Category Archives: Common Core

What Donald Trump Believes About Education

How innovative to start your own university?  Schools need to have open enrollment to raise the competition and I have seen it work in Oro Valley, Arizona. Tenure needs to dissolve or go back to “ten years”.  To become an administrator, I beleive a teacher needs to have taught in a classroom for at least 10 years. Teachers need better pay to compare to other 5 year degrees and get paid much better for overtime and coaching.  Common Core needs to be fully explained out to the public in terms everyone understands – math seems to be the most confusing. Spelling is definitely an issue today as technology-users depend on spell check. Getting the writing flow without worrying about spelling should not be an issue if students learn to go back and rewrite drafts.  This is my opinion about education.  ~Sandy

What Donald Trump Believes About Education


Republican presidential hopeful and celebrity billionaire Donald Trump has expressed his views on the Iraq War, the economy and immigration policy, but he hasn’t waded far into education policy. Although some of Trump’s statements have been fairly moderate or favorable to liberals, such as saying he opposes cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security and pointing out that a single-payer health care system works well in Canada and Scotland, Trump views on education fall in line with most of the Republican field. He supports school choice, opposes Common Core and is likely in favor of for-profit colleges.

Attacking Common Core Standards

He recently criticized two of his Republican opponents, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), for their positions on Common Core. Like most of the Republican field, with the exception of Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and Bush, Trump has characterized Common Core as federal overreach. The standards were created by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers and states were not forced to adopt them.

Trump said of Bush’s support of Common Core standards on Fox’s On The Record, “I watched Jeb Bush … I think it’s pathetic what’s going on, his stance on Common Core … He’s in favor of Washington educating your children.”

Trump also pointed out Walker once supported Common Core and changed his position. Walker, like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and former Arkansas Gov.Mike Huckabee (R), has been inconsistent in his position on Common Core and supported it before he came out against it.

Relaxing Regulations On For-Profit Colleges?

Trump started his own online for-profit college, Trump University, in 2005. It never received accreditation, but it also never attempted to get accreditation, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. In addition to the website, Trump University sold CDs and DVDs but it did not offer degrees. The New York State Department of Education asked that it stop calling itself a university and shortly after it changed its name to Trump Entrepreneur Initiative. In 2013, the New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued the company, saying it misrepresented its classes. The legal battles continue, since a class action suit has been brought against the company by a student who spent $36,000 plus on Trump’s investing tips.

For-profit colleges have been in the news recently after falling attendance rates and increased federal scrutiny have made it more difficult for some for-profit colleges to operate.
Corinthian Colleges shut down all of its remaining campuses after the U.S. Department of Education found that it misrepresented job placement data. Education Management Corporation or EDMC, announced it would gradually shut down 15 of 52 campuses of The Art Institutes, leaving 5,400 students without a college. It recently delisted its common stock from Nasdaq after the Securities and Exchange Commission said it was not in compliance with SEC rules.

Although Trump hasn’t discussed for-profit colleges in terms of policy, as someone who once ran a for-profit college, he may be in favor of some of the measures Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) and Christie have suggested to support the growth of for-profit colleges, such as loosening rules on accreditation. Many of the candidates have ties to the for-profit college industry, but Trump is the only candidate who actually ran one — although it was never accredited as an actual university.

Cutting The U.S. Department Of Education ‘Way, Way, Way Down’

A popular political stance for Republicans in recent years has been to suggest eliminating the U.S. Department of Education. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) have said the department wasn’t worth keeping. In comparison, Trump’s position seems tame. He only wants to cut the department “way, way, way down.” He has not provided specifics on how much funding should be cut from the department, which administers Pell grants, provides overnight to the states to check on inequality of education between low-income and wealthy districts and is responsible for keeping national education data.

School Choice And Teachers Unions

In his 2000 book, The America We Deserve Trump supported vouchers and charter schools. In the same book, he also took a shot at teachers unions, and compared them to monopolies:

Defenders of the status quo insist that parental choice means the end of public schools. Let’s look at the facts. Right now, nine of ten children attend public schools. … When teachers’ unions say even the most minuscule program allowing school choice is a mortal threat, they’re saying: If we aren’t allowed to keep 90% of the market, we can’t survive.

In the book, Trump opposes what calls the “dumbing down” of school and blames things such as “creative spelling” and “empowerment,” saying he wants schools to challenge students and allow them to make mistakes. Creative spelling, or inventive spelling, is a pedagogical concept that allows children to spell their words in the way they speak them and then move on to learning how those words are typically spelled in the English language. Those who favor it argue that it fosters self esteem while the child is still learning, that knowledge is formed through our social and cultural context and that students who use inventive spelling may be more creative writers, while those who oppose it say it delays understanding of conventional spelling and requires more of a teacher’s time.


Are teachers excited about this?   Those in education longer than 15 years know where we used to be and how to find their way forward with the knowledge you have gained.  Grab the hands of newer teachers and show us the way.

How do you feel about this new Every Student Succeeds Act?


Need Education Options?

The Bridge Virtual Academy is offering courses via Edgenuity/ParK City Independent for students interested in high school credits.  Each semester course is $285 plus a one time $50 registration fee!  Start any time. Eighteen weeks to complete each course but can move as quickly as you desire. Live teacher connects with students. Pacing calendar on dashboard to help keep students on task. Mentoring is available at no additional cost. Course is taught via a video teacher.  Please check with yours school counselor before signing up for a course to make sure the credits will transfer.

Homeschooling has just become much easier.  The Bridge Virtual Academy also offers the courses on the list below to parents interested in homeschooling their children in courses created for 6th – 12th grade plus.


To view the scope and sequence of a course, go to the website  Find the course you are considering and click.

