Monday, December 3, 2012

Daily Assignment #124: Holidays/Semester Closure

It's that busy time year for all of us, shopping, partying, teaching, de-lousing, etc...  I recently attended a party and the topic of conversation for the young mothers was...  you guessed it, headlice.  Naturally, I referred them to my blog #123 and silently gave thanks that I don't have to worry about it.

On another note, a question was asked of me as to how many and how much of the different religious holidays should be taught in the classroom?  And, how are teachers expected to include these topics with everything else they need to cover before the December break?  Good questions.

I have selected information from Daily Assignments #27 and #96 to share with you:

Daily Assignment #27:

Some teachers select several different holidays to teach about religious/ethnic traditions.  Other teachers just share holiday traditions for one or two religions/ethnic groups.  Another approach would to be to ask for parent volunteers to teach their religious/ethnic holiday traditions.  An another approach might be to do nothing at all.

I've done it all.  For me, I found the best approach was to ask for parent volunteers to come in and do a 30-40 minute presentation.  If I didn't know the parent well, I would ask them to share with me their lesson plan in advance.  In this way, I could help them with appropriateness for the age group and timing. The parents were always well prepared.  It would be an amazing lesson and better than what I would have done.

There would be years when only one parent would come in and I would need to teach 1-2 more holidays. Then other years there might be 3 different parents who would come in to share 3 different holidays.  If no one volunteered then I would teach Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa, or a holiday that reflected the population in my class.

Daily Assignment #96:

This is also a time to bring closure to a semester and to units of study.  Knowing that this is a chaotic time, begin planning how you would like the last few days to look and feel like.  Some teachers plan class parties, a class breakfast with student exhibits/presentations, a special field trip, e.g. concert, play, movie.  Then there are other teachers that press on with learning and try to keep a low key tone because the students are already worked into a tizzy.  Having said all that, I recognize that some schools/districts have policies in regard to what should occur on those last few days.

Because this month is such a busy time my next blog will be posted on Sunday, January 6, 2013. 
Have a wonderful, joyful, holiday, whatever it may be and see you in January.

In the meantime, please refer to previous blogs for suggestions of effective strategies.  
If you haven't yet, please check-out my book on ----Daily Assignment: Effective Teaching Strategies.                                  
Best Effort,

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Daily Assignment #123: Head Lice,a.k.a. Head Lights

The dreaded, small, stubborn head lice are probably creating havoc in your class about now.  The minute I hear those 2 words my head starts itching.  These tiny parasites bite your scalp, which becomes itchy and then lays their eggs on strands of hair.  
Lice has been associated with filth, however, the 2 are not related.  Head lice does not discriminate as to who is clean and who is not.  They usually affect children, who pass them on to their friends.  Think of all those winter coats hanging up, stacked up, or worse yet lying in the coat area.  And then there are the weekend sleepovers, head lice loves them.
As the classroom teacher I was always anxious that I would get the dreaded lice.  I never did, even though it was a yearly issue.  Several years it was so bad I was checking the heads of parents as well.  I had a few parents screen the students every morning, while I screened parents.  We would then put each student's coat in a trash band and tie it.  At recess the students took their coats out of the bags and stuffed the bags in their coat sleeves.  We would repeat the procedure when they came back in.  We were all desperate to end the cycle.  We even bought special magnifying glasses especially for looking for lice.
Other challenges include parents who are not vigilant about combing their child's hair and cleaning the bedding, rugs, etc.  Also, if a parent doesn't tell the teacher that their child has head lice because they are embarrassed then that creates a delay in stopping the spread.  I've also experienced the parent who was indignant that their child had lice.  She refused to deal with it.  It wasn't until the principal stopped her at the door and had the nurse check her child that she finally agreed to do something.  It wasn't because her child had lice that she finally agreed to address it, it was because he wasn't going to be allowed back in the school until she dealt with it.
I had a "no tolerance policy" in my class, which was different from the district's policy.  Whether it was nit or the actual bug, the child went home.  Not all parents were pleased with this policy but if I had gotten lice I knew I would be absent for a while, which would mean a substitute.  Also, I reminded them of how it felt for the parent of the child who didn't have lice. So reluctantly, they all accepted their fate.
There are ways to get rid of the tiny parasites.  There are chemicals that can be used, but needless to say, there are pros and cons to using them.  There are also non-chemical alternatives.  With 35 years of classroom experience I have seen both methods used by desperate parents.
NIX used to be the chemical of choice, with a good combing, using a metal lice comb.  Unfortunately, we now have NIX resistant lice.  Recently, I heard of a new chemical, Sklice, which requires a prescription.  
If chemicals are not the route you want to take you might try the following, which was recommended by a parent and a  "Nit Picker" (yes, they do exist).
Step 1: Saturate the hair and scalp with Listerine (the original amber 
colored one.You don't want sugar in your hair.)Cover with a disposable 
shower cap, and let sit for hours.

