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Tools for Schools

CCE offers “tools” for coaches to take to their schools. Some are culled from a variety of sources and, according to Joseph P. McDonald, “while designed and promoted by particular organizations, belong to the community of teachers at large.” Many of our tools are in a perennial state of fine tuning, but we offer them on this proprietary site for coaches to use at their discretion. Our collection will continue to grow. We encourage coaches to submit tools they have found or created to their Directors for inclusion on this site.

Vision Statement and Principles

  • Developing a Vision Statement - Schools can follow simple steps to develop a vision statement that is consistent with principles for effective learning and teaching.
  • Vision Statement Checklist - Answering the questions on this checklist will help you make sure your school’s vision statement is in line with principles of effective learning and teaching.
  • Ten Principles of Learning and Teaching - These grow out of research into how humans learn, and research that indicates key characteristics of successful schools. Adapted from the Ten Common Principles of the Coalition of Essential Schools, they are currently being used by NESSN.
  • Five NESSN Areas of Autonomy - Staffing, Budget, Curriculum and Assessment, Governance and Policies, and School Calendar.
  • Authentic Assessment - This is CCE’s working definition of Authentic Assessment, as of the beginning of 2002.


Team Work

  • Guidelines for Effective Meetings - When a team is first established, it is helpful to distribute these guidelines for discussion.
  • One Hundred Pennies - Purpose: To begin an event as a way of introducing people and capturing the range of experiences of a group.
  • Postcards from the Edge - This activity uses picture postcards and free association as an opportunity for groups to make connections at the beginning of a meeting or workshop..
  • Setting Norms for Collaborative Work - Norms are ways of working together that help groups be more thoughtful and productive. They fall into two categories: procedural and interpersonal.
  • Activity for Setting Norms - In this activity, members of a team write statements about how they want their team to operate and then categorize the statements into procedural norms and interpersonal norms.
  • Compass Game - The Compass Game enables teams to explore various preferences that individual members use to approach teamwork.
  • Creating Meeting Agendas - Creating and using effective agendas for team meetings is one of the most important tasks a team can engage in.
  • Sample Format for Recording Team Meetings - This form may be reproduced for recording several agenda items at a meeting.
  • The Text-based Seminar - Team examines an issue from an outside point of view by focusing on a specific article or excerpt from a book.
  • 4-Corners Activity: Dilemmas in Data Based Decision Making and Coaching - Four cases of teams having trouble addressing issues.
  • 4-Corners Activity: Shared Dilemmas - Educators share and address common dilemmas.
  • Building a Collaborative School Culture: School Survey - Collaboration defined in a school context.
  • Building a Collaborative School Culture: How are we doing? - Purpose: to assess current school culture in order to discuss areas for improvement.
  • Assessing a Team’s Quality of Work - Teams may use these questions to gauge their work and use the indicator chart for each question to note the team’s effectiveness.
  • Future Protocol (a.k.a. "Back to the Future") - To vision into the future and tell what it would look like in the very best-case scenario. Also to initiate discussion into the steps, players, actions, and timelines it will take to be successful.
  • The Kiva - The Kiva is taken from Native American tradition. It is based on the belief that, as a community, we have all we need to solve our own problems and answer our own questions.
  • The World Café - World Café Conversations are an intentional way to create a living network of conversation around questions that matter. A Café Conversation is a creative process for leading collaborative dialogue, sharing knowledge and creating possibilities for action in groups of all sizes.
  • The Zin Obelisk - A group exercise to experience and examine the sharing of information in team problem solving, and to study leadership, cooperation, and conflict issues.
  • The Dyad - A dyad is the exchange of constructivist listening between two people: I agree to listen to and think about you for a fixed period of time in exchange for your doing the same for me.
  • Give One/Get One - A mini-protocol for creating an idea exchange in a group.
  • Core Traits - affirms individual unique qualities and strengths that each person brings to their life and situation. The Core Trait Exercise help individuals to focus on these qualities and strengths, and to recognize the reality of their traits through the retelling of their own stories by others.
  • End of the Year Protocol - This protocol is designed for a school staff that hopes to deflect some of the angst of this time of year and remember that they are all in this business of teaching and learning together, and together they can support each other and lighten the load for everyone.

