background preloader

Questions Before Answers: What Drives a Great Lesson?

Questions Before Answers: What Drives a Great Lesson?
Recently, I was looking through my bookshelves and discovered an entire shelf of instruction books that came with software I had previously purchased. Yes, there was a time when software was bought in stores, not downloaded. Upon closer examination of these instruction books, I noticed that many of them were for computers and software that I no longer use or even own. More importantly, most were still in shrink-wrap, never opened. I recalled that when I bought software, I just put the disk into the computer and never looked at the book. I realized that I did the same when I bought a new car -- with one exception. This pattern was and is true for every device I buy. The Need to Know Too many classrooms ignore this basic learning model. Lessons, units, and topics are more motivating when they begin with a question whose answer students want to know. There is a catch, though, in using questions to begin your lesson. 10 Questions That Motivate Learning Related:  Improving Instruction / Student Engagement

We Grow by Embracing Our Teaching Mistakes A MiddleWeb Blog What do you do when your lesson doesn’t go as planned? When do you chalk it up to circumstances – a lesson interrupted by an assembly or a schedule change, a technology failure, or simply a bad classroom dynamic that day? When do you just admit that the problem is you? These aren’t easy questions, and as a veteran teacher, I still struggle against the urge to just ignore a wobble and reinvent the wheel each year. The problem with that solution is that it stops me from ever reaching “mastery.” I’m trying to set cues for myself to be more reflective and examine whether the lackluster unit or lesson is due to bad pacing, lack of formative assessments to gauge student readiness, or failure to engage students. Let’s look a little closer The 1932 movie based on Connell’s story. I wouldn’t say that last year’s unit on “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell wasn’t successful. In other words, it wasn’t stellar, so it was a perfect candidate for some self-reflection. Image credit

How to Approach Your Teaching Like a Master Chef Listen to my interview with John Stevens and Matt Vaudrey, or read a full transcript here. Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 51:23 — 70.9MB) Subscribe: iTunes | Android | If you’ve been looking for a boost of inspiration lately, something to help you engage students deeply and make your teaching fun again, then I have just the book for you: The Classroom Chef, by Matt Vaudrey and John Stevens. Here’s the premise: If we want our lessons to have a long-lasting impact on our students, if we want to make our content really relevant, we need to design instruction the way a chef orchestrates a good meal, from appetizer all the way to dessert. In the book, Stevens and Vaudrey show us how they learned to do this in their math classes. The Classroom Chef: Sharpen Your Lessons,Season Your Classes, Make Math Meaningful by John Stevens & Matt Vaudrey This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. Here’s a run-down of some of the book’s best ideas. Avoid Processed Food Hey!! Solicit Reviews

Six Ways to Successfully Build Relationships with Your Students By Rachael George It is all about relationships when it comes to education. This is probably something that you have heard a million times, but have you really stopped to think about the true effect relationships have on your students? Study after study has shown that a classroom teacher is the number one contributor to student achievement, even above the parent, peers, the entire school, or poverty. Here are some ways you can start building a solid foundation when it comes to relationships with your students. 1. For starters, you have to believe that you make an impact. 2. “Students these days!” Connect First as a Person In his recent book, Poor Student, Rich Teaching, Eric Jensen talks about the importance of connecting with your students. 4. If you want to keep students in school, you have to build the relationships and make learning personalized for them. 5. Students connect by talking to and interacting with one another. 6.

Enliven Class Discussions With Gallery Walks Students routinely talking with each other should be a staple in classrooms. We know this as teachers. Social development theory (and I’m sure plenty of your own observational data) backs up the benefits of it. Regardless of age, we know students need time with their peers to share, discuss, grab new ideas, build on ones they already have, and reflect. They can do this in pairs or triads, and it only takes a few minutes. However, if we want our classrooms to be truly student centered, then our students also need to be sharing—and teaching each other—in much grander ways than just pair and share. Gallery walks get students up and out of their chairs and actively engaging with the content and each other. Published poemsHistorical imagesThought-provoking statementsHot-button topics Here are five specific suggestions for gallery walks in your classroom: 1. 2. 3. A group of three or four students make their way to a chart (station) where a question is posed. 4. 5.

