Remembering and Learning from Newtown

concert_for_newtownTeachers are among those most moved and affected by the violence and suffering at Newtown one year ago.  To honor the anniversary of the Newtown tragedy — December 14 — at 6pm, WGBY airs a tearful yet joyful concert, filled with love and a powerful sense of the Newtown community’s commitment to fulfilling the Sandy Hook Promise — to be remembered not as the place where tragedy occurred but as the place where transformational change began.   In addition to this moving anniversary tribute, you can find resources for grades 9-12 to teach and learn about Newtown and its aftermath. Continue reading

Teaching and Learning About Nelson Mandela

RememberMandela“No one is born hating another person . . . if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.”  Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)

It is with sadness that we learn of Nelson Mandela’s passing.  To have lived in the time of this great leader is a privilege, and to teach about his life and legacy can inspire students with his sacrifices, vision and achievements.

As the world responds to Nelson Mandela’s passing, FRONTLINE is making The Long Walk of Nelson Mandela — its definitive two-hour documentary film on the remarkable leader — available to watch online for the very first time at PBS Video.  The film tells the intimate and surprising story of a Mandela few people knew:  a bomb-throwing revolutionary who became a skilled politician in prison, and a passionate man who sacrificed the love of his life for a country that needed him more.  At Frontline’s website, you can download the Viewers’ and Teachers’ Guide that accompanies the film.

Also, a lesson plan for grades 6-12, Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela:  The Battle to End Apartheid is available at PBS LearningMedia.  It includes video clips from  the POV film that features the lives of 12 black South African exiles who left their home in 1960 to pursue educational opportunities, tell the world about the brutality of the apartheid system and raise support for the fledgling African National Congress (ANC) and its leader Nelson Mandela.

We Thank You

choose_btm_04Over this long weekend that celebrates Thanksgiving, we want to thank our readers for their work educating young people.   Some, unaware of the dedication and determination it takes to be effective teachers, may joke about the number of days off in a school calendar.  From 30+ years of  teaching, I know that these breaks are needed to refresh ourselves, renew our energy, and reflect on our practice.

Practice teaching is not just a 6 or 8 week assignment but a lifetime of daily caring for students, believing in their potential, and cultivating their young minds.  Angela Duckworth says in the PBS TED Talks Education special that “Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”  Lasting success in any field takes grit and determination for long-term goals, and often teachers never know how their work affects students’ futures.

So we thank you and hope you enjoy these precious moments with family and friends.  We’ll be here for you again on Monday to support you in your practice.

Free Assessment Tools for Measuring One-on-One Programs

KidTablet_ResizedOne-to-one initiatives are touted for their ability to engage students and help them cultivate valuable tech skills they will carry with them to college and the workforce. But teachers and administrators must make sure that technology used in one-to-one initiatives is used properly as a tool to enhance teaching and learning.  In the November 5th issue of eSchool news, Laura Devaney, Managing Editor, reports on eight free assessment tools available for measuring your one-to-one programs.

Read the entire article by clicking here.

3 Design Squad Challenges To Teach Problem-Solving

imagesOne of the BIG lessons we can teach students is to be confident in their problem solving, especially when they make mistakes or have undesirable outcomes.  Since it’s never too soon to be determined and dauntless in tackling challenges, here are three challenges from Design Squad for budding engineers, even when they don’t think they can be scientists someday.

Teach your students to build their own mini robot out of a toothbrush head, a coin battery and a pager motor. Follow this link to a how-to video and step-by-step instructions.

Challenge your students to design and build an airbag system that can safely land an egg dropped onto the floor. Follow this link to a how-to video and this link to step-by-step instructions.

Students will love building this dance pad that helps them move to the rhythm and step to the beat! Follow this link to a how-to video and this link to step-by-step instructions.

Martha Speaks For Thanksgiving and Literacy

indexProduced by WGBH in Boston, Martha Speaks is a fantastic PBS Kids program that takes its name from a beloved dog, Martha, who can talk.  Why?  Because she eats alphabet soup!  And with so many letters in her head, Martha effectively teaches children new vocabulary words, some of which will astonish you.

At the start of the holiday season, children will immediately warm to the family-themed MARTHA’S THANKSGIVING, a special episode where Martha searches for her long-lost canine family as her owner, Helen, has an extended family coming together for Thanksgiving.   The program airs on WGBY this Monday, November 25, and again on Thanksgiving Day at 6:30am, a time that usually finds kids ready to start their day!

Parents and teachers don’t have to rise early to discover the great learning resources that accompany Martha Speaks.  At the Martha Speaks Parent and Teacher’s  website, you’ll find expert research and activities as well as curriculum for Martha Speaks Reading Buddies and Martha Speaks Read Aloud Book Club — all great resources that support students oral vocabulary growth.

Design Squads’ November Challenge to Build It Better

While a recently posted Design Squad challenge has closed, here’s another with 25 days left to enter!  Design Squad invites students to enter their Build It Better challenge — to design improvements to things that they use everyday.  During the month of November, the series is presenting three themed design challenges along with matching photos to get students started. Students can use their sketch-on-sketch feature to sketch designs and improvements on top of the provided photos to show how they would make the original item better.

Approved designs will be shared on the Design Squad website and kids can use stickers to vote for their favorites. Nate and Deysi, the show’s motivating engineer hosts, will also share their top picks for each theme on the website. At the end of the month, the designs with the most votes, plus a few that Nate and Deysi choose, will get special virtual stickers to use on their website!

Themes Include:


Watch this video and visit Design Squad’s website to learn more.

Five Education Trends for the New School Year

backtoschoolresizedTrends in education are always appearing, such as iPads and online testing (and remember virtual reality classrooms?).  With recent developments in national standards and a new federal emphasis on equity, the 2013-14 school year will have a set of trends all its own.

In the August 23 issue of eSchool News, Meris Stansbury, Associate Editor, reports that from issues surrounding Common Core State Standards implementation and flipped learning assessments to the number of tools available to create customized, affordable ebooks, educators and administrators this year will certainly have their hands full adapting to these national education trends.  With trends such as these detailed in the article, you’ll also find useful links.

Read the full story by clicking here.

Featured TED Education Talk — Salman Khan: Let’s Use Video to Reinvent Education

imagesPerhaps you’re familiar with Khan Academy and its founder,  Salman Khan.  According to the TED: Ideas Worth Spreading website, the  mission of the not-for-profit Khan Academy is to provide a world-class education for free to anyone in the world.

Formerly a hedge fund senior analyst who also worked in technology and venture capital, Khan has impressive credentials with an MBA from Harvard Business School, an M.Eng and B.S. in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT, and a B.S. in mathematics from MIT.  Equally impressive is his ability to simplify course content so that self-paced learners understand in ways that motivate and inspire them.  Over 1 million students visit the site per month to view his 2000+ video tutorials on everything from basic addition to advanced calculus, physics, chemistry and biology.

In his 2011 TED Talk Let’s use video to reinvent education, Khan discusses the inevitable learning gaps of one-size-fits-all classroom learning and the use of his tutorials to flip the classroom, leaving students to view the lesson/lecture at home and freeing teachers to facilitate one-on-one classroom learning, including the use of assessment tools that lead to true growth.  At the end of Salmon’s talk and a long standing ovation, Bill Gates joins him on stage for a Q & A session that we think you’ll also want to see.

We’d love to hear your thoughts about this or another TED talk as well as flipping the classroom.

Featured Educator: Nicholas Bernier – The Importance of Relationships & Reflections

indexThis week we’re profiling Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award recipient Nicholas Bernier, who teaches seventh-grade social studies at Agawam High School.   As you’ll read in his responses to questions we posed to him this spring, Nicholas knows the importance of nurturing positive relationships with students and reflecting honestly about his practice.

What support did you receive, or wish you had received, early in your career?  I received all of the support I could ask for from my colleagues and principal at St. Mary’s Academy in Longmeadow.  I worked closely with teachers there and learned the in’s and out’s of the profession that one cannot learn in college.

What keeps you enthusiastic about teaching/education, and where do you find inspiration?  Seeing students grow into young adults, become more independent, and discover things about the world is very inspirational.  Being a part of that keeps me enthusiastic.

Who has been a role model for you and why?  My parents gave me all of the tools that I needed to succeed and taught me how to have a good work ethic.  For this, I would consider them to be role models.

What do you find helps you to effectively interact with students?  Forming positive relationships is a good start.  Also, when any sort of negative interaction occurs, ensuring that it is discussed and fixed so there can be closure and the student knows that there is no grudge.  Younger kids sometimes think that when one thing happens, then you dislike them for the rest of the year.  It is crucial that they know that all is well between you.  Also, caring goes a long way.  A student can sense who cares about them like a dog can sense fear.  If a student feels cared about, they will work hard for you and you will get along great.

What is some of the best advice you’ve been given? Or what is a favorite quotation?  My mentor teacher, Lesley Brodeur once told me that in teaching, you will often question things that you do or how you may have handled something, but if you can go to bed at night and put your head on the pillow and know that you have done a good job, that’s all that matters.  If you are honest with yourself when you reflect, you can continue to become a better teacher.