Sarah Benis Scheier-Dolberg

P21 Framework for 21st Century Skills

In PD on September 19, 2014 at 12:48 pm


The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) has reenergized my work with teachers in New York City schools. I’m thrilled to be able to offer teachers and schools an opportunity to think within P21’s framework about how to teach the Common Core in a way that approaches the idea of college and career readiness with an interdisciplinary approach that has real potential to fuel transformation for educators and students alike.

I appreciate the emphasis on interdisciplinary themes as an organizing principal for reexamining what and how we teach.

Global Awareness

Financial, Economic, Business, and Entrepreneurial Literacy

Civic Literacy

Health Literacy

Environmental Literacy

I am equally excited about reimagining what takes place inside of classrooms K-12…

Excerpts from P21 Common Core Toolkit

Using an open-ended inspiration for writing such as Chris Van Allsburg’s Mysteries of Harris Burdick, each student writes the beginning of a story and records it as a podcast. Students in other classes listen to the story, create the ensuing episodes, and record them as podcasts, until a final group writes and records the conclusions.


After completing a literature unit ont he American dream where students have read The Great GatsbyDeath of a Salesman, and A Raisin in the Sun, they explore what it means to have access to an American dream. Students are asked to create non-profit organizations that would help to meet the needs of their community by helping a group of people to meet their American dream without duplicating current services offered in the community. Students conceive of organizations, formulate extensive grant proposals that help them vie for funding from the fictions Society for the American Dream, and finally compete against each other for funding of up to $500,000. Students pitch their ideas and advocate for funding to the grant panel, comprised not of teachers, but of community representatives.


Students collaborate with senior citizens in a digital storytelling workshop. The teams bring to life a story from a  senior’s history as they collaborate on writing and creating a video. Students will conduct interviews, perform research using nonfiction texts, write and record the script, and select images and music. The finished videos are presented in a school film festival. Each team designs criteria for evaluating their video in advance, and grades their work accordingly. Students demonstrate the ability to work effectively with diverse teams.

There is so much creative and deeply engaging intellectual space for educators within the P21 framework, and I think it will be a welcome and new context to continue working on brining the Common Core Standards to life within NYC classrooms.

P21 p2

Japanese Lesson Study

In PD on September 18, 2014 at 1:50 pm

This fall I will be offering two Lesson Study Group for teachers who would like to focus on developing their professional practice in the area of literacy and in particular, writing.

Lesson study is a professional development practice in which teachers collaborate to develop a lesson plan, teach and observe the lesson to collect data on student learning, and use their observations to refine their lesson. It is a process that teachers engage in to learn more about effective practices that result in improved learning outcomes for students.

book image LLSStepanek, Jennifer; Appel, Gary; Leong, Melinda; Mangan, Michelle Turner; Mitchell, Mark (2006-12-20). Leading Lesson Study: A Practical Guide for Teachers and Facilitators (Kindle Locations 432-434). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.

In my own experience as a classroom teacher, a year of lesson study at New Mission High School was the most valuable professional learning experience I received. Our humanities team was trying to understand how students used evidence from primary and secondary sources in their studies of history and the social sciences to support their opinions. We were a little skeptical about the process of opening up our classrooms to the two professional developers leading our work. It was was the first time that we had our lessons videotaped, the first time we opened up our classroom doors to our colleagues, and the first time we were leading the work during our PD blocks. It quickly became the highlight of our week, getting to plan together and finding new ways to share in the constant and all-consuming problem solving work that is teaching. I am hopeful that the teachers I have the privilege of learning alongside in New York City public schools will find it equally engaging and worthwhile.

A few basics about lesson study and how it works. First, the figure below provides a visual of the cyclic learning process that is lesson study from Stepanek et al. (2006):

Lesson study process visual


Lesson study begins with teachers jointly setting up goals for the entire process and then beginning to draw up a detailed plan for the study lesson. One teacher of the team then teaches the study lesson in a real classroom while other group members look on and/or watch via video. The group then comes together to discuss their observations of the lesson to reflect on and revise the lesson. Another teacher teachers the revised study lesson in a second classroom while the group members observe. The group comes together again to discuss observations, reflect on the group’s learnings and share the results.

There are many great resources available, including the Stepanek et al. (2006) book. Below are some of the key resources to get a group going with the work of lesson study:

LS Overview PPT



Engaging with Civil and Human Rights Now

In Inspiration, PD, Teaching on September 12, 2014 at 2:15 pm

Bunker_VardoeHaving finally fully emerged from my doctoral student bunker, I find that I am eager to reenter the world of politics, governance, and social justice activism. My friend Sonali Chakrarti recently published a piece on examining the political space Obama had to maneuver given his race and gender, most notably in the context of Ferguson. Today I began reading Tavis Smiley‘s new book: Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year. In this book, among other things, Smiley explores King’s gutsy decision to expand his civil and human rights activism into international affairs (i.e., calling for an end to the Vietnam War) and the extreme personal and professional costs of that decision. These texts, as well as other recent videos, images, and articles, have given me some insights around how to engage with the larger communities outside of my recent myopia. Over the last year of finishing my dissertation research and (finally!) graduating from Teachers College, my attention was almost entirely focused on my writing and my family, and now that the school year has begun with my son in school full-time and my dissertation complete, I am planting two feet firmly into the public arena and hoping to contribute positively to the public discourse as it relates to central civil and human rights of our time, most notably Ferguson, the conflict in Syria, and children’s health and healthcare. I’m thrilled to announce that I will be developing a set of curricular materials on these topics for elementary school (children’s health/care), middle school (Syrian conflict), and high school (Ferguson) educators. I will use these materials in my own professional work this year. I will also use this space to publish those materials, including links to the articles, books, videos, and other texts that will serve as the foundation of this work. I am eager to finally engage with students, teachers, and other colleagues on these issues that in so many ways define who we are as human beings, Americans, and global citizens.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.