Live Blog: Courageous Leadership with Pedro Noguera and Alan Blankstein

While attending the PA Association of School Administrators’ Summer Symposium this week, I will be live-​​blogging some of the presentations. Come back to this page at 10:00 a.m. on July 28, 2015 for the opening session with renowned authors and thought leaders Pedro Noguera and Alan Blankstein. They will be talking about how school leaders can establish and maintain high standards and expectations while ensuring equity and access for all... read more

8 Ways Teachers Make Students Love Math

Reading has gotten a lot of love recently at Brilliant or Insane. As a math guy, I feel an obligation to restore some balance to the Force. Thus, I offer the following: 8 ways to make students love math 1. Let students ask (and answer) their own questions. Instead of relying on the teacher, or the textbook (see next tip), to provide all of the questions, get your students to start asking some of their own. What are they curious about? What intrigues them about mathematical ideas you’ve been exploring? For a fun way to create engaging, thought-​​provoking questions, try using what I call iWonders. Here are a couple of examples: iWonder if Lincoln Financial Field were filled to the top with popcorn how long it would take the Philadelphia Eagles to eat it all. iWonder if everyone in Seattle got in cars for a road trip to Boston at the same time how long the line of cars would be. 2. Ditch the textbook and solve problems. Last year, Mark Barnes wrote about his visit to a problem-​​solving centered classroom where students were actively engaged in mathematical thinking instead of drudging through page after page of worksheets and exercises. The students owned the work, and when they didn’t know the answers to something, they just kept at it and worked it out together. How powerful would that be in your classroom? 3. See math everywhere. Math isn’t just about numbers and algorithms in math class. Math is everywhere, from video games to nature to poetry to current events to fashion design to food to music. I could go on, but I’d run out of room for the other five points. Short version, look everywhere,... read more

Using Webb's Depth of Knowledge to Increase Rigor

The word “rigor” is hard to avoid today, and it provokes strong reactions from educators. Policymakers tout its importance. Publishers promote it as a feature of their materials. But some teachers share the view of Joanne Yatvin, past president of the National Council for Teachers of English. To them, rigor simply means more work, harder books, and longer school days. “None of these things is what I want for students at any level,” Yatvin says. Part of the problem is that we have adopted the jargon without a clear understanding of what we really mean. Calculating Cognitive Depth For classroom teachers, the more important question is one of practice: how do we create rich environments where all students learn at a high level? One useful tool, Norman Webb’s Depth of Knowledge Levels, can help teachers meet that challenge. Depth of Knowledge (DoK) categorizes tasks according to the complexity of thinking required to successfully complete them. Level 1: Recall and Reproduction Tasks at this level require recall of facts or rote application of simple procedures. The task does not require any cognitive effort beyond remembering the right response or formula. Copying, computing, defining, and recognizing are typical Level 1 tasks. Level 2: Skills and Concepts At this level, a student must make some decisions about his or her approach. Tasks with more than one mental step such as comparing, organizing, summarizing, predicting, and estimating are usually Level 2. Level 3: Strategic Thinking At this level of complexity, students must use planning and evidence, and thinking is more abstract. A task with multiple valid responses where students must justify their choices would be Level 3. Examples include solving non-​​routine... read more

Replace Grades with Feedback to Spark Fearless Learning

This summer I have had the privilege and joy of taking my son around the region doing college visits. Two of the schools he’s looking at are in cities I don’t visit often: New York and Pittsburgh. Thankfully, though, my car has a GPS navigation system, so we were able to do our visits to those unfamiliar cities with little difficulty. (Other than the horrible traffic around the Lincoln Tunnel, anyway.) As I was driving my son to dinner in Pittsburgh a couple of weeks ago, I started thinking about how I used to get around without my GPS, and what it felt like to navigate an unfamiliar city. Now, I love maps, and I’m good at reading them. When I was a kid, I was in charge of navigating on our family trips. So plotting a route in new territory is something I’m comfortable with. But even so, navigating a new city is always nerve-​​wracking for me. I might have a good idea of the route and my heading, I could miss a turn, or an intersection might look different in real life than I imagined it from the map, or there might be construction that detours me away from the known path. In each case, I can pull over, look at the map, and try to find my way again. But in a city this is easier said than done, and it just piles anxiety on top of worry. Worst is that I don’t really know until the end of the journey if I was successful: either I get to my intended destination, or I give up and go home. Now, with my GPS, I have a constant awareness of where I am, where I’m going, and what’s the best next step to get there.... read more

