When do I say change the color?


I was sharing with my class last week how we can know we are making the wrong choices, but persist anyway, and then live with the unwanted outcome. Self regulation is about realizing that we can change our direction before the task is completed; while engaged, we can start over, adjust our goals, and make new choices. Why don’t we do this at the nail salon?  How many of us have left with the wrong color, too embarrassed to ask if we can change it as it is being painted onto our nails? Even as we leave the salon, we know it was a bad choice and we will not make it again.  Yet if we had been asked “Do you like this color?” “Are you happy with your choice?” and spoken up after the first nail was polished, we would not spend weeks regretting the decision we made.


I likened this personal experience to helping our students to make the “right choice”, and then encourage them to stick with it even when it is not working. How they study, where they study, with whom they study are choices they often make Independently, and often regret when the homework is done incorrectly or the test is failed.

The common core standards encourage us to review and revise our teaching and our students’ learning strategies using formative assessments throughout units of study.  The staircase of complexity encourages us to check often to see if our students are increasing their skills, but it does not encourage us to investigate their study habits.  Investigating the psychological dimensions of self regulation is critical to our work as educators.  We don’t want them to wait until poor choices are made to change direction, rather, we want our students to self monitor their study habit to raise their awareness pertaining to their choices being made in real time regarding time management and social distractors.

It is like the nail polish color, sometimes students are too embarrassed to admit they made the wrong choice and will persist knowing the choice is not a good one.  Perhaps if the manicurist had asked me just once if I liked the red nail polish I had chosen, I would have chosen to change it, rather than leave knowing I had made a bad choice.  Educators can raise self-awareness if they ask the right questions while the task is in progress, not only at the reflection phase.

Self monitoring tools, such as study logs, are critical to noticing when we have made the wrong choice.  Instructors who integrate and model the consistent use of self monitoring tools into the structure of their lesson planning will increase the use of these tools in their students.

Am I thinking aloud?

pigs think

Self-monitoring is a good thing it raises our level of awareness about what we eat, how we cross the street, and how we learn.  How many times have we taken the time to say, “This isn’t going very well”,  when engaged in a task instead of, “I just need to get this done!” When we self-monitor we remain in the moment, evaluating our current performance against our hope of an expected outcome.  The common core is asking all of us in the teaching profession to think about what we are doing and how the students are responding while we are modeling a specific skill or strategy.

Self-regulation of modeling encompasses the multidimensional processes of both the teacher and the learner to set goals, select strategies, assess levels of motivation, seek help when appropriate, monitor progress, and reflect on performance and progress. In addition to classroom instruction, more recently modeling has been extended to areas of learning such teacher professional development, hypermedia instruction, and teaching preparation programs, which has served as the foundation for countless scholarly investigations.

When we ask students to observe, we are asking them to pay attention to the strategies we are using while we are completing a task. If our students are not paying attention we cannot say that we effectively “modeled”, in fact, all we did was demonstrate.  There is enough evidence that children will attempt to do what we do, and when we use specific strategies we should be explicit about what we are actually doing so they know why and how. Thinking aloud is critical to modeling how we self monitor our performance. For example, how do we read an informational text?  If we want our students to self-monitor then we need to think aloud as we read texts and model how it is actually done –


This student has observed his teacher, parent, sister, or baby-sitter practice this type of exercise many times, not just once or twice.  He might have seen his mother in the kitchen self-monitoring as she attempts a new recipe, speaking to herself saying, “Did I add the salt? Wait, I better check before I move on to adding the eggs! ”

In the classroom, he might hear the words of his teacher as he/she reads a complex text questioning whether he/she (the teacher) actually understands what was just read.

Thinking aloud using explicit details is the way we should model, perhaps if we did it more we could teach our children how to process information and take the time to think.  This type of action can slow our students down and from rushing through their own thoughts to just “get it done!”

think aloud

Why is my first grader preparing for college?


“Why is my first grader preparing for college?” This question reflects a significant misunderstanding of the common core initiative by many parents and it is a question teachers should be able to answer. Some school districts have ignored the question, while others have partnered with parents to respond to the question. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were designed to provide teachers and parents with a clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, and how they can help. They are intended to serve as a guide towards attaining the knowledge and skills required for success in college and careers. The establishment of consistent standards offers educators and parents novel opportunities in developing and sharing curriculum and instructional best practices that include training in self-regulation.

