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Helping Students Find Their Voice

Students who receive input about their learning will reward you with engagement.

For almost all students, their favorite classes are those in which they feel empowered in their learning. When I was in school, I know that when my teachers provided options, valued my opinion, and shifted the responsibilities of learning to me, my level of engagement increased dramatically.

Now I’m a middle school math teacher with my own room full of students, and I believe wholeheartedly in the importance of fostering student voice in my classroom. Especially during a time when so many of us feel like we don’t have as much control over our specific learning environment and what’s going on outside of the classroom walls.

One of my goals as a math teacher is to help my students see themselves, their ideas, and their thoughts reflected in the required curriculum. Student voice does not mean student takeover. To the contrary, the idea of students having a voice in what they learn, when they learn it, and how they learn it leads to collaborative opportunities to increase engagement and facilitate deeper student learning.

Even though my classroom is primarily built on structures that foster independence, it’s still a shift for me to scale back my own responsibility for student learning as their teacher and place it more with them as the learners. While I don’t have any hard and fast rules, there are some guidelines that I follow to help ensure that student voice is at the forefront of my instructional decisions.

Create Classroom Norms Together

Norms and rules are not the same things. Rules help to establish the practices and procedures that allow tasks to be completed in classrooms. Norms provide teachers and students with agreements about how best to support one another and learn from one another. They also help create a positive classroom culture for learning.

As I began to infuse student ideas and suggestions into our class expectations, I saw the value in co-creating these norms rather than creating them independently of my students.

Collaborating has helped me better understand what my students value and what is important to them. During the creation of our class norms, it was apparent that students appreciate the chance to give their opinions and thrive on the opportunity to hear what their peers think as well. These norms continue to provide structure for our class, and we review them periodically. We also adjust them when needed to better meet the changing nature of our classroom.

To this end, our classroom culture depends on the students’ accountability to uphold the norms that we create together. When students interact with each other during collaborative problem solving, it’s understood that each student is responsible for contributing to the discussions during the group work. Consequently, my students understand that every voice in the group is important and will be valued.

I do get students who, from time to time, deviate from the norm. But because I’ve established with my students the expected behaviors, they are quick to reset the conversation and get back to the business at hand.

Norms Don’t Need to Be Elaborate

I’ve found that establishing expectations for how students treat one another in class provides them with the opportunity to see and hear their voice reflected in our classroom practices. When I establish norms with my students, we focus on what language is and isn’t acceptable during classroom collaboration and the responsibility that each student has in contributing to their own learning and the learning of others. For example, my students understand that they are expected to advocate for themselves and ask questions accordingly. Their questions help me differentiate my instruction and enable me to reflect on my practices to better meet their needs. I expect my students to communicate with me and with one another, especially when things get challenging.

It’s also equally important that students learn to trust me and to trust their classmates. Our norms reflect my students’ deep desire to learn from one another and their willingness to take responsibility for their own learning.

Rules might govern student procedures in my classroom, but norms help to facilitate a classroom culture conducive to student responsibility and student learning.

Find ready-to-use professional learning resources and time-saving teaching strategies in our Educator Supports Channel!

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Foster Feedback and Flexibility

Perhaps no other educator tool has the potential to elicit change and facilitate student responsibility more than feedback between teacher and student and between the students themselves. In our classroom, feedback is given carefully and always through the lens of improvement. We focus on what students are doing well and address specific steps students can take to continue to improve.

If there is a specific goal a student is working toward, students feel comfortable enough to ask for suggestions from their peers to help them reach that goal. Feedback becomes the structure through which students become more involved in their own learning and the learning of others.

In my classroom, it is not uncommon to hear students reflecting on the lesson and sharing their thoughts about the curriculum, objective, and math concepts learned. We talk about the culture in class that must be present for my students to grasp challenging concepts. Recently, when my students were working together to defend the strategies that they used to solve a problem, several students thought it would be best if the groups were smaller than the 28 students in our classroom. Their theory was that the smaller groups would let each student ask questions about the strategies that were shared and not be rushed to hear everyone’s strategies. This was another example of the way in which my students began to take more ownership for their learning.

We tried it, and they were right. The smaller groups did help to facilitate better discussion and more engaged student-to-student conversations. The feedback I shared with them about the difference that this small shift made for student learning allowed students to feel comfortable making suggestions at other times as well.

Embrace Student Voice to Drive Engagement

I knew that I was on the right path when students began showing up in my classroom during lunchtime looking for extra support. But their true motives were revealed to me when they began to talk about why they liked our math class, how they felt important and believed that I genuinely cared about them. I noticed the shift to “our math class around the same time I noticed an increase in lunchtime visitors. My students were deeply involved in their own learning. They knew their voice not only mattered but was truly valued. In turn, my connection with students has never been better.

Student voice and student engagement are not, however, synonymous. While the first can lead to the latter, it’s rarely a straight path. To fully embrace the idea of student voice, teachers must be willing to do the work to ensure its continued existence in their classroom.

As I learn more about how to integrate student voice into my instructional practices, I continue to seek out additional resources and ideas, such as those found in Discovery Education’s Educator Supports or SOS Instructional Strategies Channel.

Improve the Classroom Experience with Their Voice

The small things that I did over the years to establish a culture of student voice continue to pay dividends for my students and for me. I’ve continued to refine my practices to include student-developed assessments, choice seating, and more personalized approaches to student learning. I truly hope that by working collaboratively with my students, I am helping to provide them with opportunities to own their learning and grow socially and emotionally—in my classroom and beyond.

Written by Kelly Collins-McCarthy, a middle school teacher based in Maryland

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Column: Managing and Leading Schools: Finding the Right Blend for Principals

I sat in the back of a second-grade classroom, watching students being offered a choice.

They could respond in two different ways to a text that the whole class had read — a folktale depicting a family’s annual tradition from another culture. Students could write a review of the story or create a how-to essay about an activity they are familiar with. Because the students’ choices were authentic, when they embarked on their writing, every one of them was engaged.

As the school’s principal, I regularly conduct formal observations like these. No matter how good the instruction is, I always try to look for possibilities for professional growth.

In this situation, one literacy choice stood out for its quality and meaningfulness: students could describe in writing their own family traditions. This activity was rife with possibilities. What if the teacher modeled for students the steps for successful memoir writing? Could she demonstrate with a personal family tradition of her own? How might this reading–writing experience connect with social studies and maybe even a deeper study into family traditions from around the world?

