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ASCD Annual Conference and Exhibit Show

2016 ASCD Annual Conference and Exhibit Show

Learn. Teach. Lead.
Get the tools to put it all together at this can't-miss education conference—with more than 200 sessions and five inspirational keynote speakers.

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Books in Translation

September 2006 | Volume 64 | Number 1

Teaching to Student Strengths

Discovering Strengths

Marge Scherer

Celebrate Strengths, Nurture Affinities: A Conversation with Mel Levine

Marge Scherer

In this interview with Educational Leadership, pediatrician Dr. Mel Levine, cofounder of All Kinds of Minds, explains why students and educators should learn about eight neurodevelopmental functions that undergird our strengths and weaknesses. For the most part, he notes, adults who lead successful lives mobilize their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses. Knowing a student's profile of abilities and nurturing his or her affinities are key to guiding that individual's schooling.

Levine provides examples of how teachers can build on students' interests to teach skills as well as how they can assist students in harnessing their strengths to address their weaknesses. In this conversation, Levine also touches on such topics as gender differences in learning, the overuse of testing, and brain-based learning theories.

Teaching Beyond the Book

Carol Ann Tomlinson and Jane Jarvis

When teaching to the “typical” student doesn't work, teachers can tap into students' areas of greatest comfort, confidence, and passion and teach to their strengths. Five principles guide this work, which involves learning to recognize diverse student strengths, helping students see their capabilities in a positive light, helping students appreciate one another's strengths, making learning a positive experience, and helping students use their strengths to overcome weaknesses.

The principles are illustrated by stories of teachers who learned to watch for and teach to their students' strengths, and they are illuminated by the work of researchers and expert practitioners.

Orchestrating Multiple Intelligences

Seana Moran, Mindy Kornhaber and Howard Gardner

Education policymakers often go astray when they attempt to integrate multiple intelligences theory into schools, according to the originator of the theory, Howard Gardner, and his colleagues. The greatest potential of a multiple intelligences approach to education grows from the concept of a profile of intelligences. Each learner's intelligence profile consists of a combination of relative strengths and weaknesses that interact with one another. A multiple intelligences approach to education requires that teachers construct rich experiences—activities in which students can engage with the material personally rather than just absorb it in an abstract, decontextualized way. These rich experiences enable students with many different intelligence profiles to learn in their own ways. The article provides examples from the classroom, from an interactive museum in Denmark, and from Gardner's Harvard Project Zero.

Recognizing Neglected Strengths

Robert J. Sternberg

To identify diverse student strengths and to learn how teachers can build instruction on those strengths, the author and his colleagues have conducted multiple studies among students in Alaska, the mainland United States, Kenya, and other countries. In a series of studies in Alaska and Kenya, the researchers measured the adaptive cultural knowledge and skills of native Alaskan students and rural Kenyan students and demonstrated that instruction geared to these cultural skills improved academic achievement. In another series of studies, the researchers grouped students by their cognitive areas of strength (memory, analysis, creativity, and practical intelligence) and found that students performed better when they were taught in ways that were compatible with their strengths. The author's conclusion: When schools teach in ways that respect students' different strengths, students learn and perform better.

The Power of Positive Identity

Emma Violand-Sánchez and Julia Hainer-Violand

By 2050, Latinos will account for 25 percent of the U.S. population. Despite their increasing numbers, many children of immigrants consider themselves members of a minority group in a way that negatively affects their behavior, school performance, and social integration. Educators need to develop a better understanding of the culture and issues that affect the well-being of Latino English language learners because these issues will ultimately affect the future of the United States. Addressing the needs of Latino students means acknowledging and capitalizing on the cultural and linguistic strengths that students bring to the classroom. Schools should foster a positive ethnic identity by viewing bilingualism as an asset and immigration as a source of pride, empower Latino students through leadership roles within the school and community, and encourage student voice by having students speak and write from experience.

Challenging Deficit Thinking

Lois Weiner

The deficit paradigm—the assumption that poor student performance or behavior stems from problems with the students or their families that must be “fixed”—has long been deeply embedded in the culture of urban schools, writes Weiner, an expert in urban education. Now deficit thinking is becoming more pervasive in suburban schools, as these schools face an increasingly bureaucratic environment. On the basis of her professional development work with urban teachers, Weiner describes how teachers can scrutinize and challenge deficit assumptions and recognize the untapped strengths of their students.

Relationships Matter

Deborah Stipek

An era of high-stakes testing and accountability may be producing classroom conditions that undermine student learning. When teachers must focus their energies on preparing students for the test, they have less time to get to know students personally or make them feel valued, respected, and supported. The author reviews research showing that strong teacher-student relationships are crucial to student academic achievement at all grade levels. Students need to know that teachers care. Research shows that caring teachers hold students to high expectations but also give them the support they need to reach those expectations. The author provides suggestions for both classroom and schoolwide strategies that build strong student-teacher relationships.

