Creating a Digital Toolkit

timallen“Home Improvement” made its debut on ABC in 1991 and was one of the highest-rated sitcoms for almost the entire decade. It featured Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor, played by Tim Allen. You could always count on Tim for his incredibly wide knowledge of tools, electronics and general mechanics. While Tim was quite  often accident-prone, he actually did have a significant amount of skill as a general handyman but tended to be overly confident and prone to spectacular mishaps. He often forgot a crucial step, ignored instructions, made ill-advised modifications or came to inaccurate conclusions.

Today’s teachers, like Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor, must be equipped with a wide array of tools to support student learning; however, unlike Tim, our teachers must be skilled in determining research-based strategies to make well-advised decisions to inform student learning. Learning is a complicated process that requires teachers to assess students’ knowledge, make modifications to classroom instruction and reach accurate and informed decisions using the latest data to inform instruction. There is no room in today’s classroom for mishaps. An ineffective teacher diminishes student achievement. If students have a low-performing teacher, the negative effects of lost learning opportunities stay with them for years.

connected_teacher (1)Effective teachers must infuse into content the 21st-century skills of communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking. In addition, teachers must promote, support and model creative and innovative teaching strategies to engage a wide variety of learners. Our Design for Excellence 2020 encourages teachers to use a blended learning approach to teaching students. Combining the best of face-to-face instruction with digital tools to support learning, blended learning empowers students to take a greater role in their learning and provides opportunities to develop 21st-century skills in order to be college and career ready.

Using technology as a tool to engage students in their learning expands access to interactive content and digital resources that will not only enhance learning but will also allow teachers to personalize the learning experiences for individual students.

Teachers need instant access to a variety of digital tools. Our CCPS CNet site will feature access to our Curriculum Frameworks, which will feature a variety of resources to support student learning of individual content standards. Teachers will have access to free, open educational resources, to CCPS-funded subscription services and to teacher-contributed content through the Curriculum Frameworks.

digital toolsUsing free, open education resources such as Khan Academy, PBS, Gooru Learning and CK-12, teachers can use a variety of web-based tools to access content that is both highly engaging and personalized for students. There are literally thousands of applications, free content and web 2.0 tools available to teachers. We’ll help you decide which tools are the most effective to use by content area and by grade level through our Curriculum Frameworks.

Chesterfield has also contracted with specialized vendors to provide digital content that is easily accessible to teachers and students. This year, as we provide Chromebooks to our middle school dlchromebook11_a35_lnb_00045lf110_bk (1)students, our middle school teachers will have access to netTrekker, which delivers the industry-leading digital learning resource library with only the best content from the web. NetTrekker has 360,000+ curated digital resources tagged, organized and aligned to standards so that teachers, students and parents can quickly find just what they need, all in one place. Discovery Education, available to all K-12 teachers, provides video streaming into any curriculum, making field trips not only virtual but also affordable and accessible to all students. Dreambox, an online elementary math program that raises student performance and confidence, combines engaging, adaptive lessons with the up-to-date reporting educators need to individualize instruction. MackinVIA provides students a one-stop portal for eBooks, online databases, audiobooks, video and more.

pblFinally, our Curriculum Frameworks will provide easy access to teacher-created tools to support learning. Our project-based learning depository will provide access to teacher-created projects aligned with the eight essential elements which define authentic, inquiry-based learning. In addition, teachers will be able to access a variety of presentations and other resources developed by teachers and for teachers to deliver content standards in creative and engaging ways.

The CCPS CAO blog for next year will spotlight a variety of tools our teachers can access to

·         acquire, analyze and evaluate information (Goal 1: academic achievement)

·         demonstrate 21st-century learning and technology skills (Goal 2: 21st-century skills and technology)

·         learn and demonstrate responsible citizenship (Goal 3: citizenship and core values)

We’ll work hard to help you choose digital tools that support higher levels of thinking and student engagement.

homeimprovementThis summer as you are browsing TVLand reruns, you may run across “Home Improvement.” When you do, think about your critical role as a teacher, the toolbox you carry into the classroom every day to personalize learning and the 21st-century tools you will need to add to your toolbox so that you are providing an engaging, relevant education that prepares all students for success. Stay tuned — there’s more to come!

