Chatty Kids

Kids learn when they talk to one another.

Kids learn when they talk to one another.

Teachers often complain that children in their classroom talk too much.

We have lots of research that indicates that when kids talk, they learn.  When the teacher talks, the kids often don’t listen, and disengage.

So, how do we get kids to talk about the stuff they need to learn?  We construct learning activities that require them to talk to make decisions, researching for accurate information along the way.  One way to do this is to jigsaw information so each student only gets a piece of the puzzle, and they need the whole puzzle to get the reward.

Think about it.  What do you tell your students that they could discover for themselves?  Can you create the process for your students to talk and learn, instead of doing the work for them?  Sure you can!

Total Learning Summer Camp – It Makes a Difference!

TL Summer Camp Overview and Research Findings

It was always a plan for Bridgeport’s Total Learning Initiative to have an extended year – an additional month of school.  Research told us that if the children were behind their more advantaged peers, they would need time to catch up!  ABCD received funding for a pilot this year.

It was only 18 days in July for 22 rising 3rd graders.  The air conditioning was broken, and it was summer!  And . . . it was Total Learning  Summer Camp from 12 noon to 3:30.

Why rising 3rd graders?  To reduce the dreaded summer slump – the loss of reading skill over the summer break.  With mastery tests in 3rd grade, this was the obvious choice for a pilot program.

Did it make a difference?  The report is attached so you can read for yourself!  It’s pretty exciting what can happen in 18 days!  And if you think about your school year in 18-or-so day chunks, how much could get done?

Most exciting for me was the attitude changes of almost every child.  By the end of July, they were asking if they could come for another month!  Kudos to Allison Logan for creating an exceptional plan, and Rosmarie Marquez and Diane Bolarinho for their support.

Unanswered questions:  Will the gains remain through August?  Will they make a difference in Grade 3?  Will the district notice the findings and plan a larger sample for next summer?  Let’s hope the answers are yes, yes and yes!  Stay tuned to find out!

Awesome videos!

I just finished writing and recording the narrations for the Grade 4 videos.  This process allowed me to review the body of work for just one grade, and remember how very rich our Total Learning experiences are for students, teachers and classrooms.  The blend of arts-based strategies, active learning, and social-emotional goals weaves a tapestry of learning that provides a support net and builds skills sequentially, inviting creativity and independent expression throughout.  I’m so proud of this work, and know these videos, across all grade levels, will help teachers bring this program to life!

Videos help you imagine how the lesson goes.

Videos help you imagine how the lesson goes.

It Takes a Village


"Village Leaders" at Jim Himes press conference, ABCD Bridgeport, August 13, 2014

“Village Leaders” at Jim Himes press conference, ABCD Bridgeport, August 13, 2014

Fran Rabinowitz, Superintendent of Bridgeport, CT Public Schools acknowledged the cliché, but was unforgiving about the sentiment.  The educational crisis for young, underserved children is huge.  At ABCD in Bridgeport today, Jim Himes, D-CT, held a press conference to announce increased Head Start funding, and his support for Total Learning.  After a demonstration lesson with ‘village leaders’ participating, all adjourned to the conference room to discuss the serious business of joyful early learning.  ABCD’s Total Learning Initiative started in 2007 with a roadmap created with the help of the Harvard Business Consulting Group.  Bob Neiman, who has followed the program development closely, reported that the 2014 Michael Cohen Group report showed that we had done exactly what we set out to do, and had been successful in reducing the achievement gap.  Ex-Superintendent Jim Connelly challenged the district and state to now embrace Total Learning throughout, as an effective way to deliver instruction and address the ravages of poverty that were initially identified by Ed Zigler, Father of Head Start.  The resources, he said, are there if there is Board of Education support. Also speaking at today’s event was Monette Ferguson, a Head Start kid who is now the Director of Early Learning at ABCD, running the exemplary Head Start program.  All speakers noted that Bridgeport is a place where early learning is exemplary, and that Total Learning is at the cutting edge of making a difference. What a cast of characters – politicians, educators, researchers, agency execs – our village.  Fran put on her knowledgeable educator hat to point out the developmentally appropriate experiences she had seen, and then said something that was music to my ears:  “You know, education has to be fun for children.  Of course we care about test scores, and our children succeeding in that way.  But there are ways to deliver that instruction that are fun.  Total Learning does that.” It does take a village, and today it felt like the village held a meeting and everyone was on the same page.  Jim Himes’ Total Learning Act, H.R. 3983 (, would bring Total Learning to 5 large initiatives across the United States.  Bridgeport’s Total Learning Initiative has a village of support for that legislation! Total Learning is a collaborative systems effort.  As you plan your Total Learning year, include your village leaders, press, movers, and shakers to create a support system for your Total Learning initiative.


Getting Ready for 2014-15

Total Learning 2-14-15 Generic Calendar

Hi to all, and welcome to our new colleagues!

It’s hard to believe we’re getting ready for the 2014-15 school year!  There are many changes I’ll be writing about in my next blog entries.

For now, it’s important to establish a plan for the year, so everyone keeps moving forward – growing, learning, and sharing.  We all have the same end goal of making education meaningful and powerful for our students.

Attached is a draft calendar for the year.  It is in Word so you can modify and adapt it to your school calendar’s unique features such as starting date, holidays and vacations, and conference weeks.  Each time you introduce a strategy, you and the children have it available for the rest of the year.  So there is a reason to frontload if you can!  But you also need to give everyone time to assimilate one strategy before introducing the next.  They are all engaging, so expect students to be motivated by lessons that use them as your delivery system for your curriculum.  If you send back your revised calendar, I’ll post it on the website, in Additional Resources.  The draft calendar can be found there too.

Notice that there is a tentative meeting time on Wednesdays at 5PM EST.  This is not a required meeting, but rather an option for those who want to visit with others using Total Learning Digital across the country, or those who forget to schedule a different meeting time ;-).  I’ve put the August 13 chat in the videochat room, so you can sign up for it and let me know you’re going to be there!  You will need a Skype name to do that, which is free.  So if you don’t have a Skype account, get yourself a Skype name.

This is going to be a great year!  Let’s enjoy it together!