Teachers only

How do you mend a broken school?

On Linda Cliatt-Wayman‘s first day as principal at a failing high school in North Philadelphia, she was determined to lay down the law. But she soon realized the job was more complex than she thought. With palpable passion, she shares the three principles that helped her turn around three schools labeled “low-performing and persistently dangerous.” Her fearless determination to lead — and to love the students, no matter what — is a model for leaders in all fields.

Why you should listen

Linda Cliatt-Wayman grew up in poverty in North Philadelphia, where she experienced firsthand the injustice being perpetrated against poor students in their education. She has dedicated her career and her life to ending that injustice, working within Philadelphia’s fractured public-school system. She spent 20 years as a special-ed teacher before becoming a principal, leading two low-performing urban high schools to success with improved test scores and increased college admissions among students.

Now at Philadelphia’s Strawberry Mansion High School, Wayman and her team are once again proving what is possible for low-income children. Test scores have improved every year since Wayman took over, and the school was removed from the federal Persistently Dangerous Schools List for the first time in five years. Diane Sawyer and her team spent the 2012-2013 school year documenting Wayman’s efforts for ABC World News Tonight and Nightline.

 

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A Cup of Teach, Teachers only

Little Tricks to Get Your Class’ Attention

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Beginnings are always the hardest. Ask any teacher who walks in at the beginning of the class session and finds Casy text-messaging someone, Katie and Sam chatting, and Tom snoozing. This behavior isn’t limited to children, either; inattention is endemic in our fast-paced culture with so much competing media and information distracting us. However, it is necessary to get the class’s attention at the beginning of the session to establish order, the plan for the day, and begin instruction. But it’s not always so easy.

What can you do to get the class’s attention riveted on you?

Starting off Strong

Often students goof off because they just don’t know what else to do. You can start strong every day by establishing a clear routine and expectations for starting off: that they come to attention, be in their seats, and ready to work. Hold to this routine to establish order in the class. Having a clear plan for the day also gets student’s attention.

5 Tips to Get the Class’s Attention

1 Change the level and tone of your voice
Often just changing the level and tone of your voice, lowering it or raising it, will signal to the students it’s time to pay attention.

2 Use props like a bell or whistle
Better for lower level or younger learners, props like these clearly mark beginnings, endings, and other transitions within the class.

3 Use a visual related to the instruction
Holding up a striking picture related to the session, such as environmental debris if the class topic is related to the environment, is sure to get all eyes on you. Don’t comment on it; allow students to start the dialogue.

4 Make a startling statement or give a quote
Writing a surprising statement or quote related to the content on the board has a similar effect: for example “More than half of children in California speak some language other than English at home” if the topic is language acquisition.

5 Write a pop quiz question on the board
Write a basic comprehension question related to the reading on the board. Students have to answer it on slips of paper and turn them in. This gets students focused right away on course material. The question can then lead to discussion after the quiz.

10 Tips for Holding Attention

Now you have your students’ attention; holding it is another story.

1 Relevant tasks
Know your students and relate content to them, and relate the content to the course objectives. For example, if the content is the Vietnam War, finding out what they already know about the Vietnam War and how it relates to their lives is important.

2 Teach at appropriate level of difficulty
Material too hard or too difficult can result in student inattention. Check for understanding or boredom at the beginning. Then tailor the material to the class: for example, if you are teaching the past tense and find students already have control over the simple past and past progressive, find out what they know about the past perfect. Or if you’ve given all three tenses at them, assuming it’s just review, but they appear lost, focus on just one tense.

3 Use choral chants of material
Better for lower-level students, having students chant together key phrases or sentences from the material gets them focused on the material. This also provides practice in the rhythm and intonation of English.

4 Make presentations clear
Use of clear charts and visuals hold students’ attention and make the content clear.

5 Involve students in lecture
Don’t just lecture on the past tense with charts and board work; this will surely put everyone to sleep. During the lecture, stop to ask students about last weekend, summer, etc., to keep them involved in the content and practicing the material.

6 Use humor
Use of humor related to the content is another attention-getter: students appreciate teachers who know how to use humor appropriately related to the material. For example, relating a brief humorous anecdote about what a bad day you had yesterday to demonstrate past tense verbs will get students’ attention and lighten the mood.

7 Establish the routine, task, and time limit
If students are to work in groups, for example, they should know which group they belong in, what they will be doing, and for how long.

8 Plan carefully and fully; make the plan apparent to students
Students will lose focus if the objectives and plan for the lesson are not clear to them. Writing what the class will be doing on the board helps keep focus.

9 Divide tasks into manageable subskills
If students are going to be participating in a class debate, telling them to “Debate the issue” may result in a lot of students wandering around confused. Outline what is involved in a debate on the board and break it down: today decide the issue and our sides; tomorrow establish the roles within our teams, the next day research, and so forth.

10 Establish clear roles
In doing the debate, to continue the example, everyone within the group should have a task: either preparing some research for the debate, outlining the debate, preparing a counterargument, etc. If everyone’s role is clear, and everyone has a job to do, this results in less web-surfing and updating Facebook profiles during class. (Yes, adults and ESL students do it, too.)

by Stacia Levy

Classroom Resources, Teachers only

A Goal Without a Plan is Just a Wish

SmartGoals

You have just finished teaching a new concept. Do your students know what has been taught? Are they able to demonstrate their understandings? Have they achieved their learning goals?

