Bearcat Brief

October 17, 2019

Notes from Niki

Thank you so much for the flowers and gift certificate for Boss's Day. The flowers are beautiful and I can always find something from Amazon!

The PLC team will be out on Monday for training. We usually have some time to work, so I am looking forward to reviewing the collective commitments that were suggested during our training on Monday and getting them into a form for you to review and evaluate. There was a lot of rich discussion on Monday about our purpose and philosophy; the PLC team did a nice job organizing and facilitating that.

Below, You can find the schedule to meet with the interviewers working on the district's strategic plan on Tuesdays at this link. I have made a couple of changes and added our paraprofessionals in. Please mark your time on your calendar.

Professional Reading/ Resources:

Cognitive Engagement

I have had several conversations lately about engaging the whole class. I think these 2 articles from The Marshall Memo provide some good insight and pretty quick strategies for increasing engagement.

7. Are All Students Really Getting It?

In this Edutopia article, Pérsida and Bill Himmele (Millersville University) say teachers often check for whole-class understanding by asking, Who can tell me…? or Does anyone know…? This approach has three important design flaws: (a) only a few students raise their hands and reap the academic and confidence-building benefits of being actively engaged in the discussion, while most classmates sit passively; (b) teachers tend to believe the eager beavers’ answers are representative of the learning of all students; and (c) “those students who are most likely to need help,” say the authors, “who have deep misunderstandings, or who are in the process of learning English, are the ones who are unintentionally left out of the conversation.” They suggest three better ways to check for understanding and engage all students:

Chalkboard splash – The teacher poses a well-framed question that captures the big ideas of what’s being taught (for example, What are some challenges that you could see developing within societies that embrace capitalism?). Students are asked to write their responses in their notebooks or on a separate sheet of paper in 15 words or less. Students then get up and write their responses on the board. This gets every student thinking, gets them all out of their seats, makes a diversity of ideas visible to everyone, gives the teacher a good idea of how well the lesson is sinking in, and often leads to good follow-up.

Appointment agendas – Each student gets a grid and circulates among classmates making mutual “appointments” for each of the hypothetical time-slots (8:00 a.m., 9:00 a.m., etc.). When the teacher poses a thought-provoking question, students are asked to confer with their partner for a particular time-slot (10:00 a.m., for example – it doesn’t have to correspond to the actual time), and students get up, find their appointment buddy, and discuss the question. This produces purposeful movement around the class, lots of interaction, and sets up an all-class discussion and closure.

Pause, star, rank – After a chunk of content has been presented (for example, a two-week unit on the American Revolution), students look over their notes, put a star by each concept they believe is important to remember, and then rank-order their top three starred choices. Then students get up, do a chalkboard splash with their top-ranked concept, and discuss it with a designated Appointment Agenda classmate.

“3 Ways to Ask Questions That Engage the Whole Class” by Pérsida and Bill Himmele in Edutopia, September 26, 2019,; the authors can be reached at and

8. Increasing Student Participation in Class

“In classrooms, labs, and libraries where student discussion is encouraged, many may be talking – but not all may be participating,” says education writer Carly Berwick in this School Library Journal article. “Students speak less for a multitude of reasons. They may be shy, introverted, or struggling to master a new language… All of those who are silent in a discussion-based classroom lose valuable opportunities to grow – and the class misses out on their insights.” Berwick shares several teaching strategies to counter over-sharers and too-talkative students and ensure more-equitable participation:

Assign intriguing, multidimensional projects. Assignments should have a “low floor” – they’re accessible to all students – and a “high ceiling” – they’re conceptually challenging and draw on multiple skills and abilities.

Get students working in small groups before sharing with the whole class. Group work greatly increases the number of students talking, but groups can still be dominated by a few students. Teachers need to be explicit about the importance of equitable participation and periodically check in on each group’s process.

Model what productive classroom talk looks and sounds like. This might include suggested sentence stems (I think--- because---) to spur conversation and give students polite ways of redirecting unproductive tangents. It can also be helpful to videotape a group discussion and (with students’ permission) share it with the whole class.

Orchestrate productive groups. This might involve putting two strong personalities together, or having all the shy/quiet students in one group.

Assign roles within groups. These might include a facilitator, timekeeper, summarizer, materials gatherer, and someone who encourages and ensures everyone’s contributions.

Speak privately with blabbermouths. “I’m tough with the kids who love to speak without having something to say,” says Monica Edinger, a teacher/author in New York City. “I feel we so overvalue this sort of aimless talk.”

Share valuable contributions. Make a point of recognizing (and getting students to recognize) ideas or questions from quiet or shy students or restating how their ideas can be helpful to the group. It’s sometimes effective to have students silently jot down ideas before sharing out.

Use technology. Flipgrid, Seesaw, Google Docs, and video or audio recording can be a way to pause and reflect on how the process is going, as well as allowing students to capture their voice outside of class and share later.

“Something to Talk About” by Carly Berwick in School Library Journal, October 2019 (Vol. 65, #9, pp. 46-48), no e-link available

The Partnership

The link below is for a site that provides standards-based lessons for common core ELA and Math. Most will correlate to the Missouri Learning Standards.

Upcoming Events


October 17- 7th Grade Girls @St. James Tournament, 3rd Place Game, 6:15

October 17- 8th Grade Girls @Owensville Tournament, 3rd Place Game, 6:15

October 17- 7th and 8th-Grade Football, home vs. St. Clair, 5:00

October 18- End of 1st Quarter

October 18- 7/8 PLC Group- Cancelled

October 18- No Tardy Party (2:45- we will run the shortened afternoon schedule)

October 21- 24- Bus Driver Appreciation Week

October 21- Grades Due, 3:00

October 21- 7/8 Grade Girls Basketball @ Sullivan, 5:30

October 21- PLC Training in Jefferson City

October 22- Four Rivers Conference Cross Country Meet, 2:30

October 24- Early Dismissal for Parent Teacher Student Conferences

October 24- 7/8 grade Girls Basketball vs. Union

October 24- November 8- Cardinal Calendar Sales

October 25- 28: Fall Break- No School

October 28- 7/8 Grade Girls Basketball @ Riverbend in Pacific,5:30

October 29- 7/8 Grade Girls Basketball @Union, 5:30

October 31- 4-6 PLC's