With No-Grades Schools, Colleges Will Have to Fall In Line

As a school district administrator, I have the privilege of working with all of the teachers new to our schools during a weeklong program of induction and orientation. Monday, we treated this fabulous group of educators to lunch. As we headed back, the conversation turned to field trips. “Would you like to hear my field trip rule-​​of-​​thumb?” I asked the small group of teachers riding in my car. Eager to seem interested in the administrator they just met, they humored me by saying yes. “When I was a teacher, I figured that as long as I came back to school with at least 90% of the students, it was still an A.” Polite laughter all around. Of course the idea that losing a tenth of your class is an “acceptable loss” is ridiculous. Anything less than a 100% return rate would result in panicked parents, anxious phone calls, and serious professional consequences. So why do we believe that the traditional grading scale is somehow the infallible and inspired word of John Dewey? I was part of an interesting conversation on Twitter last week about the importance (or lack thereof) of grades. Without getting deep into the details (you can read the whole conversation here), one participant, John Walkup, argued passionately against eliminating grades, using a premise that has been seen here before: @geraldaungst @markbarnes19 @games_frontiers @KoolKatJulian W/​o grades and SATs, how r Ss going to show colleges their worth? — John R. Walkup (@jwalkup) August 14, 2014 His point carries some weight: if colleges require GPAs on applications, and students want to get into college, aren’t we doing them a disservice if we eliminate grading in K-​​12 schools? During the conversation I pointed out one school that I thought was a counterexample: MC2 High... read more

5 Principles for a Problem Solving Classroom

Districts across the United States are implementing the Common Core State Standards, and they are realigning curriculum for English Language Arts and Mathematics. Unfortunately, some of them are simply purchasing a shiny, new “Common Core Edition” of their existing textbook, most of which aren’t any more aligned to these standards than their pre-​​CCSS versions. Whatever you may think of the Common Core and its implementation, there is some powerful and valuable stuff embedded within the standards. In particular, the Standards for Mathematical Practice (SMP) contain important guidance about how students should think and work in a math classroom. The eight SMP describe performances and habits of mind that we want students to exhibit. Although they can and should be explicitly taught, if this is done in isolation, the Practices will suffer the same fate as the algorithms and definitions we teach, becoming just one more thing that students have to remember by rote but will have difficulty applying and transferring to new situations. The Practices will thrive, however, if they are learned in an environment designed to support them. The framework below consists of five principles for creating a culture of problem solving. A classroom culture built on this framework will allow your students to grow into mathematical thinkers and sophisticated problem solvers. Conjecture. In a traditional mathematics classroom, the primary goal is for students to get the right answers to questions and exercises. In a classroom where conjecture is encouraged, students ask most of the questions, and the answer to a question is very often another question. Inquiry is important, as is a little-​​used skill known as “problem-​​finding.” Collaboration. In a traditional classroom, students work alone, and the emphasis... read more

ACT Test Says More STEM Courses Aren't Better

ACT, the organization that produces one of the two major college entrance exams in the United States, has just reported that taking more math and science courses has little or no effect on student achievement in those subjects. In a report with the slightly click-​​baity title, “Missing the Mark: Students Gain Little from Mandating Extra Math and Science Courses,” they described a study in Illinois which from 2008 to 2013 required students to take more math and science courses to qualify for graduation. Media reporting on this are, of course, skimming the broad results and ignoring the finer details of the report, leaving readers to potentially assume that the inverse is true: that taking fewer math and science courses is better (or at least as good) as taking more. The study mentions that in prior research, students who take more STEM courses tend to perform better on tests of science and math. It also points out, though, that those students typically have voluntarily opted to take more courses, indicating an interest and motivation. So in this current study they looked specifically at lower-​​achieving students. A key point is mentioned almost in passing, however. ACT says that even after the new state-​​mandated graduation requirements went into effect, some districts still did not have 100% of students meeting the requirement. “It is possible that the requirements are not enforced in practice or are satisfied with credits for repeating courses or for foundational or business math courses” (p. 2). So at risk of oversimplifying in a different direction, the best conclusion you can draw from this is not that requiring more courses is ineffective, it’s that... read more

