Pre-Mother’s Day Friday 4


The thermometer is expected to crack 30 this afternoon and I am ecstatic! (That would be 30 degrees Celsius and not Fahrenheit for those of you who have not yet converted to the metric system.) Warm weather is a mixed blessing as most teachers will attest….nice to be able to shed the winter clothing for spring duds; but if it gets too hot, students and teachers alike can struggle to remain focused in toasty classrooms. I can think of no better way to beat the May heat than a new edition of the Friday 4, so here you go…

Spring has (almost) sprung!


While it may only be 41 degrees Fahrenheit outside today, the end of winter is definitely within sight; I can see more grass than snow on my JV Baseball field, and we are in full-fledged mud mode around campus. After a long, long winter, it is time to recharge the batteries and forge ahead with a sense optimism that only the spring term can evoke. In this week’s Friday 4, I have a couple of articles, a couple of resources for new lesson plans or ideas, 12 Google search tricks and a final thought provoking piece that should generate some discussion around the water cooler. I have not posted  a Friday 4 in a few weeks so I took the liberty of going beyond four items.

  • The all-school read for the Loomis Chaffee community next year is actually a listen to the “Serial” podcast. There just happened to be a nice piece on the Mind/Shift website earlier this month about how teachers are incorporating the podcast into their lessons. Perfect timing if you ask me! What Teens are Learning From ‘Serial’ and Other Podcasts
  • Why Kids Need to Move, Touch and Experience to Learn appeared on the Mind/Shift website this week and includes some good reminders about the connection between the body and the brain in learning.
  • Looking for some short but pithy audio clips to spice up your classes? “Listen Current makes it easy to bring authentic voices and compelling non-fiction stories to the classroom. We curate the best of public radio to keep teaching connected to the real world and build student listening skills at the same time.” Signing up for a free account will also give you access to additional resources for using the clips in your classroom. Worth a look and listen!
  • Looking for a new way to introduce or teach a topic that is getting a little stale? Check out Activate Instruction, a free website that contains a wide range of resources from all of the core disciplines.
  • 12 Google Search Tricks You Probably Didn’t Know is a recent post from the Google Guru website. You will certainly impress your peers and your students if you add a few of these arrows to your search quiver.
  • The thought provoking piece is from the recent Atlantic Magazine and is titled The Deconstruction of the K-12 Teacher. The questions raised in the article are ones that all serious schools and teachers should be discussing if we are to remain relevant in today’s educational landscape.


Fed up with February

4fingersI am not sure how much longer I can take the brutally cold weather. I consider myself a “hearty New Englander” but this February has been ridiculous. To come downstairs in the morning and see the thermostat read 49 degrees Fahrenheit is the epitome of depressing. Many educators, particularly those who teach in snowy environments, will confess that the month of February is frequently one of the most difficult months of the school year. Never-ending cold weather, darkness at 5 PM and “cabin fever” all contribute to the challenges of teaching and learning in February. What is a teacher to do? How about slowing down and taking some time to reflect on the things that really matter. In this week’s edition of the Friday 4, I offer up a few pieces that I have run across of late that have helped me to deal with the February blues. Remember, spring is just around the corner!
  • Slowing Down to Learn: Mindful Pauses That Can Help Student Engagement is a piece from the Mind/Shift website that offers some concrete suggestions for ways to address the challenging topic of wait time in the classroom.
  • Students Assessing Teachers: 10 Critical Questions is a piece from the Brilliant or Insane website that I found to be unique in its suggestions about how to utilize students in the assessment of teachers. I am always looking for ways to tap into the experiences of my students to improve my practice and will definitely incorporate a few of the questions from this piece in my end of term student survey.
  • Learning from Failure: Inspirational Stories for Teachers is another piece from the Brilliant or Insane website that was posted this past week that helped me to remember that sometimes we learn the most from our failures in the classroom. We encourage our students to embrace failure but sometimes forget to take our own advice. Be sure to click on the links in this story to see the footage from the Oprah show referenced in the piece.
  • 15 Surprising Discoveries About Learning is from the informED website and includes several good reminders about what really matters when it comes to teaching and learning.

I hope that you can use one or more of these pieces to help treat your case of the “February Blues” and remember what really matters during this the longest month of the year. Enjoy!


