dynamitelessonplan Blog Back Online!

12506845744_0120be8609My blog is officially moved in at a new more powerful host! Thank you for all the help Bluehost! A new post is scheduled for tomorrow. Thanks for hanging in there and being patient through the migration dust! The foundation is more secure than ever! See you all tomorrow with my first teaching post in a long time. I am looking forward to it. I have learned a lot lately.

Seriously Considering Growing a Beard as Motivation for the Standards Test

20130316-124049.jpgCall me the David Blaine of education. I’m thinking of growing a beard to get my students excited about the Standards test. We are in the midst of pretty rigorous test prep and Perhaps my facial hair endurance test will get them on board.

In the past I have written a song as motivation, done a countdown every morning, and other things. I’m usually self conscious about beards and growing my male-pattern-baldness hair out. All the more reason for them to realize the importance of the test and of paying attention. What do think? Good motivator?

50 Days to the Test – and how to prepare

20130203-085422.jpgThe countdown to the California Standards Test sits at 50 teaching days. At this point, there are strategic things I do for test prep. The day remains mostly as it has been all year but focal points and activities turn to lowering the affective filter and familiarizing the kids with the test platform.

The focal point of my teaching at this point is based on data. I review their tests to see what standard they have done well on. Obviously I don’t focus on those standards as much at this point. I list the challenging standards and those become my focal points for teaching in this final stretch. It’s that “Aim at something and you might miss but …”

Another important part of this last section of the year is to do daily test prep and weekly testing that looks and tests like the standards test. I’ve shared here many times about the “briar patch” test philosophy. In the Southern fable, the fox escaped through the briar patch because he knew his way around in there. He was familiar with it from birth. In the same way I aim to lower stress and anxiety for my students but recurrent exposure to the testing “theater” or scenario.

I know those may sound like common solutions but I think they are fundamental.

Look at it Differently, or Where I Managed to Put the Bookshelf

I want to thank Elysabeth for her comment yesterday on my post Look at Things Differently where I described my vanilla dilemma of where to put my classroom bookshelf. I placed it too far into my math wall and so I was thinking all was lost. After I slept on it and drew a schematic I had an “aha.” I put it in the middle! (embarrassingly simple conclusion I admit). Below is a before and after. The point I was making was made, with a visual. Mind you, this was a very simple matter but it made my point in the post about all matters of classroom decor: look at it differently.

I published this “idiot’s” conclusion (the idiot being me) because I feel it makes my point solid: if you take the time to look at your predicament “differently” you are likely to find a solution that is simple, possible and often right under your nose.

Power of Icon

Power of Icons in ClassroomKids get icons in their face every day on tv and the internet. My kids must see Spongebob in their sleep since their tv watching time seems to consist mostly of him. When they heard the song or see the icon on a fast food cup, they are dialed in waiting to take part. It’s trust built over time. Teachers have some of that power and we can use it to our advantage. Why not fill their heads with some different ones, with valuable meaning? On my desk I have a carved buffalo statue. My students walk by me every day and see it. I share with them the buffalo is a sign of gentle strength for me. Sometimes I will refer to him in my teaching, pointing out the characteristics that I admire. I even go so far as to name my student’s “Riley’s Buffaloes.” They know it’s my favorite animal, an icon is on my desk, and we identify with the buffalo by making him our mascot. In this way, I have an unwritten connection with my students. I have even developed a quick line drawing I put on the board and on their papers when I grade highly. Continue reading “Power of Icon”

Rethinking Your “Regular Stuff” in a Classroom

What good are the loftiest goals if you don’t have the nuts and bolts. In 4th grade, this means a solid and open instruction space and homework. These are two areas I have opened up lately and done a full rebuild with. When the everyday tasks are available on a daily basis in an accessible way, the teacher can explore into the depths. When they are clogged or neglected, those loftier goals might as well be unsaid because they will never happen. There is hope. Take the time to clear a better space to teach.

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Take the time to clear your workspace. Fill it with only that which you need to instruct.

Hemingway wrote about a clean, well lighted space. I’d change clean to ordered and apply it to teaching. The cluttered mind is far with worry and unreal expectations. Take the time to order your workspace. On my personal blog/online diary, I wrote recently about enjoying the regular road to achieve enlightenment (of sorts). This is also true of teaching. I know are all overwhelmed but I know from experience if you take the time to uproot and replant your regular stuff, like a teaching space and homework, new doors will open up and you will be a stronger teacher than you ever imagined.

What is the “regular stuff” of your classroom. Could it use some rethinking?

Back to the Old Drawing Board

 

 Someone asked me if I agreed it takes about 5 years for a teacher to feel comfortable with her/his craft. I responded by saying it’s taken me 3 years in Santa Ana and 13 in Adelanto to get here today where I am yet again rearranging the furniture and tweaking my behavior program. I say it comes in waves but a dedicated teacher keeps putting out blood, sweat and tears. This all makes the learner experience better. Of course I pull from the stuff I learned in my first five years. Nonetheless the time since has been full of trial and error. The error sometimes shows me more than the success. If you know what doesn’t work, you can narrow it down to what does.

