Sunday, January 30, 2011

Daily Assignment #40: Posting the Agenda

Have you ever attended a professional developement workshop and wondered where is this instructor going with this lesson, or what is going to happen next, or what are we going to do with this information, or when is the break?  Well, you have students in your class asking the same questions.

By posting the agenda, your students' questions will be answered.  They will know what they will be doing with the information, what each step will be to get there, and when it will end.

Also, by posting the agenda, students, as well as the teacher, will be more focused and on task.

The agenda can be posted for an entire day or for a lesson.  When posting the agenda for the day some teachers put the times beside each event.

Example of an all day agenda:

8:25  Morning Meeting
8:45  Literacy
10:00 Working Snack
10:30 Recess
11:00 Lunch
11:30 Math
12:15 Science
12:45 Music
1:15  Social Studies
2:00  Clean-up
2:10 Closing Meeting
2:25 Dismissal

Example of a lesson agenda
(in this lesson the teacher is using a model of teaching called "Concept Attainment")

Lesson:  Parallelograms

  • Using a T chart, examples of parallelograms and non parallelograms
  • Learning Partners create a definition
  • More examples
  • Partners edit definition
  • More examples
  • Final edit of definition
  • Using partner definitions, group creates a definition
  • Final definition 
  • Parallelogram designs
I hope you will experiment with this strategy and let us know how it goes.

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Best Effort,

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Daily Assignment #39: When things go badly, whose fault is it anyway?

Have you ever had a class where you dreaded the students coming in.  Or, you're teaching in the front of the class and you feel all alone and you look out over a sea of confusion, fooling around and/or disruptive behavior.

Is it your fault?  You've prepared, what you thought, great lessons.  What happened?  How did you lose them?  Or, are they just a bad class?  They wouldn't get your lesson anyway.  They're not like this for Mr. B's math class, why are they like this in my class?  They just don't like me.  These are all typical questions and comments when things are going badly.

This is a time to reflect on yourself as a teacher.  It is easy to blame the students for management problems but a lot of times it is us, and we just don't see it.

Jon Saphier has addressed this topic, at length, in his book The Skillful Teacher, Chapter 8, Discipline.  You can actually download this chapter for $15.95.  You can also purchase the whole text for $39.95.
I highly recommend this book for your professional library.

Saphier's list 12 Causes of Disruptive or Inattentive Behavior:

  1. Poor general management
  2. Inappropriate work
  3. Boring Instruction
  4. Confusing instruction
  5. Unclear standards, expectations, and consequences
  6. Student ignorance on how to do the expected behaviors
  7. A need for fun and stimulation
  8. Value and culture clashes
  9. Internal physical causes
  10. External physical causes
  11. Extraordinary emotional baggage
  12. Student's sense of powerlessness.
I'm not going to go into detail on each of these because I really want to encourage you to read this chapter yourself.  However, you can get a general idea of what you need to think about while reflecting by just reading the list.

If you are still struggling with what might be the causes, during reflection, you might want to ask a colleague to come in, observe, collect data and share it with you.  Mr. B might be the perfect person.

Please share this blogsite with colleagues and friends.  If you haven't already, consider becoming a "Follower". 

Best Effort,

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Daily Assignment #38: Paired Verbal Fluency

This is a great strategy for getting students verbally active about a topic they are about to study, or one that they are currently studying, or a way to summarize a lesson. It also stimulates thinking and helps students recall knowledge.

It is also another way to use Learning Partners, (see Daily Assignment #12:  Learning Partners).

It is best to give the directions one step at a time.
For example:

  1. "You will be working with a Learning Partner for this activity."
  2. Assign topic e.g, respiratory system, reasons for the civil war, summary of homework assignment
  3. "Make eye contact with your 3:00 partner.  Now go to them."
  4. "Decide who will be A and who will be B."
  5. "All "A's" raise your hand.  All B's raise your hand."
  6. "When I say GO, "A's will talk for 60 seconds.  While "A's" are talking, "B's" must practice good listening skills.  At the end of 60 seconds I will say switch.  "B's" will talk, but cannot repeat anything "A's" have already said, and "A's" will listen."
  7. "GO!"  (Wait 60 seconds.)
  8. "SWITCH"  (Wait 60 seconds.)
  9. "STOP"
  10. "During this next round we will do the same procedure, only it will be for 30 seconds each. This is your opportunity to add anything that was left out of the first round."
  11. "GO!" (Wait 30 seconds.)
  12. "SWITCH"  (Wait 30 seconds.)
  13. "STOP"
  14. "This last round is for you to summarize what you heard your partner say.  You will have 20 seconds each."
  15. "GO!" (Wait 20 seconds)
  16. "SWITCH"  (Wait 20 seconds)
  17. "STOP"
  18. "Thank your partner and return to your seats."
When students return to their seats the teacher could do a whole class summary or have the students write their own summaries.

