Blended learning 101

You may have heard these buzz words: blended learning, flipped classroom, lab rotation. But what exactly do these terms mean? And what do the schools and classrooms that practice them look like? Heather Staker of the Christensen Institute visited Scholastic last week to share how blended learning is changing K-12 education.

Blended learning describes an integrated educational experience of online learning and a brick-and-mortar setting. In blended learning, students have some element of control over time, place, path, and/or pace.

Blended learning can take on many different forms. Most programs fall into one of four categories:

1. Rotation model – Students rotate between learning modalities, at least one of which is always online learning. Examples of a rotation model include:

Station Rotation – Students rotate among classroom-based modalities on a fixed schedule or at the teacher’s discretion. For example, students may rotate between online learning, small-group instruction, and group projects.

Lab Rotation – Students rotate to a learning lab for their online learning, then spend time in a classroom for other learning modalities.

Flipped Classroom – Students watch direct instruction or lectures (often recorded by their teacher) at home, then spend class time applying skills with teacher guidance.

Individual Rotation – Students follow a personalized “playlist” that determines their schedule and rotations.

2. Flex model – Online learning is the backbone of student learning, though it may direct students to offline activities. Teachers are available as needed, and their role is to serve as a mentor or guide.

3. A La Carte Model – Students take at least one course online, but attend a traditional school. For example, students may take a language course not offered at their brick-and-mortar school.

4. Enriched Virtual model – A whole-school experience where students divide their time in each course between in-person attendance and online learning.

At Scholastic, we’ve seen the power of blended learning through our programs that use the station rotation model: READ 180, System 44, and MATH 180. For more than a decade, READ 180 teachers have empowered their students to succeed with the combination of teacher-led, small-group instruction and adaptive technology.

Schools across the country are moving toward blended learning models to meet the needs of their students, including the charter network Rocketship. Find other examples of schools using blended learning models on the Christensen Institute’s Blended Learning Universe. Does your school use blended learning? What model? Share your story in the comments below.

Virtual field trips open doors to learning

Online classroom events are now more accessible than ever. Educational experiences like virtual field trips are cost effective (read: FREE!) and offer students opportunities they might not have otherwise, like hearing from their favorite author or chatting with a zookeeper about black bear hibernation.  

In February, Google launched Connected Classrooms, a platform for learning through digital field trips. Students and teachers in classrooms are able to join the field trips on the air through Google Hangout. The digital field trips are then recorded and posted on Google Plus.

Recent field trips on this platform included a Deep Dive Exosuit Exploration with Google Science Fair and Diamond Shadows: The Lost History of African-American Baseball.

The next Connected Classroom field trip, Imagining the Future, is scheduled for Thursday, March 6, and will be hosted by Imagine Science Films. On this virtual field trip, students will explore cutting-edge optic technology. Matthew Puttman, founder of Nanotronics, will discuss how everyday electronics, such as our cell phones and computers, are dependent on “visualizing the invisible on the nano scale.”

Scholastic also offers free, online classroom events, incuding Virtual Field Trips, Virtual Author Visits, and Literacy Events. The Scholastic classroom events work in tandem with free online and print materials. One recent Scholastic webcast included a story smashup with best-selling children’s authors Jeff Kinney and Dav Pilkey. On a Scholastic Virtual Field Trip, students go to Ellis Island, take an interactive virtual tour of the grounds, read about young immigrants, and explore immigration data, all through interconnected digital material. 

With the wide range of digital events available, teachers and students have opportunities to explore new places without ever having to leave their classroom.

The maker movement's move into K-12

Hundreds of thousands of people attend Maker Faires around the world every year -- events that celebrate creativity, inventiveness and resourcefulness, and let people show-and-tell the things that they've built. Now, kids and teachers are bringing the excitement and creativity of Maker Faires right into K-12 education.

The maker movement, where kids and adults make things ranging from old-fashioned puppets to homemade video game to projects created with a 3D printer, has been growing rapidly worldwide. But in the last several months, we've seen it crossing over into schools. In two articles in the new Winter issue of Scholastic Administrator magazine, we take you to the front lines.

You’ll visit 6 different locations, from Plano, Texas’s airplane hangar-sized space to New York City’s spare room, and discover how adults and children are mixing to reinvent learning. The second story, from Invent to Learn co-author Gary Stager, explains the basic concept of making, how to start a program in your school, and why this is a truly powerful way for students to learn. 

Teachers collaborate in school and online

Collaboration: the action of working with someone to produce or create something. We know it’s key to success in any industry, but it plays a pivotal role in education. In Primary Sources, more than 20,000 teachers share insights on how they connect with peers and families.

