Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Schools Team Up to Turn Off the TV

According to a recent Nielsen survey (November 2009), the average American kid ages 6-11 is spending more than 30 hours a week in front of the tube.

Younger kids spend even more time than that!

Parents watch what foods their kids eat. They monitor the toys they buy for their kids. They make sure their kids get a good night’s sleep. But do they supervise TV viewing with that same kind of care?


The American Academy of Pediatrics says that establishing healthy TV habits is one of the most important things a parent can do. As a principal, you can help parents do their job by raising awareness and providing them with helpful advice. In your next school-to-home newsletter, you might plan to share these tips from AAP for “Building a Balanced TV Diet.”

Watch what kids eat and watch what they watch.
How much your kids eat has a big impact on their health; so does how much TV they watch.
● Chart your family's current TV intake; list all TV shows watched in a week.
● Discuss how much time your family spends with TV, which programs are worthwhile, and which can be dropped in favor of other activities.
● Then limit your child's TV viewing to one to two hours of quality programming a day. Take advantage of high-quality programs offered on DVD or from other sources.

Know what's inside the box.
You carefully read the labels on the foods your children eat. Do the same with TV. Lots of sugary sweets are not good for kids. Neither are programs with violence, lewd language, and sexual overtones.
● Read the TV listings and reviews.
● Preview programs before your kids see them. Talk to teachers and pediatricians to learn what they recommend.
● Select TV programs that build interest in other activities, such as reading, hobbies, or the outdoors.

Add plenty of nutritious content.
Look for TV “main dishes” with educational content and positive characters and values.

Sit down with a good "TV meal" -- don't just snack away.
Don't let your children just “watch TV.” The next time your children ask, “Can I watch TV?” ask them what specific program they want to watch. Help your children get in the habit of watching one TV program, then turning the TV off and doing something else. Involve your children in setting TV rules.
● Don't let your children watch TV until after their homework or chores are done.
● Make that extra effort to watch some shows together. By watching together, you're telling your children you care. “Co-viewing” can lead to lasting educational benefits.
● Tape quality shows and view them at a later time.

Put down the clicker and get some family exercise.
TV should not replace active play. Your TV diet will be most successful when it includes lots of “family exercises,” such as family discussions and activities. TV programs should be springboards that spur curiosity, discussion, and learning.


Another thing you can do is to initiate a TV Turnoff Week in your school. TV Turnoff Week can help to raise awareness about TV viewing as it helps parents and kids take control of the electronic media in their lives instead of letting it control them. Or perhaps your school’s PTO leadership will see the value in this idea and spearhead a school-wide effort -- and maybe even a school-wide Game Night event -- during one of 2010's TV Turnoff Weeks, April 19-25 and September 19-25.

It's not too early to join thousands of other schools and community organizations that are organizing special events to get out this very important message. Start planning now with TV Turnoff’s Six Steps to a Great Turnoff.

Note: The "TV Turnoff Week" Web site is not very active these days. It will not be updated for the Turnoff Weeks in 2010. The links on the site for ordering an Organizer’s Kit are not working at this time. But don’t let that deter you. And be sure to check with the folks at your local Barnes&Noble store. Many stores are planning special events during this year's TV Turnoff Weeks.


The Elephant in the Living Room: Make Television Work for Your Kids
You might even use this book as a “parent book club” selection. Use this discussion guide to guide a group discussion.

The Smart Parent’s Guide to Kids’ TV
This book provides practical techniques and strategies to assist parents in dealing with television in the lives of their children. The book is out of print, but many new and used copies are available at the link above.

Monday, December 14, 2009

NBPTS To Certify Principals Too

Last week, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), the organization that sets and maintains the standards for teacher excellence, launched the National Board Certification for Educational Leaders (NBCEL), which includes the development of National Board Certification for Principals.

“Just like our board certification process for teachers, we are working to create a rigorous and meaningful process that identifies what principals should know and be able to do,” said Joseph A. Aguerrebere, NBPTS president and chief executive officer, during a webcast that introduced the new program on December 8. “Just like board certification -- which is a career stage that is well accepted in other professions like medicine or accounting or architecture -- educators, more particularly principals, will be able to reach for a higher bar, achieve it, and be recognized for it.”

Like the teacher certification process that has been in place for 20 years, the process for certifying principals will be comprehensive and rigorous, and it will involve principals in creating a portfolio of evidence that confirms achievement of the standards of leadership, Aguerrebere explained. He added that it will be real, authentic, and relevant to the job; it will be tightly linked to performance and results for students; and it will be the gold standard for the profession -- a professional growth experience second to none in the field.

“The National Board is moving rapidly from a model focusing on one teacher at a time to a new model that focuses on a school at a time,” said Robert Wise, chairman of NBPTS. “It’s an exciting new era where the National Board framework has the potential to drive school-wide and district-wide change.”

In a recent NBPTS survey, 83 percent of school leader respondents and 69 percent of district leader respondents expressed interest in National Board Certification for Principals, which is expected to become available in 2011. Both school- and district-level leaders were most interested in a certification that would better prepare principals to lead systemic instructional improvement.


National Board Certification for Educational Leaders Launch
View a December 8, 2009, webcast of the meeting at which NBPTS announced its principal certification program. (Running time: 1:30:00)

National Board Certification for Principals
Read the latest news about the program, or sign up for email updates about it.

National Board Cerification for Principals Brochure
This is the latest (12/4/2009) principal certification brochure. Certification will become available in 2011. (PDF format)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Teachers Got Talent!

So what hidden talents can be found among the teachers on your staff? Have you a teacher who can nail a back flip? A staff member who can do a spot-on Donald Duck or Barney the Dinosaur impression? A co-worker who can balance a stick on the end of his nose?

Why not videotape teachers performing their special talents and let students vote for the most impressive act? Post your teachers’ talent videos on SchoolTube and watch the excitement build as teachers vie to win the [Your School Name’s] Got Talent competition!

You might even turn your teacher talent show into a school fundraiser. Students could pay a dime per vote. For just a buck they could purchase ten tickets and stuff their favorite teacher’s ballot box. Or perhaps students will divide their votes among your school’s talented teachers by placing tickets in more than one box.

Isn’t it time to unearth your teachers’ secret talents and share them with the world? What a great, fun way to build a sense of school community!


Teachers’ Wacky Talents

Teachers’ “Thriller” Dance

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Blog Bits #2:
Welch's Garden Grants
Parent Engagement Toolkit
Math Fun for Students

My files are full of ideas to share, so from time to time I will clean out my files by sharing a few “bits” --- things of interest, things to think about, or things to share with your staff or students. Following is my second batch of blog bits of principal concern and interest.


Welch's® and Scholastic Parent & Child® Magazine have launched a unique Harvest Grants program to help 100 winning schools nationwide grow fruit and vegetable gardens. Thousands of school children nationwide will have the opportunity to participate in this unique, hands-on learning experience that can help bring to life subjects such as science, math, and even literacy.