I hope you will experiment with this strategy.  It is very effective.  Let us know how it goes.

Please share this blogsite with colleagues and friends.  
If you haven't already, please consider becoming a "Follower".

Best Effort,

It is important for students to know that they are not to speak until it is their turn.

This description is of 3 rounds.  Some teachers do 4 rounds, using 60, 45, 30, 15 second intervals.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Daily Assignment #37: Think, Pair, Share

Think, Pair, Share, is a processing strategy created by Dr. Frank Lyman, in 1981. There are just 3 steps to this strategy.

Step 1: Students are asked to think about a topic or a question posed by the teacher or a student.

Step 2: Students turn to a partner, or an assigned Learning Partner, (see Daily Assignment #12:  Learning Partners).

Step 3: Students share or discuss their responses with partners.

Example:   Teacher, "What data are we going to need to solve this problem?"
                                           (Thinking Skill: Analyzing)


                  Teacher, "Turn to your partner and discuss your thinking."

A variation of Step 3 might be for the students to share with their partner then create a quad with another pair and share.  Another variation might be after students share with a partner they then share with the whole class or share their partners response.

There is also Think, Write, Share or Think, Graphic Organizer, Share.  I'm sure there are other variations as well.

Think, Pair, Share, gives students an opportunity to think, reflect and organize their thinking.  Working with a partner helps them to practice their own response and to listen to someone else's thinking.

Research shows that this strategy increases student participation, develops a higher level of thinking and questioning.

I hope you will experiment with this strategy.  If you do, let us know how it goes.

Please share this blogsite with colleagues and friends.
If you haven't already, consider becoming a "Follower".

Best Effort,

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Daily Assignment #36: 10-2

Dr. Mary Budd Rowe, a science educator, developed this 10-2 processing strategy.  Simply put, 10-2 is when the teacher instructs for 10 minutes and students have 2 minutes to process the information.  Processing may include writing in a journal, reviewing and clarifying notes, sharing with a partner or with a team, and writing down questions.  It is not a time to interact with the teacher, such as asking questions.

There are several advantages for doing this strategy e.g., retention of information is greater, students stay more focused during instruction, the quality of note taking and questions improves, students process with peers, developing independent learners.

Also, I have found, when students sit for long periods of time, I lose their attention.  My instruction maybe amazing, but how long can anyone sit and get?  "The brain can absorb only what the seat will endure."  I love this quote, unfortunately, I don't know who said it.  However, it is so true.  The 10-2 strategy can provide an opportunity for students to get up and move when they are sharing with a partner or a team.

I hope you will experiment with this quick and simple strategy.  it doesn't cost anything but the benefits are great.

Please share this blogsite with colleagues and friends.  If you haven't already, consider becoming a "Follower".

Best Effort,

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Daily Assignment #35: Predicting What Can Go Wrong

We can never predict everything that can go wrong within a lesson, herding students or any other situation within a school day.  However, we can try to be mindful of possibilities e.g., challenging vocabulary within a lesson, confusing directions for an activity, obstacles blocking a passageway, students upset over a change in the schedule, conflicts on the playground, and the list goes on.

How can we prevent these situations?  As you plan the day, take a moment and think what might interfere with a smooth flow within a lesson, transitions, recess, rescheduling, etc...   Then try to plan for it.

For example, look at the vocabulary within a lesson, list challenging words, teach the meaning, clarify questions, then do the lesson.  For some lessons it is hard to know what can go wrong until you've taught it.  Then it may become crystal clear as to what to anticipate the next time.

When giving directions for an activity ask the students for thumbs up if they understand, thumbs in the middle if they have one question and thumbs down if they are totally confused.  Then clarify the misunderstandings and/or confusions.

When herding students be mindful of obstacles e.g., other classes moving in the hallways, equipment (video, carts, wastebaskets, furniture, etc....) in awkward places, puddles of water (dare I say, even bodily fluids).  Don't be unnerved if you must take a different route and have to move things around to create that passageway.

If during recess you know that some students may have a difficult time, plan for it.  Hold them back and have a conversation with them about appropriate behavior during recess.  In this way, you are giving them notice and being very clear about expectations.

In our profession, change in the daily schedule is inevitable.  There are so many unpredictable events that can impact our day e.g.,  an unplanned assembly, fire drills, conflict among students, specialist absent, announcements on intercom, someone getting hurt emotionally/physically, etc...  All of these impact instruction.  How you handle these events will be a model for your students.  Remain calm and flexible.
Have back up plans that you keep on hand.  Refer to Daily Assignment #22 for ideas to fill those down moments that may result from a schedule change.

