Research for teachers by teachers

The source of the research below can be found by clicking on the title of the research.

To increase the achievement levels of minority and low-income students, we need to focus on what really matters: high standards, a challenging curriculum, and good teachers.

Ample evidence shows that almost all students can achieve at high levels if they are taught at high levels. But equally clear is that some students require more time and more instruction. It won't do, in other words, just to throw students into a high-level course if they can't even read the textbook.

One of the most frequent questions we are asked by stressed-out middle and high school teachers is "How am I supposed to get my students ready to pass the (fill-in-the-blank) grade test when they enter with 3rd grade reading skills and I have only my 35-minute period each day?"

The answer, of course, is "You can't." Especially when students are behind in foundational skills like reading and mathematics, we need to double or even triple the amount and quality of instruction that they get.

Around the United States, states and communities are wrestling with how best to provide those extras. Kentucky gives high-poverty schools extra funds every year to extend instruction in whatever way works best for their community: before school, after school, weekends, or summers. ~ Kati Haycock

Researcher Robert Pianta offered these suggestions for teachers who want to change their behavior toward problem students:

  1. Watch how each student interacts. How do they prefer to engage? What do they seem to like to do? Observe so you can understand all they are capable of.

  2. Listen. Try to understand what motivates them, what their goals are and how they view you, their classmates and the activities you assign them.

  3. Engage. Talk with students about their individual interests. Don't offer advice or opinions – just listen.

  4. Experiment: Change how you react to challenging behaviors. Rather than responding quickly in the moment, take a breath. Realize that their behavior might just be a way of reaching out to you.

  5. Meet: Each week, spend time with students outside of your role as "teacher." Let the students choose a game or other nonacademic activity they'd like to do with you. Your job is to NOT teach but watch, listen and narrate what you see, focusing on students' interests and what they do well. This type of activity is really important for students with whom you often feel in conflict or who you avoid.

  6. Reach out: Know what your students like to do outside of school. Make it a project for them to tell you about it using some medium in which they feel comfortable: music, video, writing, etc. Find both individual and group time for them to share this with you. Watch and listen to how skilled, motivated and interested they can be. Now think about school through their eyes.

  7. Reflect: Think back on your own best and worst teachers, bosses or supervisors. List five words for each that describe how you felt in your interactions with them. How did the best and the worst make you feel? What specifically did they do or say that made you feel that way? Now think about how your students would describe you. Jot down how they might describe you and why. How do your expectations or beliefs shape how they look at you? Are there parallels in your beliefs and their responses to you?

APPROACHES to Teaching Math Vocabulary

The language of mathematics presents challenges for English-only speakers and English language learners alike because words used in math have unique and specific meanings. For example, table, origin, and leg may already be present in a student’s vocabulary but may not encompass the math concepts associated with the words. Terms such as average and reflection have precise mathematical definitions. Some words are uniquely related to mathematics (e.g., integer, outlier, and algorithm). Even word combinations take on specific meaning in mathematics. Value by itself has one meaning; absolute value has a far different meaning. The word inequality has a common meaning inside and outside math class, but the symbols used to represent less than and greater than in a math sentences must be taught. Many students view the language of mathematics as being a foreign language (Kotsopoulos 2007), and some educators view mathematics as a second language ( Jones, Hopper, and Franz 2008). Both English language learners and English-only speakers need teacher input to master the extremely narrow definitions of math terms to become conversant in mathematics classrooms. It is important to address vocabulary deliberately in math class. If not taught with its particular requirements in mind, then computation will move to the forefront, and vocabulary will lose its emphasis (Orton 2004). The vocabulary teaching strategies described below are particularly beneficial to English language learners because they require students to think deeply, determine relationships, and connect new concepts and words to what they already know. In addition, these strategies visually convey meaning without using complex language or complicated sentence structure.

  1. The Frayer Model

  2. Four Square

  3. Visual Representations

  4. Feature Analysis ~Pamela J. Dunston and Andrew M. Tyminski


The backward design (of instruction) approach consists of three general stages:

  • Stage 1. Identify Desired Results. In Stage 1 we consider the goals. What should students know, understand, and be able to do? What big ideas are worthy of understanding and implied in the established goals (e.g., content standards, curriculum objectives)? What “enduring” understandings are desired? What provocative questions are worth pursuing to guide student inquiry into these big ideas? What specific knowledge and skills are targeted in the goals and needed for effective performance?

