Most the years I’ve taught I’ve been able to produce results in my students’ motivation. This year it has been especially challenging. Maybe it’s because the test and the academics thereof have become the primary focus of school. Perhaps this has understandably burned out student motivation. In doing so it’s given way to days consisting of “A, B, C, or D” answers. I’ve been trying some new things this year that are working to get buy-in and I wanted to share them with you. Check this out:
- To go along with your assessment strategies, have them grade each other’s papers. This will add peer pressure and praise to the mix. It can help them realize what they do is observed by others.
- Give them “pseudo” assessments that look like the final standardized test in May. This will ease their nerves and help them see that success on the test can be attained.
- Send a note home with the score on one of these tests. Let parents know how their kids are doing but if you do so, make sure you have suggestions for parents on how to improve their child’s score.
- Have a lot of ongoing student recognition. Tomorrow I am allowing all the students who got 80-100% to have lunch with me in the classroom. These kids need to be rewarded for their student academic achievement and of course, this will probably rub off on some of the kids who scored below 80%.
I firmly believe that kids in elementary learning as well as higher will do better when they have buy-in. Just like a company offers stock options to employees to keep them productive, so teachers should seek buy-in from their students. Remember this from my experience and probably yours too about work in general:
To get results from students or workers, you must have their “buy-in.”
If you have clear and concise goals, your priorities and actions will be predicated upon them. After that, when review measurable progress toward goals, you decide if you are a success or not. Don’t let other people decide if you are a success or not in your classroom, only you should determine that.
If you believe in your dream you once held of becoming a teacher, you will be a better one than you are now. If you can visualize something to do in your classroom to spread your belief, the whole class will benefit. Remember that you work with children who have not seen much of life or the world. They see life through your eyes many times every day. What is important is not what you think your boss sees or what your colleagues see, but what they see. The fire you ignite in their hearts, minds, and eyes is the fire that leads the civilization of tomorrow. You have the gift to work with kids, now make sure you take the time to meditate on what is best and profitable to them and for them. I know from personal experience this is an incredibly rewarding direction to take.
Teach with vision, believe in your dream.
White dry-erase boards are an excellent way to check for understanding (CFU) during and after a lesson. They are also a great way to avoid wasting paper in your lesson plans. Of course, they are also very useful when stating the learning objective. Instead of printing up a class set of the material I am covering in a lesson, I print up one for each class I teach and project it on the screen. The students interact with me through dry-erase markers and white boards and it makes for an almost sport of a lesson.
This can be used in any subject. I teach the concept, use CFU throughout the teaching, then I model the concept in guided practice, asking students to gradually join me. Eventually I “release” them to do questions on their own and once again I CFU through the use of the white boards. I use the term “1 … 2 … 3 … show it to me” and then I can instantly assess a class of 33 kids. I can see if 80% or more are getting it. If they are, I usually move on. 100% mastery is always the true goal though it isn’t always achieved. As I share anecdotes about my teaching, my goal is to help my readers achieve that goal. If we can get closer through teacher tips like this, we will be more effective in the classroom.
There are challenges getting the kids to leave the caps on the markers and not “doodle” on the white boards. It needs to be stressed to them that they are not doing “art” but rather they are answering questions to show me they “get it.” They get a kick out of it when I say 80% accuracy or better yet 100% accuracy. Sometimes they even cheer. While exuberant, they are focused. This is what makes white boards a great tool for classroom management.
I’ve written here before about how I am moving away from the use of copies and paper in my classroom. I think these changes have only benefited my students. It might be true to say that too much paper improves the presentation but widens the disconnect between the teacher and learner. Then again, this is just my personal experience. I know not everyone is ready for what I am calling “The paperless classroom.” I encourage the use of white boards for CFU. They are simple, always on hand, and you can assess the entire class in an instant.
A colleague confronted me today about something I’d written in a closed teacher forum. I had been venting about how teachers at my school should use their “educated brain” to figure certain relevant issues out between our union and the district. It wasn’t worded the best way and I sort of forgot about the non-intended audience: my colleagues. I was writing shoulder to shoulder with other union reps who have shared with me similar frustrations. In a way I made a boo boo as a leader, but in another way her confrontation was a worse mistake. What I have learned in education and probably dealing with all people is that you shouldn’t confront someone unless you respect and support them. Letting them know that at the onset is a huge help to both you and them. If you don’t, then don’t confront. Forget it or report it. Continue reading “How to Confront a Colleague”
I am involved in my teachers union and I have to say it is a challenging endeavor sometimes. You are sending out the message that your troubles are the fault of the district. As someone who is always trying to not blame, and failing most the time, I sometimes struggle with this. Unions, like any political organization, can fall into the trap of dehumanizing the district employees. In my district, we have over 300 teachers and about 6 district employees making decisions that affect parents, students, and yes, teachers. My goal in my union is not to attach people but rather show the value of a union. Parents in my district value teachers, they show that by their numbers when they come to our meetings and get involved in organizing with us. I want to be a force that helps their families and specifically their children. Name calling and blaming will only get people riled up for a moment. To gain real buy in from parents, we need to show them what’s in it for them. Continue reading “Unions – Can’t Live Without Them”
In our intellectual search for the right approach to difficult students, we should remember the value of one on one attention.
Students with a short attention span often act out. We, as the ones with teaching degrees in the room, usually have to come up with plans to hold their attention and keep their behavior in line. There are so many ways to go with this, it can get overwhelming. As a teacher, I am sure you are with me here. So what do we do? Whatever it is, after our intellectual search for the right approach to difficult students, we should remember the value of one on one attention. Then, after we see the value, we should make sure and do it because it can make all the difference in the world to a child at a formative time of life.
Establish a connection. Difficult students are often disconnected at home and with peers. If you take them aside away from the class, you have the opportunity to make a special connection. It can be as simple as a checkers game to take down the affective filter and build trust or it can be as complicated as going through a questionnaire that shows concerns for why they are having the problems at issue. This is what I call “on the job” classroom management training. I have even used puppets to get them laughing. If you can establish a connection, you have all but won the war.
Work at developing trust. In class, recognize and accentuate their successes. Let the class know repeatedly it is o.k. to say a wrong answer. You are simply there to get them to “try.” Redirect as you know how to do when they are wrong but never scold them when you get a wrong answer. If students feel comfortable taking risks you are one step closer to home. Remember that developing trust usually takes time. Continue reading “One on One Attention for Difficult Students”