10 things students experience every day at school that we educators tend to forget about... So, just recently I was challenged by our middle school principal, Ty Crain. The challenge was simple... come be a student at the middle school for an entire day. This would mean starting the day at school at breakfast and following a schedule throughout the entire day just like any student would. The goal of this challenge is to experience what a student experiences and see the day-to-day operations of the middle school from an unbiased and different set of eyes. I accepted this challenge and have a new appreciation for what our students get to (have to) experience each and every day they are at school. Here are 10 things our students experience every day that I believe many of us educators tend to forget about... 1). 3).

What the Heck is Inquiry-Based Learning? Inquiry-based learning is more than asking a student what he or she wants to know. It’s about triggering curiosity. And activating a student’s curiosity is, I would argue, a far more important and complex goal than the objective of mere information delivery. Nevertheless, despite its complexity, inquiry-based learning can be somehow easier on teachers, too. Teachers who use inquiry-based learning combat the “dunno” -- a chronic problem in student engagement. Let’s face it, when you ask a student something like, “What do you want to know about _______?” In all honesty, however, what inquiry-based teachers do isn’t easy at all; it’s just hidden, and some people confuse the two. Learning Something New Triggering inquiry is about learning something new, and triggering curiosity is no small feat. Think about it. You have to bring that love of “whaaa?!” So think about your content area. The 4 Steps of Inquiry-Based Learning Here are examples to make it more concrete: 1. 2. 3. 4.

4 Approaches to Building Positive Community in Any Classroom Building positive community starts with the first day of school -- actually, it starts beforehand. You can reach out to your students with a welcome letter to let them know how excited you are for them to be in your class and what appealing projects you plan to do over the coming year. Once they show up, students crave a sense of being a part of the community. Here are four groups of ideas to help them feel welcomed and comfortable. Getting to Know You In small groups, have students answer one to three questions from those below -- or similar ones you create. What kind of music do you like? Take a Stand and Stand Too often, students can be classmates, but feel disconnected from one another. Stand up if you: Were born inside/outside the United States (In the north? Small Things Teachers Can Do Every Day All of these make more of a difference to students than we typically appreciate. Use students' names often. For more quick tips, click on the image below. Be a Role Model for Positive Community

Education Week I get frustrated when teachers are encouraged to make school "fun". Go ahead and debate me, but I think "fun" is a term better used for the playground than the classroom. Teachers who promise to make school fun are like parents who want to be friends with their children. Just to be clear, I want my students to enjoy school as much as any other teacher and I do not believe that teachers should try to convert every moment into a measurable learning opportunity. Let's admit it, learning is sometimes uncomfortable. Obviously, it is important to match challenge with support. Ultimately, when it comes to challenge, adults are no different from children. Photo taken by Clara Greisman Encourage critical thinking by turning your class into a Socratic Seminar With so much talk about the Common Core standards and truly increasing our student’s argumentative powers and critical thinking skills, some teachers are starting to think critically themselves about how best to engage students in thoughtful debate and discussion around texts they need to analyze anyway. One method, called the Socratic seminar, challenges to students to formal discussions about a text based on open-ended questions. Throughout the exercise, students must alternately employ good listening, critical thinking, creativity, and rhetorical prowess. The Socratic style of discourse lends itself quite well to establishing critical thinkers due to the fact that Socrates believed that enabling students to think for themselves was more important than filling their heads with knowledge. Select a text To start, consider engaging the class in a guided reading of a novel with compelling themes and issues. The questions The set up The discourse Relinquishing control can be difficult!