We found that teachers collaborate in and outside of school to best serve their students. Finding the time for collaboration can be challenging (it’s the second most-cited challenge in daily work), and 51% of teachers report not having enough time for this important aspect of the teaching profession.

Inside school walls, teachers spend time engaging in a variety of activities:

  • Exchanging/sharing resources and lesson plans (76%)
  • Learning from each other’s successes and challenges (68%)
  • Discussing how to best meet the needs of individual students (68%)
  • Reviewing student data (66%)
  • Sharing my own challenges to gain my colleagues’ input and advice (62%)
  • Planning units of study across subject areas (52%)

Technology, including educational and social media websites, enables teachers to collaborate with others they wouldn’t otherwise have had the opportunity to collaborate with. I was fascinated to see YouTube cited as the website most used by teachers for professional purposes (used by 76% of teachers).  See the graphic below for the other websites. Do any surprise you?

Teachers, we’ve heard you – more than 20,000 of you in fact

Teachers leave an indelible imprint on their students’ lives, and, as the ones in the classroom on a daily basis, they’re on the frontlines of education-feeling shifts as they happen. It’s our goal and our privilege to bring their voices to the forefront of the conversation surrounding education.

Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on Teaching in an Era of Change aims to do just that. Released today, this report is the third in a series from Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and is designed to highlight the views of America’s public school teachers on important issues related to their profession, such as the rewards and challenges of teaching, teacher observations, evaluations and feedback, and how teachers collaborate within and beyond school walls with both peers and students’ families. As you may recall, we also released data on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards back in October.

This report reflects the views and voices of more than 20,000 of America’s PreK–12 public school teachers from all 50 states.

Throughout the day, we’ll be revealing data from the report on the Scholastic Teachers Facebook page and from @ScholasticTeach, and tonight, Scholastic’s Chief Academic Officer, Francie Alexander, will join us for a live Twitter chat to discuss the findings of the report. We encourage you to follow (and join!) the conversation online using #TeacherVoices.

In the meantime, here are just a few of the findings from this edition of Primary Sources:


  • Teachers Bring Passion and Commitment to Their Challenging Work. Overwhelmingly passionate and committed, nearly all teachers (98%) agree that teaching is more than a profession; it is how they make a difference in the world. Though 82% of teachers report that constantly changing demands are a significant challenge, 88% agree that the rewards of teaching outweigh the challenges, and 89% say they are satisfied or very satisfied in their jobs.




  • Teachers Seek to Collaborate In and Outside of School to Best Serve Students. Teachers tell us that lack of time to collaborate with their peers is a challenge (51%) and we see they are seeking new ways to share with their colleagues thanks to technology. For example, 91% say they use websites to find or share lesson plans. Regarding collaboration with parents, almost all teachers (98%) believe the best thing parents can do to help their child succeed in school is to avoid absences, followed closely by setting high expectations for their child and working in partnership with teachers when their child has challenges.

We invite you to visit to explore the data in-depth (you’ll also find state-by-state data) and to download the full report. Again, you can join the conversation using #TeacherVoices. We look forward to hearing your thoughts!


Honoring Black History (and a list of 50+ books for students)

When I was in sixth grade, my older brother handed me a paperback book. I don’t remember what he said, but I knew by the look on his face that I had to read it.

I didn’t understand the title, Manchild in the Promised Land, and I’d never heard of its author, Claude Brown. But once I opened the book I couldn’t put it down. It was based on Brown’s coming-of-age in Harlem in the 1940s and ’50s. His descriptions of gangs, drug dealers, pimps and prostitutes made for a harrowing ride. As I turned the pages, I felt like I was holding a stick of dynamite.

My father had grown up not far from Harlem, and we visited New York City often. But Brown’s was a world altogether different from anything I had known, and it terrified me. I couldn’t understand why there was such a gulf between my life—in a white suburb—and Brown's. I only knew that skin color played a defining role. It was a lesson I never forgot.

Examining the experiences of African Americans is a complicated endeavor that cannot, and should not, be consigned to one month of the year. We honor the talents of inventors, doctors, artists, athletes and musicians. We also bear witness to the hundreds of thousands of people who once lived in bondage.

We look with admiration upon those who escaped from slavery—and those who led them to safety. And we revisit the foot soldiers of the civil rights movement who faced fire hoses and beatings for freedoms that never should have been denied them.

Each time we do so, a piece of our hearts is pierced a bit more. We may want to blame the likes of Bull Connor and Orval Faubus, but the complicity extends much further. It's called turning a blind eye.