Looking at Student and Teacher Work

  • Which Protocol? - A chart in progress for choosing a protocol. You add to columns.
  • School Walk Protocol - Ameans for visitors to a school to have a meaningful interchange with hosting educators about their observations of the school in a non-evaluative way.
  • Critical Friends Visit Protocol - A detailed protocol that CCE uses to engage schools in critical friends visits.
  • Peer Observation/Peer Mentoring - Steps, guidelines, and protocol. The goal of the observations, and the meetings to frame and discuss them, is to address particular issues and questions about teaching, offering specific feedback and support.
  • Outline of Action Research Workshop - Model (hour by hour) from the schedule of an actual workshop.
  • Consultancy Protocol - This protocol is used to get feedback on a set of questions or concerns posed by a teacher on certain aspects of student or teacher work.
  • Collaborative Assessment Conference - provides a structure for teachers to look together at a piece of work
  • Staff Meeting LASW Protocol - The protocol with a LASW example.
  • Open Space Technology Protocol - allows a large group to select and discuss a wide variety of topics in smaller groups in a relatively structured setting.
  • Tuning Protocol - To develop more effective exhibitions and assessments.
  • Charrette Protocol - to get feedback on a work in progress when a teacher, student, or group is “stuck.”
  • Critical Incident Protocol - An opportunity for a teacher to reflect with colleagues on an incident from his or her work that was particularly rewarding, puzzling, or devastating.
  • Powerful Learning Experience - Purpose: To show the relationship between an individual's powerful learning experience and principles of effective learning and teaching.
  • The Final Word - To expand a group’s understanding of a text in a focused way and in a limited amount of time.
  • Obstacle Resolution Protocol - To resolve an obstacle and move toward a desired outcome.
  • Fishbowl - Half the group observes the other half engaging in a protocol.
  • Video Camera - Observers watch the lesson, class, performance, etc. To the greatest extent possible the observer acts like a video camera, scripting and making note of as many events as possible. (No actual camera is used.)
  • Focus Point - Observer focuses on an agreed upon aspect of a staff member’s performance, then acts as an active listener as the staff member attempts to make sense of the observed events.
  • Tea Party - A pre-reading, text-based activity. It starts out with randomly selected quotes from the reading, passed out to individuals, and develops from there.
  • Interesting Moments - The observer maintains an open field of vision, noting anything that strikes her as particularly interesting - anything that may lead to “deep” questions. Requires high level of trust between participants.
  • Images of Practice Writing Activity - Develop list of stand-out images from the school year, pick one, flesh it out. What does it say about teaching and learning?
  • Chalk Talk - Chalk Talk is a silent way to do reflection, generate ideas, check on learning, develop projects or solve problems. It can be used productively with any group - students, faculty, workshop participants, committees.
  • Confronting Color-Blindness - An exercise based around the essay “The Emperor's New Clothes,” by Patricia J. Williams. What happens when we see society through color-blind vision?

