Saturday, August 31, 2013


Last spring, middle school teachers from our district were introduced to the amazing Jack Berckemeyer, a high energy, hilarious educational consultant who taught our teachers a tremendous amount about student engagement and how to build effective middle school teams.

This year, our school adopted the phrase "Ready To Learn," which we are borrowing from Jack.  The first day of school, our middle school teams shared what it means to be ready to learn with our students, and we are working hard at reinforcing the importance of this phrase each and every day so that it becomes a part of the culture at our school.

Prior to this year's Open House, the 6th grade students and teachers on my team put together a bulletin board inspired by Twitter and our new motto of "Ready To Learn." We gave students cards with pseudo-Twitter handles (@StudentName) and asked them to create tweets (messages of 140 characters or less) to show what it means for students to be #ReadyToLearn.  The responses were awesome and our students loved the idea of getting to tweet, even if it was just on paper.

The feedback I received from students was so overwhelmingly positive as they began generating their tweets that I immediately knew we had to continue using paper tweets with students in the future. Right now I am toying with the idea of students writing Exit Tweets to reflect on what they learned in class as well as writing Celebration Tweets for when something great is happening in class. I am curious to hear of other suggestions, so if you have any ideas of ways we can use "paper tweets" with our students, please leave a comment below.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Implementing the Common Core: Getting Started

This year, with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and a new middle school schedule that reduced language arts classes from 80 minutes down to 60 minutes, I have a lot to cover in a (relatively) short amount of time.  Here are my top three goals for how I plan to implement the Common Core into my teaching this year.

1. Start with the Standards
This year, I must remind myself that my responsibility is not to teach any particular unit, theme, or story.  My responsibility is to teach the standards using the materials that I have available to me.

2. Experiment with Standards-based Assessment
This week, my literacy coach helped me design a pre-assessment to assesses the standards that I plan to teach during the first quarter of the school year.  We wrote questions that align to the common core so that I have some baseline data that I can use to inform my instruction.  I expect that the data will give me rich information about my students so that I can tailor lessons around their specific needs. After I have explicitly taught these standards, I can use the same assessment as a post-assessment to measure growth among my students.

3. Keep Moving Forward
Our kids deserve a standards-based education, and I plan to focus on the future to ensure a quality, meaningful, and effective education for all of my students.  Even though the road will be long, I plan to keep moving forward by staying committed to the changes being made in how we educate today's children.

I am really looking forward to the year ahead. If you are beginning to implement the Common Core into your teaching, what are some of your personal goals?