Strategy of the Week

Effective Chemistry Mini-Lesson in Action

How Mini-Lessons Can Create Maximum Classroom Learning Experiences

Mini-lessons can and should be so much more than time-fillers. In fact, often a mini-lesson is all you need to help your students fully grasp a concept. Depending on the class and the subject matter, mini lessons can take as little as 15 minutes—but they can be worth their weight in gold when presented effectively.

Eight Components of Effective Mini-Lessons

1.    Topic

  • What is the lesson about? What does it focus on? This where you name the teaching point.

2.    Materials

  • Gather the materials you will need in order to teach the concept to the students.

3.    Connections

  • Activate prior knowledge. This is where you talk about what you taught in the previous lesson. For example, “Yesterday we learned about…” and “Today we will learn about…”

4.    Direct Instruction

  • Demonstrate your teaching points to the students. Act as if you are a student working independently. For example, “Let me show you how I…” and “One way I can do that is by…”
  • Explain teaching points and give examples.
  • Model
  • Guided practice

5.    Active Engagement (Guided Practice)

  • During this phase of the mini lesson you act as coach and assess the students. For example, “Now you are going to turn to your partner and…”

6.    Link

  • This is where you will review key points and clarify if needed. For example, “Today I taught you…” and “Every time you read you are going to…”

7.    Independent Work

  • Students practice working independently using the information they just learned from your teaching points.

8.    Sharing

  • Can be individual, partner or group.
  • Students share what they have learned. Ask students, “Did you use what you learned? Did it work? How will you use it next time?”
  • Tie up any loose ends and use this time to further instruct.

Source: Mini-Lesson Plans: A Printable Template for Writer’s Workshop http://k6educators.about.com/od/Components/qt/Mini-Lesson-Template.htm by Janelle Cox, Elementary Education Expert

See an effectively chemistry mini-lesson in action

Even though a mini-lesson doesn’t take up much time, it can still address highly complex subject matter. At the Center for Design and Technology at Lanier High School in Buford, Georgia, students learn new content through mini-lessons and later incorporate this knowledge into project-based learning tasks.

In this video segment above, students in Dr. Margaret Rohrbaugh’s chemistry class complete a mini-lesson in which they review prior knowledge about acids and bases, and use logarithmic functions to calculate pH and pOH.

This video comes with a downloadable guidebook.

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Effective ELD: Using Cornell Notes to Summarize Content

Summarizing Content Using Cornell Notes

To successfully master today’s core content, English language learners require additional literacy and fluency support. One of the challenges of English language development (ELD) is grasping the skill of summarization. This abstract activity not only requires a good understanding of written and spoken English, but also calls for adequate comprehension of ideas.

One simple yet powerful tool for English language learners to learn to summarize content is called Cornell Notes. It enables them to synthesize content knowledge and organize their understanding into complete sentences. The technique incorporates six simple steps that help students to take notes, prioritize information, and restate key points with supporting details.

Using Cornell Notes in Six Steps

Use these steps to teach your students how to prepare and take Cornell Notes.

  1. Divide the paper into three sections.
  • Draw a dark horizontal line about 5 or 6 lines from the bottom. Use a heavy magic marker so that it is clear.
  • Draw a dark vertical line, about 2 inches from the left side of the paper, from the top to the horizontal line.
  1. Document
  • Write course name, date, and topic at the top of each page.
  1. Write Notes
  • The large box to the right is for writing notes.
  • Skip a line between ideas and topics.
  • Don’t use complete sentences. Use abbreviations, whenever possible. Develop a shorthand of your own, such as using “&” for the word, “and.”
  1. Review and clarify
  • Review the notes as soon as possible after class.
  • Pull out main ideas, key points, dates, and people, and write them in the left column.
  1. Summarize
  • Write a summary of the main ideas in the bottom section.
  1. Study your notes
  • Reread your notes in the right column.
  • Spend most of your time studying the ideas in the left column and the summary at the bottom. These are the most important ideas and will probably include most of the information that will be tested.

