Slice of Life Nutty Nerds


Have you any idea what the dangling fruit here is?

Can you believe that the largest of these trees covers  8,400 square metres (2.1 acres)!


Is that amazing? It’s huge!

Last Thursday, my husband and I ventured out on the highway to visit our grandchildren who live over the Cascade Mountains on the west side of Washington State. It’s about a four hour drive, depending on weather and traffic patterns.

It is a beautiful drive over the mountains, and we spend the time talking or listening to music, podcasts, or books — sometimes listening and discussing the audio ideas together, and sometimes sharing what each has learned.

As I enjoyed the passing blooming orchards around Wenatchee, I opened a can of mixed nuts to munch on. I shook the can so the brazil nuts and almonds sorted themselves out onto the top. I’m lucky; those are my favorite. Thank physics for that sorting by shaking:

The primary mechanisms at work in the Brazil Nut Effect are percolation—in which small grains migrate down to the bottom of the pile between larger grains—and convection, in which larger grains push up toward the top of the pile.

The Brazil Nut Effect Is More Complicated Than You Think

But as I stared into that can of nuts, I asked Scott, “Have you ever cracked a cashew nut?”

We both thought about that– we’ve purchased nuts in the shell many times– almonds, walnuts, pecans, brazil nuts, peanuts, hazelnuts. We could picture the many types of shells for these nuts, but not cashews.

Why not? Well, as nutty nerds who often stop an historical movie to Google the history of the era we’re watching, we googled, cashew.

And that top photo is the fruit of the cashew tree. You see the cashew nut dangling from the bottom of and outside the cashew apple. The yellow apple part has such delicate skin that it can’t be transported. And the dark shell of the nut causes some people to break out with dermatitis.  That’s why we never see cashews in the shell!

Its English name derives from the Portuguese name for the fruit of the cashew tree caju (Portuguese pronunciation: [kaˈʒu]), which itself is derived from the Tupian word acajú, literally meaning “nut that produces itself”.[1] The generic name Anacardium, originally from the Greek, refers to the unusual location of the seed outside the core or heart of the fruit (ana- means “again” or “backward” and -cardium means “heart”).

Cashew in Wikipedia

View more of the largest cashew tree here, at Wikipedia; it is found in Parnamirim, Rio Grande do Norte (Brazil). Brazil is the native origin of the cashew nut.

So, for fun, share the picture of the cashew apple in your family chat. Ask them, “What is this?” My favorite guess from our family is “poisonous apples from the Evil Queen with enchanted magic mushrooms in them.”

No one knew, but now they do!

Next time you crunch a cashew, you’ll be able to share your new knowledge.



Cashew Photo: CC BY-SA 3.0 by Abhishek JacobOwn work Cashew Apples

Cashew Tree Photo: CC BY 2.0 by Mateussf -Maior Cajueiro do Mundo 2011

Biggest Cashew-tree in the world, located in Parnamirim, Rio Grande do Norte (Brazil)

SOL17 DoodleaDay Map Story


If you’re a writer, you know it isn’t easy. If you’re not a writer, you know it’s hard.

Donald Murray assured us that “Writing is hard fun.”

In our classrooms, as students learn and read, and wherever students are, they listen, watch, play, work and learn. They gather ideas and facts; they imagine “what ifs.” And teachers have a responsibility to extend all that learning by providing time for students to think and write, and think and write together. And writing for their personal expression in fact and fiction to share their ideas.

Writing clarifies our ideas; it frees our thoughts, contains our thoughts, and connects our thoughts in new ways. We get better at writing by reading a lot and writing a lot. We get better at writing by sharing our pieces — what we like, what we wonder, what we are confused about– for feedback from others. 

Writers know this. Our students need to experience this, not in assignments, but in writing about what’s important to them, in fact or fiction. Journaling, blogging, writers workshop, genius hour: all are ways to incorporate choice in student writing.

We’ve got to let them develop their style, away from templates and outlines. Students need to experience using what they know– facts, experiences, imaginings– to form ideas into a story [fiction or not]. As students review their writing, they share with a friend and get feedback as they make a choice to abandon or to elaborate and revise. If they like their piece, they can edit and publish.  Without these experiences, the feeling of satisfaction and joy — that hard fun — is not attained. We want students to live as writers, as authors on their own.

And with that experience, their messages become clear, in both their own and in their assignments.

