Tagged “Critical Thinking”

Klea Scharberg

Ask Dr. Judy Willis Webinar: How Can I Help My Students Remember What I Teach?

Join renowned author, neurologist, and teacher Judy Willis for an exciting free webinar on strategies to increase how effectively your students can store and recall content.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011, 3:00 p.m. ET
Register now!

The key to forming new memories and storing information is the brain's practice and experience recognizing and constructing patterns. The best glue to promote the consolidation of new information into short-term memory is activation of prior knowledge. In this interactive webinar you will take a journey through the brain and learn proven Neuro-LOGICAL strategies for building patterning skills, activating prior knowledge, and more.

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Klea Scharberg

Listen to Your Students

Students want to be successful in school. If you take the time to listen to your students, they will tell you what academic supports they need.

"It's about listening to students," writes Allyson E. Kemp in "ELLs: The Grace of Being Heard." Through her experiences as a secondary English language learning facilitator, Kemp was able to recognize individual students' needs, unify the class through self-direction, and nurture the growth of a positive academic identity. Try asking your students the following questions and then reflect on how well the lessons are meeting their needs.

Questions for Students

  • What's your goal for today?
  • What academic work do you need to complete this week?
  • What are your academic priorities?
  • What priorities outside school do you have?
  • How will you manage your time to successfully accomplish your goals and meet deadlines?
  • What resources do you need?
  • If you don't know, whom will you ask?
  • How will you know when something is complete?
  • What did you learn?
  • If you didn't meet your goals—why not?
  • What can you do differently next time?

Questions for Teachers

  • How are the students making sense of the work?
  • Do I notice patterns when students get stuck?
  • Are all students engaged in their work?
  • What resources do the students use outside the classroom?
  • What are the students' plans after high school?
  • What minilessons do I want to teach on the basis of what I'm learning about my students?

"When we plan instruction to meet students where they are," writes Kemp, "students feel empowered—not only because we've listened to them, but also because they see evidence of these conversations in how we teach them."

How do you listen to your students?

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Learning in Every Learning Style

Jane A. G. Kise

What if teachers could help each student get a sense of his or her individual learning style, in terms of that student's preferred way to process information and seek energy? Imagine how much better we could support and engage each child!

Education consultant Jane A. G. Kise's article in the summer online issue of Educational Leadership discusses how to differentiate instruction in a math class. In this guest blog post, Kise describes a differentiated lesson on poetry. Her article includes a checklist teachers can use to help gauge each child's learning style.

As I work with teachers, we often teach students about their Jungian learning styles so they can better advocate for their needs. One teaching team decided to go further, creating a poetry lesson to help students understand every style.

The teachers and I created four stations, one for each learning style, collaborating to ensure that each station was engaging yet rigorous and presented a clear learning goal, so that students wouldn't judge stations as "easy/hard" or "fun/boring."

  • At the "Let Me Master It" station (learners with the introversion/sensing style), students received clear directions and examples so they could create haiga, illustrated haiku poems.
  • At the "Let Me Do Something" station (extraversion/sensing style), learners worked in groups to plan and perform a recitation.
  • At the "Let Me Think" station (introversion/intuition style), each student chose from several independent activities involving reading or writing poetry.
  • At the "Let Me Brainstorm" station (extraversion/intuition), they collaborated to write a parody of a nursery rhyme.

Then the students journaled about their experiences at each station. I watched one teacher debrief the lesson. She asked all of the students to move to the station they liked the most. Students grouped by every station. The teacher commented, "Look around. If you aren't excited about something we're doing in class, chances are that one of your friends is loving it. My promise is we'll change up what we do so you'll all learn in your own style during part of our time together."

Then she asked them to move to the station where they learned the most. A majority of the students shifted stations. "Aaaah," the teacher said, "so sometimes when you're really having to work at something, you're learning more? Let's all remember that, too."

Students then brainstormed times when their school work requires them to learn in each style. For the "Let Me Master It" style, students identified gathering foundational knowledge and tools for each content area. For "Let Me Do Something," it was science labs, band, using maps, and a robotics class. For "Let Me Think," independent reading and writing; and for the "Let Me Brainstorm" style, the style was tapped through collaborative teamwork and group discussions.

Learning styles aren't meant to set limits on what students can do, but instead to help students realize what comes naturally, what activities are a stretch, and when to seek extra support so they can succeed. The path to success lies in thinking, This activity is hard because it's not in my comfortable style, but I can ask my teacher for strategies, rather than thinking, This is too hard for me.

