Role-Play in the Classroom with

© 2012 Andi Stix, Ed.D.

Red Banner Puzzle is an online social bookmarking platform that stores and categorizes photos, videos, and articles that teachers can use to motivate and engage students. It is part of social media because teachers can see each other’s folders called “stacks” of information and share each other’s postings of links on the web. These links are usually of high quality because teachers have invested time in surfing the internet to make meaningful selections.


Many teachers have used Delicious to share great links with other instructors. Today, we will explore how an instructor can allow her students to have access to this virtual file cabinet so that they can explore the materials at their own pace. The sharing of Delicious expands the delivery of basic content so students can watch selections on YouTube, read and capture a quote or an image on a blog’s Op-Ed piece, view pictures on Flickr, or refer to Wikipedia. What makes it worthy of classroom interaction?

It provides an opportunity for teachers to engage students in role-play.

When coaching in schools, I encourage teachers to create engaging classroom experiences for their students. We’ve learned that as the rate of engagement increases, behavioral issues decrease.  So, if we were in a coaching session now, I would pose the following question:

If our goal is to engage students in active learning, what role-playing experiences could we stage that would allow them to design, perform, or create something?

Here are some examples:

Social Studies Content: Gettysburg

Role: Museum Curator Selects a Video for the Entryway at a Museum

In Social Studies, you may ask students to vote on four different videos which describe the Battle of Gettysburg. They can refer to YouTube, read blogs posted by family members sharing recollections that were passed down over generations, view a map of the battle on Google images, or search Wikipedia for primary source documents.

Students would review everything posted to your Delicious stack to ultimately select the video most suitable for a museum exhibition. They will have had an opportunity to view the content from multiple perspectives, engage in discussions with their cooperative group members, and use higher order thinking skills to make their final selection. Highly motivated students might surf the web to provide the class with additional choices. Thus, you are helping students move basic content from short-term memory to long-term memory through active learning.

Language Arts Content: Wizard of Oz

Role: Video Producer for the Anniversary of the Wizard of Oz

In Language Arts, you may have students select a specific theme from The Wizard of Oz to generate a 30 second commercial. Once you design your stack on Delicious, students can select a primary source document poster linked from Flickr; select a video from YouTube; highlight a specific scene that covers one of the Wizard of Oz themes (such as Identity, Conflict Resolution, Risk Taking, etc.); or read from an actor’s blog to learn what it was like to be an on the set. Of course, you may invite students to add to the stack through their own online research. Then, students can write a 30 second storyboard and videotape their performance, integrating some of the primary source documents, photographs, and quotes.

FractalsMathematics Content: Fractals

Role: Photo Editor of a Book that Bridges Mathematics and Nature

In Mathematics, you can create a stack on Delicious with 15 different photographs of fractals (an “irregular” pattern within a pattern, within a pattern) in nature, such as ferns and broccoli. Students can add to that collection with as many as 30 choices by searching websites, blogs and other online resources including The New York Botanical Garden. From there, each cooperative group or pair of students analyzes and selects an image. Students then write descriptions for each of the pictorial images and you will then create a not-for-sale classroom book that will be produced by an on-line-service. You could sell it if you gained the rights to reproduce each of the pictures.

Music Content: Choral Parts

Role: Choral Director Teaching Professional Group Amplification or Reduction of Tone

In music, students learn how to be part of a section that functions within a larger whole. Each section, (i.e. soprano, alto, baritone) has to learn that at different times during the performance of a choral piece, they must either amplify or reduce the volume of their group. You create a stack on Delicious with different YouTube or sheet music samples of choral piece sections which exemplify this process. Each cooperative group would then select one of the samples and prepare a presentation demonstrating how the amplification or reduction of a specific part helped to create a mood or tone.

Regardless of the subject matter being taught, students should assess one another after all of the groups have completed their presentation. The class can vote on which groups deserve a“5 star status” in recognition of their exceptional work. I prefer this strategy to recognizing first/second/third place winners as it encourages all groups to be top winners!

Yellow Pencil In what ways have you used to actively engage your students? In what ways can you use your existing account and rethink it for active learning? (To reply, please click on the comment link next to the title or scroll down.)

Andi Stix is an educational consultant & coach who specializes in differentiation, interactive learning, writing across the curriculum, classroom coaching and gifted education. For further information on her specialties or social media, please email her on the Contact page.

Click here to receive a PDF version of this article.

Posted in Language Arts, Motivation, Social Media, Social Studies, Teaching Strategies, Writing Curriculum | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Schools Beware: Facebook Owns Your Words

© 2012 Andi Stix, Ed.D. 

With on-line communication transforming the world, many education departments across the country have banned social media in schools for protective measures. Now, districts are readdressing these bans and seeking more effective guidelines. As an educator for more than 35 years, I believe it is time to ask ourselves the following questions:

How can schools:

  • protect their students?
  • monitor the content of hundreds of teachers’ messages?
  • regulate personal versus professional text messaging and/or posts on Facebook/ Twitter/ YouTube, Flickr, etc.?

Not a moment too soon, the New York City Department of Education is now thinking about the role of social media in its public schools and how it may impact teachers and students. This week, preliminary social media guidelines were released. However; according to Deputy Counsel Robin Greenfield, “The guidelines are not in place yet.  Principals received a letter explaining that they will be effective in the fall.”  They will have an opportunity to offer comments this month and in July.

The NYCDOE is finally facing the reality that social media is here to stay. Previously, they banned teacher access to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube from their website portal. Of course, they were concerned with teacher-student relationships that could develop in an unprofessional manner. Even before the advent of social media, there were cases where professional boundaries were crossed, resulting in disciplinary actions.

What also begs for discussion is how teachers’ and students’ words can be used in advertisements without their knowledge, briefly covered in the NYCDOE guidelines Section D, #3c. With the new timeline and format of Facebook, every word is now accountable and traceable. Businesses and schools cannot create a professional page today, unless its origin comes from someone’s personal Facebook profile. In my case, I have a personal profile page, Andi Stix, but have professional pages in education that are linked off my personal profile, which are The Interactive Classroom and Synergy Westchester. Therefore, everything is traceable to me. And so, I am diligent in separating my personal life from my educational consulting.

So, what are school systems to do? Professional Development is key. It is the district’s responsibility to inform staff of the potential dangers to them and to their students of inappropriate use of social media vehicles.

Did you know that everything that is posted on Facebook belongs to Facebook? Many people find this disturbing, but this should come as no surprise. A decade ago, I was interviewed by the Philadelphia Inquirer and the publication held that copyright; so too now with Facebook.

Many principals are currently faced with the responsibility, according to preliminary NYCDOE guidelines, for obtaining permission from parents before posting their children’s work on the internet as well as giving permission to teachers to host Facebook pages, blogs, picture warehouses for photographs, etc. Principals are having peer group discussions with other administrators to understand the ramifications of the guidelines. Some schools are allocating a professional development day for their teachers outlining how social media may impact their school and its image.

At the present time, I’m getting certified in Social Media at Purchase College. As explained by one of my professors, Linda Solomon, “As Facebook goes public, it’s all about profits.” Teachers and students need to be warned that their words can go viral without their knowledge. Companies have figured out a way to capitalize on their content.

Here’s a perfect illustration: Let’s say that you post a message stating that you love your new Fendi bag. Do you know that Facebook can give Fendi permission to use your name in their ads without your knowledge? (When signing up for a Facebook page, you agree to their terms and this is one of them found in the fine print.)

In preparing to train teachers in Social Media and its potential danger, I examined how advertisements were posted on the right-hand side of Facebook, where they have always been located. But here is what surprised me: When I scrolled down the listing of my contacts on my Friends page, I specifically focused on my niece Rori, who posted a picture of her baby, which is circled below:

So, I clicked on her link and these advertisements were found on her page:

Two of my friend’s “likes” were made into advertisements.


When I contacted Sophia Gonzalez and Pam North, they were unaware that their names were being used for commercial purposes by Fendi and Viking River Cruises.


Facebook shared my friends’ interests with companies who then used their names in online advertisements. Then, those companies posted advertisements on all of Sophia’s and Pam’s friends Facebook pages who fit the same demographic profile and target their Friend’s Friends. Here’s the process:

  1. Sophia likes Fendi.
  2. Fendi buys an ad campaign from Facebook to target friends of Sophia’s who share the same demographic profile.
  3. Ads show up across Facebook, targeting those people. (me, Andi)
  4. I click on that ad to view it.
  5. Now, all of my friends see an ad that Andi likes Fendi.

Moreover, there are other companies besides Facebook, such as Taykey, that analyze post messages in your newsfeed and profile. If Sophia states, “I love my new Fendi bag,” her words can be picked up for potential advertising. Here’s the process:

  1. Fendi contacts Taykey to find people who like their Fendi bag on Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc.
  2. Taykey will first place a Facebook ad on those people’s pages and then target their friends who may also show an interest in Fendi.

Therefore, teachers have to be aware of their endorsements as well as anything negative that they have to say, either representing themselves, their schools, or their students. Once something is posted, it lives on the internet FOREVER.

If you take the average number of friends on your profile page, being approximately 140, and multiply the reach of your friends, that could provide companies access to approximately 300,000 per fan. This line of advertising was formulated, according to Erik Qualman’s book Socialnomics, because 90% of people trust their friends’ recommendations as opposed to 14% of advertisements.

So what does this mean for school systems?

Strict guidelines must not only be disseminated but also be discussed in detail by all schools. Each and every word that is written can either boost a school’s image or destroy it. Teachers need to be aware of how public their messages and their students’ work can become. Based on the new preliminary guidelines, the arduous task of monitoring social media falls on the supervisors.

Am I fan of social media? Yes. I’ve run professional development for the Interactive Classroom for 20 years. And this is a new stage of interaction. The opportunity to do that which was unimaginable has finally arrived where students’ works and ideas can be shared globally with such ease.

In the past few decades, we learned that the quality of students’ writing is so vastly different when it is only read by one’s teacher versus being shared by one’s peers. But now, the opportunity to share work globally is a huge incentive to raise the bar of student achievement, if used properly. However, with the world of social media exploding, teachers need clear boundaries of what is publicly owned, what is professional and what is personal.

So, let’s make sure that we do it right. In order to protect our students, let’s monitor the content and regulate what is private versus public. Let’s get involved and help shape the debate.

What’s your opinion? In what ways can schools offer regulations that will protect their students but allow supervised freedom of speech? (To reply, please click on the comment link next to the title or scroll down.)


Click here to view NYCDOE’s preliminary social media guidelines.


Andi Stix is an educational consultant & coach who specializes in differentiation, interactive learning, writing across the curriculum, classroom coaching and gifted education. For further information on her specialties or social media, please email her on the Contact page.

Click here to receive a PDF version of this article.

Posted in Articles, Speeches & Past Posts, Motivation, Social Media, Speeches | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

COACHing Questions for Cooperative Group Work

 (c) 2012 Andi Stix, Ed.D. and PCC

                         For a complete guide to coaching, please see Teachers as Classroom Coaches 
                         by Andi Stix, Ed.D. and Frank Hrbek, published by ASCD.

The objective of a teacher as coach is to elicit responses that reflect how well cooperative groups or a student is progressing. The questions should be open-ended, probing for as much detail and description as possible.

Coaching Questions PosterTeachers such as Kim Trettor and Lydia Caprarella have the acronym and its definition posted on the wall so that peers in cooperative groups can help each other. COACH, the acronym, stands for Clarity of task, Ownership, Attentive, Comprehension, and checking for Heightened or Hidden emotions. Questions or statements that Kim and Lydia pose while circulating to each cooperative group are:

C =          Clarity of Task: Please explain to me in your own words what you need to accomplish. Explain specifically what you have decided to do.

O =          Ownership: How have you decided to divide the responsibility? For what reasons do you feel that this is fair in terms of your workload?

=          Attentive: Please share with me what you have been able to accomplish thus far today.  Describe in detail how well you think you are working as a group. In what ways is this relevant to what you are trying to achieve together?

=          Comprehension: Please show me where you found this information because I find it fascinating. Please explain the most important points that you found in your research. For what reasons does this information make sense to you? For what reasons do you think you can make the connection?

H =          Heightened or Hidden Emotions: I noticed that there is very little discussion at this table. Please share with me how you feel your group is functioning right now. It appears that this group has divided itself into pairs. Please describe what has taken place.


“Using COACHing questions is a good way to determine that students understand tasks and work completely and thoroughly. It also helps the teacher to see where students need extra clarification or attention.”

