How to help ESL students improve writing skills

Learning a new language is challenging, requiring a student to master four basic skills–listening, reading, speaking, and writing–from scratch. And it becomes even more challenging for ESL learners.

Not only do they learn a language but they also have to deal with other school subjects in it. And while listening and reading aren’t that difficult to conquer (both are passive skills about consuming the language, so they are easier for students to handle), active skills like speaking and writing are another thing:

Why is writing so critical for students to master?…Read More

Is now a good time for a reset?

At this time of year, I hear a common refrain from school leaders I know: 1) This work is challenging, 2) We have a plan for student success, and yet 3) There is a lot more we need in order to deliver on our promise of a high-quality, equitable education for every student. These leaders launched the year with an inspiring vision for creating vibrant schools where all students are engaged in meaningful learning, feel loved, and want to come to school each day. There may have been times where this vision came close to reality.

As we head into the middle of the year, however, gaps often emerge. Student culture may become strained, faculty and staff may feel tired and frustrated, lessons aren’t as strong as they had hoped, and/or the highest needs students aren’t getting the support they need. Which raises the question: What do I do right now? 

In my role as the Vice President of Innovation and Impact at Relay Graduate School of Education, the best part of my job is the opportunity to find, study, and share what is working in schools across our country. One of the moves that we see our most effective leaders do at this moment of the year is lead a strategic reset on a key area of the school that – if improved – will have a significant positive impact on student learning and experience right now.  …Read More

How to provide effective and engaging virtual therapy for kids

As was the case for so many other therapists working with children and families, March 2020 felt overwhelming in our center for child and family therapy. From seeing clients in-person all day in our client-centered, carefully designed therapy rooms equipped with all the therapeutic tools that a child therapist might need to engage a child in the hard work of therapy, we scrambled to figure out a way to transfer our clinical tools to the virtual realm. The transition from using toys, games, animal assisted therapy, art, music, movement, and parent-child attunement enhancing interventions to connecting through a digital screen seemed at times to be an impossible mission.

The transition was especially challenging for our very young clients and those who appeared to have significant struggles with the adjustment to virtual education. Even after weeks of creating and identifying multiple virtual tools that enabled us to engage most of our clients in expressive ways to process their experiences and share their internal worlds with us, we consistently received skeptical messages from parents who were certain that their child would not be able to effectively use a virtual platform for their therapy work.

We were convinced that we would be eager to return to our carefully designed, in-person therapy rooms as soon as we possibly could safely do so. Little did we know that we would not only find the virtual therapeutic tools to be highly effective, even in some of our most challenging and complex cases, but we would also discover that there are many unexpected and valuable therapeutic benefits that come with this virtual approach to providing child and family mental health therapy services. …Read More

How robotic gamification helped my elementary students love STEM

Coding is a necessary skill in today’s world, but it is relatively challenging to master, especially for kids. Its complexity is not necessarily because it is incomprehensible, but because it is a new concept for most students. This is especially the case for students in inner-city schools where technology is inevitably scarce due to systemic factors beyond the students’ control.

With numerous programming languages available, it can take time to pick a starting point. Educators have found a solution to this problem: gamification. Platforms like CoderZ offer virtual programming services where children can learn code through games. These games make learning code both fun and engaging for kids.

Through the CoderZ Robotics curriculum, kids learn to create, manage, and communicate with cyber robots in a virtual setting by inputting code. Block code is used because it is easier for children to understand and execute instead of complex text-based code. Learning is more accessible because virtual robots do not require hardware, space, or other associated costs.…Read More

Our district is battling a loneliness epidemic

Whether talking in-person or virtually, even small conversations play an important role in creating the connections students need. But it can be challenging to carve out time in our busy schedules to focus on building these relationships.

As educators, we must make the time to ensure that every student feels seen and heard. All of us need a support system, and this is especially important for students in their teenage years. Yet, many felt alone over the past couple of years because of pandemic-induced isolation. That isn’t OK, and studies have already shown the traumatic impact the loneliness epidemic is having on students across the country.  

At Classical Academy High School near San Diego, we’ve spent the past few years ensuring that every student has an educator in their corner. It’s become clear that using technology with a purpose is impactful and provides students more access to their teachers. …Read More

4 tips for using data to differentiate instruction

Finding ways to help all students grow academically – regardless of where they are starting from – can be challenging. From my experiences teaching special education, general education, and English Learners, I can tell you there is no one-size-fits-all approach that works.

In order to meet the unique and individual learning needs of each student, teachers have to find ways to differentiate instruction, and data is critical to doing so.

Teachers often have a lot of assessment data at their fingertips, but they have to know how to use it in order to be successful. An administrator once said in a meeting, “Data by itself is useless. Data is only useful if you apply it.”…Read More

5 tips to build community-wide support for IT transformation

Technology’s role has been elevated to an integral strategic function in today’s school districts. But getting everyone to understand the value of digital transformation can be challenging and test the persuasion and people skills of even the most seasoned IT leaders.

Here are some strategies IT teams can use to help build a supportive culture for ongoing technology investments.

Set Up Direct Lines of Communication…Read More

Problem-based learning helped boost my underserved students’ engagement

As educators, our charge is to impart knowledge onto our students, open new doors for them, and encourage them to stretch beyond their comfort zones. We try to show them every day that they are capable of doing anything that they set their minds to, but how often do we follow our own advice and push our own boundaries to try or learn something new?

As a physical education teacher in an underserved community, finding ways to connect with my classes during the pandemic and a time of remote learning was challenging. With sports being canceled, I was searching for new avenues to engage my students when I came across the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest, a program encouraging problem-based learning.

The contest tasks middle and high school students with identifying a solution to a real-world problem using STEM, and I was hesitant to apply as I do not teach a traditional STEM discipline. However, I knew that my students have a passion for making their community a better place for themselves and their families, and I decided to step outside the box and go for it.…Read More

MIND Research Institute Debuts InsightMath, a Neuroscience-Based Elementary Curriculum

IRVINE, Calif. MIND Research Institute, a neuroscience and education social impact organization dedicated to ensuring that all students are mathematically equipped to solve the world’s most challenging problems, today announced InsightMath, a core elementary curriculum that transforms student learning by teaching math the way the brain learns will launch in Spring 2024.

Building on 25 years of math learning research and proven results with the PreK-8 visual instructional program ST Math, InsightMath was co-designed in collaboration with neuroscientists, researchers, educators, students, and families to give meaning to math for all students. These collaborators helped MIND’s team design a culturally relevant math curriculum that connects with all students.

“For 25 years, ST Math has brought visual models, spatial reasoning, and the perception-action cycle into the learning process,” said Nigel Nisbet, vice president of content creation at MIND Research Institute. “InsightMath expands this time-tested approach into a full-classroom curriculum experience that helps students—and teachers—become math-loving problem-solvers.”…Read More