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I'm a teacher who writes about literacy instruction, character strengths, and teacher flourishing. With every article I write, my goal is to help you (and me) grow more effective and more stable in our work with students. New articles are sent to my popular (and free) email newsletter. Below, you'll find links to everything I've written to date. Since it's a lot (more than 400,000 words), I'll start with some of my more popular posts.

Most Practical

  • This blog can be very overwhelming, as it contains over six years of my rough draft thinking as a classroom teacher-writer. Thankfully, there's now a polished and refined version of much of what I've written on the blog. These 6 Things: How to Focus Your Teaching on What Matters Most has been called “a how-to guide for teaching with your head and your heart” and “among the most helpful, practical, insightful teaching resources” available. It's been read and appreciated by middle school math teachers in California, college writing instructors in Idaho, heads of schools in Dubai, and elementary teachers in Michigan. It's the shortest path into understanding how I think about and approach our work as educators. If you don't have a year to sift through my blog, consider getting the book, first for you and then for your team 🙂 The first chapter is here.

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The Full List

All of my articles are in chronological order below. Enjoy.


  • March 19th Teacher Attrition, the Serenity Prayer, and the Resilient Inner Life 0

    How can we keep the best teachers in education, engaged in the work, and flourishing long-term? This is a core question of my work as a teacher and writer, and so I was grateful at a recent conference to learn from Wendy Zdeb, Executive Director of the Michigan Association for Secondary School Principals (MASSP). Wendy is […]

  • March 14th Why Academics *Still* Matter for Long-Term Flourishing 3

    Despite the intuitive and empirical evidence for the case that academics alone aren’t the key to the long-term flourishing of our young people, our schools are wise to focus on academic mastery for all students. Why? Because the work of mastering something — be it writing or biology or physical fitness or music — has, as its byproduct, […]

  • March 12th We Empirically Know that Academics Aren’t the Whole Picture of Long-Term Flourishing 0

    Last time, I demonstrated that we intuitively know that student long-term flourishing outcomes result not primarily from academic knowledge and skill, but rather from noncognitive factors (e.g., perseverance, the ability to focus, work ethic, kindness, bravery, and so on). As we discussed, it’s not that academic mastery doesn’t matter at all — it clearly does […]

  • March 7th We Intuitively Know that Academics Aren’t the Whole Picture of Long-Term Flourishing 0

    Last August, I was leading a professional development workshop at a large high school in Wyoming. I asked the staff of 120 teachers to picture a student they felt was likely to succeed in life. I gave them about ten seconds to do this. Then, I asked them to tell me why they selected that […]

  • March 5th 10 Tips for Teachers from Kate Spade’s Manners 1

    This past weekend, I was in my home reading alongside my older children — one of the great delights of my older daughters’ entrance into middle childhood with its blessed ability to read independently — and I pulled one of Crystal’s old books off the shelf: the late Kate Spade’s Manners. As I often do […]

  • February 28th What is Good Professional Development? 0

    One reason teachers leave the profession is surely that the profession doesn’t feel all that professional sometimes. This is caused, in part, by poor professional development. (It is also caused, in part, by poor teacher attitudes around professional development… but that’s a topic for another post.) In designing professional development that’s good, I find the […]

  • February 26th 24 Tips for Leading Better Professional Development 2

    At this point in my career, I’ve led over 100 different professional development experiences, ranging from keynotes to conference sessions to whole-day breakouts. The work has been with a broad spectrum of audiences: whole district staffs ranging from 6 people (total staff, whole district) to 1,500; elementary teachers exclusively; secondary teachers exclusively; ELA-only groups; only […]

  • February 21st Beware the Planning Fallacy 2

    In 1994, 37 psychology students were asked to estimate how long it would take to write their theses. On the bright side (“If everything goes as well as it could”) they estimated an average of 27.4 days; on the dark side (“If everything goes as badly as it could”) they estimated an average of 48.6 […]

  • February 19th Successful v. Useful: Lessons on Teaching from Jim Collins and Peter Drucker 7

    When management researcher Jim Collins was 36 years old, he was invited to spend a day at the home of Peter Drucker. Drucker is someone I’ve just started reading, as I’m in the research phase for a course on time management. The more I read on this topic, the more I find people reverently referencing Drucker’s work. The guiding question […]

  • February 14th The Shift 14

    Last time, I shared a long and impossible list of things that teachers like us feel expected to do. Many of you wrote and shared your additions to the list (e.g., club sponsorships, lunch duty), making it even more accurate, and even longer, and even more oppressive. Suffice it to say, the default conditions of […]

  • February 12th The Pressure 2

    Teaching can pretty quickly turn you into a basket case. Consider a list of responsibilities — of things that we “have to do” — that our colleague Lynsay Fabio, a secondary English teacher, came up with recently. (Note: A potential side effect of reading this list is shortness of breath.) Read the class novel myself, […]

  • February 7th Why I Don’t Write Much About Large-Scale Teaching Reform and Policy Change 6

    I received a message recently that speaks to a tension I’ve felt for some time as a writer. I will call the writer Jonathan, as this is the pseudonym he preferred: Dave, I love your stuff and I really enjoyed reading [your post “Tough Minds, Tender Hearts.”] I totally buy what you’re saying here, and […]

  • February 5th The Time Warp Scenario: How to Get Unstuck On Big Projects 0

    Whether you’re planning a unit or prepping to lead PD or preparing for a job interview or writing a book proposal or drafting a speech, if you’re like me, you’ll inevitably run into moments where you get stuck. What I’m talking about are those times when the internal dialogue is like this: “AHHHH! I’M GOING […]

  • January 31st Maybe It’s Time for a Diet 1

    When Tracy DiNunzio was born, her vertebrae didn’t form around her spinal cord. Her spina bifida meant a childhood characterized not by the rambling around and bumps and scrapes that my kids experience, but rather by the pain and surgeries that her condition required. DiNunzio recalls that during this time, she “tried complaining and being […]

  • January 29th Tough Minds, Tender Hearts 4

    I’ve been thinking lately about prioritization. Many teachers who subscribe to this blog — colleagues like you — write about how little time they have, how overwhelmed they are, how difficult it is to do all they’re expected to do. I don’t just read their frustrations — I feel them. And it especially pains me […]

  • January 24th How and Why to Use Storytelling in the Classroom 0

    It was the first day back from winter break, and after students completed their written warm-up, I started class like this: When I was in high school, I remember one summer break when I worked for my stepdad selling Little Debbie snack cakes. The way it worked was you’d drive this big truck from grocery […]

  • January 22nd How to Show Appropriate Affection for Students 4

    It is a sad sign of our time that I have to add “appropriate” to the title of this post. Without it, our minds quickly slip to inappropriate affection, conditioned as we are by so many salacious stories on the local news about criminally inappropriate teacher-student interactions. Despite the news stories (and the fear they […]

  • January 17th When Humor Hurts: The Trouble with Sarcasm 10

    When I started, this post was called “The Case Against Sarcasm in the Classroom.” But upon doing the research and reflecting on how my own practice intersects with the topic, the case became less clear. And so I shifted my stance to the more nuanced, exploratory approach you’ll find below. I hope you don’t mind […]

  • January 15th How (and Why) to Use Humor in the Classroom 0

    Laughter is not just laughter. It’s the most fundamental sign of safety and connection. — Daniel Coyle, The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups Have you ever had one of those awkward moments where you tell your students a joke or share with them something that you think is funny, only to have […]

  • January 10th Trust, but Verify 0

    In his fascinating and quick Anything You Want, thinker Derek Sivers tells a story to explain a lesson he learned about delegation. (And yes, I understand that you and I are teachers, and that most of us lack assistants to delegate to. But there are key parallels. More after the story.) The story goes like […]

  • January 8th Three Prescriptions for Thinking More Clearly about Teaching, Part 3: Write More 2

    All right, here’s the ground we’ve covered so far: Clear thinking yields better teaching and better living and wiser choices. We want to be clear thinkers. But it doesn’t come automatically. It’s not the kind of thing that a degree confers. It’s won through practice, and we can always improve it. To start, we can […]

  • January 3rd Three Prescriptions for Thinking More Clearly about Teaching, Part 2: Consume More Costly Things 3

    Last time, I explained that thinking clearly is a huge promoter of our own flourishing. And since flourishing teachers tend to do better work and enjoy their lives more than frustrated teachers do, this is no small matter. It’s at the root of our mission to make teaching better. So the first step is to […]

  • January 1st Three Prescriptions for Thinking More Clearly about Teaching, Part 1: Consume Fewer Urgent Things 6

    When you think clearly about teaching, you: Analyze issues in the classroom more quickly and skillfully Depersonalize setbacks and failures so that you can grow from them rather than be crushed by them Design simpler, more powerful lessons Do fewer things, but far better Go home with energy left for your loved ones Enjoy the […]


  • December 27th Looking Back on 2018’s Work Outside the Classroom 3

    I’ve written before on the work, the gap, and the mission of this blog, but the summary is this: This blog exists to promote the long-term flourishing of students, particularly by means of promoting the long-term flourishing of teachers. So, how did we do, in terms of the mission? A brief history of the blog […]

  • December 24th You Actually Can, and Should, Shut if Off 2

    Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. — Tim Kreider for The New York Times “You know, teaching is one of those jobs that you just […]

  • December 20th Unconscious Thought Theory: This is Why Teacher Intuition Matters 2

    In a simple thought experiment (described in this post and in the second chapter of These 6 Things) I’ve asked several thousand teachers over the years what it is that makes a student likely to succeed. By asking participants to think quickly (“Who’s the first student that comes to mind…?”; “What’s the first descriptor that […]

  • December 18th We Become What We Do 1

    The best way to become a certain kind of person is to do what those kinds of people do. This common sense dates back to at least Aristotle, who taught that the paths to both vice and virtue run through our actions. For teachers, this means that if we want to be sharper thinkers, then […]

  • December 13th Common Teacher Hang-up: What Do I Do When Debates Get Heated? 0

    With midterm elections upon the United States and Americans demonstrating a penchant for argumentation heavy on earnestness and light on amicability, I thought this might be a helpful bit to share. Sometimes teachers write in with questions like this: “Okay, I’m doing pop-up debates, but sometimes they get really intense. What do I do?” Before […]

  • December 11th Why the Best Teaching Strategies Are Like Boxes of Building Blocks 1

    A lot of my favorite teaching strategies are like the box of building blocks that my children have. When the box gets dumped out, it’s amazing how many things my kids can make. The blocks provide a set of very basic constraints — how many there are, their shapes, their colors — but mostly there’s […]

  • December 6th Improving Student Motivation via Micro-Commenting on Papers 2

    I’ve written and spoken passionately about the need for us to think better about grading and feedback. When feedback isn’t fast, it’s a triple loss. Our quality of life decreases as we drag papers around with us for weeks. The usefulness of the feedback decreases because our kids, when they get the work back a week or […]

  • December 4th The Quarry Worker’s Creed 0

    “We who cut mere stones must always be envisioning cathedrals.” The line above is the “Quarry Worker’s Creed,” as seen in Cal Newport’s Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World (p. 89). Newport explains that he first saw this line as an epigraph to The Pragmatic Programmer, a book that also has strong connections to […]

  • November 21st Student Motivation Problems Crush the Kids — and They Crush Us, Too! 1

    Motivation can seem like a boring topic. At least, it did to me when I was in my undergraduate EdPsych classes. But here’s the thing: when kids aren’t motivated to do work with care, the whole endeavor of education breaks down. You can’t passively master anything, except passivity. For our kids to master art and […]

  • November 20th How (and Why) to Ask Administrators for PD Funding 3

    Every year, the US spends billions of dollars on teacher professional development. That’s a lot of money. If you stacked up $100 bills one on top of the other, a billion-dollar stack would be taller than the Burj Khalifa — the world’s tallest building. Unfortunately, much of this money is wasted. As Dan Weisberg of […]

  • November 15th Feeling Burned Out? Read This 14

    I’ve never met a teacher who didn’t go into education hoping that they’d make a difference — that, ultimately, their work would promote the long-term flourishing of young people. There’s no other way to begin talking about burnout than by starting with the ultimate aim of teaching: the long-term flourishing of our students. From there, we find our truest, […]

  • November 13th To the Teacher Who is Struggling Right Now 2

    Maybe it’s your first year. Or your fifth year, or your fifteenth. It could be that you’re trying out a new school, a new curriculum, or a new grade level. Maybe you had a choice — maybe you didn’t. Maybe there was a schedule change, and now you don’t have that last period prep anymore. […]

  • November 8th How to Motivate Students to Turn In Their Essays Without Using Brownies 4

    There is nothing more depressing than spending your weekend grading 125 essays. Scratch that. There is. The only thing more depressing than spending your weekend grading 125 essays is spending your weekend grading 75 essays because the other 50 didn’t turn them in. That’s Lynsay Fabio, one of our many colleagues in the great field […]

  • November 6th The Five Key Beliefs: More than Band-aids 6

    When a student walks up to me with a cut on their finger, I point them toward a drawer near the back of my classroom. Band-aids are great for tiny wounds like this. Teaching strategies are kind of like band-aids for teachers. For some teacher troubles, band-aids are perfect: How do I hook students into […]

  • November 1st Linking My Past Burning Questions with Real Kids 0

    Let me bring you to the edge of my thinking. Here’s a quick summary of past burning questions that I’ve answered for myself — much of it publicly, in real-time, on this blog. What’s the point of school? It’s the long-term flourishing of kids. Our work is to promote that flourishing. So what? This question has helped me […]

  • October 30th What Are Your Burning Questions Right Now? 13

    “What are your burning questions right now?” The first time someone asked me this, I was a fifth year teacher at a group interview in a coffee shop in West Michigan. We were all there interviewing for the Lake Michigan Writing Project’s annual summer institute — four weeks of intensive professional learning with a group […]

  • October 25th The Argument for Earnest and Amicable Argument 1

    Argument, my dear colleague, is precious. I’m not being sarcastic here. Something that is precious (from the Latin pretium, or price) is highly valuable; it is to be treated with the greatest of care. Like an irreplaceable family heirloom passed down through the generations, argument comes to us not at the behest of some list […]

  • October 23rd The Whirlwind 0

    For the past two weeks, I’ve been meaning to write down every task I complete as I prepare for, teach, and then reflect on my lessons each day. In all the days I’ve tried this, I’ve never gotten further than an hour or so. Once teaching starts, I just can’t seem to find a way […]

  • October 19th Tech for Tech’s Sake Isn’t Good in Our Classrooms 0

    One of my students this fall — we’ll call her Rachel — has a problem with technology. Whenever she’s on a Chromebook, it’s as if her fingers take on a mind of their own. She’s almost never on task when I come around to see the thesis statement she’s supposed to be typing into PollEverywhere, […]

  • October 16th The Secret Skills of Master Teachers: Atomic Habits 0

    Recently, I had the chance to read an advance copy of James Clear’s new book, Atomic Habits. Here’s the thing: I’m not huge into the literature on habits these days. I’ve been fascinated by it before, but I’ve kind of moved on. So when I sat down to read Atomic Habits, it wasn’t because I was intrigued […]

  • October 11th The Secret Skills of Master Teachers: Batching Busy (or Shallow) Work for the Sake of Deep Work 0

    “We got to the moon and built the pyramids without email and Facebook. You can go a couple of hours without checking them.” — Eric Barker, Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong I get a lot of email, as I’m sure you do, […]

  • October 9th The Secret Skills of Master Teachers: Predictable Time Off 0

    Every week, I take Sundays off from school work. More and more frequently, I’m taking Saturdays off, too.  It hasn’t always been this way, and once in a while it stops being that way (like during the weeks leading up to the manuscript submission deadline for These 6 Things, or during the final weeks before AP […]

  • October 4th The Secrets Skills of Master Teachers: Managing Your Mood 0

    This past summer, I had a whole day set aside for just writing and research. I was so excited. I went to one of my writing hideouts with a stack of books, and I already knew the first article I was going to write. I fired up my computer, opened up my website editor, and […]

  • October 2nd The Secret Skills of Master Teachers: Working Hard (and Smart) 0

    There’s a pretty straightforward skill that master teachers — and maybe I shouldn’t call them that, maybe instead I should say “good and sane” teachers — tend to have that I’ve not treated yet — the way that they work. It’s both hard and smart. They’re constantly pushing at the edges of their expertise but also […]

  • September 27th The Secret Skills of Master Teachers: Paul Graham and the Right Kind of Procrastination 0

    “That’s the sense in which the most impressive people I know are all procrastinators. They’re type-C procrastinators: they put off working on small stuff to work on big stuff.” — Paul Graham, computer scientist and essayist, on his blog There are always infinity things that you could be working on as a teacher, so procrastination […]

  • September 25th The Secret Skills of Master Teachers: Making Bad Habits Harder and Ambiguous Habits Better 0

    Often times, the thing that keeps me from doing the deep, non-instructional work of teaching — the planning, thinking, giving feedback, researching, problem-solving — isn’t students dropping by (which we discussed last time). Instead, it’s me. In particular, it’s my bad habits — my time-wasters on autopilot. When my bad habits kick in — news reading, […]

  • September 20th The Secret Skills of Master Teachers: Reducing Distractions from Students 0

    To produce the clarity of thought necessary for deep and impactful teaching, the teacher has to do something that her environment constantly resists: she must avail herself of distraction-free blocks of time each day in which to do her most important work. I’ll use my setting as an example of what I mean by an […]

  • September 18th The Secret Skills of Master Teachers: Are They a Thing? 0

    If you had walked up to me as a struggling first year teacher and said the kinds of things I needed to hear — something like, “Dude. Slow down. Focus. Breathe. You’re working too hard.” — then I think I would have looked at you with eager eyes and said, “You know what? I’d love […]

  • September 13th What I Ask 0

    A few days ago, I shared the gist of this blog: the work, the gap, the mission. This time, let me be real about something. The most common affirmation I get from readers like you is that you appreciate that I write from a real and living classroom. It’s clear, you tell me, that I […]

  • September 11th What I Do 0

    I picture this blog as a sort of big ol’ teacher speakeasy. We serve uppers in the morning and sedatives at night. We come here for encouragement, equipment, refreshment, and refining. You know it’s a place where the folks understand you; you’re not judged when things don’t go right in your room all the time […]

  • September 6th The Work, the Gap, the Mission 0

    This blog is about the work, the gap, and the mission. The work is teaching. Whether you read as a coach or an admin or a superintendent or a teacher, what we want is for teaching to be as great as it can be. We believe there’s an inherent nobility to teaching, as well as […]

  • September 4th Exploring Our Unexplored Weaknesses 0

    The Mensch [teacher] has a tremendous willingness to learn from everything and everyone. He or she seeks feedback and is not blindsided by unexplored weaknesses. — Bruna Martinuzzi, The Leader as a Mensch: Become the Kind of Person Others Want to Follow, p. 54 To be the kind of teacher from whom great teaching tends to […]

  • August 30th The Teacher as a Mensch 0

    To be called a Mensch is the greatest compliment one can give you. –Bruna Martinuzzi, The Leader as a Mensch: Become the Kind of Person Others Want to Follow, p. xiv Every time I pick up Bruna Martinuzzi’s little book, The Leader as a Mensch, I’m given a mark that’s well out in front of me. […]

  • August 28th The Positive Parent Phone Call 0

    Armed with the following, it’s possible that a three-minute phone call can make your year with a given student. You just need: a specific thing/event/anecdote that you appreciate about the student in question; the right “bent” — humility, appreciation — for working well with parents (a whole post on that here); and a working phone […]

  • August 23rd Sane Educators = A Good Strategy 0

    If you settle on the idea that the point of schools is the long-term flourishing of kids, you get to explore all kinds of interesting territory — in your own practice and in your teams (department, PLC, school). The opportunities for earnest and amicable professional arguments — loaded, of course, with paraphrasing and evidence and encouragement […]

  • August 21st “Hang Up Philosophy”: A Note on Philosophies of Education 1

    When I was graduating from my teacher preparation program, I remember writing a “Philosophy of Education” statement in Microsoft Word. It had a cool font, and I printed it on cool paper. You looked at the thing, and you were like, “Dang. This guy.” So impressive… until you read it. That’s when you realized it should […]

  • August 16th Guest Post from Grant Piros: Two Things To Help Schools “Learn Forward” 0

