Using Bloomboard to Promote Professional Learning

I recently started making regular visits to the website I like the site because professional experiences have been curated around content directly matched to the classroom. Topics include early literacy, writing, classroom management, planning, Shakespeare, blended learning, Project Based Learning, math… in short, just about everything a sited-based educator is going to want ideas and support with. Paramount, all the experiences are free.

To illustrate what I am speaking to, consider this example Narrative Reading, Writing and Comprehension in Fifth Grade. The Topic has you review some learning, look closely at a couple of lesson plans, and watch a lesson demonstration. This is not profoundly different than most workshop models except any learner can opt into the experience. Moreover, you can see that the progression of experiences is targeted and specific.

There is also a community aspect to the site. Apart from learning from others, an educator can create their own content and learning exercises. This is the case with Karen N. Nemeth is an author, consultant and advocate for early education for children who are dual language learners. She has written books for teachers, administrators, families, and children on this topic. Karen has leadership roles at NAEYC, NABE and TESOL.

It is certainly worth taking a look at Bloomboard. Perhaps you will discover that platforms like this can level the playing field and allow all educators—regardless of what kind of state and district professional support they have—opportunities to learn and grow.

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Presentation Materials for UNR’s EL 703

I was invited to review the instructional shifts with graduate students in the Educational Leadership program at the University of Nevada, Reno. You can review what was shared by clicking on the linked documents below.

A part of the evening was also spent debriefing a video Dr. Dan Willingham who subtly explains the huge challenges facing building educators. It is worth reviewing the video and considering the “mental obstacles” of the teaching profession.

EL 703 PowerPoint

EL 703 Focus Questions

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More Free and Vetted Materials Added to

I continue to maintain and post to the website Recently, a number of teacher created Core Knowledge materials were shared with me and I posted these. Likewise, everything I am creating for my own classroom (here) are being uploaded.

The orientation of 63000resources remains unchanged: only free, scalable and vetted materials are shared so the user can focus on instruction.

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Three Must Watch Ed Videos

One of the biggest challenges being back in the classroom is not getting a full picture or the context for the instructional changes I am asked to make. Often, by the time the message has made it all the way back to my school, it has been modified, simplified and—regretfully in some situations—completed altered. Consequently, new initiatives feels disjointed, obligatory and poorly connected to other tasks and efforts. This is why it is helpful to find primary source material to more fully understand why we are being asked to do the things we are asked to do.

Listed below are three videos that are worth taking a look at. The first is of David Coleman, one of the architects of the Common Core and now the president of the College Board, explaining changes to the SAT. The second is of Dale Erquiaga, Chief Strategy Officer for Nevada and member of Chiefs for Change and the last is of Dr. Donald Bear, the Director of the Duffelmeyer Reading Improvement Clinic, describing the value of Word Study. Taken together, they help contextualize the policy and pedagogy we are asked to implement in our classrooms.

Dale Erquiaga: Former Nevada Superintendent of Public Instruction Dale Erquiaga reviews the legislation that was passed in the 2015 legislative session and expands on what informed each initiative. Viewers will have a much better feel for the coming changes including Read by Grade 3, new funding formulas, and anticipated work in 2017. Full video here.

David Coleman: “Assessment without opportunity is dead.” This is how Coleman begins his speech at the 2015 Schools for Tomorrow Conference. Coleman highlights how more than 50% of students in the bottom quartile of income and scoring in the top 10% on the SAT, will not apply for a highly selective university. Coleman sees this as building a “wall” of inequality and reforming SAT and providing equitable test preparation is part of the solution. You can watch the full video here.

Dr. Donald Bear: Although a lot of educators are being asked to implement Word Study or are being asked to extinguish the use of traditional spelling protocols, few understand why. Dr. Donald Bear provides the research and relevant activities to promote, vocabulary, phonics, and spelling through the use of Word Study.

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It is worth noting that all of these videos can be accessed for free. This is especially important as educators continue to transition from traditional modalities of profession development to something more aligned to the 21st Century.

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The Best CCSS Resource You Might Not Be Using–The OUT

If you look through the data for this blog as well as my companion site,, a not so surprising trend emerges. Overwhelmingly, classroom materials are the most downloaded and clicked on links when compared to professional development resources, presentation items, and demonstration videos. Consequently, it seems pretty obvious to highlight one of the best resources available and explain how any educator—including those outside of Nevada—can use them to meet the expectations of the Common Core.

