Guest Post: EdWeek Classroom Q&A – Ways to Develop a Culture of Success in Schools

Larry Ferlazzo gathers questions from educators and then collects both invited responses from experts in our field and comments from readers. It’s a brilliant form of collaboration through his EdWeek “Classroom Q&A” column.

This week, a teacher asked, “How do you create a school culture or even classroom culture in which students strive for success and are expected to strive for success?” My response, along with Jeffrey Benson’s and Barbara Blackburn’s appear in Part One. Now it’s your turn, Larry invites you to leave your own tips or comments at his post, some will be published in the future.

image linked from Classroom Q&A, EdWeek

Thanks for all you do.

Guest Post: EdWeek Classroom Q&A – Ways To Develop Life-Long Readers

Larry Ferlazzo gathers questions from educators and then collects both invited responses from experts in our field and comments from readers. It’s a brilliant form of collaboration through his EdWeek “Classroom Q&A” column.

This week, a college education student asked how to engage early elementary students in reading habits, comprehension, and building their life-long love of reading. My response, along with Donalyn Miller’s and Mark Barnes’ appears this week in the first installment of responses. Now it’s your turn, Larry invites you to leave your own tips or comments at his post, some will be published next week.

image by Larry Ferlazzo for EdWeek Teacher

Thanks for all you do.

Nerdlution Round 2: More lution, Less not doing it

nerdlution button tiny

The first official nerdlution has come to an end!

How did you do?

Some of you rocked it in truly inspiring ways.

Some of you –> me <– had an enthusiastic start and an eh last half.

(If you missed it, here’s my original Nerdlution FAQ).

Whether you nerdlutioned for 1 day or all 50, Colby’s post today says it best:

“At times I felt like a bit of a failure. I wasn’t able to write all 50 days, but I did write more during the 50 days of Nerdlution then I have ever written in a 50 day stretch. Not bad.”

I think that’s just the point: We ALL failed.

Well, that’s not the whole point.

The bigger point within that failing in little and big ways is what was at the center of this of this funny little movement: find something you would enjoy doing, aim to do it more than before, and live within the realness of your trying to get there.

Round Two

Today, in two different posts, Colby Sharp and Michelle Haseltine invite all of us to jump into round 2. Another 50 days of nerdy+resolutions, starting tomorrow.

Colby invites you to post your new nerdlution(s) at his blog.

Michelle offers to host a Thursday nerdlution blog post  round-up, she’ll collect anyone’s posts from each week, just leave a comment on her blog with the link.  

Others of you are already posting your new #nerdlutions. Franki, one of the fellow founders, has moved on from apples to lipstick. …you’ll have to ask her.  Katherine writes about setting new goals and also shares her need to be kinder to herself for any “failures,” I love this point and it inspired my round 2 nerdlution.

But first, what we learned from Round One

Okay, I just want to preface this by saying that I swear to you at times in my life I can be fit. I’ve flipped tires, people. Tires. In a gym. Doing push-ups on them even. That ‘s got to count for something.

That little burst of defensiveness came in and out of my self-talk during this first 50 day experiment. You see, I also was reminded during round one that I’m not as fit as I imagined I was.  Though, happily was more than I feared. 50/50 ain’t bad. For example, trying to do 100 push-ups every single day is incredibly painful and the exact opposite advice any trainer would ever give you. (Truth: I planned that goal in my “I’m just going to eat cake a lot” workout phase.)

I learned I need to have a more realistic goal. I also learned, though, that it still should be somewhat rigorous – just beyond my fears of what I think I can’t do.  Because a good 50% of the time, I actually met it and was so amazed, and sore, and proud, and sore at the end.

Reading other people’s triumphs and failures across these 50 days I’ve learned other things:

  • Success can breed success.
  • Equally true, failure can breed failure.
  • If you are stuck on a desert island and only amazing, technological wizardry can help you (or song lyrics), then Kevin Hodgson is your answer
  • It’s easy to feel embarrassed when you don’t live up to a public goal.
  • It’s easy to assume you’re the only one.
  • Apples everyday is actually a thing. And it becomes more interesting the more Franki writes about it.