    Note from Dave: This is a guest post by Grant Piros. As a rule, I don’t do guest posts. But when Grant shared this piece with me, I found that I was sharpened. He clarified two questions for me this school year: How do we build stronger and more effective teacher learning teams? And how […]

  • August 14th “Worksheets Are the Worst” 3

    It’s common enough to hear a well-meaning teacher use language like this: Worksheets are the worst. There should be zero worksheets allowed in schools. Only bad teachers use worksheets. In one sense, I get it. When a class period becomes nothing more than a teacher distributing worksheet after worksheet to keep kids busy, that class […]

  • August 9th Fast Feedback is Effective Feedback: Here’s How to Do Better 7

    If we want our kids to become good at things, we need to give them feedback. It’s not grades that make a student become a better writer or speaker or knowledge-builder — it’s feedback. (I do work in a system where we use grades, by the way — I don’t spend much time thinking or […]

  • August 7th Wheel Alignments (and a Change to the Blog) 1

    Every few years, my old and faithful Toyota Camry starts doing this weird thing where it wants to veer off the road. I take it in, and I find that it’s time for a wheel alignment. When the wheels are tilted even a fraction of an inch in the wrong direction, the car doesn’t drive […]

  • August 4th Moments of Genuine Connection: A Piece of Paper, a Clipboard, and a Goal 0

    When we intentionally track moments of genuine connection with students, starting with the first day of school, a few important things happen: We connect with every kid. Using a clipboard and a single sheet of paper with all 120 or so of my students’ names, I can quickly see who I’ve connected with lately, and who I haven’t. We […]

  • July 31st Simplify Responsibly 0

    Educational “solutions” are often hopelessly complex. This flies in the face of a problem-solving principle you’re probably familiar with: Occam’s razor, or “the simplest solution is the best one.” I don’t mean to be a whiner when I say hopelessly. I just mean that if our objective in the United States is to improve long-term […]

  • July 28th Students Won’t Read? Start with Their Beliefs 0

    For reading in any course to matter as much as it can, the students have to 1) do the reading, and 2) do the reading actively, with care (e.g., asking questions, looking up new terms, taking notes). Many teachers — myself included — encounter a few common situations in which kids don’t naturally do this […]

  • July 24th 6 Teaching Insights I Gained through Writing a Book 0

    Today’s the day. The book is out. I hope you’ll read it, and I hope it spreads. Let me know what you think. Writing a book on top of teaching ninth grade isn’t something I’d recommend to anyone. It’s taken a supportive spouse, patient kids, and lots of failure. I thought it’d be good to share […]

  • July 17th Asking the Right Question: What’s It For? 2

    When I was the ticking time bomb teacher — the one doing All The Things, reenacting the Hollywood-esque Savior Teacher storyline, rushing like a runaway train toward the inevitable moment when I’d need to quit — one of my problems, maybe my biggest one, was that I wasn’t asking the right questions. My sights were […]

  • July 14th Deciding: How I Stopped Quitting Teaching 4

    Thankfully, things changed. I decided. (Part 1 of this story can be found here.) “So Dave, tell us — what professional books have you been reading lately?” This was the interview question that should have cost me the long-term subbing job. I didn’t know it yet, but when I came on at Cedar Springs High School, […]

  • July 10th I Quit Teaching 4

    When I was a first year teacher in Baltimore, MD, I recall sitting in my principal’s office one day and making a commitment that would shape my life. This man was a saint to me, one of my earliest professional mentors — heck, professional father would be more accurate. He was asking me how long […]

  • July 7th The Business (and Educational) Sense of Selfless Service 0

    Last weekend, I was at a conference in Boise, ID, and it was hosted by a company that used to call itself ConvertKit and now calls itself Seva. (The name means “selfless service,” and they’ve got a brief and hearty video explaining the name change — and full disclosure, it briefly mentions me — at […]

  • July 3rd What Would This Look Like If It Were Simple? 1

    In the introduction to Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World, author Tim Ferriss describes a time in his life when, in a fit of overwhelm, he asked himself a clarifying question: “What would this look like if it were easy?” He goes on, What would this look like if […]

  • June 30th “Years of Experience”: What Kind? 5

    If your school is like mine, your pay is tied to your years of teaching experience. I’m 11 years in, so I’m on the 11th pay scale step at my school. I’m not writing today to critique this method of teacher pay determination. I’m certain that there are better ways to determine how much a […]

  • June 26th “You’re My Favorite Teacher” 3

    This is the worst compliment that a teacher can pay attention to. Favorite isn’t the goal — greatness is. There can only be one favorite teacher in a child’s heart, but there can be dozens of great teachers. If you’re in a position of school culture-building (and all of us are), then you need to […]

  • June 23rd What to Do When You Need a Credibility Breakthrough: The Student-by-Student Ground Game 0

    Last time, we looked at the CCP of teacher credibility. Now, let’s examine the top trick I know for building it rapidly. This is useful if you’re new at a school or if you feel like you’re credibility is stagnating. What Kevin Hart taught me about teaching I read a story recently about comedian Kevin […]

  • June 19th The CCP of Teacher Credibility 0

    Starting out at a new school is hard, whether you’ve got no years of experience or ten. You can bring instructional expertise, nuclear passion, and tomes of knowledge, but when you start at a new school, there’s a big thing you lack: credibility. Is this person a good teacher? That’s the question everyone’s asking, whether […]

  • June 16th The Folly (and Difficulty) of Yes-itis 8

    At the end of this past school year, I reaped the sour fruits of saying yes to too much during the preceding few months. Yes-itis is not a noble condition, despite what 25-year-old Dave Stuart might tell you. Saying yes to too much is the epitome of foolishness; it consigns us to survival mode, where […]

  • June 12th Warm Self-Critique: A Mark of Great Teachers 0

    If we stick to teaching as long as we ought to, we’re going to make bad decisions — all kinds of them. The key to becoming a wiser teacher, then, is not to aim at making no mistakes, but to learn from the mistakes of this year so that next year we can make different […]

  • June 9th What (and How) I’m Excited to Read This Summer 2

    If I had a few clone Daves, I’d task one of them with reading all the time. Each morning I’d give him his daily ration of coffee, chocolate, and reading material, and then he’d go off to the library or the coffee shop or an empty classroom at my school or in a hammock in […]

  • June 5th You Should Stay in Education for a Long Time, But There Is One Catch 3

    It’s been a whirlwind of change in my small world of late, and it’s led me to reflect on a pair of truths about teaching. If you, too, are in a time of turmoil or tumult, consider the following. First, I think we all ought to make it our goal to commit to education long-term. […]

  • June 2nd This Summer, Achieve Something You Care About, and WOOP to Get Started 0

    This post is a little different because it’s a video that I made for you while in my car in a parking lot. It’s sort of a weird idea, but here’s the thing: I’ve had the idea for this article in my brain for a few weeks, but haven’t had the time to sit down […]

  • May 29th What About Teacher Flourishing? 4

    We talk a lot about flourishing here at the blog, and that’s good because it’s the whole point of schooling. Schools exist to promote the long-term flourishing of kids. In the best schools, the adults who facilitate all of this are flourishing, too. The most rigorous study of human flourishing that I’m aware of is […]

  • May 22nd A Simple Trick that Helps Performance Anxiety 2

    A few weeks ago, Grace came to me worried about how tests were making her anxious. She was doing all right on tests at the start of the year, but then she had a bad one, and then at the next one she got really anxious before the test started and while it was happening, […]

  • May 19th What is WOOP, and Why Does It Help with Student Motivation? 0

    Is there anything more motivating than setting, striving for, and achieving a meaningful goal? From what I see in the classroom with my students, at home with my children, and in my own pursuits as a person, successful goal-setting is one of the best ways to get me pumped up. When I reach a goal, […]

  • May 15th Students of Our Students’ Hearts 1

    The key to life change is not the acts of the will but the loves of the heart. St. Augustine Teaching toward the long-term flourishing of our students means that, in many cases, we desire that the lives of our students will change. We hold both a high view of the impact we can have […]

  • May 12th Using Skull and Crossbones Lists to Ctl-A Delete Bad Habit Errors 2

    A full year into using the skull and crossbones list, I can confirm that it does its job. When I speak with writing teachers, including those in the various content areas, they all share a visceral reaction to the kinds of writing errors that are habitual rather than intellectual. I’m talking about things like: not […]

  • May 8th How to Become a More Credible Writing Teacher 0

    One of the beliefs that motivates our kids to do the work we ask them to do, and to do it with care and attention, is teacher credibility. When kids believe that we’re good at our jobs, they’re more motivated. It’s well-vetted in the research (e.g., it appears high on John Hattie’s “visible learning” meta-analysis list), […]

  • May 5th Simple Interventions: Building Connections to Help Kids Value Coursework 0

    In my last post, I argued that the best solution to student boredom is the simplest one that works. Additionally, I claimed that when we value a subject, we’re less likely to find it boring. (The Value belief is one of five I focus on here at the blog.) So, how do we help our […]

  • May 1st Beliefs and Boredom 1

    When students get bored, they disengage from the task at hand. They either don’t do the work — of listening, of learning, of reading, of writing — or they do it with a very low level of attention and care. To remedy student boredom, I argue that the simplest solutions are the best ones. It’s […]

  • April 28th The Five Key Beliefs that Motivate Student Writers 0

    The other day, I was preparing a two-hour keynote for a group of high school and college writing teachers in Hailey, Idaho. My initial plan was to focus on quantity and quality. The argument: first, that anything we undertake to improve writing outcomes must take into account the toll on teacher stress and workload; second, […]

  • April 24th The Finish Line 0

    Note from Dave: This article is written by our colleague, the excellent Lindsay Veitch. The text message read something this: Hey Linds. I am writing an essay for Psych 201 and I’m wondering if you could review my intro and make sure I’ve written a fully developed essay? It was my sister-in-law, Taylor, a high […]

  • April 21st How to Improve School Cultures, Part 6: Think Like a Gardener, Work Like a Carpenter 2

    Culture transcends strategy. –Ryan Holiday, Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue There are no quick fixes for better school cultures. You don’t bring in a consultant or a training program and then there we go, all better. School cultures emerge constantly from the complex interplay of skills, leadership, meetings, arguments, and PD. We […]

  • April 17th How to Improve School Cultures, Part 5: Simple, In-House PD 5

    In an article for HaYidion, a principal at a Jewish day school in Houston describes his recent experiment in shadowing a student for a whole day. Among other benefits, he explains that this “day in the life” exercise gave him greater empathy for students, credibility with students, and insight into effective instruction. It got me […]

  • April 14th How to Improve School Cultures, Part 4b: A Case Study in Earnest and Amicable Argument as PD 0

    Last time, I laid out the case for argument as a means to radically enriching school cultures. You’ll want to read that post before this one. So: arguments make for rich school cultures — not just arguments in our classrooms, but arguments in our meetings. But what does this actually look like? Thankfully, there’s a […]

  • April 11th How to Improve School Cultures, Part 4: More and Better Arguments 1

    Here’s a counterintuitive idea in our present age of toxic disagreement: the best school cultures are riddled with arguments.  To be clear: culture-enriching arguments aren’t the same things as the radioactive Twitter ranting, name-calling, outrage-mongering, or Facebook flame-warring that we’re exposed to these days. No. Those kinds of things kill culture; like cesspools, they breed […]

  • April 7th How to Improve School Cultures, Part 3: Better Meetings 2

    If we want to improve the cultures of our schools, we’d be smart to look not just at the way we lead, but also the way we meet. Whether meeting one-on-one or as a whole district, informally or formally, as a PLC or as a grade-level team, meetings create culture. Today, I want to look […]

  • April 3rd How to Improve School Cultures, Part 2: Collins’ Level 5 Leadership 0

    When school cultures get toxic, everyone suffers: kids, staffs, communities. Long-term flourishing falls from view, obscured by angst and turmoil and distraction. One method for improving school cultures is to develop Dan Coyle’s three essential skills of great cultures: psychological safety, mutual vulnerability, and shared purpose. (See this blog post, or see Coyle’s book The Culture Code.) These […]

  • March 31st How to Improve School Cultures, Part 1: Coyle’s Three Skills 3

    Lately, my professional reading keeps bumping into the themes of school culture and leadership. At first, it can seem like school culture is far removed from the work of classroom teachers like me. After all, I don’t lead PLC or staff meetings, and I’m not giving speeches or writing emails to the district. I also […]

  • March 27th Neomania is Making Us Crazier (and Less Effective) Teachers 0

    I’m sorry to be all alarmist with the title here, but seriously: neomania is a problem, and if you’re alive with access to the Internet, you might have it. Let me back up: neomania — an obsession with what’s new — wasn’t in my vocabulary until I recently heard Mike Schmoker riff on it during a recent […]

  • March 24th The #1 Place in School Where Students’ Key Beliefs are Shaped 0

    I recently came across a substantial “big data” analysis of PISA scores from around the world by the McKinsey group. The data represented over 500,000 students across 72 countries, and from what I can tell they used machine learning algorithms to see what patterns they could find in the data. One of the chief findings harped […]

  • March 20th Better, Saner Homework Tips, Pt 2: Make It a Good Experience for Students 3

    Last time, I explained why I assign homework and how I make it doable for myself. That sentence might sound like an evil, teacher-centered way of thinking about homework, but it’s just practical. If the kinds of homework I give add undue frustration and overwork to my life, then I won’t give much of that kind […]

  • March 17th Better, Saner Homework, Pt 1: 6 Tips to Make It More Doable for Us 0

    I know that some great teachers in the world don’t give an ounce homework, and I’ve heard good reasons for that. Here are the reasons why I do give my ninth-grade students homework on a regular basis: First, homework is an opportunity. I want the Stuart children to have opportunities to learn beyond the school day, […]

  • March 13th Encouraged, Equipped, and Understood 0

    At one of the desks where I write for this blog, I’ve got three index cards taped to the wall. Each card has a single word on it, all caps: ENCOURAGED. EQUIPPED. UNDERSTOOD. These are how I want colleagues like you to experience the work I put into the world, whether it’s a blog post […]

  • March 10th Four Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Was a Student Teacher 1

    This past Tuesday, I gave a keynote to a group of 400 student teachers from around West Michigan. It was only twenty minutes long, so I had to be quick as I went through four things I wish people had told me when I was starting out. Before I get to the four things, you […]

  • March 6th Time to Retire 2

    If you, like me, hope to put an entire career’s worth of effort, care, improvement, and service into teaching — in other words, if you want to invest the bulk of your adult life, day by day, into this work — then there’s a job you’ve got to quit, right now. If you don’t stop […]

  • March 3rd What Makes Great Professional Development? 1

    Good professional development doesn’t come in a single kind of package. It kills me when I hear people say things like, “Everyone knows that one-and-done PD doesn’t work.” Find a dozen master teachers and ask them to list the five best professional development experiences they’ve ever had, and you’ll find that they’s list every kind of […]

  • February 27th Learning ≠ Turning On a Video 0

    My students will sometimes tell me, “I studied so much last night. I watched half of John Green’s Crash Course world history videos. We’re talking about hours of studying, Mr. Stuart.” This is problematic. The way that our kids conceptualize learning is critical, and I’m not just saying that in the folksy-wisdom sense. This is the stuff of […]

  • February 24th You’re Probably Right 2

    Student motivation begins with the internal work of teaching. We can decry the obstacles to student motivation today — kids’ tendency to either care too much about grades or to not care about them at all; our students’ access to exponentially more entertainment than ever before in world history — but there aren’t many good excuses for […]

  • February 20th The Five Questions Our Students Are Asking, All the Time 0

    All of our students, throughout the school year and especially at the start, are asking five questions. The level of motivation they’ll bring to their work in our rooms isn’t set in stone on Day One, or on Day 100. Instead, student motivation ebbs and flows based on their answers to these five questions. 1. Do I have a good […]

  • February 17th Simple Interventions: Birthdays and Belonging 0

    I’ve written before about how simple interventions can affect key student beliefs, so we’ll add this one to the “simple interventions” list. In 2006, Gregory Walton (Stanford researcher, substantial body of work on the Belonging belief) published a study* with some of his colleagues called “Mere Belonging.” In the study, he highlights the following experiment: Students […]

  • February 13th How I Prove to My Students that They Actually Can Memorize Things 1

    First of all, I do want my students to memorize some things, even in the age of Google. Smarter people than me agree. Knowing things — rather than being able to Google things — facilitates further knowledge-building, critical thinking, and literacy. There are many ways we can come to know things — incidental learning, topic […]

  • February 10th The (Mis)behaviors that Undermine Our Credibility 2

    The wildcard of student motivation, in any given classroom, is teacher credibility. If kids believe you, they’re going to earnestly consider what you have to say, whether it’s about the content they’re learning or the other four key beliefs. When my students believe in me — when they find me credible — they listen to […]

  • February 6th Ms. Blizzard and the Potential Weight of Single Interactions 0

    I was giving a keynote to the wonderful Colorado English Language Arts Society last fall, and the guy giving the keynote right before mine was none other than award-winning author Matt de la Peña. I had heard plenty about Matt before, and I even had some of his novels in my classroom library. What I didn’t […]

  • February 3rd Humble-Boldness: A Common Trait of the Greatest Teachers 3

    To be good at teaching, you need to do a few things well, getting better at them as your career progresses. And then you need to do all the rest of the things just well enough. (The “well enough” things get satisficed — one of the most useful terms I’ve come across in my research.) To be great at teaching, you need to keep on doing […]

  • January 30th Not Just Home Life: A Critical Mass of Belief-Supporting Contexts 2

    I want to camp out on the idea of home life today. Too often, I think we tend to write kids off who meet the following two conditions: They’ve got a tough home life. They are not motivated to learn. When I say “write them off,” I mean one of these: We stop trying to […]

  • January 27th Five Key Beliefs: The Source of Abbe’s Superpowers 3

    Abbe personifies a lot of the habits and traits I want my students to cultivate: working hard each day, maintaining a great attitude, treating others with kindness, keeping track of her work and completing it with care, asking questions when she has them, appreciating a challenge, and on and on. If my classes were filled […]

  • January 23rd Semester Two and New for the Sake of New 3

    One of the folks who reviewed an early version of the book I just finished writing had this critique: There aren’t enough new things in this book. Teachers want new — where’s the new? The answer, of course, is that there’s not a ton of new in my book, just like there’s not much new on […]

  • January 20th Doing It All vs. Doing One Thing Well 2

    Note from Dave: This article is by my friend and our colleague, Lindsay Veitch. I find Lindsay’s New Year’s Revelation to be especially poignant to my own season of life right now, and I hope it’s timely for you as well. It was New Year’s Eve, and we were sitting around a spread of appetizers: […]

  • January 16th The “Disappointing” Key to Impactful Teaching 0

    On the first day of my teaching career, I gave my students a rehearsed, hooyah speech. I’m pretty sure it involved standing on a desk, and I know I was decked out in the only suit I owned. I can still picture that classroom in Baltimore, filled with terrified sixth graders. You could almost see […]

  • January 13th The First Principle of Teaching 2

    When you approach a problem by first stripping it down to its most elemental parts, that’s a “first principles” approach to problem-solving. The authors of the Declaration of Independence demonstrate this approach. The relationship between Great Britain and the thirteen colonies was fraught with debate and complexity in 1776, and to explain their solution to […]

  • January 13th Thank You and (Belated) Happy New Year 0

    “I had acquired what, to my mind, is the most valuable success a writer can have — a faithful following, a reliable group of readers… who trusted me, and whose trust I must not disappoint.” -Stefan Zweig Dear Reader, With the manuscript for my book safely in the hands of my editor and the other […]


  • October 8th On Writing a Book, Pt 5: What Makes a Book Great, and How Much Insanity Does it Take to Try Writing One? 0

    Our goal here is to make something that people rave about, that becomes part of their lives. The buried insights found in those other great works were not put there on the first pass. Work is unlikely to be layered if it is written in a single stream of consciousness. No. Deep, complex work is […]

  • October 7th On Writing a Book, Pt 4: One Sentence, One Paragraph, One Page 1

    With my time these days as husband, father, and high school teacher becoming increasingly precious, I am working to write a book that will be useful and true not just when it first comes out, but also useful and true in five years, ten years, twenty years, and so on. That’s a lofty goal, to […]

