Personal Symbols for Creativity

17 02 2010

  What motivates your Creativity?           

   When we think of an idea we often picture a light bulb over someone’s head representing the idea light switching on. 

  For many famous inventors there were objects that became

life-long metaphors for their creativity.

These objects produced a sense of wonder that ignited their inventiveness.

 For Einstein, it was a compass

For the Wright Brothers, it was a toy rubber-band-driven helicopter

For Buckminster Fuller, it was blocks

For Edison, it was two sacks of grain

For Samuel Colt, it was explosives

For Seymour Papert (inventor of programming language LOGO),

 it was gears

For Alexander Graham Bell, it was the mechanism of sound

 So if they had these metaphors of wonder they may have had a different symbol for creativity.  What would be your metaphor of wonder?

 What would be your personal symbol for creativity?

Motivational Quotes: Passion and Wonder

17 02 2010

Passionate:   Responding With Wonderment and Awe

 The most beautiful experience in the world is the experience of the mysterious. He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.”  Albert Einstein

“Practice being excited.”
Bill Foster

“Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion.”
George Hegel

“Your work is to discover your work, and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.”              Buddha

“I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it.”
Harry Emerson Fosdick

“You only lose energy when life becomes dull in your mind. Your mind gets bored and therefore tired of doing nothing . . . . Get interested in something! Get absolutely enthralled in something! Get out of yourself! Be somebody! Do something . . The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have.”
Norman Vincent Peale

“We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about.”
Charles Kingsley

“People do their best work when they are passionately engaged in what they are doing.”  Erie S. Raymond

“There is real magic in enthusiasm. It spells the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment.”
Norman Vincent Peale

“Wonder rather than doubt is the root of knowledge.”
Abraham Joshua Heschel

“Once you do something you love, you never have to work again.”
Willie Hill, student

“Follow your bliss. Find where it is and don’t be afraid to follow it.”
Joseph Campbell

“All thinking begins with wondering”

“I would sooner live in a cottage and wonder at everything than live in a castle and wonder at nothing!”   Joan Winmill Brown,

“We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.”
Frank Tibolt, Author

“I want to be excited, thrilled, and ecstatic about all sorts of things as long as I live.”
Win Couchman, Writer and Speaker

“One thing life has taught me: If you are interested, you never have to look for new interests. They come to you. When you are genuinely interested in one thing, it will always lead to something else.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

“Wonder is what sets us apart from other life forms. No other species wonders about the meaning of existence or the complexity of the universe or themselves.”
Herbert W. Boyer

Passion always brings a difficulty, that is true, but the good side of it is that it gives energy.        Vincent Van Gogh

I think that nothing awakens us to the reality of life so much as a true passion.

Vincent Van Gogh

Attending the National Association of the Gifted Conference (NAGC)

17 02 2010

Attending the National Association of the Gifted Conference (NAGC)

When I signed up for the NAGC annual convention and exhibition in St. Louis I anticipated it for months. After meeting Ann Robinson, the NAGC president, as she taught in the Sun Valley last October I looked forward to other excellent workshops like the one she presented.  At St. Louis s NAGC convention, there were 15 strands and more than 250 sessions.  The variety of workshops would have kept any teacher intrigued and enthused for this fast paced four days of well organized sessions and exhibits.

One of the highlights was a highly interesting presentation by Josh Waitzkin (eight-time National Chess Champion and focus of the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer).  Several years and many national championships later-in both chess and martial arts-Waitzen described what it meant to reach the highest level of achievement.  The presentation consisted of a dialogue with Del Siegle, NAGC past President, Rena Subotnik, from the American Psychological Association, as well as local students who excel in areas such as chess, music, debate and acting.   I, personally, found this as one of the most interesting presentations I have heard in a long time.

The focus was how learning something deeply can transfer into a further intense understanding of other subjects.  In the case of Waitzin, his love and deep understanding of Chess transferred to  a deep grasp of the martial art of Tai Chi Chuan.  To the surprise of many, he did not promote the game of chess or put it on a pedestal as the cure-all for teaching. He realized that for him, Chess was his starting point that launched him into the art of learning. 

In the words of Waitzen, “If I have learned anything in a lifetime of world-class competition, it is that learners and performers thrive when their growth process is uniquely tailored to their own personal nuance of character. Teachers must listen first. Students should gain a keen introspective awareness of their natural strengths and weaknesses, and build a game, a career, a way of life around that awareness. In my careers in chess and the martial arts, and in my life as a teacher, I have seen too many learners—both adults and children—jammed into cookie cutter molds into which they just don’t fit. The result is a brittle, unsatisfying relationship to the growth process.”