Starting this month, K-8 teachers are invited to apply to win one of 100 Harvest Grants through the Scholastic Web site http://scholastic.com/harvest/. Entries will be judged by experts at the National Gardening Association, who will select two schools in every state to receive a Welch's Harvest Grant: Welch's will award 100 garden packages, together valued at $35,000, to the winning schools. Five schools will receive $1,000 packages; 25 schools will receive $500 packages; and 70 schools will receive $250 packages. Each package will be filled with a variety of tools, seeds, and educational materials that will help students connect with nature and better understand the origins of their food supply. Deadline for submission is February 6, 2010. For complete details and official rules go to http://scholastic.com/harvest/.


How many U.S. students drop out of school each year? Would you have guessed more than a million? Approximately 1.3 million students drop out each year. That’s more than 7,000 students each school day, or nearly one in three students. Nearly 50 percent of African American and Hispanic students do not complete high school on time.

In an effort to attack that national disgrace, America’s Promise Alliance has teamed with the Annie E. Casey Foundation to create a Parent Engagement Toolkit. The kit aims to engage parents and community leaders together to solve the dropout problem. The kit is based on three priorities that are critical to student success throughout a child’s academic. Those “3 A’s” are

Attendance Every Day -- ensure children go to school regularly;
Achievement Every Year - monitor and help children make satisfactory progress each year; and
Attainment Over Time - set high expectations for children and plan for attaining their long-term goals.

Those three priorities were identified because each one is critical to student success throughout a child’s academic career. Each one is heavily influenced by the actions and thinking of parents as well as educators, community-based providers and students themselves.

The kit provides parent and teacher surveys, a blueprint for involving parents in focus groups that identify barriers and challenges to student success, and more ideas for involving parents in the school improvement process.


If your school includes students in the upper elementary or middle school grades, provide them with the math problem below to solve. (Answers are shown in orange.) Do students notice the symmetry of the answers that result?

1 x 1 = 11
11 x 11 = 121
111 x 111 = 12321
1111 x 1111 = 1234321
11111 x 11111 = 123454321
111111 x 111111 = 12345654321
1111111 x 1111111 = 1234567654321
11111111 x 11111111 = 123456787654321
111111111 x 111111111 = 12345678987654321

Before presenting the problem, you might set a few ground rules:

Name please. Write your name at the top of your paper.

“Show me the work!” The detailed math must be shown for all steps of the problem.

Watch for the Prize Patrol. All correct answers will be entered into a contest. One winner’s paper will be drawn at random and the winner will be presented with a special prize. (If you have a deep prize drawer, you might even have multiple winners. How about a winner at each grade level?)

What a fun -- and educational -- way to keep kids engaged on a rainy indoor-recess day!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Teachers Honored on the ‘Walk of Hearts’

Back in 2003, the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles was doing some work in the downtown area of its Canoga Park neighborhood. That effort included replacing sidewalks, which had been damaged by the Northridge earthquake a decade earlier. As Joe Andrews read local news reports about the sidewalk work, he wondered if there might be a place in the redevelopment plans for a concept he’d been mulling for some time.

Andrews, a local realtor, had long been inspired by the teachers in his life, and he always wished he could do something to honor the ones who changed his life.

“I have loads of memories of teachers who tried to help a kid with ants in his pants,” Andrews told Education World. “At least that’s what they called it back then. Today, there might be a different label for kids afflicted with that condition.”

With thoughts of new sidewalks making news in Canoga Park, and an image in his head of the Hollywood Walk of Fame just 20 miles away, an idea was taking shape. Andrews approached the Canoga Park Chamber of Commerce with his idea for a Walk of Hearts® that would honor Los Angeles teachers. Anyone would be able to nominate a “teacher who changed a life,” Andrews explained. He pictured a plaque inscribed with the words A teacher’s passion comes from the heart and a heart formed from a quill pen. That open heart would signify a teacher’s open heart.

If Andrews was expecting the Chamber to pick up his idea and run with it, he was mistaken. They were intrigued, but overworked Chamber leaders would not be able to carry the ball on such a demanding project. If anyone was to champion the idea, they explained, it would have to be him. And so, with dogged determination, Andrews harnessed that ants-in-your-pants energy and used it to surmount obstacle after obstacle on the way to his goal. Within a year, the first ten inductees were recognized and their plaques were set in cement.

And, just a few weeks ago, five new plaques were unveiled to bring the total number of inductees to 42 teachers.


Herman Katz taught in Los Angeles for 50 years. In that time, Katz touched the lives of countless students, but he affected one particular student’s life by encouraging him to go to college, even helping to pay his way. The kid eventually went to law school, and today that kid -- Antonio Villaraigosa -- is the mayor of Los Angeles. It was Villaraigosa who nominated Katz -- a teacher who changed his life -- for his place on the Walk of Hearts.

The Walk of Hearts has accomplished so many of the goals Andrews had in mind when he conceived the idea. It has “created a buzz about education” in the community, he says. It has helped bring to the forefront the important role that teachers play in a child’s life. And it even played a role in Canoga Park being designated in 2005 as an All-America City.

Now Andrews would like to see the Walk of Hearts program expand into other cities and towns. He is preparing a kit that will help others follow his model and learn from the mistakes he made on the way to seeing Canoga Park’s Walk of Hearts become a community icon. For more information, visit the Walk of Hearts Web site.


Is this an idea that could work in your community? Does your community do something unique or special to recognize inspiring educators who go above and beyond? Click the pencil below to share what your community does so others might learn from your community’s efforts.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Principals Encourage Parents to
Turn Dinnertime Into
School-Home Connection Time

In the weeks ahead, many families will be gathering for Thanksgiving and other holiday celebrations. For some families, these special meals are a rare opportunity to sit down as a family. For school leaders, the upcoming occasions are perfect fodder for your school-to-home newsletters. They are an opportunity to remind your students’ parents about the importance of family meals.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, eating dinner together as a family every night keeps the doors of communication open between parents and children. Many studies bear out the importance of the family meal. Did you know that…
● mealtime is a rich opportunity for young children to learn words and expand their vocabulary?
● teens who have dinner with their families five or more times a week are almost twice as likely to earn A’s in school than teens who have family dinners two or fewer times per week?
● teens who sit down for frequent family dinners are less likely to smoke, drink, or use illegal drugs?
● children whose families watch TV as they eat family dinners are more likely to be overweight than those who aren’t tuned-in to television at dinnertime?

“Although hectic schedules have made family dinners a thing of the past, there is compelling evidence that sitting down at a table to share a meal is an ideal environment for family interaction,” said Laura Olson, vice president of education for Kiddie Academy International.

