Thursday, May 25, 2017

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Flash Freebie in May!

Flash Freebie!
May 20th and May 21st for TiePlay Ed. TN followers only.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Now and Then: Immeasurable Qualities of Teacher Effectiveness


    Is an excellent teacher really definable? How can a truly effective teacher be characterized? In the old days of education, there were no "highly qualified" teachers.


   Really? Of course there were... and here are just some of the past teaching greats.

     Confucius (561 B.C) was the first well-know private instructor who also wrote the book, Analects. Confucius believed that a leader needed to be humble. A true leader shows compassion and empathy toward others. He wrote how families and the general public should act. In doing so, Confucius began the basis for educational ideals. A notorious Confucius writing declared,


   "What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others."

  •    The Pilgrims (1635) presented their students with reading, writing and religion in the New World.

             Highly Qualified Teachers Had To...

                             In the 1800's
  •   impress the school board of their moral character
  •    succeed on tests of reading, writing, and arithmetic for a state certificate
  •    triumph on later subject tests added: U.S. history, geography, spelling, and grammar
  •    enroll in Normal schools to prepare for instruction and teaching certificates based on multifarious and disconnected topics
        By the twentieth century, noted education schools fought for school improvement. However, there were no effective teaching practices to mentor new teachers. The debate continued on needed subject matters, teaching methods, assessments and research methods.

Even today, teachers get the impression that the latest in education research may conflict with other well-known and seemingly ideal practices.




   In the heyday of  NCLB,  the most sought after education remedy by the general public, polls and in educational departments was the issue of... teacher quality.

     So, ideally, unqualified teachers are a challenge of the past, right? Educators are now critically examined by multiple state testing and an administrator's sometimes very vauge opinions during occasional drop-ins and evaluations. Perhaps, teaching assessments could even be mainly about "politics" in some school districts. 


    States continue to show how poor and minority children are not (illegally) instructed by "inexperienced, unqualified, or out-of-field teachers". Unfortunately, research implicates that administrators at high-needs schools gravitate toward hiring the least qualified and the least experienced. So, what can this mean?


                                      Into the Future

       Based on the past history of powerful teachers, teaching efforts, and our present circumstances, high quality teachers should not only acquire and maintain content knowledge and teaching skills. Competent instructors should also focus on :

  •      caring services to students, free of biased and discriminatory practices

  •      holistic development for each student

  •      allowing students to learn to exercise their own judgement 

  •      stressing moral education, so that students understand important interaction guidelines


          In looking towards the future, elected school board members might want to actively search for teachers and administrators who substantiate moral character, which to me (and many others) is a first priority. Teachers should have an aptitude for teaching subject matter, of course, as shown by certification and other tested credentials.

        Yet,  teaching skills and subject matter are acquired professionalisms which are continuously being changed and developed. The teachers that convey moral character will adapt to changes in order to better their skills, such as in technology, mentoring students, and advancing their community away from the tides of poverty and oppression.


         All one has to do is look around the county for real statistics.

    • businesses & employment in the county

    • condition of community facilities

    • crime rates

    • high school drop out rates to include children in middle school (and not just high school)

    • teaching credentials to include unique experiences and assistances within a diverse culture or community

    • be less concerned with teacher multiple choice tests, essays and college grade point averages and be very much concerned about hiring caring professionals with character

    • ratio of students of ethnic backgrounds to teachers of similar ethnic backgrounds (very important) 

    • drug use and abuse issues in townships

    • diverse teachers and administrators from various backgrounds, locations, universities and states 

        There is much more real life statistics not listed, but this kind of information might answer questions and determine how well a school system educates their students. 

        Our education status should not be rated solely on how students are doing on any one state or international muliple choice test, as it is now. After all, how does yearly testing impact the adult world of work in most jobs? 

       Children rely on adults to make great teaching happen in their schools. If our kids are not doing well in evaluations or even state and international tests, dropping out, unhappy, not fitting in, being bullied or yelled at, whose fault is it?


                                The problem might not be the children.

        Our educational system supports our economy. If our children have the skills and appropriate moral attitudes after completing high school and/or college, they and others will flourish not only in the work world, but in raising families and in building better communities.

    Tuesday, April 18, 2017

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    Sunday, April 2, 2017

    Please Welcome Sharon Skretting & Rubrics Made Easy

    Rubrics Made Easy

       Why don't teachers like to make rubrics? Because it's difficult and time consuming. But that all changes with this tool!

       Wow! I am pumped! I just returned from the Google Summit in Lethbridge and couldn't be more excited about the multitude of new tools available with Google for Education. At the summit I presented a session highlighting new way to use Google sheets to lighten your work load when it comes to making rubrics for any classroom activity! Intrigued? Read on!

