EDWORDS: Latest Blog Posts

  • Does Play Matter?

    What if your children are malnourished and small for their age? What if you live in a developing country where most children are living in extreme poverty? You would feel defeated; it would be hard for you to see a way out for your children. You would worry that they would duplicate your fate instead of exceeding your meager circumstances. What if we told you that the answer to helping your kids thrive was to play with them? What if we told you that if you just played with them and talked to the ...

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    by Dr. Roberta Golinkoff
    Monday, 06 July 2015
  • Habit #1: Always Start with "WHY?" #tech

    Last week I came up with a call to action for myself "changing teaching habits".  Then I thought that someone else might be interested in joining , so I called it Teachers Changing Habits Together (#tcht). The idea came to me while reading  a  book called "The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg. In essence, the book, based on extensive and fascinating research, explained how the actions we perform over and over again become habits. Once habits, they are done automatically ...

    by Tsisana Palmer
    Saturday, 04 July 2015
  • What Did You Expect?

    Recently I spent a week of mornings with a group of four-year-olds. Each morning we played and learned together. Toward the end of the week, a boy (whom I had not met previously) came over to me. "Mr. Scott," he said, "You are the best Mr. Scott ever." That statement has stuck with me since, echoing in that four-year-old voice inside my head.  Too often, I get caught up in being a teacher in the mold of someone else. I don't decorate my room like _____ or manage my class like _____ or han ...

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    by R Scott Wiley
    Thursday, 02 July 2015
  • Can you dance? What must all teachers be able to do?

    I'm not a good dancer.  I'm not sure why really, I guess I'm just self-conscious about the way I look when I  dance. I shouldn't be this way because I believe in a growth mindset.  I shouldn't worry about making mistakes or worry about the way I look. That was the subject of a previous blog post.  OK, I promise to work on this.  But, you know who CAN dance? Every actor and actress ever…  I have certain peculiar niche interests.  Just ask my wife (@dmgately) ...

    by Donald Gately
    Thursday, 02 July 2015
  • Fun+Free+Nonfiction...What's Not to Love?

    During a field trip several years ago, I watched my students pile off the bus at a rest area. Instead of heading to the snack machines as I expected, however, they stood around a brochure display stand, trading travel pamphlets and discussing tourist attractions with enthusiasm. Intrigued, I began to gather brochures for my classroom. In no time, I had amassed a collection that students were reading with enthusiasm in their spare time. They traded stories about trips they had taken in the ...

    by Julia G. Thompson
    Thursday, 02 July 2015
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Posted by on in What If?

What if your children are malnourished and small for their age? What if you live in a developing country where most children are living in extreme poverty? You would feel defeated; it would be hard for you to see a way out for your children. You would worry that they would duplicate your fate instead of exceeding your meager circumstances. What if we told you that the answer to helping your kids thrive was to play with them? What if we told you that if you just played with them and talked to them about everyday household objects -- nothing fancy, no spinning and blinking electronic toys -- your child would succeed despite the odds? A paper published in Science magazine by a group of economists and psychologists, and then discussed on NPR provide the story of this amazing project.

Set in Jamaica, health care workers went to children's homes and showed moms how to play with their kids. "See this cup? It can do so many things! You can drink your porridge from it. You can turn it upside down and put something on it. And you can pretend that it is a telephone. Hello grandma!" Sound familiar? This is the kind of thing many families do all the time. Up until the digital era (but that is for another blog!), parents would be having such conversations with their kids often. But when we are surrounded by such conversations, they seem like "no big deal," and we don't think much about them.

Scientists like us have been doing the research to show that kids' play with parents is crucial for their development. While there are gobs of data to support this point, the studies conducted in the United States were always with populations where it was a matter of degree. Many families play with their kids.

In Jamaica in 1986-1987 when the study was first conducted, infants and toddlers were observed doing very little -- families couldn't afford toys and people didn't appreciate the importance of talking to their kids. Because food was a resource in short supply, these children were growth-stunted and behind in brain development. After two years of visits by home health care workers, these children were followed over 20 years. All the home health workers did was to work with mothers showing them how to interact with their kids during a one-hour play session.

Children in the play group did better than the kids in the control group who were just given more food but no play instruction. Children in the play group had higher IQs, better self-control, and lower aggression. They were already earning 25 percent more than the kids in the food group and that number was destined to grow. And best of all, children in the play group now looked indistinguishable from children in a non-stunted control group that received no play sessions.

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

Last week I came up with a call to action for myself "changing teaching habits".  Then I thought that someone else might be interested in joining , so I called it Teachers Changing Habits Together (#tcht). The idea came to me while reading  a  book called "The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg. In essence, the book, based on extensive and fascinating research, explained how the actions we perform over and over again become habits. Once habits, they are done automatically, without  that  element of consciousness.  Another key point was that individuals are not the only ones who act based on a set of habits; institutions and organizations develop and operate on habits, too. Lastly, when individuals or organizations want to change or improve their performance, they need to look for one keystone habit;  once that habit is consciously modified or replaced, a whole set of other habits , and  therefore actions, change, too (for example, a new habit of  starting to exercise often changes eating and sleeping habits ). All that made me want to reflect on the habits I have developed as a teacher. I also wanted to critically look and identify the habits that should be modified or changed all together to make me a better educator. I am excited to be starting this journey, and here is my first new habit: 

Habit #1: Always Start with a "WHY?"

