Best Practice in Teaching and Learning


Top Ten Tips for Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century

We are offering you access to one of our favorite tools. Not only are we providing you a PDF copy of our Top Ten Tips for Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century cross-referenced to the 2nd and 3rd editions of Why Didn’t I Learn This in College? and to Instruction for All Students, we are also providing you a 30-slide PowerPoint Show to use in elaborating on those tips in either individual or group settings. Just ASK consultants use these handouts and slides across the country.

To use these tools in a group setting, have the teachers bring their texts with them to the meeting, provide each attendee with a copy of the Top Ten Tips, and use the companion PowerPoint Show. Have them create visual representations, jigsaw the questions, create three-column charts, or any other active engagement strategy you want to model. You have in your hands an instant winner!

Access the Top Ten Tips and the Top Ten Tips PowerPoint Show by clicking on the graphics below. Select the version of the Top Ten Tips PDF that matches the book your district uses. 











3DLogo_smallUnit Exemplars

UnitExemplarsFirst Grade Unit: Persuasive Writing
This unit, developed by Cheryl Ebertz, Carolyn Hammerschmidt, and Ann Lenzi, Greece Central School District, New York, asks first graders the essential question: How can I persuade others?

Second Grade Unit: Ghana
This unit, developed by Laura Cork, Newton Public Schools, Massachusetts, asks students to explore the construct that events are shaped by the ideas and actions of both individuals and groups in response to meeting fundamental needs. Big ideas they investigate are the similarities and differences between and among cultures of people and that people express their culture in many ways: writing, literature, architecture, celebrations, everyday tools, and objects etc. High school teachers will be amazed by the work these second graders are doing and the level of planning by the teacher.

Middle School Science Unit: Force and Motion – The Science Behind Sports
In this unit, developed by Karen Finter, West Irondequoit Central School District, New York, students are asked to analyze the underlying physics concepts behind a sport or leisure activity. First, students gather technical information on a sport of their choice, using both printed and electronic resources. After they complete their initial research, students develop, conduct, and analyze an original experiment based on a scientifically sound problem. Finally, students present their research and experiment results throughout the grade level in a student-led symposium.

Eighth Grade Math Unit: Fractions, Decimals, and Percents
This unit, based on the Common Core State Standards, was designed by Jessica Matt, Tully Junior-Senior High School, Tully Central Schools, New York, It was developed and taught in the school’s Academic Intervention Services (AIS) program. AIS is a New York State program designed to support students who are struggling to demonstrate mastery of learning standards in either English language arts and mathematics. Learning experiences are designed to complement and reinforce students’ regular math instruction.

High School Science Unit: Comparing and Contrasting Plant and Animal Cells
This unit, developed by Beth McKinney of Prince William County Public Schools, Virginia, asks students to investigate and understand relationships between cell structure and cell function while answering the question: What are the similarities and differences between plant and animal cells?

High School Science Unit: Interdependence of Organisms
In this ecology unit, developed by Janice Creneti, instructional coach at Pinellas County Public Schools, Florida and former teacher at Fairfax County Public Schools, Virginia, students are asked to explore how their individual actions and those of society impact the ecosystem and how we can be responsible stewards of the earth. Through extensive, well-planned, creative lessons and projects, students explore possible answers to these essential questions.


Distance Learning Collection

The Just ASK Team has written new articles and updated some older ones as 2.0 versions to support our many colleagues who are tasked with creating positive and productive learning experiences from a distance and/or in hybrid or face-to-face environments that are ever evolving. A special thanks to Marcia Baldanza for sharing so many powerful stories from her work as a professor, K-12 educational leader, and mom and for providing us with dozens of amazing and helpful links. Feel free to share with colleagues near and far. 

Distance Learning Collection
Table of Contents

A Growth Mindset for Remote Times (Marcia Baldanza)
Building Relationships in a Digital World (Marcia Baldanza)
Collaborating and Planning Remotely (Marcia Baldanza)
Communicating With Families (Marcia Baldanza)
Communicating With Students (Marcia Baldanza)
Empathy in the Time of Coronavirus (Marcia Baldanza)
Flipped Learning (Marcia Baldanza)
Hooking All Students on Learning In-Person and Remotely (Marcia Baldanza)
If There‘s a Silver Lining (Bruce Oliver)
Inviting Learning Environments Need to Be Intrinsically Motivating and Challenging in All Instructional Settings (Marcia Baldanza)
Leading High Functioning Teams in Virtual Times (Marcia Baldanza)
Lessons We’ve Learned (Marcia Baldanza)
Maximizing Distance Learning (Marcia Baldanza)
Mentoring From Near and Afar (Paula Rutherford) 
Messages from the Children (Bruce Oliver)
Observing in Remote and Hybrid Classrooms (Marcia Baldanza)
Parents as Partners 2.0 (Bruce Oliver)
Promoting Student Engagement During Online Sessions
(Heather Clayton)
Stop… in the Name of Learning 2.0 – 18 Practices to Rethink (Bruce Oliver)
Ten Reasons Teachers are Heroes (Bruce Oliver)
Ten Success Stories in the Age of Covid-19 (Bruce Oliver)
Ten Tips for Enhancing Distance Learning (Paula Rutherford)
The Writer’s Notebook – A High Leverage Practice for Uncertain Times (Heather Clayton)
Tips for Recording and Using Instructional Videos (Heather Clayton)
Tools and Tips for Checking for Understanding in Remote and Hybrid Settings
(Marcia Baldanza)
We Must Accelerate Rather Than Remediate In All Settings –
Virtual, Hybrid, and In-Person (Marcia Baldanza)

Where Do We Go from Here (The Just ASK Team)

To access an article, click on the title.













Click on the graphic above to access the PDF/printable version.
Access the web version here.




3DLogo_smallTemplates and Tools


The following templates and tools are Word documents. They can be edited or modified to meet your needs.  

Reflections on Nonfiction Reading Template
Use this Reflections on Nonfiction Reading template to give students the opportunity to reflect and write about their reading. A completed exemplar is included.

Protocol for Close Reading Template
Use this Close Reading Protocol template as a planning tool to design lessons that support learners in the reading of complex text. 

Think Aloud Exemplar for Close Reading of Complex Text
This Think Aloud exemplar is based on Raising Yoder’s Barn by Jane Yolen. The purpose for reading is: Describe how a particular story’s plot unfolds in a series of episodes, as well as how the characters respond as the plot moves toward a resolution.

Frayer Model Template
The Frayer Model, developed by Frederick Frayer and Herbert Klausmeier, is a visual organizer that is useful in helping learners separate critical attributes from interesting information about a concept. It is a recommended approach for promoting vocabulary and concept development. See pages 117 in Active Learning and Engagement Strategies and pages 17 in Instruction for All Students for more information.

Common Core Unit Template
Upon completing an extensive review of the literature, a task force in Pittsford Central School District, New York, developed this Common Core Unit Template. Organized around the Just ASK SBE Planning Ovals, it includes space to identify which next generation (21st century) skills are being addressed in the unit. 

Points to Note in the Design and Review of Common Core Lessons and Units
Use this worksheet as a checklist when evaluating your standards-based lesson or unit.

Points to Note in the Review of a Standards-Based Lesson or Unit
Use this worksheet as a checklist when evaluating your standards-based lesson or unit.

Unit Design in the Standards-Based Classroom
Download this template and use the guiding questions in the design of your own units. Also, see the exemplar units below that use this template.

First Thoughts About My Unit Plan
Unit Plan: Focus on Oval Three

Explore alternative formats for designing and recording unit and lesson plans. Download these templates and see if they have potential for use in your practice.

Concept-Based Interdisciplinary Unit Design I
Concept-Based Interdisciplinary Unit Design II
These two templates are adaptations from Greece Central School District, New York that use the idea of concept-based instruction; framing lessons and units around concepts, key ideas, and generalizations. They have designed meaningful integrated units that preserve the integrity of each course.

Standards-Based Planning Process: A Guided Approach
This template is an adaptation from Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS), Virginia which they use as a guide in the planning of standards-based units. To view this template put into practice, see the exemplar unit by Beth McKinney below.

Top Ten Questions to Ask Myself as I Design Lessons
Use this worksheet to add detail to the standards-based planning process ovals and help identify the variables you need to consider when designing lessons or units.

Staff Survey of Use of Best Practice in Teaching and Learning (PDF)

Yesterday & Today… Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment (PDF)

Yesterday & Today of Moving to 21st Century Thinking Skills (PDF)

Funding Request Website Exemplar (PDF)


EdutopiaThe Edutopia website, funded by the George Lucas Foundation, provides an amazing array of resources for classroom, school-side, and community use. The video clips are well-produced and extremely useful; they and are hosted on YouTube. Documents of particular interest are the PDFs titled Assessment of Project-based Learning and Parent’s Guide to the Common Core. Edutopia also hosts 13 blogs.It is a “go-to” site for staying on top of instructional innovations.

Colorado Department of Education

 Teacher-Authored Instructional Units 

This web page provides links to teacher-authored instructional units written by Colorado teachers as exemplars of how to translate the Colorado Academic Standards-based Curriculum Overviews into instructional units for K-12 and all content areas. Also available on this page are links to:

  • Instructional Unit Process Guide
  • Instructional Unit Blank Template
  • Curriculum Overview and Instructional Unit Template with Explanations
  • Recorded Instructional Unit Sample Webinars 

CCSS-ShiftsCommon Core State Standards: Shifts for Students and Parents

A thirty-five page PDF document from Las Cruces Public Schools, New Mexico, prepared by Dr. Elizabeth Marrufo, Director of Elementary Education.

Access Las Cruces Public Schools K-3 pacing guides for ELA and Math


3DLogo_smallStandards-Based Classroom Self-Inventory

You can’t get to where you want to go unless you know where you’ve been and where you are right now. A mutual understanding of the content standards and standards-based teaching and learning is a critical foundation for increasing student learning. This self-inventory helps you analyze where you are in terms of curriculum, instruction, assessment, and student learning using points on a continuum that describe classrooms in transition to ideal classrooms based on standards. Complete the self-inventory to find out where your practice and your students are on the continuum.



3DLogo_smallEssential Roles and Responsibilities

Standards-Based Education (SBE) only works well when everyone in the system is focused on doing everything necessary to ensure that all students are learning at high levels. This tool describes how all members of the SBE system might do their work. As an individual, use this tool for self-assessment and goal setting. Groups may use it to start conversations, discussions, and dialogues about how different roles support SBE.