       In my role as Assessment Coach for our school division, it's my job to help teachers implement best practices when it comes to assessment. To this end I've been using doing a lot of research and having great conversations with teachers about how to involve kids in their own assessment. Can our students be involved in the process of collecting, organizing and presenting their evidence of learning. Better yet, can they be responsible for it? Yes. Yes. YES!

       How? First of all we have to let them know what their learning goals are. This is where outcome or standards based assessment shines. When we share with our students the targets we want them to hit it gives them confidence to streamline their efforts toward those goals. Clearly identifying those goals and communicating them to your students is the first step to success.

       One way to accomplish such a lofty goal is to break open the rubrics! (And yes, it is just one of our goals, but an important one.) Well built rubrics use specific language that allow students to see clearly defined expectations of work quality and depth of understanding. Rubrics are useful, however, not as an after thought for marking student work. Instead rubrics must be used at the beginning of the learning process as a means to involve the students in identifying their learning goals and being invested in the assessment process. When used in this way, rubrics provide the road map for learning success.

       The challenge? Designing well built rubrics is downright difficult! Time and time again, teachers express to me how difficult it is to come up with the right wording for their rubric. It's a time consuming process that must be repeated and tailored to each new activity, project, unit or lesson. My question is... why keep re-inventing the wheel? What if we could have a bank of rubric descriptors that we could use for a variety of different purposes. What if we could use that descriptor bank in a myriad of combinations to populate and make a custom rubric for each unit or all the performance based activities within a unit. Yes... what if? That was my thinking when I decided to make interactive rubrics.

       These rubrics are: (use slides)

       Interested? Here's how the interactive rubrics work. Watch this:

       Can you see the possibilities? Could this same process be applied to make other useful tools for assessment in the classroom? Absolutely!

       The response from teachers throughout our school division,—to this time-saving tool— has been phenomenal. They love it! It's so good that we can't keep it to ourselves. I' want to pass these helpful tools on to my subscribers. If you are interested then subscribe here to my newsletter and I'll send you a very special access to a pre-built science rubrics for any grade 1 - 9 ( Disclaimer: They are built for the Alberta Curriculum, but I suspect that with some minor tweaking in the wording they can fit your curriculum, too. They are totally editable but not edible.) You'll also get access to a prebuilt blank rubric, and step by step video instructions on how to use them to make your own interactive rubrics for any subject.

       As always, those who sign up will find these language posters included.

       It's my goal to empower all of you with the tools you need to make it easy to implement best practice assessment in the classroom. I'm here to help anytime. Just email me at



       P.S. I'd love to hear how you use these rubrics in your classroom. Respond in the comments below or drop me a line!

    Wednesday, March 29, 2017

    It's Time to Tinker at School

         When asked why the US trails behind other countries in international testing scores, Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist, states that a child's inherent creativity is put on a leash in our current educational system. Tyson's idea for better schools is that kids should, (a) feel comfortable enough to ask questions, and (b) be rewarded for asking them. “You don’t want to raise a kid in a culture where the kid who asks the most questions is annoying,” he said. “You want a culture where the kid who asks the most questions gets awards and gets another piece of cake."

    What would you think about a tinker time for your kids at school?

    a. Never waste instructional time.
    b. Kids can not tinker around. We don't have time to squander...remember our state exam numbers.
    c. Ridiculous... a tinker time is not useful to students. It is all about frivolity, frippery and fuss.
    d. Fantastic!

                                      Hopefully, you said, d. "fantastic", like I did. 
    But, how does tinker time really relate to life in the real world?

        Look at the very prosperous company, Google. Google’s philosophy is, “to create the happiest, most productive workplace in the world,” stated by spokesman, Jordan Newman. If one took a tour of Google, would one see close corridors and rows of cubicals or desks two inches apart? Processed and frozen lunch foods ready to be heated up or microwaved? Dull and dreary surroundings?
        Nope, sorry.

       How about free gourmet food and lounge chairs to work outside in the sun? Large spaces to interact and to roam? Interior surroundings full of whimsy...secret bookcase passageways to reading rooms? Are there lego station play areas? How about periodic scavenger hunts? Can one bring a dog to work or self-design one's own large tinker toy desk?

       The answer is YES.  But, Google must be doing all of this for some very good reasons. We will explore some possibilties in a moment. Although companies that go so far as to create a fun and exciting work place might be rare, maybe we should reconsider how we design our schools and schedules for our kids.

     The  Horrible Dangers of Being a Creative Kid

       Being a tinker person might become dangerous in school. When I was a kid, I disliked having to add together large amount of numbers, say 25 + 78 + 19 + 38 = ? So, I'd add up the ones first, add up the tens and then added them both together. As I didn't solve the way the teacher showed us, I was afraid to show my teacher how I found the answer, thinking she might not like the idea and in front of the entire class. But, I did it in my own simple way. But, oops...she did find out. I suddenly became a below par math student that year. Little did I know that I used the partial sum strategy used today from second grade on up. I still like to be creative in many ways, as almost every child does.