Olson notes that families should aim to sit down to a meal most nights of the week for a minimum of 30 minutes. For those parents wondering how they can make the most of family dinners, Olson offers the following tips, which you might share in your next school-to-home newsletter:

Be curious. Showing an interest in a child's likes and dislikes can result in the child feeling appreciated, respected, and emotionally secure. Ultimately, the child experiences a surge in self-confidence, which can positively shape his or her developmental progress in the classroom.

Get creative with conversation. Lively dialog is crucial to getting your kids to listen and share, so have all family members tell their favorite part or biggest challenge of the day. Not only will this give everyone a glimpse into each other's routine, but it will also help kids expand their vocabulary with new and intriguing words.

Be specific in your questions. Instead of just inquiring about the day at school, ask about a particular book the child may be reading or an art project he or she may be crafting. This will help the child foster ideas and opinions about the assignment that he or she may not have previously considered.

Let kids plan the menu. Getting children involved in the planning aspect of dinner gets them accustomed to thinking ahead and following step-by-step directions. Additionally, cooking is a great way to have them practice their math skills, such as adding fractions.


Make Mealtime Family Time
Make Mealtime Family Time™ exists to encourage families with children, including teenagers, to make mealtime a family time priority. The site includes many resources, including a set of 32 Mealtime Conversation-Starter Cards.

Get Involved: The Importance of Family Mealtime
This resource from the U.S. Department of Human Services explains why family mealtimes are important and offers topics families might talk about at mealtime.

NuNews: Nutrition News Your Kids Can Use
NuNews offers printable newsletters for parents on nutrition topics. These informative articles are perfect for printing on the back side of school lunch menus that you send home. Articles are available in both English and Spanish.

Strengthen Your Family Bonds by Eating Dinner Together
Print out and send home this brochure from the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension Division.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Cool School Tool #4:
Kids Celebrate Earth With
“100 Generations” Song

Are you looking for a fun and educational way to get your school’s students thinking about Earth? Read below about a delightful way to bring your school’s Earth Day (or any day) celebration to life.

Like most kids, California sixth-grader Aitan Grossman is concerned about Earth and the impact of global warming. And like most kids, Aitan didn’t feel there was much he could do to help solve the problems Earth faces. But Aitan had an idea: he combined his love of music and Earth and created a song he calls “100 Generations,” the chorus of which goes like this…

Hawk you fly into the wild.
I am like a little child.
You and I, we share the same elation.
River run down from heaven’s hill,
Ever flow I know you will,
Lasting for 100 generations.

Aitan, his friends, and children from five continents recorded the song, and now they’d like other kids around the world to join them. They can either sing Aitan's lyrics or create their own about local natural landmarks they hold dear. All they need is music from the KidEarth Web site. They will need a digital video camera, too, if they want to star in a music video like the rap version below recorded by Stanford student Nick Streets:

“The more kids who sing Aitan’s song, the bigger its impact will be as children everywhere, together, raise the world’s awareness about climate change,” Lauren Janov, a spokesperson for KidEarth, told Education World.


What a cool project for kids across the U.S. and around the world! Could teachers in your school challenge their students to add their voices to a growing world chorus? Maybe each class or grade level could write a verse for a school-wide song to be performed at a great Earth Day celebration. After each class performs their verse, everyone can join in on the chorus. While you’re at it, be sure to contact your local news media outlets and let them know about this special event. Make sure you tell Aitan about it too. And, by all means, create a “100 Generations” video to add to the others already posted on the KidEarth You Tube page by students in places such as Botswana, France, Taiwan, Venezuela, Ethiopia, and the United States.


The KidEarth Web site includes everything you’ll need to create a special event. On the site you will find background information as well as links to sheet music, sound files of the chorus, videos of children from around the world singing Aitan's song, and instructions for uploading your video to You Tube.

Aitan Grossman: Climate Hero
Aitan Grossman is a 12 year old who has taken his love of music and composed a remarkable song. This young climate hero hopes his composition will raise the world’s awareness about the threat of global warming to future generations.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Cuts, Cuts, Everywhere:
Even Principals Get the Ax

Just when we thought that budget cuts could not cut deeper, our hurting economy is forcing schools and districts to dig deeper for line items to chop. No longer is it possible for most districts to get by with a little creative number-crunching. In order to cut more dough from the bottom line, some programs have to go. Students will feel the impact of those cuts, and more.

Some of the cuts we have read about recently make sense in trying times, but others verge on the absurd. Here we have rated just a few of the cuts we’ve read about from

cuts whose time has come


cuts on the verge of ridiculous.


In some states, the troubled economy is breathing new life into talks of school district consolidation. Merging small districts is one way to save taxpayers' dollars, state education officials say. Merging purchasing and other functions between districts -- even larger districts -- can be another way to affect taxpayer savings. (read a related news story)

One California school district has opted to cut funding for eighth-grade graduation ceremonies from the budgets of their seven middle schools. The ceremonies have gotten bigger and more expensive over the years, they say. This cut is one whose time has come. Even the students seem to enjoy some of the other eighth-grade celebrations -- including dances, T-shirts, yearbook signing parties, honors nights, and other in-school award ceremonies -- more than the elaborate formal graduation ceremony. (read a related news story)

As the financial situation tightens for districts and families, droves of schools are cutting field trip monies from their budgets. Let’s face it: like graduation ceremonies, some trips have priced themselves out of reach for families -- and taxpayers. More and more, school parent associations are asking businesses to partner in an effort to save field trips. And schools need to pay attention to the real bottom-line when it comes to taxpayer-supported field trips: educational value. (read a related news story)

Dozens of school districts are charging teachers for appliances kept in their classrooms. Officials say that charging teachers who plug in coffeemakers, mini refrigerators, or space heaters can save districts tens of thousands of dollars a year. While we might question the need to penny-pinch in this way, we also know that electric bills have skyrocketed in recent years. Plus saving energy is always a good thing, and teachers can set an example by giving up some classroom appliances in favor of appliances kept in a central area. (read a related news story)

Teachers pay out of their own pockets for a wide array of school supplies. Now some schools are even charging teachers for the photocopies they print. Teachers are charged a penny a copy for copies in excess of their preset monthly allotments. That is a move that hurts all teachers, but especially first-year teachers who -- besides being paid at the bottom of the salary scale -- have not accumulated lots of teaching resources. Yes, all educators should seek ways to cut back on the amount of paper they use, but it’s time to put a stop to the plundering of teachers’ paychecks in this way. (read a related news story)

The school calendar has not escaped the ax. In Hawaii, most students will be attending school just four days a week for the remainder of this school year. A new labor contract that avoids layoffs in favor of furloughed instructional days is a cost-savings measure carried out on the backs of those who can least afford it: the students. Parents are furious -- and rightly so -- that a state already lagging in academic achievement would “willingly adopt the country’s shortest school year.” (read a New York Times opinion piece)


Given the current climate, it’s not surprising that districts would look everywhere they can to save money. Many districts have been forced to eliminate programs and teaching positions. Others have eliminated assistant principal positions, forcing principals to pick up additional responsibilities. Some have even assigned a single principal to lead two schools with an assistant principal or a lead teacher serving as the stand-in when the principal is out of the building.