-Kim Trettor


By asking COACHing questions, Kim and Lydia inspire students to probe deeper, rather than becoming defensive where they feel inadequate. It also allows them to become part of the inquiry process, where they model that they are not the sole repositories of all knowledge, but are interested primarily in their students’ unique research and projects. As students take risks and try new endeavors, it is important for the teacher to guide them and facilitate learning in a positive fashion. By prompting students with specific questions that initiate scholarship, teachers allow students to think critically and apply multiple perspectives. When the teacher abandons the phrase “should have” and replaces it with “May I suggest,” “You may want to consider,” or “In what ways can you…” the responsibility takes a major shift from the teacher to the students (Crane, 2002). This offers students the choice to respond to the needed change.

After having taught this strategy to your staff at a staff meeting or to your students in the classroom, in what ways did it help them become better cooperative group participants?  (To reply, please click on the comment link next to the title or scroll down.)


For professional development at your school, click here.



Andi Stix is an educational consultant & coach who specializes in differentiation, interactive learning, writing across the curriculum, classroom coaching and gifted education. For further information on her specialties or social media, please email her on the Contact page.


Crane, T. The heart of coaching: Using transformational coaching to create a high performance culture.San Diego,CA: FTA Press.

Eisner, E. (2005). Back to whole. Educational Leadership, (63)1, 14-17.

Guarino, M. (2004, Feb 13th). Empty nesters find purpose and motivation: The action step guide once the children leave. SparkPeople.Cincinnati,OH: SparkPeople, Inc.

iPEC: Institute for Professional Empowerment Coaching (1999, 2005). Coach training manual.Manasquan,NJ: iPEC.

Kohn, A. (2005). Unconditional teaching. Educational Leadership, (63)1, 20-24.

Longenecker, C.  & Pinkel, G. (1997). Coaching to win at work. Manage, 48(2), 19-21.

Marklein, M. B. (2005, Oct. 12th). College kids get coached up. USA Today. McLean, VA: Gannett Co., Inc.

Stix, A. (Fall 2000). Negotiable contracting. Gems of AGATE Newsletter24(3). NY: Advocacy for Gifted and Talented Education inNew YorkState.

Wright, K. (1998). Breaking the Rules: Removing the obstacles to effortless high performance.Boise,Idaho: CPM Publishing.

Zeus, P. and Skiffington, S, (2001). The complete guide to coaching at work.  NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

Click here to receive a PDF version of this article.

Posted in Articles, Speeches & Past Posts, Classroom Coaching, Coaching Teachers, Motivation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

3 Ps + C Model of Coaching

(c) 2006 Andi Stix, Ed.D. and PCC and Frank Hrbek

Our book, Teachers as Classroom Coaches,  describes in detail ways a teacher can coach her students using the 3Ps + C Model. Here, on our blog, we decided to show an example of how an administrator can use the same strategy with a teacher: The 3Ps + C Model:

  • purpose
  • permission
  • positive suggestion
  • compliment

Every principal, especially if we believe that the buck stops at the principal’s desk, as well as all of the teachers and staff, needs to establish academic goals that have a clear purpose. This means determining the mission of what the school should become. However, sometimes those goals get compromised with personal issues.

Here is a scenario of a conversation between a principal and a teacher. The principal, Jennifer, uses the 3P+C Model to help a teacher deal with a personal issue that is affecting her teaching:

Jennifer: You are one of the best teachers I’ve had the pleasure to work with over my long career in education (compliment). But for some time now I’ve noticed you seem to have lost your focus, and I am concerned. There has been quite a change in your demeanor and performance (purpose). I’ll admit to curiosity: what has changed?

Amy:  I’m embarrassed that my behavior has become noticeable. I’ve always taken great pride in my abilities as a teacher, and I didn’t think my personal life was interfering with what was taking place in the classroom.

Jennifer: I don’t mean to pry, but I want you to know that I’m available and always here for you. Whatever has been bothering you all this time, you may want to consider sharing it with me (permission). We’ve known each other for close to seventeen years. You’re not alone.Classroom Coaching 3P+C Model

Amy: My closest and dearest friend died. Connie had been sick for months. She suffered a lingering and debilitating sickness, and she wasted away before my eyes. Connie and I grew up together, and we’ve known each other all our lives. This experience pulverized me emotionally, and took its toll. I stayed with her as much as I could all the days and weeks and months that she was slipping away. It was a long goodbye.

Jennifer: You’ve suffered a terrible loss and it completely understandable the emotional turmoil you are experiencing. It’s heartbreaking when you lose someone who has always been so close to you. How can I help and support you?

Amy: You’ve already helped by letting me talk about it. I tried to hold on to her, but Connie herself knew there was little that could be done. Thankfully, she was medicated and sedated throughout, and did not suffer pain. I just wasn’t aware my classroom activities were affected. This is a situation I just have to learn to handle myself.

Jennifer: I have a suggestion, and a strategy, that just might work for you. Would it be okay to share it with you (permission)?

Amy: Please do. Anything will help. Sometimes I feel as if my legs were kicked out from under me, and I can’t cope. I know it’s probably a normal feeling, but I thought I would be able to handle the situation a lot better than I have.

Jennifer: You’ll always have Connie with you as long as you live, and the love and the good memories will never go away. Write down on a piece of paper the ten best things you remember about your friendship with Connie, that gave meaning, sweetness, fun, and relevance to your relationship with your best friend. Take as much time as you need (positive suggestion).

Amy: I have to keep brushing away the tears. I have ten items.

Jennifer: Tell me about one of your favorite times with Connie, something that the both of you did over and over again and bonded the friendship.

Amy: We both loved the summer months. Throughout the year we always waited for the warm days. And we loved the beach. Both of us were like little kids, always, walking along the beach and running in and out of the water. We would walk together for miles, and talk, and share every thought and secret we could think of. In that way we were almost like twins, inseparable.

Jennifer: Amy, have you shared your loss with your students?

Amy: I haven’t. I questioned the appropriateness of doing that. I know they’re seniors in high school, but they’re kids, and young and vulnerable.

Jennifer: You’ve always maintained a warm and nurturing environment in your classroom (compliment). One of the books on the school’s reading list is James Agee’s A Death in the Family, which, if assigned, may open up a meaningful lesson on relationships and loss. The kids love to read, and the book received a Pulitzer Prize. Have them write their reactions, and though they may be in the full blush of youth they are young adults, and mature. Perhaps this might help you move through a difficult time.

Amy: Oh Jennifer, if it would only lift away the heavy weight I feel pressing down on my heart.

Jennifer: Give it time; that will happen too. In what ways do you think students may have dealt with losses in their own lives?

Amy: I’ve never considered this. I’m certain many have had their share of sadness and loss – grandparents, friends, and relatives – even something tangible they cherished. And they do have their own friendships and relationships.

Jennifer: This may be a good way to purge the sorrow that has taken place in your life. You seem hesitant and tentative, Amy. Share with me what you’re thinking.

Amy: I’m thinking that I’ll share my list with my students. I want to celebrate all the good memories that Connie and I shared. I have so many photographs, and I want everyone to see the person Connie was when she smiled and lit up the whole world around her.

Jennifer: Welcome back, Amy.

To learn about other great coaching strategies, please see their book, Teachers as Classroom Coaches.

Describe in detail other coaching strategies that you have used with teachers or with your students in the classroom. In what ways have the coaching strategies  empowered your students? If you used the 3Ps +C Model, please share your experience with us (To reply, please click on the comment link next to the title or scroll down.)

Andi Stix is an educational consultant & coach who specializes in differentiation, interactive learning, writing across the curriculum, classroom coaching and gifted education. For further information on her specialties or social media, please email her on the Contact page.

Click here to receive a PDF version of this article.

Posted in Articles, Speeches & Past Posts, Classroom Coaching, Coaching, Coaching Teachers | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Imagery Walk

(c) 2012 Andi Stix, Ed.D

The Imagery Walk is an exercise that allows students to visually bring content alive by utilizing their imaginations. It is based on meditative practices, but allows for scenes in English Language Arts, historical periods in Social Studies, geometrical designs in mathematics, and procedures in science to be recreated. By implementing this strategy, students are more able to move the content from short-term to long-term memory, because they personally create and interact with the content area.

  1. Using a soft, gentle, soothing, and even voice, begin to set the stage for this exercise. Tell students, “You will be taking a voyage of the mind. You will meditate quietly in your seats, looking for greater understanding of what we have been studying. Please Imagery Walk Visualizationget comfortable and close your eyes.” (If the class size is small and the floors are carpeted with ample room, ask the students to lie down.) “I am turning off the lights to help you focus within, allowing your imagination to take flight. There is no talking. Embrace the stillness and the quiet. Your task is to envision in your mind’s eye the unfolding scene of the content that we are studying.”
  2. “Place yourself in the situation where you are looking down from the top of a staircase. Be completely relaxed. With closed eyes, prepare the mind for your journey, where each of the meditative steps will open new vistas of understanding and clarity. The physical body is totally relaxed, and the mind should be free of intrusive and distracting thoughts.”
  3. Concentrate and focus on your breathing, which should be evenly spaced. This will allow  for your full concentration.”
  4. Pretend that you are walking down a path and come to a staircase. As you look below, you notice that each step has the beautiful colored hue of the rainbow, starting with a brilliant red and ending with the subtle shading of purple. In your mind you are now prepared to embark on your journey, and you take the first step. You concentrate on each of the colors.
  5. Look at the staircase and prepare to walk down. Let your mind focus on each color as you take your steps.” Give students 20 seconds after each description.

a. “Your foot first touches the red stepLook at the brightness of the color. Feel the redness rush through your body. Red is the color of excitement. It is bright and brilliant, and you feel its warmth rush through your body. Think about the excitement of this experience.” Pause.

b. “The next step is orange. Step carefully as you let the color wash over you. Orange is the color of harmony. Concentrate on the color. Measure your breathing evenly. Focus only on the color orange, and feel the warmth in this room.”  Pause.

c. “Now you step on yellow. The yellow makes you happy. The yellow gives you joy. Continue breathing slowly, the mind empty except for yellow, and think of the sun’s rays that shine upon the earth. Feel the sun’s warmth on your face, like the fresh burst of spring.” Pause.

d. “You’re glowing with warmth as you step on the green. Green, like the bursting leaves on the trees, gives you a soothing and healthy feeling. It’s the color of grass and all the plants of the earth, and represents life and growth. Breathe in and enjoy the smell of fresh-cut grass on a spring day.” Pause.

e. “The blue step welcomes you. Your breathing comes evenly and relaxed, for you feel the peace and warmth of the blue, for that is the color of all the love in the world. Your mind is calm, free of everything except the good and peaceful thoughts that love brings.” Pause.

f. “Place your feet on the purple step. This is the color of kings and queens. Breathe in slowly, and let your mind hold on to the purple glow, giving you the power to do what is right for yourself. Concentrate, and let your mind fill with all that is best for you.” Pause.

g. “Last is the step of creativity, the violet step. Relax your mind and breathe slowly and evenly. Imagine the silken texture of the violet flowers, their softness, and how easily you can solve your problems. The violet, like the creativity of your mind, is a burst of brilliance.” Pause.

6. “You will now be stepping off the staircase and onto a cloud that will carry you off to a distant place.”

7. At this point, you will guide the students where they will travel. Your descriptions should paint the stage of their exploration.

a. English Language Arts: Assigning To Kill a Mockingbird, you can descriptively portray the era of America’s “Jim Crow” South through the eyes of Atticus. The humiliations of segregation, where Black Americans in the courtroom were kept apart from Whites, and the threat of lynching and physical violence was a daily presence. For example, “As you enter the courtroom, the  heat and humidity combined with the attending townspeople makes  you perspire. You are not sure if your evident discomfort is due to the heat, the crowd, or the oppressive feeling of racial tension that is so evident in the proceedings of the trial…”

b. Social Studies: Studying the world of Periclean Athens, the daily world and vibrant activities of the Athenians can be brought to life. You give the students an example: “The agora, the great portico and central meeting place of the City-State, is filled with people. There are politicians and holders of public office all gesticulating and talking loudly, competing with the shouts and voices of shopkeepers and tradespeople haggling.  Business and buying and selling is continually being carried on, with all the populace that includes slaves and foreigners and freemen mixing together and exemplifying the democracy of Athens…”

c. Science: While studying the digestive system, have them transform themselves into a piece that was just bitten off an apple . Your narrative takes them through the various stages of the digestive tract: “You are swallowed and slide down the esophagus, and then are momentarily halted. There is a valve that allows only small measured portions of you to continue. You make it into the stomach chamber. All of a sudden, there are liquids that swirl all around you. You are surrounded, and all parts of you begin to break down for separation and parceling to other parts of the body…”

d. Mathematics: While studying geometry and polyhedra, take the students on a scavenger hunt trying to locate a terrorist. Your clue is that he is hiding in unusually shaped structure: “Like superman, you are flying above Washington, D.C. You peer down and see the great dome of the circular pillared building that enshrines Jefferson’s statue. Further along, you zoom down to the huge and massive pentagonal shaped building that houses the military leaders of the USA…”

8. Make sure you tap sensory perception. How do things appear? Is there a smell involved? Can students touch something and note its texture. Is there a question that they want to pose to a given character? Does your lesson allow students to take on a specific character and to see it from his or her perspective? Allow them the opportunity and time to extend the lesson that you have designed. This will tap their creative abilities that can be reflected upon after the lesson in the Follow Up section.

