I may be straying a tad from my regular range of topics, but an important aspect of 21st century education is drawing upon contemporary research to enhance our students’ learning, and I believe the research is clear that sleep matters.

Po Bronson’s NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children isn’t revolutionary, and much of it is not that new, but it is informative and entertaining, and it does call upon us to vigorously continue reforming learning.   The best essay in the book may be the chapter entitled The Lost Hour, also available as an on-line article in New York magazine entitled Can a lack of Sleep Set Back Your Child’s Cognitive Abilities?

Some compelling quotes:

Every study done shows a similar connection between sleep and school grades—from a study of second- and third-graders in Chappaqua to a study of eighth-graders in Chicago. The correlations really spike in high school, because that’s when there’s a steep drop-off in kids’ sleep. (more…)

This is another in a series, (the 3rd) of sharing on the blog narratives from our teachers of exemplary classes in the mode of Tony Wagner, who calls, in his book The Global Achievement Gap, for teachers to “use academic content as a means to teach students to communicate, reason, and solve problems.”

I’ll use this posting too to announce publicly the forthcoming publication of a St. Gregory educational booklet, tentatively entitled Bridging the Gap: Teaching Students to Communicate, Collaborate, and Think Critically and Creatively. The 16 page booklet, coming out March 31st, will feature nine 200-400 vignettes of exemplary St. Gregory lessons where students are learning the key skills they need for success in our fast-changing world.   It will be available for sale through the St. Gregory office for $4.00.

This English lessons comes from two of our fine teachers, Dr. Kate Oubre and Mr. Robert Mossman.

AP English, Spring 2010

At the beginning of the period, the teacher divides the class into small groups (3 or 4) and hands out packets.  Each group is assigned a different poem, which we have not yet studied, along with a set of AP-style multiple-choice questions and a free response essay question.  Each group is assigned to read the poem carefully, determine its meanings, and then reach consensus on answers to the multiple-choice questions. (more…)

I have long been passionate about problems in learning (and Problem Based Learning), and even more so since my visit to New Technology High School in October 2008, and since working (in a very small way) with the Buck Institute’s Jason Ravitz on an article on this topic.  As Ted McCain writes, brilliantly, in Teaching for Tomorrow, we need to invert the conventional classroom dynamic: instead of teaching information and content first, and then asking students to answer questions about it second, we should put the question/problem first, and then facilitate students with information and guidance as they seek the answer and hold them highly accountable for the excellence of their solutions and of their presentation of their results.

I am working now to think through and discern what particular  and compelling term best captures this approach: is “problem based learning” the answer?   (Share with me your thoughts about terminology by using the “leave a comment button.”)

The College and Work Readiness Assessment, which we use at St. Gregory to assess our students’ learning of critical thinking, communication, and problem solving, uses the term “Performance Task” to capture and convey the learning approach I am trying to describe here.  (more…)

Hard for me to imagine anyone would want to listen to me for thirty minutes, but last December I had the great pleasure to be interviewed on live radio here in Tucson by Dr. Zara Larsen, who hosts a Saturday morning radio show entitled Circles of Change.

She and I spoke about my work at St. Gregory, my blog, my research in 2008 shadowing students at 21 21st century high schools, and my ideas about educational reform.

The podcast is available here.  Enjoy, and please let me know if you have any reactions to the interview by using the Leave a Comment Button.

As explained in a previous post, we are using Tony Wagner’s Global Achievement Gap in many ways, including taking his inspiration to recast our own classrooms as places where we using academic content as a means to teach students how to communicate and collaborate, reason and analyze critically, and solve problems using creativity and innovation.  The narrative below comes from our outstanding 12th grade Leadership class, taught and written by Fred Roberts, and edited by Stefanie Teller.

Applied and Theoretical Leadership

This lesson occurs near the end of the first academic quarter.  At this point the students have studied several theoretical aspects of leadership and five distinct leadership styles. They have seen these styles in action as the course instructors have role modeled each style on more than one occasion.  The class has also discussed different local and national leaders who rely on one or more leadership styles.

For this particular class the teachers have set up five different team-building challenges.  (more…)

This is nice, a response to the very powerful A Vision of Students Today video about which I have blogged in the past.  (And hat-tip to the awesome Angela Maiers).

Favorite lines from the video:

Adapting and evolving, teachers digitally empower diverse learners to connect, communicate,  collaborate, and create in an interactive, technology rich environment. (more…)

Global Achievemnent GapMy most frequently “re-tweeted” Blog post has to have been a post I did a few months ago entitled How We at St. Gregory are using Tony Wagner’s Global Achievement Gap.  In the last three months, it has had 174 visits.  In that post, I wrote that one of the things we were doing as a faculty to engage and respond to the book was to write in each department an narrative (or several) of exemplary St. Gregory class sessions which demonstrate effectively the kind of teaching and learning (we think) Wagner is calling for.

On p. 65 of his book, after a long series of brief vignettes where Tony describes high school classrooms which are not working to promote the learning of the skills kids need, he then offers a three paragraph passage of an Algebra II class that is effective: it is one where “the teachers use academic content as a means of teaching students how to communicate, reason, and solve problems.” We are using this phrase as our touchstone, though we are adding to it as follows: using academic content as a means to teach students how to communicate and collaborate, reason and analyze critically, and solve problems using creativity and innovation.

I have collected now about a dozen, and I will periodically be publishing them here; we are also preparing for publication later this month a little booklet of these exemplary “Wagnerian” classroom narratives.  This one is written by Dr. Michelle Berry, and (as all of them have been, for consistency of format and style) edited by Stefanie Teller.   Please let me know what you think by posting a response;  many more to come!

AP Government – Unit on Constitutional Law

The teacher begins the unit on Constitutional Law by announcing that, over the course of the month-long unit, each student will have an important role to play every day in order to make sense of complex Constitutional questions and critique the wisdom of the United States Supreme Court.  (more…)

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