A social media agenda


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Teachers Video Chat to plan use of Total Learning Digital social media.

Teachers Video Chat to plan use of Total Learning Digital social media.

With the content side of Total Learning Digital falling into place, the A-Team at Cesar Batalla School is venturing into the social media side of the site. We’ve been discussing how teachers will use digital and social media to share and communicate with one another.

The blog is the most passive social component for teachers – a way to get information and insight. You can read the Blog, and respond, and there is information on what’s going on. We’re preparing a blog that includes a Prezi presentation about the Classroom Management Module (CMM) with information, photos and video. The teachers have just completed this beginning set of modules, and they voice strong support for the CMM! We’re learning a lot about Prezi and hope to continue using it to share ideas.

Next is the Discussion Board, where users can write down questions or comments about a specific lesson at your grade level. When there are lots of teachers using the site, these discussion boards will be an opportunity to form a powerful teacher network that reaches beyond the schoolhouse walls!

Third is Sharing What Works, where users share images, videos, and innovations they have made to the existing set of model materials. This is one place where Total Learning is a living, growing initative. We can provide the models, but without constant innovation, it’s just another piece of stuff!

The most alive place is the Video Chat Room. Up to 10 teachers or sites can meet together to learn about or discuss any chosen topic. They set the agenda, and visit at a predetermined time.

When all these social media components of the platform are being used, Total Learning Digital will have the ability to continue growing through teacher power and imagination!

Teachers as Leaders

Jill Coyne and Sue Snyder at Connecticut AEYC Conference

Jill Coyne and Sue Snyder at Connecticut AEYC Conference

We have a cadre of exceptional teachers who have been delivering the Total Learning lessons for years, and are quite expert at delivering and adapting the lessons and studios. As we refined the content, this arrangement was necessary. The change in students, and the creative nature of the lessons kept teaching fresh. However, in an ideal situation, these teachers would become leaders by guiding the professional development of others – sharing their expertise as they grow.

This year, we are inviting this leadership in several ways. K-4 teachers are our advisory team, meeting every two weeks and giving feedback on a range of issues. These teachers are also creating presentations about the parts of Total Learning they feel most strongly about. The first one on Classroom Management Module should be done soon! Finally, teachers are invited to join trainers in creating, proposing, and conducting workshops at local conferences. Jill Coyne joined Sue Snyder recently for a successful workshop on Studios at the CAEYC conference. We hope it’s the first of many similar collaborations that help teachers become confident presenters within the school, district, state and across the United States! If you see a RFP (request for proposals) and want to write one with Sue or Allison, please let us know!

A short ABA demonstrates a great learning process!


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Students create rhythms from their names

Maritsa Madias-Kalasz sent along this short movie of 4th graders performing their ABA form of rhythms they created using their names.  This process can be used repeatedly – it’s the way letters combine to form words, words then form phrases and sentences, and sentences form paragraphs, which combine to create stories, narratives, reports, etc.  It also is a great and simple example of same and different.

Here’s the way this process works:  When you want kids to remember a series of facts, create a short rhythmic phrase for each small fact.  Add a body percussion or movement pattern to engage the psychomotor memory system.  Now have students combine and recombine these short bits into longer patterns.  Repetition makes memory last longer.  Recombining builds flexible thinking, by keeping each element separate as it is combined. Choice keeps students engaged and challenged at their own ability level.   If students do this in small groups, they build friendships, too!

You can send along your photos and short videos, or upload them to Sharing What Works!

Thanks to Maritsa and her 4th graders!

The Pantomiming Classroom – shhhh

Andrea Woodman has posted a most interesting video in the 4th grade CMM Linguistic lesson, under Sharing What Works. Andrea has a chatty class, so after she introduced pantomime, she had her class pantomime working in groups. They are engaged in the usual classroom activities, but communicating through movement only. What a great way to have them experience what a quieter classroom sounds like! So clever!

Video posted in Sharing What Works

Video posted in Sharing What Works

Inspired by Studio groups

Celeste Reed, music teacher in Dearborn, MI, shared:

Take a minute please to see what we are doing in fourth grade.  I am sharing a video link of two boys with a completed composition (performance), one of their worksheets and an image of them with their manipulative blocks.  Inspired by studio groups – we used math manipulatives to create simple melodies to play on recorder.

