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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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Viewing Events from Multiple Perspectives

 by Andi Stix, Ed.D. and Frank Hrbek

                                                               © 2003 Middle States Council for the Social Studies

As we begin a new century, one in which globalism is no longer a concept but a growing reality, it is important for our nation’s students to understand and analyze current issues of public debate with an eye toward the varied interpretations and approaches various players bring to the discussion of each problem.  Indeed, current social studies standards require that students be able to view events from multiple perspectives.  This article outlines a new strategy, from Social Studies for Active Learners, for cultivating among students the ability to consider the varying viewpoints of players in any number of debates where opinions differ and parties have their own agendas.

The Lobbyist Hearing strategy requires students to familiarize themselves with an assigned issue that is to be debated before a Congressional audience.  When all students understand the general issue at hand, groups are then given one perspective to learn in greater depth.  Later in the lesson, they are called before a committee to argue for their point of view, whether they personally agree with the assigned perspective or not.  Through the assignment of multiple perspectives and the use of primary sources as well as historical fiction, students are offered the opportunity to expand their understanding of an issue to include perspectives and opinions with which they may not have been previously aware.

This strategy can be adapted to any number of issues studied in the middle school social studies curriculum, but we will be using an example from the Lakota Indians debate to illustrate the strategy.  The question of what to do with the Indians was a prominent one in the late 1800s—should they be removed from their land, allowed to stay, or something else?  The perspectives examined in this unit include the Lakota, the United States Army, the Homesteaders, and Businessmen.  The Army was sympathetic to the Lakota, and simply wanted to keep the peace between them and the homesteaders.  The homesteaders wanted to keep the Lakota in check, limiting their allotment of land.  The businessman wanted to exploit the land and shrink the size of the reservation on which the Lakota were located.  The Lakota themselves wanted to maintain their way of life and to be free to roam and settle the land as they wished.

We begin by providing a rationale for the strategy before moving on to a description of it and its implementation in the middle school social studies classroom.  It is our hope that the strategy will be incorporated into the social studies classroom for various units of study in an effort to provide students with opportunities for considering multiple perspectives in context.


Current standards for the Social Studies require that students be able to “locate, access, analyze, organize and apply information about selected public issues—recognizing and explaining multiple points of view” (Standard Xc)[1].  Other standards require students to “explain how information may be interpreted by people from diverse cultural perspectives and frames of reference” (Standard Ib)[2] and to “demonstrate an understanding that different scholars may describe the same event or situation in different ways but must provide reasons or evidence for their views” (Standard IIa)[3].   These standards, while necessary for their own sake, imply that students must be encouraged to consider problems and issues from perspectives that differ from their own, in an effort to sensitize them to the needs and concerns of others.  The strategy described in this article was designed not only to meet these standards but also to meet the implicit call to cultivate in our students better critical thinking skills and broader sensitivities to the needs and goals of other cultures, groups, or individuals.

According to Arias, Hitchens, and Roupp, “Discerning fact from opinion and identifying multiple perspectives in cross-cultural encounters are desirable outcomes of instruction in our increasingly interconnected world” (Ask Eric)[4].  One might assume that in the past only white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant males made decisions in this country, but it would be a mistake to believe that problems have always been considered from just one point of view.  And in this world, where the boundaries separating peoples of different races, religions, and ethnicities are becoming more and more blurred, one thing has not changed: multiple perspectives need to be considered in the making of public policy and the resolution of disputes that affect the nation, the states, the towns, and each and every household.  The multiple perspectives brought to bear on issues of local, national, and international affairs will help our modern society decide some of the most problematic issues of our time.  And students at all levels need to understand that there are always different opinions on issues of great import. Further, they need to learn to consider these differing perspectives, and to put themselves in their “adversary’s” shoes in order to become more sensitive to the views that come to bear on decisions and the consequences of those decisions for all parties involved.

Important to this process of sensitizing students and encouraging them to use critical thinking skills, is the use of primary source documents as part of the curriculum, in addition to the use of historical fiction, which places fictional characters in historical situations, or real historical persons in fictional situations.  It introduces students to real people from history, and engages them in the tapestry of historical events and epochs.  Primary source documents are important for obvious reasons, but many social studies teachers ask why it is important to include historical fiction in a classroom not dedicated to the study of the Humanities.  The response, as Suzanne Miller writes, is that “The few studies of the influence of literature in history classes suggest that reading, discussing, and writing about historical fiction and biographies provokes strong historical interest/understanding and development of critical thinking strategies.  For example, middle school students learned to compare sources and evaluate issues and events from multiple perspectives.  Although these studies did not specifically focus on students’ developing understanding of cultures or diversity, taken together, they suggest that literature-history integrations may have promising influences on student understanding and thinking”[5].

Historical fiction, as we define it, includes any work of fiction that uses historical events, situations, people, or places as part of the setting or the story. Including young adult literature in the Social Studies classroom allows students to easily identify with protagonists set in historical contexts, and to extend their imaginations to the varied consideration of problems and issues throughout history.  Historical fiction does not replace primary sources; instead, it complements primary sources and inspires students to engage in the literature, and they are more interested in reading imaginative materials that bring color and life to an historical period that might otherwise seem out of reach.  Such literature allows students “to make personal connections with their learning and to approach it from a number of perspectives”[6].  The vicarious experiences provided by young adult historical fiction offer students a more personal connection to material that can otherwise seem disconnected from their own lives.   In this lesson, historical fiction is used to present the competing viewpoints and to engage students in the situations being studied.