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Creating an Epic Learning Environment

Here are words of advice from Harry and Rosemary Wong:

preparation“The three most important words to a teacher are preparation, preparation, preparation. A cluttered or barren room sends a negative message to your pupils that you don’t care for them. A well-organized, attractive room sends a positive message that you respect them enough to provide a pleasant environment, and they will return the respect to you. A pleasant room feels good and calms people down. Invite your students to enter a room where you are prepared.”

There is a wealth of information on the Internet that can help you organize your classroom. Here are a few of my favorite sources:

Effective teachers get the importance of preparation, preparation and preparation.

Effective teachers are ready for their students. The work is ready, the room is ready, and the teacher is ready. Remember, your goal is to meet students at the door each day with a smile, invite them into a learning environment that is safe and nurturing and hook them with rigorous and relevant lessons that teach significant content and 21st-century skills of communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. Have your edmodo 2Edmodo page ready to roll on the first day of school. Flip your classroom. The flipped classroom inverts traditional teaching methods, delivers some instruction online outside of class and moves homework into the classroom. (OK, so that’s another blog topic, but if you are anxious to learn more about flipping your classroom, jump right over to Send a letter or syllabus home with students the first day. Let them know your high expectations and the best way to contact you if extra help is needed. Need help preparing a syllabus? Just Google it! There are many tools on the Internet to help develop a meaningful syllabus with course description, expectations, textbooks/digital materials, grading plan, course procedures and even a statement to promote academic honesty.

Effective teachers prepare the floor space. Last year, I posted tips on this blog for organizing classroom desks. Arrange the room to allow for student collaboration. Desks do not have to be in rows — consider creating groups of four or six desks. It will make your room feel bigger and allow you to move quickly to facilitate learning. Many teachers set up their classrooms to foster project-based learning. Even corners become collaborative spaces where students can read, research, use technology and work as a team.

Effective teachers prepare the walls. As your prepare a bulletin board, cover it nicely with paper and a border and leave it bare — that’s right — leave it bare naked! Soon it will be filled with examples of authentic student work and writing samples.  After you create classroom rules with your students, be sure to display them in a prominent place. Remember: have five or fewer rules, use words that are easy to understand and be consistent in expectations. Use your walls to display word walls, writing protocols, reading strategies and other tools provided by your instructional specialist. In addition, use some of your wall space to inspire students. This can be as simple as hanging motivational quotes or posters that encourage students to do their best.

????????????????????????Effective teachers fill their bookcases with — you got it — books. Fill your room with books pertinent to your subject area to inspire students on project work or inquiry investigations. Visit your school library to check out resource materials for your students. Elementary teachers may set up cozy reading nooks. Secondary teachers will want books aligned with their content material. Set expectations for an independent classroom environment for readers, writers and thinkers.

Effective teachers focus on preparing their teaching area. Maximize your cluttered deskproximity to your students and plan your teaching area for easy access to the screen, whiteboard or Promethean board. If you have computers in your room, consider moving them to centers for easy access by teams for research. Watch out for cords. Make your room a safe and secure environment. Many teachers have opted to take the traditional desk out of their classroom but instead focus on their teaching area. Clutter and stacks of paper indicate a problem with organization. Don’t forget to have clear signs that direct students to the procedures you have established for turning in papers or finding makeup work.

dress for successEffective teachers dress professionally. This is often a taboo topic. Nevertheless, the most successful teachers get the importance of dressing for respect. Dress for success each day and your students will, too. Your principal will let you know if there are casual dress days for school spirit or special occasions. Dressing for success promotes respect and sets a positive example for students. But don’t forget the most important part of your attire — your smile — because you are going to need this each day as you greet students at the door.

happy placeI think I could go on and on with this blog. One of my favorite memories of my first job teaching at Falling Creek Junior High (this gives away my age — it is now Falling Creek Middle School and here is my shoutout to The Creek!) was setting up my room. I planned for it all summer. It screamed MATHEMATICS. It was my happy place — where students would learn math and I would ignite a passion for applying mathematics to solve problems and conquer the world. If you are going to spend the biggest part of the day in the classroom, create your epic classroom space and make it your happy place.