Book Review: Digital Leadership

Everything is changing—society, the educational landscape, and learners—and it is time for educational leaders to embody a modern, progressive form of leadership. More often than not, the individuals trusted with leading change in the twenty-​​first century are the least knowledgable about the twenty-​​first century.… We can no longer sit back and watch our schools become less and less relevant while failing to meet the needs of our learners.… Eric Sheninger, author of Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times, speaks here not in judgement and superiority, but of himself as he once was. Because it was not long ago that Sheninger was that “least knowledgeable” leader. He has documented his journey away from the “dark side” (my words, not his) thoroughly on his blog, so I won’t recount it here, but that journey became Sheninger’s impetus for developing what became his Pillars of Digital Leadership. In this book, the author breaks no new ground in how to lead change. In fact, he acknowledges early on that change leadership is essentially a solved problem; the principles and processes for doing so are well known and effective. What is different, however, is the context in which that change must occur, and the speed with which the world around the leader is itself changing. Sheninger provides a well-​​thought-​​out framework for applying these time-​​tested strategies for leading change to schools that are out of touch with the students who walk through their halls every day. As I read, I realized that Sheninger’s seven pillars could be grouped into three categories: message, means, and medium. (Note that he does not group them this way—it is my way of capturing and understanding the... read more

The Strange Reality of Engagement

The reality of “student engagement” hit me square in the face yesterday as I sat in an ASCD presentation by Alison Zmuda and Robyn Jackson. In it, they shared their keys to engaging students in the classroom. During the session, I couldn’t help but compare with another workshop I attended recently on the same topic. (I will not name the presenters of the second one for reasons that will be clear shortly.) There was much in common between the two workshops. Both had two presenters who co-​​taught together, using a tag-​​team approach. Both shared both concrete strategies and research about learning. Both used specific, personal examples from the presenters’ experiences, and both sets of speakers clearly cared deeply about what they were sharing. But they contrasted sharply in one key factor: the level of engagement of the audience. The earlier workshop was a very traditional style of presentation. The presenters used slides heavy with text, mostly consisting of quotes from research, which they proceeded to read aloud as they came on screen. Despite having a compelling core message and intriguing ideas, they somehow managed to turn it into something less-​​than-​​interesting, to the point where I left the room about halfway through. I had their content in slides and some other resources, and the presentation added nothing that I couldn’t learn from reading. Jackson and Zmuda, on the other hand, not only shared strategies, they used them, modeling for us how to keep a group of learners engaged. Their style of presenting was high energy and kept us actively involved, a challenging thing to do in a room of several hundred, seated theater-​​style. Their visuals complemented the points they were making without... read more

Full Speed Ahead Down the Road to Nowhere

Part of my job as a curriculum supervisor involves doing professional development with teachers about curriculum and instruction in mathematics. With implementation of the Pennsylvania Core Standards (based on the Common Core State Standards) coming quickly, we are spending a great deal of time talking about the shifts that must happen in our classrooms to effectively implement the standards. Part of that shift is teaching for greater depth, and a focus on “cognitive sweat,” asking students to reason, argue, and solve problems. “But my kids can’t even multiply 6 times 8 yet. How can they solve complex problems? They have to learn the facts and skills first. And besides, there’s this state test.…” The conversation often ends with an assertion that getting to rich, engaging problems is a pipe dream that can’t happen until kids get smarter and state assessments go away. Which means never. My argument that the facts, skills, and state test will work out just fine if we really do focus on the deep learning are waved off as the ramblings of an idealistic administrator who has lost touch with the “real world.” The state test results in my district, like in many, are the rope in a tug of war. We simultaneously want to improve our scores (since they matter to the community and school board) and also to ignore them because they don’t tell the real, rich story of learning that happens in our classrooms. We pore over benchmark data, trying to figure out how to remediate weaknesses and support struggling learners. We search for programs and resources and ideas for getting kids to proficient. All while we lament the relentless race to... read more

Why Digital Learning Day is Important

Three years ago, I toured the Library of Congress for the first time. Today I am here again, this time for Digital Learning Day. Although I have been involved with helping to organize this event since its inception in 2012, and have had the privilege of attending the live event twice, when I have shared with other educators, including those in my own district, the response is usually indifference. This event, and the kinds of learning practices it encourages and celebrates, has grown a great deal in only 3 years. This year, about 2,200 individual school and classroom events around the United States have registered at the DLDay website. International events are taking place in fifty countries. Yet this is still a tiny fraction of the schools, classrooms, teachers, and students in the US. In many places, digital learning is treated like a pocket square for a man’s suit: an optional, albeit flashy, accessory. Although the events of Digital Learning Day are just one day a year, the day is intended to raise awareness for ongoing and embedded digital learning practices in schools. On Monday, there was even some discussion of extending the celebration: [View the story “Extending Digital Learning Day” on Storify] The last time I was here, I was struck by the mission of the Library and why it was so deeply connected with public education in the United states. So why is Digital Learning Day not just an accessory but an important event and opportunity? It’s about access. The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world. It contains almost 150 million items in its collection, almost all of which are accessible to the public. In... read more