This Lobbyist Hearing strategy engages students on multiple levels, but more importantly, it teaches them to consider that there is always another side to every argument, issue, or problem.  Incorporating this activity into any number of different units will help train students to consider varying perspectives in myriad situations, so that they might learn to apply such critical thinking in their own lives, as they grow and face situations that demand sensitivity and understanding.  Opening students’ minds to the possibility of different points of view, and asking them to analyze and explain points of view that differ from their own, teaches them about compassion, tolerance, and understanding just as it requires students to raise their thinking to new levels.  Using the historical fiction presented on the “teaser sheets” introduces them to the situation or event and is the springboard for further research; the teasers are meant to provide background while encouraging students to go out and find the primary sources that detail the factual side of the topics they are studying.

Methods and Materials

Teachers will need at least three class periods to complete the strategy, allowing time for students to conduct research, either at home or during class time, and to meet with their groups at least twice before presenting their arguments before “Congress.”

Preparation for the Lobbyist Hearing

Lobbyist HearingAfter breaking students up into groups, the teacher starts by asking them to describe a time when someone tried to persuade them to do something.  They should discuss their responses with members of their group and then chart their responses on the board.   The teacher should then explain to students that lobbyists in Washington represent the views of the specific interest groups they represent.  These interest groups would like to persuade Congress to set policies or pass laws that benefit their group and/or society at large.  In this activity, students will take on the roles of lobbyists trying to persuade Congress to accept their position on the fate of the Lakota Indians.  Each group will prepare a speech to deliver before a mock Congressional committee.

At this point, the teacher and students should determine the criteria for assessment.  By placing themselves in the position of the teacher, students should consider what should be taken into account when assessing each group’s speech.  When they come up with some ideas, the teacher should chart the responses on chart paper and post it where everyone can see them and where they can be referred back to easily.  Some sample criteria for the lobbyist hearing include: addressing the key issues, good eye contact, good sequencing, a strong opening, persuasive speech, and a powerful closing.  Teachers may then draw up rubrics for the final criteria.  Each student should receive a copy of the rubric chart, which should have a space for each point of view.  Later on, while listening to the arguments, students should rate the other groups, using the criteria decided upon.

For this strategy, instead of using longer historical fiction such as books, we recommend using “teaser” sheets, which summarize the various viewpoints using a historical fiction format.  The teasers are not meant to be the only reading on the issue the students do.  Instead, they are intended to be springboards for further research.  Each teaser sheet provides one perspective on the issue that is detailed through the narration of a representative of the particular viewpoint and helps guide groups and individual students toward an understanding of a given viewpoint.  For instance, in the Lakota Indians debate, four teaser sheets are written from the perspectives of those who were directly involved in the debate (the Lakota, the homesteaders, the U.S. government, and businessmen); they use historically factual information but are written as fiction.  Because they are brief, each group receives a balanced amount of reading, and the information provided offers an accurate but fairly detailed background for the students.  And though each teaser sheet is fictional, the information is historically based and brings the information to life, stimulating the students’ imagination.  Finally, because students are asked to conduct further research, uncovering primary source documents, considering scholarly interpretations, and analyzing various forms of information, no student can be left behind. The teaser sheets provide enough information so students who do not conduct further research, or only conduct minimal research, can still participate in the hearing, relying on the teaser sheets for information.  Teachers may write their own teaser sheets, or they may be obtained through the Exploring History series.


To begin, students are broken into groups, where each student is assigned a different letter—A, B, C, and D.  They are then “jigsawed” into new groups of students who were assigned the same letter, so all As sit together, all Bs, all Cs, etc.  Each new group is given a teaser sheet representing one of the perspectives on the issue.  The groups must read the teaser sheets at a very minimum, but they will also be asked to conduct further research on that particular point of view in order to become experts.  They will have to present their “side of the story” to a congressional committee, which will decide the outcome of the situation, so the teaser sheets are important for getting students started.  Students may find that they do not agree with the perspective assigned to them, but the nature of the strategy is to get students to consider viewpoints that may differ from their own so that they may become more sensitive to the needs and goals of others and so that they might improve their argumentation skills by taking on a viewpoint they may not espouse.

After the groups become experts, they are jigsawed back into their original home-based groups, where they share their knowledge and viewpoints with the other members, so each student has a preliminary understanding of all perspectives.  Knowing the perspectives of the other players will help students to structure effective arguments that take into account the opposing side’s point of view.  Again, students are jigsawed back into their expert groups, where they identify the main points of their argument on an organizational sheet provided by the teacher to each student.  The organizational sheet should have room for students to note the brainstorming ideas the group comes up with and a separate section where the group can organize the final points it will cover in the final speech.   For example, the group that must present the Lakota Indian point of view might decide to focus its argument before the committee on the importance of hunting to the Lakota, the lack of trust the white man inspired by his empty promises, the problem of hunger among the Lakota, and the importance of the wildlife that helped to sustain their way of life.

Each group member is then given one or two key areas to research on their own.  They are asked to prepare a 30 second to one minute speech on their assigned areas.  A draft may be written on scrap paper and rehearsed, but when it comes time to present their portion of the speech, students may only use index cards with cue words and phrases written on them as a guide.  In other words, students should not be reading their speeches from a sheet of paper, but rather rehearsing and practicing their arguments ahead of time and relying on cue words to help them along.