While elaborate graduation ceremonies and expensive field trips might be budget items that warrant a second look, cutting into the principalship is education suicide. While principal-cide is not yet a clear trend, the movement could pick up steam if the economy doesn’t improve. If that happens, it’s time to whip out the research to “educate” school boards and the wider community about the power of a strong principal. A good starting point is the research undertaken by Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL). Be sure to break out the McREL research about the impact of strong leadership on school success and student achivement if you hear the whispers of principalships in danger. In addition to the general impact of leadership, McREL identified 21 specific leadership responsibilities that correlate significantly to student achievement.


Leadership and Organization Development
Learn more about McREL's Balanced Leadership program, which has helped more than 10,000 leaders nationwide learn how to translate research into results in their schools.

Skilled Leadership the Key to Improving Test Scores, Study Says
Researchers at Seattle Pacific University surveyed 40 successful principals to learn why some schools succeed while others struggle to achieve. Included: Comments from researchers and principals.

Howdy, Neighbor! Collaborating With the District Next Door
Buying in bulk may be standard operating procedure for some companies and families, but what about school districts? Two Wisconsin districts have started sharing purchasing and ideas about saving time and money.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Students’ Hard Work
Educates Community About Recycling

“At first nobody took us as serious, but later they started noticing that we meant business and they started helping the community.”

Those words, penned by students Gustavo Garcia and Juan Castillo, sum up the efforts of Purdy, Missouri, students who helped establish the Purdy School & Community Recycling Center. Begun by members of Purdy High School’s Spanish Club (pictured) who were tired of ‘do-nothing clubs,’ the Purdy Recycling Project, which aimed to raise the environmental consciousness of their peers, has become a community-wide program that is turning a profit, raising scholarship money for students, and serving as a model for similar programs in other communities.

“The biggest surprise for me has been how exciting, how much fun it has been to watch this project grow and, hand in hand with that, how rewarding it has been to see my students grow with it,” says Gerry Wass, a world languages teacher and Spanish Club advisor at Purdy High School. “Their dedication and willingness to take over more and more of it defies assumptions we too often make about modern kids.”


Along the way to building a successful operation that is turning a profit -- in spite of economic challenges -- students and adults alike have learned many valuable lessons.
  • They’ve learned that students can have their greatest impact when they serve as a source of clear and useful information, such as the handout they created to teach their community how to recycle.
  • They’ve learned that students readily take on the role of community educators as they expertly answer adults’ questions about recycling.
  • They’ve learned that students can easily overcome the “yuck factor” when they are doing good work with friends while building a business from scratch -- even if most of the work is done on Saturday mornings.
  • They’ve learned that girls work just as hard as boys, and sometimes harder.
  • They’ve learned that you don’t have to be a fantastic writer to get a grant. You need a good, workable idea that will harness the amazing energy of kids.
  • They’ve learned that involving younger students early is an important way to ensure the sustainability of a program.
  • They’ve learned that “graduates” of the program will form an “alumni association” that can make a program sustainable long into the future.


    Against all odds -- the Purdy program has been successful by almost every measure. And that is unusual. Most school programs fail, says Gerry Wass. But they don’t fail because of the students, as one might think. Instead, they fail because they were not carefully planned.

    “No recycling program will sustain student enthusiasm for a volunteer program that doesn’t operate as a successful business,” said Wass. “The student members of the Purdy Recycling Project have earned the pride of ownership.”

    Wass would like to see Purdy, Missouri, become one of the most skillful recycling communities in the nation. “We’d like to see our program set an example for many other towns both large and small that see a school as a potential powerhouse of creative energy that serves as a seed from which a powerful program grows,” he said.

    To that end, the project has published Bringing It Back Around: The Story of the Purdy Recycling Project. This 60-page, step-by-step manual aims to assist other school systems in developing a business model for creating a recycling center. The book supplies a wide range of fascinating insider details that will help other schools as they motivate student interest, seek out grant sources, get community members involved, and create a sustainable recycling operation that can benefit everyone.


    For more information, go to the club’s Web site, The Purdy Recycling Project. There you can learn more about the project, visit the project’s photo gallery, or purchase one of a limited number of copies of the Bringing It Back Around: The Story of the Purdy Recycling Project book.
  • Tuesday, October 20, 2009

    Using Music to Teach Content
    Gets Rave Reviews from Students

    If you are “of a certain age,” you have vivid memories of learning grammar, history, and math from the popular Schoolhouse Rocks animated cartoon series. You might remember, for example, visiting Conjunction Junction…

    …or you might til this day recall the bouncy tunes and catchy lyrics that taught you how a bill becomes a law, how interest accumulates on savings, or the 3x tables.


    Today, more than ever, wise teachers recognize the power that music possesses to teach new and difficult concepts. Take a few teachers I’ve read about recently.

    You’ve probably all heard about Alex Kajitani. He is California’s Teacher of the Year for 2009 and a National Teacher of the Year finalist, but he is probably best known as the Rappin’ Mathematician. His two CDs are big hits with algebra teachers -- and their students. Last winter, Kajitani and his music were the subject of a CBS News report [watch the video].

    At Christie Elementary School in Frisco, Texas, science teacher Debra Cave was amazed at how quickly her fourth-graders seemed to forget information taught in class. One day on the drive home from work, Cave got thinking about how music might help kids retain information. “It’s hard to get excited about chlorophyll, but by singing and dancing, emotion gets attached and information gets stored long-term,” Cave told the Dallas News [read the article]. What started as a photosynthesis tune dreamed up on a commute home has led Cave to create a CD and DVD full of teaching tunes. Check out her Web site, Jammin’ Classroom.

    Brooke Knight’s class at Moore Magnet School in Clarksville, Tennessee, is alive with the sound of music too. Memorizing multiplication tables is a cinch for Knight's third graders as they sing the jingles she created, many of which have accompanying hand gestures. “I’ve made songs for tons of things from rounding [numbers] to subjects and predicates to place value,” Knight told TheLeafChronicle.com [read the article].


    Perhaps you know more examples of music being used to teach content in the classroom. Click the pencil below to share additional resources or music videos you’ve found that promote classroom learning.


    Songs for Teaching: Using Music to Promote Learning
    Research on How Music Promotes Learning
    Music and the Brain
    Music Moves Brain to Pay Attention, Study Finds

    Monday, October 12, 2009

    Heimlich Training for Staff
    Can Be a Life-Saver

    The family of a boy who choked to death in an Indiana elementary school’s cafeteria was recently awarded $5 million in a lawsuit against the district [read the news]. The news of that award has spurred many schools in the area to focus attention on training staff in CPR and the Heimlich maneuver.