Common Core Toolkit for Principals: Part 5

May Toolkit: What Not to Wear Do THINK There are two ways to implement any new set of standards: the right way, and the wrong way. Of course, the reality isn’t this neat and tidy, but there are definitely some errors to avoid during the implementation process. Read this article by Johnna Weller before the next faculty meeting: 15 Wrong Ways to Implement the Common Core Identify three or more of the “wrong ways” that particularly resonate with you, and which you believe you can help to prevent within your building and district. Now come to the next faculty meeting prepared with the following. Record on index cards, one item per card: One or two specific ways you can contribute to the success of our CCSS implementation. No contribution is too small! Record your name on the back of each card. One or two specific questions this article raises for you. (Names on these cards are optional.) SHARE Try this activity in a faculty or team meeting: It’s All About the Team Collect all question cards into a single pile. Each person should keep their contribution cards. Gather faculty into grade level or department teams, PLCs, or other existing groups. Take turns in the group doing the following (move quickly through this–do not spend a lot of time on discussion): Share one contribution you believe you can make Describe an additional strength one of your colleagues has that you believe can contribute to successful implementation Read aloud one or more of the questions from the pile of cards. If a group has a team member who can answer the question, they should do so. If there are no... read more

Common Core Toolkit for Principals: Part 4

April Toolkit: A Little Rain to Water the Flowers THINK The Common Core State Standards are not all songbirds and sundaes. There is some rain: critics of the standards. It is worth knowing about the criticisms. Before the next faculty meeting, read these two contrasting points of view on the CCSS: Why Common Core Doesn’t Matter (and Why it Does), by Jay Greene There are no miracles, but there are teachers: An educator’s view on the Common Core, by Darren Burris Highlight or note points from each article which resonate with you personally: What do you agree with? What strikes you as flawed or disingenuous? Finally, identify your one most pressing concern about adopting the CCSS in your school or district and write it down. Bring this to the meeting. SHARE Try this activity in a faculty or team meeting: Clarifying Beliefs and Values Individually, rate your own belief in the value and importance of the CCSS in improving learning. Rate on a scale of 1 (unimportant and/​or harmful) to 5 (a valuable game-​​changer for education) As a staff, collect all of the ratings and post them to get a sense of the range of feelings in the room. Compile the concerns recorded by staff members. This can be done anonymously if you like. Pair up and distribute the concerns so that each pair has two. Aim to avoid giving someone back the concern they wrote down, if possible. Each pair chooses one of the concerns given to them and generates at least 3 possible solutions, workarounds, or paths to success. Collect and compile the suggestions into a central location where all staff can share and refer to... read more

Common Core Toolkit for Principals: Part 3

March Toolkit: Starting the Shift (Yes, I am aware that the March toolkit is being published in April. Life tends to happen, and I allowed it to delay the post. I will publish the April toolkit next week to get back on schedule.) THINK Before the next faculty meeting, read about the instructional shifts required by the Common Core. There are differing versions and descriptions of these, but one excellent one is here at Achieve the Core. Remembering that ultimately the purpose of all instruction is transfer, and keeping your school’s mission in mind, think about these questions as you read. Watch out for a fixed mindset. If you find yourself thinking, “I’m already doing all of these,” or “they aren’t really important,” or “this won’t be relevant to my students,” check yourself and see if you are being really open to growing professionally. Which of these shifts do you believe you are already doing to some extent in your own teaching? For these, what is one thing you might do to move yourself further along the continuum of this shift? Which shift seems like it will be the most difficult for you? Why? SHARE Try this activity in a faculty or team meeting: Shifting Into Transfer Divide into teams of 3–4 teachers. If you already have natural team divisions (content areas, grade levels, etc.), use those. Each team should choose one shift from either ELA or Mathematics which they collectively agree will be difficult to implement. Draw a quick concept map (web) illustrating ways that this shift relates to important transfer skills and goals for students in your grade. Share maps and discuss as a faculty. BONUS: Share what... read more

