Building Community Through Academics

When they are working towards a common goal, engaged in a fascinating topic, or trying to figure out a solution for a meaningful problem, students feel more connected to school and each other. Engaged learners have lots to talk about, including discoveries and interesting facts, experiments, predictions, and what they are looking forward to learning next. Here are some ideas for planning units or lessons that will foster this powerful sense of connection through learning.
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Interactive Modeling for Academic Success

Interactive Modeling is a simple, quickly paced way of teaching that can lead students to a stronger mastery of skills than traditional modeling. It's effective for teaching any skill or procedure that…
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Are You Having Fun?

One afternoon in late October, my third grade class laughed together for the first time this year. It happened as we were getting ready to transition from science to math. "Okay," I…
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The Value of Struggle

"When did your courage surprise you?" I was profoundly moved by this question when it was posed at a conference I attended years ago, and it came back to me recently when…
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Why Does Interactive Modeling Work?

When it's done effectively, Interactive Modeling helps students achieve greater, faster, and longer-lasting success in meeting expectations and mastering skills. My new book, Interactive Modeling, provides step-by-step guidance on using this powerful…
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Time to Change the Routine?

Which parts of your school day just don't seem to work as well as you'd like? Now's a great time to do some problem-solving, imagine new possibilities, and plan to make changes…
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Fostering Imagination

Children need to develop the ability to think imaginatively and creatively. Children with imagination do a better job visualizing what they are reading, solving problems, entertaining themselves without devices, and thinking creatively…
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Morning Message Idea: What Do You Know?

Here’s a Morning Meeting message idea from 80 Morning Meeting Ideas for Grades 3–6, by Carol Davis: Use a message like this one to tap students’ prior knowledge and engage them in…
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Group Activity Idea: Encore!

Here’s a Morning Meeting activity idea from 80 Morning Meeting Ideas for Grades 3–6, by Carol Davis: Encore! Students team up to connect vocabulary words with favorite songs. How to do this…
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Sharing Idea: Who Remembers My Favorite Book?

Playing a fun remembering game builds on children's listening and memory skills.
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Weekly Plan for Morning Messages

In addition to the other tips I shared for getting out of a Morning Meeting Message rut, I strongly recommend making a weekly plan. Instead of trying to come up with ideas…
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Need a New Mattress?

At this time of year, people who work in schools often start feeling a bit frayed. Now that the school year is well underway, the "honeymoon period" of the first weeks is…
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Teaching Future Scientists

 "Young engineers, it looks as if you have mastered skyscrapers. Now you are ready for the challenge of building a bridge!" said the teacher to a small group of children in a…
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The Trouble with Testing

When I first began my teaching career in the early 1990's, it felt like an exciting time to be in education. There was incredible momentum building for rich, multi-layered, developmentally appropriate teaching.…
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Do You Teach Writing?

Always on the lookout for resources to help teachers, I recently found a gem: Day by Day: Refining Writing Workshop Through 180 Days of Reflective Practice (Stenhouse, 2010). Ruth Ayres and Stacey…
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Morning Meeting and Academics

You may have heard it said: "Morning Meeting isn't another thing you add to the plate—it is the plate." If you use Morning Meeting in your classroom, you know about its benefits:…
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Good Morning, Friendly Workers!

Question: In many classrooms, the morning message chart is an important part of the beginning of each day and the first place that students go as they enter the classroom. On the…
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Seeing It All Come Together

While reading Mike Anderson’s series of posts about strategies for keeping students active and engaged, I kept thinking about a second grade classroom I visited recently. I was lucky enough to watch…
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What Do You Think a Decimal Is?

During a recent visit to a third grade classroom, I was tickled by students' responses to a question on the morning message chart. The class was about to begin a unit of…
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Sitting Too Much?

“My students have such a hard time sitting still! They call out all the time! They’re constantly out of their seats!” After hearing this refrain over and over again from teachers, I…
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Opening the Door to Math

Morning Meeting activities can provide a confidence-building environment for math review, and Morning Meeting messages can be used to pique students’ curiosity about a math lesson that will take place later in…
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Energizers! Energizing with the Dinosaurs

This clapping chant is fun for K–3 students anytime, but especially when they’re studying dinosaurs! Called “Dino Dinner Chant,” it’s from Energizers! 88 Quick Movement Activities That Refresh and Refocus, by Susan…
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An Energizer with an Academic Twist

“Interruptions” gets students up and shaking out the cobwebs—while enhancing their listening and literacy skills in a fun way! It’s especially good with K–3 students, but older children may also enjoy it.…
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Book Club Lunches

When I was a second grader, my teacher would take us outside on mild afternoons to relax with whatever book we chose. We’d munch snacks and chat as we read together. Those…
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Marvelous Math

"Which of Beauvoir's Life Rules do you think is most important? Add to the graph to show what you think." For a month, these words greeted all who passed through Beauvoir's front…
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Open-Ended Questions

Language is one of the most powerful tools available to teachers. We can use language to stretch children’s curiosity, reasoning ability, creativity, and independence. One effective way to do this is by…
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What Do Insects Do All Day?

Four classes of second graders have just begun a new science unit on insects at the University School of Nashville in Tennessee. I and the other three second-grade teachers have each invited…
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