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I (Mentor Specialist Debbie Fisher) watched my granddaughter complete her classwork online today. She was so proud of her accomplishments. It reminded me of this quote:

"The greatest sign of success for a to be able to say, 'The children are now working as if I did not exist.'"

~Maria Motessori

Teachers are making an amazing difference for their students today. Keep it going!


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Remote learning can sometimes lack the personal touch that we have in face-to-face learning with our students. You can make videos of parts of your lessons for your students and post them in your canvas course, website, or email them to help keep connected to your students.

If this is something you would like some help with, let your mentor specialist know!

Here's an example from our Mentor Specialist, Amy Wood!


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The most effective teachers demonstrate these characteristics

  • Being prepared—come to class ready to teach
  • Having a positive attitude—be optimistic about teaching and students
  • Holding high expectations—believe everyone can be successful
  • Being creative—be resourceful and inventive
  • Demonstrating fairness—handle students and grading fairly
  • Displaying a personal touch—connect with students personally
  • Cultivating a sense of belonging—make students feel welcome and comfortable
  • Showing compassion—relate to students and their problems
  • Having a sense of humor—make learning fun
  • Respecting students—do not embarrass students
  • Demonstrating forgiveness—do not hold grudges
  • Admitting mistakes—quick to admit being wrong

Summarized from research done by Robert J. Walker, Ed.D. at Alabama State University.

For more information about Dr. Walker’s work, please visit:

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Now that your students are back from the Holiday Break and are (hopefully!) done dreaming of sugar plums, candy canes, and gifts… it is a good time to re-look at student engagement in your classroom. A good place to start is making your questioning count! According to the book Class Acts there are three types of questions that are typically seen in classrooms:

  1. Assessment Questions:  Questions where we are asking for concrete pieces of information that can be verified and quantified. The downfall of only using assessment questions is that you usually only get a response from one student so you are not verifying all students understanding. 
  2. Open Questions: This is most common question type. The more open questions we ask, the less responses we get. This is sometimes called “fishing for answers.” The downfall of open questions is that you have more call-outs and shout-outs and your fastest students usually always get to answer first.
  3. Engagement Questions/Statements: These types of questions task students in specialized ways “to ensure maximum participation or lead students into deeper levels of thinking.” Engagement questions often involve student signals (for instance: “hold up your right hand if you think the answer is X minus 3, and your left hand if you think the answer is X plus 3”) and motivate students’ involvement in a response as well as requiring a response. 
Questions You Want Students to Answer Type of Question Ways to Re-phrase for Engagement
“Raise your hand if you can name the parts of a flower.” Assessment “Show me with your fingers how many parts there are in a flower. Whisper to your neighbor what those are.”
“Ellen, what is the capital of Utah?” Assessment [Raise hand to indicate stop.] “Now think. What is the capital of Utah?” [Lower hand.] “Everyone?” [Snap fingers for choral response.]
“Which spelling is correct?” Open “Here are two different spellings the dictionary gives. Stand if you think option 1 is preferred. Stay seated if you think option 2.”
“Which of the seven continents would you most like to live on?” Open [Photos of continents in room.] “Stand by the continent that you would like to live on.”

Now is the time to re-look at the types of questions being asked to make sure we are engaging ALL students in our classrooms. 

Information taken from
Class Acts: Your Guide to Activate Learning

 By: Gary Forlini, Ellen Williams, and Annette Brinkman. 

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Do you hear yourself giving students too many warnings? Are you struggling to get your students to follow your directions?

Being consistent is an important part of your management plan. Precision requests can build consistency. A precision request is a direct command given to a student for immediate compliance. They are used for your most difficult students that will not follow simple requests. Jordan District uses Melisa Genaux’s model. Here is how to do a precision request:

#1     State the students name, give the direction, end with please.

Example: “John, sit in your chair, please.”

Wait 3-5 seconds for compliance or 7-10 seconds if language delayed

Reinforce if there is compliance. Non-compliance go to step two.

#2     State the students name, use the words you need to, then give the direction.

Example: “John, you need to sit in your chair”.

Wait time same as above.

Reinforce if there is compliance. Non-compliance go to step three.

#3     Give a preplanned consequence.

Label the consequence: That’s not following directions

Then give the preplanned consequence

Example: “That’s not following directions. John go with Mark to Mrs. Wilson’s class for time out.”

When giving a precision request do not give the student a choice, ask it as a question, or give it as a threat. Examples of these kinds of requests would be, “You can either sit down or go finish your homework.”, “Would you like to sit down now?”, “If you don’t sit down, I’ll take away class points”.

You do not want to start a power play with the child.

Be consistent with your rules and consequences. Children feel safe when they don’t have to guess what your behavior is going to be, which rules you are going to follow, or what consequences will be given. Remember positive praise and reinforcement is essential to help students know they are doing the right thing. (4:1 ratio of positives to correction). Be predictable.


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Developing an inquiry-based classroom engages students’ attention and promotes deeper learning of the content.  A few inquiry-based classroom basics, based on resources from the Great Books Foundation, are listed below. For more detailed information, please visit:

Inquiry-Based Classroom Basics

Classroom Culture

  • Develop their own ideas before the teacher gives a “right” answer.
  • Say what they think because it is a safe environment.
  • Students speak and listen respectfully to one another. 

Critical thinking Skills

  • Develop strong ideas about the meaning of what they read.
  •  Offer evidence from the text to support their ideas.
  •  Respond to each other, rather than only to the teacher.

Participation and Engagement

  • Students participate willingly in the activity.
  • Students participate are interested and engaged in the process.
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One of the biggest challenges teachers face is getting (and keeping) their students' attention. Learning to do so takes time and practice, but effective teaching requires it.

Tips for getting students' attention

  • Praise students for getting (and doing) the signal correctly.
  • Make it fun! Change it up and say (or do) the signal fast, or slow, soft or loud.
  • Practice, practice, practice! Go over your attention signal until your blue in the face.

Here are some ideas to try

  • Attention signals
  • Timer or a count down
  • Using proximity
  • Precision commands/requests
  • Do not talk over students

7 ways to keep students’ attention

  • Use the 10:2 method: (2 min process/respond for 10 min of instruction)
  • Incorporate movement into your lessons
  • Pick up the pace
  • Provide effective feedback
  • Allow 5-7 seconds of “think time” when asking a question
  • 3-2-1 method of summarizing: (Write 3 things they learned, 2  interesting things, 1 question. Share in small groups.)
  • Periodically pause mid-sentence


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Why should teachers have students practice routines? If you have ever had the chance to observe kindergarten, especially at the beginning of the year, you may see a lot of repetition of directions. Kindergarten teachers know that their students need to  practice basic skills a lot: sitting in their seats, moving to the carpet, raising their hands to talk, sharpening pencils, lining up... you name it. Kindergarten teachers are pros at establishing routines.

Routines should be established and built in all levels of teaching. It is important for teachers to set these expectations and practice them with their students, even with older grades and students in secondary schools.

In this TED Talk, How To Use A Paper Towel, Joe Smith teaches adults how to help the environment by using paper towels more effectively. Watch the video and see what techniques he uses to help his audience remember the directions.

When we give directions, we should try to follow these basic ideas:

  1. Get the student's attention and make sure you have it!
  2. Give clear, positive directions with high expectations.
  3. Limit the number of directions and steps to the directions. 
  4. Vary the way directions are given (teacher modeled, student modeled, using phrases like, "When I say go...", students repeating directions). 
  5. Be consistent and follow through.
  6. Give students time to process.
  7. Repeat directions if needed.

If you find you are struggling to have students follow directions or they struggle to do routine tasks, try using some of these ideas to help your students remember the routines and procedures for your classroom. It is never to late to polish up routines and procedures to help students be successful!

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