  • September 30th On Writing a Book, Pt 3: Distance 0

    Last week, I submitted my rough draft of (tentatively titled) Teaching Toward Everest: A Non-Freaked Out Approach to Literacy and Mastery Across the School Day. Now, the book goes out to a handful of reviewers around the country who my publisher believes can provide me with the kind of targeted feedback I need to make […]

  • September 26th A Case Study in Simplified Instruction: The Write Structure 0

    Note from Dave: This article is actually by Lindsay Veitch, educator and author of The Write Structure. Enjoy! I brought my two-year-old to his pediatrician, Dr. Lisa Brown, for a well-visit the day we launched my ebook, The Write Structure. I casually mentioned this exciting news to Dr. Brown, and she replied as only the doctor of children […]

  • September 23rd On Writing a Book, Pt 2: Eating Glass 0

    In my last post on writing a book, which was way more than the promised one week ago, I shared how Elon Musk once likened starting a business to “eating glass and staring into the abyss of death.” Writing a book, I reported, hadn’t been quite that colorful yet. And then the next couple of […]

  • September 2nd On Writing a Book, Part 1: The Same Aims 2

    First, let me say thank you for caring to read my posts on writing. Feel free to ask me anything about the process in the comments section. Five years of blogging while teaching and teaching while blogging have taught me that it’s not my calling to write the next mega-edu-website with the latest fancy design […]

  • August 26th Temporary Changes at DaveStuartJr.com 9

    I’m going to stop blogging* for the rest of 2017. Let me explain. For the past two years, I’ve published articles regularly on this blog. There was one month where I published three posts per week (August, 2015), one month where I didn’t publish at all (December, 2015), and one month where I published once per […]

  • August 22nd When Current Events Remain the Job of Single Departments, Kids Won’t Graduate Understanding the World Well 0

    If current events are only being studied and discussed in one class during the school day — say, in your school’s English classes, where you’re having kids read and respond to an Article of the Week a la Kelly Gallagher; or it’s in your high school’s Current Events elective — then kids won’t graduate as smart about […]

  • August 19th Writing (and Learning) for Democracy 2

    Some time ago, a professor in California named Dr. Sue Baker wrote me after my post on the economic advantages of writing well. She asked, “Would it be possible to do a plug for writing instruction and how it supports our democracy? I understand that writing skills are key for employment, and that employment and being […]

  • August 15th The Skull and Crossbones List 9

    If we’re going to improve the quality of writing our students are capable of — an absolutely critical endeavor — then we first need to ensure that our kids have a large amount of writing that they do. Quantity precedes quality. In improving the amount of writing students do across the school day, we need […]

  • August 12th Cheap Prizes: We Didn’t Get into This for Those 5

    I recently met a teacher who had just finished his first year on the job somewhere in the northeast USA. He had just sat through my session on “Jedi Mind Tricks for Avoiding Burnout,” and he came up to me and said, “I get it, but I still don’t feel any better.” We kept talking, […]

  • August 8th The Write Structure: A Simple, Effective Method for Teaching Writing Across the Content Areas 1

    ​Note from Dave: When I began my career in 2006, it was as a sixth grade English Language Arts teacher in Baltimore, MD. I can still remember the scripted curriculum they handed me, complete with workbooks, student consumables, and the expectation that all of my students would be working on decoding phonemes in my double-period, sixth […]

  • August 5th The Work Beneath the Work 12

    One of the reasons we’re at risk of burning ourselves out this year is that there’s a work beneath our work. Here’s what I mean. The work that we’re heading into or in the midst of right now is lesson plans and unit designs and classroom set-ups and photocopies and tech checks and learning names and teaching annotation […]

  • August 1st Realistic Idealism 4

    Perhaps the guiltiest culprit for our burnout each year is not the latest policy from on high, the newest cumbersome teacher eval rubric, or the fact that “this year’s group is a really rough one.” In my experience, these things create challenging circumstances (and many times the challenge lies not in the things but in […]

  • July 29th Latin Word Chunks: A Case Study in Smart, Low-Stress Knowledge-Building 15

    If you’ve bought into the idea that knowledge matters — that people can’t really think critically or read well or even learn things without knowing stuff — then you’re where I am. The whole skills vs. knowledge debate is a distraction built on a false premise. So now what? I’ve been wrestling with the Now what? for a lot of the summer. Knowledge-building has a chapter in […]

  • July 25th Re-evolution, not Revolution 3

    [Note from Dave: This is a guest essay by Bill Curtin, Illinois educator and VP of the Illinois Association of Teachers of English. I’ve been in contact with Bill for a year or so regarding the upcoming IATE conference (details here; registration here), and I was struck by the piece that he wrote below. I […]

  • July 22nd Carry It Through 2

    The hardest thing about the start of the school year isn’t setting up a classroom management plan or all the other things I talk about in the School Year Starter Kit. The hardest thing is carrying through the things that we set up or talk about during that first week into every week that follows, […]

  • July 18th The Best Place to Start 0

    If you’d like to start cultivating those five key beliefs in your students, then may I suggest that the best place to start is not with expectancy-value interventions or growth mindset experiments. Nope. Instead, start with the most influential person in your classroom: you. The effort belief: Do you believe that, through your effort, you can get better at teaching any […]

  • July 15th Belief Drives Behavior 4

    The most significant thing I’ve learned about teaching in the past year is this: belief drives behavior. It sounds hokey, but it’s actually the distillation of what I’ve come to find as the most actionable, robust takeaways from the vast research around noncognitive factors (or social-emotional skills or SEL or character or soft skills or […]

  • July 11th Experience ≠ Practice 0

    “[E]xperience is not the same thing as practice. Experience means only that you use a skill; practice means that you try to improve by noticing what you are doing wrong and formulating strategies to do better. Practice also requires feedback, usually from someone more skilled than you are.” – Andrew J. Rotherham & Daniel T. […]

  • July 8th Learning Strategy: Deep, Focused, 25-Minute Sessions 1

    For study sessions to work their best (meaning you acquire maximum learning for the amount of time you put in), they need to be deep and focused. The only way they can be deep, though, is if we ruthlessly eliminate distractions. As Cal Newport says in Deep Work, “distraction is the destroyer of depth.” Think […]

  • July 4th Beware the Belabored Anecdote 0

    When we share a story to illustrate a point or a concept, and that story becomes longer than it needs to be to bring home the point, that’s a belabored anecdote. When you’re someone who started a rocket company that now does delivery work for NASA, then you can get away with this — go […]

  • July 1st Learning Strategy: Think Like a Runner 0

    Imagine two runners, physically identical, both of whom have 30 days to prepare for a big race, and both of whom are only allowed to practice for 20 hours total during those 30 days. Runner A practices for 30 minutes per day, 6 days a week. She doesn’t practice at all the 2 days just […]

  • June 27th Learning Strategy: Mental Contrasting and Implementation Intentions 0

    To increase the odds that our students will follow through on their goals, evidence suggests that mental contrasting and implementation intentions help a lot. Here’s how to use it in just four steps: Have students set a goal. I’m going to read three books this semester. I’m going to use every document in my next DBQ […]

  • June 24th Drafts of Learning 7

    Over the summer, my Advanced Placement World History students are assigned to learn a set of dates and what those dates mean. That assignment has evolved (and simplified) with each year I’ve given it, but it’s purpose is always the same: I want my students to have an initial, very rough draft of world history […]

  • June 20th Freedom through Restriction 3

    Which is freer: to check your social media accounts any time you feel like it, or to do so at a single, designated time each day, and with a timer set to ten minutes or less? to give yourself an unlimited amount of time to read the professional development books on your shelf, or to […]

  • June 17th A Dangerous Assumption 4

    When we assume a person understands us, has learned something, or has otherwise changed just because we told them something, taught them something, covered something in a meeting — that’s First Degree Assumicide. Teachers, administrators, parents, and students all fall prey to this dangerous assumption. Example 1: “Class, stop with the lower-cased first person pronoun! We’ve […]

  • June 13th Setting a Summer Reading Project 0

    In my last post, I suggested that there’s a time to take on no new reading at all, instead setting one’s course for the full exploration of a single book. I did this five years ago or so with Mike Schmoker’s Focus, and much of the subsequent blogging and teaching I’ve done (including the development of […]

  • June 10th No More (New) Reading 2

    “I can’t imagine a man enjoying a book and reading it only once.” — C. S. Lewis It’s getting on summer time, and if you’re at all like me, then you’ve got an unreasonably high stack of books that you want to tear into between now and when school starts back up. Before you get […]

  • June 6th Knowledge Builds on Knowledge 4

    At the time of this writing, I have a clear idea of how you and I can improve our practice in five of the six components of the “Non-Freaked Out” Foundations Framework for Literacy Instruction Across the Content Areas. For argument, reading, writing, and speaking/listening, a general pattern emerges: quantity precedes quality. From this, we […]

  • June 3rd The Goal of Reading (and Basic Strategies for Achieving It) 4

    A pivotal point in a reader’s journey is when she realizes, either intuitively or explicitly, that the goal of reading is to obtain meaning. If we’re not gaining meaning in a novel or a textbook or an article, then we’re not really reading. You’ve not read something until you’ve understood it. When our students reach […]

  • May 30th Two Ways to Improve Listening (and One Way Not To) 0

    SLANT: Sit up, Lean forward, Ask and answer questions, Nod your head, and Track the speaker. I used to have a SLANT poster hanging up in my classroom, right next to the one for PVLEGS. I had learned of SLANT from Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion; PVLEGS came from Erik Palmer’s Well Spoken. They seemed to make […]

  • May 27th Quantity, then Quality 1

    For four out of six elements of the “Non-Freaked Out” Foundations Framework, the gist of our strategy is “quantity, then quality.” Those four elements are outlined in red below: If we want students to improve as arguers, then first we’ve got to increase the amount of arguing they do — shockingly, I recommend pop-up debates.  Only then do we […]

  • May 23rd Common Student Hang-ups: Quote Bombing 2

    When a student is writing an argument and then suddenly drops a quote into the paper with no blending or explanation, that’s a quote bomb. I made the word up myself, just like plenty of others have (here’s an example from Mercer Island Schools, and here’s one from some folks at UNC — the fact […]

  • May 20th Common Student Hang-ups: Silo Speeches 0

    One surefire way to make pop-up debates and discussions boring is to allow what I call “silo speeches.” Early on in the year, when we’re having our first pop-up debates designed to establish universal participation and public speaking comfort, silo speaking is inevitable. A silo speech happens when a student pops up, says what they want to […]

  • May 16th Exemplars, Sentence Templates, and Checks for Understanding 0

    Exemplars, sentence templates, and checks for understanding have two important things in common: They improve the quality of our students’ writing, and They don’t require a moment of out-of-class grading. Exemplars show our kids what we mean by a clear topic sentence, a defensible thesis, a blended quote, and the like. It is one thing […]

  • May 13th Grading ≠ Feedback, and Sometimes You Don’t Need to Do Either 2

    Until we get smarter about grading, feedback, and when to use which, we won’t meaningfully increase the quantity and quality of writing our students are expected to do. Teachers are already stressed, already pressed for time, and if every time they hear “increase writing volume” they see stacks of to-be-graded papers in their minds, then […]

  • May 9th The Pyramid of Writing Priorities 9

    “If we could institute only one change to make students more college ready, it should be to increase the amount and quality of writing students are expected to produce.” (Dr. David Conley, “The Challenge of College Readiness” in Ed Leadership, 2007) If you want to take college- and career-readiness guru David Conley’s advice and get your courses […]

  • May 6th Want More Writing Across the Content Areas? Validate the Content 3

    The first step to improving the percentage of our kids who are capable writers is to increase how much writing they do. Typically, the classes with the greatest opportunities to do this are the non-ELA ones. Unfortunately, content area teachers are often given the impression, when a writing initiative comes into town, that writing is more […]

  • May 2nd Writing: The Most Underrated Twenty-First Century Skill 8

    I struggle to imagine putting together a solid argument for why we wouldn’t want all of our students to be capable writers when they graduate. Writing well is an obvious good. While much fuss was made about newfangled twenty-first-century skills, one very old skill that seems to be only increasing in importance is writing. Here we have the importance from an […]

  • April 29th Optimal Pressure 0

    The Yerkes-Dodson Law holds that the relationship between pressure (or stress) and performance is shaped like a bell curve. Place no pressure on a person at all, and their performance will likely be negligible; place the entire universe on their shoulders, and their performance will be similarly bad. Unfortunately, I know very few teachers who don’t operate on […]

  • April 25th Less News, Better Brain 4

    A few weeks ago, I realized that consuming the news was messing up my brain. I’d get done teaching my classes all morning, and then I’d sit down for lunch, and I’d pull up The Week or some other news site, and 60 minutes later I’d still be reading the latest stories and commentaries. It’s […]

  • April 22nd Improving Pop-Up Debates: Better Prompts 4

    I’ve held more than a few pop-up debates that went badly, and I could trace the badness back to before the debate started. What am I talking about? The Plague of the Poorly Formulated Pop-Up Debate Prompt. Recently, I was reading through Les Lynn’s blog (Les founded Argument-Centered Education, and his blog is the Debatifier) and […]

  • April 18th The Most Dangerous Word to Your Sanity (and How to Stop Saying It) 6

    “The most dangerous word in one’s productivity vocabulary [is] ‘yes.’” –Cal Newport in Deep Work If our fixed-schedule commitments are going to yield their greatest fruit, then we have got to reduce the number of times that we say “yes” in response to requests for our time. I could delve into the things that I […]

  • April 15th Learning ≠ Familiarity 4

    Here are two scenarios we can all probably relate to: Teacher: “What do you mean I didn’t teach you that? I totally did! It was the topic of last Tuesday’s lesson!” Student: “I don’t get it — I read the textbook, took notes, and then re-read my notes, but I still did poorly on the test. […]

  • April 11th Learning for Life 0

    In the March 2016 issue of Educational Leadership, Editor in Chief Marge Sherer poses a provocative question: “What about [our students’] learning today will they consider ‘Learning for Life’?” I have two answers to this question. First, teaching toward my students one day considering the learning in my class “Learning for Life” is not my objective. […]

  • April 8th Relationships: Not a Separate Goal, but a Fruit of and a Means to *the* Goal 2

    If you’re trying to decide whether you should spend class time developing relationships with and amongst your students or working on the curriculum toward the longest-term objectives, I think you’re asking the wrong question. When people set off on a Mount Everest trek (says the guy who has, of course, done this many times), they […]

  • April 4th The Critical Juncture 0

    There are thousands of ways to be a great, master teacher, but there is really only one way to be a bad one. It has to do with how the critical juncture is handled. This is the critical juncture: the moment when you realize a negative difference between how you expected things to go, and […]

  • April 1st When Teachers Go on Autopilot: How to Recharge the Fundamentals of Instruction 2

    [If you are reading this on the blog, ignore the attribution above — I (Dave) can’t seem to get it to leave. This is, in fact, by none other than Gerard Dawson!] Note from Dave: Gerard Dawson does good work, and I respect the fact that he seems to rightly prioritize his work: husband, father, teacher, writer. In […]

  • March 28th The Any-Benefit Approach 1

    The any-benefit approach to decision-making says that if anything good can possibly come of a new strategy or lesson or unit or initiative, then it’s worth using (Newport, Deep Work, p. 186). Unfortunately, this is often the approach we take to deciding whether The New Thing We Learned is worth giving a go — in […]

  • March 25th Improving Pop-Up Debates: Tracking the Argument 2

    Here are some problems that have cropped up in my pop-up debates this year: Students give their mandatory speech and then sit down and disengage from the ongoing discussion — so, poor listening; Students repeat one another — which is both a cause and an effect of poor listening; Students make effective arguments that are […]

  • March 21st Fixed-Schedule Productivity 2

    I’m not the only dedicated professional who takes his work seriously enough to stop doing it around dinner time. Cal Newport is a computer science professor at Georgetown University. In addition to being a productive academic, he’s also written several successful non-academic books. [1] In Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Newport introduces […]

  • March 18th Start With the Constraint 1

    It’s possible that the most important moment in my teaching career came not while teaching, but while speaking to a beautiful young woman I dated at the start of my career. I was a first-year teacher, and I was introducing this woman to what my working life was like. “Some days,” I told her, “the […]

  • March 14th Productive Curiosity: The Billion Dollar Character Strength? 0

    In January of this year, “billionaire buddies” Warren Buffett and Bill Gates held a Q&A session at Columbia University. At the 5:08 mark, the moderator asks, “What quality has been most important for you?” They both answered with the same thing: curiosity. Here is how Gates defines curiosity in the interview: “You try and predict […]

  • March 11th Genuine Encouragement 8

    If you’re like me, seasons of discouragement come along at some point in a school year. We get tired, we get behind, we get frustrated, we experience setbacks. These things accrue, and it becomes easier and easier to hit the snooze button. Interestingly, I find that in these situations the way up is often down. [1] […]

  • March 7th As Little Flash as Possible 2

    If you look at a sampling of my blog posts over the years (here’s an organized list), you’ll notice that I went through a phase of believing that every blog post needed an image (here are some examples). Eventually, I gave the practice up, deciding to stop spending time — small though it was — on making title images. […]

  • March 4th The Three Layers of Outperforming Classrooms 2

    The best kinds of classes can be built by teachers who attend to three foundational layers. First, the layer too often taken for granted: the key beliefs that underlie behavior and effort. Specifically, these teachers understand the four components of teacher credibility — trust, competence, dynamism, and immediacy — knowing both how to build these […]

  • February 28th Don’t Forget the Table 0

    If learning is a feast, then noncognitive factors are the table. This is reflected in the Foundations Framework that I use in my own classroom and in the professional development workshops I’ve led around the country. (See Figure 1, below.) The literature on noncognitive factors can be pretty overwhelming. Having read a fair amount of it, I […]

  • February 25th “You Don’t Need More Time… 0

    …you just need to decide.” — Seth Godin I’ve asked 11,683 people who subscribe to the newsletter a simple question: What’s the most frustrating thing about your job? In these responses, the word “time” appears 2,437 times. Here are some examples: Not enough time and too many expectations placed on teachers that are not in […]

  • February 21st Things I Believe about Grading Systems 2

    There are a million debates about how or whether we should grade, and many people smarter than me have spent thousands of words explaining and advocating and rhetoricizing for all kinds of philosophies and systems. No matter what system you use — standards-based, traditional, 3P, no grades at all — I’ll just put out a […]

  • February 18th Are We Measuring the Wrong Things? 0

    It is entirely possible that your school or state or country is making dangerous assumptions about what should be measured (and therefore improved) and what shouldn’t. Kirabo Jackson is an economist at Northwestern University. He used a database of North Carolina students — 464,502 students, according to Paul Tough’s Helping Children Succeed — to examine the long-term impact […]

  • February 14th Better and Saner Grading Tip: Start with the End 4

    Grading is not fun. I do not like grading. Therefore, my goal in grading is always this: do it as efficiently as possible. For the sake of really zeroing in here, let’s be clear on the meaning of efficient — see Figure 1. I like a lot of things about this “define efficient” Google result. When […]

  • February 11th Better and Saner Grading Tip: Stop “Relaxing” While Grading 2

    I think it would be painful to survey how many teachers make a habit of “relaxing” at night with a stack of student writing in their laps and a show they’ve been wanting to watch on Netflix. I’ve done this plenty of times myself. But here is the problem: grading and/or giving feedback on student […]

  • February 7th Better and Saner Grading Tip: Get Out the Stopwatch 7

    I don’t have all the answers when it comes to taming the beast that is grading student writing, but here’s something that I have found to help this year: using a stopwatch. Step One: Sit down with a stack of papers, a stack of rubrics, and a beverage. (Based on personal experimentation, stimulants tend to […]

  • February 4th Boiling Down Argument: Five Approaches to Teaching Argument 10

    Last time, we examined the challenges of boiling down critical thinking into something manageable for teachers and students, ending with the conclusion that, if we teach argument well, we’re going to begin teaching the heart of critical thinking well. In short, we’re wise to “go big on argument” all across the content areas making disciplinary […]

  • January 31st Boiling Down Critical Thinking 0

    Critical thinking is a problematically over-extended term. It’s sort of like close reading — we can all agree we want kids to be great at it, but if you put ten random educators in a room and have them each write down their clearest, most actionable definition of close reading, you’d get a wide range of […]