9. To bring students back to the classroom. Warn them kindly, “We will be leaving in a minute from this place and will return to the classroom.” (Pause for a minute or two.)

10. “It’s time to go, to get up and climb back onto the cloud. It will bring you back to the foot of the staircase. Be prepared to climb them. Slowly and carefully, take one step at a time, moving upward and stepping on each step as you climb the staircase: violet, purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red.”

11. “At the count of three, you will open your eyes to end the voyage. One…, two…., and three.”


The following questions can be discussed in small groups or pairs and/or answered in written form:

  • Describe in detail to a peer what your meditation experience was like.
  • In what ways did the Imagery Walk help you gain a better understanding of the content we are studying?
  • Explain in detail what you were surprised to learn…..

Please share this or other visualization exercises that                   you have used with your class and how your students              .  ……………………responded  to the experience. (To reply, please click on the comment link next to the title or scroll down.) 

Andi Stix is an educational consultant & coach who specializes in differentiation, interactive learning, writing across the curriculum, classroom coaching and gifted education. For further information on her specialties or social media, please email her on the Contact page.

Click here to receive a PDF version of this article.

Posted in Art Integration, Discussion Strategies, General Strategies, Interdisciplinary Instruction, Language Arts, Social Studies, Teaching Strategies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Carousel Brainstorming

(c) 2012 Andi Stix, Ed.D

The Carousel Brainstorming strategy is easy to implement. Each cooperative group walks up to an open-ended question posted on chart paper, discusses it, brainstorms answers or solutions, and writes down responses within a given amount of time. When the teacher “carousels” students, or rotates the groups to new locations, they repeat the exercise with a new question. This time students must read the responses from the previous group(s) before they begin to write down new ideas.


  • Different colored markers
  • Chart paper
  • Masking tape (Tape chart paper at eye level in different locations around the room)


1. The teacher generates open-ended questions for the class. Open-ended questions provoke a higher level response from students and can easily be written. Instead of writing a question starting with “who, what, when, where, and why”, try the following:

  • In what ways…
  • Describe in detail…
  • For what reasons….
  • Generate a list of….

For a more detailed discussion of questioning, please see our Open-Ended Questions post.

2. Or, if time permits, the teacher along with the students can generate questions collectively.

3. Numbering each, the teacher places the question separately on the top of chart paper for students to answer.

4. Use masking tape to post the questions on the walls.  Allow ample room around each chart, so the group can congregate around it.

5. Assign each cooperative group with a number that corresponds to a question. Give each group a different colored marker. This will identify their answers on all charts.

6. Explain the strategy to the class: Each cooperative group will walk up to the same number as allocated to their cooperative group. They will be given a short period of time to answer the question.

7. All groups are to discuss their ideas/responses to the question. Responses are written down on the chart paper by the recorder.

8. After a specific time frame (3-5 minutes), each group rotates to the next sheet with a Carousel Brainstormingdifferent question. Rotate the role of recorder. Each group takes the marker with it, as all responses with that colored marker serve to identify the work of each particular cooperative group for the teacher. Groups cannot reiterate previously stated responses, but they can continue to add new ideas to the list. Repeat the same procedure for the remaining questions until the system is exhausted. Using this format, groups “carousel” around the room, rotating among the questions.

9. Students are given an additional minute for each time they rotate to a new question. This extra time will give them the opportunity to read what other groups have written. Even though they are not allowed to write the same thing another group has written, they are allowed to make comments on the side of the sheet to extend an answer or simply add marginalia or notations.

10. Now that the strategy has been explained to the class, the teacher institutes negotiable contracting of criteria for assessment. Ask students to place themselves in the position of the teacher. Now that they have a good idea of the task, what criteria should be used for grading the strategy? Allow students to brainstorm criteria in their cooperative groups. The teacher lists the results on large chart paper. Please see our post on Negotiable Contracting. The following are sample ideas of criteria for assessment:

  • Listen and respond to others in your cooperative group
  • Make meaningful contributions
  • Encourage peers to explain themselves if they are not clear at first
  • Write down the idea clearly and succinctly for others to read


1. Each cooperative group is now assigned to walk over to a different sheet of chart paper with a question written on it. They follow the procedure as described above.

2. Following the activity, the instructor asks the class to discuss the responses that are posted.

a. English Language Arts: Samples may include but are not limited to:

  • Describe in detail how the environment has an effect on the main character of the book.
  • Explain specifically the conflicts or problems that your young adolescent faces.
  • Describe the tensions between the main character and the other characters in the book.
  • Explain in detail which of these strengths you find admirable, and which weaknesses you can relate to and understand.

b. Social Studies: Samples may include but are not limited to:

  • For what reasons did tensions evolve between the two great empires?
  • In what ways did the cultures of the various civilizations clash?
  • Describe how the leadership qualities of the great men resulted in conflict?

c. Mathematics: When studying how different graphs present information differently: Samples include but are not limited to:

  • In what ways do the styles of these graphs differ?
  • Describe in detail the strength of Style A graphing as opposed to Style B graphing?
  • If you wanted to stress a certain subject or topic, explain specifically which style of graphing you would choose.

           d. Foreign Language 

  • Generate as many words beginning with a c that creates a “CH” sound.
  • etc…..

Please share with us your experiences with Carousel Brainstorming in the classroom or at a staff meeting. Describe what you learned. Explain in detail any variations that other viewers would appreciate knowing. (To reply, please click on the comment link next to the title or scroll down.) 


Andi Stix is an educational consultant & coach who specializes in differentiation, interactive learning, writing across the curriculum, classroom coaching and gifted education. For further information on her specialties or social media, please email her on the Contact page.

Click here to receive a PDF version of this article.

Posted in Discussion Strategies, General Strategies, Interdisciplinary Instruction, Language Arts, Teaching Strategies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Kinds of Writing

(c) 2012 Andi Stix, Ed.D

Do you want to spicen up the styles of writing that you assign to your class? Do you want to give your students a list of choices from which they can choose? Here’s a fabulous list to get your juices flowing:


  • ads (for magazines, newspapers, yellow pages)
  • advice columns
  • allegories
  • anecdotes
  • announcements
  • answers
  • anthems
  • appendices
  • apologies
  • assumptions
  • autobiographies
  • awards


  • ballads
  • beauty tips
  • bedtime stories
  • beginnings
  • billboards
  • bloopers
  • blurbs
  • books
  • book jackets
  • book reviews
  • broadsheets
  • brochures
  • bulletins
  • bumper stickers


  • calendar
  • calorie charts
  • campaign speeches
  • captions
  • cartoons
  • catalog entries
  • cereal boxes
  • certificates
  • character sketches
  • church or temple bulletins
  • codes
  • community bulletins
  • couplets
  • comparisons
  • comic strips
  • complaints
  • constitutions
  • contracts
  • conundrums
  • conversations
  • critiques
  • crossword puzzles
  • cumulative stories


  • data sheets
  • definitions
  • descriptions
  • diaries
  • diets
  • directions
  • documents
  • dramas
  • dream scripts


  • editorials
  • epilogues
  • epitaphs
  • encyclopedia
  • entries
  • endings
  • essays
  • evaluations
  • exaggerations
  • exclamations
  • explanations


  • fables
  • fairy tales
  • fantasies
  • fashion articles
  • fashion show scripts
  • folklore
  • fortunes


  • graffiti
  • greeting cards
  • grocery lists
  • gossip


  • headlines
  • horoscopes
  • how-to-do-it speeches
  • hymns


  • indexes
  • inquiries
  • interviews
  • introductions (to people, places, bocks)
  • invitations


  • job applications
  • jokes
  • journals
  • jump rope rhymes


  • labels
  • legends
  • letters
  • lies
  • lists
  • love notes
  • luscious words
  • lyrics


  • magazines
  • marquee notices
  • memories
  • metaphors
  • menus
  • mistrakes
  • monologues
  • movie reviews
  • movie scripts
  • mysteries
  • myths


  • news analyses
  • newscasts
  • newspapers
  • nonsense
  • notebooks, double entry notebooks
  • nursery rhymes


  • obituaries
  • observations
  • odes
  • opinions


  • palindromes
  • pamphlets
  • paragraphs
  • parodies
  • party tips
  • persuasive letters
  • phrases
  • plays
  • poems
  • post cards
  • post scripts
  • posters
  • prayers
  • predictions
  • problems
  • problem solutions
  • profound sayings
  • prologues
  • prophecies
  • proposals
  • propaganda sheets
  • protest signs
  • protest letters
  • product descriptions
  • proverbs
  • puppet shows
  • puzzles


  • quips
  • quizzes
  • questionnaires
  • questions
  • quotations


  • ransom notes
  • reactions
  • real estate notices
  • rebuttals
  • recipes
  • record covers
  • remedies
  • reports
  • requests
  • requiems
  • requisitions
  • resumes
  • reviews
  • revisions
  • rhymes
  • riddles


  • sales notices
  • sales pitches
  • satires
  • schedules
  • secrets
  • self-descriptions
  • sentences
  • sequels
  • serialized stories
  • sermons
  • signs
  • silly sayings
  • skywriting messages
  • slogans
  • soap operas
  • society news
  • songs
  • speeches
  • spoofs
  • spooky stories
  • sports accounts
  • sports analyses
  • superstitions


  • tall tales
  • telegrams
  • telephone directories
  • textbooks
  • thank you notes
  • theater programs
  • timelines
  • titles
  • tongue twisters
  • traffic rules
  • transcripts
  • travel folders
  • travel posters
  • tributes
  • trivia
  • tv commercials
  • tv guide
  • tv program


  • used car descriptions
  • vignettes
  • vitas


  • want ads
  • wanted posters
  • warnings
  • wills
  • wise sayings
  • wishes
  • weather reports
  • weather forecasts


  • yarns
  • yellow pages

Would you like to add to our list? Let us know! The more the merrier! (To reply, please click on the comment link next to the title or scroll down.)

Andi Stix is an educational consultant & coach who specializes in differentiation, interactive learning, writing across the curriculum, classroom coaching and gifted education. For further information on her specialties or social media, please email her on the Contact page.

Click here to receive a PDF version of this article.

Posted in Curriculum Writing, General Strategies, Interdisciplinary Instruction, Language Arts, Motivation, Teaching Strategies, Writing Across the Curriculum, Writing Curriculum | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Open-Ended Questions

(c) 2012 Andi Stix, Ed.D

Research has shown time and time again that if we pose a close-ended question, our students will elicit a minimal amount of answers. However, we can draft the same question using the following question starters that provoke higher level thinking coupled with brainstorming.

In the beginning, you will find that it is hard to draft an open-ended question. However, with time, it will become easier and easier until it becomes habit. So, how do you break the habit? Use this simple technique:

1. Begin by drafting a good quality question. Here are some samples:

2. Utilize one of the following open-ended question starters: These are suggestions or you can write your own-          Open Ended Question

  • For what reasons…
  • In what ways…
  • Describe in detail…
  • Explain specifically….
  • Generate a list….
  • Brainstorm as many reasons for…

3. Select the starter that makes the most sense for your question.

  • Why did the American Revolution begin? (changes to:)
  • For what reasons did the American Revolution begin?

  • Who was Helen Keller? (changes to:)
  • Describe in detail the life of Helen Keller.

  • Where does mold grow? (changes to:)
  • Generate a list of all the places where mold can grow.

  • What technique did the cubists use? (changes to:)
  • Explain in detail the technique that the cubists used.

  • How does a musical score affect a story line in a movie? (changes to:)
  • In what ways does a musical score affect the story line in a movie?

At first, you will find that you will have to draft the open-ended questions ahead of class time. Before you know it, with practice and repetition, you will begin to draft them in your head without the use of paper.

Be open to being a learner, as it takes practice. So when you find that you have just posed a good quality- but close-ended question- to your students, repeat it. Tell that class, “Let me repeat the question,” and rephrase it in an open-ended manner. Remember, practice makes perfect!

