Monday, June 9, 2014

Sensitive Critical Thinking Skill-Based Questions to Ask ALL students about their artwork

Stay tuned for our NTC winter 2015 event about integrating the arts! We are all about how to infuse passion and creativity with your curriculum.  

To get you all excited, read this great posting from

10 Questions to Ask Your Child about their Art

To help encourage creative thinking and develop your child’s critical thinking skills ask your child open ended questions about their artwork. Open ended questions will help support your child’s efforts rather than if you said “good job” or “that is beautiful”. Plus, you may be surprised at their answers.
How to develop Critical Thinking Skills

10 Questions to Ask Your Child About Their Artwork

1. What can you tell me about your picture?
2. What materials did you use?
3. Where did you get your idea?
4. What is your favorite part of the picture?
5. What title would you give this picture?
6. If you were doing this picture again what you change or do differently?
7. Why did you use the color… (insert color)?
8. What if…. (you had used the color red instead of blue or paint instead of pencil)?
9.  How did you….(make these lines, decide on these colors, or create that shape)?
10. If you had more time what would you add to your artwork?
Encourage your child to elaborate on their answers or use the artwork as a starting point for telling a story. Open ended questions will help develop critical thinking skills in your child . By taking an interest in their work you are supporting them and helping them express their own ideas.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Renew and Recharge

From the wonderful people at We the Teachers blog: Seven Ways to Recharge Your Passion for Teaching This Summer.

WeAreTeachers Blog

7 Ways to Recharge Your Passion for Teaching This Summer

Jun 05, 2014 - by Krissy Venosdale
, We are Teachers BLOG
Many of us have heard that final bell or are getting close to it. We find ourselves at the start of a summer ahead. A time to refresh, relax and renew our spirits. Just as summer is a time of renewal, it's also a great chance to recharge your passion for teaching. Here are seven ways to recharge your passion for teaching over the summer.

1. Build your PLN. A PLN, or Personal Learning Network, is a hot topic in education right now. But connecting with others is not about buzzwords. If you're one of the only building specialists in your content area, it can be hard to find others to collaborate with. Connect online. Reach out. Read blogs, leave comments, join Twitter, take time to get to know others whether they are down the hall from your classroom or on the other side of the world. Every person you meet is someone you can learn from. And to someone else? You are that person.

2. Pour into your passion. Pick up an old hobby that you've missed, or start a new hobby. Cooking. Painting. Scrapbooking. Do something that you love. Nothing recharges you more than spending some time doing what you love. It's what we want to model for our students, so it's a great way to refuel your own fire for learning.

3. Check out webinars. The National Science Teacher Association has a variety of free, NSTA archived webinarsASCD's Virtual Learning Network offers a variety of free webinars on specific topics. Simple K-12 has a great variety of upcoming live webinars. Check something out! You can even learn on a laptop poolside or in your pj's sipping morning coffee. That's the beauty of summer learning.

4. Read teaching blogs. Well, you're reading this, so you've already accomplished one of these! Reading reflections by other educators can get you thinking about your own classroom and instill excitement for the new year ahead.

5. Attend an edcamp. Edcamps, also called "unconferences," are gatherings of passionate educators who share and connect. The Edcamp Wiki has a list of locations, or find one that's coming up in the fall and register. The discussions you will find yourself having can be a great way to ignite new ideas and new learning for you this summer.

6. Go on a field trip. You know that place you've always wanted to check out? Or maybe it's a favorite local landmark you haven't been to in years? Or that field trip you've considered for your class? Visit. Look around and see how it might fit with your curriculum. Ask what they offer for teachers. If you have your own children, create a field trip calendar, and one day each week, go visit a new spot. Think of it from a learner's perspective.  It can be a fun way to spend the summer learning and enjoying it.

7. Slow down.
This one is hard to do. We are all used to going a mile a minute to get life accomplished in the midst of a busy career. Schedule in some time for slowing down this summer. Take a nap in the grass. Lounge on the beach. Read a book until late into the night. Build a tent of sheets in the living room and watch a movie with your kids.

Most of all this summer? Enjoy time doing what you love. Because doing what we love reminds us all what we love about teaching and learning. Relax. Refresh. Renew your teaching spirit and your passion ... and enjoy!

Krissy Venosdale is an Innovation Coordinator, creative spirit and lifelong learner. She works every day toward making a world where all kids have the opportunities to pursue their greatest passions and are inspired to dream big. She shares her heart and soul of learning at venspired.

Friday, June 6, 2014

An Opportnunity for Early Career Teachers: Be the Voice for Change in the Teaching Profession

Be the voice for change in the teaching profession! 

Are you: a Massachusetts district or charter school teacher who

  • Is in year 2 to 10 of your teaching career as of January 1, 2014
  • Is a current teacher (of any subject)
  • Teach in a school where at least 50% of the students qualify for free and reduced price lunch
If you can answer yes to these questions, read on:

Be a Voice for Change in the Teaching Profession

June 6, 2014

There are 3 days left to submit your application for the Teach Plus Policy Fellowship. This is a selective leadership opportunity for solutions-oriented teachers interested in having a voice in decisions that affect their profession.

The application is due at midnight on Sunday, June 8th. The application is short, and on average takes just an hour to complete. If you've already started your application, simply use the link that was emailed to you after you submitted step one of the application to log back in and finish up.  If you haven't yet started your application, get started here!

