Lessons from Winter

23 01 2016

Chalkboard and Apple

It never ceased to amaze me. Whenever my second graders spotted the first snowflakes, they’d act like it was the first time they were seeing snow. They’d squeal with delight and share gleeful observations. All talking and giggling at the same time.

Early in my career, like most teachers, I would battle to re-establish order and regain attention. Experience taught me I needed a creative solution—a proactive strategy that would embrace the situation.

On days when snow was predicted, I would keep the curtains closed. As soon as I’d hear stirring in nearby classrooms, I’d peek out my window to confirm the unavoidable interruption. Then I’d take control.

“Boys and girls, it has started snowing. I know you’re happy to hear that news. And I’m sure you’re excited. So, here’s what we’re going to do. When I dismiss your group, walk slowly over to the window. Once we’re all assembled by the window, I’ll open the curtains. Then on my signal, you’ll all let your excitement out. Be sure to get it all out so we can continue working.”

NOTE: Out of consideration for neighboring teachers, I’d let them know ahead of time to be prepared for a thunderous cheer of excitement from my students.

Early Dismissal Activity:

Early dismissals created several challenges. Let’s be honest: I dreaded them!

When inclement weather necessitated a mid-day school closing, student reactions would be varied. It would all depend on when the student got called to leave. Cheers would arise from the first students who were set free. Deflated looks would cross the faces of those left behind. I could read their minds:

Great. Those kids get to go home and play in the snow. I’m left here to do work!

I probably could read their minds because I joined them in their sentiments.

The first student dismissal announcement would signal the end of my preplanned lessons. I couldn’t cover new material with a dwindling class count.

Like most teachers, I’d plan early-dismissal lessons. I’d engage my students in activities which were structured, somewhat productive, and fun. Competitive math games using jumbo-size attribute blocks were a favorite. Students also enjoyed indoor Spelling Baseball (with words of varying difficulty “thrown out” by me—the pitcher). But the all-time favorite activity was a class debate.

Details for a Class Debate:

  1. Arrange chairs in a horseshoe. At the right end of the horseshoe, put a sign that says “POSITIVE OPINION” and at the opposite end, put a sign that says “NEGATIVE OPINION.”
  2. Announce the topic for the debate, such as winter.
  3. Have students identify their opinion about winter by saying, “Boys and girls, in your own mind decide how you feel about winter. Do you love it, hate it, or don’t care either way? Don’t tell anyone your opinion. Once everyone has decided, you’ll all move slowly to a chair on the horseshoe. You’ll sit somewhere in the horseshoe depending on how you feel about winter. If you love it, you’d sit in a chair near the POSITIVE end. If you hate it, you’d sit in a chair near the NEGATIVE end. If you don’t care either way, or if you like it sometimes and dislike it sometimes, you’d sit in the middle. Remember, the right end signifies strong POSITIVE feelings about winter. The opposite end represents strong NEGATIVE feelings.”
  1. Once all students have made up their minds, have them select a chair in the horseshoe. Students’ seating will represent their opinions about winter.

How the activity progresses:

Have volunteers take turns stating facts to support their opinions.

  1. Start with students sitting on the end signifying strong POSITIVE feelings. Invite them to state a fact.  A volunteer may state, “You can make snowmen.”
  1. Instruct students to think about that fact and decide if that information has persuaded them to change their seat. For example, any student sitting near the NEGATIVE end of the horseshoe might decide to move one or two seats closer to the POSITIVE end of the horseshoe (to signify their modified feelings about winter).
  2. Then give a student at the NEGATIVE end a chance to state a fact. For example a student might state, “You can fall and get hurt.”
  3. Once again, provide a minute to see if any students won the opposite end were persuaded to change their opinion and move to a different seat.
  4. Repeat steps 1-4 as time allows.

NOTES:

Unsurprisingly, most of my second graders would always cluster around the positive end. Playing the devil’s advocate, I’d sit on the opposite end.