Do you have another question starter that you would like us to add to the list? (To reply, please click on the comment link next to the title or scroll down.)


Andi Stix is an educational consultant & coach who specializes in differentiation, interactive learning, writing across the curriculum, classroom coaching and gifted education. For further information on her specialties or social media, please email her on the Contact page.

Click here to receive a PDF version of this article.

Posted in Articles, Speeches & Past Posts, Curriculum Writing, Discussion Strategies, Essential Questions, Guiding Questions, Motivation, Questioning, Teaching Strategies, Writing Across the Curriculum, Writing Curriculum | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Essential and Guiding Questions

(c) 2012 Andi Stix, Ed.D.

Purple 2Using essential and guiding questions certainly binds a unit of study together, bringing a clearer focus to the lesson. Originally introduced by Heidi Hayes Jacobs, we modified the practice and infused it into our Exploring History series back in 2000. We are finding that more and more people ask for a clear explanation of how to draft these questions for each unit of study.

The Essential Question

What is an essential question? Simply put, the essential question:

  • is a definition question, serving as an umbrella for other guiding questions.
  • frames the organizing center and is written to promote higher level thinking due to its broadness.
  • helps link concepts and principals and anchors them.
  • cannot be answered in one sentence, as it is so broad that it encompasses a hierarchical structure within.

Examples of Essential Questions                                      Essential Questions

  • What is identity?
  • What is self-concept?
  • What is conflict?
  • What is a team?
  • What is revolution?
  • What is freedom?
  • What is effective listening?
  • What is negotiation?

Now, we are sure that you are saying, “Wait! Isn’t revolution part of the definition of what is conflict?” If you are, then good for you! You are beginning to see the unit from a macrocentric (all knowing) point of view. The higher you travel up into the air, the broader your scope.

The same holds true for “What is revolution?” One could argue that it is really part of “What is conflict?’ So, the answer becomes, how old are your students and how focused do you want the macrovision to become? How far out or how close up do you want your scope to be? As with all great teachers, they learn to modify their practices for their particular group of students each and every year.

Guiding Questions

Guiding questions support the essential question. They are still part of the big picture, but begin to break down the question into its hierarchical components.

Part I: Guiding questions often link the following sub-topics to the  essential question, such as:

  • What caused this?
  • Who is involved?
  • Why did this happen?
  • How does this affect you personally?
  • How does this affect your community?
  • How are relationships formed and made?
  • How does this affect other aspects that are linked to this topic?
  • How is this viewed by governments, organizations, special interest groups, etc. ?

Part II: Embedding the content and writing it with open-ended questions: (Please see our article on writing open-ended questions.)

At Life Sciences Secondary School, Principal Genevieve Stanislaus is a strong advocate of offering coaching support for her teachers. When we worked with Tom Miller, who teaches US History, we listened to what was important for him to teach his particular group of students. These are the essential and guiding questions that were drafted for the unit on World War II:

Essential Question: What is conflict?

Guiding Questions:

  • What happens when the basic needs of a people are jeopardized?
  • In what ways do governments try to avoid conflict?
  • For what reasons do governments try to satisfy these basic needs?
  • For what reasons do people align themselves with other individuals of like minds during a conflict?
  • In what ways do people’s opinions become more polarized when conflicts arise and escalate?
  • For what reasons are new alliances created where none may have existed previously?

Now, we are sure that you might say, “Oh, I could add to this list.” Or, “I wouldn’t use this question, but I would draft that one.” That’s the beauty of guiding questions. They can focus on certain aspects for the area of concentration that is meaningful to your students.

When we worked with Catherine Henry, who teaches English Language Arts at the middle school, we listened to what was important for her to teach her particular group of students. These are the essential and guiding questions that were drafted for the unit on Of Mice and Men:

Essential Question:  What is friendship?

Guiding Questions:

  • Describe in detail the definition of trust.
  • Compare and contrast different levels of friendship.
  • In what ways is telling the truth different when talking to a good friend versus an acquaintance?
  • Explain specifically how our actions can hurt a friend.
  • For what reasons are we able to hurt a good friend?
  • Describe in detail why a best friend hard to find.
  • Using a Venn Diagram, compare and contrast the qualities of a good friend versus a bad friend.

Once you have drafted your own set, we strongly recommend, in time, that you begin to draft essential and guiding questions with your students. The more ownership they feel they have in their own learning, the more motivated and engaged they will become.

Please describe how using essential and guiding questions helped the students and your instruction. (To reply, please click on the comment link next to the title or scroll down.)

Andi Stix is an educational consultant & coach who specializes in differentiation, interactive learning, writing across the curriculum, classroom coaching and gifted education. For further information on her specialties or social media, please email her on the Contact page.

Click here to receive a PDF version of this article.

Posted in Curriculum Writing, Essential Questions, Guiding Questions, Questioning, Teaching Strategies, Writing Across the Curriculum, Writing Curriculum | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Heaping Pennies

Heaping Pennyby Andi Stix, Ed.D.

This experiment portrays the idea that group cohesion is stronger than the individual members who form the group.

Essential Question: What is group cohesion? What is a team?


Guiding Questions:

  • For what reasons do people form groups (substitute teams for groups if you choose)?
  • Generate a list of platforms used where people make connections to form groups.
  • Describe in detail how groups are formed and made.
  • Explain specifically what the group accomplishes.
  • Describe the type of energy needed to fuel the existence of the group.
  • In what ways do people reflect upon their experiences of being part of the group.

Interdisciplinary Connections

  • Social Studies: You can use Heaping Pennies to kick off a unit on how group cohesion affected the success of the Underground Railroad, creating labor unions, or revolutions throughout history.
  • ELA: You can use Heaping Pennies to teach King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table or books that discuss why gangs are formed, etc.
  • Science: You can teach the attributes of cohesion and polar molecules.
  • The Arts: Sometimes the group is stronger than its individual parts, eg. Beatles, Broadway Show, Community Mural
  • Sports: You can use this to show the effects of team building on the students’ ability to play well.
  • What other connects can you add to this list?


Eyedroppers & Water
Liquid Soap
Paper Napkins


  1. Have each student place a penny on top of a paper napkin. (Modification: can be done by cooperative groups or in front of the class as a demonstration with students coming forward. However, we recommend each student or small groups have this hands-on experience to move it from short-term to long-term memory.)
  2. Have students predict how many drops of water it will take to form a dome on top of the penny.
  3. Using the eyedropper, students begin the exercise by placing water droplets on the penny. They count as they go along. They should continue this until the dome bursts. Watch their excitement grow as they count numbers into the 30s and 40s.
  4. To prove that outside influences can affect the strength of group cohesion, repeat the exercise making a large dome, but not popped.
  5. Take the toothpick and dip it into the liquid soap. Prick the dome of water with the toothpick. The liquid soap breaks the surface tension of the water.
  6.  Reflect with students and make the connections between the experiment and your specific content.

Explanation: The cohesion of molecules pulls the top of the water as if it were skin. H2O is a polar molecule, attracting other molecules like itself. In other words, the oxygen from the second molecule is attracted to the hydrogens from the first molecule. The hydrogens have a positive charge whereas the oxygen has a negative charge.

An alternate experiment consists of taking a glass of water and shaking pepper on it. Once again, take the toothpick dipped in liquid soap and prick the surface of the water. Notice how the pepper repels the area.

Please share with us your experience of using Heaping Pennies. Have you used it in a different content area? In what other ways can it be used? Please describe the details of how it can help students visualize “bonding”. (To reply, please click on the comment link next to the title or scroll down.)


Andi Stix is an educational consultant & coach who specializes in differentiation, interactive learning, writing across the curriculum, classroom coaching and gifted education. For further information on her specialties or social media, please email her on the Contact page.

Click here to receive a PDF version of this article.

Posted in Discussion Strategies, General Strategies, Interdisciplinary Instruction, Social Studies, Teaching Strategies | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Can Our Gifted Children Remain Gifted?

by Andi Stix, Ed.D. & PCC

                                                                     (c) 2010 Gems of AGATE, vol. 34 (1)

Oftentimes parents think their children are above average because they read at an early age. In many instances, parents confuse a child’s ability to remember things accurately with the notion that the youngster is above the norm. By 3rd grade, children who read at the average maturational period catch up, and the playing field becomes more level. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a large number of students who are considered gifted in 4th grade are no longer identified as such by the time they reach 8th grade. The decline continues in high school. By the time students reach 12th grade, the number identified as gifted decreases by 60% for Caucasians, 87% for Latinos, and 65% for African Americans.

gifted studentAs children progress through the formative years, parents begin to wonder what went wrong. The gleam in a child’s eyes or the natural sense of wonder fades into the deep recesses of average behavior or apathy. The energy you invested to instill a sense of passion in your preschooler seems wasted now that your child is susceptible to other influences. And you realize that just because your child was bright or gifted at the elementary level does not ensure that he or she will grow up to be a highly productive adult. According to Sylvia Rimm, “Underachievement is a discrepancy between a child’s school performance and some index of the child’s ability. If children are not working to their ability in school, they are underachieving” (p. 18).

What causes the shut-down in creative ability as children age? The open classroom philosophy of the late 70s and early 80s encouraged creative problem solving and critical thinking. However, concerns over a lack of proficiency in basic skills resulted in an about-face. Under the Bush administration, No Child Left Behind legislation pushed for wide-scale testing that emphasized reading ability and arithmetic competency instead of critical or creative thinking.

Moreover, during difficult economic times, schools are more likely to enroll borderline special needs students in inclusion programs, keeping them in traditional classrooms instead of providing more expensive small-group support services. Teachers are expected to meet the needs of students with a wider range of abilities—a difficult task, even with in-class support staff. One result is that expectations for gifted students are substandard for their capabilities (Good, 1981; Hale-Benson, 1986).

The National Association of Gifted Children has responded, in part, by pushing for differentiation of instruction, requesting that teachers offer different types of instruction for a more diverse student population ( However, these practices require a great deal of time and resources. The approach seems easier to implement at the elementary level, where one teacher can monitor 25 students, rather than at the secondary school levels, where teachers are responsible for 125-150 students per day. On the other hand, secondary teachers who make the time to implement these practices typically find that their students are more engaged.

What happens when students are no longer challenged or engaged in the classroom? Their actions begin to change as they try to preserve their brains. Students may:

  • Act out and bother others around them, causing teachers to respond with negative attention. The children then become accustomed to eliciting negative feedback.
  • Become inattentive by allowing their imaginations to take them to more stimulating places, thereby isolating them from their classmates.
  • Avoid peer relations by reading books under their desks and performing other self-regulated activities.

Peer Pressure

Social pressure may also cause students to no longer perform at their natural achievement level. When elementary schools merge from different parts of town into a junior or middle school, for example, students’ self-esteem may be challenged. Those who were extraordinarily smart in elementary school may meet other students who surpass them intellectually and cause them to question their abilities. Researchers also point to an inability to persevere, a lack of goals, and feelings of inferiority (Gallagher, 1991) as reasons for the decline in performance and motivation of once-gifted students.

How can children preserve their academic self-esteem? Teenagers look to avenues where they can become good achievers. Some who are bored may find one area to focus all their attention, such as rocketry, at the exclusion of everything else, including friendships. Others may hit the pavement and become street-smart, joining gangs or groups.

Faced with pressure to conform, gifted and creative students may neglect the development of their gifts. (Reis & Mc Coach, 2000). Why stand out? Why be considered a “brainiac” or a weirdo? Isn’t it better to be popular and funny? (Berndt, 1999) And what happens to students of color? How does being academically smart infringe upon their racial or ethnic image? It may not be cool to be smart (Sheridan, 1999). Or, will their friends ask them why they choose to act “white”? (Fordham, 1988). When adolescents have a secure self-image and racial or ethnic identity, peer pressure to conform does not cause the building block tower to fall. However, if their self-image is not secure, then they will lean toward the norm.

What about gender differences? Research indicates that 25% of above-average gifted females are underachievers, compared to 50% of above-average underachieving males (Weiss, 1972 and Colangelo, et. al, 2004. According to Mary Pipher (2009), boys feel that their success is attributed to their ability, whereas when they fail, it’s due to external factors. On the other hand, girls attribute success to luck or hard work, attributing failure to their lack of ability.

In terms of gifted minority students, Clark found that underachieving African American students have parents who are less optimistic for their children’s future, are less assertive about their children’s education, and set unrealistic and unclear expectations (1983). According to Donna Ford and Janice Hale-Benson, minority students report that they have less positive teacher-student relations. They claim that teachers expect less of them (Good, 1981; Hale-Benson, 1986) and provide a less supportive classroom climate. These students also report that they become disinterested in school because it doesn’t relate to their lives (Ford, 1995). Cultural differences also work against them. Hale-Benson found that, as minorities mature, they tend to be more cooperative in nature. This runs counter to the academic tide, where competition increases with each academic level (1986).

