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Posted by on in What If?


It’s hard to imagine that there’s a teacher anywhere who hasn’t heard by now that intrinsic rewards offer children more than extrinsic rewards – that, in fact, extrinsic rewards can have long-term negative consequences for kids. Still, gold stars and praise and other such rewards have a strong hold in the classroom.

Part of the reason for that, of course, is that teachers find the idea of intrinsic reward much more abstract. It’s so much easier to offer pizza or ice cream to the students who read the most books!

Another likely reason is that, even if they’re firm believers in the need for intrinsic reward, teachers often don’t know how to make the transition from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation. That’s why I invited education coach David Ginsburg, who writes and speaks on this topic, and educator and psychologist Joan Young to talk with me on Studentcentricity.

Here are some of the points made during our discussion:

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Posted by on in What If?

angry child

Let’s be truthful; teaching would be a lot easier if kids never acted out -- if they didn’t come to school with problems of their own that resulted in challenging behavior. But that’s an impossible wish; there will always be children who display challenging behavior and it’s part of a teacher’s job to know not only how to handle it but also to ensure that these children aren’t excluded from activities or from the learning.

Because that is so very much easier said than done, I invited Barbara Kaiser, co-author of Challenging Behavior in Young Children, and early childhood specialist Amanda Morgan to join me on Studentcentricity.

The discussion touched on a number of themes near and dear to my heart: the premise that we should be preparing schools for kids and not the other way around; the premise that all children are not the same and we need to respect their differences; the need to teach about and respect personal space; and cooperation vs. competition! Also covered was the need to create a caring, compassionate classroom environment that prepares all children to become successful members of society – a caring, compassionate society!

That, I believe, is one of the greatest purposes of early education.

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multicultural classroom2

Gone are the days when all of the children in a classroom are speaking the same language. Nowadays it’s not unusual to have several different languages spoken among your students – and that of course presents a number of challenges. Among them are forming relationships with these special students, making them feel welcomed into the classroom, and helping them form relationships with other students. But beyond those issues is the teachers’ very real challenge of helping dual-language learners succeed academically.

To learn more about this process, I invited experts Jennifer Chen and Karen Nemeth to Studentcentricity.

Connecting Right from the Start WEBFollowing our conversation, which included much helpful advice, Jennifer offered the following strategies for helping dual-language learners (DLL) acquire academic language proficiency:

Teacher modeling.  This is one of the most effective ways to enhance student learning.  The teacher can model academic language use, like how to articulate one’s viewpoint.  For instance, the teacher can model saying, “I agree with the main character in the story ...” 

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Posted by on in What If?

engaged students

I don’t have to point out that today’s teachers are frustrated – that they’re too often forced to teach content, and in ways, that’s not at all helpful to kids and their future. As they prep students to meet standards and pass an endless number of tests, teachers frequently lament the fact that there’s no time to get the “good stuff” into the curriculum.

Well, teacher Justin Minkel asserts that it’s not an either/or scenario between passing on the basic skills meant to be tested and the important things – like higher-order thinking, creativity, design skills, and inquiry. The latter, he says, don’t have to be an “extracurricular bonus.”

To explore this further, I invited Justin, along with educator Jason Flom, who told me he loves this topic, to join me for an episode of Studentcentricity.

During our discussion Justin talked about some of the projects that allow him to weave basic skills and the important stuff together. But he added that projects aren’t always the vehicle. Afterward, he sent me the following:

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shy student

I hate to admit that, in 36 years as an educational consultant and nine as a radio host responsible for finding topics to explore, I hadn’t given shy children any thought – until I came across a book called Quiet at School: An Educator’s Guide to Shy Children. That’s when it occurred to me that not only do shy children have unique challenges in classrooms; also, those challenges are mostly known only to the children themselves.

And that, of course, is the crux of the matter. If the squeaky wheel gets the grease, the kids with “louder,” more disruptive issues are going to get the teacher’s attention. In the meantime, shy children sit silently struggling.

With that in mind, I invited Quiet at School co-author Robert Coplan to talk with me on Studentcentricity. Educator Melanie Taylor joined us.

We talked about the most common indicators of shyness in children, and how they might look different from early childhood to adolescence. And I asked Rob about the teacher’s natural inclination to encourage children to speak up more and raise their hands to answer questions. Is that actually the way to help shy children succeed in school?

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