  • January 28th Simple Sub Plans that Work 3

    Note from Dave, post-publication of this post: In this article, I share the Google Doc, Google Slideshow, and Youtube video (embedded in the slideshow) that I use whenever I’m gone. 95% of the time, that’s all the tech required, and my students know to politely help if the substitute has difficulties. However, in the examples that […]

  • January 24th The Case Against Complaining 6

    Some time ago, I met a pair of teachers who happened to be married. Each of them had been teaching for several decades, and both seemed thoroughly unhappy. Every time that either of them contributed to the conversation that we were sharing, they complained, making known another thing they found unsatisfactory or unacceptable. I’m not talking about […]

  • January 21st A Low-Tech Method for Memorizing Every Student’s Name in Five Days 0

    Knowing a kid’s name is almost a prerequisite for genuine connection. Unfortunately, it’s not simple getting 100+ names down at the start of a semester. So, rather than relying on the latest app or some other means of over-complication, here’s how I quiz myself to get 100+ names memorized within a few days. (Also, for what it’s worth, […]

  • January 17th There’s No Such Thing as Critical Thinking Apart from Knowledge 2

    Without knowledge, critical thinking — or critical reading, or critical writing, or critical speaking, or critical listening — probably isn’t all that critical or all that good. Consider: Without geographic knowledge — the regions of the world, the world’s major physical features and political borders — and chronological knowledge — basic periodization schemes and accompanying dates […]

  • January 14th Do You Need New, or Will Used Work? 0

    Many times early on in my career, I would run into a situation where a given strategy — say, modeling higher-order reading — wasn’t working like I wanted it to, and so I would go and seek a new strategy. This created a cycle: try, fail, find new, try, fail, find new. This used up precious […]

  • January 10th Fulkersonian Argument: The Mixture of Debate and Discussion toward which Pop-Up Debates Strive 0

    In the introduction to Teaching the Argument in Writing (1996), there’s this spot where author Richard Fulkerson beautifully depicts the argumentative culture I hope to build my classes on each year: “…I want students to see argument in a larger, less militant, and more comprehensive context — one in which the goal is not victory but a good […]

  • January 7th An Expectancy-Value Pop-Up Debate 0

    This is a simple pop-up debate activity meant to: support the development of expectancy-value academic mindsets reinvigorate pop-up debates if/when they become stale deepen students’ understanding of Fulkersonian argument (i.e., collaborative, argumentative discussion) give students a chance to practice Palmer’s PVLEGS Also, it doesn’t need to take long (doable in 20 minutes for a 30-student class), as there is […]

  • January 3rd A Single-Moding Approach to Teacher Productivity 0

    Some people I respect run a community/training site for online entrepreneurs called Fizzle, and in Fizzle there’s this course called Productivity Essentials [1]. In the course, a key idea is that there are two required modes for online entrepreneurs: CEO Mode and Worker Bee mode. In the video below, Chase Reeves lays these out in his typical winsome […]


  • December 31st Perfectionism Behind, Improvementism Ahead 2

    In the New Year, new semester, new school year, the impulse to believe that things can be perfect is real but invisible. Of course I don’t think I can be perfect, the savvy person says. That would be naive. But our reaction to the inevitable setbacks — the abandoned resolutions, the failed lessons, the kids we can’t […]

  • December 27th How Doug Stark Maintains Boundaries with a Large English Language Arts Teaching Load 3

    Several weeks ago, I wrote “Constraints Make Us Better.” In that post, I mentioned the following: Down the hallway from me, my colleague Doug Stark (author of the Mechanics Instruction that Sticks books) has for years made a point to leave school by 3:30pm (at the latest) each day in order to pick his children […]

  • December 20th Technician versus Savior versus Professional 0

    The way we conceptualize teaching is important. The Technician is always in search of the next practical strategy, the next product, the next formal observation where a complex rubric will be completed and discussed. Before we dismiss it, let’s realize that there is some truth here — we do need practical strategies, we do need functional lessons and […]

  • December 17th Our Own Worst — and Most Joyful — Critics 2

    I’ve noticed that most good teachers are their own worst critics. Sure, they say, use that evaluation rubric on me, and please, give me some critical feedback, but at the end of the day, you’re not going to critique me more than I critique myself. This disposition is important; it’s one that distinguishes the Professional […]

  • December 13th Constraints Make Us Better 5

    The best teachers are the ones who put in the most time, right? Those teachers who leave early — they are the problem-teachers, aren’t they? Consider: Brazilian soccer players are often better than non-Brazilian soccer players because of their “childhood immersion” in a game called futsal — essentially a condensed version of soccer that uses […]

  • December 10th 16 Reflective Questions to Ponder this Month 0

    One thing I appreciate about the teaching life is its provision of dependable seasons. What I mean is that, dependably, May is a month for looking closely at the fruits of the school year that is almost over and deciding on what needs to get better in the year to come; June and July are […]

  • December 6th This Month, Make Space for Reflection and Anticipation 2

    It hasn’t been uncommon for me in years past to refrain from blogging in December. I’ve done this for three reasons: You are insanely busy, and I thought you wouldn’t read what I wrote in December; I want you to be less busy in December, so I didn’t want to add reading to your plate; and I […]

  • December 3rd Purposeful & Active “Reading to Learn” 0

    I can’t get the image of the nursing professor out of my head. I was at Davenport University in a panel session for professors there, and I was representing high school education. During the Q & A, this professor in the nursing program stood up and asked the following questions: “Why can’t students teach themselves […]

  • November 29th What is the Most Pointless Thing You Do as an Educator? 2

    If a task didn’t flash into your mind the moment you read this post’s title, then take a minute to consider the question until something comes to you: What is the most pointless thing you do as an educator? I don’t mean to be crass with the question, either. What I’m aiming at, really, is a visceral […]

  • November 26th A Simple Activity for Building Self-Regulated Learners 2

    Self-regulated learning has been described several ways [1], but the gist of the concept is that self-regulated learners are conscious and in charge of their learning. They analyze a task, set a goal for it, make a plan for achieving the goal, implement the plan, and then self-critique after receiving feedback. Importantly, these different modes are only […]

  • November 22nd Video: My Five-Minute “Defining Everest” Ignite Talk 2

    The other day, a gentleman inquiring about my speaking/workshop services asked for a video of me giving a keynote, and I realized that, surprisingly, I didn’t have anything. This past weekend, I remedied that. Today’s post is a little different from usual in that it centers around a video. Below, you’ll see the “Ignite”-style talk […]

  • November 19th A Simple Set of Activities for Building Public Speaking Comfort in Students 2

    Last school year, I studied the impact of a fairly simple method for increasing public speaking comfort in kids. Thanks to support from Character Lab, I was able to verify that, indeed, this intervention produced a statistically significant improvement in public speaking comfort. (See Figure 1.) The activity is meant to take place during the first […]

  • November 15th “Overachievers” and the Tyranny of Low Expectations 2

    The other day when my students were brainstorming questions they could ask to a panel of local professionals, a student said she would like to ask, “What motivated you to overachieve and become successful?” This was an earnest question from a pretty transparent kid. The definition of an overachiever, in my general education classes especially, […]

  • November 12th A Simple Technique for Affecting Belonging, One Genuine Connection at a Time 6

    It’s common enough to see a really well-meaning teacher whose chief goal is to create a classroom where kids feel welcome, included, enjoyed, and honored, but to forget that this is only half the battle. Yes, we need kids to all identify with school, to identify with our class culture, to feel that who we’re asking […]

  • November 8th The Physical Classroom Environment: Why Your Classroom Need Not Be Pretty 4

    Again and again in my professional reading, I come across thoughts that point to the possibility that the physical classroom environments we create for our students aren’t as important as we might think they are. Yet at the same time, it seems like I frequently come across some blog post or image about the physical classroom environment, […]

  • November 5th A Simple “Expectancy-Value” Activity for Helping Students Care about Your Coursework 4

    Emily was my staunch “When are we ever going to have to use this?” kid last year, especially when it came to learning map locations. We’d look at a map, and I’d ask them to identify the names of countries as a warm-up, and, without fail, her hand would shoot up to ask The Question. […]

  • November 1st Making Mindsets Matter: Two Approaches to the Challenging Journey from Head to Heart 3

    “The most routine abstract thought very often struck him with an uncommon force and would stir him up remarkably. . . . A simple idea, sometimes very familiar and commonplace, would suddenly set him aflame and reveal itself to him in all its significance. He, so to speak, felt thought with unusual liveliness.” — from Joseph Frank’s Dostoevsky, […]

  • October 29th The Four Academic Mindsets: How 25 Words Decimated the 1000s I’ve Written on Student Motivation 1

    Recently, I proved to Alexis that her ability and competence could improve with effort. On her first world history test, she did poorly on the map portion and, during our first practice session in study hall following the test, did not improve much even when I walked her through a basic retrieval practice technique. (In other words, […]

  • October 25th The Consortium Framework in 400 Words 2

    What follows is my abbreviated summary of the central structure of Camille Farrington et al.’s Teaching Adolescents to Become Learners. The report is over 80 pages long, so really, this is super abbreviated, probably past what is prudent. My hope with this post is to give you enough of a look at the Consortium Framework to realize the […]

  • October 22nd Predicting Success: Dialing Long-Term Flourishing Back into Things We Might Affect This Year 0

    If our ultimate goal is less than the long-term flourishing of kids, student motivation doesn’t matter much. English teachers want kids to become lifelong readers because we want them to flourish; science teachers aim at teaching a methodical way of thinking and viewing the world because such thinking is instrumental to a flourishing life; physical education exists […]

  • October 18th Why Does Student Motivation Matter? And Whose Job Is It, Anyway? 0

    In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing the results of a “Research Sprint” that I conducted in August 2016. I wrote a fairly detailed account of the sprint in my last post, but the gist is that I read three books and 15 references within those books for a single element of the Non-Freaked Out Framework […]

  • October 15th How to Use the Non-Freaked Out Framework for Personal PD: A Case Study 4

    The array of professional development resources available to teachers today is as overwhelming as it is incoherent. Every month, dozens of books and hundreds of articles and thousands of tweets are published. Yet for most of us, this overabundance is more a source of stress or apathy than it is a source of professional growth. This […]

  • October 11th It’s Not the Work, It’s the Re-Work: Version 4.0 of the Non-Freaked Out Framework 2

    I’ve been writing about and teaching from the Non-Freaked Out (NFO) Framework for years now, and as a result it’s gone through several iterations, some that have stuck and some that haven’t (see Figure 1). James Clear writes that “it’s not the work, it’s the re-work.” I have certainly found that to be true with this idea, which […]

  • October 8th Reader Response: What’s the Toughest Thing about Teaching, and How Do You Deal with It? 59

    There were so many wonderful responses to my previous reader response question that I’m throwing another one at you: What’s the toughest thing about teaching, and how do you deal with it? Feel free to remain anonymous if that helps. My hope for this community-created post is that it helps fellow readers see that they […]

  • October 4th Triple Responsibility: Its Problems and Imperatives 0

    John Wooden, who, even at 94, referred to his career as that of a teacher rather than a coach, taught his “students” many things, but the one I’d like to examine today is the concept of double responsibility. From Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success: Building Blocks for a Better Life: I… talked to my players about […]

  • October 1st Learning is ______________: Here’s Why How You Complete that Sentence Matters 0

    Here’s a multiple choice question that can really teach us something: Learning is _____________. A) when I take in new information. B) about remembering, using, and ultimately understanding information. C) difficult but important. D) about improving as a person and widening my perspective. E) a process that takes place every day of our lives. F) not […]

  • September 27th How to Acquire a Distant or Super Famous Mentor 3

    The most powerful kinds of mentorships are the ones where the mentee learns how the mentor thinks, essentially internalizing the mentor’s mind. In such arrangements, the mentor gives concerted effort and inquiry, and the mentee gains mental models. These models, be they for teaching, problem-solving, student motivation, literacy, or otherwise, are precious because they would likely not […]

  • September 24th The Growing Dragon of Student Anxiety & Swords for Fighting It 2

    When Connie (not her real name) ran out of my classroom last spring, tears streaming down her face, I felt like a horrible idiot. On the first day of school, she had voluntarily identified herself as being anxious about public speaking on her index card, but through a simple progression from Think-Pair-Share experiences to Pop-Up Discussions and Debates, […]

  • September 20th Four Non-Negotiable Teacher Mindsets 1

    If you can’t affirm and work from the four “mindset” statements that comprise this article, [1] you must either A) work to alter your beliefs, or B) work to leave the profession. Option A is where I live — repeatedly finding myself intellectually assenting to the four mindset statements that follow, but functionally, operationally working […]

  • September 17th Gotta Want It, Gotta Do It: The Motivational and Executional Hurdles to Student Success 3

    This past summer’s speaking work led me to a clarification on how I think about the character strengths that hang on my ninth grade classroom wall. This is exciting to me because, while my students tend to engage with the reflective or experimental work we do around helping them grow the strengths, I’m not satisfied […]

  • September 13th Today, Solve a Problem 4

    I can picture riding in the car with my dad, Mr. David Stuart Sr., back when I was a kid, with him telling me one of his favorite bits of wisdom. “Dave, there are two kinds of people in this world: problem-makers and problem-solvers. No one sits on the sidelines. Be a problem-solver, and you’ll succeed.” […]

  • September 10th Teaching Trump (and Other Controversial Topics) Without Losing Your Job 5

    Last February, I showed an Ezra Klein video on the rise of Donald Trump in some of my history classes. The video’s thesis was that Trump is “the most dangerous major presidential candidate in memory.” My stated purpose was that the video served as a timely example of how one’s claim need not always come at the very start of an argument. […]

  • September 6th Our One Enduring Standard (and its Two Components) 3

    The best teachers aren’t dependent on the latest list of standards or bag of buzzwords or slew of resources when it comes to answering the central questions of their career. What am I producing, year in and year out? What do I make? What, in a single sentence, is the Everest I drive toward with my professional effort? If […]

  • September 3rd What Does the Common Core Look Like in Social Studies Classrooms? 5

    For too many social studies teachers, the Common Core State Standards still mean the exaltation of Skill at the diminishment of Knowledge. When we parrot tweetables like “It’s not what you know, it’s what you can do,” we throw out more than bathwater. If our aim is to create social studies classrooms where the reading, […]

  • August 30th Character-Switching​ & The Pursuit of the Poised Life 3

    If we’re to reach our potential, we must pursue the integrated life; we must strive toward being one-faced. Our aim is to be like those integers we learn about in math class: whole numbers, devoid of cunning; what you see is what you get. I’m not moralizing here — “you have to do this because it’s what good people […]

  • August 27th “A Perverse Sort of Compassion” and the Point of Strong Teacher-Student Relationships 2

    In the Tiistila school just outside of Helsinki, Finland, a third of the kids are immigrants, many of whom are refugees. Heikki Vuorinen is a teacher at this school, and his kids are from all over the world with all kinds of backgrounds and challenges. Yet, fascinatingly, Vuorinen isn’t comfortable focusing on the immense odds faced by […]

  • August 23rd My 11 Objectives for the First Month of School 4

    In the first month of school, my aim is to establish a beachhead from which to launch a successful year with students in which we accomplish more together than any prior year of my career. I go into the year expecting that bad or insane or tragic or frustrating things are liable to happen at […]

  • August 20th Principles Underlying Mechanics Instruction that Sticks 4

    Note from Dave: Below, my colleague and friend Doug Stark introduces his newly re-mastered, four-leveled Mechanics Instruction that Sticks series of warm-ups for English teachers. For my secondary English teacher readers, you’ll probably be interested in this whole post; for my non-ELA teacher readers, let me suggest the section of the post titled “Principles Underlying the Warm-Ups.” In this […]

  • August 16th Refutation Two-Chance: A New Frontier for Pop-Up Debate 0

    If you ever want to work ahead of me on developing student achievement in the “Go Big on Argument” portion of the Non-Freaked Out Framework, you need to go no further than The Debatifier, the blogging arm of Les Lynn’s stellar Argument-Centered Education. The way Les approaches argument is the Tour De France of my tricycle-riding Pop-Up Debate. In fact, […]

  • August 13th Anti-Teacher Credibility: 10 Great Ways to Become Unbelievable (in a Bad Way) 0

    Last time, I looked at teacher credibility and its four components. (Read that post here.) This time, I want to examine the same crucial topic from a negative angle. What are the ways in which we might lessen our students’ belief in our ability to help them succeed? How might we undermine their perceptions of Trust, […]

  • August 9th Teacher Credibility: If You Build It, They Will Learn (Here’s How) 0

    We’ve all heard the hoo-yah speeches before, the feel-good stuff like, “Be a teacher your students believe in! Be someone they know can take them where they need to go! Make them know that you will make a positive difference in their life! If they believe, they can achieve!!!” Fantastically, however, this theme of the importance of having our kids […]

  • August 6th Self-Control is About Goal-Attainment: Here’s How to Help Students Develop It 0

    The point of teaching kids to develop self-control isn’t to get them to obey or comply or behave as if they’re in a prison. Such caricaturizations or misapplications of instruction around self-control miss it all. Rather, self-control is about helping our kids do what they need to do so they can get where they want […]

  • August 2nd The Best Articles on Classroom Management 0

    Last time, I wrote on the CARE framework for classroom management, a set of underlying principles for thinking about how we build legendary learning experiences for our kids. Today, I want to try sharing with you the critical learning experience that took me from yearly reinvention of my classroom management approach to an approach that has remained to this day. […]

  • July 30th CARE: Four Underlying Principles of Classroom Management 5

    Classroom management, to me, is the first skill a teacher must master. Lesson design, unit planning, and All The Other Things don’t matter much if your kids are hanging from the fluorescent lights or constantly speaking over and under you and each other. Sadly, classroom management is also a skill that most teaching certification programs […]

  • July 26th A Guide to the Start of the School Year 6

    Ah! It’s almost August! The kids are coming! The kids are coming! Soon I won’t be able to have a pint with my lunch! This post has one purpose: Getting you to take a deep breath and collect some solace in the fact that your teacher friend Dave has a few years’ worth of articles […]

  • July 23rd A Simple Activity for Teaching About Procrastination 2

    My ninth graders tend to ride the struggle bus when it comes to procrastination. There are, of course, always the kids who make my jaw drop with their teachability on work habits — when I teach them how to apply bits of effort to their studies each day, these kids put it into practice and […]

  • July 19th Stopping the Snowball: Catching Struggling Learners Early On 0

    As some of you know, last year I started a ninth grade Advanced Placement World History course at our school. (Read my rationale and why I ultimately found the age level of my students to be one of our chief advantages here: How to View Teaching Situations Where the Odds are Against You: A Personal Case […]

  • July 16th The 500-Word Guide to Satisficing for Teachers 0

    Every teacher comes to a juncture, usually in the first or second year of their career, where they become painfully aware of the gaping chasm between All The Things they planned to do as a teacher and their very present, very real, very frustratingly imperfect daily practice. This is a critical moment because, from here, the teacher […]

  • July 12th An Email Management Strategy Built on Discipline and Dignity 0

    Last time, I wrote about the absurd netherworld that has, for most of my adult life, been my email inbox and how I heroically handled all emails and arrived at the magical kingdom of inbox zero. And then about two seconds passed, and suddenly my inbox had emails in it and the perfect little “inbox zero” […]

  • July 9th What I Learned from Reducing my Email Inbox from About a Million* Messages to Zero 2

    *More like 500 per inbox, but it felt like a million. For pretty much all of last school year, my inbox was a nightmare. Every time I’d open it, I’d get this messed up chemical cocktail released into my brain: one part excitement, one part anxiety. I became addicted to checking it on my phone, tapping […]

  • July 5th Stop Obsessing Over Your Uniqueness: How Multiple Discovery Theory Makes Us Better and Saner 2

    If we were all academic research scientists instead of teachers, we wouldn’t be bothered when we looked in the latest teaching book or the most recent Edutopia article and found that some educator had “invented” a great new strategy that we thought we had invented ourselves. This is because academic research scientists are painfully familiar with the […]

  • July 2nd “Discipline without Emotion”: One Teacher’s Use of a Simple Reminder 4

    Some months ago, I received the following note from Tony Signore of Michigan, and it contains a nugget I think we could all use a moment’s reflection on: the value of emotional constancy. “Discipline without emotion” Dave, [your article on reminder strategies] made me reflect on how important it is to break down core beliefs. […]