Yes, I want my students think like authors– to make the choices in words and organization, in flow and structure, to build their factual or imaginary story and feel the message understood by others when they share during writing and later in publication. 

I want them to learn through their process and publication that “Writing is hard fun.”

And just perhaps, they’ll compose such a story as…

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot

Today’s doodling tune in honor of writers and writing, in all its forms.


Hiding in our minds

Ideas flow and connect;

Stories Awaken.


Part of Slice of Life 2017 by The Two Writing Teachers
Part of DoodleaDay by Royan Lee— today: Maps


Update: As I perused my Facebook feed, I discovered that Ralph Fletcher just made a similar plea, but, of course, he says it much better than I:

Greenbelt Writing: How Low-Stakes, Student-Centered Writing Supports Bold Learning

It’s a great read on Heinemann’s Medium blog.

SOL17 DoodleaDay 26 United We Stand


A Story:

Today, there is…





power wars


Tomorrow there ought to be…









listen openly; value experiences

I believe this because…

I believe in

the dream of a United States of America

each person, an opportunity, a human with hopes for a better tomorrow

all persons created equal

with liberty and justice for all


diversity opens options and opportunities and solutions

leadership of the United States promoted justice and peace for all

so others dreamt our dream

our greatness was determined by our diversity

We are the world’s future.

United, we stand…

It will be achieved by…

Listen Openly, Value Experiences

United, We Stand

Justice For All brings Peace

Together, Humanity Solves World Problems


School days we stand and salute our flag and our nation:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

United States of America.


Justice For All.

Our country stands for justice for all. For All.  We have stood for this value as leaders in the world– that we believe in justice for all in the world.

Now, the White House is undermining this, spreading fear and denying justice of “other” people, denying facts, and silencing science. If the White House eliminates guidelines and rules for financial regulation, air and water quality, is it for people — or for promotion of corporations over its people? Justice to corporations eliminates justice for all — because greed is its guide. The White House promotes power, but not power of the people.

The White House seems to concur with the onslaught of false information in the form of propaganda: websites, videos, blogs. These promote conspiracy theories and fear. They are enemies of democracy and seek to divide us. A divided country, without a willingness to listen, understand, and compromise to live in a diverse world, is a declining and doomed country.

Our nation was built on diverse ideas and compromise. We welcomed those suffering and fleeing persecution and hardship, no matter who they were– and accepted the benefits of diversity, knowing that our nation was strong enough to build on the best of each us to build a better America, a great America. We did it.

But now, the White House and the enemies hiding in posts, blogs, videos, websites spread fear instead. Fear divides us. Divided we fall.

If you are conservative, speak.

If you are liberal, speak.

If you are libertarian, speak.

If your are conservationist, speak.

If you are white supremacist, speak.

If you are Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist, etc., speak.

And remember that we are “one nation” “indivisible” “with liberty and justice for all.” Unless we listen and understand and accept each other as part of this great nation, we will remain divided and we will fail as a democratic republic.

Believe what you wish, but accept that we all live together. We are one nation. We the people must govern for all of us– not a nation where opponents are killed and jailed, or laws promote injustice and discrimination. We are nation of justice, acceptance, and compromise.

Even if the world is not as we wish, for this nation to survive, we must accept differences. We must understand that our neighbors, however different, love their families and love this nation just as much. They many pray, sing, speak, and live differently, but their human hearts beat with a hope for a better future — living in a United States of America. We must promote hope and acceptance. We must be united in our belief in “liberty and justice for all.”

As John Mayer sang,

Pain throws your heart to the ground
Love turns the whole thing around
Fear is a friend who’s misunderstood
But I know the heart of life is good
I know it’s good
Songwriters: John Clayton Mayer
The Heart of Life lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Reach Music Publishing

I know the world isn’t perfect, that some are in difficult times. Hearts are in pain. But fear of others divides and conquers us. Fear comes from an unknown face– get to know your neighbor — reach out to build understanding. Help each other understand. Overcome fear; build hope.

Because: United, We Stand.


Part of Slice of Life 2017 by The Two Writing Teachers
Part of DoodleaDay by Royan Lee— today: Doodle a Story

Doodling Song: John Mayer — The Heart of Life


No matter your beliefs: open minds build our democracy and help us stand together.

Review these resources to deal with Fake News, which are lies, conspiracy theories, and propaganda to divide and destroy our democracy:

How Fake News Tricks Your Brain by Alexandra E. Petri at National Geographic

“Motivated reasoning is the idea that we are motivated to believe whatever confirms our opinions.”

