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Jeffrey Pflaum @jeffrey_pflaum

Jeffrey Pflaum @jeffrey_pflaum

Jeffrey Pflaum has been an inner-city elementary school teacher in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York, for thirty-four years (NYCDOE, retired in 2002). He worked as a creative writing, whole language, social studies, gifted/talented, physical education, and mentor teacher in grades K – 6 and special education. Pflaum coached middle school boys and girls basketball teams and one of his players became coach of the Pace University team. Tennis was also taught on the elementary school level to lower grade kids as part of the NY Junior Tennis League Program founded by Arthur Ashe.

Pflaum considers himself a teacher-developer-researcher experimentalist who created successful education projects in emotional intelligence, social and emotional learning, reading, writing, poetry, thinking, creativity, vocabulary expansion, concentration, and intra- and interpersonal communication skills. He has written articles for professional newspapers and publications about his curricula. Various programs appeared on web sites such as ERIC and CASEL/Collaborative for Academic and Social and Emotional Learning (“Experiences, Reflections, and Insights”).

One program was featured at the International National Council of Teachers of English at NYU as one of the best examples of English Language Arts in the NYC Public Schools, K – 12. His students’ poetry and prose have been published in college, writers’, gifted secondary, and children’s literary journals, magazines, newspapers, and by major commercial book publishers; read on public radio (Poetry-In-The-Morning, WNYE-FM, sponsored by the Teachers & Writers Collaborative/NYC); and, won honors and awards from PBS, Channel Thirteen/NYC. One student, Noel “Speedy” Mercado, became a top NYC disc jockey on WKTU-FM.

Pflaum published an inspirational book about adolescent reading lives titled MOTIVATING TEEN AND PRETEEN READERS: HOW TEACHERS AND PARENTS CAN LEAD THE WAY (Rowman & Littlefield Education). For book reviews, go to http://www.examiner.com/review/motivating-your-kids-to-read to see Kecia Burcham's response to the book, and also, The Teachers College Record for Karen Polk's insightful article. For Karen Polk's review (8/24/12), from the Teachers College Record, google "MOTIVATING TEEN AND PRETEEN READERS - Teachers College Record."

Go to www.JeffreyPflaum.com for more articles on "Contemplation Writing," Meditative Writing Ideas, Internet radio interviews, published student poetry, and newspaper articles about his book on motivating adolescent readers and Inner Cities Arts Project. His recent interviews on Contemplation Writing can be found at these "Pure Imagination" links: http://prn.fm/2012/07/14/pure-imagination-071312 and Pure Imagination - 07/13/12 | Progressive Radio Network. A second interview on "Connect With Julianna" (Toginet Radio Network) about "Contemplation" or "Music" Writing can be found at these links: http://bit.ly/iTFbk7 and http://bit.ly/t5FA0W; or, Connect with Creative Educator and Author, Jeffrey Pflaum.

Pflaum is currently a regular blogger on The BAM Radio Network's blog, ED Words, where posts about a plethora of his projects can be found at: www.bamradionetwork.com/edwords-blog/blogger/listings/jeffpaul. Also, he is a contributing writer for EDUCATION VIEWS at: www.educatnviews.org/author/jeffreypflaum/

Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

Certainly this is the new age of photography. And I always thought the 70’s were the real photography revolution with your Nikons, Canons, and, of course, Paul Simon’s song,  “Kodachrome.” Find it with lyrics at https://youtu.be/N4ltLp30KVs before reading any further.

I remember buying Kodachrome slide film and shooting, sparingly, because processing was expensive. Not so today because you can take hundreds of digital images with smart phones, DSLRs, view them on your computer screen, and share the images with the world. I know I do, all the time. What a difference a revolution makes! And don’t forget those “Selfies” we take ad infinitum…

But in my classrooms I would like to take another approach, a creative, contemplative technique and skill you can teach children from grades 4 on up. This requires an imagination and openness. What I’m offering is something kids would appreciate and understand. They haven’t lost their creativity yet, at least on elementary and middle school levels, despite what Common Core throws at them. And as a veteran classroom teacher I’m always looking for ways to improve and expand kids’ concentration. The upcoming lesson is an experiment to enhance students’ ability to focus, concentrate, contemplate, and to be there while navigating the world around them. 

So what is this imaginary concept I would like to teach students? “Your eyes are like cameras that take pictures when open.” Huh? What do I mean? Just what the statement says: Introduce and motivate the idea by saying to the class:

“Imagine your real eyes are like cameras taking pictures of what you see. You record and store those images in your mind. Then, you will use your inner eye to re-view the ‘photographs’ you took on the outside. You go from snapping pictures of what you see in front of you with your real eyes to seeing them again inside your mind with the inner eye. Maybe this sounds a little complicated, so let me take you through the process step-by-step”:

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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

Try this 20-minute exercise, you might like it, and so will your kids. It's not a trip into deep meditation, but a simple activity for clearing your head--and your students'--and then pumping it up in the classroom. And nowadays we all want something that helps inspire us. And, it's all inside you, not so deep, and it's waiting for you to amp it up, to create an open mind, and trigger a calming energy that can make everyone's day.

