I Need A…Trench Coat

Spring is approaching, which means its time to swap your wool coat for a trench. This is a bonus item for a student teacher and a necessity if you have 3+ months of teaching under your belt. Save up and buy the best that you can get. Aside from these options, I recommend Loehmanns. They have an extensive selection at this time of year, mostly under $100.

I Need A...Trench Coat
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Book Club: Reading History – A Practical Guide to Improving Literacy


Why have it: Improve literacy instruction in history classroom.

In a few words: No matter how hands-on you want your class to be, there is no avoiding the history textbook. Literacy is crucial and you would be negligent if excluding the textbook is on your agenda. Providing adequate supports to make the textbook accessible and engaging is our job. Janet Allen’s and Christine Landaker’s guide covers assessing and building background knowledge, comprehension strategies, textbook and historical document supports, and assessment and extension strategies.

Janet Allen says: “As money for engaging resources decreases and the demand for content knowledge increases, many teachers are depending on the textbook as a primary source for classroom instruction. Even proficient readers can experience failure under these conditions, and struggling readers simply refuse to make the attempt. The difficulties these students face because of their lack of background knowledge for the content, their inability to negotiate the supports and challenges of academic texts, or their unfamiliarity with specialized content vocabulary make both the teaching and learning of history overwhelming.” She goes on to say, “we have not viewed social studies standards as content to be covered; rather, we have used them as a frame for designing curriculum, instruction, and assessment that is meaningful and memorable.”

Best uses: With an extensive appendix, I have found these reading strategies the most useful:

1. Skimming and Scanning: a graphic organizer to help students “organize their thoughts by looking at three processes: acquiring first impressions, gathering information, and, using those first impressions and fast facts to generate some final thoughts prior to reading”. See this strategy in practice.

2. Exclusion brainstorming: used as a pre-writing or background knowledge assessment, teacher provides a list of words (including related and unrelated words), students cross out unrelated words to exclude, circle related words to include, and add words newly discussed or that they already know about to enhance the discussion, lesson, or writing piece. Students can share their lists and then add to their list based on group discussion. Can be done in a chart format as done in this Civil Rights Era example.

3. Textbook Scavenger Hunt: provide students with a blank template of a textbook spread that includes a good number of text supports; students label the text supports and discuss the meaning of each one; this activity encourages students to examine headings, captions, marginal notes, etc. Once students understand the meaning of each text support, teacher can provide students with a Textbook Activity Guide (TAG) which directs students where to look in the text to find certain information (i.e. Look at the map and map key on page 42. List three resources people of the mid-atlantic colonies had access to, and predict three jobs they might have.)

4. Content Brainstorming: Use a graphic organizer that highlights the text supports provided in a chapter. Have students list key words, make predictions based on pictures, list headings or sub headings, and finally make predictions and ask questions based on what they read. Click here for a template.

Acceptable Plagiarism: Week of March 4th

In the edu•sphere, NYC’s value-added model for evaluation is under the microscope. Find out how value-added models, which use complex mathematics to predict how well a student can be expected to perform on an end-of-the-year test based on several characteristics, such as the student’s attendance and past performance on tests, are being implemented in teacher evaluations across the nation.

In the finance•sphere, check out Savy Sugar’s article on ways to discuss with your significant other/spouse the forsaken topic: money. I love this and think people need to have these conversations in their head and with their partner.

In the teach-me•sphere, check out an easy way to store your week’s worth of oatmeal. I’m not sure why there is an article because the picture is what I would call, self-explanatory. And, learn how to read faster, better, and more frequently in lifehacker’s article titled, “Reading for the Rushed”

Savvy Strategy: Remediating and Reteaching


When students don’t get it, teachers engage in reflective practices to gain insight into what went wrong. We ask, “is it me or is it them?”. I use a 20/80 rule. If >20% of the class scores below 80%, we’re in whole class, reteach mode. If <20% of the class scores below 70%, we're in small group, reteach/remediation mode. Often times teachers get caught up in the who, instead of creating solutions. I look at it like this, "the kids didn't learn it, period. Figure out another way to reach them." Here are a few tips for reteaching:

1. Manipulatives are fabulous: flipbooks, maps with velcro labeling, the more hands-on, the better.

2. Color-coded review: have students arranged in groups. Students who “got” the previously taught concept are one color, go to the area of the room/pick up the color coded paper (whatever format you choose) and complete anchor activity to enrich and enhance, or design higher-order questions for one another to answer. Students who just need more time are assigned another color and engage in a exercises and reinforce and enable more practice. Finally, students who missed the concept are assigned a third color, those students will most likely interact with the teacher to learn the concepts.

3. Similarities and differences: According to Marzano, this is one of the highest-yielding strategies to increase achievement. Students need to sort, separate, organize content in order to see the larger picture. Sorting activities whether with words or pictures are guaranteed to boost student achievement when implemented properly.

4. Lower level reading: Whenever I need more time with a concept, I read a dummy-downed version of the concept. This means I start with a middle school textbook prior to delving into primary source documents, college resources, and sometimes even my college textbooks. Do the same with students, give them a pared down version of the text and help them make sense of it with guided reading activities.

5. Kagan “Act it Out”: Profound? Not so much. Effective? Hands down. Try differentiating “Colonists had to obey British laws, which were enforced by governors” and “A colonial legislature made laws for each colony but was monitored by the colonial governor”. As far as an 11 year old is concerned they don’t know who made the laws — Britain, the legislatures, or both. Also, why use enforce and monitor. This concept really hit home when acted out each word in these concepts.

6. Mnemonic devices: are helpful when practicing the order of something, otherwise forget it, because kids can’t always remember what each letter stands for.

7. Play with words. Latitude is flatitude. Latitude lines run flat, as if your body was lying down flat. This helps! Especially when you have students create longitude and latitude lines with their body.