Open Space Technology: Decision by Inclusion The first time I heard of Open Space Technology was in 2013 at the initial meeting of the Teacher Resistance and Action Network, a group of teachers and education practitioners who had gathered under the guidance of Dr. Thomas Poetter of Miami University to discuss how to teach responsibly in the age of high-stakes testing. My friend and mentor, Kevin Lydy, had invited me to attend what was billed as a non-conference. It was a life-changing experience, not only because of the great conversations that I had with fellow educators, but also because I learned about a technique that I'd never heard of before: Open Space Technology. Some Edutopia readers may be familiar with Edcamps, which are, in fact, based on (and utilize) OST. Edcamps, however, are geared toward collaborating across schools and districts, while this post will focus on using OST within a school (or even your own classroom) to realize similar benefits. How OST Works One of the keys in utilizing OST is the opening session.

Why Teachers Should Experiment and Fail Why Teachers Should Experiment and Fail Ongoing, embedded professional development is critical to developing and supporting innovative, networked and connected classrooms. There is much research outlining the ineffectiveness of the one-size-fits-all approach that does not engage or inspire experimentation and critical learning. For teachers and those who work on their behalf, it is clear this model does not work, is expensive and continues to reinforce a de-professionalization of teaching. The current model struggles to find a way to provide a complex profession — one that requires academic intelligence, emotional empathy, social work, therapy, administrative prowess, knowledge of new technologies and pedagogical skills — with the autonomy, time and resources to continuously build teachers’ expertise. More evident impact resulting from professional development is necessary in order for schools and districts to justify their investments.

What Doesn't Work When Evaluating Teachers How do you know if a classroom teacher is effective? Ask a teacher, and they will ask you in return, "Are students learning in that classroom?" In an effort to determine teacher effectiveness -- or if the students are learning -- one state, Texas, is embarking on a new teacher evaluation tool that will replace its system that it has used for nearly 20 years. ESSA and Teacher Evaluation Systems One of the new elements of the Texas teacher evaluation system is that student growth will be worked into each teacher evaluation. That sounds like value-added assessment might be making a comeback. In fact, this is happening in numerous districts across the U.S. Let's look at three possible ripple effects. Ripple Number One: Ignoring Factors That Affect Student-Learning Will teachers alter student-learning objectives because student performance is 20 percent of their evaluation? Ripple Number Two: Devaluing Teacher-Colleague Feedback and Support Teachers need administrators.

A 4-Part System for Getting to Know Your Students The biggest paradigm shift in my teaching career was the day I found out one of my students was homeless. Robert was talkative, academically average, fooled around a little too much. Some weeks he turned in good work, and other times he didn’t. Then one afternoon, our guidance counselor mentioned in passing that Robert’s family was homeless. At that moment, I realized I didn’t really know my students at all. Building solid relationships with your students is arguably the most important thing you can do to be an effective teacher. Although most teachers value relationship-building, most don’t have any kind of systematic approach for making that happen. You’ll get to know your students faster and more thoroughly if you have a system in place, a way to make sure you give sufficient attention to every child and store the information you gather for easy access later. Classroom icebreakers are a classic strategy for helping everyone feel more comfortable on the first day of school.

Rewarding behavior is key to parenting teens, study suggests Parenting is hard, and parenting teens brings about an entirely new set of challenges, from keeping their rooms clean to getting them home before curfew. But, a new study suggests parents who want their teenagers to keep their grades up could have better success if they focus more on rewarding good behavior and less on threatening to punish the bad. Getty Images British researchers have found that adolescents focus well on positive incentives, but have difficulty staying motivated to avoid penalties. According to the report, published in PLOS Computational Biology, British researchers have found that adolescents focus well on positive incentives, but have difficulty staying motivated to avoid penalties. The study shows that teens and adults learn in different ways, according to the study's lead author Stefano Palminteri, a researcher with the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London. "Rewards give them something they want to think about," Allen said. Shutterstock