Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Questioning Strategies to Build Student Voice

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” By Albert Einstein

One thing in education that has not change over the years is how important questioning is in the classroom. Educational leaders from Aristotle and Socrates to Jay Mctighe and George Couros have all discussed the importance of asking questions, as it is a powerful strategy that works in all grade levels and content areas.

Using questioning strategies allows you to provide opportunities for student voice to be engaged in the classroom.  When using the right questions it…

  • create powerful academic conversations
  • sparks imagination
  • allows students to self-evaluate

It is important to allow time for students to think about the questions you or other students ask. You also want to ask open-ended questions that don’t lead to a “right” answer. I like using Blooms Revised Taxonomy as a starting guide to help with types of questions. Here are a few examples of different questioning levels that promote student voice.

Remembering: (Recall, Identification)

  • Describe…..

Understanding (Selection of facts, explaining)

  • Summarize…

Applying (Use of information)

  • Why is ____ significant?

Analysis (Separating a whole into components)

  • What evidence can you list for …

Evaluation (development of decisions, opinions, judgements etc)

  • What do you think about…

Create (generating new ideas, producing, designing)

  • How could you create or design a new…? Explain your thinking.

Other great question stems I like using:

  • What evidence can you present for/against…
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of …
  • Describe … from the perspective of ….
  • What solutions could you suggest the problem of … why…

More questioning strategy resources:

50 Questions To Help Students Think About What They Think

Asking Questions to Improve Learning

Questions Provoking Critical Thinking




Building Student Agency

“What are you doing in your classroom now that you could turn over to students to do for themselves?” By Alan November

Close you eyes and imagine what a typical day looks like in your classroom and ask yourself these questions:

  • What percentage of time are you talking verse your students?
  • How often do you let students create verse consume knowledge?
  • How often do you ask for students ideas or feedback?


Student Agency is one of the most important skills we can give to our students. When we “rescue” students when they struggle or give the students answers because there is not enough time to get through the curriculum, we are doing a disservice and enabling them.

The below ideas will help you to build student agency in your classroom but the most important thing to remember is we (educators) need to get out of the students way and facilitate learning opportunities.

  1. Growth Mindset: Teaching students about having a growth mindset and that they can always learn new things or get better through practice. (See previous blog posts on growth mindsets to learn how.)
  2. Voice: Have students included in the conversations. Ask students how they want to learn in your classroom? Give them surveys about your projects and lessons so they can offer feedback. Another way to allow student voice is through goal setting and refection during class.
  3. Choice: No one wants to be told what to do all the time! Allowing students to choose what they want to work on builds agency and motivation. Often times teachers think that giving them choice means giving them ten things to chose from but that is not the case. Allow students to chose between two things such as which book they want to read,  what product do they want to create or which task they want to do.
  4. Thinking and Questioning: Allowing students to have time to think and process is important. Asking them questions to see what they truely know and have mastered also allows students to not only process things differently but self-regulate. There are different types of questioning strategies you can use in the classroom to also allow more student voice and thinking.  (More coming on this in next weeks blog post)
  5. Opportunities to be a Creator:  We need to change the way we see students, no longer as consumers, but as creators of their learning. Providing opportunities for students to create allows students to self-evaluate, self-regulate and self-motivate whiling showing mastery of content. Having students create podcasts, PSA announcements, iMovies etc allows students to go deeper with their learning too.

Authentic engagement occurs when students have agency and feel like they are apart of the school experience verse it being done to them. What changes will you make to add more student agency in your classroom?

Personalized Learning Center

“Learn as if you were to live forever.” Gandhi

I am excited to be apart of the Personalized Learning Center as a coach, collaborator, and conversationalist!  I recommend taking advantage of this unique opportunity.

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What is the Personalized Learning Center?

The Personalized Learning Center (PLC) is a private Facebook group founded by Bena Kallick and Allison Zmuda, co-authors of Students at the Center: Personalized Learning with Habits of Mind. The purpose of the group is to provide grassroots, educator-to-educator networking.

What will you get as a member of the PLC?

Two primary benefits: networking and group-exclusive materials.

  • Networking: You will gain access to Bena Kallick and Allison Zmuda and — perhaps more importantly — one another. This will strengthen communication of those within personalized learning, continuing to grow national and international understanding of the concept.
  • Group-Exclusive Materials: Materials will be designed with and for you. This includes, but is not limited to: FAQs based on your questions, special publications designed with and for you, a reading/viewing list based on collective submissions, featured opportunities on the Learning Personalized and Institute of Habits of Mind websites.

How do I join?

After filling out the form below, you will be directed to a payment page. Once you’ve filled out the registration form, agreed to Terms and Conditions, and completed payment, you will be invited to the group.

How much does it cost?

Membership to the group is $10 per month or $100 annually for individuals or $400 annually for teams of five members or fewer within a specific school or district. Rates for entire schools can be negotiated. All billing is executed through PayPal.


I Challenge Educators This Year….

“There is nothing like a challenge to bring out the best in man.” By Sean Connery

Happy New School Year! This year I want to challenge educators to stretch themselves so that their teaching craft can improve in new ways! Below are my challenges…will you accept?

  1. Try something new this year: Step out of your comfort zone and try something new. It can be a new project for your students or a new technology tool.  When you step out of your comfort zone that is when the real learning begins.
  2. Talk less: Empower students to show their thinking and allow them to have productive struggle time. Turn your statements into questions or prompts such as “Would you tell me how you got the answer for question #1?” or “Can you put that in your own words?” after you give them directions or after another student gave a response.
  3. Don’t give homework (except to have students read a book of their choice): We must challenge the status quo; just because homework has always been given, doesn’t mean that it is the right thing to do. Read my previous blog post about why I don’t give homework anymore.



Toolkit for Encouraging Kindness in the Classroom

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” by Mark Twain

I felt compelled today to do another blog post on choosing to encourage kindness in the classroom even though within the year I wrote one already on Promoting Random Acts of Kindness in the Classroom. I feel this is becoming more and more important in our world today. It is something that is so simple, doesn’t cost money and can be done by everyone. Below I put together a toolkit of resources to help encourage kindness in the classroom.

Projects and Lessons:

The Certified Kind Classroom Challenge  (From the Book Wonder)

Kindness Ninja Challenge

World Kindness Day (Nov. 13th)

Be Kind People Project

The Great Kindness Challenge

Random Acts of Kindness


Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins

How Kind! by Mary Murphy

Harry The Happy Mouse

The Berenstain Bears: Kindness Counts

Kindness Ninja: Recruiting The Team

Kindness Counts: A Story for Teaching Random Acts of Kindness 

I have more books listed on my Random Acts of Kindness blog post.


You Never Know Who’s Day You Have Helped

9 Random Acts of Kindness

A 1st Grader’s Act of Kindness Just Restored Our Faith in Humanity


The healing power of kindness

The Science of Giving: Why One Act of Kindness is Usually Followed by Another

12 Ways to Promote Kindess in the Classroom

Kindess Collection: How to Guide for the Classroom

Please share in the comments ways that you have spread kindness in your classroom or school.

Personalized Learning and Students with Disabilities

“Educators should be champions of every student who enters the schoolhouse doors.” by Carol Ann Tomlinson

Guest Blog Post by Ace Parsi

The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) is proud to announce the launch of a collection of cutting-edge resources and recommendations available in one central location: Personalized Learning and Students with Disabilities. The resource hub contains information, case studies, and recommendations – all with an eye on the needs and success of students with disabilities – tailored for parents, educators, school communities and policymakers, wherever and however they may be approaching personalized learning.  Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, this addition to is the culmination of a three-year exploration of how students with disabilities can benefit from efforts to customize their learning to align with their strengths and interests.

 This new section of features 13 new publications, including resources and policy recommendations for states to successfully design and implement approaches to personalized learning that fully include students with disabilities, nine practical examples of schools and districts utilizing personalized learning frameworks, and a national report exploring how these efforts can best support students with disabilities.

 In addition to working with you all, to produce these resources, NCLD worked closely with advocates, parents, educators, experts and policymakers at both the state and federal levels. NCLD worked specifically in New Hampshire, Colorado and North Carolina–three states that not only reflect geographic, demographic and political diversity, but which are also at different stages of implementing personalized learning.

 The resource hub also includes definitions and key components of personalized learning systems, key questions to ask in development and implementation, and policy and practice recommendations. The resources are customized for parentseducators, administrators and policymakers so they can use personalized learning as a way to create engaging learning environments that allow all students–including those with disabilities–to thrive. These resources build on NCLD’s recent national report, the State of Learning Disabilities, which provides state-specific resources and policy recommendations for supporting students with learning and attention issues.

NCLD believes the future of education is one where all children receive a customized learning experience. Increasing opportunities for schools to adopt a personalized learning approach will allow all students to thrive. We look forward to continuing this important work and ongoing partnership across the field to ensure innovative approaches to learning fully include students with disabilities. 

12 Books Every Principal Should Read

“Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood.” By John Green

Below are ten books I highly recommend that all Principals should read in no particular order. I would love to hear what books you think should be on this list as I love growing my library! Please add in the comments.

  1. Innovator Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity  by George Couros
  2. Move Your Bus: An Extraordinary New Approach to Accelerating Success in Work and Life by Ron Clark 
  3. Lead Like a PIRATE: Make School Amazing for Your Students by Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf 

  4. The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact by Michael Fullan (He has a lot of great books but this is my favorite)

  5. Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the New Innovation Era by  Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith  
  6. Embracing a Culture of Joy: How Educators Can Bring Joy to Their Classrooms Each Day by Dean Shareski

  7. Anything by Jon Gordan, I love all his books! Soup: A Recipe to Create a Culture of Greatness is probably my favorite. I am currently reading, The Power of Positive Leadership: How and Why Positive Leaders Transform Teams and Organizations and Change the World


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