Breadcrumb #5 (Chapter 5)

"A great coach never achieves greatness for himself or his team by working to make all his players alike."

-Carol Ann Tomlinson


Differentiation, in my opinion is the most critical & difficult part of lesson planning. Many of my colleagues agonize at the prospect of maintaining classroom management. I don’t have that problem. My biggest worry is losing students with disabilities due to attempts on my part to increase (even slightly) the level of rigor in the classroom. Likewise, I am fully aware that higher performing students can become easily bored because of the absence of challenging work. However, tethered to the objectives and standards which must be covered, I am forced to face this dilemma on a daily basis. It is easy to scaffold work when the support is simply providing additional time. But outside or routine assessments or reading assignments this is rarely the case.

Although I have sped instructors in the room with me (in both sections), I find that I am routinely left with the task of selecting effective groupings to ensure maximum student engagement.  

This week I created a new version of our school lesson plan template (my 24th). Under the section for differentiation I created the following categories:

Content:  By designing lessons to include activities that fall under multiple levels of Bloom’s taxonomy (remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating) I can ensure that students are routinely and sufficiently challenged and engaged.

Process: Some students benefit from textbooks or articles texts.  

Others will be better serve with aural (audio) or visual content. Interactive online assignments or Webquests will be conducive to the st

Product: Certain students will be more successful at creating graphic organizers. Others will prefer a written report. Some will opt to do an oral report or presentation. If the option is available some will choose to construct o build a model or physical representation of the assigned task.

Learning Environment: This category includes the physical layout of the classroom, as well as the psychological elements such as planned groupings, consideration of students who wish to work alone.

The following quote made me feel a little less frustrated: 

“Becoming an expert at differentiation is a career-long goal. One step at a time, you will get there.

-Carol Ann Tomlinson




Breadcrumb # 6 (Chapter 6)

“While motivating students can be a difficult task, the rewards are more than worth it. Motivated students are more excited to learn and participate. Simply put: Teaching a class full of motivated students is enjoyable for teacher and student alike. Some students are self-motivated, with a natural love of learning. But even with the students who do not have this natural drive, a great teacher can make learning fun and inspire them to reach their full potential..”

-Author Unknown


The above is one of  my favorite passages.  I memorized this passage after I was selected to join the NYCTF cohort 29.


I was disappointed by my students this week. After creating and posting an amazing Regents-styled  assessment for my students (30 Questions) in Google Classroom, only 12/52 students embraced the challenge and completed the assignment.  The 30 Questions were chosen based on the fact that we covered the content extensively. Excuses ranged from “it was too long” to it was too hard. 

I spent the entire afternoon on the phone with parents extolling the value of the data I was attempting to collect. The calls proved to be an effective intervention. Only three assignments were outstanding within 24 hours of the first phone call.


I felt my intervention was successful until I read this passage in the text...


From Chapter 6:

‘For teachers, the most important implication is that students' motivation can be affected when they generalize from past experience which they believe, rightly or wrongly, to be relevant. By simply announcing a test, for example, a teacher can make some students anxious even before the students find out anything about the test, whether it is easy or difficult, or even comparable in any way to other experiences called tests in their pasts.”


-Kelvin Seifert




Breadcrumb # 7

Motivating students (Chapter 6)


“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” —Gandhi


This was a great week.

My assistant principal informed me that he received positive feedback from at least 3 parents and several students concerning my performance as an educator. He laughed as he recounted stories he heard about my personal anecdotes which were used to help them remember key concepts. 


Chapter 6 is amazing. I shared this book with my co-teachers. But I want to share something I printed from


1. Encourage Students

Students look to teachers for approval and positive reinforcement, and are more likely to be enthusiastic about learning if they feel their work is recognized and valued. You should encourage open communication and free thinking with your students to make them feel important. Be enthusiastic. Praise your students often. Recognize them for their contributions. If your classroom is a friendly place where students feel heard and respected, they will be more eager to learn. A “good job” or “nice work” can go a long way.

