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One of the hardest things for a teacher to do is to treat students differently. It goes against our very nature. We are programmed to treat each child the same as we would treat any other child. No child deserves special privilege, nor does any child deserve less attention — regardless of race, gender or academic ability.

It grates on our nerves when that know-it-all student who always sits in the front row always demands time to show off. It frustrates us to no end when the student in the back of the class makes rude noises and refuses to stay on task.

Making Decisions

Which students miss out most? It is the student in the middle who doesn’t cause problems, who obeys, conforms, and never demands attention. We rarely give her the time of day in our race to take care of the extremes.

I had one of those students in my classroom. He was in my intermediate Spanish class and always sat in the middle. He never said a lot, and he did his work quietly. He wasn’t the best in the classroom, and he wasn’t the worst. I remember that he did struggle with rolling his rs. One day, he didn’t come to class, and we got word that he had committed suicide. Not that I could have done anything to prevent this, but you always have the nagging doubt that perhaps you could have made a difference. In that moment, I vowed to never assume the quiet ones were OK.

Yet even with that, we are pressured to give the students with more needs more attention than those students who have less needs. The largest conflict about differentiated instruction boils up inside of us when we try to assign a grade to that differentiated instruction.

How can we justifiably give the students the same grade when the quality, quantity, or content of the performance is different? I have yet to read a truly compelling argument to answer that question. Most people mumble something about grades being a relative measure of student performance and designed for communication of progress only.

So, this is my attempt to make sense of this dilemma and perhaps calm a few nervous hearts in the process. In my prior post, I discussed the idea of intrinsic differentiation and the role of active learning and active teaching. Now, I want to discuss designed differentiation a bit.

Meeting Students Where They Are

Designed differentiation is the deliberate act of modifying instruction or an assignment in order to customize the effect to match the particular developmental level and skills of a student or group of students. The ideal is to provide equivalent learning activities that cater to the students’ strengths but bring all of the students to the same learning objective. On one end of the spectrum is the one-size-fits-all learning activity, while on the other end is the completely individualized learning plan for each student. Although I believe it is time for the latter, realism demands that teachers deal with something that hovers around the middle of the continuum.

The best teachers throughout time have always found ways to reach individual students. Teachers today are no different. We have all sorts of designed differentiation strategies that help teachers offer variety and choice to students of different skills and needs. We can

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Nintendo Switch Needs Retro Games To Succeed

Nintendo Switch needs retro games to succeed

With the Nintendo Switch on the horizon, many people will tell you that the console needs a strong launch library out of the gate if it wants to succeed. They’re right, of course, but I also think there’s a segment that could have a great effect on whether the Switch sinks or swims: retro games. Nintendo’s Virtual Console has been around since the Wii, and the Switch will almost certainly have a Virtual Console of its own. While perfecting the Virtual Console may not be as important as a deep and varied games catalog, it still needs to be a key area of focus if the Switch wants to succeed.

It should be clear by now that the Virtual Console adds a lot of value for many customers. New additions are discussed all over the internet, whether they’re make headlines on gaming websites or hitting the front page on various Nintendo subreddits. If the Switch’s Virtual Console has even a few good releases from day one, it can absolutely fill whatever gaps may exist in the console’s launch lineup.

In order for that to happen, Nintendo has to get a little more serious with the Switch’s Virtual Console. Most importantly, that means the Switch needs a Virtual Console for the GameCube. This would be a first for any Nintendo console thus far, and it would be welcomed with open arms by the Nintendo faithful.

We’ve already heard rumors about a GameCube Virtual Console for the Switch, but now Nintendo needs to make good on it. Having some GameCube classics like Super Mario Sunshine, Super Smash Bros. Melee, or Metroid Prime available on the Virtual Console on day one (or as soon as possible after launch) could do a lot to tempt those who are on the fence into becoming early adopters – a group that Nintendo desperately needs to show up en masse at launch.

Nintendo also has to brush up emulation as well. While some titles are emulated well on the Wii U – SNES games comes to mind – others like N64 and NES games have a problem with contrast and filters. N64 games in particular look very dark as compared their original or even Wii-emulated counterparts, and beyond that, there are issues with dreaded input lag in some games.