Please tell us about your classroom setup — and remember to give a shoutout to your school.



Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong, The First Days of School.  Mountain View, CA   :  Harry K. Wong Publications, Inc., 2009.

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Rigor = Epic Teaching and Learning

Woman on ComputerIt’s the end of a long week. You have been inspired by your principal and developed professionally by the specialists. You have also reflected on these blogs, set up your classroom for success, mastered the skill of setting rules and procedures and GET the habits of highly effective teachers. Now, it’s time to design rigorous and relevant lessons or projects for your students.

Here’s another Wong bit of advice:

Learning has nothing to do with what the teacher covers.
Learning has to do with what the student accomplishes.

Let’s get ready to teach the knowledge and skills that students come to school to learn. According to the Wongs, “Student learning must be at the heart of all decisions made in the school.”

got curriculum frameworks

The curriculum specialists, guided by the Virginia Department of Education, have laid out a strong set of curriculum standards that are highly rigorous. The tests that your students will take at the end of the year are aligned with these rigorous standards. Teach these standards well, and there will be an increase in levels of achievement almost immediately, according to Mike Schmoker, author of Results: The Key to Continuous School Improvement.


Your district curriculum frameworks outline what students are to learn. How students learn in your classroom is left up to you. Our focus for the coming year continues to be on providing rigorous and relevant learning experiences for students, so that students develop the competence to think in complex ways and apply their knowledge and skills to solve problems and create solutions. This focus on rigor and relevance can be applied to the more-rigorous SOL tests but also extends beyond SOL testing to focus on teaching and learning significant content and 21st-century skills.

If you are not familiar with the rigor/relevance model established by the International rigor relevance modelCenter for Leadership in Education, take a moment to familiarize yourself with it. Here is an excellent article to read, then discuss with peers during professional learning community meetings:
The article clearly defines rigor: “Rigor refers to academic rigor — learning in which students demonstrate a thorough, in-depth mastery of challenging tasks to develop cognitive skills through reflective thought, analysis, problem-solving, evaluation, or creativity.” Rigorous learning can occur at any grade and in any subject, regardless of the age or addresses of your students.

rigor and relevance verb listA handy way to define the level of rigor of curriculum objectives, instructional activities or assessments is the Knowledge Taxonomy verb list (see Page 6 of the pdf). The verb list can be used to create a desired level of expected student performance or to evaluate the level of existing curriculum, instruction or assessment.
When creating lesson plans and student objectives, selecting the proper verb from the Knowledge Taxonomy verb list can help describe the appropriate performance. Simply start with a verb from the desired level and finish the statement with a specific description of that skill or knowledge area.

Focus on teaching with academic rigor through critical thinking skills starting on the first day of school. The enhanced critical thinking will address the higher-level rigor of the SOL tests but will also help students become college and career ready.

Please tell us how you will address rigor on the first day of school. And let’s cap off this week with words of encouragement to fellow teachers in your school through your shoutouts!

Best wishes for a great first day of school on Tuesday! We believe in you. We believe in ourbest wishes students. And we have high expectations for learning!

Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong, The First Days of School. Mountain View, CA : Harry K. Wong Publications, Inc., 2009.

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Epic Classroom Management Begins With a Smile!

teacher appreciation 11According to Margaret C. Wang, Geneva D. Haertel and Herbert J. Walberg in an Educational Leadership article titled Synthesis of Research / What Helps Students Learn?, “An analysis of 50 years of research reveals that direct influences like classroom management affect student learning more than indirect influences such as policies.”

Can you believe that? According to the research, the most important factor influencing student learning is classroom management. Moreover, classroom management begins on day one with you and your expectations for learning.