During this session, I briefly stopped documenting evidence of instruction and instead started jotting down these ideas and questions on a pad of paper. There was no reason to put this information in the teacher’s observation; I didn’t intend to make these recommendations without an initial conversation about how the teacher thought the lesson went. Our follow-up discussion would take place later that day. The formal observation became the impetus for a conversation about embedding better literacy practices throughout the school day.

This example conveys how important it is that principals have the necessary time, knowledge, and experiences to be the instructional leaders in their schools. It doesn’t happen by accident.

Ensuring that the principal is a constant, effective presence in school demands three essential strategies: identifying school priorities, making classroom visits a habit, and using these visits to guide future professional learning.

Management should not be separate from instructional leadership. They are inseparable and support one another.

The Truth Behind #NoOfficeDays

Old-school thinking when it came to building leadership was clear One could tick off a principal’s duties with the ABCs: attendance, behavior, classroom observations, discipline, evaluation of staff, etc.  Recently, these managerial tasks have been somewhat rejected by school leaders.

Principals are engaging in “no office days”, as evidenced by tweets of their experiences with the hashtag #noofficeday. Sometimes they will shadow a student for a day to gain a learner’s experience. Principals have even become a teacher for the day, giving one of their staff members the day to grade papers and plan for future instruction.

These efforts by building leaders to be more present and visible in their schools are admirable. I’ve tried it myself, participating in a day of independent reading to promote literacy. The reality, however, is that principals don’t get subs.

Unless a building administrator has an assistant principal, there is no one qualified to fill in for us. The less spectacular tasks that are relegated to the office will still be there when we get back. Staff are left covering for us. Making #noofficedays a habit could breed resentment with one group while we try to be more present for another.

I suggest a better approach for being an instructional leader in our schools while still addressing the day-to-day managerial tasks: Find the right blend. This means understanding the context of our school and what needs to get done on the office end, so we are a more consistent presence in the classrooms and on building grounds.

Every school has a unique mix of class size, diversity, climate, needs, and strengths. With this information, we can align our work with a few priorities. Finding the right blend also means scheduling our days so classroom visits are habit instead of an event. A smart integration of management and leadership duties can lead to improved teaching and learning. The following strategies can be applied to any school context.

1. Develop a Priority Plan

We can only focus on a few goals at any one time and still be successful as school leaders. In my school, I am new to the position. That means that building trust is a priority. I’ve done a lot of listening. I’ve asked staff about their thoughts and needs, and ensured I am visible throughout the school day. Our other priority is literacy, specifically around reading comprehension and fluency. The data was clear in this area. Our leadership team has responded with facilitating monthly professional development around authentic reading and writing experiences.

The idea of aligning our actions with our priorities into a plan comes from The Together Leader by Maia Heyck-Merlin. She defines a priority plan as, “a three-month extraction from your yearly goals that names what matters most for you and your team.” I look at my priority plan regularly as I prepare for upcoming work.

Having our priorities laid out and aligned with our goals and objectives accomplishes two things. First, the faculty are clear about what we will support regarding professional development opportunities and teaching resources. Second, it is easier to say no to requests that aren’t aligned with our priorities. It’s not a subjective or personal decision, but based on a clear rationale.

For example, I was recently asked why STEM is not a focus. The response: “It seems like that’s all education talks about.” I listened and then asked this person how literacy might support the STEM areas. We ended up agreeing that if students wanted to pursue studies in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, they had to be literate.

2. Make Classroom Visits a Habit

To ensure a school’s priorities are put into practice, school leaders must make classroom visits a habit. If we are successful in redistributing nonessential tasks to other personnel, this can happen every day. I put classroom visits on my calendar, which is shared with my assistant. The minimum is one hour per day, getting into every classroom for at least a brief time. Staff understand that this is protected time. Any interruptions should be an emergency. (I’ve learned that the term “emergency” also requires conversation to develop a common understanding.)

Being visible in the classrooms daily serves our dual priorities of building trust and increasing effective literacy instruction. To build trust, I make sure my visits are focused on teachers’ strengths, and that I let teachers know what I am noticing. The feedback can be given verbally or in writing. I ordered a stack of professional notepads with my name and school information. I will write down what I notice is going well and leave the note in the teacher’s classroom or mailbox. In addition, I will name the effective practice using common language we have learned together during our literacy-based professional development program.

Trust relies on open communication. This goes for the parents and community as well as the teachers and students. That is why I also use Twitter to post the excellent work happening in classrooms. My school tweets usually consist of a brief description, at least one image of the learning in action, and the hashtag #PointerNation so it shows up on our district’s social media feeds. Using the same process of noticing and naming, I can now recognize and celebrate teaching and learning around literacy in an open forum. An additional benefit is all this information can be archived digitally to document and organize artifacts for our professional evaluation systems.

3. Use Instructional Walks to Reinforce Professional Learning

As trust increases and literacy instruction improves, windows open in which I can start offering feedback about teacher instruction. During my regular classroom visits, I will sometimes sit in for a longer period to write a narrative of what is currently happening. It is noticing what is happening and then naming the practice. These one-page write-ups are referred to as “instructional walks,” in which “the principal notices what’s going well in the classroom—environment, management, engagement, level of student independence, lesson content, grouping arrangements, quality of student work,” writes Regie Routman.  Like the brief notes, the goal is to build on teachers’ strengths and create a relationship in which they are open to future guidance.

Because my walks are habit, I can address our collective instruction instead of conferencing with each teacher individually. The information gleaned from my daily visits is used to inform future professional learning experiences.

What if teachers are not applying the skills learned during professional development into practice? Certainly, I could note this during our formal observations for the state-mandated evaluation system. Yet I find the rubrics and evidence gathering to be limited at best—helpful for teachers in one or more areas, but unnecessary when teachers are already doing well. Formal observations and evaluations can even be detrimental to the daily classroom visit process. Trust can deteriorate when there is too much of a focus on ratings and rubrics. Also, evaluation systems are time-intensive. They used to monopolize my days, which is why I now do the bare minimum in this area.

