Remembering the importance of language clarity in the classroom

We all know the saying about what happens when you assume, right? It’s ubiquitous because it can be so, so true. The challenge is, when you’re going a mile a minute and have so much to do, it can be easy to assume that you’re speaking the same language as the person or persons you’re speaking to. I am not ashamed to admit my guilt there but I’m proud of the ability to step back and realize no two perspectives are identical. In the case of teachers, the same goes for students and background knowledge. I was reminded of that when I attended the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy last week – an event I highly recommend looking into for next year ( This weeklong PD immersion has educators from Math Solutions and the National Science Teachers Association diving deep into lessons with math and science teachers from around the country.  Of the many aha moments experienced, I found beauty in the simplicity of this one reminder: have clarity in language. Students (and adults) can easily get tripped up when using science and math terms as they are gaining understandings of concepts. Further, sometimes terms are used commonly outside the classroom in ways that make them more confusing in the classroom. Here is one quick example:

Acceleration is the rate at which the velocity of an object changes over time. As was raised in the Academy, when learning this term and concept, it is important to know acceleration can be velocity increasing or decreasing. The decreasing part could be hard to grasp because of outside “language forces”. For instance, deceleration is a word. The use of this word isn’t wrong in the English language but when teaching math and science, there isn’t a new formula to learn for deceleration. Meaning if a student is figuring out a car’s rate of slowing down or speeding up, either way he or she is determining its acceleration. And speaking of cars, only adding to the possible confusion is that the pedal with the power to move the car forward and faster is the accelerator while its counterpart to slow down has a completely unrelated name - the brake!      

With all of that said future scientists, mathematicians, engineers and other professionals that need to understand concepts such as acceleration will need to build clarity about their career’s language over the more common social language. A great reminder of just how much needs to go into lesson planning and that it is all in the details. Also, it is something to remember in general for all of us when chit chatting with people outside of our fields of expertise.

Building a preschool nation together

Scholastic and Los Angeles Universal Preschool (a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide access to quality early childhood education programs for children in Los Angeles County) are proud to present the country’s first Preschool Nation Summit. The summit will highlight the importance of all children receiving a quality education and our commitment to supporting universal Pre-K.

The Preschool Nation Summit, held in NYC on August 5, 2014 at Scholastic Headquarters, will unite leaders and stakeholders both inside and outside the field of early education, highlight major successes of investments in early education, and reinforce the sustained need for expanding quality early learning to uplift children, families and communities throughout our nation.

Los Angeles Universal Preschool and Scholastic encourage the community to join the conversation using #PreschoolNation and tune in at 1pm EST to watch a live stream of the summit here.

Register today: Teacher Week @ Scholastic

Attention all teachers! If you will be in the NYC area August 18-21, be sure to register for Teacher Week @ Scholastic. This free-four day event offers 15 professional development seminars from award-winning authors and educational experts, and includes dozens of exclusive teacher discounts in the Scholastic Store.

Full registration is now open. Remember, registration is first-come, first-served, so visit: and select your schedule today!

How much do genes matter?

What does it take become an expert in something? Is it a matter of completing 10,000 hours of practice? Or is it all in our genes?

(I'm 5'8", but could I dunk if I practiced hard enough?)

Scientists and philosophers have been debating the importance of nature vs. nurture for centuries. And today, a tangential debate rages on: To what extent are our abilities affected by practice? And to what extent do genes matter?

The Economist earlier this week reported on a new study showing that having the right genetic makeup does indeed matter in terms of one's ability to build expertise in music -- though practice does matter as well!

On the flip side, Annie Murphy Paul debunks the 10,000-hour myth here, saying elite level expertise might come for some people after far more than 10,000 hours of practice, and for others it might require far less.

And we've repeatedly reported on the research by Dr. Carol Dweck into "mindsets," showing that the human brain changes throughout our lives and we have the ability to build expertise through hard, strategic work.

So, what does this mean for students trying to learn math or become better readers?

Fortunately, we all don't have to be able to dunk a basketball to survive. But we could all be better basketball players with practice! Same goes for math and reading. No matter our starting points, we can always improve.


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