Browse through discussions on the internet and you’ll see some people arguing that these problems make certain Wii U ports unplayable while others will say it isn’t a big deal. Regardless of which side of the argument you agree with, it’s safe to say that some of these ports aren’t ideal.

The good news here is that Virtual Console development for the Switch is said to be headed by Nintendo European Research and Development, or NERD for short. NERD is the group behind the NES Classic Edition, which offers some stellar emulation. With NERD at the helm, it’s possible that emulation on the Switch will be quite a bit better than that of the Wii U.

Furthermore, Nintendo needs to stop being shy about its big Virtual Console releases. Mario Kart 64 is widely considered to be one of the best N64 games ever made, so why did it just arrive on the Wii U Virtual Console yesterday? The Wii U is just a few months away from being forgotten – I understand that Nintendo may not be ready to abandon it just yet, but Mario Kart 64 should have been available on the Wii U’s Virtual Console back in 2012.

Instead of trickle-releasing big Virtual Console games on the Switch, Nintendo needs to make more of an all-out assault. Nintendo should look to make the Switch’s Virtual Console as comprehensive as possible, almost overwhelming players with the number of options they have. The sooner it can do that, the sooner the Switch will feel like it’s worth the asking price.

Obviously, the Switch is also going to need an excellent library of retail games if Nintendo wants it to succeed, but a good Virtual Console can be a big component of that success too. The Switch presents players with a hard to resist opportunity in that they can take their all-time favorites with them anywhere. I own many more Virtual Console games on my 3DS than I do on my Wii U for that same reason, and if Nintendo makes the Switch’s Virtual Console worth my time, I will absolutely spend money there.

How To Succeed At Twitter Marketing With Madalyn Sklar

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In this episode of Marketing Nerds, SEJ Executive Editor, Kelsey Jones, sits down with Twitter Marketing Strategist Madalyn Sklar. They talked about how to grow your Twitter followers and thought leadership, as well as tips for better engagement, images, and community building.

Madalyn also outlines the benefits of Twitter over other platforms for brands and individuals and how its chronological post order can be used to your benefit.

Here are a few transcribed excerpts from their discussion, but make sure to listen to the podcast to hear everything:

Why Madalyn Sklar Specializes in Using Twitter

So many people like to focus on all social media or maybe Facebook or LinkedIn or some of the other ones. You don’t hear about people specializing in Twitter. The reason why I chose to, is about three or four years ago, I was asking people, “What is your favorite social network?” Nobody said Twitter; I was so surprised. Twitter has always been my favorite and when I would dig further and say okay, why is Twitter not at least one of your top, and they would say “I don’t understand, I don’t get, it’s not fun for me, I can’t find people there.” This whole laundry list of things and I thought maybe they are not just using it right, maybe if they saw what I saw they would love it.

I got on this mission, and that’s when I started the #TwitterSmarter (Twitter chat and hashtag) and I just got on this mission to start teaching people how to really use and market themselves on Twitter and so that was the start of it.

The Benefits of Being Active on Twitter vs. Other Platforms

The benefit of Twitter over the other platforms is, well let’s say you want to connect with a thought leader or maybe a VP at some big company that you want to get connected with and maybe try to get a job at, if you go to their Facebook you are not going to be able to open that door, it’s just not going to work.

We look at Facebook being more for our friends and family, unless somebody is really using it for business on their personal profile, I just find it’s harder to connect with people there.

And then you look at Instagram and LinkedIn, and those are great platforms too, but it’s not as easy to get to the other side of that doorway, whereas with Twitter if some people is actively using it, it’s so easy to connect with them.

I talk to so many CEOs and thought leaders and people of major influence. Here is an example for my Twitter Smarter podcast: The whole premise of that is to get top social media experts to share their top Twitter tips. It’s a very short platform podcast, and it started with a tweet.

Had I gone over to their Facebook or their Instagram or LinkedIn, I would most likely not get a response.

Should You be Worried About Twitter’s “While You Were Away” Feature?

Not really. They did this thing called “While You were Away” and people didn’t really realize that it was there.