Instead, as much as I can, I am a learner with staff and students. One way is by asking lots of questions. Whether during an instructional walk or formal observation, I will make inquiries about why teachers are doing what they are doing. For example, instead of leaving a vague, summative statement, such as “This was an effective activity, because…,” I might ask “What about this activity do you feel had the greatest impact on student learning?” Whether the learning experience was excellent or otherwise, the responsibility is now on the teacher to self-assess their instruction. Follow-up probes, such as “Why do you believe that? ,” guide teachers to cite evidence from their lessons to support their rationale.  My wonderings also happen during professional development. Instead of positioning myself as an expert, I might question a belief or a statement as if I were also teaching.

Management and Leadership are Not Mutually Exclusive

During the post-observation conversation with the 2nd grade teacher, I started by asking a series of questions, starting with “How do you think the lesson went?” and “Why do you think that?” Once we affirmed that the lesson was a success, I started to probe with wonderings to unpack what was possible for the future. “Of all the choices, which literacy activity might lead to future learning?” was the inquiry that led to a professional conversation about expanding on the family traditions writing activity. The teacher suggested a personal family tradition that she could use for a writing demonstration. I held off recommending that she tie in social studies with a deeper understanding of the concept of traditions. Knowing that my priorities were in place, that my classroom visits were a habit, and that I had a team to guide faculty in professional learning, I knew that I would have more opportunities in the future.

This is Matt’s seventeenth year in public education. He started as a 5th and 6th grade teacher in a country school outside of Wisconsin Rapids, WI. After seven years of teaching, he served as a dean of students at a junior high, which developed into an assistant principal position and eventually head principal at an elementary school. Now as an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District, Matt enjoys the curriculum, instruction and assessment side of education. You can also connect with Matt on Twitter at @ReadByExample and on his website at

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Teacher Leaders: The (Not So) Secret Catalyst for Change

While teacher leaders have always been an important part of a school’s culture, this type of leadership continues to gain much needed attention and momentum in school systems nationwide. There is such a strong need for this type of leadership that a group of educators met in 2008 to form what we know today as the Teacher Leadership Exploratory Consortium. This consortium, comprised of a variety of stakeholders, formed to discuss how to best foster teacher leadership so that it brings about change in student learning and achievement.   In 2011, this group released the Teacher Leader Model Standards, which help teachers and school leaders foster leadership within their schools.

The Difference Between an Effective Teacher and a Teacher Leader

In our current work, we facilitate an abundance of professional learning around teacher leadership. What we’ve coined Digital Leader Corps takes groups of teachers on a journey toward digital transformation in their classrooms. The program, however, intends for teachers’ influence to spread well beyond the walls of their classrooms and aims to develop these educators as leaders among their peers. Teachers who participate in Digital Leader Corps learn about leadership through the Teacher Leader Model Standards—they learn how to facilitate the learning of their peers’, work collaboratively with their principals to elicit meaningful change, and gain strategies for creating safe and trusting environments where others aren’t afraid to take risks.

This sounds amazing, right? It is, when it works effectively. The biggest challenge of cultivating and growing a group of teacher leaders is recognizing the difference between an effective teacher and a teacher leader. Too often, school administrators don’t know how to discern the qualities and characteristics of a potential teacher leader. Similarly, many teachers don’t truly understand what it means to lead among peers.

Effective Teacher Teacher Leader
Implements best practices routinely in the classroom Readily shares and models best practices and/or resources with colleagues
Works to improve his/her own practice Works to improve the practice of others
Seeks opportunities for continuous improvement Models an attitude of continuous improvement in order to combat complacency
Maintains professional relationships with others Works to build relationships with others through active listening, facilitation, and mediation
Collaborates with colleagues and school teams Encourages and facilitates collaboration among colleagues and school teams
Implements solutions to challenges that promote the best interest of his/her students Provides solutions to challenges that promote the best interest of all stakeholders
Creates an environment where students are comfortable asking questions, initiating topics, and challenging their peers’ thinking. Creates an environment in which colleagues are comfortable asking questions, initiating topics, and challenging their peers’ thinking.
Welcomes feedback from supervisors and colleagues Actively seeks feedback from supervisors and colleagues
Danielson, C. (1996). Enhancing professional practice: A framework for teaching. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Teacher Leadership Exploratory Consortium. (2011). Model Standards Advance the Profession. JSD, 32(3), 16-24.

The Power of Teacher Leadership

Teacher leadership has the potential to bring about positive systemic change that influences a variety of factors within a school. When teacher leaders fully understand their impact on colleagues, observable changes in student learning can occur. A 2005 study concluded that the professionalism teacher leadership has the potential to build—one that is based on trust, recognition, empowerment, and support—can improve teaching and learning in schools (Harris and Muijs, 2005). While the Teacher Leader Model Standards provide the framework for fostering such leadership, the process for equipping teacher leaders with the ability and confidence to carry out what the Standards call for is much more complex.

The Teacher Leader Model Standards

The Standards are comprised of seven domains of leadership (Teacher Leadership Exploratory Consortium, 2011). These domains are not meant to serve as an exhaustive checklist or job description of teacher leaders; rather, they’re meant to guide those who want to lead and support them in doing so. Each domain further contains a list of functions that provides a deeper, more granular look at what teacher leaders who excel in this domain might do.

But reading and internalizing the Standards is only the first step in developing teacher leaders. Just as our grade level standards act as the blueprint for our curriculum, our lesson plans, and our assessments, the Teacher Leader Model Standards should serve to inform the work we do with our potential teacher leaders. Very few teachers will come to us with the skills and self-assurance needed to lead their peers. Therefore, it is our responsibility to create and mentor them through learning experiences that will develop them into strong teacher leaders.

Let’s take a look at the first Standard and its functions:

Fostering a Collaborative Culture to Support Educator Development and Student Learning


  1. Utilizes group processes to help colleagues work collaboratively to solve problems, make decisions, manage conflict, and promote meaningful change;
  2. Models effective skills in listening, presenting ideas, leading discussions, clarifying, mediating, and identifying the needs of self and others in order to advance shared goals and professional learning;
  3. Employs facilitation skills to create trust among colleagues, develop collective wisdom, build ownership and action that supports student learning;
  4. Strives to create an inclusive culture where diverse perspectives are welcomed in addressing challenges; and
  5. Uses knowledge and understanding of different backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures, and languages to promote effective interactions among colleagues.