Examples of POSITIVE facts:

You can make snowmen, go sledding, and get off from school.

Examples of NEGATIVE facts:

You can get slip and get hurt. Driving on ice is dangerous. You have to shovel.

Benefits of the Debate:

  • This activity prepares students for persuasive writing, where they’d first write their opinion and then provide facts to support their opinion.
  • Students practice reasoning skills.
  • This activity requires good listening skills.

Suggested Topic for a Debate:

Fiction & Nonfiction Books

I used this activity with my second graders to reinforce the concepts of fiction and nonfiction books. Students’ facts highlighted the benefits of each genre, and provided examples of each category of books.

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Understanding Attention

4 01 2014

parent.teacher.ADHD.best.conf

“He has trouble paying attention.” That’s what every teacher told us throughout our son’s school career. As if we didn’t notice.

Diagnosed at age 5 with ADHD, Chris demonstrated classic signs of ADHD: impulsivity, distractibility, disorganization…  Back then, 28 yrs. ago, most people didn’t know about ADHD.  However, I was very familiar with the disorder. My training and experience teaching students in special education provided insight.

You can just imagine how it frustrated me when educators reported the obvious about Chris. Especially in such vague terms. “He has trouble paying attention.” That didn’t tell me anything concrete or helpful.

When I became a regular classroom teacher, I vowed to do a better job reporting information to parents of kids with ADHD. They deserved to know what I observed, how much redirection was required to keep the student on task, etc.

So I developed a rubric. You may find it useful. When you click on the link below, you’ll find a chart. Start with the first column and pinpoint precisely where a student falls. Write the date in the box that best describes the student’s behavior. Do the same for all the other columns.

After several months, repeat the process to update the information.

Attention Rubric





Some Simple Strategies with Big Benefits

24 09 2013

easy

Are you settling into the new school year (a-h-h-h), or are you THRUSTING into the new school year? Back on the treadmill?

Is this your schedule?

Get the kids up, fed, and dressed. Manage to load them into the van and arrive at school on time. Whew! Rush to work and put in a whole day. Hustle out to your car. Hurry to school to pick up the kids. Have a “meaningful” conversation about their day while speeding to after-school sports practices. Drop them off. Swing by to pick up food for dinner. Dodge slow-moving shoppers in the market. Race your shopping cart through the parking lot. Shove the bags in the van. Shoot back to the field to pick up the kids. Head home.

Instruct the troops, “Wash your hands. Change. Eat your snack. Do your homework.”

Get bombarded with questions about homework while trying to make dinner.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a collection of easy-to-implement strategies? Here’s a collection of my favorite ones.

Math Difficulties: Pre-teach the upcoming chapter. Often parents and tutors devote time to re-teaching concepts and skills a child hasn’t mastered. That’s like playing a catch-up game … a game the child can’t win. Instead, go to the chapter the teacher will be teaching next and introduce the concepts. When your child encounters them in school, s/he will be more confident. Maybe even confident enough to volunteer answers. The lesson will be a review. Your child will be more engaged. The teacher will begin to view your child as successful.

Reading Comprehension Difficulties: Reciprocal Questioning is a strategy that elevates a child’s attention to content while reading. Usually after a child reads a story, the adult asks questions. This is the reverse of what’s done during a typical review. In this case, the child thinks of questions s/he will ask you about the story. While reading the story, the child can write down questions or dictate them to you (stopping as s/he thinks of each question). After the story or a passage is read, the child asks you each question. Its fun to answer some of the incorrectly so the child can correct you (and provide the correct answer).

Homework Completion: Have the child predict how long it will take to complete each assignment. Often students can’t even begin their homework because the assignments loom so large in their minds. The task seems just too monumental to tackle. Why begin? Predicting how long each will take makes the job seem bearable. This seems like a simple strategy. But this approach works even with teens who have a learning disability. Optional: It’s fun to have the child use a timer to see how close s/he came to each prediction.