Step 2: Douse the hair/scalp with vinegar.

This will help loosen the nits.

Step 4: Run conditioner through the hair to facilitate combing.(I was 
told to use coconut conditioner.We bought the Suave coconut.The girls 
loved it, and it's cheap.Double bonus.)

Step 5: The comb out!You'll need a lice comb, and you'll want a metal 
one with very small tines.I couldn't find metal at CVS, only at 
Walgreens.They sell this comb two pack, but the larger one is useless. I 
also recommend white paper towels and hair clips to section the hair.

Comb out, step A: Section the hair.

Comb out, step B: Comb through that section of hair in very small 
sections, wiping the comb on the paper towel after each stroke.Those 
spots you see, those are the nits.Make sure to always keep the same side 
of the comb up and to go at a 45 degree angles.I threw each paper in a 
plastic grocery bag.I used the ones with the small sheets, and that 
worked well.

Comb out, step C: Using a wooden skewer or similar, carefully examine 
each strand of hair and manually remove any nit you can see.

Comb out, step D: Repeat step B.

Comb out, step E: Continue repeatedly combing around the head until you 
can get a completely clean paper towel.

Throw out the bag of paper towels outside.

However much time you think this will take, triple it.  My daughter's 
hair is thick.It took 2.5 hours.

Step 6: Saturate the hair/scalp in olive oil.Cover in a shower cap and 
leave on overnight.This will suffocate the lice you missed. (Yes, you 
missed some.)

Step 7: In the morning, repeat the whole comb out.Expect it to take as 
long as it did the night before.Be prepared to wonder where in the 
*bleep* all the *bleeping* nits came from after you worked so hard the 
night before.

Step 8: Wash hair and put up.

Repeat the comb out with conditioner at least daily.Repeat the whole 
procedure every 2-3 days.Change the sheets and pillow cases daily and 
tumble dry the pillows on high between each changing.

We did everything outside.It's easier to see in sunlight, and it's less 
gross.We are fortunate to own an iPad, so I had my daughter watch 
Netflix to keep her happier.(Yes, for those keeping track, that is 5 
hours of Netflix!)We did the entire procedure on the whole family, 
despite the rest of us seeming to be lice free.In fact, we never found 
any nits on the rest of us, but we'll do the repeats on us as well.It's 
just so easy to spread within a family. Better to get out ahead of it.

We purchased a steam cleaning to clean the beds, rugs, couch, chairs, 
carpets, etc.

Before the above, we tried NIX and the Cetaphil treatment 
( think the Cetaphil 
treatment was unsuccessful because I didn't realize how to completely 
comb out.They may say you don't need to, but I disagree.I'm hoping that 
we don't need to repeat the Cetaphil as well because this is already 
really involved.

And, of course, you can also hire a professional "Nit Picker" 
but it can be quite expensive and you still have to clean 
your house.

Now that I have made your skin crawl and your head 
itch, I would like to remind you to take a look at my 
book---Daily Assignment: Effective Teaching 
Strategies, on

My next blog will be on December 
2nd. In the meantime, I hope you 
will take a look at past blogs for 
ideas to experiment with.
Please share this blog,and book, 
with colleagues and friends.

Best Effort,

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Daily Assignment #122: Update

Hello Everyone,
Last week's blog was so long I've decided to give you more time to absorb it. lol

Actually, I've been very busy preparing an ereader version of Daily Assignment: Effective Teaching Strategies.  I am pleased to say that it is now available on, as well as the hardcopy.  As a result, I just can't look at this computer tonight, I also need to get outside.  My apologies, but I'm sure you understand.

