Kids Want to Go to School

As a life-long educator, there is one thing I know: kids want to go to school.  Sadly, thousands of Haitian children never have the opportunity to attend to school because they cannot afford it. To this day, children of Haiti live lives of complete impoverishment.  With little to no way to help themselves recover from this poverty, hope arises from Education. Talented, smart Haitian children want to go to school.


Friends of Haiti provided this girl with school supplies and tuiton

School opportunities in Haiti are different.  The government provides no funding whatsoever to rural schools.  Any rural schools are private and run on student tuition fees only.  This means children who want to go to school, often cannot simply because they cannot afford it.

This and other social issues need our attention.  Over the past five years, a small group of Canadians have been working to ease some of the suffering of Haitians and support them in achieving a more fulfilling life.  This has lead to the creation of Friends of Haiti (Canada), started in 2015

Friends of Haiti is a small group of Canadians  who want to help our friends in Haiti with education, healthcare, sports, housing, entrepreneurship, and dreams.  Living in Canada, we have so many opportunities and an abundance of support to achieve goals.  To see others living in desperation is so difficult.  We now have a way to send direct help and support.  Living a life that is productive and meaningful all starts with education.

Along with 4 other Canadians, I feel privileged to be a part of this grass-roots, organization.


Lori and Yvrons in Lavanneau Haiti 2015


Besides education we help our friends in Haiti with  healthcare, sports, housing, entrepreneurship, and dreams.  Living in Canada, we have so many opportunities and an abundance of support to achieve goals.  To see others living in desperation is so difficult.  We now have a way to send direct help and support.  Living a life that is productive and meaningful all starts with education

Homes in Lavanneau, Haiti

Children of rural Haiti, they dream of going to school

Sadly, many families cannot afford to send their children to school.  Our initiative aims to provide funds to the poorest, most under privileged children of Haiti in order to attend school.  We know that by supporting youth in reaching their dreams of becoming nurses, teachers and lawyers we must get them to school.

The future of Haiti

A new home for Ednor, with Friends of Haiti Team members and sponsors Carolin, Dave and Mr. Gabe

Over the past five years, extensive humanitarian work has been done to develop Friends of Haiti (Canada).  Friends of Haiti is a small group of Canadians who want to help our friends in Haiti with education, healthcare, sports, housing, entrepreneurship and dreams.


The main team of five are based out of Alberta and B.C.  The team travels to Haiti once a year to achieve our mission.  During the year however, the focus is on fund raising.

Heading to the goat market to purchase goats for schools.

Maxeau, our Haitian Coordinator brings school supplies to the children of Marbial

We are very privileged to have a Haitian coordinator who works tirelessly to bring hope to Haitians.  Maxeau Pierre, a law student living in Jacmel, coordinates our efforts from Haiti.


We are pleased to report that to date, 98% of all our funding goes directly to our cause.   Minimal Administration fee of 2% is used to send funds and support Maxeau in administrative work in Haiti.  We do this work because we care.  Help Haitians help themselves. Please join our Facebook page Friends of Haiti (Canada).

Mission accomplished, all ready for Sept 7, 2015. First day of school.

Friends of Haiti endeavors to support children in achieving their goals by sending them to school.  Your donations will help a child by:

Paying school tuition; tuition varies depending on the age of the student

                  $25 USD per year for ages K-6

                   $50 USD per year for ages 7-9

                   $30 USD per month for high school

                   $100 USD per month for university

Purchasing required school uniforms;

                  $25 – $50 USD per year depending on the age of the student

Purchasing required backpacks and school supplies

up to  $25 USD per year

98% of all our funding goes directly to our cause.   Minimal Administration fee of 2% is used to send funds and support Maxeau in administrative work in Haiti (gas, bank fees).

100% of our humanitarian trips and costs in Canada are directly paid for by our team members.
Donating is easy!  Please go to and click “give online”  In the paypal notes please direct your donation the Friends of Haiti.


Teachers as Guides

This summer I had the amazing opportunity to summit the 2650m high Mt. Nimbus in the Purcell Mountain Range in BC. Now, not being a mountain climber in any way I was only able to attain this amazing feat with the support of my guide. Guides are teachers in a special sort of way, a sort of way that could be used in the classroom everyday.Here is how:
1. They set a clear goal – we are going to the top!
2. They frequently stop and ask how everyone is doing. They let everyone answer.
3. If you are not doing so well, they help solve whatever problem it is.
4. They go first, they show the way.
5. They encourage, demonstrate,explain, then sit nearby and enjoy watching you do it.
6. When it gets super hard they lend a hand.
7. They marvel in your accomplishment, just as much as you have.