High Achieving Minorities

What factors influence high-achieving minorities? What factors impact their gifts and creativity?

  • Family structure (Rimm & Lowe, 1988): When the family demands that a child perform up to potential, there is a greater likelihood that the child will not fall to other influences.
  • Academic achievement level of the mother or caregiver. A higher education level achieved by the mother or caregiver increases the chances for a child’s academic success.
  • Social influences: Sometimes a child will find a mentor outside the family who believes in the child, along with his or her uniqueness and quirks. Gifted students often cite a teacher, relative, or an older peer who had a major impact on their self-image. Sometimes the influence comes from afar, from someone who has never even had contact with the child. A young athlete, for example, may try to emulate Pele the soccer star, or a teen may have designed new recipes after watching Julia Child.

Wish List

What can we do about gifted underachievement? For starters, we need to acknowledge that we are losing many of our bright students. Understanding this, we can begin to address the multifaceted issues contributing to the overall problem.

At the elementary level, we can offer students the ability to design and invent, not only to read, write, and do arithmetic. We can offer differentiation and provide the opportunity for independent study, where students’ interests may lie. Classroom strategies such a discussion, debate, or simulation can be encouraged, where students discuss the content with their peers. As a result, these hands-on practices mimic or provide real life experiences that motivate students. Lastly, the process of learning should be applauded, offering student feedback, revision, and a chance of reflection, just as much of the final product (Emerick, 1992).

Gifted students have reported that they breezed through in elementary school, never opening a textbook at home. Then, in their middle and high school years, they did not know how to handle the challenge. They simply shut down. So, at the middle school level, we can offer advisories for gifted students, where class sizes are small and intimate. In an advisory, students can sit in a circle and discuss adolescent concerns. This small setting can foster honest discussions on how it feels to stand out and be gifted, yet want to fit in―a situation that most “tweens” have to face. We can help students begin to assert their independence in a healthy and constructive manner.

Administrators can make sure the middle school is genuinely functioning as a “middle school” and not as a junior high school with a middle school title. We can establish schools within a school, where groups of teachers share the same batch of students and establish a set of norms and practices. We need to make sure our gifted students are assigned and clustered in small groups within the regular classroom, rather than being distributed across many classes―separated and isolated—in an attempt to balance ability levels.

At the high school level, we can offer leadership coaching courses that nurture students’ leadership abilities while teaching critical life and coaching skills: problem solving and organizational skills, goal setting, and working effectively with peers and the school organization. We need to create classroom cultures that applaud creative thought and thinking, such as word play and making unusual connections. We also want to offer course material that’s challenging, fun, motivating, and above and beyond the expectations of the state exams. If we can motivate our students, they will be passionate about learning.

At the same time, we need to take a more authentic view of students instead of emphasizing their performance on state exams. With those who have conditions that often mask giftedness, such as ADD or hyperactivity, we can better determine their potential if we focus on how they express themselves and their ideas.

Overall, we need to create an image that smart is cool. How? One way would be to take our cue from the beverage industry’s successful effort to introduce diet cola to the male market. Coke’s commercial featured male construction workers showing off their “six-pack” abs while drinking diet soda during an afternoon break. The image caught on, the industry bridged the gender gap, and sales of diet beverages soared. A similar marketing strategy could be built around slogans such as “smart is cool,” or “you can be smart and humble, too.” This is where the life coaching plays a part. Students can be encouraged to use their smarts in fun and creative ways, rather than to show off.

So, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work. It’s much better to be proactive rather than reactive. Let’s not lose any more gifted students.

So what’s your opinion? Please describe your experience of how gifted children were lost and hopefully, how some may have been rescued. Please explain some of the strategies put into place by you, your school, or school system to prevent these children from being lost. (To reply, please click on the comment link next to the title or scroll down.)

Andi Stix is an educational consultant & coach who specializes in differentiation, interactive learning, writing across the curriculum, classroom coaching and gifted education. For further information on her specialties or social media, please email her on the Contact page.



Berndt, T. J. (1999). Friends’ influence on students’ adjustment to school. Educational Psychologist, 34, 15-28.

Clark, B. (1983). Growing up gifted (2nd ed.). Columbus, OH: Merrill.

Colangelo, N., Kerr, B., Christensen, P., & Maxey, J. (2004). A comparison of gifted underachievers and gifted high achievers. In S. M. Moon (Ed.). Social /emotional issues, underachievement, and counseling of gifted and talented students (pp.119-132). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Emerick, L. J. (Summer 1992). Academic underachievement among the gifted: Students’ perceptions of factors that reverse the pattern. Gifted Child Quarterly, 36(3)140-146.

Ford, D. Y. (1992). Determinants of underachievement as perceived by gifted, above average, and average Black students. Roeper Review, 14, 130-136.

Ford, D. Y. (1996). Reversing underachievement among gifted Black students. New York: Teachers College Press.

Ford, D. Y. (1995). A Study of achievement and underachievement among gifted, potentially gifted, and average African-American students (Research Monograph 95128). Storrs, CT: The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, University of Connecticut.

Fordham, S. (1988). Racelessness as a strategy in Black students’ school success: Pragmatic strategy or pyrrhic victory? Harvard Educational Review58(1), 54-84.

Fox, L. H.  (1981). Preparing gifted girls for future leadership roles. Gifted, Creative, & Talented, 17, 7-11.

Gallagher, J. J. (1991). Personal patterns of underachievement. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 14, 221-233.

Good, T. L. (1981). Teacher expectations and student perceptions: A decade of research. Educational Leadership, 38(5), 415-421.

Hale-Benson, J. (1986). Black Children: Their Roots, Culture, and Learning Styles (2nd ed.). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

National Association of Educational Progress (NAEP), headed by the National Center for Educational Statistics, US Department of Education

Pipher, Mary. (1994). Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls. New York: Random House, Ballantine Books.

Reis, S. M. and McCoach, D. B. (Summer 2000). The underachievement of gifted students: What do we know and where do we go? Gifted Child Quarterly, 44, 152-170.

Rimm, S. & Lowe, B. (1988). Family environments of underachieving gifted students Gifted Child Quarterly, 32, 353-361.

Sheridan, D. (October, 1999). Scant school accommodation for state’s brightest children. Boston Magazine, p. 81.

Weiss, L. (1972). Underachievement – empirical studies. Journal of Adolescence, 3, 143-151.

Dr. Andi Stix is the director of G·tec Kids, an after-school creative arts and science enrichment program in New Rochelle, NY. She is a national trainer and educational coach, as well as the co-author of Teachers as Classroom Coaches (published by ASCD) and the Exploring History series (published by Teacher Created Materials) for middle and high school students.

Click here to receive a PDF version of this article.


Posted in Articles, Speeches & Past Posts, Gifted an Talented, Gifted and Talented, Motivation | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

The GOPER Model of Problem Solving in the Coaching Classroom or School

(c) 2011 by Andi Stix, Ed.D. &  PCC and Frank Hrbek

For a more in-depth look at coaching, please refer to their book:
(c) 2006 Teachers as Classroom Coaches, published by ASCD

Raising a child is never as easy as it sounds. Hillary Rodham Clinton once wrote a small book on how It Takes a Village to set a youngster on the difficult path of growing up and acquiring an education and assuming the responsibilities of adulthood. Such a task is a demanding chore that needs the cooperation and efforts of many individuals, all working together in a cooperative atmosphere.  No one works in isolation.

The school too, like It Takes a Village,”should always be perceived as an inclusive vibrant functioning community, with all levels and parts cohesively meshed in sustaining the common goal: education.  The administrators, teachers, students, and parents all have a common objective, to give the youngsters in the school on any given day the best education that the system can provide.

What is essential to the overall functioning of any school is the tone, and that is set by the principal’s leadership qualities. The administrative apparatus is the main ingredient that eventually determines how well all of the gears mesh throughout the building. Will teachers find cooperation or confrontation? Do parents feel they can work with the school or are they marginalized? Do students have a school that is interesting and challenging or boring and plagued by absenteeism? The principal’s commitment to what needs to be achieved, the policies that are set, the actions that are taken, all combine to make the school environment what it is.

Teachers as Classroom CoachesClassrooms should hum with continuous activity, creating an atmosphere where contentment and intellectual challenge and high expectation reign supreme, meaning the youngsters are on track for a quality education, the parents are proud of their children’s progress, and teachers have a sense of fulfillment in seeing that the work they’re doing with their students is producing positive results. By working on a more intimate level with the staff, fostering a sense of cooperation and valuing their input and complimenting them on their efforts and the achievement of classroom goals, administrators can attain a higher level of accomplishment for the school.

The application of coaching skills is a quality tool that can make it all come about. Whoever is the coach and applying the coaching methodology – whether the superintendent, the administrators, the teachers, even the students – they are all working for the common goal, to create a community and a happy and satisfying school that has every element at every level working to that end.

The GOPER Model can be used at any level: From an administrator to a teacher, a teacher coaching a fellow teacher, a teacher coaching his students, or cooperative groups of students coaching each other.

In our example today, an administrator can set the tone of the school by actively working with the staff. The AP’s and teachers can be guided through coaching to set goals, determine their options, plan carefully, eliminate whatever might be presented as an impediment, and then finally reflecting on all that had taken place to make the next performance easier.

I have always made it easy to remember this process by referring to it as the GOPER Model:

  • G:    Goal
  • O:    Options
  • P:    Plan of Action
  • E:    Eliminate the Roadblocks
  • R:    Reflection

In addition, here is an example where a principal, Ms. Zhou (Sue Yin), is working with her assistant, Mrs. Hayakawa (Oriha), to set goals and determine if adequate preparation has been given to have students ready to take the upcoming State mandated eighth year mathematics examinations.

Principal-Assistant Principal Coaching Vignette Using the GOPER Model

Sue Yin: Oriha, I have some concerns regarding the upcoming State mandated eighth year math exams. Are the students being prepared adequately? You and I are both aware that many of the youngsters who will be tested are recent placements in the ESL classes, and that in itself may present a difficulty. What can you tell me about the teachers and the students in the program?

Oriha: There may be a problem determining if each level is meeting their requirements and adequately preparing students for the math tests. It would probably help immensely if the teachers involved all received a list of expectations for each level, to determine if the youngsters can handle the work and meet the requirements.

Sue Yin: We’ve always given all the teachers the opportunity to take ownership within the department. What steps can we take for them to establish their own objectives and levels, instead of imposing our own rules and standards?

Oriha: I’ll ask them to attend a lunch meeting, and they can all suggest how they think the ESL classes are handling the math skills, and if they feel the students have the competency and skills to do well.

Sue Yin: Perfect. An excellent idea (compliment)! What specifically would you like them to discuss (purpose; setting the goal)?

Oriha: I would focus on each math teacher speaking to the entire group and defining exactly what their objectives and expectations are, and if they are attainable.

Sue Yin: That’s a wonderful way of opening up communication throughout the department (compliment). How will you know what preparation has taken place for the examination (focusing on the goal)?

Oriha: There might be some difficulty. We’ll be asking them for some accountability, won’t we?

Sue Yin: Yes, some difficulty may certainly arise, and there is a degree of accountability. Give some thought to how you could make that request before speaking with the group (understanding the options available).

Oriha: I might ask everyone to take a few minutes to write down what they are doing to prepare for the math tests prior to our meeting (creating a plan).

Sue Yin: Yes, very good. You’ll be giving them a little bit of time to think about their teaching (another compliment; teachers can reflect). They can get their thoughts down on paper, and whatever anxiety may exist can be glossed over by the prep (this eliminates roadblocks). Our budget allows for some food expenditure, if you’re interested.

Oriha: Great. I can make an announcement tomorrow morning. I’ll have the math department meet for pizza, bagels, and coffee in the library on Friday.

Sue Yin: Can you fit me into the loop on Monday? (time for reflection).

Oriha: No problem. That’s a go!!!

Conversation and dialogue is a combination that, together with coaching skills, allows the administration and teachers to get together and talk about methods and strategies, cultivating a healthy school-wide environment. Applying the coaching skills when working with colleagues makes it a part of what is taking place in the school on a daily basis, helping teachers be coaches rather than simply thinking like a coach. It is a way of opening up all levels of communication, from the top down and also all around. The conversations and dialogue that take place are egalitarian, a quality that makes for a comfortable community and a happy school. This is an approach that spells success.

