Speak and Let Speak

Total Learning provides learning strategies that foster positive verbal interaction.

Total Learning provides learning strategies that foster positive verbal interaction.

Young children and classrooms are often judged by how quiet they are. And yet, study after study shows that adult-child and child-child spoken interaction is a key ingredient for successful learners. Total Learning lessons and studios are designed to foster this verbal interaction through speaking, listening, reading, writing and thinking. Whether in whole group of small group experiences, Total Learning classrooms are places where all voices are welcome and respected.
This topic is part of a larger conversation on literacy and linguistic development that will be explored in upcoming blog entries. To get started, read the information in the attached article, and then send your thoughts! Are you comfortable with this idea, in general? What do you do in your classroom to foster dialogue (speaking and careful listening)?
Language-Gap Study

The Visual Modality – Natural and Necessary for Learning


Visual learning is powerful and engaging.  Plan to use it to its full advantage.

Visual learning is powerful and engaging. Plan to use it to its full advantage.

Children are natural artists, and their visual products are used as benchmarks for early development. They begin representing their world as soon as they can hold a drawing tool, and continue to consider themselves artists as long as they are encouraged, and have models of image-makers in their environment.
Children draw to process their experiences and tell their stories, developing personally meaningful and descriptive language. Letters and numbers are abstract symbols made up of lines and shapes. Likewise, numbers and other mathematical symbols are comprised of lines and shapes. Geometry is the study of 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional space. Illustrations using a range of media bring stories to life and increase comprehension. And visual representation of complex thoughts and ideas is foundational to science learning.
However, as with sound and movement, the ability to use images and symbols for communication and learning depend on opportunities to learn, good models, and time for exploration and practice.
In Kindergarten, if you ask, “Who is an artist?” every hand is raised. By 2nd grade about half the hands go up, and by 5th grade most children do not consider themselves artists, nor do they understand how to use visual imagery for learning.
And yet, visual learning is crucial. The majority of today’s information is delivered through mixed media that integrates images into the message. Visual artists help to document, process and interpret our world. Whether our purpose in including visual literacy is to provide a route to learning or a path to careers in design and media, or to provide every learner with the opportunity to learn in and through the visual modality, visual learning is essential learning.

The Everyday Work of Art

Art and Physics, by Schlain

The Best Beginning EVER!

Jim is a Beta tester for Total Learning Digital - thanks, Jim!

Jim is a Beta tester for Total Learning Digital – thanks, Jim!

Jim Walters, one of the most creative, thoughtful and fun teachers I’ve ever met, has been teaching in Dearborn, MI for 28 years. He says this has been the best beginning of the year ever, and that he feels like he did when he first started out! Excited! Energized! Curious! Thrilled!

It’s the studios. Jim says that it’s not the content of the studios so much as the concept of them. “It’s the mindset of studios that has made me rethink my role in the classroom. The mindset shift in my teaching is freeing. I’ve been the leader of the show. Now, I’m the guiding hand of students creating their own show. I always wanted to do that, but never had the path and time to think it through. The kids take more charge of their learning, and I have so much evidence that they are learning.”
Jim is starting to write his own studios now. First he explored a speech piece from Spotlight on Music: Way Down South Where Bananas Grow, and his latest e-mail had a set of FOUR studios to accompany Grade 2, Auditory Lesson 1!!! It’s the best beginning ever!
Jim, be proud. You are the second recipient of a discretionary medal for imaginative application of the Total Learning model – thinking outside the box!

By the way, Jim has an amazing CD and book, Science Through Song, that can be ordered at www.aeideas.com. Mention Total Learning Digital and receive free shipping.


Questions, Questions

What are our best words and actions to help students become independent learners and thinkers?

What are our best words and actions to help students become independent learners and thinkers?

When our students work in groups, one goal is to have them become independent learners with collaborative skills. As we monitor their work, our role becomes a facilitator. That sounds fine, until we get there, and wonder “What do I say, then?” “How do I fit in here?” “Do they need me at all?”

Of course you are needed, but your role is different. As an observer, you watch to see what skills the students need, so you can lay them into your next direct instruction. As a director, you ask questions that help students organize themselves and continue moving forward. As a learning coach, you ask questions that help students think more deeply or differently about their work. As a manager, you make certain that the learning environment does not have distractions from learning.
Our spectacular paraprofessionals in Bridgeport asked for a starter list of questions they could use as they guided studios. The list is attached below, and also in the Start Here Additional Resources. Please help us add more good questions, by entering them on the Discussion Board!


Multi-Modal Community Building

Multi-Modal Community Building Activities


dancers on screenQuality learning requires a purposeful classroom environment where adults and children have a unified sense of community, and there is a genuine respect for one another’s talents as well as understanding of limitations. In Total Learning, for most classrooms, the Classroom Management Module activities build this community cohesion, as well as introduce the four modalities: auditory, kinesthetic, visual and linguistic.
For some classrooms, however, the interactions and relationships are difficult, and require on-going attention. Or you may want to extend the community-building across multiple classrooms or grade levels. If so, you can download a 20-page document: Multi-Modal Community Building Activities from the Principal/Administrator’s Start Here Additional Resources. These tried-and-true activities can be used throughout the year to build positive relationships in your classroom and school. They are engaging, many require higher order thinking, and they’re all ready for you to get started. If you need help or advice, go to the Video Chat room and Book a Chat!

Diversity: An Essential Consideration


At the Diversity Forum at Long Ridge School in Stamford, CT - from the left, William Bevacqua (ABCD), Kris Bria (head of Long Ridge School), Charles Tisdale (ABCD), Susan Snyder (Total Learning Institute).

At the Diversity Forum at Long Ridge School in Stamford, CT – from the left, William Bevacqua (ABCD), Kris Bria (head of Long Ridge School), Charles Tisdale (ABCD), Susan Snyder (Total Learning Institute).


I was part of an extraordinary panel on Diversity and Responsibility at Long Ridge School in Stamford, CT last evening. The following are my prepared comments. Also attached are links to the websites of other panelists.  The topic is huge, so I hope you will contribute your perspective to the discussion.

Thanks so much to everyone for arranging this important panel, and for your welcoming invitiation.

My particular task is to identify the impact of diversity education on early childhood development. And perhaps we could look at this the other way around – how does early childhood development demand diversity education?
I work with educators, crafting curricula that are not the literacy, math, science, music, visual art and other content per se, but rather the delivery systems themselves. HOW we deliver the content is equally critical to the content itself, and it is here that education shapes children’s attitudes around diversity.
Let’s consider 3 points:
• Development: Getting ready to learn
• Learning environments that celebrate cultures of one
• Adult influence on children’s learning communities
Common thought at one time was that children were little adults. They are not. The brain is not fully developed at birth, and grows more over the first 3-5 years than the rest of our lives. What is learned first is learned best – whether right, wrong or different.
A healthy, learning brain develops when a child feels safe and valued – challenged and loved. Ed Zigler, the father of Head Start, identified the systems that impact a child’s learning – the child her or himself, the family or living group, the school and the community. When all of these surround a child, that child is ready to learn. Without them, the child cannot focus on learning.
The Learning Environment:
This child comes to school, not with a blank slate, but a as a culture of one – with all the experiences to date, as the child has processed them.
If a safe environment, with absence of threat, is a prerequisite of learning, it is HOW content is delivered as well as WHAT is delivered, that will result in learning. Diversity education is not separate from the curriculum, it is how the curriculum is delivered. How are the adults speaking to the children? Is there accommodation for differences? What is done when there is conflict, unkindness, judging, or cliques? How are groups guided to work with one another and value the contributions of each child? How are children guided to do what they know is right, and not follow the crowd? To be independent learners as well as collaborators? Do they spend enough time together in conversation to know one another?
Adult Influences:
Kids are kids, but they have many differences. Socioeconomic status, gender, culture, learning styles, aptitude, interests. Adults influence children by what they do and don’t do. Children learn to judge others sometime between 2 and 3 years old – on the playground or in the sandbox. They watch adults for cues – every gesture, expression – those things we are unaware of. A small kindness can mean the world, the smallest mean gesture can cut like a knife. In Total Learning, our professional development and parent work teaches not content, but at first how to be nice. Our culture is so uncivil, so harsh –
So we start with ‘be nice.’ That seems like the right place to start – and do it from the very start. But being nice is not sufficient – we next set the standard for how we do things in OUR community of learners. It’s not complicated – respect, kindness, engagement, responsibility –
But it does require work. And not a drive by shooting in diversity – a long-term commitment to developing relationships and maintaining dialogue around the hard, uncomfortable topics.
If it’s not done early, the damage is lasting, and today’s nasty culture is the result. This issue is not a choice; it is essential.