How to Spot Fake News by CommonSense Media  Short Video gives 5 Tips.

10 Questions to Spot Fake News by NewsLiteracyProject

How to Spot Fake News by FactCheck

Fake News or Real? by NPR

Teaching Kids to Discern Fact from Fiction at NPR

How to Teach Students about Fake News by PBS

Evaluating Sources in a ‘Post-Truth’ World: Ideas for Teaching and Learning About Fake News from New York Times

Battling Fake News at Edutopia by Mary Beth Hertz

Fake News? Teaching Media Literacy from

Fighting Fake News by KQED

SOL17 DoodleaDay 14 Inspire Word Art

IMG_3662 2_inspire_dad14.PNG










Classrooms of inspiration live by student involvement, sprouting partial ideas, and working together to render excellence for projects that help make the world better — or maybe just make the classroom better.

That climate is rendered by a teacher willing to give students agency — the belief in student abilities to work out their own solutions. It’s a climate filled with creation rather than compliance.

Project-based, inquiry learning allows students to take control of the curriculum in ways that the standards and targets are met in different ways by different students, depending on how the students choose their path to solutions.  Good sources for project-based learning are found at the Buck Institute for Education [BIE]. For projects based on immigration: see here.

Another way to think about classroom curriculum is to create the environment for students to experience the learning targets and discuss their learning in a constructivist way. Seymour Papert explains this here. A simple way to say this is:

“The good way to learn is to use it now.” Seymour Papert

A basic example in the language arts class can occur for teaching simile. Read this book to students of any age: Quick as a Cricket by Audrey Woods. After enjoying the book, reread the text and discuss how the author uses word choice to create meaning. And discuss the format of the sentences using that word choice to create meaning. Students soon can write their own, explaining their comparison, meaning, word choice, and grammar [like/as] to create their vivid descriptions. Students use the book to use their own language to learn by doing, and then learn the name for this figurative language: simile.

Another way to inspire classroom climate and learning is to use music. I just discovered this from Amy Cody Clancy today which provides suggested music for different content and context: Songs To Use For History / Literature.

Another way to include music is to find music related to students’ lives. My teaching career lived in a Native American community, and we were lucky enough to have our own celebrity, the late Jim Boyd, Colville Tribal Chairman and role model for our students. He is so missed for his leadership, his community actions, and his music.

Here is one of my favorite songs [I think I have all of his music] — which can inspire many discussions and help build relationships.

My Heart Drops, But I’m Proud by the late Jim Boyd, Colville Tribal Chairman and musician


What inspires your life and work?


Part of Slice of Life 2017 by The Two Writing Teachers

Part of DoodleaDay by Royan Lee— today – Word Art

Doodling Song: My Heart Drops, But I’m Proud by the late Jim Boyd

Perhaps I is an acceptable way to WE #immooc


Have you ever received pushback when sharing, “I did…”  It’s common. Eyes rolling. Arms folding. It’s a problem.

In conversation about this with others, it was easy to accept the ideas they suggested to not use the word “I.” Those sharing the solution used the word “I.” They used the word “I” because it’s their way to solve the problem of pushback and that’s how the issue needed to be framed and could be framed in our trusted conversations. They found a problem, and they solved it, and they shared it, using “I.”

To dig into this idea further, perhaps in some schools, the trust among teachers is too low and the willingness to share to further improve student learning is also not developed.

Teachers are professionals, yet coaches and others continuously, not purposefully, intrude on that professionalism.

The sad thing is, that we want people to share, so to not be able to use the word “I” to put oneself out there, take a risk, and share “your” classroom strategies, without “eye-rolling” and pushback. — that is a problem.

So, yes, a strategy suggested is to use the word “we,” as in the above paragraph.. Asking inviting questions [ “Has anyone tried…”], another suggestion, also works.

Still, people need to feel safe to share; teachers need to share their ideas and experiences so the school knows, teams know, and peers know the ins and outs of what instruction and learning is occurring.

So, what else could be done so everyone is actively listening and willing to share?

How can this negative mindset be flipped for active, interested engagement by all staff?

This is a problem for many innovative leaders.

One strategy making the rounds again is establishing “norms” of behavior everyone will agree to, such as:

  • Honest and forthcoming with communication
  • Speak up and ask clarifying questions.
  • Respect others’ ideas positively; listen and engage respectfully.
  • Be interested
  • Be professional, on time, prepared.

