Archive for March 2013

Constructivism as a Learning Theory

March 21, 2013

QuoteBill 2nd Grade

A community of learners is established by hearing student voices.  It is a deliberate process orchestrated by an effective teacher to ensure that every child has that access to powerful learning experiences and potential academic success.

Linda Carpenter, Jennifer Fontanini, and Linda Neiman

This past weekend we attended the ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) convention in Chicago (and yes, we saw the Chicago River dyed green!).  We were honored to present, “Orchestrating Student Voices to Build a Community of Learners” and this the above quote is how we ended our presentation.  We were pleased that our participants were engaged and enjoyed an interactive, constructivist presentation.

As we also volunteered to host other presentations, and in talking to conventioneers, one theme emerged—that although we talk about interactive, constructivist learning, most presentations were lecture mode—sit and get.  Constructivism isn’t a passing fad, constructivism is a learning theory that is supported by educational and cognitive neuroscience (See Constructivism as a Learning Theory) and it applies to all learners.  As my colleague, Linda Carpenter remarked at the beginning of our presentation, “Kids and adults like to have fun just like elementary students. Sometimes that means music and colored paper and even crayons.”

All in all, it was a wonderful conference, highlighted by Maya Angelou.  We were in the sixth row thanks to Tammy from Alabama, who guided and glided us through the process of getting awesome seats.  It was a privilege to be in the presence of someone like Maya Angelou.

In our work for Teachers Pay Teachers as well as the presentations and workshops we do, we intentionally plan that work around the principles of constructivism.  We learn more, deeper, and better, when we construct our own meanings within a context that provides a positive and safe learning environment and relevant content.  Effective teachers teach in ways that ensure that every child has access to powerful learning experiences and potential academic success.

Check out the products we are developing for Teachers Pay Teachers.  Each month we are adding more products that employ a constructivist, student-centered approach.  It’s not your average workbook pages anymore!  Kids deserve better!


Orchestrating Student Voices to Build Community (Click to download)

Constructivism as a Learning Theory (Click to Download)


Choose Kind.

March 15, 2013

Quote of the Week

Mr. Browne’s September Precept:  When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.images

While I am an avid reader, my first choice in genre is not generally young adult fiction, however when my ten year old granddaughter started talking about Wonder, I thought it would be great if I read it, too.  That way we could talk about the book together.  She leant me the copy her great aunt had given her and I was hooked.

There was much for the two of us to discuss—her experiences as a bilingual student, first language Spanish, in a new school.  Her third grade teacher started reading Wonder aloud in the last few days of school last year.  I wanted to do something for that teacher, so decided to create a literature unit for the book.  As I created questions, prompts, and mini-projects, I prevailed on my granddaughter’s expertise as a kid to determine if all of this made sense to her.  It did!

Currently we have a literature unit for Wonder that includes student handouts in both English and Spanish.  The packet includes a Before-Reading activity with six different prompts, a During-Reading activity with prompts for each book part focusing on quotes, caricatures, and titles; and two After-Reading Activities that include 24 end-of-the-book student mini-projects in two different formats that correlate to students’ strengths. And, this weekend we’re having a Spring Break Sale!  Check it out at:

We are working on a Read-Aloud Teacher Guide that includes a part by part guide, with teaching suggestions and questions and prompts for students, a Literary Log that corresponds to the questions and prompts that recommend writing first, and a PowerPoint Presentation format for the Read-Aloud Teacher Guide.  So, stay tuned!

tptwonder book bites

Resources for and about Wonder

Find Your Voice!

March 5, 2013

Quote of the Week

When we read a story, we inhabit it.  The covers of the book are like a roof and four walls.  What is to happen next will take place within the four walls of the story.  And this is possible because the story’s voice makes everything its own.   John Berger

OpenBookThere are so many reasons to read aloud, but the best one is that it is simply fun to do.  As I think about all the stories, poems, and novels I have read aloud to my own children, to my students, and to my husband, I think about the giggles, gasps, and sometimes sobs.  Even now when I read a book I particularly like, I hear a voice in my head reading aloud, changing voices for different characters, getting lost in the music of words.  And, sometimes I read aloud to myself just because.  Find your voice and use it to read aloud to yourself, your students, your children, your grandchildren, other people’s children, adults…


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Some people get nerdy about games and computers, I get nerdy about teaching!


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