Tomorrow I challenge you to guide your students. To guide them in achieving their dreams and doing more than they thought they could. I think you will be amazed at the wonders that will occur.


Photo taken by my guide. As I came to the top of this ledge he said “you did it!”, and snapped my photo!

Lori Cullen (@lorilynnecullen) has been with CBE since 2000 as a teacher, learning leader, assistant principal, principal and now teacher recruitment consultant. She believes in the power of teams and challenges herself and colleagues to maximize their potentials and reach for their goals.

This post was originally featured on CBE182 – 182 Days of Learning- See more at:

Substitute Teachers – Go From a Supply Teacher to a Contract

This month I had the absolute priviledge of working with 45 substitute teachers at the ATA Substitute Teachers Conference in Calgary.  The session I facilitated focussed on moving from a substitute / supply teacher position into a contract.  One of the best ways to do this, is to be a brilliant substitue teacher!  Be noticed, wow them, do an amazing job and the Principal of the school will want you on their staff.  But, let’s face it, some substitute teachers are better than others.

What does a brilliant substitue teacher do to stand out from the rest?

With large school boards employing hundreds and hundreds of substitute teachers, what can you do to stand out, to make an impression, to be the one who gets the contract?  Together at the conference, we answered this question.

To prepare for the session, I did some reading and thinking about what makes an excellent teacher.  Really, an excellent substitute teacher needs to have the same skills and values that an excellent teacher has.  The main difference being, a substitute teacher demonstrates their skills differently give the different role they fill.  You can read more about excellence in teaching by clicking  here.

Eventually, I categorized the skills and values of excellence in teaching into four main categories:

  • Communication
  • Flexibility
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientousness

Agreeablness and Conscientousness come from The Big Five Personality studies.  Click here for more on Big Five.  Essentially out of the five personality traits identified in the studies, a combination of aggreeablness and conscientousness are essential qualities in highly successfull employees,

The group looked at these four categories and began generating ideas and examples.

For a substitute teacher, what does each of these categories look like in a day to day basis in the classroom?

Through answering this question, the following guide was developed.

sub teacher


 With this one page guide, substitute teachers are encouraged to read it, understand it, and live it.  Take it with you each day as a guideline for excellence.  This guide represents the work of 45 educators.  Although it is comprehensive, it can always be added to.  Additionally, as your work as a substitute teacher moves into longer contract work, the main headings of this document will remain the same but you can add in any adjustments you have made.  For example, under communication, a contracted teacher would need to add “Clear and concise report card comments.”

Thank you to the ATA for the opportunity to engage in this work.

The Power of Goal Setting in Elementary Classrooms

Influenced by the work of John Hattie in his book Visible Learning, this year we moved our work on student goal setting forward.  The Calgary Board of Education was piloting their new IRIS platform in which we participated.  IRIS is a web-hosted platform where each student has their own page called “Understanding Myself as a Learner.”  Teachers were expected to work with students to support them in developing Learning Goals, Learning Strategies and Artifacts of Learning.  Through this work our goal was for students to understand themselves as a learner, own their learning, develop agency, and develop clarity about what they needed to learn, how they were going to learn it, and what it was going to look like when they learned it.

On April 8, 2013 a group of 9 students ranging from grade 3 to grade 6 gathered over lunch to share their experiences around work with Iris. Although we had a few questions in mind, the conversation was generative as students responded to each other.


Students articulated that the process of working in Iris helps them to see clearly what they could accomplish, and how they could accomplish their learning goals. Many students testified that Iris helps them to ‘remember (their) goals and keep working on them,’ and ‘set goals and then set next goals.’ Consistency of student voice around the way in which the organization of space not only supported initial goal writing, but also consistent re-thinking and adjusting of present goals to form ‘next’ goals was evident. While students were initially unsure as to whether they engaged in the goal setting/strategy thinking/understanding myself as a learner process prior to Iris, they realized they had been engaging in this work previously; however, Iris made it ‘easier’, ‘more simple’, ‘not too hard’ and ‘not messy.’ ‘It is easy to pull up and you don’t have to look through paper.’ The ‘layout is more organised’ and ‘helps us to progress’ and ‘see our timeline for achievement.’ Students were sure they were engaging in this work in the Iris space. Teacher support and presence in the work was consistently spoken of. When asked why they set goals, students responded with such comments as, ‘so you can accomplish them,’ ‘so you know what to do,’ so you don’t forget’ and ‘so things don’t get lost.’

