Responsive Classroom

Morning Meeting Refresher

From the Responsive Classroom blog.  Some may think it’s hokey, but we know, it works, even for older students and yes, for adults too.  Enjoy!


Morning Meeting and Older Students

If you teach older students—those between 10 and 14—you may have wondered if Morning Meeting is appropriate for them. Can you spare the time from the intensifying academic focus in the upper grades? Do they really need the structure and support Morning Meeting provides? The answer is a definite Yes.

Morning Meeting is not only appropriate for older students, it’s especially important as an anchor, a predictable routine that they need more than ever as they undergo rapid physical, emotional, and intellectual changes. Morning Meeting helps them trust each other and value learning at a time when their peer culture may say it’s cool not to care and uncool to be smart and engaged.

Here are a few tips to help you hold Morning Meetings that will engage and support your older students.

  • Respectfully but firmly address “it’s little kid stuff” grumblings about Morning Meeting. For example: “We’re going to be a learning community all year long, so we need to develop a positive climate that will help us do great work together. Morning Meeting is a powerful way to do that, and so it will be a part of every day in our classroom.”
  • Be mindful of physical changes. Older students may no longer be comfortable sitting on the floor. Teach, model, and practice how to safely and swiftly move chairs to and from the meeting area.
  • Consider increasing social sensitivities. Older children become increasingly self-conscious and concerned about measuring up in the eyes of their peers. Choose relaxed greetings, sharings, and activities that avoid putting them on the spot while still giving them the peer interaction they crave.
  • Continually observe your class. Morning Meeting best supports students when you adjust each component to suit their developmental needs, capabilities, and mood. To do that, you need to know where they are each day, so close observation is especially important with these swiftly changing children.

Try It Now!

Here are a few Morning Meeting ideas that work well with older students.

  • Famous Quotations: Write inspiring famous quotations on index cards. (Choose ones that relate to your class’s studies; for example, quotes by Albert Einstein to inspire their science learning.) Give each student a card. Students mix and mingle to greet each other and briefly share what their quotation means to them.
  • Book Character: For a week, students wear name tags of their favorite book character. Greetings that week are done using characters’ names. At the end of the week, have students remove their name tags and see if they can remember one another’s character names.
  • Multi-Ball Toss:  Student A greets Student B across the circle and tosses a ball to them. Student B returns the greeting and then greets Student C, tossing the ball to them, and so on. After a while add a second ball, and then a third, challenging the class to send the balls around in the original greeting pattern three times without dropping them or skipping anyone.

Foster engagement by mixing up the formats (around-the-circle, partner or small-group chats, dialogue sharing). Some good topics for older students:

  • Favorite music and movies
  • Weekend events
  • Possible career interests
  • Special talent or skill
  • Progress on science or social studies projects
Group Activity

Keep these relaxed and noncompetitive; some examples from The Morning Meeting Book,3rd edition. If students could use a fun break:

  • Zoom: The student who begins the activity says “Zoom!” and quickly turns his head quickly to face a classmate on either her right or left. That student passes the Zoom to the next person, and so on around the circle. You can challenge the group to go faster and use a stopwatch to time them.
  • Zip Zap Pop: A volunteer starts by placing either hand on top of his head so his fingers are pointing to the student on his left or right and saying, “Zip!” The student who receives the Zip either passes it on to the next student in the circle or place a hand under her chin, pointing her fingers back toward the student who passed her the Zip, and says, “Zap!” or she points at someone across the circle and says, “Pop!” Continue until everyone has been zipped, zapped, or popped.

When the class mood is more focused and mature:

  • Mental Math Pushups: Write a series of math expressions on a whiteboard. Students work with a partner to find the answer to each expression in their head—no pencil or paper. On your signal, all students give their answer at the same time. To help students focus, cover all expressions but the first one. Then uncover one expression at a time as the rounds continue.
  • Scientific Pros and Cons: Students find (or you assign) a partner. Give a pencil and sheet of paper to each pair. Name a scientific venture they’ve been studying (bioengineering crops, introducing wolves to control deer, using alternative energy sources). Give everyone a minute to think; then give partners one minute to list pros of the venture, followed by one minute to list cons. Circle up again and invite partners to share one pro and one con with the class.

