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Letting Students Be the Protagonists in Their Own Learning

I know we have many teachers who bring their children to the gym. I consider every one of our coaches TEACHERS FIRST. While doing some research to help them all become better teachers I came across this. Enjoy


Like many literacy educators, last year I found myself reading Visible Learning for Literacyby Doug Fisher, Nancy Frey and John Hattie. The book breaks down the process of teaching and learning into three phases: teaching for surface learning, deeper learning and ultimately for transfer. And for each phase, it recommends specific teaching practices based on their effect size, i.e., “the impact a given a approach has” on accelerating student learning.

Being someone who tends to want to get to the deep stuff right away, I was curious about what the authors had to say about surface learning, along with what practices pack the greatest punch. They believe that surface learning is the foundation on which deeper learning is built, and among the recommended practices for that phase, I saw direct instruction, which comes with an effect size of 0.59.

That led me to watch one of the videos that can be found on Corwin’s resource page for the book. If you go to the link, you’ll see a teacher providing direct instruction on how to punctuate dialogue to her 9th grade class. Clearly, she adheres to the features of direct instruction as stated in the book, but I couldn’t help thinking that something was wrong here. These were 9th graders who, I’d be willing to bet, had been taught to punctuate dialogue ever since third or second grade.

This seemed to be another case of students having been taught something they didn’t fully learn, which can happen for a number of reasons. They might not have had enough time to practice for the learning to take hold. They might not have found “correctness” important. Or, as I suggested last week, there might have been something in the top-down teaching practice that didn’t fully engage them because it didn’t positioning them to be protagonists in their own learning.

But what would that look like when it comes to something like punctuating dialogue?

It just so happens that I wrestled with that very question last year, as I worked with several schools whose upper grade teachers wanted to teach writing and punctuating dialogue in their narrative units. In each case, the teachers had noticed that their students didn’t know how to punctuate dialogue, despite it having been taught the year before.

So here’s what we did: I asked the teachers to gather up the mentor texts they’d used to help their students develop a vision of narrative writing. And among them was Maribeth Boelt’s popular book Those Shoesabout a boy who longs for the expensive sneakers that all the popular kids were wearing. Immediately we noticed that Boelt constructed her dialogue, using a variety of sentence structures— as in, it wasn’t always “___________,” I or a character said. That variety, which we recognized as a craft move, helped give the book its voice, and we also recognized that it presented the potential for an inquiry into how writers write dialogue.

To implement that, we decided to invite everyone to the rug to look at the following four samples from the book, which we projected on the SMART Board. I read each of the sentences out loud, then invited the kids to turn and talk, using the basic thinking routine I shared in another post, What do you notice and what do you make of what you noticed?

In a sense, you could call this a rich task, as it offered multiple points of entry for students to engage in their thinking. Of course, some students at first only noticed what seemed the most obvious to them: that what was being said made the sentences different. In those cases, I acknowledged that was true, but then asked them to take another look at just the first two sentences to consider if there was anything else different between them. That led students to notice that the writer didn’t say who was talking in the first one (though they knew it was the narrator), while in the second the writer clearly told us. Noticing that, I then invited them to compare those two with the last two.

The first thing most of the students noticed was that, like the second sentence, the writer said who was speaking, but many also noticed that where the writer named the speaker was different in each sentence. That made them think that in addition to writers not always telling you exactly who was talking, they could also decide to name the speaker before, in the middle or at the end of the dialogue. And noticing that, they also noticed that the writer shared additional information in the last two sentences. In the first, she gave us more information about who the speaker was (as in their job), while the last shared where the person was when they spoke.

With that all charted, we sent the students back to their desks and asked them to pull out the drafts of their narratives. Then in groups of two and three, we gave them a packet of sentence strips with other sentences from Those Shoes that including dialogue, such as these:

And we invited them to sort and categorize the sentences to see if there were even more ways that writers set up dialogue.

