Classroom of the Future Chronicles: Part 1

A little background… I have a Classroom of the Future. No really, that’s what my school district is calling it. Last fall my administration approached me with an opportunity to pilot some of the technology that my school district was interested in. As someone who proudly possesses a growth mindset, is passionate about technology, and in general, has difficulty saying no, I agreed. It took some planning and logistical decisions, but as of now, we’ve been a Classroom of the Future for a few … [Read more...]

The Common Core Canoe, Part 2

By Tom Note: this is part 2 of a three part series. For part 1, click here. So we’re at the midpoint in this canoe project. The students have built the canoe, along with their 1/10 scale models and they’ve been able to prove that it will actually float. It has been an absolute blast so far, with total student engagement and wonderful, cross-curricular learning. I want to focus here on one learning activity we did that encapsulates about half of what fourth graders are supposed to do in … [Read more...]

“What is This STEM? And When Are We Going to Start Doing It? Part Deux”(1)

The Last Time We Left Our Hero Okay, okay, so “hero” may be (it is) too strong a word, but this blog post does pick up where my February post left off. The original post in this two-part series attempts to provide one possible working definition of STEM. There are as many possible definitions as there are STEM educators, but for our purposes STEM is the intentional raising of awareness with regards to carefully planned integration and application of science, technology, engineering, and … [Read more...]

TPEP for Library Media Specialist: Wishin’ and Hopin’

I may regret my words later, but today, I will loudly say, or rather type, that I am jealous of my co-workers who can use TPEP as their evaluation tool, specifically the Danielson model adopted by my district. How might you ask can I be a public school teacher in Washington and not be on TPEP? The answer lies in the fact that I am not a “classroom” teacher but a Library Media Specialist, with a rotating queue of students, classrooms, and teachers. This is not a district decision, but a state … [Read more...]

A Post About the NGSS Not For Science Teachers

Did you know that the NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) are aligned with the Common Core State Standards?  Did you know that the NGSS are organized by a framework that has three dimensions? Did you know that the NGSS is separated into four domains of disciplinary ideas?  I’m not a science teacher or an elementary teacher, so  for me this was new, really important, and pretty darn impressive.   This basic understanding of the NGSS has become really important to me in the last few … [Read more...]

Will There Be Standards in Our Sci-Fi Future?

In January the Seattle School district convened a Saturday gathering to envision our technology future.  The Technology Vision Summit gathered students, teachers, administrators, parents, community members and a few folks from higher ed and local technology firms.  Our task was clearly defined. We were to spend three sessions of about a hour each with our pre-assigned and carefully composed small groups.  Our charge for each session was to "imagine a scene from a day in the life of a Seattle  … [Read more...]

March Madness: The SB(r)AC(ket)

March has come in like a lion...and I don’t mean the weather.  SBA (Smarter Balanced Assessment) time is upon us and the lion is breathing, somewhat uncomfortably, down the back of my neck. For me, this began last year at the end of June, when teams of teachers at all levels in my district met for 1 week of full work days to design performance based assessments to be used in classrooms this year.  Our goal in the high school ELA group was to create standards-aligned tasks that would provide a … [Read more...]

Using Engagement Strategies to Improve Achievement Part 2

Last month I reflected on my use of engagement strategies using the lens of the Danielson Framework. Today I’m going to tell you how our staff tried a new engagement strategy, used a protocol to discuss the strategy, and our daring next steps for improving our practice. Reviewing the Framework We began the morning grounding ourselves in the Danielson Framework. In Daneilson’s framework, domain 3C describes this critical attribute: Most students are intellectually engaged in the … [Read more...]

Confessions of an ELA Common Core Expert Poser

I have a confession. I’m a poser. Members of my English department see me as a Common Core expert. “Nathan, you have been to multiple district Common Core trainings, you're aligning your lesson plans to the standards, you even blog about the Common Core, surely, you must be an expert.” It's a flattering compliment. I never claimed to be an expert, but a novice at least. Well the truth is I am neither, just a lowly (gulp), Common Core expert poser. Last month I attended a professional … [Read more...]

Practicing What I Teach: Poetry In the Standards

  I recently delivered a talk at the University of Washington as a part of the Seattle Times’ Why I Teach event. I was grateful to be included, to have the chance to share out about a moment during my Spoken Word summer camp last July that a fifteen-year-old girl stood up in front of a microphone and led our class of misfits to cheers and tears and reminded me why I stay in education despite that is it is hardest work I have ever loved. As a middle school classroom teacher, it is … [Read more...]