2017 Education Research Highlights

Twelve studies that educators should know about, on everything from the benefits of mentors to the most effective studying strategies.
Hands on a computer keyboard seen from above, overlaid with maps and lines from a graph

Every year, we hope, researchers gain new insights into what works in the classroom—and what doesn’t. In 2017, a group of scientists made the case for why social and emotional learning is essential in schools. We learned that negative stereotypes can discourage students of color from going to college, and that a reflective writing exercise can help. We also learned that it’s OK for second graders to use their fingers to count, and that text messages sent to parents boost family engagement and student attendance.

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Facilitating a Class Twitter Chat

Tips for hosting a Twitter chat with your students—a handy tool for enhancing digital literacy and engaging introverts.
Two speech bubbles formed from icons indicating Twitter and other digital tools

There are many advantages to using Twitter chats in class. Teachers can use them to encourage digital literacy, offer immediate feedback on students’ ideas, and track participation via the chat hashtag. The format allows a large number of students to share thoughts at the same time, and may help shy students participate as they don’t have to speak in public. And Twitter chats can inspire creativity by allowing both students and the teacher to supplement the discussion with digital resources like photos and videos.

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Encouraging a Sense of Gratitude in Students

Activities that foster gratefulness have benefits for students beyond enhancing their social and emotional skills.
A young girl in the foreground and other kids beyond her write in notebooks.

In the glittery bustle of the holidays, teachers often scramble to fit in last-minute lessons and refocus students dreaming of vacation excitement. It’s worthwhile to pause in the middle of all that excitement to build in reflective moments of gratefulness.

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Secret Admirers and Classroom Management

A simple activity can reduce friction in a classroom by guiding students to focus on each other’s strengths.
Two elementary school girls are smiling and standing side by side.

Although my first year of teaching was more than two decades ago, I clearly remember how my second graders returned from Thanksgiving more settled and focused. I was teaching at a public school in Oakland, California, and as December began, I was hopeful, energetic and increasingly confident about the learning routines I’d established in my class. Yet cliques had formed among some of the girls, and too often kids were not nice to each other. Another teacher had given me a book called Tribes, a guide to building a safe and caring learning community in the classroom. I wholeheartedly adopted it.

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The Art of Reflection Portfolios allow students to regularly reflect on their learning process—deepening their connection to content.

Two students work on geometric illustrations.

A few weeks ago, I met with a group of educators to discuss their observations from a series of learning walks in classrooms. They found that though students could accurately tell them what they were doing, they struggled to articulate what they might be learning. In response, I suggested building reflection into the daily routine. Whether students use audio and video or pen and paper, encouraging them to take a few minutes to capture not only what they learned, but also how and why, may ultimately allow them to make deeper connections to the content.

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The Future of Fake News New audio and video software will make media manipulations harder to detect. These essential media literacy questions can help.

Illustration showing icons that represent technology and media

On an episode of Radiolab recorded earlier this year, host Simon Adler leads us down a fascinating and somewhat terrifying path into the future of fake news, where videos of real people—like a U.S. president—can be made to say fake things. While we have strategies for identifying fake images, a new wave of audio and video manipulation tools have the potential to twist reality even further. For educators and those of us thinking about how to ensure that students have the skills they need to be informed citizens, these new technologies are an urgent reminder of the importance of news and media literacy education.

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Giving Students a Little Taste of a Book A creative way to give students a choice in what they read and differentiate instruction to help them grow as readers.

Students read in a school library.

I learned about the book tasting—an opportunity for students to try out a variety of books—from an instructional coach at my school, who modeled it for the teachers, enabling us to learn firsthand what this activity can do.

To start, I gather titles in a variety of genres from the school library, classroom library, and literacy library—it’s best to have a few copies of each book. I set up my tasting by putting my students in seven groups of four, with four titles in a different genre for each group. One group is generally realistic fiction, one literary nonfiction, one fantasy, and so forth. With groups of four, students get to experience different viewpoints without being overwhelmed—every student gets a chance to contribute when they discuss their books.

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