Strategy of the Week

A Simple, Effective STEM Lesson: Investigating Insulation Efficiency

What makes a great STEM lesson?

STEM learning is so much more than the simple acquisition of knowledge in the fields Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. In fact, the very best STEM instruction utilizes skills and knowledge across non-STEM disciplines, such as writing, practical application, and industrial and career awareness.

In general, effective STEM instruction can include:

  • Teachers who develop solid STEM-related content knowledge
  • 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 such as the engineering design cycle
  • 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

Hands-on STEM: Investigating Insulation Efficiency

One example of an effective STEM lesson is the investigation of insulation efficiency. This high-school-level lesson tasks students with building an efficient insulated container for a can of hot water, and then calculating the rate of heat loss.

Beyond the instruction of transfer of heat energy, this lesson is particularly effective in providing a hands-on activity with real-world relevance. In this case, students can apply the significance of their findings to the construction of energy-efficient buildings. And since students build their own device, they determine their own difficulty level by how complex their device is.

This lesson addresses the following standard:

  • Investigate the transfer of heat energy by conduction, convection, and radiation.

Download the lesson plan—and see it in action

This week’s content on Edivate includes the lesson plan for investigating insulation efficiency. The download also includes links to content-related resources. In addition, you can watch the accompanying video to see the lesson in action. You’ll see the teacher instruct her pre-engineering students as they build an efficient insulated container for a can of hot water and calculate the rate of heat loss.

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How To Choose The Right Classroom Apps

Choosing and using the right apps in your classroom

As classrooms around the country trend toward 1-to-1 learning environments, the number of teaching tools has increased dramatically. With literally thousands of apps available for tablets, Chromebooks, and other devices, the challenge becomes choosing the most effective apps—and then integrating them into the classroom.

Thankfully, there are educators who have already tested a wide range of these apps. Common Sense Media offers a list of the best 1-to-1 iPad apps for elementary school. The apps promote engagement, learning, assessment, and management. Check out the list.

1-to-1 impact

One of the most important things to remember is that apps are only valuable as far as they facilitate learning that is rigorous and personalized, allowing students to move through the content at their own pace.

Properly implemented apps can also increase a teacher’s effectiveness as well, freeing them from the front of the classroom and giving them more time to provide individual guidance.

Kristen Brittingham, Director of Personalized Learning at Charleston County School District in Charleston, South Carolina, relates the benefits she sees from app-based learning: “This really frees up the teacher to do higher-level things like pulling strategy groups, instead of giving a spelling test to all of the students on the same day with all the same words.”

See how teachers effectively use apps in their classrooms

This week’s content on Edivate features real lower-elementary teachers and district specialists sharing how they use apps and devices in the classroom. The teachers also list and describe the apps their students currently use. Watch the video and download the included guidebook, which provides summaries, additional insights, and links to related resources.

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Classroom Management: The Efficacy of Incremental Redirection and Intervention Strategies

The Efficacy of Incremental Redirection and Intervention Strategies

Think back to high school. Which of your teachers did you like the most? Which did you dislike? There’s a good chance that your favorite teachers cultivated a relationship of respect with their students. In fact, the best teacher-student relationships are based on respect—something that can be difficult to foster when a teacher overreacts to minor infractions.

Teachers who respond to student misbehavior with incremental redirection and intervention, not only foster respect, they also protect valuable instruction time.

A Real Classroom Impact

A progression of intervention and redirection strategies can include proximity, gestures, and verbal cues. Used correctly, these techniques:

  • Demand minimal effort, attention, and time when appropriately sequenced
  • Eliminate or minimize the embarrassment and shame that a student may feel when being redirected
  • Are most effective when students have been explicitly taught to recognize them and understand their meaning

Watch Teachers Use Effective Intervention and Redirection Techniques in the Classroom

See real teachers demonstrate these techniques in real classrooms this week’s Edivate content. You can also download the accompanying guidebook, featuring a summary, reflection questions, and links to additional resources.

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Launching Into Personalized Learning

Launching Into Personalized Learning

What happens when students exercise choice about the pacing and delivery of their instruction? When they’re tested frequently in small increments and given immediate, specific feedback to help them improve?

Typically, students engaged in personalized learning report genuine satisfaction with their learning. They move quickly through material they readily grasp and get help when they struggle with specific concepts. Overall, they’re more engaged, more responsible—happier as students. And in almost all cases, their achievement data reflects their improved experience.

Three Fundamentals

So how can you adopt personalized learning practices, even within a school system of uniform instructional pacing and testing formats? Three fundamentals will get you started.

1. Ensure 1:1 access to devices

Simply put, one device per student makes personalized learning possible. Imagine a math class graphing trig functions with the help of a calculator—but having only one calculator per group of five students. Will all students get exactly the time they need when it’s their turn? Or will some students simply watch a more confident peer use the calculator, and then copy the results but not understand the process? One device per student not only allows students to exercise autonomy, it also increases responsibility by guiding each student to demonstrate all the desired evidence of learning.

2. Provide digital and in-person learning

Teachers film their direct instruction and post it for students to access. They provide links to additional examples and explanations. And, as students work through these resources in the order and pacing that best suits them, the teacher is also available in person to provide individual or small-group support.

