Using The Workshop Model in Math

Originally posted on Math Matters:

As a Math Coach working in a district where a “workshop model” is used in both Reading and Writing, I am often asked what a “workshop” might look like in Math.  I recently read a wonderful book titled From Reading to Math: How Best Practices in Literacy Can Make You a Better Math Teacher (Grades K-5) by Maggie Siena. Siena draws upon the assumption that math can be considered another type of literacy in which decoding, fluency, and vocabulary are vitally important. Elementary teachers, more often than not, consider themselves to be much better teachers of reading and writing than of math. What Siena helps to do is draw the parallels between the way we teach reading and writing and the way we teach math, and allow teachers to see how their strengths can carry over from one subject to another.

In order to help the teachers I work with…

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A veteran teacher turned coach shadows 2 students for 2 days – a sobering lesson learned


BEST BLOG POST I HAVE EVER READ!!! What would happen to your thoughts about traditional education if you could shadow a student for a day or two?

Originally posted on Granted, and...:

The following account comes from a veteran HS teacher who just became a Coach in her building. Because her experience is so vivid and sobering I have kept her identity anonymous. But nothing she describes is any different than my own experience in sitting in HS classes for long periods of time. And this report of course accords fully with the results of our student surveys. 

I have made a terrible mistake.

I waited fourteen years to do something that I should have done my first year of teaching: shadow a student for a day. It was so eye-opening that I wish I could go back to every class of students I ever had right now and change a minimum of ten things – the layout, the lesson plan, the checks for understanding. Most of it!

This is the first year I am working in a school but not teaching…

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Why I support Standards Based Grading

As a 17-year-old college freshman and first in my family to attend a four-year institution, I couldn’t have been any greener if I had tried. Physics was overwhelming. I preferred mathematics theory to the practical and found the transition daunting. With a D average going into finals week, I studied for days on end hoping for a B on the exam and maybe a C in the class. I ACED THE EXAM WITH AN A PLUS. When I received my grade card in the mail, my D had somehow become an A.

Being the forever-nerd I was and am to this day, I went to my physics professor to suggest he had miscalculated my final grade. In my mind an A-plus averaged with a D was no more than a C-plus or maybe B-minus. The professor assured me my grade was accurate by saying, “Anyone who can score an A on my exam deserves an A in my class.”

This story resonates with my parents and students. It has been a great motivator resulting in a 99% success rate with my geometry students over the past four years. I refuse to fail any student who genuinely wants to learn.

Two Simple Snack Ideas for the Big Game!!!

The USA soccer match put in the mood for making snacks! So, I thought I would share a couple of my VERY SIMPLE favorites!!

1-2-3 Cookies

This recipe makes up to 3 dozen cookies.

▪   1 boxed cake mix any flavor

▪   2 eggs

▪   1/3 cup of oil

Preheat oven 1o 350

Mix ingredients

Place spoonfuls of dough onto cookie sheet 

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned 

Let cool and enjoy!!


Grandma’s Tasty Crackers

This recipe is as simple as it gets!

▪   Any brand of saltine-type crackers

▪   No-stick spray such as PAM

▪   Seasoning of choice (Garlic Powder is my fam’s fave.)

Preheat oven to 350

Line cookie sheet with crackers

Spray cookies with PAM

Sprinkle with seasoning

Bake until slightly browned 

ENJOY warm or cool. Can be stored for later!



Sometimes you really should not drink the Kool-aid

Before you begin reading under the assumption this post is metaphorical (and I guess it could be and maybe it is), this blog post is based on a true story and actually is about why sometimes you really should not drink the Kool-aid.

It was the summer of 1985 and my fellow Presbyterians and I were looking forward to our first Vacation Bible School (VBS) using the church’s brand-new professional-grade kitchen. The kitchen was designed to accommodate Wednesday night meals, frequent social gatherings, such as weddings and funerals, as well as our annual week-long VBS attended by hundreds of children.

As per tradition, 1985 VBS snack time included cookies and Kool-aid, which were served by the matriarchs of our church, older women who over the years had moved from the classroom to the kitchen. The VBS Snack Ladies took their position very seriously and arrived early each morning to lovingly organize the cookies as well as make gallons of Kool-aid as they had done for many summers before.

What the ladies did not realize was the water faucets in the new kitchen not only offered the choice between hot and cold water, but soap as well. So, later that day when the children complained the Kool-aid tasted funny, the ladies chastised the children and told them to quit complaining and drink the Kool-aid. One person in particular, Joe, the VBS Recess Organizer, was so adamant the Kool-aid was just fine, he took an extra-large glass and with dozens of children watching downed it in one huge gulp only to immediately regret his decision to do so.

Yes, the Kool-aid really was tainted with soap. Yes, the Kool-aid really tasted funny. Yes, Joe really was sick as a dog shortly thereafter.

And, yes, you really should heed the warning of others because sometimes you really should not drink the Kool-aid.




The Fault is in Our Stars and an open letter to Charles Hemenway, MD, PhD.

Originally posted on Woodard Girl Out:

Dear Charles Hemenway, MD, phD & Shirley Pulawski (author of the Article New movie portrays teen cancer unrealistically, expert says),

  My children and I have been eagerly waiting for The Fault in Our Stars, authored by John Green (#TFIOS) to hit the big screen next week. To watch the trailer of this movie click here.  We have all read it. My first read was painful, I’ll admit. Throughout the entire book I found myself praying for these fictional characters to beat the odds and just pull through. Be the exception to the 46/7 rule. If you’re reading this and you are not aware of 46/7: each school day in America, 46 children are diagnosed with one form or another of pediatric cancer. FORTY SIX. That is the average of TWO plus elementary age classroom. EVERY.SINGLE. DAY. Every school day – 7 children will die. Is this a “scare”…

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Following the Gates-CCSS Money Trail

When I first studied the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), I was a member of the 2010-11 North Kansas City Schools’ (NKCS) Superintendent’s Leadership Institute. As part of a three-member team, which did a comparative study of the then NKCS district curriculum standards and the CCSS, I also studied the ties between the origin of the CCSS and ACT. What my team reported in regard to the comparative study is that our district’s curriculum aligned more closely to the CCSS than some expected. It was my thought that more than anything we were looking at a bigger shift in pedagogy than content. Most of the content was there. It was the delivery that would need tweaking.

On the other hand, my delving into the ties between the CCSS and ACT revealed what we all now know and that is the CCSS and ACT are closely affiliated. (The CCSS developers are actually transparent in acknowledging that when they wanted a definition for College and Career Readiness they looked to ACT.)

With that in mind, I now find it of great interest as a state which has adopted the CCSS, Missouri has become the 9th state to require all high school juniors take the ACT.

For years, my simple mind has tried to get my brain around how the CCSS were developed in what appeared to me to be a very short amount of time. From my vantage point, the CCSS went from idea to reality in little more than a blink of an eye.

Now, thanks to a recent blog post by Diane Ravitch I understand how it happened. It really boils down to a money trail between Bill Gates and David Coleman, et al.

In fact, I have a sinking feeling everything regarding recent education reform boils down to little more than money and lots of it–pure greed at the potential expense of one of our country’s greatest assets, its students.

Not to say that everything about the CCSS is bad, but I also agree with Diane Ravitch that it is time for Congress to step in and investigate just what and how it all came about.

Then again asking Congress to follow the Gates-CCSS money trail might be like asking a fox to guard the chicken coop.



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