The Way We Learn

Renate Nummela Caine and Geoffrey Caine

Although students' eclecticism can be overwhelming, all students are identical in at least one respect—they are biologically equipped to learn from experiences. Caine and Caine discuss neurological findings about decision-making capacities built into the brain. They describe Elkhonen Goldberg's concept of actor-centered adaptive decision making focused on questions related to one's life (as opposed to the right-wrong decision making more typical of school). Authentic decision making enriches cognits (organized configurations of brain cells that fire together) and engages the executive functions in the prefrontal cortex. Both processes lead to deeper learning. The authors present strategies for bringing students' interests and questions into the classroom.

Teaching to the Minds of Boys

Kelley King and Michael Gurian

Using brain-based research, Douglass Elementary School in Boulder, Colorado, looked at the natural assets that both girls and boys bring to school and realized that its classrooms were generally a better fit for the verbal-emotive, sit-still, take-notes, listen-carefully, multitasking girl. Teachers tended to see the natural assets that boys bring to learning—impulsivity, single-task focus, spatial-kinesthetic learning, and physical aggression—as problems. By altering strategies to accommodate the male assets, Douglass helped its students succeed. Teachers increased experiential and kinesthetic learning opportunities, supported literacy learning through spatial-visual representations, incorporated topics that appeal to boys, developed policies that would encourage boys to complete homework, offered single-gender learning environments, made reading and writing purposeful, and sought out male role models in literacy. As a result, on the Colorado State Assessment Program (CSAP), Douglass Elementary students experienced an overall net percentage gain of 21.9, which was the highest achievement gain of any school in the Boulder Valley School District. Moreover, Douglass reversed the typical trend of girls outperforming boys in reading and writing.

Media and Literacy: What's Good?

Thomas Newkirk

For schools to effectively teach literacy, they should work with, not against, the cultural tools that students bring to school. Outside school, students' lives are immersed in visually mediated narratives. By tapping into the cultural, artistic, and linguistic resources of popular culture and multimedia, teachers can create more willing readers and improve boys' literacy learning. Several strategies can help. Teachers can encourage boys to write on media-based plots, give boys room to improvise within media-based plots, and use multimodal stories, such as literature videos and comic books, in the classroom.

My Literary Lunches with Boys

Jennifer Allen

When literacy specialist Jennifer Allen agreed to meet weekly with five boys who wanted to share their out-of-school writing with her, the weekly all-boys lunch-time writing group was born at Albert S. Hall elementary school in Waterville, Maine. She had intended to run the group as a writers' workshop and teach mini-lessons. But from the beginning the boys created their own structure for the group and their own acceptable behaviors, including talking over one another and writing even while another writer was sharing his work aloud. The boys have continued to be enthusiastic writers; at their urging the group has continued for two years. Allen contrasts the boys' behaviors with the norms she has experienced in all-girls writing groups. She relates her experience writing with boys to the literature on boys and learning.

Bridges to Literacy for Boys

William G. Brozo

Evidence dating back to the 1930s and receiving increased attention today shows that boys tend to lag behind girls in reading achievement. The author asserts that we can help boys become thoughtful, accomplished readers, if we view their existing competencies, interests, and personal experiences as assets rather than as impediments to achievement. He describes three examples of how educators built on boys' assets: a teacher who developed a word study unit using popular rap songs; several teachers who discovered their male students' interests and shaped their literacy experiences accordingly; and a mentor who inspired one boy to express the insights he had gained from his personal experiences. Each of these examples shows how schools can help close gender achievement gaps by focusing on boys' lives as resources for literacy.

The Socially Intelligent Leader

Daniel Goleman

An essential task of school leadership is helping bring students and faculty into the state that will facilitate their working at their best. Positive emotional states help a brain learn efficiently, whereas excess stress and negative emotions shrink the brain's capacity to learn. Goleman describes new findings in neuroscience that reveal how people respond to one anothers' emotional states as they interact. The neural mechanisms for this automatic attunement are called “mirror neurons.” The emotional state of the most powerful person in any organization has a ripple effect on the emotions of everyone else. School leaders, therefore, have a significant effect on the social-emotional climate of the school as a whole, and have a responsibility to develop a socially intelligent leadership style that will engender a culture conducive to peak learning. Goleman delineates positive and negative leadership styles—in terms of social intelligence—and cites research showing that students achieve at higher levels in schools in which leaders adopt the positive styles.

Leading in the Worst of Times

Cynthia B. Elliott and Denny Taylor

On Monday, August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina and the floodwaters from the breeched levees destroyed all 14 schools in Louisiana's St. Bernard Parish. Although most residents had been evacuated before the hurricane hit, 1,500 men, women, and children rode out the storm in Chalmette High School. The district superintendent and the school leadership team managed the crisis for five days, rationing water and food and ensuring the residents' safety. In the aftermath of the hurricane, they plunged into the extraordinarily difficult work of rebuilding a community. They brought in modular classrooms, rehired staff, and provided hot meals and after-school support. The efforts and successes of these determined educators provide insights into the complexity of an effective emergency response to a catastrophic event.

Content Standards: The Unindicted Co-conspirator

W. James Popham

Pull the Weeds Before You Plant the Flowers

Douglas Reeves

Unleashing the Energy

Joanne Rooney

Do We Really Have a “Boy Crisis”?

Deborah Perkins-Gough

ASCD Community in Action

The Best of the Blog

Journal Staff

Teaching to Student Strengths

Naomi Thiers

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