For more information, contact Sandy Carl at AD FOR HOMESCHOOL copy

Math Counts 2015

Math Counts 2015 was a great success February 11, in Fresno, California.  Kastner Intermediate in Clovis won Team, and students from 6 schools around the area won the 10 Individual spots.  Students work individually and as teams to compete in this math competition held for middle school students in the Tulare/Kings/Fresno County Areas.  These types of competitions make my heart sing! ~SandyStudents 3Students 2Students 1Countdown Round Top four from the Countdown roundTop Team for the Countdown RoundTop 10 individualsTop 10 Individuals Scores!1st place team - KastnerFirst place team and their coach from Kastner Intermediate School in Clovis.


What happens when the Common Core becomes less … common?

 January 25
The Common Core State Standards were envisioned as a way to measure most of the nation’s students against a shared benchmark, but education experts say political upheaval and the messy reality of on-the-ground implementation is threatening that original goal.

“Part of the whole point was you were going to have commonality that would let you compare schools in Chicago to schools in Cleveland,” said Frederick M. Hess, director of education policy at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, who supports the concept of common standards but has been critical of efforts to implement the Core. “We may not see the benefits that folks were hoping to see. . . . The whole notion of commonality, which was so attractive, is more and more a phantasm.”

One of the bipartisan hopes for the Common Core, a set of guidelines for what the nation’s kindergarten-through-12th-grade students should learn and when, was that states would leave behind their patchwork of 50 different sets of standards measured by 50 different tests. It would, for the first time, be easy for parents and policymakers to directly compare student performance in one state to the rest of the nation, and it would be much more difficult for lagging states to game the system in an effort to hide weak performance.

That goal seemed easily within reach in 2011, as 45 states and the District of Columbia adopted the new standards. The Obama administration spent hundreds of millions of dollars to help states develop two new online tests, known as PARCC and Smarter Balanced, that would measure student progress on the Common Core, and most states signed on to administer those tests starting this spring.

But as some states head into their first round of testing, the picture has fragmented amid political blowback from parents and conservative lawmakers who criticize the Core as nationalized education and have found the new course material confounding.

Indiana and Oklahoma have dropped the Core, and four other states are moving to review and potentially replace the standards. Lawmakers in other statehouses are taking up anti-Common Core bills as the legislative season gets underway.

There has been even broader resistance to the common standardized tests. In 2010, for example, there were 26 states aligned with the testing consortium known as PARCC, but that has whittled down by more than half: Now only 12 states plus the District plan to give the PARCC exam to students, according to the Council of State School Officers, an organization of state education chiefs. Mississippi became the latest state to back out of the PARCC testing consortium this month amid calls from Gov. Phil Bryant (R) to drop the Common Core.

Smarter Balanced has seen less attrition, but just 18 states plan to give that test this spring. The states that are planning to administer one of the two tests account for about 40 percent of students nationwide, according to an analysis by the trade newspaper Education Week. The remaining 20 states have chosen their own tests, which could make meaningful comparisons difficult.

Common Core advocates say they never thought every state would sign on to the standards or that every state would agree to one of the two consortia tests. But they also acknowledge that the fragmentation is not ideal, and they hope more states will decide to return to the fold.

“The real issue is what some of these independent state assessments are going to look like, and I think the jury is still out,” said Gene Wilhoit, the former director of an organization of state schools chiefs who played a key role in promoting the Core.

Wilhoit said he had initially envisioned a much more limited number of tests that would allow for a broad comparison of student performance across many states, providing a national picture of achievement.

Although it’s not clear how testing will shake out, Wilhoit said he’s confident that the nation’s focus on Common Core will make it impossible for states to slide by with easy tests that make their students look more accomplished than they are. That has been an issue since 2002, when the federal No Child Left Behind law established sanctions against schools that failed to meet testing targets.

“I am convinced that whatever comes about will be scrutinized to a degree that no one has ever seen,” Wilhoit said. “I think it’s going to be difficult now for any state to hide.”

Some teachers say it’s important to be able to compare their students’ performance with students elsewhere.

Eu Hyun Choi, a seventh-grade math teacher in Chicago, said on a trip to New York for literacy training she realized that, because the two states gave different tests, it wasn’t possible to gauge how her students measured up against those in New York. She feared that her students were being held to a lower bar than their peers elsewhere.

“I just felt like Illinois students were getting cheated,” she said.

The Chicago school system announced this month that it would administer PARCC to 10 percent of its students because of concerns about limited technology access.

Choi said she hopes her students are among those who will take the PARCC exam this year, but she was dismayed to find out that she’ll only be able to compare her students’ performance with 11 other states.

“That’s pretty shocking,” she said.

Other teachers say they don’t care much about the ability to compare test scores across state lines. But they’re tired of the indecision that has come with the political tussles over the standards and their tests.

Natalie Shaw, a second-grade teacher in Indiana — which is choosing an exam — said the turmoil is frustrating. For much of the past year, she said, it has been unclear what Indiana teachers are supposed to teach and what students will be expected to know on spring tests.

“At the end of the day, people just want to know what do they want us to teach so we can make sure that kids are prepared for the types of assessments that are coming up,” Shaw said.

Opposition to the Common Core tests has come amid a broader national debate about standardized testing, which many parents and teachers argue has warped public education. Critics of the Common Core and testing have cheered the fracturing of the testing consortia, but many advocates play down the impact of states withdrawing from the common tests.

“I really don’t see it as a problem,” said Karen Nussle, executive director of the pro-Common Core Collaborative for Student Success. “I think the testing landscape is going to continue to evolve, and I’m really optimistic.”

Nussle and other Core advocates argue that the standards are more important than the tests because they aim to push teachers to better prepare students for life after high school. Most states have retained the standards, although some have backed away from the name “Common Core” because of its political volatility.

Although membership in the two testing consortia has shrunk, there are still large swaths of the country where, for the first time, students will take the same test.

“This is huge, considering the idea of common standards, let alone common assessments, was unfathomable less than a decade ago,” PARCC spokesman David Connerty-Marin said by e-mail. He added that PARCC hopes more states will join the consortia because “students and their families have a right to know if they are on track, and to know how they are performing compared to students in schools across their state and the country.”