  • Everyone fails.
  • Everyone succeeds.
  • Telling your true experience – the ups and downs – to others, ultimately helps you.
  • It helps everyone else, too.

My Round 2

I’m still sticking with mostly one nerdlution for this round, but modifying:

  • 100 push-ups per day, 3 days per week
  • Another high intensity something, 3 days per week. Time doesn’t matter (key for me not feeling like a failure on “off” days, anything is better than nothing and some days I’ll be inspired to do more than others) – a few planks or a short run or long gym time
  • A day off

Mentally (this is new for me to set a part of a goal, thanks Katherine for the inspiration) I want to:

  • Know I will, without a doubt, “fail” at some point. There, no surprises now.
  • Be forgiving to myself when I do.
  • Restart slow if I have to.
  • Ask for support – because the best part of nerdlution is the amazing and positive community.

See you at Colby’s blog, Michelle’s, twitter, or just out there with a smile on your face.

Hive fives all around!

Billy Mills, 1964 Olympics, public domain


Guest Post: My New “Talks With Teachers” Interview

I find Brian Sztabnik‘s mission with his new “Talks with Teachers” series to be so inspiring.

Brian set out to capture the voices of our profession through interviewing inspiring educators. Now in the form of a a weekly podcast (ranking continuously in the “Top 5” iTunes K-12 podcasts), Brian’s “Talks with Teachers” interviews a wide range of educators.  In an engaging format he digs into educators’ stories of becoming teachers, their professional struggles, and their practical advice for all of us.

I loved hearing how Carol Jago started out and Grant Wiggins’ early career bought of laryngitis–these are stories we have not hear before and love the feeling as if we’re sitting down for a cup of coffee with teachers from across the country.

You can follow the link here to my new interview or click the image below.

click to go to my interview (image from

This is a podcast series you’ll want to subscribe to (subscribe via iTunes at this link) and a website you’ll want to bookmark. I found myself falling down the internet rabbit hole and listening to every episode!

Hats off to Talks With Teachers for sharing the joy and inspiration of educators for educators. Our profession is full of powerful stories. I’m thankful for the amazing community we all form.

Why I Like the Edublog Awards #eddies13

It is the tenth season of the Edublog Awards, awards created in 2004 to promote the educational uses of social media and to influence schools in offering–not blocking–access to educational resources (read more about their history here).

Nominations closed a little over a week ago and now voting has begun. I am honored to be nominated for three categories: individual blog, individual tweeter, and most influential blog post for “On Broken Door Handles and Butter Knives,” the company in each is amazing.

What I Like: Celebrating

by Billy Hicks used under Creative Commons lic

The best part of the Edublog Awards, I think, is the nomination process. To take a moment to reflect on the people and ideas that have made an impact on your over the year is such a gift.

Not only do you feel good sending a little virtual “thank you” out to those you admire, but it also helps you remember why this profession is so great. It reminds you of the countless educators who tell their stories, share their hopes, offer their help to the rest of us.

It reminds you that none of us are in this alone, and if you seek out open arms you will find them.

What I Like: Connecting

If nominating people is the best part, the close-second best is connecting with new people, blogs, tweets, and apps. I love how the awards don’t just have a handful for nominees in each category, instead there are many.  Each category is made up of a list of recommended-by-our-peers suggestions of people to follow, apps to check out, or posts to read. I caution you that it’s a perfect way to get lost in internet induced procrastination, but assure you that on the other side you’ll be happier for it.

Here is what I am doing this year:

  • I am making sure I vote. It is very easy, go to the Edublog Awards website and click into any category that interests you. This year when you attempt to vote for someone a little pop-up box will walk you through signing up for a, a free service the awards are using this year to ensure each person only casts one vote per category.
  • I am clicking through to visit as many nominees as I can. I love these lists because I know every click will take me somewhere or to someone others have found useful.

Everyone Likes to Feel Honored

This award season will come and go. What I am most aware of is that it’s not the award that matters, it is the the huge role saying thanks plays in all of our lives.

Think of the last time you were given a directive, one mostly likely “due yesterday.” Now think of the last time you were given a specific compliment about your practice.