When each member of the group has completed his/her research and searched for primary source documents to support his/her argument, the group comes together to prepare a unified speech to deliver before the committee. Each student must deliver part of the speech, providing specific reasons and evidence that supports his/her own group’s perspective.  Before finalizing the speech, however, one member of every group is pulled out and designated as part of the congressional hearing committee.  The remaining members must incorporate that student’s research into their finalized speech.  While the groups finalize their arguments, the new group, made up of an odd number of committee members, should discuss their views with each other and abandon their biases in preparation for making a reasoned decision based on the arguments the other groups will present.  It is important to give the committee time to bond as a group so that they can make an informed and fair decision at the end.  And while they work together, the other groups should be practicing their speeches, concentrating now on their speaking skills and their arguments.  Of course, the teacher should be circulating around the room, offering assistance and guidance as needed.

The Hearing

Now it is time for the lobbyist hearing.  To set up, arrange desks for the committee members at the front of the room, facing the class.  Each member should have sufficient paper and pens or pencils in order to take notes.  The teacher should begin the hearing by calling the room to order and announcing the date, time, and location in addition to the issue about to be addressed.  The congressional committee members should then stand up and introduce themselves to the lobbyists to set the stage.

The groups are then called upon, one at a time, to argue their cause before the committee, which must decide the case based on the arguments provided.  Each group should stand on the side wall, facing the rest of the class so that members of other groups and the committee can see and hear them clearly.  Because the various arguments are presented before the entire class, students are able to listen and consider more closely the opposing viewpoints, and must think about the issue from a variety of perspectives.  As they listen, each student must fill out their rubric chart, commenting on the skills each group demonstrates.  The teacher, of course, can do the same, while also noting each student’s speaking skills, knowledge of the subject matter, and effectiveness in lobbying for the cause.

After each group ends its address, the congressional committee must ask follow up questions.  Each member of the committee is responsible for asking at least one open-ended question addressed to a different lobbyist speaker.  The process should be repeated with each group.

Finally, the committee will discuss in private (usually in the hallway) all the viewpoints they have heard.  The privacy allows them to freely discuss each group’s performance and arguments without being interrupted by or inhibited in front of their classmates.  They need to render a majority decision, offering their reasons for choosing that point of view.  While they debate the positions, the rest of the class should write down their predictions of the outcome.  When ready, one of the committee members will stand before the class and render the group’s decision.  The teacher may then collect the charts to assess how well students paid attention.

As a post-activity, students are asked to return to their home-based groups, where the points of view on the issue were mixed.  Tell students they are no longer lobbyists arguing for one particular viewpoint, but rather the general public, trying to decide upon a solution to the problem considering all the positions and arguments offered.  They should brainstorm all the possible solutions and discuss the committee’s decision, deciding which approach is the best.  The teacher should then call on each group to offer its resolution to the issue, charting the responses on the board.  After each group has offered its answer, the teacher should take a vote of the rest of the class, charting the responses in a bar graph format.  For homework, students should write their reflections on the experience and whether or not they agreed with the outcomes.

Another post-activity that works well with the lobbyist hearing simulation involves asking students to find out more about their government.  Ask them, for homework, to find out what is happening in their own local, state, or national government.  They can watch cable news channels that air congressional debates or court proceedings, read newspapers, search the web, or listen to radio broadcasts to find out more.  Teachers may ask students to record their responses, discussing what they found and their thoughts about it.  Or, they may ask students to write to their local representatives in Congress expressing an opinion on an issue of local import, stressing reasons and evidence for their position. In whole class discussion format, students may share what they have found as the teacher charts some of the information and analyses on the board.

Ultimately, the teacher will review the outcome of the case, noting whether or not students became more insightful about various points of view.  A whole class discussion can even be held to discuss what students thought before the simulation, and what they thought after hearing the other points of view.  Did anyone change his/her mind?  How did they feel about the issue before, and how do they feel now?  The teacher should reveal to the students the actual historical outcome to the issue; in this case, the Lakota were forced to remain on the reservation, which was made smaller and smaller, until it finally consisted of only useless land.


It is important to keep in mind that this strategy can be used to explore a number of historical problems and issues, in which varying perspectives affected the ultimate outcome.  Some examples of issues for which this approach would be appropriate include slavery, prohibition, women’s suffrage, entering WWI and WWII, and immigration, among others.  Ultimately, we believe this approach to learning and considering multiple perspectives will engage and interest students as they consider, research, argue and persuade others to look at things from “their” perspective.

Sample lesson

Lobbyist Hearing of the Lakota Indians, Late 1800s

In this simulation, students participate in a congressional hearing, where panel members listen to the persuasive arguments of different interest groups to determine the fate of the Lakota Indians in the late 1800s. The participants become lobbyists representing the Lakota Indians, the United States Army, the Homesteaders, and the Businessman. They argue and cajole, trying to persuade the congressional panel to their point of view of what should be done.

Panel Members Listening to Persuasive Arguments

Setting the Stage

  1. Pose the following question to the students: Describe a time when someone tried to persuade you to do something? In cooperative groups, have students discuss their personal experiences with the other members of their group.
  2. After they have finished the discussion, pose the following questions: Generate a list of what each of the stories had in common with one another. Describe in detail the techniques in which someone tried to persuade you. Have the students record their responses.
  3. Bring the class together and chart the results on chart paper, so that their responses can be saved and referred to from time to time.
  4. Describe the lobbying simulation to the students: The class with be divided into four groups, each taking a different point of view of a controversial, open-ended issue. Each group will research that viewpoint and will have to write key issues on index cards. These key issues will cue them as to what to say before a congressional hearing committee. Each student will be given one key issue to cover. The major objective of every group is to compose a speech that, with the very first words, captivates the audience, holding their attention and pulling them to their side. The last speaker is just as important. For when this person is finished, the listeners should be right in the speaker’s pocket. It is every group’s job to sway the committee to their way of thinking, using persuasive speech and intelligent arguments, so that when the congressional representatives vote, they will vote for those who spoke most persuasively.
  5. Negotiable Contracting of Rubric Criteria: 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 simulation? Allow students to brainstorm criteria in their cooperative groups. The teacher lists the results on large chart paper as a reference guide, which can be posted in a visible area of the classroom. The following are sample ideas:
  1. Address key issues in their speech
  2. The first person grabs the audience
  3. The group’s speech is sequenced well
  4. The last person’s speech leaves the audience with something to think about
  5. Good eye contact
  6. Speak persuasively and to the point

Determine how much each section is worth for the entire grade.

