Project CRISS Training

Real World Teaching Jeopardy – Speed Round

Answer: Project CRISS

Question: What is the single-best teaching seminar I have attended, EVER, that gave me over 20 ready-to-implement strategies that are Common Core-friendly, student-centered, applicable to ALL content areas, and encourages student engagement?


Only eleven days after tearfully saying goodbye to my students, my classroom, and the 2012-13 school year, I entered what may be perhaps that most important training of my teaching career.  Let me not get booed off the stage for being superfluous because I don’t want to have the meaning lost in my verbal tomfoolery.  Any teacher will tell you that the one thing that we want to be able to walk away from any training or conference is tangible, ready-to-implement strategies that we can utilize in our classrooms.

Things You Hear Leaving a Professional Development Training

“That wouldn’t work for my content area”

“When was the last time that lady was in a classroom???”

“We don’t have the resources for that”

“I teach Science/Math/Health/Spanish; the English teacher should be doing that”

“Maybe if I had 10 students, but you can’t do that with 25 or 30 kids in a classroom”

“Do you think they’ll let us leave early today??”

For full disclosure, I have said or been part of conversations that have included all of these comments.  I consider myself to be someone who has a pretty open mind when it comes to most things, but I am highly protective of my students and their rights to learn.  I have seen speakers come into my school SELLING a program, not because they’re interested in student achievement, but in the all mighty dollar.  I knew that this CRISS training would be different because it was being presented to district teachers for free and only days before the facilities would be shutting down due to budget cuts; the administrators did not have to provide this.  You know you’re with like-minded folks when you share the philosophy of do for others even if you won’t get recognized for it.


Strategies/Ideas I’m Geeking Out Most About from Project CRISS

(In no particular order)

1.  Smarty-Up Venn Diagrams.  For years, well my whole life really, I’ve simplified the Venn diagram by only having students fill in the two ovals with differences and the cross section with commonalities.  Who knew there was an epilogue to the strategy?  Add two sections to all Venn diagrams: Categories and Conclusions.


2.  Concept of Definition Map – An additional vocabulary strategy to incorporate into my classroom.  I’ve been utilizing the powerful strategy of the Frayer Model ever since I learned about it in college.  This strategy forces students to learn, not just memorize the term or concept.

Concept of Definition Map


Frayer Model


3.  Power Thinking – a new way of viewing note-taking.  I asked what was the difference between this and creating an outline, and essentially not much.  By removing the Roman Numerals and requirements of having a certain number of subsequent levels, Power Thinking is a powerful tool for helping students categorize their details.  You can use this technique when organizing writing assignments, breaking down nonfiction articles, and seeing relationships between topics and their details.

Power Thinking

4.  Note-Taking Techniques with the “Why” Emphasized – Educators know that evidence-based conclusions are highlighted in the new Common Core standards.  With the following formats for note-taking, students will have a way to defend and support their conclusions to posed questions.


Conclusion Support Notes


Proposition Support


Problem Solution Cause Effect

Conclusion Support

The Nuts and Bolts of the Program

Project CRISS Principles & Philosophies

The CRISS Principles and Philosophy are designed to develop thoughtful and independent readers and learners. Fortunately, during the last 20 years, there has been explosive growth in understanding the processes which lead to successful readers. The following key principles drawn from this cognitive and social learning research provide students with a Framework for Learning.

