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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Best Practice
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 Early Childhood

young boy writing with pencil

I once had a reading specialist tell me that the only way for children to learn to read is for them to read. I never have figured out how one learns to do something she can’t yet do by doing it! But I sometimes feel as though I’m in the minority here, as this attitude seems to be a fairly prevalent one – and not just in the area of reading.

recently I had the opportunity to talk with pediatric occupational therapist Angela Hanscom and early childhood specialist Amanda Morgan on my radio show, Studentcentricity. As I told these two dedicated professionals at the beginning of the discussion, while doing some instructional coaching last fall, I watched as a kindergarten teacher handed out pencils to the children, along with some lined paper, and instructed them to practice their writing. And what I witnessed made me sad. Not only were these children not prepared to write; also, their little hands were having a terrible time controlling those long, skinny, yellow things. But despite those two overwhelmingly obvious facts, it was clear that the teacher believed that the only way these students could learn to write was by writing.

For those who understand child development, however, it’s clear that this is a serious misconception. All forms of development, including the fine motor development required to manipulate a pencil, involve a process. And unless a child has progressed through the stages necessary to ensure the appropriate hand strength and fine motor control, trying to write is an exercise in futility and frustration.

Motor skills develop from the inside to the outside of the body, and from the large to the small muscles. That means that until a child has control over such body parts as the trunk and arms, control of the hands and fingers just ain’t happening. And it is due to this progression, put in place by none other than Mother Nature, that it’s been said – believe it or not -- that the best way to prepare children to write is to let them swing on monkey bars. Or, as Angela recommended during our conversation, to let them hang from tree limbs, because the limbs stimulate more parts of the hands than do the monkey bars. She also recommended crawling, particularly in the outdoors, where the arches of the hands will contact far different surfaces than they would indoors. And, of course, hanging from tree limbs and crawling have the added benefit of strengthening the body’s large muscles, which must take place before the hands and fingers are ready to write!

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

I had a conversation this week with an educator that I would define as a master teacher. “What,” she asked, “defines mastery in teachers?” Is it years of experience? Self-efficacy? Or perhaps a set of specific skills that lend themselves to high achievement for students?

I would say possibly a combination of all three.

Can new teachers really be thought of as masterful? Maybe, but I would bend more toward the thinking that in most cases it takes a few years to attain mastery. I have seen brand new teachers do a terrific job immediately, but they are few and far between.

Certainly there are teachers who have been teaching for many years and still have not risen to this level. How, then, does a teacher attain this art of mastery?

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Posted by on in Professional Development

Are you sick of “professional development experts” that are flown into your district at an exorbitant price tag to deliver long sit and get trainings that are often over before the expert gets back home? Who has the money or the patience for this antiquated practice? Not me! Who are the professionals/experts in your building? You are! Who knows your students and school wide needs better than you do? No one!

Leverage the talent within your building through a formalized peer observation process that puts you, the teachers, in charge of your own professional development. Questions you should ask yourselves are:

Are we getting the results that we want? If so, what are we doing to provide sustainability for these practices as teachers come and go?

If we are not getting the results that we want, what are we doing to change the tide?

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Posted by on in What If?

stretching

Which has caused more stress among kids: the Great Depression or life today? According to a study cited in Brad Johnson’s book, Learning on Your Feet, five times as many students deal with stress, anxiety, and other mental issues compared to students during the Great Depression. If we really stop to think about that, we realize what an astonishing statement it is.

Stress, of course, isn’t conducive to optimal learning or to a positive classroom environment. Brad believes incorporating physical activity into the classroom, along with relaxation strategies, can help relieve stress. He and educator Oskar Cymerman joined me on Studentcentrity to discuss it. Following the conversation Brad sent me the following additional thoughts:

Sedentary education is the greatest disservice we have done to this generation of students. Students need to be more active in the classroom. Only 1 out 12 students today has the core strength and balance of students from the 1980s. This means students not only need to be more active but need to focus specifically on core and balance because they improve the executive functioning area of the brain. Executive functioning is responsible for mental focus, organization, and processing information -- all of which help students deal better with stress.

Although you would expect the conversation to revolve around the physical domain, these educators are quite aware of the mind/body connection, as well as the importance of educating the whole child, so it wasn’t surprising to me that they made connections to the cognitive and social/emotional domains.

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