What Really Works in Secondary Education


Edited by: Wendy W. Murawski & Kathy Lynn Scott

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    This book is dedicated to Col. (Ret) Rance Farrell

    Rance is Wendy’s stepfather and left us way too soon in 2014. Rance led soldiers, as well as students, and he knew what really worked in his field. He exemplified leadership. He was trusted and respected as a role model and as a leader. He educated others: on the battlefield, in the classroom at West Point, in his role as Division President of the Association for the United States Army, and at home with his children. We were all in very good hands.


    I remember it like it was yesterday. My first day of teaching, that is. It was September 1996 in Room 323 at John Burroughs High School in Burbank, California. I was ready to face my very own class of real live tenth graders and teach them the mysteries of English. My seating charts, the ones I spent a ridiculous amount of time perfecting, were beautifully printed out. The walls papered in sunny colors with eye-catching posters tacked artfully here and there. In my arms, a sheaf of terrifically important, hot off the copier, papers ready to pass out. On me, a polished, smart-looking outfit with sensible, made-to-last-all-day shoes. I had a megawatt smile and enough enthusiasm to fill a dozen classrooms. I was SO ready. By second period, my naïve ideas of preparedness met the gritty reality of classroom dynamics, and I was exhausted just trying to keep up. By third, I was terrified; by fourth exhausted; and by sixth, ready to walk out and never return.

    If you would have asked me, on the eve of my first day as a real teacher, if I was ready, really ready, I’d have given you a hearty yes. And that’s the strange magic of teacher preparation programs. I left mine certain that I’d done the important work of becoming ready to teach. I’d had experiences and opportunities and assignments that had truly shown me not just how to teach, but how to teach skillfully and well. At least, that’s what I thought. And I wasn’t wrong. You DO walk in ready, but an actual classroom is a remarkable and very real crucible that has its own lessons for you, lessons you cannot learn until you are the teacher.

    And here’s what’s utterly wonderful about being the one in charge in the room. No matter how ready you are, how prepared you feel, you don’t really know a thing. But you learn, and you learn fast.

    You see, the growth curve in our profession is enormous. You are better at 10:00 a.m. than you were at 8:00 a.m., and by 2:00 p.m. your lesson is amazing. On Tuesday, you’re much better than you were on Monday. And Friday? Friday is a gift you give your students . . . you’re that good. And don’t get me started on the first day of your SECOND year of teaching. On that day, you are truly the rock star teacher you’ve grown to be. Naturally, as is the order of things in teaching, in walk your new students and a completely new dynamic presents itself. All the skills and talent you brought with you don’t seem to work the same magic on these kids, and back to square one you go trying to figure it all out. It’s alarming and wonderful at the same time, which is why our job forces us to stay on our toes every single day.

    After 18 years of this, there’s only one thing I know for certain, and it’s this: I don’t know very much for certain. There has not been one way to teach my classes or one strict set of ideas or procedures that worked every year or with every group of students. There just isn’t.

    What I do know is that I have needed to fill my metaphorical teacher toolbox with every possible tool, tip, technique, idea, and strategy possible so that when new situations in my classrooms arise, I have a deep set of possible options from which to grab as I try to teach my way through. The idea of the teacher’s toolbox coupled with the gritty determination to grow and get better by staying open to new ideas and best practices are what turns good teachers into great ones.

    And that’s where this book comes in.

    In the pages ahead, you’ll learn from some of the country’s best educators about what REALLY works in classrooms. From their experiences comes wisdom along with a whole host of tried and true, practical, hands-on solutions for you to use in your classroom. That’s another one of the perks of our professions—our close proximity to other practitioners and our easy access to the greatness that exists in the classrooms right down the hall.

    I don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t have Traci, Karen, Stefanie, Joe, Jim, or Alex to call on for ideas, hope, inspiration, or even just a shoulder to cry on. I am who I am because of the collection of ideas and skills I’ve gathered from my peers, filtered through my own philosophy and sensibilities, and put to use in my classroom. In that sense, I’m a patchwork quilt of all the great things I’ve learned from other teachers, but how I patched those pieces together makes me the unique teacher I am proud to be. That’s how we grow. Your growth into greatness simply depends on your community of support. This collection of great ideas about what REALLY works in classrooms is another great tool to add to your toolbox; perhaps it’s the greatest tool of all. That you can decide for yourself, but it’s important you have it as you set out to create or transform your classroom into the vibrant and engaging learning space for all of your students.

