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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in successful classroom practices
Posted by on in Early Childhood

I am half way through Erika Christakis’ book, The Importance of Being Little. It is nice to read something written by someone who a) Understands early childhood, and b) isn’t overly academic, and c) isn't too gentle with the idiocies of the corporate early education model. My friend, Rae Pica, also writes with the courage of her convictions. I try to emulate these women.

The point I am at in my reading is the chapter she aptly names, “The Search for Intelligent Life.” She writes that the standards movement, which I do not condemn, by the way, has birthed a marketing volcanic eruption of pre-packaged materials for teaching to standards, everything from plastic leaves to fake logs. Fake food is rampant in preschools. In my preschool career, thank goodness, our policy was that if children wanted to play with fake food, they could engineer and create it themselves. For thinking about food, looking at foods, and deciding what characteristics are the most important to each individual child is certainly more thought provoking (problem solving; creativity, anyone?) than using the plastic foods created by the masterminds of Chinese manufacturing. Children play with their own “foods” with the same intensity. Within the “standards units” marketed by Lakeshore Learning, there are whole kits to teach math to kindergarteners. Adorable plastic cards give your average five year old a chance to “solve problems” written by the company that makes them. But as I have written before, spoon feeding artificial problems to children is antithetical to mentoring their natural inclination to question, and to actively explore solutions.

So, what is a teacher, underpaid and overworked, to do?

For math, throw out the  work sheets and plastic fakery. They are not “academic.” If a child needs or wants a worksheet to solve a problem, you can mentor them by asking what, exactly, they want to know? Do they want to count the birds on the playground? This is statistics and a math activity of their choosing. Ask them to draw a grid (you, know, lines that are parallel, going horizontally and vertically. Ask them which birds they want to count, and then ask them to draw birds going down, and numbers going across. If they ask for help, only give as much as they need (scaffolding). Then hand them clipboards and pencils, shooing them outdoors. We aren’t looking for accuracy. We are looking for a learning process. As Dr. Christakis writes, “The ingredients of good teaching and coaching are learning processes, not facts”.

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Posted by on in What If?

shhh

If you are ever going to have classes that are too noisy, you can bet that the time for this particular teacher nightmare is right now near end of the school term. Even those timid students who were too shy to speak above a whisper at the start of the year now appear to be completely comfortable shouting across the room. The classroom noise level this time of year isn't just stressful; it's a sure indicator of unproductive behavior.   

Although could be dozens of approaches to consider when your students talk excessively and loudly, using just a few effective strategies may help you begin to solve this problem for yourself and for your students. Examine the following approaches in view of your own experience and adapt the ones you find useful to make the remaining time you have with your students productive, peaceful, and quiet.

Be emphatic and explicit when you speak with your students about this problem. You should make it very clear when it is okay for them to talk and when you want them to work silently. If you are clear in communicating your expectations to your students, they will be less likely to repeatedly test your tolerance for noise.

Avoid the sound-wave effect of a loud class time followed by a quiet one followed by a loud one again. Be consistent in the way you enforce the rules in your class about excessive talking. Teachers who aren’t consistent spend their time getting a class quiet, allowing the noise level to build to an intolerable level, and then getting the class quiet again in an endless and ineffective cycle.

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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 Teaching Strategies

storytelling

My husband is a master teacher and people often ask him what it is that he does that gets such great results. I think it is his storytelling ability that garners him such success, both with student achievement and also found within the relationships he builds with his middle school students.

Parents often remark to him that their children come home and the nightly dinner table conversation is in regards to what stories were told that day in math class. They go on to say that their children can recall every minute detail and that they, the entire family, feel as if they have known us their entire lives.

When you have taught as long as he has there is a story to tell for virtually any topic that would ever come up in class. And really, if he does not have one, then he just makes one up. The students are served a daily regimen of storytelling in his class and they love it!

Storytelling is an excellent way to build language. New words and colloquialisms can be heard by the students. When you tell stories in your classes you are modeling how to recall sensory details. Another reason to use storytelling in your classroom is that it models presentation skills for students to use in the future. Eye contact, movement, dramatic pauses, voice intonation and gesturing are some of the tactics that can be seen when a teacher tells stories.  Finally, students who listen to storytelling get oral models for writing.

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Posted by on in Student Engagement

MagicWords.png

Words have power. If one can wield the right ones skillfully he can exert influence over others. He can motivate and engage them. Words are so powerful they can bring into being dreams and halt, even destroy, lives. If you’ve been a teacher you have witnessed their might. Even if you have not realized it you have seen it. Classroom. Hallways. Gym. Wherever.

Whether they are words a teacher speaks to a student, one pupil to another, or an angry parent to her child, their potential to create and destroy is undeniable. “Words can’t hurt me” the saying goes, but it’s words that hurt the most. Kids especially care about what others say to them and about them, so teachers must not use words lightly. And, as teachers, you and I must pay attention, be careful, and use the right ones.

Use the good words. Wield the magic in them. Create.

What are magic words? These are words that help influence, motivate, and engage students. But this classroom magic only happens if you build relationships - strong and positive connections. Cold and impersonal business-like approach stifles magic. To awaken it, you must really care and your students have to trust you. Luckily, the first word gets you on the right path.

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