Luci Willits, Smarter Balanced’s deputy executive director, said that while cross-state comparisons are ideal, “the real value of the assessment is the quality.” Both consortia say their tests are built to assess students’ critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, providing a more accurate picture of students’ preparedness for college and careers.

Advocates also say they think the number of states administering the consortia tests will grow if states see that the tests are cheaper, and of better quality, than tests that states develop independently.

“States are going to go at their own speed,” said Chad Colby, a spokesman for Achieve, a nonprofit organization that managed the development of the standards.

Emma Brown writes about D.C. education and about people with a stake in schools, including teachers, parents and kids.


As the calendars moves forth, so do we at Passion In Education/The Bridge Virtual Academy.
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NEWLY RELEASED Classroom Sample Assessment Tasks!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:MEDIA CONTACT: Chad Colby (202) 419-1570, ccolby@achieve.orgNEWS STATEMENT:

Achieve Releases Classroom Sample Assessment Tasks for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Sample Tasks Demonstrate Ways Middle and High School Teachers Can Combine Content from NGSS and the Common Core State Standards 

Washington, D.C. –  November 18, 2014 – Achieve today announced the release of Classroom Sample Assessment Tasks for middle and high school grades. These sample tasks, written by secondary science and math teachers, provide examples of how content and practices from both the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in Mathematics can be assessed together in classrooms.

“It is an exciting time in science education,” said Ben Twietmeyer, a chemistry teacher from Illinois. “We are moving from primarily only teaching science content to developing students’ knowledge and science skills. Focusing on evidence based explanations and application, these tasks pull together the big ideas of the NGSS and Common Core Math Standards.”

Each task focuses on a specific context or storyline and includes multiple components that work together to partially or fully assess a bundle of chosen standards (i.e., a group of related standards from the NGSS and CCSS). The purpose of these sample tasks is to provide some examples of how to meaningfully integrate the NGSS and CCSS in authentic ways in the context of classroom assessment. Although the tasks were originally developed to integrate CCSS-Mathematics and the NGSS, CCSS-ELA/Literacy alignments were also added in response to requests from states and educators to support work across disciplines.

“Working with a science teacher broadened my understanding of writing and teaching integrated tasks,” said Jennifer Abler, a high school math teacher from Michigan. “We spent a great deal of time discussing what integrated really means. It’s not teaching math and science parallel to one another but using the skills of each content area to strengthen the understanding of the content of both subjects.”

Educators are encouraged to modify these tasks for their needs and to provide Achieve’s Science Team with feedback for task improvement. The tasks released today are drafts and will be revised to incorporate user feedback. Achieve anticipates releasing revised drafts of the tasks as well as the first round of Classroom Sample Assessment Tasks for elementary grades in the coming months.

To aid educators in their own task development, the front matter of the Classroom Sample Assessment Tasks provides information about the tasks’ development process so additional tasks can be created to assess a bundle of both math and science standards.

“We are very pleased to make these sample tasks available to educators and look forward to seeing continued integration of the NGSS and CCSS,” said Stephen Pruitt, Senior Vice President at Achieve. “There is tremendous opportunity for teachers and curriculum designers to bundle standards from different content areas to bring about deeper cross-disciplinary student understanding. We hope these tasks will be a starting point for ongoing conversations among educators in different disciplines.”

The Classroom Sample Assessment Tasks can be accessed here.

Achieve convened the educators who developed the tasks as part of its ongoing work to provide resources to states in support of NGSS adoption and implementation.


About Achieve 

Achieve is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit education reform organization dedicated to working with states to raise academic standards and graduation requirements, improve assessments, and strengthen accountability. For more information about the work of Achieve,

About The Next Generation Science Standards 

Through a collaborative, state-led process managed by Achieve, new K-12 science standards have been developed that are rich in content and practice, arranged in a coherent manner across disciplines and grades to provide all students an internationally benchmarked science education. The NGSS are based on the Framework for K-12 Science Education developed by the National Research Council. For more information, please visit



I love to listen to a teacher’s passion for teaching others.  Passion burns hot until others extinguish the flames.  Currently, I’m hearing ,”If we only had this or didn’t have to do that, we could reach the students.”  I love to hear students excited about what they are learning in schools.  From them, I currently hear, “This common core stuff is too much and no one knows what they are doing.”

I’m here to encourage you.  BE BOLD!  CREATE!   TEACH WHAT WORKS!  DEVELOP YOUR OWN LEARNING COMMUNITIES!  Follow the standards as we need common standards.  Educations needs to have the basis for what should be taught to most children at specific readiness point, but let’s move forth with what we know.  Children are sponges until they aren’t.  Teachers are excited until they are not.  We need to catch both while the fire is hot!  There is no time to waste.

Common Core carries a very poor connotation for something I believe we all really want to see happen.  Common curriculum across the United States in order that everyone have an equal opportunity for learning.  How did it get so blown out of whack in the eyes of teachers, parents and students?  If your child was moving from California to Florida as a third grade student, wouldn’t you want your child to be “on the same page” when they move to the new school?  I think yes!  Now what is good for the mass doesn’t mean that is all that should be available.  We still need to build in a support system for those with learning disabilities or a gap in their learning. We also need to provide fun, engaging opportunities for those that are ahead of the game.  I believe in flexible grouping based on a students previous knowledge and the learning goal, not necessarily based on age.

The other aspect of Common Core is to create connection between the learning and real-life problem solving.   Simply relate what you are teaching to how it will be seen in life.  Another aspect of Common Core is to teach to all the modalities by using hands-on approach to reach auditory, visual and kinesthetic modes.  Remember that no one has stated what or how teaching needs to be done at this point except the your own districts.