Consider these statements by Harry and Rosemary Wong in The First Days of School:

Effective teachers manage their classrooms.
Ineffective teachers discipline their classrooms.

As a teacher, I always wanted an organized and well-managed classroom so that I could teach the rigorous and relevant mathematics I wanted my students to learn. A well-managed classroom begins with consistent expectations. Consistent expectations are taught through procedures and routines.

Young Woman Bending Down and Smiling with Arms Stretched BackLet’s begin with a simple routine: Start each day by standing at the door with a big smile and warm handshake.

During our new teacher orientation a few years back, Annette Breaux encouraged teachers to be like Wal-Mart greeters. Wal-Mart actually pays people to meet and greet customers because Wal-Mart gets it — happy shoppers who feel wanted and welcome are more likely to buy what is being sold and return to the store again and again. Wouldn’t this model work for students, too?

According to Breaux, you want students — your customers — to feel happy and welcome when they enter your classroom and you want them to buy what you are selling — a passion for learning mathematics, reading, music or art. We also want our students to come back repeatedly.

How can you become the Wal-Mart greeter for your classroom? Simply stand at the door, every day, every period and greet students! Greet them by name. Smile. Thank students for coming to class. Comment on their new haircut, cool T-shirt or nice attire. Inquire about the upcoming football game, volleyball game or other extracurricular activities. Ask about their work on assigned projects.

Dr. Clayton Cook from the University of Washington has actually given a name to this routine — the Positive Greetings at the Door procedure.  Dr. Cook breaks Positive Greetings at the Door into four easy steps:

1. Stand at or around the door to focus on greeting students. Make students feel important even before they sit down.

2. Positively interact with students as they come in the door. Positive interactions can Businesswoman giving thumbs upconsist of verbal interaction (praising a student for walking in quietly, saying, “hello, how’s it going”) or nonverbal behavior (shaking hands, giving the student a thumbs-up). Look students in the eye and teach them to give greetings back! Your goal is to initiate at least five positive interactions with students as they walk into your classroom. Take a minute to look back and scan the room for students who are responding to your positive expectations. Recognize the appropriate behavior you want all students to model.

3. Next, provide pre-corrective statements to individual students or the entire class. Tell students about the behaviors you want them to exhibit in order to have a successful day in your classroom. Praise and reinforce positive behavior.

Close Up of Music4. Remind students to look at the class schedule or agenda on your board so that they can become engaged in the learning process immediately. I’ve seen many teachers post warm-ups on the board, give five-minute challenges or a brain teaser for a group of students to solve, provide a quick writing prompt or just let students know what supplies to have out so that learning can begin. Have your favorite music playing when students enter; classical music sets the tone for learning — but so does rock ’n’ roll! When students pass through your door, it is a signal for learning to begin — even before the bell rings.

Practice this procedure routinely. Students say that teachers who meet and greet them at the door are the ones who also care about them personally, and this personal interest motivates them to do better in class. Remember, you will not get to rigor and relevance until you first build positive relationships with students.

John Maxwell gets it: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Show students you care about them personally and about their learning. Set a positive tone for learning each day that students enter the classroom. You won’t regret establishing this routine — but you MUST practice it consistently. You can’t do this just on opening day and expect long-lasting results. Be at the door every day for your students.

By the way, as students leave your classroom each day, tell them goodbye and let them know you look forward to being with them tomorrow!

Here’s your chance to share tips for meeting and greeting students at the door. What consistent expectations do you set as you greet students each day? (Remember to give a shoutout to your school by letting us know where you teach.)

Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker, 50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior. Larchmont, NY : Eye of Education, 2010.

Cook, C. R., |. (n.d.). Positive Greetings at the Door.

Wang, M. C. (1993). Margaret c. wang, geneva d. haertel and herbert j. walberg in an educational leadership article titled synthesis of research / what helps students learn?. Educational Leadership51(4).

Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong, The First Days of School. Mountain View, CA : Harry K. Wong Publications, Inc., 2009.

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Epic Advice on Rules and Procedures

rules and proceduresDid you know that teachers with rules and procedures have far fewer discipline problems than teachers who lack clear, consistent rules and procedures? We have the data to support this statement through our experience with positive behavior interventions and supports.