However norms like this can also receive pushback since norms– well, don’t they seem obvious?

Perhaps a reminder of the school mission and purpose statement at the beginning of the sharing meeting would be helpful. Again, this keeps the vision on “ours” and “we” in mind: our goals are the same; we can learn together.

Perhaps the sharing could be framed as a possibility with the listeners sharing afterwards what could work in their classrooms, so that everyone is using the “I” word.

Perhaps sharing the Two Rules of Improv used in Pixar as explained by Randy Nelson for Edutopia would help develop a more accepting mindset (video at end of post).

The two rules are:

1. Accept all offers
2. Make your partner look good.

How could “the offer,” the sharing, be more acceptable?

Share reflectively. Reflection includes what one would do next time to improve. As Randy Nelson says, it’s “error recovery, not failure avoidance.” Frame the sharing as a problem solved. People share “I tried this…, and next time I would…” which shows a willingness to recover, improve, and master.

How does the listener make their partner, the sharer, look good?

Listeners are interested when they know there’s a dilemma, and so accept the offer. And listeners must not judge or make suggestions for the sharer; instead they accept the share as a starting point and build or adapt a possible version for their own work. According to Randy Nelson, this is collaboration: amplification of ideas. “Possible” means they don’t have to actually do it, but they are interested and have given the person sharing an acknowledgement. This is where technology helps; perhaps open a Padlet for sharing these possible amplifications. Again, this is a mindset shift: be interested in what others have to offer, not just share what is interesting, and collaborate: each listener accepts an offer of ideas and amplifies a small idea which opens up possibilities for everyone.

And sharing of something actually done shows a “proof of a portfolio, rather than the promise of a resume,” as Randy Nelson says. These conversations framed as collaborative amplification to build ideas for everyone could build trust, gather ideas for everyone to improve, gather input for portfolios, and perhaps become an entry point for blogging to share further. The word “I” shows risk, reflection, problem-solving, and trust, whether as original sharer or as amplifier.

Somehow, sharing with an “I” needs to be acceptable. Reviewing vision statements, using “we,” asking “I wonder if..” or other questions, establishing norms, and framing conversations as collaborative amplification could help develop trust and focus. Still, sharing needs to be acceptable.

What other ways could the mindset of “I” to build “we” be developed into acceptability?

How about amplifying the idea with yours in this Padlet or in the comments below?

A response to Digital Writing


Digital Writing

My friend Kevin Hodgson [@dogtrax] considers the definition of digital writing on his blog, Kevin’s Meandering Mind. He thoughtfully considers “writing,” “composing,” and “digital writing.” I agree with all his assertions, except one.

I consider blogging to be digital writing. The blog post could be the central focus of a presentation, linking to images, resources, and videos that extend and enhance the author’s message. It requires much more thought and creation than simply writing an essay; the images and links chosen must be thoughtfully considered as part of the design to explain, argue, and present ideas. And as Kevin’s post does, it asks readers to interact with those thoughts by adding their own considerations. The record is displayed in post and comment, available always for further analysis. A blog also shows our thinking — and how our ideas change as we consider the ideas presented by the information we gather in our quest for understanding the world’s ideas.

I’ve been thinking, too, about “What is digital writing?” I’m still deciding, but a few thoughts I shared with Kevin [I added a little here] so far are:

  • When I record assignment directions, I have often stopped myself when the directions are to “write” when I really mean “type” or better yet “compose.” Even here, instead of “write,” in this bullet, I chose “record.” Because the digital assignment directions are recorded in a document for reference. I think of digital writing as something that is both composed and curated or recorded.
  • I’ve also used the word “compose” with students. Looking at the dictionary definitions of compose and write, a crossover exists in their use, but compose includes the words create, invent, produce, orchestrate. I find that more inclusive to my definition of digital writing. I want my students not to regurgitate information, but to produce artifacts that explain or argue their analysis of their learning, using words, images, videos, surveys, interactive media, etc.
  • Margaret Simon [@MargaretGSimon ]mentioned “audience” in her comment on Kevin’s blog. She said, “I must be aware of audience in the digital world. Perhaps it’s that immediate audience that makes it digital.”  The focus on the audience is critical. The writing will be shared for an audience one has considered carefully so that the writing clearly promotes the message; digital writing provides authenticity and meaning to topic, audience, and purpose, the meaning behind the writing.
  • Design is a word I use most often with my students: I want students to consider the reader, the information, the student’s purpose and message, and the presentation — how will they best explain and argue their ideas using text, image, video, interactive media, etc.? It is the digital that allows all of us to design the presentation of our discoveries so others understand how we make sense of the world of information around us, and how we invite others into our journey of understanding.