Preparing the Lobbyists

  1. Begin by breaking the class into cooperative groups of 4 students in each group. Call each cooperative group a “home-base group.” Designate each student within the group as letter A, B, C, and D. There should be within every home base group an equal number of students. Assign the lobbying roles to students A, B, C, and D. You might have students sign up for a particular lobbying role, but that might present a problem when too many sign up for a favored or “popular” part.  (Now you are confronted with the problem of how you’ll be handling the rest of the class.  To which students do you assign the least favored lobbying role?  Will you be accused of “favoritism?”)
  2. “Jigsaw” the class into new groups. Ask all As to sit together, all Bs, etc. This way you will be dividing the class into four major lobbying groups. Each letter will lobby for their particular cause. For example, in the “End of the Frontier” lesson, which deals with the west from the 1860s to the 1890s, there was considerable controversy over the Indian issue.  In this case, A students could represent the homesteaders, B: the Army, C: the Native Americans and D: big business. Depending on the size of the class, you may have more than one cooperative group per point of view: In other words, two groups of four students for the “A” point of view, two groups for “B”, etc.
  3. In advance, photocopy each point of view found on the following pages. We call them “teaser sheets.” We use this term because they are suppose to motivate students to do their own individual research beyond this handout. Distribute each particular view to each group of students. For their specific point of view, have students highlight the essential points with a marker. Distributing a teaser sheet prevents student failure for those who would not go beyond the handout. These teaser sheets are historical fiction. It is our aim to encourage students to do individual research to find their own primary sources, beyond the handouts they’ve been given. They may use the classroom library or different centers in the classroom where the teacher has placed resource materials, primary sources, trade books, textbooks, CD ROM applications, or an access to the Internet. Sample primary source document suggestions are:Perspectives on History Series by Discovery Enterprises, Ltd., Lowell, MA, or Jackdaws Packets of Primary Sources, Amawalk, NY
  4. To simply “mouth” phrases from the handout is self-defeating. If they haven’t ventured beyond the handout material, they have gained very little from the lesson, though they will still be able to participate. It is the individual research, knowing the essential facts, becoming a “true believer” in a cause, which gives the speaker the passion and the drive to score his or her points and win over the audience.
  5. In their lobbying groups, students discuss what they individually highlighted. They share the information they culled from their research sources. They now become “experts.”
  6. Jigsaw the students back into their original home-base groups, having one student from each lobbying, expert group. Each student shares their expert knowledge with the others in the group. This is important as it gives every student a general background of the other perspectives as they begin to prepare for their expert, lobbying groups.
  7. Jigsaw students back into their expert, lobbying groups. Distribute the Organizational Sheet that follows–one per group.  In a brainstorming fashion, students generate a list of notable points in the section titled “Brainstorming Key Issues.” Every idea that is generated is listed without making any judgment of its validity. Allow students 5 minutes to complete the task. Timing students will increase production.
  8. Once their ideas have been reported, students decide which issues they should cover. They now decide the sequence or order and write that in the bottom section of the handout. Students discuss which ones should come first, second, and last during their speech. The class will be instructed, and this should be emphasized, that the first person must make a powerful opening speech. This begins the buildup to the last person’s “keynote” address, which should have the impact of leaving a lasting impression.
  9. Distribute 3×5 index cards to all students. Ask each student to take on one or two points from the list and to write a 30 second to one minute speech first on scrap paper. (As an option, the teacher may wish to ask the students to write a formal speech where the writing process is used.) Obviously, each student should have different point(s) to make before the Congress. Each student constructs a speech to “win” the listener over through persuasion, by using a good hook so that Congress will listen, working on emotions to get them involved, emphasizing facts to substantiate the point(s). Once the speech is written, the student highlights the essential words. Only the essential words may be written on index cards. The teacher must oversee that students do not write out the speech in full sentences on the index cards. This will prevent them from reading off a card. Tell students that you will be grading them not only on the content of what they have to say, but also on good speaking behavior. Review the criteria of assessment: persuasive speech, presentation skills, and proper sequencing ability. Ask your students to generate a list of what good speaking behavior means: good eye contact, punctuating important points by using different tones of voice, showing that you care about what you are saying as you show personal interest and emotion. Students may wish to add a background song, a chart, a picture, gestures or body language, or a drawing to embellish their speech. If students have the passion for their cause, they will carry the audience with them. And if they can do that, they’ll carry the day.
  10. Pull one student from each group. These students will now form the panel that will hear the groups. Make sure that there is an odd number of students. If need be, pull one extra student to make it an odd number. At the end of the simulation, they will have to vote to make a decision. Obviously, this can only be achieved with an odd numbered group. As each student is pulled, the index card is given back to the lobbying group who must now incorporate those points into their speeches. This structure provides for a well-balanced panel, containing members from all different points of view who have “expert” knowledge. However, they are now told to discuss their views with each other and abandon their original bias. They must now serve impartially, as they are being called upon to render a decision. While the rest of the lobbying groups practice, the students on the panel discuss their positions and collectively write open-ended questions that they hope will be answered. It is important to give them time to bond as a group in their new role.
  11. While the Congressional group is working together, the other groups practice their speaking skills as they take on their roles of lobbyists who try to convince or persuade the Congress to their way of thinking. The teacher circulates from group to group, giving assistance.

