Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum


Monday Motivation: Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

thank youDear Teachers,

Thank you for all of your hard work. This week, to show our gratitude, we will be posting about teachers who have affected our lives and the lives of our children.

Each day this week, we will ask a question as part of a scavenger hunt (look for the Thank You image on the post). All answers can be found on our Web site: Learner.org. The first teacher to send the correct response via email to blog@learner.org will win a small gift for that day. On Friday, everyone who responded during the week will be put into a drawing for a free DVD copy of Neuroscience & the Classroom. Good luck!

Enjoy the scavenger hunt, and share your own stories of great teachers who have touched your lives in the comments section of posts this week.

Warm regards,

Annenberg Learner

Scavenger Hunt Question #1: What professor of animal studies and animal advocate attributes his/her success as a scientist to his/her autism?

Submit this person’s name and the Learner.org url where he/she is mentioned to blog@learner.org.



Monday Motivation: Maxine Kumin and Setting in Poetry

Literary Visions_12_KuminLandscapeAre you and your students writing poems for National Poetry Month? Watch Maxine Kumin read her poetry and hear how setting echoes the themes in her work in Literary Visions, program 12, “A Sense of Place: Setting and Character in Poetry.” Start at 21:54 in the video. Kumin says, “I’m a poet of the seasons. I’m a poet of the natural world.”

Monday Motivation: Read and Write Poetry to Explore Identity


Carol O’Donnell’s students discuss dual identities, being caught between two worlds, in Teaching Multicultural Literature, workshop 1, “Engagement and Dialogue.” Poetry written by Naomi Shihab Nye is used to introduce the concept of exploring one’s own identity.

Naomi Shihab Nye was born in Missouri to an American mother and Palestinian father. She has lived in old Jerusalem and San Antonio, Texas and traveled to the Middle East and Asia.  Her work incorporates the voices and perspectives of Mexican Americans and Arab Americans. Nye is inspired by small things and everyday events, and she journals “because I wanted to remember everything. The quilt, the cherry tree, the creek. The neat whop of a baseball rammed perfectly with a bat. My father’s funny Palestinian stories.”  See more about Nye here and read her poem Half-and-Half here. Use her story and poetry to inspire your students to think about their own identities and what it means to be part of a multicultural community- whether your definition of community is as small as a classroom or as big as the world.

Nye says in an ALAN review: “Anyone who feels poetry is an alien or ominous force should consider the style in which human beings think. “How do you think,” I ask my students. “Do you think in complete, elaborate sentences? In fully developed paragraphs with careful footnotes? Or in flashes and burst of images, snatches of lines leaping one to the next, descriptive fragments, sensory details?” We think in poetry. But some people pretend poetry is far away.


Monday Motivation: Music in Math

mathoftimeMarch is almost over and so is Music in our Schools Month. We finish this set of Monday Motivations on music by looking at how to incorporate music into the math classroom.

High school and college students can study how the Greeks applied mathematical thought to the study of music in the video and online text for Mathematics Illuminated, unit 10, “Harmonious Math,” section 2, The Math of Time.  Section 3, Sound and Waves, looks at how sound waves move through the air and section 6, Can You Hear the Shape of a Drum?, asks if it’s possible to deduce what object makes a sound based on the frequency content of the sound.

Monday Motivation: Música, Musique, Musik

“Music is the universal language of mankind.”

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

TFL_French_ZydecoMarch is Music in Our Schools Month and educators are urged to make a case for including music education in the K-12 curriculum. It would seem to be an easy argument. According to Christopher Viereck, Ph.d., Developmental Neurobiologist in Residence for The Music Empowers Foundation, ongoing music education creates “new connections (‘wiring’) between brain cells.” Music education “also benefits students in other academic domains,” writes Viereck in Music Education and Brain Plasticity 101, the first of many articles in the Your Brain on Music Education series.

Still, despite the substantial amount of evidence that supports the claim that music enhances learning, music programs in budget-strapped schools are often considered niceties, not necessities. There are ways to incorporate music into lessons, should formal music programs face the axe, however. Take foreign languages, for example.

The Teaching Foreign Languages K-12 video library provides two examples of how to incorporate music into language lessons. Watch French: A Cajun Folktale and Zydeco. At about 20 minutes into the video, students are introduced to Cajun music. See how the teacher builds excitement for what students will be learning and how music helps students better understand cultural traditions of the people who live in that particular region of Louisiana.

Music can take students from the Bayou to Ancient Rome. In this mixed-level Latin class at Westfield High School in Chantilly, Va., teacher Lauri Dabbieri uses music to help students understand the difference between translation and interpretation, as well as to make historical connections to Roman culture.

How else might you use music in your foreign language classroom?


Monday Motivation: Use Music to Teach Social Studies

bio of america_23_elvisHow can you use music to enhance your social studies lessons? Here are some ideas:

1. The Middle Ages: Early music provides an echo of the past, allowing students to connect to people, cultures, and arts from long ago. Using The Middle Ages interactive, students test their ears by determining which of the instruments used by medieval musicians match the sounds they hear.