Digital writing allows students — all of us — the opportunity to present our understanding of the world. Writing is all about clarifying our thoughts, making the learning visible. Digital writing includes tools to make this easier: immediate definitions and searches, curation of resources, surveys to gather information, documents on which we can collaborate with others, grammar corrections, hyperlinks to our resources, sharing options [slides, blogs, videos, annotations], communication with experts through texts and webcams, archiving all our digital gathering of resources.

So, considering those tools as part of our quest for knowledge, is digital writing then a system, a  process, and a product available in many personalized forms as needed by and designed by the author?

The focus for my Language Arts classes are these essential questions:

  • How do researchers investigate successfully?
  • What strategies and processes do collaborators need for success?
  • How do readers and writers determine and develop relevant, accurate, and complete topics?
  • How do publishers design and organize content for their audience and purpose?
  • Why and how do editors and speakers use and edit with the rules for standard English grammar and language ?

It is the availability of digital tools that allow us to consider our ever-growing understanding of these questions.

Digital writing is a personal, systematic organization of tools and strategies that allow for an enhanced  and enriched process of study, curation,  and analysis, often in collaboration with others, to design a multi-faceted publication of the author’s ( or authors’) ideas for a chosen topic and audience, be that audience oneself, a group, or the public.

I’m still thinking about this… and thank you, Kevin,  for always presenting the questions that focus and clarify our work as learners.

#DigiLit Sunday Part 2 The Numbers

Beginnings, Part 2


Over thirty-one years of teaching, I didn’t have any “numbers” to support the strategies I chose, but I did continuously reflect on the impact my choices in tasks, groupings, and follow through had on student learning and behavior. I built a toolbox of strategies and activities that frequently worked for students from my own experience and through researched strategies in National Council of Teachers of English [NCTE], International Reading Association [now the International Literacy Association], ASCD [formerly Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development], and others according to the content areas I was teaching. I’ve built an extended professional learning network on Google Plus and on Twitter to share and discuss the issues and goals in order to be better for my students.

And why did I do this?  I want to be the best for my students and myself, and the professors in my courses in teaching at Eastern Washington University expected active learners and researchers who found real students to work with and reflect on that work, searching in the professional organization journals for solutions to student dilemmas. I had practiced reflective teaching before I was awarded my teacher credentials. I’m not sure all teachers had that experience.

reciprocal teaching dylan william hattie.002

Poster by Sheri Edwards; Images public domain from

Always though, the focus is on the learning of the person — not the standards or covering the curriculum — the focus is who we are and how we help each other as learners by building a learning community with positive relationships with each other.

One of the key lessons of Visible Learning by John Hattie (2009) is that those strategies that make learning visible provide teachers a repertoire of choices to enable students to become their own teachers  in the classroom and throughout their lives. One trait of excellent teachers is that they intervene with just the right strategy or task at just the right time for just the right student based on the impact of their previous teaching with feedback for how to stay moving on the student’s learning goal. With a wealth of strategies for instruction, teachers extend that imperative of being on the learning path to release the student as his/her own teacher to learn and improve as engaged learners in their own passions or interests wherever they are. The goal is lifelong learners, not test-takers or re-tellers of information.

In Visible Learning for Literacy by Fisher, Frey, Hattie, (2016), the authors suggest that, since the goal of our instruction is for students to become their own teachers, then teachers must “become learners of their own teaching,” (page 4, Kindle). We must reflect on the impact of our teaching on the learning. A reflective teacher asks and gathers information on these questions:

  • How effective was today’s lesson?
  • What was learned?
  • Who learned it?
  • Who did not learn it?
  • Who missed something?
  • Who learned something else, and why?

And students want to know: What? So What? Now What?


Over one hundred years ago, John Dewey, a founding philosopher of education, grounded us in this truth: that learning is doing. Today, educators access a wealth of research that guides them in answering the reflective questions that result in the feedback and interventions to guide the learners in their care.

And students want to be doing, not watch the teacher do.