Organizational Sheet

Point of View: ____________________________________________

Students’ Names: ______________________________________________________________


Brainstorming Key Issues:

__________________________________                ____________________________________

__________________________________                ____________________________________

__________________________________                ____________________________________

__________________________________                ____________________________________

__________________________________                ____________________________________

__________________________________                ____________________________________

__________________________________                ____________________________________

__________________________________                ____________________________________

Which issues will you cover? Place them in order:

1. ________________________________                2. __________________________________

3. ________________________________                4. __________________________________

5. ________________________________                6. __________________________________

7. ________________________________                8. __________________________________

9. ________________________________               10.__________________________________

The Hearing

  1. Have the congressional committee sit in front of the room behind desks, with notepaper and pens or pencils, to take notes and to jot down questions they might want to ask of each lobbying group. Each Congressional member stands up and states his or her name to set the stage.
  2. To begin the simulation, the teacher announces the day, time, and location of the hearing as well as the issue that is about to be heard.
  3. Call on one lobby group at a time. Ask them to stand against the side wall, facing the rest of the class in the order they will be giving their speeches. This way the rest of the class can see their faces as well as the committee’s faces, and clearly hear the presentations.
  4. Before beginning to speak, the first speaker in each group states the person and the special group or cause they are representing.
  5. Each member gets a turn to speak. This lesson, the “lobbying” enactment, can also serve as an opportunity for the teacher to observe speaking skills, knowledge of subject matter, and the effectiveness of each student to lobby for the cause.
  6. As students listen to other groups, they fill in the chart that follows.
  7. At the end of their address, the congressional committee asks follow up questions. Each panel member should be required to ask at least one open-ended question of the lobbyist, focusing on one speaker, to engender full participation of the class.
  8. Repeat the process with the rest of the lobbying groups.

The Decision

  1. In private, the committee discusses what they have heard. They need to render a decision and state reasons why they rendered the decision.
  2. At the same time, the rest of the lobbyists quietly write down their prediction as to what the committee will decide.
  3. A committee member stands up and renders its decision.
  4. The teacher collects the charts to assess how well each student paid attention.

Post Activity: Charting the Results

  1. Tell the students that they are now the public and have heard the congressional committee render its decision. They are no longer lobbyists, and this has become a personal decision. Ask all of the students to get back into their home base groups, which were their original groups before they were sectioned off to a particular point of view. Inform the groups they will be given enough time to brainstorm all of the possible solutions to the controversy. They should discuss if they agree with the congressional committee’s decision, or if they formulated a decision that was far better than anything else offered as a solution.
  2. The teacher asks the class for the different decisions that emerged in the cooperating groups. The teacher creates a chart with the issues. Then the instructor takes a vote on each decision and charts the results with a bar graph.
  3. For homework, student may write their reflections on the experience and whether or not they agreed or disagreed with either of the decisions.

Post Activity: Analyzing the Government

  1. Now that students have had the opportunity to be lobbyists and analyze one another’s performance, ask them to find out what is happening in their own local, state, or national government. Often times, there are cable television channels that air congressional debates and speeches where the lobbying technique is used. Some students may wish to view Court Television to listen to the techniques that are used there.
  2. Distribute another piece of chart paper and ask the students to fill in their responses from what they view on the television.
  3. Hold a class discussion on what they have analyzed. You may wish to chart the results.

Post Activity: The Actual Results

  1. Of course, the lesson isn’t complete until the teacher reviews the actual outcome of the case. Most of the times, the students will be more caring and considerate than what actually happened historically. Ultimately, the Lakota were forced to remain on the reservation, which was made smaller and smaller, until it consisted only of useless land.
For other strategies with content, please see Exploring History by Andi Stix, Ed.D. and Frank Hrbek, published by Teacher Created Materials

If you have tried the Lobbyist Hearing, in what ways were your students engaged? Please describe in detail how your classroom environment became more interactive. (To reply, please click on the comment link next to the title or scroll down.)


Lobbyist Hearing: View Points



of View:




Notable Points



Persuasive Speech


Presentation Skills


Sequencing Ability


Overall Grade:



Name: _________________________                      Teacher: ________________________                    Date: ___________________________

Ellis Island National Monument, New York; US Department of the Interior, National Park Service; Artifacts/Archives Gallery, Second Floor Display

(Letter sent from Omaha, Nebraska, to Bohemia in Austro-Hungary, May 5, 1890. This letter prompted the writer’s four nephews to immigrate to the New World. They entered the USA through Ellis Island. The family donated the letter and other items to the Ellis Island Archives Gallery.


Jirka’s Letter:


 Mila Maminko a Tatinku’

(Dear Mother and Father)

Tady v America jsem bohac.  Mam velke majetek….

(Here in America I am a rich man.  I have much land…)

(For our purposes we will give only the English translation:)  and I am prospering.  The first ten years you already know were hard and lean, and I worked 10 or 12 hours daily, six days a week, sometimes seven days.  Working in the foundry nearly killed me. But I saved money, and when the government opened public lands again for settlement, Mariana and I decided to get our own land.

My dear mother and father, you are now grandparents to 5 boys and 3 girls.  Little Josef was born two months ago and is a healthy baby.  If God is good to me, I will have five sons to help me work my land in a few years time.  Mariana and I will not have to worry in our old age.  My 160 acres are in Nebraska.  The soil is like a sponge, as black as coal, and my wheat and corn sparkle the color of gold.  The wheat sprouts up to my chest, and the corn grows higher than the head of a horse.

We have plenty to eat, and with our livestock we will never go hungry.  Back home, with all this land, I would be a sedlak (“landlord”).  My next door neighbor was killed when he was kicked in the head by a horse.  His widow sold me their homestead when she decided to go back to her family in Ohio, and I now have over 300 acres of good farmland.  What a country, this America.

The government gave me 160 acres of land to work and live on for 5 years. When I worked it and stayed, it became mine.  This is a big country, with plenty of land.  All of the wild Indians that we always heard stories about back home are gone.  The government put them away on their own special lands.  Those that make trouble and attack settlers are quickly hunted down and punished.  I keep a rifle in the house, but I only shoot at the woodchucks that eat up my vegetable garden.  The soldiers make certain that the Indians do not bother the homesteaders.  The Indians were only in the way, and everyone hates them because they are savages and commit horrible atrocities.  More and more, people are moving onto the plains, farming the land like I do. They come not only from our country, but also from all over Europe.  I met some Czech people from Horazdovice and Tabor (Czech villages in Austro-Hungary), and there is also a large Czech community in Iowa.

Tell Milos and Jarda that this is a land for their sons to come to, to live in and to work and prosper.  If God keeps us all in good health, by next year I will be selling my corn and wheat in the marketplace.  Buyers from the big cities come in early spring, buying the crops we grow to sell in Europe.

I will try to send more money to you and the family after the harvests.

Mily rodice (my dear parents). I pray for you often.  May the Almighty keep you safe and in good health.

Your loving son, Jirka


HEADQUARTERS:  Third Military District

ORGANIZATION:  5th Cavalry Mounted Troops


Colonel Steven Neustadter


POST:  Fort Lincoln, Nebraska

DATE:  November 9, 1889


EFFECTIVES:  Officers 9

NCOs:  23

Enlisted Personnel: 405

POSTING/ASSIGNMENT: Apprehension of Cheyenne hostiles.

(1)   Information is being received at several military posts, and here at Fort Lincoln, that a Messiah has made his appearance among the various plains tribes. The Indian’s name is Wovoka. He is reputedly the son of a Paiute prophet. His is a shaman of the Paiute Tribe. Our informants indicate that he has an English name, Jack Wilson, given him by a rancher’s family that took him in.

(2)  Wovoka, or Jack Wilson, claims he died and paid a visit to God in the heaven. He preaches a religion that is a mix of Christian teachings and old Indian beliefs. It is being called the Ghost Dance religion by all the Indian tribes.

(3)  Wovoka, or Jack Wilson, preaches the coming of a new millennium. It will be a world where only Indians live and the buffalo and other game will again flourish, and all the previous generations of Indians will be resurrected. All will be happy and content, living for all eternity, free of misery, hunger, want, hardship, and disease. All the Indians must do is dance the Ghost Dance and observe the teachings of the new faith. Wovoka tells the Indians they must not fight. They cannot be violent. They must not hurt anyone. For everything to come to pass, they must do what is right.

(4)  The Army posts have observed that the tribes have taken to Wovoka’s teachings with a passion. They dance peacefully, awaiting the coming of this joyous new world of “bliss and plenty” for Indians. However, there are ominous rumblings at the Lakota Sioux Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations. The Lakotas are in a belligerent mood. Their shamans and medicine men are inciting the Indians to violence. The Indians are told that the day of deliverance will come even quicker if the white people are destroyed.

(5)  The Lakota are suffering. They complain that the Indian agents cheat them and steal. Many of the tribes took to the commanders of the military posts for help and assistance. They trust the “blue coats,” and have only bitter feelings for the agents. The tribes see that reservation lands are being taken away. They are suffering from disease and illness, and receive no help. The Congress has cut funds for the Indians, and they do not have enough to eat and go hungry. Severe droughts over the past years have destroyed their crops, and starvation is prevalent. Beyond the reservation, the Indians are subjected to ridicule, abuse, humiliation, and murder.

(6)  The 5th Cavalry Mounted Troops have been placed on constant alert in case of unrest, mutiny, insurrection, or an uprising.


Chief Hungry Wolf


The equal of Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, spoke to the Lakota people at the Ghost Dance ceremony, at Wounded

Knee, January 1, 1891.

(Moments after speaking, Sitting Bull and more than a hundred other Lakota, including Hungry Wolf, were cut down by the gunfire of the reservation’s Indian Police and soldiers of the US Army.  Casualties included scores of old men, women and children.)

There will be a new day soon for our people.  Once again the buffalo will be found in large numbers on the plains.  The spirits of our ancestors will join with our people, and we will again be a nation of great warriors.  We will again hunt as we did in the old days, before the White Man came like a flood to our land.  We will live as the Lakota nation had always lived, a free people, enjoying the freedom of the earth beneath the sheltering sky.

The Lakota nation will not fight the White Man.  That will not be our way.  We have never lied as the White Man has lied to his Lakota brothers.   We have never cheated the White Man as the White Man has cheated us.  Whenever the Lakota nation has given its word, we have always kept our word.  All the White Man did was to make treaties that he never honored.  Every treaty the White Man made was broken.  The Lakota are a great nation.  We do not lie.  We do not cheat.  And we are not driven to kill others for the yellow metal that is dug from the ground.

