Tiger tOoLs – October 2014

tigertools header

Good Afternoon,
The past two weeks have provided numerous opportunities for rich learning on how to support our EAL students in accessing our curriculum and acquiring language.  We sincerely hope that you found your work with Jill Bromenschenkel rewarding and insightful.
Please look for a survey this afternoon related to our continued focus on our English language learners and SIOP.  Your honest reflection and insight are valued.

Opportunities @ AES
Leadership Professional Learning Series (PLS)
We had a wonderful turnout for Thursday’s session on the Intro to Process Planning.  If you missed it, please see this link for details…We are excited for the second session, Matching Your Purpose and Process on Wednesday, October 8th at 3:45 in the Learning Lab.
Please see the link to our syllabus if you need more information.
Just a reminder, we have created an online Facilitators’ Handbook to support you as you create meaningful opportunities for dialogue and discussion with your colleagues.
Drop-in Tech PD
The focus for this month is on Hapara.  Please join the Ed Tech team for the following sessions:
Intro to Hapara on Today, September 30th at 11:50 and 3:45
Using Hapara for Formative Assessment on Wednesday, October 15th at 11:50 and 3:45
Mindsets Book Club
To offer a differentiated experience, we have two book group options on the topic of Mindset.  Book clubs will run during mid-October.  Sign-up Here!
NESA Opportunities
Two upcoming NESA conferences to really start thinking about attending:
Fall Training Institute – many 2-day institutes – in Doha – November 7 – 8, 2014.
We already have a team of 6 teachers going to unpack the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) during this conference.
Winter Training Institute – Dr. Carol Commodore and Assessment – in Bahrain –January 23 – 24, 2015
We will have a team of 12 people (ES, MS, HS, and K-12) for this conference.
Please send Jessica a note if you are interested in participating.
We will be deciding our team in mid-October.


English Language Learners and SIOP
Upon her departure, Jill shared some of the successes we are having with our students, and provided some guidance in our next steps to further support our English Language Learners.
Successes = Teachers are providing:
Purposeful access to language and content.
Purposeful focus on accountability for student language production.
Utilizing technology to increase productive language output for all students and for previewing and the building of background knowledge.
Our Next Steps to for Deepening Support for our EAL students:
Ensuring that every student has the opportunity and expectation of academic language output every day, in every class.
Developing transferrable language acquisition skills (i.e. justifying, clarifying, initiating questions).
All classes have a language objective related to language acquisition.
As students have increased ownership for their learning, their motivation increases.  This short article from the most recent Educational Leadership, 10 Standards for Motivation, is some food for thought for increasing student motivation.
What was very noticeable in their top 10 list was the number of times students were the focus of the assessment and their learning.

Tech Integration

We have the good fortune at AES to be a very resource rich school, especially in terms of technology. We have 1-1 devices in grades 1-12 and in addition have a large variety of other technology to support student learning.  These tools provide opportunity, but none of that means anything without YOU the teacher driving innovation in your classroom and focusing on educational outcomes first.

In the article There is No App for Good Teaching, Laura Moorehead examines this idea well. At AES we promote the use of the TPACK model (created by Punya Mishra) as a way to create deep and meaningful learning experiences with technology. TPACK believes that at the heart of innovative teaching is first defining rich content, next matching it with a supportive pedagogy and then exploring what technology can provide. In these cases where content, pedagogy and tech converge we provide the types of innovative learning experiences that have the largest impact on student learning. Stay tuned for more professional development regarding TPACK coming your way soon.

As always, please stop by the Office of Learning anytime…we love visitors!
Yours in collaboration,
Gary, Emily, Jess, Mechum and Robyn

Tiger tOoLs – September 2014

tigertools header

Good afternoon,
This is the first issue of TIGER TOOLS, the Office of Learning’s communication tool.  In an effort to streamline our communication we have designed a newsletter that will be sent out monthly during the school year.

Our goals for the communication are to:

  • highlight upcoming in-house and regional professional learning opportunities
  • develop a shared understanding of our K-12 areas of focus
  • share relevant and interesting resources that support a deeper understanding of the foundational elements of our programs
  • direct your attention to our Office of Learning website (formerly the Curriculum Office website) for further information and resources

We are excited to extend an invitation to the Office of Learning – Open House on Monday.
Please do stop by for snacks, conversation, and getting to know the office.

We are very excited about the space, our work, and collaborating with you.openhouse invite
This section is dedicated to highlighting both in-house and regional professional learning opportunities.

