cheerscheers (click here for music)

I was in Boston last week and I went to Cheers. One of the teachers who went along had absolutely no idea what it meant – so I know I’m dating myself here. But really, don’t we all want to go to a place where everybody knows your name? I do remember some days when I was teaching kindergarten that by the end of the day, I didn’t want to hear my name one more time!

Earlier this week, I looked in on a lesson with a guest teacher. One of the things we are working on is providing multiple opportunities for students to respond. I became aware of how difficult it is to increase opportunities to respond, thereby increasing student engagement, thereby increasing learning (you get the picture) when you don’t know the students’ names.

Here are some simple things teachers can do to help out their guest teacher:

  • create table tents with student names
  • have some label sheets with student names pre-printed
  • use the good old cup of sticks with student names (No Hands Rule)

This could do a lot to level the playing field for the guest teacher and it can do a lot for students who really do want to hear their name.

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App of the Week – ElliotTunes

I love to use music when I teach. It is great for transitions. After a while, kids just need to hear how a song starts and they know exactly what to do. So…once they’re used to a song and they know what to do in the first five seconds, why do you need the rest of the song?

For today’s app of the week, I’ve created my own in a quirky sort of way! If you’re looking at this on an iPad, simply click this link to our ElliotTunes (an open permission docushare collection). Do you see that arrow coming out of a rectangle to the left of your address bar? Touch that, and one of your options will be “add to Home Screen”. It will make a new button for your home screen that will go directly to this site when you touch it.

In this collection, I have “cut” a few random songs from my music library. You can find songs 10-50 seconds long, depending on how long you want your transition to be. Play the song and teach your students how to be cleaned up and in the next spot ready to learn before the song runs out. No more “teacher counting”… You know, one…two…threeeeeeeee…fooooooouur…four and a halfffffffff…fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive! Seriously???? Why do we do it? 5 seconds means 5 seconds – and here’s a song to show you how long that really is!

If you need to pause or stop the song early, you need to get to your music controls by doing the Elliott Shuffle…(Tap, Tap, slide to the right)

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App of the week – The Opposites

This is a great game for students and teachers. It’s free – but that might not last, so download it ASAP. If you get past the aqua blue level, I’ll be jealous. I keep getting stuck in that one!

Great for building vocabulary!

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App of the Week – Class Dojo

Set it up online.

Download the free app:

I have been watching Class Dojo for a while. I like it a lot, but have treated it like “fluff” – fun but not vital.
Well, it got bumped up on my list recently when I tried the app. The app has a random selection button – it’s just what it sounds like. It will select a random student, you call on them and record their response.

This can be used to record opportunities to respond – in fact, I think that once teachers are familiar with the interface, they could record this all on their own (something I had thought would be nearly impossible for a teacher to record without video). You can record group responses and individual responses.

Leave a comment if you are interested in scheduling a session to learn about this great tool. If you use it, please let me know that too!

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Moose Sightings

This summer, my family vacationed in Wyoming. We spent three days in Yellowstone and then exited through the south gate so that we could pass through Jackson Hole. We stayed just outside of Jackson near Teton Village.

The road we traveled on to get there was called Moose Wilson Road. Just outside of town, there was a large flashing sign on the side of the road that said “6 Moose Killed in the next 1 mile”…We paid attention and commented on how sad that is and pondered how much damage a full-grown moose could do to a vehicle…then we got distracted wondering how much farther our hotel would be…is the pool water going to be warm…where were we going to eat supper?????

Then we saw it – do you see the moose cut-out on the side of the road? Every quarter of a mile, they strategically placed one of these so that we would focus on watching out for moose again. What a brilliant plan! They could have done all sorts of punitive things to get us to pay attention, none of which would really have had a huge impact on saving moose lives! Instead, they simply placed these moose silhouettes to remind us to slow down and look out for them.

I think we can borrow this strategy to help us focus on the most important things. If we don’t watch out for our transition time, student engagement, ratios of interactions, opportunities to respond – before we know it, the end of the year will be here and it will be too late to teach our students all of the things we needed to teach them.

I’m going on moose patrol. Someone has to construct the cut-outs and place them strategically along the side of the road. It might as well be me…I have always been fascinated by moose!

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Time for Assessment

I heard someone use this analogy about a different subject but it fits so well with the way we should think about assessment, I’m going to apply it here.

The hour hand moves slowly, the minute hand a little more rapidly, and the second hand passes speedily by…but it requires all of them to tell the time.

What are your hour hand assessments? (summative)
What are your minute hand assessments? (common formative)
What are your second hand assessments? (check for understanding)

They’re all on a different schedule, but they’re all moving in the same direction and it requires all of them to tell us about how a student is learning.

Your summative assessment probably already exists. Choose something that you will be assessing at the end of the quarter for grades. If necessary, develop an alternate form of this assessment and administer it early in the quarter as your pre-assessment. Choose wisely here – you want an assessment that you and your team believe is a measure that would indicate that a student has the necessary skills to demonstrate success on a cumulative measure at the end of the year.

Your common formative assessment might already exist. It’s something that you and your team agree to use as a monitoring tool between your pre and post assessments. It needs to be something that shows you that students will be ready to show what they know on the summative assessment.

