Thank you for chosing to particpate in our blog, "It's all about the I". This forum provides an opportunity for collaboration around the topic of high quality instruction.

Each month please read the chapter that correlates with the monthly topic, respond to the "Read and Reflect" and the "Discuss" section and post your responses on the blog. Also, please use ideas from the "Do" section to apply the monthly topic in your classroom and post your experience. I encourage you to comment on other blog member's posts. The more interactive we make our blog the more we will gain from the experience!

All posts should be complete by the last day of the month. Then we will be on to another topic!!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Deductive VS. Inductive

The Chapter Generating and Testing Hypotheses discussed two generalizations that can guide the use of hypothesis generation and testing in the classroom;

1. Hypothesis generation and testing can be approached in a more inductive or deductive manner. 
  • Inductive- the process of drawing new conclusion based on information we know or are presented with.
    • Inductive reasoning is a great tool to use in a math class.  The Algebra II class that I co-teach utilizes this technique rather often.  The teacher presents students with new information, and from that information (along with information that they have already mastered) they are asked to solve the problem.  Students are typically able to apply/combine previously learned concepts and new concepts to solve the problem. 
  • Deductive- the process of using a general rule to make a prediction about a future action or event.  
    • Deductive reasoning is used quite frequently in the science/lab setting.  Students are asked to use prior knowledge to make hypotheses on the outcome of a particular event-typically a lab.  Students are then asked to explain why/how they came up with a particular hypothesis.  They then test their hypothesis and record their results.  Finally students are asked to analyze results and compare the results to the initial hypothesis- Was your hypothesis correct?  Why/why not?...
    • I don't teach/co-teach in the English setting, however, deductive reasoning is also used a lot when reading.  Students should be able to make predictions about the outcome of an event based on the information previously stated, and information that is already known. 
2. Teachers should ask students to clearly explain their hypotheses and their conclusions.

  • Again, in the science/lab setting students are asked to use prior knowledge to make hypotheses on the outcome of a particular event-typically a lab.  Students are then asked to explain why/how they came up with a particular hypothesis.  They then test their hypothesis and record their results.  Finally students are asked to analyze results and compare the results to the initial hypothesis- Was your hypothesis correct?  Why/why not?...

This chapter also discussed how generating and testing hypotheses can be used in decision making.  Being a Special Educator (and a high school teacher!) I have come to realize, and accept, the fact that many high school/SPED students are very impulsive in their decision making.   This chapter suggests the following framework to help guide them through decision making tasks (This would also be great for choosing a college!!):
  1. Describe the decision you are making and the alternatives you are considering. 
  2. Identify the criteria that will influence the selection and indicate the relative importance of the criteria by assigning an importance score from a designated scale.
  3. Rate each alternative on a designated scale to indicate the extent to which each alternative meets each criterion.  
This book gave me some really great insight, and new strategies to utilize in my classroom!  It's a great resource to keep around the office!!  I hope this is something that we can continue to study next year with the same book or a new one!

Monday, June 4, 2012

May/June - Generating and Testing Hypotheses

The last chapter that will be covered this year from the Research-Based Strategies from the book will be Generating and Testing Hypotheses. As the authors state, generating and testing hypotheses is something students naturally do when they start to apply knowledge. In the classroom, utilizing activities that involve generating and testing hypotheses can be an excellent tool in incorporating higher-order thinking into a lesson.

Throughout the chapter, the authors provide several "structured tasks" that can be used in activities that involved generating and testing hypotheses: Systems Analysis, Problem Solving, Historical Investigation, Invention, Experimental Inquiry, and Decision Making. Based on what you have read throughout the chapter, please share examples of how you plan to, or have already, incorporated tasks in the classroom that involve generating and testing hypotheses specific to your content area.

In my U.S.I History class, the students are often asked to predict the outcomes of certain historical events based on underlying information that they already know. The students are able to generate their hypothesis, and then compare it to what actually happened and reflecting on the differences and similarities. For example, this past month the students have been studying the Civil War, specifically the outbreak of the war at Fort Sumter. Abraham Lincoln, was struggling with a predicament when it came to what would be the appropriate action when dealing with the fort, which was falling into Confederate. The students were tasked with predicting what they thought Lincoln would do, based on what they already knew about him, the Union, the Confederacy, and the United States. The task allowed the students to think critically about a historical situation, as well as to come to an understanding of why their prediction/hypothesis agreed or disagreed with what actually happened.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cooperative Learning Groups

I currently co-teach a Biology class in which we use cooperative learning (lab) groups at least once per week.  We have various methods of grouping students (groups are typically 3-4 students):
-heterogeneously grouped lab groups (teacher chosen)
-randomly chosen groups:
  • students pick names from a jar
  •  students count off 1-4
  • students match puzzle pieces 
 -homogeneous/heterogeneous groups/partners chosen by students (we find that typically students get a lot less accomplished when they choose their own groups or partner!)

I feel that, when grouped heterogeneously, students tend to be more interested and invested in learning.  Each member of the group is accountable independently as well as on a group level.  We don;t typically assign roles to each student in the group but they kind of take on that role themselves.  The downside to cooperative learning groups is the noise and those few students that constantly need to be prompted back to task.  How do you deal with this?

Cues, Questions, and Advanced Organizers

This chapter was really interesting and made me think about how/how often I am questioning my students.  As a Special Education teacher, I feel that the "higher-order thinking" questions should be asked a lot more than they are.  A lot of our students are unable to effectively interpret and analyze data or information.  This skill is imperative for success at this level in regards to MCAS, SAT's, College...ect.  

Activating prior knowledge is something that I've found to be extremely helpful for my classes...I've noticed that a lot of students just need that "little something extra" to help them understand a new concept and connect that concept to prior knowledge.  I've personally never tried a word splash, though I've heard that they work well.  Typically we start with a class discussion and some sort graphic organizer followed by a visual or tactile activity (youtube, coloring, modeling...).  

On another note...I feel that Analytic skills should be explicitly taught to students especially if they are lacking such a skill.  

Definition of Analytic Skills
Analyzing Errors: Identifying and articulating errors in the logic of information.
Constructing Support: Constructing a system of support or proof for an assertion.
Analyzing Perspectives: Identifying and articulating personal perspectives about issues.
 (page 116: Figure 10.2)

Monday, April 9, 2012

April: Cooperative Learning

The topic this month is cooperative learning. Feel free to continue discussing the topic in March during the month as well. The chapter on cooperative learning really emphasizes the importance of using cooperative learning as an instructional strategy, albeit sparingly. The authors state that based on research, group strategies should be utilized about once per week. At the same time, the authors also stress that groups should be made based on different criteria and not necessarily ability level. Research indicates that students of low-level ability who are paired with other low-level ability students, do not perform the way they should and the instructional strategy is not effective. Finally, the authors stress keeping group sizes to 3 or 4 students per group.

The authors examine three different categories when it comes to grouping: informal, formal, and base. Personally, the most effective informal grouping activity is a Think-Pair-Share in which the students are asked to select a different partner each time. For formal groups, I typically group the students randomly while making sure that students of low-level ability are always working with a student of high-level ability. There are some awesome websites out there that will generate groups randomly. For example: http://www.transum.org/Software/RandomStudents/ works well and also saves your class rosters. There are other websites that allow the students to pick team names which helps bring a slight competitive atmosphere to the group work. 

Another strategy I've found to be effective is assigning group roles to ensure that students are held accountable and that each student in the group is contributing in a different way. I distribute cards such as the ones here to the students randomly and make sure that they are all responsible for separate work. 

Please share your own methods for selecting groups as well as how you ensure that students are held accountable when working in cooperative learning groups. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

March - Cues, Questions, and Advance Organizers

I apologize for the long delay, this school year is flying by. Our chapter for March is Cues, Questions, and Advance Organizers. I will post April's chapter at the beginning of the month, but because of my delay, we can of course continue to discuss March's topic as well. 

March's chapter is all about activating prior knowledge through cues, questions and advance organizers. Cues and questions are excellent tools that a teacher can utilize to activate prior knowledge, expand students' understanding of a topic, and also help the students spark an interest in the subject. It is also vital to assessing the students' prior knowledge before beginning a new subject. Here, everyone should share examples of cues or questioning that they use in class, maybe even in a specific context. 

The chapter also addresses advance organizers that help students utilize their background knowledge when learning new material. Advance organizers are great when using information that is extremely disorganized, as it can help students begin to organize old information with new information that they are exposed to. The chapter introduces three different kinds of advance organizers, Narrative, Skimming, and Graphic. 

Perhaps everyone could share examples of how they activate prior knowledge through activities that are introduced in the chapter, or other scaffolding activities that are not discussed in the book. 

An excellent activity to activate prior knowledge that many teachers are familiar with is a word splash, which works particularly well in a history class. The teacher writes one key word or broad term on the board and ask students to come up and write words that they think relate to the key word or broad term.

For example, last year I wrote "Civil War" on the board and asked students to write words that they thought related to the Civil War.

Civil War
North vs. South
Abe Lincoln
Trench Warfare

These were some of the words that the students wrote on the board. From there, I was able to correct any misunderstandings, while at the same time assessing how much the students already knew about the Civil War before beginning formal instruction. Following a word splash such as this one, the teacher can then ask students to organize the information and begin to draw comparisons.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Similaraties and Differences

I found this chapter to be really useful. I would like to use the comparing 2 concepts with similarities and differences in helping students reinforce what they have learned as well as a study tool to help students prepare for their tests and quizzes. I found a couple of free analogy organizers on-line but had a hard time getting the PDF files to post. I found one analogy organizer on a website called teacher vision. The address is www.teachervision. fen.com and search for analogy organizers. Another interesting one that I found was comparing two concepts. It had the "New Concept" on the left side and the "Familiar Concept" on the right-hand side. Underneath that it had "Similarities" on the left side and "Differences" on the right. Underneath all of that in the center was "Summary of new concept". I would use this one to reinforce new concepts. Using analogies uses higher-order thinking skills and students seem to like it once it is explained to them. They like looking for the connection between the two items. It is another important tool in getting students to learn in a way they may not have used before. It stimulates new brain connections and strengthens those higher-order thinking skills.