Unpacking this Standard and its functions tells us how important knowledge of adult learning theory is to a teacher leader’s success in this domain. In addition, a teacher leader needs to possess excellent active listening skills, be able to facilitate difficult conversations among various stakeholders, and have the emotional intelligence to bring different groups together to work toward a common goal. Simply telling teacher leaders they “should” be doing these things won’t bring about change; we must work diligently to create opportunities for practice and feedback in these areas.

The Importance of Administrative Support

Throughout our experience in both facilitating and designing the professional learning of teacher leaders, those who have the support and backing of their administration have been most successful in promoting a school culture that supports continuous improvement in teaching and learning. Teacher leaders who feel supported are equipped with the confidence needed to lead the learning in their schools. Effective teacher leaders have the power to reinforce the existing leadership in a school, and there are a variety of ways we can support them:

  • Provide Space to Lead. Teacher leaders lead well beyond the four walls of their classrooms. They’re consistently seeking to become better at their craft and want others to do the same. They can’t model this attitude of continuous improvement without a strong administrator leading them from behind. Involve teacher leaders in the planning and implementation of professional learning. Ask them to take an active role in faculty meetings. Teacher leaders are not simply those we can count on to volunteer their time and go that extra mile; they are our future instructional leaders. Mentor them.
  • Encourage Risk Taking. Most effective teachers will, by nature, willingly take instructional risks in their classrooms. Teacher leaders, however, won’t be afraid to take these risks in front of their colleagues as well. Encourage teacher leaders to open their classroom doors to others. These types of collegial walkthroughs will help create and sustain a culture in which teachers support one another by celebrating successes and embracing failures. Instill fortitude in teacher leaders and help them become courageous learners who consistently see opportunities for growth in all they do.
  • Model Vulnerability. Teacher leaders have the potential to create a school culture in which vulnerability is accepted and encouraged. But it’s not easy to air these insecurities. Through modeling your own vulnerability, teacher leaders become more comfortable admitting what they don’t know to peers and are then able to gain confidence in sharing what they do.
  • Champion Collective Leadership. A recent study commissioned by the Wallace Foundation found that high student achievement is directly connected to collective leadership in a school (Samuels, 2010). This type of shared leadership does not cause school leaders to lose influence. On the contrary, a principal’s role in establishing optimal conditions for student and teacher learning is crucial. As instructional leaders, it is unrealistic to believe we can simultaneously run the operations of our schools, maintain a pulse on the curriculum, and provide routine coaching for our teachers. With the help of our teacher leaders, however, these tasks become manageable. This can’t be done, however, without our leadership; create the time and space for good things to happen.

Leading from Behind – A Practical Tableaux:

John Davis, an elementary principal, had been working all year to create the environment and culture in which a shared vision could be realized in hopes of unifying his staff around a common goal that would impact teaching and learning in the building. Through increased collaboration time, more frequent professional learning, and informal opportunities for teacher leadership, John slowly built the ideal conditions in which a shared vision could thrive. However, he continuously struggled with helping the teachers he deemed leaders build and refine the skills needed to make an impact outside the walls of their classrooms.

Jenna, a master teacher who volunteered to lead her grade level PLC, had a great deal of untapped leadership potential. While she eagerly jumped at the opportunity to lead the learning of her peers, John knew Jenna had much to learn about facilitating the learning of her colleagues. After visiting Jenna’s PLC, John made some important observations about her leadership but continuously returned to this one:

  • Jenna always remained positive and took a solutions-based approach to challenges and problems raised by her peers.
  • However, the solutions always came from Jenna with little input from the group.
  • Rather than facilitating a collaborative discussion that would result in solutions, Jenna often provided “answers” for her colleagues.

While this approach was well received by the other members of Jenna’s PLC, John saw it as an opportunity for helping her grow into a leader who enrolls all stakeholders into important discussions.

John began scheduling monthly meetings with Jenna so he could coach and mentor her. What follows is a vignette from their first conversation:

Mr. Davis: Hey, Jenna. Thanks for coming in. And thanks so much giving me the opportunity to observe your PLC in action earlier this week.

Jenna: No problem. Your presence and support was really appreciated by my group.

Mr. Davis: How did you feel about the meeting?

Jenna: Overall, I felt it went well. Our goal was to figure out how to increase the expectations of our high achieving students. While a few challenges were certainly voiced, we walked away with some actionable steps we’re all going to take in our classrooms.

Mr. Davis: I made note of some of those challenges as well. Can you tell me more about how the group worked through those?

Jenna: Well, Janet and Shawn were the most vocal ones about some of the roadblocks they’d encounter as we attempt to increase achievement of this group. I tried to help guide those waters by providing possible workarounds.

Mr. Davis: So what I’m hearing you say is that you were readily able to provide some of the solutions to the perceived challenges?

Jenna: Yes.

Mr. Davis: I really love your solutions-based approach and attitude. I’d like to talk through this some more. Facing opposition from colleagues is a consistent challenge whenever you’re trying to lead. How we handle this resistance helps define who we are as leaders. So let me ask you: What could you have done differently to help the group—especially Janet and Shawn—solve some of those challenges on their own?

Jenna: I never really thought about it like that. I guess it’s in my nature to want to help, so I’m constantly giving, trying to solve problems, keeping everyone happy and positive. Now that I think about it, I was the one who quickly interjected what I thought would work best. I wanted to keep the peace within the group. And I’m their PLC leader, so I figured it was my “job” to face the challenges head on and offer solutions. Are you saying this may not have been the best approach?

Mr. Davis: I’m not saying it wasn’t the best approach; you certainly know your team. But it’s definitely not the only approach, and I’d love to explore some additional strategies you could use for facing challenges in the future. Would that be OK with you?

Jenna: Of course! I’m willing to take all of your feedback so I can become better at this. It’s all pretty new to me, and I want to do it well.

John: Of course you do. So let’s think about the first domain in the Teacher Leader Model Standards we discussed when you agreed to lead your PLC. Remember that your goal is to build a collaborative culture. So how did the group benefit from your willingness to solves its problems so quickly?

Jenna: Well, I guess it moved the conversation along. We didn’t get stuck and were able to leave with some next steps for helping these students.

Mr. Davis: How much buy in do you feel the group had in those steps?

Jenna: (pause) Not very much. I felt like we all just politely agreed to try the next steps.

Mr. Davis: I got that impression as well. It sounds like you are working very hard to create a very cooperative environment for your PLC, which is great. But think about how you can increase the group’s investment by making the meetings more collaborative.  How could you go about moving from cooperation to collaboration?

Jenna: I’m not really sure. Because I’m the PLC leader, the group trusts me to guide them. I guess that’s a good thing, but in retrospect, I dominated the conversation. I shouldn’t be the sole decision maker or the sole problem solver. I think I need to listen more and work harder in making sure everyone has input.

Mr. Davis: I think that’s a really reflective and insightful observation. Let’s talk about some strategies for helping you do this.

Mr. Davis is clearly dedicated to helping Jenna become an effective leader in the school. He observed her facilitating a meeting, identified an area of need, and followed up in a very deliberate and meaningful conversation that helped Jenna reflect on her own challenges as a teacher leader. He did this with the reticent skill of a leader who truly understands how to lead others from behind. While it’s unrealistic for John to meet with Jenna after every PLC meeting she facilitates, he followed up with her periodically, offering additional guidance, support, and feedback grounded in the Teacher Leader Model Standards.

Fostering Teacher Leaders

We all have great teachers who live within our schools—those who consistently strive to be better for their students, who seek out learning opportunities whenever possible, and who willingly collaborate with others. These teachers have the potential to share the leadership within your building. With the right opportunities and under the right mentorship, we can turn these “great” teachers into leaders who are catalysts for meaningful change.


Danielson, C. (1996). Enhancing professional practice: A framework for teaching.
Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Harris, A., & Muijs, D. (2005). Improving schools through teacher leadership.
Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Samuels, C. A. (2010, July 23). Study: Effective Principals Embrace Collective
Leadership. Retrieved February 21, 2016, from
Teacher Leadership Exploratory Consortium. (2011). Model Standards Advance the
Profession. JSD, 32(3), 16-24.

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4 Go-To Strategies for Engaging Digital Learners

Today’s students live in a world of constant stimulation. Whether it’s Xbox, social media, or television, students have continuous access to highly enticing visual information, entertainment, and connectivity with friends.

How do your teachers capture students’ attention and engage them amid all the distractions? The era of the teacher as the sage on the stage is over. Students thrive on problem-based, interactive, authentic learning. Classrooms must be just as engaging, interactive, and exciting as all of the competing stimuli in students’ lives. Putting technology in students’ hands is not enough to engage today’s digital learner in a meaningful way.

Student engagement models differ, but research and practical experience tell us that high levels of student engagement occur when the following are present:

1. Well-planned lessons with memorable beginnings and endings

Most of us are familiar with the work of David Sousa related to how the brain learns. Sousa reminds us that during a learning episode, students tend to remember best that which comes first and they remember that which comes last. They are least likely to remember what is presented during the middle of the learning episode.

Sousa refers to the time at the beginning of the lesson as Prime Time 1 and the time at the end of the lesson as Prime Time 2. He refers to the time in the middle of the learning episode as Down Time. His work goes on to examine the percentage of time for prime learning in learning episodes of different lengths. His recommendation is for teachers to present lessons in well-planned, twenty-minute segments that maximize learning by capturing student interest at the beginning of a twenty-minute segment, presenting new information in the first ten minutes to twelve minutes of a segment, allowing students to apply the information during down time, and then having students summarize the big ideas presented during Prime Time 2. Teachers can then have students switch activities and repeat the pattern to take advantage of a second round of Prime Time 1, Down Time, and Prime Time 2.

Planning lessons in this way maximizes engagement because it takes advantage of how the brain learns and it takes into consideration that twenty minutes matches the attention span of many adolescents. Shorter, well-planned learning episodes are probably best for younger learners.

2. Collaboration and interaction with peers

Today’s digital learner places a great deal of value on interacting with peers and employers tell us that they want future employees to have the ability to work well with others in collaborative teams. Therefore as educators, we encourage and support collaborative learning.

Collaborative learning requires students to work together to construct knowledge. It acknowledges that students learn best when they are actively involved in working with others in a social setting to deepen their understanding of core concepts and develop both discipline-specific skills and the skills needed to interact effectively as a member of a group.

When they set up collaborative teams, effective teachers explicitly teach the skills involved in working as a member of a team. These skills include:

  • Leadership skills such as goal setting, time management, and organizing the team to complete the task
  • Collaborative decision-making skills such as generating alternatives, collecting and sharing information, and agreeing on a choice
  • Communication skills including both verbal and non verbal communication skills, as well as active listening skills
  • Conflict management skills such as being aware of and respectful of differences, clarifying issues, resolving concerns within the group or seeking the teacher’s help to resolve the concern.

Perhaps students and teachers value well-designed and implemented collaborative learning assignments because of the emphasis on teaching and using these valuable skills.

3. Relevant, Problem-Based Teaching and Learning

Well-designed collaborative learning assignments often also involve problem-based teaching and learning. The energy and time needed for effective collaborative learning makes sense when students are involved in studying the type of real-world problems that are at the center of problem-based learning units. Good problem-based learning units are built around open-ended problems that have multiple solutions and require students to consider many variables before developing how they would solve the problem. These units give students the opportunity to use problem-solving skills and strategies that are specific to the discipline and spend concentrated time developing these skills. Upon completion of the study phase of the unit, students are usually required to develop a way to share what they have learned with classmates and/or with an authentic audience interested in the area of study.

Students value the opportunity to develop skills used by professionals in the field, and they value the opportunity to consider and study problems that genuinely need solutions.

4. Routine Access to Varied Digital Tools

Our students view technology as a natural and required component of their world. They naturally use smartphones, tablets, laptops, digital cameras, and other devices to gather, organize, and share information.

According to Project Tomorrow’s Speak Up survey, 40 percent of K-12 students tell us that they find online videos to help them better understand concepts that they are learning in school. More and more students are spending time creating digital content (YouTube videos, slideshows, interactive games, etc.) and they expect to use these kind of multimedia resources to learn. In fact, 42 percent of the 6-8th graders completing the survey say taking an online class should be a graduation requirement. Students see the skills they develop while using digital tools as excellent preparation for college, career, and life success.

The National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies was established to improve the opportunity to learn for all Americans through technology and research. They have identified a number of ways that digital resources can support the use of key research-backed principles that have a positive correlation with improved student learning. In the hands of well-trained and knowledgeable teachers, digital tools have the potential to support the following:

  • Personalized, differentiated, and self-paced learning
  • A positive emotional climate, and social and emotional learning
  • Authentic real-world learning
  • Collaborative learning
  • Data gathering, analysis, and timely feedback

Education in 2017 is an exciting world that is juggling new standards, new assessments, new curricula, new instructional delivery models, and new requirements for teacher evaluation. While much is changing, the heart of the matter when it comes to engaging learners remains unchanged: effective teachers know their learners, they know the content and the curriculum, and they know good pedagogy.

Karen Beerer, Ed.D. has 28 years of experience in public education as a teacher, reading specialist, principal, supervisor of curriculum and professional development, and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment. She received her Ed.D. from Lehigh University in Curriculum and Instruction. Dr. Beerer has a passion for professional development, specifically, helping educators utilize research-based practices in instruction to help all students achieve.

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Disciplinary Literacy: Helping Students Develop Insider Knowledge

If we want students to learn biology, why not teach them to think, read and write like biologists? If we want them to learn history, shouldn’t they learn to think, read and write like historians?

Approaching core subjects from this perspective is at the heart of disciplinary literacy. Now more than ever, it’s become vital that educators instill literacy skills grounded in real careers, creating students with an expert’s eye for real-world materials, regardless of the medium.

Content-area reading uses generic reading strategies, regardless of the text that’s being read. But disciplinary literacy is a way of approaching text with the reading strategies employed by experts in a given field — experts have specialized ways of thinking, talking, and writing.

Historians require the lens of multiple perspectives, reading between the lines of several writers to arrive at their conclusions. Mathematicians seek absolute answers, first and foremost, using abstract reasoning and pattern recognition to make their findings. Scientists employ analytical skills to parse the validity of data in research reports, finding logical links between various findings before formulating their hypotheses.

These experts don’t just rely on one resource. Their expertise is contingent on their own observations, along with the perspectives of others, expressed across several media types. Likewise, the days of using a single textbook as a teaching resource are over. Educators must begin using new types of resources in the classroom, including digital content and media to immerse students in real-world reading, writing and thinking.

The disciplinary literacy approach to reading reinforces the new era of teaching, which welcomes multiple resources and multiple media types, to help students form a grounded understanding of a subject that even experts would respect. Just recently, a superintendent said, “the combination of media integrated into the informational text makes students want to read.”

The hallmark of any focus on literacy — disciplinary or otherwise — is instilling the need and the desire to want to read.

Each discipline has unique ways of asking questions and solving problems. Similarly, each discipline has unique expectations for the types of claims that are made and the way those claims are supported. These differences play out in the ways that texts are written and in the demands those texts place on the readers. For these reasons, we can say that each discipline has its own discourse community, a shared way of using language and constructing knowledge.” [1]

Although there is much debate about the purpose or primary job of schools, most who work in education would agree that an important purpose of a school is to develop literate individuals. The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts[1] identify the capacities of a literate individual as follows:

  1. They demonstrate independence.
  2. They build strong content knowledge.
  3. They respond to the varying demands of audience, task, purpose, and discipline.
  4. They comprehend as well as critique.
  5. They value evidence.
  6. They use technology and digital media strategically and capably.
  7. They come to understand other perspectives and cultures.

These broad statements about what it means to be literate led the standards’ authors to decide that developing literacy in students is a joint responsibility that English Language Arts (ELA) teachers share with content area teachers. And while the foundational skills associated with literacy are infused in the K-5 ELA standards, the more specialized disciplinary literacy skills are listed in the Grades 6-12 Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects[2]. The standards that ELA teachers are responsible for teaching are listed under the following headings:

  • Reading: Literature
  • Reading: Informational Text
  • Writing
  • Speaking and Listening
  • Language

Content area teachers are also expected to teach standards related to reading informational text and standards related to writing. Because research has shown that experts in a field have specialized ways of thinking, talking, and writing about information that separate insiders within the field from the general public, the authors of the standards want content area teachers to teach students the specialized knowledge and skills that readers and writers use within the content area or discipline. In an article in the Harvard Educational Review[1], Cynthia and Timothy Shanahan present a model of literacy development that includes three stages.

  • Basic Literacy: literacy skills such as decoding and knowledge of high-frequency words that underlie virtually all reading tasks.
  • Intermediate Literacy: literacy skills common to many tasks, including generic comprehension strategies, common word meanings, and basic fluency.
  • Disciplinary Literacy: literacy skills specialized to history, science, mathematics, literature, or other subject matter.

They argue that until recently, secondary (grades 6-12) educators have not focused enough attention on helping students master the discipline-specific ways of reading and writing that are characteristic of the content area that the teacher is teaching. Instead the literacy focus in secondary classrooms remained on the intermediate literacy skills that are common to many disciplines, such as previewing the text, activating prior knowledge, using graphic organizers, and summarizing the text. While these skills are necessary and have a definite place in the secondary classroom, literacy instruction that fully prepares students for college, careers, and adult life also includes a focus on the more specialized literacy skills of each discipline. When students are asked to think, read, write, speak, and listen like an expert in the field, they develop the insider knowledge needed to succeed with intellectually challenging tasks.

By studying professionals working within a discipline, researchers recognized that the way historians read, write, and think is different from the way scientists or mathematicians use literacy skills within their work. A broad body of research on adolescent literacy development[2] suggests that while the literacy demands of school and the workplace have increased over time, the way we approach teaching literacy skills has not changed enough. The thinking and reasoning skills that individuals need to thrive in 21st century daily life and professional careers are developed as content area teachers focus on teaching both the content of the field of study and the specialized literacy skills associated with the discipline.

The standards for Grades 6-12 Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects do not replace subject area standards, but instead complement them. These standards require teachers to use their content area expertise to help students master the challenges of thinking, reading, writing, speaking, and listening in the various subject areas.

