Archive for the ‘Instruction’ Category

Teachers: free & potent – 27 resources to juice lessons   Leave a comment

July is almost here, summer break is in full burn. Well deserved, it’s time away from the office – no students, administrators, or cajoling parents. Yet, it’s worthwhile to peek at the hill looming on the horizon. I have some quick and easy professional development ideas you can peruse from the comfort of your lawn chair to ease the climb. Why? I think they’ll satisfy that thirst for improving your teaching skills without taking dollars from your pocket, and they won’t reduce your leisure time. Heck, you can even use ’em to fulfill your Professional Development Plan (PDP) for 2010!

Nope, what I’m suggesting is not languishing away in a classroom or even attending a vendor sponsored seminar. What I’m talking about is an hour or two a week – or less – in the comfort of your own schedule to consider improving the architecture of your instruction techniques. That’s correct, my intention is to have you grow these three core teaching abilities:

1. Classroom management skills: this influences every aspect of teaching for both new and experienced teachers.

2. Multimedia resources: time to start putting technology to work for you, in whatever capacity you have available in your classroom or school.

3. Pedagogy ideas: taking stock of what you’re doing and listening to the experts provides new window(s) for improving student performance.

Let’s be real, acquiring additional skills in these abilities makes you better equipped to capture student attention. When you’re doing that, you have engaged students, which means they’re more adept at building lifelong learner skills.

Capturing student interest is no mystery. I know this first hand from my high school teaching experiences. When students are interested in class material; student disruptions almost disappear and class time flies finer than the stealth bomber. Lesson material that works with digital students makes concepts relevant to life outside of class. Research shows this is best accomplished using hands on activities, integrating technology, creating and managing student collaboration, and accenting important ideas with video clips (15 minute maximum). As you raise the bar on your lesson making ability you demonstrate your commitment to excellence.

Like I said, all the resources I’m about to mention are absolutely free. Need software to be more productive? This package works on any computer and is in multiple languages; use it to make and distribute documents, slides, or spreadsheets: Open Office.

1. Tune up classroom management strategies
Without a solid set of classroom management skills, learning happens by luck. Effective teaching isn’t completed by winning personality contests or being the student’s buddy. Instead, learning occurs in a safe environment where students are curious and there is an atmosphere of respect. Just like a business has a set of rules and procedures to produce quality products for its’ customers, a teacher must have a clearly defined set rules and procedures to conduct class. An extensive set of ideas and procedures can be found at this scale of social competence site. Another source for some tips and techniques is this RSS feed, beware it also wants to sell you a book at the end. The Empower A Child blog has 10 excellent tips for teachers. On the left hand side of the Cooperative Learning Network page there are several useful articles worth your review. My favorite there is Teaching Social Skills. I had to adjust it somewhat for my high school class but those ideas definitely worked for me. Of course, The First Days of School, by Harry Wong, is the perfect resource for every teacher library. Every time I pick it up I select one or two new ideas to use with students.

2. Tweak your multimedia skills and resources
One picture is worth a thousand words. Images quickly validate obtuse concepts and put the brain in gear. For example, students may not get the verbal aspects of biotic and abiotic, but show ’em pictures of people, plants, and fire; now they have a window to apply what is being discussed. There are plenty of ways to use multimedia besides just using PowerPoint or slide presentations. Thinking is an essential ingredient learning at any age, using the Big 6 you gain a critical thinking resource and a web site that offers a ton of worksheets and presentations. Start using media kits to supplement your lesson resources. You can find one for any subject across the K12 curriculum by visiting the Orange County DOE site. Some other favorites of mine: listen to famous speeches, find any sound and download it, and then the perfect music to spice up classroom atmosphere or to add on your web page. If you, or your students, are going to be using online much at all you probably want an avatar. You can easily build one at YourManga and it’s available in multiple languages. The next step is exploding your video library resources. Use one of these qualified sites to fulfill your video cabinet with thousands of professional clips to enforce class concepts: National Geographic,, and Teachers Domain. When you want to bring context of the past, present, and/or future to your class, check out the tons of streaming video (no downloads here) at TED and Fora TV , or scour How Stuff Works for material galore on any subject in an encyclopedia set.