In the meantime, please look at past blogs for ideas and suggestions.

I'll be back on Nov. 4th, unless hurricane Sandy interferes.

Have a safe and fun Halloween.

Best Effort,

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Daily Assignment # 121: Halloween

As I walk through stores, I am taken aback with all the different Halloween costumes for children, as well as adults.  Some of them are a bit shocking and others are absolutely adorable.  I think of all the costumes I made for my sons.  We had the last minute idea costumes and then there were those that took me weeks to make, such as the E.T. costume.

Students become so excited about the Halloween customs.  For some families, and communities, Halloween is controversial because of the pagan connection, as well as for safety issues, i.e. accepting candy from strangers, walking around in the dark.  Some parents feel the ghosts and monster images are frightening for children. Modern day witches also feel that they are being misrepresented.

I think it is important to give the students background information on Halloween.  They need to understand why they say "trick-or- treat, why candy is given and why they wear costumes.
So, let me share some facts with you:

  • The name Halloween comes from "Hallow's Eve"
  • It is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts.  
  • In the 8th century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints and martyrs; the holiday, "All Saints' Day" incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain.
  • The evening before was known as All Hallow's Eve and later Halloween.   
  • Halloween evolved into a secular, community-based event characterized by child-friendly activities such as trick-or-treating.
  • In medieval times, on All Souls'Day, (10th century Christians organized All Saints' Day to recognize all dead people), people made soul cakes.  Children would go door-to-door begging for the cakes, hence trick-or treating.  For every cake a child collected, they would have to say a prayer for the dead relatives of the person who gave the cake, which helped the dead relatives find their way out of purgatory and into heaven.
  • Jack-o'-lanterns:  As part of the Samhain celebration, Celts would bring home an ember from the communal bonfire at the end of the night.  They carried these embers in hollowed-out turnips, creating a lantern resembling the modern day jack-o'-lantern.  There are also Irish folk tales related to the significance of the jack-o'-lanterns.
  • Another connection, The Days of the Dead, (Los Dias de los Muertos) celebrated in Mexico. This is a day for for families to remember the deceased.  It's a time marked by festivities, including parades of skeletons and ghouls.  Revelers lead amock funeral procession with a live person in the coffin. 
Celebrating Halloween in my classroom evolved over the years.  For many years the student would bring in their costumes, put them on after lunch, parade around the school, including going in an out of classrooms.   We would return back to the classroom, sing Halloween songs, have lots of treats, take the costumes off and send the sugary high and excited children home.   Everyone in the building loved to see the costumes.  It was a common practice which all the teachers would do.  The teachers worked together to get all the timing right, so that everyone one could see everyone else. 
The downside of doing this was that some costumes would tear or rip, leaving a child in tears.  Also, several times, a student would leave a part of their costume in school, or worse yet the whole costume.  The school would close and the parent, sometimes angry, would be in a panic mode trying to replace the costume, while the child is crying, hysterical mode.  Needless to say, we stopped the practice.
 My classroom Halloween celebration, sans costumes, evolved into something that required parent volunteers and a great deal of timing.  However, it was awesome, if I do say so myself.
I set up 5 activity stations around the room.  Each station was manned by a parent.  Each student was given a ticket, which were shaped like a ghost, with the numbers of each station. I divided the class into 5 groups.  One group had the numbers 1,2,3,4,5 on each of their tickets.  The next group's numbers were 2,3,4,5,1.  The next was 3,4,5,1,2.  Next 4,5,1,2,3 and the last group 5,1,2,3,4.  In that way, the students started off in groups at the 5 different stations, which were also numbered 1-5.  
The students then rotated through the stations.  (One of the stations was decorating a brown paper lunch bag, which they put all their activity products in to take home.)  When they completed all 5 stations, they turned their ghost ticket in to sit and watch the cartoon version of "The Headless Horseman."  This gave the adults time to clean-up and for the children to calm down before dismissal.  If they didn't want to watch the movie I had Halloween themed coloring worksheets for them to do.
I'm sure you have lots of ideas for the activities.  Here are a few I used:
  1. Handpainting:   Never do it on their face because they might be allergic and/or they may not want it as part of their Halloween costume later.
  2. Paint and decorate small gourds.
  3. Bats using clothespins, felt and magnet tape:  This is then used to close the brown paper lunch bag and once home they can stick it to the refrigerator.
  4. Folding heavy paper into a small box and filling with popcorn, raisins and peanuts.
  5. Witch cupcakes.  Make chocolate cupcakes ahead of time.  Use green colored frosting for face, black string licorice for hair, corn candy for nose, chocolate chips for eyes, chocolate sugar cones for hat.
  6. Egg carton spiders.
  7. Jack-o'-lantern cookies.  Use orange frosting, corn candy for face.
  8. Feet ghost on black paper.  Trace socked feet with white chalk on black paper, color in with chalk or white crayons, cut-out, string for hanging.
  9. Halloween magnets:  Using foam craft, or wooden shapes, students paint, decorate and glue onto a magnet or a clothespin with a magnet.
  10. Paper plate mask.
  11. Tootsie Pop ghost.
  12. Styrofoam paper cup witch: stick a Popsicle through for arms, polystyrene ball for head, black yarn for hair, green and black paint, black felt for hat, wiggle eyes.
  13. Goop: you know, that slimy stuff.
Make sure the students' names are on everything, including the bag they take everything home in.