For students to become active participants in the learning process, a learning experience needs to have a reason; with clearly defined and achievable goals. Goal setting with your students will not only increase active participation and engagement, it will also develop higher-order thinking, create positive attitudes and behaviours towards learning and improve learning capabilities. Setting a plan for a learning or behaviour goal in the classroom can be a whole-class or an individual activity.

Setting Whole-Class Goals

Whole-class goals are successfully achieved when the goal has been set collaboratively by the students. Students have a greater feeling of ownership and accountability of a class goal when it has been jointly constructed, with identified examples of what it will look like to achieve the goal.

Using a learning intention with success criteria, or ‘WALT’ (=We Are Learnign To) and ‘WILF’  (=What I’m Looking For) poster, will help break down the goal. They may also assist in planning how the goal will be successfully achieved.

After a class goal has been set, the goal should be visually displayed in the classroom to remind students what achievement they are working towards. Throughout any relevant learning experiences, reinforce the goal with your students by consistently referring back to it.

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Setting Personal Learning Goals

When students set personal learning goals and create action plans, they reflect on their learning progress and become more independent learners. This can also foster a greater sense of motivation for achieving their full potential.

Getting students to write down and plan their goals is an important step towards achieving them. It encourages the students to make their goals meaningful, specific and measurable. It also provides opportunities for students to reflect on their learning and identify the next step in achieving their goal.

Some useful goal setting templates include:

  • goal trackers
  • dreaming big
  • SMART goals
  • WHOOP
  • three stars and a wish.

These create accountability for student-centered learning and assist with identifying the actions required in achieving a desired learning outcome.

Motivating Students

Students will be more motivated to achieve their goal if they are encouraged by their teachers and their peers, feel a sense of achievement and are acknowledged for their efforts.

In the classroom, you can help students persevere on their journey towards a goal by displaying motivating posters, encouraging the use of a growth mindset and providing meaningful and positive feedback.

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*more downloads on TeachStarter.com

Written by Victoria (Teach Starter)

Classroom Resources, Teachers only

Visual Thinkery on Education

Bryan Mathers started working as a Software Engineer. He founded, grew and then sold companies and then he started an accidental journey of visual articulation of interesting thoughts called Visual Thinkery. His job is “not really drawing itself, it’s the thinking – Mathers says – visually articulating a thought. So I’ve made it my job to help others catch thoughts and articulate them visually. As such, I’ve created thinkery for a whole bunch of Organisations”.

“As a kid in a classroom, I didn’t question it. I took what was laid before me, in the environment in which it was given. I was taught. I found it difficult to ask questions, as it revealed a lack of knowledge or understanding. The game was one of “how much do you know?“, maintaining our pecking order of perceived smartness. However, there were some teachers who came down to my level and transparently learned alongside me. It was different. They were different. The game was different.”

where can we go today?

Teachers only, Uncategorized

Teaching the teachers

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Great teaching has long been seen as an innate skill.

But reformers are showing that the best teachers are made, not born.

To the 11- and 12-year-olds in his maths class, Jimmy Cavanagh seems like a born teacher. He is warm but firm. His voice is strong. Correct answers make him smile. Mr Cavanagh is the product of a new way of training teachers. Rather than spending their time musing on the meaning of education, he and his peers have been drilled in the craft of the classroom. Their dozens of honed techniques cover everything from discipline to making sure all children are thinking hard. Not a second is wasted. North Star teachers may seem naturals. They are anything but.

Like many of his colleagues are or have been, Mr Cavanagh is enrolled at the Relay Graduate School of Education. Along with similar institutions around the world, Relay is applying lessons from cognitive science, medical education and sports training to the business of supplying better teachers.  Their technique is calibrated, practised, coached and relentlessly assessed like that of a top-flight athlete. Jamey Verrilli, who runs Relay’s Newark branch (there are seven others), says the approach shows teaching for what it is: not an innate gift, nor a refuge for those who, as the old saw has it, “can’t do”, but “an incredibly intricate, complex and beautiful craft”.

Are great teachers born or made?

Prejudices played out in popular culture suggest the former. Bad teachers are portrayed as lazy and kid-hating. Edna Krabappel of The Simpsons treats lessons as obstacles to cigarette breaks. Good and inspiring teachers, meanwhile, such as Michelle Pfeiffer’s marine-turned-educator in Dangerous Minds, or J.K. Rowling’s Minerva McGonagall, are portrayed as endowed with supernatural gifts (literally so, in the case of the head of Gryffindor). In 2011 a survey of attitudes to education found that such portrayals reflect what people believe: 70% of Americans thought the ability to teach was more the result of innate talent than training.

Elizabeth Green, the author of Building A Better Teacher, calls this the myth of the natural-born teacher. Such a belief makes finding a good teacher like panning for gold: get rid of all those that don’t cut it; keep the shiny ones. This is in part why, for the past two decades, increasing the ‘accountability’ of teachers has been a priority for educational reformers.

There is a good deal of sense in this. In cities such as Washington DC, performance-related pay and dismissing the worst teachers have boosted test scores. But relying on hiring and firing without addressing the ways that teachers actually teach is unlikely to work. Education-policy wonks have neglected what one of them once called the “black box of the production process” and others might call “the classroom”. Open that black box, and two important truths pop out. A fair chunk of what teachers (and others) believe about teaching is wrong. And ways of teaching better—often much better—can be learned. Grit can become gold. Continue reading “Teaching the teachers”