To start, check out different meditations--M #1--listed at: http://franticworld.com/free-meditations-from-mindfulnessTry the "Mindfulness Meditation of the Body and Breath" or the "Three Minute Breathing Space" with your class because they slow down breathing. Following the guide's directions allows students--and teachers--to land in a better place, feeling good, relaxed, yet out there and recharged.

Next there's M#2: a jolt of music follows the meditation. Included below are possible choices of retro and more recent up-toned songs. Pick your students' favorite music. Keep it lively, rhythmical, up-tempo and similar to these YouTube songs:


First, meditate, second, listen to music, and if there's extra time, discuss with kids what they experienced internally. Ask them to recall as much as they can to capture events highlighted in their mind and imagination. Allow them to reflect on where  they've been and how they're feeling by questioning themselves: "What am I thinking and feeling? How can I use this awareness and inner-sight throughout the school day?" Talking it out--communicating--helps drive home the experience in their head, heart, and spirit, and they will "come to," to this moment, ready to motivate--M#3--themselves and each other.

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Posted by on in Education Resources

Why bother teaching penmanship when you have all the pressures of that alien organization, CC, hovering over your head? Teachers and parents alike shouldn't turn away from this skill. Why? Cursive writing is not just about learning how to write "the letters," in fact, it's a lot more.

In NYC public schools penmanship became a forgotten art when newspapers began publishing reading test scores according to districts and principals felt pressured to "scoring high," and that stress, of course, fell on teachers and students. Then you had NCLB and CC: bye, bye penmanship...

Before education changed, I began each day with a brief 20-minute lesson: from Monday to Thursday I taught smalls and caps, one new letter daily, and on Fridays I had, believe it or not, a penmanship "test." And kids loved it because it gave them a chance to see if they improved and mastered their handwriting by week's end. Children crafted letters during the week and took pride in the results staring at them. The "test" was more of a fun exam compared to standardized tests.

Cursive writing is a self-motivating  activity similar to sports learning where students can "see" improvement. If the handwriting doesn't look "good," they are intrinsically motivated to "correct" or "perfect" it. To further inspire my classes, I would say, "Penmanship is art." But they didn't look at it this way, it was more like drill work to keep them busy, so this creative idea presented a new perspective to cursive writing.

In a typical lesson, I modeled the "letter of the day," e.g., the small/big "a" on the board, and asked kids to come up and do the same for their classmates. This was enjoyable and appealing as others watched their friends drawing the letters. Collaboratively, we critiqued the drawings in a light-hearted way. When the demo ended students routinely practiced writing the letters of the day followed by words and sentences with the same letters in them.

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Posted by on in Professional Development

"Teaching is a Creative Art: Call It Human Rocket Science" --Jeffrey Pflaum

I'm not their mother, father, guidance counselor, social worker, or therapist. I'm a teacher. I teach: that's what I do. You hear that from educators, now even more so with CCSS, multiple standardized tests, and all sorts of assessments looming over their heads. You can't blame teachers for wanting to avoid nurturing students because they have enough on their hands.

But then I read an article in The Washington Post (5/19/15), "Poverty, family stress are thwarting student success, top teachers say," by Lyndsey Layton. The title says it all: obstacles to doing well in school are not always about classroom life. It's anxiety related to home, economics, which, in turn, can create learning issues and psychological problems. Surprise! Surprise!

There are missing pieces in teacher training programs. I believe schools of education are getting the message. Just as we talk about educating the "whole child," we need to do the same for our future teachers, neophytes first entering the profession, and veterans alike: educate the "whole teacher."

I had little education background in 1968 when I began teaching in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, NY, except for the Intensive Teacher Training program. I walked into the classroom knowing nothing about how and what to teach, but was rescued by talented teachers who taught school workshops in reading, math, social studies, and language arts, while also depending greatly on teacher guides.

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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

Kids look into the mind’s mirror, see themselves (maybe for the first time), and write about what they find.  How scary is that?  This is “Reflections,” an application of “Music Writing,” which introduced adolescents to the wild world of inner experience via music, and how the mind’s eye, like a giant spotlight, illuminates events as mental image pictures to contemplate.  Contemplation helped kids to examine their inner and outer worlds and gave them organic and real reasons for writing, motivating them from the inside to express their everyday experiences.  

I created Reflections because student contemplations in Music Writing described painful events present in their minds: divorce, death, illness, failures, and negativity.  After practicing Music Writing for two months (see http://www.edutopia.org/blog/music-writing-trigger-creativity-jeffrey-pflaum), I began Reflections, whose aims were to:

  • Locate a past experience and describe it in 100 words or more.
  • Use visualization, reflection, and contemplation to find and re-create the experience.
  • Improve self-awareness, -knowledge, -understanding, -esteem, and -expression.
  • Use discussion to reinforce all the above objectives.


I defined “reflection” by drawing a stick figure looking into a mirror, and said: ”When you see a reflection of yourself in a mirror, you’re looking at yourself.”  I sketched a diagram of the inner eye looking at experiences-as-mind-pictures.  I drew the eye looking at images in a mirror inside the stick figure’s head.  I explained: “You see your self, your experiences, in an imaginary mirror.  Observe your reflection inside the mind.  Use your inner eye to find, visualize, reflect on, and contemplate a past experience.  Then, write about it.”  

Practice oral reflection lesson: 

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