    The benefits of such training are clear…

    Late last month, a teacher’s aide in Pittsburgh made headlines when she saved a 5-year-old special education student who is assigned to her care. Jan Tomnay had learned the Heimlich maneuver at a CPR training session provided by the district. While the state of Pennsylvania does not require such training, her district, the Baldwin-Whitehall district, requires that all paraprofessionals be trained by the district’s nursing staff.

    Read more about this story in the local newspaper and on the school district Web site.

    Earlier in the month, the lives of two students might have been saved when the Heimlich maneuver was administered in separate incidents at a Plainfield, Illinois, elementary school.
  • A cafeteria supervisor performed the life-saving maneuver on a fourth-grade girl who was choking on a piece of chicken. That event happened just two days after a nurse had given lunchroom staff a refresher course on lifesaving techniques.

  • A couple days later a first-grade teacher was reading a story while her students were eating their snacks. Her reading was interrupted by a strange noise. She acted quickly to administer the Heimlich to a student who was choking on a grape [read more].

  • The value of training in the Heimlich maneuver and other life-saving measures cannot be underestimated. Each month, a handful of news stories validate the value of such training and refresher courses.

    While we are talking about training staff in life-saving techniques, can it hurt to teach students about some of them too? Last week, we posted a News for Kids article on Education World [see Kid Heroes Use Heimlich Maneuver]. The story tells of three children who recently saved others -- including a teacher -- who were choking. Encourage your teachers to share this “news for kids” with their students.


    Click > to play the video:


  • The Heimlich Maneuver (for younger kids)

  • The Heimlich Maneuver (for teens)

  • Tuesday, October 6, 2009

    Blog Bits #1:
    Three Programs of Interest
    Math Fun for Students
    A Capital Idea

    My files are full of ideas to share, so from time to time I will clean out my files by sharing a few “bits” --- things of interest, things to think about, or things to share with your staff or students. Following is my first batch of bits and pieces of principal concern and interest.


    Emails land in my inbox about tons of fun new programs that might motivate students as they support the curriculum. Here is news of just a few timely programs I’ve learned about in recent weeks.

    Classrooms Care from Scholastic Book Clubs
    There’s a football match-up this fall and millions of kids across the U.S. will benefit if your students get in the game. Top names in education and in football -- Scholastic, Inc., and Super Bowl MVPs Eli and Peyton Manning -- are joining forces and inviting America’s teachers and students to join them in bringing more than one million books to kids in need across the U.S.

    King Arthur Flour’s Life Skill Baking Program
    Baking is a great hands-on way for kids to learn math, science, and cultural traditions, all while having fun. Through its Life Skills Bread Baking Program, King Arthur Flour has taught more than 100,000 school children how to bake bread. In turn, the students have shared this bread with social-service organizations in their community. This program is available to grades 4 to 7 in schools located in the Midwest or Northeast.

    The Idaho Potato Harvest Story & Game
    This new interactive video game offers students and schools an opportunity to split a $10,000 prize. Students learn about Idaho Potatoes and then complete a simple sequencing activity. Of course the game does require students to give personal information at the end in order to be entered into the contest, so this might be something you share with parents instead of doing in school. The game and sweepstakes runs through October 31, 2009.


    If your school includes students in the upper elementary or middle school grades, provide them with the math problem below to solve. (Answers are shown in orange.) Before presenting the problem, set a few ground rules:
  • Name please. Write your name at the top of your paper.
  • “Show me the work!” The detailed math must be shown for all steps of the problem.
  • Watch for the Prize Patrol. Tell students you have prizes in store for someone who gets all the correct answers and shows all the math calculations. Then draw one winner’s paper at random and provide a prize as promised. (If you have a deep prize drawer, you might even have multiple winners. How about a winner at each grade level?)

    What a fun -- and educational -- way to keep kids engaged on a rainy indoor-recess day!

    1 x 9 + 2 = 11
    12 x 9 + 3 = 111
    123 x 9 + 4 = 1111
    1234 x 9 + 5 = 11111
    12345 x 9 + 6 = 111111
    123456 x 9 + 7 = 1111111
    1234567 x 9 + 8 = 11111111
    12345678 x 9 + 9 = 111111111
    123456789 x 9 + 10 = 1111111111

    For more frequent math fun, be sure to check out Education World's principal-created math feature, Morning Math.


    While many newspapers and Web sites present headlines in stylish lower-case letters,
    Bits and pieces #1: a capital idea, cool programs, math fun…
    you might notice that Education World keeps to the more traditional headline treatment. Key words get capitalized as in the headline at the top of this page. We do this for a reason: it’s the way grammar books teach headline or title writing, and it’s the style that teachers teach and students learn. If we can reinforce the skills that teachers teach in any way, then we should do that.

    And so this week I pass my Golden Grammar Book Award to the staff, students, and families of Algood Elementary School in Cookeville, Tennessee. This school just opened in August, a brand new school with a brand new sign out front that read
    algood elementary school
    Clearly, that sign was designed by architects, not teachers. As stylish as it might have appeared, teachers, parents, and kids stood up and called the local newspaper and school board members to protest. If teachers will be teaching lessons on capitalizing proper names, how could the sign out front break those basic rules of good grammar?

    Their voices were heard. Capital letters A, E, and S were ordered. And now Algood Elementary School gets an A+ in grammar.

  • Tuesday, September 29, 2009

    New Study Identifies Self-Control
    As One Key to Student Success

    A study published in the July issue of Developmental Psychology confirms what you and all other educators already know: a child’s ability to exercise self-control is a determining factor in his or her success in school.

    Indeed, self-control can be more important when it comes to ensuring student achievement than IQ or a host of other factors.

    As a principal, you can walk into any classroom on any day and identify right away those students who are exercising self-control. You can see it in their ability to listen. You can see it in their focus. You can see it in their level of on-task behavior…

    Your classroom observations -- and the recent study -- make the topic of self-control a perfect one for your next school-to-home “Principal’s Message” for parents.


    It used to be that students learned self-control at home. They learned the skills both directly and indirectly from parents and siblings, says Martin Henley, a professor of education at Westfield (Massachusetts) State College. But today, Henley adds, most teachers recognize that they play a large role in developing students' social skills, sense of responsibility, cooperative learning skills, and organizational abilities.

    Can a teacher really teach the skills of self-control? Yes, says Henley, who helped identify a list of 20 social skills that comprise a student’s ability to exhibit self-control.

    Just as there are reasons why some kids demonstrate self-control, there are reasons why others demonstrate deficiencies in self-control, added Henley. The fact that they were never taught the skills -- and never given opportunities to practice them -- are two of the main reasons. That’s why Henley developed Teaching Self-Control: A Curriculum for Responsible Behavior. His K-12 classroom curriculum provides specific activities for teaching all 20 social skills across the grades.