Klea Scharberg

How Will You Learn from Your Students and Their Communities?

In this video, education professor Jill Ostrow asks her preservice education students to reflect on the work of Lisa Delpit, an author whose work focuses on education and race, specifically pedagogy that values cultural differences as strengths and teaches disenfranchised students the skills required to succeed in a primarily white and middle-class mainstream society.

Ostrow distills three key points from a presentation by Delpit:

  • Be humble and recognize that you have much to learn from your students and their communities.
  • Approach your teaching with a sense of inquiry, framing questions about your students and their needs to guide your teaching.
  • Be willing to share your story. Other teachers need to know what you have learned and how you have gained your wisdom.

Ostrow says these three points are what teacher research is all about. She asks her education students to deeply consider, as teacher researchers

  • How will you learn from your students and their communities?
  • How do you plan to approach your teaching with a sense of inquiry?
  • How will you frame your questions about students and their needs to guide your teaching?
  • How will you share your story?

Find this reflection activity, perspectives on multicultural education, and other strategies for culturally inclusive and responsive schools in ASCD Express.

Klea Scharberg

Free Webinar: Inspiring the Best in Your Students

Jonathan Erwin

Join author Jonathan Erwin for a free webinar about gaining a compelling and research-based rationale for integrating social-emotional learning (SEL) into your academic curriculum. Erwin has more than a decade of experience as a middle and high school English teacher and is currently a senior faculty member at the William Glasser Institute. He is also an independent education consultant who has presented workshops around the world on inspiring and motivating students.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011, 3:00 p.m. ET
Register now!

In this webinar, Erwin will share specific strategies that educators can immediately use in schools or classrooms and answer these essential questions:

  • What is social-emotional learning?
  • What is the need for SEL?
  • What does the research tell us about SEL, character development, and academic achievement?
  • What are some specific strategies for implementing SEL?
  • How can we integrate SEL into the academic curriculum so that SEL is not another thing teachers have to do?

Connect with Erwin on ASCD EDge or e-mail him at jon@inspiringmotivation.com.

You can find forthcoming and archived ASCD webinars at www.ascd.org/webinars.

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

How to Work Interventions into Classroom Lessons

Post submitted by SmartBrief education editor Amy Dominello

The gap in vocabulary, reading, and comprehension starts long before children arrive at school. Children are often not learning the words they need to at home, and that makes reading teachers out of educators at all levels, said educator and author Jim Grant during a session at the ASCD Annual Conference.

That's become especially important in math, where more word problems are now part of the curriculum and tests, he said.

Fitting interventions for struggling students into everyday teaching doesn't have to be hard, Grant said. He offered classroom-tested, time-saving tips and strategies that allow educators to administer high-quality interventions in the classroom for students from poor backgrounds.

Among some of the strategies he shared for both reading and math:

  • Make cold calls in the classroom, but don't give students the ability to opt out of answering. Call on another student, and then loop back to that first student to make sure they picked up the answer.
  • Use mind maps to help students organize their thoughts for crucial words. These include a definition in the student's own words, a drawing, and antonyms and synonyms.
  • Make time during sustained silent reading to work with struggling students while other students are reading on their own.
  • Create a checklist for students to edit their work that has them check for capitalization, punctuation, spelling, and usage.
  • Borrow heavily from the Singapore Math teaching method, which emphasizes number bonds and immerses children in numbers. He highlighted activities common to Singapore Math that include having students take photos that show a certain number of objects, human number lines, math scavenger hunts, and visual aids.
  • Don't make students go through an entire worksheet before checking for understanding. Giving students five questions can let you know whether they've understood a concept or if they need more help.
  • Give students multiple opportunities to show proficiency by returning worksheets for students to fix the problems that weren't correct.
  • Before students come up to your desk, encourage them to find the answers on the posters in the room so they don't always rely on you.

For more information, visit Grant's website.

David Snyder

A Year in the Life

In 1954, Elizabeth Johnson, 6th grade supervisor in a Kalamazoo, Mich., school, sought to empower her students and encourage critical thinking, reflection, and cooperation. To this end, she had her students write a group letter to their parents to provide a "good appraisal of their thoughts and work during their sixth grade year."

