Sunday, October 15, 2017

A New Twist on Think-Pair-Share


One simple way for teachers to increase engagement in a classroom is to increase the number of students involved in discussion. To make this increase, the teacher has to realize that he or she cannot be a common factor in the discussion. 

Here's a description of a common "class discussion" 
     1.) The teacher provides ideas and insights about a topic.
     2.) The teacher calls on students to answer questions throughout the lecture, or asks the class for someone to answer the questions.
     3.) In a typical class discussion, the teacher is involved in every conversation, and there are only a few students involved in the "discussion."

Think-Pair-Share is a strategy that is easy to implement throughout a class period. To implement think-pair-share, the teacher asks a question to the class, gives the students a few minutes to think about their answer, then the teacher asks the students to turn to a neighboring student and share their answers with each other. The teacher can walk around and listen in on conversations, and after a few minutes the teacher can ask someone to share their conversation with the group. 

Using think-pair-share is one way to increase participation in the group. All students have to participate, it's "safer" to share ideas to one other person than in front of the entire class, and it's a low-prep activity that doesn't take up time to too much time to implement. If several questions are posed throughout the class period, the teacher can ask the students to talk to a new neighbor each time. This gives opportunity for students to get to know students that they otherwise may not get to know. 

The twist on Think-Pair-Share is adding in a written response. Write-Pair-Share does a few things. 
     -It allows students an opportunity to practice writing. Full sentences with correct grammar and punctuation is an option that may or may not be exercised, depending on the teacher's objective.
     -The teacher can ask that the partner give a written response to their neighbor's answer. These can be "Yes, and..." prompts or other prompts that help students dive deeper into the content. 
     -It can give the teacher insight into ALL conversations that occur in the room. By having students to turn in their written statements, it becomes a formative assessment that the teacher can use to gauge understanding.
How to implement Write-Pair-Share:
     -The teacher asks the students to have a piece of paper and a writing utensil on their desks, or an open Google Doc on a device.
     -The teacher asks the class a question, and asks students to take a few minutes to write or type their responses. 
     -The teacher then asks students to turn to a neighbor and share their responses with each other. The teacher asks students to also comment back to their neighbor on the response that was shared.
     -Depending on time allowed for questions and responses, the teacher could ask for a few students to share responses with the class as a whole. 
     -The teacher has the option to collect written responses at the end of class, or have students to share their Google Docs with the teacher. (Can also be done through Google Classroom).

What other low-prep ways can a classroom discussion be tweaked to include more students in the discussion? I would love to hear from you in the comments or on twitter. Let's talk!

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Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Importance of What If Questions

I love asking "What if.." questions. They help me to think big... to think the impossible... to have hope. When I reflect on my blog posts, tweets, and comments, I tend to ask "What if" questions a lot. I also use them when I'm coaching or mentoring another person. Asking "What if" allows others to thinking beyond their current realities and barriers.

Over the summer, I shared the question below on twitter, and it resonated with many people. 
Here are a few other of my "What if" questions. 

(I led a book study via Voxer for teachers on The Golden Rules by Bob Bowman, coach for Michael Phelps.)

(blog post)


(blog post)

(blog post)

I shared on twitter how our school rewards positive behavior with Praise Referrals, and got asked the AWESOME "What if" question below...

By asking questions that push the boundaries, it can create a change in mindset and approach to a problem. "What if" also implies the hypothetical and sets no demands, which reduces anxiety about change. It does open doors for creativity and opportunity, and it sometimes exposes the root of the problem.  

When asking someone else these types of questions, it helps others to develop a vision for what could be. We also must remember that it can be overwhelming to some, especially in situations where the other person(s) is not used to generating ideas to solve a problem. 

Have you asked or been asked a "What if" question that you found impactful? I would love to continue the conversation. You can tweet me or share in the comments below. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

5 ideas for supporting new teachers

I am sure you have always heard, throughout practicums and internships, “You have to go into the classroom the first day as a new teacher. Be stern, straight faced, and heaven forbid DO NOT smile until Christmas.” I have to say that’s probably the worst advice anyone could give a new teacher. 

I would much rather have comfort in knowing some tricks of the trade, what to expect, what I need to do, and who can help when facing the world of teaching. I hope this blog can provide some insight into some of the successful tips I have had coaching new teachers. 

Eric Jensen, an educator with a rich classroom climate mindset, says, “I focus on what students need to succeed and build it into the learning and social environment every day.” 

How does one develop rich teaching? Here are some of my suggestions for supporting new teachers.

1. School Culture Orientation: It is important to integrate new teachers into the school culture prior to day one. If at all possible, teacher leaders and administrators should meet during the summer with new teachers to discuss school culture. This allows for all teachers to create and develop working relationships prior to meeting students on day one. Orienting them with “how things work”, “what things are like”, and “what are our culture/climate goals” creates immediate comfort because novice and rookie teachers are having the same conversations on an even playing field, so to speak. Having this day leaves a new teacher comfortable and confident to begin the year. Often during a professional development culture day, all “non-negotiables” are established. It can also be beneficial to have the student leadership team participate in this day giving the new teachers and students time to begin developing relationships. Never forget that when establishing expectations for teachers it is also our duty to help meet them.