Those moments of thanks propel us forward. They give us faith in ourselves (and also faith in those who gave us the compliment). Think of ways you can bring these feelings to your community and your classroom:

  • “Nominate” others: think of those around you as if you were creating voting categories (most likely to make you smile; most creative use of chart paper; the mess-fixer). Then, go tell them, either simply by paying a compliment (I really admire how you…) or go further and create= a bulletin board or part of your school webpage to celebrate the special roles your colleagues and students play.
  • “Give out awards”: you and your school could organize actual awards or instead think of surprise good deeds as awards (offer to cover another teacher’s class for a few minutes, bring in fresh flowers for someone’s desk, pick up coffee, leave a sticky note message). 
  • Say thank you. Often.

On that note. Thank YOU for all you do, every day.

My Nominations for Edublog Awards 2013 #eddies13

I am no good at these things because I basically want to write:

“I nominate everyone.”

I will take a stab though at nominating some people, posts, and sites that I have found helpful and inspirational this past year for the 2013 Edublog Awards. The worst part is that for every category there are about 200 other nominations I want to include as well.  My apologizes in advance as I fumble my way through this.

If you would like to make your own nominations

Just write a post like this one thru tomorrow, December 1st. Then go here for full directions on how to submit your post full of nominations for consideration.  There are so many categories (I’ve left them all below so you can see them) yet no one seems to include them all in their posts, so only nominate those you feel compelled to.

Social media hugs to all!

My Nominations

  • Best individual blog – To Make a Prairie (Vicki Vinton). Always timely and thoughtful, but what really gets me is how gorgeously written and heartfelt each entry is. Inspirational in form and substance.
  • Best group blog – The Nerdy Book Club. Of course. Thanks for raising the flag for children, adults, and why we choose to teach.
  • Best new blog
  • Best class blog
  • Best student blog
  • Best ed tech / resource sharing blog
  • Best teacher blog – Matt Gomez always impresses me. His ideas stretch well beyond Kindergarten, though I am so happy he is in the world with such a huge belief in the complex minds and lives of our little ones (I think if he and @MrazKristine were ever to meet 5 year olds would take over the world with brilliance. It’s a secret wish). 
  • Best library / librarian blog
  • Best administrator blog
  • Most influential blog post of the year – Note, I am totally biased on this one, Kate is my close friend, co-author, and all around rock. That said, “A Day in the Life of a Close Reader” on is one of my favs of the year, not only is it a message we all need but it’s heartfelt, well written, and is still stuck in my mind (Yuppy Puppy, Hutch, and that personal calendar). 
  • Best individual tweeter – I want to be @maureenjohnson when I grow up.
  • Best twitter hashtag – I love lots of things, I also love #engchat. (And zombies, but that’s not for here.)
  • Best free web tool – I’m loving (thanks to @KleinErin!)
  • Best educational use of audio / video / visual / podcast
  • Best educational wiki
  • Best open PD / unconference / webinar series
  • Best educational use of a social network
  • Best mobile app – Twitter, which I know, is like saying “air is good,” but it is the most thumb-pressed app on my phone.
  • Lifetime achievement – Larry Ferlazzo. I don’t know what constitutes lifetime, but Larry does it all and does it all very well.

Happy nominating!    I’m late to the game, so remember you have through tomorrow, December 1st to post yours. More info at Edublogs.

Middle/High School Teachers Apply for a Book Love Foundation Library

Penny Kittle has been announcing on twitter that applications are now open for her organization, Book Love Foundation‘s classroom library grant.  Applications are due very soon, July 1st!

Open to Middle and High School teachers, it is an amazing opportunity to give access to books to your students and–quite literally–change their lives.

Screen Shot 2013-06-28 at 8.02.51 AM

Access the application (due July 1st!) from the Book Love Foundation website or here.

Give the Gift of Reading

Penny  tells me that soon Book Love Foundation will be accepting donations and fundraising will take place later this year. This way even more classrooms can be supported. Be on the lookout for these updates!

