Tuesday, March 24, 2009

8 Teacher Tips for Student Behavior

Over the years, we’ve gathered comments and recommendations from the experts—you! You’ve shared all kinds of useful tips with us. I just thought I’d pass some back to you. Here are 8 of your best tips for helping to ensure there ain’t no misbehavin!

1. SLANT Acronym Gets Them to Pay Attention
If you teach your kids this acronym, you can get them back in order quickly and quietly, especially when a guest enters the room:

S—Sit up
L—Lean forward
A—Ask questions
N—Nod your head
T—Talk to the teacher

Once students have learned the acronym, just chant the secret word "SLANT" to get them to put it into action. They’ll sit up and pay attention immediately—impressive!

2. Memory Reinforcement Timeline
Post a simple timeline at the front of the room with important dates for each grading period. This at-a-glance resource reminds kids of project due dates, field trips, etc. and helps prevent the most annoying kid excuse in the book--"I forgot!" Dress up the timeline with a purchased border in your school colors. Use a bold marker to write in events, or type them up and print them off on your printer.

3. Let the Games Begin Before Spring Break!
Before any holiday break, children’s attention spans are shorter than your gnawed fingernails that time of year. Why not use learning games to hold their attention while also teaching valuable skills?

4. Smoothly Spring Back into Action After Break
To transition students back into their regular routine, try a seasonal activity such as a spring nature walk. You can observe insects, plant a flower, and get some exercise. Relax and laugh together. Your students will thank you with fewer classroom disruptions! To tie what you do back to your lessons afterwards, write about the experience or read books on related topics.

5. Clear Feedback & Consequences
Teach children that there are two choices—good and bad—and that each choice comes with a corresponding positive or negative consequence. When correcting or praising, make statements that are specific and fact-based. For example, “Ben, I can see you are out of your chair. Please sit down.” Or “Ling, I like that you are being quiet while waiting in line.”

6. Inside Voices…for Teachers!
Always use a calm, soft tone when talking to a student, especially if you’re upset. Children's emotions escalate if we use a voice that is too loud or negative. If you need to, use a quick relaxation technique before speaking--take a deep breath and pause to imagine yourself playing with a puppy, sunning on a beach, or swinging on a swing set.

7. Custom Rewards
Catch children in the act of making good choices and reward them with a long recess, sticker, or praise. Remember that students are individuals, so individually tailored consequences are appropriate. One kid may enjoy a reward of extra computer time. Another might prefer to be the teacher’s helper. Get to know your students and what motivates them.

8. Playing Nice Before Math or Reading Night
Schools everywhere invite families to attend Math or Reading Nights. Many of the event activities are game-based, which can be fun for all. But to avoid potential behavior problems that evening, give students a game etiquette refresher course ahead of time. Review how to take turns, respect others, be good losers, and take good care of the game.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

St. Patrick's Day Activities

One of my newest teacher friends is an early childhood educator. She was looking for some St. Patrick’s Day activities, and I threw together a few for her. Although these were written for very young kiddos, some of the activities could easily be adapted for a variety of ages. So, I thought I’d share them with all my blog buddies, too!

Beginning Probability—Put a bunch of paper three-leaf clovers in a bag with only one 4-leaf one. Talk about the probability of pulling out the four-leaf clover. How lucky they’d be if they pulled it out! Try to use the terms “likely” and “unlikely”, though, which is good math language.

Character Education/Arts & Crafts
Lucky Friends Shamrock—Take digital photos of all the kids and print them on regular printer paper. Have kids decorate large paper shamrocks with their classmates’ photos, glitter, potato stamping, etc. Talk about why friends are “worth their weight in gold” and what this expression means.

Arts & Crafts/Math/Social Studies
Tater Stampin’—Cut potatoes into thick slices and then into clover (or any) shapes. Blot to dry. Kids can dip them in paint and stamp with them. They can do math counting activities with the clovers they stamp. Make sure to tell the children about the Potato Famine in Ireland’s history, so your students understand the significance of using a tater.

Leprechaun Stories—Tell some good stories about practical-joke playing leprechauns. These can be books you read to the kids or stories you make up yourself and tell orally. Ask kids a lot of prediction questions while telling the story and see if they can retell it to you at the end—great pre-reading skills!

Fun Tricks
Green Scene—Turn lots of things green unexpectedly. For example, put green food coloring in their mashed potatoes served at lunch or replace all the finger paints with green paint only.