So, how do we get the fun and learning back into the classroom but stay on track?  Use your freedom at this time period to find the joy of the teaching/learning process for your students.  As your break approaches, look into ideas that will rekindle your flames and light the students back up!  Consider something like Whole Brain Learning, AIMS, College Prep Math, STEM or STEAM, Pinterest…

Following are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

Three basic techniques in whole brain teaching

The class yes, the teach OK and the scoreboard

In an article which I wrote for I introduced a wonderful system of teaching called “Whole Brain Teaching” (WBT) in which I outlined the fundamental techniques it uses. For those of you who have not read the article, WBT is a pedagogical approach which is based on current research into brain activity and how we learn. Not specific but very applicable to EFL , WBT uses techniques which activate both hemispheres of the brain – thus it is a “Whole Brain” approach.Traditionally education has focused on right brain activity – the reasoning, rational part of the brain. WBT techniques seek to make connections between this rational part of the brain and the left side of the brain which is concerned with creative activity . It is being proven more and more that an approach which integrates these two different activities of the brain leads to far more effective teaching. We will today look at three of the most basic techniques involved in WBT: “THE CLASS-YES”, “THE TEACH-OK”, and “THE SCOREBOARD”. These are three amazingly simple techniques you can quickly learn and immediately use to greatly improve your effectiveness as a teacher.What makes them especially useful in ESL classes is it gets the students talking in English , which is often problematic, especially here in Thailand. It is not necessary to implement all of the WBT techniques at once. You can choose to use just a few techniques,. I have however found the more techniques you use the better you and your students’ performance will be. It is important to note that of course when introducing a new technique to class that they understand what is expected of them. In addition you have to practice the procedures with them and get them to the point where they can do what you tell them on command. It doesn’t take too long. . Depending on your level of Thai you may at times need somebody to explain to the class in Thai what it is they are required to do. The directions are basically like rules to a game. WBT is very big on rules and has easy ways to get students to comply with them.TECHNIQUE ONE: THE “CLASS-YES” – “PLUG” YOUR BRAIN INTO THE BRAINS OF YOUR STUDENTS.The prefrontal cortex is nicknamed the “CEO” by scientists who do research into the human brain . It controls decision making, planning and is also responsible for the focusing of attention. The “CLASS-YES’ works like this: The teacher makes a decision to get the class’s attention. To do this the teacher is activating his/her prefrontal cortex by using the decision making function of that part of the brain. The teacher then says “CLASS” and the students respond by saying “YES” in unison. The students must say “YES” in the same tone of voice and in the same way that the teacher says “CLASS” – this is crucial.So if the teacher says “CLASS CLASS’ in a high whiny tone the students respond “YES YES” in a high whiny tone. The students, by mimicking the tone of the teachers voice, have now activated their own prefrontal cortexes by using its focusing mechanism. In a very literal sense the teacher’s brain is now “plugged into” the students’ brain. The “CEO” of teacher’s brain, exercising its decision making capacity, now has the attention of and is ready to instruct the “CEO” of the students’ brains, which are utilizing its focusing mechanism.

It is fundamentally the same type of relationship that would exist, at that moment, between the CEO of Pepsico and the CEO of KFC. (Pepsi owns KFC and I assume KFC takes direction form the parent company). The technique can be understood as a brain switch which readies the students for instruction. In Whole Brain teaching classrooms it is used whenever the teacher needs the class’s attention, which is of course quite often. This technique, like almost all WBT techniques,can be used from kindergarten to university and with adult classes. With children in addition to being a “brain preper” for instruction it an indispensable tool for classroom management. 


Some of us may have come to Thailand just a bit unclear on the differences between the Present Perfect and Past Simple tenses, or between First and Third Conditional. I know I did. I also know that I could now tell you about fundamental English grammar in my sleep and I am sure, at least hope, that everyone reading this who has taught English for a few years can as well.

How did you learn this grammar so thoroughly? . You did it by teaching. This is the main idea behind the next crucial technique of WBT- the “TEACH-OK”. Research has shown, not surprisingly really, that students learn best when actively engaged in the teaching process. When students , using energetic gesturing, reteach to their partner what the teacher has just taught them they are activating five parts of the brain important to learning : the visual cortex (seeing gestures), motor cortex (making gestures), Broca’s area (verbalizing), Wernickes area (hearing) and the limbic system (giving emotional content). I will number the steps of the “”TEACH OK” to hopefully make it easier to understand and use.

STEP ONE – Divide your classes into pairs. You will want to group weaker students with stronger ones. I think two is the ideal number but if you have an odd number of students you will have to have at least one group of three. In this case put the best student in the class with the two who need the most help and ask the best student to take special care of the group. I have found that at first you may need several groups of three students if stronger students are hard to come by. However as time passes and you continue to implement WBT, you will see a more uniform level in your students ability. This is due to the fact you will be getting almost 100 per cent participation and the students lagging behind will begin to catch up with the others. 

STEP TWO – Micro teach with gestures. This means giving one small bit of information that the students will reteach to each other. It requires the teacher to be animated and use gestures as he or she teaches. As an example, if we were teaching the Present Perfect, the teacher would begin the process by introducing a very small bit of information such as “We form the present perfect with have or has.” After the students have learned this small bit of information you build on this idea. The following TEACH-OK segment would be ” We form the present perfect with have or has and verb three.”

We continue building so on and so forth until all the rules of present perfect have been taught or at least all the rules that we wish to cover . If this were a very advanced class the final installment of our look at the present perfect would finally build to up to the studetns teaching each other in pairs something like” The present perfect is formed with have or has plus verb three. It is used for both unfinished actions from a specific time in the past which are continuing into the present and with finished actions that have a relevance to present circumstances. Although it is used exclusively with already, just and yet in British English, these words can be be used correctly with both the Present Perfect and the Simple Past in American English.” I have used an extreme example here of a final “TEACH OK” mini lesson on the Present Perfect to make my point that we build to whatever level the dictates of the course demand, as opposed to giving a lot of information at once. 