Other News

  • Bus Duty for March 9-March 20 Team 3:  Erin Gates, Beth Siebels, Gina Taylor, Pat Williams  Upcoming Bus Duty: March 23- April 10:  Team 4:  Steph Plaisted, Brooke Crump, Kim Johnson
  • Our next staff meeting is March 26th.  Right before spring break!
  • East Side Jump Rope for Heart is March 25th. Grades 2-5 2:15p.m.
  • East Side Spelling Bee is March 26th Grades 2-5 2:00p.m.
  • Fire Inspection on March 27th:  Some of the violations the fire inspector will be looking for would be blocked emerg. windows, extension cords being used instead of power strips or extension cords plugged into power strips, coffee pots, hot plates or toasters in classrooms, items piled on top of cupboards too close to ceiling, missing electrical cover & switch plates, covered classroom door windows, missing fire retardant tags on furniture, door wedges,  paper on the walls close to entry & exit doors.  Please survey your room and fix any violations you can or contact Marty if you have any problems.
  • We will do another Boogie Friday on March 27th for your planning purposes.
  • Below are the dates for state exams.  I will get a revised schedule out for at least ELA and Math soon.  Thanks all!
  • Speaking of NYS Testing.  April is the BIG month.  Here are dates for NYS tests:
    • ELA April 14, 15, 16
    • Math April 22, 3, 24
    • 4th Grade Science Performance May 21 Written: June 1
  • What are the five things you are grateful for?  Make a list daily.  It does wonders!
  • Be the change agent for kids!  Be a champion for kids.  Every kid deserves a champion!   Just do right!

Other Items of Interest (Read at your leisure!)

  • We can teach creativity and we can foster creativity in our instruction. It’s a myth (or, actually, five myths) that we can’t.
  • This chart offers some alternatives to traditional homework. The suggestions are grouped by the different purposes of homework which makes it very easy to use.
  • Here are some ideas to get you started with graphic notetaking. Conferences use this – but it can happen in the classroom, too.
  • This collection of resources and Project-Based Learning provides practical advice and suggestions for assessment in a PBL classroom.
  • Are you unhappy with your (or your school’s)grading and report card system? This teacher is, and you can read about it in this thoughtful post.

The Power of Responsive Classroom

This is a short Monday Focus because I am at the SAANYS conference presenting today. I just want to re-blog this post from Responsive Classroom.  This is our school too.

The Power of Responsive Classroom

by Lora Hodges on

Sometimes a few little numbers can tell a great big story. That’s the case with the changing numbers of disciplinary referrals at Palmyra-Macedon Primary School in Palmyra, NY.

When the Responsive Classroom approach really began to take hold in this school, disciplinary referrals (overall numbers of referrals as well as numbers of students referred) dropped dramatically. And the pattern held even in the year when the school’s enrollment shot up (2013–2014).

Even though I’m a strong believer in the power of the Responsive Classroom approach to help every child, in every school, succeed academically and socially every day, it’s still a thrill to see numbers like these. I know this particular school community feels uplifted by their success and glad that they stayed the course, even when they experienced some bumpy patches in their schoolwide implementation. And I hope the story their numbers tell will help all of you stay the Responsive Classroom course as well.File 2550


Now look at our school!  To see the full post click here.

 Referrals School Year
192 2008-2009
161 2009-2010
142 2010-2011
64 2011-2012
52 2012-2013
21 2013-2014

Here it is in graph form:

Discipline Data


The data shows what we are doing.  It even shows in our ELA and Math NYS growth scores.  In 2013, East Side was a total score of 3 for combined ELA and Math grades 4 and 5.  In 2014, the total combined score —-  17.  This is out of 20 points.  With the combination of explicit teaching and firm beliefs of student engagement, the academic curriculum does go hand in hand with the social and emotional curriculum.  It works!  Keep it going!