Waitzen has started a foundation to promote a deep understanding of learning. Based on the book, The Art of Learning, the JW foundation seeks to apply his process to educational organizations around the world.

Waitzen speaks of his dream, “ My philosophy of learning is based on maximizing each individual’s unique potential. The JW Foundation will reach out to as many children as possible, inspiring resilience, creativity, and a passion for the road to mastery. My systematic methodology for achieving this aim is the subject of my book The Art of Learning… It is my intention, with the JW Foundation, to help that process. In time, we will develop a comprehensive online learning environment that will be a resource for teachers, parents, and students alike. While the top priority of the JW Foundation will be under-served communities, it is my ambition to support all children, teens, and young adults on their unique paths to excellence.”

It was my pleasure to spend many hours with Waitzen during and after his presentations to discuss application of his ideas to gifted education.

Another  highlight was the general session with Howard Gardner.   He is well known to most teachers as the developer of the theory of Multiple Intelligences in additions to being the author of more than 20 books.

For this thought-provoking presentation, Gardner drew from decades of experience and research of his theories.  His humor and insights brought a compelling message on how giftedness, talent and creativity play an important role in the classroom. 

The afternoon held a memorable dialogue with Howard Gardner and Dean Keith Simonton. This humorous and inspiring dialogue was moderated by Ann Robinson.  The topic focused on the nature of creative genius as described in the biographies of Beethoven, Marie Curie, Einstein, T.S. Elliot and Picasso.  I listened to this presentation sitting next to Dr. Joseph S. Renzulli.  We both were enthralled with the insights and both gave the speakers an enthusiastic standing ovation.

These general sessions, the plethora of workshops by authors, speakers and scholars in the field of gifted education and the 100 exhibits made this an excellent convention. In addition, the excursions of historical St. Louis culminating at the St. Louis arch made this NAGC convention trip a memorable and educational experience.

Problem Solving: A Student’s Guide for Math Without Thinking

16 02 2010

 PROBLEM SOLVING: A Student’s Guide

This set of rules will get you through even the longest assignment in the minimum time with little or no thinking. 

Rule 1 

If at all possible, avoid reading the problem.  Reading the problem only consumes time and causes confusion.

Rule 2

Extract the numbers from the problem in the order in which they appear. Pay no attention for numbers written in words.

Rule 3

If rule 2 yields three or more numbers, the best bet for getting the answer is adding them together.

Rule 4

If there are only two numbers which are approximately the same size, then subtraction should give the best results.

Rule 5

If there are only two numbers in the problem and one is much smaller than the other, then divide if it goes evenly-otherwise, multiply.

Rule 6

If the problem seems like it calls for a formula, pick a formula that has enough letters to use all the numbers given in the problem.

Rule 7

Never, never spend too much time solving problems.


Math Positive Affirmations

16 02 2010

Math Positudes (Positive affirmations)

 I’m becoming a good math student.

 I’m learning more math each day.

 I’m capable of learning math.

 I have good abilities in math.

 I am relaxed, calm, alert, and confident in math.

 My math improves every day.

 I can understand math if I give myself a chance.

 I like math because it’s useful in everyday life.

 Working out math problems is fun.

 Math is more and more exciting each day.

 Math is creative.

 Math is stimulating.

 Math helps me to get to where I want to go.

 Math methods help me solve everyday problems.

 Act as if it were impossible to fail.

 The more you learn, the easier it gets.

Luck is often disguised as hard work.

 If you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.

 Success is a journey, not a destination.

 Inch by inch, it’s a cinch.

 Failure is a success if you learn from it.

 Get an education in school and you’ll have it for life.

 If you play victim, you give up your power to change.

 You’re as happy as you make up your mind to be.

 Your greatest advantage is your ability to learn.

 I choose to respond positively, NOT react.

 Learning is a big part of my life.

 Be bigger than your problems.

 I succeed by asking questions.

 The difference between ordinary & extraordinary is the little “extra.”

Motivational Quotes: Inquisitiveness

16 02 2010

You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.”
Naguib Mahfouz (Nobel Prize Winner)

“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”

“Nothing shapes our journey through life so much as the questions we ask.”
Greg Levoy

“It is better to ask some of the questions than to know all the answers.”
James Thurber

“The important thing is to not stop questioning.”
Albert Einstein

“A generous and elevated mind is distinguished by nothing more certainly than an eminent degree of curiosity.”
Samuel Johnson

“The formulation of a problem is often more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill. To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advances.”
Albert Einstein

“If you find a good solution and become attached to it, the solution may become your next problem.”
Dr. Robert Anthony

“Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.”
Anthony Robbins

“Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous mind.”
Samuel Johnson
“It’s not the answers that enlighten us, but the questions.”