 

 A few days ago I started getting that urge to uproot my seating chart. Kids had settled in and we’re getting used to some bad talking habits during the lessons. In my normal way, I like to think big by writing on a huge piece of cardboard. This time I added a C shaped table and made my teaching area further back. I made a seating chart on a spreadsheet and rearranged some of the overly lively kids to be better located. The kids are always excited and motivated right after a classroom makeover. This was no exception. With 32 school days left in the year, I’m glad I mixed it up. It will work much better, it already is. I’m sore from moving huge tables but I feel satisfied this will give them more of what they need from my 4th grade program. What does “Back to the old drawing board” mean to your teaching?

Preparing Students for Jobs that Don’t Exist Yet

A friend I teach with sent me this link. I think we all can identify with one factoid if not most or all of them. The most significant for me was the one that said we are preparing students for job descriptions that don’t exist now but will.

Another teacher friend of mine wrote about the same thing on her blog today. Wow, this says to me we need to prepare our kids with the basics to adapt to wherever the bread and butter may be:

Can you envision today’s high school or college students carrying out jobs like these:

Bio-botic Physcian

Chef-farmer (agri-restaurateur)

Clone rancher

Digital archaeologist

Drone dispatcher

Exozoologist

Energy Harvester

Global system architect

Holodeck trainer

Mobile BioMass Therapist

Personal brand manager

Smart car interior advertisement sales representative

Space junk hauler

Transhumanist consultant

Robotician

The World Future Society; an organization served with the charge of making those predictions can. In their recently released special report (PDF) these were among some of the 70 specific jobs predicted for 2030.

via Jobs of the Future – Will Our Students Be Prepared? | Angela Maiers Educational Services, Inc.

Parent Conference Coffee Selection and Method

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Parent conferences go best with a Melitta pour-through using a mild coffee, like Gevalia or Starbucks.

Once that is done my best advice is to try and get them to talk. You learn more about the child that way. Tell about progress and show some sample work. Most of all listen. (It’s harder for some than others) I wrote a short article on it if interested: Listening at Parent Conferences https://www.dynamitelessonplan.com/parent-conferences-tip-listen-to-parents-about-their-child/

Teach: Tony Danza on A&E – My Review

Teach: Tony Danza – what happens when a career actor steps into the classroom and tries public school teaching, under lights and television cameras. Is is an accurate presentation of the profession? Not quite.

Every public school teacher should watch this show!

Teach: Tony Danza – what happens when a career actor steps into the classroom and tries public school teaching, under lights and television cameras. Is is an accurate presentation of the profession? Not quite.

Teach: Tony Danza is a reality show on A&E currently running on Friday nights. (You can currently catch all the epsiodes free online at hulu.com) The show has a lot to offer us as teachers as well as the “civilians” out there because it raises crucial topics about the profession. Tony Danza, actor made famous by shows Taxi and Who’s the Boss, actually taught for one year at a Philadelphia high school. Though it aims to be, the show is not a realistic portrayal of the teaching profession. Having said that, his reactions to the classroom challenge and administrative pressure feel real. They are an excellent starting point for understand the world that is teaching. I am glad this show was produced because it shows some extreme challenges we as teachers face. I hope the viewers take the good and leave the acting because there is quite a bit if it. As my long-term readers know, I’ve been a public school teacher for 13 years and therefore feel qualified to evaluate the show below.

  1. Teachers teach first, then ask. When they fail to teach, this is known as “forward questioning.” It is a big no no because it just doesn’t work. Danza loses a point for using forward questioning throughout the episodes.
  2. Danza does not stay focused and on topic. This is a nightmarish trait for a high school teacher, or any grade for that matter. Students need to be guided carefully and clearly through new concepts for them to take hold. Danza is an actor/entertainer and this is not what works with kids to teach them a year’s worth of standards.

Danza sweats and appears nervous many times in the show. He often appears over-extended. The viewer should note the following:

He taught 28 kids 45 minutes a day.

I teach 104 kids for 6 hours a day.

When he appears harried by his heartless Principal and asst Principals, we as viewers need to remember he is not even doing a quarter of the work an ordinary teacher must do.

There are many scenes where he is helping coach the football team that are useless and off topic from the show’s premise. There are also large spaces of time devoted in one episode to Danza’s daughter and fights breaking out that really have nothing to do with understanding teaching. You would think in one year they’d have gathered more footage of Danza becoming a proficient teacher. Still, what is there is worth seeing.

In conclusion, while it may seem I am not big on this series, I do recommend you see it. There were many times (mostly in episodes 1-3) where I found myself cheering because so many things resonated as true to my job. It is nice to know people see the constraints of time and demands of the administration and parents. It shows some of what what we teachers have to deal with on the job.

Danza probably went into this thinking because he was an entertainer he could succeed. It is far more than that. You must engage the learner with innovative methods. Often you receive no recognition. I hope civilians (non-teachers) will see all we are expected to do and that not just anyone can waltz in and do it. Teacher preparation and teacher training are crucial but tenacity and ongoing improvement are also invaluable.

Teach: Tony Danza is a reality show on A&E currently running on Friday nights. (You can currently catch all the epsiodes free online at hulu.com)