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Posted by on in Classroom Management

student public speaking

Public speaking is a skill every student develops--but not everyone does so with confidence. Although speaking publicly has become a notion that is scary in nature, teachers rarely express its use after graduation and beyond. Whether you are giving a toast to celebrate one’s success, or you take on a career role that implements speaking at public events, public speaking is a useful tool in every aspect of life. Allow your students to embrace public speaking with stellar confidence by using these vital techniques below.

Highlight the Student’s Strengths

Positive feedback is always appreciated. Instead of focusing on a student’s weaknesses, celebrate their successful parts of public speaking. This can be something small, such as consistent eye contact, or even a larger public speaking element like voice inflection. By focusing on a student’s strengths, you will reaffirm their capabilities and allow them to evoke more self-confidence in the future.

Create a Friendly and Relaxing Atmosphere

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Posted by on in General

A difficult choice

Leaving the classroom was one of the most difficult things I've ever done. Making the decision was one of the hardest I've ever made. Not only did I have to say goodbye to my colleagues, my administrators, and the mentors who had guided me throughout my career, but I had to leave my students. I say "MY" students purposefully. Regardless of if I taught them 5 years ago, 3 years ago, or I was going to teach them next year (as most teachers know) they areand will always be "MY" students. I wasn't leaving because it was "too hard" or because I was burnt out, though. I was leaving to make a greater impact on education and to reach more students than I ever thought possible.

How it happened

I had developed, tested, and created a system in my classroom now called The Grid Method. In my high needs, urban school with 100% free and reduced lunch, and economically disadvantaged students, it was working. Students were more engaged, achievement was increasing, management was improving, and I quickly realized that I had something here that could help more teachers and more students. Colleagues had been asking how to implement the system I'd designed and so had others I shared it with. I quickly started looking for ways to spread the word and share the techniques and systems I was using to reach more students.

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

When most people think of a classroom, they think of a format something like this:


Students all at their own desks, all facing the teacher, who stands in front of or next to the blackboard, whiteboard, projector screen, etc.

Does this look like your classroom?

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During this Spring Break, I’ve been thinking about that kidney-shaped table in the back of my room. 

Designed to accommodate one teacher in the main groove and up to six students around the outside, that table has been in my classroom since the first day I taught fifth grade fifteen years ago. Truth be told, that same kind of table was in my classroom when I WAS a fifth grader forty-some years ago.

It’s gone through several incarnations: the back table, the universal access table, the pull-out table. Regardless of the moniker, it’s been the place for small group interventions, meaning everyone knows that if you have been called to sit there, you need help. There’s an unspoken stigma to having to go back to the kidney-shaped table. And I started thinking, when my students see that table, what kind of environment have I created? 

What other messages are we sending our students when they walk into our classrooms?

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Posted by on in What If?


A long time ago I noticed that one of the chief differences between a good teacher and a truly great teacher is the ability of a great teacher to build a classroom community where everyone is part of something larger than themselves.  Students who are part of classroom communities feel safe, respected, comfortable, and engaged. The positive atmosphere that exists in a classroom community prevents many of the problems that can plague a disorderly class because students work and learn together in harmony instead of disorder and disruption. Like everyone else, I want that for my students.

KIDSSSome educators may doubt the power of a classroom community or may not want to spend valuable instructional time on something as indeterminate as community building. The benefits of a classroom community, however, clearly outweigh any potential problems. Students who feel a sense of connection to their classmates, their class as a whole, and to their teachers are much more likely to behave with courtesy and self-discipline. The connections in a classroom community encourage persistence in achieving shared goals, tolerance and respect for others, and effective communication skills—all important life skills.

While every classroom is uniquely formed by the teachers and students who create it, I've observed that classrooms where there is a sense of community do have several characteristics in common.

  • Teamwork and team spirit is clearly evident. Students often work together on shared goals in various large and small group configurations.
  • The overall class atmosphere is inclusive and welcoming. No one is left out. While student differences are recognized, they are also accepted as potential strengths.
  • Success and effort are both recognized and celebrated. Students know what to do and are confident that they are either on the right track or are busy learning what to do to succeed.
  • The interactions among students and between teacher and students are overwhelmingly positive, friendly, and focused on learning.
  • Students are engaged and active as they work together. They share materials, responsibilities, and ideas.
  • There is a strong sense of student ownership involving the physical environment as well as in the workload and in instructional choices. Many routine tasks are delegated and managed by students.

In my efforts to build a classroom community, I have found that it takes patience to build a classroom community over the course of a school year. Some students may bond right away; others will take longer to feel comfortable and acclimated to the group.

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