Other News

  • Bus Duty for Oct 20- Oct 217 Team 4:  Steph Plaisted, Brooke Crump, Kim Johnson.  Upcoming bus duty: Nov 3 – Nov 14:  Team 5:  Mindy Backus, Pam Mahay, Barb Gauthier, Jennifer Nichols
  • DWIS is Monday, October 20th at West Side School 7:30a.m.
  • Please look at the calendar of events.  We do have a kick-off for spirit week tomorrow.  Check your email please.  Thanks.
  • What are the five things you are grateful for?  Make a list daily.  It does wonders!
  • Be the change agent for kids!  Be a champion for kids.  Every kid deserves a champion!

Other Items of Interest (Read at your leisure!)

  • Although it is just a small step, the recent Regents action about Pathways is an encouraging sign that recognition is growing that a “one size fits all” approach doesn’t work. You can read the Regents item.
  • STEM + PBL + Zombies = lessons for all of us about engagement.
  • Yes, CK-12 has provided free, flexible online textbooks. Now they also have videos, online lab demonstrations, and more.
  • Yet another study has confirmed the relationship between higher expectations and student achievement. In this case, high expectations have been shown to have an enduring effect, reaching all the way to college completion.
  • Students from across the country are using Student Voice, #StuVoice, to organize a positive and productive student voice in their schools.
  • Check out the introduction to the Buck Institute’s guide to PBL at the elementary level. 
  • In good Project Based Learning, students learn to have a “Growth Mindset” while learning in more engaging and meaningful ways (says Carol Dweck in this video).
  • This recorded Hangout from the Buck Institute is about helping teachers with Project Based Learning.
  • The reluctance to consider Project Based Learning is sometimes due to a reluctance to change. It can also be due to some misconceptions. This column can clarify those misconceptions about PBL. By the way, the author, Suzie Boss, will be returning for PBLNY 2015!
  • How should we teach grammar? Although we actually know the answer, we don’t necessarily follow the research. Here’s more. By the way, the answer isn’t separate, rule-focused instruction.
  • This collection of tips for elementary classrooms is an eclectic collection. Chances are, though, you’ll find some ideas that will work for you. 
  • When a group of professionals are learning together, that doesn’t mean they are a Professional Learning Community (PLC). They are professionals and they are learning, however, and here are the keys to their successful [professional] learning.
  • Instead of perpetuating the educational lottery in which kids can “win” the good teacher, all teachers can be the good teacher when a school operates as a Professional Learning Community.
  • This Rick Stiggins article about assessment does a good job explaining the differences between formative, classroom assessment and assessment for accountability (state tests, etc.).

A Touch of Humor

Refreshed, Rejuvenated, Renewed

Refreshed, Rejuvenated, Renewed

Boy did I feel like it was a whirlwind Friday, Feb. 14th.  Having the delay, getting stuck in my driveway, and then just trying to get turned around and get kiddos home, I didn’t even say goodbye to most of you and wish you a great vacation.  To me, February 14th was a blur, then to top it off, Scott and I drove for another 2 hours, roads basically clear north of us,  to Ottawa to skate the canal.  (It was lovely, to say the least).

I don’t know about you, but I loved every bit of vacation.  I loved to be able to plan, read, write, and be in my home.  But now, reality is set and yes, I am at my desk writing.  I know that we have a lot to do in such a short amount of time before our next break.  And yes, those dreaded State Exams will be upon us in a few weeks.

But, let’s remember to embrace our kids when they come back.  Remember that it’s not only the academic curriculum, but the social and emotional curriculum that is also important.  Our kids may have a hard time adjusting again after a week off, so don’t forget to review routines and procedures.

Suzy Gosh shared on the RC website in her blog some ways to make up for lost time because they lost so much time over snow days.  I thought these four things were worth a share:

  1. I’ll be working with my students’ energy levels. They spent their days off sledding, watching movies, and playing video games. It’s not realistic to expect them to shift right back to doing focused work for long stretches of time. I’m breaking up lessons into bite-sized chunks and planning plenty of breaks and energizers. I’m also giving them chances to be quiet and work individually—after days of playing alone or with just a few siblings, re-acclimating to the social aspects of school can be challenging, especially for introverts.
  2. We’re definitely revisiting expectations. We never really got back into the routines of school after winter break, and I need to spend some time getting class procedures back in place. Some of this will be done with quick questions and reminders: “Who can remind us what it will sound like in here during reading workshop?” or “We have five minutes left. Think about what you need to do before you will be ready to line up. Make a plan for how you will get those things done in time.” For routines that really aren’t working, I’ll use Interactive Modeling to reteach.
  3. Students need opportunities to reconnect. Each time we came back after days off, I saw students making beelines for their friends and noticed how much they whispered during lessons. They’d missed each other! I’m honoring their need to talk and rebuilding our class community by choosing Morning Meeting greetings where each person greets many classmates and Morning Meeting shares where everyone has a turn to talk. I’m also planning lessons and activities that provide opportunities for students to chat at other times of day.
  4. I’m getting creative with my planning. “We missed so many days! We’re behind!” I’m fighting that instinct to cram in all the curriculum we missed as quickly as possible. I know that teaching things faster and trying to push more into the school day is not the answer. Instead, my teammates and I are looking at units and seeing how we can combine objectives or shift lessons to make them fit new timeframes. We’ll double up in some cases, for instance, by having students do reading for our Ancient China unit during reading workshop. I’m also using every opportunity to integrate academics into our Morning Meetings. That way, even if we move through the instructional part of a unit quickly, we’ll still be practicing, reviewing, and reflecting on what we learned for weeks to come.

Enjoy the week!  Vic

Other News

  • Bus Duty for Feb24-Mar 7 Team 2:  Mindy Backus, Pam Mahay, Denise Croasdiale.  Upcoming bus duty:  Mar 10 – Mar 21:  Team 3:  Jessica Serviss, Teresa Kiechle
  • Our 3-5 Honor Roll Assembly is rescheduled for Thursday, Feb. 27 @ 8:20a.m.
  • Welcome back Megan Weldon!
  • The 100th Day of school is Feb. 26th
  • Our PTO Scholastic Book Fair is from 2/24 until 2/27
  • The East Side AR Night is this Wednesday from 6:00p.m. to 7:30p.m.
  • The East Side 3rd Grade Hoe-Down is this Friday, 2/28 for Grades 2-5 students
  • There will be a staff meeting on March 3rd @ 2:45pm in room 31
  • A math night for parents will be held at East Side for grade PreK-2 on Monday 3/3 and at West Side for Grades 3-5 on Wednesday, 3/5 all starting at 6:00p.m.
  • The District Tech Committee is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, 3/5
  • Congratulations to Sarah and Pat Pawananon on the birth of their new addition to the family, little baby girl Mali Lynn!

Things in the Blogsphere

Things in the Twittersphere

App of the Week

If you haven’t heard of Remind101, then here is something that will really help with notification for parents.  Remind101 is a FREE, yes I said, FREE, texting tool that you set up for folks to give texted reminders to your parents or students’ phone.  It’s very simple.  You go to the Remind101 website , create an account, and the program gives you a phone number.  There is no need to use your own phone number, your own text, etc.  Once you get an account, you can create a class.  For example, I have two classes on my account, one titled East Side Staff Snow Tree and East Side Parent Snow Tree.  The program creates a code for folks to sign up by texting to the given number and putting the @… class code into the message and voila, the parent or student has subscribed to your class.  If you are using your computer web based link, you can create your messages in the message area and even schedule the text to be sent later.  You can also link your class to twitter and tweet the message out as well.   The beauty of Remind101 is that this is just a reminder message text or alert for parents.  There is no sharing of phone numbers.  you will not see parent phone numbers, and they will not have your phone number.  The only thing you see on your end is the name they used to texted in to the program.  You don’t have to worry about getting texted from your parents or students.  Remind101 also has an app feature in both iTunes and Google Apps stores.  (This is how I text out that we are on a delay, on my phone, in bed after I get that 5:00a.m. call.)  I have 105 parents signed-up for our Remind101 text alert for the East Side.  That is AWESOME and the best thing, it’s all FREE.  I like free.  I have received many compliments that this is the best thing, not getting phone call, just a text and doesn’t wake up the entire house.  Also it’s great when we close early or cancel after school activities.  Parents are thankful that we text them the information.  If you get anything from this blog, this is the app to start using.  Enjoy!

Other Items of Interest
The New York Times had this editorial about the Common Core and its implementation.
This NPR story about SATs describes research about the relative importance of SAT scores with high school grades – high school grades, it seems, are better predictors of college success.As the Interactive Whiteboards fall from favor, this column mines their demise for lessons that can be applied to future technology adoption.
Here’s a collection of rubrics that can help you assess creativity, innovation, presentations, collaboration, and more!


This collection of maps tells a great deal about the world in which we live and can lead to all sorts of discussions. Maps are a kind of text, too!

Here are some cautions about sugar and some suggestions for avoiding it in school.                              

The research is coming in, confirming that programs that deliver books to households with children ages 0-5 (such as Imagination Library and Books from Birth) make a difference on kindergarten readiness.
A Touch of Humor
Close to Home

Oops, Did I Say That?


You all know that I love the Responsive Classroom philosophy and embracing this philosophy at East Side has transformed our school due to the belief that the social and emotional curriculum is just as important as the academic.  Responsive Classroom has a plethora of resources such as topics on Bullying, Academic Choice, Building Parent Relationships, you name it.  

One of the areas that we touched upon a few years ago was Teacher Language.  We used the Power of Our Words as a study book to work on how we are talking to our students as well as what we say to each other as adults.  It’s a very powerful book and if you need a copy, I have extras.  The RC website even has wonderful blogs about overusing the phrases, “I notice..” and “I see..”  here.  

One of the areas we as adults need to be careful with is what we are saying and how we are saying things to our students.  “Wow! You’re a genius” and “You can do better than that” may seem like words of encouragement, but is it possible that these expressions could decrease student motivation or hinder student learning?  Are our students taking it the wrong way?  

What we say as teachers in the classroom may not be what your students hear.  The message we intend to send our students may be distorted by the words we choose to use.  Certain types of language that teachers use to talk to, and about students, can reduce learning and create a state of classroom disharmony.

In this time of change, and boy do we have lots of it, I am asking you to stop, and think before you say what is on your mind to your students.  We are all frustrated by change, and lots of it, some good, some not so, but we also have to have an awareness of what is said and how we say it to our students.  There is no room for sarcasm as you all know. As Paula Denton, the author of Power of Our Words wrote:

 Sarcasm, another form of indirect language, is also common in the classroom. “John, what part of ‘Put your phone away’ don’t you understand?” a teacher asks. The students laugh, and the teacher thinks she has shown that she has a sense of humor. But she has embarrassed John and diminished his trust in her. And even though the other students laughed, they too might feel less trusting of the teacher, no longer seeing her as a protector but as someone who has the potential to use words in a hurtful way. It would be more effective for the teacher to directly state, “John, put your phone away.” If he doesn’t respond, then it’s time to try another strategy, such as the use of logical consequences.

Make sure you are putting in the 3 R’s for Teacher Language:  Reinforcing, Reminding and Redirecting.  Some of you put these phrases on your back wall to help remind you what to say.  Read the resources from the RC pages here, here and here.  

My fear, as we continue to focus so much of our time on to the common core, is losing the social and emotional areas we worked on so hard as a building and as a community.  As a leader of this building, this is NOT what I want to lose.  We have to continue to focus on the social and emotional curriculum as well.  Please do not give that up and continue to be the best of the best!  Have a great week!


