Category Archives: Outside Readings

The Sound of Collaboration

Apparently, this group of 200 dancers put this together in less than 2 rehearsals. If this doesn’t speak to our ultimate innate desire for our students- that they gain the visceral, powerful rewards of collaboration and risk taking- I don’t know what does.


Critical Skills Science

Hi all! This is a guest post from Bill Vinton, long-time Critical Skills Master Teacher.

Whole-Class Inquiry: Creating Student-Centered Science Communities.
This is a wonderful resource, especially for science teachers attempting to implement CS model. There are many aspects of the CS model that she has not discovered, but she has done a wonderful job at developing classrooms as communities capable of whole-class collaborative problem-solving.
Of real value are the DVD’s – she and a colleague video-taped a series of classes from the beginning of the year to near the end, showing the progression from a highly-teacher-facilitated multi-day activity (challenge!) at the start of the year, to a completely student-facilitated multi-day activity near the end. I have not had the opportunity to do a careful watching of every video at length. She actually starts the DVD series with  a “Goal” episode that shows a highly skilled class facilitating themselves to accomplish a lab investigation. This woman really gets it! And, these DVD’s could be an extremely valuable resource for showing teachers what actual classrooms can look like!
She includes, as part of the series, some the early chaotic attempts of the class, some of which ended in outright failure (one really painful presentation, e.g.). So it’s not all about ideal situations – this a wonderful documentation of what experiential learning looks like (though, I don’t know if she knows the term…).
One key idea that I picked up and intend to try – what she calls “Whole Class Assessments” in which the class is given about 30 minutes to work as a whole group to come up to a well-crafted response to a pretty traditional, but significant science prompt.
So, thought you’d like to know!
Bill Vinton
Master Teacher
St. Johnsbury, Vermont

It’s not just us

Edutopia is highlighting High Tech High’s amazing work with hands-on learning. It feels a lot like what we do in Critical Skills, doesn’t it? One can’t help but wonder if, like any really, really good idea, there are lots of folks trying to figure it out at the same time. I was lucky enough to be a part of a book talk last week. A group of us gathered to discuss the Wagner text I mentioned below. I think the most interesting thing for me was the universal agreement that this way of doing school- hands on, problem based, rigorous and engaging- was just better. It was delightful- and I’m thrilled to know that my colleagues at the New Hampshire Staff Development Council have agreed to host similar books talks around the state. Interested in hosting your own talk? Let me know and I’ll forward our discussion questions and format your way!

The World May Catch Up With Us Yet

This article from Time has me thinking.  It seems to be popping up again and again and again my world and it has me thinking that, while the Critical Skills Program (CSP) has been around for awhile, we may suddenly be finding the world has caught up with us.  What do you think?  Does this article, or Tony Wagner’s new The Global Achievement Gap do it better? Be sure and scroll down on that page- the list of The Seven Survival Skills for Careers, College, & Citizenship in the 21st Century are going to look mighty familiar. What does it mean for those of us trying to implement the model- should we look forward to more support?  Should we get ready now to become the “ones we’ve been waiting for?”  What do you think?the-global-gap-new-cover-compressed2