Michael Toth, CEO of Learning Sciences International, says that “It takes the concept of deliberate practice if you want to be the best in the field,” to which Robert Marzano, Executive Director of LSI adds, “Even small improvements in teacher effectiveness can have a positive impact on student achievement. (Becoming a Reflective Teacher webinar).

Indeed, it is the small  things we do as teachers every minute of every class that does impact student learning. It is this knowledge and reflective thinking — to be a “learner of my teaching” — to make  small improvements that guides me in better instruction, and in really knowing my students.

In Beginnings, Part 1, I shared a series of lesson actions to explain the flow and purpose of the beginning of my school year. As I read the books by Hattie and others, I can now add the research numbers behind the instruction. View the numbers here [I chose the Learning for Teachers in green since I am a teacher].  I’m not much of a numbers person — I lean to the “doing,” but it is my “doing” those numbers seem to support. It’s important, though, to also read the information about the strategies, to understand the “why” of the data numbers.  Take problem based learning at 0.21, a very low impact. However, in digging into the data Hattie explains that most of those studies about problem/project based learning dove right into critical thinking, instead of first building a knowledge base with students from which problems can be understood. Good problem/project based learning includes that, and Hattie suggests that would then have a higher success factor (Fisher, Frey, Hattie, 2016, p. 37).

So, let’s examine the “doing.”


  • Determine and practice expectations of a learning community

  • Discuss and learn protocols for entering, leaving, independent work, group work, discussions, turning in work, computer use, agreements, disagreements

  • Accomplish and celebrate learning / work together

Reaching towards a target goal has an effect size of 0.50 — I have them in mind and the students have theirs: Collaborative Grouping / Working together / Learning Community guidelines. More on this later.

This building of relationships according to Hattie’s research has a .72 effect size — an effect size means it has the potential to have a great effect on student learning; the closer to “1,” the greater the effect. And guess what? In building that relationship, in being fair, trustworthy, and caring, teachers build their credibility with students and that effect size is .90.

  • Invitational greeting at the door from teacher

  • Setting the first goal: a collaborative activity on screen [idea from Joy Kirr and Sandy Merz]

  • Students collaborate on seating from the directions

    • I observe, waiting until absolutely necessary to intervene

    • I may ask a question about the prompt to a student

    • I may encourage a student to speak up, or others to listen

So, to start the year greeting the young people who smile [or not] as they enter the room is an important first thoughtful beginning. And the choices made over the minutes in class each of the first days determine teacher credibility and student tone and attitude for the rest of the year.

Did you know that cooperative vs competitive learning has an effect size of 0.54, and that cooperative vs individual learning has an effect size of 0.59? So building a collaborative learning community, where students are helping each other learn in conversation, debate, dialogue, and products pushes forward any goals we have! It is most useful for deeper learning. During this activity, students are moving from learning about collaboration to doing collaboration in a safe and easy activity using ideas they already can talk about. And peer tutoring has an effect size of 0.55, so if someone doesn’t know a topic about which they are sorting themselves, a peer will explain so they meet the criteria. That’s the beauty of these introductory activities: the surface knowledge is already within their understanding – or one of their peer’s understanding, so that success is achievable and the thinking about HOW they solved the seating activity can also be discovered in reflection and conversation with their group.

I’m always standing, wandering, listening, encouraging during any lessons. I look for the confusion, the struggle, and the successes. When students can’t solve their own confusion, I figure out the best way to intervene: a question to them so they can clarify, another strategy, organizer, or review to set the students in just the right place to move on; or, if needed, stopping the whole class for questions or a quick tip.  That’s scaffolding instruction for two things: 1) so the student knows they will receive help [not answers or solutions] so they can succeed, and 2) to provide the vehicle for success.  Scaffolding has an effect size of 0.53.

  • Celebrate in class discussion

    • Refer to the goal: form groups

    • Acknowledge  and accept the events of participation – confusion, perseverance, and success

  • Give students a scrap of paper —

    • ask each to think of one event that started the success or ended a confusion

    • Ask them to write what worked and what didn’t

  • Ask them to share in their groups and to create lists on poster paper of What Worked to Succeed and What Did Not Work

