Taking Notes 101

5 01 2014

note.taking

Lots can go wrong with a student’s class notes. Too messy to read. Inadequate information written. Critical facts missing. Unnecessary words cluttering up the page.

Students fail tests partly because they don’t take good notes. There’s an easy solution to that problem. Explicitly teach them how to take notes. Don’t have time? Can you afford NOT to invest the time? You won’t have to devote tons of valuable time. It will be time well-spent.

Here’s a personal anecdote highlighting the power of one brief mini-lesson.

As Director of Instruction, I offered support to classroom teachers. A middle school history teacher requested my assistance. One of his 7th grade students had failed all the tests in the first quarter.

I began by observing the student during a review lesson for an upcoming history test.

The teacher explained and wrote critical information. Like robots, the students wrote. Each face seemed void of any thought. Flat expressions conveyed boredom or tiredness—or both.

The teacher explained and wrote…students wrote. The teacher explained and wrote…students wrote.

It doesn’t look like anyone is thinking.

The teacher broke the pattern and did something that confirmed my suspicions.

He simply stated a powerful point without writing it down, himself. He emphatically stated, “This point is extremely important; it WILL BE on the test…” (and he told them the information without writing it)

Not one student wrote it down! Their note taking had been mindless. A simple task of imitating the teacher. He wrote; they wrote. He didn’t write; they didn’t write (even though he told them it was an important point that would be included on the test).

I offered to teach a mini-lesson to that class about how to take class notes. Below you’ll find a document containing all the information I covered in a 20 min. lesson.

I suggested that they try only one or two of the points made (such as: write info. only after you understand the point so it can be summarized, use abbreviations, etc.).  Each student was given a copy of the document (on neon paper and laminated).

About two weeks later I asked that same class if they had tried any of the strategies. Every single student had tried some of the methods and reported improved grades on recent tests. Everyone attributed their success to their better note-taking skills. They expressed gratitude and excitement.

“What did you try?” I asked.

One by one, they told me what they tried. All without referring to the document I provided!

After that initial mini-lesson, the teacher provided reminders. During subsequent review lessons, he simply referred to the strategies before and during review lessons. He started modeling the methods by providing a list of abbreviations, by drawing simple pictures of important points, etc.

Word spread. Several senior high school students asked me to teach the same lesson to their classes. Gotta love when students get motivated and become more invested in improving their performance!

Note Taking





What is differentiated instruction?

14 02 2013

DI pic
What comes to mind when you hear “differentiated instruction (DI)?
Can you explain DI in simple terms?

Teachers and college students are required to do extensive reading on the subject. Thorough research only seems to cloud the issue. Understanding the concept is easy. Implementing it is difficult, to say the least.

A colleague asked me to meet with her for one hour. She wanted me to explain, in just sixty minutes, how to apply DI. First, I had to figure out how to sift out the most practical strategies and best practices. I challenged myself to identify key concepts and explain each in one sentence.

Here’s what I came up with.
Summary of DI

Check out the Prezi I created for a teacher-training workshop.
http://prezi.com/vzg2n9gwurl3/charlie-browns-differentiated-instruction/





Guaranteed: Better Attention, Increased Motivation, Improved Memory

26 09 2012

Want your child to pay attention without being told? Sound too good to be true?

When I taught second graders, I found alternate ways of getting them quiet. Rather than telling them to settle down, I’d whisper to one student. Or I’d tip my rain stick. Sometimes, I’d present a concealed object hidden in a box or bag.

One day each year, I’d begin a math lesson by writing on the board, “Welcome to your first silent lesson. No one talks starting now.” Then I’d write a math problem coupling it with gestures. I’d point to the two numbers in the ones column and shrug. The students would quickly catch on. Everyone would join in by sharing silent signals. Tiny fingers would fly in the air sharing their answers.

Usually, we require students to memorize events, demand they pay attention, and hope they are motivated to learn. But, changing the way we introduce or review information can engage students more naturally…more in tune with how their brains work.