Opportunities @ AES

Professional Learning Series (PLS) on Leading Groups

The Leadership PLS is designed with the Teacher-Leader in mind.  Its focus is on the tools that teachers need for leading groups.  The series is open to all teachers at AES who are interested in developing a greater understanding of and capacity for designing meetings, matching processes to topics, and facilitation skills.  
Please see the linked syllabus for further details and to sign up.
Book Group Discussions on the topic of MindsetTo offer a differentiated experience, we have two book group options on the topic of Mindset.
The discussions will take place during the first two weeks of October – the specific date(s) will be determined by the participants.
Please use this form to sign up for the discussions.

Regional Opportunities

NESA’s Fall Training Institute on November 7-8 at the American School of Doha, Qatar.
These are two-day institutes, and of special interest for our focus at AES could be:
  • Understanding the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) w/ Eric Brunsnell
  • Key Principles of ELL Education w/ Virginia Rojas
  • Teaching the Process of Meaning Making in Reading (3-8) w/ Vicki Vinton
  • ….and many more
Please also see the continuously updated Regional Professional Learning Calendar on the Office of Learning Website.

Online Opportunities


There are numerous online opportunities available.  Many AES teachers have taken courses from Stanford Online and rave about the content.
These courses are rigorous and demanding, but can be awesome learning experiences.


​This section is dedicated to sharing resources and information that connect with our areas of focus at AES.
English-Language Learners and SIOP
Jill Bromenshenkel will be returning to AES for a two-week visit this September.
We are excited to have her guidance and support as we continue to unpack SIOP and supporting our EAL students in all of the content areas.
Assessment Practices
An excerpt from a post on EduTopia –  Dipsticks: Efficient Ways to Check for Understanding

“What strategy doubles student learning? According to 250 empirical studies (linked in the article) the answer is formative assessment, defined by Bill Younglove as ‘the frequent, interactive checking of student progress and understanding in order to identify learning needs and adjust teaching appropriately.” 

This thoughtful article highlights many different types of assessment that may be used formatively, and will give your brain a recharge on a variety of learning activities that can help inform our teaching to positively impact student learning.
We have many resources connected to both of these Areas of Focus in the Office of Learning.  Please stop by and peruse our selection.


This section is dedicated to sharing relevant resources and articles that deepen our foundation and fundamental practices at AES.

Foundational Element – Technology Integration
As our 1-1 programs continue to take root and grow, one topic that surfaces from time to time is the issue of screen time. Of particular concern is often how much is too much and how much are students on screens at AES. Last week UCLA released the results a of limited study that suggested that time on screen may limit a child’s ability to identify emotions. The story was picked up by NPR and other news outlets and then quickly spread via social media. At some point you will probably be having a conversation with someone regarding screen time.

Below are some key points to remember regarding screen time at AES:

  1. There is a key distinction between educational and entertainment screen time.
  2. There is probably a further distinction between educational creation screen-time (making stuff) and educational consumption screen time (watching Khan Academy videos).
  3. We do not promote (or even use in a significant way) computer based instruction (kids sitting in front of devices for long periods of time absorbing content and being quizzed on it).
  4. We do promote the balanced, authentic and intentional use of technology

The bottom line is that technology is used at AES most often for short periods of time and in conjunction with other materials and activities (lab journal, manipulatives, conversations with peers). It drifts in and out of our students’ days as one part of their total educational experience.

We look forward to seeing all of you at the Open House on Monday!
Yours in Learning Together,
Emily, Gary, Jess, Mechum & Robyn

Reading: Screens vs Paper

A recent New Yorker article “Being a Better Reader Online” discusses a number of issues that may be salient in your 1-to-1 classroom. Does screen-reading result in lower comprehension than reading from paper? Guess what…It’s complicated.

“[R]eading is always an interaction between a person and a technology, be it a computer or an e-reader or even a bound book.”

But we typically don’t think of bound books as technology, because they’ve been around for so long. There’s still no longitudinal data about digital reading, but there is emerging evidence that the style of reading we do from screens is fundamentally different than the style of reading we do from paper. And this makes a certain amount of sense, but we have to be careful about controlling variables – it’s not fair to directly compare reading a book on a deserted beach to reading from your laptop at work while checking email and listening to music.

And there’s no going back! More and more of our students’ reading will be from a screen as time goes by. Since we all teach literacy, we need to be cognizant of this, and help teach skills that will allow for deep reading from a screen.

If you find yourself distracted while reading on your laptop, you may want to check out the extension Clearly, which helps you focus on what you’re trying to read if there are sidebars and extraneous information flashing at you. If the problem is more that you’re constantly checking facebook, you could give StayFocused for Chrome a shot.

If you want to know more about the humans and reading, check out Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain (yes that is an amazon.in link), whose author was interviewed for this article.

Interested in talking about digital deep reading with your colleagues at AES? Drop by the Office of Learning and let us know!

(Big hat tip to Gary Coyle for the New Yorker article)

Professional Learning Opportunities

As we begin the school year, we wanted to put some excellent opportunities on your radar that are scheduled quite soon after the start of the school.   Some you would need to sign up for now to ensure that you are able to attend.

Please explore the options.  If something strikes your fancy, please complete the “blue form” and seek approval from your building-level administrator prior to registering.

Things to Register for NOW:

Learning 2.014 – Africa and Asia

There are two Learning 2’s this year and both promise to be good.  Africa – Addis Ababa is Sept. 8th-10th and Bangkok is Oct. 2-4th. These typically are filled by mid-summer, but there may still be spaces available.

Chapters International brings many two day workshops into the region and several of them start in September.

Things to Think About:

NESA Fall Leadership Conference

Curious about leadership or what leadership professional learning looks like? This is a great conference and it is on a four day weekend in Istanbul.  Amazing learning opportunity with some very highly regarded presenters (Andy Hargreaves, Ken, O’Conner, Doug Reeves, etc.)

NESA Fall Training Institute

These two day institutes offer an opportunity to go in-depth on a topic.  This year’s will be in Doha and has some great institutes on Art and Creativity, Concept-based Social Studies, EAL in the classroom, etc.

Coming at AES in Fall:

We will also have several things happening here on campus:

1. Jill Bromenshenkel for EAL in the content area support

2. Erma Anderson in November – we are working with Chennai to start a Math Specialist Cohort over the next two years so that many of us can benefit from this quality math professional learning. More information will come on this as the details are finalized.

3. The iPad Summit will be Nov. 22-23rd at AES.  Great presented, keynoters, and a great chance for you to present as well.

Please stop by the Office of Learning if you have any questions and all of these opportunities and more are documented on the PD Calendar located on this blog.

Sharing Experiences and Learning Together

Culture: (n) the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time

Thinking: (v) the action of using your mind to produce ideas, decisions, memories, etc.

In the past few weeks, in diverse contexts, I have been engaged in many conversations about a culture of thinking.  But what does this really mean… a culture of thinking?  In my mind, the root of a culture of thinking is that of a culture of sharing.  It is coming together in many ways to share our thoughts or puzzle over something or get advice.  At the heart of our sharing is to create meaningful learning opportunities for our students.

Sharing (v.)

  • a: to partake of, use, experience, occupy, or enjoy with others
  • b: to have in common
  • c: to grant or give a share in – often used with with
  • d: to tell (as thoughts, feelings, or experiences) to others – often used with with

 To me, a culture of sharing is one that:

  • cherishes the sharing of ideas and experiences
  • values differing opinions and perspectives
  • celebrates those who seek advice and support
    • …as much as those who share their stories of success
  • is grounded in our hope to constantly improve our practice
  • and, is deeply rooted in trust and sincerity

Shameless Plug for more Shared Learning Experiences

AES is a special place where people come together in numerous and varied ways to support our desire to share our experiences and grow in our practice.  I was so excited by your enthusiasm to share in our discussion groups on The Smartest Kids in the World, and so impressed by the depth of understanding and thoughtfulness during the discussions.

To promote more opportunities for these shared experiences, we have combed the professional library to find more books to promote shared experiences.  We are planning a variety of book discussion groups for the spring.  If you are interested, please complete this FORM.  We will get back with you shortly…

Citations: All definitions were gathered from the online, Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Peaking your Interest…

Turns out, research says, “interest is a more powerful predictor of future choices than prior achievement or demographic variables.”  A recent blog post from Annie Murphy Paul from the KQED MIndshift blog explores the importance of cultivating interest and the implications for parenting and education.  It is a very interesting read and connects nicely to the importance of Essentials Questions in the role of learning and presents ideas about how to activate student interest to improve learning.

Enjoy and have a nice weekend!

So, I have been THINKING…

“Learning is a consequence of thinking.”

