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  • Common Core State Standards, Factors Influencing Student Achievement, Responsive Coaching, Teacher Evaluation, Autism

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Building Brain Literacy in Elementary Students

Practice Makes Perfect

For many students, the brain isn't a hot topic of conversation. This is especially true for younger students who are still trying to understand the world around them, and are still far from developing physiological self-awareness of the very thing that gives them that self-awareness.

But helping students develop "brain literacy" doesn't have to be a matter of dry science pumped full of confusing jargon. Understanding the brain can be empowering for students as they recognize their ability to strengthen it each time they use it. As a teacher, you can emphasize how using the executive functions, both in the classroom and outside of school, increases their strength for academic success. Practice makes perfect!

To reduce anxiety about new "stuff" in the classroom -- whether related to Common Core State Standards, struggles with reading, or something else entirely -- you can find opportunities to emphasize students' ability to literally build the brains they want. Remind them that, when they turn in a story, demonstrate a science principle in a skit, or even raise their hand to respond to a question, they grow more dendrites and add new layers of myelin to their axons. To them this may sound gross, but it's actually good news. By activating these brain networks, they continuously use their executive functions as they apply new learning. Like a muscle, the brain responds to interaction and activity.

Much of this kind of thinking starts with an awareness of the brain itself, and how it functions.

Helping Students Understand Their Brains

One way to help students begin to understand their brains is by explaining specific types of executive functions -- or "brain actions."

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Engaged Teaching: "Do Now" Activities for Your Lessons

This is a follow up to a May 2013 blog about The Five Dimensions of Engaged Teaching (Solution Tree, 2013), by Laura Weaver and Mark Wilding -- a book that offers SEL and Common Core-compatible approaches to instruction. As co-executive directors of the Passageworks Institute in Boulder, Colorado, Laura and Mark share with us practical examples of how educators of all grade levels might "Do Now" in classrooms some of their suggestions.

Elementary School

Introduce a golden moment of silence to begin the day

A golden moment is an opportunity to sit in silence with each other as a way to quiet the body and mind. Ringing a chime or bell to mark the beginning and end of this "moment" is helpful. Teachers can encourage students to listen to the fading sound of the bell until they can no longer hear it. Teachers can start with a very short period of time -- even 30 seconds -- and lengthen this golden moment over time, as the students are ready and able. Use a name and rationale that makes sense to your students and fits with your current SEL and classroom routines (e.g., Calming Time, Quiet Time, Listening Minute, Settling In).

Develop a "shared agreements" process

In the first few weeks of school, students and teachers develop a list of agreements that will guide their classroom and define their classroom culture. These agreements co-exist alongside any school rules. Students are asked to brainstorm a list of what they need --from themselves and each other -- to learn effectively, speak honestly and openly, and share what is important to them. This list is summarized in five- to seven- major "agreements" and posted in the classroom as a reminder. Most should be positively worded but a couple though shalt not's are fine (e.g., put downs). Examples of agreements can be found in chapter seven of the book and in Edutopia's "Cooperative Arithmetic" video.

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17 instructional practices for social and emotional learning

social and emotional learning

 

New guide offers a look at 25 social and emotional learning programs to help practitioners hone their own programs.

Interest around social and emotional learning continues to expand, due in part to recognition that positive social and emotional skills can help improve students’ behavioral and academic outcomes in school.

Now, educators can take a look at 25 evidence-based social and emotional learning programs to learn about curricular content and other features that they can use to help student develop key social and emotional skills such as self-control, empathy, flexible mindsets, and conflict resolution.

Navigating SEL from the Inside Out: Looking Inside & Across 25 Leading SEL Programs: A Practical Resource for Schools and OST Providers is intended for elementary schools and out-of-school-time (OST) providers. It aims to give practitioners resources to compare what is taught, and how it is taught, across programs. It also explains how social and emotional learning programs can be adapted to OST settings.

The guide was written by Stephanie Jones, an associate professor in human development and urban education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and a team of Harvard researchers. Jones is a recognized expert and frequent speaker on social and emotional learning.

Along with a look at 25 programs, the guide outlines 17 instructional strategies that can be used in social and emotional learning programs.

Instructional practices that help students develop social and emotional skills include:

“What this resource provides is a window into what different [social and emotional] programs focus on and how they do it. This type of information is critical for those who want to cultivate and foster these essential skills within and across different contexts,” Jones said.

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Rural Charter present Administrators with New Challenges

The rise of rural charter schools throughout the country presents administrators with a new set opportunities and challenges, which may require a different approach than that of dealing with city schools.

Charter schools, though increasingly touted (and criticized) by educators, administrators and lawmakers, remains in some sense predominantly an urban mainstay. 56.5% of charters are located in a city, while only 10% of charter schools are located in urban areas, according to the National Center for Education Statistics data.

But the number of rural charters is on the rise; more than 200,000 students attend charter schools in rural areas, with California having the highest number at 114 schools. More than 200 rural charters have been opened since 2010, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Todd Ziebarth, the senior vice president of state advocacy and support at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said that while it would be a misconception that charter schools only teach students in urban areas, some charter founders in urban communities have benefited from improving charter laws in numerous states, as well as more access to federal charter school grants and increased familiarity within communities.

 “It’s not for the lighthearted and it’s a significant undertaking,” he said. “And perhaps people have gotten more comfortable with them and are willing to take the risk.”

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SUMMER LEARNING LOSS STATISTICS (AND TIPS TO PROMOTE LEARNING ALL SUMMER LONG)

Summer Learning Loss Statistics

 

Between the end of one school year and the start of the next every student risks summer learning loss. With the final bell right around the corner, this is a weighty topic on every parent and educator’s mind.

We’ve taken a look at just how much knowledge students typically lose, and how you can prevent it with some quick tips for summer learning!

Whether your child loves to read, play outside, or get techy, there are many fun but effective ways to promote learning over the break. Since the summer will be here before you know it, it’s a great idea to start planning now what activities you’ll use to avoid summer learning loss. Our quick tips can help!

Learn More!

 

 

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