Annette Breaux in 50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior clarifies the difference between a rule and a procedure:

• A rule regulates a serious offense, and there must be consequences each time a rule is broken.
• A procedure is simply a way that you want something to be done — the same way, every time.
• When a student breaks a rule, the student is punished.
• When a student does not follow a procedure, you simply practice the procedure with the student.
• You will never want to have more than five rules.
• You should have many procedures.
• An example of a rule is, “We agree not to bully anyone.” If the rule is broken, there is a definite consequence, and students know this in advance.
• Examples of procedures include how to move from one class to the next, what to do when you have a question, what to do when you need your pencil sharpened and how to move into cooperative groups.

????????According to the National Education Association (, engaging students on the first day of school in creating of a set of rules helps ensure their investment. Decide what you want to be considered serious offenses in your classroom. State your rules in positive ways. One suggestion is to have your students create the rules in their own words. Most teachers agree it is best to limit rules to five or fewer. Discuss the rules with students, help them understand why the rules are important and explain the consequences of not following the rules. Most importantly, you must be consistent in enforcing the class rules.

The NEA offers a how-to guide on setting rules and consequences that work in elementary and secondary settings:

Elementary teachers may also want to read this Scholastic Instructor article Everyday Rules That Really Work!:

Here’s the bottom line: Keep classroom rules few in number, clearly stated, positively worded and applicable to all situations and — above all — enforce them consistently.

Now let us discuss procedures. Every teacher needs a set of procedures to provide a safe and nurturing learning environment. Breaux suggests that you will not want to establish all of your procedures at one time. Instead, begin with the most important procedures, then add a few at a time. Let students know what the procedure is and discuss its importance. Model the procedure and show students what the procedure looks like. Rehearse the procedure with your students — even the Redskins rehearse procedures every day! Praise and reinforce students when they follow procedures and remind them of the procedures when they forget. Continue to calmly and repeatedly practice the procedures. As with rules, remain consistent with the procedures.

Breaux indicates that the most important procedure that every teacher must have is a consistent way to secure students’ attention. This is essential — without their attention there will be no learning! There is no one right way to get students’ attention, but ineffective ways include begging, threatening and warning.

Harry and Rosemary Wong suggest establishing procedures to address:

• what to do when the bell rings
• what to do when you hear an emergency alert signal
• what to do when you finish your work early
• what to do when you have a question
• what to do when students enter the classroom
• what to do when you want their attention
• where you want quizzes or project work placed
• where to find assignments if they have been absent
• what to do upon dismissal of class

Want to learn more about rules and procedures? Visit the NEA site for professional development modules and readings on rules and procedures. To see teachers modeling classroom procedures, simply search online for “how to teach procedures” and you will find videos with great examples.

What procedures do you have? Please share a procedure here — and remember to give a shoutout to your school by letting us know where you teach.

Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong, The First Days of School. Mountain View, CA : Harry K. Wong Publications, Inc., 2009.

Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker, 50 Ways to Improve Student Behavior. Larchmont, NY : Eye of Education, 2010.

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Epic Qualities of Effective Teachers

Image Next Tuesday, we will welcome almost 60,000 students through our school doors and into your classrooms. Each day this week, I will highlight key strategies for kicking off your year in an epic way. Epic? Yes, epic in the sense of surpassing the usual or ordinary. That’s what we do best in Chesterfield County Public Schools — surpass the ordinary!

Let’s start by talking about the importance of you — the effective teacher. As Harry and Rosemary Wong state in The First Days of School: How To Be an Effective Teacher, “the greatest asset of a school is its people.”  While school officially begins the first Tuesday after Labor Day, school does not really begin until a teacher walks into a classroom. What the teacher knows — the content — and what the teacher can do — strategies to engage students in the content — is the most significant factor in student achievement. Many authors detail the characteristics of effective teachers through their research, books and blogs, including the Wongs, Annette Breaux, Todd Whitaker, Anne Reeves, James Stronge, Debra Pickering and Robert Marzano.

