Monday, November 26, 2012

Response to Instruction

In working on my newsletter article for this week, I came across this series of videos.  I thought they were interesting so I'm passing them along to you!

Also--if you have not joined the IDOE Response to Instruction Community on the Learning Connection, you will want to check that out.  There are tons of great resources out there.

It's always a challenge to keep up with everything that is on the Learning Connection.  This community and the Literacy Liaisons are the two that I try to keep on my list of things to read!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Monday, November 12, 2012

Taking Risks--Fleas

I admit it!  I've fallen behind in my blog reader.  As I was spending some time catching up this weekend--I came across a post on one of my favorite blogs about taking risks.  The author gave several examples--but the one that hit me the most was about fleas.  If fleas are left undisturbed in a jar with a lid on--they will learn that they cannot jump higher than the lid.  When the lid is later removed--the fleas will not jump out of the jar.

The author of this post relates this to risk-taking.  Have I come to the place where I believe I cannot jump out of the jar?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Text Complexity--from John Wolf on the IDOE Literacy Liaisons Community

John  Wolf has posted a new announcement for the community IDOE - Indiana Literacy Liaisons...Read On, Indiana!  This post is directly from the Learning Connection Community.  If you have not yet joined the community--it has valuable resources!  Check it out!

Text Complexity: Introducing the Concept and How It Can  Be Used To Strengthen Instruction   Learn About Text Complexity

 1. Introduction to Text Complexity From NYC DOE

 2. Complex Text and Its Implications in the Classroom, Dr Timothy Shanhan

 Support  Tools
 3. Read "The Challenge of Challenging Text" by Timothy Shanahan, Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey

 4. Read about Text Complexity in Appendix A

 Try It Out
 5. Explore Quantitative Lexile Measures Sample Tool Choose a piece of grade-level text you use in your classroom. Use The Lexile Analyzer® to submit text to determine the Lexile measure. NOTE : Save the document you want analyzed as a plain text file (.txt). Then submit.

 6.  Webinar Focused on Sharing Tools and Resources to Support Teachers and Districts on Text Complexity by CCSSO

Thursday, October 18, 2012

NBC Learn

NBC Learn is a new resource available to middle school and high school teachers and students when they are on campus or at home.  To access the resources, click on the link in this post and click register in the top right hand corner of the screen.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Celebrating Teachers and Public Schools

This video was forwarded to me over the weekend--thought it was a great celebration of teachers.  Enjoy!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

National Research Project

Taken directly from --this is a great opportunity for all of us!

Participate in Speak Up 2012 and learn what K-12 students, educators, and parents have to say about education issues!

What is Speak Up?
Speak Up is a national initiative of Project Tomorrow (formerly known as NetDay). Since fall
2003, the annual Speak Up project has collected and reported on the views of over 2.6 million
K-12 students, teachers, administrators and parents representing over 23,000 schools in all 50
states. The Speak Up National Research Project dataset represents the largest collection of
authentic, unfiltered stakeholder input on education, technology, 21st century skills, schools of
the future, and science and math instruction. Education, business and policy leaders report
using the data regularly to inform federal, state and local education programs. For additional
information, visit

Who is Project Tomorrow?
Project Tomorrow is the nation’s leading education nonprofit group dedicated to
ensuring that today’s K-12 students are well prepared to become tomorrow’s leaders,
innovators and engaged citizens of the world. We believe that by supporting the innovative
uses of science, math and technology resources in our K-12 schools and communities, students
will develop the critical thinking, problem solving and creativity skills needed to compete and
thrive in the 21st century.

Why participate in Speak Up 2012?
• We share the Speak Up data with national, state and regional policy makers.
Participating in Speak Up 2012 ensures that your voice is included in the dialogue
about K-12 science, technology and math education.
• Speak Up provides you the opportunity to gather information from your students,
teachers, school leaders and parents about key educational topics, including:
educational technology, 21st century skills, science and schools of the future.
• By encouraging your school or district to participate, you are sending a strong signal
that you value your stakeholders’ opinions about K-12 education.
• Speak Up survey results, with national comparisons, will be available online, free of
charge in February 2013.
• Use the Speak Up data to engage your stakeholders in your strategic planning,
budgeting or decision-making processes

Visit to learn more!
Speak Up 2012 will be open October 3rd – December 14th, 2012

Register at:

*Speak Up 2011 national reports were released this spring to download the reports visit:

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What Does it Mean to be Literate Today?

David Warlick, I presenter I heard last week, posed this question to the audience.  He highlighted some ways in which literacy is important today, and I have taken these from notes I took during his presentation:

  1. The ability to determine what is true and verifiable.  In the world where you can google anything and find an answer, one must not just be able to read, but also discern what is true.
  2. Numeracy has become important in literacy.  It's important now for students to be able to take information and manipulate it--at a much higher level them simple adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing.  Student must be able to manipulate digital information.
  3. The ability to determine which information to use.  Have you ever done a google search only to yield millions of results?  This can become overwhelming.  It is important to be able to tune out distracting information and focus on only the best.  It is also important to be able to build an audience and gain the attention of readers.  This involves the ability to be passionate and compelling when expressing ideas.
It is important that we as educators consider how literacy is shifting due to the availability of information, and the ways we not use information.  To prepare our students for a future we cannot imagine, we need to start asking ourselves what type of literacy our students will need.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Wiki Chats as Part of Learning?

As part of David Warlick's presentations he usually sets up a wiki for the conferences at which he is a speaker to encourage dialog about the content shared.  (Interestingly there was not one for our conference--I'm guessing because he assumed the majority of people in the room would never try to access it!)

This was a fascinating idea to me--not because I've never used a wiki before, but because it was a way for people to interact on a topic when in the past the conference learning slowed to a halt past the conference room doors.  According to his Wiki, these chats are "tools designed for engaged learning" and these chats (when participants post questions/ideas/thoughts/comments) build an approach to learning that builds ideas collaborative through the interaction with others.  Participants have the opportunity to gain the perspective of others--and construct meaning from these online interactions.

I've many times had the opportunity to read something that transforms the way I think, but the power of this transformation can be lost when I don't interact with others about it, thus refining the way I am thinking. does that translate to the classroom?  As we prepare students to function in a world that we cannot ourselves imagine--I believe an important skill will be to collaborate to extend learning.  While I don't know that a wiki will be the way of the future--I do believe that people interacting with each other about ideas online is probably here to stay.  We have moved from phone calls, to emails, to text messages--all with the goal of that short, immediate communication of an idea with the goal of rapid feedback.  Taking overarching principles (like what our shift to texting says about us as a culture) and applying them to how we educate students will be one way to prepare them to function in a world that we ourselves cannot conceive.

Monday, October 1, 2012

David Warlick--Harnessing the Perfect Storm

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Indiana School Board Association/Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents Conference in Indianapolis.  I was able to attend many sessions, but one session stood above the rest in challenging my thinking and direction when it comes to being a Superintendent of a Public School System.

There are many things which I took from this session--so I'm devoting my blog postings this week to highlight some of my favorites.  Today, I'm going to start with the question that kept the gears in my brain turning all last week:  How do we prepare students for a future that we ourselves cannot even imagine?

This question in the session focused primarily on technology.  David Warlick considered how drastically technology has changed since he was in school (50 years ago).  While he is older than I am, it is true for me as well.  Even in the past 10 years technology has changed completely.  So, how do we educate and prepare students to face this rapidly changing world?

Hopefully you'd like to hear what I'd learned--so stay tuned for my posts this week!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ted TV

I love Ted TV.  I could spend hours watching a variety of videos.  Here is an interesting one that I stumbled across from David Kelley.  You will want to check it out and build your creative confidence!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

November Learning--The Digital Learning Farm

There are a handful of organizations that put out high quality of material--and November Learning (in my opinion) is one of them.  I went to a 1:1 workshop where they talked about the Digital Learning Farm and how to use students as contributors.  While I could summarize it here, it would be way better for you to check it out yourself.  It's a quick read--you will enjoy it!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Have you heard of Diigo?

Have you ever found a webpage that was really helpful to you, but later could not find it?

Have you ever read something really great, but then when you went to look for it again, could not find it?

Diigo is free, allows you to bookmark, research, take notes--and share it all online.  I'm not at all an expert in this, but I watched someone use it and realized that I needed to check this out and start storing things all in one place!

Certainly it has lots of use for students and teachers, too!

Let me know if you use it and like it--and then hop over to my office and teach me!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mobile Phones in the Classroom

It's amazing how far mobile phones have come in the past few years.  I remember my first mobile phone--it was big and clunky and the only thing it did was make phone calls, which is what it was designed to do.  Now, most days my phone is also my personal computer.  It stores files, surfs the web, emails, tells me how to get places, and also makes phone calls.

All that power in one little device.

Does that powerful device have a role to play in our classrooms?

Here are some tips from teachers that are trying to harness that power!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Department of Education Flipped Learning Conference

Even the IDOE is getting into the Flipped Learning Thinking.  The IDOE is hosting a workshop on the concept this Saturday at Beech Grove High School from 8-4.

Want to register, find out more, or learn about the free stuff you could get by attending?  It's all online through the Department of Education or by clicking here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Flipped Classrooms, Part 2

In researching classroom flips, it appears that there is critique of the process--and the originators of the flipped classroom concept have been working to clarify what is and is not a flipped classroom.  They have published many blog posts and articles on their blog The Daily Riff.  Click on the link about Flipped Classrooms at the top and you could read for days.

