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Summer Teacher Workshops – The Deadline is Sunday, April 15th

Workshop EarlyBird Special

The clock is ticking. Poverty is not going away, testing is not going away and accountability is not going away.

Our summer sessions are filling up fast. Right now, the location with the most openings (so far) is Jacksonville, Florida. Book your staff for Jacksonville (or San Antonio and Charlotte) as soon as possible. In Jacksonville we are offering “Teaching with Poverty in Mind” or “Tools for Engagement”, but you’ll have to move fast.

WorkshopThe early bird discount expires on April 15… so don’t miss it!

May I suggest “Tools for Maximum Engagement”… CLICK HERE.

When I talk about student engagement, teacher’s heads typically nod up and down as if they universally agree how critical it is. Yet, when I go visit classes (elementary, secondary or college level) the actual % of students being engaged is typically low.

Listen, I can’t make you take a program. But I can tell you that once you take this summer’s special 2-Day “Tools for Maximum Engagement” workshop, you’ll have a lifetime of tools.

Every day, you’ll feel proud, knowing how well your students have learned. Each week, you’ll see happy students who enjoy the learning process. You’ll be admired by your peers and your students will look forward to every class. On top of that, your test scores will improve because kids who are engaged daily, learn more. Plus, every night, you’ll sleep well, knowing that your class is pretty awesome.

I never know if I’ll EVER do any particular workshop again or not. This summer could be your last chance, ever. Whether your school will pay for it or not, go do it. You can’t afford to be less than amazing in your job.

To find out more about this amazing 2-day summer experience CLICK HERE.

By the way, sometimes it makes better sense to have me come out to school and work with the entire staff. You may want to browse the menu of my presentation possibilities for your school CLICK HERE. I’ll show your staff exactly how to teach with the brain in mind.

Can We Raise Test Scores (Again)?

Let’s explore how you can boost test scores by making small interventions and simple changes at the last moment.

First, a simple disclaimer: I don’t support 95% of all the testing being done on kids. I love accountability, but not crazy-making testing that gives self-serving data; data that helps you do better on the next test, instead of in real life where the tests should be targeting. Having said that, things are what they are. Let’s focus on the here and now.

Here is a plan that will help you maximize testing for your students.

Research: Recent Discovery on Testing

You have only five variables you can tweak in the days, hours and minutes before the actual test time. The biggest variable is how well kids have learned what will be on the test. If you haven’t taken care of that variable all year long, you have fewer options. It’s too late to add much content when you get real close to test time.

The single best thing you can do in the weeks and days before the testing is…have students take tests. Testing produced better overall recall than did restudying (Roediger and Karpicke, 2006). Give them small chunks of “mock tests” that will mimic the real ones. But the research gets a bit more complicated from here out.

What about getting feedback on the mock tests?

When tests are NOT accompanied by feedback, some items (i.e., those that were not correctly retrieved) might not benefit from testing (Pashler et al., 2005).

This tells you feedback has two sides: if you get it wrong, you NEED feedback. If it’s right, it’s less important to get feedback.

The debriefing should begin as a social event with the teacher and classmates involved. Then shift it to a personal assignment. Let students improve their “mock” test cores with a reflective test analysis. Here, students write about each question they got wrong: 1) what was their approach, 2) how they came up with the wrong answer, and 3) what they would do differently next time. Give students partial credit for each debriefed corrected answer. This empowers students by helping them become more thoughtful tests takers and reduces their stress by putting more of the process in their control.

Read carefully to what a team of cognitive psychologists says;

“Information that has been tested will be remembered better over time than information that has been restudied. This test-induced benefit is apparently stronger when repeated tests over the same information are provided. These results suggest that tests should be utilized often in educational contexts to maximize retention of information over long time periods.” (Carpenter, et al., 2008, page 446).

Encourage (even mandate) the asking of questions in the weeks and days leading up to the test. Students who are struggling academically are rarely asking the most questions in class. Researchers have found that low-achieving students are often the most reluctant to seek assistance and that a negative or fearful perception of “help seeking” is to blame (Ryan, et al. 1998).

The Ryan study involved 500 students and 25 teachers in 63 sixth-grade math classes throughout 10 Michigan middle schools. The researchers found that low-achieving students tend to perceive question asking as a sign of inability and associate it with feeling “dumb.” Conversely, high achievers with greater confidence are less likely to worry about what others think and tend to focus on the benefits of seeking help, notes the study.