That led them to even further discoveries. They noticed that sometimes writers used boldface for dialogue if the speaker was saying something urgent or forceful. They sometimes used words like asks and announces, instead of always using say. And they sometimes told where the speaker was AND what they were doing, in addition to the dialogue

With these new understandings added to the chart, we then invited the students to make some decisions about how they might revise the dialogue in their own drafts to reflect what they’d learn—and everyone was eager to do that. Many, for instance, wanted to add boldface to underscore a line of dialogue’s importance, while many others wanted to try placing the dialogue tag in the middle of the sentence because they thought that was cool.

Feeling empowered by being the protagonists in their own learning, no one blinked an eye when we added a final direction: Once they made those revisions, they needed to go back and find a sentence that was similar to one in Those Shoes, and then punctuate theirs the same way Maribeth Boelt had done. And as the students got to work, the teachers decided to start the next day by revisiting all those sentences to co-construct another chart about how dialogue was punctuated.

To be sure, this lesson took much longer than the one from Visible Learning for Literacy. But here’s the thing: If you go to the book’s appendix, you’ll find a list of practices arranged according to their effect size, from the most impactful to the least. And there you’ll see that Number 2 is Piaget’s approach. Hattie describes those as focusing “on the thinking processes rather than the outcomes and do not impose the adult thinking process on to children,” which is precisely what happened here. And Piagetian practices come with an effect size of 1.28, which means they have more than twice the impact on student learning as direct instruction does. And if you believe the words of Piaget I shared last week, you have to also think that these students will understand and retain far more by discovering how dialogue works on their own.

I’ll surely have more to say about this approach in future posts. But if you want more bang for your instructional buck, consider letting your students be the protagonists of their own learning by letting them discover and explore.

To Make a Prairie

Like many literacy educators, last year I found myself reading Visible Learning for Literacyby Doug Fisher, Nancy Frey and John Hattie. The book breaks down the process of teaching and learning into three phases: teaching for surface learning, deeper learning and ultimately for transfer. And for each phase, it recommends specific teaching practices based on their effect size, i.e., “the impact a given a approach has” on accelerating student learning.

Being someone who tends to want to get to the deep stuff right away, I was curious about what the authors had to say about surface learning, along with what practices pack the greatest punch. They believe that surface learning is the foundation on which deeper learning is built, and among the recommended practices for that phase, I saw direct instruction, which comes with an effect size of 0.59.

That led me to watch one of the…

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Plaid Friday


WOW- Thanksgiving  is only a couple days away! That happened fast. I want to wish everyone safe travels! The week before Thanksgiving is traditionally the one of the busiest travel weeks of the year so please be safe.

Why is the day after Thanksgiving in the USA becoming such a CRAZY shopping day? Are the deals that good? I couldn’t tell you- I have no intention of getting up at some ungodly hour to try to save $5 on something from Walmart. As a gym club owner, I truly believe that we need to support LOCAL business. Don’t make this Friday just another “Black Friday”. Make it a “Plaid Friday”

The name Plaid Friday celebrates the diversity and creativity of independent and local businesses. Plaid Friday is the fun and enjoyable alternative to the big box store “Black Friday” and is designed to promote both local and independently owned businesses during the holidays.

Plaid Friday was conceptualized in Oakland, CA, a city known for strong shop local campaigns. Plaid Friday brings back the neighborly nostalgic times when shopping for friends and family was a pleasurable leisurely activity. The seacoast of New Hampshire and Maine have a long tradition of local businesses. Let’s celebrate the local businesses and our local flair.



Things Seen in the Airport

Tony Retrosi

I am a frequent traveler for work. The parent of one of my gymnasts jokes that I fly more than her husband WHO IS A PILOT!

I am a bit of a freak when it comes to arriving early. Whether I am arriving early to the airport or arriving early to a convention center or gym. I do not like to be rushed I would rather have some extra time to get my bearings, plan, etc. When I arrive early at the airport I tend to just read or write. When my brain needs a break I play a few mental games as I people watch.

Where are they going or coming from? : Based upon what they are wearing or carrying. For example- sun burned family, kids hair braided, dragging through the airport- Just came from Caribbean Vacation.

What is their job? : Based on what they are wearing…

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#YouAre USAGymnastics

Get Psyched!

