Homework Helper #1 or “The first step to success is not forgetting to start!”

When I was in eighth grade, there was only really one way to reliably track your homework: you’d write it down. The only pic calenarquestion was whether you’d write it in a calendar, a binder, or on a scrap of paper. I know I tried them all, with varying degrees of success.

Over the past few days, I’ve discussed homework tracking tools with students in all my classes. I’ve been really impressed. Many of you use an AES agenda along with your Sunrise Calendar. I confess that is my favorite method, maybe because I still use a paper and pencil agenda to keep track of some things! Other students supplement their calendars with apps like Notes or Reminders; this can be especially helpful for larger projects which contain many smaller parts.

I thought it would be interesting to share with each other the systems we use for remembering what we have to do and when we have to do it. Please tell us what you do and why it your think it works for you in the comments below. While you’re at it, why not read what other students are doing? You might learn a new trick or two while you are at it!


Welcome to All Kinds of Minds, a blog that serves the Advisory, Study Sk Academic Support classes in AES M103. You can read more about my philosophy here. You can find the Academic Support course overview here and the Study Skills course overview here.

Ms Khanna and I are planning a great year. Blog picWe are so glad you are here where we celebrate diversity in learning styles, language and culture; we agree with  Temple Grandin when she says, “the world needs all kinds of minds.” We will be working this year to use the strength of our many minds to do some exciting thinking.

I am very pleased to be working with Ms. Khanna this year. She received a B.A. in Commerce from Delhi University and has four years experience at AES in the elementary and middle schools. Ms Khanna  has recently completed a teacher training program in IGNOU, Delhi, so she is also a certified teacher!

I’ve been teaching for 18 years; I’ve spent half of my career as a general education classroom teacher and half as a special educator.  This is my third year teaching Middle School at AES; I also taught fifth grade here for six years from 2005-20011. AES is a unique school, and one of my favorite places to teach and learn.

My three children will be studying at AES this year–I have a son in twelfth grade, another son in tenth grade and a daughter in eighth. You will probably see them around the school. Portland is the American city I’m proud to call home. I was born in Iowa, and I still return to the Midwest to visit family from time to time.

Reading and writing is important in my family. My partner is a writer; her second book  came out in 2012 and she is nearly finished with her third. She now works as a community organizer for the Deepalaya Community Library Project, which she and I started with the help of AES colleagues and fifth grade students way back in 2008. The Project has grown from an after school read aloud program serving a dozen children, to a full scale library with 500 child and adult members in the Sheikh Sarai Phase I area. I volunteer there every Monday and most Saturdays. You can learn more about that project here. We can always use more volunteers.

In my spare time, I read and write poetry. This summer I read several collections of poetry, including Life and Times of Mr. S, by Vivek Narayanan; Anamnesia, by Arun Sagar; and Saudade by AES’s own Anna Citrino.  I also write poetry and am hoping to finish my first collection in the next couple of years. Here’s one that was published in Mint Lounge a few years back; it tells some of the things I love about Delhi.

Students, I’d love to hear what kinds of reading or writing you did this summer. Why not leave a comment below? Parents, you are welcome to comment as well, and I hope to meet you all at Back to School Night later this month. In the meantime, if you have any questions or ideas to share, do get in touch. The contact page will show you how.

Parent update: What’s Happening in Academic Support and Study Skills

September is always busy in M-103, and this year has been even busier than usual with the transition to standards based grading. Here are a few updates.

Learning Habits
This year in Academic Support and Study Skills, our Powerschool reporting will be focused on Learning Habits. As a school community, we have committed to making our assessment of learning habits measurable and meaningful. Over the next few weeks, you’ll start seeing more Learning Habits assessments on Powerschool. Our goal is to make them easy to understand, but if you have questions, do let us know.

Study Skills
I’m really enjoying my section of Study Skills this year. So far, we’ve focussed on planning our work time and getting our work finished. In October, I expect to spend some time teaching note-taking skills. For those of you who want to get a head start on that, there are some resources on Note Taking up on our resources page. If you have any questions about your student and how they are doing in Study Skills or in school more generally, feel free to email or call me. I’m also happy to meet in person to talk in more detail.

Learning Support Plans
At AES, we develop detailed Learning Support Plans (LSP) for students in Academic Support, and we review and update them each year. The LSP’s help us to better understand the strengths and needs of our students and how we can best support them moving forward. LSP’s are a collaborative process and are based on input from teachers, parents, and other members of the team including our Academic Support teaching assistant Reshma Khanna and school psychologist Jan Cantrill. This week, I’m meeting with the parents and teachers of my eighth grade students to review old plans and develop new ones. In coming weeks, I’ll meet with parents and teachers of my seventh and sixth graders. You can take a look at a blank LSP form here:

Download (PDF, 168KB)

Period 9/Homework Club
This year, we’ve expanded our after school options for extra help. In addition to the period 9 classes offering content-specific support on Wednesday and Thursdays, there is a Homework Club option Monday-Thursday. I teach homework club on Tuesday’s and I’m happy to offer extra help, as well as a quiet place to work. For details about the after school activity program, follow this link.


Looking Back Closely

During March and April, we focused on  practicing close reading. Some people would say that close reading is just a new way of saying ‘careful reading.’ We use close reading when text is difficult, confusing, or when it is important that we don’t miss any details. We might use close reading when we come to a chapter in a novel that is confusing. We might use it on a test, or on a tough math problem.

Of course, we don’t have to use close reading every time we read. We usually don’t need it when reading Facebook status updates or a book that is easy, fast and fun to read. But when we do use close reading, it can sure make a difference.

Here is the close reading routine we used. It only has three steps:

close reading


…for the flow and the big idea.


….What do you need to know?

….What is your purpose for reading?


…. and think again!

 Think about a time or two during the past few weeks when you decided to use close reading and a time when you didn’t. What was the difference? Post your thinking in the comments below.

(Here’s my example: I definitely used close reading when I was buying a ticket home for the summer break. It was very important I didn’t get the dates or cities wrong, or I would miss seeing my family! I also used close reading on a long magazine article about the Indian elections. I was interested, but a little confused, because I don’t know about all the smaller political parties here. I had to read several parts twice to find the answer to questions I had. However, most of the time, I don’t use close reading when I read my daily paper. I can understand most of the stories the first time I read them.)