A Day at the Newseum: Digital Learning Day 2013

Yesterday I had the enormous privilege and opportunity to participate in the Digital Learning Day national event at the Newseum in Washington, DC. I first got to be part of the opening keynote panel, where I spoke on revitalizing assessment with digital tools. I was then asked to present a demonstration math lesson. (See my links and lesson plan for both here.) As I drove home last night, I was reflecting on the work that the Alliance for Excellent Education is doing, and how important this event has become in only two years. Bob Wise (@BobWise48), director of the Alliance and former governor of West Virginia, told us at the start of the day that nearly 25,000 teachers participated this year, representing millions of students in all fifty states. But it was clear to me after spending the day with the organizers that this project is not just about having a one-​​shot, one-​​day publicity event. It is about starting a snowball rolling downhill and starting conversations all over the country. I love my network. It is where I connect with passionate educators and learn new things about teaching, learning, and growing professionally. Governor Wise and the Alliance are taking the conversation that happens daily among my PLN and broadening its reach. First, the event itself creates a low-​​risk entry point for anyone to dip their toes into the technology waters. Rather than being a complex, district initiative with formal training and expected outcomes, having a “Digital Learning Day” celebration lets teachers and students play with new tools and just see what happens. Some of them will continue to explore after the day, and that is how change begins to spread. Second, we are engaging... read more

Common Core Toolkit for Principals: Part 2

February Toolkit: Mission and Transfer within the CCSS THINK Before the next faculty meeting, read your district’s mission statement. (Ours is on the district web site.) A well-​​crafted mission statement is all about transfer: making sure that what we do has lasting impact on students beyond their years in our classrooms. Consider these questions as you read: How (if at all) does the district mission statement reflect what happens on a daily basis in your school or classroom? If your school has fulfilled the mission, what would a student look like as they move on to the next stage of their life? BONUS: Comment on this blog with your reflections and a link to your district’s mission statement. SHARE Try this activity in a faculty or team meeting: Transfer in Practice Divide into teams of 3–4 teachers. If you already have natural team divisions (content areas, grade levels, etc.), use those. Each team should choose to focus on either math or ELA/​Literacy: Math team: read the Standards for Mathematical Practice. ELA team: read either the Anchor Standards for Reading or the Anchor Standards for Writing. Come up with at least two concrete examples of a real-​​world application of the standards you are examining. In other words, how does this standard translate into a person’s successful life as an adult. Share the examples. BONUS: Draw any connections you see to the district mission statement. TEST DRIVE Choose one math or ELA standard from the links above. (Don’t attempt to drill down into the specific content standards yet–focus on the Anchor and Practice standards.) Design one activity or lesson each week around that standard, with the goal of having students be able... read more

Common Core Toolkit for Principals: Part 1

As part of my district’s plan to realign our curriculum with the Common Core State Standards (which we are calling the C4 Project, for Cheltenham Common Core Curriculum), I will be developing a Toolkit for Principals. Each month, I will prepare a four-​​part package of resources and activities they can use both for their own professional development and as part of faculty meetings with their staff members. The four parts each month will be Think: a warm up article, blog post, or video to set the stage for a faculty discussion Share: two activities principals can use with staff members during the month in faculty or team meetings Test Drive: A key instructional practice that teachers can try out in their classrooms without expectations Explore: Links to other resources with more information for those who want to dig deeper Though these kits will be geared heavily towards the particular needs of our own district, I thought others might find them useful, and so I’ll be posting them here. Enjoy, and please do give me feedback on what is working and what you’d like to see in future toolkits! [hr] January Toolkit: Focus on Transfer THINK Before the next faculty meeting, begin by reading this article from Grant Wiggins’ Blog: Learning about learning from soccer. Consider these questions as you read: What parallels do you see between soccer and the learning that happens in your classroom? What do you agree or disagree with in Wiggins’ post? BONUS: Write a comment on Grant’s blog with your reflection or reaction SHARE Try one or both of these activities in a faculty or team meeting: Transfer in Practice Bring one upcoming lesson from any class you... read more