    1. The concept of metacognition is the foundation of Project CRISS. Students who achieve well in school have heightened metacognition and a repertoire of self-regulatory behaviors. They know when they have understood, and they know how to employ a variety of strategies to attain meaning (Paris, Wasik, and Turner, 1991; Meichenbaum and Biemiller, 1998).
    2. Background knowledge is a powerful determinant of reading comprehension. Readers interpret text based on their own background or prior knowledge. Researchers tell us that integrating new information with prior knowledge is at the heart of comprehension. The richer our background, the richer is our comprehension. The more we bring to a reading situation, the more we can take away (Pearson and Fielding, 1991; Pressley, 2000).
    3. Reading for specific purposes positively influences comprehension (Narvaez, 2002). Also, orienting students to read or listen for specific information in a text influences what they recall (Pichert and Anderson, 1977; Anderson and Pichert, 1978). To be strategic, metacognitive readers, students must set their reading goals before reading. In this way, they can easily bring out appropriate background knowledge and monitor their learning to assure they have reached their comprehension goals.
    4. Good readers are actively involved in making sense of their reading. Learning happens when students actively process information through writing, talking, and transforming by using a variety of organizing strategies (Duke and Pearson, 2002; Keene and Zimmerman, 1997). Whenever we teach, we think about ways to actively involve our students. Moreover, thinking about active involvement has led to changes in our own conceptions about teaching. We aren’t on stage very much, giving our lectures or asking hundreds of questions. Instead, our students are engaged in their learning and, in the process, they learn content more effectively.
    5. Students need many opportunities to discuss with one another. Learning is an active, constructive process and a social, interpersonal process. Work in brain research highlights the importance of students interacting with one another. Students create meaning by transforming information and by building their own connections. Discussion is essential to these constructive processes (Muth and Alvermann, 1999). We live in a social world and learn by interacting with others (Goldenberg, 1993; Wilkinson and Silliman, 2000). By pooling our understanding and talking about what we think we know, we develop deeper understandings.
  1. Students need many opportunities to write about what they are learning. Writing is integral to all learning (Santa and Alvermann, 1991; Blachowicz and Ogle, 2001). Each of us writes to understand. It is a way of knowing. If we can explain things to ourselves and others, we can claim knowledge as our own. Writing forces organization. It helps us to see clusters of information and hierarchies of ideas. It also helps us become metacognitive. Because it is such a powerful vehicle for learning and thinking, it is integrated into practically every component of Project CRISS.
  2. Good readers know a variety of ways to organize information for learning. The past thirty years of research in cognitive psychology, as well as more recent research about brain physiology, have demonstrated that learning and memory depend upon transforming information (Jensen, 1998). The more organized, the better remembered. Through Project CRISS, students learn flexible ways for processing information, including strategies such as Power Thinking, selective underlining, two-column notes, and concept mapping. They learn multiple ways to be strategic, metacognitive readers and learners.
  3. Good readers and writers have an intuitive understanding of the author’s craft. They know how text structure aids comprehension. Strong research supports this idea that knowledge of expository and narrative text structures plays an important role in comprehension (Goldman and Rakestraw, 2000).
  4. Students learn to become strategic when teachers teach these processes directly through explanation and modeling. Most students do not know how to learn. We have to show them how. When introducing a new strategy, we need to take the stage. We show, tell, model, demonstrate, and explain not only the content, but the process of active learning. Duffy and his colleagues learned from their research that the process of teacher modeling and guided practice leads to pronounced effects in the improvement of comprehension (2002).
  5. Students come to understand by attacking a topic in a variety of ways. Our conception of understanding goes beyond knowing the specific information in a piece. It is a matter of being able to do a variety of “thinking” activities with a topic, such as explaining, finding examples, producing evidence, generalizing, and representing the topic in a new way (Perkins and Blythe, 1994). CRISS strategies are designed to help students build understanding. We want our students to carry out a variety of learning activities that not only show understanding of a topic, but aid students in advancing a topic beyond what they already know.
  6. Given that all the pieces of the Principles and Philosophy need to be in place for learning to happen for students, CRISS developed a Framework for Teachingthe CRISS Strategic Learning Plan—to help teachers organize their lessons. The plan guides teachers to pick significant content, set clear goals and objectives, assess student learning, plan for instruction through the effective use of strategies, and reflect (both teachers and students) on the learning process.

Project CReating Independence through Student-owned Strategies (CRISS) promises to give you a “grocery store” of ideas which “operationalize” the above principles and philosophy. Choose those that make the most sense for you. You aren’t going to put everything in the cart. As you walk down the aisles, think about how these ideas can be adapted to your own situation. Add your own ingredients. Change strategies to fit your various domains, whether it is a science lab, a hands-on activity in mathematics, a field trip, or a short story. Take what we offer. Shape it. Mold it. Give students control, so they leave your classroom with knowledge and power over their own learning.

2 thoughts on “Project CRISS Training

  1. Pingback: Top Five Things to Include in My Classroom 2013 | Forever Within the Numbered Pages

  2. Pingback: Organizing My Ducks | Road to Genius

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