  • Stage 2. Determine Acceptable Evidence. In the second stage we consider evidence of learning. How will we know if students have achieved the desired results and met the content standards? How will we know that students really understand the identified big ideas? What will we accept as evidence of proficiency? The backward design orientation suggests that we think about our design in terms of the collected assessment evidence needed to document and validate that the desired results of Stage 1 have been achieved.

  • Stage 3. Plan Learning Experiences and Instruction. With identified results and appropriate evidence of understanding in mind, it is now time to finalize a plan for the learning activities. What will need to be taught and coached, and how should it best be taught, in light of the performance goals? What sequence of activity best suits the desired results? In planning the learning activities, we consider the WHERETO elements (described later) as guidelines. Those guidelines can be summed up in a question: How will we make learning both engaging and effective, given the goals and needed evidence? ~AECD

Blended learning is a formal education program in which a student learns:

  1. Part Online - In part online, with some element of control over the time, place, path, or pace of their learning.

  2. Part Away From Home - In part in a brick-and-mortar location away from home.

  3. Along a Learning Path - The modalities along a student’s learning path are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.

Station Rotation

The Station Rotation model allows students to rotate through stations on a fixed schedule, where at least one of the stations is an online learning station. This model is most common in elementary schools because teachers are already familiar rotating in “centers” or stations. ~Blended Learning Universe


Successful Classroom    Set Up



  1. Classroom Rules & Procedures, Student Jobs, Incentives, Consequences

  2. Plants

  3. Inspirational Quotes

  4. Photos from class events

  5. Focus on college – highlight your college(s) attended

  6. Focus on multiculturalism and diversity. THINK, how does my classroom reflect the culture of my students as well as the legacy of the school?

  7. Vision Board

  1. Door Sign

  2. Current Lesson Plan

  3. White Board Configuration Model (Class, Period, Date, Objective, and Agenda- I Do, We Do, Pairs, You Do)

  4. How Full is Your Bucket?

  5. Display of Student Work

  6. Concept/Learning Charts

  7. Word Wall

  8. Vocabulary List

  9. Classroom Library

  10. Data Wall

  11. Missing Work

  12. Brag Board

  13. Student Portfolios

  14. Student Supplies ~Maya Angelou Public Charter School, Washington D.C.

Whole-class instruction will not work to improve the literacy achievement of our children. To be effective, teachers have engaged students in purposeful instruction designed to meet the needs of individual and smaller groups of students. To do this is to use a gradual release of responsibility model (Pearson & Gallagher, 1983). The gradual release of responsibility model of instruction requires that the teacher shift from assuming “all the responsibility for performing a task … to a situation in which the students assume all of the responsibility” (Duke & Pearson, 2002, p. 211). This gradual release may occur over a day, a week, a month, or a year. Stated another way, the gradual release of responsibility “… emphasizes instruction that mentors students into becoming capable thinkers and learners when handling the tasks with which they have not yet developed expertise” (Buehl, 2005).

Focus Lessons. This component allows the teacher to model his or her thinking and understanding of the content for students. Usually brief in nature, focus lessons establish the purpose or intended learning outcome and clue students into the standards they are learning. In addition to the purpose and the teacher model, the focus lesson provides teachers and opportunity to build and/or activate background knowledge.

Guided Instruction. During guided instruction, teachers prompt, question, facilitate, or lead students through tasks that increase their understanding of the content. While this can, and sometimes does, occur with the whole class, the evidence is clear that reading instruction necessitates small group instruction. Guided instruction provides teachers an opportunity to address needs identifi ed on formative assessments and directly instruct students in specifi c literacy components, skills, or strategies.

Collaborative Learning. To consolidate their understanding of the content, students need opportunities to problem solve, discuss, negotiate, and think with their peers. Collaborative learning opportunities, such as workstations ensure that students practice and apply their learning while interacting with their peers. This phase is critical as students must use language if they are to learn it. The key to collaborative learning, or productive group work as it is sometimes called, lies in the nature of the task. Ideally each collaborative learning task will have a group function combined with a way to ensure individual accountability such that the teacher knows what each student did while at the workstation.

Independent Work. As the goal of all of our instruction, independent learning provides students practice with applying information in new ways. In doing so, students synthesize information, transform ideas, and solidify their understanding. ~Douglas Fisher

Project Based Learning (PBL)

Tier 2 Vocabulary

Roots Words & Affixes

Performance Tasks (GRASPS) & Rubrics

Positive Behavioral Interventions & Support (PBIS)

Growth Mindset