Teacher Talk

December 2019 Newsletter

Written by Kelly Harmon & Associates

Dear Educator,

Happy Holidays & Merry Christmas! We hope that your holiday season is magical this year. This month we are bringing you ideas on how to survive the weeks before the holiday break and #makedecembermagical.

Be sure to follow along on Twitter as we share ideas weekly! @TexasLiteracy & @randinanderson

Since it is about 12 days till Christmas , on Instagram @thepurposedriventeacher, we will post great books, poems, and articles to read and share as we count down to the day. We encourage you to share with your colleagues, friends, and the parents of your students.

We have also included ideas for varied, independent practice in reading, writing, and math. While explicit teaching and guided practice are critical in a formative learning cycle, students need to continue practicing the learning in order to develop fluency.

We can make December magical in so many ways!

Happy Holidays & Teaching!

- Kelly Harmon, Randi Anderson, & Ashley Taplin

Making December Magical!

Have you seen the hashtag #makeDecembermagical? Teachers are tweeting out ideas with pictures to share ideas for how to integrate the holidays into your instruction. Here are some of those ideas:

1. Cozy Up to Learn

Use a fireplace video through Youtube (free) to display on our big screen. Pair with classical holiday tunes while students are working independently. Nothing makes it feel cozy like a fire and Christmas tunes.

2. Christmas Karaoke

Have students warm their brains up with some fun fluency practice by using Christmas Karaoke! See this 2nd grade class in action as they sing "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas"

3. You Light Me Up

Focus on kindness by having a Kindness Christmas Tree in your classroom! Students will do a quick write-to-write to each other, on Christmas light bulb paper, to tell peers about how they appreciated their classmates kind acts. See some examples from Ms. Coldwell's 3rd grade classroom!

Christmas Around the World

For a social studies connection, compare similar ways different countries and cultures celebrate the holidays. Set this up as an inquiry by posing the question "How are holiday traditions in different countries or cultures the same?" Decide how you will have students collect and analyze information from each country. For example, student might use a graphic organizer or inquiry matrix to gather the information.

At the end of the inquiry, students can construct a claim (and provide evidence) as to why we celebrate the holidays in similar ways. We've created a free investigation project for your to use with your students.

Consider a room or hallway transformation to #makeDecembermagical! Set your hallway up as an airplane and take students to far away places for the morning (or afternoon).Locate the country on a world map and estimate the number of hours it would take to travel to the country. Read books about Germany, Mexico, Japan, and much more! Have student's sample treats from around the world. Then students can write about their experiences and what they have learned!

Christmas Reader's Theater

Have students work in groups to practice and prepare plays about the holiday season! Make your class Holiday Party the performance time and enjoy several holiday skits. Need FREE RT Scripts? Click Here. They have A Christmas Story too!!!!

On Mission to Save Christmas

Turn every task in your classroom into a mission to help save Christmas! Students must finish their work in time to save Christmas.

"When One Teaches, Two Learn"

By Randi Anderson

My 5 year old recently came home from school raving about his new favorite center, the "School" Center. I asked him what exactly that entailed and he told me it's where he becomes the teacher and teaches other students a concept they have been learning about. He then tells me that he taught a lesson on alliteration and that he got to use a "real" teacher pointer! And it hit me like a ton on bricks, not only is his teacher brilliant but, this is an idea that should be capitalized on in ALL classrooms! As Robert Heinlein stated, "When one teaches, two learn." Our own US Army uses the term "Learn one. Do one. Teach one."

Research by Edgar Dale tells us that "Experiential Learning" shows a 90% content remembrance rate when when students are in role play situations that involve modeling and stimulating learning. It is through experience that humans retain information and memories. The level of thinking that goes with student's teaching their peers is at analysis, create, design, and evaluate.

In a blog post made by Inspiring Learners, they state, "According to my experience and understanding, teaching and learning go hand in hand and teaching is a process of learning. E.g. – every time a student asks a question related to the concept, the teacher gets to think in a different direction to clarify the queries and hence learns." So, how do we give kids the experience of teaching others? Here are some ideas for implementing experiential learning.

The "School" Center

Early learners love to play school! I recently saw April Latimer's Kinder students engaged in the "School" Center in her classroom. Ms. Latimer had an easel and teacher chair setup in the corner of the room. On the easel, she rotates in and out anchor charts, examples of learning, and small whiteboards for the learners to use during the lesson. Here are her kindergartener's in action!

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Ideas for Secondary Students Teaching

Reciprocal Teaching

This strategy has students going through the thinking process and then teaching their team about their thinking. It can be used in any content area! This strategy is great for students to reinforce their own learning and allow for deeper understanding of a concept taught. John Hattie identifies reciprocal teaching as having a .74 effect size on student growth!

