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As educators, much of our time is spent assessing student needs. Before we can truly help our students, an understanding of our own learning is key. Thus, near the end of each month, I will offer one short educator quiz to help shed light on where we are and where we wish to go.
If you have topics or research that you would like to include for a future quiz, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. If your material is selected, I will include your name and appropriate information with the quiz. If you are interested in taking last months quiz on managing student aggression, you can find it here!
Are you ready to see if plagiarizing may be a potential issue in your classroom? You may take a brief quiz by answering yes or no to the 5 questions listed below.
1 Knowing the frequency of plagiarism is important. Do teachers underestimate how much plagiarism occurs?
2 A shared idea for what constitues plagiarism may help. Do teachers and students agree on the definition for plagiarism?
3 Who is responsible for the plagiarizing issue in schools? Should the responsibility be placed on the students?
4 Do you feel that good students would refrain from plagiarizing even if they believed that their peers have plagiarized?
5 Teachers understand the severity of plagiarism. Is it true that students don't take plagiarism seriously?
Spoiler Alert: Exploring Your Results
This quiz was developed in response to a research article on studnt's perception of plagiarism. If you answered "no" to most of the questions, your understanding of plagiarism is closely aligned with the material reported in the research article. If you answered more questions with "yes", take a look at the answer explanations below.
1Teachers and students overestimate the occurrence of plagiarism. One benefit for teacher overestimation is that it makes them more vigilant in detecting and addressing it.
2 Students often misunderstand the concept. Teachers hold a broader meaning and view it as more serious offense than sdo students.
3 Teachers can contribute to students plagiarism. For instance the probability for plagiarizing increases with the use of a teaching style that lacks rigor or assigning work without implementing an accountability system.
4 The social norm theory explains that when the behavior is normalized by peers (viewed as accepted and adopted), students will participate in the behavior.
5 Students do take it seriously. They feel that the level of seriousness depends on amount of info taken or copied.
Fish, R., & Hura, G. (2013). Student's perceptions of plagiarism. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 13(5), 33-45.
There’s never enough time to blog and reblog all of the interesting resources I find during the week, so I decided to start a Best of the Week List where I share all of the education-related blogs, articles, apps and resources I come across every week.
Reading and Language Arts
BookCrossing.com (register a book online, share it, and find out where it travels)
10 More Awesome Fantasy Series That are Not Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings
For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off From All Human Contact, Unaware of World War II (fascinating article from Smithsonian.com)
Inside America’s Atomic City (interesting article and images from Messy Nessy)
The 1970s Cold War Era Home Built 26 Feet Underground
An 8th Grade Final Exam from 1895
1,000 Years of War in 5 Minutes
10 Myths About Vikings
Famous Last Words (tragic and amusing collection of last words!)
The History of Taxes (an interactive infographic)
D-Day Landing Scenes in 1944 and Now (an interactive photo collection)
A Beginner’s Guide to Understanding A Coat of Arms (an infographic)
How To Turn A Negative Consequence Into A Positive Classroom Management Strategy (an excellent article by Larry Ferlazzo)
7 Ways to Increase Student Engagement (an infographic)
99 More Incredible Lectures From the World’s Top Scientists
Impact Calculator (create a virtual impact on Earth by changing the size, speed and composition of an approaching asteroid or comet)
Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Pamela Gay, and Lawrence Krauss Discuss Our Future in Space
MIT's Freaky Non-Stick Coating Keeps Ketchup Flowing
Remastered and Stabilized Apollo 16 Footage
Science Hack (every science video on the site is screened by a scientist to verify its accuracy and quality)
Random Education Links
4 R’s of Summer School: Keeping the Momentum Going
What People Think A Teacher’s Summer Is Like Vs. What It’s Really Like
Road Tested / Lesson Closure: Stick the Landing (good advice on ending lessons with a bang)
Meaning Makers or Empty Vessels (6 questions we should ask ourselves before assigning homework)
Rethinking Homework (an interesting article from author and former-principal, Alfie Kohn)
Technology in the Classroom
Shadow Puppet Edu (a free app to help you capture and share student work)
Integrating Technology & Genius Hour: My Journey as a Teacher & Learner (a nice collection of resources related to Genius Hour)
Contemplate (a proverb-generating web application)
Draw a Stickman (free web application; could be useful for developing students’ fine motor skills)
The Coffee Cup Analogy (good advice on pursuing happiness)
The Straight Dope (you ask a question, Cecil Adams will answer it)
Partially Examined Life (philosophy podcasts)
Philosophy Bro (nice collection of summaries of philosophical works)
Difficult conversations are inevitable. It hurts my heart when students try and try and yet they do not get the recognition (or score) they feel their effort warrants. Further, it stinks, when you are required to have an awkward conversation with a parent-you have to pull the sheet from over their eyes and discuss how their baby (who technically is not a baby and who physically is bigger than me) has flaws and daily struggles in the classroom.
As we face these challenging conversations, the outcome only adds more stress. In thinking about my talks with students over the years, the conversations rarely end as I would have liked. Unfortunately, students have stormed out of the room. There has been name calling-recently, a student nonchalantly noted, “You are just a teacher, you can’t do anything,” Of course, tears have been shed (many times by me-but in my defense, at least I was able to avoid the “ugly cry” that Oprah jokes about ).
So, can we learn to successfully navigate difficult talks with students? Below are a few tips to help start the conversation-no pun intended:
A communication strategy that is a personal favorite for me is incorporating story books when having a tough talk with a child. If you match the child’s concern with a character or situation from a book, you may use the story as a starting point for the conversation. If you want to take a look at my research in this area you can find it here.
A strong teacher-student relationship makes all the difference. Unsurprisingly, research on improving conversations between physicians and patients confirms that when you maintain a relationship with a foundation of trust, you are “better positioned” to have tough conversations.
Similarly, feelings about your relationship are influential as well. We hear of the ill effects of words during interpersonal conflicts-remember the chant to downplay the damage of words-“sticks and stones will break your bones…”, but research suggests that relationship satisfaction plays a bigger part than communication style in managing a verbal conflicts. Specifically, how you perceive your relationship is more powerful than what is said during a heated conversation. The take away for me is that if you have built a strong relationship with your students, it is ok if you do not know exactly what to say during a difficult conversation. In the end, you will be able to reach a resolution that everyone is comfortable with.
In addition to strengthening the teacher-student bond, avoidance may be a strategy worth considering. Keep in mind that avoiding the conversation has drawbacks, but in one conflict management study with couples, it was determined that avoidance is ok when there is time to go back to visit the issue later. So it sounds like if a conversation is needed, but it is more convenient to speak with the student after school, or during a scheduled conference, delaying the talk may be effective. Also, the study revealed that age and duration play a part in increased avoidance. So, it seems that the avoidance strategy may be useful for older students, veteran teachers, and schools that utilize looping (same teacher stays with same group of students each year).
If the idea of avoidance makes you uncomfortable, a more well-known strategy is trying to better engage the student in the conversation. Although, we as teachers often divulge or own flaws to help the student see us as real people, research reveals that this may be a mistake. One classroom study determined that teacher negative self-disclosure made students think less of the teacher. My take away is that having a “pity party” with students may not be as effective as utilizing genuine empathy to facilitate teacher-student conversations.
