Tuesday April 22, 2014
I've been focusing on behavior after some experiences at my school. What do we do? Why do we do it?
I realized that I hadn't written about punishment. Despite all of our "enlightened" theory and opinions, we still fall back on old and familiar strategies. Like punishment. It may make us feel better. We may feel we are fixing a problem, and we may really feel a lot better, especially when one of our little darlings has challenged us or our authority, but punishment doesn't last. All too often it doesn't fix anything, either.
So, read this bit about "punishment" and decide whether it really is going to create the outcome you want.
Sunday April 20, 2014
Last weeks read in the New York Times about the work of Adam Grant, I reconsidered my experience in a couple of third grades. Allergies have really taken their toll in Las Vegas so just before our Easter break, there's been a shortage of substitutes. I've "sold" my prep period to cover these classes, and I was surprised in both cases how negative, whiny and adversarial these students were. Some student knew me from second grade: I read to their classes on Nevada Reads week, since they were amazed that men could be teachers.
I realized that the "good behavior" they exhibited for their teachers was only "skin deep." I also realized that many of the strategies that we use are designed to give us short term relief rather than create long term success. I also remember giving one of the fifth grade teachers some positive feedback as she praised her students on the way back from a special: "I really like how you are staying in line on the way back from art." "I really like how you are keep your hands and feet to yourself." I have noticed as the year has proceeded that she has had a really successful year with her students. Too bad she is leaving us for Hawaii, where she reports private schools pay better than public schools. Still, it serves as an example of how being intentional about building good student rapport you can also create a learning environment that is enjoyable. You also create students are kind and caring, a gift for next years teacher. I've shared some ideas in an article "More Than Classroom Management," where I address how we create good citizens.
Wednesday April 16, 2014
Yesterday's New York Times Review (4/13/2014) had an interesting piece entitled Raising a Moral Child. Surveys have shown that parents across cultural groups are more concerned with raising children who are kind and caring than with focusing on achievement. It's interesting specifically because parents' stated desire often has little to do with the way they are raising their children. They may have a picture of the kind of person they hope their child will be but it has little to do with the kind of child that they are raising.
I read it in part with great interest because my supervisor, in my annual review, gave me high praise for the kind of classroom environment I had created. I had good classroom management strategies in place that supported good behavior and high levels of student engagement and participation. And, she said, "Your students really seem to want to be there." I was pleased, of course, since it meant some highly coveted "4's" on my evaluation. As I read this article, it struck me as more than that: I had a sense of the kind of student I wanted to create, and I do what I need to create them. I also value caring, authentic individuals. Mind you, I don't care for "nice" because "nice" too often leads to that good old Southern "Bless her heart" niceness . . . the "Bless her heart" is usually the prelude to a knife in the back.
At the same time, a flurry of upper respiratory infections left us short of substitutes on a couple of days (Pollen season has been long and brutal this year in Nevada, thanks to our warmer than usual winter.) I sold my prep periods to cover two third grades. I was appalled. The students were mealy mouthed, finger pointing, blaming and generally very unpleasant to their peers. I did my best by stepping up the praise for the behavior I wanted and quickly pointing out the behavior I did not: I put up a smiley face and frowny face on the boards and started Read More...
Sunday April 13, 2014
I have found that the best way to help students with disabilities understand the abstractions of math is to give them lots and lots of hands on experience. I recommend some commercial resources in my article on Rational Numbers, but I think the ones your students make for themselves may be just as valuable, if not more invaluable.
I created some free printable fraction pages with circles and squares. They are the same size, so you can practice making equivalencies using the different fractional parts. I also recommend running them on different colors of cardstock so you students will have "color coded" fractions: all the halves the same colors, etc. The article includes some small group activities you can do with the fraction pieces to support understanding and students success.