By using this strategy, please describe in detail what you have learned that may have been missed by using a different strategy. Under what conditions do you think this strategy would be so powerful? (To reply, please click on the comment link next to the title or scroll down.)

Andi Stix is an educational consultant & coach who specializes in differentiation, interactive learning, writing across the curriculum, classroom coaching and gifted education. For further information on her specialties or social media, please email her on the Contact page.

Click here to receive a PDF version of this article.

Posted in Articles, Speeches & Past Posts, Classroom Coaching, Coaching Teachers, Interdisciplinary Instruction, Motivation, Teaching Strategies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Classroom Strategies that Motivate the Reluctant Learner

© 2007 Andi Stix, Ed.D.

                           Speech given at the National Council for the Social Studies, San Diego, CA

In a society where no child is left untested, it may not be surprising that many states have dropped their passing grades during the past decade (NYC Board of Education, 2007; Banchero, 2007; Kolkey, 2007). If we examine the amount of material that is covered in Social Studies, Science, and Math exams, then the drive to memorize facts would leave even the more ambitious student disinterested and disengaged. Then why should it be so surprising that the struggling reader or child who has little educational support fails at this national numbers game?

When students have no voice in their own learning and have little ownership of what they can investigate, then it stands to reason that the percentage of reluctant learners has grown substantially over the past two decades (Lumsden, 1994). As noted in many studies, engagement and motivation are key elements for a reduction in dropout rates and increase student success. (Woods, 1995; Blank, 1997; Dev, 1997). So how are we to link content to what motivates and engages youngsters?

At Life Sciences Secondary School in Manhattan, Principal Genevieve Stanislaus is confronting these issues head-on. By designing a program where every teacher is included in a team meeting each week during the school day, teams are self-selecting their own areas of study and are being trained to:

  • increase student ownership in the classroom so that they are intrinsically motivated.
  • provide and design strategies that inspire higher level thinking skills that excite and motivate the youngsters to read, write, speak, listen attentively, and perform.
  • utilize coaching strategies to increase the quality of study work.

Intrinsic Motivation and Ownership

Intrinsic motivation can be defined as being “motivated from within….[where] students actively engage themselves in learning out of curiosity, interest, or enjoyment, …in order to achieve their own intellectual and personal goals (Brewster & Fager, 2000, p. 4). These students “will not need any type of reward or incentive to initiate or complete a task…. And they are more likely to complete the chosen task and be excited by the challenging nature of the activity” (Dev, 1997, pg. 13).

For students to feel a sense of ownership in their own learning (Brooks, Freiburger, & Grotheer, 1998) they need to be a part of the process at its inception. At first, teachers may be leery of allowing students to have a voice in determining the project, or even the criteria for which they would be assessed. However, when students are respected as life long learners and can suggest the criteria for assessment, they become thoughtful and responsible (Stix, 2002). This is a step that increases their motivation and challenges their interest, and makes them responsible for the work they produce (Policy Studies Associates, 1995; Anderman & Midgley, 1998; Dev, 1997).

Negotiable Contracting

The teacher first describes the assignment to the student. This type of assignment is characterized by having flexibility in how students can utilize a workstation that has various reading levels and how the students can present the assignment to the class. Once described, the teacher-coach asks the students to list the assignment’s most salient points. Discuss with students what type of behavior they think is necessary in order to make this assignment successful and how it will affect the results.

First privately, then cooperatively, and finally in whole group format, the students generate a list of the criteria that they feel would be most authentic to the task. Of course, the teacher may add additional criterion, if necessary. The class negotiates and pares down the list to four or five substantive items. Teachers will find that the students are perceptive and intelligent in determining the criteria, with the teacher having the final say, but giving them 80% of the ownership. Finally, the teacher and students collectively decide which criterion would be weighted the most to the least and establish a system of assessing. This is called negotiable contracting (Stix, 2000). By helping students understand the criteria of assessment and making sure that the performance and behavior are clear and consistent increases intrinsic motivation (Skinner & Belmont, 1991 and Strong, Silver, & Robinson, 1995).

Strategies that Motivate

Quite often teachers find themselves in a rut, repeating the same type of active learning strategy. Students may enjoy a new strategy in the beginning of the school year, a diversion from the previous year’s work, but they soon lose their motivation when “the same old stuff” is done repetitively.

The reluctant students may be enticed by lessons and strategies that provoke higher level thinking, and where students take ownership of their own work. Stale and boring work is quickly dissipated by engaging discussions, debates, deductive reasoning, dramatizations, and art integration.

To be competitive, our young people must be instilled with an enthusiasm for the work they do in their classrooms (Lumsden, 1994), an eagerness to learn that is characterized by ardor and passion, the same traits and qualities they will take with them as adults to face the challenges of the workaday world and marketplace. The reluctant learner must undergo a metamorphosis, be motivated to show enterprise and initiative, and that can be done by teachers today who engage their students with activities that are intellectually challenging and educationally worthy (Anderman & Midgley, 1998; Lumsden, 1994). So, what exactly do they look like?

These following are strategies that actively involve students, promoting self-interest and allowing them to select topics, where they perform or present before their classmates (Stix, 2002). When students realize their presentations will be assessed by the teacher and their fellow students, based on negotiable contracting, the quality of their work increases substantially.

Debate and Discussion Strategies

Lobbyist Hearing. Students sign up for 1 of 4 positions to be lobbyists. After conducting research, each group states its perspective when introduced at a public forum, followed by having each student offer a new idea emphasizing its position. Students can offer graphs, photos, charts, paintings, and documents to amplify their position, bringing in differentiation. After the concluding statement from each group, a panel holds a Q&A session. When all four groups have made their presentation, the panel votes and renders its decision.

Stix DiscussionStix Discussion.  Students are offered a choice of four perspectives to hold an inner and outer ring discussion. All groups do the necessary research to speak effectively. The four groups hold a discussion, with one third of the members from each perspective sitting in the inner circle at a given time speaking to each other for 5 minutes. Everyone has the opportunity to make their position known, utilizing photographs, charts, graphs, and assorted visuals. In the meantime, the outer circle serves as clerks to their inner ring counterparts. They think of ways to support the discussion, passing informative notes to their spokespersons to supplement their arguments. After the allotted time, a third of the group’s members switch places, moving from being clerks to active speakers, offering new voices and ideas. The process is repeated a third time, giving all students an opportunity to speak on the issues.

Magnetic Debate. When there are two sides to an issue, with a slew of engaging topics, this forum is exciting. The class is divided into 4 groups: Pro, Con, Undecideds, and a Q&A panel. Students research their positions in preparation. For the debate, the classroom is divided with a strip of masking tape running the length of the classroom floor. The opposing teams stand on opposite sides of the room, with the Undecideds sitting on chairs sited along the masking tape. The Q&A panel sits at the front of the room. One member from each team speaks on a specific topic central to the issue, with the first team making a rebuttal after the second team made its presentation. After each topic, the Q&A panel may ask one question of each side. Now the Undecideds make their choice; they shift their chairs two floor tiles in the direction of the team that had the most influence. At the conclusion, the side that persuaded the most chairs to shift their way is the winner.

Deductive Reasoning Strategies

Making Decisions. Using real life stories, students acting as judges are asked to make a decision. Students read the case and analyze it according to each perspective described in the story. The class holds a discussion on what should be done, rendering a decision.

Vote on It. Each group receives resumes of several people. Students must decide to elect, fill a job, or offer an award to one of these individuals. The groups discuss the qualifications necessary for the selection they will make. They discuss how each person measures against the accepted standard; then they vote.

Taking a Survey. The students conduct a public survey, formulating an open-ended question where the response is numbered and can range from -5 to +5. A -5 response represents the highest level of disagreement, a 0 represents neutrality, and a +5 the highest level of agreement. In pairs or groups, students survey other students outside of class or community members, collecting 25 to 50 responses.  After analyzing the results, students give a class presentation showing the drafted question, letting the class vote to see if they correctly predicted the survey’s outcome. The group provides the response analysis and compares the difference.

Drama and Art Integration

Slide Show Alive. This activity can be done individually, in pairs, or by groups. Students select a topic, collecting various photographs and place them in order, designing a PowerPoint presentation. Each slide is accompanied by a descriptive statement. Three slides are selected for special dramatization. Students take the roles of the people in the slides, a performance that resonates with reality through their voices, personalities, the richness of content, and the dramatics of interaction. Students may choose a debate, a comedy, a dramatization, a paneled discussion, or any other format to bring the slide to life. A Q&A session is the finale, if clarification is necessary.

Mystery Box.  Each individual or pair of students conduct research on an assigned personality and write a four paragraph essay. They describe the person without stating the actual identity. Each paragraph is printed in a similar font and size for the entire class, cut out, and placed on standard sized index cards, which are then inserted in a slot cut into the lid of a shoebox.  The box is decorated, offering facts and clues about the individual. The name of the person is written on the bottom of the box. On the day of the mystery exercise, four boxes are placed at each station from various students in the class, with their cards shuffled. Each group of students reads the cards at their table; determine which box identifies the mystery personality, inserting the cards through the slot. When all the cards have been processed, each box is opened and the paragraphs are placed in the proper order to complete the essay. Students identify the person and check the bottom of the box to determine if they are correct, and move on to the next table.

Fan Fold. After having researched to compare and contrast two events or people, a Venn diagram is made to facilitate the writing of a brief report. Two diametrically opposing illustrations are then created, based on the researched material.  Each picture is divided and cut into 1” vertical strips. On a cardboard fan, the strips from one picture are glued to the left side of each fold; the opposing view is cut and glued to the right side. Done properly, one stands on the right side of the fan and views that picture in its entirety; standing on the left side, the opposing view is seen. The students display their artwork with the accompanying written report, and verbal presentations are made. The viewers become engaged while they move from side to side to view what the speaker is describing.


Applying life coaching skills in class can increase the self-esteem and self-worth of students (Costa and Garmston, 2002). Allowing students a say in their own learning and giving them ownership is the foundation of coaching. When at-risk students feel supported and have tasks scaffolded (Lumsden, 1994), when they find that the teacher expresses enjoyment in their interactions (Skinner & Belmont, 1991), and when they feel that the teacher builds quality relationships, (McCombs & Pope, 1994) these items increases motivation and engagement. Coaching offers teachers skills that ensure students to work harmoniously with one another.  Coaching offers teachers skills that ensure students to work harmoniously with one another. The skills foster dialogue, helping the young people with their work, research, note-taking, and organization. The listening skills employed by the teacher-coach can overcome the emotional and academic issues that impede the work and effort of students, and effectively resolve conflicts and overcome the hazards and growing pains so commonplace in the academic environment.

GOPER Model (Stix, 2006) is a coaching strategy teachers can use to train students to be better  organized, solve their problems, and to improve working collaboratively. It is an acronym that stands for Goal, Options, Plan of Action, Eliminate the Roadblocks, and Reflection.

Determining the Goal of the group allows the students to discuss and select their objective. Once agreed upon, the group can brainstorm the various Options that are available. Examining the Options, they can design a Plan of Action. At the same time, they discuss roadblocks,  trying to eliminate potential trouble. Once the Plan of Action is completed, students reflect on how well they worked together.


Change is never easy. It takes time, patience, and a constant focus of attention on the new strategies (Rock and Schwartz, 2002) so that the teacher’s repertoire of engaging students becomes a cognitive roadmap constantly traveled. For teachers at Life Sciences, assistance is available to learn new strategies. The teachers discuss new and engaging teaching activities, are being trained in life coaching skills, and are receiving continual support in professional development. These steps help to improve student attendance and make the reluctant learner a vanishing breed.

A more in-depth examination of the strategies listed and other strategies can be found in Active Strategies for the Social Studies, published by Teacher Created Materials.

Please share your experiences with us as to why behavior issues plummet when students are more actively involved in an interactive classroom. If you have tried any of the strategies listed above, please share your insights with us. (To reply, please click on the comment link next to the title or scroll down.)

Andi Stix is an educational consultant & coach who specializes in differentiation, interactive learning, writing across the curriculum, classroom coaching and gifted education. For further information on her specialties or social media, please email her on the Contact page.



Anderman L.H. & Midgley, C. (1998). Motivation and middle school students [ERIC digest].Champaign,IL: ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 421 281).

Banchero, S. with Little, D. (March 13, 2007). “Making grade just got easier.” IL: Chicago Tribune.

Blank, W. (1997). Authentic instruction. In W.E. Blank & S. Harwell (Eds.), Promising practices for connecting high school to the read world (pp. 15-21).Tampa,FL:University of SouthFlorida. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 407 586).