He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.
Chinese proverb

“If we would have new knowledge, we must get a whole world of new questions.”
Suzanne Langer

“If you spend more time asking appropriate questions rather than giving answers or opinions, your listening skills will increase.”
Brian Koslow

“Millions saw apples fall, but Newton asked why.”
Bernard Baruch

“Good questions outrank easy answers.”
Paul A. Samuelson

“Philosophy may be defined as the art of asking the right question…awareness of the problem outlives all solutions. The answers are questions in disguise, every new answer giving rise to new questions.”
Abraham J. Heschel

He who is ashamed of asking is ashamed of learning.
Danish Proverb
“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”
Ellen Parr

“The one real object of education is to have a man in the condition of continually asking questions.”
Bishop Mandell Creighton

“I have no special gift. I am only passionately curious.”
Albert Einstein

Motivational Quotes: Courage

16 02 2010

Courageous: Taking Responsible Risks

“Sometimes you just have to take the leap and build your wings on the way down.”
Kobi Yamada

“There is a time for daring and a time for caution, and a wise man knows which is called for.”
John Keating, Teacher in Dead Poet’s Society

“The only man who never makes mistakes is the man who never does anything.”
Eleanor Roosevelt
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little past them into the impossible.”
Arthur Clarke

“We should not let our fears hold us back from pursuing our hopes.”
John F. Kennedy

“Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.”
David Lloyd George

“The way to develop self-confidence is to do the thing you fear.”
William Jennings Bryan

Undertake something that is difficult; it will do you good. Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered,   you will never grow.”
Ronald Osborn

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.”
Elbert Hubbard

One must work and dare if one really wants to live                                      Vincent VanGogh
Do not fear risk. All exploration, all growth is calculated. Without challenge people cannot reach their higher selves. Only if we are willing to walk over the edge can we become winners.”
The families of the Challenger Space Shuttle Crew
“It takes as much courage to have tried and failed as it does to have tried and succeeded.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh

“Looking back on my life, I wish I’d stepped forward and made a fool of myself more often when I was younger—because when you do, you find out you can do it.”
William Sessions, Former FBI Director

Only when we accept full responsibility for our lives will we have the confidence and courage to risk.”
Stacy Allison, first American woman to climb Mt. Everest

“I want to work with the top people, because only they have the courage and the confidence and the risk-seeking profile that you need.”
Laurel Cutler

“You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Wayne Gretzky

Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is?”                             Frank Scully

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”
Robert F. Kennedy

“Take risks: if you win, you will be happy; if you lose, you will be wise.”

“Do one thing everyday that scares you.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

What would life  be if we had no  courage to  attempt  anything?   Vincent VanGogh

Motivation and Creativity

15 02 2010

Here are some wonderful excerpts from Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmaihalyi concerning motivation and creativity.

 The first step toward a more creative life is the cultivation of curiosity and interest, that is, the allocation of attention to things for their own sake.  With age most of us lose the sense of wonder, the felling of awe in confronting the majesty and variety of the world, yet without awe life becomes routine, creative individual are childlike in that their curiosity remains fresh even at ninety years of age; they delight in the strange and the unknown. (346)

  So how can interest and curiosity be cultivated, assuming that you feel the desire to do so? Some specific advice may help.

–Try to be surprised by something every day.  It could be something you see, hear, or read about.  Stop to look at the unusual car parked a the curb, taste the new item on the cafeteria menu, actually listen to your colleague at the office……Life is nothing more than a stream of experience-the more widely and deeply you swim in it, the richer your life will be.

– Try to surprise at least one person every day.  Instead of being you predictable self, say something unexpected, express an opinion that you have not dared to reveal, ask a question you wouldn’t ordinarily ask.

 -Write down each day what surprised you and you surprised others.  Writing them down so that you can relive them in recollection is one way to keep them from disappearing, and after a few weeks, you may begin to see a pattern of interest emerging in the notes, one that may indicate some domain that would repay explore in depth. (347)

-When something strikes a spark of interest, follow it.

-Wake up in the morning with a specific goal to look forward to.  Creative individuals don’t have to be dragged out of bed: they are eager to start the day.  (349)

 -If you do anything well, it becomes enjoyable……the quality of experience tends to improve in proportion to the effort invested in it.

– To keep enjoying something, you need to increase its complexity. (350)

 -After creative energy is awakened, it is necessary to protect it, We must erect barriers against distractions, dig channels so that every can flow more freely, find ways to escape outside temptations and interruptions, If we do not, entropy is sure to break down the concentration that the pursuit of an interest requires. (351)

 -Take charge of your schedule.

-Make time for reflection and relaxation.