One segment I enjoyed was from the post, "The Flipped Class:  Myths vs. Reality"  The excerpt below is taken directly from that post (click to the website to read more!):

The Flipped Classroom is NOT:

  • A synonym for online videos...
  • About replacing teachers with videos
  • An online course.
  • Students working without structure.
  • Students spending the entire class starting a the computer screen.
  • Students working in isolation.
The Flipped Classroom IS:
  • A means to increase interaction and personalized contact time between students and teachers.
  • An environment where students take responsibility for their own learning.
  • A classroom where the teacher is not the "sage on the stage" but the "guide on the side".
  • A blending of direct instruction with constructivist learning.
  • A classroom where students who are absent due to illness or extra-curricular activities such as athletics or field-trips, don't get left behind.
  • A class where content is permanently archived for review and remediation.
  • A class where all students are engaged in their learning.
  • A place where all students can get a personalized education.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Flipped Classrooms

 Have you heard about the "Flipped Classroom" concept?  I'm not much for jumping on the latest and greatest educational bandwagon, but this one made me stop and think.  For those of you who may not be familiar with the concept you can find a great explanation of it on Knewton's Adaptave Learning Website about Flipped Classrooms. (If that peaks your interest and you want to read more, try The Flipped Classroom or Exploring the Flipped Classroom or just watch for more posts to come!)

Basically, a flipped classroom means students do homework during the day in class, and watch the lectures or lessons at night.  

I'm going to post more about flipped classrooms this week--so check back tomorrow!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Smarter by Struggling?

I recently was recently intrigued by a video title about the Khan Academy, as I like the resources that Khan produces.

This video really made me stop and think.  First, I'm a big believer that sometimes students (and me for that matter) have to be uncomfortable and struggle with a topic in order to truly grasp the concept.  I'm a big believer in using inquiry-based methods in instruction--and in pushing that there are multiple ways to get to an answer.  I have seen student's mathematical reasoning skills and grasp of number sense greatly increase when they struggle through the problem and then share with each other the multiple methods used to arrive at the same answer.

In a conference I attended this summer, I heard about a teacher that had started an after school club targeting the idea presented in the above video--the students would take a problem, find a way to solve it, and then upload a video of what they did to find the answer.  There were multiple videos for each problem and students priding themselves on finding another way to get the same answer.

One place where students are doing this type of thing is at Math Train TV.  Other students are using resources like Jing and Screenr.  If you want to learn more about this idea, google "Brian Mull" and you will be certain to find some of his resources.  He is the one that got me started thinking down this path...

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Fun...

I like to write fun posts on this blog sometimes, too!  Today I'm adding one of those posts.  What's life without fun?

As most of you know, I'm a huge fan of the Green Bay Packers!  It has been good for the past couple of years to live in Bears country and be a Green Bay fan.  This year has been no exception.

It all began when I was able to meet former Green Bay Packer (who played in the 1996 Superbowl) Mike Prior as he came to celebrate PTSC Coach Tony Tinkel, the Indianapolis Colt's Coach of the week.  How often does one have the opportunity to hold a Superbowl ring in their own hands?

On top of that, I was able to celebrate the Packer victory over the Bears with Mr. Ivanyo, Assistant Principal at BGHS.  This celebration resulted in journal topics (or so I hear) in BGHS English classes and alleged yearbook photos being snapped.  It is a good day to be a fan of the Packers!  Enjoy this photo that I snapped today!
Have a great weekend!

Asking the Right Questions

I read an article this week on a blog by Scott McLeod.  His blog (Dangerously Irrelevant) is one that I follow in my blog reader and one that often causes me to have to take a moment to really consider what he wrote.  Honestly, if I only have a couple of minutes to spare in my day it is the first blog I click to from my reader.

In this post, he is brainstorming a list of questions which we should be asking as educators.  I'm a big fan of rigor and relevance when it comes to evaluating instruction.  I think these questions help us to get at the heart of examining this in classrooms.

Hopefully you are curious about these questions, too!  Click the link below to read more!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Great Websites for Students

Looking for some ideas for kids on computers?  Check out some of these that I've recently stumbled across--learning and fun can be a great combination!  This is by no means exhaustive--what great websites have your found?  Add your ideas in the comments section! (OK...this one is great for teachers--interesting ideas!) (Grades 3-8 Math) (Grades 3-8 Math) (Grades 5-12 Math) (Find games based on state or common core standard) (Grades 6-12--lots of interesting thinking games) (Grades 3-6 Science) (Grades 5-12--simulations, Civics related, pretty cool!) (Grades K-5, teacher created games, lots of games divided by grade level) (Has some interactive games for the whiteboard) (lots of games, kids can create their own games, too) (mainly for younger students--some games are not free) (NASA) (educational, interactive, and yes, some games!) (Music--from the San Francisco Symphony) (K-6 Collaborative book writing) (listen to books being read to you--by people like Betty White!) (great for emergent readers) (K-8 Math) (find lots of great facts) (creating graphs) (grades 3-8) (Vocab and Spelling) (Science)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Calling Guest Bloggers!

I love having a place where I can share great things I'm reading, watching, and observing.  I know that I'm only one person--and that others may have something very beneficial to share with my readers.  If you are interested in being a guest or even frequently featured blogger on this Educationally Speaking blog--shoot me an email at and we will schedule a time for you to post!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Indiana Fallen Heroes

PRESS RELEASE--From Mr. Schlottman, Principal at Boone Grove Middle School

Volunteers Needed to Honor Indiana Fallen Heroes
Indiana Fallen Heroes – honoring those who gave of their live to ensure our freedom

Valparaiso, IN – Members of the Boone Grove Middle School Honors Society and the Indiana Fallen Heroes project would like to invite everyone to march with them this Saturday in the Valparaiso Popcorn Parade. Two hundred and one participants are being sought to honor the memory of our servicemen and women by carrying aloft the images of fallen Indiana soldiers.

The Indiana Fallen Heroes project debuted in its first parade last 4th of July in La Porte, where the group was successful in marching the images of all of the 185 soldiers in the project at the time. The project hopes that the Valparaiso community will support the memories of our Indiana soldiers and their families with the same enthusiasm.

If you would like to participate, please meet the project organizers at 9:00am this Saturday, September 8th on Bush Street just west of Calumet. If you would like to make a reservation or would like more information about the Indiana Fallen Heroes project, they can be contacted at

Data Walls in Schools

As you know--I love data!  Here's a YouTube video from Durant Road Middle School on how they use data walls.  Of particular interest to me was to see how the students used the data wall!  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

RtI Data Team Meetings

Here's a great video segment from Renaissance Learning showing an RtI Data conference at Brown Elementary School. I liked how they discussed data!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Does Math Frighten You?

Here's an interesting article I read from the Wall Street Journal about parents helping students with Math when they may not feel 100% confident themselves.  I found it interesting how from an early age parents begin to shape a child's perception of Math...

This article also makes me think of the book "Mindset:  The New Psychology of Success" by Carol Dweck.  If you haven't read it--it may be worth reading as it challenges us to think of how we shape our children's (or student's) perceptions when challenges are faced.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

eLearning Book Club

I just noticed this post in my blog reader today--and I think I'm going to join.  You may want to check it out!

Online Tools

I admit, I'm always drawn like a moth to a flame to new tech tools, websites, and gadgets.  Here's an interesting article I read this week about some new tools out there, specifically that relate to helping students. I just started dabbling in Wikispaces in my imaginary free time--there's just so much to see and learn!  For those of you who like to explore as I do--check out this article!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

It's a New Day!

Welcome to my new blog!  I've chosen to tweak the blog that I had already been using as I'd added lots of great resources--and they are still valuable!

The big blog change is that I am now writing as the Superintendent of Porter Township Schools.  I will use this blog to highlight great things happening in our schools, share resources with teachers, provide resources for parents, and also to provide news about the Porter Township Schools.

To receive notification of when I add a new post--all you have to do is click to follow this blog!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Accelerated Reader Tool

Check out to find books based on qualitative and quantitative readability on various books. You can also search to find the perfect book for you. This is a free tool for teachers, students, and parents. Check it out! Another great tool is at under the tools section. There is an ATOS analyzer that is helpfully as we shift to Common Core. Great tools are out there! Also...check out and click on the training center to download free guides to help you get results using vocabulary quizzes and other resources. I'm at a Common Core conference and that's where I'm picking up these resources. I just learned (or was reminded that) when we read to kids (and we need to not skip this) we should be reading two grade levels above. When we are reading with students we should look at the text complexity band coupled with the appropriateness rating. Good stuff!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Have you checked out this website? It has videos about the CommonCore done by the writers of the Common Core. The videos are very well done. Also check out as there are great resources there that we are invited to steal! Happy Friday!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Each Student (cont)

After writing the post for Tuesday, I was sent an article that fit right into the mission of the Valparaiso Community Schools that I mentioned yesterday.  This is a great article about Response to Instruction (although here they call it Response to Intervention) for students who are English Language Learners.  This is great reading...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

It's about Each Student!

The Mission of the Valparaiso Community Schools is to provide a safe and supportive educational environment maximizing the learning potential of each student.

I love the focus on "each student!"  Each student is unique and has their own strengths, gifts, talents, and needs. As teachers, it is a joy to get to know "each student" in a class.  It was one of my favorite things to do--and truly knowing "each student" meant I was better able to meet their needs--as a whole child.

I've been thinking a lot about this lately as we are finalizing a presentation to the board in April on Response to Instruction.  We've been working on this as a district for a few years--but the time has come to formalize a process.  This will be a process that will evolve--as there are areas where we can become even better at meeting the needs of each student.

Sometimes the needs we need to meet are for students who struggle academically, who need to be challenged through the differentiation of content, and for those working to integrate the Common Core.  Here are some great resources I found that may help you meet the needs of "each student", too!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Artwork on the VCS website

Do you love to look at student art work?  Karyn Wenger has been working to create a Virtual Art Museum at Memorial and Parkview.  The Memorial museum is up and ready for viewing.  To access the Virtual Art Museum, click on the VCS school website ( and then choose Memorial Elementary School.  Under the student tab you will see a link to the Virtual Art Museum.  On the left side of the page you can choose a grade level to view.  This is fabulous!  I'm imagining many family members that do not live in the area that would delight in being able to see this artwork!