Since the 1950s, when a Supreme Court ruling and a series of laws began to dismantle Jim Crow, the harsh realities experienced by a kid like Claude Brown have eased, but not enough. Although illegal, segregation lives on in insidious ways.

The books below will help you introduce students to black culture in all of its dimensions. You’ll find Manchild in the Promised Land and other works of literature, a riveting account of Negro League Baseball, and lush picture books by artist Faith Ringgold. Also included is a Rosa Parks biography that dispels myths about the so-called “weary seamstress” who refused to move to the back of the bus.

The titles are grouped according to grade bands with a range of genres. To help deepen your students' understanding, here are tips on crafting evidence-based questions.

These works offer a rich account of the struggles and triumphs of a people whose history in America is longer—and more agonizing—than most; who, with their grit, faith, and courage managed to endure and, in so many cases, thrive.

As Claude Brown wrote, it is “a story of their searching, their dreams, their sorrows, their small and futile rebellions, and their endless battle to establish their own place . . . in America itself.” It is our job to ensure that the battle finally ends in true equality.

(A version of this essay originally appeared on

Recommended Reading
Grades K–1
Barack Obama: Out of Many, One
Shana Corey (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2009)
The story of a skinny little boy with a funny name who became the first African American President of the United States

Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra
Andrea Pinkney (Hyperion Book CH, 2006)
This “smooth-talkin’, slick-steppin’, piano-playin’ kid,” who was born in 1899, would grow up to dazzle the world with his music.

Ellen’s Broom
Kelly Starling Lyons (Putnam Juvenile, 2012)
A young girl describes a poignant tradition among slaves who are unable to marry legally.

A Picture Book of Frederick Douglass
David A. Adler (Holiday House, Reprint edition, 1995)
A pictorial depiction of a man who went from being a slave to a freer of slaves and a world-famous orator and civil rights activist

Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story
Ruby Bridges (Cartwheel Books, 2009)
The story of a tough little girl who rises above racism.

Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride
Andrea Pinkney (Hyperion Book CH, 2009)  
The portrait of a freed slave whose physical and spiritual strength made her one of America's most powerful abolitionist voices

Tar Beach
Faith Ringgold (Dragonfly Books, 1996)
The artist's signature quilt paintings chart a Depression-era girl’s imaginative foray above the streets of New York City.

A Weed is a Flower: The Life of George Washington Carver
Aliki (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1988)
An introduction to George Washington Carver, a scientist who was born a slave

Grades 2–3
Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky
Faith Ringgold (Dragonfly Books, 1995)
Historical Fiction
With Harriet Tubman as her guide, young Cassie retraces the steps that escaping slaves took on the Underground Railroad.

Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa
Andrea Davis Pinkney (Hyperion Books for Children, 2007)
Historical Fiction
The story of a remarkable musician as told by Scat Cat Monroe, a feline fan

Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins
Carole Boston Weatherford (Puffin, Reprint edition, 2007)
Historical Fiction
When Connie sees four young men take a stand for equal rights at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, she realizes that things may soon change in the South.

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans
Kadir Nelson (Balzar + Bray, 2011)
A tale of discrimination and broken promises, determination and triumphs

Ida B. Wells: Let the Truth Be Told
Walter Dean Myers (Amistad, 2008)
An illustrated profile of a pioneering voice against lynching

I Have a Dream
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Schwartz & Wade, 2012)
Paintings by Kadir Nelson accompany King’s speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin
Jen Bryant (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013)
After an injury in World War I, Pippin learned to draw again and became a famous painter whose works were displayed across the country.

STAT: Standing Tall and Talented
Amar’e Stoudemire (Scholastic Press, 2012)
A heartfelt story based on the famous basketball player’s boyhood

What Color Is My World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld (Candlewick, 2012)
Historical Fiction
The lives of black inventors and innovators are explored through the eyes of fictional twins.

Grades 4–5
Bud, Not Buddy
Christopher Paul Curtis (Laurel Leaf, 2004)
It’s 1936, in Flint, Michigan. When 10-year-old Bud decides to hit the road to find his father, nothing can stop him.

Eliza’s Freedom Road: An Underground Railroad Dairy
Jerdine Nolen (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2011)
As she escapes slavery in Maryland for Canada, 12-year-old Eliza recites the stories her mother taught her.

Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America
Andrea Davis Pinkney (Hyperion Book for Children, 2012)
Lyrical narratives about 10 influential men from different eras in American history

Ida B. Wells, Mother of the Civil Rights Movement
Dennis Brindell Fradin and Judith Bloom Fradin (Clarion Books, 2000)
Civil rights leader Ida B. Wells is brought to life in this accessible and well-researched biography.