STEP THREE – To recap steps one and two-we have divided the class into pairs and presented a small bit of information . Now it is time for the teacher to say TEACH! and his/her hands clap hands and have the students respond in the same tone of voice with the same number of claps with an OK! They then work with their partner taking turns reteaching what was just presented. the students are expected to use gestures as they teach each other. 

STEP FOUR – The teacher monitors the groups as the students teach each other. 

STEP FIVE – The teacher brings the “TEACH-OK” to a close with a “CLASS-YES”

STEP SIX – The teacher then continues with another bit of information building on the previous bit of information, or if it is time, change activities. 

Two other valuable tools which are often used during the presentation of a micro bit of information are the “HANDS AND EYES” and “MIRRORING.” These are related but separate techniques that will be elaborated on at a later date that augment the effectiveness of the presentation of information. If you just cant wait for the next blog visit for an immediate explanation. 

I have not found a lot of information about EFL and WBT, although it is certainly being used for teaching foreign languages. In my past training I found an emphasis on getting students to use the language creatively. I have certainly done this in the context of WBT. Since I work with phratom students now the steps to creativity are very small but they are creative nonetheless.

For example during the presentation of information I may want the kids to practice using the question word “where.” I may drill the class as a whole by asking students a question like “Where is the dog?” trying to get them to think of places a dog might be. Often times kids will come up with something really silly like “The dog is on the sun.” I love this kind of response. It shows they have used the language creatively. In fact a kid told me when asked once “The dog is on the sun.” I quickly joked back with the question “Is he a hot dog?” and pretty much everybody got the joke.

That really shows that language acquisition was taking place with a group of phratom two students. Think about the implications of that- Phratom two students involved in the creation of and appreaciating a double entendre. Thats the power of Whole Brain Teaching at work. After the good laugh about the” hot dog on the sun” the kids were coming up with wacky places the dog was. During their ” TEACH OK”segment of “Where is the dog?” they seemed to be trying to outdo their partner with the craziest place a dog could be. This is proof of being able to use the language creatively which means real learning is taking place. 


The scoreboard is a central feature of the Whole Brain Teacher’ s classroom. It is an integral part of class management when working with younger students and is critical in keeping older students focused. It basically operates on good ole positive and negative reinforcement. It is simple to understand and use.

STEP ONE – On one side of the whiteboard draw a “Smiley face” next to a “Happy face.”

STEP TWO – Draw a line between the two faces creating a column under each face.

STEP THREE – When students are paying attention, and paricipating with gestures and you are happy with the way things are going put a check in the Smiley face column and have them cheer your approval by saying an enthusiastic “OH YEA” in unison (known as ‘the “MIGHTY OH YEA”). 

STEP FOUR – When student performance/behavior is not up to par put a check under the the Frowny face and have the students moan a a collective “OH NO” while wiping away an imaginary tear.

STEP FIVE – At the end of class add up the checks under the respective faces. More checks in the Happy face column means the class has earned some kind of reward (I usually use less homework as a reward) More checks under the frown face means a negative reinforcement (for me more homework).

IMPORTANT NOTE! Do not have a total of more than three checks in in the Frowny face column in excess of the number in the Smiley face otherwise the “SCOREBOARD” loses effectiveness. Students become resentful and lose interest in the “game.”

The “SCOREBOARD” works on the limbic system which is the part of the brain that controls emotional response. It is a powerful tool to keep order and keep things focused. In follow up blogs I will discuss “THE FIVE CLASSROOM RULES” which for the most part are used for class management issues with kids. The rules obviously relate closely to the “SCOREBOARD”. Remember though the “SCOREBOARD” is also used with older students to keep focus.

If I were teaching up university anywhere in the world I would have no qualms about using the “SCOREBOARD” as a fun way to give the class feedback about how well they were performing . That being said I would feel a little foolish walking into a corporate training class anywhere but sanook loving Thailand and drawing a Smiley face and Happy face on a whiteboard in front of a group of business executives and telling them to give me a “MIGHTY OH NO”.

I have taught all kinds of classes here in Thailand as well as a lot of corporate classes . Although I have not had the opportunity to use WBT in a corporate situation, my guess is all Thai students would play along with “THE SCOREBOARD.” Having been witness to a teacher leading a group of bank managers in a game of “Simon Says” I gotta figure you are on safe ground with “THE SCOREBOARD” in any class in Siam. (Simon says touch your butt hahahahah….true story).

These are the three most important techniques in WBT. Just these three simple things can greatly enhance your students learning as well as making your job a helluva lot easier and more enjoyable. There is a lot more to WBT but this can get you started.

Finally I want to underscore that these techniques are flexible and can be used in harmony with your own style and class goals/level. That is unless sadly you have an “I don;’t really give a damn” attitude. I think it is more easily adapted to animated lively styles of teaching but I personally think there is room for those of a more phlegmatic nature, however gestures must be used.

You look at professional athletes, say in a sport like golf or tennis, you will see that the pros are all pretty much adhering to the same set of fundamentals to swinging a club or racket. In spite of this commonality each player has his own unique swing. In the same way each teacher will have his own style in which he can adapt a given pedagogical approach to be the most effective teacher he or she can be.

It is my stalwart conviction that Whole Brain Teaching (or in our case here in Thailand “Ajarning”…lol..) is by far the most effective approach to accomplish this goal. Give WBT a try, you’ll love it and so will your students. Again to find out more about WBT visit the powerteachers website 

Happy teaching!

Here is where a creative teacher brought the popular game of Mine Craft into his math lessons.

6 Minecraft lesson ideas for your Common Core math class

From graphing paper to algebra puzzles, one teacher shares tons of practical lesson ideas for turning math class into “Mathcraft”

minecraft-mathLast year I taught third-grade math in a whole new way. Combining elements from the wildly popular sandbox game Minecraft, I had students thinking visually and creatively about mathematical models and theories that went way beyond a typical third-grade curriculum, transforming math class into what I like to call Mathcraft.

