Thursday, December 11, 2014

Five Key Ideas About Consequences

Five Key Ideas About Consequences

Article from School Improvement Network
There’s no magic wand for helping students maintain discipline in the classroom. And if you think about it, such a magic wand would probably do more harm than good. Effective classroom discipline is less about keeping students in line and more about helping students understand their behavior, their priorities, and the value of their relationship with you.
Consequences are one of the most powerful tools we can use to help students make good choices in the classroom. Rather than being methods of control or punishment, they should be seen as learning opportunities that help students understand the relationship of behavior and outcomes. Keeping these five simple ideas about consequences in mind will make them easier to use properly and with the most benefit. 
1. There are no punishments, just consequences
Punishments don’t teach the truly valuable lessons, especially when they demean, demoralize, or shame. On the other hand, if we keep in mind that we’re providing consequences, it’s easier to approach every step of discipline as a learning experience.
2. Consequences are used as a pause to get our students’ attention
Sometimes a quiet conversation is all it takes to get a student’s attention. Other times, it takes a more severe consequence—like a trip to the principal. Either way, a consequence should serve to give a student a pause to reflect on their choices and to remind them that they are hungry to learn.
3. Consequences should be organized in a tiered hierarchy

Use a hierarchy of consequences, starting with the mildest first. Then slowly and calmly increase the consequences as necessary, stopping with the first one that gives the student the pause you’re looking for.
4. We have no control over our students
It’s important to remember that ultimately, we have no control over any of our students and following the rules is their decision to make. Yes, as educators we have the power of suggestion. Yes, we can influence decisions with our voice, our tone, the redirection strategies we employ, and the consequences that follow. But in the end, the decision is theirs. The deeper our respect for this, the easier it is for us to remain calm and supportive in moments when we might wish we had more control.
5. Consequences teach students that they have the power of choice
When your consequences provide students an opportunity to pause and reflect, it affirms to them that they have the power of choice. They become aware that how they choose to behave determines the consequences (good or bad) that follow. They have the choice to misbehave, accept consequences, and calm down. Or, they have the choice to abide by class rules and experience the positive consequences.
If you’re looking for a great resource on classroom management best practices, you can check out Rick Smith’s new edition ofConscious Classroom Management by clicking here.

Using Nonverbal Praise Routines to Improve Classroom Discipline 

One great strategy for promoting classroom discipline and good behavior (and thereby negating the need for consequences) is through nonverbal praise routines. These facilitate student-to-student praise and encouragement that doesn’t interrupt instruction.
Effective routines are:
  • Quick, quiet, and simple
  • Promote engagement
  • Involve all students
You can watch a video on Edivation (formerly known as PD 360) to see effective nonverbal praise routines in action in the classroom.

This video also comes with a guidebook that shows how to establish and improve routines in your own classroom. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Parkside's Technology Story Goes Statewide

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Parkside's technology story goes statewide

Congratulations to the Middle School at Parkside for its "Spotlight" session at the Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference this week!
Members of the Parkside Technology Team -- Shauna Gagnon, social studies teacher; Robin Tafe, media spec
ialist; Stacey Rust-Belforti, reading essentials teacher; Pauline Soucy, computer teacher; and Forrest Ransdell, principal -- shared with educators around the state their experience integrating technology to enhance learning for the whole school.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Manchester's Innovative Focus on Instruction

Innovative Way Our Principals Focus on Instructional Leadership

Principals are key to promoting effective instruction in every classroom.  Research has shown that school improvement happens when a principal is an instructional leader, builds leadership capacity in staff,  and cultivates a professional learning community in which responsibilities are shared.   The principals’ role is so essential in student success in schools that the only other factor is the quality of teaching.
Over the years, the principal role have changed.  There are many management tasks and responsibilities as well as interruptions in a principal's daily schedule. As a result of this increase in management responsibilities, principals spend the bulk of their time on administrative tasks – and only about one-third of their time on professional learning for staff and effective feedback for teachers.
The National SAM Innovation Project – SAM stands for School Administration Manager – is an innovative time management system that many of our principals and staff have been trained in.  The SAM process ensures the principal’s focus is on instructional improvement.  This process also provides efficient, effective, and quick response to students, staff and parents.
Our principals have seen an increase in their time spent in classroom double since beginning the SAM process. This will have a positive impact on student and staff learning.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Schools receive science and technology boost from one-of-a-kind collaboration

MSD Web Article Oct. 14th

An international not-for-profit public charity that motivates young people to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) has committed to help enhance those subjects for every fourth grade student in Manchester. FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) has been encouraging young people's interest and participation in science and technology for more than 25 years. The organization was founded by inventor Dean Kamen in 1989 to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. The city’s elementary schools now have a unique opportunity to bring the popular FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL®) program into their classrooms.

