Are We There Yet?

keep-calm-it-s-almost-vacation-timeLet the craziness begin! We have arrived at that frantic stretch between Thanksgiving break and the winter break when the days begin to blur and the number of “extra” appointments/meetings/special holiday events and causes for disruption increase exponentially. Just enough time to complete a unit’s worth of material if we are lucky and having a good day and the weather gods smile down upon us and do not deliver any of that fluffy white stuff from the sky. Sounds like a perfect time to add one more thing to your plate…a December edition of the Friday 4!

Consider this week’s items an early holiday gift from me to you! Unwrap and enjoy. P.S. Please feel free to regift any of the items with a family member who does not regularly get the Friday 4!

  • Those who know me, know that I am a big fan and user of twitter for my own professional development. Recently, I happened to run across a creative way for newbies to get their toes wet with twitter. The #12daysoftwitter challenge. The challenge started on December 1, but you can easily join in now and benefit from this introduction to the use of twitter as a self-directed professional development tool. Even power users of twitter can benefit from participating in the challenge and inject a little freshness into their twitter feed. It only takes a couple of minutes a day!
  • Apply Yourself is a piece from the Harvard GSE website that offers up some good advice for seniors who are deep in the throws of the college process as well as for advisors of such students.
  • Are you a coach looking for ways to leverage what has been learned about cognitive science with your athletes? Here is A ‘COGNITIVE SCIENCE READING LIST’ FOR COACHES
    from Doug Lemov that will get you started.
  • For my English teacher friends, here is a piece that I stumbled on that you may either hate or love. I am eager to hear which camp you fall into after you read Teaching Grammar Through Rhythm.
  • My bonus item this week is a shameless plug for a blog post that I wrote for the Learning and the Brain website. I have been asked to join the team of regular contributors for the blog and had my first piece CLICK HERE: THE TECHNOLOGY OF RETRIEVAL PRACTICE IN THE CLASSROOM posted this week.

Enjoy and hang in there…vacation is only a few weeks away!

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!

Parents Weekend Brain Blitz

I have been pleasantly surprised and pleased with all of the neurobiology related pieces that have hit my radar screen of late. The research, much of which has existed for quite some time now, is finally making it into the mainstream discussions about teaching and learning. My hope is that people will not only read the articles and ponder their implications; but more importantly, they will actively think about how they can change or modify what they are actually doing in the classroom in order to incorporate some of the things we now know about how students learn.

I certainly have changed quite a few things in my own classroom as a result of all that I have learned about how students learn from the current and not so current research. Change is uncomfortable, but if we are to best serve our students, we have to willing to question and rethink everything we do as new information and research becomes available.

So, here are just a few of the brain-related items that I came across this week. I encourage you to read them and then engage in a discussion about one or more of the pieces with a colleague or two.


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…


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!

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!


First Friday Four for 2013-14



A good place to start

The first day of classes is right around the corner for us here at the Loomis Chaffee School and the excitement, nervousness and optimism surrounding a new school year are palpable. A colleague, Naomi Appel, @njappel and I gave a 90 minute presentation to our faculty the other day on learning and the brain titled: Neuroscience and the Classroom after attending a Learning and the Brain institute this past summer led by Dr. Judy Willis @judywillis. The institute was by far the best one I have attended on the topic and contained a wealth of practical information for any classroom teacher. I would strongly encourage anybody interested in the topic to look into any of the workshops or summer institutes offered through Learning and the Brain.

As a follow up to the presentation, I would like to share four learning and the brain related links/resources in this edition of the Friday 4. For those who are new readers of this blog, every Friday I try and post interesting links or resources that I come across related to teaching and education. I encourage you to share the links with colleagues and send along any interesting ones you come across that you think would work in a future edition of the Friday 4. You can e-mail me at or reach me on Twitter at @smacclintic or simply post a response right below. Enjoy!

  • Dr. Judy Willis has a website called that is great place for anybody new to the neurobiology of learning to start his/her journey.
  • The ASCD website has an entire section devoted to brain-based learning that has links to articles, videos, PD courses and much more. Another phenomenal resource for anybody interested in the application of neurobiology to learning and teaching.
  • The Edutopia website also has a section devoted to brain-based learning that is chock full of great info for teachers.
  • If you are looking for somebody to come to your school and do engaging learning and the brain training with students, teachers or parents; a wonderful resource is Andrew Watson. Andrew is a former colleague who has started his own business Translate the Brain that “offers professional development presentations and workshops that explore and explain the practical teaching implications of today’s brain sciences.”