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TXTS 4 Teachers

Filtering by Tag: txts4teachers

Updating parents through social media. #yesplease

Marlys WeaverStoesz

Every savvy educator is deeply aware of how important it is to partner with parents.  Indeed, most schools include the goal of strengthening the home-school connection in their school improvement plans.  

Yet, as always, time is a precious commodity for teachers – and parents – and the best intentions to connect - are often tepidly met.

What if you could have your students’ parents “follow” on a social media platform similar to Twitter?  Such apps exist!  One of the more promising ones is BonFyre.  Read all about BonFyre and other apps to enhance the home-school connection at the following link:

Differentiated Instruction Made Easier

Marlys WeaverStoesz

Every conscientious teacher works towards differentiating instruction in myriad ways, ranging from honoring students’ current reading levels to integrating high-interest, cross-curricular texts while providing an element of choice of topics.

Since this noble endeavor is also quite time-consuming, we are fortunate to have websites such as NewsELA just a browser search away!  Similar to, NewsELA offers “text sets” of thematically linked readings and supporting materials.  NewsELA, however, focuses on current events.  

Check out this month’s offerings related to Women’s History Month.  The link below will take you to an article featuring the women from the Oscar nominated film, Hidden Figures.  It’s a nice piece of cross-curricular reading, too!

Remembering Howard Gardner...The Father of Multiple Intelligence Theory

Marlys WeaverStoesz

In 1997, Howard Gardner’s groundbreaking work on Multiple Intelligence
Theory created a sensation in education circles.  Those of us who were teaching in the late
1990’s and early 2000’s will recall a flurry of activity designed to create
instruction that honored our students’ multiple intelligences.  Fast-forward 20 years, where we now either take Gardner’s work for
granted or have never even heard of him.  
  Today, we take you to a quick quiz to discover your personal
“multi-intelligences.”  Be sure to follow
the hyperlinks to an interview with Gardner about his take on how his theory is
applicable to current educational issues.

In 1997, Howard Gardner’s groundbreaking work on Multiple Intelligence Theory created a sensation in education circles.  Those of us who were teaching in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s will recall a flurry of activity designed to create instruction that honored our students’ multiple intelligences.

Fast-forward 20 years, where we now either take Gardner’s work for granted or have never even heard of him.  

Today, we take you to a quick quiz to discover your personal “multi-intelligences.”  Be sure to follow the hyperlinks to an interview with Gardner about his take on how his theory is applicable to current educational issues.

iCivics: Civics Studies Your Students  Will Love!

Marlys WeaverStoesz

Unfortunately, civics studies has a reputation among certain circles of students as being BORING!  

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, we are sharing a website that aims to deliver Cupid’s arrow to naysayers’ hearts!  Developed by retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, iCivics provides a plethora of high-interest, interactive resources with the intent of developing students into well-informed citizens.

We especially loved the interactive games.  They are better than a box of chocolates and a dozen roses, in our opinion!


Marlys WeaverStoesz

We are now 31 days into 2017.   It is a perfect time to think about what we have accomplished along side our students in the past 31 days!

On that note, enjoy the following quote to put accomplishment into perspective:

“The word accomplished is a relative term. We’re accomplished when the students and teacher both learn something.  As teachers, we can never achieve perfection, only strive to do our best and enjoy the journey. An accomplished educator is someone who learns to eat their lunch in six minutes.”

- Melinda, Abitz, Fifth Grade Teacher, Topeka, Kansas from The Best Advice Ever for Teachers (McGuire, C. & Abitz, D., 2001).

Three Easy Steps To Be Even More Awesome

Marlys WeaverStoesz

1.       Create a playlist titled “Best Day Ever.” Consider including the following songs: One Shot by Robin Thicke, No Roots by Alice Martin, and Shine by Asta. Play it loudly on the way to work. (But not so loud that you drown out talk radio in the cars beside you in traffic. That’s un-awesome.)

2.       Reduce the number of “selfies” you take by 50 percent. Increase the number of “besties” (photos you take with your friends) by 100 percent!

3.       Make the following cookie recipe and share them in the lounge/breakroom with a note that says, “So grateful to work with people like you.” Don’t sign it.

Multi-Grades One-Stop Shopping Lesson Plans for MLK Day

Marlys WeaverStoesz

With Martin Luther King, Jr. Day fast upon us, we figured teachers of all grade levels would appreciate the following ready-to-go lesson plans for multiple grade bands.

K-2nd Grade – “Dr. King’s Dream” -

3rd-5th Grades – “Let Freedom Ring: The Life and Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

6th-8th Grades – “Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Power of Nonviolence”

You might want to bookmark this website, too, as it is an amazing resource for humanities-based lesson plans.

New Year, New View:  Goal Setting With Students

Marlys WeaverStoesz

As teachers, we are accustomed to two “happy new years:” the academic new year and the calendar one.

Although the calendar new year marks the mid-point of the academic year, it is still a golden opportunity to take stock of our progress and to either re-commit or establish new goals.  Why not have our students do the same?

The following link takes you to a blog post, “Tch Tips:  Four Ways to Practice Goal Setting With Students.”

The article is chock full of useful tips and handy hyperlinks to additional resources, including videos.  Don’t worry if you don’t have time to go down the resource rabbit hole right now.  We will feature a few of them in the next few weeks!

Happy New Year!

Learning Menu: Science

Marlys WeaverStoesz

In keeping with our menu theme, today’s video is called “Edible Cells:  Science is Yummy!” Although the video is not specifically an example of a learning menu for science, it is a great strategy for reinforcing plant cell parts.  We also provide some ideas of how to adapt the lesson to be centered or learning menu-based below.

As you enjoy this video, you might consider:

·       How might using an “edible” product be used to reinforce other scientific concepts?

·       You might also consider adapting the lesson to become a learning menu in the following ways:  

o   Set-up the lesson as an inquiry, center-based lesson as opposed to direct instruction, as was featured in the video.

o   Provide a few “appetizer” activities related to previewing the nonfiction pieces at the beginning of the lesson.

o   Require students to choose and complete a “main course” activity, such as completing a graphic organizer detailing cell parts.

o   Provide students with different “dessert” options, with the “edible cells” being one choice. Or, the “edible cells” could be the only dessert option as sufficient reward for completing the rest of the work!

Furthermore, reading materials may be differentiated by reading levels and interests as well scaffolded graphic organizers.

Scrumptious science in action!   

Professional Collaboration on the Web

Marlys WeaverStoesz

“Whenever you have people who can focus on the same thing at the same time, then amazing things happen between people.  And that is what education is all about.”  - Jana Dean, Teacher.

Thus far in our professional collaboration series, we have primarily thought of the concept in terms of onsite collaboration.  But what if a teacher does not have a grade level or content area peer in his or her school?

The beauty of the Internet is we now have the potential to collaborate with professionals across the country.  The following link takes you to the “Tchers’ Voice” blog, which is rich in professional dialogue.  This post, in particular, discusses the Illustrative Mathematics program and the potential to virtually work with teachers all over the country.  For those of you who teach math, this is an incredible opportunity to view and provide feedback to lesson plans and to otherwise find collegial support in implementing the Mathematical Standards.

You might want to take a look at the various links on this post as it contains an array of resources.   We will look at professional collaboration and the ELA standards later this week.

Learning Menu: Social Studies

Marlys WeaverStoesz

As promised, today we pivot from math learning menus to social studies with a healthy helping of English language arts integration.

Similar to the math learning menu introduction, today’s video features learning menu strategies organized around a three-course meal analogy.  In the featured 7th grade social studies class, the teacher offers the following “courses:”

Appetizers – A choice of activities requiring students to demonstrate comprehension of key details.

Entrées – A choice of activities wherein students demonstrate an ability to trace the development of central ideas and draw deeper inferences from the text.

Dessert – A choice of activities to challenge students to analyze and synthesize information from the text.

In addition to the video, you will notice a link to a Word document of the learning menu options showcased in the video.  The link is directly below the reflection questions to the right of the video player.

Thursday’s content du jour is science strategies!  We hope you find today’s dish delectable!

Learning Menu: Math, Using Technology

Marlys WeaverStoesz

Our daily special is using technology as a math menu selection!

When used effectively, technology provides an ideal platform for math menu activities.  Although not explicitly showcasing “math menu” choices, today’s video certainly answers Marilyn Burns’ “The Big Three” questions, most especially how to keep students meaningfully engaged while working with students who need intensive teacher instruction.

Mr. Pronovost, the teacher in today’s video, models and explains how using two math games allows him to provide differentiated opportunities for students who finish individual practice early while he works with small groups who need additional scaffolding.

As a bonus, he also describes how he was able to secure both hardware and software in order to provide a well-rounded math program.

Today concludes our look at math menu strategies; we will turn our attention to language arts, social studies, and science learning menu strategies next week.   