For example, novelty, curiosity, and emotions can be used to your advantage when teaching children.

Ever whisper to another adult while kids are in the room? What do the children do? They stop talking and strain to listen. They can’t resist the temptation to eavesdrop. Changing your volume got their attention. Without you having to demand it. Without you even wanting it. The unusual speaking volume didn’t go unnoticed.

All people, big and little, love to guess what’s in a gift-wrapped box. We shake it and even smell it. Why? It’s fun to predict.

Most of us remember the Chilean miners who were trapped for 68 days back in 2010. People were glued to their TVs watching the events unfold. Why? The drama resonated with us. We could imagine the horror of the miners and their loved ones. The miraculous rescue of every man erupted in celebrations around the world. The joy on their faces inflated our hearts. Almost as if we could feel their relief. Certainly, we could imagine it. We’ll never forget. Emotional experiences are memorable.

Many educators are implementing strategies recommended by brain researches. Specific methods improve student academic performance, increase motivation, minimize behavior problems, and elevate attention.

They plan activities which are: novel, interactive, structured to encourage deeper thinking, or multisensory.

In addition, they design activities which involve: physical movement, music, art, or drama.

Other beneficial lessons simulate real life, engage students’ emotions, spark healthy competition, challenge students’ perceptions, include storytelling and anecdotes, provide opportunities for students to make choices, or give time for reflection of new concepts.

Click on the link belowfor your list of those strategies. Pick one category each week and plan an activity.

Brain research for parents





Preventing School Boredom

14 07 2012

                     

Many parents take advantage of summer months to help students maintain skills taught during the school year and to prepare for the next academic year.

If you dread the upcoming year because your child hates social studies or history, here are a few suggestions to increase motivation. Things you can do at home either during the school year or during the summer months.

Attached is a document I created that includes ideas based on brain research. Activities which wouldn’t seem like typical school lessons. For fun summer boredom prevention.

Use the list as your guide to think of ones that would match your style, your child’s preferences, and upcoming history units.

Note: The brain based recommendations pertain to any subject area.

Motivating Bored students





Triumph Over Dreaded Math Facts

11 04 2012

For some, multiplication facts arouse a sick queasy feeling. Others fear.

That’s just the parents.

For some students, just the word ‘multiplication’ conjures up thoughts of torture. A mountain of memorizing too great to climb.

Mastering basic math facts can have powerful results. Performance will improve. Math test scores will rise. Confidence will soar.

My experiences helping students have resulted in all those benefits. Several cases were even more astonishing.

One student no longer needed special education for math as a result of strengthening his math facts.

Another student began volunteering answers during math lessons.

Visit my community to find an effective strategy called Hands-On Multiplication). That approach will become a valuable tool in your teaching kit.





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?





Getting Kids to Do What You Want Them to Do

12 02 2012

Managing the behavior of children can sometimes seem impossible.

 

A well-prepared teacher can have a lesson sabotaged by one mischievous student.

“Stop talking…Don’t get out of your seat…Stop bothering George …This is not the time to play with your toy…Please stop spinning your ruler…Don’t lean back on your chair…”

A responsible parent trying to shop may follow this all-familiar script:

“Don’t touch that…Leave the mannequin alone…Don’t run inside…Stop saying that over and over…No, you can’t go there…No, we can’t buy that…”

Children can wear us out!             

Instead of telling them what not to do, give them something very specific to do.

Sometimes teachers tell students what to do without getting the resistant student to comply. That’s when being very specific helps.

Vague: “Get to work.”

Very specific: “Pick up your pencil and answer the questions now. Keep working until you are finished.”

In the home, the script might sound like this:

Vague: “Do your chores.”

Very specific: “Pick up all those toys and put them in the toy box. Pick up every book and put them in the book shelf. Throw all the trash in the trash can. Put all the clothes in the laundry basket.”

If the child talks back, simply get closer to the child and repeat the directions like a broken record without raising your voice.