Why Minecraft? I could say I am using Minecraft for a number of reasons, like how I find Minecraft enhances metacognition by increasing students’ memory storage capacity. The game itself creates a relatable enjoyable experience that can be internalized and shared in a community of learners. The limitations on the working memory are minimized because the gameplay itself is an extension of our visual sketchpad. Working with students they always say, “I can see it,” and when they see it they share it.

However, the real reason I use Minecraft is that the students chose it. The popularity of the game is so overwhelming and when the lesson became the engagement their attention, confidence, and motivation soared. Here are six great ways to use it in your math classroom.

1. Let students create their world.
If you have an aggressive Minecraft class, you can put them in a single world and either let them all build it by themselves, or allow all the students to build a world together. Personally, I just open up a world in MinecraftEDU (which makes it easier for the teacher since you can do things like freeze the students and transport). I don’t use worlds that have already been created, opting instead to let the kids build their own. I use MinecraftEDU as my server runner and open up the superflat world. We start building and we end up with a crazy math city.

2. Create your own visual, conceptual math world.
I’ve tried to use base ten blocks before because they’ve got a lot of great conceptional knowledge, but they’re just a nightmare to use—to get them to fit in and take out, and with the kids always messing up each other’s blocks. But with Minecraft, the blocks are digital so the kids can’t mess each other up, if you know how to manage them, and the bonus is that the students are incredibly engaged. Then you can throw in the fun part. You can let them PvP (fight) and chase each other in their world. The structures they’ve just made make a lot of fun things to hide behind, like funky-looking trees based on prime factorization or stacks of blocks in patterns that represent long division. It’s kind of a conceptual math world.

3. You can use Minecraft, even without access to computers.
We were only able to play Minecraft in the computer lab twice a week but that was perfect because I just ran math class using Minecraft as the lesson on those days. On other days, we’d be doing similar things. The kids would have graphing paper and would make their models with colored pencils and crayons and we would play math. I was really trying to teach them how to read and write algebra and to look at math as a different language.

4. Minecraft is just one creative tool in the toolbox.
In my third-grade class, we did a lot of tracking and graphing slopes, and I turned it into a maker activity as well. We learned how to read rise over run, and how to build a slope in Minecraft. Then we chopped up a bunch of different cardboard boxes and made racecar ramps at different slopes around the classroom, and ran averages on how far the racecar would travel with each slope—and this was a third-grade classroom.

5. Let the dog drive—at least sometimes.
One way to get started is just to try a whole class lesson and to see how the kids respond to it. And be prepared to let the dog drive at times—meaning when the class is playing the game, let them take control and just play. Give them their time but take yours as well. If you need a jumping-off point to get started, look for Minecraft lessons online, or see mine on the website Educade. The Parthenon lesson I created is one example. It turns algebra into a puzzle and it gives students simple instructions on how to build something cool. (There’s also a video that explains why the formulas actually work).

6. Use Minecraft to help change your classroom culture into something students love.
By far the greatest effect Minecraft has had on my students was a change in the classroom culture and attitudes about education. When we were preparing for our benchmark test I gave them ten Common Core word problems for homework. When I put them on our Edmodo page, they got mad at me. Mathcraft—at least the way I use it in the classroom—is not all in a video game. There is a lot of reading and writing of algebra and word problems. Before, they used to complain and give up when they had to do similar problems out of textbook. But now my kids turned even that part of the curriculum into a game and can not put down the pencil.

Jim Pike formerly taught third grade at Ascension Catholic School in Los Angeles. He currently teaches a Mathcraft course at CodeRev Kids Learning Center in Santa Monica, CA, and is working on bringing Mathcraft professional development to teachers using online Minecraft servers.


Frozen-inspired coding is a very creative idea to hook students into their learning:

‘Let it Code’ with Frozen-inspired coding

Hour of Code initiative aims to help students, especially girls, get coding with real-world examples

code-codingOn Nov. 19, unveiled a computer science tutorial featuring heroines Anna and Elsa from The Walt Disney Company’s film “Frozen.” The tutorial kicks off the second annual Hour of Code campaign, a worldwide effort to broaden participation in computer science – especially by girls – during Computer Science Education Week, Dec. 8-14, 2014.

Thanks to Disney Interactive, students will learn to write code that enables Disney Infinity versions of Disney’s “Frozen” characters Anna and Elsa to draw snowflakes and snowmen and perform magical “ice craft” in’s signature lesson for the Hour of Code 2014. The tutorial aims to teach logic and math and nurtures creative thinking through introductory computer programming.

Role-model technologists and celebrities, including Polyvore CEO Jess Lee, Microsoft engineer Paola Mejia, app developer and model Lyndsey Scott, and model Karlie Kloss, provide short video lectures to guide students through the one-hour activity. Students will be able to share their artwork online or with friends through a unique link.

“As a parent, I know firsthand how excited kids are over Disney’s ‘Frozen,’” said Hadi Partovi, co-founder of “Our entire team is grateful for Disney Interactive’s tireless support of the Hour of Code, which provides students an entry point into the world of creativity that opens up when they build technology for the first time.”

“Disney Interactive shares’s passion to unleash the creative potential within all of us and we’re proud that the Disney characters will help children grow and learn important skills,” said Jimmy Pitaro, president of Disney Interactive. “Computer science and coding literacy are vital to our children’s future and we applaud for making computer science education more widely available.”

Along with this collaboration, Disney is donating $100,000 to support’s efforts to bring computer science education to afterschool programs nationwide. Disney Interactive will host Hour of Code events for local students at their Los Angeles, Palo Alto, Seattle, and Kelowna, British Columbia offices.

The tutorial, “Artist with Anna & Elsa,” is’s newest addition to its online learning platform, Code Studio, designed to teach students the basics of computer science, starting as early as kindergarten. Code Studio is used in more than 50,000 classrooms.