2. The Renaissance: Elementary music specialist Sylvia Bookhardt teaches students about Renaissance society in The Arts in Every Classroom,Teaching Music.”

3. The Holocaust: The series TeachingThe Children of Willesden Lane’ offers resources to help middle and high school students better comprehend survivor Lisa Jura’s story of loss, resilience, and ultimate triumph. Mona Golabek, Jura’s daughter, wrote The Children of Willesden Lane to honor her mother, who was spared the cruelty of the death camps thanks to the Kindertransport (children’s transport). In all, the operation saved nearly 10,000 children. Music played a central role in Lisa Jura’s life and is integrated into this memoir. Find the music downloads here.

4. The Fifties: Explore an emerging American teenage culture, including the influence of the transistor radio and a young man named Elvis Presley, in A Biography of America, unit 23, “The Fifties.”

Monday Motivation: Tune up your lessons with music activities.

learningclassroom_4Happy Music in Our Schools month! Many of your students probably love music as much as you do. Have you thought about how music could be used to increase student motivation and interest in your content area? You don’t have to be a musician to bring music into the classroom.

Stay tuned during this month of Mondays for ways to inspire and engage your students by adding music to lessons in your own subject areas. Start by watching The Learning Classroom: Theory Into Practice, session 4, “Different Kinds of Smart – Multiple Intelligences,” for information on Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, which includes musical intelligence.  See real applications of this theory in classrooms with mainstreamed special needs students.

Do you already use music to teach lessons in your non-arts subject area? If so, how?


Monday Motivation: How do you build a safe learning environment?

learningclassroom_5In this final Monday Motivation post for February, let’s reflect one more time on emotions and learning:

“How students feel affects whether and how they can learn. If they’re anxious or fearful they’re not going to be able to take in information. Teachers not only can learn to create a safe environment, they can learn to develop emotional intelligence. The students actually gain the skills of managing their emotions, solving conflicts, and interacting with others. And all of that can be taught and learned.”
Linda Darling-Hammond (Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at the Stanford University School of Education and adviser for The Learning Classroom)

For ideas on how to create an emotionally safe classroom to foster learning and how to deal with emotions and conflicts that can be an obstacle to learning, see The Learning Classroom: Theory Into Practice, session 5, “Feelings Count- Emotions and Learning.”

What are ways that you create emotionally safe, yet challenging, learning environments for your students?


Monday Motivation: Why do teenagers often do stupid things?

Neuroscience & the Classroom“What were you thinking?” Raise your hand if you have ever said that to a teenager. Whether you are a parent or a teacher of an adolescent, I’m sure that question has crossed your mind at least once. Thanks to Professor Abigail Baird, we may not know for sure what teenagers are thinking, but we have a better idea of how they think. Of course, understanding how someone thinks helps us teachers respond more effectively to behaviors in the classroom.

Continuing with our February “Monday Motivation” theme on emotions and learning, let’s consider what motivates teenagers to partake in risky behaviors that can lead to broken limbs or poor grades. Professor Baird explains that adolescents engage in risky behaviors by over thinking dangerous scenarios. In her research, she found that both adults and teenagers responded to questions about risky behavior similarly: risky behaviors are bad ideas. However, she discovered through brain imaging that adults used the emotional centers of their brains when considering these behaviors, whereas teenagers used the underdeveloped rational sides of their brains. The teenagers were not connecting their emotional centers with abstract, unfamiliar experiences, which hampered their ability to make a good decision. Her findings underscore the importance of emotional relevance in learning, and help teachers understand their students and respond appropriately to their perplexing behaviors. See the explanation of the study in the video for unit 2, “The Unity of Emotion, Thinking, and Learning,” section 4, Making the Case, of Neuroscience & the Classroom.

Tell us your best “What were you thinking” moment with your adolescent students. How does Professor Baird’s research motivate you to think differently about how you respond to teenagers in your classroom?

Monday Motivation: Linking Emotions and Mathematics

Neuro_2_emotion_mathIn many classrooms, math is a bunch of numbers and operations seemingly unrelated to what students do in their every day lives. Math is not typically thought of as an emotional subject, but emotions help solve problems. People apply what they’ve learned from past experiences in order to act advantageously in future situations. In order to motivate students to solve math problems, it’s important that your students care about the problems presented. Why is the problem relevant to them in their daily life?

In this short video “Emotions and Math” for unit 2 of Neuroscience & the Classroom, hear Prof. Abigail Bard explain how actively engaging the brain’s emotional centers should not be separated from academic information in the math classroom. Also, witness a teacher engage her students in the math lesson by drawing from their daily experiences.

Share here with other teachers how you connect your math (or other subject area) lessons to real world situations in order to engage your students.