Having said all that, please know that you can't predict everything.  Learn from each event.  Build your repertoire.  And be calm.

Please share this blogsite with colleagues and friends.  If you haven't already, become a "Follower".
Thank you for your support.
Best Effort,

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Daily Assignment #34: Physical Movement of Students

Physical movement of students, within the classroom, during transitions can be a challenge.  We do this in many different ways throughout the day. It can happen smoothly or be absolutely chaotic. If a teacher says, "Line up for lunch,"  chances are chaos will result.  Some students will get in line, some will chat, some will start fooling around and some may never make it to lunch.  Movement within an activity/lesson or after an activity/lesson is also a crucial time.  A lot of instructional time can be lost with these movements.  Therefore, we need a repertoire of strategies for dividing and moving the "herd" in  quick and efficient ways.

Here is a list of a few strategies:
  1. by individual names'
  2. alphabetical order
  3. reverse alphabetical order (beginning with Z)
  4. table groups
  5. teams
  6. partners
  7. teacher begins with one student, then that student selects the next student, and so on (be careful with this one, you don't want to create an isolate in the class)
  8. style of shoes, tie, slip on, velcro
  9. style of shirtsleeves, long, short, none
  10. shirt style, designs, stripes, solids, words
  11. colors, "if you have on blue..."
  12. pets, "if you have a dog..." or  "if you have 2 pets"
  13. assigning jobs for groups, while other students get seated or lined up
  14. making supplies/materials in easily accessible places so that congestion doesn't occur
  15. pacing of activities/lessons e.g., one group moves from one activity to another, before the next group switches
I'm sure you have other strategies, as well.  If you would like to share them with us, please do so.  

I hope you will share this blogsite with colleagues and friends. If you haven't already, consider becoming a "Follower".

Best Effort,

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Daily Assignment #33: Preparing students for transitions

It is important to help students transition from one activity to the next.  Abruptly ending an activity that students are engaged in and then quickly moving them to the next activity, creates confusion and anxiety. 
For example:  The students are doing math activities that are very engaging.  Abruptly, the teacher stands and says, "Put the math materials away and take out your writing folder."
The teacher has just interrupted the students' learning.  What was happening in the math activity may have been a pivotal point in understanding a concept for a student.  They have been jerked out of one activity and then thrust into another one.

Here is another example of a jerk and thrust transition that I am guilty of doing, more than once:
The students are really focused and engaged in a writing assignment.  I look up and notice it is time for gym.  I say, "Quick, put your pencils down and get in line for gym."

Some teachers give a "warning" that the next activity will happen in a few minutes.  The word "warning" carries a negative meaning, something bad is about to happen.  I prefer using the word "notice".  It sounds less threatening, e.g. "This is a 5 minute notice until gym."

Setting a timer is an easy and inexpensive way to not only help the teacher to stay on time but it also helps the students stay focused.  Using a timer guarantees that the class will be at specialist on time or will transition at the right time.  I also set it to remind me to pick the students up from specialist on time.
Students can have the responsibility of the timer.  Have one student set the timer for the length of the activity, lesson, or whatever. Set it 5 minutes before the transition, so students will know how much time they have to clean up and prepare for the next activity.  You will be amazed at how smoothly transitions occur.

I hope you will share this blog with colleagues and friends.  If you haven't already, consider becoming a "Follower".  

Best Effort,

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Daily Assignment #32: "What did you do over vacation?"

First, welcome back.  I hope you have all had a restful and relaxing vacation.
Are you ready to begin again?  If you are reading this it means you are, which is great!

A common question, that is asked of students, on the first day back from vacation is, "What did you do over vacation?"   For some teachers it is the stem for a writing assignment or a class discussion.  However, this question really separates the students into the "have's" and the "have not's".  There are the students who travel to far away lands, or go on a trip to Disney World or go on amazing ski trips or have a very busy social life with their peers.  Then there are the students who stay at home because the parents need to work, there is no money for lavish trips, or even a dinner at McDonalds.  Their social lives might be very limited or not at all.

Let me share with you a different question for the first day back from vacation. Ask, "Who is someone you spent special time with over vacation and what was one thing you did with them, or why was the time special?"  With this question every student will have something to write about or discuss.  It levels the playing field.

On another note, don't be surprised to discover that your students have totally forgotten class routines.   So, on Monday morning, you will need to review class procedures/routines and expectations.   Don't wait for an incident to happen and then reprimand the students.  Be proactive and be prepared (and forewarned).

I hope you will share this blogsite with colleagues and friends.  If you haven't already, consider becoming a "Follower".

Happy New Year!
Best Effort,