Planning for Instruction

Word Clouds

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • Dec. 10, 2018, 8:54 a.m.

A word cloud is an image composed of words or phrases. Individually or as a team, students create an image in which the size of each word or phrase indicates its importance to the overall meaning of the topic or text. Word clouds can be created for concepts, characters, events, and themes across content areas.


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What is Literary Nonfiction Exactly?

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • Nov. 6, 2018, 10:03 a.m.

Literary nonfiction, also known as narrative nonfiction, is one of the best genres for getting students to engage in large quantities of reading. But what exactly is literary nonfiction? We hear the word nonfiction and instantly think informational, which is only partly true. The word literary means "narrative" and nonfiction means "accurate". So literary nonfiction is essentially a true story. And who doesn't like a really good true story?

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What Are You Wondering?

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • Nov. 6, 2018, 9:59 a.m.

Wonderopolis.org is a phenomenal website for students to use to build schema and vocabulary about a wide range of topics. Be sure to sign up for the daily email to get the daily wondering. Just 5 minutes of "wondering" will provide your students with new knowledge and get them interested in new topics for study. Be sure to check out Wonder Ground to get lesson plans and ideas for fostering curiosity.

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Micro-Interventions: Are We Taking Action Quickly?

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • Oct. 8, 2018, 8:56 a.m.

Using the success criteria, teachers can closely monitor learning and provide timely feedback about each students' progress or lack there of. The goal is to watch for students to demonstrate the success criteria. If they aren't able to demonstrate the daily learning target, then we must think about what is keeping them from doing so and take action quickly. Is there a gap or misconception that needs to be addressed in order to move students forward?

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Learning Targets & Success Criteria

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • Sept. 27, 2018, 9:35 a.m.


There are two questions that kick off most professional learning community (PLC) meetings.

  1. What do we expect students to learn? What are the focus standards? What are the daily learning targets?
  2. How will we know if they have learned? What are the success criteria for demonstrating the learning?


While learning targets of some type are found on the boards in most classrooms these days, success criteria is often not seen. The learning target alone will not be enough for many students to hit the target. Without knowing what hitting the target looks and sounds like, many students will fall short of the goal.


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Making Math TIme Work!

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • Sept. 13, 2018, 10:23 a.m.

A balanced math program includes time to develop and practice conceptual and procedural knowledge to proficient levels. Fitting it all in is a challenge, especially when you have a limited amount of time.

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Scaffolding Up!

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • May 4, 2018, 2:54 p.m.

Tier one classroom instruction is always about learning grade level standards. But what about the kids that aren't quite there yet? How do we scaffold them up to achieve those standards? Here are a few ways to make accommodations that get kids where they need to be.


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Productive Struggle

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • May 4, 2018, 2:48 p.m.

Did you know that the first antibiotic, Penicillin, was discovered from a productive struggle that Dr. Alexander Fleming was in? Yes, a productive struggle is what lead to the discovery of the life saving drug in 1928! Dr. Fleming discovered mold growing in petri dishes after returning from summer vacation and said that the mold had contaminated his study. He later discovered that the mold actually stopped bacteria from growing.

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End-of-Year Reading & Writing Activities

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • May 4, 2018, 2:46 p.m.

The end of the year is upon us. Just in case you are running out of steam, here are some ideas for May/June to keep students engaged in reading and writing.

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Anchor Charts 101

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • Oct. 8, 2017, 4:08 p.m.

Anchor charts have become a buzz word in the education world over the past five years. The intended reason for an anchor chart is to "anchor" the critical content needed to be learned. Here are some essential components of the buzz-worthy anchor charts.

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Recommended Reads-Using Literature to Engage Problem Solving

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • Sept. 14, 2017, 4:02 p.m.

Children’s books can be effective vehicles for motivating children to think and reason mathematically. (Burns, 2004) A children’s book is a great way to launch or assess mathematical learning.

For every math unit, select 2-4 children’s books that contain situations related to the concepts and that allow students to use new skills and strategies. Be sure to choose wisely!

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Using Literature for Problem Solving- Steps to Experiencing the Literature

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • Sept. 14, 2017, 4:01 p.m.

Reading aloud helps students expand their vocabulary and connect mathematical thinking to real life situations. Stories help students organize, store, and retrieve conceptual information related to the skills, strategies, and processes needed to think mathematically.

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How to use Literature to Engage Students in Problem Solving

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • Sept. 13, 2017, 4:01 p.m.

Children’s books provide a perfect starting point for engaging students in authentic problem solving. Students need time to hypothesize and experiment with strategies in real world situations. Stories provide a context that helps students construct conceptual understanding of math ideas.

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Building Meaning....Literally

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • Sept. 9, 2017, 3:58 p.m.

Have you ever struggled to find the right words or explanation of something? Most of us have been there once or twice. Students struggle with this, too. So, why not build something to represent your thinking? Constructing a model of what you are picturing or thinking can help to solidify conceptual understanding. Using legos, building blocks, or play doh, students build to represent an idea or understanding of a concept. This can be a less intimidating option for students to show their understanding or thinking about ideas or topics.

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Paving a Curriculum Road Map

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • Aug. 2, 2017, 3:56 p.m.

"People with goals succeed because they know where they are going." - Earl Nightingale

Do you have a map in your room? Is it a curriculum map? Can your students and class visitors see it? Knowing where you are going is the most important first step in planning a journey.

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Start the Year Off With Your Walk Up Song!

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • July 31, 2017, 3:55 p.m.

Ever been to baseball game and heard the different songs that play when each new baseball player takes the plate? The songs represent the player's feelings, goals, and personality. I had the privilege of hearing Stephanie Harvey at ILA this year. In her talk about striving readers, she suggested finding out each students' "walk up" song.

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Preparing for Next Year During the Summer

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • June 3, 2017, 3:51 p.m.

Summer is a great time to throw out the old. My rule is, if you haven't used it in a year, throw it out! Education is constantly changing and that means that you are constantly collecting new teaching tools.

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