I teach



The mysterious workings of the adolescent brain…

Does this help clear it all up?

10 Ways to Teach Innovation


Clarifying “Transfer”…


Kid President


Inspires Again!!!!

Looking Forward to 2013-14 School Year

UbD-SummaryA message from Will Pierce, Director of Student Achievement:

Hello 27J Educators,

We hope your summer is offering you exactly what you need this summer, rather it be relaxing with your families, traveling the world, or actively learning and preparing for the up-coming 2013-14 school year.  Our team is trying to have a little bit of it all this summer.

As the student achievement team prepares for the up-coming school year, we felt it necessary to share some curricular changes with all of you.  This is the year that the “new” Colorado Academic Standards, and National Common Core Standards go live.  We know that many of you have been “playing” with these standards and you can expect more “play” this coming year at your school, within your departments, and across the district, as we continue our work toward Thinking Classrooms, and actualizing the teaching practices that we know produces higher levels of learning.

As a district we want every student in every classroom to be chasing rigorous instructional goals, and these goals are derived from standards.  We want our students to be assessed in ways that show evidence of learning toward these goals.  We want our students to be in classroom environments, and have educational experiences, where they have the responsibility for the attainment of such learning.

Instructional Goals (from Standards)… EvidenceLearning Experiences.  The new standards are only part, but an essential part, of what we want for every classroom.  For a view of the new 27J standards, resources, and links, please visit the Student Achievement Page on the 27J website.  There are plenty of resources available to you to help you interact with and understand the new standards if you follow the various tabs and links.

Please enjoy the remainder of your summer, and we will look forward to your return after a hopefully amazing summer.

Defining Rigor and Busting Myths


This week over 70 staff completed day 2 of the  “Units of Study” workshop at the District Training Room. Participants continued their work around unit planning and the Understanding by Design backwards planning model they started a couple of weeks ago.

Part of the discussion was around designing for the level of rigor required by the standards and reflected in your assessments and learning activities. But what is rigor, exactly? During the workshop conversation around assessment, rigor includes selecting the “right” kind of tasks/assessment, and the “right” scoring of those tasks.

Those interested in reading more about the concept of rigor, here are a few resources collected by the Pennsylvania Dept of Education:

The Beginner’s Guide to Understanding Rigor, Barbara Blackburn, 2012

4 Myths About Rigor in the Classroom, Eye On Education, 2010

The Characteristics of a Rigorous Classroom, Instructional Leader, 2009

Thinking Classrooms: Our “One Thing”

As the end of the year is beginning to appear on the near horizon, the student achievement team has been hard at work trying to organize and prepare for the next school year and the myriad of initiatives and changes coming. You will be hearing more about lots of things over the next two years: SB 191, Common Core, READ Act, Readiness plans, Unit Planning with Backwards Design, new state assessments, new state graduation guidelines, and the list will continue to grow. It will sometimes become easy to lose sight of our target and journey we set out on this year.

Those who may remember the movie “City Slickers” might remember Curly’s wisdom to Mitch about “finding your one thing”. We believe the philosophy of Thinking Classrooms is District 27J’s “one thing”. (If you have no idea what we are talking about, Google it 🙂  )

The idea of a Thinking Classroom isn’t something new, it’s not the latest magic pill, it’s not a curriculum and it’s not the same for everyone. A Thinking Classroom is more like a state of mind. A belief that the most important effect on a student’s learning and growth is their own thinking and hard work. A thinking classroom has relentless focus on good instruction, is about guiding student authentic engagement and discovery, and has intentional planning for learning.

One of our goals of this blog has been to offer a variety of perspectives, ideas, and videos to continue developing this state of mind for everyone. We believe this transformation could be monumental, but it starts with small yet significant steps. You must believe….believe that we can  and should do better for our students, believe you can do better for your students, believe they need better, and believe learning lives and happens with the student first.

Every building is working towards creating and implementing their vision of a Thinking Classroom and what it looks like, sounds like, and feels like. By creating a strong foundation around instruction, the coming work of content Standards transition, new state assessments, and other external factors will fall into place as a part of the work we are already doing, rather than yet another thing to do.

The world is changing faster everyday. What worked in school for our parents and worked for us will no longer work for our own children and students. What will work for them most likely won’t work for their children. As educators and an educational system, we must become agile, flexible and quicker to respond to change. Not for us, but for them. They will be forever shaped by our actions today.

Are you ready? Have you made the mind shift yet? Have you convinced your colleagues?


photo credit: wallyg via photopin cc

Making a Thinking Space

The following is an article found on Edutopia regarding some ideas on creating a “thinking space”.


How might you create a “thinking space” in your classroom? What things do you do to develop the creativity in your students? We would love to hear your great ideas!




Note-Taking Shouldn’t Be Just “Copy the PowerPoint”

A big thanks to Val McElhinney for sharing this link (via Rob Behrens, PVHS science teacher) that provided the topic of this week’s post. Here are her comments: “I absolutely love the first paragraph and feel like the whole blog connects to the “Thinking Classroom” focus we have.  I also love this last sentence, “I only want to challenge teachers to think about how they really want to spend their precious time with their students.”

Copying Notes from a PowerPoint – Not Enough

When you think about the ideas of the Thinking Classroom, one of the guiding concepts is that “facts are free” and students can access them instantly from their phone or tablet. Learning needs to be about applying facts, or knowledge, in a new setting or authentic purpose. This leads one to wonder about the use of the age-old classroom tradition of note-taking.

In this recent blog post by Susan Lucille Davis–Why We Need a Moratorium on Meaningless Note-Taking–the author shares her “distaste for mind-numing note taking sessions”.  Her thoughts about what makes note-taking effective:

  • Note-taking should have an authentic purpose.
  • Note-taking should be the beginning, not the end, of knowledge curation.
  • Note-taking should be interactive and absorb multiple formats.
  • Note-taking should be shared.

Referenced in the post is a new study released January 9th by the Association of Psychological Science on learning techniques. Here is another article referencing the same report, with another take: Highlighting Is a Waste of Time: The Best and Worst Learning Techniques.

Our take from skimming the report, is that ultimately, passive techniques aren’t the most effective for students in creating meaningful learning. Active learning, requiring students to interact with information rather than just copy or memorize, is a best practice, and we all know it. Isn’t that one of the hallmarks of the Thinking Classroom?

Today’s “Strategy Spark”

Here are some suggested active learning techniques from Virginia Commonwealth University you might want to check out.


photo credit: English106 via photopin cc

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