December = the acceleration of time

While the wall calendar may show December as one of the longest months of the year with a chart topping 31 days, all teachers know that the number of full “regular” teaching days that you get in December is almost countable on one hand. Weather-related disruptions and special events seem to be the default in December. This is one reason why I love teaching in December…when everything and everybody else is in a state of constant discombobulation, I find the classroom to be my island of sanity. Once I get into the classroom, the craziness, and disruption that is December disappears. I can focus on the things that really matter…teaching and learning…my passions. Eventually, the period does end and I need to poke my head out into the “real” world and join the rat race, but for those 75 minutes, all is good.

At the risk of adding to one more thing (or 4 perhaps!) to your already full plate, here are this week’s Friday 4 nuggets. Find a quiet place, click on one of the links and pretend that you are in your classroom where you are insulated, at least a little bit, from the outside world.

  • Soon after I wrote the piece on retrieval practice (RP) for the Learning and the Brain blog, I ran across yet another reason for intentionally incorporating RP into our courses. The article “Practice testing protects memory against stress” appears on the TuftsNow website and describes a recent study that was published in the journal Science. If you have been at Loomis for more than 3 years, you may recognize a former student in the video clip that accompanies the article!
  • Are your students dragging a bit in the long blocks? Perhaps you are not proving enough “brain breaks” for them during the period. In a recent piece on the Edutopia website, one of my favorite neurologist/teachers, Judy Willis, explains the neuroscience of brain breaks and how to incorporate them into a lesson.
  • Assessment is a particularly germane topic during this stretch of the calendar year as we approach a longer break and many teachers are trying to complete a “unit” before the vacation. 34 Strategies For The Stages Of Assessment: Before, During & After might offer up a few new ideas for how you can effectively plan for and use assessments of and for learning.
  • Most would agree that the ultimate goal of learning is for students to be able to transfer new knowledge and skills to new and different situations without being prompted or being shown how to do “it.” I happened to run across a wonderful blog post from the late Grant Wiggins that does a good job of explaining what transfer is and is not. This piece ties in nicely with the previous one on assessment.

Enjoy this week’s items and your classroom in December!

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