Identifying Similarities and Differences

I really enjoyed this chapter! I was particularly intrigued with using analogies with students as a form of identifying similarities and differences. I have always known analogies to be comparing two related objects or ideas to something else but never though to use them in the classroom as a student/teacher-directed activity. Learning to read and understand analogies is such an important skill for students, as they are typically found on all standardized tests.

I co-teach a biology class and we have used analogies in comparing cell organelles to people or places. The responses we got from the students was impressive. One in particular still stands out to me. A group used ten organelles from the cell and compared them to the Boston Bruins hockey team! It was amazing!! Now, reflecting on this activity, the student really seemed to understand and enjoy it!

I found the graphic organizers in the chapter to be a great resource. I especially liked the following GO.

[ ] is to [ ]


as [ ] is to [ ]

I also liked the GO for analyzing metaphors:

Metaphor: _________________________________


Thursday, February 2, 2012

February Topic - Identifying Similarities and Differences

Surprisingly, it is already February, so it's time to move onto our new topic, Identifying Similarities and Differences. For this month, perhaps everyone could share their general thoughts on the chapter, examples of graphic organizers that facilitate comparing and contrasting, or even student examples. Also, maybe teachers of the sciences or mathematics could share how they are able to incorporate similarities and differences in their disciplines where it might be difficult to do so.  

I found this chapter in the book to be especially interesting and useful. Similarities and differences are so frequently found in a subject such as History, that it is very beneficial to see the ways in which similarities and differences can be adapted, whether it is simply comparing and contrasting, or even have the students begin to create analogies. Of course the Venn Diagram is so commonly used and is effective, but I've also found that categorizing topics based on similarities is extremely effective in getting the students to understanding similarities and differences, especially when it comes to History. When asking students to categorize, it seems to work best when you provide the students with the categories and then allow them to select the topics that are appropriate. That way, they are forced to understand the topics' similarities before they are able to categorize them. Our next topic of study in U.S.I History involves many similarities and differences, so during that topic I plan to incorporate metaphors and analogies instead of relying on Venn Diagrams for comparing and contrasting. I'll make sure to post my findings and share how effective the activity was.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I really enjoyed this month's topic since it is a daily battle for me. I work in the "Instructional Support" room at the High School where students are given the oppportunity to start and even finish their homework during school after a small minilesson is conducted. Even when given the time and support, some students do not complete homework.

I am constantly asking myself why this is. Many times, teachers allow students to sit in class and not do it. There does not always appear to be any consequences for not completing assignments. I liked the idea of parents being contacted but many times, parents really don't care either. As long as their son or daughter gets a D and passes, they are okay with it. Less for them to deal with when they get home is their attitudes. In those cases, it is difficult, but not impossible, to help the student learn the importance of homework/practice.

In other cases, students do not complete homework because they have no concept of the skills needed to complete their homework. Maybe they don't know the content, maybe they don't have a quiet place to complete homework, maybe they are too embarrased to ask for help or maybe a combination of all those things. The point is that teachers need to step up and figure out what is preventing a student from being successful even if that requires more time and effort on the teacher's part.

I am going to share this chapter with my students and see if they can understand WHY they have to complete homework. Maybe we will even fill out several homework squares that are on page 65 to further their understanding of the purpose of homework.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


This section was really interesting section to me, in that, I can't figure out how to get my kids to complete their homework!! After reading this section, I realize how important it is to make sure the kids know WHY they are doing the homework, and that doing it, can actually HELP them!!

I liked the teacher's idea from the text- She made sure that each student knew WHY they were completing the homework and WHAT they needed to know to complete the homework (p.65). I don't think that a high school student would take the time to fill out something like this every night, but maybe once in a while as a sort of reminder to them that what they are doing IS important!

Working with high school students within the SPED program, I have realized, that they are generally:
1. discouraged
2. frustrated
3. confused
with their homework, and most parents are not as invested in their child's education as I remember my parents being. (This is only a generalization, I know that this is not the case for every student) I would love to learn how to better work with parents regarding their role in their child's education.

I co-teach with one particular math teacher that has each student sign a contract at the beginning of the year stating that they know the homework policy. She explains to them the research on homework, how much they should have, and what they should expect to accomplish by doing their homework. There are also consequences. Students that miss more than three homework assignments in one term are given a detention and a letter sent home (to be signed and sent back) to their parents. Each subsequent missed assignment results in another detention. It seems to work for our kids. They very rarely miss assignments because they know the expectations ahead of time, and they know that there are consequences for not completing it!