3. Dust off your pedagogy schemes
Each educator has their own teaching style, refining that art of instruction never ends. Just like professional athletes always train to be on top of their game; superior educators look for ways to refine teaching methods. There are a couple of ways to accomplish this. One way is reading current research on education. The Internet Public Library (IPL) has an array of reading material on education reform and measurements and assessments. Another way is fine tuning the methods used to do actual instruction. One of the most comprehensive sites I’ve seen is provided by Intel. They’ve assembled substantial material to support building student collaboration in classes and improve student critical thinking skills. Project learning is a proven technique for getting students actively learning in classes. Eutopia provides a RSS feed with studies validating this methodology. They also have an extensive video catalogue for educators covering a range of topics on effective K12 learning. The Global SchoolNet is a project exchange site. It’s a myriad of projects teachers and students have contributed from around the world. The content at Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education is aligned with math and science standards and it offers clearly defined projects. Their goal is to have classes use their projects to do cross-curriculum work. Students contribute from their local area, giving students in other areas an opportunity to learn about new areas while also exploring unique data contributions. At Merlot, teachers post their lessons and then get reviewed by peers. Covering all content areas, you can dig into high caliber lesson material for your new lesson or to revise an existing one. Another option is participating in a variety of quality academic communities.

I encourage you to share this article with other educators and participate in our reaching out to 25,000 teachers. To obtain additional free resources to support K12 teaching, visit my portal at

Steu Mann, M. Ed., an education journalist, is retired from careers in teaching and project management. He owns Education Reporting ™ Inc and works with teachers to implement experiential education curriculum.You can reach him at educationrebel@gmail dot com (.com).


Posted June 30, 2009 by Jack in Curriculum, Instruction

Measuring Curriculum Checklist   Leave a comment

We know that every school and classroom has a curriculum, but how can you measure it?

Everyone will agree, both parents and teachers want the curriculum to develop students.

Traditionally, curriculum will focus on academics. With all the high stakes testing taking place, which starts in middle school, it makes logical sense to focus daily lessons on testing material students will see. I know, I did that when I was teaching.

As a parent, I want my kids to develop the skills to be a progressive thinker. Ya know, be able to think a situation through by examining the circumstances from different perspectives and considering the different variables/outcomes. Then, use that information as a foundation for the choice being made.

Let’s be honest, all us grownups can remember at least one or two bad choices we made. I’m not saying it’s impossible to stop making bad choices, I just want my kids to be equipped with the thinking skills to reduce bad choice making.

I have developed two methods; one for teachers and one for parents to measure curriculum for their unique education requirements. Teachers can use it for developing and delivering more potent lessons. Parents can use it to evaluate classes and student performance, discussions in teacher-parent conferences, or in choosing a school.

I’ll be talking about my methods here for a few weeks. If you want me to send you a free five point Curriculum Measuring Checklist (CMC) send me an email:

Teachers, get your free CMC by sending an email to:

Parents, get your free CMC by sending an email to:

Simply put, I have the nitty gritty on what is beneficial to assist you in developing effective lessons. My information drill down into the core of what works and doesn’t work in educating the whole child during the K-12 years.

Wishing you the best life has to offer, Jack

PS: Visit my education research site here.
PSS: Get my free ebook here.

Posted March 12, 2009 by Jack in Curriculum, Instruction

Teachers Collect $125 – Share Your Wisdom   Leave a comment

……that is correct, you can put a hundred and twenty-five bucks in your pocket for talking about your class ….. or your teaching.

Here is how it works…..

I am looking for K-12 teachers (any grade or content area) to write at least 1,000 words to describe their teaching. Why? I want to print your teacher wisdom in my ezine starting In January when I roll out a brand new ezine format. That is correct, I want to share your wisdom with other teachers so they can apply it with their classes.

The key points…..

A. Your entry must be sent to me by midnight on December 30th, 2008.

B. Every entry will receive a free subscription to my Education Rebel Ezine and 50 of those entries will be selected to receive $125 in cash.

C. The cash award winners will be posted on this blog by January 12, 2009 and payments will be mailed to those winners by January 9, 2009.

