Incentives: Watch What They Sit Up Straight For

 Do you have powerful incentives in your classroom? I’m not talking about classroom monitors or extra PE. Those are great too but you will find that, especially with a difficult class, the more powerful the incentives, the more power you have to control behavior. These will vary teacher to teacher/class to class. When kids want something, and I mean really want it, they will adapt their behavior to get it. Here’s a few thoughts on devloping your own powerful incentives.

Watch what they sit up straight for. For me in my class this year, they really love their time in the computer lab. They would rathet do this than just about anything. I have learned then to use it as an incentive for good behavior. You may not have computer time or your kids may not care about it as much as mine this year so watch for what they sit up straight for.

Make periodic reward events like parties. Most kids in California use Accelerated Reader. This is a wonderful program where kids read books they choose at their own pace and then take tests to earn points. I have been scheduling a 1-2 month block of time where there is a points goal for reading and a party for those who meet that goal. I pick up pizza at the local Pizza Loca. The lages there are $5 so it’s incredibly cheap. My students are more likely to get into AR and have experiences in novels if I shedule these reward events.

People of all ages don’t care if you take away something they don’t like to begin with. Your incentives must be crucial to the kids. They must be willing to give things up to get them, otherwise it’s useless trying to threaten. Threatening just makes people standoffish.  Identifying what they love, and you can do that by simply watching what they respond to, will have the greatest impact at fostering better behavior. Now I’ve only given two tips. I’d love to read yours in the comments. Go for it, helps some teachers out!

Spring Break Rolling By

its-official-science-just-confirmed-that-spring-break-is-the-shortest-week-of-the-school-year-a269cI always get so many ideas for my classroom when I’m on Spring Break. Teaching is a tough job on your wit and candor and when you get these breaks, you reall appreciate it. If you do it right, you improve. Would you care to share with the community and I here how your Spring Break makes you better?

Teaching the Value of Honesty

IMG_2500.JPGHonesty is such a lonely word. That’s why we must be taught what it means. My students are chomping at the bit to take a test on the computer. This is true whether or not they have read their AR (Accelerated Reader) book that they are being tested on. They often will interrupt a lesson or a time of independent work to ask me about taking an AR test. More often than not, at the beginning of the year, they have no idea what their book is about because they haven’t read it thoroughly. When I ask them if they are ready and did they read the test, they always tell me, “Yes! I read it two times.” The data unfortunately speaks otherwise when I see 30% correct, 0% correct. It’s hard to light a fire under kids for reading but it’s even harder sometimes to convince them of the value of honesty. Continue reading “Teaching the Value of Honesty”

Happy Teachers Day 2016 #Education #Teaching

Google Search┬áhas this graphic up and says it’s happy teachers day. I wonder if the kids will give me a break and not talk while I’m teaching. Well, if they do, I’ll just remind them it’s Teachers Day ;) Happy Teachers Day to my Union brothers and Sisters, my employing school district, and of course, my students and their families. Without those three, I wouldn’t be a teacher. I’m so grateful that I am one.

CD Hovercrafts – A Fun Science Craft Idea

A science lesson can be such a great part of the teaching day. Unfortunately for some, it can also be the most boring. I am always looking for innovative ways to get kids’ attention while teaching them science. Bill Nye videos are very useful and they are titled by standard which makes it easy to select one for your class. But video can’t be the sole thing you rely on when igniting interest. I discovered in the last few years that crafts or experiments can awaken even the most sluggish learner.

I’m currently teaching guitar in Summer school and I saw a science craft another teacher did I want to share. It shows how one force can work against another in unison to create movement. In this case, it is a hover craft. The materials needed are: 1) an old CD you don’t want anymore 2) a balloon 3) The “pull top” style water caps (see image) and 4) a glue gun.

As far as the lesson goes, the sky’s the limit. Do you think you could do something with this idea? I’d love to hear about it.

Seize Training Opportunities

Professional Development - Seize OpportunitiesNo matter how bad the economy gets, educational institutions offer trainings of one sort or another. These can prove invaluable to your journey in the classroom so seize them whenever you can. Get on mailing lists of educational publishers, sometimes they will offer a free seminar for their product. Subscribe to RSS feeds of blogs that offer training courses. These can be on anything in education from behavioral management to holistic therapy techniques. I know the latter sounds “out there” but we should all be open to new ideas if we ever going to transform education. You can also seek out trainings in your area and then inquire to your supervisor about getting funded to attend. Most districts and schools are very into professional development, they want to develop the talent they have within. To them, it is an investment. To you it equals mastery, wisdom, and clarity in the teaching profession. Continue reading “Seize Training Opportunities”

Special File for Student Notes and Creations

Explains a “sunshine folder.” In this, you put special “gifts” from the kids and then when you are feeling down or just want a reminder that you “don’t suck” as a teacher, you can just pull the folder out and browse through it.

Often teachers share with me that they get trinkets and drawings from their students. I know I get my fair share. All too often we sweep them aside to the edges of our teaching desks and end up throwing them away. A mentor of mine several years back told me about something I know have and call a “sunshine folder.” In this, you put special “gifts” from the kids and then when you are feeling down or just want a reminder that you “don’t suck” as a teacher, you can just pull the folder out and browse through it.

I am not sure exactly why, but it seems that all children love to draw. I have been given so many pictures through the years it could probably fill a landfill. Most of them are gone forever because I didn’t hang on to them. After my mentor’s suggestion, I started keeping all the photos and small stapled envelopes my kids give me and it is getting quite encouraging already. I never know what to do with these gifts and the students always give them to me at inopportune times. Having the sunshine folder helps me keep their sentiments until a time when I can properly enjoy them and it shows the students I care enough to file it and read it at a later time I’ve noticed in recent years the students have used more “realism” in portraying my bald head. The last on I got gave me wings like George Constanza on Seinfeld. I guess looking at the ongoing realism of these pictures from my students is a little bit like accepting that I am aging. All the more reason to keep these special items in a dedicated place.

In the recent past I had a not-so-great day of teaching. I was quite deflated. Everything seemed to have a “catch” attached to it and nothing was working, not even my printer. So, I sat down and pulled out my sunshine folder. As I read through so many messages of “You’re the best … You rock … You’re the best teacher ever …” I found myself feeling better and reminded once again of why I do this wonderful though often difficult job of teaching.

Small Growth is Still Growth

Many of my students just got their reports cards and they included large growth in grades. A few on the other hand, had to see what they have been seeing for years up to now: flat growth or decline in scores. There is only one way to take this: they need to improve. I don’t tell parents of my kids that their children have to be the highest in the class. I just want them to improve. If there was a 2 in one area last trimester, we are looking for a 3 and so on.

The challenge to the high kids is to maintain their high grades. Having said that, the children with lower grades have nowhere to go but up. Small, incremental growth is still growth. When I ran in high school we called it “running your own race” and making a “personal best.”