Source: Learning Toolbox. Steppingstone Technology Grant, James Madison University http://coe.jmu.edu/learningtoolbox/printer/cornellnotes.pdf

Here’s an example of what Cornell Notes would look like when complete.Cornell Notes Example of Writing Summeries

Source: James Madison University http://coe.jmu.edu/learningtoolbox/cornellnotes1.html

Watch third graders use Cornell Notes to summarize content

One particular classroom is a great example of using Cornell Notes in ELD instruction. At Agua Caliente Elementary School in Cathedral City, California, Mr. Chuck Murfitt’s 3rd grade students take notes about the geological effects of running water, identify the key ideas, and summarize the content using supporting details. This particular classroom is a great example of using Cornell Notes in ELD instruction.

Watch the video above to see the lesson. This video also comes with a downloadable study guide that summarizes these principles and provides links to additional related resources.

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8 Simple Ways to Promote Natural Language Acquisition in Your Classroom

8 Simple Ways to Promote Natural Language Acquisition in Your Classroom

Creating an atmosphere of language learning is easy!

Many teachers have noticed that today’s increasingly diverse classrooms present some real challenges in providing ELL (English Language Learning) students with the attention they need to successfully acquire vocabulary and become fluent in English.

The good news is that children are naturally wired to learn languages—and some simple ELD (English Language Development) strategies can help you create a classroom atmosphere that will encourage that learning.

8 Simple Ways to Promote Natural Language Acquisition

  1. Use visuals that reinforce spoken or written words.
  2. Employ gestures for added emphasis.
  3. Adjust your speech: Speak slowly; enunciate; use longer natural pauses; repeat words or phrases; include shorter sentences, fewer pronouns, and simpler syntax.
  4. Exaggerate intonation at times.
  5. Stress high-frequency vocabulary words.
  6. Use fewer idioms and clarify the meaning of words or phrases in context.
  7. Stress participatory learning.
  8. Maintain a low anxiety level and be enthusiastic.

Source: http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/strategies-teaching-english-language-learners

Making Academic Vocabulary Acquisition Happen

Beyond the general principles for creating an atmosphere of language learning, lessons can follow a specific sequence to further promote the learning of English vocabulary in the classroom. A six-stage lesson sequence, such as the one outlined below, is an effective model for achieving this.

  1. Introduction: The warm-up or anticipatory set. Teachers help activate students’ prior knowledge and prepare them for new learning.
  2. Input: The teacher-led direct instruction.
  3. Focus: A quick check for understanding. This can be in the form of a thumbs-up/down or fist-to-five questioning.
  4. Transfer: Students apply their new learning by working on activities or answering questions independently or in groups.
  5. Evaluation: Students report on their learning through teacher check for understanding, whole-class share-out, or presentations.
  6. Extension: Students take part in engaging, often hands-on activities that provide additional reinforcement of new knowledge.

Watch a teacher incorporate the six-stage sequence

At Agua Caliente Elementary School in Cathedral City, California, Ms. Rebecca Santana’s 3rd grade students use a circle map to record their new content vocabulary knowledge of forces and motion. This particular classroom is a great example of putting the six-stage sequence into action.

This video also comes with a downloadable guidebook that summarizes those principles and provides links to additional related resources.

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EDP: An Easy Way to Introduce STEM Into Non-STEM Classes

STEM and the Engineering Design Process – A Lesson Plan

How STEM Can Help You Teach Problem Solving

There’s no doubt that the principles learned in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)-based subjects can lead to valuable life skills. Engineering in particular offers students an outstanding medium for hypothesizing, brainstorming, and testing solutions to real-world problems—something they will be doing the rest of their lives.

Thankfully, there are ample resources for teaching problem solving using science and engineering-based subject matter. One particularly useful—and effective—model is called the Engineering Design Process (EDP).

What is the Engineering Design Process?

The Engineering Design Process, developed by the Museum of Science in Boston, is a simple outline that guides students through engineering design challenges. It includes five steps that are easy for children to remember and understand.