This version of a Halloween celebration can be great fun.  These activities do take planning, preparations ahead of time and timing.  If an adult doesn't understand, or know how to do an activity, don't put them at that station.  Also, have extra volunteers to help.  I tried not to be responsible for a station so that I could supervise everything.  This Halloween celebration can get quite expensive, I asked the parents to be responsible for the supplies for their station.  They were more than happy to help.  Each year that you do this it gets easier.  The students loved it.  In fact, former students still say they remembered how much fun it was.

I hope this has given you a new way of thinking about a class Halloween celebration.

Please share this blog with colleagues and friends.
If you haven't already, check-out my new book on effective strategies on
Just type in Linda Fobes.

Best Effort,

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Daily Assignment #120: Oops

Dear Friends and Colleagues,
I apologize for not blogging for the last 2 weeks.  I have not had easy access to the internet.  I'm afraid this dilemma continues.  I will try to post my next blog on Oct. 21st.

In the meantime, I hope you will take a look at my past blogs.

Best Effort,

P.S.  I hope you will take a moment to view my book: Daily Assignment: Effective Teaching Strategies, at, just type in Linda Fobes.  When you do purchase a copy please write a review.  Also, I need to get the word out about my book.  I would really appreciate your help in spreading the word.   Thanks for your support.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Daily Assignment #119: Calling home

Begin by stating your name and whose teacher you are.  Then say that it is not an emergency.

If you are delivering upsetting news about the child, and you are calling on a landline, be aware of the possibility of the message being erased before the parent hears it.  I suggest that you do not describe the issue but just say that you would like to speak to a parent.  Also, add that you will assume the parent did not get the message if they do not call back and that you will try again.  With the common use of cell phones this is probably a moot point.

If you call in the evening from your home phone and do not want your number to show on caller ID use *67.  This prevents the family from getting your phone number, as it will be blocked.  But keep in mind blocked calls may not be received.

Please share this link with colleagues and friends.
Also, I hope you will take a moment to check out my new book--

Best Effort,

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Daily Assignment #118: Announcement

Hello Everyone,
I am so excited to announce the publication of the 2nd edition of my book:
Daily Assignment:  Effective Teaching Strategies.  This new edition includes 105 effective strategies, including the ones from this blog, as well as new ones.  These are great strategies for the new and the seasoned teachers.

I am so proud of this book for many reasons------First, I didn't think it was possible to do.  I discovered it is, with the right support and effort.  Second, I had an amazing editor, Bill Bramham:, to help me with the writing.  Third, I had a wonderful, patient person, Bill Chipman, an author himself, guide me through the process of self-publishing.  Actually, Bill did it for me.

I hope you will take a look at my book on and purchase a slew of them.

Or just go to and type in Linda Fobes.