I think it was like a test before the big announcement of the algorithm timeline because everybody was going to this algorithm timeline and people are so up in arms about it and they are like no, no, no.

What makes Twitter great is it’s like pure chronological timeline. What Twitter was experimenting with this “While You were Away” and it actually was good. You would be away from Twitter for say maybe four or five hours, you come back and it’s showing you the good stuff that you missed and I thought “Wow! This could be really good.”

When they made the announcement about the algorithm change this year, well everybody got really upset over it. What was really interesting is that a very, very small percent … I think it was like 5% opted out. So it shows you that people are very quick to judge and get vocal about it, but people weren’t that upset. They were using it and were happy with it. I think they saw the “While You were Away” feature in action and thought “Wow! This isn’t bad.” All you had to do is just scroll or refresh and you are right back to the chronological timeline.

Another Twitter Feature You Need to Know

There is something new they just added, so when you are on your phone and you are looking at home, there is a new little button at the top left and it’s just an icon of a person with a plus sign—a new feature to finding friends. What they are doing is using an algorithm to look at who are the friends you have, who are they following, who are the people in your area that the algorithm thinks you should follow, what’s popular near you right now.

I like it and I think this is a great way to go connect with more people when you are on your phone on the home screen.

How to Grow Your Online Presence on Twitter

Number one, you have to know your audience. Who is paying attention to you on Twitter or who is it that you want to be your audience? Knowing that will help you curate the right content to be putting on your Twitter stream.

If you put really good content out people take notice. That’s a great way to brand yourself as a thought leader.

I made this decision to tweet every day throughout the day and that’s where tools like HootSuite or Buffer or Tweet Jukebox can come in handy. If somebody comes to my profile they are going to see Madalyn Sklar, a very active power user. People will follow me and I go read their bio and I’m like, “Okay this person sounds really interesting.” I go look at their profile further and I see they haven’t tweeted in six days. [I think], “Okay they are not really that active, what are they bringing to the table, why should I follow them back?”

It’s important to know who that audience is, what the right content is and then putting out really good content every day that attracts people to you.

Curating Good Content for Twitter

I signed up for DrumUp’s service. So every day I get an email and it shows me great article and information about Twitter because that’s how I have it set up with the keywords.

It’s all about curating good content. That’s what we’re trying to do on Twitter.

As a marketer, you want to be a great content curator so you’ve got to get your information from different sources.

If you’re a blogger, you probably have great articles to put out every day but not everybody blogs every day. So the next best thing is to go find other people’s content.

Plus, it’s just a good plan anyways to share because it looks good and you want to be sure to tag the source. If I’m posting one of Search Engine Journal’s article, I want to be sure to tag the author or the company or somebody so you see that “Hey, I’m tweeting you guys.”

Conversations on Twitter and Getting Noticed

Not enough people are doing it and it’s one of the things I talk about a lot.

People will have a conversation. People will talk about other people and it just takes a moment to just go look them up real quick, get their Twitter handle and put it in there because they’ll get the notification. They may not jump into the live conversation but they’ll know that you mentioned them and that is so incredibly important. It’s a great way to get on the radar with thought leaders and with people of influence, to see that you’re talking about them and they’re going to go learn more about you. They’re going to look at your bio and see who you are and that is one of the best ways to connect with people.

When I am uncovering great content that I want to share on my Twitter profile, I try to take extra time to go look up the author. Sometimes it’s not easy, like you’ll look at an article and it’ll say by so and so and it may not have their Twitter handle right there. Sometimes you have to just copy and paste their name, go into Twitter, look them up.

If they have an unusual name like Madalyn Sklar makes it really easy to find them. If they don’t, I’ve noticed that if people are smart they are branding their profile image and you’ll see the little profile picture on the article and you’ll see the profile picture on Twitter and that’s super smart.

For those who are using different pictures though out, don’t do that. Have one really great profile picture, use it everywhere because little things like that will make a huge difference.

On Twitter Excluding Photos and Other Media From Character Count

This is big news. Twitter has not confirmed it yet but it sounds like this is going to happen in the next few weeks.