IRIS When discussing artifacts, most students said they use them to show ‘how (they) are as learners’ and ‘what strengths and weaknesses’ they have.  ‘Say, if I show a Math test, it shows I am interested in Math and proud of my high marks.’ Some students didn’t feel they would/should show work they were not proud of, and one student believed it was not an artifact if it didn’t show you were ‘good at something.’ Further, student voice suggested that the artifact should be something that was important to a particular student and something the student was ‘proud of.’ Some students responded by saying that they might show an artifact that is ‘not good, but doing well in’ so that a teacher could help them. Students felt it was important to comment on why they chose particular artifacts, and how these particular artifacts connected to their goals, strategies and understanding of themselves as learners. Since students normally connect goals to strategies, one student suggested that a tab might be helpful to link the strategies to goals and avoid closing goals each time you want to add a strategy. On whether it might be valuable to group artifacts, some students shook their heads while others said maybe this would be a good idea to show work you were good at and work that you were not so good at, or to show a series of artifacts about the same topic as this might be helpful for a teacher. An album with several photos was suggested. Students wondered about the possibility of sharing artifacts that showed their ‘own stuff’ – photographs and videos from out of school activities. These artifacts could be separate – on the right hand side of the page. A conversation ensued around why students might share certain artifacts to illustrate who they are as learners.

IRISDuring our discussion on sharing, most students felt it was natural to share their learning plans with teachers since ‘they’ know how to ‘help you get better,’ and this sharing would only help them further. Teachers could see what you were struggling with and think of better ways to teach you. Students suggested that teachers should let students ‘think first,’ and one young man said that sharing the work with teachers could be difficult as teachers could move you away from a goal you were focusing on. This might ‘distract’ you – ‘flipping mind’ was a term used by one of the students. This space is ‘private’ to you. Most students thought it would be a good idea to share their work with their parents so that parents would know what they were doing in school. A number of students shook their heads quite profusely when the topic of sharing plans with friends came up, although one student thought it might be helpful as you would want to make it better if this was the case, and that friends could also help with strategies. Subsequently, a couple of students began to acknowledge this might be a good idea. However, parents would be more ‘trustable.’ Students said that they could just sit next to friends and parents if they chose to share work with them. A tab to enable the possibility of sharing particular items, or whole pages was discussed, and many students thought this would be a good idea to limit the sharing.

A couple of more technical questions/concerns were raised near the end of the conversation.  There had been some audio file ‘troubles’ with Garage Band, and students thought better instructions were needed for audio uploading. Some artifacts had disappeared, and there was a problem with the page moving up when students clicked the space bar. Students felt that 150 characters were too few to write what they needed to say and 450 might be more reasonable, and the capability of sizing photographs would be helpful. A couple of students said that occasionally a window pops up to say that iris can’t open at this time.’

Students were positive and excited about their work, and eager to share their learning before we left.

Authored by: Mandy Hambidge, Calgary Board of Education



Enhanced by Zemanta

The 2 Most Important Skills Every Teacher Needs

Over the past nine years I have had the pleasure of hiring (and the displeasure of firing) new hires into their teaching careers.  In watching teachers come into the profession some just “have it.”  Some seem to be innately programmed to be teachers.  For others, it is a much more difficult road to travel.  Additionally, there has been much awareness brought up about “teacher burn-out” and teachers not being able to survive this profession.

It has taken nine years of watching, listening, and observing to come to understand that there are two distinct differences between teachers that excel and love the profession, and those that do not excel and are prone to burn-out.

1.  Reflective Practice

The power of a reflective teacher is unstoppable.  What I have noticed about reflective teachers is through their abilities to analyze, clarify, pinpoint and adjust their practice they move into a distinct zone of improvement.  The improvement becomes noticeable each week.

The reflective teacher knows how to:

  • Create lessons designed for specific purposes and to meet specific outcomes;
  • Adjust these lessons to the needs of different students;
  • Observe students;
  • Talk about and share successful and unsuccessful features of the lesson;
  • Create a better lesson based on this information;

When a teacher is able to get into this reflective flow, they become intellectually engaged and oriented to supporting the learning of their students.  With this engagement their practice becomes energizing, goal oriented, and challenging.

