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Posted by on in Studentcentricity

TeasingTattlingMost kids are naturally chatty. Humans, after all, are social beings. But when you’re doing your best to engage a class and hear the unmistakable sound of kids talking when they’re supposed to be listening – or when the kids are supposed to be working on a project but are talking about everything but the project – it can be more than a little frustrating.

I wondered if there were student-centric strategies for dealing with a chatty class, so I asked Julia Thompson and Kristen Vincent to join me on a Responsive Classroom-sponsored episode of Studentcentricity to answer that question. They did so admirably. You can listen to the conversation by clicking here.

Below are some additional thoughts from them. Julia offers these tips for turning this challenge into a positive class attribute:

Be very clear with your students when you discuss this issue. They should know when it is acceptable for them to talk and when they should be working silently or listening carefully. Setting clear limits and communicating those limits reduce your students’ tendencies to test the boundaries of your tolerance.

Be aware that sometimes you may be the cause of the problem. Once your students are settled and working, be careful not to keep talking to the whole class. Work with individuals at that point instead of distracting the entire group.

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Posted by on in Studentcentricity

MathematizingMany years ago I was at an event held at a university and, as I’m prone to do, I was listening in on conversations around me. (You can learn so much that way!) In one conversation I overheard a math professor from the university ask a preschool teacher if she “did math” with four-year-olds. The teacher’s response was, “No.”

I almost fell on the floor. And if I hadn’t in fact been eavesdropping, I would have added my two cents to the conversation!

No math with four-year-olds? If that classroom had blocks or manipulatives of any kind and the children were sorting and stacking them, they were doing math. If they were doing any cooking and baking – and therefore measuring – they were doing math. If they were reading, “Three little kittens lost their mittens,” they were “doing” math. And, certainly, every time one of the children talked about who was the tallest, or had the highest tower, or how many puppies their doggie birthed, there was most definitely math involved.

The problem, I realized later, was that the preschool teacher involved was clearly looking at math in an “adult” way. No, the children certainly were not engaged in trigonometry or calculus, or in balancing a checkbook or working out a budget (the kinds of things that spring to mind when the typical adult thinks of math). But they were engaged – every single day – in math the “children’s” way. Which is to say through exploration and investigation, problem solving, and discovery.

I’ve often said in the past that where there are children there is music. But it’s become clear to me that it’s equally true to say that where there are children there is math.

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Posted by on in Studentcentricity

Reaching And Teaching Children Exposed to Trauma 2“Easily one of the saddest circumstances that educators deal with is helping students who have or are dealing with trauma.”

 These are the words of Ben Gilpin, an elementary school principal who recently guested on an episode of Studentcentricity about connecting with and guiding the behavior of children exposed to trauma.

 Ben’s right of course. But sadness may not be the only emotion that educators experience. Because we don’t always see the trauma – because it isn’t necessarily in plain sight -- what we may only see are children who are challenging us. Children whose behavior is not in accord with our plan to help them learn. Our feelings then may be more along the lines of frustration and exhaustion, which can lead to expectations – such as the expectation that the behavior of these particular children will continue to challenge us – that perpetuate the problem.

Ben reminds us that “in recent years the number of incidents appears to be on the rise” and that “as educators we need to exercise patience and understanding with ALL of our students.”  

He says:

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Posted by on in Studentcentricity

reading joyIn the early childhood world there has been a lot of talk and concern expressed about the “pushdown” of academics into kindergarten and even preschool. And the Common Core kindergarten reading requirements have sparked outrage – particularly the standard stating that every child should be able to read by the end of kindergarten.

Standards such as these make it clear that the people devising them do not understand child development. Moreover, such standards, to my way of thinking, provide the best route to a resentment of reading. Ask children to do something before they’re ready and the end result will not be a love of the activity forced on them.

Nancy Bailey, an educator who left teaching because of the current “reforms,” stated it beautifully when she wrote:

While kindergarten is now the new 1stgrade, in 10 more years will kindergarten be the next 2nd or 3rd grade? When will the current reformers be satisfied? When will they quit demeaning children and making them jump through inappropriate developmental hoops?

Enough is enough! Let children be children. Let them be their age. Bring back the joy of learning to read.

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Posted by on in Studentcentricity

First 6 Weeks of School

The school year is underway. The getting-to-know-you period has ended and things are beginning to settle down. But now is also the time when some negative behaviors can begin to show themselves. The kids, more comfortable with one another, begin socializing at inappropriate times. Others are already starting to zone out. Even work avoidance rears its ugly head, with kids asking to go to the bathroom or for a drink of water.

How do you ensure that these behaviors don’t escalate? How do you nip them in the bud before they become a bigger problem?

These are the questions I asked Kristen Vincent, Jessica Minahan, and Melanie Link Taylor in a discussion, sponsored by Responsive Classroom, for Studentcentricity. Following the discussion, Kristen had this to say:

As classroom teachers, we need to be ready to redirect students in the moment for any behavior that is off-track. When we step in and respond immediately to misbehavior, we convey that any act of unkindness, disrespect or other rule-breaking behavior is unacceptable in our classroom community. Ignoring even small misbehavior can erode our efforts to create a safe, caring learning environment.

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