Saturday, March 22, 2014

10 Things That Separate Good Teachers from Great Ones

Cross Posted at Brilliant or Insane 

What separates a good teacher from a great teacher?

1 -- Good teachers teach the subject matter. Their students do very well on assessments.

2 -- Good teachers have high expectations for their students.
Great teachers have high expectations for themselves.

3 -- Good teachers are acutely aware of their surroundings. Their classrooms are well-oiled machines.
Great teachers "pick-n-choose" their battles. They recognize that each student should be treated fairly, but not necessarily equally.

4 -- Good teachers have students who produce.
Great teachers recognize that they are responsible for what their students produce.

5 -- Good teachers reflect.
Great teachers look to their peers, administrators, online, and read books to improve. Most importantly, they look to themselves for answers.

6 -- Good teachers seek to improve themselves.
Great teachers push their peers to become better. 

7 -- Good teachers provide consistent feedback.
Great teachers possess a growth mindset and constantly praise efforts.

8 -- Good teachers arrive to school on time and complete all their duties and obligations.
Great teachers go above and beyond for their students and their school. They never quit and never complain about the hours.

9 -- Good teachers are respected by their students.
Great teachers are loved by their students. 

10 -- Good teachers know their students.
Great teachers know their students better than they know themselves.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Cougar Communication: Graphic Organizer, 1-3-6 Protocol

Excellence in Education: Graphic Organizers
We’re all aware of the research that says students should create graphic representations to assimilate knowledge. Graphic organizers allow students to visually categorize information, their student friendly and creating them enables students to retain and remember the information. Additionally, when used as a study aid, they’re a lot easier to look at and understand than notes or text.

Over the past week, I’ve seen several graphic organizers used as
1.     a summarization activity in preparation for a quiz (Venn Diagram)
2.     part of a guided reading activity (a story strip)
3.     a means of providing structure to a class-wide conversation (viewpoints-reactions-reflections)
4.     a timeline of events
5.     a pre-writing strategy (RAFT-Role, Audience, Format, Topic)

In teaching academic coaching, I kept a binder of graphic organizers. Students were encouraged to find/create their own graphic organizers to represent information from their core classes. Through this process, I learned that it’s often best to allow students to create their own graphic organizers because this requires them to determine what graphic organizer best serves the class’s learning target. 

Ideas for the Classroom: 1-3-6 Protocol
The 1-3-6 protocol puts students in charge of their learning. Working both individually and in groups students develop ideas and opinions about an reading or topic. Most importantly, the students are responsible for their learning and are actively engaged.

1.     Students are given an article to read.  
2.     Students write their responses to the article. For example, you could ask students to write the 5 most important facts from the article.
3.     Students are placed in groups of 3 where they share their ideas. Each group classifies/group their ideas and write a list on newsprint, an overhead, etc.
4.     Merge 2 groups (6 people now) and have the students share their ideas.
5.     Again, groups of 6 write a list of their ideas and bring them together.
6.     Each group of 6 shares their list with the whole group.

Obviously, this is similar to think-pair-share, but by creating larger groups you can more easily manipulate the flexible groups to meet the diverse needs of your students. For example, in a think-pair-share setting, one student may do the majority of the hard work while the other is passively engaged.

Other points:
1.     It need not be an article. Students can be responding to an article, a topic, a video, etc.
2.     A simple graphic organizer can be created by you or by your students.
3.     To get to a higher level, it’s important that students classify their information in the group stages. Alternatively, students can evaluate/rank the ideas. In other words, take this beyond simply summarizing.
4.     In a class with tremendously, diverse students, you can assign and change roles. Some possible roles: summarizer, discussion leader, note-taker, presenter.

Administrative Notes
Please don’t forget that current employees that are covered by VRS may elect to opt-in to the hybrid plan, but this ends on April 30.

With the snow days, we’ve fallen behind in positive referrals. Please take a moment to nominate a student

Saturday, March 1, 2014

6 Simple Ways to Energize Your Lessons

Last week I wrote about the importance of greeting students as they entered your classroom. Now once they're in your class, how do you hook them?

Within the first minute or two of a TV show, we’ve made a decision: Is this show worth watching or not?

The first few minutes of class are no different; student know whether the lesson will be engaging.

To inspire and engage students in learning avoid these engagement killers 
  1. I’m going to come around and check your homework. 
  2. Read through the roster to take attendance. Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, for example, only introduce the contestants after game play has started. 
  3. Give a graded quiz (students who do poorly may shut down) 
  4. Read announcements. Could you imagine a television show starting with the credits? 
When students walk into your classroom their curiosity should be piqued and their imaginations stimulated. Excite them.

Six simple ways to energize your lessons
  1. Ask students to make a guess or a prediction. We kill the love of learning by simply giving the answer. By asking the question first, students will be motivated to find the answers. I observed a science class where the teacher had posted a picture of robin's eggs on the projector. Individually students were asked to hypothesize, Why are robin eggs blue? Every student was hooked. They wanted to know the answer. 
  2. A two or three minute video clip can effectively introduce a topic or plant in their minds what they’re about to learn. The brevity of news stories lends themselves perfectly to this. 
  3. Give students a prop as they enter your classroom. These can be elaborate or simple. A math teacher gave students a golf ball and asked them to count the number of dimples (he later showed them a way to accurately figure it out using math and not simply counting). A world history teacher gave students a piece of paper with a role that the students would assume throughout the class. Students were hook
  4. In a BYOD classroom, post a QR code for students to scan. 
  5. Use art or music as a prompt. Ask students to respond to a song or artwork or have them create a drawing of their own. 
  6. Have students respond to a controversial statement. 
As an educator your success depends on your ability to engage students. If students aren’t hooked at the start of the lesson, chances are they won’t be engaged at the middle or end. Strive to start each class with an activity that will energize your students and inspire them to learn.

What are some of your favorite ways to hook and engage students? 

Helping a Student (Me) Break Out of My Shell

It’s safer to be quiet.

As a freshman in high school I was the prototypical geek, weighing 92-lbs with the glasses to match. I earned A’s, did all of my work and was never a problem student. But, I was silent--and I mean as silent as a stone--in every class. My silence was often incorrectly attributed to being shy. In truth, it was masking much more. I hide in the back of my classes. When asked a question, my standard response was, “I don’t know,” even if I did know. I was insecure and suffering emotionally.

One teacher saw me as intelligent but failed to see who I was. In class he called on me whenever another student answered a question incorrectly. “Reed, can you help explain to John why his answer is wrong?”

Despite knowing the answer, I’d purposefully fumble the answer or mumble, “I don’t know.” No way on Earth was I going to correct another student.

As the teacher pushed further for the answer, my heart would race, my palms would become clammy, and my breathing would become shallow. Fairly or unfairly, I grew to hate that teacher. What a jerk.

It was simply safer to be quiet.

Fortunately, most of my teachers supported and nurtured me. In essence, they cracked my outer shell to expose my strengths. They slowly built me up but never let me off the hook.

How’d they do it? 
  1. My math teacher always gave me a heads-up before asking me to go to the board. “Reed, I see you got number 5 right. Show me how you did it….Great! I’m going to have you answer that one on the board.” Even though math was my worst—and least favorite class—I became increasing comfortable. 
  2. In health class, a class that relied heavily on class discussion, my teacher always allowed us to pass on answering any question. In a class where personal matters were often discussed (and I wasn’t ready to share anything about my personal life), this was vital. By allowing us to opt-out, he created a safe and more welcoming environment. 
  3. My English teacher's constant use of think-pair-share also allowed safe participation. Instead of sharing with the entire class, I was given time to develop my own answers and discuss them with a classmate whom I was comfortable with sharing. Getting over this initial hurdle allowed me to become more comfortable in the whole class sharing portion. 
  4. Honestly, I don’t remember any of my teachers making use of wait time, but perhaps no instructional strategy is more important than making use of wait time when trying to encourage all students—especially, shy students and/or those lacking confidence in themselves or their abilities. 
While it didn’t happen overnight, I became more comfortable in who I was, and by my senior year, I became a school leader. None of this would have been possible had my teachers not taken the time to get to know me. They built up my confidence slowly. They worked with what I did well and expanded on it.

They believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself.