Carmichael's Curriculum Corner

  • Adversity is a Great Teacher

    Posted by Courtney Carmichael on 5/21/2018

    A quick glance at social media this time of year and many posts will feature happy graduation photos. Pictures don’t tell the full story of the accomplishment. The congratulatory images gloss over the late nights, managing stress, sacrifices, and struggles. A colleague of mine just completed her doctorate degree and I couldn’t have been prouder if it had been my own. I knew how hard she had to work to overcome some setbacks and disappointments along the way.

    According to a study of successful business owners, points to perseverance as the key attribute for success. It’s not the elite college or family pedigree that makes a successful person but what they do when faced with challenges.

    Patience, grit, a network of support - all can help during adverse times. Use whatever it takes to meet challenges, to move forward from setbacks.

    Ones best success comes after their greatest disappointments.

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  • The Benefits of Playing Games

    Posted by Courtney Carmichael on 2/14/2018

    Board games, card games, memory games - are they a lost resource in childhood? I hope not. I argue they should be used not only as family bonding time but for the socioemotional and academic needs they meet.

    Most noticeably, games can help build students' executive functioning skills. These are skills needed throughout life such as self-monitoring behavior, modulating emotional responses, being aware of how behavior effects others, using working memory, problem-solving, and planning and organizing materials. The isolation of games on iPads and mobile phones often do not address these skills.

    Games like Monopoly, Clue, Uno, Sorry, Battleship or Candy Land reiforce taking turns, how to lose and win gratiously, and emphasize social niceties not found playing Candy Crush or Angry Birds. Car games like the Alphabet Game - finding signs with letters in the alphabet, 20 Questions - one person thinks of a object, while the other players ask yes or no questions to figure out what the person is thinking about, Spotting License Plates - try finding license plates from every state, or a Memory Test - naming objects by the alphabet and remembering all the letters/objects before it, are all useful for keeping the brain active during long car rides but also build memory functions. 

    So on rainy days, turn off the TV and bring out the board games!

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  • Tips for Avoiding the Summer Slide

    Posted by Courtney Carmichael on 6/28/2017

    During the summer months, students on average lose about 2 months of grade level progress. Teachers often have to re-teach prior grade level concepts over the first few weeks of school. School breaks in other countries often are spread out over the year in 4-6 week blocks to avoid academic regression.

    The following experts have great tips on keeping students engaged over the summer with learning:

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  • Using Reflection to Promote Understanding

    Posted by Courtney Carmichael on 2/6/2017

    Educational theorist Kim Marshall, in his rubric for teaching practice, suggests that the highest level of parent-teacher conferences is actually run by the students. Yet student input in their learning doesn't need to wait till conference time. Teachers and parents can ask their students what they've learned, what they need to work on, and what their goals are, on a regular basis. This type of metacognition would then be embedded in students' lives.  A second grader could write about what he or she has learned, while a kindergartener could be video taped reflecting on the learning. To fit the conference model, this level of student input would be informative for the parents. For parents, the technique could be implemented at the dining room table at the end of the school day. 

    Starter sentences:

    • I'm noticing...
    • I'm wondering..
    • I'm feeling...
    • I'm realizing...
    • I'm seeing...
    • I can...
    • I still have trouble with...
    • I've learned...
    • I remember...

    Image result for metacognition

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  • What is STEM?

    Posted by Courtney Carmichael on 10/11/2016

    In Tenakill and Hillside, teachers are engaging students with STEM activities. Tenakill has converted its computer lab into a STEM makerspace, filled with tools to build solutions to challenges. Hillside uses STEM to spark curiosity with learning. But what exactly is it? According to the NJ Department of Education (2015), “STEM Education is the use of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and their associated practices, to create student-centered learning environment in which students investigate, engineer solutions to problems, and construct evidence based explanations of real-world phenomena. STEM education promotes creativity and innovation, while developing critical thinking, collaboration, and communication skills while students seek explanations about the natural world and improve the built world.” More simply, it creates critical thinking when faced with challenges in the STEM fields.

    Will the investment into STEM education help prepare our students for STEM fields, which is considered to have shortages? It would be great. Professionals in STEM careers usually earn more money in a lifetime; however, if we create opportunities for critical thinking in STEM it may transfer to other domains. If we create lifelong learnings, that is our goal.

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  • Social Networking for Educators

    Posted by Courtney Carmichael on 9/11/2015

    I used to think Twitter was a waste of time. Recently, I had an Aha! moment recognizing the potential for connecting with others who feel passionate across the globe. To me it is a place of positivity and problem solving. It is where I can find resources on my favorite subjects and reach out to others who are facing similar challenges. 

    My latest hot topics relate to #STEM, #NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards), #literacy, and #assessment. I use the # (hashtag) to follow trends and #edchat to have conversations about the same topics all around the world. On Thursdays, I follow #edtherapy to find positive reinforcement in the career I love. 

    I now have a Professional Learning Network that features other supervisors, teachers, parents, vendors and authors from all over the world. And my network is small yet; it is growing each day. 

    Someone new to Twitter can be a lurker, just following other professionals and see what they post. The next level is the Retweeter. Someone who RT articles or other posts. Next, you can start RT with quotes, providing insight into why you like or think worth noting the tweet. Then, the # comes into play. The big jump is the various chat groups you can participate in online. 

    A good tip is to only spend 10 minutes each day. Don't overload. 

    Teachers and parents can follow me @Court1224. See you on Twitter!


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  • Building Academic Vocabulary

    Posted by Courtney Carmichael on 4/2/2015

    When coming upon an unknown vocabulary word, it is better to say “How do we find out the meaning?” rather than “What do you think it means?” Students often have misconceptions about a term and will keep that wrong term in their head. Correcting a mistake is harder for the brain to process.

    Using the work of educational theorist and practitioner Robert Marzano, teaching academic vocabulary builds students’ knowledge and comprehension. He estimates there are 7,923 words a typical student must know in their educational experience from across 11 subjects.

    The following totals are in addition to social vocabulary a student picks up on interacting with peers and family:

    • K-2: 782
    • 3-5: 2,398
    • 6-8: 2,352
    • 9-12: 2,391

    In Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement, he found these words from national standards documents. Without a basic understanding of these words, students can have difficulty understanding the information they read or hear. Marzano (2005) estimates that a student without direct vocab instruction only knows about 50%. With direct instruction, that student can rise to 83%.

    Building Academic Vocabulary  You might be thinking to yourself, “Ugh, do you mean flash cards?” No, “drill and kill” procedures like that classic one can just do that, cause academic agony for the students.

    Marzano recommends a 6-step process:

    1. Provide a description of the new word
    2. Ask students to restate the description
    3. Have students construct a picture, symbol or graphic representation of the word
    4. Use engaging activities with the word imbedded
    5. Have students talk about the word
    6. Use games that allow play with the word

    Notice how he incorporates activities that activate the senses and multiple modes of thinking.

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  • My Favorite Stress Relief Tips

    Posted by Courtney Carmichael on 12/23/2014

    Stress is prevalent in the winter months, whether it is based in holiday craziness, winter blues, midterm exams, or pending state tests, dealing with it is an art form. Here are some of my tips for reducing stress:

    1.     Organization – check off the to-do list, straighten your personal space, go through a pile of papers – these menial tasks create a sense of accomplishment and breathing room from the clutter of day-to-day activities.

    2.     Think something positive about yourself – it’s simple mathematics as the positive counteracts the negative.

    3.     Fit in the leisure – spend a little time each day doing something you really enjoy. But balance is key as to avoid procrastination.

    4.     Breathe – take a few deep breaths. Oxygen is good for the brain and body and helps promote needed calm.

    5.     Smile and laugh – the adage ‘fake it until you make it’ is important. Even if you don’t feel like it, trick your body and mind into happier moments.

    6.     Exercise – this is key to promoting a more stress free lifestyle. Endorphins are so important to mood, health and having fun. 

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  • Taking a Walk Through PARCC with Common Core

    Posted by Courtney Carmichael on 12/18/2014
    If you are curious about the new state mandated test, come to the information sessions, "Taking a Walk Through PARCC with Common Core." For Tenakill, January 20th at 7pm. For Hillside, January 29th at 7pm. Hope to see you there!
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  • Prepping with Common Core Math

    Posted by Courtney Carmichael on 11/12/2014

    Making Sense of the Math Education Week released a report on the Common Core State Standards, Making Sense of the Math. Facing viral responses to the math strategies and news reports of the controversies, the report discusses what teachers and schools are doing to prepare for the state-mandated tests aligned to the Common Core.

    The math curriculum is a large paradigm shift compared to how adults were taught how to do calculations and word problems. The focus is on number sense and finding multiple ways of doing the math. In addition, the common Core includes eight standards of Mathematical Practices. Proficient math students use habits like perseverance, precision and critique to understand at a higher level. In addition, language literacy is used more than before as students must grapple with how to do and show their work on a more sophisticated level.

    In Closter, the recent adoptions of Big Ideas and Go Math, not only addresses the Common Core shifts but also uses a significant amount of technology in all grades from kindergarten to eighth. In the spring, students will take the PARCC, computer-based tests aligned to the Common Core, for the first time. 

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