Anastasis Academy: A Fresh Approach to School

On Wednesday, I had the privilege of visiting Anastasis Academy in Centennial, CO, about a half hour outside of Denver. I’ve known two members of their team, co-​​founder Kelly Tenkely and teacher Michelle Baldwin, for several years. Being in town this week for the NAGC Conference, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see first-​​hand what is happening at Anastasis. Anastasis takes a non-​​traditional approach to education which borrows from research and best practices in schools and programs around the world. They have adapted and remixed elements of the Finnish public education system, International Baccalaureate, Reggio Emilia, and Charlotte Mason’s work. Learning experiences are highly individualized and project-​​based, they stress formative and performance assessments, and technology is deeply embedded into what they do every day. I must note that the day I was there was not an ordinary day in the school. It was the last day before their Thanksgiving break, and the schedule was disrupted by preparations for “Meeting of the Minds” (their version of parent conferences) and a service project. Nevertheless, I was able to get a good feel for the culture and environment. I also spoke with most of the teachers and several of the students. Four things stood out to me during the time I was there: Students own the school In each classroom I visited, it was clear that the students felt at home, and that they had taken ownership of the space and their learning. I have been in too many schools and classrooms where the students are clearly guests, albeit welcome ones, in someone else’s domain. At Anastasis, students always have choices and options. When I spoke with the kids, the two most common words they mentioned were “freedom”... read more

Gifted Education Needs to Be a Struggle

NPR aired a piece on Monday morning about how Japanese schools (at least in the elementary grades) promote struggle as the pathway to learning and understanding. It was a profile of work by psychology professor Jim Stigler. The essence of it, and a nice parallel with Carol Dweck’s work on mindsets, is that unlike most American schools where success is attributed to innate intelligence, Japanese schools emphasize and even celebrate when students struggle to achieve. Consider the fact that in America, students who are not performing up to standard, who aren’t proficient, are labelled as struggling learners. This is not typically a good label to have, since these kids are often removed from the regular classroom for part of the day in order to receive “remediation.” They do have a lot of attention lavished on them, of course, since a struggling learner likely means a less-​​than-​​proficient score on the state test at the end of the year. Stigler puts it this way: I think that from very early ages we see struggle as an indicator that you’re just not very smart. It’s a sign of low ability — people who are smart don’t struggle, they just naturally get it, that’s our folk theory. The NPR piece highlights something that I’ve discussed before: the value of failure. I believe we put too heavy an emphasis on continuous, unfettered success, what we like to call “achievement.” This term is a misnomer. A student who sees nothing but success, who puts in no effort yet receives a perfect score, has achieved nothing. Achievement implies something gained that was not there before. I think a better word for what we seem to value would be “coasting.” Think of it this... read more

Learning as Cuisine

As I’ve been working on my session for this Saturday, I’m referencing a metaphor for thinking about learning in terms of food, one of my favorite topics. Since I won’t have the time to explore this idea thoroughly in the session, I decided to expand on it here. But first, credit to two people who heavily inspired this post: Kristen Swanson and this post by Grant Wiggins. The concept of learning in terms of cooking (specifically cooking shows) comes directly from an idea Kristen used in a recent presentation she did for my school district. With her permission, I’ve adapted and expanded it in a new direction. (And thus illustrates the power of a PLN. :)) The photo here is my son, Tim, who has been cooking since he was young, and is now planning on a career as a pastry chef. He and I like to cook together, and we watch a number of different shows on the Food Network, which happens to also be my favorite cable channel. Wiggins in the above-​​reference post refers to the Understanding by Design framework of “TMA”: transfer, meaning-​​making (understanding), and acquisition of content. Wiggins talks about transfer as the ultimate goal of education, and goes into extensive detail about what it is and how to get there. As a way of helping us relate to these ideas, Swanson takes the three levels of learning and assigns each a cooking show. I’ll share and explain these shortly since they became part of my own model. In developing my presentation, I realized that there is a second dimension to learning, and that there are television shows which relate to these as well. Learners progress through the three tiers from acquisition to... read more

Interactive Fiction and the Common Core

This Saturday, I will be presenting a session on Digital Storytelling with Interactive Fiction at the NAGC Conference. I’ve written about Interactive Fiction before so I won’t go into an explanation of what it is here. IF has a great deal of potential, however, for aligning with and helping students meet the Common Core standards. Considering just the anchor standards here, since these are where all of the more specific grade level standards are pointing, IF directly or indirectly supports instruction designed to meet all of them. Let’s consider just a few of the important ways IF can be a powerful teaching tool. Reading Key Ideas and details Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it. Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text. Common Core emphasizes close reading and analysis of text. Students are expected to build their understanding of something they read from the text itself. While personal connections are still important, the meaning the author is attempting to convey is more so. IF requires the reader (player) to read much more closely than when reading for enjoyment. Crucial details are included in the descriptions of locations and objects, and to miss those details, including subtle implications in wording, means the reader may not be able to progress in the story or solve an important puzzle. As one moves through a story, the choices and actions made by the player create consequences. These inevitably affect the progress of the plot and the actions of the other characters, providing a rich, natural way for students to learn how all of the story... read more