Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) CREW

What is STEM?

STEM isn’t a subject being taught, but a way of teaching that encourages the natural curiosity in our students. Simply defined, STEM is an acronym that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering & Math. STEM is not about highlighting a specific subset of subjects, but is an approach to teaching and learning that encourages thought, collaboration, idea generating and testing, reasoning, and creative problem solving among teachers and students.


The overall idea of STEM is to incorporate all disciplines or as many disciplines as possible into the learning environment to help students understand the connectedness of the information they are processing and learning.

Let’s Take a Look!

So what does STEM look like in the classroom?


A Call to Action

With all the promises of the future, how does this information impact your instruction?  Where will you help students grow?  What resources do you need to incorporate STEM lessons into your classroom?  Share your answers to these questions in a comment below and let’s learn from each other!


Jolly, A. (2014, June 17). Six Characteristics of a Great STEM Lesson. Retrieved from

Ribeiro, R. (2013, May 15). Unpacking the Benefits of a STEM Education. Retrieved from

Royal, K. (2013, August 28). Benefits of STEM Programs. Retrieved from

STEM Education Infographic. (2013, November 21). Retrieved from

 Waldron, D. (2016, April 08). Top 15 Benefits of a STEM Education Revisited. Retrieved from

Formative Instructional Practices (FIP) CREW

Formative Instructional Practices (FIP)

The Georgia Department of Education has defined Formative Instructional Practices (FIP) as the intentional behaviors that teachers and students use to obtain information about learning so that decisions can be made about learning opportunities. Formative instructional practices are the formal and informal ways that teachers and students gather and respond to evidence of student learning.

Teachers determine what students are understanding and what they will need to learn to master a goal or outcome. Most formative assessment strategies are quick and easy to use and fit seamlessly into the instruction process.  The information gathered is never marked or graded, but is used to drive instruction.  Descriptive feedback should accompany a formative assessment to let students know whether they have mastered an outcome or whether they require more practice.


Teachers have many fun and engaging ways to check for understanding using digital technology. Some of my favorites include:



I love Kahoot for several reasons. When I have used Kahoot in my class, students are highly engaged. Another benefit of using Kahoot is that students and teacher know immediately whether they have gotten questions correct. But one of my favorite reasons would be as students play I can plan my teaching from the questions that students may not understand.


Teachers can create flashcards that review vocabulary, pose questions, and review content. Students are able to quiz themselves, check for understanding, and know immediately if their answer is correct or incorrect. Quizlet has a new feature called Quizlet Live that creates a game where students are randomly placed in groups.  They work together to obtain the correct answer. I Love Quizlet Live!

Classroom Assessments

Classroom Assessments in eCLASS C&I (Gwinnett County’s Learning Management System) is a great way to have students check for understanding. Classroom Assessments can be used to give immediate feedback to students about how and why they missed a question or how and why they got a correct answer.


Call to Action:

How have you been able to implement formative assessments into your class? What has worked for you? How can you provide effective feedback and use it to drive instruction in your classroom lessons?



Formative Instructional Practices:

Georgia FIP:  The Keys to Student Success:

Gradual Release CREW

What is Gradual Release?

The gradual release of responsibility model of instruction requires the teacher to shift from assuming all the responsibility for performing a task to a situation in which the students assume all of the responsibility.

There are four components in the Gradual Release of Responsibility model:

GR Infographic

Most importantly, the gradual release of responsibility model is not linear. Students have the opportunity to move back and forth between each of the learning phases as they master skills, strategies, and standards. Teachers can incorporate the gradual release model over a day, a week, or a semester.

Gradual Release Framework (1)

Implementing the gradual release of responsibility model requires time on the front end, however, as teachers, we have to plan for a diverse group of learners—students learning English, accelerated learners, and struggling learners. Our students do not have time to waste on skills and strategies they have already mastered. On the other hand, they cannot afford to miss any instruction necessary to their success as effective learners.

In this book, you’ll find tips and tools for classroom implementation, including checklists for planning and assessment; advice on feedback, homework, group work, differentiated instruction, and blended learning; gradualreleasebookanswers to frequently asked questions; and examples that align to Common Core State Standards. No matter what grade level or subject you teach, Better Learning Through Structured Teaching is your essential guide to helping students expand their capacity for successful and long-lasting learning.

I challenge you to increase your pedagogical knowledge with the Gradual Release model. Reflect on your past and current teaching methods and think about how do you use the gradual release module in your classroom? In what areas do you feel you could grow in any of the four phases of learning?  Share your thoughts and experiences by commenting!

Fisher, D. and N. Frey, Better learning through structured teaching: A framework for the gradual release of responsibility, Association for supervision and curriculum development, Alexandria, Virginia, 2008.
Doug Fisher: A Broken Cell Phone, a Learning Opportunity [Video file]. (2014). Retrieved May 19, 2016, from

Careers and Academies CREW


At the beginning of the 2016/2017 school year, Gwinnett County Public Schools will have seven academy high schools. So what is an academy school, and why is this becoming the new norm in education?

In GCPS, the academy model is all about the four R’s: Relationships, Rigor, Relevance, and Readiness. Students are given the opportunity to select one academy either during 9th grade registration or 10th grade registration, depending on the school. In the academy, students are able to build relationships with teachers who will help them see academics through the lens of a career field. AcademiesFor example, for students in the Fine Arts Academy, math class would not just be about solving for x; instead, those students would demonstrate how solving for x is applied in dance, media, or communication studies.The academy model takes a core area of study and makes it relevant to students. By allowing students to draw connections between academics and careers, the rigor of the course is strengthened, and teachers can attack the Academic Knowledge and Skills (AKS) in a very purposeful way.
 Let’s face it– creating purpose with for each concept learned has been one of the biggest struggles for teachers.  For example, in 10th grade world history the content focuses on ancient civilizations. How can a teacher meet the course’s academic expectations while also making sure he/she gives students the opportunity to connect that topic to the academy? Mr. Al Taylor, principal of Berkmar High School, Quptesuggests in this case that the teacher could allow students in the Architecture and Construction Academy to compare the tools and materials used to construct the buildings in ancient civilizations to tools and materials used today. With this academy focus topic for research, the language arts class could then craft an informational and comparison paper.
This is the beauty of the academy model: by using an academy lens to teach concepts, the work students do is relevant to them. Let’s be real– as classroom teachers, we know that if the students see purpose in the assignment and if they are interested in the topic, then the students are more likely to meet the project expectations set before them, and therefore learn the AKS.

So where do you go from here? This is our chance to reinvigorate our work, stop doing the same-old-same-old, and strive to improve our craft by seeing our content area through the lens of the academy! As educators, part of our role is to inspire students and model learning, and we can do that now by modeling how even we can learn something new! Certainly change can be scary, but just because we are educators doesn’t mean we have to have all of the answers. We may not know how our content area fits into a particular academy theme, but we can create connections by collaborating with others and challenging our students to find that connection, thus changing our role from “sage on the stage” to facilitator.  How awesome is that?!


"5 Academies, 1 Mission." Berkmar High School. Berkmar High School, n.d. Web. 19 May 2016. <>. "GCPS Academies." YouTube. YouTube, 12 Mar. 2014. Web. 19 May 2016. <>.