Shameless Shenanigans—Leprechauns play harmless tricks, and kids absolutely LOVE it when they do!!! Here’s how to add to the anticipation…

On St. Patrick’s Eve (next Monday), some Irish families anticipate a visit from the leprechauns. So, you could do the same! The kids put out plates of mushrooms (what small leprechauns would eat if they lived in the forest, of course).

The leprechauns can pay a visit overnight, leave some small treasures (chocolate coins in gold foil, etc.), and play tricks like turning furniture upside down, hiding confetti inside containers that hold everyday supplies (crayons), leaving funny leprechaun photos in unexpected places (underneath chairs and tables), and more.

Hope your whole class has a lot of fun—and maybe even finds that elusive gold loot at the end of the rainbow!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Free Stimulus Funds Webinar on Tuesday

Just wanted to let you know that Education Week is offering a FREE webinar about the stimulus funds this Tuesday at 1pm Eastern time!

Here's their description of the event:

"Economic Stimulus & Powering through the Recession

When: Tuesday, 1pm Eastern

What will President Obama's stimulus package mean for K-12 budgets? How can you make best use of federal dollars to protect instruction and extend achievement amid cutbacks at the state and local levels? Join our expert panel of practitioners and policy analysts on March 10 at 1 p.m., Eastern time, for this free live webinar on what’s coming down the pike and how to power your way through the recession."

If you've never attended a webinar, don't worry! It's very simple. You sign up, and they send you simple instructions. You use your phone to listen to the presenters, and use your computer to view the slides they provide you--that's all it is. To sign up, visit: https://event.on24.com/eventRegistration/EventLobbyServlet?target=registration.jsp&eventid=134093&sessionid=1&key=5391CF710026E8CEB2E0686BDAEFCA05&sourcepage=register

You can also submit questions ahead of time (using the same link above) that the presenters will hopefully answer. I submitted a question about the timing of the funds. I'm hoping they'll address how quickly the funds will actually make it into the hands of decision-makers because as we all know, it usually takes the government forever to pass down the dough! Supposedly the money has already been released, but we know to never trust that!!!

On another note, if even some of the funds are still being awarded to the states rather than directly to the schools, that can make things even more complicated. Every state could have a different timeline for passing down the money and different requirements/priorities in terms of how it can be spent.

The bulk of the money is for Title I and IDEA (special needs), and I believe the majority of these funds are usually awarded directly to the schools rather than to the states anyway. However, who knows how things will happen with these new special funds, so hopefully the webinar will address this question.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Buzzword Wars: Innovation vs. SBR

In the last several years, the education buzzwords have gone from standards-based to scientifically-based research. Now, every time I turn around, the term innovation is peaking over my shoulder kind of like that little stack of money with googly eyes in those Geico commercials. (Insert jingle: I always feel like, somebody’s watching me…”).

I love what innovation stands for. Out with the old, and in with the new! Change has come to America. The education world is about to experience this ideological revolution, too. Wow, innovation is a leap from the flawed scientific research concept!

Like others, I struggled with the research thing. Let’s call it SBR Catch 22. NCLB said instructional methods must align with “gold and silver” research, but then few education studies ever met the rigorous qualifications! HUH? Note to policy makers: don’t write legislation while visiting Margaritaville!

Even IF there were tons of good research available to reference, the studies would need to address struggling learners in order to be relevant. After all, aren’t they the ones falling behind? Many educators on the frantic research quest were so busy focusing on the rigorous quality of studies that they made a crucial mistake. They failed to ensure that the student subjects were similar enough to their own student populations; they compared apples to kumquats.

So, if a teacher of struggling kids decided to use traditional hands-off methods because she read a study about “proven” methods effective for “typical” children who already had average or high achievement, her kids would have continued to struggle. (In fact, aren’t kids usually labeled struggling WHEN: they don’t get it after being taught with “tried-and-true” methods?)

Hey, maybe someone in Washington mistyped? Was the N supposed to be an S as in Struggling Children Left Behind?

As much as I love innovation, Negative Nancy here says it alone can’t work. We need balance. Whole language wasn’t great until paired with some phonics and grammar. Teaching math facts without teaching kids to think critically and solve problems is a waste. Balancing a bit of free discovery with structured, step-by-step science inquiry is key. You get the idea. Pair a healthy serving of innovation with a dash of “tried and true”, and voila!

In addition to HUGE overall increases for Title I and IDEA/special needs funds, the new Stimulus Plan promises funds specifically for innovation—innovative best practices, building modernization, and electronic technology. But, NO educator can put these innovative programs into action without the cash. Trickle down and come here, MONEY Honey! Oh, how we’ve all missed you! XOXO