    I wish I’d had a book like this before I stepped into Room 323 all those years ago. I’m glad I have it now.

    Rebecca Mieliwocki

    About the Editors

    Wendy W. Murawski, PhD, is the Michael D. Eisner Endowed Chair and Executive Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at California State University, Northridge. She is a tenured Full Professor in the Department of Special Education, as well as the past President of the Teacher Education Division (TED) of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). Wendy is proud to have been the Distinguished Teacher Educator of the Year for the state of California (which is a pretty big state!). She has authored numerous books, chapters, articles, and handbooks in the areas of co-teaching, collaboration, inclusion, and differentiation. Wendy owns her own educational consulting company (2 TEACH LLC), loves to travel and speak nationally and internationally, and is a frequently requested keynote speaker. Wendy would like to publicly admit that, though she is keenly aware of the research on child development and best practice, she allows her 10-year-old son Kiernan to eat way too many sweets. She’s working on that.

    Kathy Lynn Scott, PhD, is the Center Administrative Analyst for the Center for Teaching and Learning at California State University, Northridge. Kathy was trained as an “old school” darkroom photographer, but she fell in love with all things to do with education. After conducting research on art education and adult education in England and coordinating research on learning disabilities in New Jersey, Kathy jumped from coast to coast, finding a new home with the CTL where she gets to do a little bit of everything related to education. When not acting as the “glue” for the CTL (as Wendy calls her) and when she finds the time, she collects passport stamps at National Parks. But more often than not, she’s just relaxing at home, eating something with entirely too much garlic, watching Jeopardy!, and shouting out the (not always correct) answers.

    The CSUN Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) is the research and professional development hub of the California State University, Northridge’s Michael D. Eisner College of Education. The CTL was created through a generous endowment by the Eisner Foundation in 2002. The CTL’s focus continues to be improving the education of all learners through the betterment of preservice and inservice teachers, counselors, administrators, educational therapists, and other educational specialists. The CTL provides local, state, and national professional development across a variety of topics and is dedicated to bringing the best evidence-based practices to educators in a practical manner. The CTL is committed to “what really works” in education!

    About the Contributors

    Making Math Meaningful

    Ivan Cheng, EdD, is an Associate Professor at California State University, Northridge, who has taught at both the middle school and high school levels for over 23 years and was among the first secondary math teachers to be National Board certified. There are three things he likes to do besides being with his family and teaching . . . Disneyland, wine, and . . . well, maybe just two things (unless you count coffee . . . but that’s actually a daily necessity). He has actually been spotted on more than one occasion at Disney’s California Adventure grading papers (or writing chapters in a book) with a glass of wine (or two).

    Rewarding Reading Practices

    Mira Pak, PhD, is on faculty at Cal State Northridge’s Secondary Education Department where she teaches credential and MA courses. Her areas of academic interest include reading across the content areas and differentiated instruction. Every day she fights the urge to buy clothes for her dogs.

    Teaching Writing Right

    Kathleen Dudden Rowlands, PhD, teaches in the Department of Secondary Education and Directs the Cal State Northridge Writing Project. When she can sneak away for a few days, she enjoys camping and hiking in Death Valley or Joshua Tree, spoiling her grandchildren, or checking up on the school of Humuhumunukunukuapua’a (reef trigger fish) that live in Shark’s Cove on Oahu.

    Successful Social Studies

    Greg Knotts, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Elementary Education and the Director of the Queer Studies Program at California State University, Northridge. He has published and presented extensively on social studies, the arts, and LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) issues in elementary education. He dreamed of being a Solid Gold Dancer; okay . . . he’s still dreaming . . . but now it’s for So You Think You Can Dance.

    Joyce H. Burstein, EdD, is a professor of Social Studies Education and the Director of Community Engagement at California State University, Northridge. She is the recipient of the university’s Distinguished Teaching Award and author of several works on social studies and arts education. After hours, you can catch her in her role as party mixologist.

    Sensible Science Strategies

    Stacey E. Hardin, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at Illinois State University. Her primary goal is to save the state of STEM and special education one word at a time! This being said, she has written a few articles in both areas and plans to keep combining the two areas to hopefully become famous with science and special education teachers around the world.

    Nanci Hanover, EdD, has been with the Los Angeles Unified School District for 25 years, most recently as the Secondary Science Specialist. Her job is to work with administrators, teachers, and community science partners in integrating the Next Generation Science Standards into the secondary schools. Additionally, she is a Core Adjunct Professor for National University. When not doing those things, Dr. Hanover is out chasing mountain lions.