Gymnastics has seen its share of mean, shady, abusive people lately. It has learned some very important lessons and some of those lessons are difficult to learn. As we continue to move through the year, I know there will be times for all of us to tell our stories. Some will be good and some will be bad. I think it is important to continue to tell our stories, because that is how we will continue to learn.

This Summer I was able to work with some amazing people. I talked to them and listened to their stories. I saw the way they influenced other athletes, I watched how they learned from other coaches, I teared up when I heard how gymnastics changed their lives, and I saw how they influenced and changed me.

Some were current or former college coaches. Some were never gymnasts, they just LOVED gymnastics. Some…

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The healthy eating habits you should adopt from Italians

Tasty tips from the healthiest country in the world — yes, pasta is recommended.

The healthy eating habits you should adopt from Italians

The healthy eating habits you should adopt from Italians
Source: Shutterstock

Italian food is indisputably delicious, arguably the best of all cuisines. But eating microwaved lasagna in front of your favorite sitcom re-run is hardly eating like an Italian — that’s a very American habit.

While Italy is the land of pizza and pasta, it’s also the healthiest country in the world, partly because of its food. Healthy fats, fresh produce and, yes, delicious pastas all help contribute to its low obesity rates. There are so many good reasons to adopt healthy Italian eating habits as your own. Here’s a few easy ways to get started:

Take a moment to enjoy your coffee.

Sip it slowly.
Source: Giphy

For those of us who have a cardboard cup permanently affixed to our hands, the sensation of not carrying a hot coffee while commuting may feel strange. On a recent trip to Milan, the jet lag was winning and I really craved a Starbucks. There are currently zero Starbucks locations in Italy, though the company plans to open a café in Milan come 2018. There wasn’t even a Dunkin’ (Italy does not run on either) to help me out, so I had to go to a café and drink a shot of espresso out of a tiny mug while associating with other humans.

While American coffee culture has led us to apps where we can order sugary foamy drinks before we even get to the drive-thru, Italian coffee culture is more about relaxing and actually enjoying your coffee, even if it’s just a few minutes for a quick-sipping espresso at a proper coffee bar in the morning. Italians’ days are defined by coffee drinking, so consider syncing your schedule with optimized coffee breaks and chats over espresso throughout the day. Research has shown that drinking coffee can help reduce stress, improve memory and boost mood, so stop shuffling between errands with a hot tumbler in hand and just enjoy a few moments with a mug as you sip up a less stressful life.

Know that pasta can be an everyday occurrence.

Sneak some veggies into your pasta for an extra healthy boost.
Source: Matthew Mead/AP

If you’re eating pasta only once a week, you’re doing it wrong. According to survey data by YouGov and Bertolli, 90% of Italians eat pasta multiple times a week, while only 23% of Americans eat pasta more than once a week. Better yet, about 25% of Italians eat pasta every day, while only 2% of Americans fessed up to eating pasta daily. Even so, Italians aren’t shoving boatloads of pasta into their mouths on the reg, which may help explain their lower rates of obesity.

The key to a daily pasta dose may be in the portion size: Italians adhere to a 100 gram (3.5 ounce) pasta serving (that’s 4.5 servings per package, if you’re buying a 1-pound box). Pasta is often the first course during larger meals rather than the main, meaning a mountain of spaghetti isn’t fueling Italian diners but preparing their palates for protein.

In Italy, millennials are the leaders in pasta consumption, with 32% of Italian millennials eating pasta daily compared to just 4% of American millennials. We can all do better.

Go for bigger meals at lunchtime and smaller ones at dinner.

A bowl of minestrone soup
Source: Elena Shashkina/Shutterstock

Italians who traditionally work from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. typically break for lunch from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. as a tasty part of an average 36-hour work week. These breaks are beneficial: Studies show that taking a break can actually improve productivity, and that’s not including the creativity a nice plate of baked ziti might evoke when you slip away from the office for a 90-minute retreat. Research has also found it can be better to eat more earlier in the day and less at night — you need more calories while you’re active, not sleeping — so a long lunch not only benefits your personal schedule but also your overall health and sleep cycle.

Make it family-style.