Other News
  • Bus Duty for Jan 6 – Jan 17 Team 9:  Kathy Palmer, Jennifer Nichols, Mackenzie Ritz Upcoming bus duty:  Feb. 3- Feb. 14 Team 1:  Steph Plaisted, Brooke Crump, Kim Johnson
  • The STLE Applications are a great way to provide help and leadership within our school district as well as get paid.  I sent the email out to you and if you are interested, please see me because there is a process to be completed.  We need your help!!  I am looking for some K-2 teacher in our building for math and ELA.  If you are interested, come see me.  Applications are due to me by Tuesday, January 28th.  
  • We have a staff meeting on Feb. 3rd.  Let’s see if we can get to do this and not get cancelled out.  Kim Hayes will join us.  
Things in the Blogsphere
  • Peter Greene has a commentary about what Commissioner John King wrote a commentary in the NY Post about a  speech by  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. given in NY in 1962 and how it compares to the Common Core.  Really??
  • Commissioner King defends the implementation of CCSS in NY after he was grilled by the New York state senators here.
  • Yo-Yo Ma writes that it is not STEM that we need to be focused on but STEAM and arts integration for creativity here.  Also, empathy and imagination.
  • Dave Burgess will be co-moderating #NYEDChat Monday, January 27 @ 9:00p.m.  Use hashtag #NYEDChat to join the conversation on twitter.
  • Peter DeWitt writes about why Arne Duncan needs more dialogue and less monologue in his speeches here.
  • Read my new post Is the NYS Education Department Listening Now?
  • What are the five things you are grateful for?  Make a list daily.  It does wonders!
  • Be the change agent for kids!  Be a champion for kids.  Every kid deserves a champion!

App of the Week:  DIIGO

Diigo is a web clipper that stores websites and information neatly into files for management.  The use of Diigo is amazing.  You can set-up folders of topics as well as share these folders with others.  It is a great way to categorize your searches, articles, blogs, and internet websites.  You can also create lists and use them with your students.  It is a great tool to use for research and the best part, IT”S FREE!.  
Other Items of Interest
The latest issue of School Administrator has several articles aboutinstructional rounds.


There are some new sample-items from PARCC if you want to get a feel for what it might be like.


Here are some examples of videos used for flipped faculty meetings.


The concerns about privacy have had a significant impact on inBloom and the work it was planning on with many states.
Here are ideas for connecting the Arts with the Common Core. Here’s the crosswalk with music.
Monetary incentives (merit pay) have not been shown to have an impact on student achievement, according to New York City’s experiment.


This is a nice list of mid-year reminders to share with teachers – as we make the “turn” between semesters.

This short video quickly explains one way to organize the classroom in workstations.

Better Lesson continues to add more Common Core-aligned lessons that have been developed by their cadre of master teachers.

Americans with less education are sicker and live shorter lives. This report provides the details, including the finding that this is particularly true for white women.


The latest Responsive Classroom newsletter includes articles about increasing reading stamina, teachers’ choice of words, and decreased disciplinary referrals.

This article from Forbes takes a different perspective about international test scores — that the US is actually doing better than those other countries.


Grant Wiggins doesn’t let up on his blogging. This time he comments on the challenge of change and offers some good ideas to move ahead. There’s a lot here.


This diagram shows the relationship between CCLS math, CCLS ELA/Literacy, and the Next Generation Science Standards. It’s a quick way to see the associations.


This guide from NYSUT and NYSPTA about the Common Core for parents might be helpful.
3 Videos on Classroom Management
Grade 3 | ELA | Management (Downloads)
Ms. Sinclair centers her students each day by using a circle discussion to have them rate how they are feeling. She then uses this information to help gauge her instruction for the day. 
All Grades | All Subjects | Routines
Ms. Alcala knows that a little competition for middle school students can rally them around a common purpose
All Grades | All Subjects | Management
Ms. Noonan has figured out how to maximize instructional time. By attaching content to her transitions, she can introduce new words to her 5th grade “scholars” at every opportunity.  
A Touch of Humor
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