In this sequence, I’m asking students to think about what they’ve done — think about their doing and thinking and reflect on what worked and what didn’t work. We’re reviewing our goal, and focusing on how to achieve it. We’re setting the guidelines for what we would expect if we expect success.  This metacognition has an effect size of 0.69. Notice I ask them to write about what worked or not as individuals first, then to discuss with the group, during which time students begin to learn to listen to opposing ideas and to agree or not in positive ways. Writing focuses one’s thinking, pulling the ideas together, both for individuals and as groups. These are key to both metacognition and to literacy learning  (Fisher, Frey, Hattie, 2016, p. 76). And because we are building guidelines, we move towards class cohesion, with an effect size of 0.53. I’m also guiding them in a problem to solve — what works for success in our group tasks. Problem-solving is 0.61. They need this guided activity more than once [which will occur over the next few days] in order to learn the techniques they need for self-generated problems  (Fisher, Frey, Hattie, 2016, p. 26). I’m not telling them how to behave, we’re figuring it out together based on the activities – what we will expect- back to goals for ourselves as learners.

  • Pull the class together and ask for a few quick responses from each list, without repeating

  • Listen for the key point and ask a clarifying question each time, to get at a specific example from their perspective; it’s my chance to be truly interested in their ideas

  • Ask students to go back and revise their lists to be more specific

  • Hang up the posters and give students dots to place by the most important “What Worked” strategies

  • Ask students to get or go to a computer to the class home page to link to a document “Learning Community Guidelines” with a table for “Our Guidelines”  Ask students to add things that we all should do based on the posters and experience to be successful at projects [students choose a row to add as many guidelines as they can]. If using paper, students each write their own but by discussing in groups to create their paper versions in their own notebook.

This is one of the most important parts of the lesson. It’s focused on the goals and also on the people, our community. Relationships develop when people know you care. I’m a pretty strict teacher in the sense that I’m diligent, and I expect the students to be diligent as well, and some kids don’t like to work that hard. But I know my students listen because days later, they’ll repeat or suggest some expectation or strategy I had mentioned as an alternative, in case the one I’m teaching doesn’t work for them. And they know that no matter what occurs — if there’s a bad day for either of us — they know I care that they succeed so the next day is good again. So this truly listening to their perspective and idea, and asking them to build on it is a key part of building that trust. And it serves literacy because we need that evidence and elaboration to prove our points. Here the expectation is set listen, to elaborate, to revise, to agree, speak up, disagree agreeably, and to help each other. We are learning and modeling and practicing the protocols that will guide us through the year together. This is also a formative assessment; I’m listening and acknowledging the ideas and providing feedback in the form of a question so the student can build their idea. I am communicating my expectation for elaboration, example, and details. Feedback’s effect size is .075. Feedback is specific, not praise – it’s a key strategy for improved learning (Fisher, Frey, Hattie, 2016, p. 17).

Another important aspect of this activity is the concept map created first by individuals and then as groups and finally as a class — What Works / What doesn’t. Students are analyzing and sorting ideas, a thinking strategy needed for deeper understanding. But it’s not the organizer that makes the thinking deeper — it’s what students do with the organizer that deepens learning. In this case, students discuss with the notes, elaborate and revise the notes, choose the most important, and then write from them.  This activity introduces them to a simple T-chart, one of many organizers that help think through complex ideas. Again, it sets the stage for what’s ahead. And it’s the using the notes that brings the deeper thinking  and deeper learning. The effect size for this use of concept maps is 0.60 (Fisher, Frey, Hattie, 2016, p. 80).

Another important point about class and group discussions is to encourage student to student conversations to clarify and carry the ideas further without the teacher as arbitrator of the conversation. At any time I can begin that journey by directing students to share together on a point, so we have just increased the impact on student learning. True classroom discussions like that has an effect size of 0.82! So step back whenever possible.

Students now have the knowledge to begin writing the guidelines for the community.

  • If guidelines are on the computer, randomly pick one group to edit to take out the duplicates; If guidelines are on paper, ask one student to type up each group’s list, editing for duplicates. The rest move on to the next task. For this task, choose a fast typer 🙂

  • Ask each student to make two lists of what we’ve done in the classroom so far:

    • A list of what the students did

    • A list of what the teacher did

  • Ask student groups to share make a list on poster paper of what we’ve done so far in the classroom

    • A list of what students did

    • A list of what teacher did

  • Put the edited learning community guidelines up and ask students if they are complete [teacher may add too]

  • Are they agreeable? Ask the students to type their name below the guidelines

  • Hang up  the  “What We Did” posters

  • Review the Community Guidelines with students but in the context of expectations for classroom protocol, which may include [we’ll review this over the week, so it doesn’t need to take long or be this complete on this day]:

