As we quickly approach the holidays, if you’re still going strong with your classroom management, well done! The first part of the semester was critical to classroom management success, and now the goal is to maintain that momentum throughout the year.
The student teacher I mentored last year has her own classroom now, and she worked hard to start the year off right. We talked recently about how to keep her classes running smoothly.
I’ve been blessed with so many great mentors and some great professional development over the years, so I’m borrowing from that wealth of experience to identify three central practices that I’m confident will see her through. I call them my smooth-sailing standards.
No matter our experiences or background growing up, most of us can remember at least one or two occasions during childhood where we were picked on, made fun of in front of peers, humiliated in some way, threatened, intimidated, or perhaps even beaten up.
I was a tall boy (and “smart”) in my school and clearly recall the students who did these things to me, as well as details and circumstances surrounding these terrible incidents. Mostly I was picked on by older (and larger) students, and I recall particularly one of my classmates who seemed bent on making me suffer daily. Adults in the school didn’t seem to notice or care—at least it certainly felt that way. No adult ever talked to us about bullying, how to report it, or what to do about it. Maybe they just thought it was “normal.”
Henry Ward Beecher once said, a word is a “peg to hang ideas on.” A single word can conjure a host of meanings and associations. “Dyslexia” is such a word.
In the last couple of years, the well-known and respected researchers Julian Elliott and Elena Grigorenko have been arguing that it is time to do away with the “D word.” In The Dyslexia Debate (Cambridge University Press, 2014), they object to the word because many misunderstandings, false claims, and myths are associated with it.
Have you ever wondered why it is so difficult to teach mathematics and why it is so difficult for students to grasp the meaning of the words we use in mathematics? If you pause and think about it, mathematics is a very technical subject, and it has a set of vocabulary words that have very precise meanings and sometimes multiple uses within mathematics. Outside of the math class, those same words take on a whole different meaning—oops, there is one of those words: “whole.” Get it?
Well, there are lots of them, and I would like for you to take the seat of the students for a few minutes as you read this and filter the conversation through their ears.
One of the biggest impacts of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation has been the infusion of the word “research” into the language and thinking about education. Teachers are encouraged to ask, “Is my classroom curriculum research based?” “What about specialized interventions for students with disabilities?” It is a short step to asking the same question about today’s mathematics standards, and prominent researchers at Vanderbilt University have done just this in a series of randomized control studies.1
What the researchers described as “very low achieving” fourth grade students were randomly assigned to either inclusive or specialized intensive classrooms. Instruction in both conditions was guided by grade-level standards for fractions. It wasn’t a major surprise that the students in the inclusive classrooms performed poorly over the three years of the study as teachers fully implemented the Common Core State Standards. Researchers, however, were dismayed to find that the performance of students in specialized intensive settings also decreased over time, despite the use of their intervention curriculum in these studies.
Very few of us were ever taught what we needed to know about reading or language when we completed our degree programs or were licensed to teach.
As teachers, the professional development we received often seemed irrelevant. Even after graduate school, what I had been taught left me helpless in the face of students who struggled to read. The knowledge I eventually applied to various instructional programs, I acquired haphazardly from my doctoral courses, from conferences, and from other teachers … too late to help me with my first students.
Being a technology teacher, I am always looking for new projects for my students. I’m all over anything that can both engage them and teach them new content.
For this blog post, I’ve come up with my Top 5 favorite technology projects that my students have done. These projects aren’t tied to a specific content area and can be used across a wide range of grade levels. The examples here were done by high school students, but you can scale them back or forward to best fit your students’ needs and grade level.
Debates over math standards, whether they are the NCTM Standards or the Common Core Math Standards, often spill into the question, “What do they mean for struggling students?” There are many issues behind this question, not the least of which is the exceedingly heterogeneous group of students frequently called “struggling.” Unpacking that issue alone is an essay in itself. For our purposes, what standards mean for struggling students can be distilled into at least two basic questions:
Are high standards appropriate for struggling students?
If they are not appropriate, are they even relevant?
Your new schedule awaits your return, sitting silently in your mailbox at school. With palpating heart and sweaty hands you skim the page to find …
COLLABORATION, Professional Learning Communities (PLC),
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, 2:00–2:45
It’s back. Written in the schedule again. The only difference is that this year it looks like you will be collaborating more often, not less. Three days of teaming? You panic. With mind racing you wonder, “How will I survive this year? Summer, oh summer – how I loved you! Wait. Should I have taken that secretarial position at the local bank?”
Using Writing Strategies Is a Shared Responsibility
As I shared the reading and writing strategies discussed in Part 1 of this blog series, word spread about the success middle school students were having with them. Over time, I met with teachers from various subject areas and grade levels. They then used the strategies to help their students learn, remember, and apply content.
One team of intermediate-level teachers attended my workshops, learned the strategies, and used them with their third, fourth, and fifth grade students. They posted charts in their classrooms that listed the strategies that would be taught and used during the school year. After only a few months, these teachers changed the title of their charts from “Strategies You Will Learn” to “Strategies You Are Expected to Use.”