Related links:


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/21/nyregion/for-minority-students-at-elite-new-york-private-schools-admittance-doesnt-bring acceptance.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0




Studio Adaptation for ELL Students


What if the children can’t read the cards in the messenger bag? Adapt the materials to a level where the children will have success, then bring them along step by step.

Jessica from Dearborn, Michigan is an enthusiastic and smart young music teacher. She started introducing the studio with the Messenger Game, only to realize that the children didn’t know what their own names looked like in print, or how to read the names of their classmates. Many came to school speaking only Arabic, with no Pre-K to jumpstart learning the basics.

She is going to replace the name cards with photos of the children, and a space below those pictures, so that each week she can add something new. In sequence, she’ll add (1) the first letter of the child’s name, (2) the child’s complete name, and then create new cards without the pictures – just the text.
What a huge help this will be to the children and classroom teachers. And how clever of Jessica to develop and adaptation of the studio to meet the children at their skill level!
Have you made adaptations to studios? Tell us about them by replying to this blog, or starting a new topic in “Join the Discussion.”

Photo above:  Jessica and Cathy Prowse are pictured during a videochat on Late Start Wednesday.  Look at how many teachers are on the chat from their classrooms!  More from this conversation to come.


Found on the Web

NCTM SmartBrief articles echo Total Learning strategies as they identify paths to successful teaching.

In the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) SmartBrief today (http://www2.smartbrief.com/servlet/encodeServlet?issueid=B9A8F0F7-F1DD-
4EDF-9C13-2F74CD21FDFF&sid=6b062cca-2789-4f0a-b0c2-6a97dc94e21a) , the articles include the following titles: How a Wisconsin school uses songwriting to enhance learning; Canadian students combine fitness with academics; Beyond Twitter: How students are using technology; Study: Strong reading skills are linked to higher math, science performance; How a Florida school uses project-based learning in STEM; and What can be done to crack down on student truancy?
The mathematics curriculum contains math concepts, skills and dispositions. The Total Learning ‘curriculum’ contains the strategies for delivering the mathematics, science, social studies and language arts curriculum content.
When we use music (auditory), art (visual), movement (kinesthetic), drama (linguistic), technology (digital), and project-based learning (studios) strategies to deliver other curriculum goals, students are engaged in hands-on experiences that encourage them to come to and stay in school.
However, students (and teachers) need to understand the Total Learning strategy and skills before they can apply it to learn other things. Our PD and Lesson Prep prepare the teacher, and the model lesson prepares the students. Your music, art, PE/movement and drama/literacy teachers provide on-going support as well.

If you find articles that relate to Total Learning strategies, find the relevant module and enter your link in Found on the Web so we all can read it.

Making Change: Betting on Slow, Steady Success over Time

Total Learning teachers apply hands-on strategies to the curriculum to make every minute count.

Educational change does not happen in an instant.  The Hawthorne effect is well documented, and yet many make millions of dollars selling quick fixes that have a bump the first year, fall flat or fail the next year, and yet are institutionalized for a decade.  These programs are often not child-centered, and lead to elimination of important developmental curriculum, leaving only what doesn’t work.

At Total Learning, we have made slow and continuous growth, and the 2013 CMT scores begin to tell the story of persistent and resilient change-making in the real world.  CMT scores for 3rd and 4th graders at Cesar Batalla reduced the achievement gap more than the control school, the district or the state!  If you had to bet your money on a winning program, Total Learning would be a reasoned bet on a slow but steady winner that delivers what’s right for the child.