Read the article: Reflections of a Sixth Grade

This time capsule reveals that the students were heavily focused on multicultural understanding and the ideals of democracy. The students described lessons learned from holding mock meetings of the Inter-American Conference and the Council of the Organization of American States, saying "we could learn to put ourselves in the other person's place and find out about other countries' problems. We tried to remember that if 'one nation is oppressed, then we all are oppressed.'"

A good portion of the letter recaps community connections: a visit from Kalamazoo Mayor Allen, who spoke on democratic practices in the city; talks with a local social worker and dentist; and a lesson with a state committee member who was working on the issues affecting migrant workers.

Andrew Miller

Building Student Capacity in the Middle Grades

Project-based learning (PBL) is being embraced by schools nationally and across grade levels. Educators know that each grade level comes with its challenges as students are in a variety of developmental levels and abilities. However, through practicing 21st century skills in a PBL environment, students can build their social, emotional, and cognitive capacity. 

Because the middle grades are a paradigm shift for most students, middle-grades teachers are presented with an exciting opportunity to engage 21st century learners, but they also need to keep in mind that these students need unique scaffolding.

Read more »

Healthy School Communities

Health and Learning News and Updates


Wyoming Program Aims to Help Students Adopt Healthier Habits: The "Take It Off" initiative at Kelly Walsh High School in Casper, Wyo., uses grant money and donations to help students participate in a 10-week program that gives them access to a registered dietitian, personal trainer, and counselor. Registered Dietician Brittany Bennett said the program focuses not on weight loss but on getting students to change bad eating habits and exercise more.

Study Finds Poor Driving Skills Account for Most Teen Crashes: Researchers found that 76 percent of 795 teen crashes were because of critical driving errors, including underdeveloped skills in scanning the environment and vulnerability to distractions. "This study shows the vast majority of crashes occur not because the teen drivers are behaving badly, but because they have not yet developed the crucial skills they need," said Allison Curry, lead author of the study published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.

School District Finds Success by Cooking Healthy Meals in Bulk: The school-lunch program in California's Salida Union School District has won honors for figuring out how to cook about 4,000 fresh, nutritious meals for students each day. Billy Reid, who heads the district's food-service program, entices children with bite-sized bits of colorful fruits and vegetables; serves favorites such as pizza made with healthy ingredients; and carefully plans menus based on calories, nutrients, fats, sugars, and sodium.

Virginia and D.C. Schools Face Controversies over Chocolate Milk: Select schools in Virginia's Fairfax County and Washington, D.C., plan to introduce a reformulated chocolate-milk drink that is lower in fat and does not use high-fructose corn syrup after the beverage was banned from lunch programs because of criticism from health advocates. The new formulation got nods from some former critics, but other experts and nutritionists said the change in sweeteners will have little effect if the beverage's calorie content is the same.


SNA's Tray Talk: Tray Talk is the School Nutrition Association's (SNA) public awareness campaign designed to spotlight school meal successes, share information on the latest trends in school cafeterias, and celebrate the fact that school meals are healthy meals.

Recreating Successful Strategies at Your School: An Edutopia.org article shows how one rural school district was inspired and mentored by an acclaimed urban school in California. Free resources and tools to replicate project-based learning are offered.

Take Action

NASBHC Convention, June 26–29, 2011: Please join Whole Child Partner National Assembly on School-Based Health Care (NASBHC) from June 26–29, 2011, at the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile for a deeper dialogue about how the partnerships between school-based health centers (SBHCs) and community schools can create stronger communities and healthier, more successful youth. The 2011 theme is "School-based health care and the community: A partnership that works highlights the focus on collaborations between SBHCs and community schools." View a preliminary program and register online. Register by May 20, 2011, for a special early bird discount.

Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program Survey: As part of the Let's Move in School initiative, the National Association for Sport and Physical Education of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance is conducting the 2011 Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program (CSPAP) Survey to gather baseline data about the extent to which schools are implementing CSPAP components (physical education, physical activity during school, physical activity before and after school, staff involvement, and family and community involvement) at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.

Physical education teachers across the United States are invited to complete the survey by Monday, April 25. Results will help inform future efforts aimed at increasing physical education and physical activity in schools.

Health and Nutrition Grants from Albertsons Grocery Stores: Albertsons is accepting grant applications to address the following areas: hunger relief, health, and nutrition. Award amounts vary. Eligible applicants are 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations and schools in areas where Albertsons grocery stores operate. Deadline: Rolling.