Currently, the cover posted on Amazon is incorrectly worded.  Ignore it.  We're working on it.

Please share this information with colleagues and friends, spread the word.

Thanks so much for your support.
Best Effort,

Monday, June 4, 2012

Daily Assignment #113: Summer

Well, it's that time of year.  A lot of you have already completed another school year and still others are almost there.  If you are among those trying to figure out how to bring closure to your school year take a look at Daily Assignments #66-68.

I have been working on a new edition of my book, Daily Assignment:  At-A-Glance: 70 Effective Teaching Strategies, which I am very excited about.  It will include many more effective strategies and hopefully for a lot less money.

I was very fortunate to connect with a freelance editor who really has improved the quality of my book.  I highly recommend this person if you are ever in need of an editor.  Please email me for his contact information.

I will let you all know when the 2nd edition is published.

In the meantime, have a wonderful, safe, healthy and well deserved summer.
I hope to reconnect with all of you in August.

Best Effort,

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012

Daily Assignment #111: Sarcasm

I did it again.  I'm late in posting this email.  My excuse---I forgot to do it.  My apologizes to those who were looking for my blog earlier.  

Sarcasm is a "sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or remark; a bitter jibe or taunt, usually conveyed through irony or understatement".  It is usually demeaning and cruel and has no place in a classroom.  Teachers using sarcasm usually consider it a humorous and witty way to engage or reprimand a student or class.  However, sarcasm creates a negative interaction and environment.  Students may react with an inappropriate response, which usually leads to negative consequences by the teacher.  There will always be one or more students who are worried that they might become the teachers next target for sarcasm.  Again, don't use sarcasm in class, it hurts even if you don't think so. 

Please share this link with colleagues and friends.
Best Effort,

Monday, May 14, 2012

Daily Assignment #110: Treats

Oops!  I got so caught up in our Mother's Day celebration I totally forgot to do my blog, sorry about that.  I hope you all had a wonderful day as well.

On another note, I would like to share my thoughts on candy as a reward.  I am guilty of being a candy rewarder.  I would give 2 Swedish Fish or 1 Life Saver or 1 Hershey Kiss for various reasons, i.e. successful moments, when it would feel like the class was spiraling downward and just because.  Simple treats are a quick reward, inexpensive, makes kids happy and can completely change the atmosphere in the classroom.   As we become more health conscious, candy may not have a place in your classroom.  Many teachers think it isn't a good idea to reward with candy and are concerned about parental disapproval.  It might be a good idea to ask parents in a questionnaire at the beginning of the year whether they have an issue with an occasional piece of candy.  Of course, if there is a medical issue, you should be aware of that early on.

Please share this blog with colleagues and friends.
If you haven't already, check-out my book on effective strategies:

Best Effort!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Daily Assignment #109: Cautions

I've been thinking about the things I wished someone had told me to be cautious about when I first started teaching.  I've created this list:

  • Never release a student to a stranger.  Make sure whomever is picking up a student has permission to do so.
  • Touch or not touch.  Be very careful. This is such a sensitive topic, particularly if you are a male teacher.  There are students who may misinterpret a touch.  There are also students who are tactile sensitive.  I've always been a big hugger.  However, there are students I am cautious about approaching.  There are also students who might approach you and it is not comfortable.  You need to make this call, be careful.
  • On a similar note, if you find yourself alone with a student in the classroom, leave the door open.  Consider stepping out in the hallway with the student.
  • Continuing on this theme, DO NOT drive a student in your car.  There are so many reasons not to do this and you probably know them.  You may have the best intentions but if you were ever to get into an accident or a student accused you of something terrible your life would become not good.  Just don't do it.
  • If you have a desk make sure it is facing the door so that you can see who is coming and going from your classroom.
  • No matter how frustrating/disruptive a student maybe, never send him/her out of the room unescorted.  
  • Never leave your class unattended.  Check to see what the policy at your school is for stepping out of the class for just a moment, e.g. bathroom.  Some districts require a licensed teacher, in other districts it can be any staff member.
  • Do not dispense medication, including vitamins, cough drops, ointments, ice.  Check the schools policy on sending students to the nurse and procedures for medication.  The school nurse should notify you of students with allergies or on medications.  If a student may need an Epi-pen make sure the nurse instructs you on how to use it.  For every field trip, or activity out of range of the nurse, make sure you have an emergency kit, especially the Epi-pen.  
  • Report accidents.  Don't take any chances that it is nothing.  Better to err on the side of caution than not.  Notify parents.  Parents do not like to hear about their child getting hurt 2 days later.  And document everything.
  • If there is something off for a student and you are not sure what to do about it speak with the school guidance counselor.  Document everything.  I continue to keep my documentation of some students just in case.
  • Know the school's Emergency Plan.  The school I was in did not have one until after a situation.  As a result, there was chaos.  Staff and students did not know where to go.  Parents didn't know where to find their child.  It was a chaotic mess.  
  • Preview videos that you are going to show to your class.  I started a video once only to discover it had been taped over with an orgy scene from a Dracula movie.  Talk about panicking.
Other than that, please feel free to move about the cabin. LOL