    • Enter the room [tomorrow students will have their own copy of the Guidelines and a notebook to store in the room — which they need daily as part of entry]

      • Student

        • Be prepared — pens, pencils, papers, class notebooks, library books, all ready to go

        • Look for and complete entry task

        • If no entry task, read or write [on projects]

      • Teacher

        • Entry task ready

        • Reading  / Writing ready

        • Greets students / reviews work

    • Individual Work [student and teacher]

      • Quiet

      • On own

      • In own area

      • Distraction free

      • Teacher conferences

    • Group Work

      • Student

        • All participate

        • Listen

        • Discuss

        • Positive voices

        • Agree to disagree

        • Support with evidence

        • Invite all to participate

        • Roles [to be expanded on later [leader, timekeeper, statistician, recorder, morale officer]

      • Teacher

        • Monitors groups

        • Confers with groups

        • Feedback

      • Closing

          • Ask students what we will probably need to do to close our class:

            • Exit Thoughts

            • Clean areas

            • Computer protocol

            • Turn in

            • Class work away in own area

            • My rule: Stand by desks for dismissal

            • Last class: Stacks chairs and stands by desk

In this activity, we learn that the whole class will not always be working on the same activity — here we have two activities occurring that will help complete the project. And we review another organizer [teacher and student participation] based on the concept of classroom protocol expectations for both teacher and students. This will be another continuous conversation as different aspects of class needs occur [fire drills, phone calls, visitors, online safety, computer use, etc.]. It doesn’t happen in one day. We learn that we are flexible, and always learning — and that is an important understanding of a learning community. Because we learn these and add to the charts over several days, we begin to refer to them, revise them, and make them ours over time. Did you know that spaced practice as opposed to mass practice has an effect size of 0.71? That’s why we practice, not all at once, not in one day.

  • Exit Thoughts: What confuses you? What’s the most important thing you learned about being successful in this class? This can be on paper or in a Share Out document.  Students practice closing protocol.

Finally, the exit ticket, the formative assessment that tells me what the students know or not, another model for what we’ll be doing throughout the year, and most important, not for the students, but for me, the teacher. I will know the true impact of this day’s lessons, and know what to do tomorrow to make sure that for each student, I’m leading him or her on the path towards a successful year of learning. Formative assessment has an effect size of 0.90, but only if I use this information to inform my instruction. Of course, throughout the day, I’ve been conducting formative assessments while presenting information and getting feedback, while listening to groups, while managing discussions, and while interacting with individuals. I’ve been adapting the timing, the process, and the product of each step on the spot based on what students need. Perhaps a role-play was added to show how to have a discussion in groups or how to point out an error politely. Perhaps paper over computers, or vice versa. But the goal and the flow move forward to live these questions:

  • How do researchers investigate successfully?

  • What strategies and processes do collaborators need for success?

  • How do readers and writers determine and develop relevant, accurate, and complete topics?

  • How do publishers design and organize content for their audience and purpose?

  • Why and how do editors and speakers use and edit with the rules for standard English grammar and language ?

I’m in a dance with students, listening to their beat, and adjusting the learning path for their success. It’s a dance, not numbers, because it is what we do that matters; it is our community of learners that makes a difference in life. It’s a dance along a string I lay out, so students may discover their own steps and beat along it.

So, keep dancing and laying out that string — and think about how your strategies “by the numbers” and by your experience provide a pace that fits each student because you too know what works for your kids! And all the while, both you and your students grow and learn and improve together.

reciprocal teaching chomsky

Choose 2 Matter



Chomsky, Noam Review of The Young Socratics. Retrieved from Website, August, 2016.

Chomsky, Noam (1995). Excerpted from Class Warfare, 1995, pp. 19-23, 27-31 retrieved from website August, 2016.

Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education. New York: Macmillan, p181

Fisher, Douglas, Nancy Frey, and John Hattie. Visible Learning for Literacy, Grades K-12: Implementing the Practices That Work Best to Accelerate Student Learning.2016. Kindle

Marzano, R. and Toth, Michael. “Becoming a Reflective Teacher” Learning Sciences International Webinar, Retrieved 8.24.16

Hattie, J. Corrections in VL2.pdf. Ingham Intermediate School District Wiki Web, retrieved 8.24.16
Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning. New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group. Kindle

Hattie, John. Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning. London: Routledge, 2012. Kindle

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