Family-style means you get to try more of everything.
Source: Rawpixel/Shutterstock

You’ll want to embrace this Italian custom if you’re the kind of dinner mate who always suggests splitting several menu items. According to YouGov survey data, 70% of Italians eat family-style, while only 31% of Americans regularly practice communal dinning. Sharing means you can order both the lasagna and the spaghetti puttanesca — and maybe even the penne arrabbiata — and get to enjoy them all versus being stuck with a single pasta dish. Plus, the tradition could boost your well-being: Studies show prioritizing social relationships may help your mental health, morbidity and mortality, while eating with others may make you more altruistic.

Equate eating with leisure.

So relaxing.
Source: Giphy

Just 42% of Americans think eating is a legitimate way to relax, while 57% of Italians believe it to be a leisure activity. Why not think of eating as meditation for your mouth and stomach, or at least a calming activity that’s meant to be enjoyed? Studies show that eating more slowly may make you feel full and satiate you faster, meaning you’ll need a smaller portion to obtain just as much enjoyment from your meal — all while ensuring you’re not shoveling an unhealthy quantity of chicken parmesan in your mouth in the first five minutes of that Friends re-run.

If you’re not into socializing over every meal, consider adapting mindful eating practices — think focusing on chewing and enjoying your mouth full of food before pushing more on your fork instead of simultaneously chowing down and reloading — which will also help your mind and stomach unite during your meal.

Embrace the Mediterranean diet.

You probably already know the Mediterranean diet is known as the healthiest in the world, so why are you wasting time on sub-par burgers and hot dogs when you can embrace a much more delicious, life-extending meal? The diet native to southern Italy is high in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and olive oil, and contains moderate levels of fermented dairy products, fish, poultry and wine and just a small amount of red meat. In other words, we see a lot of spaghetti with clam sauce in your future.

Choose olive oil.

The perfect bread dip, salad-dressing base and vegetable marinade
Source: Jeff Gentner/AP

An essential part of any Italian dinner table, olive oil is rife with flavor and health benefits. Consuming olive oil — which is high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids — is believed to lower your risk of depression and osteoporosis and protect your brain tissue against Alzheimer’s.

Free yourself from strange ingredients.

Leave the mystery ingredients at the grocery store.
Source: Matt Rourke/AP

You may find anchovies as foreign as Italians find neon-yellow cheese powder, but eating like an Italian means eating more real, whole foods and leaving the preservatives, additives and all-around fake foods behind. In fact, nitrates, aspartame, MSG and high-end molecular gastronomy ingredients — think dry ice or liquid nitrogen — are banned from Italian restaurants. You can bet that when there’s a flurry of fresh pasta, produce and fish around, Italians aren’t microwaving a can of Chef Boyardee for dinner.

Source: The healthy eating habits you should adopt from Italians

Parenting Goal: Raising Rebel Girls

Everyone is different. Every little girl needs heroes of her own.

Source: Parenting Goal: Raising Rebel Girls

I recently met a man who told me he reads Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls to his daughters before bed.

As an attentive father, this man professed some of the multitude of ways in which he attempts to give his girls the best possible opportunities in life. For him, programming and technology have provided freedom, and he wants his daughters to have the same opportunities.

One night after watching an Olympic gymnastics meet together as a family, he found his 6-year-old in another room, with a stopwatch, training to be the next Simone Biles. Clearly this little girl has big dreams and is easily motivated. On the other hand, her younger sister does not share the same motivations. She is inspired by different stories and ideas.

Over tea, the man confided that his wife had recently challenged him to consider whether the heroic celebration will send the wrong message to his girls  —  that you must be a high achiever to live a good life. We discussed the merits of celebrating heroes without making little ones feel inadequate. He mentioned that even for his two daughters, reactions to praise and motivation vary greatly between them.

After realizing that his older daughter was so motivated to achieve, my friend changed his tactic. Instead of pointing out every example of success that he thought she would relate to, they started to talk about failures.

Everyone is different. Every little girl needs heroes of her own.

Making an Impact

Within the tech industry, the culture and the story is improving. It may not be obvious from the news, but the fact that we are calling out the bad guys shows that expectations are changing. A hard-working woman or man with a good foundation can have just about any career they want, though selecting the right company culture will always be important.

For women, technical abilities are usually not the biggest career challenge.

Breaking Down Barriers

Men like my friend are an important part of the solution.

By 2030 when his oldest daughter enters the workforce, there will be more women in tech. Efforts like BRAID Research Initiative’s Pilot program have already started to have an impact on Harvey Mudd’s Computer Science statistics will catch on and have an impact, though it will take time. Culture will evolve creating better programs for a more diverse workforce.

Though technical ability is important, it usually isn’t the biggest career challenge for women. Rebel girls need more than technical skills to succeed. They also need to be able to:

– Feel comfortable standing out and being different.
– Recognize their unique value.
– Effectively communicate with and lead a male-dominated group.
– Negotiate  —  not just better salaries, but also through team dynamics.

Dear Fathers and Mentors:

Take interest in what motivates the women in your life. Teach them everything you know. Help them realize their strengths and how valuable they are. Offer the same opportunities to your girls and your boys, and teach them to recognize the unique value in each other. Explore the world with them. While they are little, read them bedtime stories of badass women from history so they dream of conquering the world.

Atlantic Dover competes a Hip Hop Classic in Vermont

The Atlantic Gymnastics Dover Xcel team traveled up to Brattleboro, VT to compete in the Hip Hop Classic meet hosted by Woodman Athletics. The girls are in the middle of their competition season and have been working hard perfecting their skills and adding new elements to their routines.

The Bronze team competed Friday evening on February 24th. In the Junior B age group Izzy Rothwell took 1st place on bars with a 9.5. Samantha Bishop placed 3rd on bars with a 9.45. 2nd on beam with a 9.45, and 1st on floor with a 9.15. Sam also took 2nd place in the all-around with a 36.9. In the Senior A age group Kaitlin Cady placed 1st on vault with a 9.4, 1st on bars with a 9.6, 2nd on beam with a 9.4, and 1st in the all-around with a 37.6. It was a three-way tie for 3rd place on floor with a 9.2 for Katherine Indelicato and Averie Marcotte. Averie also placed 2nd on bars with a 9.55. Caitlin Klein scored a 9.5 on bars earning 3rd place. Cate Palmer, part of the Senior B age group placed 3rd on bars with a 9.45, 1st on beam with a 9.55, and 1st on floor with a 9.7. Cate earned 1st place in the all-around with a 37.7. The Bronze team took home 2nd place in the team division with a score of 112.95.

Atlantic’s Silver Xcel team competed on Saturday in Brattleboro. The girls did extremely well and took 4th place as a team with a score of 111.275. In the Junior B age group Savanah Hughes placed 2nd on bars with a 9.5. Brooke Helliwell earned 2nd on vault with a 9.2, 1st on bars with a 9.8, and 1st on floor with a 9.8. Brooke also earned 1st place in the all-around with a 37.85. In the Junior C age division Renee Remick took 2nd on bars with a 9.6 and 2nd on floor with a 9.15. Erica Chase, part of the Senior B age group, scored a 9.25 on bars earning her 3rd place and tying with her teammate Aaliyah McKenzie. Aaliyah also placed 3rd on vault with a 9.05 and 3rd on beam with a 9.0

There were two gymnasts representing Atlantic’s Gold Xcel team. Annie Beikman and Jillian Driscoll truly shined during this meet. Both girls were part of the Senior B age division. Jillian placed 2nd on vault with an 8.7, 3rd on bars with a 9.55, and 3rd on floor with a 9.275. Jillian also earned 3rd place in the all-around with a 36.475. Annie earned a 9.025 on vault and a 9.575 on beam placing 1st on both events. Annie earned 2nd on floor with a 9.525. Annie also placed 1st in the all-around with a 36.475.

Atlantic is gearing up for two competitions this coming weekend. The Bronze and Silver team will be competing in the Friendship Classic at Granite State Gymnastics in Bow, NH. Meanwhile, Atlantic’s Platinum and Gold teams will be attending the Tim Rand Invitational in Ft. Lauderdale FL. Best of Luck to all the competing gymnasts this coming weekend!

Hip Hop Bronze .jpg

Hip Hop Gold.jpgHip Hop Silver.jpg