    Parents still play a large role in teaching and reinforcing skills of self-control. For parents, the National Association of School Psychologists says it is important to select age-appropriate goals for children who are learning self-control. The key lies in setting simple, easily attained goals.


    If you take advantage of the release of this study as an opportunity to write about self-control in your next school-to-home newsletter, you might draw upon or share with parents these two fine resources:

    Teaching Self-Control: Strategies for Parents
    The National Association of School Psychologists offers strategies to help parents teach self-control and to help them deal with their child’s feelings as they teach the skills.

    Teaching Your Child Self-Control
    This KidsHealth.org article offers suggestions to help parents teach their children to control their behavior. Tips are provided for kids from infancy to adolescence.


    Teaching Self-Control: A Curriculum for Responsible Behavior
    Education World chats with Martin Henley, creator of the Teaching Self-Control curriculum. Included: Twenty self-control skills all children need.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009

    'Tips for Teachers' Cards:
    Free for the Asking

    Long gone are the days when teachers simply taught reading, writing, and 'rithematic. Today’s educators are tasked with so much more. "Indeed," says Craig Gilman, "educators today are often held accountable not only for the academic progress of a growing diversity of students, but also for their students’ welfare and well-being."

    That's one of the reasons that American Public University is offering educators four fabulous resources, adds Gilman, who is the university's manager of education markets. Each of APU's four complimentary "Tips for Teachers" cards stands as a handy 6- x 8-inch laminated reference tool that any teacher will find to be a valuable resource in meeting the needs of students.


    If you're looking for something useful to give your teachers during November's American Education Week celebrations or for any other reason, take a look at these cards. As a principal, you can order sets of one or all of the cards so that every teacher can benefit from these practical classroom tools.

    The Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in the Classroom card provides tips for recognizing students who may have ADD/ADHD. It also provides “best practices” for teaching students with the disorders and classroom accommodations to encourage better learning.

    The Bullying Intervention card defines bullying and recommends immediate intervention and follow-up strategies to support the victim. The card includes tips for modifying the behavior of the student who is bullying to foster a bully-free environment.

    The Recognizing Child Abuse and Neglect card highlights the major types of abuse, including physical, sexual, and emotional maltreatment and neglect. It also describes behavioral and other changes that may indicate abuse.

    The Teen Depression and Suicide card summarizes the signs and symptoms of depression in teens and how it differs from adult depression. It also describes how to talk to teens who are depressed – and the dangers of untreated depression.


    Complimentary "Tips for Teachers" Cards
    American Public University’s Tips for Teachers cards provide easy-to-reference recognition signs of child welfare concerns as well as strategies and techniques that help teachers be more effective in the classroom and support the well-being of students. Click the familiar Adobe PDF symbol next to each card description to view the card in detail. While you are at it, take a quick look at APU's programs for educators.

    Wednesday, September 16, 2009

    The Flu in School:
    Tools You Can Use

    The news is full of dire predictions about the current flu season. But with a little prevention education, you can help fend off its impact in your school.

    In Maricopa County, Arizona, Dr. Bob England and his public health team are using video and other cool tools to help educators teach students about the flu and reinforce flu fighting tips. One example is this county-produced video about the proper way to sneeze. This Sneezing 101 video is must-see TV for your students.

    "There are things we can all do to help fewer of us get sick," England told kids in his a K-8 flu message video. Among England's tips that you should share -- and frequently reinforce with the students in your school -- are:
  • Always cover your cough or sneeze, but don't use your hands. Use a tissue if you have one, or you can sneeze into your elbow so that you don't spray your germs around.
  • Wash your hands alot. Sing yourself the ABC song or the Happy Birthday song while you do it. That way, you'll wash your hands long enough to kill all those germs.
  • If you don't have soap and water and a sink nearby, then hand disinfectent works well too. Just put it on your hands and rub it around. Keep your hands away from your face -- especially your mouth, your nose, and your eyes where the germs can get in.
  • Stay home when you're sick. If you come to school, you'll only spread your germs around to your friends, and then a lot more people will get sick.

    Maricopa County has produced some more valuable resources:

    The Flu and Your Family (in English - in Spanish)
    Tuck this little flyer into the next packet you send home.

    The Flu: A Guide (in English - in Spanish)
    Use this handout if you want to provide your staff or your students' families with more information about the symptoms and care of the flu.

    Flu Public Service Announcement (in English - in Spanish)
    Share this video school-wide during your morning announcements or school news program.

    Handwashing Stickers
    Print out these stickers on a sheet of Avery labels and recognize students when you see them "stopping the spread" by washing their hands.


    Preparing for the Flu: A Communication Toolkit for Schools (Grades K-12)
    Basic information and communciation resources for school administrators. This includes Action Steps for Schools to Prevent the Spread of Flu.
  • Wednesday, September 9, 2009

    Video PD Spurs Engagement Through Humor

    When administrators in the Mesquite (Texas) Independent School District wanted principals to complete 100 classroom walkthroughs before spring break, they employed many tools to keep principals focused on that goal. A humorous video featuring three dancing principals was one effort that grabbed a lot of attention. As it made clear the goal, this video parody of the popular Nextel Dance commercials also modeled the value of technology that is available to the principals. (Click the > below to play the video.)

    When administrators introduced a district-wide goal of raising TAKS [state test] scores by 10 percent, the video parody below of Sonic restaurant commercials was one tool they employed to drive home their goal with a little humor. (Click the > below to play the video.)

    “We’ve been doing these videos since 2006,” Jeannie Stone, a district administrator who works with the videos, told the Dallas News (see the Dallas News article.) "This way of delivering a message has more appeal."

    Staff Meeting Idea

    Another series of videos created by Mesquite ISD staff members spotlights two teachers who have two very different classroom approaches. These hilarious videos compare today’s students to students of the past as they gently nudge teachers to use technology and employ more variety and individualization in their classroom instruction. You might share one or two of the five video links below with your own staff. After viewing the videos, let your staff discuss the important underlying messages. These videos are sure to inspire a lively discussion!

    Clipboard Video

    Counseling Video

    Touche Video

    Better Video

    Fun Stuff Video

    Friday, May 15, 2009

    ‘Dictionary Project’ Will Soon
    Give Away Its 10 Millionth Dictionary

    Elks Lodge Gives Third-Graders at Fletcher Walker Dictionaries

    Kiwanians Donate Dictionaries to 3rd Graders

    Students of Sacajawea Elementary School Receive Special Delivery on Monday

    And those are just the headlines from the past few days!

    More than 9.9 million children have received dictionaries thanks to the generosity of sponsors -- community service and philanthropic clubs as well as individuals -- who have participated in The Dictionary Project. Last year, about 2.5 million dictionaries were handed out.

    In suburban Chicago, Theodore Utchen is known as “Dictionary Man.” He has given away nearly 10,000 dictionaries.

