Category Archives: Lesson Plans

Guided Discovery Lesson Plan: Freeze Signal

The Freeze Signal is used to communicate to students that they should suddenly stop what they are doing and pay attention to the teacher.  I consider it an important safety measure.  Personally, I use a singing bowl, but I have seen teachers use bells, wind chimes, and miniature xylophones.  Use what works for you.


What is a Guided Discovery?
It is a student-centered approach to introducing materials and routines in the classroom, developed by the folks at Responsive Classroom. According to Lynn Bechtel and Paula Denton,

The primary goal of Guided Discovery is to generate interest and excitement about classroom resources and help children explore their possible uses. Guided Discovery also provides opportunities to introduce vocabulary, assess children’s prior knowledge, and teach responsible use and care of materials.

I would add that Guided Discoveries also build community.  Students are asked to listen to each other, compliment one another, and really see and hear the work and ideas of their peers.  Using this strategy I have built compassionate, organized, and respectful classrooms.


Let the Planning Begin – Tools for Success

Procrastination finally comes to an end.
Today I begin the work of plotting out the first few days (and weeks) of school.

While the students are out shopping for school supplies (which induce panic attacks in me), I pull out my copy of The First Six Weeks of School.  The summer is coming to an end.  How many teachers would agree with this quote recently posted by Erin Klein on Pinterest?

But, no worries – I have some handy tools to help me through the process.

1) Wunderlist – This is my current favorite to-do list.  It looks nice.  It syncs to all of my devices.  I can set reminders and due dates, and I appreciate that I can share lists with folks who can co-manage lists.

2) Springpad – This site is like a Pinterest or an Evernote, just slightly different.  I’ve been collecting school materials here for quite some time. Today I will turn to my notebook, The First Days of School.

3) Pinterest – so much fun information presented in a pretty, pretty way. I have several boards that are collections of school stuff, like this one: Classrooms

4) Coffitivity – Ambient background noise that makes it feel like you are in a cafe.  Supposedly it helps boost creativity and maintain productivity.  Don’t know if that’s true, but when I listen to it I feel … more at ease.  And this way I spend less money, and I don’t have to pack up my computer when I go to the bathroom.

5) Bento – I love this beautiful product made by Filemaker.  It’s a gorgeous way of creating your own databases using self-created forms.  This is my favorite way to plan.  I can even get the plans on my iPad and use them while teaching.

Differentiated Instruction: A Child Centered Classroom

“A differentiated classroom is a
place where the teacher proactively
plans and carries out varied
approaches to content, process, and
product in anticipation of and
response to student differences in
readiness, interest, and learning
needs.” - Carol Ann Tomlinson

The Magical Minds are different. Each one is beautifully unique. They have different interests, different skill levels, different learning styles, different needs.

How do I know this? I talk with the kids, alot. There are small chats scattered across the day. There are reading, writing and math conferences. Sometimes we have special tea dates, which are one-on-one meetings (with tea) designed to assess and address the needs of individual kids. I take notes. I take lots of notes.

Unit Expectations and Anecdotal Notes

When I plan, and when I instruct, I think about these differences.  I think about what each of my kids needs to grow and feel successful.  As Angela Maiers put it, I think “how can I advance THIS learner?”

I begin with choice.  The Magical Minds choose their books, their writing projects, research topics, as well as their means of presentation.  The result = kids who are engaged and interested in the work they do.  It belongs to them.  It stems from them.  Part of my job is to help the third graders make good choices.  I provide the reflection time, the self-assessment tools and the conversations they need to understand their own interests, learning styles and needs.

Cultivating Self-Awareness

I teach independence. I carefully build (and adjust) the structure, routines and expectations that empower these third graders to work with focus, dedication and confidence.  Eventually they don’t need me (well, at least not all the time), and I am free to roam the classroom with my camera and my notes.

Independent Learners

While the majority of the class is solving a math problem, writing stories or researching an inquiry question, I stop to meet with individuals and/or small groups.  During these conferences I provide instruction that is specifically designed for the child/group in front of me.


A Lesson on Quality Commenting

Goal: We will respond to blogposts with comments that are meaningful and easy to understand.

When writing comments, we remember our Magical Rules:
We Take Care of Our Community

We will use to help us keep track of what we think makes a quality comment. After discussing the rules, you will have a chance to write a comment on our blog that shows you understand something about writing quality comments.

1. What do you think “We do good work” looks like on a comment?
Let’s look at some examples collected by Master Teacher Kathleen Morris to help us clarify our thinking.  How do you know a comment shows “good work?”

What about these comments?

2. What does it mean “we are friendly” when writing comments?
Let’s watch a video created by Mrs. Yollis’  third grade class from California.  They have some great tips for us.

3. Finally, how can we be safe while leaving comments?
Is there anything we can learn from ISB’s blogging guidelines?

Let’s tidy up our MindMap at, and start commenting!