Opinion Blog

Classroom Q&A

With Larry Ferlazzo

In this EdWeek blog, an experiment in knowledge-gathering, Ferlazzo will address readers’ questions on classroom management, ELL instruction, lesson planning, and other issues facing teachers. Send your questions to lferlazzo@epe.org. Read more from this blog.

Teaching Opinion

Response: ‘Slow & Steady Wins the Race’ for Making Changes in Teaching

By Larry Ferlazzo — April 15, 2015 7 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

(This is the last post in a two-part series. You can see Part One here.)

Theresa asked:

What is the best way to scaffold lessons for teachers adapting to technology and common core changes?

In Part One, several educators - Sonja Cherry-Paul, Dana Johansen, Mike Fisher, Andrew Miller, and Amy Roediger - shared their advice on how we can make the kind of adjustments needed in the face of rapid technology and CCSS changes. In addition, you can listen to a ten-minute conversation Mike, Andrew and I had about this topic on my BAM! Radio Show.

Today, Charlene Stone, Jeremy Hyler, and Harry Dickens contribute their suggestions...

Response From Charlene Stone

Charlene Stone M.Ed. is a 6th grade educator at Alice N. Stroud Elementary School in Modesto, Ca. She is also adjunct faculty for Brandman University and CSU Stanislaus, instructing new teachers in the Art and Craft of Teaching and Educational Technology:

Educators are making changes in lesson planning and curriculum delivery as districts embrace common core. Integrating technology into any lesson involves three parts: planning, practice and time.

Planning is developing an engaging lesson that covers the standards.

Practice is guiding students to a point in the lesson where there is a gradual release of responsibility. As students take responsibility for their learning, the teacher can assess student understanding. This is the perfect time to utilize technology in a lesson. Teachers need time to provide access to technology at school.

Here is an example of how I integrate technology into a lesson in language arts, social studies or science. After practicing and analyzing an article with student using close reading strategies, they begin to dive deeper into text. At this point of the lesson, I want some kind of formative assessment that will show me if students are developing as readers, writers and critical thinkers. To get my students excited to “show what they know,” I use Kidblog. Adding Kidblog to my lesson required me to develop a topic for the blog that included a rubric and directions for students. Kidblog is a safe, online environment for students to write about what they know. Students practice writing skills, cite evidence from reading, and comment on other student’s posts. Blogging covers all of the requirements of W.4.6, and kids love it! I can easily assess student work and comment giving immediate, personal feedback.

Response From Jeremy Hyler

Jeremy Hyler is the co-author of Create, Compose, Connect: Reading, Writing, and Learning with Digital Tools with Troy Hicks. He teaches 7th/8th grade at Fulton Middle School in Michigan. In addition, he is the co-director for the Chippewa River Writing Project. Follow Jeremy on Twitter @jeremybballer:

No matter our capabilities as teachers, I recommend and challenge us to try two new technologies a year. And, when I say “try,” I mean in a variety of ways, for many purposes. Furthermore, consider the ease of use for students. As educators, if we perfect two new tools over the course of five years that is a whopping ten tools we have mastered for use in our classrooms. Ka-chow!

For instance, think about a tool like Google Docs. Start simple by showing collaboration features. First, as a class, I show students how to share a link so other writers can work on a document with them. Next, we begin to use the commenting feature, providing peer response and feedback.

We then move on to some of the more advanced features such as using the Find feature to look for and replace “dead” words such as happy or sad for more sophisticated language. I may have them use a similar technique to look for capitalization or punctuation errors.

Another feature that we discuss is how to download and upload documents so they can take full advantage of Google docs as a cloud-based program. At the middle school level, few of them really know the difference between .doc and .pdf files, so this is a good lesson in file formats and how writers share their work.

In the end, the Common Core does not tell us exactly what we have to use in our classroom, just as long as we “produce and publish writing and link to and cite sources as well as to interact and collaborate with others” CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.7.6. Slow and steady wins the race.

Start with two tools this year, and see where you -- and your students -- can go with them!

Response From Harry Dickens

Harry Dickens is the co-author of Apps for Learning: High School, Apps for Learning Middle School and Apps for Learning: Elementary School. He is an author consultant for Corwin and consults with schools in the area of technology integration:

As school districts infuse technology into lessons, the help of a strong technology integration specialist is always welcomed. There are many schools where this has not happened. So during professional development sessions educators are bombarded with “check this new...” or “here’s is an app that does...” True integration should be about using the right tool at the right time to create the end product you are looking for.

Teachers should be given time to try out products during professional learning time. Not in a session showing a list of 100 apps over the next three hours. Several people are app smashing to create an end product also. App Smashing refers to the practice of using multiple apps in conjunction to complete a project. During app smashing in sessions I have facilitated all of the apps are scaffold through out the lesson and or units created. Then we practice. This keeps frustration levels down for the teachers because they can see the beginning that may include one technology tool and the end product that has touched several tools and/or applications.

During professional development sessions teachers should work through a project to see what will be required of students. For example, if a project requires annotating and animation, teachers should work with tools a student would use for that portion of the project. Teachers should share during planning time with each other what they are creating in lesson and look at some of the verbs that come out of their conversations. In his book, Digital Natives, Mark Prensky mentions the verbs to look at when integrating technology: listening, observation, reflection, and the big one - collaboration. After sessions that center around the verbs in the Common Core lessons teachers will begin scaffolding technology tool into lesson. A great lesson resource that mentions tools to use is a book by Catlin R. Tucker, Blended Learning in grades 4-12.

Works Cited

Prensky, Marc. Teaching Digital Natives: Partnering for Real Learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2010. Print.

Tucker, Catlin R. Blended Learning in Grades 4-12: Leveraging the Power of Technology to Create Student-centered Classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2012. Print.

Thanks to Charlene, Jeremy, and Harry for their contributions!

Please feel free to leave a comment your reactions to the topic or directly to anything that has been said in this post.

Consider contributing a question to be answered in a future post. You can send one to me at lferlazzo@epe.org.When you send it in, let me know if I can use your real name if it’s selected or if you’d prefer remaining anonymous and have a pseudonym in mind.

You can also contact me on Twitter at @Larryferlazzo.

Anyone whose question is selected for weekly column can choose one free book from a number of education publishers.

Just a reminder -- you can subscribe and receive updates from this blog via email or RSS Reader... And,if you missed any of the highlights from the first three years of blog, you can see a categorized list below. You won’t see posts from school year in those compilations, but you can review those new ones by clicking on the monthly archives link on this blog’s sidebar:

Classroom Management Advice

Student Motivation

Implementing The Common Core

Teaching Reading and Writing

Parent Engagement In Schools

Teaching Social Studies

Best Ways To Begin & End The School Year

Teaching English Language Learners

Using Tech In The Classroom

Education Policy Issues

Teacher & Administrator Leadership

Instructional Strategies


Teaching Math & Science

Brain-Based Learning

School Relationships

Author Interviews

Professional Development

Education Week has published a collection of posts from blog -- along with new material -- in an ebook form. It’s titled Classroom Management Q&As: Expert Strategies for Teaching.

Watch for the next “question-of-the-week” in a few days...

Related Tags:

The opinions expressed in Classroom Q&A With Larry Ferlazzo are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.