Happy Friday--celebrate creativity today!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Teaching Channel

Have you found The Teaching Channel yet?  I'm not sure how I stumbled across it (usually I follow an interesting link to another interesting link to another interesting get the idea) but once I was there I was caught up in watching several short but awesome videos.  You can learn classroom management tricks, class engagement segments, differentiation ideas, see lesson ideas on particular standards, look for ideas for technology, there's a section for new teachers, and even a teacher celebration section--what a great tool!

If you check ont one thing this week from the blog--it would be worth it to make this it!

Check it out at:

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

ASCD Webinars--for free

Have you noticed these days how many things happen through webinars?

As someone who does not fear public speaking, I can't actually imagine interacting through a webinar.  How do you read your audience when you cannot even see them?

All that aside, there are many days when I will have a webinar playing in the background as I'm answering emails, writing notes, signing paperwork, or other tasks that I can do while multi-tasking.  (My husband might tell you that multi-tasking is not a great idea as I apparently don't always hear everything he says to me as I'm usually working on something else, too!)

I recently discovered that ASCD has a library of free webinars.  As I tend to like to soak in lots of different learning...this is an exciting new hobby I have!  (yes, I know, I need to get out more often!)

Check out the list of webinars here:

You can see what is to come or check out some that have been archived!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Poverty and Learning

I've been in many classes over the years which have attempted to address the question of how socio-economic status impacts student learning.  Many debates have ensued over the idea of the "culture of poverty" and if one exists or does not exist.  As I love a good debate--I at times admit to taking positions I don't even hold just to stir the pot.  Many people hold many strong beliefs on this issue.

I've also taught in inner-city Kansas City, KS where I've been able to interact first hand with students and parents living in poverty.  Through these experiences I've had some real-life experience with this topic and it has shaped my beliefs on this topic.

My experiences in Kansas City taught me more than I could ever learn reading articles...but I have to admit I did appreciate this article from ASCD that I recently read.  Interesting thoughts/research...

Monday, April 2, 2012

Hunger Games?

While yes, you may have been excited to read this post if you've been reading the Hunger Games books or recently viewed the movie--that was just the hook to draw you in!  I will admit that my favorite reading during spring break has been Hunger Games (and the books that follow) although unfortunately my posts won't be covering that material!  (although I will confess that I'm half way through the second book at the time I'm writing this post and I'm angry at the turn of events...)

The next few posts will be from some reading I've been doing over spring break.  It will cover a variety of topics--as I like to read lots of different things.

Today I'm starting off with a longer piece of research on how to instruct in literacy for the ELL student at the elementary level.  In my book--this is a must read for elementary educators.  It contains some suggestions that are worth consideration (start reading on page 19 for more information on these).

I'm a firm believer in self-reflection.  As I've been reading this I've been reflecting back on my days as a teacher--and thinking about how well I did (or didn't do) in some of these areas.  Food for thought.  Speaking of food...I'm off to find something to eat!  (confession--I often write these posts in chunks and then schedule them to post at later dates--so don't worry that I'm eating lunch at 8AM!!)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bold Schools

Here's a follow up article to read from my blog post yesterday.  I tend to find something I find interesting and then read lots about it--so that's going to be reflected in my blog posts today!

This article is focusing on defining traits that make a school bold.  The author identifies terms that fit many schools--but how he defines those terms is what demonstrates if a school is bold.

More thoughts on which to chew...

Check out the article here:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Learning in a Networked World

Check out this presentation by Will Richardson.  It challenged some of my thinking.  It's long--but worth the clicking it takes to get through it.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Scale of the Universe...

I had this link sent to me this week--and it's pretty interesting!

For those of you who know me, you know that often times my brain makes odd associations.  For some reason exploring this website made me remember the song from They Might Be Giants called Particle Man.  (To help you make the connection--one line says, "...size of the entire universe man")  Now I have the song stuck in my head--and it's not all bad for a Friday!  In case you haven't heard the song...enjoy.  Now I hope it is stuck in your head, too!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Number Rack

Looking for a new math app?  Check out the Number Rack App from The Math Learning Center--it's free!  (Get more information here:  There is an activity book available for free as well (

Monday, March 5, 2012


I've often thought about self-control and how it impacts my waistline, but I haven't often connected the idea of self-control with mental capacity.  Here's a quote from an article I read this week:

"Indeed, childhood self-control is twice as important as intelligence in predicting academic achievement."  (click here to read it for yourself:

This reminds me of some reading I did in "Nurture Shock" (one of my favorite reads from two years ago) that talked about studies done with children and delayed gratification and storytelling.  I'm sure you remember hearing about the marshmallow experiment in which a child had to choose to have one marshmallow now or a few of them in a few minutes (watch a video, which is quite entertaining, showing it here: or you can read about it here:

Thought provoking...