Brooks, S.R., Freiburger, S.M., & Grotheer, D.R. (1998). Improving elementary student engagement in the learning process through integrated thematic instruction. Unpublished master’s thesis,SaintXavierUniversity,ChicagoIL. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 421 274).

Costa, A.L and Garmston, R.L. (2002). Cognitive Coaching: A Foundation for Renaissance Schools. MA: Christopher-Gordon Pub.

Dev, P.C. (1997). Intrinsic motivation and academic achievement. What does their relationship imply for the classroom teacher? Remedial and Special Education, 18(1). 12- 19.

Kolkey, J. (October 20, 2007). “Half of failing grades were changed.” IL: Rockford Register Star.

Lumsden, L.S. (1994). Student motivation to learn (ERIC Digest No. 92).Eugene,OR: ERIC Clearinghouse. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 370 200).

McCombs, B.L. & Pope, J.E. (1994). Motivating hard to reach students. Washington,DC: American Psychological Association.

NYC Board of Education, 2007

Policy Studies Associates (1995). Raising eh educational achievement of secondary school students: An idea book. Volume 1, summary of promising practices. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved October 4, 2000 from

Rock, D. & Schwartz, J. (2002).  “The Neuroscience of Leadership. XXX Magazine. Retrived from the World Wide Web on October 21, 2007.

Skinner, E. & Belmont M. (1991). A longitudinal study of motivation in school: Reciprocal effects of teacher behavior and student engagement.  Unpublished manuscript.Rochester,NY:University ofRochester.

Stix, A. (2000).”The Art of Negotiable Contracting” Gems of Agate, Advocacy for Gifted and Talented Ed. in NY State. Vol. 24, No. 3.

Stix, A. (2002). Literature and simulations in your social studies classroom. CA: Teacher Created Materials.

Stix, A. and Hrbek, F. (2006). Teachers as classroom coaches: how to motivate students  across the content areas. CA: ASCD.

Strong, R. Silver, H.F., & Robinson, A. (1995).  What do students want? Educational Leadership, 53 (1), 8-12.

Woods, E.G. (1995). Reducing the dropout rate. In School Improvement Research Series (SIRS): Research you can use (Close-up No. 17). Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Edcational Laboratory. Retrieved October 2, 2000

Click here to receive a PDF version of this article.

Posted in Art, Articles, Speeches & Past Posts, Classroom Coaching, Debate Strategies, Discussion Strategies, General Strategies, Motivation, Teaching Strategies, Writing Across the Curriculum, Writing Curriculum | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

How Coaching Techniques Motivate and Engage Students to Talk Content

by Andi Stix, Ed.D. & PCC with Frank Hrbek

© 2006 Gems of Agate, Vol 30, No. 2, Spring 2006
For a complete guide to coaching,
please see Teachers as Classroom Coaches by Andi Stix, Ed.D. and Frank Hrbek, published by ASCD.

How often have you heard a teacher state, “I refuse to teach 8th grade. What a developmental mess!” As our students reach the pinnacle of their “tween” stage, they grope with such issues as becoming more independent, handling increased academic expectations, questioning their peer group opportunities, and conforming or challenging the pop culture. We offer the art of coaching to calm the emotions and to help students increase their self confidence during these formidable years.

Developmentally, as students begin to center a great deal of attention on their social skills, coaching achieves superb results by building trusting relationships. Coaching strives to create an environment where pupils’ stresses levels decrease at the same time that the success ratio spirals upwards. Coaching inspires and motivates students by actively guiding and instilling the confidence to take risks and to face the challenges. It helps them deal with emotional, social, and physical changes that cause such a flux in their behavior.

Just as coaching enjoys a much deserved reputation throughout the sports world, it has found a place in Corporate America. It is not uncommon today for CEOs, presidents, and managers to have personal, executive coaches (Zeus and Skiffington, 2001). Similarly, the world of life coaching has become firmly established, helping college students, career seekers, or empty nesters make life decisions as they face the crossroads ahead (Marklein, 2005; Guarino, 2004). So, if coaching is becoming an integrated part of society, shouldn’t we be training our youth at an age when they are most ready to integrate it?


“I firmly believe that the key to academic achievement is the quality of interpersonal relationship between teacher and student.”

-Michael Yazurlo


Where sports coaches focus on the athletes’ abilities, teachers as coaches place their focus on the students and their abilities to discover and explore ideas rather then memorize and regurgitate facts. A coaching school offers the opposite of an environment where the emphasis is on a predetermined set of skills to be covered or the teacher’s ability to espouse historical data. As Alfie Kohn states, “ ‘Putting children first’ is an empty slogan if we watch passively while our schools are turned into test-prep centers,” (2005, p. 20).

Our current environment, “does little to support the pursuit of cognitive surprise, the creation of intrinsic forms of motivation, the development of imagination, or the ability to define and resolve one’s problems” (Eisner, 2005, p. 17).  At the middle level, where student interest in academics lessons as their interest in social groups heighten, the teacher as coach models techniques that motivate and engage students in the learning process so that their full potential is developmentally realized.

Defining Coaching

If we want our tweens to use coaching, then the teacher has to model and teach those skills. Our modified definition of coaching from the business world (Longenecker & Pinkel, 1997) is: a teacher in the capacity of a coach is one who continually strives to unlock the potential that resides within all students, bringing their performance to the highest level attainable; offering inspiration, guidance, training, and modeling, to enhance their abilities through motivation and support. A teacher as coach helps students:

“It gives the quiet ones a voice – makes you aware of talents you might not have observed.”

-Cathy Carnrite


  • Find their inner strengths and passions in order to nurture self worth and identity
  • Have a voice in their own learning and to negotiate collectively with the teacher to create the  goals and objectives
  • Passionately engage in talking content to increase their memory retention and to fuel motivation to learn
  • Use their gifts and inner talents to bring their work and efforts to the highest level of scholarship attainable.

Overall View of Coaching

What makes a school where coaching is practiced so different? As the superintendent or principal walks the corridors, one sees teachers and students designing new projects on a continuous basis because risk taking behavior is applauded; where initial results that may be rough are refined like a polished diamond. The classrooms are hives of activity, with students preparing for discussion exercises where all voices are accountable and heard.

“Everybody has different strengths and weaknesses… I like how it empowers students to be the most effective with the gifts they have.”

-Genevieve Stanislaus


The youngsters work well together in their cooperative groups, meshing ideas to reach a common goal. They are encouraged to bring charts, graphs, diagrams, and pictures to enhance their performance during a debate or discussion, and they are made to feel they have ownership in their own learning. Their discussions, centered on multiple perspectives, encourage tolerance. By accepting other viewpoints, students solve problems and conflicts through negotiation and compromise. Dialogue between teachers and students is constant, an egalitarian process that promotes respect, trust, and knowledge. Behavioral problems in the classroom are few and rare, as teachers like Kim Trettor and Lydia Caprarella hone their skills at Life Sciences Secondary School in New York City. They have found that due to increased student motivation and engagement, test scores have increased. Their principal, Genevieve Stanislaus, walks past their classrooms and she hears students talking content in a meaningful way.

Techniques of Educational Coaching

There are many techniques that teachers as coaches use. We will examine a few of these techniques and will show how they can become embedded in strategies that tap Bloom’s higher levels of thinking, which promote analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

In a coaching environment, what makes a teacher superb is the ability to listen effectively and respond with a question or statement that moves the students’ thinking forward. Listening and questioning may sound like easy tasks, but in fact, they are extraordinarily difficult in practice. A teacher has to think spontaneously, in an environment where dialogue is encouraged and provoked. It is a place where the teacher as coach is comfortable enough to allow the students to make investigations on their own and to come to the table ready to have a discussion, debate, or simulation, where they have to perform and take risks in front of their peers.

Negotiable Contracting Allows Students to Have a Voice in Their Assessment

There is no getting away from the fact that our learners are always overly concerned about their grades. In the coaching environment, the teacher as coach initiates a dialogue with the class, an egalitarian “eyeball to eyeball” talk with the students empowering them to decide what exactly should be graded and how. What can better demonstrate the highest level of attainment in the learnig experience than the give and take of a dialogue, where teacher and students exchange ideas and information in a setting that teems with mutual respect and is done on a footing of equality.

The process can be easily implemented in a few short steps. It is important that the teacher and the students discuss the project – term paper, activity, discussion, debate, art project – and what is expected. Lydia Caprarella explains to her students they will decide on how the project will be graded, and outlines the negotiable contracting procedure to them in the following manner:

[Elements of our] grading were neatness, amount of research, creativity and information included. It was up to us to include these essentials…”

-Nao Yoneda Student

“I want you to put yourself in my place. You are the teacher. A student hands in this project (or paper) that you consider to be worth an A grade. What are the specific criteria that help you determine that it is excellent?

“For example, if you wrote a speech to convince your peers to extend the lunch period, criterion for grading your speech may be your ability to be persuasive, use logic, be captivating, as well as use of good grammar.

“So, now let’s turn back to the project at hand. Working in your cooperative groups, generate a list of criteria that you, as a teacher, would use for grading purposes. We will examine them together and make a list that we can agree on together.”

Lydia calls on one speaker at a time from each cooperative group who submits a criterion to be listed on the board. After all of the groups have been given the opportunity to submit their ideas, the students discuss them. It might happen thatLydiahas a criterion that was not posted on the board that is essential to a fair and equitable assessment of the project being assigned. If that is the case, she explains in detail the additional item being added to the list, and why it is so important for inclusion.Lydia and her students negotiate together and prioritize the four or five criteria for selection.

“Now, the whole environment in the class is much different than how I taught before. Students want to express what they think and are willing to get involved with the topic.”

-Joan Jung


The Levels of Listening

ListeningWhere teachers are immersed in the methodology of coaching, they use a skill called deep listening. In the school where coaching has been inculcated as a daily ritual, the highest levels of listening are a constant recognized presence. Teachers who are closed to their own personal growth respond to these questions by stating that they only function at the highest level. However, while training Lydia and Kim, we all laughed together because there are times where we can function at the highest level, but admit to sometimes slipping inadvertently to the lowest when the environment becomes stressful.


“One thing I love about this approach is that you begin to listen with your eyes. It allows you to extend the dialogue while the focus remains on the student.”

-Libby Wicks


At the lowest level of listening, the teacher is really not hearing or engaged, and basically ignores the student. At the next level, the teacher listens subjectively, turning what the student states and taking ownership of it, and discusses it from his or her perspective. More objective listening occurs at the third level where the teacher listens from the view of the student and makes inquiries. And finally, the teacher listens deeply at the highest level when behavioral and body cues are taken into account along with what the student states.  Therefore, the major difference between the lowest and highest levels of listening is when Kim andLydia concentrate objectively and emphatically on their students.

Guided Listening

If the concentration always remains on the needs of students, this becomes quite evident as the teacher as coach moves beyond the levels and employs guided listening. Here again, is a helpful coaching tool applied as a response to students; the twist is using a question or statement as a counter to what they asked, allowing them to find their own way or their own solution. Sometimes students are stuck and need help to move forward so that they can complete the task at hand. At times, students just need to be acknowledged; other times the teacher as coach can guide them to move forward. Let’s examine two of the many specific skills used by certified coaches when speaking to individuals:


Letting students know that you have heard them is a powerful tool. Using this skill, the teacher reflects back through paraphrasing what was said.

   Social Studies Class:

Vikram:           I keep looking for books that would help me prepare, but they seem too difficult.

Mrs. Trettor:   You can’t seem to find anything at the workstation that is at a comfortable reading level.

   Chemistry Class:

Miguel:           To set up this experiment, I need a mid-size beaker.


“It caused me to be aware of group interactions and to try to sort out the roots of certain groups’ problems.”

-Lydia Caprarella


Ms. Marcus:   In other words, the beakers that are available are not the correct size. 


When emotions arise, it is important for a teacher to recognize how a student is feeling, especially when it affects the learning environment. This skill is not judgmental in terms of being right or wrong. It allows the student to know that you are seeing the world from his or her perspective.

Drama Class:

Cassandra:   I’m really upset that I wasn’t chosen for the solo part in the county production.

Ms. Lopez:     It is very normal to have those feelings. You practiced hard and you put all your efforts into trying out.

Using acknowledging and validating together are powerful tools. We offer you a real life example to stress our point. Just imagine calling the telephone company after a heavy storm, complaining that you can’t reach your 85 year old mother. Normally, their response is that the storm wasn’t their fault and that they are trying their best; and to please calm down. But instead; after listening to you vent your anxieties, the customer representative states, “This must be a stressful time for you as you are unable to reach your elderly mother. (Acknowledgement) You and others in your position have every right to plead for service. (Validation) I’ll place your mother’s name on the emergency list and we will make her a priority. I’ll call you back in 24 hours with an update.” (Giving Empowerment)

The 3-Step Process of Problem Solving

“I like the 3-Step Process because it focuses on accomplished results and does not ponder on past challenges, but rather past successes.”