Behavior Management: A fresh perspective of the child can drastically improve behavior. It’s very motivating to a child when a respected adult believes in them. I once taught a second grader, Billy, who had ADHD. He struggled to pay attention, seemed hopelessly disorganized, interrupted often in class, and got in trouble regularly during recess. Each day numerous students told on the student for an assortment of offenses. Occasionally, his classmates compassionately asked for prayer for him (in our Christian school). Billy’s difficulties were no secret to anyone.

One day, out of desperation, I asked my students, “Has anyone else noticed Billy has improved his behavior?”

Billy’s eyes widened as big as saucers. He wondered how he’d miss such an accomplishment. My students responded with a deafening silence.

My inquiry wasn’t based on evidence of any improvement. I simply wanted to change the students’ expectations of Billy.

“No one? Well, if anyone does notice his improvement please tell me.”

Soon after, students began to report improved behavior. Why? Billy had renewed hope. His classmates began to watch for Billy’s good behavior (instead of studying him for any misbehavior).

Here’s the basis for the strategy:

Use the power to influence through the artful application of positive suggestion.  You can influence (but not control) what your students believe about themselves, you, the topic, learning, etc.  In fact, you already influence them in those areas.  You simply may have underestimated the power of that influence.  You could say, ‘This upcoming chapter is the hardest in the book, so everyone bear down!’ Or, you could say, ‘This upcoming chapter is my favorite, so get ready for a great experience.’  As an authority figure, the teacher carries the potential for vast influence.  It is common to have had a teacher tell us that we were ‘bad’ in math or spelling or writing.  Naturally, that subject became nearly impossible to master.  Such a bias can be carried with a student for the rest of their learning life.

From Brain-Based Learning Revised Edition  –  The New Science of Teaching and Training  by Eric Jensen

“Rosenthal and Jacobson (1968) established that positive expectations tend to yield positive results and negative expectations yield negative results. 

They call this the Pygmalion effect or the self-fulfilling prophecy.”

From The Owner’s Manual for the Brain – Everyday Applications from Mind-Brain Research by Pierce J. Howard, Ph. D.





Don’t Assume Anything

2 09 2013

selfcontrol

“Pay attention.” “You have poor self-control.” Students understand what you mean by those statements. Right? Maybe not.

If students don’t clearly understand what you want them to do or stop doing, then how will they know how to comply?

Here’s a story to illustrate.

One day my fellow second grade teacher was absent.  I knew that one of her students, Bruce, was difficult to manage.  He had ADHD and often got into trouble.  My heart was tender to students like him who had ADHD.  He had a problem of skill not of will.  Usually, he didn’t demonstrate willful misbehavior.  He needed to learn skills to prevent impulsive misbehaviors.  I told the substitute that when (not if) Bruce misbehaved she was to send him to me (in my next door classroom).

As expected, Bruce was sent to me.  The infraction: he threw an eraser at his friend.  When my students went out to recess, I came back to the room to talk with Bruce.  He was pacing around nervously.  I calmly said, “Bruce why don’t you sit down in this chair.”

He knew the drill.  Rather than sitting down, he began to confess.  His nonstop confession went something like this: “I know.  I know.  I did something wrong.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean it.  There was a lot of noise going on.  I don’t know why I did it.  I’ll never do it again.  What’s my punishment?”

“Bruce, I just want you to sit down in this chair.  Sit down and calm down.”

He complied. His silence told me he relaxed. So, I asked, “Do you have a problem with self-control?”

“No”

Adults often assume young children know what we mean when we say common phrases.  Bruce wasn’t being disrespectful.  He obviously didn’t understand the concept of self-control.

“Did you want to hurt your friend with that eraser?”

With a shocked look on his face he replied, “No!  Of course not.”

“That means you have trouble controlling yourself,” I explained. “You have a problem with self-control. People who have trouble controlling themselves do things they don’t really want to do.  They act before they think.”