Please share this blog with colleagues and friends.
Also, you haven't already take a look at my book on effective strategies:

Best Effort,

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Daily Assignment #108: Building Capacity

A visual strategy I used to help my students understand how much effort it takes to build capacity was a cutout of a large rhombus.  At the top of the rhombus was the word Effort.  At the opposite end was the word Capacity.

When new content was introduced, whether it was learning how to read, learning borrowing or carrying, a piece of music, whatever it might have been, I would begin by putting a Popsicle stick, or anything that can represent a bar, at the bottom of the rhombus by CAPACITY.  I would explain that the stick was at the bottom because we were learning something new and had to put in a lot of EFFORT to build CAPACITY, which was represented by all the area above the stick.  As the students became more proficient with the material the stick would be moved upward to represent that they had built CAPACITY and the amount of EFFORT they needed was decreasing.

You can use this strategy with the whole class, a group or for individuals.  Keep the rhombus in a very visible place.  I found the students were very encouraged and motivated by the movement of the stick.

Before you use this strategy, you will need to:
  1. Name it.
  2. Explain the purpose, including defining the terms, CAPACITY and EFFORT.
  3. Show how it will work.
On another note, I will not have access to the internet until May 6th.  Please take this interlude to revisit previous Daily Assignment blogs.  You can also refer to my book:

Please share this blog with colleagues and friends.
Best Effort,


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Daily Assignment #107: Feedback

Feedback can be given in many forms.  Primary teachers have a tendency to give feedback in the form of cute drawings, stickers and/or positive words, e.g., "Super,""Wow," "Great job," "Well done," or at the other end of the spectrum, "You can do better," "Try again," "Try harder." Middle school and high school teachers give percentages or letter grades.  There are times when all of these types of feedback are appropriate.  However, none of them help students to improve their performance. 

Feedback to improve student performance should be: 
  • Timely
  • Specific 
  • Understandable
  • Formed to allow for self-adjustment
                                                      Wiggins, 1998

I would add "in the form of a nonjudgmental statement" to this list.

What does nonjudgmental feedback look and sound like?
  • " This essay includes an opening sentence and 3 supporting sentences.  It does not include a closing sentence."  (This feedback provides the student with what they did correctly and what they need to improve on. I try not to use the word "you" in the feedback.  Feedback sounds less judgmental without the word "you".)
  • " The correct operation was used to solve this equation. However, the calculation is incorrect."
  • " The hypothesis is stated correctly.  Only two, out of the required three, forms of data have been recorded. A conclusion has not been included in this write-up."
  • " This story includes a beginning, middle and ending.  Punctuation marks are not included throughout the story."  

If the students don't understand the feedback a rubric will provide clarity, especially if exemplars are included.

Nonjudgmental feedback takes time and a lot of thought.  I suggest using nonjudgmental feedback on one set of papers the first week, to practice the language and then increasing the number of sets of papers each week. The more practice the easier and quicker assessing assignments will become.

