Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Technology and NUA: A Perfect Fit

After Scott McLeod's staff presentation, the NUA CoP discussed the connections between Scott's philosophy of technology integration and the culture, language and cognition philosophy of NUA. The CoP decided that the two philosophies mesh well, and teachers working on closing the cultural and achievement gap would be served well by incorporating blogs into their courses.

Here's why . . .
  1. Students are engaged because they are happy to meet teachers in a communication forum very familiar to students, thereby closing the cultural gap between students and teachers.
  2. Students learn the ethics of the Internet and are able to police themselves.
  3. Students of all cultures have a voice on the blog, so students are more equal.
  4. Shy students have a place to express their opinions.
  5. Students can express opinions that they were afraid to bring up in class.
  6. Teachers are equipping students with a new literacy (language) for the 22nd Century.
The following question was asked in our CoP: "Do the relationships built online transfer to face-to-face classroom relationships?"

KC West, who just finished her Master's Thesis on blogs in the classroom, stated that the current literature on the topic does not claim that the relationships transfer to face-to-face friendships. KC's article on the new literacies is being published next month, so stay tuned for more information on this topic.

Anticipation Guide

The tree map above was created during the CoP's debrief after the didgeridoo anticipation guide and subsequent reading. Many people are planning to use an anticipation guide early in the year to spark student curiosity for reading from novels to math textbooks.

To watch the apnea-free Jeremy flex his neck muscles, click here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Thinking Maps with Gifted and Talented Students

Much of the research about the effectiveness of Thinking Maps has been conducted on underachieving students. However, The Thinking Maps Foundation does offer grants to educators who wish to study the effectiveness of the maps. One study, conducted on Gifted and Talented high school students, found that students involved in the school's Thinking Map project, did improve their SAT scores one complete level. A brief sampling from the study is below. The complete 34-page study is available from Thinking Maps Foundation.

"Fifty Gifted and Talented (G&T) learners from Birchwood Community High School were involved in the project, alongside five learners from year 3 G&T from years of Gorse Covert Primary School. Staff and learners from Birchwood Primary School
were also involved in the training and piloting of Thinking Maps although they removed themselves from the final research outcomes.

We identified G&T learners in line with our respective G&T policies (please refer to
appendices) Bob Burden’s NFER questionnaire Myself As a Learner Scale (MALS)
was used to base line the academic self concept of our G&T cohorts.

Birchwood Community High (BCHS) and Gorse Covert Primary school conclude that
Thinking Maps were an effective tool in raising the quality of pupils thinking and
planning. On average BCHS learners improved their SAT scores by one complete
level. Gorse Covert Primary School learners demonstrated that they were able to
organise and sustain their writing through the usage of Thinking Maps."

Monday, August 27, 2007

NUA EHS CoP Members

At EHS 43 staff members have studied NUA strategies through either a cohort or the Community of Practice. Many others have incorporated NUA strategies learned at staff development days or from teachers on their course-alike teams.

The following staff members make up the 2007-08 Community of Practice:

Elizabeth Barniskis
Chis Dalki
Rob Gardner
Ruth Mary Gens
Jim Hatten
Heidi Howard
Sarah Jarrett
Ann Little
Eric Nelson
Betsy Nimmo
Jackie Roehl
Rachel Tholen
Brian Simpson
Sarah Striffler
KC West
Scott Woebler

EHS NUA Cohort Members

Cohort I (at Valley View)
Pat Corcoran
Diane Daniels-Stromberg
Joel Nasset

Cohort II
Martha Cosgrove
Ruth Mary Gens
Josh Grenier
Mary Manderfeld
Colleen Raasch
Jackie Roehl
Dalen Towne
Meggie Trenda

Cohort III
Barb Anderson
David Boone
Elizabeth Barniskis
Heidi Mathers
Carolyn Ocampo
Bob Schneider

Cohort IV
Arne Bolstad
Kim Caster
Natalia Kissock
Jeff Mace
Ellen Mundt
Chris Dalki
Claris Springob
KC West
Jane Yanda