Advise learners to take inventory of their projected goals, time-management skills, and study habits; and to reorganize them appropriately. Students who give their academic concerns top priority and allow ample time for studying (including exam preparation) often perform best (Yaworski, 1998). If help is needed in establishing a personal study schedule, or if chronic procrastination persists, encourage learners to seek the advice of a guidance counselor or related professional.

Next, in the days coming up to the testing, students often get stressed (the teachers are, of course, totally relaxed!)

The three best ways to get kids more relaxed are each about control (it’s the counterbalance to stress.) First, help them take more control over the process of making choices for when, what type of, and where to prepare. (You pre-select the options.) For example, let them choose which content sections they want to prep for first. Second, teach them self-regulation strategies such as slow deep breathing to relax. Third, teach them how to reframe the testing experience, to help them be more in charge of it. Tell your students, “Tests are a school’s way to assess their schooling success. We want to find out what we’re doing well and what we need to do differently. The tests tell us what changes we can make to develop your brain as best as possible.” Read more

Student Engagement Tips: Music As A Tool

Music for Call-backs.

A musical deadline can create anticipation. Use a
 set-up song; otherwise known as a cue-signal or “call-back” song to get 
attention for a beginning or start time. This song should have the following
 criteria:

1) it’s short—under 3 minutes

2) it’s has either positive lyrics or no
lyrics,

3) it ends with a clear predictable “pa-dum” and does not trail off,
 fading slowly into the quiet.

Songs like “Pretty Woman” or “Chantilly Lace” can work. Make an agreement that
 everyone must be in their seats, ready to learn before the song ends. Then 
enforce it by walking around the first few times you play it and “rounding up”
everyone so they know you mean it.

Walking Fast to the Music.

Use this as a tool for “mixing” up the
 group. Sometimes a class forms too-familiar “social niches.” This means
 accountability drops because your audience becomes TOO familiar with each 
other. They stick up for and cover for each other, dropping accountability for
 thinking and learning. What’s needed is a vehicle for mixing up the group.

Music can do that because people can “lose themselves” in the music. 
It works this way. Say, “It’s time for a change of pace. Take in a deep breath…
and let it out. Great. Now, please stand up. In 10 seconds, the music will
 begin. When it does, walk away from your chair. You can go anywhere in the
 room quickly until the music stops, then wait for directions.” The directions are 
usually, “Find a neighbor. Hand up if you need a partner. Now, here’s
 who goes first…”

You might do a think-pair-share activity next.

We hope you find these strategies valuable. Please join is at our summer workshop on Tools For Maximum Engagement here. It’s filling fast and is one of our more powerful teacher workshops.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Horia Varlan

Student Engagement Tips to Try

Each week we’ll publish tips on Sunday to hep jump start and stimulate your classroom. The tips will also demonstrate how simple engagement strategies can pay big dividends in the classroom…

Stop reading information to students.

Give them a role. Every day, multiple students can have the roles of morning announcements, previews of coming attractions or reviewing key points from the day. When they do the reviewing, other students can repeat after them to boost recall.

Instead of you reading it, condense it into a short paragraph. Then show the information, followed by a simple question. For quick recall, use a multiple choice. For more in-depth processing, use open ended Qs. Our frontal lobes release dopamine when we complete challenging problems. It’s nature’s way of
rewarding us for doing well. Plus, the dopamine that is released will then support tasks that require working memory.

Repetitive gross motor movement.

You may have noticed that when you go for a walk, it’s hard to return in a bad mood. Activities that stimulate repetitive gross motor movement include swimming, walking, cycling and marching. In general, it takes from three to ten minutes to get the dopamine going, depending on a host of variables. If students need a “pick-me-up” send them out on a ten-minute walk with a structured positive conversation. They’ll return in better state of mind. Add music to the student’s marching time. Great marching music includes: Anchors away or the Triumphal March (Verdi).

Look on Your Neighbor’s Paper

Many of the tools of engagement are, rightfully so, tools for increased accountability. This one is simple, “Look on to your neighbors paper. If they wrote down all three points we just mentioned, congratulate them and raise your hand.” Or, “Look on to your neighbor’s paper. If they have less than the last three items we’ve just reviewed, tell them what their missing ones are.”

Also, check out our summer workshop on Tools For Maximum Engagement here. It’s filling fast and is one of our more powerful teacher workshops.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Martin Tod