Monday, January 28, 2013

Daily Assignment #127: More Do-Nows

Do Now activities are used at the beginning of the school day, or class, to get students engaged.  They are usually a quick activity, 6-8 minutes.   I recommend using a timer.  It helps to keep students on task and creates an urgency to finish.

Do Now activities should be something all students can do, without teacher assistance. They need to be engaging activities, so students want to do them and will meet with success.  Consider giving extra credit for students who finish them.

In Daily Assignment #44, I listed 8 suggestions for Do-Nows.  I have discovered a few more, which I would like to share with you.

  • Math--Word problems
  • Science quote: "All the water that will ever be is, right now."  National Geographics, Oct.'93  What does this quote mean?
  • You are shipwrecked on an island.  What are 3 things you would want to have to ensure your survival and why?
  • "If you were..."    Fill in the blank with a scientist, leader, etc...
For the next few weeks I will be sharing more Do-Nows with you.  So, keep checking in.

Please share this blog with colleagues and friends.  If you haven't already take a look at my book on effective teaching strategies.  It can be found on
Best Effort,

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Daily Assignment #126: Handwriting

Recently, there was an article in "The Boston Globe," titled,  "Mom, what is handwriting?" by Eugenia Williamson.  Williamson interviewed British novelist, Philip Hensher, author of "The Missing Ink:  The Lost Art of Handwriting".  After reading this article, and several others on handwriting in schools, I became saddened by the fact that handwriting, particularly cursive, is no longer part of the required instruction in some schools.  Handwriting is being left up to the teacher's discretion.   Needless to say, if something needs to go to make room for content for high stake testing it will be the 20 minute handwriting lesson.

Cursive, for my 2nd grade students, was a much anticipated skill.  They felt so grown-up to be able to write in cursive.  I would say, "Today, we are going to write the letter "t" and then you will be able to write..."  They would wiggle in their seats, sit up straight, pencils ready to go.  It was magical.  The last 2 lessons would always focus on students writing their first names in cursive.  How awesome is that!!!

You can well imagine my chagrin over this paradigm shift, even though I have been well aware of its impending arrival.  Do I think printing and cursive should continue to be taught? Yes.  There will come a day when we won't need to handwrite anything.  Until that day, handwriting needs to be taught.

Is handwriting an art form?  Maybe, but it shouldn't be completely considered outdated yet.  There are times when technology is not accessible.  Have you ever been in doctor's office and had to fill out a form, or the DMV, or a bank, the list goes on.  What if you had no idea how to form letters to complete that form.

There is something very special about reading a handwritten piece of work.  I treasure all the little handwritten notes students and parents have given me, as well as from my own children.  Thank goodness I know how to write.  I have notes and lists everywhere to remind me of things to do.

If you don't have time to teach handwriting during your school day, as Hensher recommends, tell parents to teach their children and to provide their child times to practice their writing, such as writing a nice thank you note to their teacher.

Please share this blog with colleagues and friends.  Also, take a moment to check out my book on

Best Effort,

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Daily Assignment #125: Reinforcing Standards and Expectations

Hello Everyone,
I hope you have had a wonderful, relaxing and healthy holiday.

So much has happened in a month, most notably, and sadly, the tragedy at Sandy Hook.  I have no words to express my sadness.  I can't imagine the heartache of the families, teachers, and the community at large.  They are all in my thoughts.  May it never happen again.

We all know, as difficult as it is, we must move forward.

Returning from the holiday break you've probably noticed that your students' behavior, and performance, has taken a few steps backwards.  This is a phenomenon, which I call the "2 Step," 2 steps forward, 1 step backward.  Now it is your turn to dance and you must take the lead.

Begin by reviewing the expectations with the students, hopefully these are posted in the classroom.  It is important for you, as the teacher, to be firm, clear and consistent.  This applies to behaviors, as well as performance.  Maintain your standards and expectations, especially on those days when it may feel like it is the first day of school.

Here is the toughest part--have patience and no blaming, especially that of the students.  They are doing what comes naturally--proving the teacher will not notice.  Don't blame yourself either.

Heads-up--the "2 Step" is common and will happen again after the next semester break--be prepared.

Please share this blog with colleagues and friends.  Also, take a look at my book on effective strategies on

Best Effort,