Also, I found a body of research that links touching behavior with positive child outcomes. For instance, touch helps with the growth of premature babies, sleep problems, and colic. Further, cultures where more physical expression is shown to children, these places had lower incidences of adult physical violence. A study with Greek preschool teachers (Stamatis & Stonkatas, 2009) revealed that the teacher’s touching habits resulted in the children feeling more comfortable and less insecure. So, if you are having a difficult conversation with a small child, consider the benefits of tactile behavior.
In my search for discussion strategies, I found Oprah Winfrey’s Life Class very resourceful. Specifically, the episode with Life Coach Iyanla Vanzant offers a series of rules for managing hard conversations. Some of these guidelines include setting ground rules, speaking from your own experience (using “I feel” vs. “You are”), and checking for understanding (differentiating between what was said and what was heard). A video clip of those guidelines can be viewed here.
These ideas are just a start. What strategies seem to truly make a difference for you when having a sensitive conversation with a student? What is your go-to method? If you have tried any of the suggestions listed, how useful were they for you? Also, can you share how effective or ineffective the strategy was for your students? If you feel that my list is missing something, or you have insight on another approach, please leave a comment below.
As educators, much of our time is spent assessing student needs. Before we can truly help our students, an understanding of our own learning is key. Thus, near the end of each month, I will offer one short educator quiz to help shed light on where we are and where we wish to go...
If you have topics or research that you would like to include for a future quiz, please email email@example.com. If your material is selected, I will include your name and appropriate information with the quiz. If you are interested in taking last month's quiz, you can find it here!
Are you ready to build upon your student aggression management knowledge? You may take the brief quiz below by answering yes or no to the 6 questions listed.
1. Do you feel that aggression and bullying in the classroom are the same?
2. Is student relational aggression only linked with social deficits?
3. Do you feel that school activities/assignments would not impact student agression?
4. Do you feel that students are verbally aggressive due to their environment?
5. Would your confidence level in managing verbal aggression stay the same regardless of intervention use?
6. Do you feel that there is a lack of best practice guidelines available for managing student aggression?
Spoiler Alert! Exploring Your Results
This quiz was developed in response to 3 research articles (listed below in the references). If you answered "no" to most of the questions, your knowledge of student verbal aggression is closely related to the material reported in the articles. If you answered more questions with "yes", take a look at the answer explanations below.
1. There are distinctions between aggression and bullying. One key factor is that in bullying, the action is repeated over time. Also bullying may include aggression, but not all aggression meets the criteria for bullying.
2. Surprisingly, there is research that links aggression with social intelligence by means of the agressive student reaching thier social goals, accessing manipulation skills, and selecting from a variety of options during conflict.
3. The type of activity is important. Research shows that the more structured the activity, the less likely that students would behave aggressively.
4. There are multiple factors to consider in why a student may behave aggressively such as personality factors of the aggressor, factors related to the victim in the situation, as well as environmental factors.
5. Confidence reportedly improved (when comparing confidence levels before and after the use of a workbook intervention). There were reports that distracted the child, diffusing the situation, and ignoring the verbal aggressive were effective in managing the occurrence.
6. Best practice program/intervention guidelines for student aggression include the following components: school wide, population-specific, education and practice with the role of bystanders, inclusion of education on cyber bullying.
Leff, S.S., & Waasdorp, T.E. (2013). Effect of aggression and bullying on children and adolescents: Implications for prevention and intervention. Current Psychiatry Reports, 15(3), p343-353.
Mclaughlin, S., Bonner, G., Mboche, C., & Fairlie, T. (2010). A pilot study to test an intervention for dealing with verbal aggression. British Journal of Nursing, 19(8), p489-494.
Risser, S.D. (2013). Relational aggression and academic performance in elementary school. Psychology in the Schools, 50(1), p13-26.
Constant interruptions are not only distracting, they’re wearisome. While most of our students outgrow their impulse to interject seemingly random thoughts during lessons or classroom activities, we’ve probably all encountered students who constantly vie for our attention. In lieu of “calling out” these students in front of their peers—which only further disrupts the flow of your lesson and embarrasses the disruptive student—give a few of these simple, but creative classroom management tricks a shot.
Take a second and think about the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. If Ferris would have arrived home late, his whole ploy (to outsmart his parents by skipping school) would have been ruined. This is an example of a case when lateness has detrimental effects. On the other hand, think about filing your taxes. Filing late with the appropriate extension paperwork is no deal breaker-you will not have to sell your soul or give away your first born son. This latter example is a case when lateness is less critical for an individual.
So, in addressing lateness (late work) in the classroom, I think it is important to look at the consequences which impact student success. I was interested in how other educators faced the late work dilemma and this is what I found:
“Can I still turn this in?” How do you respond when you hear this from your students-is it frustrating or motivational in the classroom policy sense? What solutions have you tried in addressing student late work and how feasible were they? Sometimes, I find it useful to change my policy based on the students I am working with that particular year. How have you changed your late work policy over time?
Have you ever worked hard at teaching your class something only to discover that they don’t apply that learning on the test? I’ve noticed many students seem to struggle with on-demand writing during test taking.
On-demand writing: a situation in which students are presented with a prompt (question or scenario) and are given a specific time limit to complete it.
From the prototypes we are looking at, we are finding that on-demand writing is especially prevalent in Smarter Balanced and PARCC. On-demand writing is also an important skill for students to have in situations such as the rise of social media and for college and career readiness.
Time management is the ultimate solution for student success with on-demand writing. I’ve found that by teaching my students how to allot and judge time during their writing, they’ve become more confident when it comes time for on-demand writing. I did this by having my students practice writing with different timed allocations, beginning with 40 minutes. I then gradually lowered their timed writing to 10 minutes. As your students become more comfortable with timed writing, you will notice their skills improving, especially in their shorter on-demand writing pieces.
Here are four tips we’ve learned that help prepare students for on-demand writing:
1. Assigning writing prompts will help with on-demand writing.
Within a WriteSteps unit you’re given the opportunity to assign a prompt or a “free choice” write. Have your students write in response to the prompt in a specific time frame. When assigning a prompt, choose one that relates to your other subject area s. By having students write about what they’ve read in ELA, science, social studies, or math, you’re helping prepare them for the on-demand writing they will do on tests, in other classes, and in the work place.
2. Planning helps students focus their thoughts and organize their on-demand writing piece.
I always have students plan before they write. This is taught in a step-by-step, strategic way. The goal is that through repetition, students will start to plan automatically whenever a writing assignment is given, whether it is a long writing piece or a shorter on-demand piece.
Students in kindergarten begin practicing stating the topic. 1st graders write a paragraph for which they have planned the topic and include three facts or reasons. Students in grades 2-5 become skilled at planning multiple paragraph essays.
3. Conferencing with students boosts their self esteem and confidence, which is needed for on-demand writing.
Help each student identify their personalized goals by using a rubric, editing checklist, or revising checklist, and by asking your student to reflect on their writing. I’ve found this helps students find their errors when they’re writing an on-demand piece for which they will have no time for peer editing and revising.
Students will not need to identify all errors in a timed writing piece, just those that might impede understanding. It is the philosophy of many standardized tests, including PARCC and Smarter Balanced, that spelling and grammar do not harm a student’s score unless they make it difficult for the reader to understand what the writer is saying.
4. Self-assessment and reflection help a student to know themselves as a writer, which is beneficial for on-demand writing.
One of my favorites tools that I like my students to use is the six traits rubrics. Students score their own writing and use the document to set goals for their writing improvement. Not only do students fill out the rubric, but they answer a short questionnaire that asks them to identify their strengths, weaknesses, goals, and areas for which they would like teacher assistance. This type of self reflection helps students prepare and improve from one writing piece to the next, regardless of length and time frame given.
The on-demand type of writing is becoming more prevalent in social media, CCSS testing, and in preparing students for college and career readiness. One of the four ways teachers can increase students’ aptitude for writing on-demand is by including both longer duration writing with all steps of the writing process, as well as shorter on-demand writing.
Have you noticed a difference in your students’ longer duration writing versus their on-demand writing? What stories can you share with us?
Test anxiety needs no formal introduction. Most of us have experienced it—and if you haven’t, you’ve probably seen the impact it can have on your students’ performance and self-esteem. Below we’ve pulled a few stress-management tips from Neal A. Glasgow and Cathy D. Hicks’ book, What Successful Teachers Do: 91 Research-Based Classroom Strategies for New and Veteran Teachers.
6 Ways to Reduce Your Students’ Test Anxiety
Model low levels of anxiety in front of your students
It should be no surprise that research shows a connection between the way we negotiate stress and the way our students handle it. If we’re stressed, chances are that it’s going to rub off on our students. We can apply every stress-management strategy in the book, but if we fail to create a positive classroom culture, even the best stress-management activity will fall flat.
As Tim Haston, a 7th grade math and science teacher at Earlimart Middle School, suggests, teachers would do well to approach test days like athletes do game day. “It is the performance; it is the thing we grow all year to be excited for. I don't want them to work around any anxiety, I want to teach them how to channel it as athletes do for a game, musicians do for a concert, and actors do for their play/movie/show.”
In addition to modeling low levels of anxiety in front of our students, we can also teach them how to be in tune with their bodies and minds. Here’s a simple deep breathing exercise we like to use before tests:
With erect posture, breathe in deeply through the nose and hold your breath for a count of 8-10 seconds. Then, slowly exhale through the mouth, counting 8-10. Repeat this procedure several times until relaxation occurs.
This mindfulness exercise fits in nicely with what Tim Haston said in our first point.
Tell students to try what Olympic athletes do to develop confidence in their performance. Picture yourself in a tense situation, such as taking a test, and visualize yourself looking over the test, seeing the questions, and feeling secure about the answers. Imagine yourself answering the questions without too much difficulty. Complete the picture by imagining yourself turning in the paper and leaving the room assured that you did your best.
Where do your students feel most at peace? One spot could be at the ocean. Have students identify a place and use all their senses to imagine themselves there and how they feel when they are there. Guide them in an activity: Watch the waves with the whitecaps rolling up the shoreline onto the beach. Listen to the waves and the seagulls. Smell the salty air and feel your fingers and toes in the warm, soft, and grainy sand.
Keep in mind that this activity should be done with some reserve. It may not work for all of your students, so gauge the class and encourage students not to give up on relaxation exercises just because this one doesn’t work well for them.
Write Letters of Encouragement
This activity will require more effort on the part of the teacher, but it’s one that will certainly stick with students. Before a major exam or standardized test, write a letter of encouragement to each student the day before. If you have the time to custom-tailor each note, your effort will go a long way, but a generic note will also have a positive impact on your students.
We’d like to thank Angela Oliver, a 7th and 8th grade teacher from Leggett, Texas, for sharing this idea with us!
Watch This Test Does Not Define You
This Test Does Not Define You is one video we always show students in the weeks preceding big exams. Not only does it do a nice job of dispelling a few myths about testing, it also sends them an important message: They are not defined by test results! The video also highlights some simple research-based activities that reduce test-anxiety.
There’s never enough time to blog and reblog all of the interesting resources we find during the week, so we decided to start a Best of the Week List where we share all of the education-related blogs, articles, apps and resources we come across every week.
Reading and Language Arts
Technology in the Classroom
Recently I was having a discussion with a colleague who is new to the building. This teacher is confident, self-assured, and has decades of experience over me. We teach the same children, so we meet frequently for RTI and team meetings. This is the type of teacher that takes pride on being “old school,” which roughly translates to a no-nonsense, quiet-equals-learning, behavior-should-have-negative-consequences type of environment. It’s the model that many of us grew up with. Although I was able to navigate through this system because I was a so-called “good student,” many friends were not particularly successful, with the logical assumption that they were “bad students.” This model puts the system itself as the driving force for success, which is disempowering both to educators and to the students alike.
Now, the conversation in question did not go smoothly, especially when I insensitively insisted that the teacher “would not be successful” using this old school approach. Realizing that I was working against my goal, I quickly concluded with a final statement that I paraphrased from a Maya Angelou quote: People don’t remember what you say; they remember how you made them feel. It is a statement that I share with staff and students, and for me it is at the foundation of the type of teacher I strive to be. It is also at the core of the safe and supported tenets of Whole Child. The Whole Child philosophy offers a new approach that does not consider students to be good or bad, but forces educators to consider students’ needs. And what better way to find out, then to ask the students themselves? Consider two examples of how student voice and Whole Child thinking work together to show improvements on both the classroom and individual level.
In the beginning of this school year the majority of my first period reading class was sitting with their heads down. There are two quick assumptions that a teacher can make. One is that the kids don’t care about school; the other is that the teacher and or content actually is that boring. The old school of thought would assume the first, placing the responsibility of learning on the learner. The second is something that many teachers don’t want to admit, or that they convince themselves is all right because (true to old-school fashion),“it’s school, we sat through boring classes too, but it’s just something you have to do.” But a Whole Child approach caused me to consider a third option based on the Healthy tenet. As I was addressing the class about having their heads down I thought came to mind: “Raise your hand if you ate breakfast this morning.” Few hands went in the air, and surely none of the droopy heads had their hands up. On the spot, the homework assignment for the next class was to eat breakfast in the morning (in hindsight, I should have made students report out and really build understanding by reading articles as well, but now I know for future reference). I checked up on the class the next day, and pointed out how different the dynamic in the class was when all or most ate breakfast. I also included this information in my weekly email to parents with a link to an article about the importance of eating in the morning.
I started to think about my own practice and the assumptions teachers make everyday. How many students have been written off as not caring, when in fact they may have simply been hungry and unable to concentrate? The combination of awareness of the Whole Child tenets, and a discussion with the students lead to a change, and hopefully a lesson that they will never forget. This is also something that will be woven into my opening lessons at the beginning of the next school year along with other brain-based research. Had it not been for Whole Child thinking, and a moment to talk with the students, I may have plugged forward with the lesson. Others might have fallen back on an “old school” management approach of consequences or phone calls home. Whole Child opened my mind to other possibilities. I still get some heads down during class, but it is almost guaranteed that every time a student complains about a stomachache or being tired, they skipped breakfast; and we can fall back on that day and use their experience as evidence. On the flipside, I also have several students that tell me what they ate for breakfast regularly now (win).
Having conversations with the students is an essential in serving the whole child on the individual level as well. At a recent student conference, the teachers asked about being off-task in math class. The student shared this:
“When you tell everyone to pass the warm-up to the front, I haven’t even done it yet because I don’t know how. I’m still just trying to figure out what to do. Then I get so frustrated and upset because I don’t understand what you guys are talking about, and it’s not even worth trying after that.”
