Has the cost of materials ever stopped you from doing what would otherwise be a great lesson? One that likely is interactive and incorporates problem-solving, critical thinking, and/or instructional dialogue skills?
According to an article in the New York Times (May 2018), “94% of public school teachers in the United States reported paying for supplies without reimbursement in the school year that straddled 2014 and 2015. The teachers who reported spending their own money on supplies shelled out $479 each on average, according to the survey. Seven percent reported spending more than $1,000.” Additionally, this National Public Radio (Dec. 2017) report echoed the findings, noting that this trend occurs in Minnesota as well, although here in our home state teachers reported topping out around $2,000--almost double NYT's findings.
There are a few ways teachers are creatively getting their hands on the supplies they need for their classrooms. One solution: teachers are using is Donors Choose. Another solution: teachers are applying for grants. While these are both great avenues to pursue, they can take a lot of time to get up and running and/or written, and once funds are maintained it can take a lot of time before the materials make it into the classroom. So, don’t let cost become a stumbling block in your teaching, especially since you have a resource right here in town that can help: STEM Village.
STEM Village is a free resource that allows any RPS teacher to check out thousands of dollars worth of materials that help promote critical thinking, instructional dialogue, and hands-on problem solving--just to name a few.
This resource, located at the Heinz Center, contains available materials that can provide you with hands-on, problem solving materials at no cost to you. STEM Village is Winona State University’s premier STEM related resource library, and it is stocked full with K-12 instructional and learning materials for use to schools and individual teachers. Comprehensive sets of the most current STEM learning modules that enhances STEM instruction, secures STEM inquiry, and promotes students' interconnectedness to science, technology, engineering, and math: these are all available to checkout. Plus, there is also a lending library of books for teachers to use.
If you're not a teacher of science or math, know that there are resources for you as well. Below, check out how even ELA and social studies teachers are utilizing such materials:
See what is available for checkout via one of these three options:
Additionally, we've some features coming soon to STEM Village that will make it even more convenient for teachers:
If you have any questions or would like to brainstorm ways to utilize these materials available at STEM Village, please contact me.
We can not wait to see you at STEM Village! And, more importantly, we can’t wait to see your students problem-solving, collaborating, and growing their Twenty-First Century Skills!
This post brought to you by Jen Coenen, Secondary Implementation Associate and STEM Village Director
When we share stories with one another we become bound together in powerful ways. Stories provide hope: they have the potential to shine a light into the darkness and challenge us to change our thinking. Stories matter. Stories are powerful. Each month, the Department of Curriculum and Instruction partners with the RPS equity specialists and American Indian Liaison to share the stories of those in our own backyard who are often silenced.
Cante' waste' nape ciyuzapi ksto! (I greet you with a warm heart and handshake).
Recently, I had a conversation with a student who was feeling lonely. He wanted to go back to the school he attended last year, which is out of state. He missed his friends, he missed being part of a community, and he missed a sense of belonging. He said, "I don't really talk to anybody but my dog."
I knew this student was seeking an authentic connection. I told him, "I talk to my dog too, in fact, I dress her up. Would you like to see her in a Wonder Woman costume?" I then showed him a picture of my dog in her costume.
His eyes sparkled and the corners of his mouth turned upward into a smile. He looked directly at me. We connected.
October 8th marks Indigenous Peoples’ Day, recognized by Rochester Public Schools, the City of Rochester, and several other school districts and cities across the United States. So, Why is this day important?
This simple act of acknowledgment of the Indigenous Peoples of this land and the contributions they have made can and will be the catalyst for Indigenous Peoples’ sense of belonging, existence, and self-worth. This is imperative; otherwise, it can be easy for American Indian students to feel like they don't belong. Others often question our identity and existence (I say ‘our’ because I am an Indigenous person) because many history books refer to us as being figures of the past: a people who did not exist before 1492. Acknowledging Indigenous Peoples’ Day will begin to dispel the myths of American Indians being nothing but relics of the past.
The Indigenous Peoples’ history, culture, and way of life were targeted for assimilation through the boarding schools and foster care system before the passing of the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978 and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act in 1978. Very few American Indian families have not been directly impacted by the forced boarding school and adoption era.
My Mother was sent to St. Francis Boarding School and eventually ended up aging out of the foster care system. She was separated from her three older brothers, one older sister, and one younger sister. While in foster care, she repeatedly asked about her younger sister. A few days after her 18th birthday, she was contacted by the state of South Dakota and notified that her sister was living in a town 45 minutes away and she had been there for 13 years.
Most of us have an inherent human desire to belong and to be part of a community. Our ancestors existed so we can exist. Our existence is current. Our existence is our future.