2.  Coachability

Hand in hand with reflective practice is coachability.  Coachability speaks to the teachers capacity to:

  • hear feedback;
  • analyze and understand the feedback;
  • implement the feedback into their teaching.

Without this, it is unlikely a teacher will be successful in growing and learning themselves. They become closed and rigid to ideas and suggestions and feel there is no other way to do things; what they do now is good because they have always done it.  Unfortunately, a teacher who is not reflective or coachable has difficulty adjusting their practice to the needs of different learners.  This leads to frustration with their students, and often a mindset of changing others rather than changing themselves.  We all know changing others is a futile task, and here comes teacher burn-out.

English: A teacher and young pupils at The Bri...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What can I do now?

The good part is it can be easy to develop the skills of reflectiveness and coachability if you don’t already have them.

  • Be open-minded; you need to learn something new everyday;
  • Listen;
  • Take notes; what are you doing and what are others doing that is successful or unsuccessful (we learn from our mistakes);
  • Work with colleagues; in all ways – open up your practice;
  • Ask questions.

We know that teaching is a demanding, busy, spontaneous profession.  Thriving in it is possible when we understand that those who thrive are reflective and coachable.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Be A Better Principal Through Collegiality

Who Was Your Teacher Today? Teachers Learning From Teachers.

I recently shared a TwitPic I had found online.  To my surprise (sort of) the picture resulted in about 40 retweets and 30 new followers.  For me, this amount of response is unusually high so the picture obviously struck a chord.notes

As you can see, the picture depicts what looks like high school students taking pictures of information on the screen.  It is titled Note Taking in 2012 which leads us to believe and imply that students are using their own devices (BRING YOUR OWN DEVICE BYOD) to take pictures of notes rather than using the paper pencil method.

The twitter post resulted in some interesting comments:

@lorilynnecullen No BYOD policy & no phones in class in my district. Post notes on my website & use remind101 for my 6th graders & families.

I only have one response to this, “WHY?”  When students use their own devices to communicate, find information, and store information what  we are essentially telling them in schools that ban BYOD is, “We are not going to be efficient and current and engage you in ways of thinking and learning that you automatically and intuitively use outside of the classroom.”  Schools are supposed to be current, relevant and engaging so why are you banning BYOD?  I’m glad @ChristinaMLuce is making the best of it and doing what she can.

@lorilynnecullen any other form of note taking is a complete waste of time.

I like this.  Life is too short for long hand.  We can gather and store static information in an instant.  What are you using your classroom time for?

Stephen Turner ‏@SteveT_AU @lorilynnecullen Great, but even quicker would just be getting digital copy straight to device. Taking pic of board is pretty analogue…

@SteveT_AU should work for the district that has banned BYOD.  He obviously has a strong understanding of efficiency and using  classroom time as efficiently as possible.

R.T. Chidiac ‏@RChids@lorilynnecullen one more way to differentiate instruction also builds capacity for the ethical use of technology #edchat #edtech


I love twitter most for this reason; educators analyzing, understanding and describing authentic practice.  I would love to see this picture as the answer to “Show me one way you differentiate for students who struggle with written output.”  Also, @R.T.Chidiac could influence the No BYOD district with his point here about ethical use.
Michael Dushel ‏@MichaelDushel@lorilynnecullen Better would be for the teacher to email it or EVEN better would be to build the notes together in shared electronic form
Shelly Vee ‏@raspberryberet3 @MichaelDushel @lorilynnecullen this is awesome butI agree Michael; more effective if build notes together to #constructknowledge

I love how @MichaelDushel replied to the picture and as he was replying took his understanding of constructing knowledge together even one step further.  He makes a great point, that if this is a picture of a teacher writing or delivering information to students who listen, surely we can do better by constructing and creating understanding together.

The above are examples of critical dialogue amongst teachers that improves practice.  As Michael Fullan states:

For teachers to improve their practice they learn best from other teachers provided that these teachers are also working on improvement. These exchanges are thus purposeful, and based on evidence.

Thank you to my colleagues for creating purposeful dialogue and exchanges designed to improve our thinking and our practice.  Where would we be without each other?