 -Shape your space.  The kind of objects you fill your space with also either help or hinder the allocation of creative energies.  Cherished objects remind us of our goals, make us feel more confident, and focus our attention.  Trophies, diplomas, favorite books, and family pictures on the office desk are all reminders of who you are, what you have accomplished, and therefore what you are likely to achieve, Pictures and maps of places you would like to visit and books about things you might like to learn more about are signposts of what you might do in the future (356)

 -Find out what you like and what you hate about life. Creative people are in very close touch with their emotions. (356)

 -Start doing more of what you love, less of what you hate. (357)

-The only way to stay creative is to oppose the wear and tear of existence with techniques that organize time, space, and activity to your advantage.  It means developing schedules to protect your time and avoid distraction, arranging your surroundings to heighten concentration, cutting out meaningless chores that soak up psychic energy, and devoting the energy thus saved to what you really care about.  It is much easier to be personally creative when you maximize optimal experience in everyday life.  (358)

 -When we live creatively, boredom is banished and every moment holds the promise of a fresh discovery. (344)

 -I am assuming that each person has, potentially, all the psychic energy he or she needs to lead a creative life, However, the are four major sets of obstacles that prevent many from expressing this potential. Some of us are exhausted by too many demands, and so have trouble getting hold of and activating our psychic energy in the fist place, Or we get easily distracted and have trouble learning how to protect and channel whatever energy we have, the next problem is laziness, or lacking discipline for controlling the flow of energy.  And finally, the last obstacle is not knowing what to do with the energy one has. (344)

– In terms of using mental energy creativity. Perhaps the most fundamental difference between people consists in how much uncommitted attention they have left over to deal with novelty.  In too many cases, attention is restricted by external necessity, we cannot expect a man who works two jobs, or a working woman with children, to have much mental energy left over to learn a domain, let alone innovate in it, ….the fact is that there are real limits to how many things a person can attend to at the same time, and when survival needs require all of one=s attention, none is left over for being creative.  (345)

 -Look at problems from as many viewpoints as possible.  Creative individuals do not rush to define the nature of problems: they look at the situation from various angles first and leave the formulation undetermined for a ling time, they consider different causes and reasons, They test their hunches about what really is going on, first in their own mid and then in reality, they try tentative solutions and check their success-and they are open to reformulating the problem if the evident suggests they started out on the wrong path. (365)

Words of Encouragement

15 02 2010

Here are some words of encouragement to say to your students or family today!

How did you do that?

That’s really nice.

Keep up the good work.

That’s quite an improvement

Thank you very much.

That’s clever.

That’s an interesting point


Now you’ve got the hang of it.

Terrific effort!



You’ve got it now.

Nice going

I appreciate what you’ve done.

No one says it quite like you.

That’s coming along nicely.

That’s going to be great.

I can tell you really care.

You’re a good leader.

It looks like you put a lot of work into this.

It makes me happy when people work together.

That’s an interesting way of looking at it.

You’re incredible.

I like the way you’re working.

How does that make you feel?

You really paid attention!

What neat work!

You really outdid yourself.

Very creative

Good thinking.

You’re right on track.

That’s a very good observation.

That’s a good point.


Oh, I see your point.

You make it look easy.

You are so helpful.

I’m glad you’re here.

That’s encouraging.

Thanks for sharing.

It must make you feel good that…

I like the way you worked that out.

Valentine’s Love Letter

14 02 2010

A Love Letter Straight from L.A. (Lower Alabama)

 Collards is green,

my dog’s name is Blue

and I’m so lucky

to have a sweet thang like you.

Yore hair is like cornsilk

a‑flapping in the breeze.

Softer than Blue’s

and without all them fleas.

You move like the bass,

which excite me in May.

You ain’t got no scales

but I luv you anyway.

Yo’re as satisfy’n as okry

jist a‑fry’n in the pan.

Yo’re as fragrant as “snuff”

right out of the can.

You have some’a yore teeth,

for which I am proud;

I hold my head high

when we’re in a crowd.

On special occasions,

when you shave under yore arms,

well, I’m in hawg heaven,

and awed by yore charms.

Still them fellers at work,

they all want to know,

what I did to deserve

such a purdy, young doe.

Like a good roll of duct tape

yo’re there fer yore man,

to patch up life’s troubles

and fix what you can.

Yo’re as cute as a junebug

a‑buzzin’ overhead.

You ain’t mean like those far ants

I found in my bed.

 Cut from the best cloth

like a plaid flannel shirt,

you spark up my life

more than a fresh load of dirt.

When you hold me real tight

like a padded gunrack,

my life is complete;

Ain’t nuttin’ I lack.

Yore complexion, it’s perfection,

like the best vinyl sidin’.

despite all the years,

yore age, it keeps hidin’.

Me ‘n’ you’s like a Moon Pie

with a RC cold drank,

we go together

like a skunk goes with stank.

Some men, they buy chocolate

for Valentine’s Day;

They git it at Wal‑Mart,

it’s romantic that way.

Some men git roses

on that special day

from the cooler at Kroger.

“That’s impressive,” I say.

Some men buy fine diamonds

from a flea market booth.

“Diamonds are forever,”

they explain, suave and couth.

But for this man, honey,

these won’t do.

Cause yor’e too special,

you sweet thang you.

I got you a gift,

without taste nor odor,

more useful than diamonds…


Luv, from yor romeo

Developing a Growth Mindset

10 02 2010

 Developing a Growth Mindset

As I walk into the office of one of the schools I teach I view these words, “What children learn and what they become depend largely upon how they feel about themselves”.   After years of reading those words I realized that this “feeling” is far more than emotion.  I realized that a child’s perception of themselves is very important to their success in school.  This questions the concept that teachers are just dispensers of knowledge.    Self-perception leads to self-confidence and that leads to.…self-efficacy.

 To quote Del Siegle,

Self-efficacy is a person’s judgment about being able to perform a particular activity.  It is a student’s “I can” or “I cannot” belief.  Unlike self-esteem, which reflects how students feel about their worth or value, self-efficacy reflects how confident students are about performing specific tasks.  High self-efficacy in one area may not coincide with high self-efficacy in another area.  Just as high confidence in snow skiing may not be matched with high confidence in baseball, high self-efficacy in mathematics does not necessarily accompany high self efficacy in spelling.  Self-efficacy is specific to the task being attempted. However, having high self-efficacy does not necessary mean that students believe they will be successful. While self-efficacy indicates how strongly students believe they have the skills to do well, they may believe other factors will keep them from succeeding.

A growing body of research reveals that there is a positive, significant relationship between students’ self-efficacy beliefs and their academic performance. ….People with low self-efficacy toward a task are more likely to avoid it, while those with high self-efficacy are not only more likely to attempt the task, but they also will work harder and persist longer in the face of difficulties. Self-efficacy influences:  (1) what activities students select, (2) how much effort they put forth, (3) how persistent they are in the face of difficulties, and (4) the difficulty of the goals they set. Students with low self-efficacy do not expect to do well, and they often do not achieve at a level that is commensurate with their abilities. They do not believe they have the skills to do well so they don’t try.

The connection between self-efficacy and achievement gets stronger as students advance through school.  By the time students are in college, their self-efficacy beliefs are more strongly related to their achievement than any measure of their ability.  If we wish to develop high educational achievement among our students, it is essential that we begin building stronger self-efficacy as early as possible.

Carol Dweck shares her thoughts on self-efficacy when she speaks of Mind Sets.

Students with a fixed Mind Set say that intelligence is static

Leads to a desire to look smart and therefore a tendency to

Avoid challenges

Give up easily

Sees effort as fruitless or worse

Ignores useful feedback

Feels threatened by the success of others

 They may plateau early and achieve less than their full potential

Students with a Growth Mind Set say intelligence can be developed

Leads to a desire to learn and therefore a tendency to

Embrace challenge

Persist in the in the face of setbacks

Sees effort as a path of mastery

Learns for criticism

Finds lessons and inspiration in the success of others

As a result they reach ever higher levels of achievement

Here are Dweck’s tips from Mindset:

-Listen to what you say to your kids, with an ear toward the messages you’re sending about mind-set.

– Instead of praising children’s intelligence or talent, focus on the processes they used.

Example: “That homework was so long and involved. I really admire the way you concentrated and finished it.”

Example: “That picture has so many beautiful colors. Tell me about them.”

Example: “You put so much thought into that essay. It really makes me think about Shakespeare in a new way.”

-When your child messes up, give constructive criticism—feedback that helps the child understand how to fix the problem, rather than labeling or excusing the child.

-Pay attention to the goals you set for your children; having innate talent is not a goal, but expanding skills and knowledge is.

-When they teach study skills, convey to students that using these methods will help their brains learn better.

 -Discourage use of labels (“smart”, “dumb” and so on) that convey intelligence as a fixed entity.

-Teach students to think of their brain as a muscle that strengthens with use, and have them visualize the brain forming new connections every time they learn.

-Praise students’ effort, strategies, and progress, not their intelligence. Praising intelligence leads to students to fear challenges and makes them feel stupid and discouraged when they have difficulty.

-Give students challenging work. Teach them that challenging activities are fun and that mistakes help them learn.