In keeping with the standards, the focus of disciplinary reading should be on the following:

  • Key Ideas and Details
    • Citing Evidence from Text
    • Central Ideas, Details, and Summary
  • Craft and Structure
    • Vocabulary
    • Text Structure
  • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
    • Text Features
    • Author’s Point of View, Fact or Opinion
    • Comparison
  • Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity

Disciplinary writing should focus on:

  • Text Types and Purposes
    • Argument Writing
    • Informational/Explanatory Writing
  • Production and Distribution of Writing
    • Clarity and Coherence; Attention to Task, Purpose, and Audience
    • Writing Process and Revision
    • Use of Technology
  • Research to Build and Present Knowledge
    • Generating Questions and Conducting Research
    • Gathering Relevant Information
    • Drawing Evidence
  • Range of Writing

Let’s take a brief look at the literacy demands of selected subject areas outside of English Language Arts and think about how teachers develop students’ thinking, reasoning, and communication skills by emphasizing the specialized way that experts in that subject area approach some of the focus areas listed above.

Thinking, Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening in Social Studies

Extensive work has been done on elucidating the skills historians and other social scientists use to do their work. Broadly speaking, historians study documents and other artifacts from the past to develop and communicate an understanding of what was occurring at a particular time in history. They are keenly aware that documents…

  • present an incomplete picture of an actual event
  • represent a particular point of view, and
  • reflect the thinking and perspective of the author.

Historians want to know more than what happened in the past. They also want to understand why certain events happened. Why did people do what they did? How does what happened in the past connect to and inform the present? What does the past tell us about what might happen in the future?

Key ideas in the Grades 6-12 Literacy in History/Social Studies standards for reading include:

  • Analysis and Summary of Primary and Secondary Sources
  • Meaning of History/Social Studies Words and Phrases
  • Description and Analysis of Text Structure
  • Identification, Comparison, and Evaluation of Aspects of Text that Reveal Author’s Point of View
  • Integration of Visual Information, Quantitative and Qualitative Information, and Multiple Sources
  • Analysis of Author’s Claims
  • Comparison of Treatment of Topic in Primary and Secondary Sources

The writing standards do not differ by content area, but assume that the writing will be specific to the content of the discipline. The following is a sample of expectations from the writing standards. These examples are for students in grades 6 to 8.

  • Introduce claim(s) about a topic or issue, acknowledge and distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.
  • Develop a topic with relevant, well-chosen facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples.
  • Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) drawing on several sources and generating related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.

Many social studies teachers address the literacy standards as they teach social studies content by structuring their classes with a focus on social science inquiry and asking questions. They present students with primary source materials and guide students to ask important questions related to the documents they are reading. The Stanford History Education Group has developed a free online curriculum entitled, “Reading Like a Historian.”[3] Each lesson in the curriculum is focused on a central question and includes a set of primary source documents. Students are expected to investigate the set of documents using the following historical thinking skills:

  • Sourcing – Who wrote this? What is the author’s point of view? Why was it written? When was it written (a long or short time after the event)? Is this source believable? Why? Why Not?
  • Contextualizing – What else was going on at the time this was written? What was it like to be alive at this time? What things were different back then? What things were the same? What would it look like to see this event through the eyes of someone who lived back then?
  • Close Reading – What claims does the author make? What evidence does the author use? What language (words, phrases, images, symbols) does the author use to persuade the document’s audience? How does the document’s language indicate the author’s perspective?
  • Corroboration – What do other documents say? Do the documents agree? If not, why? What are other possible documents? What documents are most reliable?

Students using the Stanford materials improved their reading comprehension, historical reasoning skills, and factual recall.[4] A major strength of the Stanford materials is that they provide a model that school districts and individual teachers are using to develop additional instructional materials. The historical thinking skills listed above certainly help students who wish to become historians, but they also provide students with reasoning skills that serve them well in a wide range of situations.

Thinking, Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening in Science

The traditional science class has included a number of assignments that appear on the surface to replicate the kinds of reading and writing that scientists do. Students read laboratory investigations to prepare for labs. They develop lab reports to tell about laboratory experiments they conducted in class. However, in the past, many science educators have worked to eliminate the need for students to struggle with the literacy demands of science laboratory work because they wanted to focus on laboratory skills and the science content.

Well-taught science classes have always emphasized collecting and analyzing data. Students have been taught that scientists respect data; they spend time developing powerful representations of data such as graphs and charts; and they value being able to replicate an experiment and get data that is similar to the data collected by other scientists who did the same experiment. However, science classrooms have not always emphasized the literacy skills that are an integral part of the work of scientists.

In their professional work, scientists…

  • Read research reports that include abstracts, section headings, figures, tables, diagrams, drawings, photographs, reference lists, and endnotes. Often scientists do not read the entire document, but only the parts of the report that are of special interest.
  • Use technical vocabulary which often contain Latin or Greek roots. The vocabulary terms sometimes have one meaning in everyday discourse and a different and highly specialized meaning in science.
  • Use categories and taxonomies that represent abstract ways of thinking that are not typically captured in everyday thinking.
  • Analyze research reports of scientific findings through the lens of scientific reasoning. Key questions they consider include the following:
    • What are the functions of the investigation—to explore, check previous results, test the explanatory power of a theory? The functions of the investigation will influence how the reader evaluates the evidence presented.
    • What data has been collected and how has it been analyzed? Is the data appropriate to the questions and conclusions reached?
    • What are the trade-offs of the research design, weighing what we can learn from experiments with controlled conditions versus what we can learn from naturalistic or direct observations?
    • What are the logical links between data, findings, previously related research and widely accepted theory?
    • What are potential sources of bias that may influence the findings and recommendations?[5]

Key ideas in the Grades 6-12 Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects standards for reading include the following:

  • Analysis and Summary of Science and Technical Texts
  • Following a Multistep Procedure
  • Understanding Symbols and Key Terms
  • Analysis of Text Structure
  • Purpose of Explanations and Procedures
  • Integration of Information Presented in Diverse Formats
  • Analysis and Evaluation of Reasoning and Evidence Presented in Text
  • Comparison of Findings from Varied Sources

Although the writing standards are the same as for history/social studies, they assume that the writing will be specific to science and technical content. The following is a sample of expectations from the writing standards. These examples are for students in grades 9 to 10.

  • Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly supplying data and evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both claim(s) and counterclaims in a discipline-appropriate form and in a manner that anticipates the audience’s knowledge level and concerns.
  • Introduce a topic and organize ideas, concepts, and information to make important connections and distinctions; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
  • Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to manage the complexity of the topic and convey a style appropriate to the discipline and context as well as to the expertise of likely readers.
  • Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.