End of term time tidbits

4fingers For students and teachers, the month of November is a time of transition. The fall term is winding down which, for many of us, means that our students are preparing for exams and we are all eagerly looking forward to a well-deserved break that comes with the Thanksgiving holiday. To celebrate the end of fall, this week’s edition of the Friday Four features 2 items that all teachers can use with their students to help them be more reflective about the past term and to best prepare for any upcoming exams. With the prospect of a bit of down time on the horizon, I have also included 2 items for you to ponder over the mini break; one is a podcast interview with Elizabeth Green, the author of “Building a Better Teacher”, and the other is a call for proposals for an upcoming CAIS event.

  • Prompts to Help Students Reflect on How They Approach Learning is a piece that comes from the Faculty Focus website. The article provides many good prompts that can be used with students as they finish up the fall term to encourage them to be more metacognitive about their own learning.
  • Making it stick is a podcast of an interview with one of the authors of the book “Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning”. Students would be well served to employ several of the techniques mentioned in the podcast as they prepare for their upcoming final exams, and we should be sharing these tips with them.
  • What teachers need is another podcast from American RadioWorks that features Elizabeth Green. You will recognize Green from the New Yorker article that I included in last week’s Friday Four.
  • The CAIS (Connecticut Association of Independent Schools) is holding the annual “Teachers Helping Teachers” workshop on January 29 and is now accepting proposals. This workshop is a popular event every year and is a wonderful opportunity to learn something new or to share something with fellow colleagues. I encourage you to take a look at the sessions that were offered in January 2014 and submit a proposal for a session for this year.


Settling in to the fall

 The beginning of the fall term is by far the best part of the school year as far as I am concerned. The school year is still fresh and full of optimistic anticipation of transformative learning and “AHA!” moments. The students are not too tired yet, they come to class with their homework completed and they are eager to engage in the lesson for the day. I love September!

I did not post a Friday 4 last week as I was rolling out an ambitious Professional Learning Plan with the faculty at The Loomis Chaffee School and got busy with that. If you are interested in the plan, you can see the document here. I would love to hear any feedback you might have on the plan or suggestions for additional items that could be added that you do at your school.

This week’s interesting finds:

Enjoy and have a wonderful end to your September!

They’re back! I guess summer is really over.


Labor day is a distant memory. The blur of the opening faculty meetings can best described as being, well…”blurry.” The student leaders and pre-season athletes are arriving in waves, crashing on the shores of the Island that is known as Loomis Chaffee. I can count on one hand the number of days before the first day of classes. For all intents and purposes, that means that the 2014-2015 school year if actually under way.

This week’s Friday 4 is somewhat of a smorgasbord of items that have come my way via several different sources.

  • Our opening day of faculty meetings featured a presentation from our Head of School, Sheila Culbert (@SCulbertLC), who shared a list of books, articles and videos that had inspired her talk. She has shared that list which can be found here if you are interested.
  • Our second day of faculty meetings featured a wonderful presentation from Dr. Abigail Baird (@AbigailBaird), Associate Professor of Psychology at Vassar, about the teenage brain. At one point in the day, I was reminded about an article that appeared in National Geographic about the teenage brain that Dr. Baird was quoted in.
  • A colleague passed along a link to an article published in The Atlantic Magazine “How to Teach Kids About What’s Happening in Ferguson” that is a collection of crowd-sourced resources that classroom teachers might find useful.
  • The following blog post from Dan Meyer (@ddmeyer) came across my twitter feed today and captured my attention given the recent discussions we have been having at my school about access to upper level courses in our curriculum. Uri Treisman’s Magnificent Speech On Equity, Race, And The Opportunity To Learn
  • BONUS: A good reminder to all classroom teachers that despite our best efforts, sometimes we can not plan for Those Magical and Mysterious Learning Moments.

Enjoy and have a wonderful beginning to your school year!

Ready, set, go! Time for another fantastic year.

4fingersAs we make our final preparations to welcome a new crop of students into our classrooms, I would like to begin the year by sharing a few of the items that I curated over the summer. 

  • Making It Stick. A new book rethinks the hard distinction many teachers make between ‘memorizing’ and ‘thinking’ is an article that was actually published in April on the Chronicle of Higher Education website. I ran across the article after having already found and read the book Make it Stick that is the subject of the article. If you are intrigued by the article, I would highly recommend picking up a copy of the book.
  • Four Key Questions about Grading is a piece that appeared on the Faculty Focus website that offers a summary of a longer article that appeared in the summer edition of the Cell Biology Education – Life Sciences Education journal. Given the centrality of grading in education, the article is certainly relevant for most all teachers and their work with students.
  • Giving Student Feedback: 20 Tips To Do It Right is a piece that was actually posted in the summer of 2013 that came across my Twitter stream this August. Good reminders about the purpose and value of giving feedback as we begin the school year.
  • The Five Habits of Creative Teachers is an article that appeared on Education Week website in August that caught my eye. I was particularly intrigued by the link at the end of the article to join in on a free canvas course on the topic starting in October. I signed up and hope that a few of you might join me.

Enjoy the beginning of your school year!

A not quite Friday 4


  • New Study: SAT Scores Have No Bearing On College Success. For those of you who work with students who are college bound, this story and the study are quite interesting and worth sharing with our students.
  • How can we reverse the disturbing trend of gender imbalance in the STEM fields? Here is a nice little video that asks girls about their experiences in physics and a practical guide from the National Institute for Educational Research “Encouraging Girls in Math and Science.
  • I have had a number of people ask me for help in developing rubrics of late and truly enjoy the process of crafting the criteria for assessment as well as the descriptors for each level of performance. If you are not using rubrics and do not know how to start or just want a refresher course on the qualities of a good rubric, here is a great little online tutorial from the University of Colorado Denver that is quite good.
  • Ran across this news article that was shared on Twitter by  my brain science friend Dr. Judy Willis (@judywillis) that looks at Why Some Smartphone Games Are So AddictiveNot sure who Judy Willis is? Check out this little video from Jay McTighe (author and designer of the Understanding by Design approach) about Judy.
  • Looking for a way to organize your own research or help students organize research for an assignment in your class? Check out this option of using Google Slides from Richard Byrne (@rmbyrne) “How to Use Google Slides to Organize Research.

Snow Day Readings

Snow days are a mixed blessing for most teachers. While most enjoy the extra hour(s) of sleep and the brief respite from the craziness of the typical school day, the havoc a snow day can create in a well thought out and planned series of lessons is sometimes not worth it. In the spirit of the the glass being half full, I prefer to see snow days as a chance to catch up on my professional reading and treat it like a free day of self-directed professional development. Sounds a little better now doesn’t it?

If you do not already have a list of items on your “To Read” list, allow me to suggest a few to start you off that have crossed my radar of late and ended up in my Diigo Library. Enjoy the snow if you are experiencing a snow day or bookmark this post for the next time you find yourself with an unanticipated free PD day.

  • Four Student Misconceptions about Learning” is a short piece that appeared on the Faculty Focus website that is a nice little piece in its own, but the real gem is the link at the end of the article to a free download of an awesome book Applying Science of Learning in Education: Infusing Psychological Science into the Curriculum.
  • Prefer a little video on a snowy day? Here is a thought provoking short documentary on future learning. “Students are the future, but what’s the future for students? To arm them with the relevant, timeless skills for our rapidly changing world, we need to revolutionize what it means to learn.”
  • 25 Factors Great Boarding Schools Have in Common is a blog post from Pat Bassett, former president of NAIS, and Pete Upham, the current director of TABS. An interesting read particularly after watching the video on future learning.
  • A colleague passed along a great recently published article on the link between later school starting times and adolescent mood and sleep patterns. You can find a brief article about the study including a link to the original paper here.
  • As a final item, I would encourage any and all to join #TABSchat tonight (2/5) on twitter at 8 PM EST. Tim Quinn (@TimothyQuinn6), the author of the book On Grades and Grading will be joining the conversation. A great opportunity to ask the author any questions you may have after reading the book!

If you are experiencing a snow day as I am, ENJOY!

First Friday 4 for 2014

4fingersA quick set of interesting finds from the past week to get you through the first weekend of 2014.

  • The Neuroscience Of Learning: 41 Terms Every Teacher Should Know is a piece from my friend Dr. Judy Willis (@judywillis) that appeared on the website and recently appeared in my twitter stream.

  • Taylor Mali (@TaylorMali) visited us a few years ago and ever since then, I love it when a link to one of his videos hits my radar screen. I never pass up the opportunity to watch him perform one of his pieces on teaching. As I was flipping back and forth between writing this post and my twitter feed, the video “Miracle Workers” was mentioned by somebody I follow. Enjoy!

  • I usually find Grant Wiggins’ (@grantwiggins) blog posts thought provoking and his latest post is no exception. He starts the year off with some practical advice for classroom teachers and takes on the final exam vs project “debate.”
  • I like it when I am reminded about a blog that I have not read in quite some time; it is like discovering it for the first time all over again. Here is one that fell off my radar screen but is now back on it! The Loomis Chaffee International student blog.

Happy New Year!