Leap Year Lesson

24 02 2016

leapyear

The once-in-four-years date is quickly approaching. Here’s a lesson designed to teach the concept and also celebrate leap year. Enjoy!

Leap Year Lesson. 1-3

Leap yr. concept card

 





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.





Major Education Law Passed, With Barely a Whisper of Recognition

13 12 2015

whisperbest

Last Thursday, December 10th, a bi-partisan agreement was reached. That alone should have gotten every media’s attention. I almost missed the brief announcement on one news channel. Congress acted to make major improvements to the former education law. Where was the hoopla?

Because I’m sure you want to know…

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which was signed into law on January 8, 2002, has been replaced. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was passed just last Thursday. It replaces NCLB. Both laws grew out of the premise that all students should have equal access to education and needed supports, regardless of race, income, zip code, disability, home language, or background.

The goals of the new bill echo those of NCLB. The intention of ESSA is also to ensure success for every student. To that end, the new bill also focuses on measures to improve poor-performing schools. Students will still take the federally required statewide reading and math exams.

Many of the changes sound exciting. Like more control being given back to state and local governments, limits put on the amount of time students spend on testing, and a required minimum of 30 days for public review of a State’s plan (which would include academic standards).

Clear and Concise Summary:

USA Today’s  article,  “The Every Student Succeeds Act vs. No Child Left Behind: What’s changed?” clearly breaks down the changes. It compares both laws with regard to the following categories:

  • The Problem
  • Testing
  • Common Core
  • Accountability
  • Remedies
  • Spending
  • Bipartisanship

Read for Yourself:

Find all the details of ESSA (Law: S.1177 – Student Success Act) posted on Congress.gov’s website:

https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/1177/text

 





God can be real to your child.

30 10 2014
Clinging to God as a Toddler

Clinging to God as a Toddler

Reaching out to Him as an Adult

Reaching out to Him as an Adult

“What’s wrong, Al?” I asked. The fellow teacher always seemed joyful. Normally, his love for the Lord splashed across his face. God’s peace glistened in his eyes. But not that day.

He checked his mailbox with his shoulders slumped and his head down. As if to hide pain or frustration. Something happened to smother his joy.

Every teacher has one of those days from time to time. A day full of problems. When they’re barraged with a multitude of incomplete assignments, relentless unruly behavior, and unending interruptions.

“I’ll be okay once I get my eyes back on the Lord,” was all Al replied. And he went on his way.

That single sentence was the sermon I needed. His godly advice came in handy when I experienced those kinds of days. Those words helped me adjust my focus when difficult days knocked the joy right out of me.

I’ll be okay once I get my eyes back on the Lord.

Don’t we all experience those days? Days when life gets the better of us. When we can no longer cope. When it becomes impossible to hide the hurt under a painted-on smile.

God, are You there? I need You. I need Your help. Where are You?

No answer. That silent treatment form God is unbearable. What can we do when God seems to be elusive?

We desperately need to know how to find Him. Not just for us. But so we can offer wise advice when our children go through trials.

What’s the secret? It’s no secret, really. Al’s stated it in a way even a young child could understand it. Focus on God instead of the problem. Then the challenges will shrink in light of His greatness and power.

How can we teach children to maintain an eternal focus? There are subtle ways which would instill godly thinking.

When our boys were toddlers, adults would often ask the typical question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I taught them to reply, “More like Jesus.” They learned that God had a purpose for their lives. One they’d discover. No matter what occupation God prepared for them, the goal would always be to become more like Jesus.

Many people ask students in high school and college a similar question. “What’s your major?” A different question could help young adults shift their focus heavenward. “How and where are you going to live out your faith?”

I’m blessed to still have the opportunity to teach education majors at a Christian university (Cairn University). We discuss many scenarios they might encounter out in the field. The students offer solutions to each problem.  Their responses reveal insight into each situation.

Rarely, however, do their answers include God. Seldom do they add, “I’d pray for wisdom to handle the situation,” or, “I’d trust God to provide the resources and guidance.” It’s not that they don’t know the Lord. They’re simply responding the way many of us react to challenges. By handling things first and turning to God as a last resort.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Forgive me for not seeking You when I need You most. Thank You for being so patient with me. And for being so accessible. Help me turn to You when I’m FIRST confronted with a trial. Teach me to rely on You before going in my own strength. Help me to lean not on my own understanding, but to acknowledge You in all things. How I want to see Your hand in every area of my life. Give me lessons I can pass on to my children. For Your glory and for Your kingdom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Here’s a challenge:

Does a drama queen live in your house? It could be a toddler who throws temper tantrums. Or a teenager with raging hormones. What could you say or do (during calm times) to help her focus more on the Lord?





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





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





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/