Your checks for understanding are those things you do…and you probably don’t even realize you do them. This is where you know minute by minute, day by day how your students are doing. Come up with a simple way for students to show you that they understand what you are teaching them, or that they need it explained in a different way. This is where your team will find the common language and information needed to hold a conversation about instruction and effective strategies. You’ll describe how you checked for understanding and one of your colleagues will describe how they did it. Your team might decide that one of you is on to something and they all want to do it and they all want to gather information about it and bring it back to the next meeting…Guess what just happened? You just turned it into a COMMON formative assessment!


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Lesson for Line-up

And for projector/AppleTV setup!

  • Apple TV on (white light)
  • Projector remote (computer = laptop, video = iPad)
    • Volume
    • E-Zoom
    • Freeze
  • LPS Public
  • Set your expectations…(Conversation, Help, Activity, Movement, Participation, SUCCESS!)
  • Import photos into iTunes. Build “albums” for each learning activity.
  • Watch the video:

  • Who were the characters?
  • What was the setting?
  • What was the problem?
  • What was the solution?
  • What was the ending?

Our line order is important! From the front of the line to the back of the line, everyone is depending on you! Remember to be silent in the hall so that we do not disrupt other students who are learning. Remember to keep your hands to your sides. Remember to watch where you’re walking – so that you don’t run into someone and cause the whole line to come tumbling down!

Let’s practice the importance of ORDER…

Jenga for iPad/iPod

You can have a “real” game going on. Call on students to take a turn. You can “broadcast” this from the video camera on your iPad that is connected to the AppleTV.

Use the interactive Pen for the projector to “freeze” the screen while you are switching between apps.

From now on, when your students are walking in the hallway, you can say “if we were a jenga game, our line would be falling down!”


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Jan Richardson take-aways…

All of the comprehension cue cards she used in the afternoon are available for download on the “resources” page.

Reading Level Comparison:

“Effective teachers spend more time in small group instruction than in whole group instruction.”

“Instruction that simply provides more time in reading without attending to children’s specific strengths and weaknesses will be less effective.”

-Effective Schools and Accomplished Teachers, CIERA, Research Article:

School Information:

The Daily 5:


Samples of books are available for preview online and could be used for whole group instruction (if you can get past the “For Preview Only” watermark on each page).

Successful Approaches to RtI, Lipson & Wixson…Do not practice letter name and sound at the same time for your lowest readers. It is confusing for them:

Add photos of data tables – p. 71, photo of completed assessment summary chart p. 75

If you’re curious about common core state standards, there’s an app for that!

Find Leveled books by genre:

And don’t forget Pete the Cat!

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Getting Better

This is what we do…PLCs (Powerful Learning Communities) building quality formative assessments matched up with high leverage instructional strategies. That’s how we’re going to make the seemingly impossible possible!

What have you done better this year??? Please comment!

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Got relationship?

The following thoughts are from an anonymous guest blogger…A prize will go out to the first person who can guess their identity!

I believe that relationships are a very important part to a productive learning environment. Without building positive relationships with students, everything you try to accomplish in your room will be a lot harder.

Just assuming that your students should respect you and do what you say just because you are their teacher — What does that actually mean to them? I know in the perfect world, or even across town, a teacher will only have to focus on teaching their student school subjects. One has to remember that our job is to shape the mind of young ones in order for them to become contributing members of society. At our school social skills and behavior are just as important as math and reading (I know the federal government feels differently and wants to see better scores). I understand that you are in a role of authority with students. Just remember some authority figures in their lives might not be positive, so some students learn early in life to not trust them. If a student has any inkling or a reason to believe that you don’t care about them, “GOOD LUCK” because it will be a long year.

A relationship starts when you, the teacher, begin to take a genuine interest in your students’ lives. A good starting point would be things they care about, (culture, food, family, sports, fashion, TV,) and things of that nature. Once you do that you can move on to trust. Trust is “a Firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something (Google dictionary).” I believe that this is the most important piece of the relationship puzzle. Once a student trusts you, they are more likely to do what you need them to do. Plus, if something is bothering them in their lives, they will tell you. If you can help in anyway it will only make that trust stronger. This is because they now know that you are there for them. To our kids this is one of the greatest feelings in the world. This relationship can be a great tool for motivation because the student will not want to let you down.
On to discipline, now that you have a trusting relationship. Your students will be less likely to argue your discipline decisions and use the words “why do I have to go to the safe seat?” or “this isn’t fair!” because they trust you to keep them safe and to do what is right.

I believe that once all these pieces are in place. This will allow you to have the structure where the most efficient learning can happen. These are just my thoughts.


The guest blogger and I agreed that this quote goes along nicely with the thoughts expressed today:

Caring teachers with high expectations helped me read my way out. They helped me push against the currents of the environment in which I lived. They did not limit their aspirations for me because my pants were too short. They did not lower their expectations for me because my lunch application told them I lived below the poverty line.

Instead, they required me to read the basal textbook, as well as the local newspaper, historical documents, poetry and literature. These teachers had Harvard dreams for students living in hellish conditions. I felt a kinship with them that helped me attend to their instruction.

Literacy was thrust upon me in rich and meaningful ways, not because I was a wonderful student, but because the teachers believed I deserved nothing less.” — Dr. Alfred W. Tatum

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