Try new things to turn it around!

What do you do when:

* school achievement has dropped or flatlined?
* your struggling learners give up?
* your gifted learners are bored?
* you can’t find enough time for your on-level students?
* your classroom isn’t working as well as it used to?
* every teacher you talk to is as frustrated as you are?

You have to try new things to turn it around!

Seriously, don't just complain. Try something new. I know loads of strategies that have proven to work in classrooms just like yours – transforming uninspired classrooms into collaborative educational communitiesRegister for a conference, sign up for a webinar, or bring me to your school for some hands-on assistance.

 

On-site consultation and Professional Development isn't just for “failing” schools – although they do benefit greatly. The fact is, all educators benefit from professional support, access to effective strategies and research-based models, and acknowledgment for the things they’re already doing right! I have a history of working with teachers and administrations to integrate best practices in literacy instruction to turn struggling schools around, and to make good schools even better. I don’t just talk, I listen. And most importantly, I have a history of proven results!

If you have questions about any of of my conferences or would like information about bringing me to your school, please send me a quick message using the online comment form. Let’s talk.

I Am Thankful

I am thankful for the dedicated educators I am privileged to work with in schools all over the United States. 

Just in November, I worked in the following schools:

Mesa View Middle School - Farmington, NM

Mesa View Middle School - Farmington, NM

Heights Middle School - Farmington, NM

Heights Middle School - Farmington, NM

Goshen and Williamsburg School Districts - Ohio

Goshen and Williamsburg School Districts - Ohio

Skyline Education - Chandler, AZ

Skyline Education - Chandler, AZ

Center for Education Excellence - Tempe, AZ

Center for Education Excellence - Tempe, AZ

Logan School - Logan, NM

Logan School - Logan, NM

I appreciate all educators, every day, not just on appreciation day.

How is this for a Crazy Idea?

I had just returned from presenting at the Learning and Brain Conference on Creativity in Teaching and Learning when I received a call from Jenny Knight, the director of the Lower School at Miami Country Day School. Two of her teachers had participated in a workshop that I conducted using improvisation in the classroom to develop literacy skills and content knowledge. “We would love to have you at our school and teach the faculty about using improvisation in the classroom,” Jenny announced. As we discussed the professional development, Jenny mused, “How is this for a crazy idea?” As soon as she asked the question, I knew I found a kindred education spirit.

Jenny proposed that we teach parents some improvisation games on Back to School Night. As a mother I had always experienced Back to School Nights that were more informational sessions than showing me what my children were actually doing in the classroom. I thought it was brilliant, especially given the Miami Country Day School environment in which creativity, collaboration, and student centered learning is paramount. Jenny, her colleagues and I plotted and planned. We decided to teach three improvisation games to the parents. The teachers would model the games, then the parents would play the games, and we provided opportunities for curricular applications. Imagine a gymnasium with 200 parents and teachers all playing improvisation games like Zip-Zap-Zop, Alphabet, and Parts of a Whole. These games promote conceptualization of complex ideas. There was laughter and engagement in a community that not only espouses creativity and collaboration, but practices it.

The teachers lead the parents in a game of Zip-Zap-Zop (Miami Country Day School 2016)

The teachers lead the parents in a game of Zip-Zap-Zop (Miami Country Day School 2016)

Parents listen to instruction for Improv in the Classroom activity (Miami Country Day School 2016)

Parents listen to instruction for Improv in the Classroom activity (Miami Country Day School 2016)

Standards/Skills-based Assessment

I just got a great question from a teacher: "What are your thoughts on this whole data-driven reading instruction? Do you agree with this approach and is there research that supports this pedagogical practice?" Since I know she isn't the only one who has this question, I thought I'd share my answer.


In a nutshell, "data driven" instruction can be a tool for a larger understanding of where students are in their skill development – but it isn't the entire story. When we engage in data driven instruction, I always caution against “getting too obsessed.” In other words, don’t be held hostage to one way of grading and assessing. Reading is a developmental process and not every aspect is easily discernible by reading comprehension tests. Cultural disconnects, for example, mean that many of these tests are inherently flawed.

With that being said, standardized testing measures can be useful when they are used as a tool for figuring out the “whole picture”. And that’s why, in general, I’m a huge supporter of standards/skills based assessment. Quite simply, in the schools where I primarily work and serve, it leads to tremendous growth and achievement. I have case studies on my website that showcase some of these schools and districts. You can download the case studies by clicking the button at the bottom of this web page.

Many researchers have focused on skills based assessments including Susan Brookhart, James Popham, Margaret Heritage, and Alfie Kohn. I am especially a fan of Kohn’s advocacy for focusing on skills rather than grades. Like Kohn, I think student testing should never be used as a draconian accountability measure that stifles teachers or thwarts them from creating inspiring classrooms.


So many schools are looking for guidance in this area – and I think I’ve come up with an affordable solution. I’m in the process of scheduling a one-day conference on grading and assessment strategies. You can read more about it here. The date and location haven’t been determined yet, but if you sign up for my newsletter you’ll be among the first to know the details. Of course I do in-school consultations and PD, too. Please share my information with your administrators. Invite them to contact me if they want to discuss bringing me to your school. I’d love to help you all implement a grading/assessment system that effectively communicates learning, accurately informs instruction, and meaningfully develops students’ skills. Trust me, it can be done!