While asking "WHY?" may sound like a common sense question (after all,  why to do anything for no obvious reason, right?) we, humans, often do things we promise not to,  such as smoking, checking social media, eating ice-cream, etc. It's easy to fall into a habit, and teaching is not an exception. Maybe we have always done it this way, or maybe this is the only app we know how to use, or because everyone else is using it, or because this is in the book...

I admit, I have taught lessons guided by a textbook. Had I asked myself "Why am I going to teach this?", I would have never used those materials, because the answer would have clearly been "because it's in the textbook". Some units or chapters offer little value or relevancy, yet I feel I have to use them to simply justify their existence.

Here is one example of a lesson without a clear WHY.  Last week we had a unit about schools around the world. It sounded like an interesting topic, so I decided to use it. We did different activities, talked about different countries, and then got to the reading. The reading discussed schools in the U.S., Kenya, and France. Sounds exciting, right? Except for the fact that the only details my students learned from the text were at what time students start school in those countries, how many breaks they have between classes, and how long those breaks are. The most important details in each paragraph was that each school starts at 8 or 9, lessons last 45 or 60 min, and the school year lasts 270 days. As the students were reading the text, questions were popping up in my head: How is this interesting? How is this meaningful? Are these the only details my students can learn about schools in different countries? Why on earth am I using this unit? Yes, my students are beginners of English, and they don't have much vocabulary, but they are college level, and they can process information which is more meaningful, more useful, more relevant!

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

Recently I spent a week of mornings with a group of four-year-olds. Each morning we played and learned together. Toward the end of the week, a boy (whom I had not met previously) came over to me. "Mr. Scott," he said, "You are the best Mr. Scott ever."

That statement has stuck with me since, echoing in that four-year-old voice inside my head. 

Too often, I get caught up in being a teacher in the mold of someone else. I don't decorate my room like _____ or manage my class like _____ or handle things like _____. Do you do this?

But my four-year-old friend reminds me that I need to be the best Mr. Scott, the best teacher that I am. Not like anyone else. I need to keep my expectations on level with my philosophy, my personality, and my priorities. 

Sometimes I do the same with preschoolers. I expect them all to act the same way or do the same things. And they don't.

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

I'm not a good dancer. 

I'm not sure why really, I guess I'm just self-conscious about the way I look when I  dance. I shouldn't be this way because I believe in a growth mindset.  I shouldn't worry about making mistakes or worry about the way I look. That was the subject of a previous blog post.  OK, I promise to work on this. 

But, you know who CAN dance? Every actor and actress ever… 

I have certain peculiar niche interests.  Just ask my wife (@dmgately) who tolerates these unique fascinations but loves me anyway… One of my niche interests --  the fact that all performers are great dancers also. 

I heard an interview with Christopher Walken where he said that when he was young he took dance lessons because to be successful in the acting business, you have to be able to dance.  And you’ve seen Walken dance in many of his films and on TV also. He’s an amazing dancer.

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Posted by on in What If?

During a field trip several years ago, I watched my students pile off the bus at a rest area. Instead of heading to the snack machines as I expected, however, they stood around a brochure display stand, trading travel pamphlets and discussing tourist attractions with enthusiasm.

Intrigued, I began to gather brochures for my classroom. In no time, I had amassed a collection that students were reading with enthusiasm in their spare time. They traded stories about trips they had taken in the past and decided where they would like to go in the future. They discussed shopping at outlet malls in other states, dreamed about visiting the beach, and learned all sorts of offbeat tourist trivia. The pamphlets were doing exactly what they were designed for — stimulating curiosity and sparking imagination.

Over time, I have developed an even greater appreciation for these throwaway tourist leaflets. In addition to being easy to find, they are free. It is possible to pick up a class set with very little effort. They are not only brief, but also written to appeal to a wide range of readers with a wide range of reading experience and ability.

Best of all, I’ve discovered that travel brochures lend themselves to many different learning
activities. And although my collection of travel brochures is still one of the ways I make my
classroom as rich in a variety of printed materials as possible, I also now use them to help my
students develop critical reading skills.

I begin this process by obtaining class sets of brochures about a specific place or
attraction. I prefer to use ones that are about a place that appeals to most students because they will read carefully if they are learning about a place they would like to visit. Pamphlets about Disney World and cities such as Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and New York are attention-grabbers. Weird attractions such as alligator farms and anything to do with dinosaurs are also popular. So are theme parks, harbor cruises, petting zoos, and national parks.

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