But on this day our hearts will not be heavy as we celebrate the Ghost Dance.  We prepare for the day when our world will again be as it was before the White Man’s coming.  Our hunting grounds will again be filled with game.  Our young warriors will ride free across the Great Plains.  The buffalo will once again give life to our people, so that they do not go hungry and starve because their bellies are empty.  There will be no fences and the land will be open to everyone.  There will be no Iron Horse running across our sacred lands.  The White Man’s talking wire will be no more.

The Great Spirit will smile down on the Lakota nation, for the Earth will be as it was. Clean water will flow again.  Fresh grass will cover the earth as the buffalo robe covers the ground in the teepee.  The buffalo will be everywhere.  The deer and elk and antelope will again roam the land in plentiful numbers.  And once again, the land that stretches form horizon to horizon will be here for all to enjoy.


The Ghost Dance calls to the spirits of our ancestors to join with the Lakota nation.  Their spirits will make our people free.  Their spirits will once again make our people great warriors.  It is their spirits that will make us great hunters again.  The White Man is like a swarm of grasshoppers.  He devours and destroys everything in his path.  The White Man’s way is not the way of the Lakota.  We do not need the White Man’s whiskey.  We do not want the White Man’s gifts.  We do not want to live as the White Man lives.  And we do not want his sicknesses.  We only want to be as we always were, before the White Man stole our land.  Before he cheated us and broke every treaty he made with his Indian brothers.  The White Man has a heart of stone.  He has a forked tongue like the snake.

We will celebrate the Ghost Dance and honor the spirits.  The Lakota nation will once again be a great people.  We will live in peace.  We will live with honor.  We will live with dignity.  And the Lakota nation will again be proud and free.

Article submitted to the New York Times Op-Ed page, August 9, 1884. Written by


Mr. Christian Wiley,


CEO of Marathon Mining Corp. with headquarters in Denver, Colorado. 

(Marathon Mining Corp. has large holdings throughout the Western states.  Gold, silver, copper and other industrial minerals are the corporation’s major source of revenue.  Over the past six years the corporation has paid increased dividends to its stockholders every quarter of every year.)

“Do-Gooders and Anarchists”

Americans are a great people and the United States is a great nation.  One-hundred-and-eight-years after we spanked our British cousins and became a nation, we have truly attained greatness.  We are one of the richest nations in the world.  We are blessed by God with all the natural resources a nation needs to be an industrial powerhouse.  It has all been given to us in abundance.  There is nothing that we can point to and say it is lacking.

The nation’s factories are manufacturing goods that are the best the world has seen, and sold in all the marketplaces.  Our farmlands make us a well-fed people. With our excess, we can even feed the rest of the world’s hungry masses.  Immigrants flock to our shores, for freedom, opportunity and the chance to attain a good life that eludes others elsewhere.  And if the United States continues to grow by such phenomenal leaps and bounds, we will indeed astound the rest of the world.  We will make more steel, mine more coal, suck more oil out of the earth, grow more crops, and raise more livestock than any of the world’s other two great powers combined.  And that, my dear friends, is not bragging; that is confidence.

But in order to accomplish this phenomenal growth, to attain our rightful place in the sun, we cannot allow false prophets to stand in our way.  We must turn away from professed “do-gooders” who will lead us astray.  Who but a total fool would speak of giving the land back to the Indian?  Who but a lunatic would call for an end to the reservations?  I ask, what would they have?  They would have an end to the progress that in one century has made us the envy of the world.  Can you imagine no progress?  Do we take several steps backward, to simply placate a warrior/hunter society whose time has come?  Let the Indians join the Dodo bird if they cannot adapt to the New World sprouting up about them.  The world we live in is a “dog-eat-dog” jungle, where only those through natural selection will advance, and only the fittest survive.  Darwin’s ideas are just as applicable to the nations of the world as they are to any species, and any sane person can see that the Indian is not fit either culturally or by inclination to survive in our modern industrial world.

The land is ready and waiting for exploitation.  The worker and laborer numbers in the millions, ready and able to confront the task.  The mighty rivers can be harnessed to provide inexpensive energy.  The forest that replenishes itself by nature’s own laws is waiting to provide millions of board-feet to build homes for a growing population in growing towns and cities.  The open plains are being plowed and food graces the tables of our millions and can also at the same time feed Europe’s and the world’s hungry.  The hills and mountains beckon, for there is gold and silver and precious metals all waiting the miner’s pick-and-shovel to send it to the smelters.  For what other reasons did God give the United States such a bounty of wealth and natural resources if not to use it?  And God answers:   “Use it to make the United States an example for the rest of the world to emulate.  Democracy is on the rise.”

We will be the envy of the world.  And when the anarchists agitate to conserve, when “do-gooders” beg for favors to save the land for the Indian, let us not forget that our kind government has provided for these hapless people who cannot fend for themselves in this 19th century world.  For what do we conserve when we must build?  The treasure is boundless, and we are making a better world for our people.  The ideas of the anarchists and “do-gooders’ are destructive to the orderly improvements being made in our great nation.  Conserve?  Stop progress? Save the Indian? Why, I say, it would be easier to try and stop the tide from sweeping in to shore!  We are a rich nation.   Our workers are well paid.  The people are content.  We will continue the march of progress. And as the West gives us its treasure, we will build the better world.  The West is too precious to our growth and well being to turn it over and back to a pitiable people who have learned nothing better of this world than to be scraggly warriors, hunters and thieves.