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Rock This Test!

It's about time for ISTEP+ testing in Indiana--and our schools are ready to roll!  Check out Northview Elementary School's efforts to pump students up about the test--and about doing their personal best!  We believe in YOU--a message all kids need to hear.  Way to go Northview staff!  AWESOME!!

Teaching Vocabulary

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a session by Kristina Smekens about teaching vocabulary.  She shared some great ideas about the many exposures kids need to new words and also about students needing to be able to interact with new vocabulary in ways beyond simple memorization of definitions.

I stumbled across this article--and read it because my brain had been thinking about teaching vocabulary.  One thing Kristina Smekens talked about is that students need to be able to make a visual representation of the vocabulary term.  She also talked about creating many moments of exposure to the word being learned.  I'm thinking this might be another great way to increase vocabulary exposure--and it could work at all levels in all disciplines.  Pretty neat idea!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Creating New Language Arts Material for the Common Core

Textbook companies are working like crazy to develop materials that are based on the Common Core State Standards (and also working like crazy to develop digital texts--but that's for another blog post!).  In my reading this week I found guidelines which have been published to help guide textbook authors in creating materials for the Common Core.  If you are interested in reading more...check them out here:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ideas for Before, During, and After Reading

In my readings this past week I saw a link to a list of 100 ideas to do before, during, and after reading.  You may want to check out some of these ideas as it's always fun to try something new!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Looking for New Resources?

I stumbled across this slideshow of websites in my reading last week.  It highlights 50 great websites--and has a bit of something for everyone.  Some of them may not be anything you'd ever use-but you can click through the slides relatively quickly and just look at the resources that interest you.  It's great how many tools there are on the web!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mickey Goodman: Are We Raising a Generation of Helpless Kids

Thanks, Kevin Cessna, for sending me this article link.  This is an interesting read--and one I think that ties in nicely with what I've been reading in the book "Mindset".  After reading the article I'm left considering the idea that it is OK to fail young to learn what it feels like and how to handle it.  Interesting thoughts...take time to read this one!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Free Subscriptions to Online Professional Development from the IDOE

Online Learning announcement from the IDOE:

The Indiana Department of Education is pleased to announce the availability of free
subscriptions to an online professional development and collaboration service for Indiana
teachers. The service is provided by Simple K-12 and the subscriptions are available to all
Indiana Educators for the balance of the 2012 calendar year. Services include webinars hosted
by education leaders, a shared resource center, online learning programs, and social networking
to create a unique global community dedicated to helping educators succeed in the 21st
century. If such a service is of interest, the IDOE will help school corporations generate
accounts for as many educators as needed. Just contact Gary Bates at the IDOE to get

Monday, February 13, 2012

Inspiring Students--Blues Project at BFMS

Happy Monday!  Sometimes it can be difficult to start the work week on a Monday morning.  What can be motivating to get up on Monday morning is to read about something inspirational--so why not here on my blog!

My new Monday installments will be about great educators working hard to inspire students--right here in Valparaiso.

Today's installment is about the Blues Project which will be put on in March (March 10th at VHS to be exact) by students from Ben Franklin Middle School in Valparaiso under the direction of Scott Cvelbar, 8th grade teacher at BFMS.  I had the opportunity to attend this for the first time in 2011--and it was a wonderful mix of student talent, local talent, and education (on top of it also being entertaining!).

So why am I thinking about this a month ahead of time?  Well, last week the 8th grade students at BFMS had the opportunity to hear from Fruteland Jackson (, a Blues Historian.  This was a beautiful tie into the curriculum the students have been studying and this Blues Project on which they've been working.  Students even had the opportunity to create their own Blues song...great fun!  It was wonderful to see student and teacher engagement high during Fruteland's presentation.

Especially moving was to watch Mr. Cvelbar as he listened to Fruteland speak and play.  It was clear to see the passion he has for Blues music, inspiring kids, and connected learning.  Thanks, Mr. Cvelbar, for inspiring the students of Valparaiso Community Schools.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Blog-days

Don't we all look forward to Fridays?  I know that after my alarm clock goes off Friday morning I know the next morning the alarm clock won't be what jolts me from sleep.  I know that I will get to do something fun Friday evening.  I know that I will probably not cook dinner (even though I do enjoy cooking!).  A change is coming in my routine--and although I'm Type A I do like to deviate from my usual day's schedule sometimes...

With that in mind, I'm going to change what I do on my blog on Fridays, too.  I'm really enjoying writing this blog, although it makes me spend lots of my free time staying current on my educational reading.  But Fridays--I want them to be different here, too!

In 2011 I completed my dissertation for my Ph.D.  Mostly I'm glad those days are over.  One thing I learned was that in most of the dissertation it was not about what I thought--it was about what other people thought.  In first drafts I had to edit many times to remove my thoughts and opinions.  For many of you that know me...I tend to have lots of those!