2. Relationships: I have heard the quote, “Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This is also very true for new teachers. As an administrator, building relationships with new teachers is so important. I asked several of my new teachers what they appreciated most when they began their work with me. Each one of them stated their appreciation for an open door policy and caring about them not just as a teacher but also as an individual. Every teacher is unique, just as every student is unique, so fostering individual relationships is key in feeling supported and valued.

"Every teacher is unique, just as every student is unique, so fostering individual relationships is key in feeling supported and valued."

3. Differentiated Professional Development: Every teacher in the school is at a different level professionally. It is important to meet the teacher where they are and support their professional growth. Having continuous conversations about teaching and learning with open dialogue about teacher strengths and weaknesses will help develop this culture.  I am a firm believer that teachers should lead other teachers from within. When there is a teacher in the building that has amazing classroom management strategies, have others that need work in this area go observe that model. Maybe there is a formative assessment expert down the hall. Administrators should never feel above going to “hold down the fort”  in a classroom so teachers can learn from one another. My principal and I call this “rust prevention”. Watching a class allows us an opportunity to teach from time to time which is really our first love anyway.

4. Celebrate Failed Lessons: Earlier, I mentioned conversations about strengths and weakness of teachers. Through thoughtful conversations and reflections, teachers are typically eager to learn; it’s just what we do. I have never had to tell a teacher that their lesson was a flop. Teachers will tell it  before you say anything. The key for new teachers is to cultivate the relationship that failed lessons are positive for teaching and learning as long as something beneficial is learned from the failure because then it turns the failure into a win. I love the phrase “reflect to redirect”. When we have reflected, and through the conversations instruction is redirected and improved, it is a total win for the administrator, teacher, and student.

5. Be Present: I made a goal several years ago to visit every classroom everyday. I have found being present desensitizes teachers, old and new, from thinking that you are only there to evaluate. Evaluation is part of the process, but being present to support one another speaks volumes.  It develops a mindset of collaboration. There is no me, or you; it is us. New teachers should see you in their classrooms for support instead of as a dictator and evaluator. I want new teachers to see me in their classroom so I can support them and  be there for questions no matter how big or small. After all, knowing what is happening in the school is most important. Being present creates the idea of support for your teachers by just being visible.  

Everyone is welcome to join us Monday nights 9-10pmCST for #ALedchat. We value the insights, perspectives, and experiences of those in our PLN.

Caring for new teachers #ALedchat

**Here’s a time converter to assist all of you around the globe in converting 9pm CST to your local time. 

TIP: If you have never done a twitter chat before, you may find it helpful to go to and enter the hashtag #ALedchat. Sign in with your twitter account. The website will "filter out" all of the other tweets except for the ones with the hashtag #ALedchat. The website will automatically add #ALedchat to your tweets, and you will see a scrolling list of tweets from the chat on the page. (P.S. The hashtags are NOT case-sensitive.)

I'm one of the founders and hosts of this chat. If you have any questions, feel free to email me

Everyone is welcome. I hope you will all join us Monday night for #ALedchat.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Please come observe me

As I start my 24th year as an educator (12th year as an administrator), it is extremely exciting when I come across an idea that is truly inspiring as well as being one that I believe will help me be a better leader. 

The members of our Compelled Tribe inspire me in different ways. Their blog posts reveal their vulnerability, passions, stories, and their experiences. I learn from each of them!

A while ago, I read a blog post by Arkansas principal Lindsey Bohler that got me fired up about the new school year! 

You see, I'm a big believer in relationships and teams. I also value feedback that promotes growth. These two reasons are why I love the #ObserveMe movement started by Robert Kaplinsky

Well, Lindsey wrote a blog post describing how she, the principal, was going to participate in #ObserveMe in her school!

Wow! I knew that I wanted to do the same this year at my school. 

Lindsey shared in her post how she decided on her goals, and she also shared a copy of her graphic that she will post outside her office. 

I totally copied her. :-)

I sat down with my favorite pen and a piece of paper and listed all the things I wanted to work on during the new school year. It was a long list, and paring it down to three focus areas was tough! It was a reminder of the exercises I had to do in graduate school, but this time I had a lot of leadership experience under my belt and it was awesome to go through the exercise. 

While I write my three words each year, I haven't written out my school goals in a while. (There's just too many! Ha!) Doing this was extremely satisfying and rewarding. I am very excited to start the new school year. 

My plan is to post my sign on my door to my office. I also will share my goals with the staff and ask them to give me constructive feedback. I've also asked the rest of our administrative team to give me feedback and join me in this adventure. 

I often say that "people learn more from what we do than what we say." I'm going to walk the walk and ask for feedback on my goals. I want to build on strengths and work on my weaknesses. I can only do this when I get rid of my blindspots.. and I'm hoping that participating in #ObserveMe will help me with this. I thought it was important to model vulnerability and transparency in another way, and I also thought this may be a creative way to assist me on my leadership journey. 

Did I mention that it's scary? Did I also mention that I hope that the feedback I get is helpful and not hurtful? 

Don't teachers ask these same questions? 

If you are a school leader and are doing this already or are going to join the #ObserveMe movement because of this post, I want to hear from you! Share in the comments or on twitter


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