Thanks, and we look forward to seeing your application soon!

Warm regards,

Diane Grinnell
Senior Policy Program Lead, Teach Plus Massachusetts

2014-2015 Massachusetts Teaching Policy Fellowship

Fellows are current classroom teachers who collaborate with their peers to learn, analyze, and impact education policies to better retain effective, experienced teachers on behalf of urban students and schools.
Fellowship for 25 outstanding early career teachers spanning one and a half academic years
Monthly four-hour sessions with expert speakers, coursework, and working groups
$2,400 stipend over 16 months
The Fellowship begins August 2014 and concludes December 2015
Application is now available!
Application deadline: Sunday, June 8th

Who is eligible to apply?
Massachusetts district or charter school teachers who...
Are in years 2 to 10 of their teaching career as of January 1, 2014
Are current teachers (of any subject)
Teach in a school where at least 50% of the students qualify for free and reduced price lunch
​Application deadline: Sunday, June 8th

Questions? Email Diane Grinnell

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

How to End Your School Year on the Right Foot and With a Smile on Your Face

"So Long, Farewell and Never Can Say Goodbye," our New Teacher Community final workshop on May 31st was fantastic.  This is clearly a topic that has much interest and for the next few week's we'll continue to post ideas in the blog about just that: How to end your school year on the right foot and with a smile on your face. 

Here's a great posting for today from those wonderful folks at Edutopia: 

Get a Start On Ending Your Year Right

Elena Aguilar Transformational Leadership Coach from Oakland, California

Image credit: Thinkstock
The end of the school year can be hectic, but consider this: The end of this year is really the beginning of next year. There are things that you can do and ways to wrap up that will make your return smooth and easy and set you on course for an even better year. Although you might be aching to get out of your classroom and onto vacation, summer school or professional development, see if you can squeeze in time for some of these activities.

Purge, Organize, and Clean

I know you know how liberating it can be to deeply clean your classroom and I also know how often we skip this part of the end of the year. Here are a few tips to help you make progress on this vital end of year activity.
  1. Recruit a few students to help for a couple hours after school or immediately after the school year ends. There's so much they can do to help (even little ones!) and many of them also enjoy the time with you. Put on music and make it fun. Teaching them to organize the classroom library or math manipulatives also gives them a feeling of ownership in their classroom. Offer them pizza and appreciations, and of course, make sure you have parent and administrator permission to do this!
  2. If your whole room feels overwhelming, just commit to purging and cleaning one section -- your desk area or the science corner or the closet where you've tossed random things all year. Throw, throw, throw. I'll admit this was always hard for me as a teacher (I was a hoarder in school) but just aim to get rid of stuff you haven't used in the last couple of years. And organize the rest of it.
  3. Set up systems for next year for stuff. Start thinking about where incoming papers can go, project materials can be stored, and books can be organized. Disorganization is really about a lack of systems -- planning for them and setting them up will put you way ahead of the game on this one!


My two favorite resources for organizing and cleaning are The Fly Lady, who focuses on your home (endless useful ideas; you've got to check her out!) and The Together Teacher who focuses on the classroom. The Together Teacher's website has tons of resources and the book (same title, written by Maia Heyck-Merlin) is fantastic. Just sign up for her monthly newsletter to start with, peruse her site, and then get her book. And by the way, this book would be a brilliant gift for any new teacher! It's what I wish I'd had that first chaotic year.

Write Yourself A Letter of Appreciation

I've written before on this idea that we have to acknowledge our growth and learning in order to move forward. I'm going to suggest a new activity: Write yourself a letter recognizing all you've done this year and appreciating yourself. I know it feels hokey, but imagine that you are your biggest champion who has ever lived and you are outside of yourself seeing everything you've done this year. No one knows better than you what you've struggled with, persevered through, or offered to your students, school and world! List these things, describe them, imagine the impact they had on others. No one else will see this letter, you never have to write it again, so go wild with the praise -- heap it on!
Another thing to acknowledge in this area is how you dealt with challenges. For example, my letter to myself this year will contain the following:
I was really proud of you when you felt really hurt and disrespected and you didn't lash out in anger. I saw how unfairly you were treated and how people made all kinds of decisions about your work without even informing you -- and I noticed that you were calm, mindful, and wise. I know how much you did to stay aligned to your values and not respond to their provocation.
No one else knows about the difficult moments of my year better than I do! And no one knows how hard I worked to manage those challenging moments. Reflect on those times, name them, and appreciate yourself.
Now, you might consider tucking this away in a drawer in case of future crisis of the spirit. If it feels like there's enough in this letter that's authentic, and it didn't feel horribly uncomfortable to write, then you might just want to refer back to it next year if and when there are rough moments. This is how this activity can set you up for a great next year: it's like having an emergency inoculation on hand.

Connect With Others

The final suggestion I have for you for ending your school year is that you find ways to connect with others: colleagues, staff, students, and parents/guardians. End of year celebrations, assemblies, lunches and so on are a vital ritual in closing out the year -- students need them, staff needs them. We need to be with others during moments of transition and the end of the school year is one of them. Our social relationships are absolutely essential to our happiness, well-being, and resilience. Take some time to be social with the people you've spent your school year with. You'll bond in new ways and set yourself up for looking forward to seeing them again in August.
I hope you've all had a wonderful year and I'd love to hear any ideas you have for essential end of year activities particularly those that set us on a path for an even better next year. Please share in the comments section below.