If one does not understand the past and is told things about history that are inaccurate, one begins to internalize all of that information: one may begin to believe inaccuracies about one’s self. We must recognize how the past affects us today, how it will affect us tomorrow, and how it will affect our future generations.
Our American Indian students are the epitome of strength and resilience.
Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children. (Sitting Bull)
If you have a question about resources available for students or staff, or if you wish to discuss any of these ideas further, please consider reaching out to me.
Pilamaya. (Thank you.)
This post brought to you by Dawn Bjoraker, American Indian Liaison for the Rochester Public Schools
Feel free to contact Bjoraker at 507.328.4236 or to connect with her via email
Sam* an eighth grade student in Tammy’s* class, looks forward to her class each day. He knows that he will have time to talk with other students to process what he’s learning which helps him clarify his thinking. Tammy has a rule that she needs to get the students talking within the first five minutes of her class period. This takes different forms: sometimes Tammy writes one or two words from the previous class period on the board and students pair up and talk about what they remember; other days, students generate questions that they have related to their reading and discuss their impressions.
When asked why this works for him Sam says, “When I have to talk about what I was thinking it helps me to understand it better. I also like hearing what other people think about things that I might not have thought about.”
We’ve all heard the adage, “More student talk, less teacher talk,” but why is this so critical in learning? Vygotsky (1962) suggested that thinking develops into words in a number of phases moving from images to inner speech to inner speaking to speech. Following this theory, talk is really the representation of thinking. We want our classrooms to be filled with talking because this means they are filled with thinking.
So, how can we build purposeful talk into the classroom and ensure that it really is deepening thinking and not just a recap of Friday’s football game?
| 1 |
Whatever structure you use to make phone calls home, keep parents/guardians like Casey in mind. We want to work collaboratively with our students and their important adults, and that often begins by picking up the phone.
This time of year, when I reflect on the different ways we get to know our students after the first few days of school, I often think of my tenth grade English teacher, Mr. Anderson. Our first assignment of the year was to write our own obituary (yeah…super morbid, right?). I wrote the required one page of, “She was loved by her family…”, “She was preceded in death by…”, “She did this and that…”.
I turned it in and a few days later, it came back to me, dripping in red ink. I was convinced I had completely failed. As I started to read the comments on my paper though, my anxiety lifted. All along the margins, I read comments like, “No way! Your grandpa was my bus driver when I was a kid!” and “Your cousin is my best friend!” Awkward-and-anxious me suddenly knew I had someone in my corner. Mr. Anderson was making connections with me that went beyond my favorite color or which sports I play, and I suddenly cared much more about my English class than I ever imagined I would.
Throughout the year in that English class, every writing assignment came back with Mr. Anderson’s commentary along the margins, forcing me to rethink my thesis or supporting arguments, or cracking a joke about a silly spelling error. Every once in a while, I would find a post it on my desk, introducing me to authors like Jane Smiley or Toni Morrison (who is, to this day, still my favorite). Mr. Anderson had taken the time throughout the year to get to know me both as a learner and as a person who had a life outside of his classroom.
This year, you are going to hear a lot about the district’s continued work around culturally and linguistically responsive teaching practices (CLR). We know we need to think about culture and bias. We know how important it is to understand who our students are culturally and the cultural nuances they bring to our classrooms every day. That is why I’d like to provide a few “get to know you” strategies that can be used throughout the year, multiple times, to continue to build relationships and connections with your students and get to know them as cultural beings.
| 1 |
Six Word Memoir
The beauty of this strategy is that is can be used multiple times throughout the year. As students feel more and more comfortable, watch their memoirs change.
For more examples, look at the Six Word Memoir website.
| 2 |
- Round one: Choose a category (such as favorite colors) and tell students to divide themselves into only four groups. The students have to work together to determine which four colors will be represented. Those whose favorite may not be listed will have to get creative about which group they will belong to.
- Round two: Tell students they will now have to divide themselves into three groups. Give them another category. Again, students will have to work together and get creative to determine how they will group themselves.
- Round three: Now tell students they will have to divide into only two groups. Give them a category and let them decide how to split themselves.
This activity helps students find commonalities and make connections with their classmates. They also have to practice problem solving and language skills while they communicate with you and their classmates. You can make the categories more or less complex, depending on your students.
| 3 |
Walk and Talk
This activity is so versatile. You can use it as a “get to know you” activity or you can have students reflect on class content. Once again, the options are endless. If you need help thinking of questions, check out the Conversation Starters World website.
Getting to know our students never really ends and when they know we care about them beyond our classroom, they are more likely to be present and stay engaged, well beyond their days with us. We are all on this journey together and even small steps, like making connections with our students, can help pave our way to more meaningful connections and deeper learning.
If you would like more ideas, or if you have any you would like to share, please connect with me any time.
This fall, I’m starting my twenty-sixth year with the Rochester Public Schools. I’m very committed to the students, teachers, and parents in this district--I can’t imagine being anywhere else. I have lived in Rochester for thirty years and my children, Ian and Makayla, are both graduates of RPS.
- Quarry Hill Teacher
- Substitute Teacher
- Sixth Grade Teacher at Hoover
- Sixth Grade Teacher at Willow Creek
- Middle Level Implementation Associate
- Continuous Improvement Trainer
- Ninth Grade Program Facilitator
- Administrative Assistant at Churchill/Hoover
- Assistant Principal at Gage
- Principal at Jefferson
- Principal at Bamber Valley
Student success depends on us, so let’s work together to do this work that is important to our district, our community, and our world.
Feel free to connect with Wichmann via email
Top 10 Things to Keep in Mind
When You Implement Anything New
| 1 |
Approach it with a Growth Mindset
| 2 |
Be Up for the Challenge
up for that challenge and really enjoy it."
| 3 |
Be Kind to Yourself
| 4 |
Don’t Work Too Hard on the Unimportant Things
| 5 |
Don’t be Afraid to Let Some Things Go
--Elsa, from Disney's Frozen--
| 6 |
Give it Time
| 7 |
Know that You Are Not Alone
| 8 |
Take Advantage of All the Possible Professional Development
In regard to the new middle school math curriculum that some teachers are adopting this year, you may want to organize a cohort that uses the Curriculum’s Teachers’ Edition as a book study for CEU’s. This gives you the opportunity to study and have professional dialogue as you “unwrap” your new curriculum together. The Office of Curriculum and Instruction will be offering as much math support and training as it possibly can. Please contact us with questions, concerns and ideas as to how we can best support your learning.
| 9 |
Have Confidence in the Leg-Work Others have Already Done
When thinking about the new middle school math curriculum, trust that “great care” was given in the development and selection of this curriculum. You may or may not have been a part of the articulation or curriculum early implementation process. However, if you are a staff member in the Rochester Public School system, know that many of your colleagues spent a great deal of time reviewing data, current best practices in instruction and content as part of a process to select this new curriculum. Every step of this process focused on what is best for our students. Believe that the articulation committee made the best decisions possible in the selection of this curriculum. The early adoption team will be spending this school year working through the curriculum so that we have a running start next school year.
| 10 |
--The office of Curriculum and Instruction--
The journey may not be easy. You will not always be successful on your first attempt. You may love some things you are trying and dislike others. You may soar high and then crash but you will soar again; higher, farther and faster than you could ever imagine.
- Boyle, Russell. "Open the Door: Effective Teaching is No Secret." Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER). 2018. CER
- Hattie, John. "Collective Teacher Efficacy." Visible Learning.
- Hattie, John. "Hattie & His High Impact Strategies for Teachers." The Australian Society for Evidence Based Teaching.
- Hattie, John. "Teachers Make a Difference: What is the Research Evidence?" Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER). 2003.
As a teacher, I want my students to have that same feeling of purpose and leadership in my classroom. When I was at an elementary school, I had the privilege to provide a group of students the opportunity to demonstrate leadership skills through running a school store. Students had to complete an application and complete an interview. Seeing these students feel empowered at their interview as they answered questions such as “what has been your proudest moment this year” or “how would working at the school store help you achieve your goals” made me smile. These interviews provided them a time to talk about themselves and let them dream of their future. Students received training in their job duties and then mentored the “new employees”. I witnessed these students transfer their leadership skills back into the classroom and with their peers.
Creating student leadership opportunities in the classroom can also assist teachers in the daily struggle of juggling all the daily tasks. These opportunities provide students a sense of purpose, belonging, and leadership all while helping you maintain your sanity through the course of the day. Here are some leadership opportunities you may want to consider implementing into your classroom
- Teacher’s Assistant – This student can assist the teacher in day to day tasks such as alphabetizing papers, providing support if they have already taken a similar class, provide extra support to students if they have questions and they know the answers, and any other tasks as directed by the teacher.
- Librarian – Assists in keeping books organized and put away neatly. Brings books to the media center as needed.
- Phone Manager – Answers the phone and takes messages as needed (may want to notify main office staff and provide training to students as to when they can take a message and when the teacher needs to answer the phone immediately). Have a message pad near the phone (or post it notes) so they can take down numbers and who has called.