Engaging students in well-designed scientific inquiry in the classroom, including developing scientific explanations after completing experiments, allows them to develop the skills and the habits and thought processes of scientists. Helping students identify areas of interest within science and then working with them to conduct in-depth research over time allows them to gain detailed insight into how knowledge within the sciences develops. Teaching students how to question evidence and the logic of others helps them develop a set of skills that serve them well in any number of settings. For example, these same reasoning skills can be used in making personal health decisions, in making financial decisions, as well as in making decisions related to civic and political issues.

Thinking, Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening in Mathematics

During the first year of their Carnegie-sponsored research on disciplinary literacy, the Shanahans (see footnote on page 1) worked with experts in history, mathematics, and chemistry to understand more about the specialized literacy skills of each discipline. The mathematicians in the study emphasized the importance of reading and re-reading text. They spoke to the importance of specialized vocabulary and understanding that the meaning of symbols may change depending on the context. Mathematicians also spend much of their professional time reading and interpreting graphs, charts, and tables.

A major goal of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics is to ensure that students spend time thinking about and solving worthwhile mathematics problems. The goal is to have students develop the habits of mind of the mathematician. The Standards for Mathematical Practice[6] identify eight skills that teachers at all levels should seek to develop in students. The standards are as follows:

Mathematically proficient students

  1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them
  2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively
  3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others
  4. Model with mathematics
  5. Use appropriate tools strategically
  6. Attend to precision
  7. Look for and make use of structure
  8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning

In the mathematics classroom, students should have opportunities to address the standards for Grades 6-12 Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects, but the emphasis should be on the mathematics practices. Mathematics educators see practices 1 and 6 as reflecting overarching habits of mind of the mathematician. Many see practices 2 and 3 as practices that all contributing members of the mathematics community use on a regular basis as they communicate with others. They see practices 4 and 5 as being particularly relevant to how people use mathematics in many work settings, while practices 7 and 8 relate more closely to the work of theoretical mathematicians.

When students work with rich, real-world problems, they have the opportunity to use and develop many of the mathematics practices. The modern mathematics class requires students to collaborate and work with others to solve problems. Teachers give students opportunities to discuss different approaches to the same problem and ask them to think and talk about whether the answer makes sense in a real-world setting. Students also discuss whether or not their approach yielded a correct answer. Was the approach efficient? Can it be generalized, and will it work for all numbers? Why or why not? Through rich discussion, students develop mathematical thinking and reasoning skills as well as the ability to critique their own reasoning and the reasoning of others. Again, the reasoning and thinking skills serve students well in a wide range of settings and situations.

Thinking, Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening in Other Subject Areas

Although researchers have not shared in-depth studies related to the disciplinary literacy skills of artists, musicians, athletes, chefs, and a variety of other professionals, educators in many places are working to apply the principles of disciplinary literacy to the secondary subject areas that they teach. Teachers of art, music, physical education, career and technology education, and other subject area classes recognize the applicability of the general concepts of disciplinary literacy to the work they do with students and they also recognize that they have a role to play in developing literate graduates.

When asked what disciplinary literacy looks like in music, Tim Shanahan replied

Some fields draw from one or more disciplines and that means their reading and writing experience will be similar to the reading and writing routines, language, and insights of those related to those fields. I think that is something to be candid about with students: musical scholarship requires the ability to handle technical materials like a scientist, historical materials like a historian, and criticism in the fashion of a music critic; and students would necessarily have to recognize the diversity of those demands and adjust accordingly.[7]

Some educators working within the arts, however, feel strongly that there are ways of thinking and communicating that are specialized to their subject areas and feel that articulating these specialized skills and developing them within students will enrich how students approach problem solving. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction suggests the following eight steps to building knowledge in the arts through literacy:

  • Build prior knowledge.
  • Build specialized vocabulary.
  • Learn to deconstruct complex visual representation of ideas.
  • Use knowledge of artistic elements and genres to identify main and subordinate ideas within the piece.
  • Articulate what the graphic representations mean within a work or ideas to support its main components.
  • Pose discipline-relevant questions.
  • Compare artistic elements of the work to other artwork.
  • Use reasoning within the discipline (What counts as evidence to evaluation claims?)[8]

Karen Beerer, Ed.D. has 28 years of experience in public education as a teacher, reading specialist, principal, supervisor of curriculum and professional development, and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment. She received her Ed.D. from Lehigh University in Curriculum and Instruction. Dr. Beerer has a passion for professional development, specifically, helping educators utilize research-based practices in instruction to help all students achieve.


[1] Shanahan, T., & Shanahan, C. (2008). Teaching Disciplinary Literacy to Adolescents: Rethinking Content- Area Literacy. Harvard Educational Review, 78(1), 40-59. Retrieved January 29, 2016, from

[2] Lee, C. D., & Spratley, A. (2010). Reading in the Disciplines: The Challenges of Adolescent Literacy | Carnegie Corporation of New York. Retrieved February 1, 2016, from

[3] Intro to Historical Thinking | Stanford History Education Group. (n.d.). Retrieved February 1, 2016, from

[4] Reisman, A. (2012). Reading like a historian: Document-based history curriculum intervention in urban high schools. Cognition and Instruction, 30(1), 86–112.

[5] Lee, C.D., Spratley, A. (2010). Reading in the disciplines: The challenges of adolescent literacy. New York, NY: Carnegie Corporation of New York.

[6] Standards for Mathematical Practice. (2010, June). Retrieved February 04, 2016, from

[7] Shanahan, T. (2014, December 15). Shanahan on Literacy. Retrieved February 10, 2016, from

[8] Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. (n.d.). Disciplinary Literacy in Art & Design. Retrieved February 11, 2016, from

[1] English Language Arts Standards. (2010, June). p. 7. Retrieved February 1, 2016, from

[2] English Language Arts Standards. (2010, June). Retrieved February 1, 2016, from

[1] Rainey, E., & Moje, E. B. (2012). Building Insider Knowledge: Teaching Students to Read, Write, and Think within ELA and across the Disciplines. English Education, 45(1). Retrieved February 1, 2016, from

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