Working with Students

  • Habits of Mind - from Horace’s School, by Ted Sizer.
  • Cain in the Classroom: the dramatic effects of low expectations in a school of high achievers (2004), by Robert Frank, presented at the XII Congress of Comparative Education Societies, in Havana, and included as a chapter in Comparative Pedagogy: Selected Topics, ed. Metod Cernetic, Marko Musanovic, and Olga Decman Dobrnjic. The research documents the devastating effects of low expectations in the classroom and considers the implications for the African-American “achievement gap.”
  • Seven Comprehension Strategies - from Mosaic of Thought by Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmerman, 1997. Key strategies for teaching reading comprehension.
  • Five Strategies Used by “Effective Teachers of Low Income Students of Color” - Taken from an article by Lisa Delpit, these strategies emphasize high and challenging expectations, along with relevance. Compact and useful.
  • Poverty Tour - a provocative online PowerPoint presentation that illustrates the meaning of poverty in practical terms.
  • Middle School Project Ideas - Great ideas for class projects, taken from New York’s CAL (Champions of Active Learning) projects.
  • You Are the Historian: Investigating the First Thanksgiving - an interactive web site produced for Plimoth Plantation - provocative, culturally aware, entertaining, informative. Challenges the visitor with mysteries and probing questions. Great possibilities for grades 4-10.
  • ABC’s For Teaching Adolescent Literacy - Martin O'Brien (CCE literacy and school change coach) has assembled a “collection of tools and ideas that proved useful for supporting adolescent readers and writers. What informs these pages is the belief that literacy at the secondary level - both middle and high schools - looks different than elementary school literacy instruction.”
  • I am from... - Adults or students write individual poems centered around capturing the vigor of their cultures and ethnicities. Powerful celebration.
  • Equity tool - Here's a simple exercise I used in a cluster group meeting to start off discussion around race, etc. (Loretta Goodwin).
  • How Real Is Race?, by Carol Mukhopadhyay and Rosemary C. Henze, in Phi Delta Kappan, May, 2003.
    Race is not a scientifically valid biological category, and yet it remains important as a socially constructed category. Once educators grasp this concept, they can use the suggestions and resources the authors offer here to help their students make sense of race. Terrific essay and classroom exercises.
  • ADL Anti-Bias Check-List - a practical, useful check-list to remind a teacher about things to look for, or to look out for, in the classroom - on the walls and in the books.
  • Language Attitudes Survey - This survey helps participants identify and examine our assumptions about the many aspects of language, such as accent, dialect, writing, vocabulary, structure, style, gender, class, and more.

Videos for Coaches

  • Race and Diversity Films available in Pilot Schools Office
    We now have several excellent films (purcahased by the Pilot Network) about race and diversity. The films are:
    Color of Fear
    The Way Home
    * Race: The Power of an Illusion - All 3 episodes
    ..........Discussion Guide Toolkit for above series (522 KB .pdf file)
    * The Thirty-Minute Blue-Eyed
    * Ethnic Notions
    * Black is...Black Ain’t
    * W.E.B. DuBois: A Biography in Four Voices
    * Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask
    * The Language You Cry In
    * Color Adjustment
    ____* A summary of these films can be found on
  • I have used several of these films and they are excellent in pushing the race and diversity conversations. A couple of them also come with a facilitator’s guide. All I ask is that you let one of the pilot staff know when you need/want to borrow one of the films. They will be stored in our office. - Dawn

  • English Language Learner Video Library at Stanford - Short on-line videos feature exemplary classroom practice, lectures by leaders in the field, lesson plans, and more. Requires brief, free, instantaneous registration.
  • Annenberg/CPB Learner.Org streaming educational development - This site offers live TV on your computer (fast connection using Internet Explorer recommended) of fine professional development programs, including math, science, reading and more, with a 24/7 schedule of free programs. The schedule itself is also listed here. One hint: click the tiny magnifying glass to the upper left of the WindowsMedia display to increase the image from very small to quite large and viewable. (Note: these videos are also available to schools on television via satelite, if they are interested and have the facilities.)
  • videos for teachers, Broadband Project - Here is a collection including some remarkable videos on teaching and coaching, funded by AT&T, available free online via video streaming and available on CD-ROM in the CCE home office. The best of these videos can be invaluable for either preparing a school classroom project or for sharing the video itself with teachers. Use the online version in your schools only if you have a high speed internet connection there. Otherwise use the CD-ROM. (See note below for free video-playing software.)
    Here’s a quick description of each of the 9 available videos, listed roughly in order of quality for CCE work and rated from *(not so useful) to *** (great resource):

***Fishbowl: Using Action Research to Achieve Standards - diverse city students learn content and interactive classroom skills that had been lacking: by doing, and by observing and critiquing each other with the Fishbowl protocol.

***Real Math: Teacher and Coach in a Diverse Grade 3 NYC Classroom - see creative approaches to math teaching, and see the Coach interacting with the teacher and the class.

***Energy Transfer: A Collaborative New Media Science Project - creative science unit with enough info to facilitate replication of the unit.

**Monsters and Myths: A Humanities Unit for Middle Schoolers - class learns about myths, using varied expressive and learning styles; the myths here are Greek, but the approach could apply to any mythology.

**Opening Doors to Technology Literacy: Bringing the Web to Your Classroom - NYC high school English teacher uses print and web publication, and other technologies, to excite diverse students about literacy.

