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Articles: Teaching & Learning

Students in a Responsive Classroom school greet one another during the daily morning meeting (left). In another class, after the greeting, students have the opportunity to share their feelings and experiences with their peers (right).

A widely used K6 teaching technique that integrates social and emotional learning into the school day improves academic performance, according to a study published in the American Educational Research Journal in March. Though the approach, known as Responsive Classroom, has been used for some 25 years, this is the first comprehensive study of its impact on student achievement.

High schools will soon have access to a free curriculum based on the Academy Award-winning film and memoir 12 Years a Slave.

The National School Boards Associaton is partnering with New Regency entertainment, Penguin Books and the filmmakers to give public high schools copies of the 2014 Best Picture winner, the book it’s based on and a study guide. Talk-show host Montel Williams is coordinating the distribution of the movie.

Some 93 percent of teachers believe that technology has a positive effect on student engagement.

Decades into the computer revolution, many teachers still lack the training needed to use technology effectively in the classroom, according to a new survey. It’s a major problem as schools are investing more in devices and blended learning to improve student achievement, experts say.

R.J. Neutra Elementary School students play Dance Dance Revolution on individual mats during physical education classes.
Students hit lights on the SMART Trainer wall using their entire body.
 In the Makoto Arena, students can use their hands, beanbags, medicine balls and more to hit light patterns that appear on the three towers.
R.J. Neutra Elementary students play an interactive, virtual skiing game through an Xbox during a physical education class.
Admiral Akers Elementary School students play Dance Dance Revolution.
A physical education teacher at Admiral Akers Elementary shows students how to navigate a virtual river on a raft, using just their body and a controller.

Students at Central Union Elementary School District, located on a military base in Lemoore, Calif., are using 21st-century technology in an unexpected place: gym class. Last fall, the district was awarded a three-year Department of Defense Education Activity grant for more than $680,000 to improve physical education and enhance parent, family and community engagement at two schools located on Naval Air Station Lemoore in California’s Central Valley.

Gifted students in the Navigator Program at Minnetonka Public Schools take fast-paced courses with gifted-certified teachers.

The number of full-time academic programs for gifted students has grown substantially in Minnesota over the past 10 years—a rare case amid a lack of federal funding and recent cuts to similar programs nationwide.

Author Rick Stiggins believes that classroom assessment is more effective than standardized tests in providing the student growth data.

Defensible Teacher Evaluation: Student Growth Through Classroom Assessment


Author Rick Stiggins believes that classroom assessment is more effective than standardized tests in providing the student growth data needed to evaluate teachers. This book shows district leaders how to create an assessment program that evaluates teachers fairly and will help schools improve.

Second graders at William Green Elementary School in Lawndale, Calif., stretch and move in between learning in what is called Instant Recess (IR).
As part of Activity Works programs, third-graders at Alexander Street School in Newark stretch after taking a virtual 10-minute tour of the United States.
At the Nexus Academy of Indianapolis, students complete coursework online or at the school, and work at their own pace. Above, a junior is jumping rope while other students stretch on mats and pull rubber bands for a quick physical break during the day.
Another class exercises between lessons at  at William Green Elementary School in Lawndale, Calif. Teachers received special training for the program.

Each afternoon between social studies and math, Marilynn Szarka’s third-grade students start to get droopy. Szarka instructs everyone to stand up and spread out while she dims the lights, closes the door and flips on the interactive whiteboard that will take them on an aerobic adventure.

At Sells Middle School in the Dublin City School District in Ohio, school administrators are using the Complete Student Safety and Behavior System technical tool to track student tardiness and how it might relate to school fights.

It was a lunch hour more than 10 years ago when Terri Lozier, now a principal in another district just outside Chicago, was sucked into the violence of a school fight. Then a teacher, she was supervising the cafeteria when one girl tried to strangle another.

Sixth grade students at Quest to Learn in New York City play a game called Galactic Mappers in class.

Sixth grade students at Quest to Learn, a New York City public school, recently got a two-week break from regular class work to build a giant Rube Goldberg machine. The project, for example, required students to use physics and geometry skills to build a complex scheme of pulleys and tubes to accomplish the simple act of popping a balloon.

An AT&T employee volunteer, above left, helps a student in the Boys & Girls Clubs navigate a creative obstacle course to help motivate youth to be ready for successful transition into the upcoming school year.

Some of the world’s most powerful companies are increasing their influence in K12 education by funding programs that blend workforce development with public service. Corporate initiatives range from retail giant Target’s $1 billion plan to fund literacy programs to IBM’s high school STEM programs that aim to prepare the workers the company needs to fill its ranks.

As part of Activity Works programs, above, students in the “Food on the Farm” episode demonstrate how to be popping popcorn kernels for 10 minutes.

Keep activities short so teachers can easily incorporate them into busy school days. “Once teachers experience the rewards from just a few minutes of activity, they realize it’s worth it,” says Marilynn Szarka of Loesche Elementary School in Philadelphia.

Give students the reins. “Younger kids like to be led by older students. Let students choose music and activities. Let them take ownership,” says Jesus Mejia of Creating Opportunity for Physical Activity in California. “Increasing options to be engaged increases motivation to participate.”

Ken Royal is a former teacher and DA editor. He blogs at

If you’re an educator, at any level or grade, sitting back and expecting education change to happen, without you getting involved, you need to stand up now. If you think that you can’t do something, or start change, you’re mistaken.

In the game Laser Meteors, students use a smartphone to shoot at the lasers on the ground, breaking them apart before they strike the player.
The STEAM Carnival was created by Two Bit Circus, a Los Angeles-based engineering and entertainment company that creates high-tech games.
Students will try to navigate at laser maze at the STEAM carnival.
In “a mash-up between Whack-A-Mole and Twister,” students recreate a pattern of lights on a wall by hitting buttons with different parts of their body.
The STEAM carnival will arrive in Los Angeles and San Francisco this spring.

A carnival with a twist is coming to the West coast this spring. Instead of eating cotton candy and riding Ferris wheels, students will navigate a laser maze and measure their strength in volts—all while learning engineering skills.

The STEAM Carnival was created by Two Bit Circus, a Los Angeles-based engineering and entertainment company that creates high-tech games for clients like Intel and the arcade restaurant Dave & Buster’s.

The town of Hopkinton, Mass., has served as the starting point for Boston Marathon since 1924. Now, Hopkinton Middle School is incorporating the town’s historical connection with the iconic race into a new curriculum called “Desire to Inspire.”

“From the early preparations in March to the event in April, every year our community and our students become very enthusiastic about the marathon,” says Debra Pinto, a Hopkinton Middle School physical education teacher.

Philadelphia Public Schools special education teacher Michelle McKeone developed Autism Expressed in 2011, and now uses the platform to teach digital media skills to her high school students.

A first-of-its-kind online learning platform is bringing critical digital and life skills to Philadelphia students with autism and developmental disorders.