FIRST is the expert in project-based learning, and it’s in our own backyard,” said Mayor Ted Gatsas. “This collaboration will give all of our young fourth graders across the city the confidence to participate, learn and compete.”  

The school district is calling the collaboration “Junior STEAM Ahead,” a reference to “STEAM Ahead,” a secondary-level program at West High School which focuses on science, technology, engineering, arts and math curriculum through similar business and higher education partnerships.
The implementation plan for Junior STEAM Ahead will begin with three schools, Beech Street, Green Acres and Jewett Street. In 2015, four more schools will be added, and the remaining elementary schools in the city will participate starting in the 2016-17 school year.

“We asked every elementary school to submit a proposal and apply to the program for this pilot year,” said Dr. Debra Livingston, superintendent of schools. “We chose three schools this round, but all of our fourth grade teachers and principals are eager to explore the learning opportunities the program will provide.”

As part of the Junior STEAM Ahead program, each fourth grade classroom will participate in FIRST LEGO League with teams of six students. They will design, build, and program robots using LEGO® MINDSTORMS® and other LEGO® elements. The lessons involve applying math and science concepts, as well as learning critical thinking, team-building and presentation skills.

The 2014/2015 
FIRST® LEGO®League (FLL®) season will task students with exploring the future of learning as part of a new Challenge called FLL WORLD CLASSSM. More than 260,000 children in nearly 80 countries will teach adults about the ways that kids need and want to learn in the 21st century, and will develop their own innovative tools to help others gather knowledge as part of the FLL season Challenge.

“This is project-based learning at its best,” said Donald E. Bossi, President of FIRST. “What separates us from traditional science fairs and textbook learning is that the kids who participate attack real-world challenges and invent the solutions.” 

Another aspect of the program collaboration is a visit to the SEE Science Center in Manchester. Every year, all 14 elementary schools will bring their fourth grade students on a field trip, at no cost to the school district. FIRSTis paying for the transportation, and SEE Science Center is waiving the admission fees.

“SEE Science Center is a wonderful resource to introduce children to the idea that science and technology are relevant in the real world and everyday life,” said Dr. Livingston. “We are grateful to FIRST for the opportunity to give our students that experience and ignite the excitement they can bring back to the classroom.”  

Fourth grade teachers in Manchester also will receive FIRST LEGO League training and learn how to implement the program into the school day. A full day workshop was hosted by FIRST in September at SEE Science Center; additional training for Manchester teachers will be scheduled later this fall.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Circle of Excellence Awarded to Bakersville Elementary School and Manchester School of Technology

The Commissioner’s Circle of Excellence recognizes schools and districts that aspire to excellence by being innovative in service to children.  Bakersville Elementary School received this award from Commissioner Barry on Monday, Oct. 13th for its outstanding commitment to providing students a caring and innovative learning environment.  Congratulations Principal Adams and staff!

Included in the Circle of Excellence are New Hampshire high schools, members of the League of Innovative Schools (LIS), committed to fostering forward thinking innovation in the design and delivery of secondary education.

Manchester School of Technology received the award for Innovative High School.

The purpose of the Circle of Excellence Awards builds community awareness of our state's finest schools and districts, while providing positive messages about the teaching profession.

Book Studies Available to our Community Schools Educators: Bakersville, Beech, and Gossler... Thanks to Healthy Homes for Healthy Kids and Families Grant

Through the Healthy Homes for Healthy Kids and Families Grant, the staff from the community schools (Beech, Gossler, and Bakersville) will be able to participate in 3 book studies to seek transformation in their high poverty schools.  Teachers want to make what they study not only something they understand, but something they may use in their everyday lives or work. The study group acts as a bridge, helping educators in the community schools move from passive to active learning. The group's dialogue will revolve around getting to a better understanding of the issues presented, the applications of the material to personal and professional experiences, and the implications of the information for consideration as the participants apply it to their work and/or lives.
The educators committed to reading and discussing a selected book, guided by the
question: "How will this book influence professional practices at both the classroom and
school level?" The three books purchased for the staff by the Healthy Homes for Healthy Kids and Families Grant  book studies encourage school-wide community dialogue on diverse educational issues that impact student achievement.   The books (The Differentiated Classroom by Carol Ann Tomlinson, Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind by Eric Jensen, and Visible Learning for Teachers, Maximizing Impact on Learning by John Hattie) along with the book study format offers a supportive environment for staff members to engage in job-embedded practices for personal and professional growth.
Our goal is to make recommendations for our educators that will impact instruction for promoting student achievement in our community schools.  Thank you for the resources and this wonderful opportunity!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Teachers Programming Robots at SEE Innovation Lab

Jr. STEAM Ahead 9-23-14

Below is a picture of the September 9th professional development session at SEE Science Center Innovation Lab with teachers and FIRST coaches from Arizona.