    Constant Teaching Regiments
       Kids love to use their creativity. However, some schools seem to have a constant teaching regiment where learning must take place at every moment (or maybe a school personel's answer might be... a, b, and c to my very first question?) I speculate if true learning can actually take place every moment, each day for 7-8 hours in an crowded classroom with a dull and dreary school setting. Or might it be called... information overload?

                           So, what is information overload and how might it effect us?

         Daniel Levitin, psychology professor, believes that the conscious mind might be able to focus on three or possibly four, things at one time. But, “...if you get much beyond that, you begin to exercise poorer judgment, you lose track of things and you lose your focus,”. Imagine how an average student feels when so many common core objectives in each subject matter must be learned in one day.

           Yet, Levitin goes on to speak of the skill of daydreaming and how it can be effective.

    "Daydreaming allows creating links between things we might not have seen as linked before, and from that may come the solutions to problems."

    The Value of Actively Practicing the Art of Creativity
        Some researchers believe that if imagination isn't practiced as a child, adults end up losing the skill altogether. Then, we have to find a way to recoup. The art of creativity has much value with great possibilities such as, practicle solutions to everyday or complex problems, job prosperity, extreme enjoyment, active engagement, and a purposefulness to life.

             So, what can be done during a half hour to one hour tinker time in school? 

       These are just some of many tinker time ideas. But remember, tinker time does take organization, preparation, budgeting and funding. Tinker time should not be confused as a replacement to recess. Recess is a must do.

                                                 Tinker Time Ideas

    Tinker Beautification Committee

       Develop committees that endeavor to enhance school interiors, surroundings, playground, work areas and floras. This might involve kids, parents and concerned people within the community. Budgeting and fundraisers may be the first must do's on your to-do list.

    Tinker Mural Stations
       Why not beautify your school with changeable, themed wall murals that have accessories to use as a tinker station? See the above castle with clouds. This kind of art would be a joy to view. Possible accessories at the station might be ogre face masks, a castle to build and a mat to sit on. Notice I said changeable. Just like we adults, kids love artistic changes and new murals every so often. I suggest at least 4 mural replacements per school year.

    Tinker Tubbing

       I taught Kindergarten for several years and kids absolutely loved what I called, tubbing time. Why not for older kids, too? A plastic tub might contain interesting objects that kids can tinker with. You might come up with ideas for students to try and print them out for each tub. I suggest that you don't make your ideas a necessity for each tinkering tub. Small groups of kids can make up their own tubs, too. For example: A fourth grade student might develop a weigh and measure tub with actual items or other ideas.

    Tinker Garden Co-op

           For kids who love to play in the dirt, plant and dig, a garden cooperative might do well at your school. A garden cooperative allows people and parents from the community to assist in building a productive garden. If the garden flourishes, each volunteer might split up the produce to take home. If your area is cold country, as mine once was, a greenhouse might do the trick.

    A Tinker Model Train/Lego Room

       Some kids would love to create and arrange things. Miniature railroad tracks could be slowly pieced together with mini stations, stores, people, houses, ponds, and bridges during tinker time. The room could also change themes throughout the year, such as, A Ride Though Fall Foliage,  Holidays In Our World to Fairy Tale Forest, or UFO Trails. Hey well, Google has a lego room. Another thought.

    Tinker Mini-Time Sports
       Develop leagues to play team sports, such as kickball, basketball, tag, soccer, hop scotch, etc. during tinker time. Kids could even develop new games or twists on the old.

    Lights, Camera, Action....Tinker Role Play

       Kids could dress up  in costumes and role play different characters during tinker time. From movie stars to cartoon characters to fairy tales, the sky is the limit for role play. It would be great if home economics classes still existed, as kids could learn to create their own costumes.

    Tinker Set Designs

       Imagine building a set design for role play or other tinker activities. Sounds expensive, right? Actually, it can be done with papier-mâché, large cardboard boxes (like the size of refrigerator boxes) and paint. I did this once with a drama club. We built the set designs for Snow White and Rumplestiltskin and with a spinning wheel accessory. With the help of others, the two sets came out fine.

    Tinker Cultural Exchanges

       Why not develop a cultural exchange with a different country? There are teachers from the US that teach abroad. Why not make these type contacts for school use (and for safety reasons)? Kids could develop many skills and gain understanding for others by conversing via email or other measures and with adult supervision.

    I will leave you to consider Ken Robinson's insight on the topic of imagination.

     "...And the only way we'll do it is by seeing our creative capacities for the richness they are and seeing our children for the hope that they are. And our task is to educate their whole being, so they can face this future." 

    TiePlay Ed. Presents...