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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

5StepsToBetterMemoryAndUnderstanding.jpg

Practice makes permanent. This is what we've become conditioned to say in recent years. It's a true statement no doubt, but what kind of practice are we talking about? And, how do we teach our students to practice to attain better memory, understanding, and ultimately deeper learning?

Here's the method I use:

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1. Get Good Sleep

The brain uses a lot of energy, which produces a lot of waste products. This waste is made up of toxins that can destroy brain cells unless they are removed. The buildup of toxins makes it hard to focus. The toxins are flushed out during sleep when the brain relaxes. If you don't sleep enough, toxins build up. A tired brain and a toxic brain doesn’t work very well, so learning is harder.

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

 koosh ball

Koosh balls are used for a variety of reasons in the classroom. One of my favorite activities in the first few weeks of school is a Koosh ball toss.  This activity serves two purposes:  1.  Build community in the classroom, and 2.  Establish classroom routines.   

In order to help teach classroom routines, the teacher spends some time instructing students what to do when furniture needs to be moved, or when students are simply about to participate in a movement activity. Taking time to be explicit in movement expectations pays off in the long run and helps establish effective classroom management practices.

When I start this activity, I tell students that when they participate in a movement activity, no talking is permitted.  We practice standing up, pushing chairs in, and standing behind our desks. Even though it may seem elementary, I actually have students practice this a couple of times.  I make a game out of it by timing them to see how quickly (and quietly) they can do so.  Next, I divide the students into groups so they know where to put desks and chairs around the room to create space for the activity.  I model how to pick up and set down desks and chairs quietly.  We practice this a couple of times (again timed to see how quickly and quietly they can do so). After moving the furniture, I indicate where students should stand to receive the next set of directions. Depending on the length of the class period, this type of routine modeling could take a majority of one 50 minute class period.

To actually begin the ball toss activity, the class is divided into two or three groups.  A leader is chosen for each group. The leader tosses the ball to another person in the circle (not to his or her immediate right or left). That person tosses the ball to another person and so on until every person has received the ball one time.  The ball is then tossed back to the leader.  If at any time the ball is dropped, the progress starts from the beginning.  The idea is to pass the ball around the circle without dropping the ball.  The passing order does not change.  Once the group has successfully completed a round, the group is timed.  Each group is timed to determine which group is able to pass the ball (without dropping it) the fastest. The competition can go on as long as the teacher wishes to do so.  There are also variations:    1.  Students could state the name of the person they are passing the ball two.  2.  A second or third ball can be added so greater concentration is needed as more balls are being passed.  3.  After the small group toss, students can participate in a large group toss.    

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies
 

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Photo by Erik Lucatero on Unsplash

Let's be honest. High school, middle school, elementary; most students don't know how to learn effectively. It's because they are rarely taught about their brain. They know it's there. They use it. And yet... They don't know how to guide it. Few consider how to leverage their brain to become awesome learners.

Even if we teach them how to, I don't think we do it enough. We might introduce this or that strategy and then expect students to do it every time. The truth is that in most cases they won't. Or, they might use it in the classroom while we watch, but not at all when learning on their own.

It's not because the strategy is no good. Typically, the opposite is true: the strategy kicks ass and is a game changer. So what gives?

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

Happy Friday!

Or Saturday, depending on when you read this.

As school draws closer (or maybe already back to the grind?), teachers and administrators experience a renewed sense of purpose. We reflect on how to start the year off right and how we can do things better.

I have an ironic, but very true answer for doing things better. It involves making mistakes. Lots of mistakes!

I took a screenshot of something I found on Pinterest a while ago and decided to make it into a poster you, I, and the rest of the Universe can print and use in their classroom, office, or spaceship.

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

Without a doubt the first few days of school are the most critical ones in helping to create the foundation of good human relationships with your students. Even the most skilled teacher in the pedagogical sciences of education will be less than effective if the kids don't "like" them, yes, I said, "like them". Now I am not talking about making lots of young friends but I am talking about creating a relationship with your students that is built on mutual respect and a kinship, a kinship that forms your stove of learning. So here are six tips, teachertips, to build a strong, effective stove of learning for your classroom. 

1. Please don't go over the syllabus on day one. I know, it's expected, and that is exactly the reason I strongly advise against doing it. Your first impression, is just that, your first and only first impression, you get no do-overs, so make it magnificent. I am not here to tell you what to do on day one, you can go google that, but if you see your first day as the first blind date into a forced marriage, it takes on a more powerful significance. I used to start a video project on day one, a DV quilt, where all the students were responsible for coming up with a finish to the sentence, "America is __________" and one visual. We then patched them together for a class film that we could analyze and use to springboard ourselves into a discussion of the nation. It wasn't the tech or the fancy final product that made them want to come back for more, it was the engagement. So ENGAGE them, make them want to be in the forced marriage, otherwise you may be on the road to a difficult and long, painful divorce. If you are interested in developing your own DV quilt, check out the tutorial below to start marinating. 

 

2. Use the magic word. What is the magic word? It's their name of course! I understand it's a difficult task, especially if you teach secondary, there literally could be 150 names or more. But the point is not to memorize all of their names quickly, it's to convey the message to your kids, that their name is important, it's important to you. Make it a point in the beginning of the year that you are on a mission to learn their names, I would make a bet that if I didn't know their name in two weeks I would give them a point on their next test. It was this act, this act of good faith, that I believe, earned the respect from my students. You may make mistakes, no, you will make mistakes, but make no mistake about it, one's own name is truly the most magical word in the human language. So learn them and use them to make magic in your classroom of learning. 

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