    “I love it,” Utchen, a semi-retired attorney, said in a Chicago Tribune news story. “This is the most worthwhile charitable activity I do.

    “I feel if we can get kids started early in life with improved communication skills, this will make life more meaningful for them. The secret to great relationships is communication.”

    Project organizers see third grade as a dividing line between “learning to read and reading to learn,” which is why they have targeted that level for the giveaways. The goal of the Project is “to encourage children to use dictionaries so that they will be able to use the English language effectively.

    “A student cannot do his or her best work without a dictionary. By providing this tool we assist teachers in helping all students become active readers, good writers, creative thinkers, and resourceful learners.”

    In Charleston, South Carolina, Mary French has given away 300,000 dictionaries. She recalls the moment when one little third grader told her, “This is the best present anyone has ever given me. It makes me feel important.”

    “People tell me the kids carry their dictionaries like accessories,” said Mary. “They’re a fashion statement with real meaning!” (See an ABC News story about Mary French.)

    Sponsors of the Dictionary Project go about their work quietly. It is only recently that I have learned of this effort, which was begun in 1992 when Annie Plummer of Savannah, Georgia, gave 50 dictionaries to children who attended a school close to her home.

    Has your school benefited from The Dictionary Project? Has a local group in your community connected with this project to get dictionaries into the hands of students in your school? Why not click the pencil below and tell us about it?

    Friday, May 8, 2009

    Cool School Tool:
    Stop the “Summer Slide” With the
    Scholastic Summer Challenge

    “America doesn’t have a school problem, it has a summer vacation problem.”

    Those are the words of Malcolm Gladwell in his latest book, Outliers: The Story of Success. In Outliers, Gladwell attempts to answer the questions What sets the best and the brightest apart from the rest of us? What can be learned from their success stories?

    One of Gladwell’s premises is that American kids, especially kids of lower socio-economic means, let go of learning in the summertime. Their test scores suffer because they have fewer school days than kids in most other countries -- especially Asian countries, whose students are fast eclipsing our own.

    Stop the “Summer Slide”

    Research shows that by reading four or five books during the summer, elementary students can avoid read achievement losses that normally occur over those months.

    The “summer slide” and research about summer reading are two of the reasons that Scholastic, Inc., is joining forces this summer with The National Center for Summer Learning (Johns Hopkins University) to present the Scholastic Summer Challenge. The Challenge kicked off April 30 with a Reading Game Show, hosted by Jon Scieszka.

    Participating in the Challenge is simple. Kids log on to the Summer Reading Challenge, sign up, and take a quick quiz. The results of that quiz will determine on which of four color-coded teams kids will participate this summer. Teams compete to accumulate points based on the number of minutes they spend reading. Kids can win prizes for themselves and for the Summer Challenge’s official charity, Save the Children.

    As always, Scholastic has created tons of fun for kids as well as great resources for parents and teachers. The Summer Challenge resource kit includes the following:

     Information on how students in your school can compete with others to set a world summer reading record (learn more)
     Resources to help parents get kids reading (explore the resources)
     Recommended booklists by age level, age 3 to Young Adult (YA) readers (see and print the booklists)
     Video teasers to get kids excited about 65 different books (view some videos)
     Teachers’ best ideas for encouraging summer reading (explore teachers’ ideas)
     A letter you can send home to parents that explains the Scholastic Summer Challenge (see and print the letter)

    Take a look around the Scholastic Summer Challenge Web site, gather the support of your staff and PTO, and stop the slide by getting kids reading this summer!

    Wednesday, April 29, 2009

    Kids Get Off Their Butts,
    Join the “Movement”

    The research abounds. But most educators don’t even need to see the research. They know that physical activity helps improve a kid’s ability to focus and learn. So why do we insist on having kids sit still for an hour or more at a time? And why on Earth are some schools eliminating recess? Those things defy logic. We ought to be getting our “couch potato” kids up and moving.

     The connection between movement and learning has been getting a lot of press lately. Earlier this month, a study out of the University of Illinois confirmed that physical activity has a positive impact on student attention and academic achievement.

     According to a New York Times article, standing desks “help give children the flexibility they need to expend energy and, at the same time, focus better on their work rather than focusing on how to keep still.” (Read Students Stand When Called Upon, and When Not.)

     Claire Henderson, a fifth-grade teacher outside Chicago, gets her kids up and out of their seats and “circling” the classroom at least a few times a day. “It might be for less than two minutes, but it helps them redirect their focus and gives them more energy,” she told the Chicago Tribune. (See School Programs Keep Students on the Move.)

     In Pflugerville, Texas, second graders are releasing energy and focusing more because their teacher, Jennifer Drum, has replaced their chairs with bright yellow stability balls. While the balls have not been scientifically proven to improve learning, Drum says, “It helps with sensory motor issues and kids with ADHD.” (See a KVUE-TV video report.)

     Heck, it might not be true physical activity, but some schools are even beginning to see the academic benefits of gum chewing. A recent study conducted by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine indicates that kids who chew gum in school perform better on tests and get higher grades. Teachers involved in the study say kids who chew gum require fewer breaks, pay better attention, and stay quiet longer. “Chewing gum is an easy tool students can use for potential academic edge,” one of the researchers said. (Read Chew On This: Gum May Be Good for Body, Mind.)

    So what gives? Why aren’t more classroom teachers doing more to encourage kids to expend energy in simple ways that can improve classroom discipline and academic performance?


    Bring this up at your next school-wide staff meeting. Share some of the stories and studies in the news. Encourage teachers to try a few different ways to work movement into their classroom lessons, routines, and transitions. Then have them bring the ideas that worked best to the next staff meeting. Pull together the teachers’ “ideas that work” into a booklet and put a copy of this useful resource in every staff member’s mailbox.


    Movement Activities for Elementary Classrooms
    Many teachers wisely initiate movement activities intermittently throughout the day, especially during classroom transitions. Included: More than ten activities.

    Classroom Movement Activity Ideas
    This teacher-created page includes some short ideas to get the blood flowing during classroom transitions.

    Brain Gains
    This powerful video shows how exercise can bring about improved academic performance.


    In your school, how are you using the research that abounds about the relationship between movement and student performance? What, if any, results have you seen? Click the pencil below to share a comment so others might benefit from your experience.

    Tuesday, April 21, 2009

    How Did Your Students
    Recognize Earth Day?

    Perhaps you planted a tree today? Or maybe your students took a field trip to the local landfill where they learned firsthand about the waste issue in your community or region? Did you hold an assembly? Work on a school-wide project?

    On this Earth Day, I’m thinking about the green efforts of students at two schools with appropriately earthy names: The Park School in Brookline, Massachusetts, and The Garden School in New York City.