Cohort V (starting this year)
Sarah Jarrett
Jenn Carter
Eric Nelson
Jenn Cordes
Elizabeth Neary
Amanda Koehler
Kurt Hunter
Scott Woelber
Rachel Tholen
Emese Pilgrim
Ann Little
Jackie Roehl
Kristin Benson

Final Word Strategy Notes

During the debrief the Final Word on Baruti Kafele's "Managing Your Classroom," CoP members came up with the following ideas:

The Final Word strategy allows all students to speak, creating an equality of cultures. The strategy allows all ideas to be affirmed, and the sense of order is a classroom management tool itself.

Discussing Kafele's ideas sparked a lively discussion from "we resist rigid classroom management" to "we still struggle with managing a classroom." KC shared her three classroom rules: Work, Respect, Belong. The group liked the idea of keeping rules vague since teachers can't predict all of the infractions.

Jackie's Note: Although many folks were turned off by some of the specific ideas that Kafele proposes, the animated discussion and comments such as "I've always been afraid to talk about classroom management issues" and "The faculty needs to have a larger discussion of rules for consistency across classes" made the 25 minutes valuable for me. Thanks for your great discussion.

Closing the Gap by Connecting Culture, Language and Cognition

Below is a brief summary of "Closing the Gap by Connecting Culture, Language, and Cognition" from Student Successes with Thinking Maps. Click on "post a comment" at the end of this entry to comment on the full article.

Yvette Jackson, the Executive Director of the National Urban Alliance, hopes to change teacher perceptions about underachieving students. NUA also hopes to bridge the cultural gap between students and teachers. Jackson and NUA believe that a shift needs to occur from what has to be taught (content) to how learning happens (process).

NUA believes in the following equation:

Learning = (Understanding + Motivation) (Competence and Confidence)

NUA believes that Thinking Maps are "essential tools in bridging the cultural gap between teachers and students" because they address the inter-related nature of culture, language and cognition.

NUA does acknowledge that Thinking Maps are one tool to give teachers a language to address the needs of underachieving students because they help eliminate textual blockers, both semantic and structural blockers. This mediation happens because Thinking Maps provide a clear language to discuss metacognition, and the maps become external memory patterns for students.

Thinking Maps are a common language that can be transferred across disciplines and grade levels.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

List Group Label Strategy

The List/Group/Label strategy offers a simple three-step process for students to organize a vocabulary list from a reading selection. This strategy stresses relationships between words and the critical thinking skills required to recognize these relationships.

List/Group/Label challenges students to . . .
  • List key words (especially unclear and/or technical terms) from a reading selection.
  • Group these words into logical categories based on shared features.
  • Label the categories with clear descriptive titles.
Steps to List/Group/Label:
  1. Select a main topic or concept in a reading selection.
  2. Have students list all words they think relate to this concept. Write student responses on the whiteboard.
  3. Divide the class into groups of 3 or 4 students. Have these teams join together related terms from the larger list. Have the teams provide "evidence" for this grouping—that is, require the students to articulate the common features or properties of the words collected in a group.
  4. Ask the student groups to suggest a descriptive title or label for the collections of related terms. These labels should reflect the rationale behind collecting the terms in a group.
  5. Finally, have students read the text selection carefully and then review both the general list of terms and their collections of related terms. Students should eliminate terms or groups that do not match the concept's meaning in the context of the selection. New terms from the reading should be added, when appropriate. Terms should be "sharpened" and the groupings and their labels revised, when necessary.
An alternative use of this strategy is for the teacher to provide the list of terms or vocabulary words for the students to organize. Then students can speculate about the topic to be read. These word lists can be copied on card stock for easier manipulation.

The finished, labeled categories can be presented in a tree map since the tree map is for classifying details and grouping ideas.

Using the List/Group/Label strategy develops critical thinking abilities and uses motivation to increase comprehension. The strategy engages students by building their curiosity and allowing them to activate their prior knowledge. Hilda Taba created this strategy because of people's interest in inductive thinking, making generalizations based on specifics. This cognition strategy is also based on Jerome Bruner's research on how people learn, organize and retain information.

Some teachers may feel that they need to teach all of the word definitions for students to be successful with this strategy; however, not knowing all of the definitions also adds to a student's curiosity and guessing definitions may increase student enjoyment in the task.

Math teachers have found success with this strategy when they have students List/Group/Label various terms, expressions and symbols.

Bryonn Bain: Hip Hop in the Classroom

photo from

Bryonn Bain, who has joined the National Urban Alliance as its Artist-in-Residence, is Brooklyn's Famed Spoken Word Poet. Bain currently teaches at Columbia University and at Riker's Island Prison. Bain first came into the national spotlight when he was falsely imprisoned by the NYPD during his second year at Harvard Law School. Following his false imprisonment, Bain wrote the article "Walking While Black" for The Village Voice, and that article earned him a Mike Wallace interview on 60 Minutes.

For more information about Bryonn, visit his website

Bain proposes that it is important for teachers today to connect to teenagers through music, and since the music that many teens, regardless of their cultural backgrounds, listens to is Hip Hop, teachers should be incorporating Hip Hop into their lessons. In fact, Bain asserts that 70% to 80% of Hip Hop consumers are white, suburbanites. Bain, in a WMEP/NUA Reunion class on March 7, 2007, cautioned the teachers present not to be racist in their critique of Hip Hop.

During the NUA Hip Hop session, Bain briefly lectured on the components of Hip Hop--the DJ, the graffiti artist, the B-Boy or B-Girl breakdancer, and the emcee (also known as the spoken word poet or rap artist). Many people think of Hip Hop only as the rap portion of the Hip Hop culture. Bain claims, "Rap is something you do; Hip Hop is something you live."

Bain proposes that teachers use Hip Hop in the classroom not only as text to analyze, but also teachers should have students create their own Hip Hop. Creating Hip Hop works especially well in history classes because Hip Hop can tell the story of a historical event. Besides connecting to youth culture, teachers who employ Hip Hop in the classroom will be promoting creativity and discovery, using rhythm, rhyme and repetition to enhance memory and verbal skills, and they will be allowing listening and dancing to release student stress.

Bain's Hip Hop lesson ideas have been greatly influenced by Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed. For an excerpt of Freire's book and a look into his educational philosophy, click here.

James McBride, author of The Color of Water, would most likely agree with Bain's assessment because McBride discussed the importance of Hip Hop in the world today in the April 2007 issue of National Geographic. McBride's article traces Hip Hop back to its African roots and proposes that music is a great equalizer among people.

NUA Culture Consultant Augusta Mann holds a similar view that teen culture today has its basis in African American culture.

Final Word Protocol

The CoP will be conducting a Final Word Protocol text-based discussion on a chapter by Baruti Kafele. Basically, a Final Word Protocol involves a group of four or five students responding to quotations that they found of particular interest in an assigned reading. The timed discussion allows for only one person to be speaking at a time, and the listeners must respond to specific comments made by the first speaker. Click here for a handout on Final Word Protocol instructions.

The Final Word Protocol forces all students/participants to listen carefully to the speaker because they need to respond to the speaker's comments. Often times people are thinking about what they will say when it's their turn to speak rather than listening to the speaker. Since all students must discuss the assigned text, students are more likely to read the assignment and be prepared because of peer pressure.

The Final Word Protocol is a culturally responsive strategy because all students are allowed to share their perspective.

If you use the Final Word Protocol in your classroom, be sure to click comments below to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of this strategy.