 -Michael Pastena

Trainer & Coach

There are always those moments when a student, or even an administrator, finds that they have hit a wall. Not literally, of course, but they are suddenly confronted by a problem that seems impossible to solve. In this situation, a teacher as coach could come to the rescue, using the 3-Step Process (iPEC, 2005) that achieves great results. In essence, it is a reflective process to ask the right questions (Wright, 1998). The coach, working with the student, looks back upon similar situations to determine what has been successful, allowing the youngster to decide what exactly had made it successful, why it succeeded in the first place, and how that particular formula can be applied. It gives them empowerment and motivation.

Step 1:     What in the past was similar to what you are dealing with currently? How were you able to solve that problem? Describe what made it successful.

Step 2:     Why did it work so well? How can you assess what worked? Describe specifically what steps you used.

Step 3:     How can you use that knowledge and apply it to your current situation? What information from that experience is powerful that can be applied now? What strengths and resources do you have that will help you achieve your current goal?

The 3-Step Process was put to excellent use by Ms. Orlov in her science classroom. The class was preparing a major discussion, with several perspectives, on the successes and failures of major hydroelectric projects throughout the world. Circulating from group to group, Ms. Orlov noticed that Blanche Polinski, a good student and usually very active, was focusing her attention that day on what was happening beyond the classroom window rather than on her work.

Ms. Orlov, taking her aside, gently admonished Blanche, telling her, “You were assigned to read material on hydroelectric projects, to understand how power is generated, and to prepare for the discussion. But you seem to be elsewhere today.”

Shy and slightly embarrassed, Blanche admitted that she didn’t understand much of the material, replying, “I get frustrated when there aren’t any pictures of diagrams to go along with the explanation.”

Ms. Orlov took Blanche aside to avoid embarrassing her in front of the other students and groups and asked, “Could it be that you’re a visual learner?”

This seemed slightly confusing to the young girl who didn’t understand the point Ms. Orlov was making, but Blanche admitted, “I love art, and art classes. Drawing is my favorite activity.”

That some progress was being made satisfied Ms. Orlov. “Fine, Blanche,” she said, “you love art, and drawing is your favorite class. In your other classes, when you don’t understand the text, what have you done to help you understand the work?” (Step 1)

Blanche gave the question some thought. “Well, in math class,” she explained, “I like to use those fun materials – the mini canisters – for algebra. I pretend the ‘x’ is hidden inside the canister. I can see what the algebraic expression means.”

Ms. Orlov was pleased with the dialogue taking place. “Once you’ve used the cans,” Ms. Orlov asked, “then what do you do to finish your work and complete the assignments for homework?” (Step 2)

With a degree of confidence Blanche answered, “I draw them in my notebook. After awhile, I don’t need the drawings, but they help me out in the beginning to understand what I’m doing.”

Moving just a bit closer to Blanche and looking directly into her eyes, Ms. Orlov inquired, “How could you use your special artistic talent and apply it here? (Step 3)

At that moment it seemed as if a great weight had been lifted from the young girl’s shoulders. With a hesitant smile, Blanche replied, “I haven’t given it much thought, but I could draw a picture for each section as I read through all of the material at the work station.”

That Ms. Orlov was pleased would be an understatement. She had guided Blanche to find her own way. As she walked with Blanche back to the group she told her, “That’s a great idea, and it just might work. I’ll keep an eye on you to see if you continue to have difficulties. If you’re pleased with your drawings, do you think we could use them as a model to help others understand hydroelectric power? (Empowerment and Motivation)

Blanche’s reply was a smile capable of warming the coldest heart.

A Coaching School, A Coaching Community

Our goal is to ignite people’s thinking and to be a catalyst for educational change. What would happen if superintendents coached principals, principals coached teachers, teachers coached students, and students coached their peers? It would create a coaching environment vertically as well as horizontally. Not only would these skills resonate throughout the confines of the school, but they could also be extended to PTA organizations where the techniques could infiltrate into the home environment with beneficial results. After approximately 30 years of teaching, these techniques have defined us as educators like no other previous training. This was a step that improved our lives, our relationships, our teaching, and the way we viewed the world.

Please share with us which coaching strategies can aid your ability to empower students. In what ways does this methodology augment your teaching or administrative practices? (To reply, please click on the comment link next to the title or scroll down.) 


Andi Stix is an educational consultant & coach who specializes in differentiation, interactive learning, writing across the curriculum, classroom coaching and gifted education. For further information on her specialties or social media, please email her on the Contact page.



Crane, T. The heart of coaching: Using transformational coaching to create a high performance culture.San Diego,CA: FTA Press.

Eisner, E. (2005). Back to whole. Educational Leadership, (63)1, 14-17.

Guarino, M. (2004, Feb 13th). Empty nesters find purpose and motivation: The action step guide once the children leave. SparkPeople.Cincinnati,OH: SparkPeople, Inc.

iPEC: Institute for Professional Empowerment Coaching (1999, 2005). Coach training manual.Manasquan,NJ: iPEC.

Kohn, A. (2005). Unconditional teaching. Educational Leadership, (63)1, 20-24.

Longenecker, C.  & Pinkel, G. (1997). Coaching to win at work. Manage, 48(2), 19-21.

Marklein, M. B. (2005, Oct. 12th). College kids get coached up. USA Today. McLean, VA: Gannett Co., Inc.

Stix, A. (Fall 2000). Negotiable contracting. Gems of AGATE Newsletter. 24(3). NY: Advocacy for Gifted and Talented Education inNew YorkState.

Wright, K. (1998). Breaking the Rules: Removing the obstacles to effortless high performance.Boise,Idaho: CPM Publishing.

Zeus, P. and Skiffington, S, (2001). The complete guide to coaching at work.  NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

Click here to receive a PDF version of this article.

Posted in Articles, Speeches & Past Posts, Classroom Coaching, Discussion Strategies, Listening, Motivation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Thematic Guiding Questions Pertinent to Adolescents

 by Andi Stix Ed.D. and Frank Hrbek

© 2004  Social Studies Strategies for Active Learners, published by Teacher Created Materials

Oftentimes teachers struggle with whether or not to teach Social Studies chronologically or thematically. Well, the teacher can easily do both, using their sequential course of study as a primary strategy coupled with a thematic study as a support strategy! We examined different themes that are pertinent to adolescents and generated a list of choices from which teachers can choose. A teacher may decide on one or two themes that are addressed throughout the year. For each theme, we have generated questions under three subheadings; historical content, how it affects the students personally, and how it affects their school or community. This is easily implemented and can be integrated within the curriculum.

Thematic QuestionsIn the beginning of the school year the teacher along with the students pick and choose from the list below what they would like to examine in depth during the school year. The theme along with the questions are posted in the classroom. Of course, we recommend that the teacher and students write them in their own words and modify them so that students feel ownership in the process. After each book or each major portion of the book, the teacher and students revisit the theme and chart the results. You will be surprised that sometimes you will be able to answer a question in detail and other times you will not be able to answer the question at all. This is a good reflection task that will bring unity to the year and to the curriculum. Your goal is to present and examine these big ideas and connect them throughout the year’s study of history.

I. Identity 

Content: Describe in detail what makes this period in history have its own identity. Describe in detail what makes this identity different and unique. Describe in detail what makes the period in history similar to others.

Personal: In what ways does the time in history or the culture affect the way you identify yourself or give you understanding of whom you are today?

Community: In what ways does studying this period in history influence how you view your community or school identity?

II.  Independence

Content: Describe in detail the different ways this period in history or this culture proved to be dependent, interdependent, or totally independent on other cultures.

Personal: Describe in detail what you have learned from this period of time that can help you become more independent or interdependent in terms of working with your peers or adults.

Community: In what ways did this period of study influence how you view your community or school as independent, interdependent or dependent on other communities, schools, institutions, or levels of government?

III.  Tension/Stress

Content: Describe in detail the different ways tension is caused, formed, and cultivated during this period in history or within the culture just studied.

Personal: Describe in detail what you have learned that can help you understand the tensions you encounter from time to time are common to others who have lived during different times in history or who are derived from different cultures.

Community: In what ways are existing tensions in your community or school either similar and/or different from those of the particular period in history or the culture just studied?

IV. Conflict Resolution

Content: Describe in detail the different ways conflicts are resolved during this period in history or within the culture just studied.

Personal: Describe in detail what you have learned from this period of time that can personally help give you strategies to solve your own conflicts.

Community: In what ways are existing conflicts resolved in your community or school either similar and/or different from those of the particular period in history or the culture just studied? In what ways can you help to decrease conflicts in your environment?

V. Peer and Cultural Pressure

Content: Describe in detail the different ways cultural or peer pressure is used during this period in history or from the culture just studied.

Personal: Describe in detail what you have learned from this period of time that can personally help give you strategies so that you do not succumb to negative peer or cultural pressure when you don’t personally believe in it or are uncomfortable with what is being presented.

Community: In what ways did this period of study influence your view of how your community or school is influenced by peer or cultural pressure? Is your community or school similar or different than those from the period in history or from the different culture being studied? Describe in detail what you have learned to help spread words of wisdom in your community or school as a positive form of peer or cultural pressure.

VI. Human Rights

Content: Describe in detail the different ways human rights are abused and curtailed, or encouraged and improved during this period in history or within the culture being studied.

Personal: Describe in detail what you have learned from this period of time that can personally help give you strategies to stand up for your own human rights.

Community: In what ways does this period of study influence your view of how you can help and support others in your community or school to fight for human rights?

VII. Change

Content: Describe in detail the different ways the social or geographic environment, people, government, or economics changed during this period in history or within the culture just studied.

Personal: Describe in detail what you have learned from this period of time that can personally help you to understand or recognize the physical, mental, social, or environmental changes in your life.

Community: In what ways does this period of study influence your view of how you can make progressive and fruitful changes to help and support your community or school?

VIII. Alliances and Communication

Content: Describe in detail the different alliances of friends, community, political affiliations, or acquaintances that influenced and changed this period in history or within the culture just studied.

Personal: Describe in detail what you have learned from this period of time that can actually help you to become better at making and keeping personal friends and acquaintances.

Community: In what ways does this period of study influence your view of how you can make, keep, and support acquaintances and affiliations in your community or school?

IX. Loss

Content: Describe in detail the different ways the social or geographic environment, people, government, or economics declined and weakened during this period in history or within the culture just studied.

Personal: Describe in detail what you have learned from this period that can personally help you get through a difficult time in order for you to heal, understand, or recognize physical, mental, and social anguish or loss in your life.

Community: In what ways does this period of study influence your view of how you can help and support your community or school when a tragedy or loss occurs?

X. Gains

Content: By examining the achievements of this period in history or within the culture just studied, describe in detail the different ways the social or geographic environment, people, government, or economics was increased and strengthened.

Personal: Describe in detail what you have learned from this period of time that can personally help you celebrate and respect the physical, mental, social, or environmental gains in your life.

Community: In what ways does this period of study influence your view of how you can help and support your community or school when celebrations, acts of random kindness, or achievements occur?

XI. Meeting Goals

Content: During this period in history or within the culture just studied, describe in detail the strategy that was formulated, implemented, and made successful.

Personal: Describe in detail what you have learned from this period of time that can personally help you form and test out a strategy that will allow you to meet a goal in your life.

Community: In what ways does this period of study influence your view of how can you help establish a strategy to meet a goal in your community or at school?

XII. Decision Making

Content: Describe in detail how the culture or people during this period in history identified a problem, generated choices, collected data, evaluated and prioritized them and made a selection for sound decision making.

Personal: Describe in detail what you have learned from this period of time that can personally help you understand and use strategies for good decision making.

Community: In what ways does this period of study influence your view of how you can help and support your community or school so that sound decisions can be made?

Do you have other themes that are pertinent to adolescents? Please share them with us and tell us how thematic questions has helped you tie your unit or units or study together.  (To reply, please click on the comment link next to the title or scroll down.)

Andi Stix is an educational consultant & coach who specializes in differentiation, interactive learning, writing across the curriculum, classroom coaching and gifted education. For further information on her specialties or social media, please email her on the Contact page.

Click here to receive a PDF version of this article.

Posted in Curriculum Writing, Guiding Questions, Interdisciplinary Instruction, Questioning, Social Studies, Teaching Strategies, Writing Curriculum | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments