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Never have I ever… Taken a million notes during a professional learning opportunity only to throw them aside unvisited… says no one, ever. Rid the habit, grab the noteworthy information, and review it before the school year begins. Blair Kurland is a fifth-grade teacher at Arizona Desert Elementary

Aug 04, 2016

Never have I ever… Taken a million notes during a professional learning opportunity only to throw them aside unvisited… says no one, ever. Rid the habit, grab the noteworthy information, and review it before the school year begins.


Blair Kurland is a fifth-grade teacher at Arizona Desert Elementary School in the Tolleson Elementary School District. The former journalist turned school teacher attended the Arizona K12 Center’s Beginning Teacher Institute in June. As she preps for her first year in the classroom, Kurland says she’ll use elements from the list below to create an effective learning environment for her students.

Kagan Strategies

  • Kagan’s Four Basic Principles include positive interdependence, individual accountability, equal participation, and simultaneous interaction.

  • There’s a difference between cooperative learning and group work.

  • Using Kagan Structures opens doors for incredible benefits, which include engagement, social interaction, exposure to different perspectives and insights, movement, an opportunity to practice all language skills, cooperative thinking, equal participation, peer feedback, accountability, triggering thoughts, more think time, entertainment, scaffolding, and more.


Classroom Management

  • Having a protocol for classroom procedures is different than discipline, and it’s imperative for students to know that.

  • An effective teacher manages, whereas the ineffective teacher disciplines.

  • Three steps for teaching procedures: 1. Explain, explicitly and in isolation. 2. Rehearse. 3. Reinforce, using correction and praise.

  • When implementing procedures, it is important to set high expectations; only accept 100 percent participation, and do not apologize. Repeat until perfect.


Miscellaneous Tips

  • Use technology to your advantage. Don’t make it a purposeless hoop to jump through.

  • You can make learning fun and exciting by integrating video games in the classroom. The “quest or mission” of the activity should be the academic objective.

  • Incentives should be built in, and are not always summative.

  • Encourage intrinsic pride, celebrate failures, and focus on effort, not results.


Did you notice how each bullet point was a statement, actionable item, or something that seemed achievable? Clarify the random thoughts and jumbled jargon from your professional learning collateral, sticky notes, and notebook. The process of reviewing tidbits and finding personal application will serve you — and your colleagues — well.

Want to create your own list of takeaways from the Beginning Teacher Institute? Register now for the 2017 event on June 27-29 in Tucson. 

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Arizona K12 Center

@azk12 Jan 16, 2020 22:55:24

In this new Centered column, Executive Director Kathy Wiebke reflects on the lessons she learned from her mother an… https://t.co/5rt1ZHNo93

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