    Awe-Inspiring Arts Instruction

    Mary Wolf, PhD, is the Director and Assistant Professor of Art Education at Daemen College. For 20 years, she’s taught art and advocated for the arts at a variety of levels in a variety of settings including elementary, middle, high school, magnet school, alternative school, home school, adult education, higher education, and at international, national, state, and local conferences. She secretly wants to teach and represent the arts as a professor on the sitcom The Big Bang Theory.

    Rachel Lyons currently teaches art at the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts and has taught visual art education in Buffalo, New York, for 17 years. She’s been involved with two Professional Development for Arts Educators grants serving as a facilitator and mentor. As she works to keep up with her talented and energetic students, she slowly replaces her blood with coffee.

    Tuning in With Technology

    Lisa A. Dieker is a Pegasus Professor and Lockheed Martin Eminent Scholar Chair at the University of Central Florida. In addition, she directs the doctoral program in special education and is one of the creators of the virtual classroom TeachLivE. She has no spare time these days even as an empty nester, but when she does, she enjoys her two crazy cats (one will ignore you and the other will attack you)—noting her failure in behavior management with her pets.

    Lauren Delisio is a doctoral candidate in Exceptional Education at the University of Central Florida. She is a native New Yorker with 9 years of teaching experience in both general and special education classrooms. Her areas of research interest include identifying effective academic interventions for students with disabilities in inclusive classrooms, especially in STEM content areas. A true Type-A personality, Lauren enjoys creating to-do lists, cleaning, and waiting on the prince of the house, her tiny, pampered Pomeranian.

    Caitlyn A. Bukaty is a doctoral scholar of Exceptional Education at the University of Central Florida. A native of Buffalo, New York, she’s still thawing out! As a professional educator and former ballet dancer, Caitlyn infuses her passion for the arts with her commitment to students. She is especially interested in postsecondary transition for students with disabilities. The rest of Caitlyn’s time is consumed by catering to the every whim of her two rescue dogs, Giselle and Bukets.

    Perfectly Positive Behavior

    Brittany L. Hott, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Special Education at Texas A&M University-Commerce. While Dr. Hott spends much of her time focused on developing and testing interventions to support secondary students, with or at-risk for learning and behavioral disabilities, she has been observed running in circles—literally! Dr. Hott is a Boston and New York marathon qualifier and multiple ironman finisher.

    Dodie Limberg, PhD, is Assistant Professor at the University of South Carolina in Counselor Education Program. Dodie has worked as a counselor in Florida, Switzerland, and Israel. She is passionate about showing how school counselors make a difference in kids’ lives. Dodie enjoys traveling and going out to dinner with friends but loves making macaroni and cheese at home.

    Classy Classroom Management

    Rebecca Mieliwocki is a seventh-grade English teacher in Burbank, California, and the 2012 California and National Teacher of the Year. Honored for her teaching by President Obama in a White House ceremony, Rebecca almost had more fun shooting the breeze with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Barack Obama than receiving her award. Typical middle schooler: always socializing instead of paying attention.

    Cool Cooperative Learning

    Scott Mandel, PhD, has been a classroom teacher for 30 years. A National Board Certified Teacher, he has written 11 teacher education books, including Cooperative Work Groups: Preparing Students for the Real World and Improving Test Scores: A Practical Approach for Teachers and Administrators. He wants to write a book about champion sports teams in his hometown of Cleveland, but he’s still waiting for material.

    Unique Universal Design for Learning

    Tamarah M. Ashton, PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Special Education at California State University, Northridge, and a frequent presenter for the Speakers Bureau through CSUN’s Center for Teaching and Learning and with 2Teach LLC. When not running the graduate program in Special Education, Dr. Ashton is on stage in numerous theatrical productions waiting to be discovered. Still . . . waiting. . . .

    Incredible Inclusion

    Erin Studer, EdD, is the Executive Director of CHIME Institute in Los Angeles, California. CHIME is a national model for inclusive education and serves over 700 children from the Los Angeles area each year. Mr. Studer has taught special education and general education in K–12 and also has taught preservice educators at the university level. He hails from the great state of Iowa and, like many from his native state, spent many years wrestling. Though he no longer grapples, he enjoys wearing his wrestling shoes around the house because of how cool they look.