2. Get Them Involved

One way to encourage students and teach them responsibility is to get them involved in the classroom. Make participating fun by giving each student a job to do. Give students the responsibility of tidying up or decorating the classroom. Assign a student to erase the blackboard or pass out materials. If you are going over a reading in class, ask students to take turns reading sections out loud. Make students work in groups and assign each a task or role. Giving students a sense of ownership allows them to feel accomplished and encourages active participation in class.

3. Offer Incentives

Setting expectations and making reasonable demands encourages students to participate, but sometimes students need an extra push in the right direction. Offering students small incentives makes learning fun and motivates students to push themselves. Incentives can range from small to large giving a special privilege to an exemplary student, to a class pizza party if the average test score rises. Rewards give students a sense of accomplishment and encourage them to work with a goal in mind.

4. Get Creative

Avoid monotony by changing around the structure of your class. Teach through games and discussions instead of lectures, encourage students to debate and enrich the subject matter with visual aids, like colorful charts, diagrams and videos. You can even show a movie that effectively illustrates a topic or theme. Your physical classroom should never be boring: use posters, models, student projects and seasonal themes to decorate your classroom, and create a warm, stimulating environment.

5. Draw Connections to Real Life

“When will I ever need this?” This question, too often heard in the classroom, indicates that a student is not engaged. If a student does not believe that what they’re learning is important, they won’t want to learn, so it’s important to demonstrate how the subject relates to them. If you’re teaching algebra, take some time to research how it is utilized practically for example, in engineering and share your findings with your students. Really amaze them by telling them that they may use it in their career. Showing them that a subject is used everyday by “real” people gives it new importance. They may never be excited about algebra but if they see how it applies to them, they may be motivated to learn attentively.



Breadcrumb # 8 Chapter 10

This week was intense. My  metamorphosis consultant asked me to send him a weeks worth of lesson plans 6pm every Thursday from here on in.  We use a block schedule. That means 10 lesson plans every Thursday for the following week. It’s almost as if he is unaware that our weekly planning, observation, and debrief sessions, takes two of my prep and planning periods.

I know he wants me to develop in two specific areas: Creating better objectives, and creating better questions.

Chapter 10 is a necessary handbook for me at this time. 

10.71 States:

‘Transforming the goals into specific learning objectives, remains a responsibility of the teacher. The formulation can focus on curriculum topics that can analyzed into specific activities, or it can focus on specific behaviors expected of students and assembled into general types of outcomes. Taxonomies of educational objectives, such as the ones originated by Benjamin Bloom, are a useful tool with either approach to instructional planning.”

Chapter 10 laid out specific goals in planning that allow for cohesive, rigorous, student centered planning.

I already don’t have enough hours in my day. 


But I have so much developing to do.




Breadcrumb # 9

Chapter 6. Student Motivation

My students hate to read. That’s disturbing and scary for me as an instructor for a course which culminates in a state exam that requires at the very least a moderate reading comprehension level. This, (along with my newborn son) keeps me up at night. “Mr. C, why do you give us all these articles to read?”  “We annotate more here than in ELA class.


At the last science team meeting We took a look at the last five Earth Science and Living Environment Regents Exams taken by the students in our school. We were alarmed to notice that although in every exam our students performed bette than the city average, questions that require more extensive reading demonstrated considerably poorer results than the city average.


After noticing that specific trend in the regents style assessments in my class I approached the topic with my students. I asked why they thought this was happening. 


One student was very direct. We already told you, there is too much reading and writing in this class?”


Another stated, “when we take the exam we guess the ones you gotta read or think too hard. We’ll come back to it if we can, but that’s a lot of work.

I instantly felt waves of sheer panic. I calmly explained that careful meticulous reading was necessary to achieve success on this exam.


I have decided that I have to be persistent with my plan to provide exposure to scientific reading materials.  I’ve made arrangements to sit with the 11th grade ELA instructor who is referred to as the literacy guru on our campus.