These are the two pieces of information your entry, a minimum of 1,000 words, must include:
1. A brief introduction about your teaching background and class (one paragraph maximum).

2. Discuss one of the following:
– what works in your teaching style to encourage students to learn?
– explain professional development work that has improved your teaching.
– describe a project based learning activity in your class and the learning
– describe a service learning activity in your class and the learning results or impact on campus or community.

Entries must be sent in a Word document or a Google document.
Each entry must include your name, email address, school name, and your mailing address (where the check will be sent). Entries must be received at no later than midnight on December 30th. The cash award winners will be notified by email on or before January 5, 2009 and their payments will be mailed to them by January 9, 2009. All entries will receive a free one year subscription to Education Rebel Ezine. When you submit your entry you’re giving me the rights to print it in my ezine for  unlimited issues along with your name, grade, and state. I will not share any other information you provide with any other organization because I respect your privacy.

If you have any questions you can send them to me at

I know you’ll have time over the holiday break to share your teacher wisdom with me and I’m paying you to do it.

A beautiful sunny day today, Jack

Posted December 10, 2008 by Jack in Curriculum, Instruction, pedagogy

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Effective Teachers Have WILL   3 comments

…..was looking over what has helped me the most in my teaching to reach my “getting organized” goal for 2008 and thought I’d blog it.

It’s fair to say that it takes a special type of person …. a certain chemistry … to be a teacher. Not everyone has it or is willing to make the effort to obtain it. I’m all for keeping the effective teachers and helping the ineffective ones, but from what I’ve seen and heard, usually the ineffective teachers don’t know the slide they’re on or won’t agree to being supported – they’re just doing a J.O.B..

I detailed my thoughts about teacher chemistry in the TeacherHandbook (free) that you can pick up at so I’m not going to carry on about it here.

What is WILL? Very simply, it’s Whole children Influenced by Living Learning. I have being doing lessons with a WILL focus for years and I’ve been helping other teachers do them – because they saw the positive results in my classes. WILL starts with a martixed lesson using an OPTIMUM design which is easy to put together and implement.

There are two phases of this OPTIMUM design. The first phase is that a least 40% of your students must be familiar with working in student groups …. plus ….. your students need to be familiar with doing certain critical thinking exercises that are consistently woven into your lesson activities.

A matrixed lesson is built using Objectives, Activities and Resources.  Activities are a part of almost every lesson in my classes. Students working in groups have opportunities to flex their social skill learning muscles. I use different “comparing” exercises to get them comfortable with looking at  similarities and differences between things – thus building their analytical skills – and building those critical thinking skills too. Once you have 40% of your students familiar with working in groups you are on your way!

One “comparing” example is having students examine completed white  boards (posters, models, pictures, reports, and so forth). The goal is to have them describe similarities and differences between whatever they are comparing. I like the completed white boards since students work on them in groups after I give all the groups the same prompts for a specific set of questions or challenge or scenario. There is never a wrong answer, make sure you always use student comments and work as a contribution to the learning objective, or a contribution to their critical thinking skill, or just a plain ole “good work” comment.

Note I didn’t say that 40% of your students are “comfortable” with working in groups. I’m not a believer in comfort zones in class. On the other hand, students need to be familiar or confident with working in groups. When 40% have reached that point they’ll pull the rest of the class with ’em.

BTW, If you trust me enough to talk with your teacher friends then I’ll  instantly give you three of my highly rated classroom resources. Click here to learn more.

The critical thinking skills develop as we educators help students ask better questions. While they are comparing the boards I always do a two minute talk about the constant comparing every one does all day:

– why did you wear those clothes today (you compared them to other clothes)
– when you go to the store, why do you buy some tomatoes and not the others? (you compared them to other tomatoes)
– why do you hang out with Anita and not Sally? (you compared their characteristics and choose one over the other)

This kinda conversation qualifies this “comparing” exercise as relevant to students. When kids see the link to class work and life “outside” they will participate. Bottom line is, we all compare stuff constantly without everything thinking about doing it. As a teacher, bringing the “comparing” activity to the surface is a potent relevancy tool for your arsenal.

