Sure, that sounds good… but what about math?

 “When you start talking about authentic instruction and assessment, the math teachers in the room stop listening.” Not true for all math teachers, I know. But one math teacher pulled me aside after a recent workshop to share this observation. Math teachers — especially those teaching higher level courses like trigonometry and calculus — know their…

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Teaching writing is everyone’s job

Nothing is more difficult to teach — at least at the K-12 level — than writing. You can teach kids vocabulary terms and math formulas and scientific principles all sorts of ways, both good and bad. You can lecture, assign reading, assign videos, hand out worksheets, develop experiments, create matching games. But no one can…

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Let’s get real about financial literacy

  11% of 18- to 25-year-olds have more than 10 checking account overdrafts per year. 40% of Americans spend more than they earn. Nearly 20% of African-American and Latino households are “unbanked” — meaning they’re not part of the formal financial system in this country.   Are you surprised by these stats (from The Unbanking…

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Forgetting is part of our nature

You didn’t tell us to read that chapter. I didn’t know there was a test today! I was supposed to take out the garbage? How often do we share an important piece of information with our students — or children or colleagues or friends, for that matter — and find the next day, they’ve completely…

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Living the 1970s dream: A lesson in critical thinking

Are Americans’ lives getting worse? Or does it just seem that way? One of our core responsibilities as high school teachers is to help our students develop critical thinking skills, learn to question assumptions and challenge “common sense”. It’s something we humans are bad at — as a rule — for all sorts of complex…

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Not your normal school project

Picture a room packed with 35-40 high school students eager to start working on a project, except you, the teacher, have no idea what the project will be. Will they create pencil cases? T-shirts for school teams? Will they design an app or a bot or an e-book? Or will they make jewelry? Car safety…

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What makes history stick

When I was in high school, I found history pretty dull. We spent a lot of time listening to lectures, watching filmstrips, taking notes, and regurgitating facts onto tests. Only a small fraction of our time was spent debating historical questions (should we have dropped the bomb?) or participating in simulations (like a constitutional convention)…

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Show kids the possibilities

Silver Falls State Park, the site of the wedding Last weekend, I went to a former student’s wedding in Oregon. In high school, she was a journalism kid, a writer who was always interested in other people, especially the underdogs. She wrote a particularly compelling editorial — after a school shooting in rural Minnesota —…

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Like so much that’s worth learning, trade is complicated

Teachers spend a lot of time trying to break down difficult concepts and make them easier for our students to digest, but what about when the truth is just complicated? How can we combat the crisis of oversimplification in this country and get our kids to muddle around in complexity? This weekend, I taught my…

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Learning history in the present

Women marched peacefully on Saturday to demonstrate pride and autonomy — and to let President Trump know they won’t stand for any rollback of women’s rights. Or, women marched and destroyed property Saturday to whine about losing the election. Or, women marched Saturday as dupes of outside forces, including radical Islam. Which version do you…

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