Tha Learning Spot’s Mission

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What is Tha Learning Spot’s mission? What message do I want to communicate to the teachers who read this blog?

Great question!

Tha Learning Spot was created to empower teachers with the tools to impact student engagement and learning! Through informational article and videos, it is my goal to teach teachers how to design and implement instructional activities that prepare students for success.

How do I plan on doing this? (Another GREAT question!)

Tha Learning Spot educates teachers through the use of easy to read (and use) posts, article, and videos that zero in on the skills that matter in the classroom. In addition to engaging posts, I will inform teachers about events and trainings that will build teacher capacity.

Stay tuned and join Tha Learning Spot List to receive helpful tips and freebies in your inbox!


Questioning the impact of homework

WJPS Blazer: voice of the students

by Esther Animalu, contributing reporter

A common way for teachers to assess a student’s overall knowledge of a subject is by assigning homework. However, various students are questioning the fact whether homework is beneficial or harmful towards their growth of education.

The homework debate has been raging on with no end in sight. On one hand there are the students that feel that homework is useful and efficient. Then, there are other students who would like schools to end their practices of giving out homework.

“I think homework is helpful because it helps students understand what they’ve learned in class. Homework is important because its a good way for teacher’s to spot if you’re struggling. It’s an independent approach for teachers to notice what you need help with. But if you give students too much homework, then they won’t be interested in completing it,” 8th grader Ashley Toledo said.


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Number Strings as a Math Warm-Up…

I learned of a new type of Math Warm up / Bell ringer today !!!!

…or cool down, or any time a teacher wants to get students working mental math.

Number strings are short mental math activities designed so that students work several calculations in their head then provide the answer in chorus, either verbally, with whiteboards, fingers or pencil and paper. Have students write their answer on their personal whiteboard and place it upside down on their desks. (To avoid excessive drawing, remind students that you want to hear their marker “click”.)

When directed, students will show their answer to the teacher, who immediately checks for comprehension and enthusiastically provides an answer to each student (“I challenge your answer” or “Yes!”).

In addition to providing a teacher with instant formative assessment, number strings offer the opportunity to integrate mathematics throughout the curriculum. Use the following samples or write your own!

First Grade:

Begin with the number of legs on a cat. (4)
Add the…

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Rigorous Schools Put College Dreams into Practice

Published: April 9, 2013    125 Comments

rigorous classrooms

ALONG his block in Newark’s West Ward, where drugs are endemic and the young residents talk about shootings with alarming nonchalance, Najee Little is known as the smart kid. He got all A’s his sophomore year, breezing through math and awing his English teachers. His mother, a day care worker, and father, who does odd jobs to make ends meet, have high aspirations for him. They want him to earn a college degree.

So last year, when Bard College opened an early college high school in Newark for disadvantaged students with dreams of a bachelor’s degree, he was sure he’d do well there. He wrote his first long paper on Plato’s “Republic,” expecting a top grade. He got a D minus. “Honestly,” he recalled, “I was kind of discouraged.”

That paper marked the beginning of a trying academic path that would both excite and disillusion him. The past two years have been peppered with some promising grades — an A in environmental science — and some doozies. He failed “Africa in World History” and squeaked by in calculus. Mostly, he came to realize that getting into college and staying there would be a herculean task. There was tricky grammar, hard math and tons of homework. There was the neighborhood cacophony to tune out and the call of his Xbox. And there was the fact that no one in his house could help him.

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Response to the “Perils and Promises of Praise”

By Brandi L. Spencer


A few weeks ago, I had the extreme pleasure of attending a workshop whose keynote speaker was Stanford psychologist, author, and speaker, Carol Dweck. Dweck was speak to an audience of new teachers, days away from embarking on a career in education. As she began, I realized that she was the author one of the most impactful pieces of educational literature that I have ever come across, The Perils and Promise of Praise is an insightful article that discusses and analyzes the effects of praising students for behavioral qualities vs. inherent qualities such as intelligence and IQ.

I believe that this article and its recommendations touch on many of the issues that plague our current educational system. In my experiences working with gifted and talented middle school students I have found that many students, while having the mental ability, lack the mental stamina to succeed at complex and rigorous tasks. Dweck’s article discussed that students should be praised for effort and staying the course when the going gets tough. This will in turn assist students in building stamina and understanding that failure is only a temporary setback on the road to success.

I recommend this article because it’s concept can be applied at a classroom level immediately. By simply monitoring and tweaking the way how we interact with students, we can prepare them for success.

Read the “The Perils and Promises of Praise” and share your thoughts, reflections, and wonderings about the article in the comment section below.

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What is Rigor?

Rigor is creating an ENVIRONMENT in which each student:

  • is EXPECTED to learn at high levels

  • is SUPPORTED so he or she can learn at high levels

  • DEMONSTRATES learning at high levels

                                                                         – Barbara Blackburn