Teaching Strategies: Are They Worth It?

img_0384Teaching strategies is a topic I give a lot of thought to. Hattie’s Visible Learning and effect size is getting much of my attention as of late. The FIT teaching approach as a framework for growth and leadership piques my curiosity. Carol Dwerks’s Mindsets make mind sense. And, the teachers throwing out grades (#ttog) movement has me focused on feedback versus letter grades.

Finding effective teaching methods has been a goal of mine for the past five years. I have to admit that I go into most teaching situations with an idea and content that has to be covered. Rarely do I have time to think about how to best help students learn the concepts, ideas, and content with a scaffold that helps provide structure and support in order to move learning forward.

So, I hunt for the elusive silver bullet that will help me make a difference for my students and colleagues. Recently, I purchased a book of strategies that had examples and processes for over 50 types like anticipation/reaction guide, discussion partners, mind maps, think-pair-share, jigsaw, etc. I know that I will be able use many of these with success in my classroom.

One of the problems I’m trying to solve is how to effectively teach vocabulary. img_0383I teach three sections of 9th grade theology and there is a lot of new vocabulary that then represents ideas or concepts that are highly elusive in the best of times. So, I was searching for strategies and came across a website for Marzano research that offers access to over 300 teaching strategies for $30.00 per month yearly subscription. I was wondering if anyone has used this subscription service and whether it is worth the price?

30 Goals Challenge: Exercise 2

Quite a while back I began Shelly Sanchez Terrell‘s The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers: Small Steps to Transform your Teaching (I carry the book with me everywhere Shelly). I have been so busy that I tend to look at the cover and sigh, saying, “I will get back around to you one of these days.” Well today is the day! And I am going to Blog about it. My posts might not be real lengthy, but I hope to cause you, dear reader, to pause and think. Think about how we can become the best darn teachers in the world for the world’s best kids.

As part of exercise 2, I am creating goals and my teaching manifesto. I’m not sure of being at the manifesto part yet, but I do have goals. I used a tool called Buncee to create the stunning visual below. I also have a copy posted in my classroom for all to see. What are your goals for this school year?

My 2016 30 Goals Challenge.

My 2016 30 Goals Challenge.


Is School Really a Game?

I have sometimes heard life referred to as a game. Well, there actually is the game called LIFE. I’ve heard people say they’re gaming the system, jumping through hoops, she’s playing the field, if you play your cards right, make sure you have all your bases covered, he’s a real winner/loser. Life is filled with game references, or is it that games are full of life? 

GameLife      I often wonder if school is a game? According to Dr. Jane McGonigal, in her seminal book Reality is Broken: Why Games Make us Better and How They Can Change the World, all games essentially have four main components: “a goal, rules, a feedback system, and voluntary participation.” Many other bloggers have written posts about the components of games, but I want to point out that these game components are with us throughout life’s different stages.

School is a Game

Have you played the game of school? Now I don’t mean pretending to be a teacher in the basement with your friends type of game. I would argue that school is a game we all played or are playing. Are you skeptical? Ready to stop reading because this seems ludicrous? DON’T!

Reality is Broken

Think about it for a minute. The goal of school is to graduate. I know this is simplistic, but ask any senior right now, and they just want it to end. We have rules in school. Classroom rules, school rules, playground rules, writing rules, math rules (even rulers here). Rules, rules, rules! Most schools have a feedback system called grades. Oftentimes these grades represent A, Excellent; B, Above Average; C, Average; D, Below Average; and F, Failing. Speaking of failing, I would posit that one of the problems with the game of school is that of voluntary participation. Many kids simply would not choose to go to school if they were given the choice. So, school has all the main components of a game, but it’s not a very good game.

I am sure that you can find the four components of games in other life endeavors. What changes would you make to the game of school to make it a game that all students want to play?

A Pre-Interview, Interview

CC Image by wmacphail http://www.flickr.com/photos/wmacphail/4466242719If you would like to know me better as a 21st Century instructional leader, then please read my answers to the following questions. I took about an hour to answer the questions using no references. Thanks to all of you who are praying and helping to guide me in finding my ideal fit teaching position.

Do you consider yourself to be a risk taker? (Give an example to back up your answer.)
Yes, I consider myself a risk taker. I took a risk five years ago and left the classroom so that my wife could pursue her passion which is also teaching. I take risks every day by engaging my PLN and opening myself up by having a transparent digital footprint. I also took risks in the classroom to try new things and to never be satisfied with mediocrity. I always push myself to be in the moment with my students with an eye on the future.

If I were your principal and we were setting goals for next year, what would they be?

  • Make sure that all our teachers and administrators are comfortable using social media for professional development & provide support for them via professional development.
  • I want to do action research on the benefits or drawbacks of gamification in the classroom.
  • Explore best practices of using technology as another tool in the teaching toolbox.
  • See how the flipclass works for our student body and faculty meetings.
  • Explore connections for the maker movement and coding in the history classroom.
  • Make connections with other classrooms around the world by collaborating on projects via Skype or Google Hangouts.

What is the last educational book you read? Why that book?
I most recently read, Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager, PhD. I read this book because I am very interested in engineering, the idea that kids will be our fuure inventors, and we need to become not just consumers but also creators, makers, and doers. I would like to pursue these ideas further to see how they can connect with the social sciences.

If you could create the ideal school, what would it be like?
The ideal school would look like Google. A place where every space can be utilized for creativity, learning, collaborating, sharing, exploring. Every person in the school would have cutting edge tablets that have the memory of desktop computers for ease of use, therefore blurring seamlessly the disconnect that often exists between teaching, learning, and technology. Everyone would work together as a team to model life-long learning and relationship building within the whole community. Students would love coming to school because they know that everyone is working together toward common goals and they feel like their ideas are valued and they are valued as persons.

How do you deal with failure? (Your own and that of your students)
Jerry Blumengartner explained to me that failure is actually First Attempt In Learning. It’s okay to fail, but we must have perseverance. We need to consistently work toward our goals, because there are times we will not be successful, but if we keep striving with perseverance we will eventually succeed. Even a “failure” can be viewed as a success. If we don’t take risks, try new things, and fail, we cannot be successful. Think of babies, they learn to crawl after many failed attempts, they learn to walk only after falling a lot. You cannot make progress in a video game without trying and failing a number of times. Failure is a part if life, every one of us needs to have the fortitude to keep trying.

How will 21st century competencies be developed in your students? (Provide examples both with and without technology)
Students in my classroom will become digital citizens by learning how to leverage the Internet effectively, efficiently, and ethically. We all need to keep up with the real world by being involved in the world and using the tools that others use in the world. Why? Because the world is the classroom today and we are all building connections that are helpful now while remaining flexible and adaptable. Change in the world is the only constant and we all need to be able to handle that change. Dr. Tony Wagner came up with a list of seven essential survival skills that are based on research. We should embrace those skills and make them the focus of our learning communities. These skills or competencies are applicable to technology and working with others in face to face situations. Dr. Wagner’s essential survival skills are always at the forefront whenever I am planning learning experiences.

Have you built a Personal Learning Network (PLN)? Why or why not?
I have built a PLN that Rocks! I believe that my PLN is centered around many people who are actively engaged in moving education forward. Whether they be researchers at the university level, teachers at the elementary level, or administrators across the globe I am constantly challenged to think and become a better person. Right now Twitter and Google+ are the main components of my PLN. While connecting with and collaborating with awesome teachers across the globe is important, it is also important to develop close working relationships within a school and district. A forward thinking PLN is a must for everyone in every field.

In what ways will you challenge your colleagues and the principals thinking?
First off, we need to eliminate the attitude that we are doing something because we have always done that. We need to constantly be evaluating whether or not actions we take will be of direct benefit to the students. It’s important to challenge each other to become better. Establishing a culture where sharing what works and presenting classroom techniques/strategies to each other will hold people accountable for their professional learning and the learning of colleagues. Monthly book clubs, game nights, and twitter chats will help our community bond more deeply.

How will you differentiate instruction to meet the needs of diverse learners in your class?
I believe that every student needs to have an Individual Learning Plan. I can also meet the diverse needs in today’s classroom by being prepared, making learning relevant, and allowing for student choice and voice. Keeping in touch with my PLN and reaching out with questions that can help my students also helps me to differentiate for diverse learning.

Take 10 minutes to prepare yourself to lead the interview panel in a conversation about an emerging educational topic of your choosing.
I would lead a conversation about gamification. What beliefs does the team have towards games and gaming (beneficial or not)? How does the team view this technique and would they support a teacher trying this technique?

I would also try to get a bead on where the team stands on assessment, ILPs, and pushing the boundaries of education.

The questions that I answered come from Mr. Greg Miller’s blog post The New Look Teacher Interview

Living the Dream: Goals can be Motivating

Goal setting has never been one of my favorite tasks as a teacher. In fact, the goals I have set over my career were always related to what an administrator or school district has deemed important. There always had to be a connection from my goals to the building and/or district goals.

This year, I get to set my own professional development goals. I set the bar pretty high, but I feel that as a teacher I should be held to a higher standard than most people in other professions. I am fortunate to work with 7th grade students, in a state where teachers are pushing the boundaries of education, and I am connected via social media to world renowned professionals.

I think that with the proper administrative support and a little pushing from my PLN, that I can achieve my goals. I know that I will not be able to accomplish my goals over night, but I think that they are definitely achievable if I arise each day with the proper mindset.

Goal #1: I want to be a positive role model for my students, fellow staff members, and my PLN.

This goal should be in everyone’s top five list. Like most of you, I have students from all walks of life and every type of family situation. Many of my students have not had positive male role models in their lives. I feel that I need to live the Gospel message every day and try to walk in the footsteps of giants. I want every one of my students to be successful in world history this year. I want every student to see how history influences their lives every day, that they matter in this world.Image courtesy of http://teachersreflect.wordpress.com/2012/06/17/transformers/

Just showing up with a positive attitude each day and a fully realized plan is half the battle. I mean, anyone can do those two things on a daily basis, right? It sounds easier than it actually is, but the commitment should be there. Leading by example should be a positive, easily achievable goal also, yet it is taxing when there are so many unmotivated people. It feels like the energy is literally being drained from the body because of the reactions and actions of a few. As a teacher I need to fight this unmotivated drain by getting all my students as excited about learning as I am. I need to be the model.

Goal #2: I want to gamify my classroom and course.

CivIVI never thought that I would even be thinking in gaming terms to try and motivate my students. I have just begun researching gamification and I find that through others successes I can model their success and help bring new life to my students and their work in my classroom. I am hoping that student achievement, motivation, and self-directed learning will increase as I develop the gaming aspects into my class.

I definitely need to be on the lookout for fresh resources and collaborate with people like @MrDPasion, @avantgame, Dr. Kurt Squire, and @constances. If you think of any others, please let me know via twitter (@scholzet) or in the comments section. I definitely am going to begin doing this with my current students, but I need to work out how to make it work with an antiquated grading and reporting system.

Goal #3: I aspire to become a sought after keynote speaker on topics like Social Studies and S.T.E.M.x, Massive Multiplayer Classrooms, the #flatclass project, and Educational Technology in the Middle.

I know that with this particular goal I might have to start small. I mean, I don’t see ISTE knocking on my door any time soon, but that is what I aspire to be. Not only do I want to be an awesome teacher, but I want to share my joys and sorrows, my passion for teaching with teachers who might be doubting their own abilities. Teachers who don’t believe that they have a creative bone in their body. Teachers who want to make their classrooms and students ROCK! Can I really be that guy? Someone once said that nothing is impossible, so I figure that if I surround my self with the right people, that they just might help me make this happen, I mean stranger things have happened, right?

Goal #4: I want to reach the pinnacle of education by receiving a doctorate degree in educational technology.

There is a professor at NC State (her name escapes me) who is working on developing lessons on the Grand Challenges of Engineering. Not only would I like to be helping her develop and try those lessons with my S.T.E.M. Design students, but I would like to become a teaching professor of educational technology for pre-service teachers. I know this one is down the road somewhat, but I believe in long range planning and I need to walk the walk with my students. I’m not the most brilliant mathematician in the world (statistics aren’t me according to my most recent GRE scores), but I have skills in research and I believe that my research should be action research in my classroom any way. If it happens, I will have achieved my ultimate educational dream. Will the learning end? Nope, it will always be pushing me forward because I will never know enough.

Goal #5: I want to be the best S.T.E.M.x Social Studies Teacher in North America! It could happen.

I figure that I should set the target out there, for it is better to aim and miss than to have never tried. Someone said that once. Also, in reading Dave Burgess’s (@burgessdave) book Teach Like a Pirate, I found that as a teacher I should not be afraid to want to be the best. Parents, students, and school districts would rather have someone who is constantly seeking to improve and to be the best than to have a group of mediocre teachers who are just there for the vacations and a pay check.


In order to achieve this goal I will need to observe Awesome social studies teachers at work. I need to see how they interact with their students, how they present their students with learning opportunities, and I need to see how they find the energy and stamina needed for greatness.

I’m just a middle aged man who grew up in the Midwest and moved to North Carolina to live out my passion for teaching. I have a great wife and four awesome kids. Why would I set such “lofty” goals? I want to model for my own family that they can achieve anything they set their minds to.

This post is dedicated to my oldest daughter, Anastasia, who as a freshman in high school is dreaming and achieving and living life to its fullest. She is the inspiration in my life and continually pushes me to be a better father, husband and teacher. Thanks, Stickers 😎