The teachers asked him why he doesn’t ask for help when he is confused, and he replied:
“I look around and see how much the other kids in the class need you and how you are trying to help them out, I just don’t want to be bothering you. You already have your hands full.”
Finally when we asked him about the classes he was doing well in, he shared that in those classes he felt the teachers explained things more clearly to him, and checked up with him to make sure he understood what he was doing.
Thinking about the Whole Child philosophy forces teachers to go back to the tenets. This student definitely did not feel supported in math, which caused him to disengage. Possibly the most disheartening aspect of this story is that the student felt like he was bothering the teachers to ask for help, or even worse, that he wasn’t worth their time. Meanwhile, the teachers thought that he didn’t care, that he was all over the place, too social, or just couldn’t focus. In this case, trying to reach the whole child truly led to an improvement in instruction and learning by changing the thinking of both the teachers and the student.
From that meeting a direct plan came about to give the student extra time to complete his warm up, to assist with some guided notes and cloze steps for problem solving, and to find a peer tutor that can be trusted to assist during presentation and practice of new content. It was a powerful meeting and one that came about from allowing the student voice into the process to assist with figuring out the missing pieces of the puzzle. The student felt more supported, and would then presumably engage more in class. The teachers were forced to think outside of the “old school” model of learning, and truly personalize for the individual in front of them. More of these conversations need to happen regularly if we are truly going to reach every child, every day (and we have to push our colleagues to have them). These conversations lead to greater understanding, but none if this understanding can happen without allowing the whole child to help you see the whole story. Not every child is so open and self-aware, and many children are not used to sharing their opinion about instruction. Some may not even know how to explain themselves, but they do know how you make them feel in class, and that discussion alone may be enough to help them help you.
There’s never enough time to blog and reblog all of the interesting resources we find during the week, so we decided to start a Best of the Week List where we share all of the education-related blogs, articles, apps and resources we come across every week.
Reading and Language Arts
Technology in the Classroom
After reading several of Rafe Esquith’s books, I have come to the conclusion that not only is he a very good teacher, but he is very wise. He is able to communicate many “truths” about educating children that only someone with lots of experience and thoughtfulness can do. And while you may not agree with everything he says, he will certain get you thinking about teaching, learning, children, schools, and the community at large.
His latest book, Real Talk for Real Teachers: Advice for Teachers from Rookies to Veterans: ‘No Retreat, No Surrender!’(2013: Penguin Books) contains a wealth of ideas, comments, and “wisdom” from a veteran teacher. The book is separated into sections for new teachers, teachers who have been teaching for several years, and even “master” teachers, but I think that everyone who is teaching at any level can profit from his insights in all three categories. He talks about things that mostly get ignored in the educational literature – bad days, first days, good routines, classroom management, classroom disasters, values to live by in the classroom, how to handle outside pressures and disagreeable people, testing and assessment, taking care of yourself, homework, the differences among kids and teachers, and many others.
Note that this book is not a how-to cookbook of ideas to improve teaching. While many of the thoughtful comments in the book may profoundly change teachers’ ways of thinking about their schools and classrooms, you will not find specific instructional strategies that work better than others, or even specific ideas about how to assess children. But many will come away with a better understanding of their own teaching, some guidance as to how to make teaching better for kids, and worthwhile ideas as to how to survive in a teaching environment.
In fact, everyone involved with education, including politicians and administrators who make laws and policy regarding education, should read the book.
The book is deep and rich, with many ideas, insights, and examples, and it is important to read it as a whole. But to give you a flavor of the Esquith’s views, below are a few short quotes from some of the chapters in the book. Note that some quotes might be out of a context, so you might find that they will read differently in the book.
I hope that they inspire you to read the book and consider his ideas for your classroom, school, or district.
Chapter 2: First things first
p. 42 …the truth is, in my class, Day 1 looks a lot like day 91. The kids will not grasp your program on Day 1. Introduce it and get to work.
[Note: This chapter has an excellent discussion of his philosophy of teaching and the rules and expectations he lays out for his students on the first day and beyond].
Chapter 4: An inside job:
p. 60-61 [In terms of classroom management and control]: My goal is to teach…children a set of values that they internalize. I want them to work hard in the class not because they fear a consequence but because they enjoy the work and also because they believe that good behavior is the right thing to do.
Chapter 8- Even the devil can quote scripture for his purpose
p. 106 –The reasonable desire to hold students and teachers accountable for what is being learned in school has snowballed into an avalanche of examinations that are hurting children and depriving them of a meaningful education…
p. 107 I have chosen a[n assessment] middle path. I consistently assess my students’ work and have no need for the exams being thrown at the kids by the school district and state. I fantasize about starting a bonfire with those infamous testing booklets that stimulate a groan from my students faster than the bell made Pavlov’s dog drool.
Chapter 11 – Keeping it real
p. 139 - Make sure the children make the connection between the lessons they are learning and how they will apply them in real life. Have the kids explain the connections rather than listen to you.
Chapter 14. Leave some children behind
p. 160 We have created situations where children do not understand that actions have consequences. School systems, under fire from all corners, have become desperate to please everyone. In doing so, they hurt the very children they are supposed to be helping.
Chapter 15 – Eyes wide open
p. 171 The unending problems and hurdles placed in front of a classroom teacher guarantee that you will not be able to help and reach every child to the degree you would like.
Chapter 18 Thomas Jefferson’s big mistake
p. 206 All students are not created equal, nor are they the same. When it is impossible to create individual assignments for the students, try to create assignments where one size does not fit all.
Chapter 21 One of a kind
p. 230 Pick something that you love to do and create a project with your students that will frame the entire year. Whether the students make quilts, become Scrabble experts or learn to surf, a special project will make all parts of your day better.
Chapter 22 All for one and one for all
p. 245 As you grow as a teacher, ask for lots of help…We can all use assistance.
Chapter 23 Getting better all the time
p. 252 Veteran teachers do not have to be stuck in a rut. Teaching the same lesson each year is not the same lesson if improvements are made.
Chapter 25 Stairway to heaven
This chapter deals with three ways for veteran teachers to stay “revved up and ready to go”: stay in physical shape (physical stamina); have a good social life (social stamina); deal with the emotional toll that the job takes (emotional rescue).
Elliott Seif is a long time educator, Understanding by Design trainer, author, consultant, and former Professor of Education at Temple University. Additional blogs can be found on ASCD Edge at http://bit.ly/1kPsxBx. If you are interested in further examining ways to improve teaching and learning and help to prepare students to live in a 21st century world, go to: www.era3learning.org
I keep reading the “dreadful” news that American students don’t compare well to students in many other countries on test scores, that our scores are woefully behind students in other countries, and that our students are not being prepared for the future as compared with students in other countries!
I find this a strange way to think about America’s educational system. In other spheres, we rarely compare ourselves to others. Is our medical system as good as others? Of course! We think of ourselves as unique and the best in the world in developing and using technology! We tend to think of ourselves as “special” and “different” in most areas, and make very few comparisons to other countries. We generally look at our own strengths and problems as a way of making judgments about how well we are doing. We most often find our own unique solutions to the problems that we face.
In this context, how should teachers, educational leaders, parents, and the general public think about American education? Should we all use a single set of standardized tests to compare ourselves to others at home and throughout the world? Or should we develop a unique concept of American education focused around American ideas, values and strengths? If we were to consider the “specialness” of America, its unique qualities, and build an educational system around those areas, what would it look like? How do we make our educational system “fit” with our unique qualities? What would we expect from teachers and our leaders? How would we know if we were succeeding?
Let’s take a stab at it. Here is my list of many of the unique qualities of American society and what I think are the implications of these strengths for building a strong American education system:
The importance of knowledge and “understanding”. From its beginnings, knowledge and understanding have been a critical part of American society. Benjamin Franklin set a high standard in developing, disseminating, and searching for knowledge and understanding. The American system of mass education for all Americans assumed that it was important for everyone to become literate and build a basic knowledge base. Andrew Carnegie promoted the development of public libraries so all could have access to knowledge and information.
Educational Implications. Access to and a focus on broad-based knowledge and understanding for all Americans should be an overall goal of American education. In today’s “knowledge explosion” world, a significant knowledge base should be coupled with the lifelong learning skills that will enable all Americans to continually learn and grow in their knowledge, information, and understanding.
Constitutional government around democratic values. The development of American democratic values – separation of powers, the Bill of Rights, one man, one vote – are one of the most unique characteristics of American society. We take these rights seriously and have over many years developed strengthened and improved them.
Educational Implications: A primary educational goal in today’s world is to insure that all our students understand the Constitution, its development, and its role in American society. All students should understand the conflicts that developed around it, changes and adaptations that have been made, related court cases, and its primary role in American society today.
Active Citizenship. A corollary to Constitutional government and democratic values is the role Americans play in the American political system. Americans today rarely sit back and accept government’s role in American society at any level. We tend to keep up with issues and problems and form strong opinions about what should be done (or not done) to solve them. We join a variety of groups and organizations dedicated to actively pursuing what we believe in – from environmental protection laws to a strong military. We actively engage in improving government, and expect a certain amount of honesty and competence among our government officials. We also expect basic services – safety, road repairs, security, and the like – to be provided efficiently.
Educational Implications: When studying American history, students should learn how in all eras a variety of individuals, groups and organizations promoted different causes and advocated for governmental policies to support them. Through a strong current events program, students should have the opportunity to continually examine and analyze the many issues that confront us today. Students in their high school years should be encouraged to become involved in causes that they believe in, discuss and write about their diverse views, debate issues that face us, and listen to, read about, and analyze the varied views and arguments of others.
Pragmatic problem solving. America has always been a land that has prided itself on pragmatic, practical problem solving. This “roll up your sleeves” characteristic began with the Colonists, was demonstrated when the Constitution was written, and is an important value throughout American history. Today it can be seen in the way businesses collect data and solve problems[i]. While our National government today is more ideological and less pragmatic, pragmatic government has always been an important thread running through governmental policies. Even FDR’s New Deal consisted of a lot of very pragmatic efforts by government to solve the problems of the Depression!
Educational Implications: Students should practice pragmatic problem solving in order to develop alternative solutions to the issues that face us. Developing classroom rules is one way. Conducting interviews to collect data is another. Conducting scientific experiments and building scientific problem solving skills is another. Providing students with authentic performance tasks that require hands on problem solving is also an excellent way to promote these skills.
Upward mobility, success, a better life. The Declaration of Independence focused on “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as an ideal for all Americans. Millions of Americans came to America’s shores to search for a new life free from persecution and filled with opportunity. Education has always been one of the most significant vehicles for reaching the “American dream” and for upward mobility.
Educational Implications: “Equal opportunity” education as a route to “success” and achievement has played and today plays a very important role in American society. Schools are asked to create a culture of high and challenging expectations, share knowledge and information, and develop skills and attitudes that will help to improve the lives of Americans and develop individual talents and interests.
This means that we should commit ourselves to insuring that ALL schools – urban, suburban, rural – should provide quality services that include a full and complete curriculum in all subject areas, small class sizes, up to date technology, strong extra curricular programs, quality professional and curricular development, counselors and libraries, and so on. Additional services should also be available in those areas with high poverty levels and strong needs.
Individual development, growth and responsibility
America values individuals who take personal responsibility for their lives! We admire individuals who overcome obstacles, work hard, continue to improve and learn, don’t give up on themselves. We expect people to persist, show “grit” and determination, and overcome failure. We support the idea that everyone should have the opportunity to develop individual talents and strengths, and encourage difference among students.
Educational Implications: Schools should figure out ways to help students develop individual personal responsibility over time. Helping students learn to be persistent, learn from failure, stay on track, and see effort as important for success should be an important part of the curriculum at all levels, especially in those areas where children need this type of help and support. Students should have the opportunity to participate in multiple types of experiences that enable them to discover and develop their interests and talents.
Invention and creativity
America has always been a society that supported new ideas, innovation, and creative thinking. Americans invented a whole new way of thinking about government in the formation of its Constitution. Consider just the latest manifestations of this thinking – social media options, the desktop computer, mp3 players, tablets, search engines, hybrid and electric cars, solar energy, just name a few.
Educational Implications: Schools should be places where students learn to think creatively, come up with original solutions to problems, invent. Special elective courses might be developed that examine the role that invention, innovation, and creativity played and plays in American society. Students at all levels might learn creative problem solving strategies and techniques. Project based learning strategies might be used to encourage students to solve problems creatively.
The promise of science and technology
Throughout American history, science and technology have been thought of as a way to improve people’s lives. Science and technology achievements have dramatically changed our lives for the better, and will probably continue to do so in the future. Agricultural science thrived in rural America and paved the way for huge increases in crop yields, better water management, and so on. Inventions such as the cotton gin, the electric light bulb, the steam engine, and mass production techniques were critical to the prosperity and improvements in American society. Nobel prizes are regularly bestowed on America’s scientists.
Educational Implications: Science and technology should play a much greater role in educating American students. Strong high quality programs in these areas should begin in pre-school and include an understanding of the scientific method, core concepts and theories in science and the evidence that supports them, involvement in science competitions, and opportunities to creatively think about scientific and technical achievements. A big push should be to integrate science and technology with math and engineering throughout the curriculum, as in the STEM subjects
American artisans, from individual craftsmen to the design and building of the Model-T ford, have been a stalwart factor in American society.
Educational Implications: “Craftsmanship” should be emphasized in American schools. Craftsmanship is not doing well on tests – rather, it is focused on high performance levels, whether it be for writing an essay, participating in a discussion, creating a mural, doing a presentation, or acting in a play. [ii]
Tolerance for diversity, difference, pluralism.
One of America’s unique strengths is its continuous movement towards greater tolerance, diversity and respect for difference. Hard work and effort by many courageous Americans has resulted in the collapse of slavery, the significant reduction of anti-semitic, ethnic and racial prejudice, increased civil rights, and the movement for gay and lesbian rights.
Educational Implications: With the world’s boundaries shrinking through instant worldwide communication, global travel, global trade and multicultural corporations, educational programs that explore cultural diversity and tolerance both within and outside of America are important for living in a multicultural world. Student self-development programs that promote tolerance and reduce prejudice towards others should also be a critical part of the educational experience.
Competition and Collaboration
Both competition and collaboration are important values in American society. Competition is at the heart of the American capitalist system, and our competitive economic system has created products of excellence at relatively low cost. Collaboration is also important, especially within corporations and businesses, in order to bring together the best minds to maintain and develop economic success.
Educational implications: Our educational culture should support both competition among students to be the best, as well as cooperative ways to learn and grow together.
Voluntary service to others.
CNN has created a process to discover and share information about “heroes” that provide voluntary service to others; this yearlong process, culminating in a two hour program rewarding the ten best “heroes” for their work, correlates closely with American values. Many Americans freely give both their money and their services to help others – this is part of the great American tradition.
Educational implications: Schools should promote this American value by organizing opportunities for students to provide community service to others, and to learn from their service. Many schools already have community service opportunities for their students.
What teachers, schools and districts can do…
When education is based on America’s unique qualities, values and strengths, a paradigm very different from one based on improving standardized test scores emerges. Based on these qualities, here are some things that teachers, schools and districts can do:
We need to begin to measure our success in educating our young by how well we implement educational practices and programs based on America’s unique qualities and strengths, not by comparing American student’s standardized tests scores against other country’s scores. Teachers, schools and the outside community can judge success by how well students “understand” and apply content, read widely, write and communicate well, learn how to do research and problem solve, develop an understanding of American democracy and what it means to be a good citizen, learn about current American and world-wide issues and challenges, become interested and engaged in STEM subjects, think creatively, develop an interest in many activities and their talents through participation in both core and extra-curricular programs, complete high quality work, develop individual responsibility traits, volunteer for community service, and so on.
These criteria suggest that individual schools, teachers, and educational leaders might want to think differently about what makes for successful educational experiences, and build alternative activities and programs into classrooms and schools to support American excellence. They also suggest that governmental policies, built around standardized test scores, are currently headed us in a very limiting and wrong direction as we try to improve education and prepare our students for living a 21st century world. Unfortunately, we have a long way to go in creating an educational system that builds on what is unique about and important to American society, and in using appropriate assessments to judge when education is successful.
[i] For example, see a recent article in the New York Times, February 15, 2014, Intel’s Sharp-Eyed Social Scientist, that examines how Intel fosters research and collects data for improving product development.
[ii] For further insights into the role of craftsmanship in American education, see Ron Berger (2003), An Ethic of Excellence: Building a Culture of Craftsmanship with Students. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Heinemann publishers.
Elliott Seif is a long time educator, Understanding by Design trainer, author, consultant, and former Professor of Education at Temple University. Many of his commentaries can be found on ASCD Edge. If you are interested in further examining ways to improve teaching and learning and help to prepare students to live in a 21st century world, go to his website: www.era3learning.org
Școala Gimnazială ,,Virgil Iovănaș“ Șofronea, Romania
WHAT IS CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT?
Effective Classroom Management is:
1. Planned not improvisational
2. Preventative rather than simply reactive
3. Controlled and organized rather than chaotic
4. An opportunity for all students and teachers to experience success
Tips for Arranging the Classroom
1. Have extra supplies available at a location in the classroom where students who have forgotten supplies will be able to go without disrupting other students (i.e. a cup of pencils at the center of each table or the back of the classroom).
2. Set a good example to your students by providing a neat and organized classroom.
3. Make your classroom look attractive. Use plants, bulletin boards, banners, warm colors, or anything to help make your classroom look aesthetically pleasing.
4. Structure your classroom as to avoid chaos and promote learning. For instance, do not place a talkative student next to the pencil sharpener because this creates many opportunities for disruptive behavior.
5. The teacher should be able to observe all students at all times and be able to see the door from his/her desk.
6. Students should be able to see the teacher/presentation area without having to move or turn around.
7. Arrange the room as to allow easy movement.
8. Main idea: Make your classroom fun, attractive, motivating, & functional.
Tips for Building Positive Student/Teacher Relationships
1. Follow the Golden Rule – Treat each student with respect and kindness.
2. . Identify a few students each class period and find ways to individually praise them so that by the end of the week every student in your class has been praised.
3. Be available before and after school in case a student needs help or simply needs to talk
Praise students for good work.
5. Praise students for effort.
6. Establish appropriate levels of dominance and cooperation.
7. Create one-to-one interactions with students.
8. Display students’ successful work in the classroom.
9. Disclose appropriate personal information that your students might find helpful (i.e. share a personal story that helps you describe a particular point of the lesson).
Time Saving Strategies
Center for the Advancement of Mental Health Practices in Schools
1. Establish time-saving, efficient routines for collecting papers and distributing materials and supplies (i.e. bins for each subject or class, mailboxes for each student or class).
2. ORGANIZE! ORGANIZE! ORGANIZE!
3. Establish daily routines.
4. Make a “To Do List” at the end of each day so that when you arrive the next morning you know exactly what needs to be done. Prioritize it and list the things that must be done first.
5. Create classroom jobs. This will help save you time and teach them responsibility.
6. Create a system for monitoring unfinished assignments. (i.e. Keep a clipboard with a list of student names with several boxes for each class next to each name. When you have finished grading the assignments, check off the boxes next to the students who have handed in the assignment.)
7. Teach your students how to be organized. Encourage them to have separate folders for each class and a home folder for assignments/notes.
8. Create your own filing system. Assign each class a color and keep important lesson materials in each folder.
1. Give directions one step at a time and avoid long and detailed directions.
3. Provide a variety of learning experiences, including peer teaching, cooperative learning, small group instruction, and lecture.
4. Provide homework assignments and activities that are meaningful, relevant, and instructional.
5. Teach students good study habits and provide a variety of different study suggestions.
6. Have your class summarize the lesson or activity at the end of each class.
7. Provide students with feedback (about what they did right and wrong).
8. Help your students set realistic goals.
Tips for Creating a Positive Classroom Environment
1. Use humor.
2. Greet students at the doorway and in the halls.
3. Show enthusiasm and be animated.
4. Provide opportunities for every student to succeed.
5. Model good listening skills by paying attention when
6. Create anticipation for lessons or tasks.
7. If a particular student is struggling, provide the student with a classroom buddy who is mature and responsible.
8. Create classroom rituals and traditions which build a sense of community.
9. Encourage parental and community involvement.
Tips for Preventing Misbehavior
1. Establish realistic and age appropriate rules and procedures.
Center for the Advancement of Mental Health Practices in Schools
2. Have discussions with your students about the rationale and purpose of each rule. When appropriate, incorporate student opinions and thoughts into your classroom rules and procedures.
3. Walk throughout the classroom during lectures and seat work to provide assistance and monitor behavior.
4. Keep class work and assignments separate from behavior issues.
5. Carefully plan each class time and have extra plans in case you finish early.
6. Have extra activities available for students to do when they are bored or finished with all their work.
7. Establish routines for transitions (leaving the room, using the bathroom, etc.) and prepare students for transitions by warning them ahead of time.
8. Reinforce and praise appropriate behavior.
9. When deciding whether or not to intervene with a behavior, determine if the problem is solely “teacher-owned.” Does the behavior simply annoy you or is it harmful to other students?
10. Establish a program that teaches self-discipline and responsibility to students. When appropriate, give students extra duties that will help save you time and teach them responsibility.
Tips for handling student discipline situations
1. REMAIN CALM AND COMPOSED!
2. When correcting misbehavior, communicate in the most private, respectful, and positive manner.
3. Make all discipline decisions after the “heat of the moment.”
4. Use appropriate humor to de-escalate conflict situations.
5. When you feel as if you or your student is too emotional to handle a particular situation, suggest postponing the discussion until both are prepared to talk it out.
6. Instead of blaming, use I-messages to explain why the behavior was disruptive. Instead of saying “You’re disruptive” try saying “I lose my concentration when you are talking in class.” This helps to avoid an angry retaliation.
7. Use positive self-talk to reduce stress and help to remain control. Mentally say things such as “remain calm,” “I’m doing a good job at handling this situation.”
8. Attempt to de-escalate situation by providing distractions. These distractions give people the opportunity to cool off.
9. Exaggerate issues to help students put the situation in perspective.
10. Use stress management techniques such as deep breathing or repeatedly tensing and relaxing your muscles.
11. Address only student behavior rather than personal traits.
February 17, 2012
I’m reminded of author Frank Herbert’s advice, “There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story,” as I begin the third and final installment of the writing conference blog series. This won’t be the last time I address conferences, but it’s the end of the series highlighting conference challenges teachers face.
So far I’ve shared tips on how to combat the challenge of the old-fashioned English teacher mindset and what do to when you’re not exactly sure what to conference about. Let’s take a look at tips for when your class gets too loud on conference days.
Class is Disruptive During Conference Time
Solution — Re-Teach Routines & Display Guidelines
Inappropriate behavior need not interrupt conferencing time. The early WriteSteps lessons are intentionally short to allow time for establishing expectations and classroom management techniques. If you’re dealing with interruptions, noise, etc. after beginning formal conferencing, use our Self Reflection Checklist. It provides 14 tips to help teachers prepare lessons, materials, and behavioral expectations. Be consistent.
Tip: Be sure students know what to do when they finish writing. Some teachers allow students to get up and get a book; others do not want them walking around. Whatever you decide, be clear. Display your class expectations using the What to Do When I’m Done Writing poster to support good classroom management.
Tip: Be sure to teach students how to proceed when they don’t know how to spell a word. Practice “stretching out” words to hear the sounds, and reinforce using the word wall on the WriteSteps Privacy Folder. These habits will save you and your students much time! Once you’ve established them, your students will be comfortable not knowing how to spell everything right away. Spelling can be corrected in the editing stage.
Tip: Don’t stretch your class’s capacities by overdoing it. Limit yourself to 3 students during a formal conferencing period (6 if you are teaching kindergarten). Know in advance who you will be meeting with that day, and post their names on the Today I’m Having Writing Conferences With poster so students will be ready.
In conferences, we are coach and cheerleader. Our playbook includes not only lessons, but also valuable resources such as a list of the Common Cores taught so far (focus skills), record-keeping tools, and management posters. These resources, and the practices outlined above, will empower your students to play -- and write -- like stars!
After two years and hundreds of hours of interviews with teachers from public and charter schools across the nation, Katrina Fried distilled her conclusions about what she calls “heroic” teachers in a book called American Teacher: Heroes in the Classroom.
Her conclusion: Heroic teachers—that is, teachers whose students exhibit high test scores, high graduation rates, and high levels of engagement—are diverse in their teaching styles, yet they also share a common set of beliefs that other teachers don’t.
Below you’ll find five of the twelve distinguishing features of heroic teachers Fried describes in her book. If you would like to read the other seven, blogger Dana Truby has posted them here.
What distinguishes teachers from heroic teachers?
Heroic teachers follow one major rule—but they also know when to break it
Heroic teachers consistently follow one major rule: Be prepared. Yet heroic teachers are also flexible and willing to modify or even scrap plans and start from scratch. As Fried puts it, “Great teachers are human barometers—attuned to the shifting moods of their students and amorphous qualities of their surroundings.” Because of this, heroic teachers know when to throw out the rule book and follow their instinct.
Heroic teachers place essential human needs at the forefront of everything they do
Great teachers know that taking the time to foster a classroom culture that’s built on mutual respect and tolerance sets the stage for authentic learning.
Creating a vibrant classroom culture means that there must be, as one of Fried’s interviewees puts it, a “synergy in the room…a familial atmosphere” that places essential human needs at the forefront of everything students and teachers do.
Heroic teachers bring their passions into the classroom
Your passion for rock and roll, Shakespeare and post-modern art may not be a part of your curriculum, but heroic teachers find creative ways to bring their passions into the classroom, regardless of what they are.
Why? Because they know that teaching what they love has the power to influence the culture of a school. Take Daryl Bilandzija, one of the teachers Fried interviewed for her book: His commitment to environmental stewardship moved him to turn a half-acre of his school’s campus into an Edible Learning Garden, which has transformed the identity of Odyssey Charter School in Altadena, California, and “put it on the map.”
Heroic teachers never teach to the test
Teachers’ assessments may be directly tied to their students’ performance on state-issued exams, yet there is not an educator among the fifty profiled in Fried’s book who approaches his or her curriculum with the primary end goal of achieving high scores.
Heroic teachers know they can’t do it alone
The vast majority of classroom heroes profiled in Fried’s book know that mentorship and collaboration are integral parts of becoming the best teachers they can be. As one of Fried’s interviewees puts it, “Success does not occur in isolation.”
Teachers often make the mistake of thinking that they have to do it all on their own, but heroic teachers know—and are not too proud—to tap into the expertise of their colleagues and mentors.
You may not know this, but Marygrove's MAT program offers a course dedicated solely to the topic of Teacher as Everyday Hero. To learn more about our program offerings, click here.
1 semester in the books..... and hopefully many more to come to fill the rest of my pages. Throughout my first semester I had many laughs, tons of paperwork, and more than anything, an endless amount of learning experiences.
High school students, especially the juniors I taught this semester in US History were awesome. I am fortunate enough to have very good hearted students who truly care about their schooling as well as respect towards each other... and me (most of the time). I have tried my best to not take this for granted since I know how lucky I am.
The learning curve for becoming a teacher was something that I could have never imagined. I taught US History when I student taught and thought I did a great job. Looking back... not so much. It was not that I felt I did a terrible job, but it was that it was my first time teaching and I had an infinite amount to learn about becoming a truly GREAT teacher. I am sure when I look back on the materials I used this semester, I will ask myself, "what the heck was I thinking?" Each and every day in the classroom I improve and find new ways to do the endless amounts of tasks that I am asked to do in the day. The list of things I created on things to improve upon is endless and daunting (Lecturing, classroom management, assessment, organization, etc), but knowing that each and every day I am improving my teaching skills and hopefully the lives of my students makes the journey exciting and new each day.
One of the ideas that I am most proud of that I came up with were "Life Challenges." Each week I would have tear off slips by the door of instructions on how the students could earn a couple extra bonus points by doing a couple tasks. These tasks were based around something that I had learned in my life and I typically spent 5 minutes every Monday explaining why I was asking them to do the "life challenge" of the week. Typically it was things that I wish I had done or learned early in life. Whether it was writing a letter to someone theycared about to show your appreciation, to creating a bucket list to continue to add on to the rest of their life, or even looking to the future and researching a few colleges or careers that they were interested in to get the ball rolling on their future. My job is not to simply teach students about American History, but to get them ready for the next stage in their lives and to create more democratic, happy, and real-world ready citizens. Using the life challenges allowed me to learn much more about my students than I would have ever thought and I felt that they appreciated the fact that I cared about them as more than just a name in the grade book.
