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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in caring classrooms

Posted by on in What If?

4 children

One of the most heartbreaking conundrums in any teacher’s life is a student who does not quite qualify for special education services, and who is failing or almost failing. Often these are the students who struggle to learn how to read at grade level or succeed at basic math or even develop the necessary school skills to manage their learning tasks. As they grow older, these students often shut down, are disruptive, unmotivated, and frustrated until they finally become at-risk for dropping out of school.

The pattern for a student who falls through the cracks in our education system is unfortunately uniform in school after school. A frustrated teacher or parent asks for help because of growing dismay at the child’s inability to achieve even though he or she may be working diligently. Conferences are held. Discussion ensues. The child is tested (often after months of waiting for this service). Another meeting is held where the concerned adults are advised that the child is just barely missing the qualifying deficits for special needs qualifications, even though they still may have many of the same negative behaviors and failures that identified students have. 

Too often students who fall through the cracks present themselves as lazy or uncaring. And who can blame them? If you suspect that you have or can anticipate that you will have students who could fall between the cracks, there is a great deal that you can do to support them.

First, learn as much as you can about their learning styles and their school history as well as their home situation. Talk to past teachers and parents or guardians. Study permanent records. Look at test score data. Observe their work habits. Do all that you can to understand the barriers to success for these students. Research their strengths as well. Helping students learn to identify their learning strengths will increase their persistence levels and give them confidence in their abilities to succeed at school tasks. 

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Posted by on in What If?

There's bad news and there's good news about classroom discipline. The bad news is that sometimes we are the cause of the discipline problems in our classes. We cause them because we inaccurately assess our students’ needs, fail to plan adequately for emergencies and daily activities, misread our students’ reactions, or unknowingly commit any number of mistakes that challenging students are quick to capitalize on.Discipline problems that we do not cause ourselves are just not as easy to manage.

The good news about the mistakes we make in our classrooms is that we have control over them. in fact, most of the time, we can usually prevent the ones that we cause. In the following list of  teacher-made mistakes, you will find some of the reasons why you may have inadvertently caused the discipline issues you've had to manage. With each mistake listed here you will also find a way to avoid making it into a discipline problem.

Mistake 1: You refuse to answer or give a poor answer when students question you about why they should learn the material you want them to master.

Solution: We need to be careful to provide students at the start of a unit of study with the reasons why they need to learn the material in the unit. Start each class with a review of the purpose for learning the information in the day’s lesson. Also, make sure students are aware of the real-life applications for the learning you require of them.

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Posted by on in What If?

Every year, during the final few weeks of the school term, grim articles about how to hang on until the last day of school without losing your sanity abound. Loads of stern advice about topics such as the importance of managing stress and the misery of standardized testing and unpleasant conferences about failing grades seem to dominate teacher forums. What if, instead of just hanging on, you took a different approach to the time you have left with your students? An approach that includes some joy and fun and learning and all the other good things that school can be and should be every day.

One of the easiest ways to ensure that your students (and you) have a positive ending to the school year is to involve them in some of the many decisions that regulate classrooms instead of just trying to impose your will on a crowd of students who are distracted by warm weather and the promise of summer vacation. Brief class meetings now and then will not take up too much instructional time and can make an enormous difference in your classroom climate. Sometimes just raising student awareness about a problem and asking for their help is enough to solve it. 

The first few minutes of class after your students settle in and complete their warm up activities are an ideal time to hold a class meeting. Tell students that you are going to set a timer for a few minutes (the length of the meeting will vary according to the age and maturity of students as well as the topic under discussion) so that you can brainstorm together.

Have students move to form a circle so that you can see everyone and everyone can see you.

Establish quick ground rules for the meeting. The two most important ones are that students should listen courteously and respectfully and no one should talk unless they have permission to do so. Many teachers have found that giving students a token to serve as a “talking stick” sets a positive tone for a class meeting because it limits the number of students who want to speak to just the person with the token.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

Ronan and Kerrigan 1024x682

How do you spell love? Literacy on little angel wings. Such joy, the most amazing learning experience of my life.

Here’s my update, year two preschool, teaching kiddos emergent skills of reading and writing, well, a lot more than that. Never sure who’s teaching whom. A day in the passionate life, so to speak. Since I wrote about the infamous PreKinder assessments, I'm into the sheer joy of teaching and learning from the kids, my best teachers. Life lessons, sometimes minute to minute. 

I walk into school, immediately surrounded by sticky fingers, hugs and checking out whether I have on my Minnie Mouse rainbow light-up watch. Loaded down with bags of mini-lessons, supplies, my lunch bag and layers, I barely make it to our little middle room to organize in about three minutes. Feel like the Pied Piper. "Good morning, Teacher Rita!"

I already told you I am really bad with crafts, so back out of the art room, big room so distracting, at home in the middle room, with all my favorite things, calendar, maps and globe, alphabet, flannel boards, our little table and chairs and loads of teaching sets, readers and books. In the corner is a huge beanbag with big stuffies and pillow. We read there a lot. And talk. And I listen.

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Posted by on in General

 

 

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Why on Earth would anyone do a Google Hangout with students at 7 am? Well, before you begin jumping on my case about the fact that students need more sleep and that their optimal thinking times are later in the morning, let me explain.  First, know that the class I did the Google Hangout with was in a different time zone than me. Second, I was the one in the 7 am time zone. Not them. It was 9 am where they were.

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