- Substitute Assistant – Assists a substitute in daily routines and helps them navigate the school as needed. May also show the substitute around the room to find important items (i.e. supplies, books, manipulatives, etc.).
- Confusion Monitor – Monitors the classroom for moments when it seems that students are confused or are in need of clarification. This can be key for students who may be nervous about speaking up or asking the question, even when there is consensus that there is a need for clarification.
- Paparazzi – Takes photographs of the exciting things that are happening in the classroom (students working collaboratively, exciting projects that have been completed, students doing kind works, etc.).
- Social Media Guru - This student leader can post pictures of the great activities occurring in the classroom on the teacher’s Google Classroom or other online platforms that the teacher and/or school uses on a regular basis.
- Supply Manager – Makes sure supplies are put away, pencils sharpened, and distributes papers that the teacher needs to hand out. Notifies teacher if supplies are limited or require special attention.
- Director of Maintenance – This person takes care of the physical space. They enlist the help of other students to maintain the classroom space. For instance, they ensure that floors are clean before the class leaves and kindly ask others to help them clean up as needed.
- Time Keeper – Assists in keeping time during group work or other time-sensitive tasks. This leader can also remind the teacher to end the class at a certain time to do things such as exit slips, formative assessments, or other wrap-up activities.
- Scribe – This student assists the teacher in writing notes on the whiteboard or other places as needed. They may also keep notes during the hour for students that are absent or in a special class.
- Tech Assistant – Assists other students, teacher, and/or substitute if simple technical issues arise (i.e. how to log in to an account, create something in an app that they are familiar with, etc.).
Tips and Tricks to Help You Get Started:
- Create a list of Classified Ads or Help Wanted ads that describes the responsibilities of the job and the time commitment. Provide students the opportunity to also explore authentic classifieds or help wanted advertisements so they can explore what it is like to apply for jobs in their futures.
- Create a short application for students to complete. This provides the opportunity for students to write in an academic manner. Provide a deadline for applications (which makes it even more authentic).
- Conduct a 5 minute interview with students so they can practice interview skills. You may want to enlist the help of volunteers or other school employees (i.e. custodians, media assistants, etc.) who could give a few minutes of time to conduct some of the interviews. You may also want to have other students on the interview team as this is another way to bring in leadership skills.
- Provide students with a congratulatory note that tells them they got the job and information regarding when it begins.
- Train students to know and understand their job. Have them model their job duties and provide feedback as needed.
- Rotate leadership opportunities throughout the year. Allow students to train the new employee so that they can mentor and provide support.
If you would like more ideas or to help you implement some classroom leadership opportunities, please feel free to reach out to me anytime!
- Will my teacher like me?
- Will I be treated with respect in the classroom?
- Will my ideas and thoughts be honored?
The first week of school is a critical time to set the foundation for the learning and dialogue that will happen the rest of year. Although it’s tempting to rush to the logistical (how to find the syllabus, online textbook codes, grading policies, etc.), what students really want to know is how you’ll connect as human beings in your classroom. Here are five ways to start building positive relationships within those first critical days in the classroom:
| 1 |
- Blue: What do you value?
- Green: What do you love to do?
- Brown: What would you change about the world if you were able?
- Yellow: If you knew it would work out, what are some risks you would take in life?
- Orange: What is something about your family?
Be sure to share your own responses as well!
| 2 |
| 3 |
5 Questions to Ask your Students at the Start of the School Year
- What are the qualities you look for in a teacher?
- What are you passionate about?
- What is one big question you have for this year?
- What are your strengths and how can we utilize them?
- What does success at the end of the year look like to you?
| 4 |
This year we interviewed student panelists as a part of our new teacher orientation. One of their recurring messages was: “we value teachers who care about us as people and get to know us outside of class.”
| 5 |
- Have students write a unique fact about themselves on a small piece of paper.
- Ask students to roll this up into a ball and then divide your group in two.
- Engage in a snowball fight, trying to have the least amount of snow balls on your side.
- End the fight. Then, pick up one snowball and form a circle.
- Read your fact aloud. Whomever's fact it is says, “That is Me!” Then, that student grabs a snowball from the floor and reads the fact aloud.
- Have each student repeat 'step 5' until there are no paper snowballs on the floor.
The more we know about our students as learners and humans the better we’re able to support their growth. Here’s to a wonderful year of human connection!
Enjoy our Blog!
Members of the Secondary C&I team weekly post useful tools, tips, and tricks to help you help students.
Analysis & Inquiry
Instructional Learning Formats
Planning For A Sub
Quality Of Feedback
Regard For S's Perspective