A Taste of Auditory 2 Lesson Prep

Here is a bit of the Auditory 2 Lesson Prep.  We’re populating the site as quickly as possible, and welcome any suggestions you may have for how to be the most efficient and productive with your time!  Click to enjoy this little clip!  Then go to the licensed site to see the entire Auditory 2 Lesson Prep.

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images from the Auditory 2 Lesson Prep

images from the Auditory 2 Lesson Prep


Buzz about Portraits

Portraits tell us about the child's developmental level, self concept, and imagination

Portraits tell us about the child’s developmental level, self concept, and imagination

Last week, there was a lot of buzz about a bulletin board way down at the end of the hall. Ms. Coyne and her class had made collage self portraits to focus on the concept of details. You learn a lot about students by doing self portraits, including their developmental level, their self-concept, their capacity to imagine.

You also learn a lot about a teacher by looking at self portraits of her students. What language and modeling did she use to get 2nd graders to be this detailed and clever in their work? And what will we expect from these students during the rest of this year, and then into 3rd and 4th grade?

Nice work down there at the end of the hall!!!

Self portraits tell about a student's developmental level, self-concept, and imagination - and also about a teacher's effectiveness!

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More pantomime pictures for Kindergarten

Ms. Wasik with fabulous intern, Quinn

Ms. Wasik with fabulous intern, Quinn

Last week, Kindergarten teacher Mary Wasik asked for more pantomime pictures for the Messenger Bag. What does this tell us? First, Mary is using the Total Learning lessons, and her students are enjoying them. Second, Mary is imagining more activities to do with the basic lesson activities. Third, Mary knows how to ask for resources when she needs them.

The new pictures are in Kindergarten Linguistic Lesson 1 Additional Resources, if anyone else needs them.  They’re also attached at the bottom of this blog entry.  Teachers are busy, and finding the right pictures takes time. We’re here to help.  Please ask when you need something and we’ll do our best to find it for you!

additional pantomime pictures

TLD Around the Country – Update

Every day, teachers around the US teach model Total Learning lessons to build student multimodal skills, and then introduce studios where students use their new skills to focus on literacy, math, and other curriculum content. At the same time, classroom management is positively accomplished through motivating activity and engagement – and social-emotional skills are built through guided, small group learning.

Every week I speak to teachers across the country. Here are some snapshots of how it’s going.

Bridgeport, CT: 5 teachers, one at each grade level from K-4, are actively implementing Total Learning Digital. The Bridgeport program is a full model, so these teachers have a Total Learning paraprofessional, a family worker, a mental health worker, and materials provided.

Mary Wasik, Kindergarten teacher, reported: “We played the Messenger Game for name recognition. I put the student’s names in the bag, and when they picked their name out, they were the mailman. It’s a great way to learn name recognition, and if a child doesn’t recognize his or her name, a classmate will recognize it. Their faces just light up. And now, on indoor recess, I took it one step further and put in our sight words.”

Candice King-Sadler, Grade 1 teacher, reported that the children coming up from the Total Learning Kindergarten are much more independent and have more self control – they’re ready to learn. Candice is a pro at helping students learn how to work together independently in studios.

Jill Coyne, Grade 2, is new to Total Learning, and just getting used to the lesson content and flow. She mentioned how much she enjoys a program that helps her figure out HOW to teach, injecting creativity into content delivery. She was adamant about not doing things “the same old way”, and that Total Learning allows her to use her creativity to engage her students.

Marilyn Council, Grade 3, adapts each lesson to tailor it to her curriculum. If the Total Learning concept is a visual lesson on line, students create lines on pumpkins, and measure and analyze the lines they have drawn. She’s helping children learn how to memorize poems, and they say the poems as they walk down the hall – softly.

Andrea Woodman, Grade 4, just started using line to explore birds eye view, beginning exploration of space and point of view. She said the kids are challenged by looking at their space in a new way.


In Stockton, CA, Stacy Sims is a seasoned teacher who has degrees in both art education and elementary education. When arts positions are funded, Stacy teaches the arts. This year they are not funded, and Stacy (whose is a single mom with a talented special needs son) went into the pool to choose a classroom from available positions in the district. She chose a first grade, got started, and then was redistricted out. She now starting again in a kindergarten classroom in a different school, with a supportive principal and colleagues.