Standards define learning expectations they do not dictate curriculum (e.g., textbooks and reading lists) or prescribe a method of instruction. As more states uniformly adopt CCSS, decisions about curriculum and teaching methods continue to be made by local communities. The hierarchy of standards implementation is not generally understood and this misunderstanding contributes to much of the confusion surrounding the common core. Standards decisions are made at the state level, curriculum decisions are made by local districts, and local teachers and principals make instructional decisions. Federal and state agencies set the standards, superintendents, principals, and teachers choose the best curriculum and methods to meet the required learning goals.

As learners grow and develop physically, mentally and emotionally they can also mature towards becoming proactive learners and eventually take charge of their learning. It makes common and educational sense to link the standards to strategies that enable students to “spiral up” aligning their progress with the common core standards for text complexity. As students navigate what is known as the “staircase of complexity” they remain in an upward progression towards more complex texts secure in their prior knowledge and proficiency in literacy skills from previous years of learning. It is educationally appropriate to prepare students for the complexity of college and career ready texts. When we consider each grade level to be a “step” of growth and development towards acquiring the necessary skills to reach specific goals for all readers, we are equipping students to develop the language skills and the conceptual knowledge they need for success beyond the academic setting and help them shift their focus to lifelong learning. Teachers are given the opportunity to scaffold and support learners as they set proximal goals, monitor performance, and reflect on their progress towards becoming college and career ready.

Is a foot a foot?

big is a foot

According to this story, the King wanted to make a bed for the Queen but he did not have a rule of measurement. Making the bed the right size for the Queen mattered, but how would he determine length?  Someone decided to use a “foot” to measure but that did not turn out too well because our feet are all different sizes.  So the king used his own foot to measure but the carpenter (not realizing the difference in their shoe sizes) used his own foot to measure and the results were not good.

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The King’s foot and the foot of the carpenter, both met the description of “foot”, but they were different sizes and the result was that the Queen’s bed was too short. What should the King do? They needed a standard that could determine what a “foot” actually measured. However, the poor carpenter/apprentice was put in jail for such a terrible mistake, and there he thought about what had happened. Whose foot is a “foot”?

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As a result the King decided to use his own foot as the standard measure, thus creating less confusion for dressmakers, carpenters, builders, and anyone else who needed to measure anything. You can find the entire story at http://www.pinterest.com/pin/166562886190094575/.

How does this story fit with the common core?  Our children deserve standards and learning outcomes that are grade and age related.  Teachers and teacher educators should be trained to use standards based curriculums that can raise the self efficacy of their students acknowledging “It Can Be Done!” The governors never intended for the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) to be interpreted politically, they only wanted to establish a set of learning outcomes across state and national lines so that when our students are ready to enter the global community they will become self regulated, independent learners, prepared to make college and career choices that best fit their goals and dreams.

The king learned that not everyone in the kingdom could use his or her foot to measure, there had to be a standard.  Test validity requires that any measurement used be specific to what is being measured, and that we should not use only use tests outcomes that depend on subjective interpretations.  It is the testing, not the standards that diminish self-efficacy, and that is an area of concern that needs more attention from administrators, parents, teachers, and teacher educators.

For more information about what the governor’s intended please read: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-02-10/common-core-isn-t-a-government-conspiracy.html

Common Understandings!


I think we can all relax now and begin to explore the benefits of the common core state standards (CCSS).  State leaders (at least in NYS and more will follow) have recognized that linking the Common Core-based testing to evaluate teachers, principals and students was diminishing the significant positive changes the CCSS can bring to the way we do education in the USA. The following statement was released today (from LOHUD’s Gary Stearn http://www.lohud.com/ ):

Statements Tuesday from leaders of the Senate and Assembly called for two changes: a minimum two-year freeze on using Common Core-based testing to evaluate teachers, principals and students; and a delay in releasing student data to the inBloom data cloud until public concerns are addressed.

By lifting the testing and evaluation links to the CCSS the legislatures give the CCSS a chance to be implemented transitionally.  I look forward to more positive appraisal of the common core from parents, teachers, educators, administrators, and students as a result of this decision. Let’s take time to examine what the core can do for our students and explore the possibilities of producing independent, self-regulated learners who can be college ready and not among the 50% underprepared students who enter our colleges each year.