The Five Steps of the EDP

Engineering Design Process

Engineering Design Process

  1. Ask—What is the problem? How have others approached it? What are your constraints?
  1. Imagine—What are some solutions? Brainstorm ideas. Choose the best one.
  1. Plan—Draw a diagram. Make lists of materials you will need.
  1. Create—Follow your plan and create something. Test it out!
  1. Improve—What works? What doesn’t? What could work better? Modify your designs to make it better. Test it out!

Source: http://www.eie.org/eie-curriculum/engineering-design-process

The Advantage of Teaching EDP in the Classroom

Teaching the EDP is an especially effective way of adding STEM learning to the classroom, with many learning advantages for students, including:

  • Hands-on problem-solving activities that have real-world relevance
  • Integration of STEM into non-STEM subjects, especially art and design
  • Use of industry-standard software, tools, and procedures
  • Increased awareness of STEM fields and occupations, especially among underrepresented populations
  • Enthusiasm about further STEM-related learning
  • Connections between in-school and out-of-school learning opportunities
  • Industry and higher-ed partnerships that encourage hands-on student exploration of STEM-related careers
  • Teachers who are demonstrating and proactively building deep STEM-related content knowledge

See the Engineering Design Process in Action

One fun classroom lesson that fully explores the potential of the EDP involves building maglev trains. In this activity, students follow the EDP outline to design and build levitating magnet vehicles.

This video is one of many professional learning videos on Edivate that showcase some of the best STEM-related practices in education today. For more videos like this, log in to Edivate and type “STEM” in the search box.

This video comes with a downloadable study guidebook that includes a complete plan for teaching the maglev train lesson in your own classroom.

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How A PBIS Club Can Support Positive Student Behavior

How A PBIS Club Can Support Positive Student Behavior

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) cover a sweeping set of principles that can help schools guide students toward positive behavior and improved discipline. Rather than focusing on changing the student, PBIS encourages students to change themselves by guiding them with environmental change and teaching consequences.

There are dozens—if not hundreds—of evidence-based strategies and techniques for implementing PBIS. We’ve chosen to focus on one that is novel in its simplicity and highly effective in supporting improvements in student behavior: the PBIS club.

What’s a PBIS Club?

A PBIS club is pretty much just what it sounds like: a teacher and a group of students who have been invited to identify, talk through, and role play specific behaviors that need improvement. Typically a PBIS club will meet during recess a couple times a week. The club isn’t seen as punishment, but rather a friendly sit-down with peers and the teacher.

Watch a PBIS Club in Action

To learn more about implementing PBIS in your schools and classrooms, check out this week’s feature resource above—a new video on Edivate that shows how one teacher uses a PBIS club to provide additional targeted support around appropriate behavior.

To learn more, and get more resources for learning about and implementing PBIS in your schools and classrooms, download the video’s guidebook.

This video is one part of a 12-part program on Edivate that can help you and your colleagues become familiar with real-world ways to implement PBIS in your own classes and schools and see improved student discipline across the board.

Watch video on Edivate

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Common Core still a challenge?

See how the most successful Common Core state is implementing the standards.

As debate over the Common Core rages across the U.S., school systems in Kentucky are quietly logging success after success, proving that achievement with these new standards is well within reach for any school.

If you’re interested in learning the secret to Kentucky’s success—and how to replicate that success in your own school or district—the American School Board Journal (ASBJ) has published a feature article detailing Kentucky’s Common Core implementation strategies.

Click here to read the article, titled “A Field Guide to Success”.

7 keys to understanding Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)

There’s little need to discuss the fact that student discipline can often require the constant attention of teachers and can unfortunately detract from learning in the classroom. However, learning and adopting Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) can go a long way toward ensuring classroom discipline while enhancing learning outcomes for all students.

What is PBIS?

PBIS is a prevention-oriented way for school personnel to (a) organize evidence-based practices, (b) improve their implementation of those practices, and (c) maximize academic and social behavior outcomes for all students.

It is not a packaged curriculum, scripted intervention, or rote strategy.

Seven Important Concepts for Understanding PBIS

As you learn how to implement PBIS in your own schools and classrooms, these seven core principles will help you ensure success and ease the transition. (Credit: pbis.org)

  1. Know you can effectively teach appropriate behavior to all children. All PBIS practices assume that all children can exhibit appropriate behavior. Thus, it is our responsibility as educators to identify the events and conditions that enable this appropriate behavior. We then must determine how to provide those resources.
  2. Intervene early. It’s best to intervene before targeted behaviors occur, as this makes interventions much more manageable. Highly effective interventions are informed by time sensitive continuous progress monitoring and enjoy strong empirical support for their effectiveness with at-risk students.
  3. Use a multi-tier model of service delivery. Behavioral instruction must be differentiated in both nature and intensity. PBIS uses tiered models of service delivery to facilitate this.
  4. Use research-based, scientifically validated interventions to the extent available.  This ensures that students are exposed to teaching that has demonstrated effectiveness for the type of student and the setting. This offers the best opportunity for implementing strategies that will be effective for a large majority of students.
  5. Monitor student progress to inform interventions. This is the only method to determine if a student is improving. Assessments that can be collected frequently and that are sensitive to small changes in student behavior is recommended. Determining the effectiveness of an intervention early is important for maximizing the impact of that intervention for the student.
  6. Use data to make decisions.  Decisions in PBIS practices are based on professional judgment informed directly by student office discipline referral data and performance data. This requires that ongoing data collection systems are in place and the resulting data is used to make informed behavioral intervention planning decisions.
  7. Use assessment for three different purposes. In PBIS, three types of assessments are used: 1) screening of data comparison per day per month for total office discipline referrals, 2) diagnostic determination of data by time of day, problem behavior, and location and 3) progress monitoring to determine if the behavioral interventions are producing the desired effects.

Music: Just One Strategy for Implementing PBIS

There are  a multitude of ways to make PBIS fun and engaging for all students. These can include nonverbal cues, promptings, and even music.

To see how one class uses songs to reinforce expected behavior and prevent discipline problems, watch the video above.

This video is just one of a 12-part program on Edivate that can help you and your colleagues become familiar with real-world ways to implement PBIS in your own classes and schools, and see improved student discipline across the board.

To learn more, check out the video’s downloadable guidebook that offers additional resources as well as reflection questions.

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Four Common Core Concepts for Helping Students Solve Math Problems

Four Common Core Concepts for Helping Students Solve Math Problems

In the Common Core, strategies for solving math problems in the classroom are key in any lesson. One of the most helpful strategies for students solving math problems is denoted by the acronym KWCI.

KWCI offers four concepts that can guide students toward the math answers they seek. They are:

Know—What do the students know about the problem?
Want—What do the students want to learn by solving the problem?
Conditions—What conditions within the problem might confuse students?
Ideas—What ideas do students have to help them solve the problem?

This video comes with a downloadable guidebook.

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Three Ways the Common Core Positively Transforms Classroom Learning

Three Ways the Common Core Positively Transforms Classroom Learning

Much has been discussed about the new lesson structures and new classroom approaches prescribed by the Common Core. But what, ultimately, are the classroom outcomes of successfully implementing these changes?

Regardless of any debate about the Common Core’s merits, teachers who have embedded Common Core principles in their lessons have seen changes that are positive—and profound.

These teachers found that:

1. Classroom management became classroom learning.

Teachers’ focus had shifted from managing student behavior to creating engaging and exciting lessons with multiple entry points that allows students to drive their own learning.

2. Consequences took a back seat.

Consequences for misbehavior are rarely needed. Instead, teachers are focusing their energy on redirecting students towards deeper engagement with the content.

3. Strategies made all the difference.

Key strategies effectively ensured that students actively participated, collaborated, and learned. These strategies included student engagement, content relevance, and hands-on problem solving.