3. Provide immediate, specific assessment and a clear path to mastery

Students learn a new concept, practice it, and then test their knowledge of that concept and that concept only. Immediately, they receive results about what they understood and what they didn’t. With that feedback, they can review specific aspects, get additional help if needed, and re-test. Personalized learning creates a clear, attainable path to mastery.


In this week’s Edivate video, high-school algebra teacher Ms. Chloe Leech demonstrates her process for using personalized learning within her state’s traditional curriculum map. This content includes a downloadable guidebook that goes with this video.

Edivate Learn: Everything a school needs to transform

See how schools can use Edivate Learn to provide personalized learning.

Edivate Learn provides all the resources educators need to navigate the path from traditional classrooms to personalized deep learning—helping them create a new education experience that leads to higher student achievement and engagement. Find out more [ ] about Edivate Learn and how it can help transform your school into a student-centered learning environment.

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The Increasing Importance of Technology in the Classroom

The Increasing Importance of Technology in the Classroom

Thirty years ago educational software titles such as Oregon Trail and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? became ubiquitous in classrooms throughout the United States. Schools rapidly adopted new computer-based technology as they figured out how to equip students with the ability to thrive in the burgeoning information age.

Today, with smartphones in every pocket and instant access to knowledge of virtually every kind, information technology is woven into every aspect of our children’s lives. The objective is no longer to teach children how to use the technology, but how to use the technology to best teach children.

Thus, as classroom technology continues to evolve, so do the opportunities for more targeted, personalized learning.

Using tablets to personalize learning

According to a 2014 article in the Washington Post:

U.S. schools are expected to purchase 3.5 million tablets by the end of the year, according to industry analysts, giving students access to an array of modern educational opportunities that come with the technology. Worldwide, K-12 spending on tablets has increased 60 percent over last year.

For educators, this shift toward mobile devices isn’t simply “keeping up with the times,” it’s taking capitalizing on new, exciting ways to personalize student learning. As we continue down this road, it’s important to keep sight of the truth that technology should always serve the lesson content, personalizing and enriching student learning in previously impossible ways.

The most effective use of tablets in the classroom incorporates the following:

  • Apps that allow each student to self-guide and self-pace through a unit
  • Collaboration with other schools and with government/business entities
  • Activities and projects that serve a purpose beyond the grade (e.g., secondary students create digital learning materials for use in tutoring younger students; first graders film their persuasive presentations and send them to the manager of Petco to convince him or her to donate a pet for their class)
  • Apps that demonstrably improve achievement, especially that of low-SES students

Watch effective tablet use in the classroom

In this Edivate video segment, Mr. James Tomasello’s 4th grade Pinehurst Elementary students work at their own pace by using tablets to submit their work, receive feedback, take assessments, access additional lesson resources, and move on to the next challenge.

This content comes with a study guide featuring additional information, reflection questions, and links to more resources about implementing new technology in the classroom.

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Third Grade Math Lesson: Learning About the Attributes of Shapes

Third Grade Math Lesson: Learning About the Attributes of Shapes

Here’s a simple math lesson for third graders. When the lesson is complete, your students should understand that shapes have different and shared attributes, including number of sides and number of angles—a requirement of a standards-focused curriculum.

Shape Attributes Lesson in Five Steps

  1. Begin with a class discussion to review shape attributes (size, shape, number of sides, and number of angles).
  2. Divide your class into groups of three or four and give each group a set of shapes with varying sides and angles. Ask each group to select an attribute (shape, number of sides, or number of angles) and sort the shapes according to that attribute. (All shapes with three sides go in this pile; all shapes with four go in that pile, etc.)
  3. Once students have sorted all of their shapes, allow each group to present and explain their work to the class.
  4. Reassemble the class. Invite the students to watch as you sort a set of shapes and guess what attribute you are using to separate and sort the shapes. This activity can be repeated.
  5. Introduce/review vocabulary terms for the next geometry lesson (triangle, square, rectangle, pentagon, hexagon, etc.).

At the end of this lesson, you can assess your students’ understanding by having them complete an exit ticket at the end of class. To complete the ticket, they will select and circle one quadrilateral from a variety of shapes. Then they must give the name of the quadrilateral and explain how it differs from the other quadrilaterals on the exit ticket. Learn more about exit tickets here.

See the Lesson in Action

You can watch this lesson on Edivate to see students in Ms. Lisa Mahanna’s 3rd grade class at Marc Kahre Elementary School in Las Vegas, Nevada, learn about the attributes of shapes. You’ll see how Ms. Mahanna directs her students to sort shapes according to one attribute.

This content also includes a more detailed lesson plan as well as links to additional lesson resources.

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Implementing an Effective Cycle of Continuous Improvement

Implementing an Effective Cycle of Continuous Improvement

Any school district that wants to realize consistent year-over-year improvement in teacher effectiveness (and, consequently, student achievement) must have a system in place to assess, evaluate, and develop teaching in the classroom. Many schools that have adopted this approach call it a Cycle of Continuous Improvement.

