Showing posts from 2010

Safe Classrooms: Social and Emotional Learning

The basis of what Keith and I teach in our classes is for educators to provide a safe environment for students. This "safe container" includes emotional as well as physical aspects and pays huge dividends in better attitudes towards each other, the teacher, and the school in general. This translates into increased opportunities to learn.

Check out this video from Edutopia about Jefferson County, Kentucky's Caring for Kids Initiative which
seeks to"build positive, caring, learning communities," and you may learn some interesting concepts around safe classrooms. Security monitor Richard Little says that when kids come in with a smile and leave with a smile his job is done. What a wonderful thought. Principal Alicia Averette says that activities and games around social and emotional learning do not necessarily cut into instructional time (a comment we hear quite a bit), instead they cut down on having to take time to settle conflicts during instructional time, bec…

"We are standardizing our kids to fit the test" -Sir Ken Robinson

Sir Ken Robinson elaborates on many of his earlier points in this conversation at Penn State with Patty Satalia. Many things resonate with me here, but one thing that stands out is he uses the term "teacher-proofing" and says that the teachers are being told basically how to teach and it's "stripping them of their professional skills and integrity." He also comments on how teaching to the test is not only stifling to students but to teachers as well. A fact that comes up in every course we teach. Some interesting things to think about here- give it a shot.

From the Penn State Conversations website:
Education innovation expert Sir Ken Robinson is changing the way people think about creativity and talent. Hear him detail what the world needs to change about its educational systems and find out what it means to find your “element.”
Sir Ken Robinson is a “creativity expert.” He has dedicated his life’s work to examining how children are educated. He champions a radica…

The "Power of Poetry" Rethinking Schools Summer 2010 Free online issue

If you've never gone to the Rethinking Schools website, now might be a great time. Their online magazine topic for summer 2010 is the "Power of Poetry" and contains some powerful ideas.

The U.S. poet Robert Frost said, “A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a love sickness. It finds the thought and the thought finds the words.” Our cover section focuses on three teachers who guide students to find their voice through poetry, to take the lump in their throat and transform it into poetry that gives them a sense of their own power. At the same time, Tom McKenna, RenĂ©e Watson, and Elizabeth Schlessman show us how to use poetry to help students think critically about their personal experience and connect it to a larger social reality.

41 Ways to Go Beyond the Book Report by Erika Saunders

I came across this post on and thought it might be useful to those of us who are looking for new and interesting ways to get our students to interact with books. Take a look, you never know when you are going to find that gem that hooks a student in and ignites her curiousity and creativity!

The following is a guest post written by Erika Saunders. Visit her blog or follow her on Twitter @rozelialives. Interested in writing a guest post? Send me an email at! I’d love to set something up!

I have never been a fan of the “Book Report”, the traditional listing of characters, settings, and plots. Surely there’s a better way to have students relate to the books they read.

So, when the powers-that-be requested that our students write book reports, I just had to jump in – or rather, I was volunteered. In any event, there I was convinced that therewas something better, another way that would be interesting to 6ththrough 8th graders. And so I began to list…

How to Use New-Media Tools in Your Classroom | Edutopia

We have talked often in this space about bringing students' lives into the classroom and technology is certainly an important part of many of our student's daily lives. Here is a set of seven videos from Edutopia contributors that offer some interesting insights into using technology in our classrooms. While I don't agree with all of them, for example one of the videos discusses friending students on Facebook which I don't do for a number of reasons, they do have some merit. One thing I learned was that there is a channel that is there for educational purposes. There are others about things like using digital photography, Twitter, wikis, GPS, and even WII! Some interesting stuff-give it a look; it might help you connect with more students.

How to Use New-Media Tools in Your Classroom Edutopia

A Subtle yet Important Difference

In his seminal book The Secret Cause: A Discussion of Tragedy, Dr. Normand Berlin (my professor for Shakespeare and Eugene O'Neill at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst many years ago and best teacher I've ever had) makes a subtle yet important point in the preface. He thanks his students who were "prodded by themselves or by me to state exactly how they felt, rather than how they were supposed to feel, while reading and after reading" works of literature.

This should raise a question for all of us who are in the education field: are we trying to bring out the opinions and feelings of our students or are we furnishing them with what the work is supposed to be about?

I was shocked a number of years ago when after asking students what a possible theme of a piece of literature might be, a very intelligent young woman told me that her teachers had always told her what the themes of stories were and she didn't know she could discover them on her own. Many of t…

Sir Ken Robinson: "Bring on the Learning Revolution"

Millions have downloaded Sir Ken Robinson's talk "Schools Kill Creativity" from the 2006 TED conference. Now he has come out with another entitled "Bring on the Learning Revolution." Check it out and spend a little time on his website; it'll be well worth your time.

From Sir Ken Robinson:

"In 2006 I spoke at TED about developing children’s natural powers of creativity and imagination. Returning to TED in 2010 I wanted to focus on the need for a radical shift in education more generally. Reforming education is rightly seen as one of the biggest challenges of our times. In my view, reform is not enough: the real challenge is to transform education from a 19th century industrial model into a 21st century process based on different principles.

Current systems of education are based on the manufacturing principles of linearity, conformity and standardization. The evidence is everywhere that they are failing too many students and teachers alike. A primary reas…

"the best grad course I have ever taken" coming again this summer!

Keith and I are so happy when we get feedback like that from people who have taken our courses, as we pride ourselves on giving everyone the best experience we possibly can and really want teachers to take what they have learned and put it to use in their classrooms. We are totally invested and passionate about what we do and sincerely hope that you can join us this summer.

Here are a few more responses from course participants:

We had a super week. Jeff and Keith really guided us through a journey into our creative outlets. I looked forward to coming in every day. They were all-inclusive, knowledgeable and well-prepared.

The fact that it was lunchtime before I blinked and wrap-up time before I was ready to call it a day attests to their skills in being organized and providing seamless transitions from one activity to another.

My knowledge grew exponentially. Real possibilities that I can use immediately and new ways to ask what kids can do, not what I have decided they should do.

An immen…

Reflections on Northeastern University Integrated Teaching Through the Arts Course

This course was extremely successful in addressing my interests and needs. I couldn't wait to get to class every day to learn new and exciting methods of teaching. I wouldn't change a thing-you guys are amazing!
Excellent! I have never had teachers who were so willing to listen and then actually do something about it.
It was good to participate directly and experience the content as a student would experience it.
100% phenomenal! I am impressed with your skills and your willingness to live by the principles that you are teaching your students.
This was a great way to open up my thinking about boldly engaging in arts integration. This course opens up possibilities.
Jeff and Keith were positive and patient when responding to questions, supplying answers or ideas on the spot, or providing resources the following day. No questions went unanswered and all questions were welcome.
The course was very well organized and structured. A great deal of material was presented and we had time to …

Student Reflections on Northeastern University Integrating Drama and Poetry Across the Curriculum Course

Here are some student reflections after taking our Northeastern University Integrating Drama and Poetry Across the Curriculum course.

An immense success for me as a third grade teacher--endless ideas--realistic, valuable for real classrooms and real students.

It helped me to remember how and why I went into teaching. The materials, the experiential pieces, and the collaboration empowered me.

I realized that poetry is so much more than I knew. I learned how to enhance my ability to empathize with my students.

For the first time I felt like someone was really teaching me how to "feel" poetry.

I am so excited about building the sense of community with my class using the openers, closers and energizers.

This course offered the process I need to get to the creative--the gradual, trust-building process. It provided the validation I needed to continue the great "stuff"!

This course has helped me to break out of my shell!

This has been the best grad course I have ever taken.

As a p…