*Romeo and Juliet: Learning English as a Second Language - How the story can be a teaching tool in a class of high school immigrant kids.

*Cinderella: Learn About the New Teacher Online Survival Courses - Primarily useful for a new teacher looking for successful teaching units. Shows units and resources available online at

*How Are You Smart? Teaching Multiple Intelligences - John Gardner’s right, in case you didn’t know. Some kids attest to this, but little meat on the bone.

*The Bleeding Edge: A Thematic, Interdisciplinary New Media Project - An art teacher describes her creative response to a grant. Self-promoting.

(Note that each video allows you to choose which viewing software to play it with: RealPlayer, QuickTime, or MS MediaPlayer. All three players have free versions available for download from their respective home pages, although they will generally try to guide you into the “free trial” of the purchasable version, rather than the completely free version. Bob Frank can help you navigate these mercenary waters, if you like. We have found RealPlayer to give you better flexibility as to the size of the image, including full screen. You can find Real Player downloads at, where you may prefer to seek out their older version rather than the current RealOne Player that includes more sales pitches.)

MCAS, Etc.: What They Are Promoting

Useful Web Sites - annotated

  • Other People’s Stories - A stimulating, provocative site that offers original short stories about “other people” and accepts contributions. Includes excellent photos that can set a writer off in any unexpected direction. Both the photos and the stories could lead to writing or discussion activities.
  • Teacher Coaching and Mentoring - A collection of resources about what works and what to beware of in coaching and mentoring, including documents that give more of a context for coaching.
  • Equity Web Picks - a first-rate listing of web sites specializing in a variety of equity issues, including race, gender, learning styles, sexual preference, economic class, handicap, nationality, language....Provided by Debra Smith of the Southern Maine Partnership.
  • Toolkit98 - designed to assist classroom teachers to become better assessors of student learning. It is intended for those who have responsibility to coordinate and facilitate professional development in assessment for teachers. It is exceptionally good for examining the whole issue of assessment. It takes into account issues of bias, cultural awareness, many different subject areas, and levels of students. (From the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory)
  • MiddleWeb: Exploring Middle School Reform - - a general page for middle school educators. This page has got everything - research, teaching strategies, curriculum materials, links, issues facing schools in the middle of school reform, and more!
  • Teachers Helping Teachers - - site is designed by teachers for teachers. It includes lesson plans, teaching strategies, and materials for all content areas, including special education and specialties. Since it’s written by teachers, it’s very practical and user-friendly.
  • Study Circles Resource Center - “A study circle is a group of 8-12 people from different backgrounds and viewpoints who meet several times to talk about an issue. The idea is to share concerns and look for ways to make things better. A facilitator helps the group focus on different views and makes sure the discussion goes well.” This site explains how to run study circles, and offers examples in the field of Education among others.
  • ERIC (Educatational Resource Information Center) -
    This is the ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management. Great if you’re interested in current research on things like class size, student motivation, and other educational issues.
  • Blue Web’n - - the Blue Web'n Learning Sites page. Great for teachers in all grades and subject areas. Lesson plans, curriculum ideas, and award-winning links.
  • Pathways to School Improvement - - Some interesting research from the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory. Not necessarily specific to middle schools but some helpful information and free resources.
  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation - - Much information about grants, scholarships, and other funding, as well as articles and links about education.
  • Small Schools Project - - The Small Schools Project provides technical assistance to the many new small schools being established in Washington State and throughout the United States. Site offers toos, advice, scholarly work, and much more.
  • Small Schools Workshop - - Based at the U. of Chicago, the Workshop and this site coordinate national efforts, provide much information, and enable communication among small school reformers across the country.
  • BayCES: Bay Area Coalition for Equitable Schools - - With their tag line, “Coaching for educational equity and excellence,” this San Francisco based organization is a West Coast counterpart of CCE and shares some of its board members. Good information on the site, with an informative calendar.
  • Big Picture Company - - Focusing on “one student at a time,” Big Picture Company of Rhode Island shares a number of philosophies and Board members with CCE. Useful, informative site with clear explanations of many concepts.

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