Get the Most Out of Your Next Parent Teacher Interview; Tips for Success

Parent/Teacher/Child Interview

Parent/Teacher/Child Interview (Photo credit: Kathy Cassidy)

Parent teacher interviews can often be a time of extreme stress for teachers and parents.  Teachers are often concerned about what they will say to parents, how they will say it and how parents will respond.  Parents often dread hearing news from teachers that their children are not perforning well or about a myriad of other problems linked to their children.  Parent-teacher interviews are short (usually 15 minutes) and can leave both teachers and parents feeling a little stressed.

To support teachers and parents, one way around the traditional ” how is my child doing?, why are their marks low?, and they aren’t like this at home” interview is to plan and structure the conversation around the learning beliefs and practices of the school.

For example, one of the main focus areas over the past year in our school has been goal setting.  We have adopted goal setting as an effective learning strategy based on research.  With the shift over the past several years to including formative assessment, student goal setting has been found to be highly effective in supporting students in academic achievement.  In  his book Visible Learning (p. 164) John Hattie summarizes that the right kind of student goal setting can have a positive affect on student learning;

“… goals inform individuals as to what type or level of performance is to be attained so that they can direct and evaluate their actions and efforts accordingly.” pp.164

Student goal setting works best when the parent, the teacher and the student work together to develop goals.  Thought is given as to:

  • where the student is currently functioning;
  • what level of achievement would challenge the student;
  • who would support the student in what way;
  • when progress toward the goal would be tracked or monitored.

As Goal Setting has been a significant part of our daily work, structuring our parent teacher interview around goal setting seemed a perfect fit.

Together, with the amazing staff and collegiality at Erin Woods School, our discussions around using parent teacher interviews to support our work on student goals developed.  We created a protocol for the interview, for teachers to follow, to focus the interview around the critical essence of our goal setting focus.

Parent / Teacher Interview

Name:                                                                                   Date:


Purpose: The purpose of this Parent Teacher interview is to look at the term ahead and consider goals and areas of growth for the student.  Additionally, teachers and parents will define and articulate their planto support the learner.



         Right now in IRIS you have set the goal of :

How are you doing with that goal?

What is helping you to achieve that goal?

Are you still working on that goal or should we adjust or change it in any way?




How can parents help you?

How can teachers help you?

How can you help yourself?



           I have also identified this area of growth for you (on your report card or IPP):

I will be helping you by:

What ways will you be working on this goal?


With a structured conversation for the Parent Teacher Interview the following results are expected:

  • Teachers can plan and prepare for the conversation based on the purpose and the outline;
  • Students can be prepared to share the necessary information with their parents (no surprises);
  • Parents become partners in our work, rather than stand bys who we report to causing everyone to be focussing on our beliefs and direction;
  • In this particular protcol, the focus is forward looking, “here is what your child will be doing and here is how I will help.” Leaving parents with a sense of hope and achievement for the next term.
  • We have clear documentation of each parent teacher interview.

 With this process, we are noticing teachers looking forward to their parent interviews,  There is no ambiguity or surprises,  thus leaving teachers confident and prepared, and parents hopeful and happy with things to come. 



Enhanced by Zemanta

Math Facts Plus Stop Watches Don’t Equal Success

This post was re-posted at  Edudemic where it was nominated for a 2012 Edublog Award.

MAD MINUTE is a teaching practice widely used in Canada.  It includes having long strips of papers with lists of addition, subtraction, multiplication or division facts on it.  The goal is to get as many math facts correct in one minute as you can.

Guest Blogger Autumn Shaw, age 16, shares her reflections on the years of MAD MINUTE and how it affects her to this day.

It all started in grade 1 when I learned to add.  I’d say its what has led to crying fits, hiding in the bathroom, avoidance techniques (breaking my pencil), stomach aches and just a general hate for math.

This one minute of the day could ruin my whole day.  It was literally the worst minute of the day.  I could do all the questions, I just couldn’t do them in one minute.  Some of the kids could, and they got their Mad Minutes hung on the board, they got stickers, they got glittery pencils.  All I got was a hate for math.

Then there were the teachers that thought 2 minutes a day of Mad Minute was a good idea.  A good idea to give me twice the amount of time to learn I could not do mad minutes was not a good idea.