SO...this is my blog...and I think my Friday Blog-day routine will be to share something that I've been thinking--rather than reporting on what others have been thinking.  If nothing else it will be an interesting experiment for me--and hopefully one that you as the reader will be able to find some meaning in!

With that--I look forward to next Friday (and no alarm clock tomorrow morning)!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Ted Talks--it's an Addiction!

I admit it.  I love Ted Talks.  I learn all sorts of things I didn't even know that I cared about!  This one is one that caught my attention recently that I enjoyed watching.  Dan Meyer is a math teacher--and presents some interesting ideas here--check it out!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Balance of Informational and Literary Texts in K-5 and Literary Non-Fiction in Grades 6-12: Opening New Worlds for Teachers and Students

I found this video through a blog that I follow.  Turns out that the Hunt Institute has produced a whole series of videos focused on the Common Core.  They are quick to watch and informative.  While I'm  not going to post the entire series of them on this blog--if you go to YouTube and search for Hunt Institute you can pick ones that may interest you to watch!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Broken Links Restored!

Due to the IDOE changing over to a new website some of my links were broken.  I believe I have now restored them and they all work!  Also--some new content has been added!  I'm hoping this blog can be a "one-stop-shop" for you to find links to the things you need!  Happy Tuesday!

What I Am

Here's a great video that I've heard that a couple of schools in Valparaiso have been watching with their students.  I thought I'd share it with you in case you hadn't heard it yet--pretty fun stuff.  Disclaimer--it's also quite catchy--so you may be singing it all through the day!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Have you heard of this website?  Neither had I until last week.  One of our teachers, Kelly Garant was telling me about a project she was working on to bring an author in to speak to students at Flint Lake.  She listed this project on this website and donors (from all over!) can choose to give money to this project or any other project about which they are passionate.  Kelly already completed a project for her Science Bowl team (which placed first in Indiana in their division) and received funding through this website.

As I looked further into this website, I noticed that there are several Valparaiso teachers using it to give an opportunity to support the great things they are doing in their classrooms.  All of them had someone give money to their projects.

One disclaimer--it is a slipper slope once you start looking--lots of people are doing lots of neat things--and it's hard when you want to support lots of great projects!  I commend these teachers for creative projects and creative thinking that allows passionate people with financial resources to support them!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Google Chrome...

I like most things related to technology.  I like to know what things are rolling out and how to use them.  Even as I get older (yes, today I can admit that I'm not the new young pup--but don't ask me tomorrow!) I like to stay current with the latest and greatest technology trends.  I don't need to know how they work or how to program them--but I enjoy things that make me more productive, help me learn new things, and even that are fun.

The other day I was challenged by a fellow administrator (Beth Krutz) as she is using Google Chrome as was touting the things it could do.  I've resisted Google Chrome and had even heard some criticism of it.  For some reason this conversation brought out the competitive, not wanting to fall behind side of me and so I made the leap and downloaded Chrome.

Now I'm fascinated by it.  There are productivity and educational apps for Chrome.  They even have a machine marketed in part with the one-to-one initiatives in mind that is inexpensive and does the basic things devices need to do.  While the jury is still out for what I think of Chrome--you might want to check it out to and see what you think.

For those of you interested in knowing more, here are some interesting things I've read online now that I'm paying attention to headlines that have Google Chrome in them!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Report on Education

Ever wonder where Indiana falls education wise compared to other states?  Check out this report:

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


As you know, handwriting standards are not found within the Common Core.  While the Valparaiso Community Schools have yet to make any changes to the curriculum in terms of handwriting, there is an interesting conversation to be had about the purpose of handwriting.  Here's an article Kevin Cessna passed along to me the other day which stimulated some of my thinking:

As a teacher, I was not a big stickler on handwriting.  I rarely take notes by hand.  I do use sticky notes (often covering large portions of my desk!), but those are notes to myself of tasks to accomplish and calls to return.  In my everyday life, I rarely communicate using a pen and paper.

Does this mean that it holds no instructional value for kids?  I don't think I'm ready to draw that conclusion.  I think this article does a great job at highlighting some of the benefits.  I think there's a lot more to come on this discussion as studies continue and as we shift to using the Common Core in all grade levels.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Textbooks on iPads

You may have heard the recent announcement by Apple about iBooks2 which will also release textbooks from various companies.  Here are some articles about the announcement and information from Apple:

Of course, there will be many questions about using textbooks on iPads.  Here's a link to an article that discusses findings from one group using iPad texts...check it out.

Monday, January 30, 2012


Here are handouts from a session on Technology in the 21st century:

I didn't actually attend this session, but in looking at the handouts it had some interesting information.  If you want to explore tech resources currently available--the PDF above is a great start!

Here's an interesting quote I found in the material:

Interest is one of the best predictors of achievement across a variety of domains.
When students enjoy tasks, they are intrinsically motivated to do well.  Both interests and personal relevance produce intrinsic value for a student.
(Siegle, Rubenstein, Pollard, & Romey, 2010)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Today Became a Great Day When You Arrived...

