Embracing Teachable Moments

Who wouldn't want to take a closer look at this guy?

Who wouldn’t want to take a closer look at this guy?

A few weeks ago, as my class was walking in from recess, we saw a large brownish-black bug crawling across a desk in the hallway. Of course, everyone wanted to look at it. It was so cool! But, as a hundred children began to cram through the recess door, I reluctantly urged my class along.

Once my students were back in the room, I made a quick decision. I dashed out into the hall with a bug box, hoping the little guy was still there. He was — looking dazed — so I scooped him up, and brought him back to my room.

I had planned to do a read aloud about the rainforest that afternoon, but I knew my plans could wait. The bug couldn’t, and neither could my students. So I put the bug on the document camera where everyone could see, and we began a science talk. Continue reading

Responding to Tragedy

Earlier this week, I wrote a post about “teachable moments” that I will publish next weekend.

Today, I want to give my deepest condolences to the families who are suffering due to Friday’s tragedy. I grew up in Southbury, CT, one of the towns that borders Newtown. My parents rented a house in Sandy Hook for a short time while they searched for our home. As a kid, I went to Newtown to see my friends’ dance recitals, to visit my dad at his office, and to watch shows at the $1 movie theater. It was and is, in so many ways, the perfect place to be a child and to raise children. I feel immense gratitude for the people there, for the teachers, friends, and neighbors who loved and cared for me, and my heart breaks for their loss. Continue reading

A Primer on Smooth, Efficient Transitions

Triathletes know that races can be won or lost not just during the swim, bike, or run, but during the transitions in between.¬†During my first triathlon, I had just completed the 12-mile bike when I entered the gate to the bike racks and ran my bike towards my row. Only one event to go! As I approached my spot, I saw my mom and my husband cheering for me by the sidelines. I smiled hugely, waved exuberantly, and… ran right past my spot. I finally caught on as my dismayed family started yelling at me to stop and turn around.

Not my best transition.

Transitions in teaching are just as important as they are in triathlons. More important, because student learning (and not just my bruised ego) depends upon them. Continue reading

Results Count: Homework That Really Works

This morning, I read that French President¬†Francois Hollande has proposed that his country eliminate homework in elementary and junior high school. From the article on NPR’s website, it appears that members of the French government believe homework places too great a burden on children, especially children with difficult home lives. And because of the centralized nature of the French school system, there is little room for teachers to innovate and try new strategies.

I wouldn’t presume to offer an opinion on the French approach to education. However, here in the United States, we have the same debate: what is the real value of homework for young children? Is is possible to design homework that increases student learning and motivates kids after a long school day?

My answer is yes, and I have results to back it up.
Continue reading