Teachers were engaged and challenged in designing, building, and programming robots using LEGO blocks.  Team members also experienced problem solving and working collaboratively with 4th grade teams.  Teachers experienced how to coach project based learning in solving real world challenges and creating solutions.

All Manchester School District 4th grade elementary teachers that were interested in piloting Jr. STEAM Ahead, applied .  The three schools that were chosen are:  Beech Street, Jewett, and Green Acres.  Green Acres’ principal Rick Norton, Beech Street principal, Christine Brennan and teachers shared the Jr. STEAM  process as well as reflections of the professional development.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Congratulations to Principal Amy Allen and the Parker Varney staff!

photo 3 (5).JPG
Congratulations to Principal Amy Allen and the Parker Varney team for creating and implementing a “School Innovation Plan” that communicated a deep commitment to use data using innovative practices.  The NH DOE’s Implementation Science Model of professional development was used by Principal Allen and the Parker
Varney leadership team at the Keene Summit this past July to create a "School Innovation Plan".  The NH DOE reviewed all “School Innovation Plans” that were submitted and Parker Varney’s "School Innovation Plan" was chosen by the NH DOE reviewers. Ms. Allen has been invited to co-present with the NH DOE at the
West Ed’s first annual Turnaround Conference in San Francisco because of her dedication and commitment to excellence in education.

The NH DOE  Implementation Science Model of professional development was piloted at the 2014 Summer Summit with educational leaders from around the state of NH.  The following Manchester School District educators were in attendance at the Keene Summit:  Bakersville, Beech Street, Gossler, Parker Varney, Wilson, Middle School at Parkside, and Southside Middle School.  

Once again, congratulations to Principal Allen and the Parker Varney leadership team for their outstanding School Innovation Plan.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Can Science Content be Taught in a Video Game?

In this article in Teaching Exceptional Children, Matthew Marino (University of Central

Florida) and four colleagues suggest ways teachers can use video games to teach science

content to secondary students with special needs. Here is their list of free, well-designed

science games:

- Agricultural Simulator (Earth Sciences) –

- Bridge Project (Engineering and technology) –

- Dust (Chemical and physical properties) –

- Garbage dreams (Earth sciences) –

Marshall Memo 549 August 25, 2014

- The Incredible Machine (Physics) –

- Orbiter (Space science) -

- Wolf Quest (Life sciences) –

“Enhancing Secondary Science Content Accessibility with Video Games” by Matthew

Marino, Kathleen Becht, Eleazar Vasquez III, Jennifer Gallup, James Basham, and Benjamin

Gallegos in Teaching Exceptional Children, September/October 2014 (Vol. 47, #1, p. 27-34),; Marino

can be reached at

Back to page one

Monday, August 25, 2014

Learner Interest Matters: Strategies for Empowering Student Choice

A parent shared with me that she struggled motivating her son to build a model of a Frank Lloyd Wright home for a presentation. This was part of a social studies unit in which he studied the architect. Her son had no interest in building the model or researching Frank Lloyd Wright. I asked what her son liked to do outside of school. Tops on his list was playing Minecraft, a game where players construct buildings, grow harvests, care for livestock, and do many other things in an unstructured sandbox world. When I suggested that he could build the model in Minecraft, she immediately saw the possibility. Of course, he'd have to convince his teacher that the task could be done, and that a video could be made to demo the work. The teacher recognized the opportunity, and the boy threw himself into the research and design with energy and enthusiasm. His work is referenced midway in this article on being constructivist in a Common Core classroom.