  • June 28th Reader Response: What Is the Most Important Thing You Know Now that You Wish You Knew When You Started? 26

    Jennie Wagner — reader of this blog, 7th grade teacher, and Brandisher of Awesome — recently wrote me an email with the following sage advice: Perhaps you could ask for your readers to write something for a guest page of sorts. You choose the topic and say “Go!” I bet a ton of your readers […]

  • June 25th Unicorns and Growth Mindset 0

    Last spring, a student said to me, “Well, I’m just not a map person. I’m not good at maps.” And I responded, “Well, Adam, flying unicorns are real.” To which Adam replied, “Um… what?” Growth mindset isn’t just a cute idea The preponderance of evidence supporting the brain’s malleability and the human ability to learn […]

  • June 21st Inking a Top-Level Goal for Your Career 0

    The more I teach and think and write, the closer I get to organizing my work around a central, abiding outcome for all of it — a top-level professional goal. Angela Duckworth provides insight on this topic in her book. From Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance: …[D]ogged perseverance toward a top-level goal requires, paradoxically perhaps, some flexibility […]

  • June 18th Effort Counts Twice 7

    Just over four years ago, I started this blog (here’s what it looked like). I started by writing through the Common Core literacy standards, and my goals were to learn something, help decrease the freak-out, and (moonshot) publish a book one day. (That happened, with Jossey-Bass Wiley). Fast forward to today. Blogging is one of the most rewarding […]

  • June 14th Lessons Learned from my Character Lab Teacher Innovation Grant Research Project 8

    In May 2015, I was given what I felt was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: conducting action research about the intersection of public speaking and character growth with the support of the bright minds at Character Lab. Character Lab is an edu-research startup founded in part by Angela Duckworth; their website is my first recommendation for people […]

  • June 11th One Teacher’s Experiment with a Choice-Based Articles of the Week Assignment 2

    Have you ever toyed with the idea of letting your students select the articles for Kelly Gallagher’s article of the week assignment? Stephanie Roederer, a teacher from Kentucky, has done a lot more than ponder it! Below, you’ll read an email Stephanie sent me a month or so ago. Her thought process, strategies, and results are so […]

  • June 7th Pouring Ourselves Out 5

    Every year, you and I pour bits of our lives into our students. Every minute spent teaching, conferring, assessing, and All The Things, every minute is gone, poured out, beyond recovery. Problematically, too many teachers in the USA poured too much of themselves out this year. For them, there was a sloppy abandon to the pouring, […]

  • June 4th Knowing Stuff is Inseparable from Literacy 1

    The point of the Non-Freaked Out Approach to Producing Literate Humans (still working on that title; see Figure 1) is to make it easy for teachers to remember what we ought to become very, very good at. It helps us ask at the end of a hard day, “Did I help my students grow in […]

  • May 31st Some Tests Are Really Great for Students 0

    Tests are easy to vilify in the USA today because there are too many bad ones and there are too many bogus high stakes attached to them. But this school year I’ve seen an extremely difficult test have a profoundly positive effect on its takers. First, my AP World History kids. Prior to this year, I hadn’t taught an advanced course of […]

  • May 28th The Pedagogical Benefits of Doing Hard Things 10

    I’m running a marathon today. At some point, months ago, my little brother and I thought this was a great idea. As the training miles (and skipped training sessions) piled up, my evaluation of the idea decayed. By the final weeks of training, I found myself repeatedly saying to Crystal, “Honey, if I ever talk about wanting to run a marathon […]

  • May 24th A Conversation with Mike Schmoker 0

    Four years ago, at the very outset of this blog, I was starting to blog through the Common Core State Standards. Providentially, at about the same time I had decided to re-read Mike Schmoker’s Focus. That re-read bit was new for me. I was at a point in my career where I sensed it was high time I […]

  • May 21st The Non-Freaked Out Framework: Five Things We’ve Got to Keep Getting Better At 0

    The Non-Freaked Out Framework (Figure 1) is really just a set of five imperatives. One goal governs them all: let’s do increase the quantity and quality of these things, across the content areas. “Framework” is probably a bad word for what it actually is. Maybe I should call them “The Non-Freaked Out List of Important Things […]

  • May 17th Your Attitude About X 2

    For years, I’ve had these words hanging on a wall that faces my desk: Your attitude about X says nothing about X and everything about your heart. I’m not telling you to believe them, but I’m saying there may be a strategic advantage to taking them seriously. When I approach Problem In the Classroom X with an […]

  • May 14th A Conversation with Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein 0

    In today’s installment of the interviews I conducted while creating Teaching with Articles, we get to sit down with a powerful pair of minds that long-time readers will be very familiar with. I’ve written about Gerald Graff and/or Cathy Birkenstein in some of this blog’s most popular posts: A Simple, Two-Paragraph Template that Helps Kids to Really […]

  • May 10th Babies, Bathwater, and Grit 2

    I was sitting in an evening meeting some months ago, one of those situations where a sampling of K-12 teachers are brought in to share their two cents about where they’d like the district to go. We were in table groups, and the facilitator had just asked us to brainstorm a list of adjectives to […]

  • May 7th A Conversation with David Conley 2

    While preparing the material inside of the Teaching with Articles course, I interviewed people I greatly respect and recorded the conversations. Previously, I’ve published my conversations with Kelly Gallagher and Larry Ferlazzo. Today, I’m sharing my conversation with the father of college and career readiness, Dr. David Conley himself. Dr. Conley is president of EdImagine, […]

  • May 3rd The Importance of Externalizing Our Brains 0

    Thinking clearly is a big deal; at various times this year, it has occurred to me that it might be the biggest deal for being successful in the twenty-first century, whether you’re a teacher, an administrator, a parent, or a student [1]. When a teacher learns to constantly hone her ability to think clearly, she […]

  • April 30th A Conversation with Larry Ferlazzo 3

    Unless you’re reading this post through some sort of snail-mail delivery method, you’re probably familiar with at least some of Larry Ferlazzo’s prolific work on the Internet. (Here’s his blog; here’s his column for EdWeek [scroll down to find my two cents].) When I was preparing the lectures inside of Teaching with Articles, I knew that my […]

  • April 23rd Can’t Need It, Gotta Want It 7

    We all got into teaching because we hoped our work would make an impact; we envisioned seeing the grown man in the supermarket who would walk up to us and say, “Hi Mr. Stuart — remember me? Here is my wife; these are my children. They are all well-fed and flourishing thanks to the things […]

  • April 16th A Conversation with Kelly Gallagher 7

    Remember that post I wrote a few weeks ago about how long I spend grading articles of the week? In today’s post, I’m sharing the entire conversation between Kelly Gallagher and me. A couple of months ago when I was working on Teaching with Articles, I emailed some folks who I believed could greatly help me in […]

  • April 9th Asking the Right Questions: The Best of My Blog, Organized by Question 2

    Those who wish to succeed must ask the right preliminary questions. –Artistotle, Metaphysics, Book II, as cited by CS Lewis in Miracles Teaching and learning in the USA suffers from murkiness of thought. We aren’t clear on some very, very basic things, and this is often because we don’t ask the right questions at the start. […]

  • April 2nd What is the Role of Education? 7

    Note from Dave: I wanted to share this article with you for a couple of reasons.  First, Barrett Brooks is a young man who is going to have a great impact on this world. He already is, actually, through his work at Fizzle and his blog at BarrettBrooks.com. (He’s one of few bloggers whose work I consistently read.) […]

  • March 29th “I Love You and I’m Proud of You” — What Dean L. Stuart Taught Me About Teaching 18

    My grandpa used to have this thing where, even when I was in high school, at the end of a visit with him he would grab me by the shoulders and kiss me on the lips, and he’d look me in the eyes and say, “David, I love you and I’m proud of you.” He […]

  • March 26th Write 100 Blog Posts 2

    Once in a while, someone who reads this blog signs up for my free email course on starting a successful edu-blog, and one of the things this course offers is a private Facebook community where I get to share my random rants (see Figure 1) about building a rewarding blog. Probably the best piece of […]

  • March 22nd How to View Teaching Situations Where the Odds are Against You: A Personal Case Study 6

    I currently teach our high school’s first sections of AP World History. These are the first “advanced” courses I’ve taught in my nine years of teaching. Also, for various reasons, this course is open to ninth graders only. This is a challenging situation. Two ways to shake it Every single year in the classroom — […]

  • March 19th “Everyone Knows One-and-Done PD Doesn’t Work” 0

    I hear this sometimes: “Everyone knows one-and-done PD is bad.” Here are three reasons that I think the thinking behind this line could be improved. 1. If it’s true, then a recent study of 10,000 teachers suggests that “everyone” is wrong.  One of the chief findings of a recent study on teacher professional development is that effective PD is pretty idiosyncratic. Basically, […]

  • March 15th “How Long Do You Spend Grading Articles of the Week?” 5

    “Dave, how long do you spend grading articles of the week?” I sometimes hear that question, or at least I see it written on the faces of people who start doing the math when I tell them about Kelly Gallagher’s article of the week (AoW) assignment. The assignment: Students read, purposefully annotate, and write a one-page response to an assigned article […]

  • March 12th “Vision Without Execution is Hallucination” 0

    When my students asked me for my words of wisdom earlier this month, I gave them a line from Thomas Edison: “Vision without execution is hallucination.” The vision part tends to be easy, for both my students and me. The execution part is harder; it’s also where the magic happens. Vision is easier than execution: two examples from […]

  • March 8th How to Stop “Likes,” “Ums,” and Other Distracting Speaking Behaviors 2

    Part of quality speaking instruction — particularly speech delivery instruction — is helping students eliminate their distracting speech behaviors. If you’re familiar with Erik Palmer’s PVLEGS acronym for speech delivery (a must-use, in my opinion), such behaviors are Poise issues. Here are some of the distracting habits my kids bring into their pop-up debates and small group discussions each year: Fillers (“like,” […]

  • March 5th A Simple Classroom Birthday Tradition 11

    My birthday was last week, [1] which means that I had a chance to participate in our classroom birthday tradition: words of wisdom. I’ll share my words (actually, they’re not mine) next week, but for this week let’s just talk about what “words of wisdom” is, why I think it’s a worthwhile investment of roughly one […]

  • March 1st Conversation Challenge: an Efficient, Simple Small-Group Discussion Strategy 11

    When I want every student to speak in a capacity more involved than Think-Pair-Share yet more efficient than pop-up debate, I tend to use something I call Conversation Challenge. Conversation Challenge is simply a way of framing small group discussions. Instead of only saying, “Discuss [insert prompt here] about [insert text here],” I add one additional […]

  • February 27th Keep These Things in Mind When Thinking about Student Discussions 0

    Ashley Pacholewski sent me an email this week. Ashley is a teacher at Brunswick High School in Ohio, and she had a great question: “What discussion strategies do you use at the end of the week when using Kelly Gallagher’s Article of the Week assignment?” Since I was already in “filming lessons mode” for the Teaching with […]

  • February 23rd 7 Strategies to Make Content Stick 5

    Note from Dave: Erica Beaton teaches tenth grade English, US history, and humanities just down the hall from me. In addition to this full-time work, she’s also a blogger, a PD provider (who I’m happy to recommend — we’ve presented together a time or two!) and one of the more resourceful educators I know, creating helpful things like a highly-effective Latin word chunk […]

  • February 20th Education, Not Entertainment 12

    We are currently teaching the most entertained generation in the history of humankind. I don’t say that disparagingly; my generation is not morally superior to the students I teach simply because we had access to exponentially less entertainment. (And we certainly had access to more than our parents.) But consider: YouTube is incredible. The blogosphere […]

  • February 16th Myth: If We Supervise and Evaluate Teachers More Intensely, the Quality of Teaching Will Improve 3

    Note from Dave: I first became aware of Dr. Richard DuFour when I moved to Cedar Springs and experienced professional learning communities (PLCs) for the first time. When I was approached about hosting a guest article from Dr. DuFour, I was eager to read what he had to say after a decorated career as a leader in education. […]

  • February 13th Being a Workaholic is not Smart or Romantic 2

    This weekend, Mrs. Crystal Stuart hosted a marriage conference in our small town, and it reminded me of one of the first times I knew Crystal would be a blessing in my life. We hadn’t known each other long, and I was telling her about how much I was working. At the time, I was in […]

  • February 9th Nine Instructional Moves for Teaching Texts 9

    Note from Dave: This post and its nine moves has been polished, improved, and incorporated into the reading chapter of my new book, These 6 Things: How to Focus Your Teaching on What Matters Most. If you like my blog, you’ll like the book — it’s a condensed and coherent version of all that I’ve written […]

  • February 6th Problems = Opportunities 0

    Many years ago, a young community organizer met a man who had worked closely with Mahatma Gandhi. This man told the community organizer that the key to Gandhi’s success was that he viewed every problem as an opportunity rather than a setback. That community organizer took the advice to heart, applying Gandhi’s attitude to all areas of his […]

  • February 2nd Give Me a Number 0

    Before we talk philosophy, before we discuss how to teach reading, writing or speaking, give me some numbers. How many texts are your students getting the opportunity to read in a year? How many articles, primary source documents, textbook pages, lab reports, novels, poems, and the like are a part of your curriculum every year […]

  • January 30th A Non-Freaked Out Approach to Reading like a Professional 0

    Last time, I shared how to read (and enjoy) more books this year; this time, I’d like to share my own simple rules for reading. I guess you could say this is how I avoid freaking out about the discrepancy between how many things there are that I want to read and how little time I […]

  • January 26th How to Read (and Actually Enjoy) More Books this Year 6

    Several years ago, I got pretty into Goodreads, mostly because I like measuring stuff and Goodreads made it fun to set goals for and keep track of how many books I read. It was also a big thing on Twitter — people would share how many books they were reading, and they would set reading goals for […]

  • January 23rd PERMA and the Science of Flourishing 4

    Here’s why today’s article matters: despite the pressure many of us feel to help our students succeed in whichever high stakes test comes next in their lives, we all got into this work because we wanted to make a long-term difference. Our Mt. Everests, when we were starting out, weren’t “help my kids for the […]

  • January 19th The Work of the Teacher Through Two Lenses 2

    The tasks that comprise our work are not optional. The lens through which we view these tasks, however, is. Following are two lenses through which the teacher’s work can be viewed. The Lens of Minutiae What do teachers do? We greet students, dismiss students, guide students, counsel students. We collect papers, grade papers, teach papers, assign […]

  • January 16th A Simple “Craft Your Credo” Classroom Activity 16

    This past week allowed me the opportunity to experiment with leading three groups of my students in a Craft Your Credo classroom activity, and I’d like to share that activity with you today. Two of the groups went quite well, and one didn’t. The credo classroom activity that went well The super short explanation Here’s the credo classroom […]

  • January 12th Two Practical “Reminder” Strategies for Overcoming Noise-Induced Aimlessness 4

    The film Memento (2000, directed by Christopher Nolan) is the story of Leonard, a man with one abiding purpose in life — finding and bringing justice to his wife’s killers — and one serious handicap: he is unable to retain short-term memories. As a result, Leonard develops a system of reminders — including tattoos like those in Figure 1 — and […]

  • January 9th Teaching Success in a Noisy World 5

    I’ve written before on information overload, but a recent read gave me a much better word for what I’m getting at: noise. You and I and every one of our students live in a world so unprecedentedly full of noise that we, as a species, are literally figuring out how to deal with it for […]

  • January 5th The #1 Problem with New Years Life-Changey Stuff: Clarity of Purpose 2

    Maybe you’re a “one word” person, or a classic resolution-setter, or a jaded New Years apathist. Regardless, here’s all I have to say: without clarity of purpose, resolutions, goals and words are destined to disappoint. Importantly, this principle extends way beyond efforts at personal improvement; clarity of purpose is critical with things like school improvement initiatives and literacy frameworks. In Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit […]

  • January 2nd A Simple “Back from Winter Break” Classroom Activity 7

    If our aim is long-term flourishing for our students, then we all care about helping kids discover their aspirations, build goals backward from those aspirations, and remain committed to those goals on a regular basis. And yet, the further you get down the list of those skills, the greater the challenge becomes for our kids: Defining the big […]


  • November 28th My Last Blog Post of 2015: A Letter to My Readers 5

    Dear Reader, Welcome to the last blog post of 2015. During the month of December, I’ll be taking a sabbatical from writing. For me, December is a month for private reflection. There are several threads of reflecting that deserve attention: How is the school year progressing? What changes do I need to make as we approach the […]

  • November 24th Four Questions Deep 9

    I want you to try something with me this week: what if, in a conversation or two — with our kids, with our colleagues, with our spouses, with our students, with crazy Uncle Harry who you only see at Thanksgiving — we tried asking four questions in a row. “In a row” isn’t the best way […]

  • November 21st Dealing with Teacher Information Overload 7

    When this post publishes, I’ll be neck-deep in information at the annual NCTE conference. Actually, sitting here writing this and picturing what it was like at NCTE last year, let me correct that: I’ll be drowning, happily. But conferences are only an acute example of a situation that I suspect you, as a blog reader, […]

  • November 17th The Science of Mechanics Instruction that Sticks 0

    At the time of this writing, Doug Stark’s Mechanics Instruction that Sticks: Using Simple Warm-Ups to Improve Student Writing has been purchased by half a thousand people; these educators come from seven different countries and 48 US states (New Mexico and Delaware, if you’re wondering). Needless to say, Doug and I are humbled and happy that the book seems to […]

  • November 14th The Dangers of Externalism 15

    “The big question about how people behave is whether they’ve got an Inner Scorecard or an Outer Scorecard. It helps if you can be satisfied with an Inner Scorecard. I always pose it this way. I say: ‘Lookit. Would you rather be the world’s greatest lover, but have everyone think you’re the world’s worst lover? […]

  • November 10th When Your State Reduces Your Profession to a Test Score 13

    A while back, I wrote “The 300-Word Guide to Long-Term Flourishing,” and it elicited a heartfelt response about test scores and teacher evaluations from a passionate educator whom I’ll call D in this post. Her comment follows: Thank you for defining this concept so clearly! It is difficult to “refuse to freak out about high-stakes […]

  • November 7th Character Strengths, Integrity, and My Three-Year-Old 9

    As I was brushing Laura’s teeth last Saturday morning, which happened to be the morning of Halloween, I listened to her titter about how excited she was because, later that day, she was “gonna be Anna!!!” from Frozen. As we were talking about it, I wanted to remind her that it was her Grandpa and Grandma Stuart who had bought the […]

  • November 3rd What Does, and Does Not, Work in School Improvement 6

    Before you click away, thinking, “Oh, this article is about school improvement, and I’m just a classroom teacher,” allow me to argue for the relevance of this post. First, and most simply, many of the things below that don’t work in school improvement also don’t work in classroom improvement. There are quick, potentially powerful parallels. Second, […]

  • October 31st Why I Would Love If My Children Became Teachers 13

    During a speaking engagement in New York several weeks ago, I met a mother and a daughter who both teach in the district I was working with. I had goosebumps while I was talking with them — two generations of the same household, enthusiastically serving in the same district. The image of these two women […]

  • October 27th Two Kinds of Curiosity and the One that Science Supports 3

    I’ve mentioned before that there are two kinds of curiosity: fruitful and fruitless. Fruitful curiosity Fruitful curiosity is that which we efficiently act upon as we’re studying a subject. In my survey world history course, I’m reading about the five pillars of Islam in our World History textbook, and it mentions the hajj to Mecca, so […]

  • October 24th Future You Wants You To Do Two Things 6

    I was driving home from a speaking engagement a few weeks ago in central New York — and thank you to the fine folks of Broadalbin-Perth CSD for having me, as it was a true pleasure — when I saw a billboard for the lottery. It said, in large bold print: “FUTURE YOU WANTS YOU […]

  • October 20th 5 Steps to Argumentalizing Instruction 0

    Note from Dave: I met Les Lynn through an author-thinker-teacher hero of mine, Dr. Jerry Graff. In one of those rare, surreal, “out of body experience” moments that this blog has blessed me with, I once found myself having a drink with none other than the author of the seminal Clueless in Academe and co-author (with Cathy Birkenstein) […]

  • October 17th The 300-Word Guide to Pop-Up Debate 10

    Pop-up Debate is a method for managing and facilitating in-class debates; it is easily modifiable for other speaking scenarios, such as discussions or toasts. Here’s Pop-Up Debate: Students use assigned text(s), logic, and/or course content to respond to a debatable prompt and their peers’ arguments using the rules below. Every student speaks 1+ times, depending on […]

  • October 13th How to Do Hard Things 22

    The problem with our classes, from a motivational standpoint, is they’ve been surpassed by video games. Video games, as I laid out in my argument last week, are great at making players want to spend the time/effort/frustration costs of mastery; my world history class, less so. The solution, however, isn’t to “gamify” my class; rather, it’s to teach our students, […]

  • October 10th Two Ways to Live the Teacher’s Life (and Our Need for Both of Them) 7

    I think there are two ways to live the teacher’s life and that we need a bit of both of them. The engaged teacher This teacher engages with the life of the school, its staff, and its students. She participates in spirit days or sponsors a club; he lives within walking distance of the school or […]

  • October 6th Your Students Want to Master What You’re Teaching Them 6

    Students want to be good at things because it is fun being good at things. In other words, they are motivated by being good at, or mastering, things. Daniel Pink’s Drive, perhaps the most influential book on motivation of the past decade, is the most famous affirmation of this truth. Pink boils motivation down to three […]

  • October 3rd Submit an Idea for Cultivating Character; Win a $10,000 Grant 0

    In case you haven’t heard, Character Lab is now accepting proposals for a new year of the Teacher Innovation Grant (TIG). You can learn more about TIG here, or just read these bulleted highlights: What you need to provide prior to the 11/2/15 deadline: an idea for developing one or more character strengths in your classroom; […]

  • September 29th 21 Ideas for Developing the Motivational Character Strengths 4

    In “The Character Strengths and Motivation,” I laid out the 4.5 character strengths that I consider motivational in nature, and, at the end of the post, I laid out an example of the kind of “self-experimentation” we can use to learn how to teach our students to develop the “motivational strengths” in themselves (because marshaling one’s […]

  • September 26th Teachers, Students, and Sleep 2

    Lately, I’ve been writing about motivation (here and here) because, it being the start of the school year, I am dying to know how to help my students (nearly all of whom start the year wanting to do well) persist in motivating themselves to do the year’s work and achieve a year’s worth (or more) […]

  • September 22nd Helping Students Understand Motivation: The Character Strengths Angle 3

    This past Tuesday, I ended “Truths about Student Motivation” with a question: what are the tools and strategies that can equip our students to muster up the motivation required to get them from where they are to where they aspire to be? This is constantly in my mind during these first weeks of school; I’ve […]

  • September 19th The First Article of the Week of the School Year: Key Teaching Points 10

    This past Monday I found myself once again starting kids on the journey that is Kelly Gallagher’s article of the week assignment. I wish I had taken a video of myself teaching (primarily to illustrate that the start, at least in my classroom, is far from the stuff of movies). But since I didn’t, I thought […]

  • September 15th Truths about Student Motivation 10

    It’s still early in the school year, but I can already sense some of the self-driven kids in my classes. I’ve learned about all of my kids a little bit through the first day of school index card activity (which is partially aimed at teaching purpose); and I’ve learned about a growing number of them through follow-up, one-on-one, […]

  • September 12th Paraphrase Plus: A Central Move of Engaging Classroom Discussions 10

    This will be a short one — with the first (read: frenzied) week of school just behind me and Crystal off on a girls retreat, it’s Daddy Domination time, and the girls are bound to wake up in moments. Although my school year has only just begun, I know that some of you are using […]

  • September 8th When I Do, and Don’t, Get Stressed 11

    I get really stressed about perfection sometimes. In my own life, I find this happens in several areas again and again: When I’m prepping for a speaking or professional development engagement When I’m prepping for the first day of school (which, for me, is today) When I mess up as a parent Conversely, there are other […]

  • September 5th These 5 Things, All Year Long: An Overview of The Non-Freaked Out Framework for Literacy Instruction 2

    With the school year started, it’s time to settle into our work for the year. In this article, I’ll advocate for making that work as focused as humanly possible because, as I wrote in August, far too many of us are stressed to a level that decimates our productivity and effectiveness. The non-freaked out (NFO) framework […]

  • September 1st This Year, Make Better Choices with Warren Buffett’s 25-5 List Technique 5

    Like many educators, I have Yes-itis: the tendency to say Yes to good things, which often disables me from doing great things. So let me ask you some questions: When you get that email about a new opportunity — how do you decide whether or not to take it? When your boss says, “Hey, great news: there’s an […]

  • August 31st An Exemplary Exercise for Building Goal-Keeping Kids (includes Downloadable Document) 0

    In “The Kind of Science that Teaching Needs,” I shared an “experiment” I whipped up last year to help my students set and stay committed to their goals. If you read that article, you’ll know that I have to put “experiment” in quotation marks because it was missing a few important pieces of experimentation (like, you know, […]

  • August 28th Simple Interventions: Preventing Symptoms of Depression by Teaching Kids that People Can Change 21

    I want to share with you the most exciting thing I read all summer: it’s a study by David Yeager and Adriana Miu. In less than 1,000 words, I’ll lay it out briefly and then explain why I think it basically proves that our most idealistic conceptions of teaching — that it is magical, that […]

  • August 26th The Kind of Science that Teaching Needs 2

    I’ve written elsewhere that, of the 3,500 people who have answered the subscriber survey I put out a year or so ago, a strong majority are educators wearied from years of high-stakes accountability and the over-sciencing of teaching. But with that latter descriptor — the “over-sciencing” of teaching — I want to be clearer because, as […]

  • August 24th Mechanics Instruction that Sticks: Using Simple Warm-Ups to Improve Student Writing 68

    English teachers are, in my humble opinion, the hardest working people in public education. We have the unenviable task of trying to convince a generation of kids raised on electronic devices and nursed by spell check to slow down and write with purpose and precision. We see ourselves as the last line of defense against […]

  • August 21st “Marly Attacks” and The Power of Expectations 15

    Our third daughter, Marlena Grace, is a miniature tank with the face of an angel. Of our three girls, she’s been by far the quickest to upgrade her mobility skills, learning to crawl by six months and walk by nine months. (We aren’t the Parents Who Want Our Kids to Be First, either — Marly just […]

  • August 19th The 300-Word Guide to Long-Term Flourishing 11

    Confused about the term “long-term flourishing?” Let’s clear it up in about 300 words. Long-term flourishing is the real purpose of schooling. It’s what every educator and parent on the planet hopes for their children. Long-term because we love the child not just for today or this year, but also in 20 years; flourishing because we know […]

  • August 17th Beyond the Fear of Public Speaking: Making the First Pop-Up Debate a Success for All Students 10

    Every school year, I have students who are anxious to the point of nausea about speaking in front of their peers. And, every school year, I have a student or two who goes through a transformation similar to Rebekah’s. Let’s take a look at her story (click here for video). I’m not sure if Rebekah’s […]

  • August 14th Starting Strong with the “Transformative” & Simple Think-Pair-Share Strategy 6

    In order for my students to progress to successful pop-up debates, and to drastically increase the quantity of speaking they’ll do during their time in my room, I need to start with the simplest possible training ground for verbal communication: two people having a conversation. Toward that end, the first week of school finds me teaching Frank Lyman’s […]

  • August 12th 3,500 Teachers Can’t Be Wrong: We Need Permission to Focus 8

    I think that there are hundreds of thousands of teachers, coaches, and administrators who are dying to be told, “If you and your students are working on this handful of things, repeatedly and with increasing skill, throughout the school year as you move through your curriculum, you’re okay.” Those last words, especially, are important: “You’re […]

  • August 10th Cures for First Day of School Overwhelm 4

    Every August, I feel it: the pressure to make this school year perfect, and, therefore, the pressure to make the first day of school perfect. Because, as we all know, that first day determines the whole year. Right? Let’s think through that.

  • August 7th Simple Questions on the First Day of School that Teach Purpose 7

    By the end of the first day of school, I need index cards with each of my students’ names on them. I’ll use these to randomly call on students throughout the year during Think-Pair-Shares, doing everything in my power to ensure that every student speaks, every day, and I’ll use them as a quick seating chart […]

  • August 5th A First Day of School Activity That Teaches Argument, Which Teaches Thinking (Updated) 18

    On the first day of school, I tell my students that one of the central threads of academia, and clear thinking in general, is argument. Now: guess what pops into their heads when they hear that word? Let’s just put it this way — it’s not exactly the image I want them leaving my class with on […]

  • August 3rd Get Ready for the School Year with this 5 Minute “Defining Everest” Activity 39

    Before your first staff meeting comes and starts the school year stress, take five minutes to shoot from the gut and get your head and heart straightened out with this simple exercise. You won’t get any copies made or a class blog set up or a curriculum mapped or whatever other urgent tasks assail you while you’re […]

  • July 31st Updates (and Goodbye, Sort of) to the Teaching the Core Blog 2

    Hi! Welcome back to Teaching the Core. Er, the Dave Stuart Jr. blog, I mean. I’ve been productive during my July sabbatical, and I’d like to explain what I’ve done and why I’ve done it. But, first, here’s the awesome news: Three posts per week in August! (Colloquially referred to as “The Blitz” within the Stuart household) For the […]

  • June 29th Why We Teach 19

    On the first day of my teaching career, I met a group of sixth graders who would give me my first master class on teaching. Caleb was one of those students: huge smile, artistic genius, winsome character. Caleb, his peers, and I were all new that year to Woodlawn Middle School in Baltimore, MD. What you have to realize […]

  • June 18th The Mental Reset Button: Hit It 12

    At some point last school year, you began a list called “Things I’ll Tackle Once School is Done.” Some of you said you’d revamp your curriculum or read that one PD book you’ve been hearing about or begin studying for that new course you’re teaching next year or paint your classroom walls or reorganize your […]

  • June 9th $11,195 through Donors Choose: A Reflection on Generosity 4

    During this past school year, a group of mostly strangers donated $4,197 worth of books to my classroom library (here’s the list). I didn’t earn a grant for this; I have no wealthy benefactors; and I didn’t ask for donations from readers of this blog or its social networks. No — I just asked for books on […]

  • June 6th Pop-Up Toasts: A Last Day of School Activity that Teaches PVLEGS, Character, and Classiness 33

    (Note: This post is updated every year with modifications or lessons learned, by Dave and others, in using this activity. Scroll to the end of the post for those updates.) The curriculum is completed, the last tests are taken, and, for one reason or another, you’ve got your students for 30 or 60 more minutes. […]

  • May 30th Defining Everest: A Reflection on the Challenges of Teaching 8

    On May 29, 1953, the two men pictured above became the first human beings to set foot on Mount Everest. During their ascent they battled weather, temperatures, ice, and odds, achieving a victory that many of their contemporaries considered humanly impossible. In this article I seek not to diminish the accomplishments of Hillary (above left) and […]

  • May 19th May Forward: Making the Most of a Hard Month for Teachers 12

    May is usually a hard month for me as a teacher. I’m exhausted. Of the year’s mountain-tops and canyon-bottoms, in May it’s the low, dark places that seem realest. I’ve succeeded beyond what I’ll ever know with some kids, yet with some I know I’ve failed. I haven’t reached them; I haven’t been The One Teacher whose work flips […]

  • May 5th 3 Years of Teacher Blogging: the Work, the Rewards, the Opportunity 19

    This past week, on May 6th, 2015, my wife Crystal and I celebrated the third birthday of TeachingtheCore.com (update: On August 1, 2015, TeachingtheCore.com became DaveStuartJr.com — same blog, new name). It was a crazy party — she had a glass of wine, I had a glass of scotch, we reminisced, and we were yawning by […]

  • April 21st 6 Mindsets of Excellent Educators 11

    If you wander through my school, you’ll see numerous examples of teacher excellence. One of our best educators is stern, intense, rarely cracking a smile; another is warm, inviting, and deeply relational; still another is peppy, exuberant, bubbling over with enthusiasm. Each of them are excellent teachers, and I’d argue that their excellence is something separate […]

  • April 18th An Example of Deliberate Practice from my Actual Life 8

    One of the best reasons for infusing character strengths into our instruction is totally selfish: even if we completely fail to help our students grow character, our lives become richer as we grow the strengths in ourselves. And yet, this personal character growth is not truly selfish, either — not if our aim is to help our […]

  • April 14th The Imperative Nature of Deliberate Practice 17

    So, guys. Guess what? My pop-up debate Teacher Innovator project was one of seven winners of the prize! It won! And that’s because of you. I don’t know what I’m more excited about: the fact that hundreds of you believed in the project enough to vote for it; the fact that this summer I’ll fly to […]

  • April 11th Working Better with Parents 19

    The past few weeks have provided me several opportunities to reflect on parenting from the teacher’s perspective. Some of the opportunities have been normal — parent/teacher conferences, my interactions with my children — and others have been serendipitous — a conversation with a mentor, repeated run-ins with an intriguing parent. Also, one of the chapters I was […]

  • April 7th How Humility Makes Us Better, Saner Teachers 13

    Humility isn’t one of the highly predictive character strengths I work on with my students, but the older I get, the more I realize its centrality to a life well-lived. The pursuit of humility, once we properly understand the term, yields better relationships and faster growth. With that said, it makes great sense that we dig […]

  • March 30th Can Pop-Up Debate Produce Grit in Students? 2

    With little more than one day left on the voting for my Character Lab project (update: voting has ended!), I thought it would be worth sharing with you exactly what I’m hoping to research next year with pop-up debate and grit. So let me show you the actual application that happened to be chosen as one of […]

  • March 28th What are the Keystone Habits for Success? 4

    In my last post, I introduced the concept of keystone habits and invited you, dear Teaching the Core family, to weigh in on what you suspect are the answers to these questions: What are the keystone habits for success in school? How about for specific areas of literacy skill, like reading, writing, speaking, and listening? Which habits are most […]

  • March 17th Psst… 0

    You know what would crank my thinking up a few notches? Having the brilliant minds over at Character Lab guide me in proving whether pop-up debate, one of my go-to strategies for getting students speaking, listening, and arguing, develops grit in kids. Here’s the thing: only the most popular four projects of those 20 that made the […]

  • March 14th Keystone Habits: Unlocking Success for our Students and Ourselves 26

    Charles Duhigg is a champion writer. Through years of deliberate practice, he’s attained a level of excellence that makes the Pulitzer Prize and the New York Times bestseller list possible. In his book The Power of Habit, you begin to see how Duhigg reached this level of success. Yet, more importantly, you see how we can teach our […]

  • February 25th Autopsy of a Dud Project; Analysis of a Teacher’s Heart 31

    During the past couple of weeks, I envisioned, planned, initiated, and carried out a project with students. I thought it was a good idea; it was founded on great intentions. Yet, with the project nearing completion, I am clearly seeing something: the project is a dud. This leaves me with two options: Ignore the failure. Run […]

  • February 11th Why I #LoveTeaching 6

    I recently met an award-winning educator named Gary Abud on Twitter, and he told me about the #loveteaching campaign he’s promoting this week. He made a cool explainer video about it (click here), but here’s the skinny if you’re short on time: this week, Gary is trying to get as many folks as possible to share why […]

  • February 4th Moving Forward in the Midst of Survival Mode: A Retrospective 25

    First of all, thank you. I am grateful for so much from January 2015, and I owe a heckuva lot to this Teaching the Core community. Specifically: You’ve commented on this past month’s blog posts like never before. Hearing your stories, your encouragement, your descriptions of what this blog does for you — I can honestly […]

  • January 21st A Simple, Powerful Tweak on the First Day of School Index Card Activity 24

    If you’ve been around for a bit, you know I’m pretty old school in a lot of ways. When it comes to deciding which instructional strategies to use, my thinking goes like this: If multiple strategies do what I want them to do, then the simplest, quickest strategy is the best one.  This is why I use index […]

  • January 13th On Work Schedules, Perfectionism, and Hidden Autonomy 21

    This post will be short because Tuesday is almost over and homeboy be sleep deprived. A few things: 1. When work schedules meet recovery schedules Since the last post, Crystal’s path to recovery has become clearer and longer. It looks like she will be on bed rest for at least a few weeks, and this means that my […]

  • January 10th How Gratitude Makes Us, and Our Students, Better 60

    Gratitude has been on my mind a lot this week. In some ways, gratitude has been easy; in other ways, it’s been hard. And all along the way, it’s been interesting to examine how the character strength of gratitude can make us and our students the kinds of people we want to be. I. Easy “I […]

  • January 6th There Are No Silver Bullets, but There Are Swords 22

    I’m writing this on the afternoon of my first day back to teaching after a nice winter break. And merely one day back into the thick of it, my body is telling me that, indeed, teaching is work. This isn’t my first goat rodeo, though. As the week matures, I know I’ll re-acclimate to the pace, […]

  • January 3rd Setting a Work Schedule to Make Us Better, Saner Teachers 23

    I want to share something that gives me hope for the year to come: a weekly routine for getting the work done within set working hours. I piloted this schedule for two weeks before Winter Break, and it seems poised to do well for me in 2015, which seems like it could be my busiest year ever. […]


  • December 29th Teaching is Work 11

    Winter break has been awesome so far. Highlights: Hadassah (my eldest) and I made a postmodern gingerbread house (pictured above). In an act of the-only-person-in-the-family-without-the-flu heroism, I made off-brand frozen pizza for Christmas dinner. Need I say more? I’ve also taken some time to write, which is good, because I’m working on a new ebook called Never Finished. […]

  • December 17th The Two Most Important Words for Getting Great, According to Daniel Coyle 1

    Over the past year, I’ve been reading, writing, and thinking a lot about what it takes to get great at teaching. This is partly because I’m insanely curious about it. After all, if I’m going to do something, I want to do it (or be on the way to doing it) great. It’s also because of the e-book […]

  • December 1st Takeaways from #NCTE14 (and why professional conferences are worth it) 0

    Two weekends ago, I went to my first-ever national conference for teachers: the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Conference (NCTE14), which was held in the DC area. In this post, I’d like to do three simple things: Explain why conferences are and aren’t helpful — and how to make sure the next conference […]

  • November 22nd We All Need Mentorship: Here’s How to Make the Most of It 3

    Lately, I’ve been kind of obsessed with helping the Teaching the Core community think deeply about their careers. Part of that is because I love writing about this stuff; another part is because I sense that the group of educators who belong to this friendly movement of educators resonate with some of the following questions: Is […]

  • November 15th Here’s Why the 80/20 Rule Matters for Educators 9

    Teaching is this hugely complex, challenging calling, and that’s why I’m glad it’s mine — I don’t foresee getting to a place where I’m like, “You know what? I’ve got this all figured out. Done. Turn on the cruise control.” To be honest, I think few of us will get there, and if we do, […]

  • November 8th How to Read Professional Development Books: 7 Tactics You Might Not Be Using 16

    Whether you’re a teacher, administrator, instructional coach, central office person, or someone else, I’m guessing you’re familiar with the fact that there are a lot more edu-books out there than any of us have time to read. And their unmanageable quantity is not the only tricky thing about professional development books; they also vary in their utility. Some are immediately useful, […]

  • November 1st 14 Tips Toward Better Relationships with Administrators, Parents, & Support Staff 4

    We’ve looked at what impact means, how to start with ourselves as we try to increase our impactfulness, how to leverage what we do in the classroom toward impact, and how to work better with colleagues toward impact. Graphically, that’s this: Today, we’ll bring it home by talking about the other groups of adults we […]

  • October 25th 9 Principles for Working Better with Fellow Educators 20

    Welcome to the penultimate portion of this post series (here’s Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). If you like this post, you might like Never Finished: Continually Becoming the Teachers We Want to Be (and Staying Sane in the Process). Today, we’re going to examine a part of the most underrated element of the three-fold strategy […]

  • October 11th Purposeful Annotation: A “Close Reading” Strategy that Makes Sense to My Students 82

    If you look at my original close reading post, you’ll see I was basically using the phrase “close reading” to refer to annotation. It took me a year or more to realize that I was saying one buzzwordy thing to mean a lot of explicit, less confusing things that readers do when grappling with a […]

  • October 4th Scaffolds for Dominating the Article of the Week 73

    In my last post, I laid out the long, steamy romance that is my history with Kelly Gallagher’s article of the week assignment (disclaimer if you haven’t read it: it’s pretty much not romantic at all, or steamy — it’s just long). In this post, I want to share some resources that come out of last […]

