P.S…I’m Moving!

Hi there!

Since about 2001 I’ve been listening closely to the voices of educators on student thinking. Recently, I decided to take action, and I’d like to ask you to join me.

Can you add your voice to mine on the importance of improving student thinking?

You are one of the first that I’ve asked to take action with me through my new site


Two ways to take action:

Just watch to the short video and decide if you want to hear more. If you do, then simply watch the continuation video that will arrive in your inbox after you submit your name and email. THEN after watching the continuation video also, add your voice to the comment section below it.


Go to my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/sbphd ) to add your voice to the poster on student thinking. You’ll get the poster AFTER requesting the “Powerful Breakdown” on my new site as well.

I recently learned that only 6% of students graduate adequately equipped with critical thinking skills. We’ve got to do something about that—and our unified voices can make a difference!

I’d like to hear what you have to say. So just go to my site for either the video or the poster (or both!) then let’s start to have a conversation below the continuation video or on my Facebook page. I’ll personally reply to as many comments as I can and I’ll create more ways for us to take action based on our conversations.


Thanks. I appreciate you…and your voice! 🙂

Dr. B.

P.S. The blog has moved! Starting Monday March 3, 2014 I’ll start blogging again for the year from my new blog location. To continue getting the great resources, ideas and PD you’ve become accustomed to, go subscribe now http://sheronbrownphd.com/blog.

I can’t wait to see you there!



Designing for Close Reading: A Practical Example – Part I

“What is Close Reading?” posted on January 1, 2012 continues to be my most popular post. That coupled with the feedback received on the recent series, “Process the Common Core” Parts I, II and III have prompted the practical examples in today’s and the next 2 weeks’ posts.

This week I used the lesson design process from Part I. Here’s what you should know about the lesson:

  1. The standard of focus is RI.7.3. Analyze the interactions between individuals, events and ideas in a text.
  2. The lesson is based on the remember/understand column for the conceptual and procedural knowledge components of the standard. (See The Core Deconstructed.)
  3. The lesson is designed for acquisition of new knowledge with the goal of first strengthening students’ understanding before having them analyze.
  4. The Critical Thinking Foundation’s model for close reading  is employed (Levels 1 and 2)
  5. The Lesson Design Framework housing the lesson organizes the elements of an effective lesson. If you want to know more about the framework, consider scheduling 15 minutes of complimentary coaching by going here.

Teacher feedback on The Core Deconstructed has been grand! (More coming on that.) Because of teachers’ enthusiasm, the price has been reduced by 40% for the month of February! I want as many teachers as possible to experience the same successes as their peers who are already deconstructing. Next week is Designing for Close Reading Part II, so get your copy at 40% off and join me next week for the sample lesson that continues this series.

In the meantime, try this one on for size: close reading and the Common Core part 1.


The Work is in the Thinking

Last week I succumbed  to the hype and purchased an iPhone 4S. My son begged me not to purchase one. He asked that I purchase a Droid. (He has a Droid Bionic and thinks it’s the best thing since sliced bread.) I decided against it because, as tech savvy as I’d like to believe I am, I’m old fashioned. I figured that since all of my other devices were Apple products–iPod, MacBook Pro, Air, and iPad–I’d stay in my Apple lane. Yes I know. I have an Apple sickness. He was trying to convince me that Siri was weird and that your phone should not be able to talk to you. After a few minutes of debating for some reason the conversation led me to indicate that a Droid alternative must have existed as Siri’s counterpart. Shortly after that, he went upstairs to prepare for bed…or so I thought.

After about an hour, he returned excited about finding Iris–his Siri counterpart. We began testing it out. He asked me what he should ask. We asked questions like, “what’s your name,” “what’s the weather,” and “what time is it?”  My favorite was when my son stated, “I love you,” and  Iris replied, “Oh my. You certainly wear your heart on your sleeve, don’t you?” Eventually, I prompted my son to ask academic related questions such as, “can you help me with my homework,” to which Iris replied, “Certainly. What would you like me to help you with?”

He began asking questions about geometry–we chose that because he’s been struggling throughout the school year with being motivated and completing homework. Iris was able to respond. For those questions Iris–he later renamed her Sam– could not answer directly, she responded by providing a list of websites that provided the answers via a Google search. He then proceeded to ask U.S. History questions. He chose a simple one: “who was George Washington.” Iris provided a very robust answer that caused my son to smile widely and say, “Okay, I’m not jealous anymore.” Funny, right? But it was in that moment while laughing at my son that my belief about teaching and learning were  reaffirmed; the belief that the work is in the thinking.

The world of education has been subdued by a belief–the belief that teachers teach and students learn. You may be saying, “of course that’s how school works,” but I argue that that simple statement conjures up a mental construct that has crowded out what should be happening: teachers facilitating students’ improved thinking. If we simply agree with the idea that teachers teach and students learn, then it makes it easy to believe that teachers should stand in front of the room and feed students as a mother robin feeds her young. But Siri-like technology is rendering the feeding of random facts and details to students futile. My high school aged son, in his quest to outdo me, proved that any first grader can gather random facts from the internet, and so, feeding facts and completing worksheets for 6 to 8 hours per day are useless events. They do not foster deep learning. Instead, students should be reasoning through ideas and concepts using facts and details as means to solve problems and design solutions. In 1995, this statement was produced by the Critical Thinking Foundation:

Very significant consequences follow from how students learn. The depth with which they understand anything is in direct proportion to the degree to which they have engaged in intellectual labor to figure it out for themselves. Whatever is to have meaning to them must be given meaning by them. They must work new meanings into the network of meanings they already have. They must relate new experiences to experiences they have already had. They must relate new problems to problems they have already solved. To create new meanings, to understand new experiences, to solve new problems, they must actively and intellectually participate in the “figuring out” process, going up and back between what they have already figured out and what they have not. They must do intellectual work. They must reason to learn– and to learn well they must reason well (The Art of Redesigning Instruction.)

So what now? What now is we engage in personal reflection where we allow ourselves to be uncomfortable with the difficult question, “Am I really helping my students learn?” The easy response is “Yes” and then it’s followed by “but…” If you hear a “but” in your response, STOP YOURSELF. If the answer is not simply yes, then the chances are that the answer is no.

We have created an educational titanic founded upon the notion that teaching is telling. The way to turn our ship around and avoid sinking into the abyss, is to (1) commit to learning and (2) learn by reflecting. You can do this by recording your teaching and reflecting on what you see. If you do not see a significant amount of time spent on students engaging in intellectual labor–and that does not mean answering a host of questions on a photocopied sheet of paper–then your students are not engaging in deep learning.

I recently read that learning is not doing, but learning is the insight gained while reflecting after the doing. As we transform our practice,  engaging in regular reflections toward the goal of professional improvement is an integral part of our professional learning. Your school should be poised to support you in this effort, but you should also be poised to support your own growth. You can begin managing your own growth by starting here.

*A clarifying note about photocopied information: It’s a worksheet when it can be substituted with technology, a textbook, written notes, or an experience. It’s a tool for learning when it is used only to capture information for research, planning or designing a solution.