Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Rhino Competition Heats Up

Here's an opportunity to win a rhino point.  Any team that has had all of its units reviewed by me prior to Friday the 20th will receive a rhino point. Check with your teammates and take advantage of this amazing offer!!

Carol York's Holiday Gift to Us

Below is a letter from Carol that reinforces the student-centered focus so critical in successful schools.

   Something pretty special happened to me last week.  I know this doesn’t exactly fit with designing lesson plans but I wanted to share this antidote because it’s about what’s really important; it’s all about the kids. I don’t know how to send things to your blog so I’m sending you this email.  As we work through our lesson plans and common cores and national standards, we need to be mindful of how we interact with the students and that this is equally, if not more important.  One can have the best lesson plan but if the teacher can’t reach the child, what’s the point.  My story is not about me,  but about another teacher who took the opportunity to make a connection with a student. 

To set the stage, I’m involved in a yearlong STEM PD.  During these sessions, a big emphasis is placed on the importance of affirmations and how it must be incorporated into the classroom.  Sitting in the session, I would listen but, honestly, it seemed a bit to contrived for my taste.   On Wednesday, I had a full day PD session. 

Here’s the story:  Tuesday I took my students on a field trip to a nature center.  An adult leader there was impressed with the questions one particular student was asking.  She told the student, Dashavia, that she has the mind of a scientist and could have a great career in science.  The instructor mentioned this conversation to me as well.  Wednesday, I was at the STEM PD and had a sub.  When I returned to school on Thursday, one particular class complained about the sub saying this, that and the other thing.  I didn’t think too much about it, until they said “and she told Dashavia that she was going to go to jail”.  That caught my attention.  This young lady can be talkative and show a bit of attitude but jail?  Really?  I thought of what was said to her at the field trip and took the opportunity to say, in front of the class,  “Dashavia, what did the teacher say to you on the field trip?”  With a big smile, she said “I’m going to make a great scientist”.   I nearly cried.  I told her  “the only way you’ll go to a jail is if you’re doing some scientific research there”.  This got a big laugh from the class and Dashavia was obviously happy.  I am so thankful to that instructor.  I will thank her and relay this story to her.  And, you can bet that that sub. is never welcome back in my class.

What we say can have a huge impact on a child.  As we plan our lessons, we need to be constantly mindful of not only what we teach, but what we say when teaching.  I realize this particular example would not have been written in to a lesson and would not have been as effective if it had.  But we should keep, in our ever expanding tool box, ways in which we can support a student (child) as they grow and move on.  I don’t know what’s in store for Dashavia or even if she’ll remember this particular detail of her 6th grade year.  But I believe she will remember a warm feeling that someone thought she was pretty special.

Carol York

Monday, October 28, 2013

Send Me Your Stage One's for Feedback

Several of you have sent me your Stage One's for feedback, and I would love to see additional units.  Please take this opportunity to get some feedback on your unit.  Remember, my email is 1lindahenke@gmail.com.  Also, Jay McTighe has put together a terrific collection of websites to help with Stage One.  Access that useful resource in the Pages section of the blog. 

Having Questions about Essential Questions?

If you are struggling with drafting your essential questions, there are lots of resources out there that can help you.

Grant Wiggins discusses essential questions in this short video: video  There is also an essential question exchange that might help get a stuck mind moving.  You can find that here: exchange 

Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins have a brand new book out about essential questions that is really good...and you can access the spectacular first chapter that gives all kinds of examples of essential questions in various content areas and a wonderful description of what makes a question essential right here: book.  

Still questioning questions?  Email me: 1lindahenke@gmail.com

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Reminder of the Power of Mental Models to Shape Behavior

Developing Curriculum In Essential Schools

I have posted a great article on curriculum design in Essential Schools.  While they do not use UbD, there are tremendous similarities in the way they think about curriculum and the work Grand is doing.  Please take the time to read it and think about what designing curriculum means for the school, for your department, and for you as a professional.  How would your life be different if your class was governed by a textbook only? I would also encourage you to revisit the learning principles Grand teachers developed during the first two days of our work.  Those are also posted here.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

From the Designer Mind of Amber: A Great Example of the Iceberg Model

Iceberg Model (Team Juice): Homework

Events: Students coming to class without homework completed
Patterns of Behavior: Students do not write down homework or keep assignments in one central location. They often forget what the homework was, lose it or forget to do it.
Systemic Structure: There is no consistent system for how students should track homework or how homework is given. It varies from class to class and teacher to teacher. Most teachers go over homework with students and write it on the board every day.
Mental Models: Teachers believe it is the student’s responsibility to write down their homework and create an organizational structure. As they get older, they have to become more responsible and self-motivated. Students believe they get too much homework, and it is overwhelming to keep track of it.



 A point has been added to the score below.

Deanna's Reaction to The Art of Possibility


I want to thank you for the gift, “The Art of Possibility”.  I just finished reading it and I was
encouraged, challenged and brought to deep thought.  What a perfect gift for an art school
teacher!  One topic that encouraged me most was the fact that it is okay to make mistakes.
 It’s interesting, I emphasize with my students that it is okay to make a mistake and that is
where learning takes place.  I also even give them candy if they catch me making a math mistake.
 However, in front of my peers and  supervisors, I don’t want to make any mistakes and many
 times I am fearful of them seeing me make a mistake.  How silly!  I’m going to try to follow
 Rule No. 6 and not take myself so seriously. J

Another idea of the book that I absolutely agree with is “giving an A”.  How refreshing to
believe the best of your students and know that they can succeed!

Deanna Breedan

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Department Meetings on October 17

I am so looking forward to seeing you all on Oct 17.  Our format will obviously be different from our earlier meetings.  On Thursday we will be meeting in departments to discuss your stage 1 work.  Please remember to bring your stage 1  units with you--enough copies for all of your department.  Here is what we will be discussing on Thursday:

1. Unit Summary
  • Have you completed the summary of the unit by writing a brief description that gives others a clear understanding of the major content and approach of the unit?
2.  Goals
  • Have you identified appropriate content and process goals by looking at state grade level and course level expectations? Common Core Standards? National Documents when necessary?
  • Do you have an appropriate number of goals identified given the length of the unit? (Remember we are aiming for thorough and thoughtful teaching of these standards, not superficial coverage. Any more than 5-10 is probably too many.
3.  Enduring Understandings 
  • Are the enduring understandings genuine big ideas or processes that are at the heart of the discipline?
  • Are the understandings written in clear, kid language? (You can still use the vocabulary of the discipline, but be wary of making these into statements filled with jargon or professional language.)
  • Are the understandings specific enough that they mean something? Are they too vague or general to guide instruction or assessment?
  • Have you avoided using truisms or straightforward statements of fact as enduring understandings?
4.  Essential Questions
  • Are the essential questions important and thought-provoking?
  • Do the questions have more than one right answer and require debate and discussion rather than recitation of a correct answer?
  • Do the questions provide a unifying focus for your teaching?

5.  Knowledge and Skills
  • Are the knowledge and skills identified (where appropriate) with the correct numbering system that will refer back to the Grade Level, Course Level , or Common Core Expectations?
  • Are the knowledge and skills addressed in the unit clearly defined and will they help build students’ understandings? (Do they support the enduring understandings?)
  • Have you been realistic about what students will be able to know and do at the end of the unit or have you tried to touch on everything? 

Sunday, October 13, 2013


Remember to download your online materials from your textbook for terrific examples of units.

Silver Rhino Points to Date


The competition continues. With Deanna's brilliant analysis of the ladder of inference, Team MM pulls ahead!

Team MM................... 7 points
Team Dazzle............. 6 points
Team Juice................ 5 points
Team A Cubed...........4 points
Magnificent 7..............3 points
Jet Sharks...................3 points
Merengue----------------1 point

Below is a great piece analyzing a department meeting using the ladder of inference.  My congratulations to Deanna and Team M and M.  Well done.

Recently in the Math Department, the teachers had a discussion about giving partial credit or taking full points off tests and quizzes for each problem missed.  The topic came up to consider if all teachers should grade in the same way.  Each teacher seemed to be strong in their opinion based on their mental model for this subject.  This event challenged me to take a look at my mental model and why I do what I do in giving partial credit.  This event forced me to climb the ladder of inference.