    Amy Hanreddy, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Special Education at California State University, Northridge, where she teaches classes related to inclusive and collaborative practices that benefit all students. Amy has worked as a special education teacher and an administrator at an inclusive school and has presented on a range of topics related to inclusive education with a particular focus on students with significant support needs. When she is avoiding deadlines, Amy is busy posting cat and kid pictures on Facebook.

    Creative Co-Teaching

    Wendy W. Murawski, PhD, is the Executive Director for the Center for Teaching and Learning at California State University, Northridge. She travels and speaks on co-teaching nationally and internationally. For some strange reason, she is recently very into homicide detective shows. Dr. Murawski’s idol is Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde, and her goal is to prove to colleagues that wearing pink does not inherently decrease one’s intelligence or abilities.

    Amazing Assessment

    Brooke Blanks, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Special Education at Radford University. She is particularly interested in inclusive classrooms in rural schools. When she is not teaching, writing, or supervising interns, Dr. Blanks enjoys running (slowly) and learning to play more than three chords on her guitar.

    Great Gifted Education

    Claire E. Hughes, PhD, lives her life in twos: She is an Associate Professor at the College of Coastal Georgia in a dual-certification Elementary/Special Education teacher preparation program and received her doctorate in both gifted education and special education from the College of William and Mary. She specializes in twice-exceptional children; lives on St. Simons Island, but works in Brunswick on the mainland; and has two children, two dogs, two cats, two fish and is one half of a two-parent team.

    Engaging English Language Learners

    Shartriya Collier, PhD, is currently an Associate Professor, Director of the Los Angeles Times Literacy Center, and Graduate Advisor in the Department of Elementary Education at California State University, Northridge. Her publications and research passions include TESOL methods, English language learners in elementary contexts, immigrant family literacy, writing workshop, and male teacher preparation. When she is not teaching students or working with families in the community, she is a professional deejay and backup singer at local lounges and events in and around the Los Angeles area.

    Addressing Autism Spectrum Disorder

    Emily Iland, MA, is an award-winning author, advocate, filmmaker, researcher, and leader in the autism field. She travels extensively conducting training in English and Spanish on almost every autism-related topic. When she is not exhausted from doing all that stuff, she loves to research family history, which is not as boring as it sounds, honest!

    Developing Deaf Education

    Flavia Fleischer, PhD, is currently the Chair of the Deaf Studies Department at California State University, Northridge. She is an activist who is very interested in fighting against oppression of all minorities, especially oppression of Deaf people through her research and teaching. When Flavia is not handling department needs, teaching, or presenting, she is either out on her crazy training runs or in the kitchen experimenting with new recipes.

    Will Garrow, PhD, is from upstate New York, where he was first introduced to the Deaf Community through his career as a professional snowboarder. As a faculty member at California State University, Northridge, his teaching mainly focuses on how oppression works in American society, Deaf Culture, and ASL Linguistics. When Will is not teaching, he can be found either on the snow in the mountains or splatting balls on the racquetball court.

    Rachel Friedman Narr, PhD, is a Professor in Special Education/Deaf Education at California State University, Northridge. She’s published and presented nationally on reading with DHH students and parent-to-parent support for families raising DHH children. She’s best known for her truthiness and well . . . her husband’s amazing skills in the kitchen.

    Superb Social Skills Instruction

    Michelle Dean is an Assistant Professor in Special Education at California State University, Channel Islands. She received her PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles. Michelle’s research focuses on the social engagement of children with disabilities at school. At home, Michelle changes diapers, plays “I’m gonna get you,” and cooks in real and pretend kitchens. Prior to becoming a professor and a mom, Michelle was a special education teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

    Fantastic Family Collaboration

    Mary Anne Prater, PhD, is the Dean of Education and Professor of Special Education at Brigham Young University. Mary Anne has been a special education teacher or professor for 30 years. She enjoys traveling, counted cross stitch, and reading children’s books that include characters with disabilities. While traveling for business or pleasure, Mary Anne loves to visit museums, if not for the exhibits, then for the gift shops!

    Nancy M. Sileo, EdD, is Professor and Assistant Dean of the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Northern Colorado. Nancy has worked in the fields of special education and teacher education for 25 years. She has the unique experience of publishing and presenting at professional conferences with her parents (retired professors of special education) and her sister, who is also a professor of special education. Nancy enjoys traveling, and to ensure that her administrative skills remain up to par while away from the office, Nancy practices by nagging her teenage daughter.

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