Traditional education got students used to memorizing: the development of thinking skills that recognize the value of patterns, self-questioning, associations, and mental pictures ….. and you can use that as a starting point during  “comparing” exercises.  The more of these exercises you do in class the better worn the path becomes in the direction of boosting the core-thinking processes that naturally induce metacognition.

BTW, if you’re interested in some easy reading material about critical thinking to get 2009 started in a fresh direction take a look at my handbook. (Click here for free copy)

Enjoying a winter rain and wind storm, Jack

PS: After the holidays I’ll be detailing phase two about using WILL with classes.

Posted December 9, 2008 by Jack in Curriculum, Instruction

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Educators – figuring out your XYness   Leave a comment

….. you can evaluate your class activities using my Teacher Classroom XYness.

…… all class activities migrate through four zones of 1) disruption (starter) 2) organized chaos, 3) excelling, and 4) accomplishment. The real “trim tab” is knowing the trigger points for each zone because that will allow you to manage the students appropriately. You can see the Teacher Classroom XYness here.

This is Part One, the teacher skills I covered earlier …….. today I just want to get you the XYness chart so you can compare this technique to your work and chew on the points below:

– all activities start in disruption since that is when students find out what they need to do …… stuff like the roles and responsibilities ….. how they’ll be graded …. and how this ties into class work.

– the organized chaos will be the shortest, hopefully, lived zone, as students get focused on larger tasks they will be more involved with peers and actions that can be readily assessed.

– all the major task work is above the Curriculum Skills bar as moving above that bar is dependent on multiple teaching skills.

– the accomplishment zone isn’t the “end all” for students….. when their work is completed they become tutors and start helping other student groups get the work accomplished.

.…..more details when I publish Part Two on this one.


Education Rebel Teacher Handbook For Digital AgeFREE for limited time

Posted December 4, 2008 by Jack in Curriculum, Instruction, pedagogy

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Teachers – Got Your WIP On?   Leave a comment

…..teachers are always in a WIP [pronounced WHIP] mode since they constantly have Work In Progress. That’s not just the classroom stuff either, they have skills to maintain and that takes a concentrated effort with
focus and attention

…. I like visuals, if you want a copy of my teacher WIP diagram just click here to get it.

Basically, there are four skill sets a 21st century teacher must have, the details in the diagram illustrate the bare minimum – a baseline. Here is a brief description of each:

Curriculum Skills

Understands, designs, and uses instruction to make connections that induce educational
experiences that in turn create life long learners.

Technology Skills

Ability to use and manipulate technology to advance instruction methods and
engage students.

Classroom Management Skills

Has effective control of classroom environment using various approaches to eliminate
disruptive student behavior.

Career Development Skills

The time and effort to participate in activities, outside of classroom work, that promote a wider breadth of teaching practices.

It’s worth noting that there are certain overall requirements that need to be met in order for teachers to have an environment where these skills can be achieved:

1. An administrative supported approach to instruction that supports project based learning and isn’t a MASH schedule to produce correct multiple choice answers.

2. Class sizes are manageable and not a classrooms full of 25 or more students.

3. Teachers have the technology and tools available to them on a regular basis in their rooms, which doesn’t include scheduling a computer lab across campus that has 30 computers for 1,000 students.

What are your thoughts?


Education Rebel Teacher Handbook For Digital AgeFREE for limited time

Posted December 3, 2008 by Jack in Curriculum, Instruction, WIP

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Teacher Handbook For The Digital Age   Leave a comment

I finally finished this short book I’ve been working on ……

It’s a sum total of using what I’ve my strategies to engage student, using current events to hook ’em, and the research I’ve been working on too.  Heck, if students aren’t interested in the lesson material there is no hope they’ll do well on the tests ….. let alone pay attention in class.

The trick for me is to generate a lesson that is interesting to them and keeps me on course for the lesson objectives.  So far, I think I found the right recipe.  If you have any suggestions let me know – I’m all ears.

You can pick up a free copy if you want to see what I’m doing at

Coasting, Jack

Posted December 1, 2008 by Jack in Instruction, project based learning

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