Thanks for sharing, Celeste!

video:  proud composers and performers

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Show Us What You’ve Got!

My colleague, John Jacobson, (http://johnjacobson.com/) is really well known in music and dance circles, where he is a frequent consultant and workshop presenter, and teachers love his practical and very polished presentations. A few weeks ago I asked John what ideas he’d like me to share at an upcoming presentation, since we are co-authors of a book series I’m presenting. Here’s what he wrote:

“As I write to you I am preparing for my third trip in a year to China to teach our 1.4 billion friends in the far East a song or too. Did you know that there are more honor students in China than there are students in the USA? Think about that. How can we compete in the long run?  Yet, when I was in Shanghai a few months ago I had the opportunity to do a presentation for a group of Chinese parents of some of these high-achieving students. Afterwards, one of the parents came up to me and asked with true admiration,  “How is it that American children are so able and confident to get up in from of people and present themselves?” After thinking about it, I suggested that perhaps it is because, from a very early age, American children are encouraged to “show us what you’ve got.” Be it Show and Tell in Kindergarten, piano recitals in second grade, on the soccer field, on debate teams, in the school musical and many other places, this is a very American phenomenon and one that, in many instances, makes us the envy of the world.

So, I’ve some to the conclusion that as long as we embrace what it is that has gotten us this far; an emphasis on the arts, blended with good science and technology, we won’t have to worry about a billion of anybody outwitting our children. We have something very special; American ingenuity, creativity and the ability to “show ’em what we’ve got.” In other words, it is simply unpatriotic not to sing and dance!  God Bless You and God bless America :)”

Thanks, John.

Parent Engagement – Not one size fits all!


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parent self portrait

I recently visited an amazing United Way Model Pre-K in Miami. Their goals for parents are to develop advocacy skills, so parents become active in their child’s education. They told me of their frustration that the parents often hit a brick wall when the children go to Kindergarten.

The parent/family component of Total Learning is essential for student success. We are working hard to establish parent/family support in several ways:

  • We work with the school team to assure that the parent and family voice is heard in the school, and that parent engagement is a priority.
  • A family worker is assigned to every 2 or 3 Total Learning classrooms. This individual makes home visits to every family and conducts an intake survey, through which level of risk is determined. When an area of risk is identified, the family worker collaborates with community resources who provide specific support. Our family workers have arranged for everything from socks and adult companionship for a child walking to school, to heating, rent, jobs, and English Language Learning! They are also in the classroom, interfacing with teachers to identify any emerging problems and nip them in the bud.
  • We collaborate with the family resource centers to provide culturally responsive educational workshops and other support for families, including Music Together infant and toddler classes that bring families joyfully into the school, and family events that bring the whole family into the school to build community and trust. Workshops for K-4 parents are a favorite time for many parents, but other times and events accommodate working parents. Sometimes a meal is provided to take that pressure off working families.
  • We work with teachers to engage parents in pro-child behaviors at home, including reading to and with the child, making space for homework, using positive language to increase pro-social behaviors, and setting expectations for respect and self control.
  • We encourage formal and informal parent education throughout the community, with children (museums, concerts, community events) and alone (English Language learning, developmental needs of young children, etc.)

Ideally, the action we take in school lead to parents who learn to advocate for their child, and know what their child is entitled to. When they know what the expectations are, and how they can proactively impact their child’s chances for success, we take steps to creating a community of learners with common goals, and have help to be sure our work results in success.

Attached are a recent document: 2014-44BCultureCountsFullReport, from the Alliance for Early Success; and a Total Learning Parent Guidelines handout for use at a parent meeting.

Share your strategies for parent engagement in comments here, or in Sharing What Works!

An Opinion on the Gap

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When the Bridgeport Total Learning Initiative was created, the full model was designed based on a well-researched approach: children who succeed are surrounded with a constellation of supports from birth: health, family, school (quality teachers and an enriched curriculum, delivered in developmentally appropriate ways), time (extended day and extended year), adult attention, and social-emotional and mental health support. The Total Learning logo above shows the child surrounded by all the necessary supports to succeed.
While this approach costs more per student, our research has shown that we need the entire constellation to reduce the impact of poverty on our at-risk students.

Click here for an interesting perspective on the underlying cause of the achievement gap. What do you think?  http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/27/no-rich-child-left-behind/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0