  • September 27th There and Back Again: My Journey with Gallagher’s Article of the Week Assignment 49

    Before the Common Core were a twinkle in David Coleman’s eye, Kelly introduced an assignment into his classroom called article of the week. In the assignment, students read complex informational texts and responded to them in writing. That writing was nearly always a blend of the explanatory and argumentative modes, and it often culminated with a discussion of the issues […]

  • August 26th A Non-Freaked Out Framework for Literacy Instruction Across the Content Areas, Common Core or Otherwise 8

    This past summer, I began playing around with a 2.0 version of the “non-freaked out approach” to Common Core literacy, hoping to hone the thinking I put forward a year and a half or so ago into something more useable, more balanced, and more timeless (you’ll notice “close reading” died of buzzwordification). Here’s what I’m going to spend […]

  • August 16th Do Common Core Professional Development Like This 5

    I’m finishing up a professional development trip to California, and during these final days of the trip, a troubling (yet unsurprising) article has come to my attention: The article goes on to show that 47% of surveyed teachers would describe the Common Core professional development they’ve received as less than high quality. And all I can do […]

  • August 15th Back-to-School To-Do List #2: Establish Burning Questions 2

    I can still remember sitting in the interview for the Lake Michigan Writing Project’s Invitational Summer Institute several years ago. I was surrounded by brilliance (I had known the people for a few minutes or so, but you could tell), and one of the LMWP leaders asked us this simple question: What are your burning questions […]

  • August 9th Back-to-School To-Do List #1: Get Ready for my First-Ever Student Teacher 10

    I’m sitting in the Grand Rapids airport right now waiting for a flight to haul me out to California for the week. In Cali (oh, Cali — why can’t I be visiting you in February?) I’ll be leading four professional development days in a row at three separate schools, all around the non-freaked out approach […]

  • July 28th Three Great Points in Erik Palmer’s “Effective Communication” Video 2

    I’ve written about Erik Palmer’s work before (remember PVLEGS?), and I’m working through his latest book Teaching the Core Skills of Listening and Speaking. But recently, I found something else of his that’s totally free and pretty powerful. It’s a video called “Effective Communication,” and while I’d encourage you to click here to watch it yourself, I […]

  • July 24th For Noncognitive Skill Development, Start with Growth Mindset — Here’s How 4

    In my last post, I wrote that we literacy educators are wise to treat noncognitive skill development seriously and systematically; the research supporting them is too overwhelming to do less than choose the noncogs we want to aim for in our classrooms and then concertedly pursue their growth in ourselves and our students. In this post, I’d like to […]

  • July 17th Literacy Educators: Let’s Get Serious about Noncognitive Skills 0

    The Common Core does a pretty good job of laying out some key cognitive skills students need to have to be ready for the literacy demands of a career or college. Granted, we need to reduce the standards into a simpler, more power-packed set of focused literacy priorities (the non-freaked out approach being one possible example) if we’re going to truly see literacy […]

  • July 7th 4 Jedi Mind Tricks for Avoiding Burnout 28

    A lot of us educators got into this gig because we wanted to impact lives. Last post, I shared how I define impact. While some may have found it a bit too basic, I see no other way to begin seriously considering how to build an impactful career than by starting with the ultimate aim of teaching: the long-term flourishing […]

  • July 2nd Impact = Promoting Long-Term Student Flourishing 10

    In a recent post, I wrote some advice for teachers who try hard but feel hopeless, and part of that advice was to speak truth to power (meaning that, when an issue is important enough, we owe it to our students and our colleagues to tell our administrators what we see). And then Marianne asked a […]

  • June 29th Advice for Teachers Who Try Hard but Feel Hopeless 13

    A few days ago when taking votes for my next ebook, I received a response from someone who I’ll call “Rachel.” She wrote a heart-rending message that I’m guessing literally thousands of Teaching the Core readers can relate to (details changed to protect Rachel’s anonymity): Dave, I’ve been teaching high school for close to 25 years, […]

  • June 29th New Thoughts on the Non-Freaked Out Approach to Common Core Literacy 15

    About a year and a half ago, I came up with the non-freaked out approach to Common Core literacy while driving home from a conference for edu-policy types in my state capital of Lansing. I was frustrated by the acrimony that seemed to suffuse the day’s sessions — there were politicians bickering with superintendents bickering with teachers […]

  • June 24th On Common Core Text Complexity, the Triangle of Life, and the Freakout 5

    My argument here is simple: you, the teacher, have control over text complexity for your kids. I’m definitely not saying all teachers have the same amount of control. Some teachers get to pick virtually every text their students read; others allow their students to pick nearly every text they read; and still others have all of their course […]

  • June 23rd “Help! I Need Appropriately Complex Texts for my Elementary and Middle School Students!” 17

    If you are an elementary or middle school teacher who has ever perused my article of the week lists (disclaimer: Kelly Gallagher is the man who invented Articles of the Week), you’ve probably wanted to hurt me. This is because my articles are often a stretch even for my ninth graders (after all, the vocabulary difficulty of newspapers has remained stable […]

  • June 20th Using the Efficient “Take a Stand” Strategy to Hook Kids into a Reading 22

    Let me just start out with this: Erica Beaton (of b10lovesbooks.wordpress.com/#seekthebalance/my next door teacher neighbor fame) introduced me to this strategy (her version is much more sophisticated — see her explanation in the comments), and I’ve also seen something like it accredited to George Hillocks in Michael Smith’s, Deborah Appleman’s, and Jeffrey Wilhelm’s book UnCommon Core (which […]

  • June 19th Here’s What I Know about Reading for Meaning Statements 8

    If you used any of the articles of the week I posted this year (just to be clear, Kelly Gallagher is the originator of the Article of the Week strategy), you definitely noticed some changes to the format. I’ve written elsewhere about why I use Graff/Birkenstein’s They Say/I Say strategy with AoWs (here and here), but I […]

  • June 18th Moving Forward with Close Reading 7

    Yesterday, I wrote an obituary to close reading. This grew out of a delightful professional development session I led with a group of teachers in Louisville, KY. (It was delightful, mind you, because of the audience, not the presenter!) During the training, in which we worked through the non-freaked out approach to Common Core literacy, it hit me: the […]

  • June 17th An Obituary for Close Reading 40

    Close reading, one of the most ubiquitous terms of the Common Core literacy era, passed away yesterday evening. Ironically, its death is mourned by the very teachers (myself included), administrators, coaches, consultants, and authors who killed it through overuse. In its final hours, close reading lay on its deathbed and reflected on its meteoric rise to stardom and similarly rapid decline […]

  • June 10th I’m Creating a New eBook. Tell me which you’d like to read 0

    While the summer sun shines and my students are on break, I’m going lurk in local coffee shops and write another ebook to help you fight the Common Core freakout and pursue the long-term flourishing of your students. Before I go all-in on a book idea, however, I want your feedback on what to create. […]

  • April 15th PVLEGS: A Public Speaking Acronym that Transforms Students 11

    Before I start lathering at the mouth about PVLEGS, let me just state plainly that this acronym for effective speaking was developed by Erik Palmer, a professional speaker/edu-consultant/former-teacher and the author of Well Spoken, Digitally Speaking, and Teaching the Core Skills of Listening and Speaking. To my knowledge, Erik is doing the. best. work. around teaching kids to […]

  • April 1st Jim Burke’s Common Core Companion series — Here’s Why It’s Awesome 16

      I respect Jim Burke a lot. Here’s why: He’s a prolific author of helpful books for teachers, and, get this: he still teaches; He’s a co-author on the high school edition of They Say/I Say (I partially explain my obsession with this book here, here, and here); In addition to a sharp mind, I sense that […]

  • March 24th Why I Use the Article of the Week in My Elective Classes 0

    (Note from Dave: Heidi Bonnema calls herself a “baby teacher,” but this is more a testament to her humility than it is to her skill level. I’m honored to call her, not just a colleague, but a friend. If you follow Teaching the Core’s article of the week list, you’ll have noticed that, lately, the articles […]

  • March 19th 3 Sports Metaphors that Fuel Excellence in My Classroom 13

    Full disclaimer: I’m the kid who got cut from soccer his junior year of high school and hasn’t really played organized sports since. And even though I’ve got my alma mater tattooed on my thigh (the picture at right should explain that a bit), I watch, at most, one or two full sporting events per […]

  • March 15th 9 Skills the Common Core Doesn’t List but that Employers Want Anyways 5

    The Common Core State Standards for literacy were intentionally designed with a “less is more” ethos. Despite that, there’s still too many of them for average teachers like me to implement effectively. That’s why I cut them, choosing to achieve excellence with a few skills and strategies rather than achieve mediocrity with them all. My list is what you […]

  • March 10th Don’t You Dare Forget These Truths about Teaching 2

    In my last post (you know, the one from two months ago), I shared some similarities between the Common Core’s list of college- and career-readiness skills in literacy with the skills listed in Bill Coplin’s book 10 Things Employers Want You to Learn in College. In my next post, I’m going to give that post’s teeter-totter […]

  • January 4th 12 Skills the Common Core AND Employers Want 33

    The Common Core is a set of goals aimed at college and career readiness. This we know. But do the anchor standards really correlate to what employers want? Quite a bit, according to 10 Things Employers Want You to Learn in College. So what, according to Coplin, should people entering the workforce be able to do, […]


  • December 12th 9 Complex Text Resources I’m Pretty Pumped About Right Now 8

    Recently, there’s been a trend in the messages I’ve received from the stellar stock of humanity known as you, the Teaching the Core readership (btw, if you ever need to contact me, just use this link — it goes straight to my inbox). Here’s what I’ve been receiving: life-improving, useful resources for 1) finding complex texts for […]

  • November 17th Going a Bit Deeper with the They Say / I Say Two-Paragraph Template 18

    Two posts ago, I introduced Graff/Birkenstein’s two-paragraph They Say / I Say template I’ve been requiring my students to use in response to our argumentative Articles of the Week (and, by the way, articles of the week are the original idea of Kelly Gallagher). And as a disclaimer, I’m about to nerd out pretty heavily on […]

  • November 10th No More Painful Research 4

    Note from Dave: A few months ago, my friend Deborah Owen of EinsteinsSecret.net approached me with an idea for a guest post on an approach to research that seemed pretty… well, non-freaked out. I immediately loved the idea of having Deborah share this approach to research with the Teaching the Core community because it’s a Common Core […]

  • November 3rd A Simple, Two-Paragraph Template that Helps Kids to Really Argue 20

    In the last post, I shared the new argumentative focus I’m experimenting with for the article of the week (AoW) assignment. Rather than choosing just any type of article, I’m looking for articles that argue. [1] It’s not exactly the discovery of the polio vaccine, but still, it’s pretty cool. I like this new focus […]

  • October 30th What Texts Does the Common Core REQUIRE Students to Read? 0

    Although the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are rife with suggested texts and text types, there are several parenthetical remarks within the grade-specific reading standards that aren’t examples; they are to be included. Required titles RI.11-12.9 — that is, the ninth standard within the Reading Informational texts strand for grades 11 and 12 — is […]

  • October 3rd Can a text be inherently worth reading, even if it wilts your soul? 14

    Calling all readers! Bring your friends, bring your students, and answer this simple question in the comments. (This is a great warm-up activity for your students, by the way.) Do you agree with the following statement? “If some curriculum guide you were handed says ‘This Text Was Deemed To Be ‘Close Reading Worthy’ but you […]

  • September 30th What are you struggling with in your classroom right now? 31

    This post is short and simple and mega important. September is behind us, and the school year is officially in warp speed mode. Looking back on your first month or so of school, I have a big question for you. What are you struggling with in your classroom right now? I’ve been plugging along myself with […]

  • September 27th Starting the Year with Debate 1

    The 4th week of school is over, and debate is about to start in my classroom — and yet, we’ve already had two debates. Here’s the thing: to build argumentative ballers over the course of the year, I’m experimenting with a new idea this year: start slow. And so I’ve actually started debates this year […]

  • September 10th A Non-Freaked Out, Focused Approach to the Common Core — Part 7 — Teach Character 15

    The Common Core does a pretty good job of laying out some key cognitive skills students need to have to be ready for a career or college. Yes, for you CCSS doubters out there, I said it — I think the standards are good. Granted, I like boiling their goodness down and distilling it into […]

  • September 3rd The Only 100 Words You Need to Read Today 16

    Dominating life or the CCSS with your students is all about starting. Edublogs and opinions abound; none of them can try something bold in your classroom. That’s all I’m writing this week. Instead of reading anything else online today, go and do something that needs doing. Plan that one daring step that’s been nagging at […]

  • August 26th How to Dominate Your Common Core Supply Needs with DonorsChoose.org 0

    So you’re eager to challenge your students, Common Core style, with some challenging, complex texts. Or you’re having students debate, but you’d like to get a Flip camera to record them for feedback. Or you’d like some paper. (I’ve taught in that school, too.) The problem is schools have budgets, and, too often, they don’t […]

  • August 19th How Administrators Can Wage War on Bad PD 1

    So I shared a bit ago about how one of the bad guys that’s driving teachers nuts these days is bad PD. Okay, driving them nuts is an understatement. Just ask a teacher. And while leading some PD a couple weeks ago in the fine states of Oklahoma and Missouri, I started thinking really hard […]

  • August 17th I’m Not Kidding. This is the Best I Got. 0

    Welcome to the best posts and videos here on the Teaching the Core blog. I have over 150 posts that will help you understand, evaluate, and implement literacy, Common Core and otherwise, in your classroom. It’s pretty difficult to filter through and figure out what you should read, so I decided to do the hard work and […]

  • August 15th A Non-Freaked Out, Focused Approach to the Common Core — Part 6 — Write Like Crazy 10

    One of the biggest bang-for-your-buck Common Core standards is W.CCR.10, which basically says, “Write frequently for many reasons.” And the amazing thing about writing is that it achieves so many things simultaneously. For example, in the “Writing to Read” meta-analysis report, researchers found positive effect sizes for all kinds of writing, ranging from the mundane […]

  • August 12th Waging War on the Bad Guys 15

    I recently had the privilege and pleasure of traveling to two beautiful towns — Harrah, Oklahoma and Lebanon, Missouri — and speaking to two beautiful groups of teachers about the non-freaked out approach to the Common Core that we in the Teaching the Core movement have been working on over the past year. On my […]

  • July 22nd Germany and Long-term Student Flourishing 2

    Within 12 hours, I’ll be on a plane bound for Germany, all thanks to an awesome study tour fellowship through the Transatlantic Outreach Program (if you teach any area of social studies, you need to look into this). But before embarking on this two week adventure, I’d like to share some questions I’m holding that […]

  • July 8th Why I Will and Won’t Care if Michigan Legislators Block Funding for CCSS Implementation 14

    If you’re in a Common Core state, chances are there is a raucous coalition of folks desperately seeking to abandon ship. I can’t even begin to fully explain this phenomenon (I’m hoping you, the awesome community of Teaching the Core, will help fill in my gaps), but I can tell you that the actors in […]

  • June 10th Dave’s Summer 2013 Reading List 5

    Wow, this year has flown by. Last Friday, I walked out of my school for the last time this school year. (This morning, I will re-enter it for world history curriculum work, but let’s ignore that for a moment.) The beginning of summer means, to me, the beginning of some semblance of reflective leisure. Sure, […]

  • May 15th A Non-Freaked Out, Focused Approach to the Common Core — Part 5 — Every Kid Speaks 1

    [Update from Dave: my all-day literacy workshop for 6-12 teachers across the content areas includes a solid segment on getting kids speaking and listening in a way that increases their long-term success and improves their mastery of content. Read more about that workshop here. I’d love to come to your school.]  Prior to the Common […]

  • May 8th A Non-Freaked Out, Focused Approach to the Common Core — Part 4 — Argument and Debate 6

    If there is one way that you can begin implementing the writing and speaking/listening portions of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in a simplified, manageable, high bang-for-your-buck fashion, it’s simply this: have students argue. Frequently. Whether you teach science, social studies, technical subjects, ELA, even math, argument is a dependable path to enlivening your […]

  • April 18th A Non-Freaked Out, Focused Approach to the Common Core — Part 3 — Close Reading 35

    Update from Dave: Welcome to one of the most popular posts on the blog. This post is kind of old and doesn’t reflect my latest thinking, so let me point you toward some more recent things I’ve written in case you’re curious: An Obituary for Close Reading Moving Forward with Close Reading Purposeful Annotation: A […]

  • April 4th A Non-Freaked Out, Focused Approach to the Common Core — Part 2 — Complex Texts 20

    Recently, I posted an overview of the non-freaked out approach to the Common Core that I’ve been experimenting with in my ninth grade world history and comp/lit (ELA) classes during the last year and a half or so. In this post (Part 2), I’m going to dive into the what, why, and how of getting […]

  • March 15th The Non-Freaked Out, Focused Approach to the Common Core 25

    When I set out in June 2012 to blog through the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), I was, as long-time readers know, a diehard standards avoider. To me, standards were nothing more than codified wish lists created by committees. They were useful for getting good grades on School of Ed lesson plans, and that was […]

  • February 12th What’s YOUR Common Core Story? 84

    I’m switching it up with this post; I want the bulk of the content to come from you, the intrepid readers. I hear what so many of you are saying on Twitter or Facebook or your own blogs or in newspapers and books or at workshops and conferences, and I’m just like, “Dude, there’s a lot […]

  • January 30th How to NOT Freak Out about the Common Core 6

    Here’s what’s up: despite our circumstances, a majority of the 3.5 million of us teachers still want to do something that matters with our careers; we still want to impact student achievement in a way that promotes long-term flourishing for our kids. And when something like the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) come out, our frontal […]

  • January 17th Simple Rubrics for Common Core Speaking and Listening Standards 13

    One search term that seems to regularly bring folks to the Teaching the Core blog is “speaking and listening rubrics for Common Core State Standards.” Up to this point, those good-hearted yet unfortunate rube-seekers haven’t found what they were looking for here. In the words of William Wallace’s Uncle Argyle, “That is something we shall […]

  • January 8th Goals for 2013 0

    During the last two weeks, I’ve had time to enjoy my beautiful ladies (my wife and our two-year-old and six-month-old), visit with family, reconnect with friends, rest my mind, and reflect on the year to come. I am certainly thankful for the holiday break that our profession affords us. And from that gratitude flows a […]


  • December 18th Discussions that Promote Societal Belonging 0

    They are a recurring nightmare in the United States, a horrifying symptom of some dysfunction in our culture. In the past six months, victims have been theater-goers, Sikh worshipers, and now first graders. A big part of me hates writing this post, instead wanting simply to admire and affirm Jim Burke’s noble call to continue the […]

  • December 14th Character Strengths — Beyond the Common Core 0

    Though the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are, in my opinion, a common sense approach to preparing students for the worlds of college and careers, they intentionally leave out any mention of non-academic skills needed for post-secondary flourishing. And frankly, that’s what schools are for: to promote long-term, widespread human flourishing. So what are those non-academic skills […]

  • November 28th What’s the C3 Framework, and How does it Affect Your Social Studies Class? 0

    In case you haven’t heard, the moment all of us social studies teachers have been curiously looking forward to — the release of national social studies content standards — has come. Or not. At this month’s National Council of Social Studies (NCSS) Conference, where the national standards were expected to be unveiled, social studies gurus […]

  • November 14th Close Reading, the Common Core, and a Freaking Awesome Prezi 16

    I don’t know about your district, but in mine we have a leading contender for Buzzword of the Year: close reading. So what is this mystical act? And, like too many buzzwords, is it mere hogwash? Or could there be awesomeness contained within it? [Please note that, contrary to journalistic common sense, I am saving […]

  • October 22nd Student Teachers Rock 0

    Today, I’m privileged to be hosting some workshops at the Fire Up conference, hosted by the Inter-Institutional Teacher Education Council of West Michigan (ITEC-WM). Believe it or not, I’ll actually be speaking on something pretty far removed from the Common Core, but very near to the driving purpose of Teaching the Core and anything else […]