SmartBlog on Education Guest Post – Testing: Are Percentage of Students Crying Valuable Data?

by albertogp123 used under Creative Commons lic

In my second SmartBrief SmartBlog on Education guest post this week, I share the experience of one educator in New York State as s/he reflects on a day with the state’s new CCSS “aligned” testing program. The reflection is not a lone experience and is instead one of a large and disturbing pattern across schools in this state.

The response from the NYS Department of Education has largely been one of believing this new test is very much aligned to the new standards and is largely appropriate (see Peter Dewitt‘s EdWeek article on NYS Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch’s recent comments).

You can find the post here.

I hope you read the post and then add your voice to this critical conversation.

You can also find my related SmartBrief guest post from Wednesday, “Fairytales of Data,” on the tale we are told about US performance versus other countries (and how the data just doesn’t add up).



Christopher Lehman blog sticker-01Follow Chris on Twitter and his Blog. Learn how to have him work with your school or organization.

SmartBlog on Education Guest Post: Fairytales of Data

by DavidGardinerGarcia used under Creative Commons lic

We all know education in the United States has been pummeled recently and a large portion of the attack has been attributed to how this country performs on the global stage.  It’s a tale we have been told to argue for a whole slew of mandates.

In my guest post today on SmartBrief’s SmartBlog on Education I suggest that international and national testing data may not be telling the bad news some claim it does.

You can find the post here.

I wrote a related post last October “Education’s Own 47%.”

There is much to do in education, we all continue to work to impact the lives of every child–in the US and internationally–but I suggest the way we grow is by working in collaboration, not in competition.

It’s time to tell your story, our collective story, to change the fairytale into fact.



Christopher Lehman blog sticker-01Follow Chris on Twitter and his Blog. Learn how to have him work with your school or organization.

My Foreword to @hickstro’s New Book: Crafting Digital Writing

I’m delighted to share with you my foreword to Troy Hick’s new book Crafting Digital Writing.  You can find Troy on his blog, twitter and  companion wiki pages for his books. I hope you enjoy his new work as much as I continue to.


from Crafting Digital Writing © Troy Hicks, Heinemann, 2013. Used with Permission.

I remember the day my father brought home an early model Apple Macintosh computer he was loaned from his job at Allen-Bradley. An enormous beige box, it looked like a stack of toasters three high and two deep. He plopped it on the wobbly maroon card table he and my mother put up in the family room to hold this magical new machine.  My sister and I stood next to him transfixed as he booted it up. For as outdated as that giant humming box seems today it was a gateway into hours and hours of learning that felt like play. Well before the Internet was even a thing, we toyed around with fonts and layouts, designed interactive stories, created dot-matrix posters galore. That Macintosh opened up a world not just of creation but of belief in our own ability. What you saw in your mind you could make for others to see. It was more than creativity, it was empowering.

Flash forward to today, I remain deeply in love with technology yet feel a major rift between my out-of-school swiping and clicking and my in-school instruction.  Partly because I just haven’t done it enough: blogs and vlogs and something called Glogs at times feel like a foreign language and just as I start to get a handle on one I hear of fifty more that are supposedly better. Partly this rift exists for me because, to be honest, I worry about technology becoming a thing to do just to do it. A full class period swiping tiles around on a SMARTBoard has struck me at times as not much different than a period doing crosswords or watching a movie; sure it’s fun but where is the learning? 

I have struggled to unite my app-loving, content-making self with my literacy-empowering, student-centered self.

Luckily, there is Troy Hicks.

Troy stands for the kind of learning, engagement, and development I want for all children. He sees technology as not just something students play with the last period of the day before a vacation, but as an integral part of strong literacy teaching and learning. That creating a video documentary, for example, uses many of the same muscles as writing an informational essay and then some. That in our world today, design is intimately connected with content.  That for students technology can be the invitation to dive deeply into writing craft.

What I love about CRAFTING DIGITAL WRITING is that it is a living, learning, interactive book. It is one you will want your laptop open for. Trust me on this one. I began reading on a plane and within moments was desperate to return to the ground so I could click each and every link to digital resources and thumb through the abundance of students samples.  It is more than a book, it is a conversation– one Troy orchestrates between researchers, teachers, students, and you, all around the art of digital literacy for the sake of literacy.