Please share this blog with colleagues and friends. 
If you haven't already, check-out my book on effective strategies:

Best Effort,

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Daily Assignment #106: Reinforcing Effort Leads to Achievement

Research shows that students may not make the connection between their level of effort and their  level of achievement.   As a result, teachers may need to teach this relationship.  Robert Marzano states, "Students who believe the amount of effort they put into a task increases their achievement actually do better."  When students meet with success, when attempting to reach a specific goal, they should receive some form of recognition for their efforts

Marzano's recommendations for classroom practice include:
  • explicitly teach students that effort can improve achievement
  • ask students to chart effort and achievement
  • establish a rationale for recognition
  • follow guidelines for effective and ineffective praise
  • use recognition tokens
  • use the pause, prompt, and praise technique (Daily Assignment #99: Pause, Prompt, Praise)

                                              Classroom Instruction that Works by Robert J.Marzano, Debra J. Pickering, Jane E. Pollock

    Using rubrics helps to raise student awareness that learning is incremental and that the more effort they expend the greater their achievement will be.  (Refer to Daily Assignment #25: Rubrics)

    In Daily Assignment #69 I shared the reasons why I close each blog with "Best Effort".  Changing our language, as the models for our students, will reinforce the importance of effort.

    Please share this blog with colleagues and friends and consider becoming a "Follower".
    If you haven't already, check-out my book on effective strategies:

    Best Effort,

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Daily Assignment #105: Extended Family Trips

Over the years I found it challenging when a parent would come to me and say,"Eddie won't be in school next week.  We're going on vacation.  Please prepare work for him to do while we are away."

I totally understand parents traveling before or after the scheduled school vacations so that they may get that primo airfare.  However, parents don't realize all the challenges and disruptions these extended trips/vacations have on the classroom and the teacher.

My response to these parents changed over the years.  At the beginning of my career I would prepare all that work for the student to take on their vacation, only to have it returned to me unfinished or never returned at all.  I don't think parents are aware of how much time it takes to prepare this work for their trip/vacation.

It was difficult to be pleasant to the habitual vacation family or the ones who would return all tanned and mellow and then expect me to catch their child up on everything the child had missed, or the parent who brought their child to school straight from the airport where they had just returned from an 8-hour flight expecting me to deal with an exhausted child.

What I've learned:

  1. Some trips/vacations are worth it, especially those in which the child would learn so much by the experience, such as a travel-learning trip/vacation.
  2. Don't prepare the work for the student to take with them.  Instead, tell the parent to have the student read 20-30 minutes each night, perhaps keep a reading journal.  The parents should design 5-10 math problems each night for the child to solve.  Also, have the student keep a journal, with photos or drawings, of their trip.  Parents can also buy commercially produced workbooks.
  3. Save all the work that is done during the student's absence.  Give the work to the parents to do with the student at home and then return finished products for grading.  Make sure to give the parent a deadline for the work to be returned.
  4. It becomes increasingly more difficult for a student to miss school after grade 2, due to mandated testing.
Check to see what your district or school's policy is on this issue before you decide what you will be doing.  If there isn't a policy it would be beneficial for your school to establish one.  

Please share this blog with colleagues and friends.
Also, take a moment to check-out my book on effective strategies:

On another note, I will not have access to the Internet until Sunday, March 11th.  In the meantime, browse through the strategies included in this blog and find one that you would like to experiment with.  

Best Effort, 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Daily Assignment #104: Writing Objectives

When I started teaching, writing the objectives for a lesson was something you did when you were student teaching.  Now, objectives for lessons are required.  Some districts/schools require teacher to post the objectives in the classroom for a lesson so that students understand what they are to know and be able to do by the end of class.  My experience, not only as a student, as a beginning teacher was more of "guess what's on the teacher's mind."   My instruction was also activity driven, meaning I really wasn't sure what the students were supposed to know or be able to do but I sure knew they were having fun.

Since those beginning years, I have learned a great deal about understanding objectives of lessons and how to articulate them.  Let me share with you an abbreviated version of how to write objectives.

First, look at your lesson and decide what it is you want students to know and to be able to do as a result of  the learning experience.

Second,  write--"Students will know... and be able to...