He understood and quickly agreed.  “I have that problem.”

I went on to explain that there is a solution to the problem.  “If you accept the Lord as your Savior—”

Bruce interrupted and began to tell me the story of when he trusted Jesus as his Savior.  In his usual nonstop fashion, he related every detail – every day – every word.  It was precious and genuine.

“Oh I accepted the Lord as my Savior when I was five. In Sunday school they taught us about Jesus dying on the cross. He died for my sins. All I had to do was ask Him into my heart—to be my Savior. One night when my mom was putting me to bed I told her I wanted Jesus to be my Savior. I prayed and asked Him to come into my heart.

Bruce just needed to know how to rely on the Holy Spirit to help him have more self-control.

“Bruce, when you accepted Jesus into your heart, the Holy Spirit came into you. The Holy Spirit is God’s power in you to help you show the fruit of the Spirit. Like self-control. The Holy Spirit can help you have more self-control.”

“How can I get that help?” inquired Bruce.

“Just stop before you act and let the Holy Spirit take over. You’ll have more self-control.”

We ended our conversation with a prayer. Soon after, I returned him to his class.

The next day, the substitute reported how things were going.

“All the students are still misbehaving…not paying attention, not doing their work, calling out…”

“How has Bruce been?” I asked.

“He’s the only one who’s been behaved. Ever since you had a talk with him. What did you say?”

“I helped him understand ‘self-control.’ And taught him the Holy Spirit can help him show more self-control if he simply stops before acting.”

We all need to rely on the Holy Spirit to keep us from doing things we’ll regret.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”  Galatians 5:22-23





Getting Away With It

6 04 2012

Children know how to get away with it.

They run inside the halls of school. Then screech to a halt when a teacher is spotted.

A quick glance at a classmate’s test paper goes unnoticed by the teacher.

Students’ infractions don’t always go undetected. Sometimes they’re caught. There’s a price to pay. Consequences to be suffered.

Wouldn’t it be nice if someone volunteered to take our punishment? Just for fun, imagine this surprise ending to exceeding the speed limit. You get pulled over by a police officer. Just before the ticket is written, a stranger pulls up behind you. He gets out of his car. The unfamiliar person persuades the officer to let him pay for your ticket. You drive away with a clean record. Like a dream come true.

It’s fun to fantasize. But daydreams end. Reality hits.

That’s when we yearn for Someone who really will save us. The Easter story is God’s love story to us.

We all are sinners. Even if we think of doing something wrong, the Bible tells us God counts that as sin. But, Someone has taken our punishment. Jesus died for our sin. He took our punishment so we wouldn’t have to go to hell after we die. He saved us from eternal death. His gift of salvation is offered freely.

Easter is a well-known story. Familiar even to young children.

Years ago, I wanted to help my second graders better understand Christ’s act of love.

In the Christian school where I taught, misbehavior at recess was punished by time out. The misconduct was dealt with by sentencing the student to stand at The Wall. There, the child would watch the others play until the designated time was up. The amount of time depended on the offense.

Not sharing nicely – 2 mins.

Bothering another child – 5 mins.

Teasing someone else – 10 mins.

Repeated naughtiness – 15 mins.

Throwing stones – 20 mins.

Intentionally hitting – 25 mins.

      

Aides supervised recess time during the teachers’ lunch. Before lunch one day, I told an aide to let me know when the first student disobeyed a rule. I would stand by The Wall instead of that student to illustrate an innocent person taking a guilty person’s punishment.

The first student to be disciplined owed 25 mins.!

“You may go play. I’ll take your punishment. I’ll stand here instead of you.”

Off the bewildered student scurried.

Quickly, a crowd of students gathered by The Wall. Never before had they seen a teacher standing there. Some were quietly curious. Others speculated. Many understood the point.

One called out, “Let’s bet for her clothes!” Referring to how they cast lots for Christ’s clothes.

