they develop more mathematical habits of mind.

During the first interactive Workshop on October 15th, we’ll engage in the routines ourselves to experience them from the perspective of a learner. We’ll reflect on each experience, paying special attention to how it can be implemented to support and challenge all our students. We’ll also look at the Standards for Mathematical Practice and consider which standards are highlighted as we engage in each routine. After our first session, you’ll have the chance to try these routines with your students. When we meet again on the 22nd, we’ll share our experiences from implementing these activities within in the classroom. We’ll discuss successes and challenges as well as new ideas and questions.

As you can with other TeachingPartners Live Workshops, you can earn a six-hour Certificate of Participation from TeachingPartners for your participation in both Workshop sessions. And, if you add your phone number during registration, TeachingPartners will text you reminders as we get closer to the date.

Helping students improve their understanding of texts through analytical reading.

“To help kids read beneath the words themselves—and to help them understand not only what they’ve read but how the writer achieved the effect she did–I ask students get at the difference between summarizing and analyzing text by using a simple, three-column worksheet as they read.

I call this strategy “Reading with a Pen,” and I believe this approach has the potential to transform student reading and understanding–no matter what the grade or subject.”