–Mark Church

Something that really resonated with me last week in our sessions with Mark Church was his push for each of us to define what thinking looked like in our daily lives and in our classrooms.  How do we know we are thinking?  How do we know when to employ different thinking skills?  What type of thinking are we asking our students to do on a regular basis, and how do we know they are actually being successful?

He put forth a challenge in one of his sessions about using the word thinking in our classrooms.  Just imagine if we put a ban, yes a ban, on that word for a while.  Instead of asking our students to think for a minute, let’s ask them instead to draw connections, describe what they see, or build an explanation.  I wonder about the power of naming the type of thinking we are asking them to do. Will our students start to identify the different ways in which they think?  Will they develop the capacity to use those skills on their own?

To truly understand, students need to be able to express their thinking in many different ways.  This Understanding Map (© Project Zero) is designed to help clarify the types of thinking we ask our students to do in our lessons to foster a deep understanding.

Understanding map (2)A second challenge from Mark Church was to put our “tasks/lessons to task”.  Using the map above, what are the types of thinking you are asking your students to do when they:

  • listen to a story
  • watch a movie
  • write a reflection
  • design a model
  • solve a problem
  • turn and talk
  • etc, etc, etc…

When we examine our lessons more closely, is there a way for us to provide more opportunities and time for thinking in our classrooms?

If we are purposeful in building specific thinking opportunities into our lessons, our students will surely gain a deeper understanding of the curriculum.  “Learning is a consequence of thinking”.


Clarifying the Complexity of Assessments

In the middle school’s PD this week, there was a focus on Formative Assessments.                  A topic that is very applicable beyond the middle school.

Assessment is Complex 

The term assessment is used to describe a multitude of learning activities.  As teachers, we assess our students in many different ways each day.  These include assessments such as: exit tickets, drafts of reports, discussions, and final learning assessments. These assessments are common because they are all designed to give feedback on student learning. However, the specific purposes for the assessments and the feedback provided on the assessments are varied.  Because of these variations, assessment is complex.

To help clarify the complexity of assessments, we designed this model with the intent that it would assist in identifying the types and purposes of assessments, and in turn, provide a common structure for understanding the complexities of assessment.  We see this model as a potentially useful tool for facilitating conversations around assessments with your colleagues and your students.

Tiers of Standard-Based Assessment System

I found this article by Rick Stiggins, Assessment for Learning: An Essential Foundation of Productive Instruction, to be extremely valuable for bringing further clarity to the complexities of assessment.  The focus of this piece is on the construction of quality assessments.  Here is quick snapshot from the chapter:

The Keys of Assessment Quality

  • “Start with a clear purpose for assessment–a sense of why you are assessing and for which standard.
  • Include a clear learning target–a vision of what you need to assess in relation to your standards.
  • Design an assessment that accurately reflects the targeted standard and satisfies the purpose.
  • Communicate results effectively to the intended user(s).”

(The excerpt above was adapted from the Rick Stiggins chapter mentioned above.)



Yes….I did find this on Facebook

Despite our week of Digital Citizenship Camps in the MS and HS (fabulous job to all involved!) and all of our discussion around the the uses of social media and the need for balance, I returned home tonight to find this gem posted on Facebook by a few AES teachers.  It seems very worthy of sharing as when I read it, I recalled so many of the teachers who impacted my life and at the same time I thought of all of you impacting the lives of your students every day.

From Kylene Beers, the author of the post:

“To this day, [insert student name] remembers you, [insert your name], and to this day, I so hated how much he/she loved you that year. And, simultaneously, I am so grateful that he/she did.”

The work you do with students everyday is awesome. Have a wonderful school year.




21st Century Fluencies with Andrew Churches

“How we teach must reflect how our students learn. It must also reflect the world our students will move into. This is a world which is rapidly changing, connected, adapting and evolving. Our style and approach to teaching must emphasize the learning in the 21st century.”  

–Andrew Churches

Wiki: Educational-Origami

Key Take-Aways from Andrew’s Visit:

Solution Fluency: A portable process that structures problem solving

  • Define
  • Discover
  • Dream
  • Design
  • Deliver (Produce or Publish)
  • Debrief

Information Fluency: Act of collecting, processing, manipulating and analyzing information

  • Ask (open-ended questions)
  • Acquire (informal vs. formal)
  • Analyze
  • Apply (present)
  • Assess

Resources on Problem-Based Learning:

Thinking for the Future — Connecting with Other Schools: