Full S.T.E.A.M. Ahead! (Part 1)

Jump on board the S.T.E.A.M. train!

STEAM is a hot topic in education today. Interestingly enough, it is not a curriculum but a national initiative from mathematicians, scientist, engineers, and artist to integrate learning activities based on science, technology, engineering, art, and math. Education Closet defines STEAM as “an educational approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking.” This approach to thinking and learning is critical to the future of our students.

STEAM encompasses five components – (Sprouts, 2011)

  • Science – observing, experimenting, predicting, discovering, questioning, and wondering
  • Technology – using tools, being inventive, identifying problems, and making things work
  • Engineering – solving problems, using a variety of materials, designing, creating, and building
  • Art – drawing, coloring, blending, imagining, charting, sketching
  • Math – sequencing, patterning, and exploring

Notice! All of the adjectives listed above are action packed! They are hands-on activities with a twist. STEAM is problem solving in a creative way. STEAM is not an additional class added to your day. STEAM should be integrated into every subject; it is cross-curricular. STEAM shows a student how every topic inter-relates. STEAM time is more than just a science experiment or an art activity or math problem; it is the integration of all the subjects. This approach resembles real life. Real life does not compartmentalize subjects. Life weaves all “subjecyd” together.

There are certain components that make up a STEAM activity –

  • Problem to solve or question to answer
  • Collaboration among students
  • Drawing/sketching ideas
  • A design challenge
  • Communication of findings
  • Reflection of solutions
  • Opportunity to redesign

The components are developing 21st century skills in each student. They learn how to problem solve, collaborate, create, reflect, and redesign. A student is never “done early” because the redesign stage makes them continually ask, “How can I improve this?”

Education Closet describes the end results “are students who take thoughtful risks, engage in experiential learning, persist in problem-solving, embrace collaboration, and work through the creative process. These are the innovators, educators, leaders, and learners of the 21st century!”

Stay on board as we barrel down the track full STEAM ahead in part 2 when we discuss the design challenge of STEAM.

Finish the year well!

This year at school we chose the theme “Running the Race”. The students memorized several verses of scripture about running the race for Christ. I Cor. 9:24 states, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.” Each week we discussed how we should run the race – with patience, love, endurance, strength, etc. Songs, devotions, specials, and messages all encouraged the teachers and the students to run the Christian race for Christ effectively and fervently.

During chapel the kids would sing “The Race” at the top of their lungs!

Before I was born into history and time, 
You planned creation with me in mind.
You formed my heart; you saw my face.
I was made in your image; I’m no mistake.

You chose my family, the place of my birth.
You knew all about me; you thought I had worth.
I was called out to serve you doing your kingdom work,
And all of my days are written down in your book.

I’ve fallen down in this race of life,
But you came to my rescue time after time.
You told me you loved me, you weren’t counting my sin.
In you I found courage to rise up again.

I know you are for me you want me to win.
I give you my soul till the very end.
Out there before me I see the prize.
Jesus is standing at the finish line.

I’m running the race down to the last minute.
Mercy and grace are keeping me in it.
There’s a fire in my soul. I’m fully committed.
I’m running the race, and I’m gonna finish!

Each week as we all sang the song, I found myself mentally reaffirming my fervor to run the race and serve the Lord.

School is almost out for the year! 180 days have come and gone. Did you do your best? Did you accomplish all your goals? With just a few short days left, evaluate your school year to see if anything else needs to be accomplished before the end. Phil 3:14 encourages the believer to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Do not finish early! One last time – encourage the single parent, work with the struggling child, have patience with the naughty child, make one more phone call, present the gospel to a lost parent, and so on. Gal 6:9 encourages us to “not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Finish well!

Presentation Does Matter! Go for the Garnish!

Kids growing up today live in a…600-channel television universe, 10,000-station radio universe, 1,000,000,000,000 page internet.

“Constant exposure to digital media has changed the way the digital generation processes, interacts, and uses information. As a result, they think and communicate in fundamentally different ways than any previous generation” (Jukes, McCain, Crockett 2010). How have teachers adjusted their teaching style to engage this new type of student? Many teachers still teach and assess the same way they always have. “As a result, the digital generation, who are accustom to the twitch-speed, multitasking, random-access, graphics-first, active, connected, fun, fantasy, quick-payoff world of their video games, MTV, and the internet, are incredibly bored by most of today’s education” (Jukes, McCain, Crockett 2010).

Each teacher has a style. A teacher is in complete control of his or her teaching style; therefore, a teaching style can be changed. Take a look at the teaching style of Jesus. Jesus’ messages were “common yet classic, plain yet complex, simple yet revolutionary, childlike yet ageless, ordinary yet multifaceted, and familiar yet unforgettable” (Scarborough, 2007). How do your lessons match up to His?

Presentation matters! Students need to be engaged in the lessons. Every lesson needs a lure to ensure a student is attracted and lured into the lesson. Lesson lures include …

  • chants
  • songs
  • startling statements
  • questions
  • visuals
  • props
  • pictures
  • stories
  • involvement
  • humor
  • role play
  • games
  • writing.

Incorporate as many of these elements as possible into your lessons. Many teachers are consumed with following and finishing a curriculum that they forget to add lures to their presentations. Lesson lures help students engage in the lesson and then remember the material when test time comes. With the use of the internet, teachers can find these lesson lures for every topic. A teacher must be willing to take the time to work them in to each lesson. The more lesson lures are used, the greater the student recall.  Check your lesson presentation. Do you need a style change?

The Fixer-Upper

Keeping your classroom exciting

The school year is half over, and most classrooms are in need of an update. Teachers and students have been working hard, but monotony can set in. Consider whether any of the following seven elements of your classroom need to be remodeled.christmas-tree

  1. Environment: Every old barn needs a new coat of paint. Does your classroom still look exciting and vibrant, or does it look like a tornado blew through it? Straighten, file, spruce up and keep your classroom looking like an organized, well-oiled machine.
  2. Learner: Are your students still engaged? As the school year continues into the second semester, student behavior will be more challenging.  To counter their energy, they will need many more brain breaks, hand-on-learning activities, and ways to stay engaged in the day-to-day activities in the classroom.
  3. Pace: John Kotter reminds us that urgent activity is “Action which is alert, fast moving, focused externally on the important issues, relentless, and continuously purging irrelevant activities to provide time for the important and to prevent burnout.” Through the year, the pace within a classroom can begin to slow down. Teachers need to intentionally keep up the pace so valuable time is not lost.
  4. Lesson: Use memory hooks to help the students remember the material and connect the new concepts to the old, creating meaning. Engage the students in the lesson using movement, music, emotion, discussion, drama, and visuals.
  5. Execution: What is your style? The teacher’s style is completely in the teacher’s control. Your style can be fluid to change with what the class is needing. Maybe you are in need of a style change. Make your style memorable!
  6. Assessments: Know where your students are physically, academically, socially, and spiritually. Observe! Observe! Observe! Know your students so well through observation and engagement with them that you know exactly what they need and how you can help them. This gives every child a better chance to be successful.
  7. Culture: The culture of your classroom should be exciting, engaging, and intriguing. Even in January, students should still look forward to coming to school because they can’t wait to see what the teacher has planned for the day.

Willa Foster reminds us that “Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction, and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.” Use this Christmas break to update any areas in your classroom that need to be refreshed so your year can be successful.

Excellence without Excuses

School has been is session for approximately 9 weeks. Have you stopped to give yourself a self-evaluation? Take time this week to self-evaluate to make sure you are doing everything excellencewith excellence. Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Check your habits against these ten indicators to see if you are doing the small, day-to-day actions with excellence.

  • EXUBERANT – The American Heritage Dictionary defines exuberant as “full of unrestrained high spirits; abandonedly joyous; growing or producing abundantly”. Does this describe your testimony, attitude, spirit, or public relations style? Would colleagues describe you this way? I Corinthians 15:58 reminds us that we are always to “abound in the work of the Lord”.
  • X-RAY VISION – Have an “eagle eye” at all times. Continuously observe the countenance, demeanor, body language, and friend choices of your students. This will tell you how to help and encourage your students.
  • COMPASSION – Be considerate of parents and students. I John 4:11 states, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” Are you even-tempered? Do you love and listen to your parents and students? John 21-22 reminds us to “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference.”
  • EQUIPPED FOR THE DAY – When the day starts, are you ready for it? A teacher should be equipped for the day spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically, and professionally. Do whatever it takes to be ready for the day when it starts. Ho Boon Tiong reminds us that “The more you prepare outside class, the less you perspire in class. The less you perspire in class, the more you inspire the class.” Being prepared and equipped for the day should be routine. John Maxwell reminds us that “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.”
  • LEADER – Teacher-leaders should always be credible in what they say and do. Is your message reliable? Cooperative and flexible should also be attributes of a good leader. And a leader must work well with others in a collegial manner.
  • LIFE-LONG LEARNER – A teacher must be a life-long learner…always thirsty for more knowledge. Teachers need to be professional readers in order to stay fresh and vibrant in the classroom. Dr. William Glasser reminds us that “Getting the job done, even done well, is good enough for nonprofessionals, but continually improving the way the job is done both for themselves and others is the hallmark of professionals.”
  • ENERGIZED – An energized teacher shows excitement for the content material, takes pleasure in teaching, demonstrates involvement in learning activities outside school, and practices energizing others. Check your vocal delivery, word choice, humor, eye movement, facial expressions, gestures, movement, and energy level. Have variety in your delivery style. Our message is too important to bore students with it.
  • NEEDS-ORIENTED – Teaching with excellence means that you recognize the needs of students and can differentiate for them. “Effective teachers recognize that no single instructional strategy can be used in all situations.” One size doesn’t fit all! Anita Turner reminds us that “A great teacher has the ability to present a delectable assortment of activities or lessons that will satisfy even the most finicky intellectual, emotional, and social appetite.”
  • CREATIVE – Imagine what good teaching looks like, and do it! Be creative! Do not let inhibitions scare you from being creative. Get out of your box! Creativity makes a lesson exciting and memorable for a student.
  • EXEMPLARY – The American Heritage Dictionary defines exemplary as “one that is worthy of being copied”. Are you worthy of being copied in word and deed? The Bible tells us that whatever we do in word or deed, we are to do all to the glory of Christ. John Maxwell reminds us that “You are what you do daily.”

Teachers that strive for excellence do the small things well, care about others, constantly improve themselves, and give it their all! Willa Foster wrote that “Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction, and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.” Autograph each day with excellence.


The bored Awakens

Do your students always seem to be gazing into the solar system? For learning to be at its best, students must be engaged 100% of the time.


Photo Source: Wikipedia

Are your students busy or engaged? Remember, whoever is doing the most work is doing the most learning. Get your students engaged. Student engagement is defined as “students’ cognitive investment in, active participation in, and emotional commitment to their learning” (Zepke & Leach, 2010, pg. 168).

According to Marzano and Pickering, (2011), student engagement encompasses the following four areas:

  • Emotions: “How do I feel about this assignment?”
  • Interest: “Does this assignment capture my interest?”
  • Perceived Importance: “Will I really need to know this?”
  • Perceptions of efficacy: “Can I do this?”

Students must answer “yes” to these four questions for them to want to be involved in the learning activity. The better a teacher knows his students, the better she/he can design an assignment that meets the needs of these four criteria.

Schlecty (1994) gave three characteristics of engaged students. Teachers need to observe their classrooms for students who

  • are attracted to their work.
  • persist in their work despite challenges.
  • take visible delight in their work.

Children almost always portray these characteristics when playing video games, playing with Legos, or playing sports. The same needs to be true regarding academics. How much engagement occurs by watching, listening, note taking, copying, highlighting, discussing, dissecting, or building? Choose activities that are engaging! “High levels of active engagement during lessons are associated with higher levels of achievement and student motivation (Ryan & Deci, 2000)”.

There are four essential goals for engaged children:

  • Success (the need for mastery)
  • Curiosity (the need for understanding)
  • Originality (the need for self-expression)
  • Relationships (the need for involvement with others) (Strong, Silver & Robinson, 1995)

Engaged students will experience these goals within the classroom on a daily basis. Teachers need to think of creative ways to keep learners engaged by tuning in to their interest.

“Psychologically, engaged learners are intrinsically motivated by curiosity, interest, and enjoyment, and are likely to want to achieve their own intellectual or personal goals. The engaged child demonstrates the behaviors of concentration, investment, enthusiasm, and effort. Because children with low levels of engagement are at risk for disruptive behavior, absenteeism, and eventually dropping out of school, the need to increase engagement is critical to children’s success in school.” (Jablon & Wilkinson, 2006)

Real learning is not a spectator sport! Create a climate of engagement that draws student attention and promotes learning.


Jablon, S. & Wilkinson, M. (2006, March). Using Engagement Strategies to Facilitate Children’s Learning & Success. Young children on the Web.

Marzano, R. & Pickering, D. (2011). The Highly Engaged Classroom. Marzano Research.

Ryan, R. & Deci, E. (2000). Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology 25, 54–67

Schlecty, P. (1994). Schlecty Center on Engagement.

Strong, R., Silver, H., & Robinson, A. (1995). Strengthening Student Engagement: What Do Students Want (and what really motivates them)? Educational Leadership, 53, 1,  8-12

Zepke, N. & Leach, L. (2010), Improving student engagement: Ten proposals for action. Active Learning in Higher Education. 11(3):167-177

What Makes a Teacher A+ Effective? (Part 2)

In the first installment of this short series, we looked at the first 2 areas of responsibility which enables a teacher to be effective at his or her craft: the teacher as a person and the teacher as classroom manager and organizer.  In today’s article, we will consider the 5 more areas teachers need to master in order to be effective in the classroom.

effective teacher slide.001

The Teacher as Instructional Leader

Fogarty and Pete (2007) describe the teacher as designer, organizer, and artist. “The three actions include (1) planning, (2) providing, and (3) preparing.” (Fogarty & Pete, p.57) The effective teacher thinks through every aspect of the lesson making sure to incorporate different teaching styles to accommodate different learning styles. Polish and creativity accompany lessons to enhance student participation.

“It is perhaps self-evident that more effective teachers use more effective instructional strategies.” (Marzano, 2003, p.78) Stronge (2002) believes that “teachers who successfully employ a range of strategies reach more students because they tap into more learning styles and student interest” (p.43). While preparing for a lesson, effective teachers reflect on each student’s learning style. The many different learning styles are then incorporated into the lesson or unit. Effective teachers will use presentation, direct instruction, concept teaching, cooperative learning, problem-based instruction, and classroom discussion to teach a class. The effective teacher will incorporate Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence theories into his or her teaching style. This guarantees that each student will get the information in his or her own learning style.

What Makes a Teacher A+ Effective? (Part 1)

What is the most important factor impacting student learning?  While our common sense screams “the teacher,” research proves this to most certainly be the case (Marzano, 72).  A study of 60,000 students across grades 3 through 5 was conducted by Paul Wright, Sandra Horn, and William Sanders. Marzano reported the statistics of the study as “on the average, the most effective teachers produced gains of about 53 percentage points in student achievement over one year, whereas the least effective teachers produced achievement gains of about 14 percentage points over one year” (Marzano, 72).  Students lose academically when they have an ineffective teacher for a year.

Untitled 2.001

An effective teacher must be excellent in numerous areas of responsibility – person, manager, disciplinarian, instructor, evaluator, communicator, change agent, and reflector. The teacher must have a passion for children and knowledge, and have a burning desire to communicate that knowledge.

Teachable Transitions

Are your classroom transitions smooth or a train wreck? Even the best teachers can have difficulty during transitions.

Untitled 3.001

Within a day there are numerous transitions – arrival, cleanup, circle time, story time, snacks and lunch, nap or rest time, elective time, restroom break, table activity time, seatwork time, and departure. Older students have class changes and locker breaks.

Are You on the Honor Roll?

School has been in session for 9 weeks. It is time for your first Teacher Report Card of this year. Will you be on the Honor Roll? Self-evaluate yourself and see if you would make all A’s.

Untitled 2.001

  • A = Always Observed
  • B = Almost Always Observed
  • C = Frequently Observed
  • D = Seldom Observed
  • F = Never Observed

Classroom Environment

  • Positive rapport and respect
  • Efficient routines and transitions
  • Evidence of varied learning situations (whole class,
    cooperative learning, small group, independent
  • Clear expectations for student behavior
  • Effective monitoring of student behavior
  • Safe and conducive to learning
  • Positive teacher demeanor and countenance
  • Teacher is actively engaged with students
  • Classroom is neat, attractive, and orderly.

Lesson Delivery

  • Teacher gives clear and accurate explanations
  • Teacher effectively addresses confusion and ensures understanding
  • Teacher actively encourages independent, creative, and critical thinking
  • Teacher uses effective, purposeful questioning
  • Students are engaged in the intended learning
  • Learning targets are clear
  • Technology is integrated during the lesson


  • Instruction includes a variety of strategies, materials, and/or pacing to meet student needs
  • Learning is accessible and challenging for all students


  • Resources and materials address learning styles and actively engage learners
  • Resources and materials are aligned to the instructional purposes
  • Resources and teaching aids are out ahead of time


  • Teacher checks for understanding at key moments
  • Instruction is guided by formative assessments
  • Teacher provides timely and responsive feedback

So, are you on the Honor Roll? What do you need to improve as you move into the second quarter? This school year has just begun. Strive for all A’s. Ask the Lord to give you the strength to stay in His Word and to always do your best for His glory.   

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Evaluation items taken from Classroom Walk-Through. (info@classroomwalk-through.com)