Last year, launched the Hour of Code with a tutorial featuring artwork from Rovio’s Angry Birds, PopCap Games’ Plants vs. Zombies and video lectures by Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates. To date, 22 million students have tried the one-hour, introductory tutorial.

Students and teachers can try “Artist with Anna & Elsa” now at Code Studio:


Here’s another blogger sharing how Whole Brain Learning works for her:


Here are ideas on pinterest of Whole Brain Learning:


Happy planning!  Happy teaching!  Happy learning!






Common Core Overview of Different Views

This is one of the best overviews I have seen that covers the multifaceted views on Common Core.  I believe that the purpose of the commonality of standards is fantastic but the implementation has created unease amongst parents and a failure to convince the public that it is for the good of kids!  Once again and/or still, it is up to individual teachers to be the one difference for children’s educational success.  ~Sandy


Education experts debate Common Core’s value

  • Sandhya Kambhampati, Scripps National Desk
  • Posted April 5, 2014 at 11:56 a.m.

On any given day, Rian Meadows is up checking emails, texts, and grading assignments, and answering her “lifeline,” the phone, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Meadows is a government and economics teacher at Florida Virtual School, where students work at their own pace and join her class through live lessons through Adobe Connect or Blackboard. In Florida, the State Board of Education adopted changes to customize Common Core and create their own standards.

“I think everyone has growing pains — new things can be scary and outside of a comfort zone,” she said. “I’ve been in education for going on 14 years and good teaching practices have always been around. These standards are things I’ve been doing all along.”

In Florida, graduating high school students in 2015 must take one online course. Meadows said these online courses are ready made for individualized education plans, as they allow the student to have mastery of content. Under the standards, Meadows teaches economics with financial literacy to her 12th-grade students.

This mastery of skills that will allow students to be college and career ready is what the Common Core aims to build.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative was developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, whose members are state education officials, in 48 states to identify and develop a common set of college and career ready standards for K-12 in mathematics and English language arts in 2009.

The standards were pushed by growing concern that a large number of high school graduates need remedial college help. In order to motivate education reform, President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan signaled to states that they should embrace these standards or similar if they hoped to win a grant through the Race to the Top program in 2009.

Currently, 44 states have adopted and are implementing the standards. Minnesota has adopted the English Language Arts standards, but not the mathematics standards. Texas, Alaska, Nebraska are among those who did not adopt the standards.

How Common Core standards were implemented

The implementation of how Common Core standards are taught, the materials and curriculum development is led by the state and local levels. According to the Common Core official website, the standards don’t dictate how teachers should teach but rather establish what skills students need to learn.

Teachers will create their own lesson plans and curriculum and tailor their teaching to meet the needs of individuals and meet the standards. The standards look to build English and math skills as those areas are used to build skill sets for other subjects.

Public schools have begun administering Common Core tests to students of all ages, but Common Core officials say the test scores won’t be counted. The tests will allow education officials to judge the quality of the test questions and technical administering capabilities of the schools.

In most states, state law gives the state boards of education the authority to establish or adopt the academic standards. Certain states, such as Nevada, Maine and Texas and Vermont, require legislative action.

Some have chosen to implement the Common Core standards, but under another name and other states have repealed the standards.

For example, Arizona’s is called, “Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards.”

INTERACTIVE: Click here for a closer look at each state’s implementation.

MAP: Each state’s implementation of Common Core

Adopting the standards

Kentucky was the first state to adopt the standards, pulling in representatives from each of the school districts in the state, along with higher education specialists.

Karen Kidwell, director, division of program standards at the Kentucky Department of Education said the teachers have been supportive and enjoyed that they’ve been able to work and share across network lines for the first time.

More than 90 percent of school boards support Common Core, according to a poll by the Kentucky School Boards Association in Nov. 2013. The results also showed 97 percent of teachers are teaching curriculum aligned with Common Core.

During the first year, test scores dropped because of higher demands of the students, said Kidwell.

“We know that its a challenge, but our educators have been very committed to the process,” she said. “They are leading the way in terms of working together and seeking out really excellent resources and building their own resources to ensure that students stay in the center. We constantly ask the question, ‘Is what we’re designing really going to be better for kids?’”

It is estimated that Kentucky would need a minimum of $35 million to create and fully implement new standards, according the state’s department of education.

Changing standards

While some state have chosen to continue using the Common Core standards, others have repealed the standards and replaced them with their own standards.

On March 24, Indiana became the first state to withdraw out of the controversial grades K-12 guidelines.

While it was one of the first states to adopt the standards in 2010, opposition to the guidelines has been growing since Governor Mike Pence took office in 2012. The state began to move away from the standards last year.

“I believe our students are best served when decisions about education are made at the state and local level,” said Gov. Pence in a statement. “By signing this legislation, Indiana has taken an important step forward in developing academic standards that are written by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers, and are uncommonly high, and I commend members of the General Assembly for their support.”

According to the Associated Press, retired University of Arkansas professor Sandra Stotsky released an internal Indiana Department of Education report which found more than 70 percent of the standards for 6th through 12th grade are directly from Common Core. Stotsky was hired by Pence to assess the new program.

“Because we are trying to teach the same vocal and grammar and phonics skills, it isn’t terribly shocking that there’s an overlap,” said Timothy Shanahan, distinguished professor emeritus, University of Illinois at Chicago, who helped draft the standards and served on the advisory board for the English language arts part. “In fact, it would be shocking if there wasn’t an overlap. It’s a bit of nonsense on her part.”

On his website, Shanahan wrote, “I support the CCSS standards because they are the best reading standards I’ve ever seen (and, yes, I am aware of their limitations and flaws). But if anyone comes up with better standards, I’d gladly support those, too (no matter how uncommonly high the Hoosiers might have been who wrote them).”

The State Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the proposal on April 28.

“Hopefully we will be more growth-based, instead of measuring exam scores,” said David Galvin, executive director of communications at the Indiana Department of Education.