Stacy started the Classroom Management Module with her Kindergarten students. “They love the messenger bag,” she reports. “They ask for it every day.” She’s started using sight words in the bag, and I suggested putting the text of a poem or song – one word on each card – in the bag, then after playing the game, putting the song text together like a puzzle, and then singing it! She’s going to introduce the kinesthetic lesson so the children begin using self control. A week ago she stopped because of testing, and now is excited to get back to Total Learning because she says the children are out of control without it.


Maritsa Madias-Kalasz is a music teacher in a school where 3 years ago students were highly successful, with about 75% of children at or above benchmark in reading. Last year, 3 years later, 21% of children were at or above. The reason? “Doing things the same old way!” In a transient population with lots of foreclosures and renters in the neighborhood, there is a lack of trust. There are lots of new children, new teachers, and their heads are spinning with all the things they have do. Maritsa and her art teacher are bringing Total Learning strategies to their 5th grade teachers and classrooms, where there are lots of boys! Their first unit is on details and figurative language. They’re enjoying it, and Maritsa reports that the teachers are also learning by observing, participating, and writing reflective pieces about the process.

“It’s the process that is so powerful in Total Learning,” says Maritsa. “It’s a way of thinking about things, and connect to the classroom curriculum.”


In Kenai, Alaska, all staff at the Kaleidoscope School for Arts and Science are early adopters of Total Learning, and just like all teachers above, are advisors in shaping the product and process. We met by Skype last week. Because many of these teachers were trained in Total Learning several years ago, they are moving ahead quickly. In Kindergarten, the teacher realized that kids who have good phonological awareness are still having trouble with tracking skills when using the Tommy and dog cards in Auditory Lesson 2. Symbol-sound match and tracking across the page are two different skills!

First grade teacher, Nancy Lafferty, asked for all the lessons to be unlocked, so she can read all the lessons. So now all lessons are unlocked, and will remain that way until all Lesson Preps are posted. I can’t wait to see what Nancy does with the Total learning materials, and know she will share with us on the Discussion Board, or maybe write a guest blog!


Now for the challenges. Total Learning lessons are designed to continue pushing students to do well and then do better. Life skills are built, but they don’t just happen. One question that arose was, “What do you do with the kids who aren’t participating?” My answer: There’s always a reason for a specific behavior, and pushing students into something is risky. I’m inclined to have reluctant children sit out as long as they don’t disrupt the class. As they see that they will be safe and supported, and are going to enjoy the learning activities, most children come around on their own.


In general, the teachers are feeling stressed because there is so much paperwork being asked of them. Testing seems to be overemphasized everywhere, and even when testing isn’t occurring, data collection and analysis is required. Our teachers are tired, and working long, long hours. But they know what’s right for kids, and are managing to give Total Learning the time it needs.


Well, that’s a little of what has been shared from around the country.

You can share more in Sharing What Works! Thanks to Candice King Sadler and Andrea Woodman for getting the teacher sharing going!

You can upload word or pdf documents, photos, videos, or audio recordings. If you need a file format changed, just e-mail it to Sue@aeideas.com and I’ll convert it.

I’ll share what I can, and you share too!

Stacy Sims from Stockton, CA at the Summer Camp in Bridgeport, learning how to do studios.

Stacy Sims from Stockton, CA at the Summer Camp in Bridgeport, learning how to do studios from Allison Logan.


The Teacher Brain: An Invaluable Asset

Total Learning Teachers are Exceptional

Total Learning Teachers are Exceptional

I’ve been writing lessons for a big project. At the same time, Total Learning teachers in several sites are using already-written TL lessons. The way these lessons are written honors teacher decision-making, and that no written plan can substitute for the excellence of a great teacher. The amazing teachers I know and see possess a very unique skill set.

Part and Whole

When an exceptional teacher plans to teach a concept or skills, she operates from two points of view, exploring the content for the main idea, as well as its detailed parts. This teacher does not teach isolated facts, but delivers those facts as examples of a larger category. Categories later lead to generalizations that inform new learning.