The Big Three: 3 questions all teachers ask

Marlys WeaverStoesz

Welcome to December!  We have a delicious month of TXT4 Teachers planned: Magnificent Learning Menus!

In her article, “Using Math Menus,” Marilyn Burns identifies three questions most frequently asked by teachers:

What do I do with students who finish their math assignments more quickly?

How can I free up time to work with students who need extra help?

How can I differentiate experiences to support struggling learners while also meeting the needs of students who require additional challenges?

Burns calls these questions “The Big Three.”  (Burns, 2016, p. 40). Of course, replace “math” from question 1 with “reading,” “writing,” “science,” “art,” or the other content areas, and the question remains the same.  

In an effort to address “the Big Three,” we will provide one content specific “menu” strategy throughout the month.  We begin with math menu items, and we will share ELA, science, and social studies strategies as the month progresses.

To give you a “taste” of what is to come, take a look at this short video introducing the Math Menus.

Bon appetit!

Burns, M. (October 2016). Using math menus: giving students a menu of activities to choose from helps differentiate instruction and engage all learners. Educational Leadership, 74 (2), 40.

Words to Inspire

Marlys WeaverStoesz

Since this week is short, and sometimes inspiring or reflective words are their own special category of professional development, we are sharing an excerpt of an E.E. Cummings’ poem.

This poem reflects the one quality all teachers share: we are first learners, then teachers; knowing this truth, the act of teaching deepens our learning.   Cummings’ poetry is particularly wonderful with its intentionally opaque images, leaving the reader a chance to contemplate its meaning on multiple levels.*

We hope this poem provides a few moments of such contemplation, and we wish you a week full of gratitude and bounty.

You Shall Above All Things

you shall above all things be glad and young.

For if you’re young, whatever life you wear

it will become you; and if you are glad

whatever’s living will yourself become.

I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing

than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance.

                                                                       - E.E. Cummings

*For those of you not familiar with Cummings, he took great liberty with punctuation, capitalization and syntax.  We have maintained his usage in this excerpt but have used standard usage for the poem’s title and the author’s name.

Professional Collaboration: Reaping the Benefits

Marlys WeaverStoesz

“Teachers have a million things to do every day, and if we did not share the work, we would have three times as much work than we have right now.”

Every classroom teacher, whether new to the profession or a 30-year veteran, will identify with these words, spoken by Barbara McCoy, a featured teacher in today’s chapter of our professional collaboration series.

This short video highlights how two veteran science teachers successfully collaborate.  Although their school provides a common prep period in order to facilitate their work, many teachers have found time to work together outside of the school day in order to reap the benefits of collaboration.

In addition to working together, both teachers speak to the reciprocal benefit of hosting a student teacher.  As you watch the video, consider:

How does collaboration with a colleague, whether formally or informally, ultimately “lighten the load” of teaching?

How does mentoring a novice teacher enhance the practice of a veteran teacher?

How can engaging in intentional conversations about one’s teaching serve as a means of reflection and, ultimately, improved professional practice?

Professional Collaboration: Let's do this effectively

Marlys WeaverStoesz

“How Can We Collaborate Effectively? Norms and Team Effectiveness.”

Although the push for professional collaboration has been in vogue for a number of years, there is a wide-range of implementation practices, ranging from informal teaming to formal training of teacher leaders.

A typical practice of effective collaborative communities is the establishment of norms.  The Center for Adaptive Schools provides “The Seven Norms of Collaboration,” which is a useful tool for both new and well-established teams. A team can either adapt all seven norms or come to consensus on those that are best suited to their needs.  We are providing a copy of the “Seven Norms of Collaboration” below; a lovely PDF can also be found at

Additionally, the following Teaching Channel video, “Norms for Leadership and Learning” provides a glimpse at how one school establishes norms and the benefits of doing so.

Next week, we will take a look at how teams work to improve instruction in a variety of ways.  We hope you enjoy today’s resources, especially the alliteration in the “Seven Norms of Collaboration!

Pausing - Pausing before responding or asking a question allows time for thinking and enhances dialogue, discussion, and decision-making.

Paraphrasing - Using a paraphrase starter that is comfortable for you – “So…” or “As you are…” or “You’re thinking…” – and following the starter with an efficient paraphrase assists members of the group in hearing and understanding one another as they converse and make decisions.