I hope that for as long as I am able to teach that I continue to enjoy each and every semester as much as I have enjoyed this one.
We see posts all the time that tote one device's superiority over another. Things like, "Why the _______ is the clear winner in K-12 education" or "The _____ is now in ___ percent of all classrooms in America". You know what I'm talking about. It's no secret that there's competition among companies to have their device most widely adopted. Who wouldn't want their device to be the device of choice for K-12 school districts? Do you have a favorite device nearby right now? Do I have my favorite device(s)? Sure I do. If you follow me on Twitter or heard me on the Two Guys Show or Dads in Ed recently, you know what a couple of my favorite devices are.
There's an array of reasons why a district might choose one device over another. Cost likely being the biggest factor. Sometimes it just comes down to what you can afford and what you can't. School districts have to also look at things like infrastructure, device management, tech support, etc. There's a lot to take into consideration.
However, this poses the question: do we give students a say on which device(s) they'd prefer to use? Are we actively seeking their opinion and input on which device(s) should be made available to them? Too many times this does not happen. Perhaps we are purchasing too many of one particular device and not enough of another? Do devices need to vary along a student's K-12 education years? I think they do. I raised this point during last night's #edchat. Districts and schools must be ready, willing, and able to support multiple device types; whether that be school provided or through a BYOD plan. I believe the more devices students have exposure to the better. Do they need to be using all of them all the time? Of course not. Should a district buy an exorbitant amount of devices? No. As students use different types of devices, however, they will know which is most suitable for the task at hand. This is, of course, going to happen over time. Through careful decision-making, increasing teacher comfort level, and changing pedagogy through models like SAMR (Kathy Schrock has great information here) and T-PACK (Steven Anderson put together some great information here).
Trying to find one device that will be THE device students will ever need is like saying the only tool a handyman will ever need is a screwdriver. If we want students to be creators, publishers, and global contributors we shouldn't limit them to only one platform. Something suitable for a primary grade student isn't necessarily suitable for an 8th grader. We must be ready; and okay with this.
Thanks for reading. I welcome your comments.
In part one of this blog series, I shared tips on the conference challenges of the old-fashioned English teacher mindset. Keep reading to learn about another common conferencing challenge I hear from teachers during coaching.
I Don't Know What to Conference About
Solution — Use Organizing Tools to Stay On Top of Student Progress
Keeping good notes for each student conference will help you choose teaching points wisely. WriteSteps provides a conference sheet you can staple to the inside back cover of each student's writer's notebook. This is a handy way to record the date and teaching points for each conference. Checking these dates regularly also helps you ensure that you're conferencing with each student regularly.
Also, consider what kind of conferencing you need for this lesson. WriteSteps teaches two kinds of conferencing:
Roving Conferencing is informal and very brief. After demonstrating a teaching point – say, adjectives – you circulate while students write. This is a time for looking over shoulders, making sure each child is on-task, giving some structure to one who needs help getting started, and ensuring that students have understood the task correctly.
Formal Conferencing takes longer and begins several weeks into the school year. Classroom management and expectations are already well-established (more on this below). Now you can conference formally with a handful of students individually while the rest of the class is writing independently. This is a time to individualize instruction.
You can see both kinds of conferences in this 10-minute demonstration video.
Tip: When students are very young, it’s easy to spot your teaching points by glancing at their papers. If I notice that Jeremy’s paper is covered with backwards “C”s and misspellings of the word “dog,”these are my teaching points! I simply take a few moments to set Jeremy up practicing forming C’s, and review how to “stretch out”sounds (or locate sight words on the WriteSteps privacy folder).
It is common to conference more about spelling and
conventions in kindergarten and first grade, since
younger children have more to learn in order to make their
writing readable. WriteSteps lessons support more complex,
age-appropriate skills in grades 2-5, as do
the Common Core writing standards.
Tip: Since older students write longer, more complex pieces, you’ll need time to read their work ahead of time to absorb what they’ve written and choose your teaching points.
Tip: Keep a list of the focus skills (Common Cores) you have taught the class so far. If you are working with a child who has a good grasp on the grade-level focus skills, introduce something more sophisticated: figurative language, synonyms, or word choice, for example.
Dr. Richard Curwin is one scholar we continue to return to for advice on classroom management and student engagement. He’s been teaching and publishing books on discipline, motivation and classroom management for 40 years and his book, Discipline with Dignity, has long been a staple text in the education community.
Since we find his work to be so helpful, we thought we’d share a five of his quick strategies to increase student motivation.
5 Quick Strategies to Increase Student Motivation
If you need help remembering this strategy, just remember the tag line from your favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger flick: “I’ll be back.”
When we call on students who are uninvolved or not paying attention, many of them respond with, “I don’t know.” At first we smile and do our best to engage these students, but after a while, it’s tempting to give up and call on students who are more likely to respond.
Don’t allow these students to wear you down. Instead, channel the Terminator. Here’s how your dialogue might go:
You: Joe, how do you think that chemical weapons impacted the outcome of WWI?
Joe: I don’t know.
You: That’s OK. It’s a tough question, but you deserve another chance. I’ll come back to you.
After you call on a few other students, return to Joe.
You: Joe, what do you think of Ellen’s response to the question?
Joe: Don’t care.
You: No problem, but I still think you deserve a chance to share your thoughts. I’ll be back in a minute.
Continue doing this until Joe gives an answer.
What’s the strategy? You’re letting Joe know—in a very gentle way—that no one gets off the hook; everyone is expected to participate.
All of us are vulnerable to distractions, but students with ADHD are especially susceptible to them. Some students may benefit from “screening out” visual distractions by building a carrel desk out of two manila folders stapled together to form a three-sided structure.
In order to find an outlet for their energy, some students resort to tapping on their desks with pencils, which can be extremely distracting to others. You may be able to help these students by offering them an object from your fidget bucket. This may include stress balls, stuffed animals or even random items that you have lying around the house like bottle caps, corks and magnets. Objects like this allow students to keep their hands busy, but still focus on what’s going on in the classroom.
Another good way to accommodate students who struggle to sit through an entire class is to borrow or purchase adjustable music stands. These will give students the ability to sit or stand as necessary.
Start on Time
Many teachers don’t start class on time. Some are putting final touches on the lesson, writing on the board, or simply waiting around for the rest of the students to show up after the bell rings. As Curwin suggests, “Starting class late, however, can exacerbate tardiness: the later class starts, the later students know they can be.”
Start class on time and do not wait for tardy students. Those who show up on time shouldn’t have to wait for those that don’t. As an incentive to get your students to class on time, begin your lessons with something they won’t want to miss.
Protect Against Procedural Satiation
You classroom management strategies may work for a while, but eventually most procedures satiate or stop working entirely. Standing silently in front of the classroom and waiting may work at first, but after a while, no amount of waiting will send the message. Curwin suggests developing between five and ten “get quiet” procedures and switching when one stops working.
Follow Your Own Rules
Students are bombarded by rules—and by adults who live by the “do as I say, not as I do” adage. Be the example. If you want students to turn their work in when it is due, return their work when you say you will. When you tell students to dress appropriately, do so yourself.
As Curwin suggests, “When students see teachers breaking their own rules, it sends a message that the rule is unimportant and that it is OK for them to break the rules, too.