An exceptional teacher has a metaphorical mind, and is able to imagine across modalities to find explanatory examples. No matter what the subject area, there are auditory, kinesthetic, visual and linguistic examples of a concept or skill. For example: if the teacher is teaching about erosion in science, there are environmental examples like a rock face being buffeted into sand by wind and rain. Rather than singing a song about erosion, the exceptional teacher asks, “What erodes in sound? What effect does it have?” Now she can construct an activity where students read a poem, then read it leaving out every 4th word, then every 3rd and 4th word, then every 2nd, 3rd and 4th word, then all the words. Then the teacher conducts the same inquiry for movement, visual image, and language. She now has four metaphors at her disposal to build an understanding of erosion.

A Sequence for Learning

This exceptional teacher also knows intuitively that learning occurs in a sequence from experience and exploration to labeling, then practicing until the concept is assimilated, then to imaginatively applying the new understanding to a new situation. She uses her examples as resources to build this sequence for understanding over time, engaging students in hands experiences for deep learning. She knows that this takes more time than superficial learning, and therefore avoids wasting time on unnecessary distractions in the classroom or curriculum. There’s not time for management without learning, nor for learning without classroom management – the learning environment must engender engagement and self control.

An Appetite for Complexity

Finally, this exceptional teacher knows that you can’t teach one thing at a time – you need to layer instruction so one concept is introduced as another is practiced and a third is being applied to a creative project. By weaving several threads, students are functioning at multiple levels, and each concept informs the other, leading to unexpected discoveries and connections. In this way, there is sufficient time for the curriculum to be delivered.

A Smile and Encouragement

One more thing! This teacher is usually smiling and encourages students to take risks by providing a safe environment in which to fail, and try again. Sure there are tests and ways to demonstrate mastery, but not every minute!

Sound daunting? It’s hard work! An exceptional teacher doesn’t shut this brain off – it keeps on inventing and working, solving the puzzle of how to teach children who grow into imaginative, independent, responsible and smart adults! This is a Total Learning Teacher Brain!

Bulletin Board Describes Total Learning

Bulletin Board Describes Total Learning

Bulletin Board Describes Total Learning

Bulletin boards are a great way to share information, especially if they provide information in easily digestible chunks. The attached file was used in a well-traveled hallway, arranged over a beautiful background. You’re welcome to adapt it, or use it as needed, to begin a conversation about kids and effective learning strategies!

What else can you share on a bulletin board?  What print information will draw in someone walking down the hall?  What text will provide easy-to-digest and helpful information?


About bullying . . .


This video is about high school students, but addresses a problem that starts early and destroys lives – bullying.

Total Learning intentionally addresses the social-emotional aspects of interactions, classroom environments and school climate. We create daily situations where children learn to work together and value one another’s strengths. We construct purposeful learning experiences that structure time so students are motivated and engaged. We value student voice. And we are friends who model working together, celebrating common ground, acknowledging when we have differences of opinion, and working through them through problem solving and compromise.

From Susan Weikel Morrison:

This is mostly a K-6 solution:

“A powerful tool teachers can use with bullies is to take the bully and victim away from other students and encourage the victim to say to the bully, “I feel _______ when you ______, and I would like you to _________.” The bully is not allowed to interrupt, and when they respond they are not allowed to question the victim’s feelings. The teacher explains to the bully that they can control their own actions, but they have no control over how others feel. The conversation can continue from there. Since it often takes place during the students’ free time, they are both motivated to come to a resolution quickly.

I believe the most effort should be put into teaching kids how to effectively respond to bullies because they will encounter bullies throughout their lives. Good strategies include ignoring mild bullying, deliberately freezing the bully out of your sphere, enrolling the support of friends and authorities, having some fun with humor at the bully’s expense, calmly standing your ground, etc. If enough kids are inoculated against bullies, there will be fewer bullies.”

This strategy would fit well into linguistic Total Learning lessons, where students build relationships and learn how to dialogue effectively.  They can role play hypothetical situations, providing skills they will need in the heat of the moment.

Do you have ways that you address bullying in your classroom? What are the words you use? The actions you take? The model you provide? Please share!