    The Park School

    When fourth-grade teacher Ted Wells noticed that more than 50 catalogs arrived at his school each day, a project was born. He and his colleagues at the school went about canceling those catalogs. There was so much work involved, that they got their students in on the act too. That led to a 30-day challenge and the ultimate cancellation of more than 4,000 catalogs. Consider the future catalogs un-mailed as a result of those cancellations, and I think you’ll agree that those students made quite an impact.

    To learn more about this and other programs at The Park School, check out these resources:
  • Read an article about The Park School’s green projects, No Fuss ”Green” Projects.
  • View a YouTube video about the kids and the project.
  • Read about the catalog project on Ted Wells’ Catalog Canceling Challenge blog.

    The Garden School

    According to Dr. Richard Marotta, the headmaster of the Garden School in Jackson Heights, Queens (New York City), the key is “starting early to make green habits stick.” This year, Marotta tells us that students at the Garden School are participating in four Earth-focused programs:

  • They’ve started a “See Ya” Styrofoam program. They have rid their school of all Styrofoam, and students are now encouraged to bring their lunches in reusable items: lunch boxes instead of paper bags, thermoses instead of paper cups, and reusable containers instead of paper plates.
  • The Pulling the Plug program encourages students to be mindful about not wasting electricity by turning off lights, computers, and TVs when not in use.
  • The school’s third graders are planting flower bulbs and other growing things as part of the Plant -- Rather Than Screw In -- a Bulb program.
  • Finally, the school’s Read Green program encourages students to sign up to receive environmentally friendly news and information, preferably by email.

    What fun or educational “green” things are you doing this Earth Day (or all year long)? Please post a comment below to share ideas you’ve used or heard about so others might benefit from your experience.
  • Thursday, April 16, 2009

    Every-Day Practice Pays:
    The Proof Is in the Test Scores

    I’ve always been a firm believer that skills reinforced regularly are skills that stick.

    When I taught third grade, my students entered the classroom every a.m., hung up their coats, then grabbed their “Daily Numbers” worksheets and put their pencils to work. The Daily Numbers sheets presented ten math problems -- word problems, calculations, greater than or less than equations, telling time, making change, place value… The sheets were corrected on the spot so students got immediate feedback (and second chances to earn a perfect score). In the course of a week, the kids practiced every skill they’d been taught at least twice; many skills were practiced daily. That every-day reinforcement was quick, fun, and painless. Every student started the day on a successful note.

    Another of my students’ daily stops was at the Reading Skills Center. There they took from the wall a laminated card and practiced a skill they’d been taught. The cards were colorful and handmade. Other than that, there was nothing special about them. They weren't all that different from a standard workbook page. Just a different format. One more way to push practice their way.

    And I knew the daily-practice approach was paying off.
    I saw it in their work.
    I saw it in their writing.
    And I saw the feelings of pride and success in their faces.

    Test Success

    Each year, my students took a battery of tests. One test established their abilities; the others measured skill mastery. I knew the daily practice would help my students do well on their tests, but that was confirmed the day the superintendent stopped by to tell me that my class was the only class in town (nine elementary schools) in which every third grader was working at or above his or her ability.

    I can’t say that I was surprised.

    I knew the kids would score well because they frequently practiced every single skill they might face on those tests.

    Hammer the Grammar

    I was reminded of my experiences with every-day practice today as I read about a great program that teachers in one North Carolina middle school created. The program, “Hammer the Grammar,” was a school-wide effort to take the pain out of grammar instruction. Colorful grammar posters were displayed around the school. Weekly lessons were planned and taught -- and reinforced in every class. Kids were stopped in hallways and between classes and in the lunch line... and offered quick opportunities to respond to grammar challenges -- and win prizes! “Hammer the Grammar” T-shirts were proudly worn by students and staff alike. Everybody particpated!

    With some effort and lots of reinforcement and even more fun -- teachers hammered (ever so gently and with a smile) all year long at the grammar demons that plagued their students’ oral and written language.

    And guess what?

    The students in this rural district scored third best on North Carolina’s statewide writing test.

    I’m not surprised.

    Read More
    Read more about the Hammer the Grammar effort:
    Making Grammar Improvement Enjoyable

    Every-Day Resources from Education World
    Education World has created a variety of resources to help you lead a Do It Daily effort in your school. If you want to raise test scores, that is.

    Morning Math
    Developed by Principal Larry Davis (Oakleaf K-8 School in Middleburg, Florida), these daily questions are a fun element of his school’s a.m. announcement routine.

    Every-Day Edits
    Use Every-Day Edits to build language skills and cultural literacy (and test scores) with students in grades 4 and above. Or use our weekly Animals A to Z editing activities at the primary level.

    Every Day Activities Across the Curriculum
    Classroom teachers can use these resources to develop their own every-day activities:
    Every-Day Activities: Language
    Every-Day Activities: Today in History
    More Every-Day Activities

    Wednesday, April 8, 2009

    A Tough Act to Follow:
    Colin Powell Addresses NAESP Convention

    Few people could follow an opening act like Sheldon Dudley’s. The third grader from Louisiana opened the second general session of the 2009 NAESP convention in New Orleans. Dudley brought the house down -- and the audience to its feet -- with his inspiring rendition of our national anthem.

    Then it was up to Colin Powell to follow that opening act.

    Powell chatted a bit about his transition from public life to private citizen. He shared funny and humbling anecdotes about flying commercial again after years of private charters or Air Force One and about life after the Secret Service.

    Today, Powell spreads his time over a handful of causes. One of those pet causes is dropout prevention. That also happens to be a primary focus of the America’s Promise Alliance, which Powell chaired at its founding and his wife, Alma, chairs today.

    “Dropout rates are morally wrong and economically foolish,” Powell told the assembled school leaders. “A student drops out every 29 seconds. That’s more than a million students a year.”

    To address the dropout issue, the America’s Promise Alliance is holding more than 100 Dropout Prevention Summits across the United States.

    “Kids might drop out of high school, but they start dropping out in kindergarten, first, and second grade,” said Powell.

    “It even starts before that -- with parents,” he said, adding, “Kids need more laptop time: I mean time sitting on a lap, parents reading to their kids.”

    That led Powell to reminisce about his own childhood in New York City, where he couldn’t get away with anything because he had an aunt living on every other block. “You think the Internet is fast,” Powell laughed. Information never traveled faster, he said, than when one of his aunts caught him doing something wrong.

    It was an appropriate coincidence that Powell was speaking on the 41st anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination. Appropriate all the more because another of Powell’s pet projects is bringing to reality the dream of a Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial. In addition, Powell is honorary chair of the effort to build an Education Center at the Vietnam Wall. The center will house photos and artifacts that will put faces to the names on the wall.

    Powell didn’t mind at all being upstaged by Sheldon Dudley’s “National Anthem.” He’s used to being one-upped by kids, it seems. While he takes great pride in the fact that seven elementary or middle schools have been named after him, Powell said with a chuckle that “nothing means more to me than to know that for generations to come youngsters will look up at the name of their school and ask Who was he?”