Readiness + Interest = Engagement

Student interest in a topic holds so much power. When a topic connects to what students like to do, engagement deepens as they willingly spend time thinking, dialoging, and creating ideas in meaningful ways. Making learning contextual to real-world experiences is a key learning technique with differentiating for student interests. Often the core content and concepts are represented in the world beyond the classroom or school building -- in ways that students cannot see, as if they're walking through life wearing a blindfold. When teachers plan for content, processing, and product, differentiating by interests helps remove the blindfold so that learners can see those invisible concepts made visible.
Factoring for student interests works well with instructional planning based on readiness and learning profiles. Readiness combined with interest leads to students doing work at a respectable complexity level with the familiarity of a topic that they relate to. For example, students could write persuasive reviews about games or items that they know intimately, or they might explore science concepts through LEGO Robotics. Matching learning profiles with student interest allows learners to process understanding of concepts through different modalities based on their own experiences. One example is students watching videos, listening to speakers, and journaling to make comparisons between social injustices from the past and forms of bullying that occur in today's schools and communities.
The first step to differentiate for interests is to find out what students care about and like to do. Student surveys and learning profile cards are two methods for collecting the data. Parents and students providing these details send the message that their experiences matter. That is a powerful message to start off the school year or semester.

Promoting Choice Allows Students to Decide Their Path

Give students choices based on a variety of interests. Many students may share common ground, which means that there's often something for everyone. For individuals with serious disengagement issues, I've planned activities around their interests, either as a targeted readiness activity or as something the whole class could experience. The benefit is that disengaged students will make the connections they need, and the others get to see the learning target from a new perspective. Differentiating products are a common place to embed interests. This results in some students choosing a product option that may be more challenging than something they would normally pick, but the topic makes the tasks worth doing. Somestrategies that structure choice options include:
  • Think dots
  • Task cards
  • Learning menus
  • Learning centers
  • Tic-Tac-Toe menus

Wishing you and your students an outstanding school year!

Article from Edutopia

by John McCarthy

Empower Student Voice to Design Personal Learning Products

A higher level of activating interest is to have students propose their own ideas for products and activities. This constructivist approach engages students to do more complex work and spend more time on the task than they normally would. It also terrifies some teachers for how to quality control the vast variety of products that students could develop. I'd say that's a problem worth having, but here's a practical two-step approach:

1. Have clear learning criteria and ensure that students understand them.

Establish what academic skills and concepts must be represented in the product. Be careful to avoid assessment fog. When students understand the targets, they can effectively design their own products -- with coaching support for some more than others.

2. Limit the options to a manageable number.

Start conservatively by providing two structured options. Then invite students to create their own option, based on the learning criteria. The teacher listens to the proposals and suggests tweaks as needed, or sends students back to the drawing board when a proposal is not viable. Set a deadline when proposals are approved. Students who don't meet the deadline must choose from the original two options.

Caring Makes All the Difference

We're all motivated by tasks that interest us. Like our students, when we care, we willingly spend hours carried away with researching, crafting, and revising our work. Learners are less daunted about tackling complex work with difficult obstacles if the topic interests them and if they have a voice on how to accomplish the work. If this approach is good for professionals, why not use it for our learners?
Please share your own strategies for empowering student choice
Pat Snow

Sunday, August 3, 2014

NH Summer Summit for Educators July 30-August 1

Three inspirational days with 57 motivated teachers, leaders from Manchester, and presenters from the state of NH and country, to learn about what is happening in:  Accountability and Assessment Systems, Student Educator Relationships, Leveraging Leadership, and Rethinking Schools.  The Summit began with Commissioner Barry setting the foundation for our journey in education in NH.

Commissioner Barry's opening remarks:
The 4 C's

Communication, Collaboration, Coherence, and Caring
As educators, communicating, at every level, in a respectful way is so important.  "Collaboration" is key working with leaders, teachers, policy makers, and the community.  There needs to be "coherence" in what we do across pre-K to graduate school to ensure every child receives the best education possible.  The last "C" is for "Caring".  We need to care about one another, in all that we do.

At the close of the summit, one teacher shared that he feels inspired and to dream again! He was so energized by all he had learned and experienced at the summit that he will try new ways of engaging and stretching students' and his own learning this school year.

We can dream and turn our dreams into action, together, as we move forward in educating our children for the future.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What is Manchester’s Innovation Zone?

The Innovation Zone (iZone) was created in response for a need to do things differently. The  public education model has not changed over many decades, whereas the needs for every student have changed. The Manchester School District, school leaders, and community members are committed to finding a way for schools to develop and implement innovative practices for the purpose of improving student achievement.  The iZone was created to inspire change and empower principals to partner with community stakeholders.

What does this mean for our schools?

