Sunday, May 10, 2015

How will you choose to end the school year? ... (100)

The weather is getting warmer...

There is more and more to do outside...

The always exciting standardized testing is either over or coming to a close soon...

You're tired and your patience is wearing thin...

Summer is getting close...
At this juncture you have to make a choice about how you wish to end the year.

This goes the same for teachers and administrators who are equally feeling the tension of the end of the year push.

Are you going to do as you've always done and play it safe?

Are you going to cut a few corners and take the easy route because you know there are only a few weeks left so what's the big deal?

Are you going to lower your expectations for not just yourself, but also for those around you?

Are you going to end this year quietly and uneventfully...?

We all have a choice to make.

We all have these last few weeks to make a bigger or more positive impact.

We all have a choice to make that will determine how our students remember us...

Remember teachers, if you don't want your students to check out early and coast through the end of the year, then you better not get caught doing just that.

This also goes for administrators... don't get caught checking out early if you expect your teachers to push strong through the end of the year.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

How we ask questions is important too (99)

#teacherappreciationweek Thank you for all that you do!

Also, have you registered to attend or possibly even present at the FREE #4riversconnect learning event hosted by Union this July?

Read more here:

Asking the right questions is obviously important.

At the same time, though, how we ask those 'right' questions is also important...

For example, read the three questions below...

  • "Don't you think we should go ahead and make the change?"
  • "Do you think we should wait any longer than we already have?"
  • "Can anyone think of a good reason not to buy that book?"
In all three questions above we are making it known what we believe. In the first question, we clearly think we should go ahead and make the change. In the second question, we clearly think we shouldn't wait any longer. In the final and third question, we have already decided to buy the book.

We all do it. We ask leading questions. Or we ask limiting questions. Or we ask questions that assume a certain answer like in the three examples above.

What if instead we asked these three questions?

  • "What do you think we should do about the change we are discussing?"
  • "The team has already met twice to discuss this issue. What do you think we should do now?"
  • "What do you think is the best way to learn the information that's in the book?"
By slightly changing the way we ask our questions, we leave room and space for a variety of responses. It's this space that leads to truthful discussion and conversation without limitation.

Also, try and avoid 'either/or' questions...

When we ask 'either/or' questions we limit the response to either one answer or another, without any flexibility or deviation.

Instead, just state the problem. Then ask "What do you think?" Or "What would you do?" Or "How should we handle this?"

As educators, we ask lots of questions every single day. Let's be aware of how we are asking those questions and figure out ways to push our kids in their thinking. Let's focus on asking questions that allow our kids the flexibility and freedom to let their thinking take them wherever it may lead...

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sit still and be quiet... (98)

The cemetery method... everyone in rows being quiet and compliant:

Edutopia posted a blog post titled: 30 techniques to quiet a noisy class...

The question is... what's wrong with a noisy class?

Let's consider the question of 'should we be trying to keep our students quiet?'

What do we know about how learning occurs? What do we know about student engagement?

What do you think about this comment in response to the blog post?

When I was a beginning teacher I would have loved to have had this list of techniques. But then I learned the real answer to avoiding the problem of students acting up, talking, etc. It is not a matter of controlling the students at all.  

What about this article on 'why so many kids can't sit still in class?' Does this change anything?

What about this article written by a teacher who spent two days as a student to 'remember' what it's like to be a kid in school?

Think about what you want for your own child...

Think about how you want your next team meeting/faculty meeting conducted...

Think about how you retain and learn information best...

Think about real cognitive engagement vs. student compliance...

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A new reality starts with a good question... (97)

What if schools didn't use grades and numbers to tell their story and instead used emotion like major companies such as Coke, Anheuser Busch and Google? via @gcouros

What if just one time a teacher said, "We won’t have time for Math today, we have too much PE to do?” via @shareski

What if the world as we know it ceased to exist and everything we thought was important became no longer important? Would our students still have the skills/ability to adapt and find success?

What if 65% of today's grade-school kids ended up working a job that hasn't yet been invented? (article written back in 2011...

What if what we call cheating in school is in fact in the "real world" called collaboration and maximizing time and resources? via @adambellow

What if schools had more open and shared learning walls/spaces like this? via @curriculumblog

Sunday, April 12, 2015

5 ways to gauge student engagement... (96)

Student engagement... a topic that is commonplace in schools and school districts around the world. The goal being that we want to have highly engaging classrooms where our students are intimately and passionately engaged in whatever task they are working on.

Engaged classrooms are where learning occurs and one of the defining characteristics of a great teacher is the ability to have his/her students engaged in learning.

But... student engagement can be a tricky and slippery slope at times because how we define student engagement can vary from educator to educator.

For example, when looking at a student who is working and doing what they are supposed to be doing, can we automatically assume they are engaged? Are they cognitively engaged or are they merely compliant and obedient? What about the kid who is passionately doodling and completely ignoring whatever the rest of the students and class are doing? Do we assume the student is not cognitively engaged because the student isn't compliant and obedient?

The point is simple... student engagement and the gauging of student engagement really aren't as easy or straightforward as some would think.

Also worth noting... most of our kids are truly engaged at most times during the day. The question is... are they engaged in what we are wanting them to be engaged in...

Having said all that, here are 5 ways to tell if your students are truly cognitively engaged in the learning occurring in your class.

1). Your students are asking in-depth questions that are specific and relevant to the learning occurring in your class and the questions go beyond simple yes and no answers.

2). Your students are curious about the topic and are expressing an interest in exploring the topic further beyond even your original intent.

3). Your students are taking the initial and baseline information and are creating and designing something completely different and completely new.

4). Your students are able to explain the purpose and reasoning behind learning what they are currently learning and see how it relates to their lives and the bigger picture.

5). Your students can clearly explain and articulate where they are in terms of their learning progression... they know where they are doing well and they know where they are still struggling.

What other signs and indicators would you say constitute true student engagement?