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Posted by on in General

STUDENT MOTIVATION: 

Motivating students is probably one of the hardest things we do as teachers. Delivering content is meaningless without a student motivated to learn and apply it. During our workshops this is one of the most common topics that come up. While this is usually in the context of Mastery Learning the general advice I give us universally applicable to any instructional model.

While there are a lot of tips and tricks to motivating students, most of them come down to one simple philosophy: INCREASE STUDENT OWNERSHIP 

SIMPLE BUT TRUE...

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Posted by on in General

Self-paced learning can be a great tool.

If you've ever tried to implement mastery or self-paced learning in your classroom, or attempted a long-term project that is student-centered, you've probably tried it (or are still doing it) because, frankly...these things work. Anytime you can make your classroom more student-centered and meet the needs of more students, you're going to increase achievement for your learners.

When self-paced learning goes wrong...

Regardless of how much positive data and research exists for learning that allows students to master material (by the way there is a lot...you can even google it if you want), even the best pedagogy can be destroyed by improper or poor implementation. As I work with schools and districts to implement mastery learning there is a common misconception that can cause this to happen. A lot of educators think that because students are accessing content or curriculum at their own pace that they are also supposed to learn on their own. This couldn't be further from the truth. Self-paced learning is NOT self taught.

Self-paced learning should mean more teaching, not less.

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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

As I continue working with more and more teachers I'm often surprised at how many I still see "page turning" to plan instruction. "Page turning" is a form of lesson planning that a teacher uses, that is simply opening a textbook and continuing where they left off during the last lesson. Now don't get me wrong, textbooks have their place in education (I guess), but when teachers rely on them too heavily instruction can suffer greatly, and more importantly, learning does too.

Here are a few reasons you should get textbooks out of your lesson planning and start forging your own instructional path, outside the edges of those pages.

Textbooks Fail To Engage Students

I don't care how many pictures or fun activities exist in the realm of the book you are using, I will almost guarantee that it is not engaging all your students. The simple reason is that the writers of that book don't know your students, YOU DO. I have never (and will never) heard a student mutter "Wow! Chapter 7 was surprisingly fun and exciting! I can't wait to continue working to Chapter 8!" I would bet that you haven't either. That's because textbooks are designed as a curriculum TOOL to be used in lesson planning, not a curriculum in themselves. Students must interact, play with, and experience concepts, not just read about them. (or hear about them during your lectures...which don't work either by the way.)

Textbooks Are NOT Universally Designed

Textbooks are generally written at or above the grade level you are teaching. The pictures, diagrams, and experiences presented in them are also created at that level. I don't know about you, but most of my students, or at least some of them, were below grade level or still achieving their current grade level. I would also like to suggest that the context, circumstances, and lens in which most textbooks view your curriculum are not going to engage or allow for much adjustment or modification if they are your primary lesson planning tool.

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Posted by on in General

 

Let Freedom Ring in Your Classroom!

When the bell rings, is it the ring of freedom or that of condemnation for your students at the start of class? Freedom is something that we hold very dear to our hearts in this country. We wave flags to celebrate it, our soldiers sacrifice their lives to protect it, and we tout it as one of the most defining factors of the United States.

While I'll admit that intro was probably a bit much...I still want to ask you: Do your students have the freedom to learn in your classroom?  While visiting teachers in their classrooms, I still find instances of the traditional, outdated, and archaic model of instruction where a teacher is standing at the front of the room, delivering content (in their way) and expecting the students just to absorb it and grasp its meaning upon first listen.

This traditional model of direct instruction and ineffective lecture-based content delivery leaves almost no freedom for your students to actually learn. They just passively accept their fate as non-engaged, un-inspired learners. They have little say in what they are doing or when, and even less accountability for their progress toward mastery of the content. In order to change this, I'd like to share 5 ways to give your students more freedom in your classroom.

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Posted by on in General

Don't Believe What They Tell You...

I distinctively remember during in my first year of teaching; a colleague telling me: "Hey, your first year of teaching...just blend in and fly under the radar to get through it." I also remember nodding my head and smiling as I thought, "WHY?"

I made the decision, then and there, that I wasn't going to take the well intentioned advice of my friend, but try to do the opposite. I was going to stand out in every way possible. Our students deserve the best possible version of us. They deserve leaders, trailblazers, and a professional educators that are capable of not just blending in, but impacting their students every day.

Students Don't Care If You're New

Teaching is not like most highly trained and skilled professions that have a very strategic apprenticeship or residency programs. Most first year teachers get little to no support, other than a possible mountain of paperwork that the state calls "support."

Unfortunately, new teachers are often thrown head first into the classroom with the hope that they can swim. The problem is that the students in front of you deserve no less of a rockstar teacher than any others. And, I hate to break it to you, but those students do not care if you're new. They don't care about the learning curve, your nerves, or all the other challenges that come with your first year of teaching. If you don't get them engaged and get them learning, they will eat you alive. And having a mindset of "getting by" or just "blending in" can pretty much guarantee a new teacher will not reach their true potential.

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