Right now, people are Tweeting and they’re trying to put an image in. But sometimes we can’t because we run out of character space. It’s incredibly frustrating. You run into that situation, and it’s like what do I do? Do I shorten this or do I go without the photo?

Visualization is so important in social media. There are studies that show such a big percent increase in engagement just by having a photo.

I think this is going to be great news for all marketers across the board because now you won’t have that restriction. Same thing with the links.

I think this is a big win for marketers.

Utilizing Twitter Analytics

I noticed a lot of people tell me they don’t realize it’s there.

For instance, I was on #HootChat last week, which is Hootsuite’s Twitter chat, and it was so funny. I just happened to look over on my phone and saw that my Twitter Smarter chat was still trending even though it had ended an hour prior. Hoot Chat had started trending. It showed us next to each other.

I did a quick screenshot of this on my phone. I went into a tool I like called Sketch where I can do the quick arrow and a little bit of text. I put “match made in heaven” and HootSuite re-tweeted this. It’s showing me this is my top media tweet for the month with 35,000 impressions.

Looking back while I was doing it, I’m like, “Am I crazy, what am I doing?”

It only took about a minute because I’m fast but I’m glad I did this because this turned out to be something that got a lot of attention. It was a plus. Images are important.

How to Get More Twitter Followers and Boost Engagement

Just get on Twitter and listen. People just get on there and just push out their stuff and wonder why nobody follows and why nobody is listening. You can’t just go out there and push, you’ve got to listen and connect with people.

To listen to this Marketing Nerds Podcast with Kelsey Jones & Madalyn Sklar:

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Small Group Reading Instruction In The Elementary Grades

There are many types of student readers, from bookworms to those more reluctant to delve into the written word. To better understand students’ relationships to reading, as well as my own, I launched an inquiry project with the help of my principal and assistant principal exploring the question, How can I promote positive reading behaviors to strengthen student readers? 

Throughout my investigation, I’ve come to understand that reading can be a pleasurable social process for students. Just like adults in a book group, children crave opportunities to talk about books with their peers, especially in small groups that allow them to express their feelings about the stories they read. 

I’ve used four types of small groups with third- and fourth-grade students, presented below, all of which helped develop positive reading habits in my classroom. 

Strategy Groups 

I started with reading strategy groups. During these small group meetings, I spent eight to 12 minutes modeling specific strategies for students to practice. Before creating groups, I studied students’ behaviors through their book choices, their notebook work, and the amount each student was reading to understand what comprehension or fluency strategies students needed to build. 

Groups were fluid, meaning that as a group became proficient with a reading strategy, I would introduce another. And they were not based on reading level—one group, for example, was dedicated to reading with expression; when students’ reading voices began to develop, we moved on to another strategy.  

Strategy groups revealed the social element of reading instruction, as students expressed excitement to share their thoughts and held each other accountable for their work by turning and sharing what they achieved at the end of a workshop, demonstrating authentic engagement.

Partner Work and Book Buddies 

Another instructional move that proved to be quite valuable was the implementation of book buddies. Working as partners, students picked out a book that they wanted to read together and set a date to talk about it, usually allotting a week for reading time.  

I monitored book discussions and coached students on next steps; for example, if I noticed that students were retelling what happened in the book, I would teach them how to reflect on the main character instead. 

Each pair read four books a month, and some partners were eager to read more, meeting with each other outside of the times when they met with me. As I watched them eagerly sift through the big red tubs that store books in my classroom, it was beautiful to see their intrinsic motivation—fostered through a social reading experience.

Book Groups 

When my class returned from winter break, I also launched book groups. Socially, book groups promote a sense of belonging as students relate to each other over a book. However, I was also aware of an instructional challenge that arises when book groups read an assigned text: What happens if readers aren’t interested in the book and disengage? Considering this possibility, I decided that we needed to incorporate an element of student choice.