I left reading, clicking, and furiously making notes, with a sense that I could explore the power of digital literacy instruction with students and, more importantly, asking myself why I haven’t started sooner.

Christopher Lehman

Nerdy Book Club Guest Post: Reading is Dumb. There, I Said It.

Colby Sharp and Cindy Minnich  invited me to guest post on the Nerdy Book Club, one of the web’s go-to communities for all things book love: recommendations, author posts, reader posts, inspiration, even their own awards.

So in honor of the whole Nerdy Crew being in my virtual PLN (and I in theirs), their dedication to books and getting books into kids hands, and their rapidly growing book loving community I thought I’d write them a guest post entitled “Reading is Dumb.  There, I Said It.”

And you are welcome, people.

Photo by shutterhacks. I took some liberties...
Photo by shutterhacks. I took some liberties…

Love books too? Want to guest post with Nerdy?  Just go to their page and click the big-ol-button on their sidebar to share your interest.


SmartBlog on Education Guest Post: Feeling ill: common cold or the Common Core?

The original version of this post can be found here on SmartBrief’s SmartBlog on Education.

Like seemingly everyone I know, I have been struck with the oddest seasonal cold I have ever had. Now well into it’s second week of existence, the virus has been a roller coaster of feeling 100% okay one hour and then sweating, coughing, body aching my way through a read aloud with sixth-graders the next. It was so terrible the school’s assistant principal agreed I should go home with the sincere direction: “go get better.” It’s been a leaving work early, nightstand full of tissues, muscles on fire, kind of a cold.

Not knowing how you will feel from minute to minute, roller-coaster from aches to calm and back again, piles of stuff next to your bedside seem to be the symptoms of another national outbreak: Common Corefluenza.

Understanding the outbreak: Standards vs. initiatives

First, separate the symptoms from the cause. This is true of cold viruses, we all present symptoms differently. The same holds true for the standards.

Let me define this virus for a moment. It is not the standards themselves. Just as a cold virus is not cold weather, though related. Common Corefluenza is the deluge of “the standards DEFINITELY say you MUST teach like this” and “these modules are EXACTLY how you MUST organize your instruction” and nearly anything with the term “EXEMPLAR.”

I wrote about this Common Corefluenza for SmartBlog (before hatching that snappy name) in a July 2012 post, which described how the CCSS document states clearly, and I think rather progressively, what the standards do and do not say. Tim Shanahan (whose point of view I appreciate, though don’t always agree with) takes up a similar beat in a recent Educational Leadership article.

Home remedies

I am quite literally writing this with a humidifier running, rapidly cooling ginger tea, a pile of cough drops and, yes, Kleenex shoved in my nose. We are all friends here.Often times the best ways to fix what ails you begin at home. The same holds true for helping yourself deal with making sense out of all of the options swirling around.

1) Ask, “The standards or you?” An important first step is asking: “Do the standards say that or do you [person telling me what I am supposed to be doing] just believe that?” Every educator needs to be scholars of the actual text of the standards. Separate the text-evidence of the standards from the argument of the speaker. Do so for me as well.

2) Ask “Can you show me?” Whoever is telling you how to teach should also be willing to respond to questions like: “Could we set up a time where you could demonstrate this approach with my kids, in my school? Or could I come see this at another school like mine?” By nature there is always a line between idea-making and hands-dirty-practice. How many times have you brainstormed something in a faculty meeting only later to have it flop with students? Flops are essential learning, so make sure any approach has had its share of them as well as reflection and revision. This “show me” can weed out the still-in-infancy ideas while providing great PD when things do go well.

3) Speak up. The Common Corefluenza may be an outbreak, but it is also one that has already had some remedy. It is important that, just as the standards expect students to, we look at things critically and speak back with clear, supported, arguments. That Educational Leadership article I cited earlier describes one example of educators talking back to “you MUST”s from two of the lead architects of the standards:

Although there was a lot of shaky information in the publisher’s criteria documents, the most immediate turmoil raged around claims that it was inappropriate to discuss student background knowledge, have students make predictions about what they would read, or provide purposes….Coleman and Pimentel viewed the increasingly divisive, frustrated, and angry responses from teachers and researchers with dismay, and they quickly retreated. In April 2012, they issued a startling revision of the publisher’s criteria in English language arts and literacy for grades 3–12 that stripped away, among other things, the admonitions against prereading (Coleman & Pimentel, 2012; Gewertz, 2012).