Observations are made at the first rung of the ladder.  Standardized tests don’t give partial credit.  As we move to benchmark testing, they also do not give partial credit; the question is either right or wrong.  I am challenged to examine my way of thinking.  I also observe students.  Many students do not like math; they are discouraged about math, feel it is too hard.  As I move up the ladder, I realize I have basic beliefs about teaching and wanting to be encouraging to my students.  I draw conclusions and make assumptions that if I don’t give partial credit many middle school students will get discouraged, and will not try as hard to show their work.   Many students are afraid of math and scared to try.  I want to reinforce their effort of trying.  I draw my conclusion that I am grading in the best way for middle school math students and remain in my belief system that giving partial credit will encourage student engagement and will encourage them to keep trying.  I then make my action of giving partial credit on tests and quizzes.
 Each teacher seems to be strong in their opinion of why they do what they do with grading tests and quizzes.  I do wonder, did I move up the ladder to quickly?  Is my mental model too strong or should I take a look at this subject again?   

So  Deanna and her department need to continue this important conversation. Using the tools of advocacy and inquiry, they can hear each other, lay out their mental models and come to consensus. This takes time and a passion for shared understandings.  That is what makes a school strong.

Monday, September 30, 2013


Seems as though  Amber was at the top of her game on Friday, building great connections and offering colleagues terrific examples to support the work.  Travis saw in her work a real designer in action.  Congrats to latest Frank winner!

East Meets West

Travis found a fascinating website comparing eastern and western mental models.  Do take a look at it. This will help you understand the power of mental models to shape behaviors.
                                                                East Meets West

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The First Rhino Point Winner Since August Meeting: Meghan Clayton and Team Dazzle

Comment by Meghan
I have had the opportunity in my Art History course to use the ladder of inference.  While studying prehistoric art, we discussed the quality of the work we were viewing.  Initially to students it seemed basic, even elementary in its technique and quality.  We discussed why they felt this was their opinion.  Upon further investigation, students came to understand that prehistoric artists did not have the same resources available to us today and they did not take art classes as the students of GCAA do.   As the finale in altering their mental model, I asked students to carve a prehistoric animal out of a bar of soap.  They were given very “primitive” tools to complete this task.  About 1/3 of the class bombed their soap carvings.  They broke in half or were whittled down to a small chunk of soap.  After this artistic endeavor we discussed their new perspective of Prehistoric artists.  It either drastically changed or they appreciated their ability to sculpt and paint, no longer viewing themselves as high and mighty artists. 

Team Dazzle!!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Keith's Reflection on a Teacher Who Made a Difference

The teacher's name was Archie Savage, who was the first partner to Katherine Dunham.  He made an impact on my life in a major way. The one experience that stands out most clearly was his holistic way of imparting not only knowledge about a critical time of American History (Jim Crow Era), but integrating the historical aspect into a theatre acting experience that brought forth an incredible human experience.

He framed my deliverance of a song, "Another Man Done Gone," by requesting that I  research the Jim Crow Era, and do a report on it.  He scaffolded this research by making it applicable to my life.  He pushed me to associate loss   by exploring the absence of a person in my life. This personalization made this teaching/learning moment an incredible experience as an actor, singer, human being, and someone who understands the impact of history.

The Newest Frank Winner

Our congratulations to Travis who figured out how to post pictures in the dropbox.

Back from Guatemala

Hello, my friends.  I am back from the trip to Guatemala where I was investigating the use of technology to support early literacy in its 33,000 schools.  I have been enjoying all of your photos and comments. I'll be working to get them all up on the blog.

I am looking forward to our work in a few short weeks.  Remember, if you want time with me for a conference or a classroom visit on Thursday before our Friday workshop,  just ask one of the principals.

Our focus on Friday will be on getting a good sketch of stage one of your unit, learning the power of advocacy and inquiry in meetings, and building your toolbox with comprehension strategies to support the Common Core.

Have a wonderful September.  See you soon.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Congrats to Our Current Frank Owner

Danielle designed an amazing energizer for us! She was awarded Frank by Fred (or is it Warren?) who received Frank when he offered a fabulous synthesis of the group's thinking about design principles. Remember design thinkers are creative; they espouse teamwork; they are ambidextrous; they focus on the end user; and they are curious. Looking forward to seeing Frank awarded to the next design thinker!

Capturing Our Work in Pictures

                                               You guys are looking good!!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Silver Rhino

The competition for the silver rhino trophy is tough to be sure. Currently the scores stand as follows:

purple team   1 point
red team        2 points
pink team      2 points
green team    1 point
yellow team   1 point
blue team      2 points
orange team  1 point

Remember, your team can secure additional  points if you submit a written description of how someone on your team used the ladder of inference or the iceberg model in the work at Grand Center.  This is a fabulous opportunity to pull ahead of the herd!  We need these descriptions for the ebook we are putting together, so the writing serves two purposes.  Write something up: run it by your team, and send it my way!  If you need to review these two tools, I have posted quick reference materials in the resource section.

Andrew's Poster

One of the things several people commented on during our time together was the powerpoint I showed you somewhat incidentally that chronicled the multiple drafts of a young student working to draw a butterfly.  I have attached that powerpoint in the resources for you to use in your classroom if you would like.  Attached also is a poster that Andrew created to help his students think about multiple iterations. Great idea!

Our First Two Days

Well, I have finally settled back into Santa Fe pace, but it took awhile after my two exciting days with you all.  I want to begin by saying thank you for the wonderful energy and thoughtfulness you brought to our time together.  I had a terrific time and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know every unique one of you. I hope you realize and celebrate what a fine staff you are.

Over the next few days I will be posting a few materials generated by our time together and also in response to questions and comments you offered. If you have not yet visited and downloaded the online materials for our UbD book, do make sure you access that.  A couple of you said you would like to see some completed units and there are several from a variety of disciplines located there.

I know you will all be very busy with school starting, but take a couple of minutes to read Culture: The Hidden Curriculum.  It is very short and a fabulous reminder for the beginning of school of the importance of attending to the culture in your building.  And don’t forget to attend to the culture of your own classroom. I encourage you to do one class-building activity with your students every week that will help them form strong bonds with one another.  You can find a sample of these kinds of activities here:   team building  This time invested in relationships pays dividends in achievement.

Also remember, that while you are creating only one unit this year, you can carry over your learning from that work to your classroom every day.  For example, do you have a clear map of what you are teaching at the beginning of the year? Are your outcomes clear?  Or have you assembled a collection of activities that you hope will meet student needs? Remember to organize your assessment tools early in the planning so you can teach toward them.  And try to develop two or three overarching provocative questions with no quick answers that your students can tussle with throughout the whole unit. A few other reminders we touched on last week: As you are planning your teaching strategies, remember the 10/2 rule.  Don’t give students more than ten minutes worth of information without time to process.  They can’t listen to you and process at the same time. Remember also as you assign complex text, give students the upfront preparation they need to be successful.  Finally remember the importance of state changes. Students need periodic changes in the activity and pace of the lesson to keep their minds engaged.

I wish each of you a spectacular opening week.  Now go grow some dendrites!!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Welcome to Our Blog

Welcome to our blog that we will be using  to communicate and to share information and materials that I hope will help you with your work this year.  I am excited and honored to be working with you.  Both Laura and Lynne have shared lots of good things about you.  I want you to know that my first love has always been working with great teachers to create amazing learning for students.  So this sounds like a great fit for me.

This year we are going to accomplish two major goals--one is to build the leadership capacity at Grand Center.  One of my favorite books is The Art of Possibility by Rosamond and Benjamin Zander. Ben is the director of the Boston Philharmonic and has been since
1979.  In their book, the Zanders discuss the importance in any organization--whether it is an orchestra or a school--for people to be able to lead from any chair.  That is what we will be working on this year--for each and every one of you to cultivate your leadership skills so that  you can step forward with confidence to help shape the work of the Academy.

The second goal is to get very serious about Understanding by Design and to insure that each one of you creates a high quality unit using UbD.  UbD is a commitment to a way of thinking about our work that aligns with much of the best practice that is out there.  We aren't going to try to shape the whole curriculum right now.  Instead we will use a single unit of your choosing to develop the skills and understandings necessary to begin the shift to a new kind of curriculum.

I look forward to our work this year.  Please feel free to email me comments or questions at 1lindahenke@gmail.com or to post them here.  I hope that although I am in Santa Fe, we can create a rich online conversation as we move through our experiences together.