People behind the scenes

Jason Zimba, a lead writer of the Common Core standards for mathematics, said Common Core is allowing teachers across the country to collaborate and share lessons in ways they have never before. With this in mind, however, he said, there is no single “right” way to teach these standards.

“In both ELA and Mathematics, having more focused, higher standards will allow teachers to focus on critical knowledge, concepts and skills that will provide a stronger foundation for more advanced work and eventually for college and careers,” he said.

Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are among the strong supporters of the standards. On March 16, advertisements ran on FOX News and right-of-center news outlets showcasing the support from the business community and outspoken conservatives.

Patricia Levesque, CEO of the Foundation for Excellence of Education, which supports the standards said the foundation believes “if you expect more, you get more.”

The key point in Common Core, she said, is that these standards are the expectations to be met by the end of year and that the end goal, ultimately, is preparing these students for college.

Under the new standards, in Florida for example, kindergarten students should be able to count to 100, count by tens to 100 and count from 36 to zero backwards, she said. Under the old standards, kindergarteners were required to count up to 20.

According to the ACT, who helped in the process of establishing the standards to make students college and career ready, data has shown that many students are graduating from high school without the skills they need to succeed at the next level.

In the 2012 U.S. grad class, 1.66 million students took the ACT, earning an average composite score of 21.1 (on the 1 to 36 score scale). In the 2013 U.S. grad class, 1.8 million students took the exam, earning an average composite score of 20.9.

“The ACT is and has been curriculum based,” said Paul Weeks, vice president for customer engagement. “Our involvement was providing the research and evidence to be college and career ready.”

Newsy: Common Core 101 – A Quick Look At Education Reform

Among students in last year’s ACT-tested U.S. high school graduating class (1.8 million students), 39 percent met three or four of the four benchmarks, while 47 percent met one or none of the benchmarks, according to ACT officials.

Growing controversy

Shanahan, who currently trains teachers around the country on the English standards, said that even if states aren’t participating in the standards, if they end up standards just as high it might be okay. But pushback from people who say the same skills aren’t need across the board is difficult to understand, he said.

“The notion that the kid in Arkansas doesn’t need the same skills as some kid in New York doesn’t make much sense,” he said. “Common Core allows textbook companies to stop trying to meet requirements of dozens of states, but rather focus on quality. As a result, tests are more reflective of that. It’s the first time that we’re telling the truth for parents.”

Because Common Core would result in national consistency in standards, this would be the first time that students of military families wouldn’t have the same learning “dislocation” that they had before, he said.

In his training, Shanahan said that some teachers have fears about not being prepared to implement these skills. On any given day, he trains teachers for a day or a half-day, which he says is not enough time. He suggests schools use ongoing training to implement the new standards into their curriculum.

“I think its interesting that so much of the controversy around it has nothing to do with Common Core,” Shanahan said. “Many of the complaints — how it was adopted or who adopted it or the testing or scheme for collecting data for schools — are somehow linked to Common Core – and yet people aren’t looking at the standards and saying it’s a bad standard. The arguments are more about process, but not about what kids need to learn which is what’s really important.”

A peer-reviewed study by a researcher found that states whose previous standards more closely matched the Common Core tended to have higher National Assessment of Educational Progress scores. The study also found that Common Core agrees with high performing countries better than any previous state standards.

It’s these skills that link them to appeal to supporters such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

“Let me tell you something. In Asia today, they don’t care about children’s self esteem. They care about math, whether they can read — in English — whether they understand why science is important, whether they have the grit and determination to be successful,” he told the Miami Herald.

Levesque agrees with Bush, as she said her son and daughter aren’t just competing with Fla. or Ga. kids, but are competing internationally for jobs in the future. She said too many parents seem to be concerned about the self-esteem of their children and aren’t thinking about the future of his/her education.

“In America, we tend to be more concerned how little Johnny is feeling,instead of how we are providing him with the education so that he can be a competent grade level reader,” she said.

A tempest brews on the standards

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, has said that implementation of Common Core is “far worse” than Obamacare.

But what concerns her most is that implementation has been messed up and there is fixation to test, instead of teaching.

“Not everything is frozen in the process of education through this transition,” she said. “I don’t know any other business or endeavor which is so, so important that we don’t allow a transition and that’s why there’s so much agida.”

As a result, she said there is a great distrust in the standards.

Donna Harris-Aikens, director of the education policy and practice department at the National Education Association said educators need to pay attention to transition time and realign their standards to make sure that support for students is there, as they are going through this transition along with the teachers.

Those against Common Core believe it’s a federal takeover of local education and some believe it’s a way for the government to get more data. As a result, disputes are spreading across the country. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, more than 200 bills on the national standards were introduced this year and around half would either stop or slow implementation.

Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Kentucky, all have measures in their state legislators to halt and if possible, abolish the standards.

In Ohio, homemaker Mary Capella got involved with Ohioans Against Common Core because she felt the government is data mining her children.

She said some parents are in the dark for what their kids are doing in school.

Some who oppose the standards take issue with the tests and how the results will be used as the tests are designed to replace the annual state assessments.

Christina Brown, senior director for instruction and assessment at the Center for Collaborative Education, said that Common Core can change the way we think about the role of students and teachers in assessment practices and move towards more open-ended assessments.

According to the Washington Post, Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a group of state school superintendents said he found it “fascinating” that some opposition to the standards has come from “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.”

Anthony Cody, a former teacher and co-founder of the Network of Public Education who identifies himself as a progressive, said there’s a “grain of truth” to Duncan’s statement, as the tests are “stigmatizing high poverty schools, but also suburban schools.”

In his mind, the most fundamental problem with the standards is that they are designed to rank.

“I have lost my capacity for good will for the people who are running the education reform in this country, after seeing No Child Left Behind,” he said. “If three-fourths of the students are failing, I would see this as a disaster and a catastrophe. They are perfectly happy to see public schools fail and are exploiting this disaster to promote changes.”