Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Common Core Writing - The NY Times Can Help!

The NY Times blog Room For Debate is a great resource that can be used to instruct students in the process of writing logical arguments which is identified in the Common Core Standards.

Room for Debate is full of posts that take an issue or event in the news and curates opinions about it from four to six knowledgeable sources. The responses are limited to four or five paragraphs. This allows for the integration of this resources to fit within the constraints of standard class periods.

Here are some ideas offered by the NY Times to utilize this resource to support the common core standards.

  • Analyze one of the debates and judge how the authors compiled their arguments agains the CC writing standards for making logical arguments.

  • Start your own Room For Debate using Blogger or Google Docs. Post a link or details regarding and article and then invite 4 or 5 students to present logical arguments for or against the topic.

  • Create a fantasy version of room for debate

    • Have characters in a novel debate an important issue or topic in the work

    • What about scientists debating a belief or argument?

  • In the student opinion feature a question so posed for students to respond to. Students may publish their written arguments for a global audience of their peers.



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

High Achiever or Creative Thinker...Developing Deep Thinking?

A couple of recent publications that arrived in my Google Reader prompted my thinking regarding "defining student achievement" .With such a high focus on standardized testing and data driven evaluations these articles present a fresh perspective as to "how should we define achievement?" What type of outcome are we looking for in our classrooms? Who will find more success in our global landscape, a high achiever or a creative thinker?

Grant Wiggins recent posting on "thoughtlessness" discusses our focus on "covering content" vs. developing depth of thought. He discusses a system in which achievement is obtained by working hard, completing assignments and testing well on materials that were taught. This is a system that does not dive deep into content. The below quote summarizes this thought process.

" But teaching is not about what you will do; I am interested in what the student will be able to do of value as a result of your teaching, because that is all that matters. Thoughtful teachers don’t design backward from the content (the inputs); they design backward from worthy performance in using content (the outputs)." - Wiggins.

In many of our classrooms we focus our attention on how to address students who do not know content. The reaction to this results in differentiation, specific interventions and formative assessments. What about the student's who do know the content? What do we do to develop these students depth of knowledge? Are we providing a classroom environment that offers growth for these students?

I believe it is important to spend some time reflecting on our instruction. Can we spend less time developing pacing guides and more time discussing methods to develop high order thinking within our units of study? How can we challenge our "high achiever", "content masters" to become creative thinkers? Are we providing opportunities to solve and discuss problems, ideas and questions?

This chart published on a blog posting by Bertie Kingore, Ph.D. discusses the differences between a high achiever, gifted learner and creative thinker. As we review the descriptors we should reflect on how we are creating classroom environments that support each.

A High Achiever...

A Gifted Learner...
A Creative Thinker...

Remembers the answers.

Poses unforeseen questions.
Sees exceptions.

Is interested.

Is curious.

Is attentive.

Is selectively mentally engaged.
Daydreams; may seem off task.

Generates advanced ideas.

Generates complex, abstract ideas.
Overflows with ideas, many of which will never be developed.

Works hard to achieve.

Knows without working hard.
Plays with ideas and concepts.

Answer the questions in detail.

Ponders with depth and multiple perspectives.
Injects new possibilities.

Performs at the top of the group.

Is beyond the group.
Is in own group.

Responds with interest and opinions.

Exhibits feelings and opinions from multiple perspectives.
Shares bizarre, sometimes conflicting opinions.

Learns with ease.

Already knows.
Questions: What if...

Needs 6 to 8 repetitions to master.

Needs 1 to 3 repetitions to master.
Questions the need for mastery.

Comprehends at a high level.

Comprehends in-depth, complex ideas.
Overflows with ideas--many of which will never be developed.

Enjoys the company of age peers.

Prefers the company of intellectual peers.
Prefers the company of creative peers but often works alone.

Understands complex, abstract humor.

Creates complex, abstract humor.
Relishes wild, off-the-wall humor.

Grasps the meaning.

Infers and connects concepts.
Makes mental leaps: Aha!

Completes assignments on time.

Initiates projects and extensions of assignments.
Initiates more projects that will ever be completed.

Is receptive.

Is intense.
Is independent and unconventional.

Is accurate and complete.

Is original and continually developing.
Is original and continually developing.

Enjoys school often.

Enjoys self-directed learning.
Enjoys creating.

Absorbs information.

Manipulates information.

Is a technician with expertise in a field.

Is an expert who abstracts beyond the field.
Is an inventor and idea generator.

Memorizes well.

Guesses and infers well.
Creates and brainstorms well.

Is highly alert and observant.

Anticipates and relates observations.
Is intuitive.

Is pleased with own learning.

Is self-critical.
Is never finished with possibilities.

Gets A's.

May not be motivated by grades.
May not be motivated by grades.

Is able.

Is intellectual.
Is idiosyncratic.




Szabos, J. (1989). Bright child, gifted learner. Challenge, 34. Good Apple.

Granted -

Friday, September 7, 2012

Google Docs Features Every Teacher Should Know

Google docs is my favorite collaborative authoring tool for the classroom. Over the years they have enriched the product with a number of enhancements that are valuable in the classroom.

Peer Review and Commenting

Peer editing and review are simplified with Google Docs. Students can share documents with each other or their teacher. Teachers gain the ability to review student writing in real-time. They can add comments or notes where appropriate to guide student progress.  Long gone are the days of collecting a rough draft - conducting an autopsy on it and then waiting for the final copy. Now you can intervene immediately as well as review how students construct their writing by reviewing the history.

When reviewing a written work you can insert comments which will appear on the right side of the screen. Just highlight the text that you want to add a comment near and click INSERT - COMMENT. The comment feature allows for discussion which can represent a small conference between the reviewer and the author about their work.

Research Tool

Another great feature is the RESEARCH TOOL. When activated the author can search for text, images, maps or any other relevant content without leaving the document. Click on TOOLS - RESEARCH to utilize this feature.

Auto Save, Revision History, and Spelling/Grammar checks are long-time features that are useful for students and teachers. Collaborative projects are simplified by reviewing revision history to get a snapshot of who the contributors to a document are.