(This article was originally a speech given by Mr. Christian Wiley to the Colorado Chamber of Commerce on July 4, 1884.)



Level I

Level II

Level III

Level IV

Addresses Key Issues/Punches Points

¨       A minimal to an absence of key issues is presented.¨       Accordingly, any of the important points are not accentuated during speech.¨       A total absence of organization. ¨       A moderate amount of key issues is presented.¨       Of those, some are emphasized during speech.¨       Some organization can be detected. ¨       The key issuesare addressed.¨       The speaker emphasizes pointsas a highlight during the speech.¨       The organization is competent. ¨       Major and minor key issues are presented.¨       The speaker varies the intensity of accentuated points that are relevant.¨       From beginning to end, it is superbly organized.

Clarity of the Speaker

¨       Words are difficult to comprehend and wholly inadequate to what the speaker is trying to express.¨       Text is difficult to understand and is vague. ¨       Words are muddled, and a proper choice of words is lacking.¨       This presents the audience with some difficulty in understanding what is being said. ¨       Spoken words are reasonably clearand most thoughts are described in a complete manner.¨       Most of the words can be followed and understood with ease. ¨       Superb and crystal clear speaking, each word accurately describes the thought and intention of the speaker.¨       Easy to follow and understand.

Emotions (Speaking)

¨       A total lack of emotion is revealed, as expression is “wooden” and bland.¨       Body language and gestures are totally nonexistent as little to no effort is made to give an animated presentation.¨       It leaves the audience bored. ¨       Sparse and mediocre attempt at displaying emotions.¨       Presentation has brief sketches of bodily animation that make the moment lively, but they are far and in between.¨       The movements occasionally engage the audience. ¨       An effective use at displaying emotions.¨       The presentation is bodily animated, and gestures and emotions are expressed facially and with the body.¨       The movements hold the attention of the audience ¨       A highly effective use of emotions is revealed to the point where the audience instantly reacts.¨       The observer feels the effect of the expressions, gestures, body language and facial expressions.¨       The audience is mesmerized.

Eye Contact

¨       No eye contact is made with members of the audience/ peers; eyes are not focused on the audience.¨       In this manner, it does not command or hold their attention to what is being said. ¨       A brief attempt is made to make eye contact with the audience/peers; it is done occasionally.¨       There are moments that the audience is not attentive because of the speaker’s mannerisms. ¨       Frequent use of eye contactis made with the audience/ peers.¨       The speaker looks out at his/her audience/peers, and frequently looks directly into their eyes to attract attention to his/her words. ¨       Eye contact is made with the audience/peers on a regular basis.¨       There is a determined effort to command attention, the eyes wandering from face to face on a rotating basis; anchors listeners to the spoken words.

Supporting Evidence

¨       A total and complete absence of any supporting evidence.¨       It renders the work/performance superfluous and lacking in scholarship. ¨       A moderate amount of evidence is provided to support the work/ performance.¨       Some of the material is worthy, and it does indicate a minimal effort at scholarship. ¨       A substantial amount of evidence is provided to supportthe work/performance¨       Much of it is first-rate, adding substance and a great deal of scholarship to the effort. ¨       The amount of evidence provided is plentiful, which supports the work/performance.¨       All of it excellent, first-rate, prime material at the highest level of scholarship


“Teaching World History: The Global Human Experience Through Time.” ERIC Digest. ERIC Identifier: ED419772. (ERIC Clearinghouse for Social Studies. ( April 1998).

National Council for the Social Studies. Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for Social Studies. (Washington, D.C., 1994).

Miller, S. “Making the Paths: Constructing Multicultural Texts and Critical-Narrative Discourse in Literature-History Classes.” Center on English Learning and Achievement. No. 7.8. (1996). School of Education, University at Albany.

S. Steffey and W.J. Hood. If This Is Social Studies, Why Isn’t It Boring? (York Harbor, ME: Stenhouse Publishing,  1994).

A. Stix and F. Hrbek. Exploring History: The Oregon Trail. (Westminster, CA: Teacher Created Materials, 2001).

Andi Stix,Ed.D. and Frank Hrbek specialize in middle school education and are known for their work in assessment, social studies, teaching strategies, and increasing literacy throughout the content areas. In 1991, Dr. Stix founded and educational consulting company, The Interactive classroom in New Rochelle, NY. Their program Exploring History received the Social Studies Programs of Excellence Award from New York State as well as the Social Studies Program of Excellence Certificate from the Middle States Council for the Social Studies. Most recently, their program received the Outstanding Curriculum Development Award from the National Association of Gifted Children.


[1] National Council for the Social Studies. Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for Social Studies. (Washington, D.C., 1994), 105.

[2] National Council for the Social Studies. Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for Social Studies. (Washington, D.C., 1994), 79.

[3] National Council for the Social Studies. Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for Social Studies. (Washington, D.C., 1994), 82.

[4] “Teaching World History: The Global Human Experience Through Time.” ERIC Digest. ERIC Identifier: ED419772. Apr. 1998. ERIC Clearinghouse for Social Studies. April 1998. <nttp://>.

[5] S. Miller. “Making the Paths: Constructing Multicultural Texts and Critical-Narrative Discourse in Literature-History Classes.” Center on English Learning and Achievement. No. 7.8. 1996. School of Education, University at Albany. <>

[6]— from S. Steffey and W.J. Hood. If This Is Social Studies, Why Isn’t It Boring? (York Harbor, ME: Stenhouse Publishing, 1994).


If you have tried the Lobbyist Hearing, in what ways were your students engaged? Please describe in detail how your classroom environment became more interactive. (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.

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