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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Website for School Leaders Using Data to Improve Instruction!

CURRENT SITE OF THE WEEK - Courtesy of eschool

  Site of the Week New website helps school leaders use data to improve instruction
The Center for Public Education has launched a new website,, designed to help school leaders use data and research to improve student learning and school effectiveness. "School board members and others need solid evidence and facts in order to make tough decisions," said Patte Barth, the center's director. [ Read More ]

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Learning Strategies - Are we meeting every child's needs?

An intelligence is the ability to solve problems, or to create products, that are


                within one or more cultural settings. 
During the 21st century our medical research lead us as a culture to focus on a new understanding of the brain - physiologically.  In other words, we now had to take a hard look at truths revealed through science about how learning occurs.  Howard Gardner's work was pivotal in this area when he identified 7 intelligences (8 now) and scrutinized how this information should impact our classrooms.  His perspective was based on a global view of cultures - rather than a national one.  This lead to the identification of several essential truths about learning.

Here is a summary of the U.S. implementation, taken from Education World.

"When asked how educators should implement the theory of multiple intelligences, Gardner says, '(I)t's very important that a teacher take individual differences among kids very seriously … The bottom line is a deep interest in children and how their minds are different from one another, and in helping them use their minds well.'
An awareness of multiple-intelligence theory has stimulated teachers to find more ways of helping all students in their classes. Some schools do this by adapting curriculum. In "Variations on a Theme: How Teachers Interpret MI Theory," (Educational Leadership, September 1997), Linda Campbell describes five approaches to curriculum change:
  • Lesson design. Some schools focus on lesson design. This might involve team teaching ("teachers focusing on their own intelligence strengths"), using all or several of the intelligences in their lessons, or asking student opinions about the best way to teach and learn certain topics.
  • Interdisciplinary units. Secondary schools often include interdisciplinary units.
  • Student projects. Students can learn to "initiate and manage complex projects" when they are creating student projects.
  • Assessments. Assessments are devised which allow students to show what they have learned. Sometimes this takes the form of allowing each student to devise the way he or she will be assessed, while meeting the teacher's criteria for quality.
  • Apprenticeships. Apprenticeships can allow students to "gain mastery of a valued skill gradually, with effort and discipline over time." Gardner feels that apprenticeships "…should take up about one-third of a student's schooling experience."
With an understanding of Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences, teachers, school administrators, and parents can better understand the learners in their midst. They can allow students to safely explore and learn in many ways, and they can help students direct their own learning. Adults can help students understand and appreciate their strengths, and identify real-world activities that will stimulate more learning."

Author: Anne Guigon

One of the challenges we need as educators to address is a balance of opportunities for all children to learnThis is often difficult for two reasons:
  1. we teach the way we learn or have been taught
  2. we don't know what type of intelligence we possess and don't recognize the students' learning styles as separate from ourselves.
Here is a link - Multiple Intelligences - that will allow you to take a quick online assessment that will identify your learning style.  I suggest you take a few minutes to log in and complete the survey and then reflect on the mode of learning you teach to in your classroom.

Could it be students fail because they can not process and comprehend the information/process we teach them due to their learning styles?

I a time of assessment, assessment, assessment, this is a question that needs to be asked.

For further information on Howard Gardner go to: Concept to Classroom  

Monday, November 29, 2010

Educators question whether they should comply with NCLB

Following is an article courtesy of ASCD.  It is interesting to read.  Many teachers have felt this way. Please read and share your thoughts.

Educators question whether they should comply with NCLB
Despite a requirement in the No Child Left Behind federal law that all students test at or above grade level in reading and math by 2014, more educators believe that 100% proficiency is unreachable. NCLB's rigid benchmarks and lack of flexibility make some educators wonder whether the law is losing its relevancy. Billings Gazette (Mont.) (11/28) LinkedInFacebookTwitter

Thursday, November 11, 2010

ASCD shares resources on the Common Core State Standards

Communication to teachers regarding common core and the process involved in adopting it has been minimum at best.  ASCD has organized information and made it available to everyone.  This resource will be updated on a regular basis.

Take a look and follow the implementation.