My class selected texts such as Who Were the Navajo Code Talkers?, Who Is Colin Kaepernick?, What Was the March on Washington?, and Who Was Cesar Chavez? As in the partner work that my students did during our first trimester, readers were incredibly enthusiastic about the books they chose, and their discussion created opportunities for me to assess their learning through new modalities. For example, a student who is less comfortable writing down their thoughts about a text may be more comfortable discussing that text, meaning that I have to incorporate multiple modes of engagement to truly grasp students’ reading proficiency.


As book group discussions began to wind down, I reflected on my instruction as a reading teacher. I felt confident about the routines and strategies that my students were using and decided it was time to take a risk and stretch my teaching muscles. At the same time, I wanted to build more agency into the workshop process. Implementing seminars into our reading time seemed like an opportunity to give students a voice in their learning. 

I was drawn to the concept of reading seminars after reading Teaching Reading in Small Groups: Differentiated Instruction for Building Strategic, Independent Readers, by Jennifer Serravallo. Serravallo describes seminars as opportunities for students to sign up for a strategy group of interest.  

Examining my notes, I noticed three strategies that my students needed to learn. I put them on an anchor chart and explained the sign-up process. “What if I want to sign up for two seminars?” a student inquired eagerly. “Then you will participate in both seminars,” I responded, smiling. 

Building Lifelong Readers 

Teachers are given the opportunity to inspire students. Just like making a footprint in the sand, we are leaving our mark on the hearts and minds of our readers. It is therefore important to remember the “why” behind literacy instruction and to study and understand students’ reading behaviors in the classroom. 

Small group instruction invites students to associate reading with positive relationships and to engage authentically with texts that speak to them, igniting interest in reading that can last a lifetime.

Matriculation: Welcoming Bu’s Newest Students

Matriculation: Welcoming BU’s Newest Students President Brown tells freshmen “You have the potential to lead”

BU President Robert A. Brown welcomes the incoming Class of 2023 at the annual Matriculation ceremony at Agganis Arena on Sunday. Photo by Cydney Scott

Though many incoming freshmen have already set their sights on fields like law, medicine, and management, Brown urged students to use BU’s resources to broaden their horizons. “What I am speaking of,” he said, “is the rest of your college education, the classes you take that are not related to your major, and the other activities that round out your education and enrich your years at BU.”

Citing some “overarching goals” students should keep in mind if they are to become productive, competent, and humane in their careers and personal lives, Brown offered five suggestions. First, he urged freshmen to study the great traditions of thought that are the foundations of world cultures. “Second,” he said, “learn to distinguish between logical and illogical arguments, to struggle with the balances between individual freedom and collective responsibility.” Everyone needs to be scientifically literate, Brown added, to understand the nuances of matters like climate change and energy resources. He implored the students to learn to write clearly and easily. “IMHO, which stands for In My Humble Opinion when texting, will never be effective as ‘I think,’ as strong as ‘I believe,’ or as powerful as ‘I know,’” he said, to vigorous applause from parents. Finally, he encouraged mathematical literacy, saying, “You need to hone your quantitative reasoning skills to be successful in today’s world.”

Welcoming the newcomers on behalf of BU faculty was Carrie Preston, a CAS associate professor of English and the director of graduate studies for the Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies program. Preston consulted her iPhone for the University provost’s assignment to her. (“A blend of wisdom, humor, and anecdote.”) “Which reminds me,” she said, “check your email. Or even make a call,” she added, to hoots and applause from parents.

A medical school dropout, Preston said students could learn from her own history, and her pursuit of studies of theater and gender, and the fact that, according to her mother, she is “a doctor who doesn’t help anyone and teaches a dance form no one wants to see.” I hope, she said, “you will fail at something,” and learn from it as she did. She told the members of the Class of 2023 that she hoped they would also fall in love with a subject, a career, a person. And to parents, she said, even if your children take an unexpected path, be proud as long as they follow that path with care. More than anything, Preston told the assembled freshmen, “we want you to learn to be a good student,” and embrace learning, in class and out.

This year’s greeting from alumni (BU has nearly 307,000 around the world) came from Mary Buletza (SMG’80), president of the BU Alumni Association. This is “the most expensive non-reversible choice you’ll ever make,” she said. “And you chose wisely.” Paraphrasing former President Ronald Reagan, she said, “You have a rendezvous with destiny.”

