Pre-Super Bowl Sunday “Snacks”


4fingersWant to add a little “mind food” into your pre-Super Bowl snack lineup? Try a few of the delectable items on this week’s Friday 4 menu before hunkering down for your marathon session of watching TV commercials and an occasional pass of a partially deflated pigskin by local hero, Tom Brady.

Enjoy your weekend!

A snowy day = shovelling and reading

4fingersThe snow has just about stopped, at least for now, which means that I will soon have to pull on my boots and go out and shovel the driveway. I actually truly enjoy days like this, ones during which I balance a little aerobic exercise clearing the snow with time reading in front of a toasty fire in the fireplace. Sounds pretty good, huh?

If you are looking for something to read between shovelling sessions, I present this week’s Friday 4 for your consideration. I know it is not Friday, but it is close enough! 😉

  •  I found this opinion piece Why Some Teams Are Smarter Than Others from last weekend’s NYT interesting as I thought about how I create collaborative groups in my classroom and contemplated ways in which I could better teach effective collaboration. My wife was certainly not surprised by the third characteristic of the smartest teams!
  • On a somewhat related note, the following piece crossed my Twitter stream this past week and caught my eye so I clicked on the link and actually read it. Student Success Better Predicted By Personalities Than Intelligence; Why Being Smart Isn’t Enough
  • Smartphones Don’t Make Us Dumb is a piece that appeared in the NYT recently that was written by one of my favorite authors and cognitive psychologists, Daniel Willingham. The piece addresses some common misconceptions about attention spans and electronic devices. The bottom line for me as a teacher is that I need to keep stepping up my game if I am going to capture and keep my students’ attention in class.
  • After reading the Willingham piece in the NYT, I realized that I had not checked out his blog recently and decided to stroll over and see what I may have missed of late. Daniel’s latest post was a perfect piece for this week’s Friday 4: Five mini book reviewsOf the 5 books he reviewed, I had already read 2 of them but was intrigued by the last one on the list, so I ordered it from Amazon using my school-provided professional development debit card. Too easy! I may not be able to read the book today, but in 2 days thanks to Amazon Prime, I will have another book to add to between-shovelling sessions in front of the fireplace. 


An October Cornucopia

4fingersIt has been a busy week filled with videotaping colleagues in the classroom, attending a CAIS conference on Experiential Learning in the Science Classroom and participating in several Connected Educator Month events online. I ran across a bunch of interesting items during the week that do not really fit into a single theme so I am not going to try and pretend that they do. Here are a few…


Learning and the Brain Redux

4fingersFriday 4: September 13

For this week’s edition of the Friday 4, I would like to share a few more brain-related links and articles that I have run across in the past week or so. The topics of cognitive science and brain research informed teaching and learning have certainly been hot of late. My Twitter feed has been loaded with links to articles and blog posts about neuroscience since the start of the summer and has not seemed to wane in recent days.

The last piece is not quite a learning and the brain piece directly but does relate to the topics we have been discussing in faculty meetings of late.

If you are at all interested in the neuroscience of learning, this has certainly been a stretch with plenty to add to your reading list! Keep passing along any items you find and enjoy!


Friday Four 10/5 – The Dirt on Grit

 The Dirt on Grit

There has been a great deal of coverage in the media of late following the publication of the book How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough. I have followed the discussion with a great deal of interest always trying to figure out how I could best incorporate the ideas into my work with students. The topic is of particular interest to those of us at Loomis Chaffee since we launched the Norton Family Center for the Common Good this fall. You can read a brief intro to the Center and its Director, Al Friehofer (LC ’69) here.

On the face of it, the concept of “grit” makes perfect sense and seems like a no-brainer. As with most topics in education, you really need to dig a little deeper (to expose the nitty-gritty?) and be willing to read/watch pieces from both sides of the issue as you decide how to best incorporate the ideas and philosophies into your own life and work with students. To that end, this week’s Friday Four includes a few of the perspectives that I have run across that address the topic of “grit.” I have tried to give you a range of opinions on the topic so that you can wrestle with the underlying themes and decide for yourself where you come down on the issue. I encourage you to explore beyond these few links and engage your colleagues in discussions about the topic…it is an important one for education and educators.

  • The NYTimes reviewed Tough’s book in August of this year. If you are unfamiliar with the book, this might be a good place to start.
  • Education Nation featured the topic in one of their panel discussions during their most recent summit in NYC.
  • Valerie Strauss, the education writer for The Washington Post, wrote a piece recently that is more critical of the “grit” mantra, as she puts it.
  • The Huffington Post featured a piece from outspoken education writer Alfie Kohn that also calls into question the “failure is good” theme that is a cornerstone of the the “grit” discussion.
As always, I welcome your comments or feedback. Enjoy.


New Year’s resolutions for me and my students

I have never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions. I have made them in the past, and like most people, ended up breaking them by the end of January in the best of cases. Why should this year be any different?

Over the recent break, I finally got a chance to read Carol Dweck’s book Mindset and as a result, decided to incorporate some of her “growth mindset” ideas into my own life. If you have not read the book, I highly recommend it; my wife and I read the book together and both found it to be enlightening and inspirational. Here is a link to a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education about Dweck. I was so inspired that I decided to make a few New Year’s resolutions with respect to my teaching despite my previous less than stellar experiences with resolutions. (Growth mindset at work!)

So, here are my resolutions for 2012 with respect to the classroom:

  1. Praise students more for their efforts and not their “innate” abilities. The research on the impact of how we give praise and feedback may surprise you and has a great deal to do with creating a growth vs fixed mindset. Here is a link to one study.
  2. We at Loomis Chaffee are engaging in a community-wide discussion about homework and our current homework policy. Academic departments are meeting to discuss the role of homework in their disciplines and the faculty as a whole are also discussing the topic. As a result of this school-wide initiative, I plan on asking myself the following questions about each homework assignment for my students: 1) What is the specific goal of the assignment? If I can not articulate the specific goal, then it is unlikely that my students will know why they are doing the assignment. 2) How will the students and I know if the goal was met for the assignment? Feedback and assessment (not always grades) are integral parts to a well-designed homework assignment.
Given my limited success with New Year’s resolutions, I figured that two would be plenty for me to take on. I plan on coming back to this post on the 1st and 15th of each month to assess how I am doing. I will let you know how I am doing! Do you have any resolutions you would like to share? Please feel free to post your comments here or contact me via e-mail or Twitter.