Numbered Heads Together (Kagan Structure)

This instructional strategy employs students to think, collaborate, and teach others about a concept. Here is an explanation from a Quick Reference Guide to Kagan Structures.

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"Two heads are better than one."

"Peer assisted learning" is a powerful instructional tool to not only reinforce teaching but to also build on student's confidence. Social and emotional learning experiences are crucial to building a safe community of learners in all classrooms. When students work collaboratively, we are empowering them with social skills, academic experiences, and much more that we do not even realize yet! So students, go get your teach on!

Independent Practice in Math

Learning Stations

One of my favorite ways to practice multiple concepts is through stations. As a teacher, I have used station days in two different ways: as a facilitator and as a small group instructor. As the facilitator, I rotate between each group supporting the work students do. As a small group instructor, I have remained seated at one table group the entire class, ensuring I have small group instruction with every student throughout the class. When I do this, I often create hint cards or a quick video with a QR code for students to access when I am not rotating between groups.
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I recently planned a station practice with a teacher and decided we would plan for 4 rotations of 10 minutes each, setting a timer for the rounds to ensure smooth transitions. We discussed how we would help students check their work because we wanted to confirm they were doing it accurately, especially if we were with another group and not able to directly monitoring a group. The teacher suggested using the TI-Navigators as a way for students to submit their answers. Seeing this in action was powerful because it did not tell the students the exact answer, but instead, it told them if they were right or wrong. Students were able to discuss why and how their answers needed to be changed instead of immediately being shown the correct answer. I will definitely keep this strategy in mind when doing stations again next time!

Engaging in Multi-modal Learning

Talk, Read, Talk, Write!

Another strategy I recently discussed with a colleague to improve effective practice is “Talk Read Talk Write” by Nancy Motley. Typically, this is used in ELAR classrooms in which students use this strategy to read a text, but I think it is a great way to shift from a teacher led focus to providing an opportunity for student voice and collaboration with math concepts. I think this could work well with word problems and help students have a structured to the way in which they develop a strategy for solving problems.
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Number Talks

Finally, Number Talks, developed by Ruth Parker and Kathy Richardson, are a great way to engage students, build number sense, and show the value of multiple strategies. If you are not familiar with Number Talks, Jo Boaler, Fawn Nguyen, and Sara Van Der Werf are three of my favorite mathematicians who have a wealth of resources to get you started and are specifically geared for secondary classrooms. Essentially, the goal is for students to not just answer a problem posed by the teacher, but to come up with as many different ways to solve it. Your questions can be in the form of visual patterns or mental math, but should be simply worded. As you document the different strategies students use and allow discussion time for each, Number Talks become a powerful way to highlight mathematical language, build fluency with numbers, and deepen understanding.

Guided & Strategic Reading Groups

Saturday, December 14, 2019

9am to 11am CST


In this 2 hour virtual seminar, we will look at ways to provide structured small group reading instruction based on student data. We will discuss grouping strategies and how to coach students to becoming more proficient readers. Walk away with ready-to-use resources for building student's comprehension and fluency in small, teacher-led groups! Visit our flyer for more info and to register!

STRENGTHENING YOUR TITLE I PROGRAM: Powerful Intervention Strategies to Accelerate Achievement for Struggling Students (Grades K-6)

Seattle, WA

Jan. 7-8, 2020

Anaheim, CA

Jan. 9-10, 2020

Learn how to better lead your school or district Title I team in this strategy-packed, two-day institute led by nationally acclaimed presenter, Kelly Harmon. You will discover how to work with teachers to identify and implement the most effective, cutting-edge, research-based instructional strategies to increase school and district-wide student achievement. You will learn how to develop teacher expertise in working with struggling students along with ways to continually monitor and adjust instruction based on student results.

This is a unique opportunity to evaluate your own Title I program in light of current research that identifies the most effective instructional practices, and gain an in-depth look at the key components of highly successful Title I programs and how these can be applied to your own Title I school or district model. Take an intensive look at what works for struggling learners and how you can adapt it to meet the needs in your school or district. You will walk away with dozens of practical strategies and an extensive resource handbook to help you lead and teach your teachers.

Countdown to Reading STAAR

Countdown to Reading STAAR

February 8, 2020

9am to 11am


Learn strategies to get students analyzing the text. Experience activities and projects that target specific STAAR reading and writing processes, skills and strategies. Discover the difference between test review and test practice and how to incorporate both into daily instruction. You will leave with ideas and activities to help you create an action plan that maximizes practice time and provides “just right” practice for each student. Learn motivation and goal setting techniques to use with students.

More Info Coming Soon!!!

Strengthening Your Students' Inferencing Skills

Join Kelly as we explore 5 ways students must be able to make inferences as they read and respond to fiction and informational texts.

March 2nd, 2020

8:30am to 3:30pm

San Antonio, TX

March 5th, 2020

8:30am to 3:30pm

Dallas, TX