The Nevada History OUTs (Opening Up the Textbooks) are a teacher created resource that is free for download. Each OUT highlights an important part of Nevada history with an emphasis on students reading complex informational text and retrieving evidence to support claims. Moreover, the OUTs nurture historical thinking skills in which students see a single narrative—from the textbook—complicated, vivified, contested, and/or expanded. If you live outside of Nevada, there is plenty for you here with lessons on Westward Expansion, the Hoover Dam, and mining and taxation.

I have implemented three OUTs this year and what follows is why I am so enthusiastic. This includes

  1. The OUTs are well matched to the Common Core and the Instructional Shifts. Specifically, each lessons has students working with complex text—often challenging primary resources—and its academic vocabulary. Students have to read, write and speak using evidence and as students move through each OUT they are building a coherent body of knowledge.
  2. Students have to work cooperatively to build understanding and to gain full access to the texts. The OUTs highlight the value of academic discourse and fluidly align to the habits of annotating and Accountable Talk.
  3. They are free.
  4. They were vetted in classrooms before ultimately being shared online.
  5. Students enjoy the challenging work. I switch between the OUTs, the Basal Alignment Project lessons, and Core Knowledge during my literacy block. The OUTs have proven to be a hit and you can see them in action at my classroom blog here and here.

You can see an overview video of what an OUT is and read more here. You can here watch Stanford professor Dr. Sam Wineburg explain how students learn history here.

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Principal Leadership Team Session 2

Educators gathered for the second session of the Principal Leadership Team inservice course. The focus was on the ELA Instructional Shifts and working to build capacity and a vision around these outcomes.

The class is a unique opportunity for Washoe County insofar as it has all stakeholders within a building working to create a shared vision of what is valued, measured, and observed. You can download the session materials, and find the videos that were shared, in the links below.

Principal Leadership Session 2 PowerPoint

Five Essential Schoolwide Conditions for Common-Core Achievement

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Slavin and “Evidence” Based Reform in Education

My first full time position as a homeroom teacher was at Veterans Elementary in Reno, Nevada. Veterans was a Success For All school and I was introduced to a reading program, with distinct reading components, as well as elements of cooperative learning. At that time, I also became familiar with the work of Robert Slavin, one of the creators of SFA, researcher and faculty member at John Hopkins University. Without getting into what I thought of the version of SFA I taught in the early 2000’s—I understand it has changed—I have always been impressed with Slavin and his devotion to research and evidence.

I recently came across a keynote Slavin gave that was posted to Youtube. Although I intended to watch for just a few minutes, I found myself impressed with Slavin’s blunt assessment of current educational policy and his obvious worry about how the term “evidenced-based” has been hijacked to maximize profit and sell districts on specious products and services. Here are several other key takeaways.

At minute 12:37 Slavin describes the constant “churning” of school reform. He notes that because the typical tenure of a district superintendent is 2.5 years, and because many superintendents are often embracing new policies, it never becomes clear what is working and what is not.

16:25: Slavin describes how in disciplines like medicine and agriculture, the best evidence wins out. He posits that in education this is not the case and notes that change in education often happens without regard to a thorough study of what is working. He analogizes education to fashion in that something comes into style and invariably falls out of style.

20:49: Slavin shares how “innovation” happens in education. That is, because everyone is moving vertically in the system, they bring with him or her a concrete sense of what should happen in a school or in the district. They are informed by their experiences instead of evidence or research. Thus, what they know well they advocate for.

At minute 22:29, Slavin gets specific and describes how we can build a system where “what works is what matters.” The keys include

  • There must be standards of educational reform that are refereed by an independent body. Those who fail to adhere to these standards would be challenged with legal consequences.
  • There must be demonstrative evidence of effectiveness. Things cannot merely look good, they must be proven to be good.
  • Any proven innovation must come with professional development, materials and fit with the capacity of a system.
  • The government would only financially support those reforms that have proven to work.

Listening to Slavin I found myself hoping more people will watch this keynote. I am continually being asked to do things in my classroom that lack evidence or contradict another established reform. Moreover, very little attention is really paid to how much time a reform or new effort might be required of a teacher or administrator. As a result, everything becomes muddied and nothing seems to work as well as it could.

You can access the keynote here.

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