NUA Principles of Learning

Many principles of learning underlie NUA's work. The following five are particularly useful because they are relevant across the full range of grade levels and content areas:

  1. Students must bring their own perspectives to lessons so that they will see the relevance of the content to their own lives.
  2. Students must make thoughtful and active use of their prior knowledge in order to learn new information.
  3. Students need challenges to keep them motivated and engaged in learning.
  4. Students need opportunities to talk to each other to construct, process, and reflect on meanings while hearing and appreciating one another's points of view.
  5. Students need to represent their learning in interesting and creative ways that enhance their comprehension and retention.

Cognitive Coaching Ideas

The Community of Practice (CoP) watched the seven-minute video clip featuring Robert Price and Yvette Jackson in a cognitive coaching session. After sharing information about the video clip in their small groups, the CoP created the following list of cognitive coaching and Thinking Map applications for Edina High School:

  1. Special Education could use to establish IEP goals and expected behaviors.
  2. Administrators and teachers could use to discuss behavior issues.
  3. Administrators could use in a pre-conference before teacher observations.
  4. Teachers could use in a student writing conference.
  5. The school nurse could use to explain procedures and to discuss health issues with students.
  6. Cognitive coaching can be used to build relationships with students.
  7. Administrators and teachers could use in conferences with parents.
  8. Meeting and classroom agendas can be given in a flow map.

During our discussion some concerns were raised about the reduced amount of eye contact and the distraction teachers might feel when they are concerned about what is being written down. Some of these concerns can be alleviated though when understanding that Cognitive Coaching/discussions with Thinking Maps do take out some of the emotion and force the coach to be a more active listener. Also, teenagers may find that making a Thinking Map during a behavior conference may keep them occupied and not worry about the reduced eye contact.

EHS Community of Practice Norms

During the first meeting together, the NUA Community of Practice developed the following norms:

Members will respect and affirm each other's ideas.

Members will respect each other's time by attending meetings.

Members will explore the research behind and the implementation process of NUA strategies.

Members will address applications outside the classroom for NUA strategies.

Members will communicate comments and findings at

Why Thinking Maps Work

image from Thinking

The EHS Community of Practice (CoP) wants to delve deeper into the research behind the Thinking Maps. Members of the CoP see that the maps work, but they want to know why. Thinking Maps, Inc.'s introduction video provides a good start to understanding the research, the development, and the practical applications for Thinking Maps. The 10-minute video is just a click away at the top of Thinking Maps, Inc.'s Home Page.

Regarding research behind the maps, Thinking Maps, Inc., explains why the maps work on their website:

"Thinking Maps® have assisted many educators and students with the learning process. By linking a visual pattern to specific thought processes, Thinking Maps® enable students to develop neural networks for thinking that the brain recognizes and builds on continuously. Thinking Maps® enhance the student's ability to independently transfer thinking skills to content learning across disciplines and to lifelong learning. Through repetition, consistency and extension, the use of Thinking Maps® strengthens networks for thinking which in turn enhance the brain's natural ability as a pattern detector."

Thinking Map, Inc.'s website also includes data from schools across the country who have improved standardized test scores since implementing Thinking Maps.

David Hyerle developed Thinking Maps using the brain research of Art Costa, Al Upton and Robert Marzano. Hyerle summarizes research into the successes of Thinking Maps that is found in his book Student Successes with Thinking Maps. For more information explore Hyerle's website,

Even more research on student successes with Thinking Maps can be found at Thinking Foundation's website. Teachers interested in conducting their own research on the effectiveness of Thinking Maps can apply for a grant from Thinking

One question that teachers always ask is: Do bubble, double bubble, and circle maps really need to be circles; can't students just create squares? The answer is NO. Since the Thinking Maps are a common language and since the brain is a pattern detector, students and teachers need to keep seeing the same shapes and format for the maps. Some teachers may believe that strict adherence to these shapes and forms is ridiculous, but to use the maps to their optimum benefit, teachers need to help students' brains detect these common language patterns. Consistency is the key!

bubble map from

Principal Baruti Kafele

photo from

Although Baruit Kafele is not a National Urban Alliance culture consultant, his ideas about reaching and teaching students from all cultures overlap well with NUA's culturally responsive teaching practices. Kafele is currently a high school principal in Newark where his student body is mainly Latino and African American. WMEP's cultural collaborative brings Kafele to the Twin Cities so that West Metro teachers can enroll in his one-day workshop where participants receive his book A Handbook for Teachers of African American Children. To learn more about Principal Kafele's background, read his complete biography and watch his 11-minute video presentation that introduces his educational philosophy.

One day on an airplane, Kafele pondered what educators need to be effective with students of all cultures. That day, Kafele's 50 I's for Effective Teaching emerged, and those common themes run throughout his book A Handbook for Teachers of African American Children.

The Edina High School NUA Community of Practice decided to read the chapter from Kafele's book entitled "Managing Your Classroom" for a final word text-based discussion. Further comments about Kafele's ideas can be posted on this blog entry.

Thinking Maps as a Transformational Language for Learning

Below is my summary of David Hyerle's chapter, "Thinking Maps as a Transformational Language for Learning," found in the book Student Successes with Thinking Maps from Corwin Press, 2004. The National Urban Alliance partners with Thinking Maps, Inc. to provide teachers with the tools needed to make thinking explicit for students.

By providing a common language for teachers and students, thinking maps have been closing the achievement gap in schools across the United States. Currently, 4000 school faculties in the U.S. have been trained to use thinking maps in their classrooms.

David Hyerle, who brought the Thinking Maps to schools over 15 years ago, refers to the maps as a transformational language because the maps can be used across disciplines, cultures, and ability levels; they also work with students from kindergarten to college. Once students and teachers have a common visual language, higher order thinking can be explicitly displayed and assessed.

Some teachers believe that the maps are just an interesting set of graphic organizers, but they are so much more. Graphic organizers are static and focus on isolated content tasks whereas Thinking Maps are a theoretically grounded language based on eight fundamental cognitive processes. In fact, since the brain is a pattern detector (binding together data through neural patterns to network information) and since all humans communicate with language, employing a brain-patterned language makes sense.

The classroom benefits for using Thinking Maps are numerous. First, they are flexible tools that can be used in isolation or in combination with other maps to solve multi-step problems and for thorough reading comprehension. Second, Thinking Maps are great assessment tools since they clearly and explicitly demonstrate what a student is thinking. Third, maps provide an opportunity for focused cooperative education, which is a key to bridging the cultural gap between students. Fourth, Thinking Maps allow a teacher to mediate a student's thinking and literacy development, not simply remediate students through repetition of content. Finally, Thinking Maps bridge the cultural and discipline gap between teachers in a school since they provide a common language for instruction.

Hyerle ends his chapter with a call to all people involved in the educational process to use Thinking Maps, not just classroom teachers. Thinking Maps foster constructivist conversations that not only allow for efficient problem solving, but also make staff meetings more reflective and less procedural.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Jackie Roehl's Coaching Action Plan

This school year Edina High School has implemented a part-time Culture, Language & Cognition (CLC) Coach to work with teachers on NUA strategies. During this pilot year, Jackie Roehl will work with staff to sustain NUA through the following activities:

  • Showcase NUA strategies in Roehl's World Literature classes so that all interested teachers could observe an NUA strategy at work.
  • Co-teach a lesson with interested teachers as a way for those teachers to learn a specific strategy.
  • Attend English 10 and American Literature meetings to offer lesson design assistance as requested.
  • Meet with other interested teachers to plan lessons and discuss NUA strategies.
  • Be available to sub for teachers if they would like to observe another teacher implement an NUA strategy and debrief that observation with the teacher. Alternatively, secure a sub so that Roehl and an interested teacher can observe an NUA lesson together for a more meaningful debrief.
  • Facilitate EHS NUA Community of Practice, keeping members connected throughout the year with this blog to share strategy successes and weaknesses and to discuss articles of interest.
  • Work with Scott Woebler, the EHS Numeracy Coach, to clarify NUA strategies and develop joint coaching plans.
  • Organize the NUA Cohort 4 & 5 calendar.
  • Attend Cohort 5 large group meetings and site visits to work with the cohorts and the NUA consultant on a sustainability plan.
  • Meet monthly with the Culture, Language and Cognition Committee led by Gwen Jackson to discuss a K-12 NUA sustainability plan.
    Review WMEP Cultural Collaborative Brochure and suggest classes to staff, especially look for Thinking Map Train the Trainer.
    Meet monthly with all K-12 Literacy Coaches.
    Showcase student work and strategies at staff meetings, on an NUA bulletin board, and through this blog.
  • Assess NUA strategy use through staff surveys, blog posts, and through tracking observations and other coaching activities.
  • Teach Introduction to Thinking Maps at LINKS.
    Hold a Thinking Maps course with Nguyen Dang for teachers K-12.
  • Observe St. Louis Park's implementation of NUA strategies in their International Baccalaureate classes and offer suggestions to Edina's Advanced Placement teachers.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Cultural Consultant: Augusta Mann

photo from
Augusta Mann works closely with the National Urban Alliance to provide culturally responsive teaching strategies that "touch the spirit" of all students. Augusta asserts that students learn best when their youth culture is drawn upon, and today's youth culture is based on African American culture. Therefore, she believes that focusing on strategies that are especially relevant to African American students will improve the achievement of all students regardless of their cultural background. Augusta details her beliefs on her website

Augusta believes that the Five Teaching and Learning Patterns for African Americans are:
  1. Ritual (Affirmations/performances)

  2. Rhythm (In music, speech and movement)

  3. Recitation (Oral performance/memorization)

  4. Repetition (To enhance meaningfulness)

  5. Relationships (Relationships of love, respect, and belonging) (Recognizing ties between humans and nature) (Scientific study of patterns in nature and the phenomenal world) (Making connections between school work and students’ life experiences)

The Nine Supportive Practices for Augusta's Touching the Spirit cultural connection philosophy are:
  1. Expectations of Excellence

  2. Continual Search for Patterns

  3. Insistence on Working Toward Mastery

  4. Teacher Modeling of Skills and Processes

  5. Intensive Direct Instruction and Practice

  6. Study of African Deep Thought

  7. Focus on Discourse, Inquiry,and Creative and Symbolic Thinking

  8. Using Knowledge for Social Criticism and Community Action

  9. In-Depth Study and Performance of African and African American Culture

Augusta is a recognized expert on teaching vocabulary, and her full biography can be found at the NUA website.

Yvette Jackson, NUA Chief Executive Officer

photo from

Since Edina began working with the National Urban Alliance, Yvette Jackson has been the organization's Chief Executive Officer. Yvette speaks at most NUA WMEP Large Group Sessions where she not only motivates educators with her passionate belief that all students can achieve, but also she presents her latest findings regarding the strategies that work to engage students and improve their academic performance.

In November 2006, the Knoxville Channel 2 news featured a story on Yvette's presentation at the National Council of Teachers of English conference where she shared her belief that motivated teachers can reverse student underachievement. Yvette's handout from this NCTE Conference presentation is similar to the handout coaches and administrators received at the NUA Summer Academy in Albany, NY in July 2007.

Another video clip of interest can be seen at where Yvette and Robert Price demonstrate the power of Thinking Maps during a cognitive coaching session. features a variety of film clips on Thinking Maps and NUA Consultants, so scrolling down the web page at the link above is necessary. Look for the cognitive coaching Quicktime video link with Yvette's name by it.

Yvette received her doctorate degree from Columbia where she completed research on literacy, gifted education, and the cognitive theories of Reuven Feuerstein. Yvette's full biography can be found on the NUA website.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Welcome to Edina's NUA Blog

Edina Public Schools has partnered with the National Urban Alliance for the past five years to implement culture, language and cognition strategies to raise the achievement levels of all students.