Posing Questions - Two intentions of posing questions are to explore and to specify thinking. Questions may be posed to explore perceptions, assumptions, and interpretations, and to invite others to inquire into their thinking. For example, “What might be some conjectures you are exploring?” Use focusing questions such as, “Which students, specifically?” or “What might be an example of that?” to increase the clarity and precision of group members’ thinking. Inquire into others’ ideas before advocating one’s own.

Putting Ideas on the Table - Ideas are the heart of meaningful dialogue and discussion. Label the intention of your comments. For example: “Here is one idea…” or “One thought I have is…” or “Here is a possible approach…” or “Another consideration might be…”.

Providing Data - Providing data, both qualitative and quantitative, in a variety of forms supports group members in constructing shared understanding from their work. Data have no meaning beyond that which we make of them; shared meaning develops from collaboratively exploring, analyzing, and interpreting data.

Paying Attention to Self and Others - Meaningful dialogue and discussion are facilitated when each group member is conscious of self and of others, and is aware of what (s)he is saying and how it is said as well as how others are responding. This includes paying attention to learning styles when planning, facilitating, and participating in group meetings and conversations.

Presuming Positive Intentions  - Assuming that others’ intentions are positive promotes and facilitates meaningful dialogue and discussion, and prevents unintentional put-downs. Using positive intentions in speech is one manifestation of this norm.

Professional Collaboration: Teamwork makes a dream work

Marlys WeaverStoesz

“You Are Not Alone:  The Power of Professional Collaboration”

In October, we examined various facets of developing our students into collaborative learners.  We began the month with Dr. Jeff Zweirs’ contention, “the process of learning is actually a social venture, and interactions such as conversations (and specifically academic conversations) [help] students to enhance and broaden their comprehension of a specific topic profoundly and in a meaningful way” (Zweirs, 2014).

What are teachers but lifelong learners?  If learning is “actually a social venture” for students, would not the same hold true for teachers?  Yet, teacher burn-out is frequently associated with a sense of isolation.

Hence, our November TXT4 Teachers will plunge into professional collaboration, which goes by many names such as “teaming,” “Professional Learning Communities (PLCs),” or “shared leadership.”  No matter the nomenclature, the intentional sharing of best practices, data analysis, and instructional planning holds the power to open previously closed classroom doors and transform this beloved profession.

We kick-off the month with “A History of Teaming,” which relates how one school’s teaming efforts have evolved.  As you watch the video, consider how the school exemplifies the definition of collaboration:  “teams of teachers who work interdependently to achieve common goals – goals linked to the purpose of learning for all – which members are held mutually accountable” [emphasis added] (DuFour, DuFour, and Eaker, 2008).

Stay tuned for more tips and tools on Thursday!

Academic Dialogue: Broader Benefits

Marlys WeaverStoesz

We are revisiting our tiny people with British accents!

Throughout October, we have contemplated myriad aspects of academic dialogue, from both a wide, philosophical lens and at other times, we dove into the nitty-gritty of specific structures and strategies.  We definitely have gone beyond “peanut butter and jelly partners!”

As we conclude this month’s journey, we broaden our perspective to the “why” of academic dialogue:  empowering our students to become empathetic, problem-solving, creative thinking citizens of the world.

You will see in the video and accompanying article that School 21 has their wellbeing curriculum built into their day.  American classroom teachers typically don’t have the luxury of a school-wide program such as this one.  Yet, the focus on open-ended dialogue based on concrete, authentic experiences and the structures to encourage these conversations can be adapted for any classroom.

School 21’s head of school, Oli de Botton, beautifully summarizes the ultimate goal:  “We want our children to have power and control over their lives, a sense of belonging, and to feel that we can grow here.  We want to give them the experiences and support to do all of these things.”

Be ready to be inspired.  

Academic Dialogue: Speaking Well is Key

Marlys WeaverStoesz

Oracy: A fancy word for the “ability to speak well.”  The good news is it is already occurring in your classroom, and it is the heart and soul of academic dialogue.

Today’s video showcases School 21, a British school that reflects as much ethnic, racial, and economic diversity as any American school.  And, similar to our Arizona College and Career Readiness Standards, School 21 recognizes “speaking is a huge priority [as] it’s one of the biggest indicators of success later in life.”

Just like our previous Edutopia videos, this one features not only “in action” examples, but also a full article providing details about implementation.

You will note similarities to previously highlighted strategies, yet the focus on developing speaking skills and students analyzing their conversations provides another dimension to the topic.

The tiny people with British accents are a bonus, too!