02.19.10 (Photo credit: colemama)

Of course, another reinforcer to my belief that I could not do math, never could, never will, was the extra-reinforcing practice of passing my paper to the person sitting in front of me to mark.  This was the chance to share with my classmates, I couldn’t do math, never could, never would be able to.  Some of the kids started writing, “YOU SUCK :-(” on my paper.  This led to me one upping them and me just writing, “I SUCK,” everyday on my math paper.

I don’t know why the teachers thought Mad Minute helped me in math.  It didn’t improve my math, at all.  It did however reinforce everyday that I was not good in math, couldn’t be the fastest in math, never was, never would be, and I was only six years old.  The irony of it all was that I could do math, just not under pressure in a situation that pitted me against the clock and against my peers.

Another torturous part of MAD MINUTE, was the practice of allowing all the students who had 100% each day Monday – Thursday to be exempt from Mad Minutes on Friday.  So, if you didn’t feel like the outcast already, on Fridays, classmates watched me, glaringly obvious that they were good at math, and I wasn’t.  Never was, never would be.

Today, in grade 11 I am in the lowest math class.  Could this be because when I was six I learned I was not good in math, never was, never would be?  There is something to say for that daily reinforcement.  I look back on it and I know, Mad Minutes were not good for me.

I hope there are no teachers out there that continue with MAD MINUTE.  Its not good, not helpful and can have a lasting negative effect on a student.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Are You a High Quality Teacher? Find Out!

Are you teaching for understanding or teaching by “tell and do”?

For many years now, the research around teacher quality and student achievement has been unequivocal.  In fact, we now know that teacher quality and effectiveness is the single most important determinant in student learning.  It is no secret that what a teacher knows and does matters.

While observing teacher practice over the past 8 years as a school administrator, what is coming clear to me is that one of the differences in teaching practice that defines quality teaching and student learning is the nature of lesson design.  In fact, I have observed two distinct types of lessons; those that effectively promote interaction and understanding of new information and those that follow the “tell and do” method.  In my observation, one method leads to a deeper and more thorough understanding, and one leads to listening and task completion.  In thinking about your own practice, or classes you observe, what do you see?

Teaching for Understanding
When teaching for understanding, lesson design is critical.  We know that certain types of learning tasks lead to student engagement, but it is also critical to incorporate these tasks into well designed lessons.

1.  The first part of a well designed lesson is the Introduction.  This is often short, orients the student to the purpose and is a chance for the teacher to find out what the student already knows.  Tasks often associated with the introduction are questioning designed to link to prior knowledge, KWL charts, viewing pictures, charts,  or video clips.

2.  Following the introduction, students are given the opportunity to talk and discuss.  Usually this would happen with a partner or a group of 3.  This is the students opportunity to talk about the new information and often find out more information.  This could be an assignment of sorts; perhaps students would work with a partner to find information, answer questions, or analyze information.  This is the where the teacher roves the classroom, gathering evidence of what students are learning.

3.  Following the partner work, the teacher would call the students back to the whole group to provide more information.  This part of the lesson provides the learners with further opportunity to extend knowledge.  Learning tasks may include opportunities to predict, summarize, clarify, compare and describe new information.  During this part of the lessons, teachers observe their learners closely to determine levels of understanding.

4.  Feedback or Feedforward is now used to enhance learning.  Teachers most likely will ask students inferential questions designed to move their learning forward.

5.  Following all of the above learning tasks, finally, students are ready to show what they know.  Teachers who practice differentiated learning know that this is the step where students can show their learning in a number of ways.  The list of ways is endless and extends far beyond paper pencil tasks.  To really show their learning, students must be involved in authentic tasks.  It would be impossible for every student to demonstrate their knowledge in the same way as every other student in the class.  It would be even more impossible to discern a students level of understanding through some sort of teacher or pre-made worksheet type of a task.  The learning students are asked to demonstrate here must be directly linked back to the purpose that was identified in step one.  For example, if the purpose of this lesson was to learn that that sun is the center of the solar system and planets rotate around the sun, here is where students demonstrate what they know.

6.  The final part of the lesson is student reflection.  Students are taught to self evaluate on questions such as; What did I learn?, How did I show what I know?, What do I still want to learn.

By following the steps of strong task design, students are learning and teachers are teaching for understanding.  Students are thinking about, talking about and interacting with new information.  This type of task design is quite different from Tell and Do.

Tell and Do

English: Hinkletown, Pennsylvania (vicinity). ...