As he does each year, Brown lingered for a bit on a topic he admits he wishes he didn’t have to discuss: binge and underage drinking. “I ask you today to act responsibly,” said Brown. “Through your behavior, represent yourselves, your families, and your university well.”

The theme of the day seemed to be flexibility, self-reliance, and openness to new passions and paths. On one succinct, lighthearted note of inspiration, Brown surveyed the nearly full arena and shared the words of the major league catcher and malaprop king Yogi Berra: “If you see a fork in the road, take it.”

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Bringing Students Together In Math Class

For math teachers who will have students learning at home next year, fostering a feeling of community will be as important as building skills.

Over this past year, teachers have been continually stressed about how to effectively teach students in different locations simultaneously so that the class feels and operates like a cohesive unit. My district has adopted a hybrid format where some students learn remotely all year, some learn in class (roomers), and the remainder do a little of both (alternate weeks in class). In my role as instructional math coach collaborating with elementary teachers, I’ve been asked to both differentiate instruction and bring students together to provide a sense of normalcy.

Moving forward, how can teachers continue to engage students and encourage learning in school and at home while also sustaining best practices in mathematics? Here are three instructional teaching strategies that promote building community and math skills with a focus on promoting cohesiveness, positive self-efficacy about math, and student achievement.

Streamline Materials for Easy Access at Home

While online educational materials are definitely an essential option, it’s important to also offer parents print alternatives to online resources to ensure equitable opportunities for learning at home. Hundreds charts (to 100 or 120) are versatile and provide countless opportunities for learning and can be easily accessed online or drawn on graph paper. Either way, the charts can then be converted into game boards for different grade levels. Whether students are practicing adding up from any number or subtracting 10, they can use a hundreds chart as a game board for flexibility and ease of access to play games that strengthen foundational skills in mathematics at home and in class.

Many math games are available online, and here are examples of a few I’ve shared with teachers and parents to practice math skills using a hundreds chart with their elementary school children:

Race to 100 by beginning at 1. Rolling two dice (or using an online number generator), find the sum (or product) and practice with running totals. A player gets an extra turn if they land on a number that ends with a 0, switches with another player’s place if they land on a number that ends with a 7, or skips a turn if they land on a number that ends with a 5.

For young elementary school children, use an online spinner to choose a starting point. Practice counting up and skip counting to 120 using the chart.

Find the target number. Use the random number generator to choose a starting number. Players earn points by marking the number that is 10 more or 10 less than the starting number. Continue for 10 rounds. This activity cultivates math fluency in young children.

Using standard game boards at home is another way to play math games that will expand interest in math that goes beyond the daily routine of the elementary classroom. In addition to a hundreds chart, there are other standard math resources, such as easy-to-make number lines (also available online) and various sizes of graph paper that parents can use as game boards at home. Blank standard game boards are also available online at no cost.

Build a More Sustainable Math Community

Supporting regular communication that strengthens academics and also reaches beyond worksheet assignments or test prep contributes to building a more sustainable math community. Highlighting fun classroom activities and continuing that conversation at home sustains student interest and motivation in learning math while also solidifying skills and promoting achievement.

Pairing celebrating home involvement with engaging math can be as simple as students playing a game and capturing the “math moment” at home. I’ve collaborated with teachers to have parents send in photos of playing math games with their children. The photos are then organized into an online math slide show (set to music) for the class to watch. This fosters a cohesive, math environment both in and out of the classroom. During the follow-up class discussion, include dialogue about strategies for playing the math games. Additionally, teachers can inspire students to create their own games based on the standard game board and then share with the class.

Restructure the Math Conversation

Transform the math dialogue by looking for a literacy-math connection. For example, ask students to reflect on the probability of winning after playing a math game at home. Then have them write a “critic’s review.” Beyond academics, create a “math scavenger hunt” where students identify ways that math is an essential part of their everyday routine at home.

It’s important to strive to create opportunities that establish a sense of community regardless of the learning platform—remote, hybrid, in class. Easy-to-implement strategies can help bridge gaps by establishing a dynamic that’s engaging for students, no matter where they’re physically located. 

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