Forced Dilemma Game

10 02 2010

This game involves forcing the participants in making a choice when neither one is attractive or involves some metaphorical interpretation.  The object is to put the participants on the horns of a dilemma or between a rock and a hard place. Participants are pushed to not say “neither one” or to interpret the choice so that one would include the other so as to soften the dilemma. The object is to struggle with an either/or choice. The leader gives the choices to each participant and they must defend their choice with three good reasons. Here are two types of game play:

 Would you rather….?  (Examples)

Would you rather be rich or famous?

Would you rather ride a roller coaster or a mechanical bull?

Would you rather have the power to fly or the power to disappear?

Would you rather be a baby again or seventy years old?

Would you rather be gossiped about or lied to?

Would you rather have a life of good memories or a life full of exciting

adventures you couldn’t remember?

Would you rather have no values or have no friends?

Would you rather try everything and succeed at nothing or try only one thing and succeed?

Would you rather be convicted of something you didn’t do or see someone else convicted for something you did?

Would you rather do a job well and be grossly underpaid or do a job poorly and be paid so much it feels like stealing?

Would you rather see every movie in slow motion or at double speed?

Would you rather be really smart and really boring or really dumb and entertaining?

Would you rather have the theme song of your choice play whenever you walk or have your own mood lighting wherever you are?

Would you rather have a nose that glows red when you get excited or have steam come out of your ears when you get mad?

Would you rather be stranded on a deserted island or live your life in a bubble?

Would you rather go back in time and give your younger self advice that will change your life or go into the future and find out what you will encounter in years to come?

Would you rather always look tremendous but say the wrong thing to everyone you meet or always say the right thing but look terrible?

Would you rather have everything you say and do revealed publicly or live in total obscurity like a hermit?

Would you rather lose your ability to speak or move for one year?

Would you rather know all but be bitter or know nothing and be optimistic?

Would you rather always succumb to peer pressure or have no one ever like you?

Ways to Encourage Questions from Students

10 02 2010


Ways to Encourage Questions

A teacher cannot encourage questions solely by standing at the front of the class and asking, “Are there any questions?” There is so much pressure forcing students NOT to ask questions that it cannot be overcome by this single act. The only way to encourage questions is to create a complete “question-asking environment” in the classroom. You must encourage questions constantly, using a variety of techniques.

The most important technique that you can use to encourage questions is to always answer questions kindly. Even if you have answered the same question three times already, the fourth answer should be friendly, and should include a new example. The student may have been copying something down, or may have been daydreaming. But normally questions occur multiple times because students cannot understand the language you are speaking. Until the students understand the vocabulary, all of those answers will be completely meaningless. A student asking a question for the fourth time has just come to understand the vocabulary him/herself, and only then can understand the answer when you give it.

Here are some other ways to promote questions:

• Make students who ask questions feel like they have done you a favor by asking a question. Reward students for asking a question. Try saying, “That’s a great question” for every new question you get.

 • Leave gaps for questions that are long enough for students to actually formulate questions. Rustle through your notes or drop a pencil or erase the board – leave good sized gaps throughout your lectures.

 • Do not insult students, even subtly, when answering a question. Take a tape recorder to class one day, and then play it back and listen to how you answer questions. How do you come across? Would you like to be talked to in that way? Put yourself in your students’ shoes. Also listen to the answers you give – do you answer the questions?

• Use questionnaires at the end of class. Ask your students to write down one thing that they don’t understand from that day’s class. Then go over those questions at the beginning of the next class. Once students realize that everyone has questions, they will be more inclined to ask questions vocally during class.

• Have your students work problems during class. Put a problem on the board and let students work it in their notes. Then show them the right answer. You can do examples all day, but nothing is learned until the students do a problem themselves. It shows them exactly what they don’t understand, and this often leads to questions.

• Make lists of questions that you get asked after school, and then repeat those questions to everyone during the next class.

• Give homework assignments that force students to think about and question the material, and make time available in class to answer homework questions. If a homework assignment generates no questions, then it is probably useless.

• Use tests to find out where you have been unclear, and where questions remain. A well designed and well graded test tells you as much about your teaching as it does about your students.

• Introduce a difficult concept for 5 minutes at the end of class. Then cover the concept fully during the next class. Students will have a day or two to become familiar with the concept, and will be more inclined to ask questions when they see it again.

Parents often teach kids to fall into Peer Pressure

7 02 2010

Here are some interesting insights on of how parents might be motivating kids to fall prey to peer pressure….

“The more a child’s life is micro-managed, the more susceptible he/she becomes to peer pressure.”

Some parents actually train their kids to listen to peer pressure. The process is simply a matter of teaching kids to listen to a voice outside their own heads during the early years when their brains are still operating in a very concrete way.

Granted, there are times when we must take charge and tell kids exactly what to do and when to do it. However, when this becomes a pattern it gradually convinces children that the most important voice is the one that comes from others.

Many parent lock in this belief by responding to bad decisions with, “See you should have listened to me.”

Once their brain starts to develop abstract thinking, kids say, I’m growing up.  I can think for myself.”  Sadly their brain has been trained to listen to the outside voice, and I bet you’ve already guessed where that voice is going to come from: their peers.

(Ben Carson in a commencement speech said..“But, when I got to high school, I ran into the worst thing a young person can run into. It’s called peers, negative peers. P-E-E-R-S. That stands for People who Encourage Errors, Rudeness and Stupidity.”)

So when you hear a parent say that their kid has changed now that he is a teen, you can think, “Maybe not.  He just listens to a different voice now.”

See Parenting Teens with Love & Logic: Preparing Adolescents for Responsible Adulthood by Foster Cline and Jim Fay.

The Risks of Rewards

6 02 2010
The Risks of Rewards

By Alfie Kohn

Many educators are acutely aware that punishment and threats are counterproductive. Making children suffer in order to alter their future behavior can often elicit temporary compliance, but this strategy is unlikely to help children become ethical, compassionate decision makers. Punishment, even if referred to euphemistically as “consequences,” tends to generate anger, defiance, and a desire for revenge. Moreover, it models the use of power rather than reason and ruptures the important relationship between adult and child.

Of those teachers and parents who make a point of not punishing children, a significant proportion turn instead to the use of rewards. The ways in which rewards are used, as well as the values that are considered important, differ among (and within) cultures. This digest, however, deals with typical practices in classrooms in the United States, where stickers and stars, A’s and praise, awards and privileges, are routinely used to induce children to learn or comply with an adult’s demands (Fantuzzo et al., 1991). As with punishments, the offer of rewards can elicit temporary compliance in many cases. Unfortunately, carrots turn out to be no more effective than sticks at helping children to become caring, responsible people or lifelong, self-directed learners.


Studies over many years have found that behavior modification programs are rarely successful at producing lasting changes in attitudes or even behavior. When the rewards stop, people usually return to the way they acted before the program began. More disturbingly, researchers have recently discovered that children whose parents make frequent use of rewards tend to be less generous than their peers (Fabes et al., 1989; Grusec, 1991; Kohn 1990).

Indeed, extrinsic motivators do not alter the emotional or cognitive commitments that underlie behavior–at least not in a desirable direction. A child promised a treat for learning or acting responsibly has been given every reason to stop doing so when there is no longer a reward to be gained.

Research and logic suggest that punishment and rewards are not really opposites, but two sides of the same coin. Both strategies amount to ways of trying to manipulate someone’s behavior–in one case, prompting the question, “What do they want me to do, and what happens to me if I don’t do it?”, and in the other instance, leading a child to ask, “What do they want me to do, and what do I get for doing it?” Neither strategy helps children to grapple with the question, “What kind of person do I want to be?”


Rewards are no more helpful at enhancing achievement than they are at fostering good values. At least two dozen studies have shown that people expecting to receive a reward for completing a task (or for doing it successfully) simply do not perform as well as those who expect nothing (Kohn, 1993). This effect is robust for young children, older children, and adults; for males and females; for rewards of all kinds; and for tasks ranging from memorizing facts to designing collages to solving problems. In general, the more cognitive sophistication and open-ended thinking that is required for a task, the worse people tend to do when they have been led to perform that task for a reward.

There are several plausible explanations for this puzzling but remarkably consistent finding. The most compelling of these is that rewards cause people to lose interest in whatever they were rewarded for doing. This phenomenon, which has been demonstrated in scores of studies (Kohn, 1993), makes sense given that “motivation” is not a single characteristic that an individual possesses to a greater or lesser degree. Rather, intrinsic motivation (an interest in the task for its own sake) is qualitatively different from extrinsic motivation (in which completion of the task is seen chiefly as a prerequisite for obtaining something else) (Deci & Ryan, 1985). Therefore, the question educators need to ask is not how motivated their students are, but how their students are motivated.

In one representative study, young children were introduced to an unfamiliar beverage called kefir. Some were just asked to drink it; others were praised lavishly for doing so; a third group was promised treats if they drank enough. Those children who received either verbal or tangible rewards consumed more of the beverage than other children, as one might predict. But a week later these children found it significantly less appealing than they did before, whereas children who were offered no rewards liked it just as much as, if not more than, they had earlier (Birch et al., 1984). If we substitute reading or doing math or acting generously for drinking kefir, we begin to glimpse the destructive power of rewards. The data suggest that the more we want children to want to do something, the more counterproductive it will be to reward them for doing it.

Deci and Ryan (1985) describe the use of rewards as “control through seduction.” Control, whether by threats or bribes, amounts to doing things to children rather than working with them. This ultimately frays relationships, both among students (leading to reduced interest in working with peers) and between students and adults (insofar as asking for help may reduce the probability of receiving a reward).

Moreover, students who are encouraged to think about grades, stickers, or other “goodies” become less inclined to explore ideas, think creatively, and take chances. At least ten studies have shown that people offered a reward generally choose the easiest possible task (Kohn, 1993). In the absence of rewards, by contrast, children are inclined to pick tasks that are just beyond their current level of ability.


The implications of this analysis and these data are troubling. If the question is “Do rewards motivate students?”, the answer is, “Absolutely: they motivate students to get rewards.” Unfortunately, that sort of motivation often comes at the expense of interest in, and excellence at, whatever they are doing. What is required, then, is nothing short of a transformation of our schools.

First, classroom management programs that rely on rewards and consequences ought to be avoided by any educator who wants students to take responsibility for their own (and others’) behavior–and by any educator who places internalization of positive values ahead of mindless obedience. The alternative to bribes and threats is to work toward creating a caring community whose members solve problems collaboratively and decide together how they want their classroom to be (DeVries & Zan, 1994; Solomon et al., 1992).

Second, grades in particular have been found to have a detrimental effect on creative thinking, long-term retention, interest in learning, and preference for challenging tasks (Butler & Nisan, 1986; Grolnick & Ryan, 1987). These detrimental effects are not the result of too many bad grades, too many good grades, or the wrong formula for calculating grades. Rather, they result from the practice of grading itself, and the extrinsic orientation it promotes. Parental use of rewards or consequences to induce children to do well in school has a similarly negative effect on enjoyment of learning and, ultimately, on achievement (Gottfried et al., 1994). Avoiding these effects requires assessment practices geared toward helping students experience success and failure not as reward and punishment, but as information.

Finally, this distinction between reward and information might be applied to positive feedback as well. While it can be useful to hear about one’s successes, and highly desirable to receive support and encouragement from adults, most praise is tantamount to verbal reward. Rather than helping children to develop their own criteria for successful learning or desirable behavior, praise can create a growing dependence on securing someone else’s approval. Rather than offering unconditional support, praise makes a positive response conditional on doing what the adult demands. Rather than heightening interest in a task, the learning is devalued insofar as it comes to be seen as a prerequisite for receiving the teacher’s approval (Kohn, 1993).


In short, good values have to be grown from the inside out. Attempts to short-circuit this process by dangling rewards in front of children are at best ineffective, and at worst counterproductive. Children are likely to become enthusiastic, lifelong learners as a result of being provided with an engaging curriculum; a safe, caring community in which to discover and create; and a significant degree of choice about what (and how and why) they are learning. Rewards–like punishments–are unnecessary when these things are present, and are ultimately destructive in any case.


Birch, L.L., D.W. Marlin, and J. Rotter. (1984). Eating as the ‘Means’ Activity in a Contingency: Effects on Young Children’s Food Preference. CHILD DEVELOPMENT 55(2, Apr): 431-439. EJ 303 231.

Butler, R., and M. Nisan. (1986). Effects of No Feedback, Task-Related Comments, and Grades on Intrinsic Motivation and Performance. JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY 78(3, June): 210-216. EJ 336 917.



Fabes, R.A., J. Fultz, N. Eisenberg, T. May-Plumlee, and F.S. Christopher. (1989). Effects of Rewards on Children’s Prosocial Motivation: A Socialization Study. DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY 25(4, Jul): 509-515. EJ 396 958.

Fantuzzo, J.W., C.A. Rohrbeck, A.D. Hightower, and W.C. Work. (1991). Teachers’ Use and Children’s Preferences of Rewards in Elementary School. PSYCHOLOGY IN THE SCHOOLS 28(2, Apr): 175-181. EJ 430 936.

Gottfried, A.E., J.S. Fleming, and A.W. Gottfried. (1994). Role of Parental Motivational Practices in Children’s Academic Intrinsic Motivation and Achievement. JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY 86(1): 104-113.

Grolnick, W.S., and R.M. Ryan. (1987). Autonomy in Children’s Learning: An Experimental and Individual Difference Investigation. JOURNAL OF PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY 52: 890-898.

Grusec, J.E. (1991). Socializing Concern for Others in the Home. DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY 27(2, Mar): 338-342. EJ 431 672.



Solomon, D., M. Watson, V. Battistich, E. Schaps, and K. Delucchi. (1992). Creating a Caring Community: Educational Practices That Promote Children’s Prosocial Development. In F.K. Oser, A. Dick, and J.L. Patry (Eds.), EFFECTIVE AND RESPONSIBLE TEACHING: THE NEW SYNTHESIS. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


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