This is one example. And there are many others. Take independent reading. It was being harshly criticized by many as the standards first came out, now in the last week alone people who have spoken out against it are now saying things like students should read a broad diet, have opportunities with texts they can read easily without a teacher nearby, and that balance matters. It’s been refreshing. It is happening because educators who work with students every day continue to speak up.

4) Be innovative and reflective. None of this should be read as suggesting that we fight to keep things the same for the sake of keeping them the same, just as we shouldn’t change everything just because it sounds like a good idea. We do have a long way to go to educating every child, and that road is paved with thoughtfulness and reflection. Take the CCSS as an invitation to experiment with new approaches and be certain your criteria for success is not if you met someone’s expectation for an initiative, but if it led your students to new thinking and more developed independent practice.

Wash your hands regularly: Don’t spread germs

Cover your mouth when you cough. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water. If a questionable “MUST” initiative doesn’t sound right, don’t spread it around.


Two Writing Teachers Guest Post: Informational Writing Can Be Informational Learning

I am honored to be guest posting today at Two Writing Teachers, a fantastic education blog–or perhaps a better description is an education community–led by Ruth Ayres and Stacey Shubitz. Two writing teachers, “Teaching Kids. Catching Minds. 565 Miles Apart,” as they say.

Not so long ago they celebrated their 2 millionth hit. Yes, 2 with a millionth after it.

Their blog posts range from the writing lives of classrooms, teaching ideas, guest bloggers, great new mentor texts, reflections on conferences, and a really cool weekly “Slice of Life” invitation in which they are readers to link back to their slice of life writing from their own personal blogs! It invites all of us to keep writing and really brings together the Two Writing Teachers community. Just search their blog for this logo (click this one to go to one of their Tuesday invites):

Here is the link to my guest post. It is on helping students learn to teach through their informational writing–both through their development and structure.


#eddies12 Edublog Awards: My Kardashians+Reading Guest Post was Nominated (Because Why Not)

Well that’s a nice surprise.  My guest post on reading guru Donalyn Miller‘s Edweek blog, “The Book Whisperer” was nominated for a 2012 Edublog Awards in the category “Influential Post.”

While I don’t know that Influential Post is true or not, or if the post is more or less influential than any of the others, it still is awfully nice to be nominated.

Being newer to the blog-o-great-learning-o-time-sucking-up-sphere I only just learned about what the Edublog Awards even are, and I am a fan of their mission.  Head on over to them to learn more about the history and mission of the awards.

Get To Know Some Great Posts

Having this and other categories means there are lots of curated posts, twitter handles, and more to explore.  Click here for the list of shortlisted “Influential Post” nominees and read their posts.

My guest post, “What the Kardashians Taught Me About Reading Instruction (No, For Real)” can be be found by clicking the link to Donalyn’s EdWeek blog either on the Edublog list or here.

And you can vote by clicking here or the Voting Open image right over there.

Yay education!

Listen!: My Education Talk Radio Interview

I just finished my appearance on Education Talk Radio with Larry Jacobs which aired live today at 11AM EST on Blog Talk Radio.

I will admit at about 10:48 I was reeeeally nervous. Way more nervous than I am used to. I present frequently and honestly love to talk (as those who know me know all too well). But 12 minutes before the show my stomach was in knots. The first great help was tweets and messages of love and support coming from so many of you. THANK YOU. The other great support was that Larry was a terrific host – funny and thoughtful.

Here is the link to the archived interview:

We talk about my book Energize Research Reading and Writing, why I love Library/Media Specialists, the Chris Lehmann/Chris Lehman confusion (with a shout out to Kate Roberts), seeing the CCSS as habits not check-boxes, with a backdrop of laughter throughout the show.

If you don’t follow Education Talk Radio’s blog, you really should. No really. Larry has AWESOME guests. Wait, that wasn’t big enough…


Here are just a few podcasted shows with people you love:

Thanks for listening! Happy researching!