ASCD's L2L Conference: Registration and conference information is now available for the 2011 Leader to Leader (L2L) Conference. Find out answers to these questions about the conference:

  • What is the L2L Conference?
  • What makes the L2L Conference unique?
  • Why should I attend the L2L Conference?
  • What's new this year?

Healthy School Communities is a worldwide ASCD effort to promote the integration of health and learning and the benefits of school-community collaboration. It is part of a large, multiyear plan to shift public dialogue about education from a narrow, curriculum-centric and accountability system focus to a whole child approach that encompasses all factors required for successful student outcomes. Visit the Healthy School Communities group on ASCD EDge and share everything from ideas and solutions to common concerns.

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Eight Tips to Engage Your Students

Post submitted by Whole Child Blogger Tymeesa Rutledge

"We cannot use the excuse 'I've always done it this way,'" said speaker Laura Erlauer Myrah.

In the ASCD Annual Conference session "Instructional Tips to Tell Teachers," Laura Erlauer Myrah provided eight tips for educators and teachers to engage their students and allow them to remember concepts taught in class. The eight tips cover categories such as the body and brain, movement, emotional environment, collaboration, relevant learning, enriched environment, and Net Generation learners.

In the first category, "body and brain," Erlauer Myrah referred to research that supported children needing oxygen and water so that their brains would not become dehydrated. She suggested that teachers open windows in the classroom, have plants in class, allow students to carry water bottles, and educate parents about the need for students to get adequate sleep.

But students need more than proper sleep, hydration, and oxygen to remain engaged in the material. Erlauer Myrah offered a tip on how to make a lesson that students can be engaged in. She provided research from Sheryl Feinstein, "Handling Specific Problems in Classroom Management" in The Praeger Handbook of Learning and the Brain (2006), as the basis for her tip on how to change the lesson plan to accommodate how the brain works: You should capture your students' attention in the beginning of a lesson. For example, when you begin class, instead of using the first 10 minutes to take attendance or review daily tasks, use that time to teach the most important concepts. This is the time that students are most engaged, according to Erlauer Myrah. For the next few minutes, allow the students to "pair and share" what they have learned with one another. Then, use the next seven minutes of prime time to teach some more concepts.

The four main takeaway points that teachers should want for their students are: know the concept, want to know more about the concept, know what was learned, and know how students can use and apply the concept.

A 1st grade teacher from Southern California enjoyed the session and felt that she could use the tips for her students.

"What I really enjoyed about the session were the practical tips given," said Lisa Taylor.

Another member of the audience was also inspired by Erlauer Myrah's tips.

"I loved the session. It was inspirational, motivating, practical, and respectful of the hardships and challenges within the education world," said Marcia Richards after she had finished dancing a two-step to Kool and the Gang's "Celebration." She also has hope that teachers will "continue to make a difference in children's lives."

This session suggested that in the 21st century, teachers should embrace the changes that are happening in the world and allow them to be available to the students. The old ways of teaching are of value, but if the students aren't engaged and learning anything beyond the classroom, they will not be prepared to thrive in this new world.

Tips that can be used in the classroom:

1. Body and Brain

  • Open windows.
  • Have plants in classrooms.
  • Allow your students to have water bottles.
  • Educate parents and students regarding the need for adequate sleep.

2. Movement

  • Ask your students to stand instead of raising their hands.
  • Questions around the room
  • Clapping rhythms
  • New location for important material

3. Emotional Environment

  • Make every student feel unique and secure.
  • Meet and greet.
  • Give recognition.
  • Listen and show interest.
  • Expect respect from all.
  • Relationships transcend everything.
  • Emotions and memory

4. Collaboration

  • Collaborative learning/projects
  • Pair and share (tell students to talk to classmates and practice answers)
  • Connections with other levels
  • Connections with community

5. Relevant Learning

  • Make the relevance obvious to students.
  • Make it interesting and fun through your delivery.
  • Experience learning.

6. Enriched Environment

  • Challenging problem solving
  • Physical classroom
  • Play music during tests or writing.
  • Use of music: a. Primer; b. Carrier; c. Arousal/Mood

7. Assessment and Feedback

  • Know it well.
  • Remember it always.
  • Use it readily.

8. Net Generation Learners

  • Youth don't see working, learning, collaborating, and having fun as separate experiences.
  • They believe in, and want, these experiences occurring simultaneously in school and in future careers.
  • This generation wants to problem solve and innovate.


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