Breadcrumb #10

“Like students, teachers grow best when they are moderately challenged. Waiting until conditions are ideal or until you are sure of yourself yields lethargy, not growth.”

-Carol Ann Tomlinson


Just read an amazing article on teacher collaborations...

I truly appreciated this article detailing the Schools On the Move Best Practice Research conducted by the Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy. It  highlighted effective procedures and policies which have have demonstrated an increase in collaborative effectiveness in the participating campuses for this study.

As I read the article, I reflected on my own practices, supports, and the school-wide policies which are enhanced by effective collaborative meetings.


“Teacher collaboration is the highest leverage strategy for school improvement that We have."

-Principal from a participating school in the study.


I have outlined several specific points from the article which hit home for me.


1.’Teaming helps create strategies for increasing academic rigor.”

The article highlighted one school which utilized grade teams who found success in effectiveness in  interdisciplinary content and activity design. 

I have proposed, first to my science team, and then to my administrators a collaborative relationship between 9th Grade Living Environment instruction (which culminates with a State Regents Exam) and ELA (no exam) where relevant science literature is used for various assignments. This would allow students to have a space to significantly explore content from a literacy aspect.  (Although our test scores have been consistently higher than the city average, over the past three years our students have performed below the city average for questions that require more extensive reading. Since we utilize the half year semester system along with four weeks strictly dedicated to a Work Based Learning school-wide initiative, making science instruction time a precious commodity.)


2. "Collaboration supports improvements in teacher practice."

Many of the skills I developed as a first-year teacher derived from my working in proximity to experienced professionals who have a wealth of strategies that they willingly, and at times unwittingly (no typo) place at my disposal. I have been routinely exposed to intriguing discussions and debates relating to effective practices and strategies covering a wide range of topics including (but not limited to) student apathy, classroom management,  and providing multiple effective access points in a lesson. I have filled multiple notepads with techniques I will implement or research further, and pitfalls I will be sure to avoid.


3. Teachers’ collaboration with peers extends beyond formal teaming structures."

This section outlined how effective collaborative teams created opportunities for educators to develop helpful relationships out side of the team setting.

I have enjoyed and benefited from ‘open-door’ interactions with several of my colleagues in which I feel comfortable asking them about better strategies to approach a lesson. Many have even offered to look at my lesson plans and have occasionally provided invaluable feedback. I have come to truly appreciate these professional relationships which evolved from our interactions in our effective team structures.


The SOM study outlined the tremendous benefits we as educators as well our students can and will experience when we embrace the benefits of successful collaborative relationships and structures. 


As I come to the close of my first year as a New York City Science teacher, I can pinpoint the many instances where I felt overwhelmed. I can also appreciate the structures put in place to allow teachers to experience a sufficient















Breadcrumb # 12


I am grateful for how difficult this year has been. If can survive until June then I made it. I am grateful for this program. I am grateful for my professors, my advisers, my consultants at the school where I work, and the colleagues who keep me grounded. I am grateful for the students they tend to air prescient the extra work and effort that I put in and I’m grateful to be a part of their lives.


I’ve spoken to quite a few of my colleagues about the literacy component in the course is outside of English. Specifically science instructor’s face numerous challenges as it relates to student success with reading comprehension, and with writing.


I actually spoke to my assistant principal and I was trying to run some ideas by him. Interestingly enough he recommended that I put my proposals down on paper. He laughed when I informed him that that was part of the assignment for this class.


I just found out that my metamorphosis consultant wrote a glowing report about my growth and success this year. My principal informed me that she was very pleased with my progress as a teacher.


I also just found out that my CUNY partners (I’m at a 9-14 school) Are also pleased with my performance and have Indicated that I might be in line for one of their awards.


I struggled through this semester and both of my classes. But I tried to give my students 100% of me. Apparently they noticed. So did my administration. I am humbled.