Can you imagine seeing that each day as a student when you arrive in your classroom?  What a powerful message!  One of the High Ability presentations I attended at the conference talked about the book Mindset.  Have you read it yet?  More to come on that in future posts...but for now, check out these handouts on differentiation:

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ted Talks

Ever wondered how to include some great Ted Talks into your instruction?  Check out this resource:

And if you are wondering about Ted Talks--check out this website and prepare to dive into tons of interesting content!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Have you heard of Voicethread? I learned about it at the High Ability conference. I love technology, but this one was new to me. It's stored in the cloud, easy to use, allows presentations to have narration and teacher interaction. The assignments are collected right in the program. Kids can hear and see teacher comments and markings. These comments and markings are visible to parents, too. You don't have to save things in folders, it is all searchable. Research shows that memory retention increases to 65% when voice and visual is combined.

There are free teacher accounts if you want to explore...

I will post more information when the speaker handouts are posted!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

High Ability Conference

I'm at the High Ability conference right now talking about questioning techniques and how to present to digital learners. Interesting dialogue! The presenter is talking about using clips from Ted (which I love!) to stimulate discussion.  Here's a link to her handout:

Online Courses

Did you know that Tony Bennett wants to make it mandatory for all students to take one online course prior to graduation?  I learned that Monday at my High Ability Conference. 

I'm struggling with this one.  One, I don't like things that are mandatory.  This means that I have to sort through my feelings about if I am upset because I don't like online learning or angry because someone has said it has to happen.

I'm not opposed to online learning...if it is done well.  I think I have seen too many examples of online learning not being an effective delivery of instruction that I'm hesitant to say everyone should do it.  I'm also cautious of mandating this type of learning when I don't think every student is cut out to be successful in an online environment.

We will see where this desire of Tony Bennett lands...

Friday, January 20, 2012

Great Teachers make all the Difference!

We made it to Friday--and a records day for teachers.  As you are working on finishing up the quarter and semester, I think it's a great time to remember what a difference great teachers make in the lives of kids.  While I know there's lots of talk about linking student growth to evaluations and this article mentions value added measures--I think the study reminds us in the big picture of how important teachers are in the lives of students.  Teachers--thank you for the hard work you do each day to make a difference not only in student achievement, but also in the lives of kids!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Race to the Top

Ever wonder what happened to the states that applied for and got dollars for Race to the Top?  Me too!  In my book, there's not yet a ton of data out there documenting success or failure--it will be interesting to continue to watch what is to come.  Here's a link to reports published by state and overall updates on Race to the Top.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

12 Education Activists for 2012

Here's an interesting read from Time Magazine about 12 people they are identifying as people to watch in 2012 for education.  Click the arrow at the top to read about each one...since it took me a moment to figure it out that must be at least one of the reasons (I'm sure there are many) why I didn't make that list!  :)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Learning and the Young Child

Here’s an interesting article (  about instruction and the young child.  Interesting findings…how would you alter instruction based on this study?  If you would like to read the full research article—you can find it here:

Monday, January 16, 2012

Looking for Apps for Students with Special Needs?

Here is a great website designed to help find great apps for students with special needs.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Schools in Finland

It's interesting to read about what is happening in schools across the world.  I stumbled across this article and found it to be an interesting look into how teachers instruct, what they value in instruction, assessment, and equity.

It's a quick read...and it made me stop and think!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Illustrative Math Project

Here's something to keep your eye on--it's called the Illustrative Math Project.  ( The goal of this group is to provide guidance on the implementation of the Common Core Standards in math.  If you click on the link to the content standards with illustrations and click to see only standards with illustrations you will find some great help in unpacking what these Common Core Standards mean.  This website will continue to grow--definitely one to watch!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Common Core Standards for Parents

The National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) has published a parent guide for the Common Core Standards by grade level.  This might be a tool that could be useful to share with parents!  You can access it here:

Monday, January 9, 2012

Interesting Peek into an English Classroom

Here’s an interesting blog post on “Life in a Inquiry Driven, Technology-Embedded, Connected Classroom: English.”  Project based and technology embedded—this is how one teacher gets the job done.

Friday, January 6, 2012

PARCC Assessments

I'm sure many of you have been hearing about the new PARCC assessments which will be used to assess Common Core Standards in just a few short years.  PARCC recently put out a FAQ that I found to be facinating--and you may, too!  Check it out at

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Welcome to the my new blog!

Welcome to the new Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment blog and resource area for the Valparaiso Community Schools.  I will be working hard to provide easy to find resources for you here.  My goal is to provide a one stop shop where you can find links easily to the things you need and also to help keep you up to date on things happening around the country and around the world.  If you have a blog reader you use--you may wish to subscribe to this blog to watch for future posts.  If you have ideas for things you would like to see or read about--you can email me at or post a response to this message!