One Crazy Summer
Rita Williams-Garcia (Amistad; Reprint edition, 2011)
Eleven-year-old Delphine has only a few memories of her mother, Cecile, who abandoned the family in Brooklyn. Then, in the summer of 1968, Delphine and her sisters visit Cecile in Oakland.

Sojourner Truth: Ain’t I a Woman?
Patricia C. McKissack (Scholastic Paperbacks, 1994)
The portrait of a pivotal yet appalling era in American history, centering on the life of a remarkable woman born into slavery in 1797 in New York.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963
Christopher Paul Curtis (Laurel Leaf, 2000)
A boisterous family journeys from Flint, Michigan, straight into one of the most chilling moments in American history: the burning of the Sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church with four little girls inside.

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball
Kadir Nelson (Hyperion Book CH, 2008)
A lost piece of American history comes to life in Kadir Nelson's eloquent story of the Negro leagues and their gifted baseball players.

Grades 6–8
Black Women in White America: A Documentary History
Gerda Lerner (Vintage, 1992)
From the first women who fought slavery to the great Fannie Lou Hamer, this book profiles some of America’s most extraordinary freedom fighters.

Walter Dean Myers (Scholastic Press, 1997)
This songlike poem relates the story of a people who settle in New York City hoping to improve their lots in life, only to discover that racism can still keep them from achieving success.

Harriet Tubman, The Road to Freedom
Catherine Clinton (Back Bay Books, 2005)
The famous conductor of the Underground Railroad is revealed as a singular and complex character.

Not Without Laughter
Langston Hughes (Dover Publications, 2008)
This 1930s coming-of-age tale, the only novel by the great poet, unfolds in rural Kansas in a racially divided society.

Southern Horrors and Other Writings: The Anti-Lynching Campaign of Ida B. Wells, 1892-1900
Edited by Jacqueline Jones Royster (Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1997)
This volume collects three pamphlets that constitute Wells’s major works during the anti-lynching movement: Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases; A Red Record; and Mob Rule in New Orleans.

A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr.
Edited by James M. Washington (HarperOne; Reprint edition, 1990)
King is shown in his roles as philosopher, theologian, orator, essayist, and author.

Up From Slavery
Booker T. Washington (Dover Publications, 1995)
This 1901 narrative details Washington’s slow and steady rise in the years after the Civil War.

Grades 9–10
The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom
Marcus Rediker (Viking Adult, 2012)
The author reclaims the famous slave rebellion for the African rebels who risked death to stake a claim for freedom.

By Any Means Necessary: Malcolm X Speeches and Writing
(Pathfinder Press, 1992)
In 11 speeches and interviews, Malcolm X presents a revolutionary alternative to injustice.

The Color Purple
Alice Walker (Mariner Books, 2003)
This moving story, set in rural Georgia, tells of a 14-year-old girl’s shame and suffering after her father rapes and beats her.

Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family
Condoleezza Rice (Three Rivers Press, 2011)
The former Secretary of State recalls her childhood in the segregated South and how she overcame prejudice with the help of her exceptional parents and an extended family and community.

Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965
Juan Williams (Penguin Books; Reprint edition, 1988)
The events of the 1950s and ’60s are brought to life with photographs and vivid text, including first-person accounts. Written in conjunction with the PBS TV series of the same name.

Their Eyes Were Watching God
Zora Neale Hurston (Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006)
One of the most important works of 20th-century American literature, Hurston's 1937 classic is a Southern love story told with wit and wisdom.

The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass
(Dover Publications, 2003)
Douglass, who was born into slavery in 1818, recounts his escape and how he later risked his own freedom to become an antislavery advocate, orator, writer and publisher.

The Souls of Black Folk
W. E. B. DuBois (Dover Publications, 1994)
First published in 1903, this classic work remains a crucial document in African American literary history.

The Tuskegee Airmen: An Illustrated History: 1939-1949
Joseph Caver, Jerome Ennels, and Daniel Haulman (NewSouth Books, 2011)
Here, in pictures and words, is the full story of the Tuskegee Airmen and the world in which they lived, worked, played, fought and sometimes died.

When I Was a Slave: Memoirs From the Slave Narrative Collection
Edited by Norman R. Yetman (Dover Publications, 2002)
More than 2,000 interviews with former slaves provide often-startling first-person accounts of their lives in bondage.

Grades 11–12
The New York Times: The Complete Civil War
Edited by Harold Holzer (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 2010)
Newspaper accounts
This book collects every article that the Times published about the war from 1861 to 1865.

Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance
Barack Obama (Crown, Reprint edition, 2007)
A probing memoir by the man who would become America’s first black President

Invisible Man
Ralph Ellison (Vintage, 1995)
First published in 1952, this award-winning novel tells the story of a disaffected young black man who makes his way from the segregated South to an often-violent Harlem.

Mama’s Girl
Veronica Chambers (Riverhead Trade, 1997)
A story of perseverance and achievement, this book is Chamber's moving self-examination as an African American woman.

Notes of a Native Son
James Baldwin (Beacon Press, 2012)
Written during the 1940s and early ’50s, these essays capture a view of black life and thought at the dawn of the civil rights movement.

Native Son
Richard Wright (Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2008)
The shocking tale of a young African American man living in a black neighborhood of Chicago

Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63
Taylor Branch (Simon & Schuster, 1989)
This volume, the first of two, offers an unsurpassed portrait of Martin Luther King Jr.’s rise to greatness.

Song of Solomon
Toni Morrison (Vintage; Reprint edition, 2004)
A powerful, poetic exploration of four generations of a family mistakenly named Dead

The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks
Jeanne Theoharis (Beacon Press, 2013)
Published 100 years after the activist's birth, this account of Parks's life fleshes out her sometimes-surprising role in the fight for civil rights.

Manchild in the Promised Land
Claude Brown (Touchstone, Reprint edition, 2011)
The definitive account of everyday life for the first generation of African Americans raised in the Northern ghettos of the 1940s and ’50s

Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Road That Sparked the Civil War
Tony Horwitz (Henry Holt and Co., 2010)
The story of one of America's most troubling figures

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration
Isabel Wilkerson (Vintage, Reprint edition, 2011)
An account, as the author says, of "the biggest underreported story of the 20th century"

Meet the Super Teachers!

Superman may be able to fly, but can he teach fractions? To our minds, that’s a true superpower. And thousands of incredible teachers do it brilliantly every day. The latest issue of Scholastic Instructor magazine is dedicated to them—the “Superteachers.”

We’ve asked a few of our favorite teachers to share their tips to help our readers boost their teaching superpowers. Here is a sneak peek:

  1. The Book Whisperer: Donalyn Miller on developing habits that will inspire every child’s love of reading.
  2. The Text Detective: Timothy Shanahan takes the mystery out of using close reading.
  3. The Craft Crusaders: Teacher bloggers share the “craftivities” that make learning stick.
  4. The Straight Talker: Rafe Esquith on teaching in the Age of Entitlement

Teachers may not don spandex and a cape when they head to work each morning, but their tireless dedication in the classroom is truly heroic. So, we’d like to take a moment to say, “Thank you, Superteachers! You’re ensuring a brighter future for us all.”

E-Learning eliminates snow days

With winter storms popping up all over the country (and let’s not forget about the polar vortex!) many schools have closed their doors during inclement weather this winter. In fact, scores of them have already depleted their allotted snow time and are now planning to extend the school year to make up the lost days. 

However, to avoid lengthening the school year some schools are leveraging the power of technology to overcome the weather. Rather than announcing a typical snow day and cancelling school, some buildings are using technology to extend learning to the home. In this article from Education Week, the superintendent of the 939-student Fort Recovery district in western Ohio, Shelly Vaughn, said, "It's much better to have a day of e-learning instruction right now than if we held a makeup day when the weather's nice."

From posting assignments online to using video lessons, snow days are not getting in the way of education in Ohio.  The district even has a plan in place for students who may not have access to a computer at home. All students have up to two weeks to complete the “snow day” assignments and can also receive a hard copy of the assignment from their teachers when school is back in session.

In addition to schools in Ohio, Gibault Catholic High School in Waterloo, Ill., has implemented academic social networks for snow days. These networks allow students to connect with each other and access resources needed for assignments and projects during "cancelled" school days.

Although this is a fairly new idea, I think we will see more and more schools implement this approach. Of course nothing can replace a great teacher, but giving students the responsibility to “work from home” will only benefit them in college and in careers.  

The Olympics in your classroom

It is official, the 2014 Olympic games have started and I fully admit to being one of the millions watching the different events this weekend. I'm forever amazed by the talent and perseverance of these athletes. Not to mention their accomplishments at their ages! I've also found it interesting to see more about the history of the games and the culture of Russia.

How can this all be translated into the classroom? Brittany of On Our Minds @Scholastic has a great round up of resources I wanted to be sure to share with everyone. Check it out here and see articles, book lists and more! Plus, on there is a feature on "The Science of the Olympics."

Teachers, how are you integrating the Olympics into your lessons?


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