ASCD has developed an online resource page intended to keep educators abreast of the latest common-core developments. A prominently featured map tracks state-by-state adoption of the standards. Additional resources include links to existing ASCD information on instruction, curriculum and assessment, and a PDF backgrounder on the initiative. The backgrounder explains why the standards were developed, implementation steps states adopting the common core will have to take and issues to further consider. The page will be updated as new information becomes available. Access now. LinkedInFacebookTwitterEmail this Story

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Webinars on Common Core for Maine Teachers

On Wednesday, November 3, Lee Anne Larsen, Literacy Specialist, and I
will present a webinar to review material presented during the recent
Common Core State Standards Introduction workshop.  The purpose is to
walk through what is available on our website, review suggestions for
how to approach the CCSS work this year, and share strategies for
getting started with this work - what to do and what not to do!

The webinar begins at 3:00 and will not last more than an hour.  It will
include a time for questions (and answers if they are available).

Nov 3 - Introduction: [

On Wednesday, December 7, we will present a webinar about the contents
of the CCSS bibliographies, resources which should be mined for their
timely information.  This will also begin at 3:00 and will last less
than an hour.

Dec 7 - Bibliographies: [

You do not need to register for these webinars.  Just click on the link
above shortly before the start time.

Thank you.

Patsy Dunton

English Language Arts Specialist

Midcoast Regional Representative

Maine Department of Education

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Narrowing the Achievement Gap in Schools - Great Reads!

Address the Achievement Gap
at Your School

Take a look at the books by Jensen and Marazano.  They might make great book study groups:)

 A forthcoming new ASCD book Raising Black Students' Achievement through Culturally Responsive Teaching by Johnnie McKinley.

This new book, due out in early November, describes a whole-school plan for raising the achievement of black students. Drawing from her work with teachers and school leaders who have narrowed achievement gaps in their schools, Johnnie McKinley lays out the instructional, management, and assessment strategies that make you far more effective at educating these chronically underserved students. As McKinley takes you through the steps of creating a teacher team and instructional walkthroughs, she imparts essential principles of culturally responsive teaching.

Or check out these best-sellers available at regular member low prices:

Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids' Brains and What Schools Can Do About It by Eric Jensen

Motivating Black Males to Achieve in School and in Life by Baruti K. Kafele

Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement: Research on What Works in Schools by Robert J. Marzano
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Saturday, September 25, 2010

A New Series on Educating our Children for a Globalized World - September 26th

Educating our children for a globalized world
People to People Ambassador Programs joins NBC to enhance American education

People to People Ambassador
Programs is proud to be a sponsor of NBC News Education Nation, a nationally broadcast, in-depth conversation about improving education in America. We join partners like Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to explore how American schools can best prepare students to compete in a globalized world.

This event is bringing together leaders in the educational world—including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and President of MIT Susan Hockfield—to share solutions and strategies. NBC News will provide coverage throughout the week of September 26 to empower Americans in all fields to work toward a quality education for the coming generations.

NBC News Education NationWhy we’re involved
If we want to provide students with a competitive edge in a global economy, we must first give them some insights into that wider world. Because international education and awareness are at the heart of People to People Ambassador Programs, this summit “offers a great opportunity for us to contribute our own expertise as a global educator,” says President Peg Thomas.

Thomas believes that past Ambassadors provide some of the best arguments for the value of education. “Our students gain firsthand insights into what life is like for the students they meet in China, in Germany—all over the world. I think they come home inspired to challenge themselves academically.”

2010’s National Teacher of the Year, Sarah Brown Wessling, agrees: “I can expose students through literature to new cultures, religions, and many different things, but there’s something unique about the actual experience. It provides a new blueprint for thinking and opens [students’] eyes to the world.”

About the summit
The Education Nation event kicks off with a Teacher Town Hall*, hosted by NBC News anchor Brian Williams, airing live on MSNBC this Sunday, September 26, at 12 p.m. EDT. The summit continues through the week, featuring:
  • An address by Gen. Colin Powell, founding chairman of America’s Promise Alliance.
  • A series of exhibits at Rockefeller Plaza introducing the public to the lifelong effects of education and the innovations available to future generations.
  • Twelve specialized summits on important issues such as technology, teacher training, and workforce readiness. Dr. David Livermore, a cultural intelligence expert who has been working closely with People to People Ambassadors, has been invited to participate in the Study Abroad summit.

What you can do
Please join us in this vital effort. First, tune in to NBC broadcasts throughout the coming week to inform yourself about developments in education for the 21st century. Then, determine where you can make a difference, whether it’s volunteering in your local public school or championing changes to policies and standards.

However you choose to take part, your contribution will have lasting effects. For Thomas, “working together in this arena not only enhances the future for your child and mine, but for our world.”

*Educators, take note: You have the opportunity to lend your own influence to this important conversation. Whether you are a delegation leader or a friend of People to People, we encourage you to log in to the Teacher Town Hall on Sunday by registering here.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Teaching Similes, Synonyms, Homophones, and Metaphors

Here is a article with texts - picture books - for teaching similes, synonyms, homophones, and metaphors.  This is applicable to all ages and helps students visualize.  This is shared through the courtesy of Choice Literacy.
Can teaching similes, synonyms, homophones and metaphors be fun?  It sure can if you know the right children's books to use as mentor texts.  Franki Sibberson shares her favorites for language study and word work in a new booklist:
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Friday, September 17, 2010

Re-organizing for Success

Here is a model for helping all students achieve to their fullest potential, courtesy of ASCD Smart Brief.

High-poverty Texas school finds formula for success
More than 90% of students at the high-poverty John Haley Elementary School in Irving, Texas, achieved proficiency on state tests and earned their school an "exemplary" rating. School principal Robyn Bowling -- who has been at the school for 15 years -- credits parent-education programs, after-school activities and hard work by teachers as factors responsible for the success of the students, the majority of whom are economically disadvantaged and English-language learners. The Dallas Morning News Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Literacy Resources for Teachers!

Here are some resources for school start up, courtesy of IRA.
Sign up for FREE Webinars on Comprehension: IRA is bringing great professional development  to your desktop this fall with free, interactive webinars on comprehension. The first program, The Foundational Roles of Vocabulary and Comprehension in Early Literacy, will be hosted September 30 from 8:00–9:00 p.m. Eastern time by Lesley Morrow (right) and Billie Enz, nationally known experts on early learning. Morrow is the editor of IRA’s Preschool Literacy Collection; she and Enz coauthored the book Assessing Preschool Literacy Development: Informal and Formal Measures to Guide Instruction. Click here to learn more about the webinar and to register. Registration is limited to 100 people, so sign up today. Coming up later this fall: Doug Fisher and Diane Lapp on comprehension and teacher modeling, and Lori Oczkus on reciprocal teaching. Details to come.

Thinkfinity Releases Back to School Mini-site: Verizon Thinkfinity's new Back to School mini-site is packed with resources to help educators set the tone for a successful school year: tools to support innovative uses of technology by students, cross-curricular lessons and activities, resources to help build community in the classroom, professional development opportunities and materials, and information  on staying connected through the Thinkfinity Community. Check out all these and other free resources on the Verizon Thinkfinity website. IRA is one of the content partners for Verizon Thinkfinity, partnering with the National Council of Teachers of English on the popular website, which offers language arts lesson plans and other resources for K-12 educators. 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Advancing Students - Some Questions Raised by a National Study

In this country we are presently faced with a dilemma.  We are eager to have our students prepared to compete at the college level, but more and more students are coming in with low basic skills.  Recently, the Hechinger Report,  a national study, raised some important questions we need to address - especially with reduced school budgets.

The main question they pose deals with their key findings:

"But with high expectations come stumbling blocks. One important lesson that early-college programs have learned is that some students who are short on basic skills or maturity simply aren’t ready for college courses."

This report thoroughly and objectively looks at our practices and examines what best prepares students for success in college.  I strongly urge all teachers to take a look at this - especially high school and middle school - and think about how it effects your students.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Differentiation - Lexiles in the Classroom and Summer School

My last post on July 5, 2010, dealt with collaboration in effective schools.  Recently, when I visited Winthrop Elementary school I observed collaboration at its best for students.  

I stopped to visit Bill Giasson, a third grade teacher.  He is working with students in summer school as well as working in his classroom throughout the summer - preping for his incoming class.  Bill does this every year - focusing on his students' needs and tracking down info.  He realizes how crucial literacy is for his students and has been thinking about how to support his students' literacy acquisition.  

This year, he has decided to organize his classroom library according to lexiles - taken from the NWEA.  He has labeled his totes and organized his books accordingly.  He has arranged the lexiles with an overlap on each end so students don't slot themselves as 200's or 600's.  Further, he has separated and labeled the fiction and nonfiction.  Third grade embeds nonfiction in its curriculum so students need extra support in this area. 

This organization allows students to practice at an appropriate levels and assures growth. 

This process can be easily applied in all grades where student lexiles are available.

The title 1 program uses the DRA and appropriate guided reading levels.  This is coordinated through the co-relation chart that follows.

Holly Lachance, title 1 coordinator, has organized the book room for K-5 staff in Winthrop and provides them with this co-relation chart, enabling them to use all of the measures provided by assessments used in the school system.  

A perfect example of the power of collaboration.

For further information on Lexiles, go to:

This approach to differentiation can be used effectively at all grade levels - and used to support our most challenged readers.  Practicing on the appropriate level of reading assures growth.   Best practices work!

Monday, July 5, 2010

SIG in Maine

Like most federal laws in education, states are asked to interpret - often modifying - the law and then pass it for their individual states and circumstances.  Following is some information on SIG grants in Maine released by the DOE in the following press release.

Maine DOE: Federal Funds Available for Persistently Low Achieving Schools

10 schools identified under federal criteria
March 9, 2010
"AUGUSTA – Maine Education Commissioner Sue Gendron on Tuesday released a list of 10 “persistently lowest-achieving schools,” as defined by federal criteria – schools that will now be eligible for a share of $12 million in federal school improvement grants.
The 10 schools have low levels of proficiency in math and reading over a three year period and a low level of improvement.
The schools are eligible to apply for a share of the school improvement grants for up to three years, provided they agree to pursue an aggressive plan for turning around the school. Under federal guidelines, they would have to agree to one of the following models: redesign or replace the school; convert the school to a charter school; transform the school through comprehensive reforms; or close the school and transfer students to higher performing schools in the district.
The charter school model option is not permissible under Maine law. Of the remaining three models, the transformation model may be the most common option in Maine. Specifically, it requires: replacing principals who have been at the school over two years and taking steps to increase teacher and school leader effectiveness; instituting comprehensive instructional reforms; increasing learning time; and providing operational flexibility and support to the school.
“This is an incredible opportunity for schools,” Gendron said. “The opportunities it creates for kids are significant.”
Gendron emphasized that the state will work with the 10 schools to develop plans for improving student performance. None of the 10 schools is required to apply for the grant money.
As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Maine was required to identify the five schools with the lowest combined performance on reading and mathematics assessments in each of two different groups:
Title I schools that have not made progress according to NCLB for two or more years; and High schools that are eligible for Title I funds but whose districts are using those funds in other schools.
Maine was also required to identify high schools with graduation rates below 60 percent in 2009. Maine has none that meet that criterion.
Gendron emphasized that the 10 schools are from two specific groups only."

The specifics of the grant have been presented in an archived webinar presented by Rochelle Tome.

Take a look as see how it applies to our state.  Notice we decided against the charter school option.

Whether your school has been identified or not, this is important information for all Maine teachers.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


The SIG Grant was introduced to Maine schools in the late spring.  Given the press and the short turn around time, there was not a clear understanding of the process or the rationale.

Here is a link to a video produced and provided by the U.S. Department of Education on the purpose of the SIG Grants and the options involved.

The video covers all grade levels.  Many of the schools are urban.  Please keep in mind, the common denominator in the majority of under performing schools is poverty.  

I hope this will help dispel some of the misunderstandings.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Vocabulary - UGH! - 100 Most Commonly Used SAT Words!

As the SAT results come rolling in, many teachers and staffs are reviewing them and thinking about how they will be helping students improve for next year.  Here are some suggestions that might help.

1.  Focus on the 100 most common SAT words.  Here are three sites that are free and provide the information you need.  Consider dividing the list among teachers and grade levels.

100 Most Common SAT Words  by Your Dictionary. com provides a list of the words as well as their definitions.

Surfing the Net With Kids  has a series of vocabulary games (at the bottom of the page) for kids to practice the SAT words and definitions.

Quizlet  provides games, flashcards, and a list with definitions.

