Writing is learning

For me, writing is a messy process.

I agonize over opening sentences. I use the backspace button a lot. I delete whole paragraphs, rewrite, then realize I liked it better the first time. I often start with a kernel of an idea, start to flesh it out, then abandon it. I constantly edit, even before I finish a full draft. I start, then stop and put it aside, then go back a day or two later.

I almost always start off confused about what I know and what I want to say. But almost always, when I'm finished, my mind is clear. My thoughts are in order. And I've learned something.

It's an incredible, satisfying feeling to stop at the end of writing and know that the fuzzy, foggy jumble of information and ideas I started with are now right there in front of me, crystal clear and in their rightful places.

Yes, writing can be about demonstrating knowledge and understanding, and about sharing it with others. But at least for me, it's an essential step in the process of learning.

Happy National Day on Writing!

Math talk: Which number doesn't belong?

A key theme of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics is the need for students to use deeper mathematical thinking and reasoning skills (rather than just memorizing procedures) -- and to apply their understanding of mathematics by justifying conclusions and communicating them to others.

What I think this means is that the Common Core math classroom is going to be a much livelier place, full of discussion and teamwork and talk. That's a wonderful thing.

Here's a fun math conversation starter:

Which of the following numbers doesn't belong? 9, 16, 25, 43.

Let us know what you think. And remember, EXPLAIN YOUR REASONING!

Our natural abilities are just a starting point

Scholastic's David Dockterman was asked onto MSNBC's "Disrupt with Karen Finney" show on Sunday to talk about the importance of students having a "growth mindset" about learning.

Basic lesson to be learned: Your brain is a muscle, and it can grow and change and develop throughout life. So your intelligence isn't fixed. If you struggle with math now, that doesn't mean you can't get better at it in the future.

"Our natural abilities are just a starting point," says David Dockterman.

Click through to watch the video in full!

Teachers tell us they are enthusiastic about the Common Core but see the challenges

Twenty thousand public school teachers were surveyed as part of the Primary Sources series of reports and today, their viewpoints on the Common Core are available. 

First things first, teachers know what is happening out there.  Ninety-seven percent of teachers nationwide know about the Common Core State Standards and in the states adopting them, it is a complete 100% that are aware.  With this established, teachers in the adoption states were then asked about all of the Common Core details.  Interestingly, the study found that those teachers with the most experience with and exposure to the standards are the most positive towards implementation. Seventy-three percent of teachers who teach math, ELA, science and/or social studies agree they are enthusiastic about Common Core implementation in their classrooms.  Seventy-seven percent also believe the standards will have a positive impact on their students’ ability to think critically and use reasoning skills.

However, these teachers are realistic, with 73% telling us that they believe implementation is going to be challenging. They are going to have to change – or have already changed – their teaching practice, and when asked about special populations, they are most concerned about students currently working two or more grades below grade-level, followed by special education students.  For these students, teachers are asking for age-appropriate, leveled instructional materials.  For themselves to successfully implement the standards, teachers report their top two needs as more planning time to find materials and lesson plans and quality professional development.

Teachers are working in an evolving education system and it has never been more important to hear what they have to say and learn what they need to do their jobs!  Even with so much happening at once, it was great to see that 88% of teachers agree that the rewards of teaching outweigh the challenges.

To learn more about the Common Core State Standards Preview from Primary Sources, a project of Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, visit www.scholastic.com/primarysources.

Teachers, tell us what you think!  Do you agree with 20,000 of your peers?

Google in the classroom

For most of us, Google plays a huge role in our lives. Whether we use it to search the Internet, get directions using Maps, or communicate with Gmail, it’s everywhere we turn, swipe, or click. But what is Google’s role in the classroom? Read on for some tools that can benefit both teachers and students.

Google Drive

Within Google Drive, you can store and collaborate on files, spreadsheets, and presentations. Teachers and students can access files from any web-enabled device. Enhance collaboration and assessment with these tips:

  • Add Voice Comments to Documents to provide feedback on student work. Watch this helpful tutorial on Kaizena, the app that enables this feature.
  • Create your own assessments in Google Forms, which allows you to embed images and YouTube videos, and collect responses in a connected spreadsheet. Want to grade these quizzes? Install Google Form script Flubaroo.

Google Search

Try these search tips and share them with your students:

  • Add search operators to help you get more specific answers (e.g., results from a specific site or publication).
  • Narrow your search to results from the past five years by adding “&as_qdr=y5” to the end of the URL. The date the content was published appears under the link to each search result.
  • Search Google Images with images by dragging and dropping the file into the search bar. How could this be useful? Have students take photos of plants on a nature walk, then identify the plants and begin their research.

Any other essential Google tips for the classroom? Add them in the comments below! 


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