Here’s a real conversation I had with my teenage son:

Me: “Move your clothes from the living room and take them to your bedroom now.”

Chris: (while walking up the steps empty handed) “I’ll do it later.”

Me: (following close behind him) “Move your clothes now. Take them from the living room to your bedroom now.”

Chris: (in the bathroom) “I’m going to take a shower now.”

Me: (putting my foot in the door to keep it from closing) “Move your clothes now. Take them from the living room to your bedroom now.”

Chris: (still in the bathroom) “I don’t have any clothes on.”

Me: “Put a towel around you and move your clothes now. Take them from the living room to your bedroom now.”

Chris: (huffing in frustration and resignation) “Oh, all right.”

Practice watching adult-child interactions in the mall.

Look for parents telling their children simply what not to do.  They’ve entered the Land of Not -where people speak only “don’t” and “stop.”

Then listen for parents telling their children what to do.

“Hold onto my coat. Look for a white jacket. Tell me when you see a sale sign.”

Before our sons could read, I gave them their own food list. Pictures on their list were of things I needed to buy. Their job was to look for those items. It kept them busy and helped me.

If you’re interested in learning more about this method of behavior management, check out Michael Valentine’s website.

http://www.michael-valentine.com/outline.html

What’s your greatest behavior management challenge?





Teaching Social Skills to Early Learners

3 12 2011

Strategy: Social Stories

Description:

  • Social stories are used with children who have autism spectrum disorders.  Social stories help these individuals tolerate change and teach them how to interact in specific social situations.  Explicit instruction is necessary for many of these children.    Early learners who do not exhibit autism can also benefit from social stories.
  • Social stories can be used to teach new routines and expected actions.
  • Social stories contain simple steps for achieving certain goals.

Advantages:

  • A social story can be created to match exact situations children will encounter.
  • Very little planning is required to develop a script for a social story.  A handwritten script for a story can simply be read aloud to the student(s).  The teacher or adult has the option of writing the story down and creating a more formal presentation of the story (e. g., a book).
  • A social story is a nonthreatening, enjoyable way of communicating expected behaviors.
  • Rereading the story reinforces expected behaviors.
  • Students begin to visualize themselves doing the appropriate behaviors (like a mental rehearsal).
  • Students learn from the story what types of feelings will result in doing appropriate behaviors, and what feelings and consequences result from behaving inappropriately/incorrectly.
  • Social stories can prevent problem behaviors and student anxiety (resulting from uncertainty about what to do and how to act).  When a social story is read prior to a new situation, the student(s) have already mentally rehearsed expected behaviors.
  • Social stories reinforce the concept of stories (as a language arts goal for early learners).

Elements included in a Social Story:

  1. Describe the context of the target situation.  (a descriptive sentence)
  2. Describe the desired behavior which would follow a specific social cue or situation.  (a descriptive sentence)
  3. Describe typical reactions and feelings of others (e. g., how they would perceive the desired behavior).   (a perspective sentence)
  4. Statements which validate the socially acceptable behaviors – affirming the importance of such behaviors.  (an affirmative sentence)

Sample Social Story Script :

In school I have ‘center time.’  (Descriptive Sentence) 

At ‘center time’ I like to visit the building station and the shopping station.   (Descriptive Sentence)

Other kids like to play with me at the building station.  (Perspective Sentence)

When I share nicely in the building station, other kids are happy with me.   (Perspective Sentence)

It’s a good thing to share nicely. (Affirmative Sentence) 

It would be a bad thing if someone grabbed a Lego block from a kid.  (Descriptive Sentence) 

That would make the kid cry.  (Perspective Sentence) 

Jesus told us to love others.  (Descriptive  Sentence)  

Jesus had a good idea when He made that rule.  (Affirmative Sentence)

That’s why it is good to first ask nicely if you want a turn to play with a Lego.  (Affirmative Sentence)

Whenever I share nicely, the other kids want to play with me more and more.  (Perspective Sentence)