Today’s blog focuses on what I believe are important characteristics of effective teachers.

Effective Teachers GET, Connect and Understand Content.

  1. Effective teachers are masters of their content.
  2. Effective teachers know their curriculum, know where to find the curriculum frameworks for Chesterfield County Public Schools and know how to teach and test the written curriculum. (This is a three-fer!)
  3. Effective teachers must know their content deeply and flexibly enough to make connections for students.

Effective Teachers GET Effective Teaching Strategies.

  1. Effective teachers understand how to engage students in rigorous and relevant lessons.
  2. Effective teachers establish a context for student learning.
  3. Effective teachers facilitate student learning.

Effective Teachers GET Collaborative Planning.

  1. Effective teachers are innovative and collaborative lesson planners.
  2. Effective teachers have clear objectives in mind for their lessons.
  3. Effective teachers know how to design lessons for student mastery.
  4. Effective teachers begin their lessons with the end in mind.
  5. Effective teachers assess students on a regular basis through formative assessments and give feedback to students.
  6. Effective teachers pace their lessons appropriately.

Effective Teachers GET the Importance of Classroom Management.

  1. Effective teachers have strong classroom management skills.
  2. Effective teachers teach routines and procedures.
  3. Effective teachers are consistent with expectations.
  4. Effective teachers create a nurturing and safe learning environment.

Effective Teachers Just GET It!Image

  1. Effective teachers have a positive attitude.
  2. Effective teachers have a sense of humor.
  3. Effective teachers never stop learning and growing.

Effective Teachers GET the Main Thing: a Focus on Students.

  1. Effective teachers believe all students can be successful.
  2. Effective teachers have high standards for student learning.
  3. Effective teachers have a laserlike focus on individual students and can personalize instruction for their students.
  4. Effective teachers show interest in students and build positive relationships.
  5. Effective teachers treat students equally and fairly.
  6. Effective teachers produce results.

This list is just a beginning.  Please take a minute to reflect on this blog, then comment by filling in the blank: “Effective teachers ______________________.” (Give a shout-out to your school by letting us know where you teach.)



Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong, The First Days of School.  Mountain View, CA   :  Harry K. Wong Publications, Inc., 2009.

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Celebrating GREAT Teachers!

Dear Chesterfield teachers,

 we loveI hope that each of you has had a very special Teacher Appreciation Week!

I have been collecting pictures posted online that celebrate GREAT teachers, and these visuals sum up many of my thoughts about our GREAT teachers in Chesterfield.



teacher appreciation 3

So, what does a great teacher do? A great teacher takes the hand of a student, opens a mind and touches a heart.



teacher appreciation 6Great teachers, in the words of students, are fun, cool, amazing, inspiring, awesome, creative, positive, helpful and real!



Great teachers don’t give you the answers. They pointgreat teacher the way and let you make your own choices and learn from your own mistakes.






teacher 10Great teachers facilitate thinking, engage young minds, listen to questions, encourage risk taking, support struggle, cultivate dreams and commit to learning every day!




teacher apprecation 8

Great teachers treat students with respect and a caring attitude; present themselves as real people; spend more time with small groups throughout the day; provide a variety of opportunities for students to apply and use knowledge and skills in different learning situations; use active, hands-on student learning; vary instructional practices and modes of teaching; and offer real-world, practical examples.


teacher appreciation 4Great teachers affect eternity! Take a look around your room. You are teaching a future CEO, president, superintendent, doctor, lawyer and, yes, a future teacher!




teacher 15

Great teachers understand the need to build relationships with students …





teacher 17…and ignite a flame for learning.





teacher 16

Great teachers understand not only the science of teaching but GET the art of teaching!




teacher appreciation 14

Great teachers change the world — one student and one day at time!

The world needs great teachers, and we’re glad you decided to teach here in Chesterfield County Public Schools. Thank you for making a difference to each of the children you teach.


teacher appreciation 11We appreciate you and all you do!

Celebrating your GREATNESS,


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