English: Hinkletown, Pennsylvania (vicinity). Mennonite teacher holding class in one-room, eight grade school house. (Photo credit: Wikipedia

Tell and Do Lesson Design is often designed to tell students new information and then have them complete an assignment,  It usually involves the following steps:

1.  You Sit While I Tell: The first part of the lesson often includes students sitting and listening while the teacher tells them all of the important information they require to complete the task.  It is often referred to as a lecture.  Depending on the complexity of the information,  this telling can often last an hour or more.  Students are expected to sit and listen during this part of the lesson, sometimes they are encouraged to jot down important bits of information.  Sometimes students are given the opportunity to ask questions.

2.  The second part of the lesson includes the student doing the task.  Often each student has the same task and it is most often a teacher or publisher created task.  Usually it is a pencil paper task and it is very difficult to modify except to make it shorter for those students who find the workload too heavy.  I have observed teachers working at their desks during this part of the lesson.  I have an occasion heard teachers tell students that if they had listened better to the Sit and Tell lecture, they would find this part of the lesson easier.

3.  The final part of this lesson includes students handing their work in for teachers to mark.  Usually students leave their papers in some sort of “in-box” and are dismissed to recess, or their next class.  Often times students who did not finish in class are asked to take their work home to finish it.

What I have observed with this type of lesson design is a significant reduction in student learning.  I have blogged more about this in my post “Just Because You Said It, Doesn’t Mean They Learned It” but the basic premise being that unless students can link to prior knowledge, generate, create, discuss, find purpose, incorporate their learning styles, work with peers, reflect, think critically, infer and reflect, they are not truly learning and the teachers is not teaching for understanding.

* Robert Marzano and his book The Art and Style of Teaching have had a significant influence on my information and understanding in student learning.

Enhanced by Zemanta

How To Make Sure Your Students Are Learning

As the school year began, I ordered two books with the intent of learning and implementing practices designed to Enhance Professional Practice.  Charlotte Danielson has written a couple of editions of The Handbook for Enhancing Professional Practice and these were the books I would guide my learning with.

Cover of "Enhancing Professional Practice...

Cover via Amazon

As I started into the the first book, it began with Evidence of Teaching.  Danielson believes three sources of information comprise evidence of teaching: observation, conversation, and artifacts.  She goes on to describe each of these sources and how they contribute to evidence of teaching,

As I read the chapter, I could not help but think about using this framework in a different way;



Over the past year, as a school staff we have worked to understand Formative Assessment.  We have looked at the components and values and worked on ways to use Formative Assessment in the classroom.

Using the framework created by Danielson, it was clear that evidence of teaching, could also be used to describe evidence of learning through formative assessment.

That is,

Evidence of Learning is comprised of Observation, Conversation, and Artifacts.


Together with the amazing staff at Erin Woods School and AISI Learning Leader Angie F., we then worked to understand each of these sources.  We sat together as a staff and talked about each of these sources of evidence and what they looked like in the elementary classroom.

OBSERVATION – while observing students engaged in meaningful tasks, look for:

  • Are they staying on topic?
  • Is re-teaching required?
  • Do you often re-direct?
  • Can they extend further? Or in a different way?
  • Should you provide resources?
  • Are they using prev. learned skills? Or personal connections?
  • Do they demonstrate understanding?

CONVERSATION – as you talk to students about there learning, listen for:

  • Do they use specific content vocabulary?
  • Are the students asking relevant questions?
  • Can they explain why?
  • Expressions/language demonstrates understanding.
  • Can they express connections to previous or

personal knowledge?

  • Are they expressing additional interests or viewpoints

about the topic?

ARTIFACTS – as you collect documents or student work, look for:

  • Compare to rubrics.
  • Did they know and meet criteria?
  • Demonstrate understanding
  • Is re-teaching required? for who? for what?
  • Did they edit/fix up based on feedback?

To support our thinking, a visual was created with the above information.

As we developed our understanding of the three sources of data, it became evident that in order to make a thorough, well-rounded assessment of a students progress all three sources or data are required.  Simply using one or two of the sources is not truly sufficient to fully understand the learner and assess progress.

As we move along in our professional development in this area remains:

What will we do with all of this data we have collected?

What do you do with all the data you collect?

Enhanced by Zemanta
  • Previous Posts

  • Goodreads

  • Blog Stats

    • 7,021 hits
  • Memberships

    Follow lorilynnrecullen on Twitter
    At the Principal's Office Find this blog in the education blogs directory