2.  Consider using other sources that complement the above information.  Kids love these sites!  The information they present is often required on the SAT.  Sharing this verbally will be helpful for kids. Modeling the thinking strategies that accompany the information is crucial.

Other sources that work with vocabulary are:


This site provides a web of related words using a color code.  Students are often asked to use synonyms and antonyms on the SAT and in vocabulary work in general.

Foreign language terms can also be submitted - great for Spanish, French, classes.

 This site webs words, with a focus on parts of speech and  derivations of the original word - another strategy sometimes required on the SAT and in vocabulary work in general.

3.  Begin your students - as a part of your class - on the free Maine SAT prep course.  It is beneficial and given over time can become a part of your class.  You will find a number of resources on this page that should help your students.

In order to participate in this, your tech person needs to register your school and get passwords for you and your students.  The earlier you do this the better.  It is not intended to be a cram session for your students.

Good luck!
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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

TogetheRead home - A Great Site for Teachers

Teacher's First provided a link to the following site.  

It is a great site for summer reading, but could be used all year long.

It is has monthly topics and postings with ideas for family reading.  This month's topic is technology.

It addresses all levels of readers - providing a resource for differentiated reading levels on the same theme.

Many CIPS schools are encouraged to take time to create  home-school literacy activities in order to provide home support for students.

I thought this might be a good resource for those of you interested in:
  1. encouraging parents and kids to read together. 
  2. differentiating reading levels around common themes.

TogetheReadTip of the month:
After you read each day, ask each person in the family to draw a 30 second sketch that reminds them of what they read that day. Stick figures or very simple drawings are just fine! Then ask each person to explain his/her drawing to the rest of the family. Keep the drawings to form little booklets of "remembrance drawings" for each book you have read.
This month's TogetheRead: Technology On and Off
It is impossible to ignore technology in our daily lives, from cell phones, to laptops, to AED’s, to digital photographs. Enjoy the people and animals of today’s technological world as they enjoy -- and also do battle -- with the inventions of our digital age.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Summer Reading to Maintain and Accelerate Readers!

Following is a great way to help students select an appropriate list of books for the summer!  This might be a great end of the year project.  

Matching students' lexiles with books for selected summer reading will help your students maintain and/or accelerate their reading levels.

This is appropriate for all age levels - although the photos displayed on this ad only include young children.

Good luck.

"Find a Book" — The  simplest way to help a child select 
great books to read this summer!
      Forward to a friend >> 
May 26, 2010    
As children await summer break, make sure they start their vacation with a list of great books to read.
The "Find a Book" search is the quickest and easiest way to help young readers select books that will pique their interests and help them build literacy skills while away from school. Studies show that students who read books at their Lexile® level and on the topics they choose can achieve similar reading growth as students who attend summer school.
"Find a Book" was made for summer reading
"Find a Book" is the perfect complement to your summer reading plans. You can use the free online book search to help children build their own reading lists or to supplement a booklist from your school district or public library. Plus, with built-in links to WorldCat and Barnes &, you can check a book's availability at your local public library or buy it directly online.
"Find a Book"Five simple steps. One custom reading list.
1. Go to
2. Enter/estimate the child's Lexile range
3. Choose the child's interests
4. View/refine the search results
5. Print the child's custom reading list

Whether a child is looking to explore the farthest galaxies, or his or her own backyard treasures, "
Find a Book" will help you build a personal reading list on the subjects that matter most to the child.
For more information on using Lexile measures to support summer reading—and to create custom booklists with "Find a Book"—visit
Click here to download and distribute the "Find a Book" flyer (PDF, 400KB).
Please note: A Lexile measure is a measure of text complexity. It does not address the subject matter or quality of the text, age-appropriateness of the content, or the reader's interests. The Lexile measure is a good starting point in picking a book. Educators and parents should always preview books.
MetaMetrics President talks about Summer Reading on Oklahoma TV Show
MetaMetrics President and co-founder Malbert Smith discusses the importance of summer reading on this month's episode of 2010 Results: Oklahoma's Education Report Card with Superintendent Garrett.
MetaMetrics®, the MetaMetrics logo and tagline, Lexile®, Lexile Framework® and the Lexile® logo are trademarks of MetaMetrics, Inc., and are registered in the United States and abroad. Copyright © 2010 MetaMetrics, Inc. All rights reserved.