Objectives should be specific, observable, measurable and contain verbs, such as the ones listed below:

Objective language: 

Cite, Choose, Define, Label, List Locate, Match, Name, Arrange, Classify, Describe, Diagram, Draw, Explain, Identify, Apply, Demonstrate, Illustrate, Interpret, Predict, Categorize, Differentiate, Predict, Conclude, Critique, Support, Evaluate, Contrast, Interpret, Solve, Prove, Research, Write, State, Discuss, Estimate, Summarize, Analyze.  

There are many more verbs that can be used to describe what students will know and be able to do, this is just a few.


  • Students will know and be able to state five facts about the planet Mars.
  • Students will know how to solve an algorithm in division with 5 digit numbers and be able to solve 10 division algorithms. 
  • Students will be able to define a persuasive essay and write a 3 paragraph persuasive essay.
  • Students will know 3 shapes and 4 colors and be able to use the vocabulary in describing a picture.
  • Students will know how to summarize a story and be able to use a summarizing graphic organizer.
Of course, you need to translate objectives into kid friendly language.  For younger students, giving the objective in verbal form is more appropriate than writing on a chart/smart board.  For older students, posting the objectives, and verbally giving them, is important.

Your students will pay much more attention to the lesson because they know what they will need to know and be able to do after the lesson.  It is so much better to have them have this information than to have them sitting in front of you trying to guess what's on your mind.

Please share this link with colleagues and friends.
Please check-out my book on effective strategies:

Best Effort!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Daily Assignment #103: Designing a Unit of Study

Designing a unit of study can be very overwhelming.  Let me break it down in more manageable steps for you.

  1. Begin with researching the topic.  Keep a list of resource materials.  Make sure to use the latest resources on the topic.  Become knowledgeable. 
  2. Decide what it is that students are to know and to be able to do by the end of this unit.
  3. How will learning be assessed and how frequently?
  4. Do an Activator with the students to find out how much they already know about the topic and any misconceptions or confusions they may have on the topic (refer to Daily Assignments #41-44, #53, #82)
  5. Using the data from the Activator start designing the unit. 
Questions to ask while planning the unit:
  • What is the time span for this unit? 
  • How frequently will I be teaching this unit, e.g., everyday, every other day? How many lessons will I need?
  • Knowing the objectives, what will the each lesson include?
  • What thinking skills should be included? (refer to Daily Assignment #17, #18-19)
  • In thinking about each lesson, what effective strategies can be included to meet the needs of all my students? (refer to all the Daily Assignments) 
  • What strategies can be used to include the visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners? (refer to all the Daily Assignments)
  • What projects or activities, which will promote understanding, can be incorporated into the lessons? Include a rubric. (refer to Daily Assignment #25)
  • What summarizers should be used? (refer to Daily Assignment #46-50, #53, #86)
As you teach this unit keep notes on how things are going.  In that way, when you teach this unit again, you will remember the stumbling blocks and the successes. Don't worry if you don't get everything in the first time, just keep building on what you have each year.  Also, keep samples of students' work for reference, particularly when using a rubric.

Please share this blog with colleagues and friends.  Also, take a moment to check-out my book on effective strategies.

Best Effort!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Daily Assignment #102: "Top 9" Effective Teaching Strategies

Robert Marzano, a leading researcher in education, has identified a “Top 9” List of effective teaching strategies, which contribute to higher levels of student achievement:
  1.  Identifying similarities and differences (Daily Assignment #17, #18)
  2. Summarizing and note taking (Daily Assignment #46-#50, #53) 
  3. Reinforcing effort and providing recognition (Daily Assignment #69)
  4. Homework and practice (Daily Assignment #78, #85)
  5.  Nonlinguistic representations such as mental images, graphs, acting out content (Daily Assignment #18)
  6.  Cooperative learning (Daily Assignment #26) 
  7.  Setting objectives and providing feedback(Daily Assignment #25, #58)
  8.  Generating and testing hypotheses 
  9.  Activating prior knowledge via questions, cues, advance   organizers (Daily Assignment #41-#44, #53)
Source: Marzano, 2003
    As you can see I have covered most of the "Top 9" in my blogs.  
    Including one, some or more of the "Top 9" in daily instruction will make a difference in student learning.

    Please share this blog with colleagues and friends.  Also, take a moment to check out my book on effective strategies:

    Best Effort,
    Linda 103