  • October 8th Keyboarding Skills and the Common Core 37

    If you’re a K-6er trying to incorporate the grade-specific Common Core State Standards (CCSS), you’ve probably noticed an interesting skillset nestled within anchor standard W.CCR.6: keyboarding! That’s right! While I spoke about W.CCR.6 as an anchor standard in this post, I didn’t delve into the grade-specific standards contained within it, and therefore I didn’t really […]

  • October 2nd How to Get Students to Really Listen, Summarize/Paraphrase, and Respond to Peers 3

    If you’re noticing a large gap between your students’ speaking skills and the ambitious Speaking and Listening Standards within the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), you’re not alone: many teachers that I talk to share how difficult it is to have discussions or debates in which students actually listen to one another and respond. Mentioning […]

  • September 21st Video: One Way to Rock Out CCSS-Friendly, In-class Debates 11

    In this video, I walk through how I went about preparing for and carrying out our second in-class debate of the school year. Why spend time debating? Debates are very CCSS friendly — they make argumentative writing (W.CCR.1) a lot easier, they require collaboration (SL.CCR.1), evaluation (SL.CCR.3), clarity (SL.CCR.4), and it’s super awesome when they […]

  • August 31st A First Day of School Activity that Teaches Argumentation 36

    Next Tuesday, when our Michigan students come for their beautiful, post-Labor Day first day of school, I’m going to bust out something hot. In our school, we have to set goals for ourselves that can be measured with data. My goals are focused around W.CCR.1 and R.CCR.10 — writing argumentatively from a variety of complex […]

  • August 27th How to Craft a Bomb-Diggety Resource Request 0

    Depending on your district, funds for professional development resources may be short. And since you’re dedicated enough to be reading a blog for educators, you probably just go out and drop the cash for the latest and greatest (mega overpriced) PD book. Am I wrong? In both of the schools I’ve spent most of my teaching time (an urban […]

  • August 23rd Where have I been all your life? + Updates 0

    In case you didn’t notice, last week we, the incredibly awesome, burgeoning community at Teaching the Core officially dominated the Common Core anchor standards. And then, tragically, the almost daily, always magical posting stopped. So what happened? I wrote about all 32 anchor standards, for crying out loud! I was spent. I needed some time […]

  • August 17th Common Core L.CCR.6 Explained 0

    L.CCR.6 — that’s the 6th (and last!) College and Career Readiness anchor standard within the Language strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — says: Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in […]

  • August 16th Common Core L.CCR.5 Explained 0

    L.CCR.5 — that’s the 5th (and penultimate!) College and Career Readiness anchor standard within the Language strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — says: Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings. Ray Bradbury was dominating this standard from the day he was born. In fact, before he passed away, Ray wrote […]

  • August 15th Common Core L.CCR.4 Explained 2

    L.CCR.4 — that’s the 4th College and Career Readiness anchor standard within the Language strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — says: Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases by using context clues, analyzing meaningful word parts, and consulting general and specialized reference materials, as appropriate. Here’s the short version: […]

  • August 14th Common Core L.CCR.3 Explained 1

    L.CCR.3 — that’s the 3rd College and Career Readiness anchor standard within the Language strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — says: Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening. To succeed at this […]

  • August 13th Common Core L.CCR.2 Explained 1

    L.CCR.2 — that’s the 2nd College and Career Readiness anchor standard within the Language strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — says: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing. For a great overview of the first three anchor standards within the Language strand, check out Saturday’s post on […]

  • August 11th Common Core L.CCR.1 Explained 0

    At this point, we, the community at the Teaching the Core blog, have dominated (and/or begun to understand) three of the four “strands” of Common Core anchor standards. That calls for a pwning video: Sorry about that — I just really enjoy the chorus. (Confused about pwning? Check out the W.CCR.9 post.) L.CCR.1 — that’s the […]

  • August 10th Common Core SL.CCR.6 Explained 0

    All right party animals, let’s tackle the final anchor standard of the Speaking and Listening series. SL.CCR.6 — that’s the 6th College and Career Readiness anchor standard within the Speaking and Listening strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — says: Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal […]

  • August 9th Common Core SL.CCR.5 Explained 0

    SL.CCR.5 — that’s the 5th College and Career Readiness anchor standard within the Speaking and Listening strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — says: Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations. Back when I was in high school, this would have been […]

  • August 8th Common Core SL.CCR.4 Explained 0

    Hello awesome Teaching the Core readers! In our plodding quest to conquer the anchor standards, we’ve arrived at SL.CCR.4. SL.CCR.4 — that’s the 4th College and Career Readiness anchor standard within the Speaking and Listening strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — says: Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow […]

  • August 7th Common Core SL.CCR.3 Explained 1

    SL.CCR.3 — that’s the 3rd College and Career Readiness anchor standard within the Speaking and Listening strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — says: Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric. All right, lots of fun stuff in here, so let’s get started. We’ll be looking at what […]

  • August 6th Common Core SL.CCR.2 Explained 0

    SL.CCR.2 — that’s the 2nd College and Career Readiness anchor standard within the Speaking and Listening strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — reads as follows: Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally. This one took me a minute, because it doesn’t seem to have much […]

  • August 4th “What Parts of the CCSS are Social Studies Teachers Responsible For?” 0

    One thing that my inner-nerd loves is the way that web analytics engines tell you how people find your site. For example, check out the WordPress stats page below:  Through this, I get to see things like where people are being referred from and what search engine terms are pointing people to my site. I […]

  • August 3rd Common Core SL.CCR.1 Explained 3

    SL.CCR.1 — that’s the 1st College and Career Readiness anchor standard within the Speaking and Listening strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — reads as follows: Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively. As always, […]

  • August 2nd 9 Big Ideas within the Speaking and Listening Standards 12

    Every day or so, someone finds this website through searching some variation of “big ideas in the Common Core Speaking and Listening standards.” The problem is, an answer to that question isn’t currently easy to find on Teaching the Core! In order to try providing a better resource for that search, as well as for […]

  • August 1st Common Core W.CCR.10 Explained 6

    (Wiping sweat from brow.) All right, let’s finish these writing anchor standards. W.CCR.10 — that’s the 10th (and final!) College and Career Readiness anchor standard within the Writing strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — reads as follows: Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time […]

  • July 31st Common Core W.CCR.9 Explained 1

    All right, we’re almost done pwning these writing anchor standards. And just so we’re clear, pwn is pronounced “pown” which rhymes with own, and it essentially means domination. My little brothers (high schoolers) taught me the meaning of this word on a recent road trip we shared: Now then. Let’s pwn this. W.CCR.9 — that’s […]

  • July 30th Common Core W.CCR.8 Explained 2

    W.CCR.8 — that’s the 8th College and Career Readiness anchor standard within the Writing strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — reads as follows: Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism. This standard is the second […]

  • July 29th Will Common Core National Assessments Motivate Students to “Enjoy & Appreciate” School? 9

    I was on Darren Burris’ (@dgburris) fantastic Common Core State Standards (CCSS) resource website today (Common Core Essentials), and a few clicks later I found myself at a post on Robert Ryshke’s Center for Teaching blog. First of all, warning: I’m about to go on a rant. It’ll be a positive one, but, still, I […]

  • July 27th Common Core W.CCR.7 Explained 0

    W.CCR.7 — that’s the 7th College and Career Readiness anchor standard within the Writing strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — reads as follows: Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation. This standard is part of a trio of “Research […]

  • July 27th Common Core W.CCR.6 Explained 12

    W.CCR.6 — that’s the 6th College and Career Readiness anchor standard within the Writing strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — reads as follows: Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others. Though I often see CCSS alignment synonomized with buying technology, there are […]

  • July 25th Is the Common Core all about Technology? 7

    At a recent gathering of educators, I heard an individual bragging about his district’s move toward aligning curriculum with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). This is what the educator said (roughly): Our elementary classrooms are all getting iPads. This kind of thinking isn’t unique. I frequently see the CCSS being synonymized with classroom tech. […]

  • July 24th Common Core W.CCR.5 Explained 0

    W.CCR.5 — that’s the 5th College and Career Readiness anchor standard within the Writing strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — reads as follows: Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach. An easy way to sum up W.CCR.5 is this: effective writing is so […]

  • July 18th Common Core W.CCR.4 Explained 0

    W.CCR.4 — that’s the 4th College and Career Readiness anchor standard within the Writing strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — reads as follows: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. To me, W.CCR.4 is all about the brain of writing […]

  • July 17th Common Core W.CCR.3 Explained 0

    W.CCR.3 — that’s the 3rd College and Career Readiness anchor standard within the Writing strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — reads as follows: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences. This is the final mode of writing within the big […]

  • July 16th Why I Moved to TeachingtheCore.com 3

    Bye-bye, WordPress.com — it’s been real. Hello, readers of TeachingtheCore.wordpress.com — welcome to the same exact site, minus the “.wordpress” part! Since starting Teaching the Core back in the spring, I’ve wanted to make the site a place where I could learn alongside likeminded educators about both the Common Core State Standards and teaching in […]

  • July 14th 7 Great Common Core Resources for History AND ELA Teachers 0

    I just added and annotated 7 great resources for both US and world history teachers in the Resources page of Teaching the Core. (For the sake of convenience, I’ve copied the list of resources below.) These books weren’t written specifically with the Common Core in mind, but they all offer bountiful tie-ins to numerous CCR […]

  • July 14th Does the Common Core Allow for Creative Writing? 2

    If you’re an ELA teacher, all of this talk about THE three forms of writing in the Common Core State Standards (argumentative, informative/explanatory, and narrative) and about the importance of college/career readiness might be a bit unnerving. After all, where is the love for the creative writing that led many of us (including me) to […]

  • July 13th Common Core W.CCR.2 Explained 2

    W.CCR.2 — that’s the 2nd College/Career Readiness anchor standard within the Writing strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — reads as follows: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content. As far as importance goes, informative/explanatory writing […]

  • July 12th 8 Reasons I Embrace Arguments in my Classroom 7

    While writing yesterday’s post about the first writing anchor standard (W.CCR.1), I began to list some reasons why arguments really were a highlight of my past school year’s English and world history classes. I didn’t think I’d do anything with the list so soon… Until today. While I was outside in the driveway cutting some […]

  • July 11th Common Core W.CCR.1 Explained 11

    W.CCR.1 — that’s the 1st College/Career Readiness anchor standard within the Writing strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — reads as follows: Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence. Before exploring the actual standard, let’s discuss the “specialness” […]

  • July 10th What Texts does the Common Core REQUIRE Students to Read? 11

    Although the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are rife with suggested texts and text types, there are several parenthetical remarks within the grade-specific reading standards that aren’t examples; they are to be included. Required titles RI.11-12.9 — that is, the ninth standard within the Reading Informational texts strand for grades 11 and 12 — is an example of what I’m talking about: Analyze […]

  • July 8th Common Core R.CCR.10 Explained 6

    R.CCR.10 — that’s the tenth (and final!) College/Career Readiness anchor standard within the Reading strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — reads as follows: Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently. All right, let’s dive into this bad boy. It’s all about complex texts Grade-appropriate text complexity is […]

  • July 7th Common Core R.CCR.9 Explained 0

    R.CCR.9 — that’s the ninth College/Career Readiness anchor standard within the Reading strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — reads as follows: Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take. There are two key teacherly tasks […]

  • July 6th Common Core R.CCR.8 Explained 2

    R.CCR.8 — that’s the eighth College/Career Readiness anchor standard within the Reading strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — reads as follows: Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence. This is a […]

  • July 5th 5 Ways to Make Rigorous Arguments Fun 1

    “Argument,” mentions Appendix A of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), “is the soul of an education” (p. 24). Why? According to Neil Postman, argument forces the arguer to consider the strengths and weaknesses of multiple perspectives (p. 24, CCSS Appendix A). In other words, arguing helps you see the complex nature of things; it […]

  • July 4th Happy 4th of July! 2

    My 4th of July will be spent doing the following: Contemplating whether this ridonkulous heat wave is being caused by global warming Installing a broken door, fire alarms, bathroom trim, a dining room light, some doorknobs, and an IKEA couch in our new home Playing with my girls (wife and daughter; daughter #2 is due in […]

  • July 3rd Common Core R.CCR.7 Explained 0

    R.CCR.7 — that’s the seventh College/Career Readiness anchor standard within the Reading strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — reads as follows: Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words. This is essentially the research standard within the reading anchor standards, […]

  • July 2nd Why I Support the Common Core 5

    I’d bet a Galapagos Tortoise that no one decides to become a teacher based solely on the prospect of adhering to a list of teaching standards. So, here’s a great question: why in the heck should we care about them? (Hint: It’s not because some armageddon is coming in the form of a standardized test […]

  • July 1st Beyond the Common Core Standards 0

    As I mentioned in the first post on Teaching the Core, I’ve never been a fan of teaching standards; in fact, “standards” is a word that I happily deleted from the Tagxedo word cloud that I created out of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) ELA & Literacy document. A ton of things attracted me to becoming […]

  • June 30th Common Core R.CCR.6 Explained 1

    R.CCR.6 — that’s the sixth College/Career Readiness anchor standard within the Reading strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — reads as follows: Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text. In other words, how does where a writer or narrator is coming from (point of […]

  • June 29th Common Core R.CCR.5 Explained 1

    R.CCR.5 — that’s the fifth College/Career Readiness anchor standard within the Reading strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — reads as follows: Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole. […]

  • June 28th A Class Purpose and the Promotion of Student Flourishing 2

    I love summer break’s gift of decompression. It is during the weeks from mid-June to mid-August that my brain defrags the preceding school year’s experiences, condensing them into a more manageable series of memories, lessons, and principles. What are we about? One principle that I began examining in the Fall of 2011 is that of […]

  • June 27th Highest Frequency Words in the CCSS for ELA & Literacy 3

    Inspired by Partner in Education’s Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Wordle, I plugged the standards document into Tagxedo to see which words dominate the standards. See the results below:

  • June 26th Common Core R.CCR.4 Explained 0

    R.CCR.4 — that’s the fourth College/Career Readiness anchor standard within the Reading strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — reads as follows: Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone. This standard […]

  • June 25th Why Gerald Graff’s Clueless in Academe is Worth Reading 0

    In the summer of 2011, I spent some time with Gerald Graff’s Clueless in Academe. This beautiful book (which, by the way, is mentioned in Appendix A of the CCSS!) takes a serious look at postsecondary schooling, finds it disjointed and its students disoriented, and concludes that the only way for students to find sanity in academia is […]

  • June 10th Vacation; Decompression 0

    With the 2011-2012 school year over, I’ve got three objectives for the remainder of June, and I aim to tackle them in this order: Take my brothers (class of 2012 and 2013) and my hijo (Pablo, who returns to Mexico at the end of the month) and my brother-in-law on a ten-day road trip out […]

  • June 1st Common Core R.CCR.3 Explained 7

    R.CCR.3 — unabbreviated, that’s the third College/Career Readiness anchor standard within the Reading strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — reads as follows: Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text. Within this standard, I see a lot of questions we could ask […]

  • May 29th Common Core R.CCR.2 Explained 4

    R.CCR.2 — or, in regular people’s language, the second College/Career Readiness anchor standard within the Reading strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — reads as follows: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas Within this standard, I see several skills. […]

  • May 29th Common Core R.CCR.1 Explained 4

    R.CCR.1 — or, in regular people’s language, the first College/Career Readiness anchor standard within the Reading strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — reads as follows: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions […]

  • May 24th 4 Ways to Screw Up (and Fix) In-class Arguments 0

    Yesterday, something awesome happened during lunch: our school’s burgeoning “Nerd Club” decided to hold a debate on which video game console is the best. Here’s how Sean M. got it kicked off: This was so much fun. I applaud my students for taking it upon themselves to carry out an intellectual debate during their lunch […]

  • May 23rd What’s the Big Deal about Text Complexity? 11

    In case you haven’t noticed, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA and Content Area Literacy place a heavy emphasis on text complexity (R.CCR.10). In short, the developers of the CCSS believe that college and career ready (CCR) students are able to read and make use of complex texts independently. Why the Obsession with […]

  • May 22nd 5 Principles in Developing the Common Core 2

    If you’re wondering how the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were developed, this YouTube video featuring David Coleman begins to answer the question. It does not go into great depth, but it does provide some interesting food for thought. Principle #1: College-and-Career Readiness (CCR) When students aren’t ready for college-level work, colleges place them in […]

  • May 21st 3 Ways to Start Implementing the Common Core Today 3

    It’s not fun to learn that you’ll soon be expected to transform your curriculum to align with a 66-page document that you had no part in creating. And, although the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are a lot less unwieldy than the state standards I’ve taught under so far in my career, that doesn’t mean […]

  • May 18th A Helpful Document for Overviewing the CCSS with Parents 0

    I found this document very helpful the other day. In its four well-designed pages, the PTA explains the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in high school English Language Arts to parents. My favorite parts are those in which the PTA describes “a sample of the work your child will be doing to become ready for college […]

  • May 17th Fahrenheit 451, the Butchery of Figurative Language, and the CCSS 2

    Every time that I’ve taught Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, one of my opinions of the book remains the same: Bradbury horridly overuses figurative language. Once I finish reading Fahrenheit 451 each year, I don’t want to see another example of simile, metaphor, or personification for at least a few months. Why Teach a Book You […]

  • May 16th CCR Anchor Standards in Language: An Overview 0

    Now, on to the final set of anchor standards in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) ELA document: the language standards. These are first found on page 25. The question these anchor standards seek to answer is, “What should a college- and career-ready (CCR) person be able to do with language, particularly in terms of conventions […]

  • May 15th CCR Anchor Standards in Speaking and Listening: An Overview 0

    Once you page through the writing strand of anchor standards, you’ll find the anchor standards in speaking and listening. In the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) ELA document, these are first found on page 22. The question these anchor standards seek to answer is, “What should a college- and career-ready (CCR) person be able to do as […]

  • May 14th CCR Anchor Standards in Writing: An Overview 0

    After wading through the reading strand of anchor standards, you’ll find the anchor standards in writing. In the “Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects” document, these are first found on page 18. The question these anchor standards seek to answer is, “What should […]

  • May 11th What are the “Six Shifts”? 4

    I first heard the “Six Shifts” mentioned by Mike Schmoker in his presentation at the Michigan Reading Association’s annual conference a couple months ago. However, I’ve only recently discovered where they’re located on the internet! For the sake of improving the internet, I want to link to them (on that page, you’ll find links to videos […]

  • May 10th 7 Things that a College and Career Ready (CCR) Person Can Do 6

    On page 7 of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) document, the writers of the CCSS have included several descriptors of what a College and Career Ready (CCR) person can do. This is an important page for any teacher because if you don’t agree that a CCR person can do these things, you’re going to be […]

  • May 9th What are the CCSS CCR Anchor Standards? 5

    When I started making this website, I had a hard time envisioning how it would be set up. After all, how do you turn a 66-page document with an 18-word title* into something manageable, searchable, teachable, and embraceable? I think one key tool in the task of comprehending the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are […]

  • May 9th 3 Reasons that the CCSS Should Make Content Teachers Rejoice 2

    Okay, so I’m no expert on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) yet, but here’s one awesome thing about them: they don’t attempt to dictate every minute detail of my life as a teacher. One group of reasons that make me admire the CCSS is their “intentional design limitations.” If you look at page 6 […]

  • May 8th CCR Anchor Standards in Reading: An Overview 3

    I’m going to begin with the college and career readiness (CCR) anchor standards in reading because, in the “Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects” document, those standards come first. (By the way, I bet the length of that document title makes about half […]

  • May 8th Why Did my Students Bomb their Extended Research Paper? 0

    At the Michigan Reading Association (MRA) conference this past spring, I heard Mike Schmoker give an address about his most recent book Focus. During the address, Schmoker recommended that, when building curriculum, each summative paper should be graded for a single item (e.g., explaining quotations). I tried this on a recent epic research assignment that I […]

  • May 7th Can the Common Core State Standards Promote Student Flourishing? 3

    For me, there is one primary mission in my classroom every day: to increase my students chances for long-term flourishing. I believe that every one of my students has unique gifts within them that, when placed in the proper circumstances, will allow them to make positive contributions to the world that only they can make. The question […]

  • May 6th What do Demons have to do with the Common Core State Standards? 10

    No, I’m not saying that I think the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are spawned by the devil’s minions. Not even close. Let me explain. Ever since I entered the University of Michigan’s School of Education in 2005, standards have been one of my greatest weaknesses as a teacher. And, like a brave warrior, I […]