In the spring of 2013, Title 1 schools in New Hampshire were ranked by the NH Department of Education (DOE) according to NECAP Index and identified as needing additional supports and  interventions to help increase student achievement and close the persistent achievement gap. In Manchester, those schools are Bakersville, Beech Street, McDonough, Gossler Park, Parker-Varney, Wilson, Parkside, and Southside.  Together, they make up the district’s Innovation Zone. Schools in the iZone are encouraged to try creative ways of teaching and learning that highly engage students and teachers and have proven results.  Being part of the iZone allows principals and teachers more autonomy in trying out new initiatives that support a more efficient approach in meeting the needs of all students where creativity and inquiry are the norm to drive high quality instruction.

In the past several years, we have witnessed a transformative classroom experience;  namely the shift from traditional teaching methods (sometimes described as teacher-centered learning) to a student-centered learning model. Educators have found a desire to adjust classroom instruction from a delivery of information to a facilitation of learning in an informative, sharing environment. The iZone  explores the personalization of learning for every student.

The iZone provides a pathway using the 7 Turnaround Principles as a guide for schools and the district to develop creative practices to better meet the needs of individual students and share proven practices with all schools in the Manchester School District.

Here are some of the initiatives the iZone Schools have been working on to align with the 7 Turnaround Principles(School Improvement Principles from the New Hampshire Department Of Education)New Hampshire Department of Education:
1. Providing Strong Leadership by:

  • Working closely with the New Hampshire Department of Education data coaches and Office of School Turnaround Director, Kathryn "Joey" Nichol, New Hampshire Department of Education.
  • Implementing the School Administration Manager Process and attending professional development sessions on instructional leadership.The National SAM Innovation Project: Helping Principals ...
  • Principals attended a School Turnaround Leaders professional development program at Harvard in June.
  • Mentoring for principals by Public Consulting Group and ongoing professional learning to build capacity for peer support.
  • Professional Development in Professional Learning Communities.
  • Increasing skills to provide feedback to increase teacher and student performance.
2. Ensuring that teachers are effective and able to improve instruction by:

  • Student Learning Objectives professional development provided by NH DOE,  the Northeast Educator Effectiveness Research AlliancREL & e (NEERA)
  • Continuing implementation of the Educator Evaluation Plan for SIG schools and pilot for the Priority Schools 2014-15.
  • Providing professional development in personalized learning for all students.
3. Redesigning the school day, week or year to include additional time for student learning and teacher collaboration:
  • After school and during vacation support offered to students.
  • Tiered instruction given to all students.
  • Time provided for teacher professional learning communities.
  • Restructuring the school and operations around students.
  • Continuously expanding  multiple pathways for student learning-Community connections such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Camp at the SEE Museum.  This has been ongoing for the last two years and will be available for our students again next year.
4. Strengthening the school’s instructional program based on student needs and ensuring that the instructional program is research-based, rigorous, and aligned with State academic content standards:

  • A fully articulated educational curriculum, PreK-12, is being developed by teachers, curriculum specialists and administration.  Professional development will be ongoing.
  • Professional development is being offered to teachers on how to integrate technology into the curriculum.

5. Using data to inform instruction for continuous improvement, by providing time for
collaboration on the use of data:

  • Each school has worked closely with the New Hampshire Department Of Education Data Coaches along with principals to engage faculty in collaborative decision making to enhance student and teacher performance.

6. Establishing a school environment that improves school safety and discipline and
addressing other non-academic factors that impact student achievement, such as students’ social, emotional, and health needs.
7. Providing ongoing mechanisms for family and community engagement.

“The vision of the program is that all children and youth growing up in Promise Neighborhoods have access to great schools and strong systems of family and community support that will prepare them to attain an excellent education and successfully transition to college and a career. The purpose of Promise Neighborhoods is to significantly improve the educational and developmental outcomes of children and youth in our most distressed communities, and to transform those communities by—
  1. Identifying and increasing the capacity of eligible entities that are focused on achieving results for children and youth throughout an entire neighborhood;
  2. Building a complete continuum of cradle-to-career solutions of both educational programs and family and community supports, with great schools at the center;
  3. Integrating programs and breaking down agency “silos” so that solutions are implemented effectively and efficiently across agencies;
  4. Developing the local infrastructure of systems and resources needed to sustain and scale up proven, effective solutions across the broader region beyond the initial neighborhood; and
  5. Learning about the overall impact of the Promise Neighborhoods program and about the relationship between particular strategies in Promise Neighborhoods and student outcomes, including a rigorous evaluation of the program”
  • The Community Schools Project in partnership with Project Launch and the Manchester School District iZone will be hosting Incredible Years for parents and caregivers this summer.
photo.JPGManchester Health Improvement Strategy

Incredible Years is an evidence-based parent education program that aims to prevent and treat young children’s behavior and promote their social, emotional, and academic competence.