The mob of onlookers roared with laughter.

It was a moment of insight for me. Reflecting on how they mocked Jesus while He gave the ultimate gift.

The ‘lesson’ was a success. Students of all grades were abuzz with the news. A teacher had to stand at The Wall! The humorous incident conveyed a powerful message.

We assume children understand Christian terminology/Church and Sunday School language. That’s not always the case. My intention: to take what they understood and use it to give deeper insight into phrases such as, “sacrificial love”, “took our punishment”, and “died on the cross for our sins.”

Reflecting on the crucifixion and resurrection helps to build greater insight. We can better comprehend our Father’s love. He gave His only Son to die for us. He who was sinless willingly suffered and died on the cross for our sin. To make a way for us to have everlasting life in heaven.

May you have a blessed celebration of our Lord’s resurrection.





Why are my students still acting this way?!!!

29 03 2012

It’s spring. The end of the school year is fast approaching. Curriculum must be taught. There are trips to be taken. Test to be administered. No time for misbehavior to interrupt and disrupt things.

You think they’d know your expectations by now. You can’t even count the number of times you’ve reminded them to put their names on their papers…to work quietly…to raise their hands…

Behavior management workshops are always highly attended. For good reason.

It remains challenging even for veteran teachers – especially as the year draws to a close.

So, I’ve compiled a list of strategies. For some, this will be a review. But it can be a ready reference – reminders of what you know work. A quick glance at the list may be all you need when you’ve had one of THOSE DAYS.

For those of you who are finishing up your first year of teaching, this list will become a valuable resource. Think of it as your tool box for behavior management.

Pick one strategy and ask a veteran teacher to explain and model it for you. Focus on one strategy for a week to get the hang of it.

The complete list of behavior management techniques can be found on my website at:

http://www.equippingthesaints.net/behavior-management.html

Remember: Jesus is with you always.   





Caught Not Taught

21 03 2012

Young children imitate adults.  You’ve heard the expression that children learn what’s caught rather than what’s taught.  As a teacher and as a mother, I learned the power of modeling desired behavior.

As a teacher:

One September I injured my vocal chords yelling during a dirt car race.  It was my first experience. The cars didn’t have mufflers to add to the excitement and the noise.  So, my cousin gave me ear plugs.  But I felt the need to be social and talk (yell).

After the races were over my voice was useless.  I thought I had laryngitis.  After several weeks, I still didn’t have my voice back.  I went to the doctor who informed me that I had injured my vocal chords.  He told me I would have to stop using my voice in order to let it heal.  A teacher can’t teach very well without a voice.

So, I devised a plan.  I told my second graders that I’d need an official announcer each day to pronounce loudly important messages I’d whisper in his/her ear.  Each chosen student took their job seriously – standing straight and tall, declaring clearly and accurately each message I whispered.

Whenever I whispered to a student, that student whispered back to me.  It was adorable. An example of how children automatically imitate adults. My classroom took on a quieter, calm atmosphere. I almost didn’t want my voice to be healed.

As a mother:

When our sons were five and seven years old, I remember countless times telling them to clear the table when finished eating. “Don’t forget to take your dirty dishes to the sink…Come back here and put your plate and silverware in the sink…”

I was so tired of reminding them every day. Over and over again. Resentment grew. Annoyance simmered. Irritation boiled. It’s amazing how one seemingly minor request can lead to sheer frustration.

I became desperate!

Telling them wasn’t working. Reminders were ineffective (ignored?).

Time for another strategy.

Both our boys emulated their father. So, I privately asked my husband to pointedly take his dirty dishes to the sink the next night.

The following day after dinner, my husband said, “Well, I’m finished eating.”

Clang went his knife and fork on the plate.

“That was good. Thanks,”

Clatter went his cup and dirty dishes into the sink.

On cue each boy repeated his words… and his actions!

Caught, not taught!

“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.”   Ephesians 5:1

What has your child learned from your example?