Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Student Choice as an instructional strategy - three ways to encourage it

When my daughters were young, they usually didn’t want to go to bed at their bedtime. To give them choice, I wouldn’t ask them if they wanted to go or ask them what time they wanted to go to bed. I would ask them, “Do you want to walk to bed or do you want to be carried to bed?”

The simple analogy relates to the opportunity for choice that we need to give to students in the classroom. It’s no longer enough to simply say, “Do as I say.” While students can’t make a choice of IF they want to learn certain content as it relates to standards, they can make choices on the HOW. For example, one of the Alabama state standards for Chemistry states, “Use the periodic table as a systematic representation to predict properties of elements based on their valence electron arrangement.” We can’t let students choose if they want to learn the content, but we can partner with them and allow them to choose how they want to demonstrate their learning as it relates to the standard.

Here are three ways we can create opportunities for more student choice:
Ask students It’s that simple. When deciding on lessons, projects, videos, examples, starting points, assessments, experiences, etc, teachers need to ask themselves, How could I get student input about this? (Then do it.) Using a rating scale is an easy way to find out what students like and dislike, what concepts they are having trouble with, and where they perceive their knowledge level to be.
Allow for collaboration
Give students the opportunity to work together in small groups or with partners to brainstorm ideas, give feedback, and research together. Learning how to develop criteria alongside the teacher creates more ownership and leads to an opportunity for self-check and reflection. Student choice that is a result of collaboration can lead to greater accountability with self and others.
Explicitly teach skills By explicitly teaching skills, it doesn’t mean to avoid teaching content. It means that in addition to teaching content, teach students the skills they need to problem-solve: how to evaluate evidence, ask questions, find information, create hypotheses, and develop, defend, and analyze arguments. Equipped with these skills, students can make better and more informed choices.
By allowing students to have more choice, it can increase productivity and motivation. Choice, like all other teaching strategies, is just that - a strategy. We don’t need to use one strategy for all situations. Choice should be implemented with purpose and as a means to help students learn more than what they ever thought they could or wanted to.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

20 motivational quotes by inspiring women

Inspiring women by

It’s the week of the ASCD Empower conference, and my excitement is growing for several reasons. I’ve never been to California, and I'm thrilled to be spending the day at Disneyland with my friend Debbie Campbell. Many of my Twitter friends I’ve never met in person, and I can’t wait to hang out with them while we learn at the ASCD Conference! 

Another reason I’m excited about attending the conference is that I will be presenting Leadership is a Team Sport with several ladies from our Women in Education Leadership Voxer group. Who would have thought that when I started this group almost three years ago that we would have grown into the close-knit group that we have become today. We are a group of committed leaders who support, encourage, challenge, and inspire each other on a daily basis.

Leadership is a Team Sport

In honor of the upcoming ASCD presentation and our Women in Ed Leadership Voxer group, I’m sharing 20 motivational quotes with you today. Whatever your role -- leader, innovator, trailblazer, disruptor -- I hope you find inspiration!

1. “My best successes came on the heels of failures.” -- Barbara Corcoran

2. “You can never leave footprints that last if you are always walking on tiptoe.” - Leymah Gbowee

3. “’Restore connection’ is not just for devices, it is for people too. If we cannot disconnect, we cannot lead. Creating the culture of burnout is opposite to creating a culture of sustainable creativity. This is something that needs to be taught in business schools. This mentality needs to be introduced as a leadership and performance-enhancing tool.” -- Arianna Huffington

4. “I choose to make the rest of my life the best of my life.” - Louise Hay

5. “My father had a simple test that helps me measure my own leadership quotient: When you are out of the office, he once asked me, does your staff carry on remarkable well without you?” -- Martha Peak

Motivational Quote by

6. "Always go with the choice that scares you the most, because that’s the one that is going to require the most from you." – Caroline Myss.

7. “I learned to always take on things I’d never done before. Growth and comfort do not coexist.” -- Ginni Rometty

8. “If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader.” -- Dolly Parton

9. “You can’t give up! If you give up, you’re like everybody else.” - Chris Evert

10. “One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.” -- Eleanor Roosevelt

Motivational Quote by

11. "True leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed... Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection." -- Sheryl Sandberg

12. “When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.” - Audre Lorde

13. “We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.”  – Marie Curie

14. “Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.” -- Sara Blakely

15. "I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well." – Diane Ackerman

Motivational Quote by

16. "Getting past those labels, for me, pretty much really easy because I define myself." -- Serena Williams

17. “It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.” - Maya Angelou

18. "The most effective way to do it, is to do it." – Amelia Earhart

19. “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it.” - Brene Brown

20. “Do not wait on a leader...look in the mirror, its you!” -- Katherine Miracle

If you're going to be at ASCD Empower, I hope you will join us for our session! If not, you can follow the conference on twitter at #Empower17.

ASCD Empower by

Thursday, March 16, 2017

An effective vocab teaching strategy for any grade level

I’m on a mission to get rid of assignments that consist of writing down vocabulary words and copying definitions from the text. In a digitized world, this is the equivalent of creating digital flashcards to “learn vocabulary.” 

Today’s post is about a strategy that can be used to help students learn vocabulary. 

Synectics is a problem-solving technique that promotes creative thinking by making a comparison between two seemingly unrelated terms/objects. The strategy of synectics forces students to make connections about vocabulary words in creative and uncommon ways. Because of this, students are more likely to remember vocabulary definitions. 

How to use this technique with students

1.Provide vocabulary words along with words that are not related to the content. 

For example, if the word is meiosis, you may provide the words:
clover             bracelet                  octopus               pinata

2. Demonstrate to students how to use the synectic:

Meiosis is like a _____________ because __________________.

Meiosis is like clover because meiosis is the division of a cell into four daughter cells, and clover has 4 leaves. 

3. Allow students to create their own comparisons, either individually or in pairs. Students can use the comparison words you’ve provided or create their own. 

4. Have students to create an image to represent their synectics.

5. Ask students to share their synectics with the class. 

Click the picture below for a pdf

What we need to spend less time doing:

Asking kids to list vocabulary words and copy definitions.

Asking, "Who knows what _________ means?"

Giving students complex definitions to words.

Having kids look up definitions in the dictionary. (The teacher can use the dictionary to create student-friendly definitions that can be explicitly taught.)

What do you think we need to spend less time doing? 
Will you join me as I aspire to be a vocab ninja?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Free Twitter Quick Start Guide

Twitter Quick Start Guide |
I've been answering a lot of questions about Twitter lately... questions about how to get started on Twitter, how to join Twitter chats, how to host Twitter chats, how to build a PLN, how to increase followers, and more! 

I really enjoy teaching others about how to use twitter for professional learning, connecting with others, and branding their school/district. While I love doing this in person, I also saw a need for a "no frills" Quick Start Guide. 

This workbook is for anyone just starting out on Twitter or for someone who is looking for a "reboot." Feel free to share this blog post link with your teachers, colleagues, staff, and/or friends so that they can get a copy of the guide.

Also, feel free to share the guide at your first (or next) Twitter Party. I only ask that you share the workbook it in its entirety with no modifications to the content. 

To get your copy, all you have to do is click the button below.

If you are interested in having me work with your staff on how to use Twitter to grow professionally or brand their school/classroom (or other topic), I will work with you to create a custom day of hands-on training. Shoot me an email at 

Want to find this later? Pin the image below.

Twitter Quick Start Guide |


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