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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  While visiting teachers in their classrooms, I still find instances of the traditional, outdated, and archaic model of instruction where a teacher is standing at the front of the room, delivering content (in their way) and expecting the students just to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 Early Childhood

Anyone who has young children, teaches them, or has spent time with one knows that “Why?” is their master question. Once it starts, there’s no stopping it. Although adults do their best to come up with answers, the interrogation becomes an endless loop. When one question is answered, the next one comes right on its heels. And yet another and then another.

painful

Soon, the adult feels like there’s no escape. He looks for a way out… changing the subject or pointing out something new. But then the new direction triggers a renewed barrage of “Why’s.” Geesh. This can be tiresome. Nonetheless, it is incredibly important for children. New connections are being made in their brains at an astounding rate. They are trying to figure things out and understand how things work. They’re not only learning, but learning about how to learn.

Research tells us that children have a curious, scientific drive from the very beginning, even before birth. Those of us who have spent time around toddlers and preschoolers have seen them behave like little investigators. They are curious and observant, using all their senses to soak up information. When something new or unexpected happens or when they figure something out, they just light up.

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Posted by on in General

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To her credit, she has been reminding me. I just keep forgetting to buy it. I mean it's not as if we haven't had several opportunities in the past week. So when my daughter asked me—again—if we had any paper she could use for sketching. She got the same answer. No, we don't. I have suggested, more than once, that she use her imagination and find something else until we can get her some.

This morning she asked again. I'm fairly certain she knew what my answer would be. I hadn't left the house since the last time she asked. But I didn't say that. I'm only allowed a certain number of smart-aleck remarks a day and it was too early in the day to throw one away.

I did remind her though—again—that she should try finding something besides paper on which to sketch. 

 

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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

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… but learning isn’t.

I wrote my first book, Crush School: Every Student’s Guide To Killing It In The Classroom after realizing that most interesting education books are written for adults, and the ones students are forced to use in class mostly suck.

They’re not just uninteresting. They are dull and written in some weird code no one can, or wants to understand. And, they make your backpack look like you’re about to set off on a two week long hike in the wilderness, which would be cool if you’re into that sort of thing, except for the fact that you’re surrounded by concrete, glass, and steel. You’re not a horse either, so what’s the deal? I mean really…

And here’s one more unpopular opinion coming from this teacher. Most of the stuff in those books is useless. Most of the so-called knowledge can be googled. Some of this information will be outdated before you hit work. A lot of it is irrelevant right now.

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

Without a doubt the first few days of school are the most critical ones in helping to create the foundation of good human relationships with your students. Even the most skilled teacher in the pedagogical sciences of education will be less than effective if the kids don't "like" them, yes, I said, "like them". Now I am not talking about making lots of young friends but I am talking about creating a relationship with your students that is built on mutual respect and a kinship, a kinship that forms your stove of learning. So here are six tips, teachertips, to build a strong, effective stove of learning for your classroom. 

1. Please don't go over the syllabus on day one. I know, it's expected, and that is exactly the reason I strongly advise against doing it. Your first impression, is just that, your first and only first impression, you get no do-overs, so make it magnificent. I am not here to tell you what to do on day one, you can go google that, but if you see your first day as the first blind date into a forced marriage, it takes on a more powerful significance. I used to start a video project on day one, a DV quilt, where all the students were responsible for coming up with a finish to the sentence, "America is __________" and one visual. We then patched them together for a class film that we could analyze and use to springboard ourselves into a discussion of the nation. It wasn't the tech or the fancy final product that made them want to come back for more, it was the engagement. So ENGAGE them, make them want to be in the forced marriage, otherwise you may be on the road to a difficult and long, painful divorce. If you are interested in developing your own DV quilt, check out the tutorial below to start marinating. 

 

2. Use the magic word. What is the magic word? It's their name of course! I understand it's a difficult task, especially if you teach secondary, there literally could be 150 names or more. But the point is not to memorize all of their names quickly, it's to convey the message to your kids, that their name is important, it's important to you. Make it a point in the beginning of the year that you are on a mission to learn their names, I would make a bet that if I didn't know their name in two weeks I would give them a point on their next test. It was this act, this act of good faith, that I believe, earned the respect from my students. You may make mistakes, no, you will make mistakes, but make no mistake about it, one's own name is truly the most magical word in the human language. So learn them and use them to make magic in your classroom of learning. 

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