For more insights on implementing the Common Core in your schools and classrooms, click here to check out A Professional Learning Pathway to Common Core Success by Lisa Leith.

Redirecting Towards Deeper Engagement

Teachers that successfully implement Common Core strategies in their classrooms rarely need to give consequences for misbehavior, but instead focus on redirecting students toward engagement.

Watch a great example of this strategy in the video above.

This video comes with a downloadable guidebook.

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The Six-Step Formula for Making Successful Changes to Your Classroom

The Six-Step Formula for Making Successful Changes to Your Classroom

Many teachers feel that if they don’t start the school year with a clearly defined approach to classroom management, they’re doomed for the rest of the year. Nothing could be further from the truth. Any time you want or need to make changes to your classroom management plan, you can (and probably should). One of the best times of the year to implement these changes is at the beginning of the New Year when students get back from the holiday break.

However, making mid-year changes to your classroom system can present a few challenges that you should be aware of. To begin with, it may take longer than expected to know if the changes are working. Previous procedures or policies have to be unlearned and replaced by new ones. Also, when you introduce a change to your class, you may experience a lull after the first couple days as the newness of the change starts to wear off and student resistance begins to increase. In fact, the point at which a new classroom management system is most likely to create chaos is typically three to four days after implementation.

To be safe, you should give any significant policy changes two weeks of trial before deciding whether they are working. Over that time period, be sure to consistently reinforce new policies or procedures. Remember, it will take time for you to adjust to change and even more time for your students to make the shift.

The following formula, taken from Rick Smith’s second edition of Conscious Classroom Management, outlines six best practices that can help any change go more smoothly and be more effective.

  1. Make a list of changes that you want to see, put them in order of priority, and number each.
  2. Make sure that number one is doable. If it’s too complicated, break it up into smaller steps and assign each a number.
  3. Start implementing your list, always working on the highest priority items first.
  4. Begin with your favorite class (for secondary teachers) or your favorite hour of the day (for elementary teachers). These represent the class that’s most forgiving or the time of day when students are most calm and relaxed.
  5. After the change starts working, introduce it to the rest of your classes or the rest of the day.
  6. Once the change is solid in all classes or throughout the day, start the process over with the next number in your prioritized list.

The secret to this approach lies in its focus. Teachers are so busy that making wholesale changes can seem overwhelming or intimidating. Instead, implement change one step at a time. Remember that you are like a scientist and your classroom is like a miniature lab. By starting small, you have more control over the experiment and are more likely to follow through and have success.

If you’re looking for an excellent resource on classroom management ideas and best practices, check out Rick Smith’s new edition of Conscious Classroom Management by clicking here.


Establishing Expectations in an Elementary School Classroom

An effective classroom management plan includes setting high expectations for students. When students learn clear and simple expectations, they can feel confident that their actions are setting them on the path for success.

Here are three essential elements for establishing expectations:

  • State expectations clearly and frequently
  • Post expectations prominently
  • Align classroom expectations with school-wide expectations

Benefits include:

  • Fewer student infractions
  • Empowerment and accountability for students to monitor their own behavior

You can watch a video on Edivate (formerly known as PD 360) to see more about establishing expectations from the first day of school. This video also comes with additional resources that show how to establish classroom procedures and expectations.

This video comes with a downloadable guidebook.

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Four Common Core Concepts for Helping Students Solve Math Problems

Four Common Core Concepts for Helping Students Solve Math Problems

In the Common Core, strategies for solving math problems in the classroom are key in any lesson. One of the most helpful strategies for students solving math problems is denoted by the acronym KWCI.

KWCI offers four concepts that can guide students toward the math answers they seek. They are:

Know—What do the students know about the problem?
Want—What do the students want to learn by solving the problem?
Conditions—What conditions within the problem might confuse students?
Ideas—What ideas do students have to help them solve the problem?

This video comes with a downloadable guidebook.

**Can’t log in to Edivate or forgot your password? Contact Edivate Support at 855 337-7500 or support@schoolimprovement.com.