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Posted by on in General

As you read this you probably have a lot of ideas floating through your head about the amazing learning activities you’re going to experience with your students. Whether it is an idea you read about in an article, something a colleague of yours has tried, or an awesome PD session you’ve attended, it’s time to put those concepts into action! Regardless of how far into, or away from, the start of the year you are, I’d like to share 7 simple ways that you can start increasing student success in your classroom today! 

1. Set Systems and Routines:

I don’t want to beat a dead horse here ,or echo the wisdom of Wong and Wong, but the key to any successful instructional environment is systems and routines. Students will do better in an environment that is safe, predictable, and positive in nature. I would also argue, based on experience and observations, that it is a foundation of systems and routines that can allow for greater student freedom in the classroom. By providing this type of environment you will allow your students to thrive! 

2. Let Students Set The Pace:

If you did an evaluation of the most common reasons why management issues occur, or what causes student frustration to increase, or if you reviewed the most common interventions for special needs students, pace would be at the core of it all.

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Posted by on in General

There is a question that I’m getting more and more at workshops and trainings and that is "how do I motivate my students to work?" I hate to break it to you, but there is no “magic bullet” solution to this. Every student is going to have their own solution to getting motivated.

However, there are some things you can ask yourself when a student feels “unmotivated” or is unwilling to put forth the effort to learn that you think they are capable of. Instead of assuming “they just won’t work”, ask yourself these questions: 

Question 1: Are They Engaged?

Engagement is one of the most powerful motivators when it comes to your students. Are the learning opportunities you're providing worthwhile to your students? Do they peak their interest? Are they varied enough to keep them interested?

This is probably one of the most common things I see when motivation declines in learners. Either the tasks are repetitive and monotonous (example: constant textbook work), or they are “worksheet” driven and don’t allow students to interact with the world around them.

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Posted by on in General

Personalized Learning is possible.

As you continue reading more research and hearing about the amazing things going on in education, I would bet you’re starting to see a lot of stories and info on personalized learning. The basic philosophy is pretty simple; give students what they need, when they need it, and allow them to explore curriculum in ways that personally interest and engage them.

This idea and philosophy is simple in concept, but it can become complex when introduced to the wide variety of students in your classroom.  So before you dive in, here are 3 things that should already be in place at your school, or in your classroom, to set you up for success with personalized learning!

1. Self-Paced / Mastery Learning:

I know it sounds like “another thing” at first thought, but trust me, if you build the foundations of mastery and self-paced learning in your classroom, personalization becomes a much more natural progression. More importantly, by implementing these methods you can use “time” as the first degree of intervention that all students receive. By allowing students to master content at their own pace and show mastery with multiple attempts, implementing personalized learning by adjusting to student needs and interests will be much easier.

2. Systems and Routines:

This gets said a lot, but it doesn’t ever seem to lose its importance. Creating a safe, productive learning environment is dependent on systems and routines in your classroom. In fact, I often tell teachers that it is the structure, systems, and routines that allow for the freedom and true student-centered instruction to occur. Otherwise, any student-centered initiative like personalized learning (and many others) would turn into chaos very quickly. So, as you begin to think about personalizing the learning in your classroom, start thinking about things you absolutely need to control to let that happen. This way, you can take full advantage of the benefits personalization has to offer for your learners!

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Posted by on in General

Superhero girl

Are you focusing on small classroom victories?

Teaching can be exhausting, and it can seem like a futile endeavor at times. The amount of work that goes into a single day or unit of instruction is tremendous, without a necessary guarantee of student success. So when a unit is finished, or a hard day is done, it's easy to look at your results or the big picture of student data and get discouraged if things didn't go well.

I recently had a great conversation with a teacher at a school who is implementing our Mastery Learning System and she said that since switching to mastery learning she is still exhausted at the end of the day (as every teacher is) but now it's a "good exhausted" because she knows how much of an impact she is having and see's the small victories and growth each student has in her classroom each day.

It is this mindset and shift in focus, from the big picture to the small success stories, that can help you stay motivated and focused through even the most difficult stretches of the school year. This can be harder than it seems, but it can be done and can help you change the way you look at the impact you are having.

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Posted by on in Classroom Management

As I was watching my favorite hockey team the other day, I noticed something that struck me during one of the brawls that (for whatever reason) still occur in the almost every game. I was amazed as the guy wearing the black and white striped shirt held two huge athletes at bay and got them to stop fighting without even being phased. He calmly talked to both players, they released their stranglehold on one another, and the game continued (after penalty minutes were distributed, of course). I immediately thought about so many issues that I've seen with classroom management, and how this guy might have the solution.

I know what you're thinking: "what does this have to do with me, my students, or my classroom?" 

Let me explain. The ref was able to calm down two extremely angry players, and continue the purpose of the event because he didn't get emotionally charged, maintained his expectations, and focused on getting the game going again. This is exactly how we as teachers need to address disruptions and management issues in our classrooms.

Before I get to far, I want to point out that there are systems, routines, procedures, and a myriad of other pieces that go into good management, such as building relationships. For right now though, I'd like to keep talk about re-focusing students and reducing the stress level of a situation that has gotten 'out of hand'.

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