Clark County School District in Las Vegas, Nevada, uses the Cycle of Continuous Improvement to help their educators and students reach higher levels of performance. The cycle includes the following steps.

Cycle of Continuous Improvement

  1. Self-assessment
  2. Goal setting and plan development
  3. The observation process
  4. Mid-cycle goals review
  5. Summative evaluation


During the third step of the evaluation cycle, educators pursue goals identified in their educator plan and collect evidence of meeting standards and indicators to share with the evaluator. During the observation process, evaluators collect evidence about multiple sources on educator performance and progress toward goals, provide feedback for improvement, and ensure timely access to planned supports.

The Observation and Conference Process

Purposeful, differentiated observations offer critical opportunities for evaluators to observe, collect evidence, and analyze the educator’s practice. Observations are best done frequently and should be announced as well as unannounced. The Observation Process includes three steps:

1)     Pre-conference—Each announced observation is preceded by a Pre-Observation Conference, which facilitates discussion about educator needs and the type of evidence that evaluators will be looking for. Educators should lead these discussions and provide the evidence and rationale for their actions.

For announced observations, the educator and evaluator should use the Pre-Observation Conference Tool to discuss the upcoming observation.

2)     Classroom observation—Using the Observation Tool, the evaluator records evidence gathered during the announced or unannounced observation and identifies corresponding standards and indicators.

3)     Post-conference—Following each announced observation, the evaluator provides explicit performance feedback to the educator. The educator and evaluator use the Post-Observation Conference Tool to discuss the observation and identify professional learning needs.

Watch the Observation Process in Action

Clark County School District has seen great success using observations in the Cycle of Continuous Improvement. This week’s content on Edivate features the district’s effective use of observation. The content also includes a study guide with all the tools you need to participate in effective observations in your own school.

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Autism Spectrum Disorders and The Secret To Preventing Meltdowns by Understanding Triggers

Autism Spectrum Disorders and Meltdowns

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can pose a special challenge for teachers trying to maintain an effective classroom learning environment. Students with ASD may react or behave differently from others in the class, which can cause disruptions and reduce valuable learning time. This is particularly evident when a child with ASD has a meltdown.

Thankfully, these meltdowns can be mitigated—or avoided entirely. It has to do with triggers.

According to Danny Raede and Hayden Mears, the “Asperger Experts,” meltdowns tend to occur when a student with ASD feels overwhelmed. Frequently this is caused by sensory overload, in which sights, sounds, smells, or other stimuli become too much for the child to deal with.

The best way to handle a meltdown is to get the child away from the triggering environment and then give him or her time to calm down. Many adults don’t understand that using reasoning and logic to calm a child during a meltdown is actually far less effective.

When meltdown triggers are identified and understood, it becomes a much simpler matter to avoid them—and thus prevent meltdowns altogether. A routinized schedule can also help children with ASD stay focused and avoid precipitous situations. For parents and caregivers, a sample schedule for the home can be very helpful.

Watch: Understanding Meltdowns

See this week’s Edivate content, which addresses ASD-related meltdowns. Watch and learn how triggers can lead to meltdowns, and what you can do to address and avoid them. This video is part of an 18-part series on Edivate aimed at helping students with ASD thrive amidst their unique challenges.

The video is produced by Asperger Experts, founded by Danny Raede and Hayden Mears. Both were diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome (now categorized within ASD) at age 12, and today they help people affected by ASD to understand themselves and find useful strategies for resolving the conflicts, pain, and loneliness they encounter at school and throughout life.

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Asperger’s Syndrome and Bullying

Asperger’s Syndrome and Bullying: Teaching children how to understand—and react—to bullying

It’s an unfortunate fact that students who bully others commonly target children with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). As educators, we can provide tools that empower our students with strong boundaries, resilience, and even empathy in dealing with being bullied.

Watch: Teach children how to understand—and react—to bullying

This week’s content on Edivate shares a strategy for helping children respond effectively to bullying—and potentially decrease their antagonizer’s bullying behaviors. This is the first in an 18-part series of video segments aimed at helping students with AS thrive.

The video is produced by Asperger Experts, founded byDanny Raede & Hayden Mears. Both were diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at age 12, and today they help people with AS understand themselves and share useful strategies for resolving the conflicts, pain, and loneliness they often encounter at school and throughout life.

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Cross-Curricular STEM Teaching And Learning

Cross-Curricular STEM Teaching And Learning

Some of the most effective teaching combines cross-curricular activities for engaging students and helping them to learn. When a lesson involves interdisciplinary principles, students are more likely to learn and retain the information while building their individual skills.

This week we share an example of a lesson that does just that. It’s a STEM lesson that involves measuring and graphing the length of blue whales. This short video segment features Ms. Lori Barker and her first grade class at Green Acres Elementary in North Ogden, Utah. Watch as she engages her students and reinforces content knowledge through visualization, imaginative movement, differentiated reading, and a reflective writing exercise.

The standards-based lesson addresses the following standards:

  • Compare the lengths of two objects indirectly by using a third object.
  • Express the length of an object as a whole number of length units.

You can replicate all or part of this lesson using the included lesson plan. There are also links to additional resources supporting these STEM concepts.

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