Most Memorable Blog Posts of the Year – 2015

Around this time of year, I highlight selected posts written by bloggers within the past twelve months. What these posts all have in common is they were worth saving for my own learning and reading enjoyment. You might also find them helpful. This annual post is also my way to show gratitude for other educators out there who are taking the time to share their thinking online in an honest and thoughtful manner.

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Judgement – It’s all a matter of perspective by Jay Posick (Jay’s Journal, May 7, 2015)

This Wisconsin principal reflects on his experience as a spelling bee contestant during his elementary school days. He was wronged in his dismissal from the competition (there are two acceptable spellings of “judgment/judgement”). He applies this lesson to how educators approach learning with their own students, positively or negatively.

Four Lessons from Motherhood by Ariel Sacks (Center for Teaching Quality, May 3, 2015)

This English teacher and author reveals how her life has changed as an educator since the birth of her daughter. Sacks lists four lessons she has learned since her family’s new addition: “Learning by Doing”, “The Value of a Network”, “Respect for the Caregiver of our Students”, and “Anything But Standard!”. Many parent-educators can relate.

On differentiation: a reply to a rant and a posing of questions by Grant Wiggins (Granted, and…, January 15, 2015)

The late Grant Wiggins, co-developer of the Understanding by Design curriculum framework with Jay McTighe, takes on an Education Week commentary. James DeLisle questions the effectiveness of differentiation. Dr. Wiggins picks apart his argument piece by piece, showing the reader how DeLisle’s quotes are taken out of context and highlighting several resources that do support differentiation. Grant is and will be missed.

Planning for Student Centered IEP Meetings by Samantha Mosher (Samantha Mosher, June 2, 2015)

A new idea, evidence of student and teacher learning, and a combination of humor and humbleness – these elements make this post an informative and enjoyable one to read. Mosher, a special education teacher, highlights the four steps she is taking to help her students become more actively involved in the goal setting process of individual education plans.

Planning for the Planning by Beth Moore (Two Writing Teachers, May 11, 2015)

Some of our faculty and I actually used this process for a two day curriculum writing workshop this past June. Moore’s process worked well for us. The best advice I found from her post is setting dates for publishing student work. This has kept all of us accountable for completing our writing genre units of study. Of note: This site won the 2015 Edublogs Group Blog Award.

Knowing Yourself as a Reader by Franki Sibberson (Scholastic’s On Our Minds blog, June 25, 2015)

Sibberson, teacher and author, offers a classroom activity to help students reflect on their reading lives: Write 100 things about themselves as readers. She admits that no one ever gets to 100, but encourages her students to add to the list during the school year. Franki posts her own reflections as a reader (31 and counting).

Nurturing Responsible Learners by Mary Anne Buckley (Stenhouse Blog, June 22, 2015)

“Writing ‘I can’ statements or the ‘Standard for the Day’ on the board felt forced and unnatural. I wanted it to be more about the awareness of learning and being responsible for using that learning.” Identifying a felt difficulty, Buckley instituted “Learning Reflections and Frames”.

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Source: Stenhouse Blog. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Instead of listing expectations, this teacher and author now sets collective goals with her students. They also reflect on how well they met their goals at the end of the week. A simple yet powerful change in practice.

When to Say When with Homework by Starr Sackstein (Starr Sackstein, August 25, 2015)

There are a litany of posts about homework that get published every year. Starr’s rises above the rest. She reflects on her son’s own school experience with his homework load, worrying that this work he finds too easy is “a waste of time at home”. In response, Starr differentiates between what homework “can be” and “shouldn’t be”.

Your choice of words by Matt Wachel (PLC Ponderings, August 23, 2015)

Matt, an elementary school principal, received a very positive wake up call from the hotel staff where he was staying. This experience served as a good reminder for him in his own interactions with the students, staff, and families at his school. Matt also puts it on the reader to reflect on our language as professionals and the impact it has on others.

A Writing Life Requires Bravery by Elisabeth Ellington (the dirigible plum, September 5, 2015)

Elisabeth, an English professor in Nebraska, uses the everybody book The Story of Fish & Snail by Deborah Freedman as a springboard for her students to write about bravery in their future classrooms. She shares several of their responses in her post. Dr. Ellington also provides commentary about the nature of writing instruction in classrooms, especially the importance of taking risks as a teacher who models this craft for learners.

Writing that feels safe is often writing that’s just going through the motions. When I’m uncomfortable in a piece of writing, that’s when I know I’m getting somewhere.

Thoughts on Makerspaces by Nicholas Provenzano (The Nerdy Teacher, November 3, 2015)

This high school teacher from Michigan collaborates with his school librarian to create a learning space “to give students access to tools on their own to see what they will create”. Nicholas provides examples of student-driven projects, including a prototype for a knee brace that would keep a kneecap in place and a prosthetic hoof for horses. This post makes it clear that #makingmatters.

Understanding Teach Like a Champion by Peggy Roberston (Peg with Pen, September 13, 2015)

Robertson, a literacy interventionist from Colorado, provides a critical review of Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion 2.0. Some points she makes:

  • Lemov is an education reformer, with most of his experience in the corporate charter school movement.
  • His book is focused on improving test scores through uniformity in teaching.
  • The accompanying videos show lots of desks in rows, with teacher standing and delivering instruction to the masses.

I have not read Lemov’s books, but this blogger’s commentary makes me wary of his work.

Response to Joyful Illiterate Kindergartners of Finland by Timothy Shanahan (Shanahan on Literacy, October 11, 2015)

Dr. Shanahan, Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago, takes to task an article from The Atlantic that admonishes the teaching of reading in kindergarten in the U.S. (in comparison to Finland’s more relaxed approach). For starters, the U.S. has a more diverse population with many different cultures represented. He also points to the higher level of parent education in Finland. Reading instruction is beneficial for early learners, Shanahan notes, provided that these experiences are authentic and research-based.

The 80/20 Rule: Maximize Your Potential in Less Time by Brian Sztabnik (Teaching Channel’s Tchrs’ Voice Blog, October 1, 2015)

Teachers are always on the lookout for ways to be more effective with limited instruction time. Sztabnik, a high school English teacher from New York, enlists the 80/20 rule (“Find out what is vital, ignore what is trivial”) to prioritize practices. For example, he recommends asking better questions while teaching to promote student thinking and deepen their conversations. More time is spent being an active part of learning.

What blog post(s) that you read this year were most memorable? Please share the link in the comments along with why they are worthy of recognition! You can access previous year’s most memorable blog posts by clicking here.

 

 

 

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is a 17-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th grade teacher. After seven years of teaching, he served as a dean of students, assistant principal and athletic director before becoming an elementary principal in Wisconsin Rapids. Matt is now an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District (http://mineralpointschools.org/). Matt tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD (www.ascd.org) and Lead Literacy (www.leadliteracy.com).

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